The Middle East Channel

After weeks of fighting, Syrian forces overtake the strategic town of Qusayr

The Syrian army, along with pro-government Hezbollah forces, overtook the strategic town of Qusayr on Wednesday after over two weeks of fighting. Syrian state news agency SANA reported the "heroic armed forces have returned security and stability to all of the town." The regime and allied forces reportedly overtook the town after an overnight offensive. ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

The Syrian army, along with pro-government Hezbollah forces, overtook the strategic town of Qusayr on Wednesday after over two weeks of fighting. Syrian state news agency SANA reported the "heroic armed forces have returned security and stability to all of the town." The regime and allied forces reportedly overtook the town after an overnight offensive. According to one Hezbollah fighter, "We did a sudden surprise attack in the early hours and entered the town. They escaped." Opposition forces said they had pulled out of Qusayr. The loss of the town, which is located about six miles from the border with Lebanon, will be a significant blow to the opposition as it lies on an important supply route. According to Brigadier General Yahya Suleiman, "Whoever controls Qusayr controls the center of the country, and whoever controls the center of the country controls all of Syria." Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabrius made the first definitive statement of chemical weapons use in the Syrian conflict after a French lab found the presence of the lethal nerve gas sarin in samples. He said, "France is now certain that sarin gas has been used in Syria on several occasions and in a localized manner." Fabrius later said the samples were from Jobar, a suburb of Damascus, and another location, believed to be Saraqeb in northern Syria. He said the evidence was handed over U.N. investigators.

Headlines

  • Tens of thousands of Iranians turned out for the funeral of senior dissident cleric Ayatollah Jalaluddin Taheri in what became the biggest anti-government protest in the Islamic Republic for years.
  • Protesters and police clashed across Turkey on Tuesday night, despite a government softening and an apology by Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc for "excessive violence" by police.
  • Yemeni forces launched an operation Wednesday on al Qaeda groups that seized villages last month in the southeastern province of Hadramawt.
  • The Lebanese army deployed to the northern city of Tripoli Tuesday after eight people died in clashes between Sunni and Alawite residents.
  • The Obama administration has announced the resignation of National Security Adviser Tom Donilon who will be replaced by Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. 

Arguments and Analysis

Ramallah will keep right on being nice (Amira Hass, Haaretz)

"Dr. Rami Hamdallah has a clear advantage over his predecessor as prime minister of the Ramallah government, Dr. Salam Fayyad — no one expects him to perform any miracles of economic development and growth inside the jaws of the Israeli occupation. He has been appointed in order to gain a few more months of domestic restraint (in which Israel, the United States and Europe are extremely interested). And then? God only knows. The game of "let’s pretend" can continue for a little while longer to the satisfaction of the observers. We’ll keep calling this thing a "government," which has powers and resources less than those of a federation of local councils — and problems the size of a major power’s.

Very quickly the salaried employees in the West Bank will discover that the little they are asking for paychecks on time and their adjustment to the cost of living ¬ is quite a lot. On the one hand there is the Israeli straitjacket. Here in Israel we excel at subtracting the occupation while commentating on the crises of the Palestinian self-rule and its difficulties, but there’s no way out of it ¬ the cumulative structural problems in the Palestinian economy stem first and foremost from Israeli domination and crushing of the Palestinian enclaves.

On the other hand, there is the straitjacket of the "free market.""

Taksim protest to change Ankara balances (MURAT YETK?N, Hurriyet Daily News)

"There are two aspects of possible changes in the political balances that are likely to be triggered by the Taksim wave of protests: The administration front and the opposition front.

There are three main actors on the administration front: President Abdullah Gül, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdo?an, and his deputy, Bülent Ar?nç. Ar?nç is on the stage because Erdo?an left him as acting prime minister for the duration of his ongoing North Africa tour. However, he is not just a "supporting role" actor, as he is among the triumvirate who lay the foundations of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) back in 2001, together with Gül and Erdo?an.

Gül intervened in the Taksim protests at two critical points – on June 1 and June 3 – when many people were afraid that an escalation could result in more bloodshed. Gül’s sensitive interventions versus Erdo?an’s uncompromising line toned down the police’s roughness against demonstrators. In both cases, Gül made clear that his position was different, quite moderate and less emphatic than Erdo?an’s."

–By Jennifer T. Parker and Mary Casey

 Twitter: @casey_mary

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