Posted by Joshua on Thursday, October 18th, 2012
Syrian Rebels Getting Stronger? – Shameless self promotion….
The Class War Undergirding the Most Recent State of the Revolution Takes Shape
ALEPPO, Syria Most of the rebels fighting government forces in the city of Aleppo fit a specific mold: They’re poor, religiously conservative and usually come from the underdeveloped countryside nearby.
They bring to the battle their fury over years of economic marginalization, fired by a pious fervor, and they say their fight in the civil war is not only against President Bashar Assad but also the elite merchants and industrialists who dominate the city and have stuck by the regime. The rebels regard this support for the government to be an act of betrayal.
The blend of poverty, religious piety and anger could define the future of Aleppo, and perhaps the rest of Syria, if the rebels take over the country’s largest city, which is also its economic engine. They may be tempted to push their own version of Islam, which is more fundamentalist than what is found in the city. Their bitterness at the business class may prompt them to seek ways of redistributing the wealth.
“Those who have money in Aleppo only worry about their wealth and interests when we have long lived in poverty,” said Osama Abu Mohammed, a rebel commander who was a car mechanic in the nearby town of Beyanon before he joined the fight.
“They have been breast-fed cowardice and their hearts are filled with fear. With their money, we could buy weapons that enable us to liberate the entire city in a week,” he said……
The ancient Souk Madina, a World Heritage Site, is divided between rebels and President Bashar Assad’s forces. Caught in the middle are residents and merchants….
“It’s our livelihood,” he explained, abruptly bursting into tears, a man of 60 weeping amid the desolation.
Abu Taher found little sympathy, however, from a group of armed rebels camped out in front of a trashed pistachio emporium, 50 yards from the front lines and the current range of government marksmen. The rebels have seen many of their comrades killed as they battle the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“Why are you crying about a shop [when] people are dying?” one combatant with a Kalashnikov rifle dismissively asked the grieving merchant, who, like others, requested that he be identified with a nickname for security reasons. “Go back home, uncle.”
Tensions among Alawites pose new challenge for Assad
By Liz Sly, Published: October 17
BEIRUT — Rumblings of discontent within Syria’s Alawite minority are presenting a new challenge to President Bashar al-Assad’s efforts to retain power in the face of an expanding armed rebellion, calling into question the loyalties even of his own sect in the conflict ravaging the country…..
Syria’s Air Defenses Would Stifle A Turkish Military Intervention
By: Eyup Can posted on Tuesday, Oct 16, 2012 – al-Monitor
If anyone wants to advocate intervention in Syria he should first explain to us Henri Barkey’s concerns and that air defense system.
Syria’s sophisticated air defenses are the first of several good reasons why Turkey should not contemplate unilateral military action against the Damascus regime, writes Eyup Can….
We have been debating Syria for months. Are you pro-war or pro-Assad? Shall we enter or not? Shall we set up a buffer zone with the United States or go to Damascus by ourselves in three hours?
Talking is free of charge. Everybody talks. But look what Barkey [a Turkey analyst at Lehigh University], was telling [Radikal journalist] Ezgi Basaran in their interview yesterday: “The Turkish army doesn’t have enough experience to set up a buffer zone.”
And then he lists the bitter truths.
To those who might ask who Henri Barkey is, let me remind them: He speaks Turkish better than most Turks, has worked in the US State Department and is a highly respected academic close to the Democratic Party. What does he say?
“Turkey cannot enter Syria unilaterally even if it wants to.”
“Turkey’s aim to create a kind of buffer zone coupled with a no-fly zone in Syria. This is why it is pressing on the US [to get involved] because it can’t do this by itself. So why aren’t Americans doing it? The Syrian air defense system is highly sophisticated. America has to put hundreds of planes in the air to suppress that system. Since that air defense system was designed for use against Israel, it is developed far more than you may think. Yes, we can create a buffer zone in Syria but they will definitely shoot down some of our planes. This is not a game.”
Mind you, Barkey is not anti-war or pro-Assad. In the interview he accused the Turkish main opposition of being pro-Assad. He partially absolved the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, saying: “They didn’t have too many options.”
But his words are distinctly different from the politicians and those who are put on TV screens as experts.
“I have been in Turkey for a week. Thousands of experts appear on TV to debate Syria but nobody mentions the points I have raised with you, because they don’t know,” Barkey said. “In 1983, Hezbollah attacked a US Marine base [in Beirut] and killed  marines. The US decided to retaliate and the Syrian anti-aircraft system shot down two US planes. One of the pilots died and the other was captured by Syrians.
“What I am saying is that the US knows by its own experience how difficult it will be to set up a buffer zone between Turkey and Syria. To implement a buffer zone you will have to keep combat air patrols flying nonstop. As I was working with the US State Department I know how difficult a mission like that can be. Iraqi radars were locking on to US planes and we were firing missiles at those radars. We were firing at Iraqi air defense systems every day and missing them most of the time,” he said.
“The buffer zone is not easy. You will have lots of nasty incidents. If they put an anti-aircraft system next to a mosque, the plane can hit the mosque and kill the civilians in it. We saw this in Iraq. Can Turkey do all this? It can’t.”
