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Entries in European Union (57)


Syria Analysis: The Wider Politics of the "Russian S-300 Missiles to Damascus"

Russia answered the Western pressure with the clear signal that it will continue to provide weapons to the "legitimate" authority in Syria. In so doing, it was sending another message: if you want to have an international "peace" conference, that "legitimate" regime will have to be allowed at the table with no pre-conditions on its participation.

Yet, at the same time, Moscow was not going to wear the villain's mantle designed for it by the "West", but was going to maintain plausible deniability. Th message:

Maybe we are supplying S-300s under an old contract, maybe we are not --- you keep trying to figure it out.

Meanwhile, your move, Washington. Your move, London. Are you really going to pour in more weapons to the insurgency, even as you criticise us for supplying our own to the "legitimate" leaders of Syria?

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Syria Today: Europe Lifts Arms Embargo on Insurgents

Head of Free Syria Army Threatens Attacks on Hezbollah in Lebanon

The Free Syrian Army's Chief of Staff, General Salim Idriss, has warned, "If the attacks of Hezbollah against Syrian territory do not stop within 24 hours, we will take all measures to hunt Hezbollah, even in hell."

Idriss continued with the threat to intervene in Lebanon, where Hezbollah is based, "I will no longer be bound by any commitments I made, if a decision to stop the not taken and implemented," said Idriss.

Idriss said, "We are being subjected to a genocide conducted by Hezbollah," and, without giving details of specific operations said he hoped "that everyone will excuse the Free [Syrian] Army" for retaliating.

The principle sticking point involves voting. Existing members of the coalition insist that the inclusion of new members must be based on balloting by existing members only. But this would change little in a monopoly that was made possible by interference from regional countries to begin with, rather than based on consensus among Syrian opposition. The existing members were not chosen by the people to decide whether certain opposition figures should be members or not.

The second issue is the "blocking third", or the veto power held by a third of the members. This idea was advanced by the coalition's secretary general, Mustafa Al Sabbagh, and was clearly meant to maintain the monopoly of the current core group within the coalition.

Hassan argues that this stalemate may cripple the group, and will only fuel the stalemate seen on Syria's battlefields.

On the other hand, The Atlantic's Shadi Hamid argues that the political stalemate can only be solved by progress on the battlefield, and that progress has not happened because the international community is waiting for a unified leadership that will likely never occur:

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Syria Audio Analysis: Will Europe Give Arms to the Insurgency?

As European Union foreign ministers met today to discuss the lifting of the arms embargo on the Syrian insurgency, I spoke with Monocle 24's The Briefing about the immediate situation and longer-term prospects.

Listen to discussion from the 6-minute mark on The Briefing's homepage or in a pop-out window

1. What is the current position among Western countries --- the US, Britain, France, and other European countries --- regarding arming of the insurgents?

2. What effect does fear of "extremism" have on the arming of the opposition?

3. What is the objective of increased armaments --- pressuring President Assad or overthrowing him?

4. What impact would the EU's lifting of the embargo have?


Syria Analysis: Chemical Weapons, the US, and the Insurgency

The use of chemical weapons or their possession by the "wrong" forces, while genuinely considered a threat by US and European governments, has been used to date to justify the build-up of a multi-national base in Jordan, with training and the supply of weapons to insurgents.

The US Secretary of State, though indirectly and carefully, opens up the prospect: will the chemical weapons argument now be used to escalate that support, possibly moving it into the open?

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Syria Live: A Mass Killing Near Damascus

2107 GMT: Death Toll Rises. According to the Local Coordination Committees, 96 people have been killed so far today nationwide:

47 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its suburbs; 23 in Aleppo; 9 in Idlib; 8 in Homs; 3 in Daraa; 2 in Deir Ezzor; 2 in Hama; 1 in Raqqa; and 1 in Lattakia.

That number is over an hour old. With the amount of violence reported, expect it to rise by morning.

See our note on the casualty figures published by the LCC.

2059 GMT: Opposition Group Calls for Rebellion to "Correct its Path". The Local Coordination Committee of Douma has called for the unification of all rebel groups under the control of the Free Syrian Army east of Damascus. The goal is not just about combat effectiveness, however. The unification is important " for the sake of supporting and achieving the revolution goals in freedom, and dignity and in toppling the regime and building up a civil democratic state for all Syrians regardless of their backgrounds and religion."

