Category: Syria


Poland and Syria do not immediately appear to have much in common, but the people in both have been abandoned to untold violence with the full knowledge of the world. And while Poland and Ukraine do not share a common history, they have undoubtedly suffered the common problem of being considered a Russian possession: in 1939 Poland was partitioned between Germany and the USSR, then taken by the Soviets at the end of the war as if no more than a Russian province. As recent developments reflect, Russia still sees Ukraine in the same light, though it has been independent since 1991.

One of the many attributes of Alexandra Richie’s fascinating Warsaw 1944 is that it often brings into focus current events and international circumstances no less than the dire story it has to tell. It is an important book that should be widely read. [Read the full article]

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Turkey: Rift with US-based cleric widens | AP

 

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s embattled prime minister on Saturday ratcheted up the rhetoric against a U.S.-based Muslim cleric seen as a threat to his government, for the first time directly suggesting followers have infiltrated the police and judiciary and are pushing a corruption probe against his allies.

Analysts meanwhile pointed to growing evidence of an uneasy alliance between Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islam-based government and the secular military, which for years regarded him with suspicion. [Read the full article]

 

Assad Blamed For Beirut Car Bomb Assassination Of Lebanese Politician | The Daily Beast

 

The killing of a top Lebanese Sunni politician and critic of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a powerful car blast yesterday in central Beirut—an attack that also claimed the lives of five others—underscores how deeply Lebanon has been drawn into the conflict in neighboring Syria.

The assassination of onetime finance minister and ambassador Mohammad Chatah, an adviser to former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and an unrelenting critic of Hezbollah, the radical Shia movement and Assad ally, is already being linked by his political allies to the Syrian regime. Just an hour before his slaying, in a blast that struck near the country’s parliament and major government offices, Chatah had tweeted one of his regular denunciations of Hezbollah. [Read the full article]

 

Syria to miss chemical weapons deadline | The Hill

 

A December 31 deadline for the removal of the most critical chemical weapons material from Syria will not be met, according to the United Nations and an international monitoring group.

Officials in a joint statement issued in the Syrian port city of Latakia blamed a number of “technical difficulties,” adding that preparations continue “in readiness” for the transport of the materials for destruction.

The U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said the “continuing volatility in overall security conditions” have “constrained planned movements.” [Read the full article]

 

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Report: Iran may be month from a bomb | USA Today

 

Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build a nuclear bomb in as little as a month, according to a new estimate by one of the USA’s top nuclear experts.

The new assessment comes as the White House invited Senate staffers to a briefing on negotiations with Iran as it is trying to persuade Congress not to go ahead with a bill to stiffen sanctions against Iran.

“Shortening breakout times have implications for any negotiation with Iran,” stated the report by the Institute for Science and International Security. “An essential finding is that they are currently too short and shortening further.” [Read the full article]

 

Syria meets chemical weapons deadline | LA Times

 

GAZIANTEP, Turkey — The Syrian government has met an international deadline to submit a detailed declaration of its chemical weapons facilities and a proposal to destroy its toxic arsenal, the group overseeing the disarmament process said Sunday.

The determination means that the U.S.- and Russian-crafted plan to do away with Syria’s extensive chemical stockpile is proceeding on pace, even as Syria is convulsed by civil conflict that is now in its third year. [Read the full article]

 

Lebanon suffers under the strain of a refugee crisis now out of control | The Guardian

 

As you come through the military checkpoints on the way into Wadi Khaled, local mobile phones bleep with an unsolicited text: “The Ministry of Tourism welcomes you to Syria.”

This part of northern Lebanon, which juts like a knucklebone into Syria, is so close to the war that the villagers can watch the rockets land and palls of smoke rising across the hillsides. Children have swarmed up on to the first floor of the shell of a half-built house and are pointing excitedly to where the outlying villages of Homs begin. “I can see our house,” shouts Satash, six. [Read the full article]

 

Chemical weapons inspectors in Syria miss deadline | AP

 

BEIRUT (AP) — International inspectors overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile have missed an early deadline in a brutally tight schedule after security concerns prevented them from visiting two sites linked to Damascus’ chemical program.

Experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons were to have checked all 23 of Syria’s declared chemical sites by Sunday, but the organization said Monday that inspectors have visited only 21 because of security issues. While there are no consequences for missing the deadline, the group’s failure to meet it underscores the ambitious timeline as well as the risks its inspectors face in carrying out their mission in the middle of Syria’s civil war. [Read the full article]

 

AP Exclusive: Key operations in Haifa out of commission two straight days, major losses | USA Today

 

HADERA, Israel (AP) — When Israel’s military chief delivered a high-profile speech this month outlining the greatest threats his country might face in the future, he listed computer sabotage as a top concern, warning a sophisticated cyberattack could one day bring the nation to a standstill.

Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz was not speaking empty words. Exactly one month before his address, a major artery in Israel’s national road network in the northern city of Haifa suffered a cyberattack, cybersecurity experts tell The Associated Press, knocking key operations out of commission two days in a row and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. [Read the full article]

 

Turkey goes from honest broker to Iranian ally | Al Arabiya

 

A few years ago, Turkey was the only country that could talk to everyone in a Middle East where distrust among nations is a prevailing mentality. Mishandling crises in most states hit by the mass uprising, Ankara was left alone. Officials in Ankara preferred to describe its international standing “precious loneliness.”

For centuries, building alliances to balance against threatening states has been at the heart of successful foreign policy-making. The very gauge of success in foreign policy is to what extent a state can build coalitions to pursue common security interests. If a state is lonely and isolated, no matter how moral its policies are, it will have to shoulder the entire burden of securing itself. The Turkish government, however, points to “moral motives” behind its policies instead of its dire results. [Read the full article]

 

Car bombs kill scores in Baghdad, in sign of crisis in Iraq | Washington Post

 

IRBIL, Iraq — Nearly two years after the U.S. troop withdrawal, Iraq is in the midst of a deepening security crisis as an al-Qaeda affiliate wages a relentless campaign of attacks, sending the death toll soaring to its highest level since 2008.

In the latest violence, nine car bombs tore through markets and police checkpoints in Baghdad on Sunday, killing dozens of people. [Read the full article]

 

In Egypt’s Countryside, Vendettas Between Police and Islamists Simmer | The Daily Beast

 

In a hospital for police in Cairo, in one bed after another, if the patients were conscious, they told stories of horror. They had been beaten with in an inch of their lives. They had been burned with acid. They’d seen their buddies die around them. They’d been dragged through dusty streets behind trucks like the slaughtered American soldiers in Black Hawk Down. But as they lay there in the hospital in pain last month, few people heard their stories—few people, that is, outside the Egyptian army and security forces. And many of those soldiers and cops who did hear what happened to their comrades talked about “terrorism,” about “justice,” about “revenge.” [Read the full article]

 

Saudi Arabia’s message to Obama | Boston Globe

 

Is there an idiom in Arabic for cutting off your nose to spite your face? Saudi Arabia’s abrupt rejection on Oct. 18 of the UN Security Council seat to which it had just been elected was described as “bizarre” and “baffling,” a “perplexing” decision that left diplomats “gasping.” No member of the United Nations had ever done such a thing, and the Saudi government’s explanation was about as subtle as an uppercut.

“The . . . double standards existing in the Security Council prevent it from performing its duties and assuming its responsibilities,” the Foreign Ministry charged angrily, and the results have been “continued disruption of peace and security, the expansion of the injustices against peoples, the violation of rights, and the spread of conflicts and wars.” [Read the full article]

 

Give Syria peace, not a process | The Guardian

 

A group of foreign ministers declared last week that Bashar al-Assad “would not have a role in Syria” when a transitional governing body was established to move the country forward. For all the media excitement over the announcement, this Friends of Syria grouping merely reiterated a basic condition of the Syrian National Coalition, the main political opposition group, recognised by more than 100 countries as “the legitimate representative of the Syrian people”.

The public sidelining of Assad was a mere formality while efforts continue to convince the opposition not only to remain united in a single delegation, but to show up at an international conference in Geneva on 23 November. With many earlier promises still unfulfilled, Syrians opposed to Assad are used to lowering their expectations from the international community – but there are limits, and many are troubled by the current plans. [Read the full article]

 

In Syrian civil war, emergence of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria boosts rival Jabhat al-Nusra | Washington Post

 

REYHANLI, Turkey — While the emergence of al-Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as a major force in the Syrian civil war has caused deep concern for many rebels, one group’s fighters claim its presence has given them a popularity boost.

