The Middle East Channel

Suicide blasts hit Syrian military installation near Damascus

According to the activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, two simultaneous suicide bombs killed dozens of people at a Syrian military base -- the air force intelligence complex in Harasta, northeast of Damascus. One of the suicide bombers was driving an ambulance laced with bombs. Al-Nusra Front, an affiliate of al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attacks. It is unclear what has happened to the hundreds of prisoners help captive in the basement of the base. Meanwhile, the Syrian army has continued to aggressively bombard rebel neighborhoods of Homs. "The army is in the midst of trying to cleanse the last rebel districts of the city of Homs," said a Syrian army commander to the AFP. The Syrian National Council fears the entire city is on the verge of falling to the regime.

Regional Spillover

Members of the Syrian opposition have threatened to attack southern suburbs of Beirut if Hezbollah continues to support the Syrian regime's efforts. An associate of the FSA Joint Command, Fahd al-Masri, said that opposition fighters have "13 Hezbollah hostages" near Homs. Meanwhile, a defector from the Syrian army claims that Assad is supported by at least 1,500 Hezbollah fighters. According to documents obtained by the Financial Times, Iraq has been secretly supplying fuel oil to Syria. As part of a one-year contract, Nouri al-Maliki agreed to send Syria 720,000 tons of fuel oil in monthly installments. The fuel, sold at a heavy discount, is not permitted to be used in tanks. Meanwhile, Turkey has reinforced its air base in southeast Turkey, sending at least 25 additional F-16 fighter jets. The move comes amid sustained clashes between Syria and Turkey, but is also seen as a way for Turkey to bolster its forces along the Iraq border near PKK installations. Meanwhile, three crates of weapons addressed to the Saudi military were apparently diverted to opposition fighters. The crates were discovered by the BBC in an opposition base in Aleppo. Saudi Arabia has declined to comment.  


  • Iraq signed contracts to purchase $4.2 billion dollars worth of weapons from Russia, making Baghdad one of Russia's biggest weapons buyers.
  • President Morsi issued a pardon for people charged with or convicted of supporting the revolution. This could affect more than 1,000 protesters on trial and also those already convicted.
  • The International Criminal court held its first public hearing in the case against Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, a son of former Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi. The younger Gaddafi is accused of war crimes against rebels during last year's uprising in Libya.
  • According to Israeli defense sources, Iran has diverted its enriched uranium to scientific purposes, slowing progress on its nuclear program by eight months.
  • Jordan has appointed an Ambassador to Israel. The position has been vacant for two years.

Arguments and Analysis

Egypt's Mina Danial: The untold story of a revolutionary' (Yasmine Fathi, Ahram Online)

"Tarek El-Tayeb, 25, had always hated Christians. He was known among his friends as Tarek "El-Salafi" as he followed the ultraorthodox school of Islam.

"I joined the Salafist school of Islam when I was 13 years old," remembers El-Tayeb. "According to my ideology, Christians were heretics and being a friend with any of them was a grave sin."

All of this changed when he met Coptic Christian activist Mina Danial.

The two bumped into each other in Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square during last year's 18-day uprising.

They met the morning after the 28 January "Friday of Rage", when Hosni Mubarak's security forces fired tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition at protesters. Danial had been shot in the leg."

Flirting With Extremism in Tunisia' (Sarah Chayes, Carnegie Endowment)

"Protesters "were piled into pickup trucks with their black flags," recalled two Tunisian eyewitnesses, the co-founder of a humanitarian group and a college professor. Both requested anonymity for security reasons. "I knew something would go wrong," shuddered one. Although no loss of American life resulted, last month's organized attack on the United States embassy in Tunisia-in which four locals did die-was at least as portentous as the sack of the Libyan consulate.

Unlike residents of Benghazi, Tunis-dwellers did not turn out to challenge the commandeering of their public space by well-marshaled extremists. And, whether through immaturity or latent connivance, the attitude of the Tunisian government has been equivocal. Further incidents, such as the roughing up of an elected official ten days ago, suggest that the ruling Islamist Ennahda Party may be flirting with violence to help ensure its grip on power."

Assessing Turkey's Role in Somalia' (International Crisis Group)

"Turkey is the newest country to intervene in Somalia and its involvement has produced some positive results. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an's courageous visit to Mogadishu in August 2011 at the height of the famine and his decision to open an embassy gave fresh impetus to efforts to establish lasting peace. Widespread Somali gratitude for Turkish humanitarian endeavours and the country's status as a Muslim and democratic state established Turkey as a welcome partner. Ankara has signalled it is in for the long haul. However, it must tread prudently, eschew unilateralism and learn lessons to avoid another failed international intervention. Over twenty years, many states and entities have tried to bring relief and secure peace in Somalia, often leaving behind a situation messier than that which they found. Ankara must appreciate it alone cannot solve the country's many challenges, but must secure the support and cooperation of both the Somali people and international community. Trying to go solo could backfire, hamper ongoing efforts and lose the immense good-will it has accumulated."

--By Jennifer Parker 



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