Syria Places 30% Tariff on Turkish Goods; Conditionally Accepts Arab League Observers; Syrian Muslim Brotherhood: “To Hell with Syrian Identity”
Posted by Joshua on Monday, December 5th, 2011
Syria struck out at Turkey in response to Turkish sanctions by imposing 30% tariffs on Turkish imports. This will bring trade to a standstill between the two countries that had expanded their trade to well over 2 billion dollars a year. Syria also pulled out of the Barcelona Agreement for EU Partnership in reaction to EU sanctions.
Aleppo and Damascus consume more than half of Syria’s mazoot (fuel oil). Many believe this is because they smuggle so much outside to countries where its price is much higher. In Turkey, mazoot costs six times more than the official price in Syria.
Syria Says It Accepts Arab League Observer Request
By ALBERT AJI and BASSEM MROUE Associated Press
DAMASCUS, Syria December 5, 2011 (AP)
Syria has accepted an Arab League request to send observers to the country in an effort to end its eight-month crisis, a move that could ease Arab sanctions on Damascus, the Foreign Ministry said Monday.
The Syrian statement came after Damascus announced it conducted mass military maneuvers over the weekend in an apparent show of force as President Bashar Assad’s regime defies pressures over its deadly crackdown on opponents.
The ministry’s spokesman, Jihad Makdissi, told reporters that Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem “responded positively” to the League demand and sent a letter to the organization’s chief Nabil Elaraby on Sunday night.
There was no immediate reaction from the Arab League, which has already suspended Syria, to Damascus’ announcement.
But Makdissi said that al-Moallem’s message to the League combined some “minor amendments that won’t affect the essence of the plan,” stressing that Damascus is still insisting that the protocol be signed in Damascus rather than at the League’s headquarters in Cairo.
“It is a right step on the road to a solution,” Makdissi said.
“To hell with Syrian [identity]! We do not recognize Syria”
Interview: Zuhayr Salim, Speaker of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria:
KURDWATCH, December 4, 2011—Zuhayr Salim (b. 1947) is a writer and lives in London. In an interview with KurdWatch, the speaker of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood speaks out about the Kurdish question in Syria.
KurdWatch: On May 17, 2005, the Muslim Brotherhood spoke at length about the Kurdish question in Syria for the first time. This was the first statement by a Syrian political party about the Kurdish question in Syria. You describe the Kurds as »a genuine part of the fabric of the Syrian people«, living on its »historic territory«. You further explain that in a state under the rule of law, the Kurds must participate in power. What remains of this vision today?
Zuhayr Salim: We are seeking a state under the rule of law. Every person who lives in Syria or was born there must enjoy the same rights, regardless of whether he is an Arab, Kurd, Muslim, Christian, Sunni or Alawi. This stance will not change. Everyone must be convinced that he is equal. So, for example, an Alawi cannot think that he has more rights than a Sunni. And an Arab cannot think that he has more rights than a Kurd. And vice versa. That is a patriotic approach. The cultural and ethnic characteristics of each group, for example, customs and rituals, must be respected and accepted. KurdWatch: Yes, but not an Arab as it is written on the identity card.
…… KurdWatch: In Syria, a Kurdish citizen’s identity card states that he is a Syrian-Arab citizen, even though he is a Kurd and not an Arab. Will this also be the case in the new Syrian state?
Zuhayr Salim: A counter question: What is the status of a Turkmen living in Iraqi-Kurdistan?
KurdWatch: He is an Iraqi-Turkmen. He is not designated as a Kurd.
Zuhayr Salim: In Syria, a Kurd is also a Syrian.
Zuhayr Salim: Do only Kurds live in Iraqi-Kurdistan? Or do Arabs, Turkmen, Armenians, and Assyrians also live there? The general identity is that of the majority. With one condition: The identity of a group that defines itself as a minority must not be negated. We are not talking about minorities. Nevertheless, there are people who say that they do not belong to the majority. The identity of the majority is the identity of the state. The minorities have the right to enjoy their own rights. I don’t see a contradiction here. If an Arab lives in Zakho or Erbil in Iraqi-Kurdistan, then he is called an Iraqi-Kurdistani. That just isn’t a problem. Why shouldn’t we grant to others that which we want for ourselves?
