Iran opened the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM,) with 120 countries as well as U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in the country's biggest international conference since the revolution in 1979. The 120 member states are part of an association created by countries that wanted to maintain independence from the major powers during the Cold War. Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi began the meeting with appeals for nuclear disarmament by 2025. Iran is under severe sanctions for its believed nuclear weapons development. However, it is using the conference to tell its side of the standoff with Western powers. Iran defended what it referred to as its "peaceful nuclear program" and claimed "some Westerner powers" are promoting terrorism.
The Syrian opposition has accused the government of a massacre on Daraya, a southwestern suburb of Damascus, after an estimated 320 bodies, including women and children, were found. Opposition activists claim those dead had been killed "execution-style" by Syrian troops who bombarded the town and conducted a door-to-door raid. Syrian state news reported, "Our heroic armed forces cleansed Daraya from remnants of armed terrorist groups who committed crimes against the sons of the town." Activist networks have estimated the death toll for the week at over 630. According to Reuters journalists in Aleppo, fighting in the country's largest city on Sunday was the worst seen in a week. The opposition claims to control at least half of the city but Syrian forces continue to bombard Aleppo. Opposition forces also claim to have shot down a Syrian military helicopter over the area of Qabun in Damascus while the government claims it fell due to technical reasons. Meanwhile, Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Shara met with the head of Iran's foreign-policy committee, in his first public appearance in over a month dispelling rumors that Shara had defected.
Arguments & Analysis
‘The Syrian army would like to appear squeaky clean. It isn't.' (Robert Fisk, The Independent)
"Of course, all armies want to stay clean. All that gold braid, all those battle honours, all that parade-ground semper fi. Thank God for Our Boys. Trouble is that when they go to war, armies ally themselves to the most unsavoury militias, gunmen, reservists, killers and mass murderers, often local vigilante groups who invariably contaminate the men in smart uniforms and high falutin' traditions, until the generals and colonels have to re-invent themselves and their history."
‘Iran's Confidence Bolstered by Non-Aligned Summit' (Mehdi Khalaji, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
"The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit, to be held in Tehran next week, comes at a particularly convenient time for the Iranian regime, which in recent months has argued that the country is progressing on every front rather than suffering under international pressure. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has strenuously asserted his role in this "progress" both at home and abroad. Ironically, the United States and its allies have a strong interest in reinforcing the image that he is fully in charge."
"Iran needs Israel. Iran needs Israel desperately. If Israel did not exist, Iran would have to invent it. Israel is the spice of life to the Iranian regime, which should be indebted to it. It is because of Israel that it has survived for so long.
Its rabid anti-Israeli rhetoric allows the ayatollahs' cruel regime to distract the masses from their real problems, from economic distress and an increasingly intolerable cost of living, from political oppression and the killing of demonstrators, from the absence of freedom and the stoning of women.
Hatred has always been a unifying force, one that strengthens regimes. There is nothing like a demonic external enemy to silence internal tensions. Choosing an enemy is far more important than choosing a friend, Nietzsche wrote. Iran has succeeded at this beyond all expectation."
-- By Mary Casey
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