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Entries in France (28)


Syria Today: More Than 100 Claimed Deaths on a "Quiet" Monday

Residents digging through rubble in Kafar Hamra section of Aleppo after Sunday's missile strike

US Cautious About Claims of Regime Use of Chemical Weapons

The White House has been cautious about a French finding that the regime has used chemical weapons.

"We need more information" about claims of such use, spokesman Jay Carney said.

Carney said there is a need to gather more evidence to pin down when chemical weapons were used, who employed them, and what the chain of custody was: "[We must] establish a body of information that can be presented and reviewed, and upon which policy decisions can be made."

Carney had no timetable for when the review might be completed, although he said, "I can assure you that we are working very diligently as an administration with our allies and the Syrian opposition on this matter."

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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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Libya (and Beyond) Live: Car Bomb at French Embassy in Tripoli

This morning's car bomb outside the French Embassy in Tripoli (Sabri Elmhedwi/EPA)

1936 GMT: Iraq.

At least 36 people have been killed and more than 70 have been injured in clashes in Iraq. Sunni protesters clashed with police this morning in Hawijah this morning, sparking the violence. That, in turn, has sparked protests across the country. The Independent reports:

As news of the clashes spread through Sunni Iraq, street protests erupted in solidarity with Hawijah, a Sunni bastion 30 miles west of Kirkuk. Some 1,000 people took to the streets in Fallujah, west of Baghdad, after calls for protests broadcast from the minarets of mosques. “War! War!” was the chant of some. In Ramadi, capital of Sunni Anbar province, crowds threw stones at a military convoy, overturning and setting fire to a Humvee.

The violence in Hawijah started at 5am when security forces, backed by helicopters, entered the protesters encampment. The Defence Ministry claims the demonstration had been infiltrated by militants, of whom it says 20 were killed along with an army officer and two soldiers. The army reported finding weapons including 34 Kalashnikovs and four PKM machine guns, and made 75 arrests. In response to the raid there were attacks on two army checkpoints near Hawijah in which 13 people died.

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Syria Live Coverage: Hesitating on Weapons to Insurgents?

1314 GMT: American Arrested for Fighting Alongside Al Nusra Eric Harroun, a 30 year old former American soldier, has been arrested in Washington DC. Harroun has been fighting in Syria alongside the Syrian Islamic group Jabhat al Nusra. He is being charged for using a rocket propelled grenade outside of the service of the US military:

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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".


Syria Feature: US, Britain, and France Train Insurgents in Jordan (Borger/Hopkins)

EA Video Analysis, 21 February: "How and Why the US is Arming the Insurgents"

Western training of Syrian rebels is under way in Jordan in an effort to strengthen secular elements in the opposition as a bulwark against Islamic extremism, and to begin building security forces to maintain order in the event of Bashar al-Assad's fall.

Jordanian security sources say the training effort is led by the US, but involves British and French instructors.

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Mali Opinion: A Disaster 50 Years in the Making (Weddady)

Government forces on the road to Konna in northern Mali this week (Photo: Eric Gaillard/Reuters)

In plain terms, let the natives of the region do the job outsiders cannot do. Let them earn the right to decide their destiny in exchange of defeating all foreign and domestic terrorists who have infected their lives, destroyed their shrines and cut their limbs. Back those whose interest is to cut Al-Qaeda’s tentacles. Keep a credible threat of firepower in place. Keep Mali’s military under close watch, and neuter it if necessary – they have already caused more than their fair share of harm by overthrowing an elected government.

Put an offer to negotiate on the table and build smart alliances. Let diplomats talk, and keep warriors close. Feed refugees, and keep their hope of going back home soon alive. Only such a policy is likely to save lives, and defeat nihilist jihadism.

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Mali Feature: A Beginner's Guide --- The Timeline of the Conflict


  • March 22: Mutinous soldiers led by Captain Amadou Sanogo announce they have overthrown the Bamako government, saying it has failed to give the armed forces the means to defeat a rebellion by Tuareg rebels in the north. The junta leaders detain President Amadou Toumani Toure and suspend the constitution.

  • March 30-April 1: Tuareg rebels and armed Islamists linked to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) capture a string of key northern towns, including Kidal, Gao, and the fabled city of Timbuktu. Tuareg rebels are then ousted by the Islamists.

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Syria Feature: After Insurgent Victories, US Again Considers "Deeper Intervention" (Sanger/Schmitt)

David Sanger and Eric Schmitt write for The New York Times:

The Obama administration, hoping that the conflict in Syria has reached a turning point, is considering deeper intervention to help push President Bashar al-Assad from power, according to government officials involved in the discussions.

While no decisions have been made, the administration is considering several alternatives, including directly providing arms to some opposition fighters.

The most urgent decision, likely to come next week, is whether NATO should deploy surface-to-air missiles in Turkey, ostensibly to protect that country from Syrian missiles that could carry chemical weapons. The State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said Wednesday that the Patriot missile system would not be “for use beyond the Turkish border.”

But some strategists and administration officials believe that Syrian Air Force pilots might fear how else the missile batteries could be used. If so, they could be intimidated from bombing the northern Syrian border towns where the rebels control considerable territory. A NATO survey team is in Turkey, examining possible sites for the batteries.

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