Archive for the ‘Syria’ Category

Spanish Journalists Have Been Held in Syria for Three Months

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

Three months ago, two Spanish journalists named Javier Espinosa and Ricardo Garcia Vilanova were kidnapped at a checkpoint located in a rebel-held part of Syria. Four members of the Free Syrian Army were also kidnapped along with the two journalists, but they have since been released. This kidnapping has not been made publicized until now because “indirect communications with the captors” (BBC) were being held, but now family members of these two men are making a public appeal for their safe return.

Unfortunately, these two journalists are far from the first to be captured in Syria. The BBC reports that “many kidnappings have not been made public but it is thought there are between 20 and 30 aid workers and journalists currently in captivity…” Syria is known as the most dangerous country for journalists to travel in. For now, public appeals are being made for Espinosa’s and Garcia’s release, but no known contact has been made with the captors.

Questions

Why do journalists still travel to Syria when they know they have a high likelihood of being kidnapped or killed?

Could these kidnappings push the US to send forces into Syria?

Why are so many of these kidnappings kept quiet?

Sources

BBC

AlJazeera

UN Is Nearing a Resolution Regarding Syria

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

On Wednesday, it was announced that the UN may come up with a resolution on Syria within the next two days. The draft of this resolution will likely include a reference to Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which allows military force to be brought into Syria. The goal of sending military forces into Syria is to promote security throughout the country. This reference to Chapter 7 does not mean that military forces will immediately be sent into Syria, but it does put the idea on the table. If the Syrian government does not comply with giving up their chemical weapons, the UN will meet again about enforcing Chapter 7.

A continuing issue surrounding the creation of this resolution is the tensions between Russia and the USA. PressTV claims that “The document is expected to support a deal between the United States and Russia to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control” while the NY Times claims that a Russian spokesman was quoted saying that the nearing resolution on Syria is “wishful thinking.” (NY Times) These discrepancies only add to the confusion that has plagued the process of finding a resolution regarding Syria.

Despite this confusion, the US is confident that a resolution regarding Syria will be reached within the next few days.

 

Do you think that Russia and the US will be able to come to a compromise regarding Syria?

Will the reference to Chapter 7 successfully influence the Syrian government to give up their chemical weapons?

PressTV

NY Times

Al Jazeera

 

Iranian and Syrian Nuclear Program

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

The discussion about nuclear weapons in Iran and Syria continued as peaceful resolution was aimed for.

Iran’s recent fatwa (a ruling on a point of Islamic law) against the use of nuclear weapons provided a positive foundation for agreement about the nuclear program; however, President Obama warned that these peace-intending words must be matched by similar actions. Obama emphasized that the US is prepared to use all elements of power to secure interests in the region.

As for Syria, Obama urges the Security Council to approve a resolution to make sure Syria keeps its commitment to turn over its chemical weapons. Obama has again stated that Syria will face “consequences” if it fails to do so; “The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure these core interests in the region.” There is still discussion about whether the deal for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons should be enforced by a UN Security Council resolution Chapter VII, authorizing sanctions and allowing force if Syria does not follow through.

 

Questions

Do you think issues about nuclear programs can be resolved peaceful?

Do you think the sanctions and force should be imposed if Syria does not follow through (enforced by UN Security Council resolution Chapter VII)?

 

Sources

NY Times

BBC

Al Jazeera

Press TV

Extreme Violence Breaks Out in Iraq

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

In the past two days, there have been multiple suicide bombings in Baghdad, Beiji and Sadr City. These attacks took place on predominantly Sunni areas.

 

Saturday, there was a funeral in a Baghdad funeral for a Shi’a man that was bombed, killing at least 65 people. This included women and children. A suicide bomber pulled up next to the funeral tent and blew himself and the car up.

 

Earlier that day, four suicide bombers raided a police headquarters in Beiji. 11 special force officers were killed, 7 police officers were killed and 21 others were wounded. One of the bombers was shot and killed, so only three of the bombers were able to detonate their bombs.

 

Sunday, Another funeral bombing took place in a predominantly Sunni Muslim district. This bombing killed at least 16 people and wounded 35 others. Now Iraq’s monthly death toll has risen drastically to 500. This surge in violence could be related to conflicts between Sunnis and Shi’as and the Syrian civil war is spilling over the boarders into Iraq. Sunni Al-Qaeda members from Iraq are thought to be moving in and out of Syria in order to support Syrian rebels.

