A wave of bombings across Iraq which seemed to target security forces and civilians killed an estimated 17 people and wounded dozens of others early on Wednesday. The apparently coordinated attacks came on the eve of the Muslim month of Muharram, marking the Islamic new year. Six car bombs and roadside explosive devices hit Iraq's capital of Baghdad and four other Iraqi cities. The worst of the attacks was outside the offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in the oil-rich, ethnically mixed, and disputed northern city of Kirkuk, about 175 miles north of Baghdad. At least three bombs exploded simultaneously, killing five Kurdish security forces and injuring four others. In the nearby majority Sunni town of Hawija, a car bomb hit an army patrol killing at least four people. A car bomb also hit downtown Baghdad during the morning rush hour. Another car bomb exploded at a crowded market in the city of Hilla, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, killing up to six people including children and wounding over 30 others. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks.
France has joined the Gulf states in officially recognizing Syria's new opposition coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people, and said it is considering arming the group. Conversely, while the United States has commended the formation of a unity opposition group, officials have referred to the coalition as "a legitimate representative" of the Syrian people. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States is waiting to evaluate the work of the group. However, she announced that the United States is committing $30 million in additional humanitarian aid to Syria, bringing the total amount of U.S. assistance to about $200 million. Meanwhile, violence continued across Syria with air strikes on Maaret al-Numan and tank shelling in two Palestinian refugee camps in southern Damascus. Additionally, a Syrian warplane reportedly bombed the town of Ras al-Ain, on the border with Turkey. Turkey warned Syria on Wednesday that it would retaliate if Syrian aircraft violate Turkish airspace. The bordering town of Ceylanpinar has seen damage from the recent air strikes, but no casualties. Villages west of Ceylanpinar have begun evacuating over concern of spillover from the Syrian conflict.
- Violent protests have broken out across Jordan on Tuesday against increases in fuel prices after the government announced the lifting of subsidies.
- Israel's hard line Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has proposed "toppling" the Abbas government if the Palestinian Authority goes forward in seeking observer status at the United Nations.
Arguments and Analysis
Petraeus and the ‘Drone Wars' (Heather Hurlburt, U.S. News)
"For six months now, we have seen the first stirrings of a drone revolt-like the quiet growth of the COIN critique, the pushback on GWOT ("global war on terror"), and every other tactic masquerading as a defining strategy for counterterrorism after 9/11. Like those counter-revolutions, the drone revolt has two strands-a moral and humanitarian one, and a pragmatic and effectiveness-based one.
Washington was still absorbing Petraeus's resignation when not one, but two former senior CIA officials commented that the agency in its next incarnation should "kill less and spy more."
The core of the effectiveness critique of drones, in particular the "signature strikes" against low- and mid-level operatives, or individuals who share characteristics with such operatives, that the CIA has rolled out in recent years, is disarmingly similar to the critique Petraeus made of pre-COIN operations in Iraq and Afghanistan-that you cannot deny terrorists the ability to operate in a community if that community does not have a sense of security, and that terrorists recruit replacements from disassociated violence faster than they or their leadership can be killed off."
Why Not Jordan? (Pete Moore, Middle East Research and Information Project)
"The November 13 withdrawal of fuel and electricity subsidies has sparked vigorous demonstrations in Jordan, prompting renewed speculation about whether the wave of Arab uprisings that began in late 2010 has finally arrived in the Hashemite Kingdom. Indeed, amidst the rush of scholarly attempts to explain why uprisings did or did not occur in various Arab countries in 2011, Jordan is proving a stubborn case. Jordan fits nearly all the criteria for an uprising, but sustained protest has yet to take root.
If social media and Internet access drove the revolts, then Jordan should have already had an upheaval, for it ranks well ahead of Egypt and Libya and is comparable to Tunisia in Internet penetration. Some have argued that the building blocks of protest were increases in literacy rates and average number of years of schooling. Yet from 1980 to 2010, Jordan ranked ahead of Egypt and Tunisia in rate of increase in years of schooling (see p. 169 of Filipe R. Campante and Davin Chor, "Why Was the Arab World Poised for Revolution?"). Maybe, as some economists have argued, declining socio-economic opportunities spread the spirit of rebellion. If so, then, again, Jordan should have seen a revolt, as it suffers from some of the Arab world's highest rates of aggregate unemployment, youth unemployment and underemployment compared to educational achievement (again as noted by Campane and Chor). In Jordan, as elsewhere, neoliberal reforms failed, wages stagnated and inequality rose."
Aleppo's Deadly Stalemate: A Visit to Syria's Divided Metropolis (Rania Abouzeid Time Magazine)
"Only stray cats have the courage to roam the streets of this part of Syria's largest city. As felines freely pick their way through rubble and garbage, human beings dart from corner to corner, anxious bands of rebel fighters dashing between the bullets of regime snipers.
The neighborhood is called Bustan al-Basha and used to be the place a lot of Aleppo's citizens would bring their cars for repair. It was a mixed Christian-Sunni working class district, bordering the Kurdish district of Sheikh Maksoud. That is in e the past tense because, of the thousands of residents who once lived here, only three remain. The trio live on Rawand Street, which is in rebel hands. The street behind them belongs to the regime. Marie, a Christian Armenian, is retired kindergarten teacher; gray-haired Abdel-Latif is a retired civil servant; and cherubic young Abdel-Maten is a baker who hasn't been to his workplace for months even though it is less than two kilometers away because it is in Midan, a neighborhood under regime control. "I've been living here for 20 years," says Marie as she peeks out from her balcony, wiping her soapy hands on a dishcloth. "I'm still here because where am I going to go? This is my home. We are counting on God and staying, but you know, honestly, it's like I went to bed one night and the next morning everyone was gone. When and how they left, I don't know. It happened very suddenly."
--By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey