The Middle East Channel

Bombings in Bahrain’s capital kill two foreign workers

Five homemade bombs exploded on Monday in the Qudaibiya and Adliya districts of Manama, Bahrain's capital, killing two foreign workers and severely wounding a third. Police have been targeted on several occasions over the past year, but this was a rare attack on civilians, in what appeared to be coordinated explosions. The Bahrain News Agency called the blasts an "act of terrorism," and said an investigation is underway. A representative from the opposition Shiite party al-Wefaq, Matar Matar, said that he doubted opposition activists were responsible for the attack, mentioning that Shiite clerics have come out against escalating the conflict. Bahrain has been plagued by unrest since demonstrations broke out in February 2011, during which at least 60 people were killed and thousands were arrested. Bahrain's government announced a ban on rallies and public gatherings last week, a move that was condemned by human rights groups and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Foreign ministers from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss regional issues, including unrest in Bahrain and Kuwait, which also banned public gatherings and rallies last week.

Syria

Amid heavy weekend violence, Syria's fractious opposition began meetings in the Qatari capital of Doha in efforts to form a new unity leadership for a possible transitional government. The talks between over 20 opposition leaders are set to take place over four days and are aimed at overhauling the structure of the opposition after the Syrian National Council (SNC) lost support, specifically from the United States. Abdulbaset Sieda, the current head for the SNC said, "The main aim is to expand the council to include more of the social and political components." The United States is pushing for the group to create stronger ties between commanders in the field and Syrian leaders in exile. To allay fears that the meeting would precede talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the group released a statement saying that the Assad regime leaving power is a precondition of any political dialogue. Meanwhile, opposition fighters reportedly seized an oilfield for the first time on Sunday, over taking al-Ward oilfield in Deir el-Zour province after three days of clashes. Also, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported heavy clashes near a Damascus security building. Syrian television reported a large explosion near the Dama Rose hotel in Damascus, which wounded several people. Additionally, the Syrian army reportedly shelled the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in the southern outskirts of Damascus killing at least 20 people. Opposition fighters reportedly pulled back from an attack that began on Saturday on the large Taftanaz military airport in the northern Idlib province due to a shortage of ammunition. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that nearly 200 people died in weekend violence.

Headlines  

  • For the first time in 40 years, Egypt's Coptic church has chosen a new pope, Bishop Tawadros, who said he will reverse the political role of the church espoused by the late Pope Shenouda.
  • Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sparked controversy and protests after a remark interpreted as a concession over the Palestinian "right to return."
  • A Yemeni man and ten Saudi Arabians recently released from prison, who had been held on terrorism charges, were caught after two Saudi border guards were killed in an ambush.
  • Kuwait's emir met with opposition representatives as thousands of Kuwaitis gathered Sunday to protest a new electoral law days after demonstrations were banned.
  • An Israeli news channel reported Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had ordered an attack on Iran in 2010, but the effort was blocked.

Arguments and Analysis

The impending Syrian-Kurdish conflict (Michael Weiss, Now! Lebanon)

"This week's violence between the PYD (the Syrian branch of the proscribed Kurdish Workers' Party, or PKK) and Free Syrian Army in Aleppo has prompted fears that not only will a "new front" in the Syrian conflict be opened up-this one between predominantly Arab rebels and Syrian Kurdish separatists-but that its emergence will severely inhibit the rebels' ability to wage war on the Assad regime. Although well grounded, these concerns tend to obscure the more complicated and contradictory nature of PYD-FSA relationship up until now. More significantly, they also elide much the greater threat of an impending internal Syrian-Kurdish conflict.

The PYD-FSA fighting broke out on Friday in the Aleppo district of Ashrafieh. According to the PYD, it followed the Syrian regime's shelling of the area and the FSA's subsequent attempt to seize the road that runs from Ashrafieh to the Sheikh Maksud district of Aleppo. More than 40 were killed and hundreds more captured on both sides. Syrian rebels have characterized the confrontation as a "misunderstanding that was created by a regime plot," emphasizing that "Our Kurdish brothers are comrades in our nation.""

Libya's constitution: Diverse input, regional sensitivities must be considered (Gilbert Doumit and Carmen Geha, The Daily Star)

"The incidents of violence that took place during the election of the General National Congress this past summer across the east of Libya - and in Benghazi particularly - revealed deep political divisions and a number of serious security threats. Since the rise of the National Union Party, presided over by Mahmoud Jibril, to the GNC, Libya's increasing political polarization has been much neglected in the media. Pro-federalist groups in Benghazi burnt ballot boxes and called for voter boycotts. Tensions erupted in the wake of former National Transitional Council chairman Moustapha Abdel Jalil's promise that the Committee of Sixty - which would be responsible for drafting the constitution - would be elected from the people, rather than appointed from the GNC."

Palestinians at the U.N., Again (The New York Times)

"Now the Palestinians plan to seek admission as a ‘nonmember' observer state in the General Assembly. The 193-member Assembly is dominated by developing nations that are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and are expected to approve the application next month.

It is not a move that will do anyone any good. It will not change facts on the ground, and it will come at a cost. After last year's initiative, Israel withheld millions of dollars in tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority; the United States halted funding for Unesco, and Congress is withholding $495 million in assistance for the Palestinians, the State Department says. Both countries are likely to react the same way again, although there is a danger in bankrupting the Palestinian Authority, which has begun to build the institutions of a state, including a police force, that also contribute to Israel's security."

--By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey

AFP/Getty Images

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