National Security Brief: January 6, 2012

— The human rights group Avaaz said that at least 617 people died because of being tortured in government detention facilities since the beginning of the uprising against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

— A local news station in Damascus reported today that a suicide bomber in the capital killed 25 people and wounded 46.

— After saying that Arab League monitors in Syria had made “mistakes,” Qatar’s prime minister yesterday said he asked for help from the United Nations.

— Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has demanded that the American-led coalition hand over all Afghan prisoners in its custody and cede control of its main prison at Bagram air base within a month.


— Experts say U.S. sanctions against Iran’s central bank, combined with a European oil embargo, are likely to significantly reduce Tehran’s oil revenue. “We could see anywhere between a 5% and 30% decrease in Iranian oil revenue this year, depending on whether the EU enacts an embargo and how aggressively U.S. sanctions are applied,” said one industry expert.

— The Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is welcoming an Iranian-backed militia into Iraq’s political system. The group, which recently swore off violence, was one of the deadliest insurgent groups in Iraq in recent years.

— The top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East said yesterday he was “encouraged” about the prospects that three recently raided American organizations would be allowed to reopen.

— The U.N.’s human rights office criticized Saudi Arabia for a sharp increase in executions carried about by the government there. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Rupert Colville said one woman was put to death for being found guilty of witchcraft.