Syrian fighting ropes in Hezbollah

May 20, 2013

Activists say Hezbollah fights openly among Syrian soldiers, tensions spike in Iraq, and Asia’s giants meet to make up. Today is Monday, May 20, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @clarerrrr.



Boys walk along a damaged street filled with debris in Deir al-Zor, May 19, 2013.  REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

Proxy war personified. Syrian activists said around 30 Hezbollah fighters and 20 Syrian soldiers were killed in a battle in Qusair, a rebel stronghold near the Lebanese border.

If confirmed, the Hezbollah toll from Sunday’s battles in Qusair near the Lebanese border would highlight a deepening intervention in Syria by the guerrilla group set up by Iran in the 1980s to fight Israeli occupation troops in south Lebanon. The reported Hezbollah losses also reflect the extent to which the Syrian conflict is turning into a proxy war between Shi’ite Iran and U.S.-aligned Gulf Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which back Assad’s mostly Sunni foes.

The outcome of this weekend’s battles differs greatly depending on who you ask, with state news agency SANA claiming the army “restored security” in most of Qusair and the opposition saying rebels pushed back Assad’s forces. The regime’s assault appeared to be a government effort to secure links between Damascus and its strongholds in the Alawite heartland.

Wave of bloodshed sweeps Iraq. Car bombs killed at least 60 people in Baghdad and Basra today, while the bodies of 14 people were discovered dumped in the desert in Anbar:

Tensions between Shi’ites, who now lead Iraq, and minority Sunni Muslims have reached their highest level since U.S. troops pulled out in December 2011. No group claimed responsibility for the bombings. Iraq is home to a number of Sunni Islamist insurgent groups, including the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq, which has previously targeted Shi’ites in a bid to provoke a wider sectarian confrontation.

The possibility that Syria’s conflict will shift the Sunni-Shi’ite balance of power in the region has buoyed the Sunni minority in Iraq.

Himalayan handshake could cool tensions. Asian giants China and India may try to resolve a heated border dispute sooner than expected.

China and India disagree about large areas on their 4,000-km (2,500-mile) -long border and fought a brief but bloody war 50 years ago. While there has not been a shooting incident in decades, the long-running dispute gets in the way of improving economic relations between neighbors, who account for 40 percent of the world’s population and whose fast growing markets stand in contrast to the stagnant economies of the West.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who is on a visit to India, stressed in a joint news conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the two sides agree they must resolve their differences to reach their full economic potential.

Nota Bene: Reuters photography shows M23 rebel recruits training in Democratic Republic of Congo.

Standouts:

Afghanistan’s Pompeii? - An archaeology site in Afghanistan faces a rocky future. (Al Jazeera)

Back to hack - Chinese hackers resume attacks on U.S. targets. (New York Times)

Burning bridges - Footage shows demolition of the longest concrete bridge ever destroyed in China. (The Telegraph)

Austerity morality - Reuters columnist Nicholas Wapshott argues economics are only half the story. (Reuters)

Women want work - Saudi teachers demand full-time jobs. (Associated Press)

From the File:

  • Car bombs kill at least two in Russia’s Dagestan
  • Two suspected militants killed in Yemen drone strike
  • Iran electoral watchdog hints at Rafsanjani rejection
  • Israel’s Lapid speaks of removing some settlers for peace
  • Five dead in Israeli bank robbery

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