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Vol. 77/No. 23      June 17, 2013

Syria civil war deadlocked, battles spread into Lebanon
(front page)
As Washington, Moscow and the United Nations strain to pull together an international conference seeking resolution to the civil war in Syria, government troops, aided by Hezbollah forces, took control of Qusayr June 4, ending a two-week battle for the strategic city, which had been held by the opposition for nearly a year. Qusayr is close to the border with Lebanon and a connecting point from Damascus to coastal cities where President Bashar al-Assad has support.

The Financial Times commented June 5 that the fall of Qusayr “cements a stalemate” in a war that began in March 2011, has cost the live of 80,000 people and displaced millions. “The combined forces loyal to the Assads still cannot regain control of large, mostly rural swathes of Syria; while rebel forces are still too fragmented, ideologically divided and poorly armed to depose the regime,” the paper said.

Growing involvement by Hezbollah on the side of Assad highlights the conflict’s spreading impact on the bordering nations of Lebanon and Israel.

Hezbollah (Party of God) is a Shiite Islamist political and military organization based in Lebanon with direct ties to the Iranian government. It was formed in 1982, following Tel Aviv’s invasion of Lebanon.

A rocket attack hit Hezbollah-controlled southern suburbs of Beirut May 26. Dozens of people have been killed and more than 200 wounded in May in Tripoli in fighting between Lebanese supporters and opponents of Assad, Associated Press reported June 1.

In the course of the war, at least 1 million Syrians have sought refuge inside Lebanon, a country populated by 4 million people.

Israel carried out several airstrikes in Syria last month to block shipments of missiles from Iran to Hezbollah. The Israeli rulers are concerned about containing the influence of Tehran, a long-time ally of Assad, as well as the political instability that the war and possible demise of Assad brings. Tehran has increasingly stepped into the fray, bolstering the military capacities of its Hezbollah proxy with help from detachments of Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon told a Knesset committee June 3 that the government’s policy is not to intervene in the Syrian civil war as long as it does not hurt Israeli interests, as in the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah, the Jerusalem Post reported. “Syria is split,” Yaalon said. “Assad controls only 40 percent of the territory and the rebels control at least four neighborhoods in Damascus.”

The Israeli rulers’ concern with the weakening of the Assad regime — which they have been able to count on to maintain the status quo in the region — was clearly expressed in May 29 statements by Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid. He appealed to the ultra-Orthodox Haredi community, which historically has been exempt from compulsory military service, to comply with a Supreme Court ruling last year aimed at ending those exemptions. “If Syria crumbles and thousands of Al Qaeda terrorists are on our northern border, this is also happening to you,” he said. “We need you too, weapon in hand, protecting our life and yours.” The Israeli government is encouraging Arab Israelis, who are also currently exempt, to volunteer for civilian national service.

Washington ‘late’ on Syria Washington ‘late’ on Syria

Comments by Secretary of State John Kerry June 3 that the U.S. is coming “late” to efforts to end the civil war in Syria reflects tensions within the U.S. ruling class and sharp debate over the Obama administration’s course of avoiding any direct involvement in the military conflict.

“We are trying to prevent the sectarian violence from dragging Syria down into a complete and total implosion where it has broken up into enclaves, and the institutions of the state have been destroyed,” Kerry told the press.

The New York Times reported June 5 that “senior United States, Russian and United Nations officials failed … to find enough common ground among themselves and antagonists in Syria’s civil war to convene” an international conference to discuss resolving the conflict. Washington and Moscow agreed at the beginning of May to hold such a meeting. The Obama administration insists that Assad cannot be part of any future government in Syria. Moscow remains a strong ally of Assad.

As for the bourgeois opposition in Syria, it is split over participating in any international conference at this time.
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