A large explosion in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo destroyed a hotel used as a military base by government forces. Fighters from the opposition Islamic Front reportedly dug a tunnel and detonated a huge bomb underneath the Carlton Citadel Hotel on Thursday, leveling the hotel and damaging other buildings near the city's medieval citadel. The Islamic Front claimed 50 soldiers from President Bashar al-Assad's forces were killed in the explosion, however the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 14 security forces were killed. Meanwhile, more rebel fighters are leaving the city of Homs Thursday in the second day of an evacuation deal, and the Syrian army is expected to move in to the formerly rebel-held areas later in the day. Opposition Syrian National Coalition President Ahmad Jarba is meeting with officials in Washington, where he said he will ask the Obama administration to provide antiaircraft missiles and will work to assure officials that the weapons will not fall into the hands of extremist groups. However, the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, part of the Free Syrian Army, has reportedly collaborated with al Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front to fight government forces in Syria's southwestern Quneitra province. A member of Jarba's delegation in the United States has denied the collaboration.
- A Saudi court has sentenced blogger Raif Badawi to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for "insulting Islam" and founding the website the "Liberal Saudi Network."
- An Israeli and an Egyptian company are working to finalize a gas deal, though the Egyptian cabinet said it had not authorized gas imports from Israel.
- The Hamas government executed two men Wednesday, without seeking approval from the Palestinian Authority president, on charges of collaborating with Israel.
- The U.N. Human Rights Council is urging Qatar to reform its labor laws and abolish a sponsorship system ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
Arguments and Analysis
'When jihadists learn how to help' (Aaron Y. Zelin, The Washington Post)
"What makes ASL stand out compared to all of the other groups, though, is that it has internationalized its dawa campaign to areas that are not part of its considered traditional constituency within the borders of Libya to a few other countries. ASL has conducted a number of campaigns to help the people of "Bilad al-Sham," Gaza, and Sudan. This illustrates that ASL is not just rhetorically talking about assisting the umma (Muslim community), but actually acting on it and trying to show that while its home base is indeed in Libya, the "imagined" umma is just as much a part of this constituency, since borders are irrelevant from its perspective. This is highlighted by the name of ASL's overseas dawa efforts: ‘The Convoy Campaign of Goodness To Our People in ‘X-location.'"
'Ronald Reagan's Benghazi' (Jane Mayer, The New Yorker)
"There were more than enough opportunities to lay blame for the horrific losses at high U.S. officials' feet. But unlike today's Congress, congressmen did not talk of impeaching Ronald Reagan, who was then President, nor were any subpoenas sent to cabinet members. This was true even though then, as now, the opposition party controlled the majority in the House. Tip O'Neill, the Democratic Speaker of the House, was no pushover. He, like today's opposition leaders in the House, demanded an investigation-but a real one, and only one. Instead of playing it for political points, a House committee undertook a serious investigation into what went wrong at the barracks in Beirut. Two months later, it issued a report finding "very serious errors in judgment" by officers on the ground, as well as responsibility up through the military chain of command, and called for better security measures against terrorism in U.S. government installations throughout the world.
In other words, Congress actually undertook a useful investigation and made helpful recommendations. The report's findings, by the way, were bipartisan. (The Pentagon, too, launched an investigation, issuing a report that was widely accepted by both parties.)"
-- Mary Casey