Until ISIS asserted its place in the war earlier this year, Jabhat al-Nusra had the reputation of being the most radical wing of the opposition seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It was the first to claim responsibility for car bombings against government targets and was quickly designated a terrorist group by the United States. [Read the full article]

 

NATO Reduces Scope of Its Afghanistan Plans | New York Times

 

BRUSSELS — After months of tense negotiations over the size and role of a postwar presence in Afghanistan, senior North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials say they are planning a more minimalist mission, with a force consisting of fewer combat trainers and more military managers to ensure that billions of dollars in security aid are not squandered or pilfered.

The shrinking ambitions for the postwar mission reflect fears that the United States Congress and European parliaments might cancel their financial commitments — amounting to more than $4 billion a year, the largest single military assistance program in the world — unless American and NATO troops are positioned at Afghan military and police headquarters to oversee how the money is spent in a country known for rampant corruption. [Read the full article]

 

Kuwait Hookah Cafes Under Fire From Islamic Conservatives For Allowing Women | Huffington Post

 

KUWAIT CITY — KUWAIT CITY (AP) — One of the traditional pleasures of the Middle East — leisurely puffing on a water pipe filled with aromatic tobacco — has become ensnared in another of the region’s customs: that of Islamic conservatives decrying what they see as liberal Western decadence.

Hard-liners are denouncing some shisha cafes as a “moral menace” because they allow young men and women to mix freely. [Read the full article]

 

Kuwait upholds 10-year prison sentence for Twitter ‘insults’ | New York Daily News

 

KUWAIT CITY — A rights activist in Kuwait says an appeals court has upheld a 10-year prison sentence against a social media commentator for posts considered offensive to Islam and the rulers of fellow Gulf states Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Monday’s ruling highlights the escalating crackdowns in the Gulf on perceived online dissent and the deepening cooperation among Gulf nations, fearing political challenges inspired by the Arab Spring. [Read the full article]

 

Governing By Crisis In Cyprus: Lessons For The United States | Forbes

 

Six months ago Cyprus received a 10 billion euro bailout from the Troika – the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. The Cyprus Financial Crisis was a devastating blow to Cypriots and halted their banking system. Banks closed for two weeks to prevent a banking panic. When they reopened, capital controls were placed on the people’s money and customers were met by armed guards at the branches. Depositors could not withdraw more than 300 euros a day from their bank accounts, couldn’t cash checks, and could only charge 5,000 euros a month on credit card purchases abroad.  The severities of these restrictions are compounded by the fact that Cyprus is a tiny island that produces very few manufactured goods. Many of these restrictions are still in effect and have caused massive economic contraction. [Read the full article]

 

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The abiding defect of U.S. foreign policy? It’s isolationism, my friend. Purporting to steer clear of war, isolationism fosters it. Isolationism impedes the spread of democracy. It inhibits trade and therefore prosperity. It allows evildoers to get away with murder. Isolationists prevent the United States from accomplishing its providentially assigned global mission. Wean the American people from their persistent inclination to look inward and who knows what wonders our leaders will accomplish.

The United States has been at war for well over a decade now, with U.S. attacks and excursions in distant lands having become as commonplace as floods and forest fires. Yet during the recent debate over Syria, the absence of popular enthusiasm for opening up another active front evoked expressions of concern in Washington that Americans were once more turning their backs on the world.

As he was proclaiming the imperative of punishing the government of Bashar al-Assad, Secretary of State John Kerry also chided skeptical members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that “this is not the time for armchair isolationism.”  Commentators keen to have a go at the Syrian autocrat wasted little time in expanding on Kerry’s theme. [Read the full article]

 

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Spy Chief Distances Saudis From U.S. | WSJ

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia—Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief told European diplomats this weekend that he plans to scale back cooperating with the U.S. to arm and train Syrian rebels in protest of Washington’s policy in the region, participants in the meeting said.

Prince Bandar Bin Sultan al-Saud’s move increases tensions in a growing dispute between the U.S. and one of its closest Arab allies over Syria, Iran and Egypt policies. It follows Saudi Arabia’s surprise decision on Friday to renounce a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

The Saudi government, after preparing and campaigning for the seat for a year, cited what it said was the council’s ineffectiveness in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian and Syrian conflicts. [Read the full article]

Why the snub? | The Economist

SPEED is not something normally associated with the quiet, subtle style of traditional Saudi diplomacy, yet the abruptness of the flip-flop performed by the kingdom on October 18th was stunning by any standard. In the morning, Saudi diplomats in New York were trumpeting their country’s election to a coveted two-year stint as a rotating temporary member of the UN Security Council. This was a cause for rejoicing and a “defining moment” in the kingdom’s history, enthused the Saudi UN ambassador, Abdallah al-Mouallimi.

