The Middle East Channel

Turkish riot police storm Istanbul’s Taksim Square

Hundreds of Turkish riot police backed by armored vehicles stormed Istanbul’s Taksim Square just after dawn on Tuesday clashing with protesters. Police fired tear gas and water cannons, and groups of protesters threw stones and petrol bombs. Just hours afterward, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for demonstrators in the adjoining Gezi Park, where ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Hundreds of Turkish riot police backed by armored vehicles stormed Istanbul's Taksim Square just after dawn on Tuesday clashing with protesters. Police fired tear gas and water cannons, and groups of protesters threw stones and petrol bombs. Just hours afterward, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for demonstrators in the adjoining Gezi Park, where demonstrations first began about a week and a half ago, to disperse. Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu said police were working to clear "marginal groups" from Takism Square, but the government was not planning to intervene against peaceful and sensible demonstrators in Gezi Park. The move to clear Taksim came a day after Erdogan agreed to meet with protest leaders. The meeting is expected on Wednesday. Meanwhile, in possibly increasing tensions between the Islamist-backed ruling party and secular Turks, President Abdullah Gul approved a bill Monday tightening restrictions on the sale and consumption of alcohol.  

Syria

Two suicide bombings hit central Damascus during rush hour Tuesday, killing 14 people and wounding at least 30 others. According to Syrian state media, the explosions hit near a police station in the commercial district of Marjeh Square. However, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that one suicide bomber detonated the explosive device inside the police station. The square has been the site of several attacks since the beginning of the uprisings, including a bombing six weeks ago that killed 13 people. However, residents of the area say the city center has been quieter since Assad's forces overtook Qusayr and began a counteroffensive pushing rebel forces from the Damascus suburbs. Meanwhile, the Syrian Army launched several attacks on opposition positions in the northern Aleppo province Tuesday two days after announcements that the regime was planning an offensive against rebel strongholds in the region. Syrian forces reportedly shelled parts of the Mannagh air base a day after opposition fighters took its radar tower. The recently weakened opposition position has added challenges for the United States as officials again consider military options on Syria. The United States has been working with Russia to plan a peace conference in Geneva. However, the head of the Syrian opposition's military wing, General Salim Idris said in an interview on Friday that the opposition had been so weakened that it would have minimal leverage in peace talks. Because of that, he said opposition representatives wouldn't attend a conference unless they were provided with additional weapons and ammunition.

Hundreds of Turkish riot police backed by armored vehicles stormed Istanbul’s Taksim Square just after dawn on Tuesday clashing with protesters. Police fired tear gas and water cannons, and groups of protesters threw stones and petrol bombs. Just hours afterward, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for demonstrators in the adjoining Gezi Park, where demonstrations first began about a week and a half ago, to disperse. Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu said police were working to clear "marginal groups" from Takism Square, but the government was not planning to intervene against peaceful and sensible demonstrators in Gezi Park. The move to clear Taksim came a day after Erdogan agreed to meet with protest leaders. The meeting is expected on Wednesday. Meanwhile, in possibly increasing tensions between the Islamist-backed ruling party and secular Turks, President Abdullah Gul approved a bill Monday tightening restrictions on the sale and consumption of alcohol.  

Syria

Two suicide bombings hit central Damascus during rush hour Tuesday, killing 14 people and wounding at least 30 others. According to Syrian state media, the explosions hit near a police station in the commercial district of Marjeh Square. However, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that one suicide bomber detonated the explosive device inside the police station. The square has been the site of several attacks since the beginning of the uprisings, including a bombing six weeks ago that killed 13 people. However, residents of the area say the city center has been quieter since Assad’s forces overtook Qusayr and began a counteroffensive pushing rebel forces from the Damascus suburbs. Meanwhile, the Syrian Army launched several attacks on opposition positions in the northern Aleppo province Tuesday two days after announcements that the regime was planning an offensive against rebel strongholds in the region. Syrian forces reportedly shelled parts of the Mannagh air base a day after opposition fighters took its radar tower. The recently weakened opposition position has added challenges for the United States as officials again consider military options on Syria. The United States has been working with Russia to plan a peace conference in Geneva. However, the head of the Syrian opposition’s military wing, General Salim Idris said in an interview on Friday that the opposition had been so weakened that it would have minimal leverage in peace talks. Because of that, he said opposition representatives wouldn’t attend a conference unless they were provided with additional weapons and ammunition.

Headlines

  • Mohammad Reza Aref, the sole reformist candidate in Iran’s presidential election, has withdrawn, boosting moderate Hasan Rowhani.
  • A wave of seemingly coordinated attacks, mostly in northern Iraq, killed at least 70 people Monday.
  • A Kuwaiti court has sentenced a woman, 37-year-old teacher Huda al-Ajmi, to 11 years in prison for allegedly insulting the emir and calling for regime change on Twitter.
  • Egyptian Prime Minister Hashim Qandil called an Ethiopian dam project on the Nile an "act of defiance" as tensions escalate between the two countries. 

Arguments and Analysis

Libya Doesn’t Need More Militias (Frederic Wehrey, The New York Times)

"TWO years after the Libyan revolution, the police and army remain weak and hollow. Neglected by Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in favor of more loyal units commanded by his sons, they are ill-equipped, understaffed, bloated at the senior ranks and tainted by their association with the old regime. Into their place have stepped the country’s 300 revolutionary militias – the groups that fought in the 2011 revolution that overthrew Colonel Qaddafi or arose in its aftermath.

…What is needed instead is a new social contract that reconciles Libya’s factions and produces a government with real legitimacy. Last year’s parliamentary elections were an important first step on that journey. A plan under consideration by parliament to integrate the militias into a national guard-type force, until the regular army is bolstered, is also wise. Although not without flaws, this idea offers the best hope for coaxing the militias back under the umbrella of the state.

Libya would then need a constitution that clarifies lines of command for the military and decentralizes power to municipal governments. For many militias, especially Islamist ones in Benghazi, the constitution is a prerequisite for any disarmament and integration.

Following the United States model, militia leaders told me last month that Libyan army officers should pledge to defend the constitution, not the head of state. That is a noble goal. Rushing to create a new Praetorian Guard with unclear lines of authority and minimal popular support is not the answer."

Path to Middle East peace begins with a regional military alliance (Faisal Al Yafai, The National)

"How gratifying it is to see two of the Arab world’s toughest military forces fighting side by side, facing a common enemy. What a shame that the enemy in question should be Syrian rebels and civilians, fleeing before the combined guns of the Syrian army and Hizbollah.

…Why, then, has the region remained so immobile? Why has the Arab world not been able to shoulder the military burden of removing Mr Al Assad, instead imploring western states to do so?

Part of the reason, obviously, is power: the US, whose money and military might buys it enormous leverage in the region, has been reluctant to let Turkey, Qatar or Saudi Arabia further weaponise the conflict.

But a major part of this failure is the absence of military co-operation among the states of the region. The Middle East, alone among nations that share so many cultural and political ties, does not have a solid collective security alliance.

Without one, the reaction of many regional countries to threats such as Syria must be to seek an outside organising framework, generally the US or Nato. But if the Middle East is going to solve its own problems, it needs more military cooperation."

–By Jenni
fer T. Parker and Mary Casey

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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