“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
By AFP
BRUSSELS

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
26/08/2011

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
al-Qabas
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
By ANTHONY SHADID,
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
BURAK BEKDİL

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 …

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451. ann said:

When will anti-government protests kick off in Turkey ?

August 29, 2011

http://www.kurdishaspect.com/doc082911RH.html

Which regime will be the next to collapse after Syria? Obviously, Iran is waiting in line, and so are Hamas and Hezbollah. Such terrorists’ organizations and regimes can no longer be tolerated and must be gotten rid of, but what ensues that, will the Arab Spring eventually come to an end?

There is one more capital that will soon witness hundred thousands of its young demonstrators pouring to streets to call for the speedy departure of its Islamic fundamentalist autocratic regime and implementation of rapid reforms or encounter the same destiny of Egypt, Libya and Tunisia .

The US has been awarding Turkey much concession, totally overlooking its worsening Human Rights Records. Turkey has been aggressively cracking down on anti-regime dissents recently. Thousands of political prisoners are decaying behind bars in notorious Turkish prisons without Human Rights Groups access. Women Rights have been increasingly violated under Islamic-rooted AKP’s ruling party. Religious and ethnic minorities in Turkey are facing extremely difficult economic and social conditions, including high unemployment, rising food prices, constraints on personal freedom, and endemic corruption, especially in South Eastern parts of the country (Turkish Kurdistan).

Since its triumph in elections, the Justice and Development Party has made absolutely no positive strides in advancing democratization and the liberalization of Turkey’s political culture. The new theocratic administration is viewed as a potential threat to democracy, and it poses a threat to the power, bureaucratic privileges and economic interests of the secular ruling class.

Erdogan’s is precisely practicing the teachings of his political mentor who was touting to “rescue Turkey from the unbelievers of Europe,” wrests power from “imperialists and Zionists,” and launch a jihad to recapture Jerusalem.

“ Erdogan’s government consists of “closed-minded, hate-spouting xenophobes and anti-Semites.” Comparing the current Turkish government to the Ottoman Empire, his regime is “anti-western, anti-Christian, or anti-Jewish. It has infiltrated all secular institutions with its Islamist followers in order to consolidate power”, argues Barbara Lerner in his Writing in the National Review.

When Mr. Erdogan’s ascended to power, he vowed to broaden cultural and political rights for the 25 million underrepresented Kurdish ethnic minorities. His ruling circle seems now split between those who advocate granting broader autonomy for the Kurds and others favoring continued repression. Recent bombarding of Iraqi Kurdistan border areas have substantiated that Erdogan’s promises were nothing more than election hypes. Most gracelessly, his alleged Islamic regime has repudiated killing innocent civilians. Mr. Erdogan and his predecessors have failed to comprehend that addressing Kurdish dilemmas require more than just sloganeering.

Turkey’s deteriorating ties with the U.S. and Israel and closer relations with Iranian president Ahmadinejad also demonstrate how the NATO’s sole Muslim-majority member is playing double-standard policies.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had warned that Ankara is prepared to react to any potential Israeli offensive against Lebanon. He has threatened Israel on many occasions, most recently stating on Turkish national television that his country would not sit with its arms folded in the event that Israel attacks in Gaza once again. Turkey has gone even further by adding Israel to its so-called “Red Book,” the top-secret security document that lists the country’s threats and enemies.

According to a wide-ranging survey carried out by the Ankara-based Metro POLL Strategic and Social Research Center in December, some 43% of Turks said that they perceive the U.S. as the country’s biggest threat, followed by Israel, with 24%. 63% of Turks now want to freeze diplomatic relations with Jerusalem.

Turks are continuing the second phase of “Armenian Genocide of 1915” against the Kurds. The US continues to back Turkey in its brutal commitments of its war crimes. During an interview conducted by Rudaw, a Hawler-based English newspaper in Iraqi Kurdistan, with Spokesperson for the US embassy in Baghdad, Michael McClellan, it became further evident that the US government is still turning a blind eye to Turkey’s disrespect for Human Rights, a unfortunate act that has further emboldened certain totalitarian ally regimes to carry on their routine abuses.

In the Mavi Marmara affair, in which nine Turkish activists were killed after Israeli commandos acted in self-defense, Turkey has been defiant in its demand of an apology from Israel whereas, few days ago, its own armed forces shamelessly carried out an air strike inside the territory of another sovereign country, culminating in killing twice as much innocent’s civilians. Pictures of the victims were immediately published by numerous Kurdish media outlets.

Until now, Turkish rulers have relied on their US and Western powers to protect themselves. The military, secular elites and Islamists who have run Turkey for so long were all anti-democratic and illiberal regimes, denying Kurdish basic rights. To gain accession to EU and to be a member of civilized world, the United States will eventually have to side with the strong public resolution to oust Islamic extremists and dictators. And Turkey is no exception to it.

The United States can rebuild its shattered image and win the hearts and minds of the oppressed and lead the democratic world for the next century to come only on provision that it applies the identical set of rules and principles towards every nation, regardless of any prejudice, including some of its close allies.

The regime in Ankara is fearful of similar unrest, and it must be. If the state of affairs continues, the anti-democratic regime in Ankara should also gear up for its demise. The Turkish citizens will no longer accept to be subdued by military dictators and Islamic extremists.

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August 29th, 2011, 1:03 am

 

452. ann said:

Syria’s WMDs: The Scaremongering Begins Anew – August 28, 2011

Analysis: A Combination of Unrelated Factoids Prepare to Lie America Into Another War

http://news.antiwar.com/2011/08/28/syrias-wmds-the-scaremongering-begins-anew/

What do a 1995 attack on a Japanese subway system, the crumbling security at Libyan military bases and al-Qaeda’s putative ambitions to create a “dirty bomb” have in common? They all sound scary, and therefore all fit (albeit with no small hand waving) into the latest narrative of the “threat” of Syria.

With the ink barely dried on the latest calls for NATO intervention in Syria, the Washington Post has emerged with an article brimming with unrelated factoids, most of which have not even a cursory relation to Syria, arguing that the nation’s WMD arsenal is something to be greatly feared.

The timing is brazen, being paired with another Washington Post article on rebel calls for NATO to attack the nation. It also comes just days after Dick Cheney, busily parlaying his book and the media’s notoriously short term memory into a restoration from hawkish caricature to “gravitas” wielding elder statesman, lamented his inability to start a war in Syria.

The fast and loose effort to cram anything and everything into the article is equally telling, as vague mentions of “dirty bombs” using fuel rods that Syria does not possess in particularly useful numbers combine with theories about nerve gas somehow polluting the world’s drinking water and food playing equal roles in a familiar game: frightening the public about an illusory enemy on the eve of dropping a bomb about the administration’s intentions to drop literal bombs on them.

That such a fanciful tale worked in the past was shameful enough. That it is being tried again while the occupation of the last “WMD threat” is still going on is nothing short of shocking.

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August 29th, 2011, 1:08 am

 

453. ann said:

Most Syrian Kurdish Parties Boycott Opposition Gathering – 29/08/2011

http://www.rudaw.net/english/news/syria/3941.html

Kurdish parties largely boycotted a conference to unite Syria’s opposition in Istanbul last week, reflecting the deepening schism between the influential Muslim Brotherhood and Kurdish groups.

The gathering, which aimed to create a diverse council to govern Syria in an interim period if President Bashar al-Assad’s regime falls, was marred by the absence of several key opposition groups including Syria-based activists and Kurdish leaders.

It was the latest in a series of meetings in Istanbul among mostly exiled Syrian opposition figures. While Kurds have been awarded a key demand – to be recognized as a distinct ethnic group in an interim constitution if the regime falls – the gatherings have also raised fears that Arab nationalists and Islamists are dominating the opposition.

Barzan Bahram, a Syrian Kurdish writer, accused the Muslim Brotherhood of controlling plans for Syria’s future and the opposition.

