Activists Worry that Sanctions May Undermine Chances for Future Democracy

Iranian activists and State Department Officials Argue over Sanctions and US Objectives in Iran
Since the story of the Syrian and Iranian opposition is similar in many ways and since both Damascus and Tehran are facing foreign sanctions and regime-change policies, a friend wrote to share this news of an encounter between Iranian opposition figures and State Department officials during a recent conference on Iran.

A couple of friends were invited to a conference last week to present the perspective of the Iranian opposition about the current situation in Iran. They told me that during their talk at the conference they lambasted the sanctions policy and told the attendants that sanctions are counterproductive and detrimental to the middle class in Iran and the opposition’s social base. When a State Department representative asked them “What do you expect us to do for Iran?” they said “Lift the sanctions. That would be the best thing you can do for Iran!”

My Iranian friends at the conference explained that one of the US diplomats said that the US priority in Iran is not human rights violations and not public opinion in Iran. Rather, the diplomat insisted that Washington’s main concern was Iran’s nuclear program, its impact on the security of Israel, and avenues for regime-change. He mentioned Pakistan as an example where regime-change is no longer possible because of its nuclear capabilities. The US diplomat added that regime-change causes instability which is dangerous in the case of a country with nuclear capabilities. So time is running out for regime-change in Iran. This triggered a quarrel between some of the Iranians and the speaker to the effect that one of the prominent opposition leaders retorted that the US should have no role in changing the regime and that it should be the choice solely for the Iranian people. He went on to ask that if the US was not concerned with human rights in Iran “why did you invite us here in the first place”! He said that we have been insisting that the human rights should be the central issue, however your strategic concern is the nuclear program.

Syria faces the same dilemma as Iran. Anti-Assad activists designed and lobbied for the sanctions imposed on Syria by the West. They wanted to undermine the regime and create an environment of crisis in the country with the aim of toppling the regime. With foreign powers unwilling to commit their air-forces, as they had in Libya, sanctions seemed like the best and only avenue open to Syrian activists and anti-Assad policy makers in the West.

The problem with sanctions is two fold. First they undercut the opposition almost as much as they do the regime. The mainstay of the opposition is the rural middle-class and poorer sections of the urban centers.  These are the people who sanctions are hurting the most because the government can no longer provide  fuel and food for subsidized prices, as it used to. Shortages and inflation will hurt the poorer groups within the Syrian population most. These are the groups most likely to support the opposition, but they will be least able to afford to fight, which is expensive. Foreign payments and subsidies, such as those promised by Saudi Arabia to the opposition can pick up the slack and begin to shift the balance of power away from the government and military and toward the opposition, but the money will have to come in large quantities. Saudi Arabia must effectively feed the Syrian opposition and its families before fighters will spend the money on arms. Few fighters will buy arms with foreign money before feeding their families.
The second major drawback of sanctions is that they destroy the middle class and standard of living for most Syrians, just as they undermine national institutions. The healthcare system, roads, schools, etc. will deteriorate quickly, as they did in Iraq. Without a strong middle class, the future chances of democracy diminish. As the per-capita GDP declines so do the chances that democracy can be established or survive. Iraq is faced with a generation of youth that is largely uneducated because of the impact of sanctions and the collapse of national institutions, including the educational system. The only social indicators that came close to predicting success in transitions to democracy are wealth per capita and the median age of the society. The richer the population and older the population, the greater its chances of making a successful transition from authoritarianism to democracy. Syria, unfortunately, has low per-capita wealth and a very young population  making it a very bad prospect for democracy. The average age of a Syrian is 21 years old. Tunisia is 30. Egypt is 25 and Libya 26. Yemen is the only Arab country with worse prospects for a democratic transition than Syria. Its average age is 17. According to a recent study by demographer Richard Cincotta of the Stimson Center in Washington DC, “Autocracies with a median population age of over 30 years old are most likely to become liberal democracies.”
The explanation usually offered by political scientists for why income and age predict success with democratic transitions  is that older and wealthier populations tend to be associated with mature, complex societies. As societies mature and acquire the institutions and infrastructures of developed nations – urbanization, higher income, women’s rights and education to name a few – birth rates tend to drop, the median age goes up, and incomes and literacy increase. All these factors reinforce each-other to suggest higher percentage success with cultivating and maintaining democratic institutions and culture.
If the crisis in Syria drags on for a long time, sanctions will have a very negative effect on all aspects of Syrian life. Yes, they will hurt the government and create a pervasive sense of crisis and regime failure, but they will have many other negative effects as well, such as plunging income levels, which will diminish Syria’s chances of becoming a democracy and getting rid of dictatorship.
News Round Up

Syrian rebels cling to bullets and hope
22 May 2012 by Martin Chulov in Jebel al-Zawiya

The Guardian reports: In the shadow of the monolith they call the Corner Mountain, Firas Abu Hamza was carefully counting his most prized possessions. He removed a dirty sock from his camouflage vest and spilled its contents, 13 old bullets, on to the fire-scorched concrete in front of him. “I’ll use them if I have [...]

Abu Ahmed said he has lost scores of men to ambushes and detentions. A Saudi-based businessman until the uprising erupted, he returned to take a leadership role in the nascent guerrilla force. He now holds the rank of lieutenant colonel, one of about five such senior officers in the dozen or so villages between here and the encircled city of Idlib, which was retaken by loyalist forces in March.

“They are cruel and they are evil,” he says of his enemy. “And they will never stop killing and lying. To them and those who blindly back them, we are Muslim Brotherhood and Muslim Brotherhood is al-Qaida. Both claims are dishonest.”

At this base and all the others the Guardian visited during five days in Syria, a television was playing in the background. Each set of hosts would insist on showing the Syrian state TV channels, then the rebel-backed TV and pan-Arab networks.

On state television, the al-Qaida line is relentless. The narrative has become essential to the regime’s bid to hold on to power. Rallying support for state repression is easier when people believe it is needed to combat a global jihadist “terrorist” plot against a secular Arab nationalist state.

“They are always talking about al-Qaida,” said Abu Hamza of the state coverage. “They are stopping at nothing to make us look like devils when they know very well that the Free Syria Army are no more than men who have seen the light. Have you seen their claim that there are 3,000 foreign Arabs fighting here with us? There is not one.”

Rebel groups across Jebel al-Zawiya sense that the regime’s narrative of al-Qaida-backed groups taking a lead in the insurgency is starting to prevail – in the western psyche, in particular.