KurdWatch: Kurdistani isn’t an ethnic term, but rather refers to the Kurdistan region. In contrast, Arab is an ethnic term and applies to members of the Arab nation. And the Kurds are definitely not Arabs.
Zuhayr Salim: To be Arab is not an expression of citizenship, but rather an expression of identity.
KurdWatch: Why don’t we forgo the label »Arab« and speak only of Syrian identity?
Zuhayr Salim: No, no. To hell with Syrian [identity]! We do not recognize Syria. Who created Syria? Sykes-Picot. Is that true or not?
KurdWatch: Yes, that’s true.
Zuhayr Salim: You and I do not recognize Sykes-Picot. You [Kurds] feel that you have been treated unjustly by Sykes-Picot. We also feel that we have been treated unjustly by Sykes-Picot. Syria is a temporary phenomenon, a state that exists only temporarily. Our goal is the creation of a state for the entire umma. A Kurd will be ruler in this state, for he will be supported by a people that numbers anywhere from thirty-five to forty million.
KurdWatch: Are you talking now about an independent Kurdish state?
Zuhayr Salim: No, about an Islamic state for everyone. Arabs, Kurds, Turks, Circassians, and all others will live there……
Riad Shaqfa interview – Head of Muslim Brotherhood:
Bashar al-Assad is mentally unbalanced – Syrian Muslim Brotherhood chief, 05/12/2011
By Mohammed Al Shafey
Istanbul, Asharq Al-Awsat – Asharq Al-Awsat spoke with Syrian Muslim Brotherhood leader, Mohammed Riad Al-Shaqfa, on the sidelines of the Arab – Turkish Media Forum in Istanbul earlier this week. Al-Shaqfa spoke about the situation in Syria, his hopes for the future of the country, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s plans for the post-Assad era.
The following is the full text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you believe that the pressure being exerted on Damascus – whether we are talking about the international or Arab League pressure – will ultimately lead to the collapse of the al-Assad regime?
[Al-Shaqfa] We hope that all countries around the world put pressure on the arrogant [al-Assad] regime until it is completely isolated and has no choice but to responds to the will of the people. I pray for the end of this suppressive regime, and the [al-Assad] regime will collapse; it is only a matter of time. As the Prophet Muhammad said “the pens have been lifted and the ink has dried.” [i.e. what will come to pass has already been written]. The al-Assad regime will collapse within the next few months. The Syrian people will accept Turkish military intervention to protect them from the forces of President al-Assad, but not western military intervention. However I personally do not want to see any foreign military intervention [in Syria] because the Syrian people have the will and commitment to isolate and oust the Syrian regime, particularly if the international community intervenes and real sanctions are imposed on the Syrian regime and it is [internationally] isolated with the world recalling their ambassadors from Damascus. In this case, it would be easy for the Syrian people to overthrow the al-Assad regime, and so we want the Arab and Islamic states to intervene to protect the Syrian civilians…..
COULD economic collapse bring down Bashar Assad’s regime even when mass protests have not? Pressure on the economy is mounting from every direction. On November 27th the 22-country Arab League took an unprecedented decision to impose economic sanctions on a fellow member. It voted to stop trading with the Syrian state in all but essential goods, to ban Arab investments in Syria, to freeze assets held by senior members of the regime abroad, and to end dealings with Syria’s central bank. Three days later Turkey, one of Syria’s biggest trading partners, said it would follow suit.
Meanwhile, American and European Union (EU) sanctions are starting to bite. A ban on oil imports, applied by America in August and the EU in September, is costing Syria $400m a month. The shrinking of foreign-currency reserves, estimated at some $18 billion when the crisis began in March, is making trade increasingly tricky. The Banque Saudi Fransi, a Saudi bank, has announced it is selling its 27% interest in one of Syria’s private banks. Foreign investment has halted. International credit cards no longer work. The Syrian pound has fallen on the black market to its lowest point yet. To prevent even more unrest, the government has brought back some subsidies on staples. Tourism, which accounted for over 10% of GDP in 2010, has virtually disappeared.
