The Syrian government and opposition are trading blame over two alleged gas attacks on Friday and Saturday in the rebel-held Hama province village of Kafr Zeita. Syrian opposition activists have posted video, which they say provides evidence that regime forces used chemical weapons. Both the opposition and the government said that chlorine gas had been used, however, Syrian State TV blamed al-Nusra Front for the attacks. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said reports of a gas attack were so far "unsubstantiated" but continued that the United States would work to establish what had happened. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) reported that Syria transferred another shipment of chemical weapons to the port of Latakia on Sunday. With the latest delivery, Syria has handed over slightly more than 65 percent of its chemical agents for destruction. Meanwhile, pro-government forces have seized control of two villages near the border with Lebanon -- Sarkha and the historic Christian village of Maaloula. The gains came after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claimed the crisis had hit a "turning point" and his forces were winning the conflict.
- Libya's newly appointed interim Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani said he will resign over an attack against him and his family and "to protect the interests of the country."
- Libya has begun the trial of dozens of ex-Qaddafi officials as well as his sons, Sail al-Islam and Saadi, who did not appear in the courtroom.
- Responding to the U.S. move to block Iran's selected U.N. envoy, an Iranian official said Tehran would "pursue the matter via legal mechanisms."
- A series of bombings in Iraq Sunday killed an estimated 20 people mainly in the city of Mosul and near Kirkuk.
Arguments and Analysis
'Syria's Lost Generation' (Khaled Hosseini, The New York Times)
"I am a father of two children. I cannot imagine what it would do to them, to see such grisly things. Yet that is happening every day in Syria. A whole generation of children, witness to the unfolding catastrophe, is unable to attend school, their lives shaped by violence, grief and displacement.
At some point this year, Syria will overtake my native country, Afghanistan, as the world's largest refugee-producing state. There are now 2.5 million refugees from Syria, 1.2 million of them children. Two-thirds of Syrian refugee children, and nearly three million children inside the country, are out of school.
They face a broken future. Syria is on the verge of losing a generation. This is perhaps the most dooming consequence of this terrible war."
'Tartus in the Present Crisis: A Mirror of the Syrian Regime' (Kheder Khaddour, Jadaliyya)
"Tartus has not experienced fighting or attacks during the current conflict. Behind its image of a quiet, pro-regime city, however, lies a more complicated situation with social and spatial disconnects. Unwritten rules are common, as is suspicion-mainly of newcomers and displaced people. Relations between the latter groups and the city's long-time inhabitants (Tartusis) are primarily a modus vivendi, punctuated by genuine moments of sharing. Rather than a novelty, however, this mélange of interests echoes the way the Syrian state and society have functioned for many years. Nevertheless, numerous changes have taken place in contemporary Tartus. Paramount among them is an increased affirmation of religion for purposes of group cohesion."
'The decline of Iran's Blogestan' (Fred Petrossian, Arash Abadpour, and Mahsa Alimardani, The Washington Post)
"State intervention, from filtering to repression, is a big part of the story. The Iranian regime introduced a wide mix of repressive techniques, from domain and keyword "blacklists" to deep packet inspection, bandwidth throttling and filtering of virtual private networks (VPNs). Many bloggers cite personal reasons for abandoning their efforts. They noted the most important reasons for starting a blog as "saying things that cannot be said in public" and "sharing news not covered by mass media," while the key reasons for no longer blogging are "fear of censorship" and "too many blogs filtered." But the fading of Blogestan does not mean that online engagement has disappeared: One crucial reason for the decline of blogging has been the increase in time spent on other social media platforms."
-- Mary Casey
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