Syria: reject ‘normalization’ of Assad regime

Syrian dictator Bashar Assad arrived in the United Arab Emirates for an official visit—another advance in the attempt to normalize his genocidal regime. The trip was accompanied by more pomp than Assad’s visit to the UAE last year, his first to an Arab state since the Syrian revolution began in March 2011. The UAE trip follows a visit to Oman last month. Days before the UAE visit, Assad was in Moscow for a meeting with Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin. In addition to voicing support for Putin’s war in Ukraine, Assad told Russia state media that he welcomes any expansion of Moscow’s military bases in Syria. Meanwhile, opposition activists held a demonstration in Idlib, within Syria’s diminished pocket of rebel control, marking the 12th anniversary of the revolution. Thousands gathered under the Free Syria flag in the city’s center, to proclaim that the revolution survives and to oppose normalization of the regime. (Photo: Syrian Revolution commemoration in Times Square, NYC. Via Syria Solidarity NYC)

South Asia

China expands Indian Ocean military footprint

In addition to stationing troops on the disputed islands it claims in the South China Sea, Beijing is rapidly expanding its network of commercial ports across the Indian Ocean. This comes as China is sending warships into the Ocean with growing frequency, leading to fears that the commercial ports could presage military bases, The latest addition is the port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka, acquired in a debt swap deal—the Colombo government was forgiven $1 billion in debt to Beijing in exchange for the Hambantota facility. China has also gained access to facilities in Burma, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Maldives, Seychelles and Oman as part of the maritime component of its Silk Road trade and infrastructure initiative. While the Silk Road is an ostensibly civilian project, China has also established its first foreign military base at Djibouti, leading Western wonks to warn that Beijing is seeking a "string of pearls" network of bases across the Indian Ocean.  (Map via CIMSEC)

Watching the Shadows

Oman accepts 10 Yemeni Gitmo prisoners

The transfer to Oman of 10 Yemeni men detained at Guantánamo Bay brings the number held at the facility to fewer than 100 for the first time since it opened after 9-11.

Watching the Shadows

Six Gitmo detainees transferred to Oman

Six Guantánamo detainees were transferred to Oman—the first such transfers in five months. Republicans meanwhile prepare legislation to bar further transfers.

Greater Middle East

UN rights experts urge Oman to release activist

Rights activist Said Ali Said Jadad was arrested with no warrant by Omani authorities, charged with undermining the prestige of the state and inciting demonstrations.

Watching the Shadows

Senate bill to halt release of Gitmo inmates

A group of US senators led by John McCain proposed legislation that would place a moratorium on the release or transfer of prisoners from Guantánamo Bay.


Iran-China pipeline route via restive regions

A new pipeline that would link Iran to China via Pakistan, bypassing the strategic Strait of Hormuz, would pass through the insurgent regions of Baluchistan, Kashmir and Xinjiang.


Kenya: land at issue in electoral tensions

Separatists on Kenya's coast are boycotting the elections, claiming their territory was illegally annexed, its lands usurped from the inhabitants and handed out to settlers.

Greater Middle East

Oman blogger imprisoned, fined for slander

Omani blogger Mukhtar bin Mohammed bin Saif al-Hinai was sentenced to one year of imprisonment on charges of slander and violating the country's information technology laws.