Syria: The Executive Summary, 10/10
Lara Setrakian (@Lara) and Karen Leigh (@leighstream)
To give you an overview of the latest news, we’ve organized the latest Syrian developments in a curated summary.
Two Million More Refugees Expected in 2014. From Britain’s ITV news network: “The United Nation’s head of humanitarian aid, Baroness Amos, is having talks at the Institute for Government about the difficulties in getting aid to Syria as more refugees are expected to flee the country next year.”
She said that 3.2 million Syrians are expected to register as refugees by the end of this year.
“A further 2 million people are expected to flee the civil war next year and some 6.5 million could be displaced by the end of 2014,” according to the report. “The Assad regime is only allowing 12 international aid groups through and they are struggling to meet demands.”
Chemical Watchdog Urges Truce in Syria, Says Syrian Have Been Cooperative. The BBC reports that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has called for a cease-fire to enable it to destroy the Syrian government’s chemical-weapons cache.
The organization’s chief, Ahmet Uzumcu, called the deadline for destroying equipment “extremely tight,” but still possible if a truce is put into place. Under a U.S.-Russian deal, backed by the U.N., Syria’s chemical weapons production equipment must be destroyed by November 1 and stockpiles disposed of by mid-2014, the BBC recounts.
“If some temporary ceasefires can be established, I think those targets could be reached,” he said.
The New York Times has a good backgrounder on the U.N.’s mission to dismantle Assad’s chemical weapons; it quotes Uzumcu in saying the Syrian president and his government have thus far been “quite constructive” and “cooperative” with weapons inspectors on the ground. U.S. officials said last month that at least 45 sites were linked to Syria’s chemical weapons program, according to the report.
Turkey’s Spymaster Plots Own Course on Syria. The Wall Street Journal has a front-page profile of Turkey’s intelligence chief Hakan Fidan, “a driving force behind its efforts to supply the rebels and topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings, Mr. Fidan, little known outside of the Middle East, has emerged as a key architect of a Turkish regional-security strategy that has tilted the interests of the longtime U.S. ally in ways sometimes counter to those of the U.S.”
Recently, “Turkey’s Syria approach, carried out by Mr. Fidan, has put it at odds with the U.S. Both countries want Mr. Assad gone. But Turkish officials have told the Americans they see an aggressive international arming effort as the best way.
“In recent months, as radical Islamists expanded into northern Syria along the Turkish border, Turkish officials have begun to recalibrate their policy—concerned not about U.S. complaints but about the threat to Turkey’s security, say U.S. and Turkish officials.”
Israeli Soldier Hurt by Mortar from Syria. Isabel Kershner of The New York Times from Israel on an injury to an Israeli soldier in the Golan Heights, along the Israel-Syria border. It’s not the first time we’ve seen violence spill over into the Golan, but injuries to Israeli soldiers have been rare and could indicate an escalation in fighting.
She says: “An Israeli soldier was lightly wounded by shrapnel on Wednesday when two mortar shells fired from Syria hit a military post in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. A spokeswoman for the Israeli military said the strike was probably the result of errant fire, given the heightened fighting between Syrian government forces and rebels across the frontier in recent days.”
Fire Bombs Fall on Syria. CNN reports on “incendiary-like devices” raining fire on the outskirts of Aleppo.
“The patients were victims of an August 26 attack in Awram al-Koubra, outside Aleppo, where eyewitnesses described incendiary like devices being dropped from a government fighter jet onto a private residence, and then a school.
“Incendiary bombs are not chemical weapons, but their effects can be just as devastating. They are identified as ‘any weapon or munition which is primarily designed to set fire to objects or to cause burn injury to persons through the action of flame, heat, or combination thereof, produced by a chemical reaction of a substance delivered on the target,’ according to the United Nations. British emergency doctor Saleyha Ahsan describes them in less clinical terms, in the terms of her patients.
‘The descriptions were fire falling like rain, just falling like rain, plumes of flames and then balls of flames falling out of the sky.’”
The Diplomatic Track in Syria. The editorial board of the Los Angeles Times has an op/ed on diplomatic progress in Syria. It writes:
“Critics are complaining that the administration is cementing Assad’s hold on power by agreeing to a Russian-proposed plan for the decommissioning of Syria’s chemical arsenal. By definition, they argue, a plan that requires the cooperation of the Assad government extends its lease on life and spares it from accountability for war crimes. And that, in turn, demoralizes the moderate Syrian opposition.
“If only it were that simple. The humanitarian toll of the war has been horrific, but there is no guarantee that more forceful U.S. military intervention would have ousted Assad or led to his replacement by a stable and democratic government. Nor is it clear that providing heavy weaponry to ‘vetted’ insurgents would have prevented the influx of Islamist fighters who want to replace Assad’s secular dictatorship with a religious state and who seem to be gaining influence.”
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