The Middle East Channel

Syrian Government Forces Hit Aleppo With Barrel Bombs

Syrian government forces have attacked Aleppo for a third day with helicopters dropping improvised "barrel bombs." The attacks have concentrated on al-Bab and eastern districts of the northern city. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, about 90 people, mostly civilians, were killed on Saturday, and estimates range up to 120 people killed over the past three days. Government forces additionally attacked the suburbs of Damascus and several other cities and villages with shelling, air strikes, and barrel bombs over the weekend. Barrel bombs -- barrels packed with explosives and shrapnel -- have killed over 700 people in Syria over the past six weeks, and have been condemned by Western countries as indiscriminate. Meanwhile, fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) killed the leader of a rival Islamist faction, Adnan Bakkour, commander of the Tawheed Brigades. The twin car bombing near Aleppo killed 25 people in addition to Bakkour. ISIL fighters also killed Abu Hussein al-Dik, a commander of Suqour al-Sham. In a statement on Monday, al Qaeda broke off ties with ISIL in an apparent attempt to gain power over rival Islamist groups in Syria. The general command's statement said al Qaeda did not approve of the creation of ISIL, and did not control the group and therefore has "no organizational ties with it."


  • An Egyptian court acquitted an Al Jazeera cameraman and 61 Morsi supporters who were accused of involvement in violence during a July 2013 protest in Cairo.
  • Jabhat al Nusra in Lebanon has claimed responsibility for a car bombing in the Hezbollah stronghold of Hermel, near the Syrian border, that killed at least three people Saturday.
  • Gunmen abducted a British oil worker in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa Monday, after a German man was kidnapped Friday, hours after three explosions wounded at least four people.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif Sunday in Munich to discuss a deal aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program.
  • Iraq's Defense Ministry said troops killed 57 militants in Anbar province ahead of a possible assault on Falluja, meanwhile car bombings in and around Baghdad killed at least 13 people Monday.
  • The UAE has summoned Qatar's ambassador over "insults" made by Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi against the country. 

Arguments and Analysis

'Can a Myth Rule a Nation?' (Joshua Stacher, Foreign Affairs)

"Now, with no other organized civilian group left to work with and its options limited, the SCAF hurled Sisi into the spotlight and began to create the myth of an Oz-like wizard controlling the state. Doing so bought Egypt's generals some time, but the task before them -- engineering a new regime -- needs more than that. The longer the transition process drags on, the more cornered the SCAF finds itself. In fact, although Sisi's nomination for the presidency might have appeared inevitable or destined, one could argue that it was the SCAF's increasing weakness and paranoia that motivated his impending candidacy. After all, given his popularity, Sisi could anoint anyone as Egypt's next preferred president. Open elections would likely be a landslide for his chosen candidate, and the process would preserve both the vestige of procedural democracy and the SCAF's ability to intervene. Yet the generals named Sisi, looking to him to finish off the revolution and reign in the Brotherhood's participation in politics.

But beyond creepy state press portrayals of Sisi's virility and Egyptians parading around in gold-colored Sisi masks, as many were in Tahrir Square on the third anniversary of the revolution on January 25, the junta has little upon which to build a real regime. Sisi has no economic policies or political programs to speak of. The military-backed government's base is narrow, and since it has no way to incorporate dissenters, it will generate more dissent and state-generated violence."

'The War on Journalists' (Sharif Abdel Kouddous, Mada Masr)

"The much-hailed new constitution guarantees freedom of thought and opinion, yet those with dissenting thoughts and opinions are targeted. Freedom of the press is guaranteed, yet journalists are behind bars. Why even refer to rights and legislation when those enforcing the law are its most egregious violators?

Wars on terror are nothing new. Much of the press corps in Egypt cut their teeth covering the war on terror launched by the United States after 9/11 that primarily targeted the Middle East. That war was used to justify the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the prison at Guantanamo Bay, torture, assassinations, drone strikes, extraordinary rendition, and surveillance on an unprecedented scale.

Egypt's war on terror is primarily being used to re-empower the security state and silence opposition voices. Of course the targeting of journalists is a mere drop in the tidal wave of repression underway right now. The sheer number of people being imprisoned every week is astonishing. No one is safe: journalists, activists, scholars, protesters, children, even bystanders on the street. This cannot be the society we aspire to."

--Mary Casey & Joshua Haber



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