The U.N. Security Council is working on a third draft resolution -- presented by the United States and France -- to address the escalating conflict in Syria, this time focusing directly on humanitarian concerns. It calls for an immediate ceasefire, for government troops to withdraw from cities and towns, and for the Syrian regime to release all detainees. The U.N. General Assembly adopted a similar resolution two weeks ago, but unlike the Security Council, the assembly's resolutions are not legally binding. According to United Nations political affairs officer Lynn Pascoe, "well over" 7,500 people have been killed in the 11-month violence in Syria. Meanwhile, according to Syrian activists, the bodies of 64 men were found near Homs in what appears to be the worst single incident of mass killing during the uprising. The details are unclear, but activists suspect the men had been trying to escape the besieged city with their families when they were stopped and shot by Syrian regime forces. An unknown number of women and children who were accompanying the men are also missing. After fierce shelling of Babo Amr, the Syrian military then began a ground assault on the neighborhood of Homs. Syrian troops reportedly clashed with opposition forces at a football field held by the opposition at the area's outskirts. This conflicted with reports from sources close to the Syrian government stating the army had nearly cleared all opposition fighters from the neighborhood.
- As the U.S. and Egypt are in "very intensive discussions" to avoid the prosecution of U.S. NGO workers, three judges in the trial of all 43 NGO workers have pulled out of the trial.
- Doubts have arisen over the identity of Mohammed Ibrahim Makkawi, a man detained at Cairo airport who was believed to be Saif al-Adel, a senior Al-Qaeda leader.
- A Dubai bank said it will take "pre-emptive action" in cutting ties with some Iranian banks on which the U.S. plans to apply sanctions; meanwhile, Iran said it will "accept payment in gold for oil."
- Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is set to meet with U.S. President Obama on March 5 to discuss options on Iran, and is expected to push for a harder line from the United States.
- Israeli troops raided two Palestinian television stations owned by local NGOs that broadcast news and cultural programming, seizing equipment and forcing them off air.
- At least three people were killed and nine injured in a car bomb during rush hour in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.
Arguments & Analysis
'How SCAF is seeking to resolve corruption cases behind closed doors' (Shereen Zaky, The Arabist)
"On January 3rd, SCAF discreetly passed an amendment to the Investment Law essentially permitting the settlement of economic corruption crimes via financial reconciliation, as well as designating an extra-judicial process for the settlement of disputes regarding government contracts. Published only a few days before parliament was due to convene, the timing is significant both in terms of circumventing parliament's assumption of legislative power and because the amendment could escape scrutiny, overshadowed as it was by greater events. Law 4 of 2012 permits the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones, the regulator of investment and companies in Egypt, to settle with investors who have committed either in person, or as an accomplice of a government employee, embezzlement, theft, illegal acquisition or misuse of public funds and property, harming the public welfare, and similar offences, while undertaking any of the investment activities covered by the law, provided they restore the disputed amounts or reimburse the state for their approximate value at the time the offence was committed."
'Jassim Buhejji, a life for Bahrain' (Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, Open Democracy)
"Jassim Buhejji's passing comes at another time of trial for Bahrain. The island is today in need of such level-headed voices that identify themselves as members of an inclusive nation rather than according to sect. His life is emblematic of a noble Bahraini reality: that this nation led the region in popular activism, gave birth to movements such as the National Unity Committee which offered solidarity to Egypt during the military attack against it, and supported the political rights of citizens of different religious affiliations. This inheritance, which sets Bahrain apart from the neighbouring Gulf monarchies with which today it is sadly compared, is the achievement of Jassim Buhejji and his generation."
'In heavy waters: Iran's nuclear program, the risk of war, and lessons from Turkey' (International Crisis Group)
"There are more than enough reasons to be sceptical about a diplomatic solution. Mutual trust is at an all-time low. Political pressures on all sides make compromise a difficult sell. The West seems intent on trying its new, harsher-than-ever sanctions regime. Israel is growing impatient. Tit for tat acts of violence appear to be escalating. And Iran might well be on an unyielding path to militarisation. One can imagine Khamenei's advisers highlighting three instructive precedents: Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, which had no nuclear weapon and the U.S. overthrew; Muammar Qadhafi's regime in Libya, which relinquished its weapons of mass destruction and NATO attacked; and North Korea, which possesses nuclear weapons and whose regime still stands. There remains time to test whether Tehran is determined to acquire a bomb at all costs and to consider whether a military option -- with all the dramatic implications it would entail -- truly would be the best way to deal with it."
--Tom Kutsch & Mary Casey