“We Will Have to Eat Brown Bread,” Adib Mayaleh, Head of Syria’s Central Bank

Adib Mayaleh promised Syrians “brown bread” rather than cake yesterday. Coming from Syria’s head banker, this is not reassuring. “It will be more and more difficult because of sanctions and the events. We will have to tighten our belts”, he said. “I say the opposite of Marie Antoinette who said that if the French have no bread they should eat cake. I think we will have to give up the cake to eat brown bread”.

Dr. Adib Mayaleh & Dr. Rateb Shallah, the son of Badr al-Din Shallah, who assured Hafiz al-Assad that the Damascene Sunni elite would not join the Muslim Brotherhood in their uprising against the regime in 1982. Photo taken in 23/4/2005 during the The first Tourism Investment Market in Syria.

Iran, Syria’s only backer and ally, is hedging its bets. It’s leaders no longer have confidence that Assad will survive. Ahmedinejad “warned” Bashar yesterday in an interview on Hizballa’s Almanar TV that “the people should have the right to elect and get their freedoms”. He also said that a timeline and deadlines should be put in place so the west can’t have an excuse to interfere. Iran is worried about throwing good money after bad.

The EU stopped just short of ordering a full oil embargo, but it cannot be far off. Syria only exports 110,521 barrels of oil a day. At $85 a barrel, this is just short of $10 million a day or $3.6 billion a year.This is the amount of Syria’s export revenues from oil. It is chump change for the international market. Italy has been buying half of all Syrian oil exports in an effort to make up for the Libyan exports that are no longer available to it. Replacing Syrian oil with another source will cause modest inconvenience and a small financial hit. Italy, it would seem, is being given more time by the EU to negotiate a favorable deal for a replacement source.

President Assad will not be able to survive this. It is not clear how he will be pushed out. Today, he appears strong militarily. The Syrian army has retaken Hama and destroyed large demonstrations in Homs, Deir and many other places, but the people are boiling. Anger is traveling up the Syrian social hierarchy. People cannot support this killing if there is no end in sight. Sunni merchants, the professional classes, and Christians stood by Bashar yesterday. They considered him Syria’s only option. They are rethinking. They can see that there is no light at the end of the Assad tunnel. They are beginning to pray that the change comes quickly. How that change will come remains unknown.

Will the Syrian opposition be able to rise to the challenge. That is the question that hovers over every discussion today. Can it resolve its internal squabbles in order to provide sober and disciplined leadership? Can it assume power without prolonging Syria’s agony? The Syrian youth have shown tremendous courage, but the time for wisdom and compromise has arrived.
[End of Landis Commentary]

News Round Up

Mayaleh Says $2 Billion Used to Back Syria Pound Amid Unrest
By Massoud A. Derhally, 2011-08-26 12

Aug. 26 (Bloomberg) — Syria has spent $2 billion defending its currency since the start of an uprising five months ago against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad, said Adib Mayaleh, governor of the central bank. The money came from a fund the government created two years ago that had $5 billion when the revolt began, Mayaleh said in a phone interview from Damascus today without giving details of the currency transactions. The Syrian currency has lost 3 percent against the dollar during the same period.

“These funds were for specific use in hard times like these,” he said. “As we say in Syria, save your pennies for black days.” He added, “We are in these times at the moment, these are hard days that Syria is going through and everyone is coming together to find solutions.”…

The European Union imposed sanctions against 50 people and nine entities in Syria and the bloc is preparing to prohibit imports of crude oil from the country. It has placed Assad on its asset-freeze and travel-ban lists. The EU imported 3.2 billion euros ($4.6 billion) in crude oil from Syria in 2010, or 88 percent of the total of goods shipped to the bloc from the country last year, according to the 27-nation European Commission, the EU’s executive.

