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In the News
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15-03-2012

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the uprising in Syria. Thousands of articles on the recent events, the country's history, culture, religious dynamics, economy, and role in the Middle East, have been published since March 2011. Wading through the press in search of a glimpse of truth, whatever one might expect or believe that to be, is daunting. The outcome is often a series of divergent perspectives that leave one with more questions than answers. In commemoration of the past year of the country's revolution, this post puts forth a series of compelling articles on Syria. Except for one, the January 31, 2011 Wall Street Journal interview with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, all were published within the last year. Many are poignant, others academic, still others are likely construed as controversial, but all are worth reading for the various perspectives they offer on the current situation and the issues from which it stemmed. 

In the News
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15-03-2012

Military Operations in Idlib, Daraa Rage as Annan Awaits Clarification from Damascus on Peace Proposals

UN-Arab League Syria envoy Kofi Annan arrived in Damascus on Saturday, March 10 to initiate talks on his "concrete proposals" for a peace plan for the country. The plans reportedly entailed a comprehensive ceasefire, the start of political dialogue, and the distribution of humanitarian aid. Following a weekend of meetings with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Syrian religious leaders, and members of the internal opposition, however, Annan left Damascus empty-handed. Yesterday, the envoy reportedly received a response from Damascus to the proposals - details for which remain unannounced. The conflict remains entirely unabated, however, as government forces intensify operations in Idlib and now Daraa, and reports of alleged massacres of civilians in Homs continue to emerge.

In the News
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08-03-2012

Syrian Pound Plummets, Fears of Grave Poverty Spike, UN Aid Chief Arrives in Syria and Proclaims Homs 'Devastated'

Following a 27-day broad-scale military assault on the Homs neighborhood of Baba Amr, armed members of the Syrian opposition declared a 'tactical retreat' from the area on March 1. Syrian military forces regained control of the neighborhood, though it was not until nearly a week later that the Syrian Red Crescent was permitted entry to deliver aid. A number of foreign embassies closed their doors in Syria this week in response to the country's still worsening security crisis and widespread UN and international claims that Syrian forces are committing crimes against humanity in the response to the opposition. Early this week, the Syrian government granted UN aid chief Valerie Amos a visa to the country with her arrival in Damascus on Wednesday viewed as a primer for that of UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan. Annan is set to arrive in Syria on Saturday, March 10 to help broker a peace plan. Critically, the Syrian pound plunged to a new low of 105 to the US dollar today, fueling the country's growing economic crisis and fears among many Syrians of a collapse into grave poverty.

In the News
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01-03-2012

Weekly posts in the Syria News Blog will resume next Thursday, March 08, 2012. Thank you for your patience. 

In the News
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23-02-2012

UN Accuses Syria of Crimes Against Humanity as Foreign Leaders Prepare for 'Friends of Syria' Meeting in Tunisia

Today, a report released by the United Nations and submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, accuses the Syrian government of committing "gross human rights violations" tantamount to "crimes against humanity". The report, derived from 360 interviews with individuals inside Syria, also charges that security crackdowns constituted state policy from coming from “the highest levels of the armed forces and the government”. The same report, however, also charges the Free Syrian Army, an armed element of the opposition, of committing serious abuses. To that end, as violence continues to deepen across the country, Syrian officials continue to adamantly charge that they are fighting against armed terrorist groups - an allegation now partially echoed in some parts of Washington, as a number of senior American officials claim that the terrorist group Al-Qaeda is behind some of the country's violence. The same US officials did not publicly put forth related evidence. Last week, the UN General Assembly voted resoundingly in favor of a resolution condemning the violence in Syria. Tomorrow, officials from around the world will convene in Tunisia as part of a new 'Friends of Syria' group focused on addressing Syria's crisis.

In the News
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16-02-2012

UN General Assembly to Vote Today on New Syria Resolution, Turkey and Arab League Initiate Planning for Humanitarian Corridor

Today, the UN General Assembly is scheduled to vote on a resolution strongly condemning the violence in Syria. The vote will be held in the afternoon, just hours after UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon accused Damascus of committing crimes against humanity during the crackdown against the opposition. In the central city of Homs, the military incursion continues as government forces continue to fight areas that it charges are overrun with terrorists. In the background, the international community continues to debate how to respond to the crisis, with the Arab League and Turkey now pushing for the establishment of a humanitarian corridor. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has promised to hold a referendum on the country's new constitution in two weeks, eventually leading to country-wide elections. Meanwhile, the crisis continues to deepen; violence begets violence.

In the News
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09-02-2012

UNSC Resolution on Syria Vetoed as Conflict in Homs Intensifies 

On Saturday, February 4, following several days of intensive negotiations, Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on Syria. The vote was held in a rare weekend session, with thirteen member states including France, Britain, and the US voting in favor of the resolution. The vote came as violence in the central city of Homs surged, with unconfirmed casualty reports numbering in the hundreds. Two days later, the US Department of State announced the closure of its embassy in Damascus and the withdrawal of its diplomatic personnel from the country. Six Arab states followed suit on Tuesday, signaling Damascus's deepening isolation.

In the News
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02-02-2012

Unrest Narrows in on Syrian Capital, Arab League Suspends Mission as UNSC Debates Draft Resolution on Syria

As unrest narrowed in on the Syrian capital this week, the Arab League moved to suspend the work of its monitoring mission in the country, citing heightened security concerns. At the same time, a number of Arab states along with Britain, France, and Germany, presented the United Nations Security Council with a new draft resolution on Syria. The resolution endorses the Arab League's plan for an overhaul of the current Syrian government. Today, heavy debate over the text continues as Russia and China remain firmly opposed to any text calling for a change in Syria's government - or that could pave the way for international intervention. 

In the News
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26-01-2012

Syria Rejects Arab League Plan for Government Overhaul, UN Unable to Track Mounting Death Toll

On Sunday, January 22, the Arab League put forth a surprising new peace plan which called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down from power, and for the Syrian government to move forward with negotiating with the opposition, establishing a transitional government, and eventually holding national elections. Damascus immediately shot down the new plan, terming it "blatant interference in its internal affairs". Nevertheless, the government approved a one-month extension of the League's observer mission, which is now set to conclude on February 22. The UN also announced today that fragmented conditions on the ground have caused it to lose track of the death toll from the revolution, another troubling outcome of the country's ongoing crisis.

In the News
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19-01-2012

Mandate of Arab League Observer Mission Ends, Syrian Pound Plummets to Record Low

The mandate of the Arab League's observer mission in Syria came to an end today amid widespread frustration by all sides. The mission is set to release a report on its findings within the next 48 hours, after which, League officials will convene to discuss both the findings and a way forward. The lack of a consensus at numerous levels with regard to how to bring an end to the current violence and the stalemate between the government and the opposition, has intensified in the face of worsening security conditions. On Thursday, the Syrian pound hit a six-year low of 71 to the US dollar, losing a third of its value and serving as troubling indicator of the spiraling cost of the country's current crisis.