The Middle East Channel

Two explosions target Syrian security compounds in Aleppo

A Syrian student, living in Malaysian, chants slogans against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad during a protest rally outside the Syrian embassy in Kuala Lumput on February 10, 2012. More than 80 people were killed in Syria on February 9, 2012, most of them in a relentless blitz on the city of Homs, an attack US President Barack Obama decried as an 'outrageous bloodshed' (SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images).

Two explosions target Syrian security compounds in Aleppo

Two explosions have hit security compounds in Syria's second largest city, Aleppo, which has largely supported the government and has seen only occasional protests. According to the Health Ministry, 25 people were killed and 175 injured -- including soldiers and civilians. Syrian state television has accused armed "terrorists" for the blasts, while activists blamed the government for planting the bombs in efforts to discredit the opposition. One of the bombs hit the Military Intelligence Directorate, while the other exploded outside a police headquarters. The blasts are part of a string of bombings the regime has blamed on "terrorists," however the opposition has denied responsibility. In Turkey, Captain Ammar al-Wawi, a spokesman for the Free Syria Army, blamed the regime of Bashar al-Assad for staging the blasts, saying civilians would not have had the capability of approaching such highly guarded security complexes. He said, "The regime is playing a well-known game, seeking to distract the world's attention from the massacres in Homs." In Homs, the shelling, which has been consistent for the better part of the past week, reportedly stopped, but tanks have massed outside opposition neighborhoods and sealed off the southeastern suburb of Baba Amr. As the international community continues to search to develop a coordinated plan to end the violence in Syria, U.S. President Barack Obama met with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and said, "We both have a great interest in ending the outrageous bloodshed that we've seen and see a transition from the current government that has been assaulting its people."

Headlines  

  • Israel reported it had run successful tests, along with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, of the Arrow missile defense system.
  • In Jordan, crowds of protesters, who have largely supported the monarchy, are calling for elections and reform. Meanwhile, former intelligence head al-Dahabi is being charged with corruption.
  • The biggest car plant in North Africa was officially opened by Renault in Melloussa, a small town near Tangiers in Morocco.
  • After being closed for a year throughout the conflict, Libya's stock exchange is looking to resume trading operations by the end of February.
  • India reportedly surpassed China as the number one customer for Iranian petroleum and is sending a delegation to Iran to exploit opportunities opened up with U.S. and European sanctions.

Arguments & Analysis

'How to engage Iran' (Hossein Mousavian, Foreign Affairs)

"It would be misguided for the United States to count on exploiting possible cleavages within the Iranian leadership. Iran's prominent politicians have their differences -- like those in all countries -- but they will be united against foreign interference and aggression. Both capitals should also progressively reduce threat-making, hostile behavior, and punitive measures during engagement to prove that they seek a healthier relationship. Engagement policy should be accompanied by actual positive actions, not just words." 

'Intervention in Syria is morally justified -- and completely impractical' (James Traub, The New Republic)

"The lack of international support would give any actor serious pause; but what dooms the project-at least for the moment-are the low odds of success, and the high odds of unintended consequence. In Libya, NATO airstrikes enforced a "cordon sanitaire" behind which the opposition could hide, and organize. Syria, by contrast, is a patchwork, with both regime opponents and military forces in close proximity across the country. Where would you bomb? How could you intervene without killing large numbers of the civilians you were seeking to protect?" 

'Does the U.S. have a plan for Iraq?' (Room for Debate blog, New York Times)

Kenneth Pollack:

We still have some capacity to name and shame, although that requires Iraqi leaders who are not shameless. We still have some things - aid, weapons, diplomatic clout - that the Iraqis want, although that will depend on our own willingness to place long-term interests ahead of political expediency and so provide them. And we still have some ability to shape the region in which Iraq lives, although that requires an American leadership willing to take on the challenges of the Middle East and not flee to East Asia or some other easier part of the globe.

Chris Preble:

For all its fractiousness, Iraq's political class spoke with one voice when it called for the removal of all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. And it has never wavered from that course. These Iraqis are equally suspicious of a U.S. diplomatic contingent that is allegedly 16,000 strong. Those Americans who want the United States to remain in Iraq indefinitely have never shared the secret formula that would create a political order there that was more amenable to such a large number of foreigners. 

'Backgrounder: The Campaign Against NGOs in Egypt' (Project on Middle East Democracy)

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