Syrian government forces have retaken control over the Old City of Homs as a breakdown in a deal for the withdrawal of opposition fighter has left about 270 rebels stuck in the city. In the deal struck between opposition fighters and government forces, over 1,200 rebels as well as civilians were to be evacuated while rebel forces agreed to release about 70 hostages and allow aid deliveries into the northern Shiite towns of Nubul and Zahraa. According to Syrian officials, an aid convoy has been blocked from entering the towns. They said the remaining rebels would only be allowed to leave Homs after aid has reached the areas. Meanwhile, Sigrid Kaag, head of the join United Nations and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons operation for the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons, said the remaining eight percent of the regime's stockpile is at a government airfield near Damascus, but cannot be transferred yet because rebel forces control the local roads. The nearly 100 tons of remaining chemical substances declared by the regime reportedly contain the precursors to produce the lethal sarin nerve gas.
- The United States agreed to continuing investing in the Iron Dome meanwhile Israel is seeking increased military assistance ahead of the 2017 expiration of a 10-year $30 billion defense aid deal.
- Gunmen assassinated Ibrahim Senussi, Libya's head of intelligence for the country's eastern sector, on Thursday as he was driving in Benghazi.
- The United States closed its embassy in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa on Thursday citing recent attacks meanwhile an American journalist was deported without explanation.
- Egypt's ministry of tourism has launched a new advertising campaign as the loss of travelers amidst the political turmoil has taken a severe toll on the economy.
Arguments and Analysis
'Flight of Icarus? The PYD's Precarious Rise in Syria' (International Crisis Group)
"With the Syrian regime and opposition locked in a see-saw battle, Kurdish forces have consolidated control over large portions of the country's north. Their principal players, the Democratic Union Party (Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat, PYD) and its armed wing, the People's Protection Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel, YPG), now dominate three large, non-contiguous enclaves of Kurdish-majority territory along the Turkish border, over which the PYD proclaimed in November 2013 the transitional administration of Rojava (Western Kurdistan). Kurdish governance is unprecedented in Syria and for the PYD, an offshoot of the Turkish Kurdish insurgent movement PKK, from which it draws ideological, organisational and military support. But it is unclear whether this is a first step toward stability and the Kurdish aspiration for national recognition, or merely a respite while the civil war focuses elsewhere. The PYD alone will not determine the fate of Syria's north, but it could greatly increase its chances by broadening its popular appeal and cooperating with other local forces."
'The Consequences of NATO's Good War in Libya' (Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, War on the Rocks)
"Rapid as Qaddafi's fall was, the intervention is widely regarded as a success, as no allied lives were lost, and the price tag stood at just $1.1 billion. But though the mission was superb in its execution, it was more problematic than is commonly acknowledged. The intervention produced significant ripples, and in fact, one rationale for intervention advanced at the time was that doing so would have second-order consequences: As several commentators noted, there was a real feeling at the time that the changes sweeping the region might be reversed if Qaddafi's advance on Benghazi weren't stopped.
Though the desire to see the spread of democracy and the fall of dictators is noble, decisions of state should be judged by results rather than intent. NATO's intervention came when there had already been wrenching changes in the region, and there were further revolutionary rumblings. The choice to intervene represented not just a decision to stop Qaddafi's advance on Benghazi, but also to speed up the pace of change. This made it more difficult subsequently for the United States to secure its interests, and to influence events in the region in a way that could save further lives. The intervention in Libya left behind a country beset by instability, and has had a destabilizing effect on Libya's neighbors. Taking these consequences into account, it is not clear that lives were saved on the whole by NATO's intervention."
'Taking sides in Egypt's troubled revolution: but which?' (Haifaa G. Khalafallah, Open Democracy)
"Revolutions or coups seeking to change modern Egypt, whether in 1919 or 1952, never challenged the familiar patterns of power relations, that is to say, their political culture.
The triumph of a home grown, new political discourse is the real and most significant Egyptian revolution that took place early in 2011. Unexpected and leaderless, Tahrir Square became its central point, where many of its advocates first appeared as a group. Ever since, Tahrir also served as the address of the significant shifts that this vision brings.
After their initial shock at the success of the Tahrir demonstrators, the subscribers to Egypt's old narrative of power recovered ground and began to reassert the authority of the familiar ways of running their country. A war between the old and new ways became inevitable. That summarises the story of Egypt today, where daily battles continue to rage in its streets, workplaces, media, prisons, and even in its morgues."
-- Mary Casey
RIM HADDAD/AFP/Getty Images