Within hours though, word came from the Saudi capital, Riyadh, to can the celebration. In a step unprecedented since the creation of the UN—of which Saudi Arabia was, incidentally, a founding member—the kingdom declared that it would renounce the Security Council seat. The foreign ministry’s official explanation was turgid and petulant. The council had failed to bring peace to the Middle East, it said, noting in particular Palestine and the continuing civil war in Syria: [Read the full article]

Dark Clouds Over the Sinai | Slate

NORTH SINAI, Egypt—The black, charcoaled remains of a cow’s dead body lies in a sandy field behind a shelled-out mansion. Washed-out blood stains the walls of an unpainted grey room where sons say their 80-year-old mother was killed by army tank fire. Bullet holes pockmark the house. A 9-year-old girl’s cheek is marked by a pink incision where a rock hit her face as her home was strafed by helicopter fire. A child’s sandal and burned Quran were among the rubble of a mosque that locals say was destroyed by ground and air military troops. I watched as an IED exploded under an armored personnel carrier as it turned a corner. Black smoke filled the air, and an olive tree was uprooted. Later, two soldiers were reported injured.

These are some of the casualties of the Egyptian army’s war on “terrorists” in the villages and towns that dot the north of the Sinai Peninsula close to the borders of Gaza and Israel. [Read the full article]

In Egypt’s Sinai, military’s harsh campaign earns pledges of retaliation | McClatchy

EL MEHEHDAYIA, Egypt — Like a buzzard hovering overhead in pursuit of its prey, the Egyptian military helicopter arrives over the village by 6 a.m., according to the residents of northern Sinai who’ve been subjected to weeks of government attacks.

As soon as the helicopter is in sight, the men flee the village. They know government ground forces won’t be far behind. Some go to the Israeli border, which they consider one of the safest places in the area, the one place they think the Egyptian forces can’t wantonly attack, lest they be embarrassed before the eyes of the international community. The women and children hide under their beds, some of the few pieces of furniture in the barren village homes. Then the destruction of the village begins. [Read the full article]

Israel, the Two-State Solution, and Nazi Jews | Tablet Mag

Last Friday afternoon, I wrote about Roger Cohen’s recent opinion column in the Times, in which he took Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the shed. Cohen objected to Bibi’s recent campaign to remind the world that Iran’s nuclear program is a real threat despite Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s charm offensive at the United Nations and his near-acknowledgment of the Holocaust last month. According to Cohen, Bibi’s American tour was a diversionary ploy to avoid making peace with the Palestinians. (By the way, per peace talks parameters, Palestinian officials are confirming that Israel will release its next round of Palestinian prisoners later this month.)

Anyway, I think Cohen missed the mark, especially by downplaying the nature of Iran’s threat. In the post, I highlighted five particularly silly sentences and explained why I thought they were silly. As it happens, I received e-mails from a few readers who wanted to talk about it. I tend not to post these, but I found that a couple of the responses embodied the strange moment we’re in as we talk about Iran, Israel, and the two-state solution. [Read the full article]

Turkey Under Pressure Over Likely Purchase of Chinese Missiles | Voice of America

ISTANBUL — Ankara is facing mounting pressure from its NATO allies over its announcement that a Chinese company is favored to win a contract to co-produce a Turkish missile defense system. NATO’s secretary general has now added his voice to the growing chorus of concern.

On Monday, Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned Ankara that any arms procurement it makes must be compatible with its allies. That comment follows Turkey’s announcement that a Chinese company is favored to win the multi-billion-dollar missile defense system contract.  Other NATO member states have voiced similar concerns. [Read the full article]

 

Dark Clouds Over the Sinai | Slate

 

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Middle East turmoil is fuelling Ottoman nostalgia. But it’s a dead end | The Guardian

They called it the Sublime Porte. It was the seat of an empire that stretched from Algiers to Baghdad and Aden to Budapest. The name suggests something dreamlike and luxurious. In reality, the Ottoman state was an extraordinary and ruthless machine. Its administrators, plucked from their families as children so they would be loyal only to the sultan, fought wars, collected taxes and founded cities with an efficiency unmatched at the time.