“We hope the Europeans will stop these sanctions because they are imposed directly on the Syrian people,” Mayaleh said.“All countries that have had sanctions imposed against them,  and the Europeans know this, it’s possible to go around them, but at a higher cost,” he said, adding, “that’s what happenedin Iraq and a number of other countries.” …

EU extends Syria sanctions but stops short of oil embargo
Tuesday, 23 August 2011

EU governments formally adopted sanctions on Tuesday against 15 more people and five businesses, but stopped short of concrete moves to impose a full oil embargo on Damascus.

The list of names covered by asset freezes and travel bans now runs to 50 people and nine businesses, with legal enforcement entering play when they are published in Wednesday’s legislative log, the EU’s Official Journal.

But a diplomat told AFP on Tuesday that despite a first discussion in Brussels on the oil embargo, “no clear decision has yet been taken,” with London in particular determined to ensure that sanctions do not impact on the Syrian people.

The source said: “We are in a process of working through what further tools we want to use.”

“We are open to all options–the oil embargo, sanctions on banks and telecoms, in line with the Americans–but we want to make sure sanctions are targeted at the Assad regime.”

“We are acutely aware of the need to ramp up sanctions, but we don’t want them to impact on the Syrian people,” he underlined.

Some 90 percent of Syrian crude oil is exported to the EU, where the main buyers are Denmark, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Austria and Spain, in that order. …

Western Sanctions May Put Slow Squeeze On Syria = August 26, 2011, NPR

Syrian street vendors display their goods in downtown Damascus on Tuesday, Aug. 23. Syria’s economy was hit hard initially by the anti-government uprising. It has bounced back, but now the U.S. is urging the E.U. to join in banning import of crude oil from Syria.

The Syrian economy has so far weathered the mass protests and widespread violence that have rocked most every major city. But in a move that could increase the pressure, the European Union is considering a ban on imported Syrian oil, similar to sanctions the U.S. imposed earlier this month.

Western governments say the Syrian regime’s harsh response to an anti-government uprising has demonstrated that it is not fit to lead.

In March, when the uprising first began, Syria’s economy took a huge hit. Tourism — which accounts for a large segment of the economy — dropped to almost nothing.

But later, the economy bounced back a bit, and the middle and upper classes of Syria, based mainly in the city of Aleppo and in the capital, Damascus, recovered.

Guardian (GB): Bashar al-Assad’s fall is inevitable, 2011-08-26
by Salwa Ismail

Syrians will not stop protesting until the regime is gone. They don’t need military intervention….The uprising has entered a new phase, with the opposition and protest movement widening to include professional groups such as lawyers and doctors. This adds a new dynamic to confrontations with the regime.  …  Inside Syria itself, though, there has been no call for external military …

Syrian Arab Airlines A350s blocked by US sanctions: embassy cable

Syrian Arab Airlines had been in line to receive Airbus A350s as part of a broad fleet renewal covering 50 aircraft, newly-disclosed diplomatic cables reveal. But the airframer’s plan to supply the jets – a package which included 10 A330s and 30 A320s – foundered over US government sanctions on Syria’s administration.

Russia, China boycott sanction talks – Friday, August 26, 2011

Russia and China have boycotted UN Security Council talks on a proposal to impose sanctions on Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, diplomats say. Their absence at the talks signalled the tough negotiations ahead on the move to act against Assad’s deadly crackdown on opposition protests, diplomats said.

DJ EU Embargo On Syrian Oil Would Hit Italy Hardest-Document
2011-08-25, By Benoit Faucon and Konstantin Rozhnov, DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

LONDON (Dow Jones)–A shipping document suggests a European Union embargo on Syrian crude oil–expected to be finalized next week–would hit Italy hardest,
even as the southern European country continues to make do without Libyan crude. Nearly half of the crude oil exported by Syria ended up in Italian ports last month–the equivalent of about 55,132 barrels a day out of 110,521 barrels a day of total Syrian oil shipments, according to a Syrian ports document reviewed by Dow Jones Newswires. Italian oil giant Eni SpA (E, ENI.MI) and refiners IES Italiana and Saras SpA (SRS.MI) said they do refine some Syrian crude as part of a broader slate of oil grades. ….