“Political Islam in Syrian Revolution“, published by Aljazeera Center for Studies

Syrian Heart Patients Set to Feel Economy’s Squeeze
By Donna Abu-Nasr – May 17, 2012

…“The economy is going to continue to decline,” said Ayesha Sabavala, a Syria economist with the Economist Intelligence Unit in London, in a phone interview. “But whether the economy will decline to the extent that it will actually cause the regime to change tactics — that is probably not likely. Not in the near term, anyway.”…

The pound has lost about one-third of its value, pushing prices higher and slashing the purchasing power of Syrians on fixed incomes. International embargoes have disrupted trade, bank lending has slumped and businesses have closed.The $65 billion economy shrank 3.4 percent in 2011 and will contract another 5.9 percent this year while the budget deficit widens to 18 percent of output, the EIU forecast in March. Central bank Governor Adib Mayaleh, interviewed at his office in Damascus on May 10, said inflation was 15 percent in January, while declining to give data for growth or other indicators.

Sanctions plus devaluation have left imports scarce or too expensive for many Syrians. At gas stations, long lines of men wait to fill blue or gray cylinders with cooking gas. Oil Minister Sufian Alao told state television on May 12 that local gas meets 60 percent of needs, and said he is working to avert shortages by finding new sources for the rest.

… More than 6,000 small factories and businesses closed last year, said Khandji, who runs a company that makes hair-care products. Some banks shut down in cities such as Homs that were the scene of the bloodiest clashes, she said.Tourism has ground to a halt after a boom between 2005 and 2010, when arrivals rose 14 percent a year and revenue exceeded $7 billion, contributing 12 percent of gross domestic product and employing 13 percent of the workforce, according to Tourism Ministry figures.

In the capital’s covered Hamidiyyeh bazaar, there are few customers at shops offering embroidered tablecloths, boxes studded with mother-of-pearl, Persian carpets and clothes made from Syrian cotton. Some salesmen play backgammon, others were gathered outside their shops for coffee and a chat. A jeweler said he has received some business from Syrians selling gold rings, pendants and earrings to help pay for food.

Agriculture Strong

Nabil Sukkar, a former World Bank economist and managing director of the Syrian Consulting Bureau in Damascus, which advises the government, businesses and international organizations, said private-sector job losses exceeded 100,000 last year, pushing unemployment above 20 percent. The government has reversed course from the liberalization it was pursuing before the revolt, and now employs more people. It also increased energy subsidies last year while maintaining payments for sugar, rice and pita bread.

Still, Sukkar said, the economy can survive the difficulties for at least another year. Agriculture, almost one- fifth of GDP, “is in very good shape because of two consecutive rainy seasons” and can make up for shortfalls elsewhere. Plus, Syria started the crisis with high foreign exchange reserves and low external debt of about $7 billion that leaves it room to borrow, he said.

‘Can’t Beat Us’

Sukkar cited the international embargo as Syria’s main economic challenge. “Unless the sanctions are removed, Syria is not going to go back to normal,” he said…

The Syian Paradox - May 22, 2012
New York Times Sunday Magazine, By ADAM DAVIDSON

….The Alawite ethnic and religious minority, which eventually assumed leadership of the party, was made up of poorly educated people from mountain villages who “knew nothing about running a country or an economy,” says Joshua Landis, a pre-eminent Syria watcher and a professor at the University of Oklahoma. The Alawites, he notes, had been given a role by the French colonial government in the military precisely because they had few ties to the majority Sunnis in the big cities: “They were very unsophisticated, and they didn’t have a deep community of cosmopolitan people from which to draw.” … As Landis notes: “They look out at the countryside and think: What if these people win? Are they going to respect capitalism? Are they going to preserve our wealth? Or are they going to come by and say, ‘Oh, you’ve been a collaborator for 40 years, and we’re going to take everything you own’? They don’t know.” …

Crony Capitalism, Syria StyleMay 22, 2012
NPR – by Dan Kedmey, the Power of Money

Meet the guy who embodies everything that’s wrong with Syria’s economy. He’s the president’s cousin, and his nickname is “Mr. Ten Percent.”…

Damascus ‘Bubble’ Belies Violent Reality of Assad’s Syria
By Donna Abu-Nasr – May 22, 2012

Syria marked Traffic Day this month with five programs on state-run television and radio fostering road safety and responsible driving.

On the streets of the capital Damascus, motorists are lulled by sprinklers feeding lush traffic circles studded with yellow and purple spring flowers. The theme of benevolent government is underlined by news in Tishrin, the state-run paper, which reports that the state spent 80 million Syrian pounds ($1.25 million) last year treating more than 19,700 people bitten by stray dogs.

More than 14 months into the Syrian uprising, the government of President Bashar al-Assad is projecting a facade of normality belied by a breakdown in security and a proliferation of defensive emplacements. Photographer: Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images

More than 14 months into the Syrian uprising, the government of President Bashar al-Assad is projecting a facade of normality belied by a breakdown in security and a proliferation of defensive emplacements. Sandbags, blast walls and heavily armed men seek to protect government buildings in Damascus, where suicide bombers killed at least 55 and injured almost 400 in twin attacks on May 10. …

Omran al-Zoabi, a lawyer who’s a member of the ruling Baath party, said “the secret to Syria’s survival is that what’s happening here is not an Arab Spring.”

With a large, gold-framed photograph of Assad in military dress to his side, al-Zoabi said in an interview at the Damascus’ Lawyers Syndicate that the president will emerge stronger from the crisis.

‘In Our Heart’

Rabaa Shaalan, a 35-year-old mother of three who helps organize a weekly pro-Assad youth rally in front of the Central Bank, insisted “the regime will not fall.” As she spoke, her mobile phone rang, trilling a pro-government song called “In Our Heart We Chant Bashar.” She said her phone’s ringtone, like the photos of Assad on a pendant she wears, three pins on her lapel and her keychain, were expressions of her love for the 46 year-old president.

The belief among Assad supporters that the government is winning has several causes, Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center, said in an interview on May 15.

Assad has been given a breathing space by the international community and not least by UN envoy Kofi Annan’s cease-fire plan, which has failed to stop the bloodshed, he said. In addition, there’s not yet been any major organized effort to arm the opposition, allowing the government to continue its use of violence and intimidation, he said.

“Plus, the Iraq war in particular has seared a real indelible mark on this particular U.S. administration which is why it and other Western powers have up until now not provided the support and backing for what we all know is what is required” to unseat the government, Shaikh said….

Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Middle East Center in Beirut, said the regime has “reached a plateau but certainly not a solution or a situation that they can sustain for very long.”

“Yes, they are trying to project normalcy, but the country is still largely paralyzed, the economy continues to be in very bad shape, they remain isolated and Damascus barely sputters along,” Salem said in a telephone interview.