“Most importantly, Turkey lacks the experience. When was the last time Turkey fought another country? The Turkish army can be the second largest in NATO but it is not experienced,” Barkey said.
“There is a humorous side to this: In 1998-99, Cyprus was thinking of buying the S-300 anti-aircraft systems that Syria is using today. At that time, the Turkish air force practiced, in Israel, suppressing S-300’s because they didn’t know how to deal with that weapon.”
All day yesterday, I wanted to double-check what Barkey had said in the interview. We contacted the Foreign Ministry and the Chief of General Staff offices. They had all read the interview carefully. What they basically said was: “Yes, Barkey had some correct points but it is not really all that difficult [to overcome Syria’s missile shield].”
This is why if anyone insists on intervention in Syria or the establishment of a buffer zone, he should first explain to us Henri Barkley’s concerns and that air defense system.
The number of air defense missiles are striking. Yes, Turkey is far stronger than Syria in terms of its number of troops — including naval and ground forces — but Syria is far ahead in air defense missiles that it has set up to confront Israel.
Compared to the 178 missiles Turkey has, Syria has 4,707 air defense missiles. Barkey did not give the figures but drew attention to this reality.
Syria’s wealthy businesses feel civil war squeeze
AYA BATRAWY | October 17, 2012 |
CAIRO — Syria’s wealthy, long cultivated by President Bashar Assad as a support for his regime, are seeing their businesses pummeled by the bloody civil war. Factories have been burned down or damaged in fighting. International sanctions restrict their finances. Some warn that their companies are in danger of going under, worsening the country’s buckling economy.
Assad may not have lost the backing of Syria’s business elite, but some are losing faith. Many of those who can have fled abroad, hoping to ride out the turmoil, which is now in its 19th month and is only getting worse as rebels and regime forces tear apart the country in their fight for power.
Several businessmen interviewed by The Associated Press say resentment is growing against Assad over the crisis – but they also aren’t throwing their lot in with the rebellion. They are hunkering down, trying to salvage their companies.
One young businessman said his family factory in the suburbs of Damascus was damaged Wednesday, with windows blown out and part of the ceiling was destroyed when warplanes hit rebels in a neighboring building. Its several hundred employees had to hide in the basement until fighting eased enough that they could be bused out to safety.
“I feel that they are both just as bad as each other,” he said of the rebels and the government. “I could have died today because they (the rebels) were across the street from us and they (the planes) could have bombed us.”
EU blacklists all Syrian ministers in new round of sanctions
Brussels (DPA) — All of Syria’s government ministers were banned on Tuesday from traveling to the Europen Union and had any assets they hold in the bloc frozen, as a new round of EU sanctions on the conflict-torn country came into effect. EU foreign ministers had approved the sanctions on Monday, but the targets were not immediately identified. The EU also agreed that “restrictive measures … be maintained against former ministers of the Syrian government since they may still be considered to be associated with the regime and its violent repression against the civilian population.” The people hit with travel bans and asset freezes also included Suleiman Maarouf, a businessman with a British passport who the EU said is “close to President (Bashar) al-Assad’s family” and “supports the Syrian regime.”
A field guide to Syria’s jihadi groups
16 Oct 2012
Aron Lund writes: Eighteen months into the Syrian uprising, the country’s Sunni Arab insurgency is now fighting a largely sectarian war against a regime dominated by religious minorities, most notably the Alawite sect to which the Assad family belongs. While the exiled opposition movement in Turkey and elsewhere remains reasonably pluralistic, the armed insurgency that [...]
Aron Lund – Syrian jihadi and Islamist movements at ForeignPolicy.com: For a longer report of mine on the same topic, from August 2012, see: http://www.ui.se/Files.aspx?f_id=77409 (PDF)
Reuters reports: Scores of Iraqi Shi’ite militants are fighting in Syria, often alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s troops, and pledging loyalty to Iran’s supreme Shi’ite religious leader, according to militia fighters and politicians in Iraq. Iraqi Shi’ite militia involvement in Syria’s conflict exposes how rapidly the crisis has spiraled into a proxy war between Assad’s main [...]
Netanyahu Mulls Action to Stop Syrian Weapons, Channel 2 says
2012-10-16 By Jonathan Ferziger
Oct. 16 (Bloomberg) — Israel contends that weapons from Syria are being sent to Hezbollah organization in Lebanon. * Netanyahu will consider strike if Israel finds proof chemical weapons are being sent to Hezbollah, according to people close to the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity because a decision hasn’t been made yet. * Hezbollah is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the U.S.
Syrian human rights groups say that at least 28,000 people have “disappeared” in Syria since the beginning of the 19-month long uprising, and some estimate the number of missing to be as high as 80,000. According to a director at the online activist group Avazza, “Syrians are being plucked off the street by Syrian security forces and paramilitaries and being ?disappeared’ into torture cells. Whether it is women buying groceries or farmers going for fuel, nobody is safe.”
The Kingdom of Silence and Humiliation
Looking back on life under the Assad dynasty.
