International debate on involvement in Syria as crisis in Homs worsens
Activists claim hundreds of people have been killed and at least 570 wounded as the siege on Homs has moved into its sixth day, sparked shortly after Russia and China vetoed a resolution on Syria at the U.N. Security Council. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said the lack of action in the Security Council "has encouraged the Syrian government to step up its war on its own people." The Arab League said it intends to resume its observer mission in Syria but requested U.N. assistance. U.S. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the United States has been debating humanitarian assistance for some time, but noted that all options are open stating, "We definitely don't want to militarize the situation. If it's avoidable we are going to avoid it. But increasingly it looks like it may not be avoidable." According to U.S. military officials, the Pentagon's Central Command has begun a review of U.S. military capabilities. Others are discussing arming the opposition Free Syria Army. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is traveling to the U.S. for talks on Syria and said he would like to hold an international meeting to coordinate efforts for humanitarian aid and agree on a strategy to end violence.
- Human Rights Watch called for a moratorium on death sentencing and judicial reform in Iraq after reporting that the country has already executed 65 people in 2012.
- Egypt said NGO workers could receive five years in prison prior to a meeting of U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Dempsey with Egypt's military council.
- As sanctions on Iran are reported to be taking a toll, the United States and Israel are engaged in an ongoing argument over the presumed timeline of Iranian nuclear weaponization and breakout capability, and also the possibility of an Israeli strike.
- Israel's general strike saw its second day as the Finance Minister and the Histadrut Labor Federation came closer to brokering a deal.
- Libya remains crippled by militia violence as it awaits scheduled upcoming elections in May or June.
A Palestinian worker collects carnations at a flower farm in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 8, 2012 after Israel granted special approval for exporting limited quantities of Palestinian flowers from the Gaza Strip to the European market. Sealed off from the outside world, Gaza's farmers are entering their fifth year of export restrictions, imposed by Israel after the Islamist Hamas party took control of the impoverished strip (SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images).
Arguments & Analysis
'The State of Iraq' (Marina Ottaway & Danial Kaysi, Carnegie Endowment for Int'l Peace)
"For the second time since the 2003 U.S. intervention brought down Saddam Hussein and his regime, Iraq is facing a real threat of political disintegration. In 2007, the United States held the country together forcibly, but the infusion of new troops could not secure a lasting agreement among Iraqis. This time, the outcome depends on whether the political factions that dominate Iraq and tear it apart find it in their interest to forge a real compromise or conclude that they would benefit more from going in separate directions."
'Why Russia supports Assad' (Dmitri Trenin, New York Times)
"Russian policy makers may have a point or two when they discuss other people's policies. They need, however, to step back and look at their own. Delivering arms into a country going through civil war is damaging, both politically and morally. Confronting both America and Europe, even if Western policies are misguided, is clearly at odds with Russia's wider interests. Telling Qatar to shut up is not merely undiplomatic, but unwise. And openly quarreling with Turkey and Saudi Arabia has to be avoided. To this, some would say that, having lost $4 billion in Libyan arms and other contracts and facing the prospect of losing an equal amount in potential Syrian trade, Moscow has no other choice but to take a hard line. It will be a pity if, at the end of the day, this argument prevails."
'How the Arab League turned against Syria' (Sean Mann, Open Democracy)
"The Arab League's stance against the Syrian regime is a result of both its member states' geopolitical interests and the increasing salience of human rights; in the absence of either the League would have continued on course to quietly support the Syrian government. The League's actions against Assad have strengthened norms against state repression in the Middle East, a process begun earlier with the Arab League's endorsement of international intervention in Libya."