FROM Abigail Fielding-Smith
Should the US Arm Syrian Rebels? After just three weeks as Secretary of State, John Kerry is trying to prevent Syria's "bloody stalemate" from disrupting the world's most volatile region. Russia, Hezbollah — and especially Iran — are aiding the Assad regime while America's refusal to arm opponents is seen as betrayal. Saudi Arabia is reportedly sending Croatian weapons to anti-government forces, who saved Kerry embarrassment by agreeing to show up at a meeting later this week. With 70,000 Syrians already dead and 850,000 turned into refugees, is there any hope of stopping the carnage any time soon?
Hundreds of Villagers Killed in Syria, UN Weighs Response International mediator Kofi Annan today condemned "atrocities" of a reported massacre by Syrian forces in the village of Tarmaseh, where more than 200 Syrians, mostly civilians, were killed on Thursday, according to rebel forces. If confirmed, this would be the bloodiest sectarian incident of the 16-month uprising against they Syrian government. Correspondent Abigail Fielding-Smith is in Beirut, Lebanon for the Financial Times .
The Syrian Government and the Massacre at Houla Monitors for the United Nations have confirmed 108 victims , including 49 children and 34 women — many executed at close range — by Syrian soldiers last Friday. After this latest massacre in Houla , western nations have thrown Syrian diplomats out of their countries. The US today increased financial sanctions. But, there's no consensus on what to do next. Mitt Romney issued a statement saying it's time for the US to arm the rebels and criticizing President Obama for giving Syria's Assad regime time to murder more of its own people. The Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey said the US military is ready. We hear about a tattered peace plan and calls for arming Syria's rag-tag rebels.
Syria: Agonizing Questions with No Good Answers In the aftermath of Friday's massacre in Houla -- including at least 34 women and 49 children – Washington is divided over how to accomplish regime change in Syria. Mitt Romney says the US should arm Syrian rebels. President Obama is focused on diplomacy. There's also dispute within both parties of Congress. Who are the rebels? What would it take for them to defeat Assad's army? Would arming them lead to chaos or a proxy war between other countries? How long can the world stand by while a government slaughters its own people?
The Trump agenda: where's the beef? President Trump says big things are happening. After celebrating a House bill on health care, he doesn’t yet have Senate agreement. With James Comey’s public testimony scheduled tomorrow, the President today tweeted his selection of a new FBI Director. Is the Chief Executive all style and no substance? Later, terror attacks in Iran and conflicting claims about who’s behind them.
What is Trump's plan for Middle East peace? On his first foreign tour, President Trump has promised "peace" between Israel and the Palestinians. Are there any details for re-starting talks that have been stalled for the past three years?
Who's to blame for the opioid crisis? Some of the lawyers who took on Big Tobacco are now going after Big Pharma. It’s all about the deadly epidemic of opioid use. Are the drug companies to blame? What about the users? Later, on today’s Talking Point: making sense of Britain’s upset election.