The Middle East Channel

Syrian troops move toward Aleppo as Turkey closes its borders

Fighting in Damascus has decreaesd as government troops regain control of the capital. Clashes continue for the fifth day in Aleppo, Syria's largest city. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported an estimated 120 people were killed on Tuesday, most of whom were in Aleppo where regime forces have been fighting the opposition with helicopter gunships and heavy artillery as well as warplanes, which would be the first instance of such aerial bombings in the conflict. The Syrian government is moving thousands of troops from Idlib province toward Aleppo. Clashes were initially limited to the poor, southern neighborhood of Saleheddin but have spread throughout the city, particularly to Bab al-Hadeed near Aleppo's historic old city. Syrian forces hit the opposition-held Damascus suburb of al-Tel, firing artillery and rockets on Wednesday forcing hundreds of families to flee. Meanwhile, the New York Times reported there is increasing evidence of al Qaeda's involvement in the Syrian conflict, which has been conducting more suicide bombings. Turkey announced on Wednesday that it is closing its 566-mile border with Syria as the conflict escalated and after armed men seized and looted dozens of Turkish trucks at the Bab al-Hawa crossing last week. The move will cut off an integral supply route into Syria, but refugees fleeing Syria will still be permitted to enter Turkey. Meanwhile, Brigadier-General Manaf Tlass has confirmed his defection in a broadcast on Al Arabiya from France. He called for a united "free and democratic Syria." Additionally, two top Syrian diplomats have defected from their posts in the United Arab Emirates and Cyprus.

Headlines  

  • President Mahmoud Amadinejad has announced that Iran is increasing uranium enrichment despite international pressure and recently escalated U.S. and EU sanctions.
  • Bulgaria's prime minister said the identity of the suicide bomber who killed five Israelis and a bus driver last week remains unclear, but was part of a group of "exceptionally skilled" conspirators.
  • The Islamic State of Iraq, an al Qaeda affiliated group, claimed responsibility for the series of attacks across Iraq on Monday that killed an estimated 116 people and injured hundreds.

Arguments & Analysis

Iran's Strategy in the Strait of Hormuz' (Kayhan Barzegar, The Diplomat)

"While Iran's economic interests dictate that it not close the Strait of Hormuz, it is likely that if Iran's economic security is endangered, it will thus react because Iran's energy exports are directly related to the country's national security and the government's legitimacy. Iran's reaction would be more focused on  "defensive deterrence"-taking a "measured" reaction when confronting those states which have acted against Iran's interests with sanctions. Iran had previously conducted this strategy during the Tanker War in the 1980s. In terms of conducting an asymmetric war, Iran is in a much more powerful position for conducting such operations today."

An Old Spy in the New Tunisia' (John Thorne, The Atlantic)

"I was reporting on a conference at a hotel near Tunis when I recognized his face among the security men by the door. Years before, he had trailed me through the streets. Tunisia's dictator, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, had been rigging another election then, and in any case they always used to spy on reporters...You learned to note who was loitering outside your hotel, to memorize faces in a train carriage, to scan a street while pretending to tie a shoe. Sometimes the agents stood out. During my first trip to Tunis in January 2009, I visited the ruins of Carthage. Three men I recognized from the train sat on a bench, hunched in their coats, watching me explore the stumps of columns."

Assad's Fall is Maliki's Nightmare' (Dov S. Zakheim, The National Interest)
"Nuri al-Maliki did not expect Bashar al-Assad to fall. From the outset of the Syrian uprising against Assad through its transformation into a full-blown civil war that now has reached the streets of Damascus, the Iraqi prime minister and his senior supporters have continued to lobby against the arming of either side. By encouraging the status quo, Maliki sought to ensure that the more heavily armed, Alawi-dominated government forces retained the upper hand against the predominantly Sunni rebels. In so doing, Maliki aligned his policies with those of Assad and his Iranian sponsors and also sought to prevent the outcome he fears most: a Sunni Islamist government in Damascus."

--By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey 

AFP/Getty Images

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