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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.
Syria: Rebel Army Issues Ultimatum on UN Ceasefire
The United Nations peace plan for Syria is on the verge of officially collapsing after the Free Syrian Army gave Bashar al-Assad’s regime until noon on 1 June to end violence. In a statement, the main rebel group said they would abandon the truce unless the ultimatum was met. “If the Syrian regime does not meet the deadline by midday 1 June, the command of the Free Syrian Army announces that it will no longer be tied by any commitment to the Annan plan … and our duty will be … to defend civilians,” it said. The ultimatum followed reports by the UN of two massacres of civilians in late May, leaving a 12 April ceasefire negotiated by UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan in tatters. (The Telegraph)
Clinton Argues against Syria Military Intervention
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on 31 May laid out arguments against armed intervention in Syria despite the recent massacre in the town of Houla. (…) 26 May’s massacre of more than 100 civilians, many of them children, in Houla has triggered calls for the West to take more robust action in Syria, despite Russian and Chinese opposition. However, Clinton rehearsed U.S. arguments against armed intervention for now in contrast with Libya, where Western-led air strikes last year helped end Muammar Gaddafi’s rule. Clinton said Syria had a more diverse society with greater ethnic divisions, no unified opposition, stronger air defenses and a much more capable military than Libya’s. Above all, she stressed there was no international support because of Russian and Chinese opposition at the U.N. Security Council, where they have twice vetoed resolutions on Syria. Speaking later at a news conference with the Danish foreign minister, Clinton said she would try to change Russia’s stance. (…) “I think they are in effect propping up the regime at a time when we should be working on a political transition,” she said. (Reuters)
Beyond Bashar, Syria’s Rebels are Facing Far More Significant Resistance
Nothing is more naive than the use of the term “Arab Spring” to describe the insurrections that successively toppled regimes in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen last year. (…) An entirely separate status, however, must be reserved for the insurrection in Syria. (…)Although this insurrection has already cost the lives of 10,000 people, the regime is still in place. (…) Soon after the Iranian revolution, Syria and Iran became allies.(…) Today, it is this powerful Iranian-Syrian bloc, with its Iraqi extension, that is covering Bashar Assad’s back and confronting the Syrian rebels. (…) This indifference is all the more pronounced in that it is sustained by the backing of Russia, which has been able to reconstitute itself and stage a strong comeback in the Middle East by taking advantage of events in Syria. (…) China, Russia and Iran support for Bashar Assad makes a Western military intervention in Syria impossible, given the likely catastrophic repercussions for all concerned. (The Daily Star)
Security Crisis Threatens Yemeni Transition
Yemen’s deepening security crisis threatens to derail the Arab Spring’s only internationally brokered regime change, which has been promoted by President Barack Obama as a possible model for Syria. Western and Gulf countries face an uncomfortable squeeze as they try to promote political reform while simultaneously backing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s bloody fight against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula [AQAP] and other Islamist groups, in a conflict that has killed hundreds. Analysts say international powers’ ever-closer relationship with Mr Hadi risks handing a propaganda coup to militants who argue they are fighting a just war against both the president’s forces and the US, which has stepped up drone strikes in the country’s chaotic south. Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen expert at Princeton University, said: “The big question is which narrative wins out – will it be the new Yemeni government which says that it is restoring authority and stability in the country, or will it be AQAP which frames its actions as revenge for US and government attacks and is providing services in areas long neglected?” (The Financial Times)
Escalating Violence Pulls in U.S. and Allies
U.S. policymakers might talk down “boots on the ground” in Yemen but with an estimated several hundred military advisers already deployed, Washington and its allies are already being drawn ever deeper into the country. (…) Growing numbers of special forces advisers are now training Yemen’s military, while financial and humanitarian aid from Western and Gulf states has increased sharply.(…) Earlier this month, U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters there was “no prospect” of “boots on the ground” in Yemen. Certainly, with a presidential election a mere five months away and public fatigue with long-running wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there is little enthusiasm for a major conventional military campaign. Instead, Yemen looks set to be the scene of the kind of largely clandestine, barely publicly discussed U.S. intervention that many believe will be the model for conflicts in the years to come. (Reuters)