At the "Friends of Syria" meeting in Rome on Thursday, Western and Arab countries pledged greater assistance to the Syrian National Coalition. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who said earlier that the U.S. wants to "accelerate the political transition in Syria," announced that for the first time, the United States will provide non-lethal aid directly to opposition fighters. The U.S. will provide food rations and medical supplies and will give an additional $60 million to the civilian opposition in security assistance. The United States will help train rebel fighters at a base in the region, but still refuses to send arms to rebel forces over concerns that they will end up in the hands of radical Islamist fighters, who have been making significant gains on the battlefield. Meanwhile, Jordan has reported a new surge in refugees entering the country as violence intensifies in southern Syria. Recently, an average of 3,000 Syrians have crossed into Jordan each night; the total number of refugees in the country has surpassed 418,000. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday that the number of Syrian refugees in the region could surpass one million by next month. He said, "The humanitarian situation is dramatic beyond description. The refugee crisis is accelerating at a staggering pace."
Arguments and Analysis
On the Egyptian opposition (Issandr El Amrani, The Arabist)
"Anyone who follows Egyptian politics will have probably made two broad conclusions by now. First, that the Muslim Brotherhood and President Mohammed Morsi, out of a combination poor judgement, paranoia and greed, have made the choice of sacrificing the possibility of a stable and inclusive transition for the sake of consolidating their control over the old regime machinery rather than reforming it. Second, that the "liberal" or secular opposition gathered under the banner of the National Salvation Front (NSF) is missing a golden opportunity to benefit from the Brotherhood's actions and the public indignation they have caused by behaving in an utterly politically clueless manner. Let us deal with the second part of that equation.
...The NSF may be right to be angry, and it is not the only political actor to share in that anger (look at the Salafis' recent blistering critique of the MB as power-hungry and bent on appointing supporters in local administration for electoral advantage) but the anger has not been channelled constructively. Dissonant voices inside the NSF (ranging from ones which claimed, at least until a few days ago, respect Morsi's legitimacy but ask him to mend his ways to those who want to overthrow him), a growing disconnect with protestors, changing demands and lack of organizational savvy are causing the opposition to appear totally out of touch and incapable of representating a viable alternative. Rarely are politicians handed such a golden opportunity as the opposition was on November 22, and while it got the secularists (mostly) under one umbrella, the NSF has squandered it."
Turkey, the Unhelpful Ally (Halil M. Karaveli, The New York Times)
"President Obama has relied heavily on Turkey in seeking to oust Mr. Assad and Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to visit the Turkish capital, Ankara, later this week. But Turkey is part of the problem. It is exacerbating Syria's sectarian strife, rather than contributing to a peaceful and pluralistic solution.
...Moreover, while sponsoring the Sunni cause in Syria, the Turkish government has made no attempt to show sympathy for the fears of the country's Alawite, Christian and Kurdish minorities. The Alawites and the Christians have backed the government in large numbers and fear retribution if Mr. Assad is toppled.
Turkey has provided a crucial sanctuary for the Sunni rebels fighting Mr. Assad and has helped to arm and train them. Even more ominously, Turkey is turning a blind eye to the presence of jihadists on its territory, and has even used them to suppress the aspirations of Kurds in Syria. Last November, Islamist rebels from Jabhet al-Nusra, which has reputed links to Al Qaeda in Iraq, entered the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain from Turkey and attacked fighters from the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, known as the P.Y.D., which had wrested control of parts of northeastern Syria. The Nusra fighters were initially repelled, but have continued to cross into Syria from their safe haven in Turkey."
--By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey
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