“The Muslim Brotherhood is trying to exploit the change that is about to take place in Syria for their own gain,” Bahram told Rudaw. “And the Turkish government is throwing its full support behind the Islamic groups to bring them to the forefront.”

He said the Istanbul conference, which Reuters reported was postponed so the groups could reach out to the Syria-based opposition, will not succeed. Bahram echoed claims by the Kurds and several other Syrian opposition groups that the Muslim Brotherhood is dominating preparations and the vision for Syria’s future.

“Any Syrian opposition conference will not succeed without an active participation of the Kurds,” Bahram said. “Also the opposition must take into consideration the location of the conferences.”

Shelal Gado, a leader in the Leftist Kurdish Party of Syria, told Rudaw that some Kurds may have attended the conference but did not represent an umbrella group of 11 Syrian Kurdish parties.

“If Turkey doesn’t give rights to its 25 million Kurds, how can it defend the rights of the Syrian people and the Kurds there?”

He said Syria’s Kurds will remain suspicious of any conference held in Turkey, arguing that Ankara has its own agenda on Syria and it is hosting conferences to try to drive a wedge between the already-fractured Syrian opposition.

“Turkey is against the Kurds…in all parts of the world,” Gado said. “If Turkey doesn’t give rights to its 25 million Kurds, how can it defend the rights of the Syrian people and the Kurds there?”

Despite the wider skepticism, some Kurdish parties attended the Istanbul gathering. The Kurdish Union Party and the Kurdish Freedom Party, both of which are members of the umbrella group of 11 Syrian Kurdish parties, attended the conference.

Abdulbaqi Yusuf, a leader of the Kurdish Union Party who attended the gathering in Istanbul told Rudaw, “The meeting was to discuss our position towards the Syrian regime.”

“The meeting was also to form a national assembly—an interim Parliament for the immediate period after the regime change,” he said. “Parties with unclear positions on the regime will not take part.”

Yusuf dismissed claims that participating in the conference is dividing a Kurdish umbrella group of 11 parties. He also rejected the claim that Turkey has imposed its own agenda on the Syrian opposition.

“We did not feel any Turkish pressure in the meeting,” Yusuf said. “But as a major power in the region, without a doubt, Turkey has its own interests. We, the Kurds, managed to present the Kurdish demands.”

Yusuf said the main demand of the Kurdish 11-party assembly was the recognition of Kurds as the distinct ethnic group in Syria and addressing Kurdish concerns democratically.

“Both these demands were put in the interim constitution for after the regime change,” said Yusuf.

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August 29th, 2011, 1:12 am

 

454. ann said:

Iraq-Kuwait Tensions Rise Over Rocket Strikes – August 28, 2011

Shi’ite Militia Accused of Firing Rockets Against Kuwaiti Project

http://news.antiwar.com/2011/08/28/iraq-kuwait-tensions-rise-over-rocket-strikes/

The disputes between Iraq and neighboring Kuwait are long-standing and well documented. Tensions between the two nations seem to be on the rise again as Iraqis loudly oppose the Mubarak al-Kabir Port project.

The opposition to the port centers from concern that it will reduce the value Iraq’s own nearby port of Grand Faw. This led a number of Iraqis to rally against the Kuwaiti project, with the port being the latest in a long line of bones of contention between the two.

Now, it seems, matters have gone beyond simple protest, as a group inside Iraq has fired a number of rockets against Kuwait. So far the rockets fell short of Kuwaiti territory, but led to angry complaints from Kuwait and a rebuke from Iraqi MPs, who warned that the situation could escalate.

The violence is stemming from Shi’ite militias, but angry protests from the ruling State of Law bloc suggest that the issue has currency across Iraq and threats that the port could lead to Iraqi terror attacks against Kuwait suggest the issue isn’t going to be an easy one to solve.

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August 29th, 2011, 1:21 am

 

455. N.Z. said:

http://all4syria.info/web/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/image001113.jpg

Ali Ferzat, has been admitted to a hospital, he has been severely beaten and his health is deteriorating. His daughter said that her father received a phone call from anonymous ordering her father to stop granting reporters interviews.

He is constantly asking when can he get back to his pen. Junior did not call him, to see how one of our best is recovering. .

The latest cartoon depict Mr. Ferzat receiving an honorary badge from assad jr.

This is a confirmation what freedom of press means under this regime. Change no one believes in.

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August 29th, 2011, 1:26 am

 

456. ann said:

Syrian gov’t troops kill 2 armed near capital: witness

09:40, August 29, 2011

http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/90777/7582469.html

DAMASCUS, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) — Two armed men were killed in clashes with Syrian government forces in Harasta suburb of capital Damascus late Saturday, an eye witness told Xinhua Sunday.

The witness, who asked for anonymity, said intense shooting occurred Saturday in Harasta after Ramadan night prayers between the government forces and armed men, adding that a number of parked cars were smashed with bullets from both sides.

The gunmen were armed with M16 rifles and pistols, said the witness.

After the shooting the government forces sealed off entrances of Harasta and prevented people of entering it, the witness added.

The report couldn’t be independently verified as journalists are banned from going to restive areas.

Harasta has been a scene of anti-government protests since May.

About 2,200 people have been killed since protests began in mid- March, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said this week, adding that 350 of them had died since the beginning of Ramadan.

A UN humanitarian assessment team said on Friday after wrapping up a five-day visit to Syria that there is an “urgent need” to protect Syrian civilians from the use of excessive force. The team, however, said there is no nationwide humanitarian crisis in Syria.

The five-month-old unrest has sparked an ongoing blistering criticism and condemnation over the alleged use of force by Syrian leadership on anti-government protesters.

U.S. President Barak Obama last week made his explicit call for al-Assad to step aside, underscoring the tough talk with new sanctions that hit the largest state-owned Commercial Bank of Syria and the SyriaTel cell phone operator.

The Syrian leadership repeatedly brushed off the international uproar as “flagrant interference in Syria’s internal affairs,” blaming the unrest on armed groups and extremists backed by foreign conspiracy and stressed that there would be no letup in its crackdown on those who have intimidated the people and sabotaged public and private properties.

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August 29th, 2011, 1:48 am

 

457. ann said:

Winter is Coming: Wasteland of Empire’s Victory – August 27, 2011

http://original.antiwar.com/malic/2011/08/26/winter-is-coming/

The fog of deception lies heavy over Libya still, with the pro-Imperial rebels proclaiming victory half a dozen times over four days. Claims they had captured one of Gadhafi’s sons were quickly debunked. While it does appear that Gadhafi may have lost control of the country, who is actually in control – the motley coalition calling itself the “National Transitional Council,” or their NATO sponsors – remains very much in doubt still.

How is something like this even possible, in an age of unprecedented media coverage? Primarily because the war has been a media operation from the very beginning. It took massive amounts of spin to paint the rebels as peace-loving freedom-fighters (who weren’t jihadists, honest), to claim that Gadhafi’s forces threatened a bloodbath in Benghazi, and to keep anyone from wondering how a mandate to enforce a no-fly zone became a license to bomb, invade, and occupy.

Forgotten Precedents

What shocks the most is that this isn’t the first time something like this happened. In 1999, NATO launched an illegal invasion of then-Yugoslavia on the basis of a faked atrocity story, changed justifications for the invasion at least three times during the 78-day war, and occupied the province under a UN mandate it immediately proceeded to shred. In 2003, the U.S.-led “Coalition of the Willing” invaded Iraq on a completely false pretext of “weapons of mass destruction”. When confronted with the lie, the U.S. leadership shrugged, “So what?”

In all these cases, the interventions caused all the things they nominally sought to prevent or stop: civilian deaths, widespread devastation, conflict between ethnic and religious groups, pogroms and ethnic cleansing, and even terrorism – the very thing the U.S. declared its sacred historical mission to fight, following 9/11. The parallels are so striking, even cartoons can be recycled to fit.