Hizbullah And Its Proxies Expose Supposed CIA Activity In Lebanon, U.S. MEMRI

Book Review: Pierret, Thomas. Baas et Islam en Syrie: La dynastie Assad face aux oulémas. Paris, PUF, 2011.
By Erik Mohns in the Newsletter of the Syria Studies Association

…Only a small minority of Syria’s Sunnite ulama have distanced themselves publicly from the regime since the outbreak of the uprising. Their large majority has adopted a quietist posture towards the regime’s ongoing campaign of repression. This overwhelmingly complying stance of the religious establishment results certainly from direct threats and coercive measures by the regime. However, the reasons for this positioning of the Ba’thist regime’s traditional foes emanate from longer-term sociopolitical processes that Thomas Pierret’s remarkably riveting study of Syria’s religious field reveals.

Throughout the book’s five chapters, Pierret convincingly unrolls his central argument; namely, that the ulama have been able to adapt to challenges emanating from social change and the authoritarian context due their resource of tradition. …He analyzes how the ulama as ‘custodians of commodities of salvation’ have been able to hold on to their relative autonomy by demonstrating considerable flexibility in an ever-changing political contexts, even under authoritarian rule….

Pierret’s study …. refutes two common claims about Assad regime’s mechanisms of rule. It has widely been argued that the secular and Alawite-dominated regime lacks any substantive legitimacy among Syrian Sunnis. Pierret, however, reveals that the regime has been remarkably successful in the establishment of an ambiguous, but nevertheless robust relationship with the urban-based Sunni clerics, social actors that possess considerable credibility of many pious Syrian Muslims. He considers this ‘clergy-regime-partnership’ being embedded in the encompassing transformation of the regime’s social base in its post-populist phase, from its former rural-based, popular constituencies toward urban-based, socioeconomic elites, a dynamic that became all too obvious throughout the ongoing uprising.

The second, often-made assertion that the recent incremental reconstitution of the clergy’s social authority emanates from a deliberate policy by the Ba’thist regime to encourage a quietist and moderate form of Islam, is denoted by Pierret as an overestimation in the regime’s capacity as a ‘social engineer’. By retracing longer-term historical developments that led to the ulama’s considerable social following, he convincingly argues that the increased religious popular fervor and the concomitant influence of the Sunni clergy stems only marginally from the regime’s intervention into the religious field. Instead, the regime has rather accompanied this social process and strove to confine its political impacts by applying alternating, at times erratic strategies towards the Muslim clergy.

The traditionalist clergy’s hegemonic position within the religious field has not solely been based on the regime’s interventions, but rather by their access to considerable economic resources. The fourth chapter analyses the political economy underpinning the clergy’s continuous social power. The existence of a ‘clerical-mercantile complex’, designating as an alliance between the urban based ulama and the private sector, allowed an ever-growing enlargement of different forms of religious social action. The alliance does not only assure the clerics’ financial autonomy from the state, but enabled them to benefit directly from the economy’s liberalization. The state’s scare resources deprived it from upholding its welfare policies vis-à-vis a growing, impoverished population. In order to prevent potential destabilizing effects emanating from pauperization of large section of the society, the state liberalized its policy towards the welfare and enabled religious networks, in particular the Damascus-based Zayd movement, to establish a wide-ranging web of charities. Pierret argues that the alliance between middle-size entrepreneurs and merchants and the ulama is nurtured by mutual interests over which the state exercises only limited control. The ulama provide the private sector with social capital, trust and networks, while merchants and entrepreneurs provide financial donations, management expertise and relations to the security apparatus. In addition, both actors range from the same social merchant and commercial milieus and share often common familial origin. Through a thorough analysis of the parliamentary elections campaign in 2007, Pierret reveals that the religious men have moved even closer to the politico-military elite, resulting in an ongoing transformation of the clerical-mercantile complex. Financial donations by crony capitalists to the religious foundations during the electoral campaign appear to be too tempting to be refused by the clergy….

Pierret succeeds in drawing a number of general conclusions on the ulama’s modes of political action. First and foremost, the ulama are by definition representatives of a sectoral elite and their political engagement is always a secondary dimension of their social practice. Their political practice is characterized by strategic rigidity and tactical flexibility and their inventions into politics are of an inconstant manner, mainly in the form of punctual eruptions and lobbying. This political behavior allows the ulama, despite their total disagreement with the regime’s ideological choices, to adapt to an authoritarian environment as their political demands are primarily limited to negotiate the preservation and/or enlargement of those spaces to carry out their vocation. This sectoral logic of political action has facilitated in sum the ulama’s rapprochement to the regime in its post-Ba’thist stage…..

“Bashar: Decentralization should be implemented after Assad toppling…”in Al-Hayat, United Kingdom (translated thanks to Mideastwire.com)

On May 21, the Saudi-owned London-based Al-Hayat daily carried in its paper edition the following interview with President of the Syrian Kurdish National Council Abdul Hakim Bashar:

“… Q: “Is decentralization a major condition put forward by the Kurdish parties before joining the Syrian National Council?

A: “… Many Alawis, Druze and Kurds have abstained so far from taking part in the Syrian revolution because they are concerned about the future. This is why I believe that it is essential to give all these minorities some guarantees. The Syrian Kurdish National Council wants the opposition parties to adopt a clear declaration reassuring the Druze, the Alawis and the other minorities. We will defend the principle of decentralization until the end because we believe that it gives these necessary assurances….

Q: “Borhan Ghalioun said that he supported decentralization but you rejected his position and said that you wanted him to pledge to implement it in the future. Why is that?

A: “Borhan Ghalioun has supported the principle of administrative decentralization but there is a huge difference between this kind of decentralization and the political decentralization we have been advocating…

“Ghalyun responds to his critics: I am ready to quit…” Asharq al-Awsat - (translated thanks to Mideastwire.com)

On May 18, the Saudi owned Asharq al-Awsat reported: “Burhan Ghalyun, head of the opposition Syrian National Council yesterday responded to the criticism that followed his election for a new three-month term by announcing “his withdrawal from the Council as soon as a new candidate is chosen through accord or through new elections.” He explained that he accepted the latest nomination “out of his eagerness to maintain accord,” stressing that “I will not accept in any way to be the candidate of division, and I am not sticking to any position.” Ghalyun, whose chairmanship of the SNC for the third time since its establishment last October, said in a statement yesterday: “I will continue to serve the revolution from my position as a Council member along with the young fighters -the youths of the revolution of dignity and freedom until victory is achieved,” and called on the opposition “and all its groups to meet as soon as possible to reach an understanding on the unity of the national work and get rid of the circle of conflict and division.”

