Protesters clash with police in protests against Turkish PM

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
June 5, 2013

Riots rage despite Turkish deputy prime minister’s apology, Syrian rebels lose strategic town, and U.S. soldier pleads guilty in Afghanistan killing spree. Today is Wednesday, June 5, and we’re wishing the Marshall Plan a happy 66th anniversary. Here’s the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

Anti-government protesters kiss inside a damaged public bus, used as a barricade at Taksim Square in Istanbul, June 5, 2013. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

Turkey troubles. Turkish trade unions joined the anti-government riots sweeping Turkey, fanning the flames of protests that started as a demonstration against a construction project and evolved into a call for Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to step down:

Members of more than a dozen unions chanting “Tayyip resign” marched down a major avenue towards Taksim Square. There were similar protests against Erdogan, prime minister for over 10 years and winner of three elections, in Kizilay Park in the capital Ankara. Youths skirmished with police in cities across the country in a fifth night of troubles. Critics accuse Erdogan of inflaming the situation over the weekend by describing protesters in blanket terms as looters, and later associating them with terrorism. Since Erdogan left the country on a visit to north Africa, deputy prime minister Bulent Arinc has struck a more conciliatory tone.

Erdogan’s opponents say he is becoming increasingly authoritarian and violating Turkey’s secular constitution by putting Islam at the center of politics. His defiant reaction to the protests prompted criticism from the West, and protesters are accusing Turkish media of turning a blind eye to the riots. A Reuters video report¬†shows riot police firing tear gas and water cannons at protesters in Istanbul. Over six days of protests, 3,000 people have been injured and two killed.

A member of forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad erects a Syrian flag atop of a gate in Qusair,¬†June 5, 2013. REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters

“Whoever controls Qusair controls the center of the country, and whoever controls the center of the country controls all of Syria.”¬†¬†Syrian government forces aided by Hezbollah guerrilla fighters re-gained control a strategic border town, ending a two-week battle and dealing a blow to the rebels:

An opposition group from the town said more than 500 rebels had died in two weeks of fighting, with a further 1,000 wounded, leaving just 400 outgunned men struggling to hold onto the town. Facing determined Hezbollah guerrillas from neighboring Lebanon, who swung the fight Assad’s way, the survivors decided to escape in the night through a corridor that the attackers said they had deliberately left open to encourage flight.

Rebel forces had controlled the key locale for more than a year, and Qusair’s capture is likely to weaken the opposition’s stand in peace talks with government leaders slated for June or July.

 Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales (L) and Judge Col. Jeffery R. Nance are seen in a courtroom sketch at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, January 17, 2013. REUTERS/Peter Millett

Killing in cold blood. A U.S. Army sergeant charged with slaughtering 16 Afghan civilians pleaded guilty in court today, a deal that would spare him the death penalty. The rampage last March targeted women and children in their homes and soured U.S. relations with Afghanistan:

Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, a decorated veteran of four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, is accused of roaming off his Army post in the Afghan province of Kandahar last March and gunning down unarmed villagers, mostly women and children, in attacks on their family compounds. The shootings marked the worst case of civilian slaughter blamed on a rogue U.S. soldier since the Vietnam War and further eroded strained U.S.-Afghan relations after more than a decade of conflict in that country.

According to the defense, Bales suffered from a brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) before he was deployed for the fourth time.

Nota Bene: President Obama plans to tap Susan Rice to replace Tom Donilon as his new national security adviser.

Standouts:

‚ÄėDeath to dictator‚Äô - Tens of thousands of protesters deliver a less-than-subtle message to Iran‚Äôs supreme leader. (Haaretz/Reuters)

Onion outrage - A Spanish beer commercial showing a man chopping onions into a paella has viewers up in arms. (Time)

Pink Congo - An Irish artist and photographer uses a discontinued method to show Congo’s landscape in shocking tones. (CNN)

Softballing Mugabe - A South African TV personality faces criticism for fawning over Zimbabwe’s notorious president.  (Los Angeles Times)

‚ÄúI‚Äôm happy being a prostitute‚ÄĚ - Brazil drops an online Aids campaign. (BBC)

From the File:

  • The U.S. is ‚Äėdeeply troubled‚Äô by Iran‚Äôs plan to start a nuclear reactor in 2014.
  • Malian troops advance toward the last Tuareg rebel stronghold.
  • Women play a small but symbolic part in Assad‚Äôs paramilitary forces.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signals readiness to consideran 11-year-old¬†Arab peace plan.
  • Latvia gets the go-ahead to begin using the Euro in 2014.
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