While the pattern is obvious to some, the mainstream media work really hard to banish all context from collective memory, so everything always happens in a vacuum and the only points of reference are the talking points emanating from Washington. Where, incidentally, snow in winter comes as a surprise.

What Price Victory?

So, once again, the Empire pats itself on the back, smugly celebrating a victory. But was it? Well, so long as Gadhafi is out, and the rebels – whoever they are – divvy up the Libyan economy to major Western companies, the country’s reserves of gold and foreign currency conveniently disappear into “proper” pockets, who cares? And if the rebels turn out to actually be bloodthirsty jihadists – as it happened in Afghanistan – that but guarantees that the Pentagon will never run out of wars to fight.

You won’t hear the talking heads on mainstream cable channels mentioning that the rebels’ draft Constitution has a provision in Article 1 making Sharia the supreme law of the land. What a splendid victory for democracy!

Now John McCain, a U.S. Senator who never saw a war he didn’t like, is saying that Syria is “next” and that even Russia and China are in need of “democracy,” Imperial-style. This just days after the Senate unanimously passed an idiotic anti-Russian resolution. The march to madness continues…

The False Arab Spring

What the public in the U.S. and Europe is supposed to think, according to its overlords, is that liberal democracy is such a wonderful system of government – really, the only one possible – that Arab masses everywhere are rising up on their own accord to demand “freedom.” Leaving aside the false belief that democracy equals freedom, actual reports from countries affected by the so-called “Arab Spring” suggest the very opposite: the popular discontent is stoked, channeled and manipulated by professional revolutionaries, trained by the U.S. and set loose on the world.

Tunisians and Egyptians may be rid of the individuals – Ben Ali and Mubarak – who ruled them for decades, but the system in which they operated has not been dismantled. Some “freedom”! No one hears anything about Bahrain anymore, where a Saudi-backed Sunni dynasty lords it over the Shia populace with an iron fist. Now that is a bona fide popular protest, but they don’t get to enjoy “democracy” – the Fifth Fleet has to moor somewhere, after all. As for the Saudis, they continue to be the living proof that the U.S. has no problem with dictatorships or theocracies per se, so long as they remain obedient allies.

Syria is now the next target of bombs-for-peace activists. The hereditary dictatorship is beset by protesters carrying signs in English (odd, that, in an Arab-speaking country once ruled by the French), who also appear to be armed. The official story, of course, is that they are unarmed demonstrators being wantonly butchered by the country’s military. Remember, though, that “Gay Girl in Damascus” was part of the official story for months – until “she” was outed as a middle-aged American man living in Scotland.

The question is no longer whether interventions might poison the well of Arab democracy, but whether the “democratic revolutions” were anything but a cruel hoax. Iraq, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria – whether by war or by subversion, it is all about the Empire taking control. Freedom, democracy – those are just words in the wind. What will happen once the people, seduced by promises of security and prosperity, realize they’ve only traded one tyrant for another? Even if Empire’s policymakers are intellectually aware they are seeding the world with bitter enemies, they simply don’t care.

Yet history offers an example of where such betrayal leads: Iran, where in 1953 the CIA overthrew the democratic government of Prime Minister Mossadegh, in favor of a dictatorial Shah. The 1979 Islamic revolution was directed against the Shah, and his principal backer – the U.S. Yet to the policymakers in Washington, history has nothing to do with anything, and the Iranians are simply irrationally evil.

Balkanize the World

Those who dismiss the lessons of history invoke American exceptionalism: it can’t happen here, this country is different. In one respect, that is true; never before in history has a hegemon itself demolished the very order its hegemony rested upon.

Nearly a decade ago, Emperor Bush II unveiled a grand strategy that envisioned a global Balkans: governed by arbitrary rules, enforced by American bombers and local quislings. It was the alleged triumph in the Balkans that encouraged further interventionism. Never mind that Kosovo wasn’t a brilliant victory of air power but an evil little war that ended up a near-disaster; or that the Bosnia policy is based on fetishes and fantasies; the important thing was that Serbia – which had resisted Imperial diktat for a decade, invoking international law – be broken at the wheel, as an example to others.

And if the chosen tool for the breaking is Germany – with its heritage of aggression and atrocities from two World Wars – so much the better, then, to show the truly post-historical nature of Empire’s Pax Balcanica.

Thus German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Belgrade this week to demand recognition of the “Independent state of Kosovo”. Even the pathetic quisling regime currently running Serbia balked at that – which the German media promptly dubbed “refusal to compromise.”

It is one thing to discount history, to spin failures into successes, and even to dismiss observable reality. What the Empire is doing here, however, is waging a war on meaning. When one wages a war on “terrorism” but promotes one’s own terrorists as “freedom fighters”; when “democracy” means whatever the Imperial bureaucrat on the ground declares it means at any given time, things have gone beyond surreal.

This Summer of lies is almost over. Winter is coming.

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August 29th, 2011, 2:01 am

 

458. NK said:

enjoy!

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August 29th, 2011, 2:16 am

 

459. ann said:

Arab League presses Assad to end bloodshed in Syria

Council seeks ‘resort to reason’; Delegates also recognize Libyan rebels, ask UN to release frozen funds, assets

By SAMI ABOUDI, Reuters August 29, 2011 12:00 AM

http://www.montrealgazette.com/Arab+League+presses+Assad+bloodshed+Syria/5320943/story.html

Arab foreign ministers told Syria on Sunday to work to end months of bloodshed, and decided to send Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby to Damascus to push for political and economic reforms.

But in a conciliatory message to Damascus, the ministers also said after an extraordinary meeting in Cairo that Syria’s stability was crucial for the Arab World and the whole region.

The Syrian government has sent in troops and tanks to crush five months of street protests demanding President Bashar Assad step down, leading to the death of at least 2,200 protesters according to the United Nations.

“The (Arab League) council expresses concern and worry over the dangerous developments on the Syrian arena that had caused thousands of casualties, including dead and wounded,” the Arab League council said in a statement.

“It also stresses the importance of ending bloodshed and to resort to reason before it is too late,” the statement said.

Many Arab commentators have criticized the League for its timid reaction to the violence.

The league, which groups the Arab world’s 22 states, has been under pressure to speak out more openly following popular uprisings that ousted Arab heads of state in Tunisia and Egypt and the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi.

The league’s council stressed that the Syrian people were entitled to “live in security and dignity and to see its legitimate aspirations for political, economic and social reforms realized.”

The League, which also discussed the situation in Libya, endorsed the rebel National Transitional Council as Libya’s legitimate leadership.

It also “urged the U.N. Security Council and concerned states to unfreeze the funds, properties and assets that belong to the Libyan state immediately,” the statement said.

At the start of the meeting, delegates cheered as the rebels’ flag was raised among flags of other Arab states instead of Gaddafi’s green banner.

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August 29th, 2011, 2:31 am

 

460. annie said:

About security; I do hope Aboud has water tight protection because his is one head the menhebaks would like to see on a spike and after all there are some advanced IT specialists in Syria who could detect him.

Same for SGID. I cannot believe you had the guts to take that video.

You all remember that guy a few years back who used to travel to Loubnan to post his messages ? Forgot his moniker but he was quite a hero at the time.

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August 29th, 2011, 2:43 am

 

461. annie said:

The name of the anonymous publisher was Karfan

http://syriaexposed.blogspot.com/

Looks like he stopped posting in 2006

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August 29th, 2011, 4:03 am

 

462. N.Z. said:

Annie, “The name of the anonymous publisher was Karfan”

Is he okay?

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August 29th, 2011, 4:20 am

 

463. NK said:

You guy are talking as if you have no clue what is happening in Syria or among the Syrian youth community at all. On Facebook we are using our real names and saying whatever we want publicly. It’s all out in the open.
For God’s sake, people are getting chased in the streets, many witnessed their friends getting killed before their very own eyes, many saw their friends getting arrested and never heard from them again and yet they still go out and demonstrate every chance they get, and some of you – living thousands of miles away – are worried some schmuck might find a way to expose your true identity ?. I’m not saying go ahead and post your names as being anonymous certainly has advantages, but please get over your excessive fears and stop looking over your shoulders for once in your lives.

