The Central Intelligence Agency is reportedly helping to funnel weapons to Syrian opposition fighters. A small group of officers working in southern Turkey are helping allies decide which members of the opposition will receive weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and antitank weapons. The arms are paid for by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey and moved into Syria via intermediaries. The C.I.A. officers are scrutinizing opposition groups, trying to avoid al-Qaeda loyalists from acquiring the weapons. The Obama administration is also considering providing additional aid to the opposition, like satellite imagery and information on Syrian troop positions. According to an Arab intelligence official, "C.I.A. officers are there and they are trying to make new sources and recruit people."
Meanwhile, British media are reporting that Britain and America may propose a new diplomatic initiative that focuses on one point from international envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan -- the Syrian-led political process based on the Yemen model in which former president Ali Saleh was offered immunity. The plan is to convene talks in Geneva at a transitional conference sponsored by the United Nations -- Syrian president Bashar al-Assad would be granted a safe passage to these talks. But this proposal is largely contingent upon Russia's willingness to pressure Assad, which Russian president Vladimir Putin continues to reject, most recently at the close of the Group of 20 summit meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico.
Pro-opposition activists in Homs report that shelling still continues as rebels seek to retake the Baba Amr district. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an organization based in Britain, reports that Rastan, Douma, and Aleppo are being bombarded by regime forces. Groups from the International Committee of the Red Cross and its partner, the Syrian Red Crescent, will attempt to evacuate civilians from Homs' old city after fighting has recently increased between rebels and Assad forces. Meanwhile, a Syrian pilot flying a MiG-21 fighter jet has landed his plane at a military base in northern Jordan, seeking political asylum. Syrian authorities reported the plane missing during a training mission. It is unclear if there were other passengers on the plane.
Arguments & Analysis
‘The U.S. and Iran's Mistaken Path to War' (Trita Parsi, The Huffington Post)
"The EU's oil embargo and U.S. sanctions on Iran's oil sales will formally come into effect at the end of the month. And as unprecedented as these measures are, the U.S. will move shortly thereafter to impose even more sanctions to strangle Iran's oil exports. The pattern of the past 10 years clearly shows that when one side escalates, the other side counter-escalates. Neither side has had a particularly elaborate or sophisticated strategy. It's been nothing more than a kindergarten-level tit-for-tat game. Consequently, Iran will likely counter-escalate. What makes this latest round of escalatory steps more dangerous is that Iran's escalation options are fewer and fewer and more and more dangerous."
‘The generals, not the dictator, hold the keys to the regime' (Michael Young, The National)
"The splits within the Syrian National Council have not helped. But this need not hinder outside programmes that could ameliorate coexistence in Syria and give hope to the refugees. Some have suggested creating a police force in exile, to take over security once the refugees return. Much could be done to facilitate social reconciliation and contain the understandable impulse that many will feel to resort to revenge once the Assads are overthrown. In that regard, Egypt provides a cautionary tale. Many observers were so overwhelmed by their profound desire to see change in Cairo, and by the huge crowds, that they didn't realise that they were watching a conjuring trick manipulated by the officers, an illusion designed to perpetuate what had existed before. Follow the money, but follow the guns as well, before predicting too clement an Arab Spring."
‘Egypt has not had a coup, merely a return to the 1950s' (William Dobson, The Financial Times)
"But the military's boldest move came after voting closed in Sunday's presidential election. The generals issued an interim constitution granting themselves vast authority while stripping the presidency of significant powers. Just as Egyptians believed their country would be returned to civilian control, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces made a bid to cement its position. A chorus of critics, civil society leaders, opposition politicians and members of the Muslim Brotherhood joined to decry these moves, declaring them to be nothing short of a military coup. But that is not quite right. For it to be a coup, the military would have needed to seize power from someone else. That is not what happened. The Egyptian military has always been in charge. If there is any label that best encapsulates what Mr Mubarak's regime was, before its fall, it was a military dictatorship."
--By Jennifer Parker
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