The Middle East Channel

Syria marks one-year anniversary of revolt with continued violence

Notice: Today from 6:30 p.m. -- 8:30 p.m., a remembrance celebrating the life of Anthony Shadid will be held at The Washington Post -- 1150 15th St. NW, Ground Floor Auditorium. Speakers will include Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman, David Hoffman, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Steve Fainaru, Anthony's cousin Ed Shadid, and a reading from House of Stone by his widow, Nada Bakri. Open to public. No need to RSVP. Reception immediately following.

On the one-year anniversary of Syria's uprising, supporters of President Bashar al-Assad rallied to back the regime as security forces intensified the offensive in the northern province of Idlib and southern city of Deraa, where the revolt began. The Syrian government orchestrated a march in Damascus to protest a "year-old conspiracy" against the country, which according to the Washington Post, was "apparently an attempt to overshadow the anniversary." Activists claim the regime has intensified the crackdown due to fears of anniversary protests. An activist in Deraa said that "there are more troops at the checkpoints and they are arresting lots of people," while another witness in Deraa noted that "houses are being hit with random bombardment from gunfire, RPGs, and anti-aircraft missiles." This comes as the government has been making gains with the recent takeover of control in Homs, and has pushed opposition forces from Idlib. In the past day, moreover, Turkey recorded the inflow of 1,000 refugees, which an official said was expected to continue. Diplomatic efforts meanwhile have thus far failed to quell fighting despite last weekend's meetings between U.N. and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan and Assad. Annan is set to discuss Assad's response to proposals on Friday. On another front, 200 aid organizations from 27 countries called on the U.N. Security Council to unite on a resolution to end violence, particularly appealing to Russia and China who have blocked previous draft resolutions. Finally, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported it has obtained thousands of emails written and received by Assad and his wife, Asma. The correspondence was reportedly intercepted by the opposition Supreme Council of the Revolution between June 2011 and February. The emails describe the Assads living an isolated and lavish lifestyle, making light of promised reforms, and taking advice from Iran.

Headlines  

  • Egypt has charged 75 people including nine police officers with murder and negligence for the deaths that occurred during the February 1 Port Said football riots.
  • The Israeli air force and Palestinian militants in Gaza exchanged limited fire overnight, but the recently brokered truce that ended four days of fighting has largely held.
  • The New Delhi police and intelligence agencies have issued warrants for three Iranians in association with the attack on an Israeli diplomat in February.
  • Yemen's Salafis have established their first political body, to be called Rashad Union, and called for talks with Sunni Islamists and northern Shiite militants.
  • Iran appears to be increasing its political outreach in the Middle East, escalating weapons shipments to Yemen.

Arguments & Analysis

'Syrian rebels will have to deal with Assad' (Julien Barnes-Dacey, Financial Times)

"For Russia -- as well as China and even Iran -- to change tack and to press Mr Assad to implement a ceasefire, the opposition will have to consent to direct talks with the regime, not preconditioned on Mr Assad's immediate departure or on that of regime forces from urban centres. In effect, the initial price will be an outcome that favours the regime's position on the ground. Distasteful as this will be, there is no other way to end the bloodshed. However, if Mr Assad was to agree a ceasefire, even if he remains in power, he will be far more marginalised internationally and under severe pressure to comply. Such an outcome could ease the entry of humanitarian aid and of a new, enhanced team of monitors. More positively, such a deal could prepare the ground for a political process, however difficult, that could swing the balance in the opposition's favour." 

'Back to basics: Israel's Arab minority and the Israeli-Palestinian confliclt' (International Crisis Group)

"Since 2000, a series of dramatic events have both poisoned Jewish-Arab relations in Israel and reinvigorated its Palestinian minority. The collapse of the peace process and ensuing intifada harmed Israel's relations with not only Palestinians in the occupied territories but also its own Palestinian minority. As Palestinians in Israel organised rallies in solidarity with Gazans and West Bankers, Israeli Jews grew ever more suspicious of their loyalty. Palestinian citizens' trust in the state plummeted after Israeli security forces killed thirteen of their own during protests in October 2000. A rapid succession of confrontations - the 2006 war in Lebanon; 2008-2009 Gaza war; and 2010 bloody Israeli raid on the aid flotilla to Gaza -- further deepened mistrust, galvanising the perception among Israeli Jews that Palestinian citizens had embraced their sworn adversaries. Among Arabs, it reinforced the sense that they had no place in Israel. Several have been arrested on charges of abetting terrorist activity. Meanwhile, the crisis of the Palestinian national movement -- divided, adrift and in search of a new strategy -- has opened up political space for Israel's Arab minority."

--Tom Kutsch & Mary Casey

AFP/Getty images

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