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August 29th, 2011, 4:23 am

 

464. Mina said:

Reading the Turkish president’s comments on “there is no place for an authoritarian regime or a close society” I wonder how many he expects to fool? Ever heard of his cousins in Uzbekistan? Turkmenistan? Ever visited KSA? Read about North Korea and Zimbabwe?
Or maybe 2011-2012 is the new economic boom, weaponry and wars all over, just for the sake of helping the economy, dude?

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August 29th, 2011, 4:30 am

 

465. N.Z. said:

Diary from Syria: Ramadan Kareem or Ramadan Massacre
August 28, 2011 | By Jasmine Roman

I was aiming to distance myself, for once, and write an amusing diary entry that tells beautiful details of Ramadan in Syria and brings back its spiritualities, warm ambience, the charm of the storyteller “Hakawati”, among many other special aspects. I was aiming to distance myself, for once, from reflection, turbulence, and grief and contribute to “Ramadan Contest Cover” in EMAJ with some words of Damascene jasmines that smell the exquisitely of beautiful Syria. Not surprisingly enough, the holy month was sadly received with series of massacres; not surprisingly enough, Eid ul-Fitr (the three-day Muslim feast that marks the end of Ramadan) will end with a big jubilation.

I had difficulties to put my pen to paper since my last diary “Will I be the next?”. Today, I decided to write few lines and smash this new barrier of fear that has recently instilled in me. I feel completely paralyzed; yet, it is a personal and mandatory duty to spread the word and shed the light on the ground where silence and asking for mercy might sometimes be the only reactions and the only solutions. The brutal killing and barbarian arrest campaigns that swept different cities in Syria left the country with a state of panic and solace. However, the recent savage operations since the beginning of Ramadan instigate more anger, courage, and determination of Syrian protestors who don’t have any other option but to preserve their will to end this era of Syria’s political lifecycle. The escalation of violence is unquestionably leaving another black smudge on the history of the ruling regime.

It has been confirmed that the acid, alongside with many other horrible tools of torture, is being used by the security to persecute and distort people from Mouadamieh area in Damascus outskirts. People are detained according to their IDs regardless of their age or health conditions, and no matter if they’ve participated in the protests or not. Many homes are destroyed and vacated from all youth and men, leaving the places for women and children, who are also taking their share of violence.

It has been confirmed that the security forces, in many cities, are refusing to deliver the martyrs to their families to bury their bodies or hold funerals for them; instead, they are surreptitiously taken so they won’t be counted as dead human beings. The security forces are refusing to issue death certificates in some cases; they bargain with the families to sign documents confessing that their sons were killed by “armed terrorist gangs” and not the security men. How will families of the victims reconcile their consciences, witnessing the real murderers, first hand, shedding blood of their children, is anyone’s guess.

It has been confirmed by the inhabitants of Nawa’s village that eight martyrs passed away and there were around fifty casualties with enduring dangerous conditions on August 3rd of this year. However, only three were confirmed to have been killed by different media outlets on that day. Moreover, the security refused to hand over the corpses to their families and harshly threatened to kill the family members if they dare inquire about the martyrs’ whereabouts. The injured ones were denied medical treatment. They were not hospitalized or even provided with any basic first aid. They have been left to slowly and painfully die out of torture or been liquidated in cold blood. Adding to that, the security transported both the dead bodies and casualties to obscure places without any information or hints about their destiny.

It has been confirmed that a 29-year old barber was working in his shop in Nawa village on the day of XXX. He was a humble young man trying to survive and had nothing to do with any demands or revolts. The security men entered his shop, stole and broke his merchandise, and slaughtered him by spearing their guns into his body. He was in a dangerous situation and had to be treated by a local doctor since the incident. The man passed away of his wounds a few days ago. Upon burying him in the graveyard, his young friends and relatives cried for him and started to chant some slogans out of their loss. They were attacked and surrounded by more than thirty security men with their guns directly pointed at the mourners. The security officer threatened to shoot all mourners if they uttered a word. He also declared that he possesses a warrant and green light to kill up to twenty persons without providing any justification or holding any responsibility for his actions. The elders and women of the village begged the officer not to shoot at their young sons until the burial is over.

It has been confirmed that in a very wealthy neighborhood in Damascus city, gunshots were fired by security and police men on August 5th, 2011. The area was raided by more than fifty thugs and security officers searching for one unarmed young protestor who hopelessly hid behind the garbage box in the school yard. He was caught and beat violently by all fifty men with their wooden rods and guns. They then broke into the school and threatened to wreck the whole neighborhood if any word, photo, or video is released. This happened in my own street and the whole incident was witnessed by my own eyes. I was almost dragged and imprisoned by the security men as I was standing in the balcony with my family. I will write about those horrific details in a separate entry another time. I will say that this incident in particular left me paralyzed to speak a word for a few days and unable to write since then. The Syrian security and intelligence are experts in frightening individuals, and I seriously do not want to be one of those!

You might wonder, and you have every right to, what is the evidence for all the incidents I write about? How would you know that Jasmine is real and not a hoax? How do you know she is telling the truth? Well, the facts are even more devastating and tragic than anyone can tell, and very little can be documented, taped or photographed. All stories coming out from Syria have authentic names, places, and details and are endorsed and witnessed by real people with no ability to prove the ugly truth. But hey, remember, the history is always documented through people.

This piece of writing honestly doesn’t aim to be a winner of the contest and doesn’t aim to draw any sympathy or compassion. The intention of this piece is to trigger the anger of the silent voices and to help me share the agony of many Syrian people who are buried alive. Yes, you can help me, and you can help every Syrian. You can help by sharing our stories and diaries. Syria is bleeding in the holy month and no wonder that Syria hashtag on Twitter has been #RamadanMassacre instead of #RamadanKareem.

http://emajmagazine.com/2011/08/28/diary-from-syria-ramadan-kareem-or-ramadan-massacre/

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August 29th, 2011, 4:50 am

 

466. Concerned guy said:

With new revelations of the Libyan regime murdering thousands of opposition prisoners

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-14705519

I was wondering how many people were arrested in Syria, where they are held and if there are concerns for their lives.

Anybody has info?

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August 29th, 2011, 4:53 am

 

467. N.Z. said:

Al Arabiya interview with parents of 10-yr-old Thamer al-Shar’ee, who was tortured & killed by Syrian regime. http://youtu.be/ZcOuP59Mh58

KILLING OUR CHILDREN? 120 innocent lives had been shattered by junior’s armed thugs. Many are his kids age. What will he tell them when they grow up?

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August 29th, 2011, 5:13 am

 

468. MNA said:

Abughassan @ 341

“The attack on masjed alrifa’ee was a despicable act of brutality and disrespect for a mosque at a time of worship and peace,and to add insult to the injury,thugs used violence against imam Usama.”
Agree, but it is as despicable and brutal for demonstrators to use a mosque at a time of worship and peace as an venue for political demonstrations, endangouring the lives of many including elderlies. If some people inside the mosque did not start demonstrating the security would not have gone in. The demonstrators knew fully what the response of the security would be and still chose to do it.

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August 29th, 2011, 5:15 am

 

469. annie said:

N.Z. said:

Annie, “The name of the anonymous publisher was Karfan”

Is he okay?

I had an idea as to his id in which case he was ok.

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August 29th, 2011, 5:18 am

 

470. some guy in damascus said:

last night a demonstration happened in badr mosque, malki which is 450 meters from besho’s house.

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August 29th, 2011, 5:20 am

 

471. N.Z. said:

The protesters prefer gathering in the squares of their capital, cities, villages and towns. Will you approve?