“European refineries are already grappling with the loss of Libyan crude,” Barclays Capital said in a note last week. “Given that one half of Syria’s key production stream is the sweet and lighter Syrian Light grade, any loss in Syrian crude volumes can significantly jeopardise European refinery operations.”

The E.U. has condemned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad following recent violence and announced a series of sanctions against the government and senior officials there. The E.U. next week is expected to finalize a plan to extend sanctions on Syria to cover oil exports to the E.U., an E.U. official said Tuesday. EU officials didn’t return a request for comment Thursday. Apart from Italy, the Syrian port document shows Syria exported crude and products to Spain, France and Turkey, among others. And a spokesperson for OMV, who declined to comment on the list of Syrian loadings, said that 7.8% of the 7.8 million metric tons of oil refined at the company’s Schwechat refinery in Austria last year came from Syria.

Yet Syrian imports remain only a small part of the roughly 1.3 million barrels of oil Italy imports every day, and government officials and refiners in the country say they can cope.

Syria has ceased all transactions in dollars Tuesday in favor of the euro

Syria opposition must learn from Libya’s council
National Editorial
Aug 24, 2011

The one lesson that Syrians must learn from Libya is this: set up a truly representative national council. The Libyan Transitional Council was formed on February 27, only 12 days after Colonel Muammar Qaddafi declared a war against his own people. Libya’s council, headed by an honest politician, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, then began rigorous diplomatic efforts to gain international legitimacy, support and access to funds. The council has done a good job overall.

In Syria, more than five months after the uprising began, no such body has been established, despite the killing of over 2,000 people. And the lack of an organised and united opposition makes the future of Syria after President Bashar Al Assad, well, oblique.

A national council including credible dissidents would convince many Syrians who currently sit on the fence to side with the protesters. By discussing post-Assad Syria, a council could also encourage the international community to move more aggressively against the regime. Military intervention is both unlikely and undesirable, but there is more to be done with smart sanctions and pressure.

In fairness, the opposition has little political or diplomatic experience, after decades of suppression. But although delay means more bloodshed, opposition figures are still disagreeing on lesser issues than the continuing killings. Some even pulled out of talks about starting a national council. If such discord continues, some in the opposition will bear some of the blame for a lack of success….. The heaviest blow to Mr Al Assad is an alternative to his rule. Only then will his regime surely crumble.

علماء دين ومشايخ سوريون يطالبون بدولة مدنية
أصدر خمسون رجل دين وشيخا وعالم دين سوريون بيانا أكدوا فيه تأييدهم المطلق لحق المحتجين في سوريا على التظاهر سلميا ورفضهم ونبذهم التام لأعمال القمع والقتل التي تمارسها أجهزة النظام بحق المتظاهرين. وطالبوا بإقامة دولة مدنية قائمة على الفصل بين السلطات الثلاث. وفيما يلي نص البيان وأسماء الموقعين:

After Arab Revolts, Reigns of Uncertainty
August 24, 2011, New York Times

DJERBA, Tunisia — The idealism of the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, where the power of the street revealed the frailty of authority, revived an Arab world anticipating change. But Libya’s unfinished revolution, as inspiring as it is unsettling, illustrates how perilous that change has become as it unfolds in this phase of the Arab Spring.

Though the rebels’ flag has gone up in Tripoli, their leadership is fractured and opaque; the intentions and influence of Islamists in their ranks are uncertain; Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi remains at large in a flight reminiscent of Saddam Hussein’s; and foreigners have been involved in the fight in the kind of intervention that has long been toxic to the Arab world.

Not to mention, of course, that a lot of young men have a lot of guns.

No uprising is alike, but Libya’s complexities echo in the revolts in Bahrain, Syria and, most of all, Yemen, suggesting that the prolonged transition of Arab countries to a new order may prove as tumultuous to the region as Egypt’s moment was stirring.

