The bombing in the Lebanese capital killed 25 people, in a rare moment of vulnerability for Iranian interests (the Islamic Republic, like its allies in Hezbollah, had long seemed invincible in Lebanon). Local officials identified the bombing suspect as Mouin Abu Dahr, a Lebanese Sunni and an Al Qaeda sympathizer with a history of sectarian violence.
For Iran, the combination of a diplomatic win and a violent, physical blow reflects this mixed moment – that even when it’s up, it’s down, bleeding from the losses linked to a protracted Syrian war. The same can be said of the Assad regime. It’s made strategic gains in the past few weeks, bolstered by allied fighters from Hezbollah and Iraq. But Assad is still struggling to assert a grip over the whole of his country, this week losing control of a large oil and gas field that was taken over by rebels. That’s not to say that the rebels are up. The death this week of a prominent militia commander, Abdulkader al-Saleh, was a significant loss, leaving what one report called a power vacuum in rebel-held Aleppo.
So while the regime looks up, in relative terms, all sides in the fight are down, losing men and sustaining strategic blows. As rebels and regime forces try to chip away at the other’s advantage, they’re collectively tearing the country apart. This weekend the Oxford Research Group said that more than 11,000 children have died in the conflict, the majority killed by bombs or shells dropped on their neighborhoods. Hundreds were killed by sniper fire, more than one hundred (including infants) were tortured.
Foreign Policy Magazine reports that world powers (including the U.S. and Iran) are now in secret talks to save Syria, through more effective relief efforts and humanitarian mobilization. Syrians might argue there isn’t much left to save; even a unified Syrian identity has come under fire, frayed by an entrenched sectarian divide, leaving many to wonder how the world can ever sew the country back together again.
Headlines from the Week:
NY Times: Death of Pragmatic Leader Further Muddles Syrian Rebellion
HRW: Opposition Abuses During Ground Offensive
WSJ: A Violent Year in the Life of the Syria-Turkey Border
BBC News: Syrian Children Targeted by Snipers
Reuters: Syria Islamists Unite as Faction-Fighting Goes On