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August 29th, 2011, 5:31 am

 

472. MNA said:

SGID @ 469

What time did that demonstration happen? I was right across the street from Badir mosque from Iftar till 2 am and did not see any demonstration.

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August 29th, 2011, 5:50 am

 

473. some guy in damascus said:

@MNA i dont know, what time, but i think around 4 am. i doubted if it ever happened until i saw the video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pr5Dz3HNGkI
it has very poor quality,
but if your familiar with the area, you should notice the barada river barrier, which is right beside the mosque.
please tell me if you think its correct.

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August 29th, 2011, 5:56 am

 

474. SYRIAN HAMSTER said:

History تاريخ

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August 29th, 2011, 5:59 am

 

475. SYRIAN HAMSTER said:

Exploitation استغلال

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August 29th, 2011, 6:01 am

 

476. SYRIAN HAMSTER said:

Greed جشع

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August 29th, 2011, 6:01 am

 

477. SYRIAN HAMSTER said:

Influence نفوذ

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August 29th, 2011, 6:02 am

 

478. SYRIAN HAMSTER said:

Poverty فقر

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August 29th, 2011, 6:03 am

 

479. Aboud said:

“If some people inside the mosque did not start demonstrating the security would not have gone in.”

Like the old saying goes “An excuse worse than the original crime”

The security forces were waiting for them outside, ready to arrest and beat people up like they have done at so many other mosques all over the country. Or did you expect them to go meekly to jail and torture? The days when Syrians will be intimidated by the the sight of the regime’s thugs are long gone.

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August 29th, 2011, 6:06 am

 

480. MNA said:

SGID @ 472

I couldn’t tell.

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August 29th, 2011, 6:16 am

 

481. some guy in damascus said:

@MNA
at 0:06 you can see the white barrier with the xxxxxx patterns that are on the barrier, which means its near the barada river,
at 0:13 the guy turns his camera to the minaret of the mosque. there are only 2 mosques near the barada river in malki, the first is sa3d, but its minaret is not really adjacent to the dome, and theres alos badr where the minaret is adjacent to the dome, this is why i think IT DID HAPPEN.
the only sure way we can find out is by the shape of the minaret, since its the only thing we can see clearly.

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August 29th, 2011, 6:29 am

 

482. majedkhaldoon said:

Badr Mosque is next to Tora river,not Barada,it is north of Jahez park

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August 29th, 2011, 6:39 am

 

483. MNA said:

SGID @ 480
Yes you are right. It does look like the area by the Badir mosque.

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August 29th, 2011, 6:41 am

 

484. some guy in damascus said:

@ majedkhaldoon,
well this is embarrassing :s , i thought it was the barada, anyways it WAS a river, now it just a few trickles of garbage.
@ALL especially MNA
heres a photo pf the badr mosque
http://www.panoramio.com/photo/41009016
please notice the shape of the minaret, the xxxxxx patterns on the barrier and the buildings detail, and compare them to 0:06 and 0:13 of the video, you will notice they fit perfectly.

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August 29th, 2011, 6:45 am

 

485. Mjabali said:

General cheese

It is obvious that you cried and whined a lot about the terms that were in my posts regarding you.

So you are happy that they edited one of my posts. I see thin skin all over you and your emotional rants.

As for Dr Sultan my personal experience with her is the same I had with you. I used to fight her everyday for the generalizations she drops on Muslims. She even wrote almost half an article attacking me personally the same way you bark at me everyday. She does not and never liked me.

BUT, I always respected her right to speak and respected the fact that she forced Islamists, like you, to think about their faith.

She came from a Alawi family, and that is no secret. To point that out is to show the phobia you and your likes have from minorities and to see what your ideas about them. So far you failed because you are sectarian and Salafi that has no room for others.

I pointed Dr Sultan out to show your weak claim that you with those standing to al-Assad. She stood and asked al-Assad to step out and for someone in her stature to do so is good for anyone trying to depose al-Assad. She is a prominent Alawi figure if you like it or not and to encompass her to the anti Assad ranks is a step in the right direction.

But again , the zealot that you are, you started insulting her and bringing some Zionist/Right wing conspiracy lunatic talk, just because she is a Alawi.

The funny part is when a history buff like you claim he had just heard of the Salafi movement recently. Funny ha

Minorities are a reality in Syria that you want to neglect. You, and your logic, do not want to give them any rights.

Minorities in Syria have needs and demands and Islamists like you do not seem to get it.

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August 29th, 2011, 7:13 am

 

486. Muhammad said:

As if one needed more evidence that this regime is soon going to be history, I have found out through the official Ba’ath party website that the CURRENT secretary general is the ETERNAL LEADER HAFIZ AL-ASAD. Check this out:

http://www.baath-party.org/leadership.asp

Hey menhebaks, how does he exactly chair the meetings of the party ? Is that why the “reforms” keep getting delayed ? Are you waiting for his signature ? Yet another evidence that the Ba’ath party is officially dead.

One more thing that caught my eye is how the region of “Arabstan” (Ahwaz region of Iran) has been removed from the map of “Al-watan Al-arabi”. How much we used to hear about the occupation of Arab land and how we should free it from foreign occupation. What kind of bargain did this pathetic sectarian instrument do with Iran to accept their occupation of Arab land ?

Disgusting hypocrites.

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August 29th, 2011, 7:15 am

 

487. ss said:

The mosques should be brought down on the heads of any radical islamists trying to mess with law and order. They are the cause of the problem not in Syria but the world. In all my posts I try to be generous in attacking radical islam because it is a poison.

This morning I woke up and I saw this headline on Aljazeera
قصف للرستن والانشقاقات تتلاحق
I care less what Aljazeera says but I like to read the comments and I loved what I read today. People realized the conspiracy early on and that is the reason why the regime is surviving.

بشير السيد
الدوحة
لا انشقاقات ولا شي ،، الجزيرة انتم تكررون السيناريو الليبي مع سوريا وكأنه صورة طبق الأصل ،، بس ما راح يمشي الحال معكون .. بأيام السلم كان في ناس كتير تهرب من الخدمة الالزامية و اغلب الي نشرتوه عن الانشقاقات من خمسة اشهر لليوم ما بين منها شي يعني هذا كذب وتحريض ونفاق . الجزيرة انتم نزلتوا من عيون كتير ناس

Abdel Kader AL Chebli
Frankfurt
بصـراحة يا جزيرة تلعبين لعبة قذرة صارت مكشوفة وخاصّة حملتك على سوريا , خسارت كيف إنسقت إلى هذا المنهج الذي أفقدك مكانة كانت رائعة قبل أن تقرّري إشعال النار وتمزيق الوطن العربي أكثر من ما هو ممزّق – أعرف أنكم لن تنشرو ولكن هذا واقعكم الآن

عبد الرحيم سليمان قاسم
صنعاء
ما هي المشكلة في انتشار اي جيش في العالم على حدود بلده مع الجيران لحصر الدخول والخروج بالمعابر الحدودية الرسمية؟؟؟هذا ليس خبرا الا لدى الجزيرة حيث يتحول الى عملية قمع للانتفاضة….!!!!!! الجزيرة تجتر الاخبار وتكرر ما هو غير مؤكد لان ما يجري في سوريا لا يغطي متطلبات الحرب الاعلامية التي تشارك فيها.وبعض مذيعيها يتصرفون وكأنهم تخرجوا من تلفزين دمشق ولكنهم بدلوا ولاءهم.نفس الاسلوب الخطابي غير المهني وعير المقنع. كل البلدات التي على الحدود تشتغل بالتهريب منذ نشوء الحدود بين لبنان وسوريا

Hasan Alarabi
اللي بيختشوا ماتو
ياجزيرة؟ ألاعيبـــــــــكم وأكاذيبــــــــــــــــكم أصبحت مكشوفة للشارع العربي اختشوا على دمكم أنتم ومن يشغلكم من الموساد الأسرائيلي أنتم وجميع من يزودكم بالأكاذيب والصور المفبركة والمزورةفهذا لن يفيدكم فقد انكشفت ألاعيبكم وعمالتكم والجهات التي تعملون لصلحها لمعظم الشارع العربي.