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Syria Live Coverage: Britain and France to Lift Arms Embargo on Insurgents?

1832 GMT: Massacre in Daraa. The Daraa Coordination Committee reports that at least 20 people have been found dead near a checkpoint in Daraa after they were arrested:

20 People from Daraa Mahata were martyred under torture at Hamida Taher checkpoint. Their bodies were moved to the national hospital; of which the following martyrs were identified: Sheik Walid al-Sari Abazeed, Mujahed Abazeed, Sheik Musleh Ayyash, Sheik Rabea al-Kakouni, Waseem Ali al-Falouji, Nassar Abu-Nabbout, Youssef al-Mefalani, Abu-Moayad Labash al-Abazeed.

At this point, 5 graphic videos posted to the Daraa Committee's Youtube channel show bodies of men that have some of the hallmark's of torture. Beatings, bruises, what may be burn marks or puncture wounds, black eyes, broken noses, gunshots to the head... the videos are ugly.

The Hamida Tahrir district is just north of Daraa Albalad, the southern half of Daraa that is still in rebel control (map). The checkpoint here, however, is under government control. It has reportedly been used to ensure that rebel spies, sympathizers, and defectors do not reach rebel territory or ferry information back and forth.

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Syria Audio Analysis: Stories Beyond European Arms Embargo on the Insurgents --- Scott Lucas with Monocle 24

I spoke with Monocle 24's The Daily last night about the possibility that the European Union, with a high-level meeting today in Brussels, might lift the embargo on arms to the insurgents.

Listen to interview, from the 5:46 mark, on The Daily's homepage or in a pop-out window.

The conversation quickly moved beyond that headline to the important realities and questions, including: 1) European countries such as Britain and France are already involved --- if not publicly --- in provision of weaponis to the insurgency; 2) the foreign special forces who may be inside Syria already; 3) the complications of the arms supply to the insurgency, with incidents such as the kidnapping of United Nations peacekeepers last week --- "this is not a clean operation; there is not one single opposition army here".


Israel (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Pressure Builds Over Settlements

Settlement at Modi'in Illit in West Bank (Photo: AP)

Syria Live Coverage: The Fighting Near Aleppo's Historic Mosque
Tuesday's Israel (and Beyond) Live Coverage: 1st Rocket Fired from Gaza Since November's War

2004 GMT: Egypt. Ahram Online's summary of clashes in Mansoura, with dozens injured since Monday, since protesters called for a campaign of civil disobedience:

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Syria Audio Feature: Why Europe's "Embargo" on Arms to Insurgents is Not an Embargo --- Scott Lucas with Monocle 24

I spoke with Monocle 24's Midori House last night about the European Union's three-month extension of its arms embargo on all Syrian groups, with some flexibility brought in for "non-lethal aid".

Listen to interview from the 5:40 mark

The story beyond the story: publicly the EU may be maintaining the line that it is not providing military support to the opposition, but some European States are aware of --- and may be involved in --- the efforts by other countries such as the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar to get high-quality weapons to the insurgency.


Syria Live Coverage: Hezbollah Emerges in the Conflict

2336 GMT: Scud Strikes - Aleppo City. This video, one of several similar, reportedly shows part of one of the buildings that collapsed in the Jabal Badro district of Aleppo, reportedly after the fall of at least one SCUD missile:

2315 GMT: Scud Strikes. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has released a statement about tonight's alleged SCUD attacks:

8 civilians, including a child, were killed by the bombardment on Jabal Badro, in the Tariq al-Bab neighbourhood of Aleppo. It is thought that the bombs were a surface-to-surface missile. the number of dead is likely to rise due to the large amount of casualties and that there are several people still under the rubble of destroyed buildings. An SOHR activist in the Tariq al-Bab neighbourhood witnessed the desperate cries of a man who had 15 of his family members under the rubble of their house; he also reported witnessing the body of a child being pulled out of a building, the head was detached from the body. Violent clashes are taking place by the police branch in the Zebdiya neighbourhood, also clashes in Bustan al-Qasr. The Jazmatiya neighbourhood was bombarded by the airforce.

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