“A lot of criticism has followed Ghalyun’s election as head of the National Council that reached the point of suspending the membership or resignation to protest the failure to translate the principle of “the rotation of power” in the SNC’s chairmanship, and the refusal by the representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood to give the chance to Ghalyun’s rival, Syrian opposition figure George Sabra. The local coordination committees, which constitute a main faction in the Syrian opposition and which are active in the field and in documenting the diary of the revolution, yesterday joined the list of those who oppose the results of the elections, which took place in Rome three days ago, and threatened to withdraw from the SNC in protest of “monopolizing the decisions by some influential persons in the Executive Bureau and the General Secretariat, the latest of which is the decision to extend for Ghalyun for a third term in spite of the terrible failure on the political and organizat ional levels.” Rima Fulayhan, spokesperson for the coordination committees, strongly rapped “the weak performance of the National Council throughout the past seven months.” She told Asharq al-Awsat that the Council “has not been up to the Syrian people’s aspirations and has not served the revolution due to the flabbiness of the work mechanisms and the weakness of the Council’s head,” and said that the Council “is still stalemated and we have not felt any progress on the ground.”

“Fulayhan pointed out that “the traditional opposition in general has not served the popular Syrian revolution, but it has aggravated the crisis,” stressing the “need for institutionalizing the SNC work in the next stage and electing a leadership that represents the people’s aspirations.” She explained that “we want a leadership that has a vision and a plan and to be the one that launches the initiatives, not to wait for initiatives from inside and outside and be satisfied with just making reactions.” Commenting on Ghalyun’s recent stand, Fulayhan said that “he should not have nominated himself for a third term in light of the general feeling of the SNC’s failure to make any achievement, and he should have given the chance for others,” and asked: “How can we speak about democracy and the rotation of power in the upcoming Syrian state if we are unable to renovate the SNC chairmanship?” she stressed that “the political leaders of the Syrian opposition today are at stake, and we are going to overtake them if they are not up to the level of the revolution in the street,” stressing the rejection of “using the pretext of preserving the unity of the opposition to justify acceptance of the fait accompli and not making the aspired change, particularly since we have become in a stage on which the whole fate of Syria is hinged, and this necessitates that we bring ourselves to account for every mistake.”

“SNC membe r Adib al-Shishakli, who announced the suspension of his membership after Ghalyun’s election, told Al-Sharq al-Awsat that Ghalyun’s stand “is a courageous step in the right direction, so that to show that the one who makes a mistake can retract it, and this is the example that we want to see in the new Syria.” He said that this situation “stands as a lesson for the Syrian opposition and revolution and it is a big test for the National Council.” He also said that “what is required today is the restructuring of the National Council and the mechanisms of its work, particularly the mechanisms of elections before electing a new head,” stressing the importance of “rotating power and that all those who are qualified can nominate themselves for the SNC chairmanship so that the nomination does remain restricted to the members of the Executive Bureau.” Al-Shishakli said that “the Syrian opposition has not practiced any democratic experiment in the past, and it is normal to m ake mistakes, but what is important is that what happened should become a lesson in the next stage,” stressing that “he is not planning to go ahead in his resignation and that he is not protesting against Ghalyun in person, but he is protesting the elections mechanisms emanating from the fact that the SNC’s experiment should be an example to be followed in its capacity as the sole legitimate representative e of the Syrian people.”

“Samir Nashar, member of the Executive Bureau of the National Council, yesterday stressed that “the nomination of George Sabra to head the SNC has been made in consolidation of the principle of the rotation of power and in light of Sabra’s stands and the facts surrounding him, which make him qualified more than others in the SNC. Furthermore, he is a struggler from inside Syria, and he has organizational and leadership experience and belongs to the Christian sect, and this sends a reassurance message that the head of the SNC and the future president of Syria can be from any sect in Syria, and this dispels fears within this minority that the next regime after the collapse of President Bashar al-Asad would be an Islamic one, but it will be a national and civilian one, and will be rotational by all components of the Syrian people.” He explained that “Sabra’s election would have been an advance step (by the Muslim Brotherhood) in particular that they accept a president who belong s to the Christian sect to lead the Syrian people, but what happened has been the opposite when the Muslim Brotherhood voted against George Sabra, and asked their allies in the Islamic trend to vote against him.”” – Asharq al-Awsat, United Kingdom

Chairman of the National Union of the Forces for Democratic Change comments on the Kurdish question – Kurdwatch

KURDWATCH, May 14, 2012—Hasan ʿAbdulʿazim, chairman of the National Union of the Forces for Democratic Change, commented on the Kurdish question in an interview on May 7, 2012 in the chat room »Resistance from Western Kurdistan«. He explained that while there are Kurds in Syria, there is neither a Syrian-Kurdistan nor a region predominantly settled by Kurds. According to ʿAbdulʿazim, even in al‑Hasakah province, the proportion of Kurds is only between 33 and 35 percent; Arab residents are in the majority. Moreover, he rejected all forms of political decentralization. Instead, the National Union, together with the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and in consultation with ten other Kurdish parties, supports the right to administrative decentralization based on the currently existing model of local administrations. At the same time ʿAbdulʿazim emphasized that he would not stand against more extensive Kurdish demands if the majority of the Syrian people were to accept them in a democratic election. In reaction to ʿAbdulʿazim’s comments, the PYD chairman, Salih Muslim Muhammad, communicated in a press release that his party’s use of the term West Kurdistan is not intended to convey that this region does not or should not belong to Syria.

Al-Qamishli: Demonstrators criticize Islamic slogans – Kurdwatch

KURDWATCH, 16. May 2012—Nationwide protests on 11. May 2012 resulted again in numerous dead and injured. Throughout the country, demonstrators demanded the fall of the regime. Once again protests in the Kurdish regions this week did not take place under a united slogan. Only a few demonstrators joined the all-Syrian slogan »God’s support and a speedy victory«. An activist told KurdWatch, »Our revolution is committed to freedom and dignity. We no longer have sympathy for the fact that so many of the slogans that are designated as the main slogans have an Islamic context«. Most of the demonstrators chose their own slogan; for example, supporters of the Democratic Union Party took to the streets under the slogan »Support for the Kurds in Aleppo«…. Overall the number of demonstrators in the Kurdish regions is currently in decline.

