U.N. mediator for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said Thursday that a breakdown in negotiations on a truce for Homs risks new bloodshed as government forces advance. A deal brokered in Geneva earlier this year allowed some civilians to leave the besieged Old City of Homs, however about 1,000 to 1,500 people remain. Further talks collapsed this week after heavy fighting. Brahimi said, "It is a matter of deep regret that negotiations were brutally stopped and violence is now rife again when a comprehensive agreement seemed close at hand." Syrian government forces have stepped up an offensive against rebel held areas, and the opposition Syrian National Coalition warned of a potential massacre. Brahimi urged a return to negotiations so that a deal can be reached to lift the siege on Homs. Meanwhile the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said Syria risks missing a April 27 deadline for the removal of its chemical arsenal if it doesn't significantly speed up and increase transfers. About 65 percent of Syria's chemical agents have so far been delivered. Additionally, the government has submitted a "more specific" list of its chemical weapons to the OPCW after inspectors reported discrepancies on the ground.
- The United States has said it will release $450 million in frozen Iranian funds after the IAEA reported Tehran has diluted or converted about 75 percent of its highly-enriched uranium.
- At a meeting in Riyadh Thursday Gulf leaders agreed on an "implementation mechanism" to a November deal ending months of tensions as Qatar reportedly agreed to deport some Muslim Brotherhood members.
- Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's camp has claimed a win in Thursday's presidential election though opponents have voice allegations of fraud.
- An Arab-Israeli journalist detained after visiting Lebanon over suspicions that he was "recruited by a hostile organization" has been put under house arrest.
Arguments and Analysis
'Bahrain's State Unaccountability' (Marc Owen Jones, Muftha)
"What is more, there is uncertainty as to whether convicted security officers actually serve time in prison. In its latest report detailing the human rights situation in Bahrain, the U.S. State Department stated it did not know if the ‘courts enforced any of the sentences and if security officers were actually in prison following sentencing.' Naturally, this begs the question as to how the United States can claim the Bahraini government is reforming when it cannot even confirm if police are being held accountable for crimes as egregious as torture and murder.
In many other cases in which civilians were reportedly killed by the state, the police and other members of the security forces have either been acquitted. Between 2011 and 2012, 45 cases involving civilian deaths were dismissed due to a lack of evidence. That is, 45 deaths in which police were suspected of killing the majority of victims. For example, two officers accused of shooting Fadhel al Matrook in February 2011 were acquitted."
'Algerians vote for stability' (Michael Robbins, The Washington Post)
"How have Bouteflika and the regime managed to survive the Arab Spring, and what are the prospects for the future? Data from three nationally representative public opinion surveys conducted as part of the Arab Barometer project shed light on these questions. The surveys reveal that although most Algerians are dissatisfied with the regime, they are much more satisfied than they were in the months following the Arab Spring. Now, unlike in early 2011, the vast majority of citizens want gradual reform, suggesting the public's appetite for mass anti-regime protests has declined."
-- Mary Casey