 

If the bombings are a result of Syrian civil conflicts or refugee migration into Iraq, how will these affect Syrian relations with Iraq?

 

Sources:

Aljazeera

BBC

 

The Syrian Refugee Crisis

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

If you’re interested in reading more about the crisis of Syrian refugees, the New York Review of Books has an in depth look at the magnitude of the conflict.

At the beginning of September, more than two million Syrians had left the country, while the average pace had reached five thousand people a day. The UN projects there will be 3.5 million refugees by the end of the year.

This is to say nothing of the more than four million Syrians who, according to the UN and other aid groups, have been uprooted by the conflict but remain inside Syria; overall, nearly one third of the country’s population have been forced to abandon their homes.

When a single border crossing opened in August, more than 46,000 Syrians flooded across in ten days, forcing the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq to set a three-thousand-per-day limit.

 

 

 

Syrian aircraft shot down by Turkish plane

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

The New York Times easily had the most to say on the matter. From Istanbul it was reported from the Turkish government that a Turkish fighter plane had shot down a Syrian military helicopter. This obviously bringing tensions to a new height, one that would ultimately like to be seen start deescalating sometime soon with the turning over of the Syrian chemical weapons. The Turkish warplane was said to have encountered the Syrian helicopter on the southern border of Turkey. After a number of warnings the helicopter was fired upon and shot down. The warnings were not responded to so Turkey felt there was little room for another decision on the matter. The Turkish foreign minister was very adamant about this being an example and how it will set the tone for border laws of Turkey not to be violated. Syrian army command said that the actions of Turkey were “hasty” and saw this as a sort of move of aggression. Going along with the incident a lot more military activity took place. It is said that a pilot or someone on board the helicopter had survived until captured and be headed. This is backed in both the New York Times and the Globe and Mail. Some shells have rained down on Turkey’s side of the border from the Syrian conflict and the general idea here is that Turkey has had more than enough. The Globe and Mail corroborated the story of the helicopter’s mile venture into the border. There wasn’t any mention of the fate of the pilots of the helicopter. The New York Times and the Globe and mail have very similar stories.

The news reporting from Aljazeera.com includes a much larger quote than either of the first two sources. Syria’s response was to say that there wasn’t a combat mission included for the helicopter just shows the intentions of Turkey as it pertains to increasing tensions on the border. The article from Aljazeera also says that the helicopter traveled a little more than a mile into Turkey.

Questions:

Do you think Turkey was too hasty in their action?

Do you think this will open up the floodgates to conflict?

Sources: Aljazeera.com

Theglobeandmail.com

Nytimes.com

 

Syria’s Allies and Enemies

Monday, September 16th, 2013

Al-Jazeera has a neat infographic that details support for Syria’s government and opposition. Check it out here.

Deal Puts Syria Predicament on Hold

Monday, September 16th, 2013

On Saturday, Syria agreed to a deal with the United States and Russia to dismantle the country’s chemical weapons stockpiles. This deal to destroy Syria’s stockpile, one that is believed to be of the biggest in the world, by mid-2014 was agreed upon after three days of deliberation in Geneva  between John Kerry and the Foreign Minister of Russia, Sergey Lavrov. The agreement gives Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a week to hand over details of his regime’s arsenal of the internationally banned arms. If al-Assad complies, he would be steering clear of unspecified sanctions and imminent US led military strikes. The deal also specifies there must be immediate access for arms control experts and that inspections of forty-five sites linked to the Syrian chemical weapons program must be completed by November. Syrian officials implied still that even though they were admitting to possession of chemical weapons, it was not to be inferred that the country had used them.

BBC reported that even though France accepted the deal, they still believed that force was on option. The French president, Francois Hollande, believes that the vote on a new United Nations Security Council resolution for Syria could be agreed upon by the end of the week. Yet the French president wants to make sure that Syria does not back delay or back out of the deal: “The military option must remain; otherwise there will be no pressure.”