 

Comments (84)


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51. Mar said:

I’m not sure if this article on the poisoning has already been posted here:

http://syrie.blog.lemonde.fr/2012/05/23/syrie-la-cellule-centrale-de-gestion-des-crises-decimee-par-un-empoisonnement/

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May 23rd, 2012, 4:08 pm

 

52. jad said:

UN Observers Concede Presence of Terrorist Groups in Syria

UN peacekeeping observers have acknowledged the presence of terrorist groups in Syria, which are hindering the peace process between the government and the opposition, China’s Xinhua agency has reported, quoting UN peacekeeping head Herve Ladsous.
“We know that there are … a third party (of the conflict), terrorist groups, who are trying to gain advantage for themselves… but we have to see this as an issue within Syria, between the Syrians,” Ladsous said at a news conference held in Damascus.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said that foreign fighters, some of them Al-Qaeda members, are fighting in extremist groups operating in Syria.
Ladsous added that 270 observers are working in six cities across Syria. According to him, observers will arrive in four more cities.
More than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria since the outbreak of a popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011, the UN says.
{…}
http://en.ria.ru/world/20120522/173601137.html

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May 23rd, 2012, 4:51 pm

 

53. irritated said:

#49 Antoine

It’s that same Syrian regime that, for more than 40 years, hosted and always helped the Palestinian resistance that was kicked out of other arab countries as well as hundred thousands palestinian refugees.

If the Palestinians turns against the regime now, which they are not, they know that they’ll loose the most reliable ally they ever had and they will ever have. The proof is that until now Hamas has not officially moved its offices to other Arab countries, with the probable intention of returning once the regime is back in control.
Not a single Palestinian group in Syria has criticized the regime in 15 month of trouble.

All the Palestinian resistance’s allies are supporting the fight of the Syrian government against the US-Israel plan to weaken Syria and all the supporters of the resistance.

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May 23rd, 2012, 4:53 pm

 

54. irritated said:

#51 Mar

The deadly FSA cook

Most of it is the fruit of a wild imagination.

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May 23rd, 2012, 4:56 pm

 

55. Antoine said:

IRRITATED,

It is not the Syrian regime but the Syrian people who have hosted all these Palestinian refuges, it was the Syrian people who have them space and allowed them to live like normal citizens,

Btw most of the Palestinian refugees in Syria came to Syria in 1948. This regime wasn’t in control then. Bashar wasn’t even born then, the dog Hafez was still in his nappies.

Btw IRRITATED, you mentioned before that you will change your username to “RELAXED” in April 2012. Today is May 2012. Why hasn’t that happened ?

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May 23rd, 2012, 5:20 pm

 

56. Antoine said:

Assef Shawkat is dead and he was buried today in Madhale in Tartous.

Even today, the regime has not offically denied or disputed his death. They have denied the deaths of the others, but they are still silent about Assef Shawkat. There is no “sign of life” so to speak.

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May 23rd, 2012, 5:24 pm

 

57. Mawal95 said:

In the New Scientist article linked to by Joshua, dated 17 May 2012, the author says Syria is not a democracy. That author is a junk scientist. Syria is a full-fledged democracy (with religious and tribal parties banned, the ban supported by the majority).

By the way China is not a democracy, but the age structure of the Chinese people is among the more elderly ones in the world. China’s population growth rate is only 0.47%, ranking 156th out of 195 countries (including principalities) in the world. Quoting UN data a Wikipedia, China’s female fertility rate ranks China 154th, while Syria’s fertility rate ranks Syria at 69th. Thus the reported patterns that demographer Richard Cincotta sees are junk patterns.

I would say the same about the patterns Thomas Peirret thinks he sees in Syria, except that I’m not allowed to review a book I haven’t read and don’t intend to read. I’ve seen enough from that guy to never trust a word he’d say.

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May 23rd, 2012, 5:33 pm

 

58. SANDRO LOEWE said:

My impression is that President Bashar could be responsible for the operation that killed Assef. We do not know if someone else died last night. We will know later. This kind of operation cannot be easily done from outside the system. So, it is probable that some of those who did not die in the operation had previous knowledge (or at least were not targeted by the assassin). The one who created the crime scene wanted to give credibility to the idea of an attack from outside to avoid negative consequences and negative image crimes being comitted inside the family.

Anyway it seems that black flags have been seen in Assef village and also a retaliation has been executed against the village of the posion executer.

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May 23rd, 2012, 5:39 pm

 

59. Syria no Kandahar said:

Taliban poisons Afghan School kids and teachers:
http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/23/world/asia/afghanistan-girls-poisoned/index.html?c=world

Can any one think of similar incident done by Talibans in Syria lately?

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May 23rd, 2012, 5:54 pm

 

60. SANDRO LOEWE said:

59. Syria on Kandahar

Please be honest. Do not compare kids with the criminal dictator you are trying to defend. If this is the kind of arguments that you can use then it´s good news for the people of future Syria.

It has been 14 months since the beginning of the contest and Assad has probed to be a useless and failing leader. War can take one year or maybe ten but Assad is over.

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May 23rd, 2012, 6:11 pm

 

61. Syria no Kandahar said:

Sandro Lowe
Criminals are criminals,Terrorists are terrorists and poisoning is poisoning regardless of the victims.
I am not defending any one but I can’t sympathize with any one who gets thrilled to have his (enemies)get poisoned yet he is asking the same enemy to follow the international standards of war
Which are clearly not being followed by the FSA by adhering to criminal poisoning methods.The whole poisoning story I think is imagination of Taifur et all,and I do not really care if Asef is living
Or dead,what I really care about I syria’s future which if it falls in the hands of extremists practicing
Poisoning,kidnapping,hanging mentally handicapped on trees..etc that future is poisoned with 100 drops of that imaginary poison given
To those officers which will turn Syria into a dead body if you know what I mean.

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May 23rd, 2012, 6:28 pm

 

62. Antoine said:

SANDRO LOEWE,

Where was the poisoner from ?

If indeed Assad committed the murder, then how come there was confirmation from the LCCs and the FSA ? The FSA in fact claimed to have murdered them even before any offical reactrion.

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May 23rd, 2012, 6:30 pm

 

63. DIGGING FOR GOLD IN BOSRA said:

Antoine,

I heard the same thing a couple of days ago (that he had died) from someone who is usually very reliable in these matters.

I’ll say one thing for Shawkat: his apartment was nice. Top floor of a block on Jawaher lal Nahro between the mosque and the roundabout. It’s real close to Al Shami as well – the poison must have been potent.

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May 23rd, 2012, 6:39 pm

 

64. hamoudeh said:

Asaad abu khalil is a joke, it claims to be libertarian, but he is supporting to the core shia militia hezbollah, and it’s very rare to see him critizing iran, shia cleric etc etc maybe because Huh ??? his mother or father was shia dont remember.
His position on syria revolution is very hypocrit as was hassouneh in lebanon

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May 23rd, 2012, 6:47 pm

 

65. Darryl said:

65. ANTOINE said:

_________________________________________________________________

“Same for Iraq ? And Bahrain ?

I hope DARYLL, you did not support the opposition to the former regime in Iraq ( who are ruling the country now), and also do not support the Bahraini Opposition. BEcause they are precisely the kind of people you described in your post.”

