Welcome to Middle East Live.
Here’s a roundup of the latest developments and analysis:
• President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have resumed firing Scud missiles at rebel positions according to activists and the US. “We’ve been clear that we have seen the regime in Syria use Scud missiles against its own people, and that continues,” a senior State Department official told the New York Times. Activists circulated video footage of a crater in a field in near Maara norther Aleppo province where they claim one of the missiles landed.
• The UN’s anti-genocide envoy warned that minority groups in Syria, including Assad’s fellow Alawites, are at risk of major reprisal attacks as sectarian violence increases. “I am deeply concerned that entire communities risk paying the price for crimes committed by the Syrian government,” Adama Dieng, UN special adviser on the prevention of genocide, said in a statement. In a report, UN human rights investigators said that Syria’s conflict was becoming more sectarian, with more civilians seeking to arm themselves and foreign fighters – mostly Sunnis – flocking in from 29 countries.
• Vladimir Putin has signalled that he is not concerned about the fate of Assad, insisting that Russia wants only stability in Syria. But he gave no sign of a policy shift that would help galvanise international action to help end the country’s deepening crisis.
• The Assad regime is likely to last beyond next summer but eventually the president and his Alawite clan are likely to retreat to the mountains by the coast, according to Syria-watcher Joshua Landis, whose wife come from an Alawite family. Speaking to Voice of America, he said the Assad could form a separate Alawite enclave but only if their international allies stay loyal.
If Russia and Iran continue to support the Alawites along the coast, and the Arabs remain very divided and perhaps settle into civil war, well then they could pull it off, the same way the Kurds pulled it off in Iraq …
I see a long, long battle along the same lines we’ve seen, and unfortunately, both sides are radicalising, and the radicals are taking over – not only among the Sunni Arabs but also within the Alawite community, and that means bad things because it’s going to destroy – it is destroying Syria.
• The Labour MP Ann Clwyd, who sits on a committee conducting an inquiry into human rights abuses in Bahrain, has refused to accept a Fortnum Mason Christmas hamper from Bahrain’s ambassador to London. “I just could not accept it given what has happened to the citizens of Bahrain. I said, ‘Lets get it out of my office and send it back’,” she said.
• Egypt’s Islamist coalition plans to stage a million-man march in Cairo in support of President Mohamed Morsi’s “democratic legitimacy” and Egypt’s draft constitution, Ahram Online reports. Islamist groups also plan to gather in front a mosque in Alexandria, where an imam was prevented from leaving for 14 hours last week by worshippers angry at his sermon in favour of a yes vote.