Officials sound less confident that Syria can weather the sanctions. In recent years, thanks to a tentative liberalisation policy, the country has come to depend more on the global economy than before. “If you’ve always been North Korea, you may be able to stay closed,” says a Damascus businessman. “But you can’t open up and shut the doors again.” Syria’s foreign minister, Walid Muallem, reacting angrily to the league’s decision, threatened to close transit routes between Arab states.
No one knows how long Syria can continue to pay its bills. In September the government sought to shore up foreign reserves by banning imports. Prices of various goods immediately rocketed. Ten days later, facing outrage among business people, the government did a volte face. In any case, not all of Syria’s neighbours will ban trade. Iraq, its second-largest trade partner after the EU, says it will not apply sanctions. Some of Lebanon’s banks are likely to act as a haven for Syrian money. The Assad regime and its business friends say they will look to other countries, such as China and Russia.
But that may not be easy. “Until two weeks ago we didn’t have any contacts with a bank in either country,” says a financier. Early in the uprising, the IMF predicted that Syria’s economy would shrink by 2% this year. But local analysts think sanctions may push that figure into double digits. Inflation is steadily rising. Insurance companies are loth to cover business.
Ordinary Syrians will suffer first as the cost of food soars and queues for fuel for heating and cars snake round buildings. But dissidents welcome the sanctions. The hardship they inflict is a lot less severe than the regime’s bullets and batons—and may in the long run be more powerful.
U.N. official calls for “urgent” actions in Syria as death toll far exceeds 4,000
In an emergency meeting held by the United Nations Human Rights Council, Navi Pillay, U.N. High Commission for Human Rights, called on the international community to take “urgent and effective measures” to protect Syrian civilians and pushed for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to be tried before the International Criminal Court. The meeting was called by the European Union, and supported by the United States and Saudi Arabia, following an independent commission of inquiry report that found evidence of security forces committing crimes against humanity. Meanwhile, the Free Syria Army is gaining strength as Syrian army defections escalate, with forces believed to number between 1,000 and 25,000. While initially the group acted primarily to protect unarmed civilians and protesters, offensive actions taken by the FSA have increased, evidenced today in an attack on a Syrian air force intelligence base. Navi Pillay, characterized the declining situation as a civil war and placed an estimate of the number of people killed in the nine month long uprisings at 4,000. However, she stated, “the information coming to us is that it’s much more.”
Syrian activists initially had hoped to avoid reliving history by organizing a different uprising that would be characterized by peaceful protests, attempts to cut across sectarian lines and, in the early days, demands for reform rather than a leadership ouster.
But painful parallels with the past became undeniable this summer, the day before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began, when security forces laid siege to Hama and killed dozens of people.
Now talk of history repeating itself is a common topic of discussion, Dima said.
“These tactics are played and replayed. These are the tactics they know; they are not very imaginative,” said Murhaf Jouejati,
Jordanian Debate on Syrian Crisis Degenerates into Brawl; Syrian Political Analyst Accuses Free Syrian Army of ‘Working for the Mossad’; Syrian Cleric Weeps at the Thought of the Wounded in Syrian Demonstrations… MEMRI Daily-December 4, 2011
Analysis: Syria opposition labors for united front
Doubts abound over cohesion, inclusiveness of Syrian National Council, Free Syrian Army; dissident to ‘Post': Reports of SNC’s Islamist sympathies are overblown. Fragmented for months, Syria’s opposition is showing signs it may be … questions remain over the internal cohesion of each organization as well as its inclusiveness – whether it represents the broad mosaic of Syrian society or narrower sectarian interests. The Sunni-majority SNC touts its inclusiveness, noting that its membership includes Christians and Kurds. But in an email to The Jerusalem Post, a spokesman for the Washington- based Kurdistan National Assembly dismissed those Kurds in the SNC as “opportunistic.”
“Yes, there are a few opportunistic individual Kurdish expats being used as stooges, but the Kurdish street does not support them – period,” he said, adding that the majority of Syrian Kurds view his own organization and the Syriabased Kurdish National Council as their legitimate representatives.
