Report

Rebel Fighters Seize Two Syrian Army Bases in Idlib Province

Al-Nusra Front fighters and allied rebel factions have seized two Syrian army bases in the northern Idlib province, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

SYRIA-CONFLICT-IDLIB
A view taken from Tel al-Sawadi shows the scene following a large explosion allegedly at the Wadi Deif Syrian army base in northwestern Idlib on May 14, 2014, which opposition fighters have been trying to capture for more than a year. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Islamist rebels detonated explosives planted in a tunnel under the army base killing or injuring dozens. AFP PHOTO / AL-MAARRA TODAY / GHAITH OMRAN (Photo credit should read GHAITH OMRAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Al-Nusra Front fighters and allied rebel factions have seized two Syrian army bases in the northern Idlib province, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Fighters from al-Nusra Front and Jund al-Aqsa launched an offensive Sunday on the Wadi Deif base, outside the town of Maarat al-Numan and near the main highway linking Aleppo with Damascus, and had overtaken it by Monday. The Observatory reported around 100 Syrian soldiers and 80 Islamist fighters were killed during the two days of clashes. The rebel groups, joined by Ahrar al-Sham fighters, later captured the nearby smaller Hamidiya base. Wadi Deif has been surrounded by rebel fighters since 2012, though pro-government forces previously had been able to repel attacks. Rebel fighters now appear to be in control of much of the countryside in Idlib province, though President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have maintained control of the city of Idlib, the provincial capital. Meanwhile, after backing a U.N. effort to negotiate local cease-fires in Syria, beginning with Aleppo, EU foreign ministers indicated they would engage with Iran and Russia, as well as Gulf countries, on Syria.

Iraq

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has been making strides in narrowing divides to improve the political situation in Iraq, including reaching out to Sunnis, achieving an oil deal with the Kurds in northern Iraq, and addressing corruption in the military. Abadi has fired a number of corrupt officials from the military and interior ministry who were appointed by the former prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and the government has stopped payments of tens of millions of dollars in salaries to non-existent “ghost soldiers.”

Headlines

  • Demonstrators have gathered outside an Istanbul courthouse as Turkey begins a trial against 35 football fans involved in the 2013 Gezi Park protests charged with an attempted coup, two days after police detained 27 people in a continued crackdown against dissent.
  • Britain’s Embassy in the Egyptian capital of Cairo has reopened after suspending services on Dec. 7 due to security concerns, though the Canadian Embassy has remained closed.
  • Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian man Tuesday during a raid on the West Bank Qalandia refugee camp.

Arguments and Analysis

Widening Democratic Party divisions on the Israeli-Palestinian issue’ (Shibley Telhami and Katayoun Kishi, The Washington Post)

“There are significant differences on concrete policy issues such as supporting or opposing a proposed Palestinian resolution at the United Nations to recognize a state of Palestine. Among Democratic and independent respondents, 82 percent and 81 percent, respectively, think that the United States should either abstain from voting on the issue or vote in favor of endorsing the establishment of a Palestinian state, compared with 52 percent of Republicans who would favor these approaches. While 15 percent of Democrats and 16 percent of independents think the United States should vote against endorsing a Palestinian state (or even use its veto to prevent such an endorsement), nearly half of Republicans would favor this approach.”

The Tin-Pot Dictatorships of Egypt and Turkey’ (Steven A. Cook, Council on Foreign Relations)

“Over the weekend, Egyptian authorities detained, questioned, and deported my friend and colleague Michele Dunne as she sought to enter Egypt at the invitation of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs. Michele, who is the most well-respected Egypt analyst in Washington, has not been shy in her criticism of the Egyptian government. Not to be outdone, yesterday the Turks arrested 27 people including journalists, TV producers, and police commanders on terrorism charges. All of the detainees are either members or suspected members of the Gulen movement. Fethullah Gulen and his followers were at one time allied with Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP), working together, for example, to subordinate the armed forces to civilian leaders, though at the expense of the rule of law and due process. In early 2013, a falling out over the government’s negotiations with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party erupted later that year into revelations about official corruption and other malfeasance at the highest levels of the AKP, which in turn became a sort of political death match between the two big men of Turkish politics. President Erdogan, secure after sweeping AKP victories in municipal elections and his own ascendancy to the presidency, is now exacting his revenge on the Gulenists.

Though in some ways shocking, what happened to Michele in Egypt and to those detained in Turkey is not at all surprising given what has transpired in both countries since the summer of 2013…”

Mary Casey-Baker

GHAITH OMRAN/AFP/Getty Images

 Twitter: @casey_mary

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