Leader Development & Education for Sustained Peace Program: Cross-Cultural, Geopolitical & Regional Education

LDESP Middle East News Update – April 2012

NOTE: This is an excerpt. Click here to see the news update in its entirety.

The bimonthly LDESP Iraq News Update has transitioned to the monthly LDESP News Update From the Middle East. The Middle East update will include news coverage from Iran to Egypt. As with all LDESP news briefs, the information contained within the Middle East News update is to increase situational awareness concerning events that may affect your mission.

Disclaimer: Articles are taken from established and diverse professional periodicals, news articles, and editorial commentaries from different countries, reflecting a range of political views/biases, that are intended to provide readers with a better understanding of various interests and perspectives regarding the situation in the region. News summaries may highlight only a portion of an article that is relevant to the readers and may not necessarily be the focus of the entire article or the headline. Opinions expressed in the articles, commentaries and features do not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense, the US Navy, or the LDESP staff.

U.N. envoy Kofi Annan said on 27 March he has received the backing of both Syria and China for his plan for a negotiated end to the bloody Syrian conflict. Annan believes Syria’s acceptance of the plan is an important first step which needs to be immediately implemented, his spokesman said. Annan, who also is an envoy for the Arab League, told reporters after meeting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on 27 March that he had received a “positive” response from Syria as well as support from China, following a similar commitment from Russia over the weekend. (…) Annan is proposing a six-point plan that includes a cease-fire first by the Syrian government, a daily two-hour halt to fighting to evacuate the injured and provide humanitarian aid, and Syrian-led political talks to address the concerns of the Syrian people. The support from China and Russia may have been important in nudging Syria on the plan, which has been endorsed by the U.N. Security Council in a nonbinding presidential statement. (Fox News, Associated Press)

Reporting from Beirut—Syria’s armed rebels have committed “serious human rights abuses,” including kidnappings and torture, and reportedly executions, of security personnel and civilians, Human Rights Watch said on 20 March. The group painted a dark picture that is in stark contrast to the “freedom fighter” image that the rebels and their political allies outside Syria have sought to project to the world. In an open letter to the opposition, Human Rights Watch depicts a decentralized, disparate guerrilla structure in which armed groups seem to operate with complete autonomy, sometimes acting on sectarian motives to kidnap and kill security force members and civilians considered pro-government. The allegations come as the United States and other nations that have voiced support for the Syrian opposition contemplate additional actions to support the resistance, including the possibility of arming the rebels seeking to topple the government of President Bashar Assad. But U.S. and other officials have also expressed reservations about the possibility that Islamic militants, including Al Qaeda, may be part of Syria’s insurgency. (Los Angeles Times)

Syrian Deputy Oil Minister Defects, Calls Bashar Assad’s Regime A ‘Sinking Ship’

Syria’s deputy oil minister appeared tense as he looked at the camera and announced in a video that he has defected from President Bashar Assad’s regime, acknowledging he expects government forces to “burn my home” and “persecute my family.” Abdo Husameddine, a 58-year-old father of four, on 8 March became the highest-ranking civilian official to join the opposition, and he urged his countrymen to “abandon this sinking ship” as the nation spirals toward civil war. (…) Open dissent is dangerous in Syria, a country that crushed any rumblings of defiance even before the popular revolt started to threaten the Assad family’s 40-year dynasty. The security forces, which are the backbone of the regime and drive the culture of fear and paranoia, will protect the leadership at all costs. The cohesion is built into the very structure of the government. Assad, and his father who ruled before him, filled key military posts in the overwhelmingly Sunni country with members of their minority Alawite sect, ensuring loyalty by melding the fate of the army and the regime. As a result, the army leadership will likely fight to the death, out of fear of being persecuted if the Sunni majority gains the upper hand. But it is not only Alawites whose livelihoods are tied up with the regime; many government officials and prosperous Syrian businessman and officials have long traded political freedoms for economic and other advantages. In many ways, Husameddine’s defection was a reminder of just how airtight the regime has remained, particularly compared to the swift hemorrhaging of Moammar Gadhafi’s inner circle. Within weeks of the Libyan revolt last year, a number of Libyan ambassadors and other high-ranking officials quit the government, and many joined the opposition leadership. The early defection of huge sections of the army in eastern Libya gave the rebel movement a safe zone where they could freely organize their political and military strategies. (Yahoo, Associated Press)

Lebanon Will Not Budge from Dissociation Policy: Mikati

Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on 29 March Lebanon would not budge from its dissociation policy on developments in Syria. “No one will succeed in luring us into changing our disassociation policy be it internally or externally,” Mikati said during the second regional conference of the Lebanese Army Research and Strategies Studies Center. Jeffery Feltman, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, has recently said that Lebanon has a moral obligation to support the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad and should use upcoming elections to reject “the apologists of Assad’s butchery.” (…) “The decision to distance Lebanon from what is happening in Syria, which we hope will enjoy stability, was the result of the objectives we are working for,” Mikati explained at the conference held at Monroe Hotel in Beirut. (The Daily Star)

Bahraini protesters battled with riot police near Manama on 23 March after the funeral of a woman whose family said she died after tear gas entered her home twice in mid-March. A U.N. rights body this week expressed concern over the use of excessive force and tear gas by Bahraini security forces. Police moved in with water cannon and armored vehicles to break up hundreds of protesters as they approached a checkpoint near ‘Pearl Roundabout’, hub of pro-democracy protests last year led by majority Shi’ite Muslims complaining of marginalization. (Reuters)

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