But the most intractable problems of the modern Middle East are found where that empire once had its core: Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. This is no coincidence. The civil war in Syria, in particular, has cast people’s minds back to the collapse of Ottoman power, and the arbitrary carve-up that created states which now, nearly 100 years later, seem on the brink of failure. [Read the full article]

Iran could develop nuclear weapons capability despite sanctions, report warns | The Telegraph

As the US Congress debate further sanctions, the report found that Iran’s banking system was under growing stress and would have little capacity to defend its currency if it came under renewed pressure.

The state of Iran’s finances helped explain the sudden insistence of Iran’s new president Hassan Rouhani on a “quick”, three-to-six month deal being brokered between Tehran and the international P5+1 grouping. Talks are due to open in Geneva on October 15. [Read the full article]

The Syria Deal That Could Have Been | The Atlantic

Despite Secretary of State John Kerry’s frenetic efforts, preparations for the “Geneva II” peace conference on Syria’s civil war are already foundering. The rebel movement has become increasingly radicalized against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and more fractured. A newly confident Assad, meanwhile, has somewhat relegitimized himself as a signatory to a new chemical-weapons ban negotiated by the United States and Russia under U.N. auspices, which his government is tasked with implementing over the next year. Defying global opprobrium over his use of sarin gas, Assad has also positioned himself in a series of high-profile TV interviews as a preferable alternative to Islamist rebels who want to create a fundamentalist state.

All of which should prompt a reexamination of the first Geneva conference in the summer of 2012, on which Kerry’s new push for peace is based. According to some officials involved, perhaps the greatest tragedy of Syria is that, some 80,000 lives ago, President Obama might have had within his grasp a workable plan to end the violence, one that is far less possible now. But amid the politics of the 2012 presidential election—when GOP nominee Mitt Romney regularly accused Obama of being “soft”—the administration did little to make it work and simply took a hard line against Assad, angering the special U.N. Syria envoy, Kofi Annan, and prompting the former U.N. secretary-general to quit, according to several officials involved. [Read the full article]

Blast from the past for Egyptian dissidents | Al Jazeera

Cairo, Egypt – Omar Assaf was dragged from his house by a dozen armed Egyptian special forces at 2am. The 30-year-old financial analyst – a father of three young children – was hauled off to prison last month wearing only shorts and T-shirt. Nobody knew what happened to him.

“My family went to all the prisons in Cairo to provide him with clothes, money and food. Police officers told them the same story over and over again – that he was not there,” Omar’s sister Aya Assaf told Al Jazeera. “They didn’t want us to help him.” [Read the full article]

Dignity for Iran equals an Iran free of nuclear weapons | Al Arabiya

“Either you let me play or I will spoil your game!”

This is the sound of an unhappy child that no one wants to play with but who just won’t take “no” for an answer; a sound that has been heard repeatedly in just about any unsupervised ball game. Sometimes the child even charges onto the field to snatch the ball.

This has been Iran for decades, playing the role on a global scale. Although, the difference is that Iran never wanted to play by the rules of the game, it wanted others to adhere to its version of the game, one where it could relive the “glory” of its past. [Read the full article]

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CIA Supplying Weapons To Syrian Rebel Groups Legally Classified As Terrorists By The U.S. | Opposing Views

 

The U.S. military’s involvement (or lack thereof) in the Syrian civil war that has been taking place over the past few years has been a point of contention both within the U.S. and around the world. After a chemical attack killed and injured thousands, the debate as to whether or not the Obama administration would respond with a military strike dominated discussion within the U.S. and the U.N. governing bodies.

Before the extended debate surrounding that issue took place, the United States government had approved the CIA to begin delivering weapons to Syrian rebels. After a few months of delay following the Syrian chemical attack, the shipments of those weapons recently began. The arms sent to the country include light weaponry that can be tracked by the United States. [Read the full article]

 

Is a Third Intifada in the offing? | Al Jazeera

 

Hebron, Occupied West Bank – The recent killing of two Israeli soldiers has broken a relative calm in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and some observers say the incidents could be a prelude to yet another Palestinian uprising.