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August 29th, 2011, 7:16 am

 

488. Aboud said:

“She came from a Alawi family, and that is no secret”

But Mjahali, you tried to keep it a secret. See how you can tell so much about the insecurities of a person by what they *don’t* say hehehehe.

Unlike you, I have the intellectual maturity not to like or dislike a person based solely on their stance with regards to X-Box junior. “Doctor” Angry Bitch wants to nuke the Arab world. She wants the West to invade every Arab country, tear down Arab societies and rebuild them as Dick Cheney sees fit. And since you support her, you support her agenda.

So, I expect to see Mjahali voting Republican, attending Republican rallies, pinning for the good old days of Dubya Bush, waving an American flag while he cheers on the US airforce as it bombs Arab countries. Disgraceful.

Again, what self respecting Arab would visit Jerusalem when Palestinians can’t do so. Mjahali and his ilk would make an alliance with Zionists or the devil himself to maintain Besho’s tenuous hold on power. Just look at all the “minorities” selling videos of themselves to Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya.

Does the smack from the Censorbat still hurt? LOL :)

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August 29th, 2011, 7:30 am

 

489. Samara said:

“Doctor” Angry Bitch”

Moderator, are you on holiday?

Aboud, just because you and the revolutionaries would sell your sloul to A3war al Dijal to get Bashar and the minorities to the lowest rank in society,(or to see them dead) does not mean that anyone else will do the same to prevent such matters. Just look at the revolutionaries who are sending fabricted videos to Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya…or the head bangers who pray and the go kill innocent people. Who do they pray to i wonder? Yep, al dijal it is.

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August 29th, 2011, 7:45 am

 

490. Aboud said:

Hehehe, have the menhebaks heard of Godwin’s law? They broke the record for how fast it can come true on this forum LOL

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law

“Godwin’s law (also known as Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies or Godwin’s Law of Nazi Analogies)[1][2] is a humorous observation made by Mike Godwin in 1990[2] that has become an Internet adage. It states: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1 (100%).”[3][2]

In other words, Godwin put forth the hyperbolic observation that, given enough time, in any online discussion—regardless of topic or scope—someone inevitably criticizes some point made in the discussion by comparing it to beliefs held by Hitler and the Nazis.”

LOOOOL! It is so astonishing how completely unoriginal and uncreative the menhebaks have proven themselves to be, time and time again. They are terribly unsophisticated debaters, they don’t know a thing about history, and to top it all off, their English is atrocious, especially considering all the years they spent in the West. Pathetic.

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August 29th, 2011, 7:57 am

 

491. Abu Umar said:

488.

Aboud, keep needling the Nusayri war criminal, Mzibali, who supports the slaughter of tens of thousands of Syrians so his despicable Nusayri regime can stay in power. You will never see these atheist chickenhawks like Mjabali, Afram, Wafa Sultan at the frontline of the battle against the “Mooslems” just like the Jewish Neocon chickenhawks, who didn’t send their sons to the Iraq war they planned. The baying and squealing of the likes of Mjabali prove that the Nusayri regime is finished and the hell with the Nusayris if it means the death of tens of thousands of Syrian Sunnis. If they are so concerned about their rights, then they should have stayed in the mountains and formed their own state.

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August 29th, 2011, 8:45 am

 

492. qunfuz said:

Abu Umar – I share your disgust with the Syrian regime, Wafa Sultan, and neocons, but I hate your sectarian language. This only helps the regime. There are lots of Alawis who hate the regime but are scared from going into oppostion because of comments like yours. And there are many Alawis – Samar Yazbeck to name only one – who are bravely attacking the regime. It’s not an Alawi regime, it’s a gangster regime. Saddam Hussain’s dictatorship wasn’t Sunni, it was a mafia.

Aboud and Syrian Hamster – I don’t comment on this despicable website any more, so I havent had the opportunity to say how much I appreciate your excellent writing. I’m now editing a magazine, and would welcome contributions from you two. If interested, please contact me through my blog and I’ll be in touch by email.

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August 29th, 2011, 8:54 am

 

493. Abu Umar said:

” 429. True said:

(Wafa Sultan’s comments, especially a pointed criticism that “no Jew has blown himself up in a German restaurant”, brought her an invitation to Jerusalem by the American Jewish Congress.)”

The menhebek lunatics, Zionists, Western imperialists all share the same deranged mentality in that they expect those that they oppress to go smiling to their graves. The Zionists are outraged that the Palestinians to this day, are resisting and refused to become refugees in their own land. The Western powers are outraged that the Arabs and Muslims refuse to accept their invasions and their local donkeys. The Asad mafia and their cyber-shabiha are outraged that millions of Syrians don’t want to be ruled by the Asad mafia and refuse to bow down to Bashar.
They all preach a pacifism which they don’t practise.

Wafa Shaytan is also very ignorant about World War II. There were many violent reprisals by the Allies and the Jews like the firebombing of Dresden against German civilians, the Jewish hit squads which killed hundreds of Nazis after the war, the millions of German military and civilians who perished in the Allied concentration camps.

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August 29th, 2011, 9:00 am

 

494. beaware said:

The case for Israeli intervention in Syria
By ANTHONY RUSONIK
08/28/2011 22:47
http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-EdContributors/Article.aspx?id=235779&R=R7
There is no question Israel will have to deal with a post-Assad Syria, so why not start that process now?

For those who support Israel, perhaps the most ironclad principle of our diplomatic posture is non-intervention in the Arab Spring.

Unless there is an active Arab attempt to drag Israel into conflict to deflect popular internal dissent – as Bashar Assad attempted on the Golan to protest Naksa Day in June – conventional wisdom has Israel withdrawn to the periphery.

The argument, of course, is that a provoked Israeli response is just the tonic embattled Arab despots need to deflect attention to the old Zionist monster under the bed and stir up Iranian and leftist critiques of Israel.

Further, a desperate Assad (or even post-Mubarak Egypt) might escalate to non-conventional weapons in a bid to retain power: the massive Israeli retaliation would end internal uprisings.

These high-risk scenarios cultivate a conservative Israeli mindset according to which the Devil one knows is better than the Devil one doesn’t.

Far more manageable, Israeli leaders reason, is the de facto “No War, No Peace” policy of the Assads since Egypt left the war coalition after Camp David.

Domestic rule in Syria is secured via a combination of Mukhabarat repression and controlled conflict with the Israeli “bogeyman” via a Lebanese proxy.

It is hard to challenge these precepts. Splendid isolation for an Israel itself mired in social conflict – albeit peaceful and democratic – appears to be the correct course of action amidst Arab implosion. At the very least, and perhaps most cynical, Syria and Egypt are in no position to pose a strategic threat, embroiled as they are with unclear loyalties, chains of command, and domestic unrest. (As a concession to the Israeli Right, however, it is true that the fall of strongmen like Mubarak can create a power vacuum where the void is filled by terrorist groups).

This article, however, makes the improbable case that non-intervention is a mythical option for Israel. Israel is not the United States, where strategic choices are buffered by thousands of miles of ocean. Israel is not Europe: while both are now within range of Iranian missiles, Europe can still choose to disengage from Middle East politics. Israel can’t.

The improbable but correct course of action for Israel is, instead, much like the role Turkey has adopted, albeit without sufficient conviction. True, Israel could never send an envoy to Syria or Iran as Erdogan does, and the open wound with the Palestinians threatens democratic Israeli foreign policy with cries of hypocrisy. (For a far greater example of hypocrisy, however, consider Turkey’s human-rights pronouncements in Gaza and Syria even as Ankara bombs Kurdish rebels on its own turf and in northern Iraq).