BY AHED AL HENDI | OCTOBER 16, 2012
….He then called a guard, whom he ordered to “take good care” of me.
Both men spoke with the distinctive accent of the Alawites; in fact, every single person in the prison did. The Alawite minority has effectively ruled Syria since 1963, and especially since President Hafez al-Assad took power in 1970. So when you hear this accent, you pay attention. Ever since I can remember, this has been the way that the people with real power in our country speak.
They did not keep me for a few minutes. They threw me into a cell they called “the Suite.” Measuring five feet by one and a half feet, it had no windows. There was a hole in the floor for a toilet and a hose attached to a faucet in the wall. The hose had two purposes: to keep the toilet clean and to provide me with drinking water. They told me I’d be staying for two years……
Lebanese in Syrian villages gear up
By Mirella Hodeib | October 13, 2012, The Daily Star
MASRIYEH, Syria: The bearded man eagerly showed his Lebanese identity card and property deeds issued by Syrian authorities. As he crossed the narrow bridge into Lebanon, he explained that although Lebanon was his country of origin he considered Syria his real home, describing it as the “mother of all the poor.”
“We will not leave the land where we were born and where we work,” said Ali Mohammad al-Jamal, a resident of Farouqieh, a Syrian border village inhabited by Shiite Lebanese. “We will defend our village no matter what.” “We have been living on this land for decades, before Hezbollah even existed,” the farmer continued, boasting an AK-47 he said he bought for $2,700. “I have four others like this one,” he added.
Only the men remain in Farouqieh and Masriyeh, some 300 meters away from the Hermel village of Al-Qasr. The women and children have all headed west into Lebanon.
Jamal, 40, who sent his family and parents to the safer Al-Qasr, decided to stay behind to guard his home and land.
Though a staunch supporter of Hezbollah, the man criticized what he dubbed as the party’s “cautious behavior” with regard to the unrest in Syria.
“Although attacks against us have become intolerable, the party still asks its supporters to exercise self-restraint and not be dragged into big fights,” said Jamal, whose home has been attacked by Syrian rebel forces.
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah dismissed Thursday as “inaccurate” media reports saying members of his group were fighting alongside the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
He also said 23 border villages located inside Syrian territories but inhabited by Lebanese were forced to take up arms following attacks by the Free Syrian Army, stressing that the population were fighting by themselves and no one was fighting on their behalf.
Located a few kilometers away from the Syrian region of Qusayr in Homs, the villages of Matrabeh, Zeita, Hawik, Aqrabieh, Semaqieh, Jermash, Akoum, Nahrieh, Sqarja, Fadlieh, Gawgaran, Hantalieh, Sefsafeh, Farouqieh, Masriyeh, Wadi Hanna, Hamameh, Sugmanieh and Hawsh al-Sayyed lie on Syrian lands but are all inhabited by Lebanese.
Nasrallah did acknowledge that the commander of Hezbollah’s infantry unit in the Bekaa Valley died while performing his “jihadist duty” in one of those villages.
Ali Hussein Nassif, who went by Abu Abbas, was buried week. He was among those who died defending Shiite villages on the other side of the border, according to Hezbollah’s leader.
Sources close to the party in the northern region of Hermel said reports about Hezbollah sending fighters to war-torn Syria were meant to cover up for a highly probable attack by Syrian rebel forces on the string of border Shiite villages inside Syria…..
Hizbollah ‘launching rocket attacks into Syria’
By Daily Telegraph correspondent, Hermel, Lebanon
In a worrying sign that Lebanon is getting drawn further into the Syrian conflict, the Iran-backed Shia militant group is accused of using its military bases in the Bekaa valley to shell rebel positions in Syria.
“They are concentrating on hitting the villages where the Free Syrian Army are, to weaken them before launching a ground attack,” said Abu Obeida, a Lebanese resident of the border town of al-Qaa. “I have seen the rockets firing; they pass over your head.”
Driving across the Hermel plains of the northern Bekaa, 10 miles from the frontier with Syria, The Daily Telegraph could hear the sound of rocket fire. The salvoes came in waves – the dull thuds of the launchers shattering the stillness of the night air as they released their loads. Half an hour later, the tempo quickened to a near constant onslaught, filling the valley with the sounds of warfare until the early hours of the morning.
Hermel is Hizbollah’s most loyal heartland. It is the territory of Shia villages, agriculture and the group’s closed-off military zones.
“You are deep in Hizbollah’s country here,” said Mr Obeida, driving down a dusty track that had been cheerfully signposted as leading to a canoeing centre, but that quickly brought us up against the fence of a Hizbollah fighters’ camp…..
Left on its current course, America’s sensibly cautious policy toward Syria is unfortunately going to come to an unhappy end: The jihadist wing of the opposition will just get stronger and gain more power to shape Syria’s future. But what’s …
Sources inside the Iraqi government say that extremist Sunni Muslim groups like al-Qaeda are regrouping inside the country. A government paper says they’re returning to former strongholds on Baghdad’s outskirts to hold meetings and train in orchards there. By Haider Najm / Baghdad