Critics have also described the SNC as Islamist-heavy, but one US-based Syrian dissident who supports the council said both charges – sectarianism and religious fundamentalism – are overblown.
“There are a lot of rumors, and many of these stem from the regime. The SNC leader is Burhan Ghalioun – he’s a leftist and he’s pretty powerful,” the dissident told the Post on condition of anonymity. “I think the SNC will give more room for minorities and secular people. We’re working now to strengthen the secular bloc inside the SNC.”
On Friday Ghalioun told the Wall Street Journal a post-Assad Syria would cut or curtail the close ties the country has nurtured for decades with Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah. “Our future is truly tied to the Arab world and the Gulf in particular,” he said, dismissing Damascus’s bonds with the Islamic Republic as “abnormal.”…
Analysis: Army defectors complicate Syria uprising
San Francisco Chronicle – Dec 3, 2011
Nov. 21, 2011…. the defectors could make it harder for the West to give strong diplomatic support to a movement that so far has been largely peaceful….
The Cutting Edge - The Washington Institute
…. The Asad regime cannot survive without killing, and the FSA has changed the game from one in which the regime was free to kill its citizens at will and without cost, to one in which it faces an armed opposition and is suffering losses. Increased demands on government forces and further civilian deaths will produce more defections, and these processes will in turn escalate the fighting.
Because the FSA is an increasingly important player that will likely influence the outcome of events in Syria, the United States and its partners should make contact with its members and learn as much as possible about the group. Questions concerning its nature, its potential as an armed force, and the role of Islamists can be resolved through such contact as well as intelligence work. If the results are positive, then the FSA should be assisted ….
Waging Nonviolence—a discussion about the Syrian resistance movement by Gene Sharp, the foremost theorist of nonviolent conflict alive today
Religion/Morality, Syria/Resistance: For Syria, What is “Left?” (Part 2 of 3)
Bassam Haddad. . . .
A conversation among friends . . . and not necessarily for everyone…. the free and unfettered voices of the Arab masses is the fountain of resistance (without quotations marks) to both domestic oppression as well as external designs and domination. Judging by the courage of protesters’ bare bodies against rifle and metal, who needs anything else to make oppressors and occupiers tremble?
Syrian Elite Smuggle Out Billions, New Report Finds – Wall Street Journal Blog, 2011-12-02
As Syria teeters on the edge of revolution, the ruling elite are likely diverting millions in illicit capital out of the country, according to a forthcoming report by Global Financial Integrity. The report, titled “Illicit Financial Flows from …
the ruling elite are likely diverting millions in illicit capital out of the country, according to a forthcoming report by Global Financial Integrity.
The report, titled “Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries over the Decade Ending 2009,” found that Syria lost $23.6 billion to corruption, crime and tax evasion from 2000-2009, a practice it said has likely accelerated as President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is gripped by violent unrest. The report will be released later this month, according to a news release Thursday.
GFI Economist Sarah Freitas, who co-authored the report, said the study also found evidence that bribery, kickbacks, and corruption increased dramatically in Syria from 2005 to 2009.
“In a country with a per capita GDP of just US$2,891 in 2010, these outflows represent a loss of US$1,048 for every Syrian citizen,” Freitas wrote in a blog post on the website of the Task Force on Financial Integrity and Economic Development. “It’s no wonder that Syrians are discontented.”
The study drew on data from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund on external debt and trade mis-pricing to calculate illicit capital leakage….
Carnegie Endwmnt: The Next Move for Syria – by Paul Salem, 2011-12-02
With Tunisia and Egypt holding democratic elections as their transitions move forward, Syria continues its descent into violence. In a video Q&A, Paul Salem says that even with Syrian demonstrations spreading and additional sanctions from the Arab … “Syria not yet in civil war… Yes, there is likely to be a violent transition…..I don’t think the the risk of long term civil war is high.”
Inside the City of Fear; James Harkin is one of the few non-Syrian journalists to get into Homs., 5 December 2011, Newsweek International