Reports are emerging that Syrian rebels killed at least 60 Shiites in a village in eastern Syria in what seems to be a revenge attack for an earlier incident. The rebels say the Shiites were Shabiha
, members of Assad’s feared irregular militias. Syrian officials describe it as a massacre of civilians. “What was not in dispute,” as Hania Mourtada and Anne Barnard report
for the NYT
, “was that several battalions of Sunni rebels, including members of extremist Islamist groups, stormed the village and, in video posted online by antigovernment activists, could be seen setting houses on fire as they shouted sectarian slogans, calling Shiites dogs, apostates and infidels.”Fears of a polarizing sectarian war are growing across the entire region. “Hate language is on the rise, in the press, on social media and even at lectures in mosques. Shi’ites in general are being blamed for what’s happening in Syria,” a researcher at the Adalah Centre for Human Rights in Saudi Arabia told
Reuters. A Kuwaiti cabinet official elaborated: “It’s very flammable, very sensitive…. Unfortunately Syria has become the new battleground for a very ancient tug of war.” “Everything that happens in Syria or Lebanon,” said a Bahraini human rights activist, “has an impact everywhere in the region.”The Obama administration’s hesitance to intervene in Syria appears to have allowed Iran to gain an upper hand in the war there and in regional affairs, as Liz Sly reports
for the Washington Post
An Iran emboldened by the unchecked exertion of its influence in Syria would also be emboldened in other arenas, [Mustafa] Alani [a director at the Dubai-based Gulf Research Council] said, including the negotiations over its nuclear program, as well as its ambitions in Iraq, Lebanon and beyond.“If Iran wins this conflict and the Syrian regime survives, Iran’s interventionist policy will become wider and its credibility will be enhanced,” he added.
Amr al-Azm, a Syrian activist and university professor in Ohio, put it simply: “Politically we’re screwed, and militarily we’re taking a pounding. America talked the talk while Iran walked the walk.”[Obama photo courtesy Getty Images. Assad photo courtesy Wikimedia.]