The Middle East Channel

Two new attacks in Syria mirror Houla massacre

Syrian activists have reported two new brutal attacks by Syrian forces and shabiha, pro-Assad militiamen, mirroring the Houla massacre. In the Syrian town of Mazraat al-Qubeir outside Hama, 78 people have reportedly been killed, 40 of whom were women and children. U.N. observers attempting to investigate the accounts have been prevented from accessing the town. A second attack took place in Heffe, a city in the western Lattakia province. The Syrian government has denied responsibility for the attacks, blaming terrorist groups. Meanwhile, the international community is split on how to end the Syria conflict. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, comprised of China, Russia, and Central Asian states, is pushing for dialogue, maintaining it does not support military intervention. The "Friends of Syria," which includes the United States and the European Union, met on Wednesday and discussed supporting the opposition and "additional steps" necessary to force President Bashar al-Assad out of power. U.N. and Arab League envoy, Kofi Annan, will speak before the United Nations on Thursday to offer an alternative to his six-point peace-plan that has failed to stem violence.

Headlines  

  • Israel's Knesset defeated a bill to legalize certain settlements, marking Ulpana for demolition on July 1. However Prime Minister Netanyahu promised 851 new Jewish homes in the West Bank.
  • Prominent Bahraini human rights activist, Nabeel Rajab, has been imprisoned for the fifth time after writing Twitter posts critical of the regime.
  • The head of the Saudi Arabian religious police has criticized agents over their handling of a women wearing nail polish after she posted a video online.

Arguments & Analysis 

Is Libya Cracking Up?' (Nicolas Pelham, The New York Review of Books)

"While separately none of the communal battles alone poses an immediate threat to Libya's unity, the border skirmishes risk stirring broader upheavals that could pick apart Libya and its neighbors. Riqdaleen sees itself as a potential bridgehead for tens of thousands of Qaddafi supporters who have sought refuge in Tunisia and may return. Kufra's feuding parties are attracting supporters from opposite ends of the Sahara, from the Mediterranean to the northern scrub land of Chad. Arab militiamen in Benghazi see a cause and an opportunity to fly the Prophet Muhammad's black flag of jihad; the Toubou in Chad are anxious to repel an Arab attack on their fellow tribesmen. As the contents of Qaddafi's armories spread across the region, gun markets are sprouting across middle-class Tunisia and fueling the low-level insurgency that Sinai's Bedouin are waging against their Egyptian overseers. Equipped with their extensive bullion, Qaddafi's surviving children-his son Saadi in Niamey, Niger, and daughter Aisha, in Algiers-stir up their old followers. Libya's turmoil is acquiring continental significance."

Putin Between Assad and Mubarak' (Alexander Golts, The Moscow Times)

"Western analysts are constantly trying to find a rational explanation for Russian policy toward the Assad regime. Why, they ask, is the Kremlin risking its international reputation to support a bloody dictator?... The answer, it would seem, lies in the field of psychology. Putin identifies with Assad, former Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi and former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. He is firmly convinced that democracy, the rule of law and human rights are all little more than contrivances that allow the West to control weaker nations. This is the basic tenet behind 19th-century realpolitik, which Putin fully subscribes to. He believes that the West's foreign policy is driven by a desire to establish de facto colonies under the flowery pretext of spreading democracy and protecting human rights."

Risk and Rivalry: Iran, Israel, and the Bomb' (Colin Kahl, Melissa Dalton, Matthew Irvine, Center for a New American Security)

"As Iran's nuclear progress continues and negotiations fail to reach a breakthrough, the threat of an Israeli preventive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities grows. In Risk and Rivalry: Israel, Iran and the Bomb, authors Dr. Colin H. Kahl, Melissa G. Dalton and Matthew Irvine argue that despite the abhorrent threats by some Iranian leaders to "wipe Israel off the map," the actual behavior of the Islamic Republic over the past three decades indicates that the regime is not suicidal and is sufficiently rational for nuclear deterrence. The report finds that a nuclear-armed Iran would be a much more dangerous adversary but that Iran is unlikely to deliberately use nuclear weapons, or transfer a nuclear device to terrorists to use, against Israel. The authors recommend that while preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons should remain an urgent priority, rushing into preventive war would risk making the threat worse and force should be seen as a last resort."

--By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey 

AFP/Getty Images

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