"The Salafist-jihadist insurgency, and the emergence of one of al-Qaeda's most fearsome affiliates within it, has fundamentally changed the war in Syria. In a conflict in which some 6,000 people continue to die every month and a third or more of the population have been forced to leave their homes, the problem of basic security has almost completely supplanted the aspirations of a once-peaceful protest movement trying to take on an autocratic, militarized, and sectarian regime. And as the regime…has resorted to increasingly brutal attacks, organizations like ISIS have spread unprecedented terror on the rebel side."
This investigative report from a UN panel was released December 19, 2013 and uncovered a consistent country-wide pattern in which people, mainly adult males, have been seized by the Syrian security and armed forces, as well as by pro-Government militias, during mass arrests, house searches, at checkpoints and in hospitals.
In the lead up to Syrian peace talks scheduled in Geneva next month, Gayle Lemmon questions what U.S. foreign policy goals in Syria have been and will be as the world struggles to find diplomatic solutions to an "impossibly complicated situation."
The United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic submitted an investigative report to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday, September 15, 2013. The "Report on the Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons in the Ghouta Area of Damascus on 21 August 2013" concludes that "chemical weapons were used on a relatively large scale, resulting in numerous casualties, particularly among civilians and including many children." On December 12, 2013, the final report on the investigation was released (resolution 2118). It includes a timeline of events in Syria and actions of the UN and evidence that led to the conclusion that chemical weapons were used.
"What then might be done to convince Russia to end its defense of Assad's atrocities and to continue down the constructive path suggested by the chemical weapons deal at the UN and the statement in favor of humanitarian relief? One reason Moscow has been able to continue its intransigence for so long is that it has paid little price for it."
"Ancient Russian tanks – rebel and loyalist – were lobbing shells at each other across a pistachio grove like street children throwing stones in an alleyway. The explosions sent orange columns of dust into the haze of the setting sun. Near the outpost, a government tank was smouldering, and a young girl lay dead, hit by shrapnel. A group of rebels crawled through the fields for a mile until they reached the edge of the outpost."
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has approached the civil war in Syria with caution. The authorities governing the Iraqi autonomous region, based inErbil, have quietly played an important role in the humanitarian response to the crisis with 197,000 (according to the UN refugee agency) Syrian refugees on KRG territory, spread across three refugee camps in the main cities of Dohuk, Erbil, and Sulaimaniyah.
"Is it better to use the bully pulpit to increase pressure on a government to treat its people humanely, or is it better to nudge the government quietly behind the scenes? For decades, U.N. relief workers have preferred to keep their concerns off the headlines and reveal little about the perpetrators of violence against civilians, thereby preserving their role as neutral healers and helpers. But a spate of internal reviews of U.N. responses to mass killings from Bosnia to Rwanda and Sri Lanka have challenged that view."
"The democratic aspirations of the protesters who filled streets and public squares across Syria in early 2011 were among the conflict's first casualties. If democracy as an outcome of the uprising was always uncertain, democratic prospects have been severely crippled by the devastation of civil war and the deepening fragmentation of Syrian society."
"One of the misconceptions about the Syrian refugee crisis is that it mainly involves people in large camps, above all in Jordan and Turkey....But according to UN figures, a full three quarters of the Syrian refugee population throughout the region are surviving on their own in towns and rural areas."
"Suleimani took command of the Quds Force fifteen years ago, and has sought to reshape the Middle East in Iran's favor: assassinating rivals, arming allies, and directing a network of militant groups that killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq. And yet he has remained mostly invisible to the outside world. 'Suleimani is the single most powerful operative in the Middle East today,' a former C.I.A. officer in Iraq, told me, 'and no one's ever heard of him.'"
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