The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning human rights violations and calling for the end of violence in Syria. The resolution was overwhelmingly approved with 137 yes votes, 12 no votes, and 17 abstentions. China and Russia voted against the resolution, having previously vetoed a similar resolution in the U.N. Security Council. Russia maintained that the resolution was "unbalanced" because it only targets government violence and excludes the opposition. Meanwhile, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun said China is against foreign military intervention and forced regime change (he is scheduled to visit with Syrian officials to discuss a separate peace initiative). While the U.N. assembly's resolution is non-binding, it has significant symbolic value and further isolates the Syrian regime. According to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, "it sent a clear message to the people of Syria -- the world is with you." It is modeled after an Arab League plan which calls for President Bashar al-Assad to step down. Meanwhile clashes continue throughout Syria, with extreme regime violence in Homs, which has lasted over two weeks. Human rights groups have estimated that the number of deaths attributed to the crackdown has exceeded 7,000 since the beginning of the uprisings about 11 months ago.
- After reporting covertly in Syria for a week, renowned New York Times journalist Anthony Shadid died, reportedly from an asthma attack, as he and his photographer were en route to Turkey.
- Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood threatened to "review" the 1979 peace treaty with Israel if the United States withholds assistance in reaction to trials of NGO workers.
- After an investigation, an Iraqi judicial panel released non-binding findings that Vice President Hashemi was involved in 150 attacks on security officials and Shiite pilgrims.
- The suspect list has grown as Thailand continues the investigation of bombings targeting Israeli diplomats, although both the accused Hezbollah and the Iranian government have denied involvement.
- Libyans celebrated the one-year anniversary of the start of the revolution that saw the fall of Muammar al-Qaddafi, but the country remains crippled by insecurity ahead of June polls.
Arguments & Analysis
'Postscript: Anthony Shadid, 1968-2012' (Steve Coll, The New Yorker)
"In 2003, the Iraq war was brewing and Shadid wanted to be in Baghdad, working independently, when it began. Shadid was married at the time, with a small child at home. As the "shock and awe" bombing began and the future of Saddam Hussein's regime fell into doubt, he arranged a conference call to explain, as a low-key country lawyer might, why he should be allowed to remain on the ground and assume the risks ahead. He persuaded; his work from Iraq was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the first of two he won during his career, and became the basis for his first, excellent book, "Night Draws Near." The foreboding and ambivalence that the characters he wrote about expressed was striking at the time, but as the years have passed and Iraq's initial crisis has yielded to the ambiguous mess we know today, it is evident that the middle-class, unofficial, urban Iraqis he chronicled had envisioned their own future very accurately. As in so many other cases, Shadid was willing to sit still, away from the main story, and listen. He will be missed; his work is irreplaceable."
'A long march' (The Economist)
"Across the region the Brotherhood has worked hard, through years of painstaking social work and uphill political battles, to enter the corridors of power. "It was like a stake tethering a water buffalo," recounts one of the Ikhwan's new parliamentarians in Egypt, who like many of his colleagues suffered jail and exile under the previous regime. "The government kept hammering it into the ground but we just kept on digging it out." Such patient dedication bodes well for the new rulers' ability to address the deep social and economic maladies afflicting most Arab countries. The Brotherhood's rise through the ballot box and civil action marks a hope that Islamism's reform-minded mainstream might yet prevail over the impetuous and increasingly abortive rush to arms that has characterised revolutionary Islamist groups, from the assassination of Egypt's leader Anwar Sadat in 1981 to al-Qaeda today."
'A violent New Year in Iraq' (Michael Knights, The National Interest)
"The United States should publicly reverse this uncritical acceptance of Maliki's behavior. The White House should have put Maliki on warning during his mid-December visit to Washington, and the next U.S. ambassador to Iraq should take a tougher line from the outset. The administration may be only temporarily backing Maliki to maintain stability in Iraq and to keep the country out of the headlines in this election year. Even so, both of these outcomes are more likely if Maliki is looking over his shoulder instead of running rampant."
--Tom Kutsch & Mary Casey