The Middle East Channel

U.N. General Assembly expected to pass Syria resolution

The United Nations General Assembly is expected to approve an Arab-backed draft resolution on Syria in a vote on Wednesday. The draft resolution condemns the Syrian government and accepts the Syrian National Coalition as a party to a potential political transition. The draft resolution is opposed by Russia, a strong ally of the Syrian regime, and is not expected to win as many votes as an August 2012 resolution, which passed with 133 countries in favor. A senior western diplomat said that the Islamist factor has added complications and it is not as clear to countries now that the opposition is the winning side. According to another senior diplomat, this draft resolution is stronger than the earlier one, and Russia has complained that it is unbalanced. The draft resolution condemns violence from all sides, and demands that the Syrian government allow for a U.N. inquiry into chemical weapons allegations. Unlike U.N. Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding and cannot be enforced. However, the three Western-backed Security Council resolutions aimed at pressuring the Assad regime have been vetoed by Russia and China. The United States and Russia have been planning for an international conference on Syria they hope to hold in June. Speaking from Sweden on Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said "progress is being made" on bringing together representatives from the Syrian government and opposition. According to Kerry, Assad's regime has given Russia a list of officials that would attend the potential talks. Meanwhile, Syria's Internet is reportedly down for the second time in two weeks. According to Syrian residents and the U.S.-based Internet monitoring company Renesys Corp., Syria went offline at 10:00 a.m. local time Wednesday. Syria's state news agency, SANA, said there were technical problems and maintenance teams were working on the issue.

Headlines

  • Iraqi gunmen killed 12 people in an attack on at least nine liquor stores in the Zayona district of eastern Baghdad on Tuesday.
  • Rival Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, have agreed to form a national unity government and hold legislative and presidential elections within three months.
  • The International Criminal Court is opening a preliminary examination into Israel's raid in 2010 of a humanitarian aid flotilla bound for the Gaza strip, in which nine Turks were killed.
  • Libyan officials have said that an explosion near a hospital on Monday may have been "an accidental" blast of a car carrying explosives.
  • Turkey's ruling Islamist party has proposed a parliamentary bill curbing the consumption and advertisement of alcohol. 

Arguments and Analysis

Salafism's March Through North Africa (Tarek Osman, The Cairo Review of Global Affairs)

""This is not the Tunisia we know," the head of a respected Tunisian think tank told me as thousands of Salafists marched through the heart of Tunis's old Medina, steps from one of its most exclusive restaurants, one that serves premium French wine under the watchful eye of a stern sommelier.

But the city was Tunis, and the protestors were Tunisians. One of the Arab world's most progressive societies, with one of the most active civil society environments in the entire Arab world, and a notable history of gender equality and secularism, is clearly witnessing the rise of an assertive socio-political force that defines itself exclusively under a strict religious frame of reference. The scale of these marches -and various other forms of assertiveness-and the frequency with which they take place indicate that this trend is far from marginal or dismissible.

In Egypt's last parliamentary election, Salafist parties won about a quarter of the votes. Amid the polarization that the country is currently witnessing, several Salafist voices and parties are increasingly influential in the political sphere. And the rise of Salafism is also taking place in Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Syria, Sudan, and in other Arab countries.

...

Modern Salafism was a lucky ideology. It found a fertile ground in Saudi Arabia, which, for the past four decades, had emerged as the most influential Arab country. But following the current transformations that the wave of uprisings has given rise to, the center of gravity in Arab socio-politics will return to the eastern Mediterranean and North Africa. And Salafism will lose the momentum that Saudi backing (and petrodollars) have given it.

Salafism's traditional approach of trying to "purify" their societies from what they consider impurities that have been imposed on them  will not resonate with the  almost 200 million Arabs under thirty-five years of age, whose priorities are largely economic, not ideological, and who are mostly ill-disposed to indoctrination. Salafism's ability to evolve in the culturally richest parts of the Arab world-become capable political forces as opposed to missionaries, and locally integrated players as opposed to harbingers of purely Islamic identities-will be its fundamental challenge."

Savage Online Videos Fuel Syria's Descent Into Madness (Aryn Baker, Time)

"The video starts out like so many of the dozens coming out of the war in Syria every day, with the camera hovering over the body of a dead Syrian soldier. But the next frame makes it clear why this video, smuggled out of the city of Homs and into Lebanon with a rebel fighter, and obtained by TIME in April, is particularly shocking. In the video a man who is believed to be a rebel commander named Khalid al-Hamad, who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Sakkar, bends over the government soldier, knife in hand. With his right hand he moves what appears to be the dead man's heart onto a flat piece of wood or metal lying across the body. With his left hand he pulls what appears to be a lung across the open cavity in the man's chest. According to two of Abu Sakkar's fellow rebels, who said they were present at the scene, Abu Sakkar had cut the organs out of the man's body. The man believed to be Abu Sakkar then works his knife through the flesh of the dead man's torso before he stands to face the camera, holding an organ in each hand. "I swear we will eat from your hearts and livers, you dogs of Bashar," he says, referring to supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Off camera, a small crowd can be heard calling out "Allahu akbar" - God is great. Then the man raises one of the bloodied organs to his lips and starts to tear off a chunk with his teeth."

--By Jennifer T. Parker and Mary Casey

AFP/Getty Images/JOSEPH EID

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