As Russian and US diplomats prepare for a meeting with the international mediator for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, Russian diplomats are calling for a balanced approach to settling the 21-month political crisis.
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'Syrian activists fear a new ground assault on Damascus suburbs where military reinforcements poured in hours after tripartite talks between the US, Russia and UN on the 21-month conflict.
Syria's army sent reinforcements to a rebel town near Damascus as clashes raged south of the capital Friday, hours after talks on the conflict between the US, Russia and UN ended without a breakthrough.
Inside Syria, activists feared a new ground assault on Damascus suburbs where military reinforcements poured in, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.'
The unrest in Bahrain is quietly ignored by our leaders and relegated by journalists to the box marked “news in brief”.
'Over the past 18 months, Bahraini security forces, aided by troops from Saudi Arabia, have engaged in a brutal crackdown against the island nation’s own Syria-style uprising. Bahrain is home to the Arab Spring’s forgotten revolution. Since February 2011, there have been near-daily protests against the regime, a repressive Sunni monarchy ruling over a Shia-majority country. These have been met with tear gas, live ammunition, mass arrests and torture. While the fighting in Syria is debated in the corridors of the United Nations building and reported on the front pages of the world’s newspapers, the unrest in Bahrain is quietly ignored by our leaders and relegated by journalists to the box marked “news in brief”.'
We discuss the feasibility and risks of enforcing a buffer zone and a no-fly zone in Syria.
'"According to OCHA (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), there are more than two million internally displaced people in Syria. In the face of such a humanitarian disaster, the UN should initiate the establishment of IDP camps within Syria without delay. Needless to say, these camps should have full protection. Let us also be clear, there is only one side which is responsible for this tragedy, it is the regime in Syria."
Turkey has been pressing for the establishment of safe havens inside Syria to stem the mounting exodus of refugees, and reacted with frustration when its calls fell on deaf ears at the UN Security Council on Thursday.
However, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has called the proposal for a buffer zone unrealistic.
"I believe that talk about a buffer zone is not practical, even for those countries which are playing a hostile role (against Syria)," al-Assad said in a recorded interview broadcast on Syria's Addounia television.'
There is no shortage of pundits and foreign policy experts who have offered opinions on the Syrian civil war, but few have spent as many years watching this geopolitical crossroads as closely as Edward Djerejian, a former ambassador to Syria and...
'I think that fundamentally what happened in Syria was the very same manifestation of what happened in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and other Arab countries, which was a grass-roots protest movement, largely on the part of the youth of the country, who were reclaiming their individual rights: the right to a job, the opportunity to have an education, the right to housing, the right to participate in the structure of the state.'
Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has an op-ed in today’s Washington Post in which he declares the Iranian regime on the side of freedom and reform in the Middle East, and ready to help .
'...... it’s important to see Iran’s increased diplomatic activism as a reaction to the tightening sanctions and increased isolation resulting from their failure to adequately address concerns over its nuclear work.'
Syrian rebels backed by radical Islamists captured a northern regimental command center of President Bashar al-Assad's army, activists said on Sunday, as Russia dismissed speculation that it is preparing for its ally's possible exit from power.
'Rebels have made a series of advances in recent weeks, partly due to help from radicals such as Jabhat al-Nusra, a group linked to Al Qaeda in Iraq which has been excluded from a newly-formed rebel military command.'
[However] 'Rebels have been targeting Iranians in Syria, many of whom it accuses of belonging to Iranian security forces. Iran has been Assad's main bankroller and backer in the region. Rebels are also holding 48 Iranians which Tehran says were pilgrims.'
'Washington and its NATO allies, who have thrown their weight behind the opposition, are pressing for Assad's departure to end the conflict in Syria, which has taken more than 40,000 lives.'
'............Western officials have recently cited intelligence reports that Assad may turn to chemical weapons.'
'Russia and China have blocked U.N. resolutions against Assad, saying they oppose foreign intervention in the conflict.'
'Russia, Syria's main arms supplier, dismissed suggestions from observers that its support for Assad might be softening.'
In Syria, rape is being used by armed groups as a means to an end.
'Last month, Human Rights Watch issued a report documenting sexual violence used by government agents in detention centres. Men, women and boys have reported rape, penetration with foreign objects, groping, forced nudity, and genital trauma while in the custody of the state.'
The attacks aim to instill fear and terror in not just the immediate victims of sexual violence, but the wider community connected with the victim. The effect on the audience, in this case, is at least as important as, if not more important than, the effect on the victim.
[This] function of sexual violence in Syria shows how rape can be used as an instrument of terror.'
After nearly 18 months and some 20,000 dead, Western and Arab governments are still debating the geopolitical pros and cons of intervening in Syria.
'After nearly 18 months, with over 20,000 dead and millions more directly affected, the Syrian revolution has become the foreign policy preoccupation of every Western and Arab government. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's few remaining allies -- China, Iran, and Russia -- show no sign of acceding to the aspirations of the Syrian people. And so what started out as a movement for economic reform, and was met with great violence, has now morphed into an armed insurgency, consisting overwhelmingly of civilians aiming to end the regime through force.'
'Here were the Free Syrian Street Sweepers. Boys as young as 12 were at work all around the city picking up the day's trash or, in some cases, clearing rubble left after the siege.
One young boy told me he was on cleanup duty because for his whole life (and decades before that, too) to do anything spontaneous or willful in Syria required government permission. Another joked that the garbage bag in his hand was where he wanted Assad to go. The main boulevard was colored by minibuses emblazoned with the pre-Baathist Syrian flag -- rebranded the "independence" flag -- and pro-FSA slogans. Flashing headlights and loud horns gave the street an ecstatic energy that seemed completely at odds with the grinding and bloody civil war raging elsewhere. At a surprisingly chic hookah café with leather sofas and a plasma television, locals watched international news channels into the early hours of the morning. The strawberry smoothies were first-rate.'
Despite its own troubles, Iran may see that it has little choice but to step up support for the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.
'The last thing Iran wants is a Sunni-dominated Syria that abandons the "axis" -- especially as the rebels' main supporters are Iran's Persian Gulf rivals: Qatar and Saudi Arabia.'