Unlike at the start of the year, when the revolutionary momentum seemed unstoppable, uncertainty is far more pronounced today, as several countries face the prospect of stalemate, sustained conflict or power vacuums that may render them ungovernable. Already in Yemen, militant Islamists have found a haven. Across the region, the repercussions of the uprisings are colliding with the assumptions of the older, American-backed system: control of oil, the influence of a reactionary Saudi Arabia, an Arab-Israeli truce, and the maintenance of order at the expense of freedom in a region that for decades has been, at least superficially, one of the world’s most stable.

In just the past week, Colonel Qaddafi lost his capital, Tripoli; the United States and European countries called on President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to step down; the president of Yemen, still recovering from burns suffered in an attack, has promised to return; and the relationship between Egypt and Israel descended into crisis, to the jubilation of many Egyptians who saw a more assertive government as a windfall of Mr. Mubarak’s fall.

“There is going to be a transfer of power in our societies, and a new order has begun to take shape in the region,” said Michel Kilo, an opposition figure in Damascus, Syria.

Aug 24 (Reuters) – Arab ministers will hold an urgent meeting in Cairo on Saturday to discuss the situation on Syria, an Arab League official said on Wednesday.

“The Arab League Peace Committee will hold an urgent meeting on Saturday on the latest events in Syria and the League’s secretariat is making calls to know the number of countries and the names of ministers to attend,” the official said, asking not to be named.

The United Nations says 2,200 people have been killed in Syria since the start of a five-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. (Reporting by Ayman Samir and Omar Fahmy, writing by Yasmine Saleh)

Experts Offer Guidance for President on Syria
4:57 PM, Aug 19, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER in Weekly Standard

In a letter being circulated by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, conservative foreign policy experts, including Bill Kristol and Lee Smith, urge President Obama take a series of actions that will hasten the fall of Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad. The letter follows President Obama’s statement yesterday that “the time has come for [Syrian] President Assad to step aside.”

The primary recommendation in the letter is that the U.S., together with our European allies, should sanction Syria’s energy (especially oil) and financial sectors, as well as those individuals who are committing human right abuses and promoting terrorism. The experts also argue that the U.S. should “Engage Syrian opposition figures outside the country and ensure that all available aid and assistance, including secure communications and Internet circumvention technology is being made available to these groups” and recall Ambassador Robert Ford from Syria. Here’s the full text of the letter:

Maersk Cancels Tanker Calling at Syrian Port on U.S. Sanctions
2011-08-25, By Rob Sheridan

Aug. 25 (Bloomberg) — Maersk Tankers, a unit of A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S, canceled a scheduled tanker loading in Syria because it would contravene U.S. sanctions. The Maersk Edward was due to pick up a cargo at the Syrian port of Banias, said Michael Christian Storgaard, a spokesman for the company in Copenhagen. Security was “not an issue as such,” Storgaard said by phone today.

Qatar Emir: Iran visit part of ‘friendly ties’, QNA/Tehran

HH the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday held a session of official talks at the presidential compound in the Iranian capital Tehran. The session was attended by the members of the high-level official delegation accompanying the Emir

HH the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani has said his visit to Tehran and meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was part of the “friendly ties” with Iran.

“We have discussed bilateral relations and co-operation between the two countries besides matters of common concern,” the Emir said last night.

On his vision on the developments in Syria, the Emir said all countries that supported Syria in difficult circumstances have tried to encourage our Syrian brothers to take steps to implement a real reform process.

The Syrian people took to the streets in Syria on a real popular and civil uprising calling for change, justice and freedom, HH the Emir added.

The security solution has failed in Syria, the Emir said, noting that the Syrian people are not willing to back down after the price paid.

HH the Emir expressed hope that the decision-makers in Syria would understand the need for change in response to the aspirations of the Syrian people, adding that “we must help them to take such a decision.”

Visa, other cards not valid under Syria sanctions
By ALBERT AJI, Associated Press

Visa and MasterCard credit cards are no longer valid in Syria under new U.S. sanctions targeting Damascus because of its deadly crackdown on a 5-month-old uprising, officials said Thursday.

