It’s been two days since a bomb ripped through a high-level meeting that killed Bashar Al-Assad’s defense minister and brother-in-law. And the capital of Damascus is seeing its worst violence yet. Some are saying Damascus is looking more likely than ever to fall, and that it could happen sooner than anyone thought possible. Borzou Daragahi, Middle East correspondent for the Financial Times, has been observing the situation from Beirut.
This morning we are heartbroken to report that Anthony Shadid of our partner The New York Times is no longer one of the survivors. The veteran Middle East correspondent for The Times, Washington Post and Boston Globe and long time voice on this program has died. A fatal asthma attack while he was reporting in chaotic Syria, working undercover. His body carried across the Syrian border and home by a colleague yesterday.
Over the past ten months, Syrian Security Forces have killed more than 5,000 protestors across the country. But this weekend, two key voices announced their calls to action: the Arab League will seek U.N. Security Council approval to peacefully end the rule of President Bashar al-Assad, and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer introduced a bill that would block financial aid and create trade sanctions against Syrian leaders involved in the crackdown.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Berlin attending NATO meetings, where members of the alliance are debating whether to step up their attacks on Libyan forces. Meanwhile, Libyan rebels are warning of an immanent blood bath in the city of Misurata if NATO does not intensify their air attacks. Thursday, Col. Moammar Gaddhafi rode around around Tripoli in a convertible, defiantly waving his fists at the allied forces. What is the way forward for NATO and is its latest combat mission a reflection of how little it can do to with such a divided force?
The U.N. Security Council voted Thursday to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, in a 10 to zero vote. Mideast bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times, Borzhou Daragahi, says that Col. Gadhafi and his loyalists were surprised by the news.
Thousands of demonstrators have gathered in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, to protest the rule of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who announced that he would not seek re-election in 2014. The country has been rattled for weeks by protests over high unemployment, inflation and corruption. The protests have left 23 dead.
The Lebanese government has collapsed following the resignation of eleven ministers from Hezbollah and its allies. Their resignation from the government came in the midst of a dispute over a U.N. tribunal, which has found ties between the 2005 assassination of former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, and Hezbollah.
Hezbollah and its allies have threatened to withdraw from Lebanon’s government today, deepening a crisis resulting from the assassination of former prime minister, Rafik Hariri. The U.N backed investigation is expected to name members of Hezbollah in his killing. A withdrawal from the Lebanese cabinet would cause the government to dissolve and the threat already sent negative ripples through the investment climate in that country. Middle East correspondent for the Los Angeles Times Borzou Daragahi reports from Beirut.
Last week's suicide bombing in Afghanistan that claimed the lives of 7 CIA employees got a lot more complicated yesterday when it was revealed that the bomber was, in fact, a double agent, originally working for the Jordanian intelligence to infiltrate al-Qaida. Prior to the attack, 36-year-old Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi was a Jordanian doctor who had ingratiated himself with the CIA employees he would later kill. For more details, we speak with Anand Gopal, reporter for the Wall Street Journal in Kabul, as well as Borzou Dargahi, L.A. Times Middle East correspondent.
Violence erupted in Tehran yesterday, leaving at least 8 people dead. The deaths came after police fired upon protesters; one of those killed was the nephew of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the leading opposition candidate in fall's presidential election. L.A. Times Middle East correspondent Borzou Daragahi believes more protests are on their way in Iran. Iran is also facing President Obama's deadline of December 31st to sign a deal that would make Iran ship out its enriched uranium in exchange for nuclear fuel. The U.S. has said that they will pursue tougher U.N. sanctions on Iran if they do not sign the deal.
Since the disputed presidential elections in Iran this past summer, the government has cracked down on protesters, the opposition movement and the media. In the last several days (and since the death of noted cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, who had frequently spoken out against the government), protestors have again been taking to the streets. For an update on the political environment in Iran, we call Beirut to talk with Borzou Daragahi, the Middle East correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, who has managed to continue reporting from Tehran.