As Syrians mark the two-year anniversary of the country's uprising, the government has stepped up security in Damascus. Some rebel groups have urged supporters to increase attacks against the Assad's regime to mark the anniversary. Since March 15, 2011, over 70,000 people have been killed, and over one million people have fled the country. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, said "Two years after the beginning of the Syria crisis, we are witnessing the staggering escalation of the conflict that is accelerating the crisis in a way that is unprecedented in recent decades." In a meeting in Brussels on Friday, France and Britain are expected to work to persuade EU states to lift an arms embargo on Syria in order to begin supplying weapons to opposition forces. Meanwhile, the Syrian government has threatened to strike at opposition fighters hiding in neighboring Lebanon. In a cable to the Lebanese government Thursday, Syria's Foreign Ministry claimed that a "large number" of militants had crossed the border from Lebanon into Syria over two days, and urged Lebanon to "prevent these armed terrorist groups from using the borders as a crossing point, because they target Syrian people and are violating Syrian sovereignty."
- Ahead of a visit to Israel, President Obama told Israel Channel 2 television that Iran is "over a year or so" away from developing nuclear weapons capability.
- The Pentagon reported an Iranian fighter jet pursued a U.S. Predator drone over international waters on Tuesday, but departed after a verbal warning from a U.S. escort plane.
- An Egyptian report implicates police in the deaths of nearly 900 protesters in the 2011 revolution and is likely to influence the upcoming retrial of former President Mubarak and his security chief, Habib el-Adly.
- A Muslim Brotherhood statement objecting on several points to a proposed U.N. declaration to condemn violence against women is stirring up fears among Egyptian liberals.
- In Baghdad on Friday, several Sunni worshippers were injured in clashes with police who were trying to prevent them from reaching a prominent mosque.
Arguments and Analysis
Achieving a Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (Matt Duss, Center for American Progress)
"For their part, leaders of the Palestinian Authority, particularly President Mahmoud Abbas, should use every opportunity to make clear to the Israeli public their commitment to a two-state solution. Abbas' speech at the 2012 U.N. General Assembly, which was perceived by Israelis as highly inflammatory, was not helpful in this regard. While polls show that the Israeli public is still solidly in favor of a two-state solution, the memory of the Second Intifada-the 2000-2005 Palestinian uprising in which numerous terror attacks were carried out inside Israel-makes Israelis extremely cautious about ending their military presence in the West Bank. More assurances from Palestinian leaders that they have a partner for peace could help change that.
It's very important, however, that the Palestinian Authority not be supported simply with the aim of prolonging an unsustainable status quo. With this in mind, the United States should work with the parties to establish clear terms of reference for the eventual return to negotiations toward the end of occupation and conflict, based on the general parameters set out by three U.S. administrations since President Bill Clinton was in office.
One item on which Israelis and Palestinians continue to agree is that the two sides simply cannot make progress toward a resolution without the active and engaged leadership of the United States. A two-state solution is not only in the interests of Palestinians and Israelis, but is also in the interest of the United States. President Obama should remind us all of this when he visits Israel next week."
Two Years Later: What The Syrian War Looks Like (Rania Abouzeid, The New Yorker)
"Two years ago, Syria was a very different place. In early March, 2011, a group of boys in the southern city of Daraa brazenly scribbled graffiti criticizing Bashar al-Assad, the President of Syria. The words included the mantra of revolution that had ricocheted from Tunisia to Egypt, from Yemen to Bahrain: "The people want the fall of the regime." The authorities' response was as swift as it was predictable: the boys were detained and tortured.
On March 15, 2011, some people in Daraa took to the streets to demand the boys' release. There were also small demonstrations in other parts of Syria, including in the capital city, Damascus, where rumblings of discontent had slowly become more pronounced over the preceding weeks. Those demonstrations were the beginning.
Two years later, Syria is at war. What does the Syrian war look like? It looks like shells that crash and thud and thump into residential streets, sometimes with little warning. It looks like messy footprints in a pool of blood on a hospital floor as armed local men, many in mismatched military attire and civilian clothing, rush in their wounded colleagues, or their neighbors."
--By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey