Heather Hurlburt Quoted In The Guardian On Syria

Syria crisis: UNHRC emergency meeting – Friday 1 June

By Matthew Weaver and Brian Whitaker

June 1, 2012 | The Guardian

8.37am:(all times BST) Welcome to Middle East Live.Here’s a round up of the latest developments:

Syria

The UN human rights council in Geneva is set to call for an inquiry into the Houla massacre at an emergency session on the Syria crisis. A draft version of resolution to be put to the council “condemns in the strongest possible terms such an outrageous use of force against the civilian population which constitutes a violation of applicable international law”. It also calls for an investigation by the UN. • Syria said “preliminary” findings of it own investigation showed the massacre in Houla was the work of 600-800 “armed men”.Brigadier-General Qasim Jamal Suleiman, who is leading the inquiry, said the army had not been present in the area when the killings were carried out last Friday. The victims had refused to join anti-regime demonstrations and some bodies were of armed men killed in clashes, he said. None had been killed by shellfire. Susan Rice the US ambassador to the UN dismissed the findings as a “blatant lie”.

Alex Thomson, from Channel 4 News, who has just returned from Houla, said the conclusions of Syrian government’s inquiry “would be laughable were the events that took place in Houla not so revolting, brutal and tragic”.He said:

We know, and all sides agree, there was a long artillery barrage, and then we know, and all sides agree, these militia entered a zone which had been subject to heavy shelling. They conducted a massacre and not a single shell landed anywhere near them, not a single mortar, not a single bullet round – fired by the Syrian army. So you have to believe that that was either a fantastically lucky coincidence for the people doing the massacre, or they were acting in co-ordination with the army. I invite our viewers to make their own judgement.

A previously unknown Syrian rebel group says it is holding 11 Lebanese Shia pilgrims kidnapped in Syria last week. The group, calling itself Syrian Rebels in Aleppo, said in a statement obtained by al-Jazeera TV that the hostages are in good health.• The US described Moscow’s latest arms sale to Syria as “reprehensible” after a Russian cargo ship heavily laden with weapons arrived in Syria last weekend, Reuters reports. Western officials confirmed that the ship arrived on Saturday, bringing to the Syrian port of Tartus a cache of heavy weapons for Syria.
Calls by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, to arm the rebels would not make a bad situation worse, according to former state department adviser Heather Hurlburt.

First, the militias have not, in fact, been able to hold their own with Syria’s army and security forces anywhere, with foreign guns or without them. Second, observers say that as fighting drags on and atrocities mount, the militias are growing increasingly focused on sectarian violence and local feuds. Arms sent to fight the government may well heighten killing among Syria’s ethnic groups.This could make the stability of any post-Assad settlement harder to establish, rather than easier.

Egypt

Human rights campaigners have welcomed the end of Egypt’s infamous emergency law, which was allowed to expire yesterday, the Washington Post reports.Heba Morayef, a Cairo-based researcher for Human Rights Watch, said: “It’s a law that symbolized the extraordinary powers given to the police, which created an environment in which forced disappearances and torture happened regularly.”

Bahrain

Recent apparent concessions are no more than gestures aimed at concealing a redoubling of efforts to subdue the opposition by increasingly powerful hardliners in the royal family, according to Frederic Wehrey senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Buoyed by the successful convening of the Formula One Grand Prix in April, hardliners have taken a number of steps to further consolidate control. Much of the kingdom’s political power resides in a conservative triumvirate comprised of Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, Royal Court Minister Khalid bin Ahmad bin Salman al-Khalifa, and the commander of the Bahrain Defense Forces Khalifa bin Ahmed al-Khalifa—with the latter two being brothers, part of the al-Khawalid branch of the al-Khalifa family.The Crown Prince, considered to be the member of the royal family most open to the idea of responding to the unrest with reforms and dialogue, has seen his influence steadily decline since mid-2011…The hardline faction, which controls the security forces as well as the instruments of censorship, is now very open about its intention to silence the opposition.

Apparent concessions such as the retrial of political detainees, and the release of some prominent activists are no more than cosmetic, Wehrey said.

Given the current balance of power within the royal family, it is doubtful that these gestures presage deeper structural reforms. Most likely, as the opposition charges, they are tactical stop-gap measures to remove the regime from the spotlight of international scrutiny.

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