Streets of Iraq Engulfed by Massive Sunni-led Rallies

Thousands of protestors consumed the streets and major highways of Fallujah in Iraq as they rally against Prime Minister and his government.

The demonstration was the largest of a series of week-long rallies led by the minority as they band together to put pressure on Maliki and his government, which is led by a Shia majority.

Separate rallies have also taken place in Mosul with protestors accusing the government of unequal treatment and a call for the release of Sunni prisoners. Other locations like Samarra and Tikrit also became a focal point for massive demonstrations with province officials and legislators getting involved and echoing their support.

The protests began after 10 bodyguards belonging to the finance minister – who is one of the few Sunni senior officials in the government – were detained. Protestors are accusing Maliki and his administration of marginalizing the Sunni minority by not equally distributing the power and denying them equal rights and privileges.

The main highway in Ramadi had to be barricaded for the fifth day straight, which brought a halt to transit and the transportation of government supplies.

As the demonstration rages on, Maliki spoke at a conference in Baghdad and warned that continued civil unrest could lead to sectarian conflict and bring the country back into the dark days when people would kill each other over trivial religious differences. He also condemned the protestors in Anbar for blocking the roads and disrupting the lives of ordinary civilians.

Activists say Iraq’s current terrorism laws unfairly target and penalize Sunnis. According to a professor from Baghdad University, if the protests do not quell, the Sunnis may begin to seek their own regional autonomy in Anbar where they are the majority. This was what ultimately happened back in 1991 when the Kurds received anatomy from Saddam with the backing of the U.S.

Vladimir Putin Defends Russia’s Stance on Syria

At a conference in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin harshly criticized the U.S. for its intervention in Libya and cited it as the reason for causing further chaos that ultimately led to the attack in Benghazi that left Ambassador Christopher Stevens dead.

During the conference, Putin also dismissed notions that was making a mistake and losing influence in the Middle East by deciding not to intervene in . He further added that his nation is only concerned for ’s stability and has no concern for the fate of President and his regime.

Putin’s comments came just as human rights investigators sent by the concluded that what originally began as a fight to oust Assad and his government has evolved into a sectarian battle, which has pitted communities against one another. Fighters from as far as North Africa are getting involved and contributing to the endless blood bath.

Russia has been a long-time ally of Syria and has used its position in the United Nations Security Council to oppose intervention by the U.S. and it allies and has long defended the sovereignty of Assad’ s government. However, Russia’s tone has changed in recent days and acknowledged that Assad remaining in power may not be such a good thing. It has even urged Russians staying in Syria to evacuate the country immediately.

Russia has been a major arms supplier for Syria and even regularly uses Syria’s port of Tartus as a refueling point. Even so, Putin made it clear during the conference that the two nations merely shared a business relationship and nothing beyond that.

Human right investigations reveal that the situation in Syria has gone from bad to worse. Civilians are being driven out of their communities. Staying behind means they are at risk of becoming collateral damage.

Memorial Held for Victims of Elementary School Shooting

The is in mourning after a horrific mass shooting leaves 26 people dead at an elementary school in , . The saddest part stems from the fact that 20 of the 26 victims were children between the ages of 6 and 7. The other six victims included the school principal, teachers and faculty members.

What was supposed to be an ordinary school day turned into sheer terror when a lone gunman walked into the school premise with an automatic rifle and two handguns and began opening fire indiscriminately before turning the gun on himself.

An interfaith service was held for the victims with the president in attendance. The service included speeches from spiritual leaders of different religions including a rabbi, priest, pastor, Baha’i minister and imam. President Obama also addressed the audience.

The shooter has been identified as 20-year old . While a motive has yet to be determined, the few people that knew him described him as withdrawn but friendly. Lanza’s mother, Nancy, was also found dead in the home that she shared with her son. The firearms used were all registered and legally owned by her. According to authorities, Lanza has no prior criminal history.

The shooting follows that of others that have taken place earlier this year, most notably the theater shooting at Aurora, Colorado, that left 12 dead and scores of others injured. This was followed by another shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and then a shooting at an Oregon mall that left two dead and took place just days before this shooting. This has also triggered a debate over gun control and keeping them out of the hands of the wrong people.

The shooting is a terrible way to end 2012 and marks a grim point in a moment that is supposed to be marked by holiday celebration. There will be no joy this Christmas for 26 families who will never again be able to hug their loved one who was taken away too soon.

Syria Rebel Group Receives Formal Recognition by the U.S.

President has announced that the U.S. will formally back Syria’s main rebel group to pursue a common goal of bringing an end to President Bashar al-’s dictatorship. The recognition puts the on the same page with its European allies who have already given their full support for the opposition.

In an interview with ABC News, President Obama said that the opposition coalition is representative enough of the Syrian people to the extent that they have earned the support of the U.S.

The Syrian National Coalition for revolutionary and Opposition Forces was formed in November and received immediate support from European nations. The U.S., however, was a little hesitant as it was concerned with Islamist rebels and extremists within the organization.

Western nations have also opened a window to engage in talks with Russia, which is one of and Assad’s greatest allies. Obama has said that while it supports the opposition, it will also make sure to weed out those within the group who has ties to .

The Obama administration recently released intelligence reports that identify an opposition group as an affiliate of al Qaeda. The group is Jabhat al-Nusra, which has been linked to close to 600 terrorist attacks in Syria since November of last year. The U.S. has now barred all Americans from doing business with the organization. In addition, sanctions have also been imposed against two Jabhat al-Nusra members for their connection to al Qaeda in Iraq.

Plans for an international meeting will be held in Morocco where 80 nations from around the world will convene to discuss how it can further their collective support for the rebel groups. The conference is being dubbed as the “Friends of Syria” meeting. The conference will be held as the U.S. continues to monitor Assad’s government for signs of chemical weapons that it may deploy against its own people.

Palestinians Condemn Israel for Settlement Expansion Plans

Not long after gaining recognition of statehood by the , the Palestinians are now condemning Israel and saying that the nation must be held accountable for what they deem to be war crimes for trying to expand the settlement into East and the West Bank.

The Palestinians sent a letter to the UN Security Council and UN Secretary General accusing of violating international law. The complaint came after announced plans to expand the land for an additional 3,000 homes for settlers; these are the same areas that Palestinians planned for a future state.

The news came just after the UN General Assembly raised the status of the Palestinians from “observer entity” to “non-member state.” With the upgrade in status, the Palestinians now have open access to the International Criminal Court, which oversees cases regarding violations of human rights, war crimes and genocide.

The Palestinians are now threatening to use the court to seek legal action against Israel should it proceed with its plans to build the settlements. Before the UN vote, a few Western nations made an unsuccessful attempt to get the Palestinians to agree to a pledge that they would not use the court against Israel.

The Palestinians, however, are not without support. Both Britain and France have threatened to recall their ambassadors and have also arranged for plans to meet with Israeli officials to persuade them to withdraw their settlement plans. William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, has said that while economic sanctions are unlikely, it will consider all options on the table if Israel does not rescind its decision. Additional nations including Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland and Australia have also echoed the same sentiment in getting Israel to halt any settlement expansion plans.

The West Bank and East Jerusalem are currently home to about 2.5 million Palestinians as well as half a million Israelis.