Apologies for the late response my dear friend Antoine as I usually take wed off to spend with nature. Any way, Salam Al-MaseeH al-Hai to to you Antoine who is the Christian ego of my old Salafi friend Khalid.

You see what happens to a person when the living Messiah resides in the heart of a person and the Holy Spirit (part of the Holy Trinity not the angel Gabriel that is) opens the mind of a person. Instant transformation occurs from someone who was dropping the F-bombs everywhere to a more eloquent blogger.

My dear friend Antoine, I do not agree with democracy based on religious majority population ruling in the name of democracy whether it is in Bahrain, Iraq or any where else on this beautiful planet.

I am truly impressed with the transformation, blessed the Holy Trinity for its power to change people!

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May 23rd, 2012, 6:53 pm

 

66. omen said:

The only social indicators that came close to predicting success in transitions to democracy are wealth per capita and the median age of the society.

.

“the only“? absolutist statements bother me.

i would think literacy rate would be a factor. he doesn’t even mention it.

and the other expert cited in this article, jack goldstone, earlier argued the revolutionaries driving the arab spring aren’t seeking to replace old dictatorships with a new one.

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May 23rd, 2012, 7:35 pm

 

67. jad said:

Don’t laugh reading this ‘Theatrical’ ‘Comedy’
‘We will risk our lives to free them’
Huh!? from whom? From their friends and employees?
The interesting thing in all this ‘comedy show’ interview is that the ‘head’ of Aljeesh Alkir terrorist group is admitting that there are many ‘MAFIAS’ aka ‘Armed militias’= 3sabat mousala7a,’out there’ which means that Sana, Addounia, Syrian TV and Alikhbariya along Alwatan and Champress and almost every Syrian media outlet were right to call those criminals ‘Armed Militias’.
How ironic is that?
Enjoy the show:
———————-

Free Syrian Army: Mafias Kidnapped Lebanese Pilgrims, We Will Risk Our Lives to Free them

The head of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) Riad al-Asaad condemned on Wednesday the kidnapping of Lebanese pilgrims in Aleppo on Tuesday, revealing that an investigation committee was formed in order to tackle the case, reported the Kuwaiti al-Rai newspaper in an interview to be published Thursday.

He told the newspaper: “Mafias kidnapped the pilgrims and we will risk our life to liberate them.”

He added that the Free Syrian Army has information that the “recently formed financial mafias” are behind the abduction, stressing: “We will play a role in their release.”

“A group of bandits who have taken up base along the border abducted the pilgrims and blamed the Free Syrian Army for it,” he explained.

“The FSA rejects such operations that put people’s lives in jeopardy,” he declared.

“Several sides are exploiting the developments in Syria in order to tarnish our image and that of the revolution,” noted Asaad.

He revealed that the FSA succeeded in determining the location of the captives.

Asked about Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s intervention to ensure the release of the pilgrims, he remarked: “We demand that Nasrallah distance himself from the Syrian revolution.”

“Our main goal lies in defending the Syrian people and revolt,” he stressed.
{…}
http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/41174-free-syrian-army-mafias-kidnapped-lebanese-pilgrims-we-will-risk-our-lives-to-free-them

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May 23rd, 2012, 7:42 pm

 

68. irritated said:

Antoind

Btw IRRITATED, you mentioned before that you will change your username to “RELAXED” in April 2012. Today is May 2012. Why hasn’t that happened ?

You mean the decisions to give to all palestinians refugees the same rights as the Syrians, contrary to countries like Lebanon and Jordan, is a decision taken by the people of Syria and not by the government. Does the same applies to the Iraqi refugees?
It’s great, so you’re suggesting that Syria IS a democracy without knowing it.

I have no intention of changing my nickname as long as I have to reply to stupid comments.

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May 23rd, 2012, 7:54 pm

 

69. bronco said:

Jad

Curiously the kidnapped people were released without any fight.
If it there are criminals, why would they release the captives so easily?
It is possible that the FSA who claims “helped determining the location of the captives” has been involved in negotiations with the “mafias”. It shows that the FSA know very well who is behind these ‘mafias’ and obviously have a leverage on them.

As I mentioned before, the FSA will soon be obliged to join the regular army in the fights against these “mafias” if they really want to protect the citizens from this new deadly threat.

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May 23rd, 2012, 8:12 pm

 

70. Ghufran said:

3 out of 6 ( pronounced dead by GCC media) are alive and well,Asef is probably alive too,the reports about his death are not convincing,Tartous private social media outlets said that the burial story is fabricated,I personally could not find any credible reports that any of the 6 has been killed . Alquds alarabi was told by a high ranking official that Asef is alive and well. The death of any of the 6 would have been a major development,such a story is very difficult to hide if it was true.
Sanctions,my friends,did not hurt the regime,it made life for the average Syrian even harder,the only part of sanctions that can be defended is the one related to individual officials that were implicated in the violence in Syria,defenders of economic sanctions against Syria “forgot” that those sanctions will isolate Syria and impede progress even if a new regime takes over. Most of those sanctions were imposed by the legislating bodies of western countries,they are very difficult to “undo” and their effect will last for years even after they are officially lifted.

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May 23rd, 2012, 8:25 pm

 

71. Visitor said:

I commented only once before and I don’t like commenting.
This time I will make one additional comment to express my heartfelt congratulations to all Syrians on their success in getting rid of a notorious criminal; i.e. Shawkat.

Good riddance and I sincerely hope I will make another comment soon congratulating you about demolishing all the remaining regime criminals.

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May 23rd, 2012, 8:26 pm

 

72. zoo said:

Three factors that will determine Syria’s future
http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2012/0202/Three-factors-that-will-determine-Syria-s-future/Strength-and-cohesion-of-the-regime

Much of the analysis of the crisis in Syria looks at the upheaval through a binary lens: Either Bashar al-Assad manages to defeat his political opponents and his regime survives, or the regime collapses and a new political leadership takes control of the country.

But there is a third, increasingly more realistic, possibility – quagmire, says Benedetta Berti, a fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies of Tel Aviv University. That means prolonged internal violence under a weakened and failing – but neither defeated nor failed – Assad regime.

Under this framework, a better question to ask about Syria’s future would be: How long can a regime function in this “failing state limbo,” and how long can it endure massive internal violence before imploding?

In Syria, the answer depends on these three main factors:

1. Strength and cohesion of the regime

President Assad can count on a relatively strong and united regime and, specifically, he can count on the loyalty of the Army and coercive apparatus. Unlike in Tunisia and Egypt, the Syrian military and security branches are closely identified with and connected to the regime. The potential downfall of Mr. Assad directly threatens their own status and power, giving them a strong incentive to continue backing him.