That said, Israel should not miss the opportunity offered by the convergence of moral imperatives and strategic goals. From a pure Realist position, the prospect of isolating Hezbollah from Iran by the removal of the Assad regime dovetails well with the imperative to challenge the most vicious attacks on the Syrian people by the Assad regime.

It is critical to note that most of the social media sites that drive the Syrian Revolution are almost free of anti- Western and anti-Israeli rhetoric. The Syrian opposition, while neither cohesive nor well organized, is nonetheless realistic as to its objective and the nature of the problem: Assad. The courage of the opposition is monumental – a true hunger for freedom.

In this light, there is much more Israel could do to hasten Assad’s downfall and be on the “right side of history” without risk of regional conflict.

The most obvious measures might include a corridor for legitimate refugees from Syria via the Golan. Israel could then offer to set up its own camps to care for the refugees, or put these under UN auspices, or appeal to Turkey for cooperation.

Absurd as this sounds, consider the surprise of Israel’s adversaries and the prospective outcomes: Turkey’s rhetoric and inaction/rejection of the Israeli offer would expose Ankara’s hypocrisy and weaken its regional ambitions.

Quiet acceptance of an Israeli offer would hasten Assad’s demise, and establish Turkey as a true power broker between East and West.

As for Assad himself, the Syrian army is far too distracted, stretched and racked with strained loyalties to challenge Israel on the Golan. If nothing else, Israel could restore the respect and quiet loyalty of the Druse.

If a handful of the refugees are of Palestinian descent, so be it.

Provided security safeguards are followed to prevent terrorist infiltration, there is no reason why Israel can’t offer safe harbor to Palestinians under threat of death in Syria. Diplomatic fears that such a move would amount to a precedent for the right of return are unfounded. A specific response to prevent a bloodbath does not signal acceptance of the Palestinian extremist position.

The diplomatic coup presented by the flight of perhaps 1,000 Syrians to Israel could be tremendous. Hypocrisy? Not a chance. Israel affords itself a unique opportunity to show the world that a refugee is one in clear and immediate physical danger, not a third-generation descendant of the 1948 war.

Further, the Israeli navy could take up position just outside Syria’s nautical border. The posture would – again – be defensive militarily but with an “open arms” policy for poor Sunni refugees from Latakia in flight from Assad’s mercenaries. At the very least, the measure would expose the hypocritical outrage of the Gaza flotillas, whose organizers shed not a tear nor lift a finger for Syria.

There is no question Israel will have to deal with a post-Assad Syria, so why not start that process now? It is reasonable to presume that among the Syrians who take safe harbor outside the country, future leaders might be found – future leaders with less hostile memories of Israel. Israel cannot shape events in the Arab world, nor should it risk military intervention where there is no clear strategic threat.

The mistaken conclusion from these two precepts is self-imposed isolation. Once Israelis realize that this isn’t an option either, Israel can instead do what it used to do: Take the moral high ground, lead by example, and thus promote its diplomatic interests.

The writer holds a PhD in International Relations from Queen’s University, Ontario. He completed post-doctoral studies at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and follows Israel’s diplomatic and strategic position. Rusonik lives with his family in Toronto, working as an Information Technology Architect.

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August 29th, 2011, 9:26 am

 

495. EHSANI2 said:

Friday, May 18th, 2007

By EHSANI2

On Sunday May 27th, Syria’s young leader will win a new 7-year term as President of his country. The words “will win” are seldom used ahead of Presidential elections. But Syria, like most countries of the Arab World, does not resemble western nations. Presidential elections in the Middle East do not contain even a slight element of surprise. The results are known in advance. The procedures leading to the actual elections have become part of each country’s folklore.

One cannot discuss modern Syrian politics without fully appreciating the events that took place between 1976 and the early 1980’s, when the Muslim Brotherhood uprising against the Assad rule was in full swing. While this is not the main topic of this post, one cannot escape the fact that the scars of those unfortunate events have left their marks to the present day. The Assad family will never forget how close they came to losing power to that militant insurgency. Only through brutal force was this insurgency crushed. While on face value, the Brotherhood is long gone; the leadership in Damascus has continued to believe that there remains a strong undercurrent of religious fundamentalism inside Syria waiting to be exploited again. Having succeeded at staying in power for so long, the current leadership has convinced itself that in order to maintain the status quo, only force and a clinically efficient security system can guarantee continuity. This leadership has come to view any signs of dissent with paranoia. Allowing any type of dissent has been seen as a slippery slope that must not be traveled on.

How has Mr. Assad done in his first term, and are the Syrian people better off today than they were in 2000?

Usually, newly elected Presidents can blame their predecessors on what is mostly wrong in their country. In the case of Syria, it is a little tricky to criticize your predecessor when he also happens to be your father who ruled the country for the 30 years prior to your coming to power. However, this challenge was addressed using a clever strategy:

The late Hafez Assad was to be positioned in the minds of the country’s citizens as a leader who was preoccupied with strategic international matters. He did not have the time to concern himself with domestic and economic issues. A group of never fully identified so-called “old guard” was to be assigned the responsibility and the blame for the country’s economic and domestic shortfalls over the past 30 years. For the record, those who knew the late leader are quick to note that he exercised full control over all matters. Delegating responsibilities was not his forte. It was repeatedly rumored that even the order to assign new university professors had to be signed by him personally. This meant that some of those documents sat on his desk for months waiting for his signature. Nonetheless, the above carefully crafted strategy has worked very well for the new President. The ever-tricky job of criticizing the past and pointing to improvements since 2000 was certainly made easier this way.

Supporters of the young President are rightfully quick to point to a list of “improvements” since he came to power. If one were to use the period of 1980-2000 as a measuring stick, then it is hard to argue with the country’ “relative” success over the past seven years. But is this the correct metric? Is it enough to claim that the country is doing better today than in the past?

Syria’s economic challenges:

As readers of this forum know, I have been consistently critical of the country’s economic policies. While it is hard to argue that the pace of reforms has picked up recently, it is important to stress that these reforms have been woefully inadequate. It is not enough to introduce new private banks and promise a wave of new investments in tourism followed with the promise to launch a new securities exchange. Many hard decisions have to be made before this country’s economic challenges can be addressed. Thus far, what has been done has not been adequate.

One of Syria’s main challenges is its chronic unemployment. Its vast public sector employs close to two million workers. Outside of telecommunication, almost all these industries experience red ink consistently. While having large state-owned enterprises may help subsidize the income of these employees, it results in the misalocation of resources and low productivity rates. In addition, it is a huge drain on the government’s books as the country’s finance minister reminded us recently.

Syria has a disproportionately young population. As a result, it has a rapidly growing labor force. According to the IMF, this labor force is currently growing at close to 4.0%. Why is this important? Each country has what economists call a “potential economic growth rate”. The way to calculate potential growth rate is to add the growth of the labor force to the change of the country’s productivity. In the case of the U.S., potential GDP growth is 3% as a 1% labor force is added to 2% productivity growth. The only way a country can create enough jobs for its labor force is to grow at or higher than potential.

In the case of Syria, a 4% labor force growth and an assumed 1% productivity rate means that its potential growth is at least 5%. However, growing at potential will not succeed at lowering the current pool of the unemployed. It will merely stop it from rising further. For the economy to absorb an increasing number of the unemployed, a growth rate in the order of 7-8% is needed.

How important is it for the economy to grow by 8% versus the current 3%?

The past 43 years of Baath party rule has been associated with economic stagnation, red tape, socialism and endemic corruption. The cumulative impact of this has stifled economic growth and led to stagnant standard of living. When you grow below potential for as long as 43 years, the cumulative effects can be devastating on income and wealth.

Were a country like Syria to continue to grow at 3% instead of 8% for the next 43 years, the implications would be as follows:

From a base real GDP of $ 23 billion, 3% growth means that GDP will grow to $82 billion by 2050. An 8% economic growth rate, by contrast, would result in a 2050 GDP of $629 billion (thanks to the magic power of compounding). Assuming that Syria’s population grows at 3% over the same period, it is estimated that by 2050 there will be 71 million Syrians to share the GDP number above. The scenario of a 3% economic growth will leave the country with a per capita (per person) GDP of $ 1,150 per year. 8% growth would leave each person with $ 8,829. Assuming a family size of 5, the average Syrian family would either have an average monthly income of $479 or $3,679.

