Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been re-elected for a third term in office despite an over three-year civil war. Syria's parliamentary speaker announced on Wednesday that Assad received 88.7 percent of the votes, with a turnout reported at about 73 percent. Polling took place only in government-controlled areas of the country and not in large portions of northern and eastern Syria held by opposition forces. Assad's supporters celebrated in Syria and Lebanon, however, in a surprise visit to Beirut, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the election was "a great big zero." Kerry blamed Assad's international allies for prolonging the conflict, but called on Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah "to engage in the legitimate effort to bring this war to an end." Meanwhile, Sigrid Kaag, head of the joint U.N. and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons mission tasked with eliminating Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, said it is critical to remove the remaining 7.2 percent of the regime's declared arsenal but noted that several countries have confirmed that Syria has "legitimate" security concerns about transporting the final shipment.
- Armed men attacked and killed a Swiss Red Cross official in the Libyan city of Sirte Wednesday.
- The PLO said it will appeal to the U.N. Security Council after Israel announced it is forwarding plans for 1,500 settlement homes in response to the new Palestinian unity government.
- An attack on a military checkpoint in Yemen's Shabwa province by suspected al Qaeda fighters killed an estimated 14 people meanwhile an army spokesman reported 500 militants and 40 soldiers have been killed in an offensive against al Qaeda.
- Kuwait has banned several TV programs on an investigation into recordings allegedly of former officials discussing a coup plot.
- A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows evidence that the MERS virus was transmitted from camels to people.
Arguments and Analysis
'Securing the Syrian Regime' (Kheder Khaddour, Sada)
"Independent groups fighting on the side of the Syrian regime have emerged and grown in size and influence over the last three years. These groups could pose a genuine danger to the regime if they were to get out of its control. If they gained a significant following on the ground and links to society, they would be able to negotiate with the regime for control and power and to work with foreign actors for their own interests, potentially against those of the regime. The regime's priority over the past year has been to contain these groups by institutionalizing them to ensure their loyalty-a key component of a successful survival strategy."
'Is Ahmadinejad plotting a comeback?' (Al Monitor)
"It's hard to imagine that Ahmadinejad's supporters have only been arrested because they have criticized those who oppose the former president. It's likely that these arrests are warning signs coming from a group of political elites who are not going to accept the possibility of Ahmadinejad, or people close to him, returning to the political arena. The judiciary and police force are in control of right-wing forces in Iran, and if the arrests of Ahmadinejad associates are political, it is they who are making these decisions.
As Sadegh Zibakalam, a professor in Tehran University, said to website Fararu: 'Certain factions are conveying this message to Ahmadinejad that you should not think about the future presidential elections or the next year's parliamentary elections. Your future is in the University of Science and Technology.'"
-- Mary Casey
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