Similarly, the patronage networks created in the past decades by the minority Alawite rulers now serve as an additional incentive for security personnel and government officials alike to stand by the regime. In this sense, the regime is still strong and internally cohesive, despite some defections from the security and policy offices.

2. Strength and cohesion of the civil opposition to the regime

In contrast to the relative unity of the regime, the opposition forces – although having risen in power and status and being able to seriously threaten the regime – still lack strong internal cohesion.
….
3. Degree of international involvement

Despite its involvement, the international community – including the Arab League – has not been willing to strongly take sides in Syria, as it did in Libya. Short of this type of intervention the future of the revolt seems to depend only on the internal balance of power between the regime and its opponents.

At home, the violence of a prolonged quagmire will have an extremely high humanitarian cost. As regime brutality continues, new refugees will be created and the civilian population will keep paying the price in disrupted and destroyed lives.
…..
These concerns make even more urgent the debate over stronger international intervention – first through the creation of a “safe zone” in northern Syria. Such a zone would establish a haven for Syrian civilians fleeing persecution, as well as allow the opposition forces to regroup and get organized politically and militarily. Those are key factors in allowing them to challenge the regime.

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May 23rd, 2012, 8:28 pm

 

73. Uzair8 said:

Burhan Ghalioun has formally resigned:

http://blogs.aljazeera.net/liveblog/syria-may-24-2012-0248

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May 23rd, 2012, 8:38 pm

 

74. MM said:

The poisoning attack needs to be viewed with great suspicion. I wish I had a direct line to Riad al-As’ad to discuss the vetting of the “Al Sahabeh” branch of the FSA — which claimed the attack. The issue is, it is well known that Assef has previously attempted to usurp power from Assad. In addition, this operation has done two things: 1) undermine the credibility of the FSA somewhat, as not all the individuals claimed killed were so, and 2) provided potential cover for those internal to the regime as to who is responsible for Assef’s death (if they were indeed trying to do so). So once again, we have a situation where core elements of the regime may have carefully crafted a scenario which serves their interests best. This may be a indicator that the regime has serious divisions within it — which thus, means we, as the opposition, can sit back and watch the regime war with itself in the interim. This is most welcome – and reminds me of a saying in Syria: “the spell has turned against the sorcerer.” A while back a video was posted by the Al-Farouk battalion of the FSA, where a captured Allawite officer (later released) stated that he prefers to take orders from Assef Shaukat, because in his opinion, “he is a man.” This may have been a premonition that Mr. Shaukat had begun to amass too much power within Allawite circles and was threatening to successfully undermine and overtake Mr. Assad.

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May 23rd, 2012, 8:42 pm

 

75. zoo said:

Sect or Mainstream Movement?
The Two Faces of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood
05/22/2012
By Alexander Smoltczyk in Ismailia, Egypt
http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/muslim-brotherhood-seeks-power-in-egypt-a-834260-2.html

The Muslim Brotherhood is the strongest political force in Egypt, which is holding presidential elections this week, yet opinions are divided over the nature of the movement and what it really wants. A visit to Ismailia, the small city on the Suez Canal where the movement began, provides an insight into the Islamists’ goals.
….
The magazine Foreign Affairs recently compared the movement to Scientology, describing it as secretive, with a sect-like power structure and exercising tight control over its members.
‘Loose Behavior’

In June 1947, Banna sent a list of 50 proposals to the leaders of the Islamic world, and the Egyptian king, in particular. The manifesto, “Towards the Light,” is one of his few political texts. To this day, his critics cite it as an indication of how little the supposedly moderate character of the Brotherhood has in common with reality. It reads like something the Taliban could have written.

In the text, Banna calls for the reintroduction of corporal punishment, the moral supervision of government officials, and the prohibition of prostitution, gambling, alcohol and “ostentation in dress and loose behavior.”

He demands that dance halls be closed and theater and singing performances be subjected to rigorous control and purified of immoral thoughts. Banna’s political program also includes gender separation in schools, the encouragement of memorization of the Koran and the reunification of Islamic countries to form a caliphate.

Today, Banna’s manifesto is disseminated on Ikhwanweb, the Brotherhood’s international website, which states: “Many of the view points and directives it contains still represent the dearest hope of every Arab and every Muslim.”

A Better Human Being

“Of course we want the caliphate,” says Saki. “All Islamic countries must become one nation, but without violence.” He gives the interpreter a serious look. Everything else, he says, including Sharia law and clean living, can only be introduced in the long term, and certainly not by decree. “We must serve as role models, so that others will follow.”

Then Saki says something that points directly at the core of the movement: “We want to change people. Without violence! First the individual, then the family and then the world.”

He is referring to an educational program that culminates in a better human being, which the Brotherhood calls “Renaissance.” It explains why the party wants to occupy key positions in education and culture. For the Brotherhood, this is more important in the long term than gaining control over the police or the judiciary.

more…

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May 23rd, 2012, 8:50 pm

 

76. irritated said:

#73 MM

Another ‘well crafted scenario’?

The Syrian government should get the Nobel prize for Best Scenarios.

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May 23rd, 2012, 8:54 pm

 

77. zoo said:

Syria’s New Jihadis
Meet the terrorist group that’s ruining the revolution.
BY AARON Y. ZELIN | MAY 22, 2012
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/05/22/syrias_new_jihadis

Syria suffered its worst terror attack in decades this month when two car bombs exploded near a military intelligence branch in Damascus, killing 55 people and wounding hundreds more. Syria’s state-run news agency was quick to publish gruesome pictures of the victims of the attack, which President Bashar al-Assad’s regime pinned on “foreign-backed terrorist groups.”

At first, the Syrian regime seemed to have evidence to back up its case. On May 12, a video was distributed on YouTube, purportedly from a Palestinian branch of the jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusrah (“The Victory Front” or JN), claiming credit for the attack. But the release turned out to be a fake: On May 14, JN released a statement denying that it was behind the video. At the same time, it did not deny conducting the attack. Rather, JN’s media outlet said it had yet to hear from JN’s military commanders if they perpetrated the bombings.

Whether or not JN was involved in the Damascus attack, the organization has become a real force in recent weeks — and one that threatens to undermine the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the loose network of defectors and local militia fighting the government. Its main goals are to awaken Muslims to the atrocities of the Assad regime, and eventually take control of the state and implement its narrow and puritanical interpretation of Islamic law. To that end, in the past month alone, JN has perpetrated a series of suicide bombings and IED strikes — and the pace of attacks seems to be growing.
more..

