- Syrian violence spills over into Turkey and Lebanon, amid Hezbollah “propaganda campaign” to restore shattered brand
- Turkish print media, digital platforms push back against government censorship and intimidation campaign
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) declared over the weekend that "Congress is monitoring... to make sure the Iranian economy continues to decline" and that pressure on the Islamic republic had to be maintained, amid widening efforts in both the House and Senate to reassert a Congressional voice in Washington's diplomacy with Iran. Bipartisan groups from both chambers had in recent weeks sent letters to President Barack Obama outlining what they considered to be the minimum conditions for a comprehensive deal with Tehran, and emphasizing among other things that Iran must be forced to dismantle its nuclear infrastructure. The Islamic republic is obligated by roughly half a dozen United Nations Security Council resolutions to commit to such dismantlement. Schumer's comments - and broader efforts on the Hill - come as evidence continues to pile up that the interim Joint Plan of Action (JPA) has allowed Iran to begin to stabilizing its economy, generating worries that US negotiators may lack the leverage necessary to convince the Iranians to put their atomic program beyond use for weaponization. Data released Tuesday by the state-run Korea National Oil Corporation documented a spike in South Korean imports of crude Iranian oil. Overwhelming majorities in Congress and across the American electorate have held that financial pressure should be maintained on Iran throughout negotiations, both to maintain short-term leverage and as a signal that walking away from the negotiating table will quickly trigger genuinely crippling sanctions.
Violence generated by the Syrian conflict spilled across both the Turkish and Lebanese borders on Monday and into Tuesday, deepening worries not just that chaos will splash beyond Syria but also that other actors may be drawn into the fighting. A series of incidents erupted between Turkey and Syria, including one that saw Syrian missile systems lock onto nearly half a dozen Turkish F-16s patrolling the Turkey-Syria border. Tensions have been at a boiling point for several days. Turkey had shot down a Syrian plane that had reportedly entered its airspace, while the Syrians had intensified airstrikes against the rebel-controlled border town of Kassab. Meanwhile on Tuesday three rockets fired from Syria landed in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. A Sunni group claimed responsibility for the attack on the largely Shiite Hezbollah stronghold. Hezbollah for its part, per analysis published Monday by the Lebanon-focused NOW Media outlet, has launched a "propaganda campaign" to drive up domestic support for its fighting in Syria on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad regime, a decision that is widely thought to have shattered the group's brand as a Lebanese organization acting to defend Lebanese interests. NOW Managing Editor Hanin Ghaddar bluntly assessed that Hezbollah "has transformed in the past two years from a Lebanese resistance group into a Shiite sectarian militia that could be deployed anywhere in the region to serve Iranian interests."
The Jerusalem Post yesterday conveyed statements from the European Union's envoy to Israel emphasizing that what the outlet described as an "unprecedented" EU offer to Israel and the Palestinians - under which the parties would be granted Special Privileged Partnerships with the bloc should they ink a comprehensive peace deal - was designed in part to prevent a future Palestinian state from collapsing into a failed state. The Post quoted Lars Faaborg-Andersen insisting that "what we can offer is to ensure through economic, training and other kinds of assistance a greater stability in a future Palestinian state." Various powers have been scrambling to articulate how a Palestinian state could avoid quick state failure, amid deepening analysis indicating that the opposite was likely the case. Analysts have long listed the West Bank's precarious financial situation as one of at least four structural barriers to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. The territory's economy is largely floated by outside assistance, and the Wall Street Journal recently reported that efforts to bolster its economic institutions had been "slow to show" benefits. The Palestinian Authority (PA) has also been routinely criticized for failing to maintain political legitimacy, with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas currently serving in year nine of what was originally a four year term. Alongside those two concerns are ones regarding the failure of any Palestinian government to establish a monopoly on violence within its borders, and the governance split between the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and Fatah-ruled West Bank territories. A single state with territory ruled by rival governments is almost by definition a failed state.
Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News on Tuesday published an open letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan pushing back against insinuations, leveled by Erdogan in a recent speech, suggesting that the paper and its parent group were printing reports critical of the government as a result of a complex blackmail scheme. Hurriyet called out the Prime Minister for among other things engaging in an "unfair and inexorable style... use[d] against us at electoral rallies," and the outlet committed to resisting attempts at intimidation. Hurriyet is one of several platforms and channels that has in recent days taken on Erdogan and the AKP, amid a widely ridiculed and largely failed effort by Ankara to dampen criticism by blocking citizens' access to Twitter. Commenting on the dynamics, the State Department tersely noted that the volume of Twitter use in Turkey had increased since Erdogan committed last week to "eradicate" the microblogging service. Meanwhile VPN service ZenMate, whose programs have become popular for circumventing the restrictions, issued a statement defiantly insisting that it would continue providing service to Turkey and would "continue to the help those who face bans on the Internet." Meanwhile a popular Turkish TV show, which had been banned by the High Elections Board, migrated to UStream, an online streaming platform, and continued airing.