 

Al Jazeera mentioned there was a lot of International support for the accord, notably China, a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council, which has vetoed previous UN resolutions for Syria. “This agreement will enable tensions in Syria to be eased,” said China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi. This pact was also supported by the Germans, even though the German Foreign Minister Westerwelle warned: “It is important, however, that it be put into practice.” Arab League chief Nabil El-Araby was referring to it as “a step closer to a political solution” to a civil war that has cost Syria more than 110,000 lives since March 2011.

 

The Moscow Times referred to the agreement as a diplomatic victory for their government, boasting that they had knocked “the military trump card out of US hands.” The article also mentioned that like France, the US is not letting their guard down: “We need to see concrete actions to demonstrate that Assad is serious about giving up his chemical weapons,” Obama said. “And if diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act.”

Questions:

Do you think that al-Assad will turn over all of his chemical weapons, or is the Syrian government trying to swindle the rest of the world to better prepare themselves for an imminent war?

Sources:

The New York Times

BBC – Middle East

Al Jazeera

Moscow Times

Syria government ‘losing control’ – Russian official

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

For the last two days rebel groups had bombed several places near and inside Damascus. The last bomb in this Thursday killed 16 people and 25 other Syrians were wounded. As a response to these attacks bomb attacks conducted by the rebels, the Assad regime forces used, “Scud” missiles this Wednesday to destroy rebel armies. However, the last few days has been success for the rebel groups since 100 countries recognized them as the legitimate representative group of Syrian people in a meeting that took place in Morocco. Furthermore, Russia who has adamantly supported the Assad regime lastly recognized the conspicuous recent successes that the rebels gained over the Assad regime. Consequently, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia, Mikhail Bogdanov announced that the Assad regime is, “losing more and more” and thus, “a victory” of the Syrian rebel groups cannot be anymore ignored. Russia has been an actively supporting Assad’s regime in the UN security and it used its veto to overrule the accusations that other powerful Western powers claimed about the Syrian regime’s use of violence. The only option that Assad has is now, “to step down” and stop, “drinking Syrian people’s blood” as the new leader of the Syrian opposition proposed.
Questions
1. Looking at both the Syrian regime and its opposition, how would you think that Russia’s announcement about the inevitable victory of the Syrian opposition groups would affect the Assad regime as well as the Syrian opposition group? Would it convince Assad to accept his defeat? Would it boost the confidence of the Syrian opposition group?
2. According to Aljazeera, the new Syrian leader said, “the Syrian people no longer need international forces to protect them” what would this indicate if the opposition overthrow the regime? Would it mean that the new government would be shaped only by the Syrians?
1. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/12/20121213142754845349.html
2.http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-20710561
3.http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/12/world/meast/syria-civil-war/index.html?hpt=imi_c2

Car Bombs Kill Many in Syria

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Early Wednesday morning two cars packed with explosives went off east of Damascus. So far it has been reported that at least 34 people are killed and 83 injured but those numbers are expected to rise. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has already put the death toll at 47 with hundreds injured.
Jaramana, where the bombs went off is a small isolated town that has provided a refuge for pro-government Syrians who have been displaced in the civil war.
These bombs went off in an area that is populated by Christian and Druze minorities. Neither of these communities have joined the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. The BBC article speculated that this is because, “They are fearful for their future if the country’s majority Sunni Muslim community chooses an Islamist leadership to replace decades of secular rule.”
It has been reported that the majority of the deaths came from the quick succession of the two car bombs. As many people were running to help the victims of the first bomb that went off, another one close by exploded.
Lina Sinjab from BBC News in Damascus pointed out the importance of the two minorities that are in this area. They are supposedly being protected from “terrorist extremists.” No group though has said it was behind these bombings and the BBC article there is no obvious military of government target around this area. State media reported that terrorists were responsible for the bombings.
The al-Jazeera  article said that local residents claimed that the attacks took place in a location where forces that are loyal to Bashar al-Assad, are stationed to defend the area against armed forces.
At the same time that these twin car bombs went off, two explosive devices also denoted in the al-Nahda and al-Qerayyat neighborhoods, though no casualties have been reported from there.
How strategic is this move for the rebels? By setting off deadly bombs are they hoping to convert supporters of al-Assad to their side? What can the government do to continue to protect supporters now?

BBC  New York Times  CNN  al-Jazeera