Using the above hypothetical example, one can start to appreciate the impact that economic mismanagement of a country can have if sustained for long periods.

A word on corruption:

One of Bashar’s biggest failures on the domestic front is his inability or unwillingness to reduce corruption and nepotism. Members of the President’s inner circle continue to dominate and monopolize every facet of the Syrian economy with impunity. This President has done nothing to stop this trend. Surely, the family’s financial security is not at risk any longer. Mr. Assad must demonstrate that he will stem this cancer from growing any further.

FROM APRIL 16, 2007
http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/?p=219

FROM DECEMBER 24TH, 2007
http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/?p=532

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August 29th, 2011, 9:35 am

 

496. beaware said:

Iran: US, Israeli plot against Syria failed
Updated: 2011-08-29 16:44
http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2011-08/29/content_13213404.htm
TEHRAN – Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said the US and Israel plot to trigger a sectarian war in Syria has failed, the local satellite Press TV reported on Monday.

Iran: US, Israeli plot against Syria failed
“A plan by the American-Zionism axis aimed at creating a sectarian war in Syria is defeated,” Amirabdollahian was quoted as saying.

He called on “the people of Syria (to) pursue their legitimate demands through democratic way and believe in the reforms plan of (President) Bashar al-Assad,” said the report.

The Syrian nation is proud of its “presence in the front line of resistance and support of the oppressed people of Palestine,” he added.

On Saturday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi warned against “dire consequences of change in Syria’s government.”

Syria has highly-sensitive neighbors and therefore (any) change in Syria will not bring good influence to anyone and can create a serious regional crisis which could spread beyond the region, Salehi has said.

Syria has been in unrest since mid-March when anti-government protests broke out in the southern province of Daraa and spread to other cities.

The Syrian authorities blamed the unrest on “armed groups and foreign conspiracy,” and stressed that it would track down gunmen who have intimidated the people and damaged public and private properties.

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August 29th, 2011, 9:35 am

 

497. beaware said:

European Investment Bank stops loans to Syria
(DP-News – albawaba )
http://www.dp-news.com/en/detail.aspx?articleid=94788
SYRIA- Non-official Statistics data published recently by the Syrian media revealed that the European Union has stopped all loans from the European Investment Bank to Syria, valued at hundreds of millions of Euros.

Non-official Statistics revealed that most of the loans were earmarked for development projects or the support of development and modernization of infrastructure and transport, including financing part of a European civilian aircraft deal to modernize the Syrian fleet.

The European Investment Bank was contributing to the financing of two projects for health care and water with a value of 185 million Euros in addition to other health care projects reaching a total value of 260 million Euros. The projects aim to build and equip 8 new hospitals. The loan value of the Syrian Afaq water 2020 project is about 55 million Euros. More than 370,000 people in 200 different villages would benefit from the project. It also aims to strengthen environmental sustainability by decreasing the amount of sewage deposits flowing into the Mediterranean Sea.

Among the loans is a 150 million euro loan to develop the municipal administration of Syrian municipalities, a 200 million euro loan to build a natural gas-based power plant of 750 MW near the city of Deir ez-Zor on the Euphrates River in Eastern Syria, and a loan to build a power plant in Deir Ali near Damascus.

There was also a 600 million euro loan to finance the purchase of half the value of airplanes (probably Airbus), which Arabian Syrian Airlines was planning to buy. The European Investment Bank loans provided approximately 50% of the investment costs of the project, at a 7.5% interest rate.

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August 29th, 2011, 9:42 am

 

498. beaware said:

‘Free Syria: From whom? From what?’
Published: 29 August, 2011, 11:37
http://rt.com/news/people-source-syrian-sunni-331/
Syrians demonstrate in support of their President Bashar al-Assad in central Damascus on August 27, 2011 (AFP Photo / Joseph Eid)
(24.2Mb) embed video

Syrian security forces have reportedly surrounded the central town of Rastan, which has become a stronghold for dissidents. It follows weekend violence in the country, with activists saying at least five people were killed.

The latest events came as the country’s leader Bashar al-Assad announced a new law lifting censorship and granting freedom of expression.

Arab League members have urged Syria to end the bloodshed in an official statement. It was rejected in Damascus, however, where it was described as a violation of the organization’s principles.

­European countries had earlier proposed hitting the regime with new sanctions. But Russia says the measures will not help and has called on both sides in the country to negotiate.
­Events in Latakia

Latakia bears a special significance for Syria and for President Bashar al-Assad. His father is from a village near the city, which is predominantly Alawite, just like the rest of the province. So when protests broke out here in March, they took a personal turn.

The building of a telephone company Syriatel, owned by the president’s cousin, is situated on one of the city’s main squares. When protests began, people expressed their hatred towards the president by looting the place and then burning it.

Violence returned to Latakia again just a couple of weeks ago, claiming more than 30 lives. Anti-government protests broke out in the Sunni part of the city. Officials said they were battling with armed groups that had infiltrated the area.

According to Western media, government war ships were shelling the Sunni section, which is stretched along the coastline and has a camp for Palestinian refugees right in the middle. However, sources in the US administration stated that there were no ships stationed in the bay on August 17 or earlier.

When asked about the events that transpired, people on the streets in the Sunni part of Latakia spoke of gunmen fighting government troops.

“Armed men entered our quarter and started provoking the armed forces, so they would fire back. Some buildings were damaged, but not significantly,” Palestinian refugee Akhed Khubun Abu Jamil told RT.

Some people unwilling to speak on camera shared their views, critical of the Assad regime, saying the government is to be blamed for failing to deliver on five-month-old promises of reforms. This, they say, forced the people out on the streets, stirring up protests.

The reluctance of people to speak on camera is of little surprise, considering RT’s crew was followed by and armed military escort – the only way to get through to this part of the city.

On the surface, it seems to be life as usual, but once you take a closer look, signs of unrests come through, with bullet holes covering walls of many buildings. With the entire country now being at a crossroad, its people are scared, and that fear may well be the only thing which is holding them together.

“We are killing ourselves. Our main goal seems to tear us apart,” a Sunni woman says. “When we are like that, how can we blame the president? What do they mean by ‘Free Syria’? From whom? From what? We are the source of all problems. No one can guarantee the next president will be better. We might just end up like another Iraq.”

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August 29th, 2011, 9:51 am

 

499. beaware said:

‘S Arabia, Qatar against Syria reforms’
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/196353.html
Saudi Arabia and Qatar will not be happy to witness reforms in countries such as Syria because they are the most “backward regimes”, says a political analyst.

The Saudis and Qataris should not pretend they are in favor of human rights or reforms, said Lebanese University Professor Mohsen Saleh in an interview with Press TV on Sunday.

“These two countries have real treaties with the US in order to execute the American plans,” Saleh added.

Syria has been experiencing unrest over the past months, with demonstrations being held both against and in support of President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

Assad said in a televised interview with the Syrian state TV last week that Washington and its European partners were hindering political change in his country, stressing that political solution was the only way out of the country’s crisis.

As part of his initiative to implement sweeping reforms in Syria, Assad endorsed a new law on Sunday that puts an end to the government’s control over media, newspapers and local and foreign publications.

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August 29th, 2011, 9:57 am

 

500. Akbar Palace said:

Aboud,

Habibi, I thought we were friends united against President X-box (aka “Besho”, “Junior”) and the menhebaks.

Alas, my admiration of Wafa Sultan has caused a rift. Everyone is still mad, hateful, and angry. I was hoping the cause for a free Syria would unite people.

Lets forget Dr. Sultan for the time being. Lets

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August 29th, 2011, 10:04 am

 

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