The Treasury Department this month added the state-owned Commercial Bank of Syria and its Lebanon-based subsidiary to its sanctions list, citing their links to human rights abuses and to illegal weapons trade with North Korea. The action freezes any assets the firms have in U.S. jurisdictions and bans Americans from doing business with them.

In a statement faxed to the AP, the state-run Commercial Bank of Syria said the victims of the sanctions would be Syrian citizens and foreign tourists who will be “obliged to deal in cash with all its undesirable problems.”….

“This will be the key point for Syria … if Arabs stop trading with” the country, said Said Hirsh, Mideast economist with the London-based Capital Economics. He said 60 percent of Syrian exports go to Arab countries. “It’s the Arabs that will be able to cripple (Assad’s regime) more than the international sanctions.”

The move to ban the credit cards, which Syrian banks began issuing in 2005 for local customers, may also affect the country’s influential merchant class – a wealthy cadre of businessmen whose support, or at least lack of outright opposition, is seen as key to Assad’s hold on power.

George Badi, a sales manager at the Dedeman Hotel in Damascus, said the measure will hurt business and wipe out many Internet-based reservations.

“It seems that the U.S. is slapping sanctions on the entire Syrian people not only the Syrian regime,” he said.

Inside Syria’s failed rebellion
Praveen Swami
ON THE EDGE OF AN ABYSS: Syrians demonstrate against the government, in this July 2011 file picture.

President Bashar al-Assad’s government has imposed order — but is yet to slay the three-headed dragon which threatens its survival.

Thick black lines had been scored over the graffiti under the cherubic image of President Bashar al-Assad that guards the road into Hama{minute}a. The military’s clean-up squad had been less than diligent though: the word kalib, dog, survived the paint-brush censorship, and the soldiers had forgotten to have the President’s gouged-out eyes repainted.

Inside the city, the rebels had left behind evidence no amount of paint could obscure: the burned-down military officers’ mess on the Ard al-Khadra street, which mobs stormed in the hope of seizing weapons; the gutted office block which housed the justice department; the charred walls of the al-Hadr police station, pockmarked with machine-gun fire, where 17 police officers were lynched, before their mutilated bodies were thrown into a nearby canal.

Behind the justice ministry’s office, a small group of young men described what happened when the military moved in on July 31, three months after rebel groups, armed with guns, knives and petrol bombs, seized control of much of the town. “They used snipers to shoot at us,” one says, and “more than a dozen people were killed.” The army, he claims, then tied the hands of local residents and forced them to roll on the street, all the while beating them with rifle butts.

Ever since the spring uprising in Syria, the most serious challenge to the regime since it took power in 1970, commentators had been predicting that President al-Assad’s regime was on the edge of collapse. In spite of an energetic western media campaign, largely based on overblown accounts provided by exiled opposition groups, it is in fact becoming clear that the rebellion has all but collapsed: Damascus, for example, is more alive with everyday civic life than New Delhi.

But there is no disputing that Syria’s government is far from slaying the three-headed dragon which threatens its future: a threat from the West; an economic crisis engendered by neoliberal economic reform; and a mounting Islamist threat.
The failed rebellion…..

Turkey’s ‘house of glass’
Thursday, August 25, 2011, Hurriyet

Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek has an explanation for the most recent escalation of violence in Turkey’s southeast: Foreign powers!

Mr. Çiçek’s reply to a reporter’s question as to who these foreign powers are may well earn him a nomination for the 2011 Speech Apraxia Award: “We know who they are… Those who know who they are know who they are… And they (the evil foreign powers) know it’s them.”

In the previous rise of armed conflict between the Turkish military and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, the Turkish government subtly accused Israel for playing the Kurdish card against Turkey – while not minding to play the Hamas card against the Jewish state. Today, it seems, “those who know it’s them” are either the Iranians or the Syrians, or both. But is it not bizarre to see Israel, Iran and Syria in the same camp? A very rare gathering, indeed…

Syria-Russian Venture to Build Oil Rigs From 2016, Watan Says Bloomberg News

The Syrian-European Group for Heavy Industries plans to build a plant that will produce oil rigs from 2016, Al Watan reported, citing a government official.