One of the soldiers was killed September 21 near the northern West Bank town of Kalkilya, and the Israeli army arrested a Palestinian suspect shortly afterward. The perpetrator reportedly confessed to having killed the soldier with the intention of exchanging his body for his brother, who is serving a lengthy prison sentence in an Israeli jail. [Read the full article]

 

Gezi Park and Taksim Square: Reflections and Reactions | Social Resistance

 

Courage, bravery, comradeship, solidarity, youth, tear gas, riot police, batons, shields, gas masks and water cannon, death, blinding, euphoria, intimidation, more courage, fatigue, exhilaration, the smell of tear gas, stinging and burning, eyes watering, running from the police charge, indiscriminate police violence, chemically modified caustic water from water cannon, mass demonstrations, unity in opposition, albeit temporary,  spontaneity yet with organisation, hope but despair, then hope again, the repressive state apparatuses and the ideological state apparatuses in the service of AKP and sections of Turkish Capital, transnational and national Capital in its brutal nakedness- the combined brutality of neoliberal immiseration and brute force. And Erdogan’s astonishment. And the disbelief mong oppressors and oppressed. And astonishment through the globe. At the global revelation of Capitalist brutality in Turkey, at the global understanding of Erdogan’s conservative anti-secular Islamicisation of society and education in Turkey. The neoliberal-Islamic conservative nexus. Of secularists and socialists under siege, of liberals and Labour labelled as `the enemy’, of workers and trade unionists trampled and imprisoned, of peaceful demonstrators demonised and detained. While the world looked on in amazement. And laughed at the idolatry of the new Sultan, Erdogan, lauded by his supine media and ministers. And at Erdogan’s flailing depictions of the protestors as ` internal traitors and external collaborators’.  And realised the laughter was hollow when the global screens showed the blood, the dignity, the solidarity, the youth, the justice of the protesters, the two week long peaceful commune that had been Gezi. [Read the full article]

 

God is everywhere in Egypt | LA Times

 

CAIRO — In politically fractured Egypt, there’s one belief that almost every faction seems to hold in common: God is on our side. (And not, therefore, on yours.)

Egypt’s social and cultural mix is hieroglyphic in its complexity: Islamists, progressives, conservatives, and those marching in lock step with the powerful military. But in the Arab world’s most populous and influential country, the many guises of piety are rarely absent from discourse. [Read the full article]

 

Mikati stresses Lebanon ‘won’t close door in Syrians’ faces’ – but cash is questionable | Euronews

 

Since the start of the serious violence in Syria, the country that has felt the most direct practical impact has been neighbouring Lebanon. The consequences of the crisis have been political, economic and social. In Beirut, pressures linked to Syria prompted Najib Mikati to resign as prime minister, but he has remained in a caretaker capacity.

As preparations continue for a new government to be formed, Daleen Hassan went to speak with him. [Read the full article]

 

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Video Games and Cigarettes: Syria’s Disneyland for Jihadists | Spiegel

 

Atmeh looks like the set for a movie about al-Qaida. New arrivals pulling suitcases on wheels search for their emirs, Africans and Asians can be seen on the village streets, and long-haired men dressed in traditional Afghan clothing walk around wielding AK-47s. There are patrons at the local kebab stand whose northern English dialect is peppered with Arabic words and phrases. “Subhan’Allah, bro, I asked for ketchup,” says one man. The many languages heard on the street include Russian, Azerbaijani and Arabic spoken with a guttural Saudi Arabian accent.

The once-sleepy smugglers’ nest on the Turkish border has become a mecca for jihad tourists from around the world. A year ago, SPIEGEL reporters in Atmeh met with one of the first foreign fighters in Syria, a young Iraqi who said that he had come to overthrow the dictatorship. Meanwhile, more than 1,000 jihadists are staying in and around Atmeh, making it the densest accumulation of jihadists in all of Syria. Ironically, while war rages in the rest of the country, the foreign jihadists have made one of Syria’s quietest spots into their base. Or perhaps they have chosen Atmeh precisely because it is so quiet. Once they arrive, many are reluctant to leave. [Read the full article]

 

Israel court rules on illegal Nablus outpost | Al Jazeera

 

Burqa, West Bank – When Israel withdrew its settlers from the Gaza Strip and from four small West Bank settlements under its 2005 “disengagement plan,” the villagers of Burqa near Nablus thought they would finally take back land originally confiscated from them 35 years ago.

But only last week was a decision made by Israel’s Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to allow Palestinians access to their land, and to reiterate that settlers would be forbidden from entering the area. [Read the full article]

 

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