The Middle East Channel

Syrian helicopter crashes as a U.S. report finds Iranian shipments enter through Iraq

Syrian authorities reported a government helicopter crashed near a Damascus suburb that has been the location of recent fierce clashes. According to the British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, it was shot down by the opposition, although this has not been verified. A Western intelligence report says that Iran has been using civilian aircraft to fly Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps personnel and tons of arms across Iraqi airspace to Syria to aid government forces and militias against the opposition. The shipments appear to be daily and greater than initially thought. The report also stated Iran is sending truck shipments through Iraq. The Iraqi government has dismissed the claims. U.S. Senator John Kerry, the Democratic chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the United States should make Iraqi aid contingent upon their cooperating with the United States on Syria. At the U.N. Security Council meeting in New York on Wednesday, the new U.N. special representative on children in conflict, Leila Zerrougui, said children are facing a "dire" crisis in Syria. She said U.N. agencies had "documented government attacks on schools, children denied access to hospitals, girls and boys suffering and dying in bombardments of their neighbourhoods and also being subject to torture, including sexual violence." Syrian ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, denied the claims calling the UNICEF report hostile propaganda and placing blame on the opposition. According to Zerrougui, the United Nations is investigating "violations" of international law by opposition groups, citing indiscriminate bombings and keeping children associated with their forces.

Headlines  

  • The U.S. National Counterrorism Center said the deadly assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was an "opportunistic attack." Meanwhile evidence has surfaced that Ambassador Chris Stevenson feared he was on an al Qaeda hit list.
  • According to Palestinian authorities, up to three Palestinians were killed in Gaza by Israeli airstrikes, while Israel maintains they were "terrorists."
  • An actress in the anti-Islam video "Innocence of Muslims" is suing the filmmaker for fraud and slander and has requested YouTube take down video that has caused violent protest.
  • Jordan's King Abdullah continues to speak of political reform as tensions rise. Simultaneously, he has been clamping down on protesters and free speech.

Arguments & Analysis 

The Sources of Salafi Conduct' (William McCants, Foreign Affairs)

"If the Arab Spring uprisings were an earthquake in Middle Eastern politics, last week was a major aftershock. The rumbling began in Cairo, where a satellite TV station run by Salafis played clips of an inflammatory film about the Prophet Muhammad. Soon after, Salafi religious leaders called for protests at the U.S. embassy in Cairo, blaming Washington for not censoring a film made in the United States. The pattern was repeated in Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, and elsewhere. Although much has been made of the riots as a response to the film, they are more fundamentally about the nature of the post-Arab Spring regimes, and specifically about who gets to police public morality. Salafis across the region see themselves as the rightful guardians of the public sphere -- and are acting to ensure that others see them that way, too."

The Agony of Syria' (Max Rodenbeck, The New York Review of Books)

"In the face of the current uprising, now in its eighteenth bloody month, Bashar Assad has ordered a sustained use of heavy weaponry against his own people that may be unmatched by any state in modern times. The gory internecine wars in Bosnia, Chechnya, and Sri Lanka saw governments behave with similar savagery, but against what they claimed were separatist revolts. In trying to crush an inclusive, nationwide, and initially peaceful pro-democracy movement that from its inception was unquestionably backed by the vast majority of Syrians, the Assads' army has wreaked devastation akin to that in Grozny or Jaffna or Sarajevo, only across swathes of a country with a far larger population, devastating scores of villages, dozens of towns, and all three of Syria's biggest cities."

--By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey 

AFP/Getty Images

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