The company is partnering with Russia’s Uralmash Machine Building Corp. to produce the country’s first drilling rig by early 2016 from the plant that will cost at least 250 million euros ($362 million), the newspaper said, citing Syrian Deputy Oil Minister Hassan Zainab. The factory will manufacture about 10 rigs a year and export some of them to Middle Eastern markets, according to the newspaper.

Syrian-European, established in Syria in 2007 and located in an industrial compound near the central city of Homs, will also produce the nation’s first locally made wind turbine to generate electricity in early 2012, Zainab said.

Libya Rebel Oil Official Says China, Russia Will Have Trouble Getting New Deals

LONDON (Dow Jones)–Global powers who took chilly positions toward Libya’s insurgents–such as China, Russia or India–will have trouble getting new oil contracts in the future, a spokesman for a rebel-controlled company said this week.

The US war of words against Syria is marred by hypocrisy and a lack of realism. al-Jazeera

You’d need a team of linguists to tease out the internal contradictions, brazen hypocrisies and verbal contortions in President Barack Obama’s call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to relinquish power.

“The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but …”

The “but” belies the preceding phrase – particularly since its speaker controls the ability and possible willingness to enforce his desires at the point of a depleted uranium warhead.

“The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing and slaughtering his own people,” Obama continued. One might say the same thing of Obama’s own calls for dialogue and reform in Iraq and Afghanistan. Except, perhaps, for the fact that the Iraqis and Afghans being killed are not Obama’s “own people”. As you no doubt remember from Bush’s statements about Saddam Hussein, American leaders keep returning to that phrase: “killing his own people”.

The 5 Things Everyone Should Know about Syria
Robert G. Rabil, August 25, 2011, The National Interest

The Syrian regime is similar to a mafia regime, with al-Asads as the Corleone family…..

Jerusalem Post: Arab World: Is Bashar next?
2011-08-26 13:54:32.543 GMT

The apparently imminent eclipse of the Gaddafi regime in Libya has re-ignited hope among some Western commentators concerning the so-called Arab Spring. The entry of Libyan rebels to Tripoli is being depicted in some circles as the removal of a …

Comments (552)

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551. Brad said:

Report: Shell won’t stop oil production in Syria !!!

Seriously? Shell ‘s revenue from Syria is probably a fraction of a percent of their overall business and will not make a dent in their annual report but it would drastically hurt the oppressive regime that has killed thousands. I am stunned by the audacity and greed. I know corporations don’t give a hoot about human lives but I thought they cared about PR and the possibility of being boycotted. I do know that I will never use Shell stations again and will be certain to educate as many people as I can about their position.

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August 31st, 2011, 12:04 am


552. Syria Comment » Archives » Syria’s First High Ranking Defection or a Forced Confession? The Taped Resignation of Hama Attorney General said:

[…] Here is a list of the 94 members of the Transition Council led by Bourhan Ghalioun looks like eu has agreed on the embargo after all the arguments. it seems that it will become effective tomorrow and will offer a temporary exception till november 15 (italy’s issue) EU Set To Broaden Syria Sanctions, Impose Oil Embargo By 2011-08-29, By Laurence Norman, DOW JONES NEWSWIRES BRUSSELS (Dow Jones)–The European Union is set to move ahead with an oil embargo on Syria but is likely to leave a possible ban on European investment in the Syrian energy sector for a future round of measures, E.U. diplomats said Monday. Dow Jones Newswires reported last week that the oil embargo was on track to be approved, as was a change broadening the legal basis of the current sanctions against the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government to people who support or benefit from the regime. Until now, an asset freeze and travel ban could be placed only on those who ordered, helped with or carried out Syria’s violent crackdown on protestors. […]

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August 31st, 2011, 9:42 pm


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