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May 23rd, 2012, 8:59 pm

 

78. zoo said:

Colonial threads combine to strangle a sectarian Syria

Charles Glass
May 23, 2012
http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/comment/colonial-threads-combine-to-strangle-a-sectarian-syria#page2
…..
The rebellion against tyranny is turning into a sectarian and class war that could destroy Syria for a generation and drive out those with the talent, education or money to thrive elsewhere. Neither side speaks of conciliation. The end game for both requires the destruction of the other. Foreign backers appear to encourage confrontation, when they should seek agreement to save Syria from the fate of its neighbours Lebanon and Iraq.

A glimmer of hope came from the former World Bank economist Nabil Sukkar. “The opposition is not going to retreat,” he told me in Damascus. “The stalemate could last to 2014.” Bashar Al Assad’s term of office ends that year, when Dr Sukkar believes he could stand down without losing face or having his Alawite community punished.

He continued, “For [Kofi] Annan to succeed, there has to be compromise from both sides. The regime must stop killing, and the opposition must stop smuggling [arms]. And foreigners must stop sending arms. Then there can be a ceasefire and a transition government.” However unlikely that seems today, it could work if Russia and Iran compel the regime and the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar push the opposition to achieve it. Otherwise, Syrian will fight Syrian – just as the Lebanese did – in what the respected Lebanese journalist Ghassan Tueini called “a war for the others”.

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May 23rd, 2012, 9:02 pm

 

79. zoo said:

La Syrie, nouvelle terre d’élection des djihadistes

Par Georges Malbrunot
22/05/2012 | Mise à jour : 16:02

Plusieurs centaines de combattants étrangers ont afflué pour renverser le régime de Bachar el-Assad. Parmi eux, des Français, dont cinq ont été arrêtés au Liban. Leur présence fait redouter une implantation d’al-Qaida dans un pays à la dérive.

De notre envoyé spécial à Tripoli (Liban) Vétéran du djihad, cheikh Saadedine Ghia, 50 ans, fait régulièrement l’aller-retour entre sa résidence tripolitaine du Liban-Nord et le champ de bataille syrien, à quelques kilomètres de là. «Avant l’aube, je traverse…
more..

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May 23rd, 2012, 9:15 pm

 

80. Aldendeshe said:

56. Antoine said:
Assef Shawkat is dead and he was buried today in Madhale in Tartous. Even today, the regime has not offically denied or disputed his death. They have denied the deaths of the others, but they are still silent about Assef Shawkat. There is no “sign of life” so to speak.

12 9
__________________________________________________________________

This is doubtful, considering the fact that my grandmother/ grandfather owned this village. I own large tracks in it, and so as many of my cousins inherited as well.

But here is a true real life story from a summer Madhele, swear to you is true. This is the only part I remember about Madhale, never forgot it, the grandma village house of black stones and outside in 1958, then just 5 years of age, the Lebanese first Civil War erupt and Shamoon was vilified in Syria as Israeli puppet. The kids were building piles of black granite stones in a rectangle resembling a grave to bury Israel and the Jews. I was so infuriated by their stupidity and their misdeed, all afternoon, feeling terrible about what they did, not approving, waited till evening and when all having dinner, stepped out and leveled the grave down. Later, the kids upset complained and my Mother after listening to as why I did so, she commanded me.

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May 23rd, 2012, 10:01 pm

 

81. zoo said:

As it seems Turkey has a leverage and influence over the armed gangs, it is now responsible for their abuses.

Turkey sought in hostage case
http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-sought-in-hostage-case.aspx?pageID=238&nID=21487&NewsCatID=338

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News

Lebanese leaders have asked Turkey to help mediate to secure the release of 11 Lebanese Shiites allegedly kidnapped in Syria, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour held separate phone conversations with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu late May 22 to help free the Lebanese group, which was on its way home from a religious pilgrimage in Iran when Syrian rebels abducted them.

The Lebanese leaders and the Turkish minister also discussed the reasons behind the incidents that have been extending the Syrian conflict into Lebanon, a Turkish official told the Daily News.

The Lebanese foreign minister said yesterday that authorities had located the 11 Lebanese pilgrims and that he expected they would be released soon. The pilgrims were abducted by “a splinter group of the armed Syrian opposition,” Mansour said, adding that he had been in touch with a number of Arab officials and his Turkish counterpart to try to secure the captives’ return to Lebanon.

Syria’s state news agency blamed rebels for the kidnapping, while Lebanon’s state news agency said the rebel Free Syrian Army, which is seeking the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, had abducted 13 pilgrims in the northern province of Aleppo.

Arabic-language Asharq Alawsat yesterday quoted Mustafa al-Sheikh, a former Syrian general exiled to Turkey who claims to have influence over rebels on the ground, as saying his Free Syrian Army was not behind the kidnapping.

In a written statement yesterday, the Syrian National Council condemned the kidnapping of pilgrims and demanded their immediate release. “As we consulted with Free Syrian Army representatives in Aleppo, they [said they] had nothing [to do] with the abduction of the Lebanese group,” a member of the council told the Daily News yesterday. The Syrian administration may have kidnapped the pilgrims in order to raise tensions within Lebanon, he added.

The families of the abducted Lebanese Shiites blocked roads in mainly Shiite neighborhoods of Beirut, demanding the release of men they said were being held captive by Syrian rebels.

Relatives of those being held said the rebels who seized the bus carrying the pilgrims set the women and elderly men free, but held 13 men to demand the release of insurgents.

more..

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May 23rd, 2012, 11:01 pm

 

82. zoo said:

Massive strike… in Turkey

Turkish public workers go on landmark strike

ISTANBUL /ANKARA
Following a disagreement between the government and unions over workers’ wages, thousands of public workers go on a one-day strike all across Turkey
more..
http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-public-workers-go-on-landmark-strike.aspx?pageID=238&nID=21472&NewsCatID=339

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May 23rd, 2012, 11:05 pm

 

83. Juergen said:

DIGGING FOR GOLD IN BOSRA

Well someone who has a nice apartment cant be such a bad person after all right? Nice way of seeing life.

Irritated

You know at times Stalin and Hitler were nominated by some lunatic persons for the nobel peace price, go ahead why dont you form an comittee to pursue a nobel peace price for your beloved leader?

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May 24th, 2012, 12:38 am

 

84. omen said:

food

Areeha, an agricultural city 50 kilometers southwest of Aleppo and 15 kilometers from the provincial capital Idleb is an important city in terms of produce output. Areeha’s residents grow olives, cherries, apricots and almonds, their produce sold across the country is also an important exporter to Turkey.

[...]

On May 6 a farmer walked up to checkpoint and asked permission to tend his farm. He was allowed through along with a young aide. He was discovered dead with a bullet wound in his head later in the day. Activists said that the same soldiers who allowed him to go his farm opened fire, killing him and injuring his aide. Such incidents still occur in Areeha but less frequently since the monitors’ last visit.

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May 27th, 2012, 9:03 pm

 

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