Monday, May 28, 2012

Massacre in Syria


The situation in Syria has not improved this spring, notwithstanding an (intended) U.N.-brokered cease fire that took effect in April.

On Friday, over 100 civilians were killed in the community of Houla, which is close to Homs. Yesterday the Security Council unanimously condemned the killings and explicitly blamed the Assad government.

Security Council's action was a particularly big deal because China and Russia supported the resolution; up until now, they have backed Assad.

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This photo of victims from Houla is from the Shaam News Network. The Post states it is still trying to verify the photo.

According to the Post this morning (Liz Sly and Colum Lynch, here), the massacre may have been a reprisal for rebels having killed two Syrian army officers.

It sounds like the area around Homs is ethnically mixed, with Alawite communities (Assad is an Alawite) interspersed with Sunni areas. Perhaps this is why Homs is a focal point of the protests and violence.

The Assad government is denying responsibility for the massacre. Sly and Lynch state that there are different stories about whether the civilians (including 32 children) were killed at close range or by mortar shells. Residents say that the perpetrators were shabiha, groups of armed civilians who went from house to house killing people.

Today, Kofi Annan is scheduled to visit Damascus. Annan is the U.N.-Arab League special envoy for Syria.

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542. Is anyone in the Obama administration advocating for a more aggressive US intervention in Syria?

543. In Bosnia, was the Srebenica massacre a motivating cause for more intervention, or has it only become widely known about in retrospect?  I have been thinking about Srebenica while reading abo-ut the violence in Houla.

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Speaking of US intervention overseas: Anne Applebaum wrote an op-ed (here) from Libya this past week, and it sounds like there is considerable lingering societal upheaval there. 

I could not tell whether Applebaum is optimistic or pessimistic about the course of events in Libya. I guess her uncertainty was the point:
In a society where everything has been controlled for more than four decades, a vacuum can be creative. Civil society, unknown in Libya until the revolution last year, has begun to reformulate, and civic groups have emerged to help care for refugees and to lobby on their behalf. The brand-new Libyan Housing Authority, a charity, helped arrange for journalists to go to Janzour. The camp itself has elected a spokesman, and tribal leaders are negotiating with the Misratans about a possible return. But just as a vacuum can produce constructive forces, it can produce destructive ones too. Janzour has been attacked more than once by armed militia members from Misrata. In a recent raid, five people were killed.

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