Violence in Syria continues to lead Arab headlines on Tuesday, with the fighting reportedly reaching even the Alawite regions of the country considered centers of support for the regime.
“Protests reach Assad stronghold,” reads the lead headline of A-Sharq Al-Awsat, a Saudi-owned daily. The daily reports the death of Muhammad Assad, leader of the pro-regime gangs known as Shabiha, in the city of Qardaha, near the major port of Latakia. Assad was reportedly killed during a tribal feud surrounding his support for the regime.
According to A-Sharq Al-Awsat, security forces have closed all roads leading to the city.
‘The great danger is at our doorstep,’ Marzouki tells Al-Hayat
The Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya reports, based on secret documents it claims to have obtained, that Syrian intelligence was behind a huge fire in a Qatar mall on May 28, which caused the death of 20 people, including 13 children. Preliminary investigations concluded that the fire was caused by an electric malfunction.
Meanwhile, Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki warns of the deteriorating situation in Syria and calls for the establishment of an Arab peacekeeping force for the transitional period following Assad’s fall. In an interview with London-based daily Al-Hayat, Marzouki says that Syria’s minority will need protection and the international community will need to pledge funds to rebuild the shattered country.
Marzouki warns that Islamic fundamentalism has moved from Pakistan and Afghanistan to North Africa. He claims that 3,000 extremists are currently active in Tunisia, including Al-Qaeda members.
“The great danger is at our doorstep,” Marzouki tells Al-Hayat.
Al-Quds Al-Arabi editor-in-chief Abd Al-Bari Atwan claims in an op-ed Tuesday that history is repeating itself for Russia. In the 1980s the Soviets intervened in Afghanistan, and now they are intervening to support their ally in Syria.
“The problem of the armed Syrian opposition is not the regime’s power, nor is it a lack of money and arms or an increase in the number of Islamic warriors streaming into Syria from all across the Islamic world. The problem is with the big divides and the state of anarchy which dominates its ranks, be it internal or external,” writes Atwan.
How involved was Syria in Gadhafi’s capture?
Libyan sources deny in an interview with A-Sharq Al-Awsat any foreign involvement in the capture of Muammar Gadhafi, following reports that Syria was instrumental in giving his satellite mobile phone number to anti-regime and Western sources on the ground.
Abdullah Naker, head of the Tripoli Revolutionary Council, told the daily that Gaddafi died “of grief, and was not killed.”
Naker admits that Gaddafi’s autopsy found shrapnel in his head and a bullet in the chest, but claims that the injuries were the result of sporadic gunfire in a combat zone, not a summary execution. Naker adds that Gaddafi signed his death warrant when he dubbed the rebels “rats”.
Israel, Iran and ‘red lines’
Unnamed Western diplomatic sources in Vienna told Al-Hayat on Monday that the only red lines that should be discussed are an attempt to stop Israel from launching a preemptive strike against Iran.
The sources tell Al-Hayat that the Iranian nuclear program has not reached a dangerous stage, and that an Israeli strike would set the program back a year or two at most, but could spark “a disaster of unpredictable proportions” and convince Iran to attain nuclear weapons.
The Western sources dubbed Israeli statements on Iran “extortion” aimed at the American and European administrations. They considered the Iranian issue “a successful maneuver to remove the Palestinian issue from the international table.”
Meanwhile, A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports on dissent within the Iranian leadership regarding support for Syria. According to the report, based on a New York Times article, the Iranian financial support for Bashar Assad’s regime has already reached an estimated $10 billion. The dispute is now between Iran’s Supreme Guide Ayatollah Ali Khaminei, and the head of Iran’s intelligence branch Kassem Suleimani.
Iran’s currency, the rial, depreciated 17% on Monday, reaching a depreciation of 75% within a year, the daily reports.