“Al-Qaeda’s Governance Strategy in Raqqa,” by Chris Looney

Al-Qaeda’s Governance Strategy in Raqqa
by Chris Looney (Syria analyst working in DC: clooney@colgate.edu – twitter @looney_89)
For Syria Comment
December 8,2013

Armenian Church in Raqqa converted into an Islamic Missionary Center.

  • “Every 15 minutes someone poured water on me, electrocuted me, kicked me, and then walked out,” says one activist in an interview with CNN.
  • “They beat me with a rifle and with their hands when they arrested me,” says another in a conversation with BBC. “And they threw a wheel on my back so I couldn’t move.

Such is the situation in Raqqa, a city in northeastern Syria with approximately one million inhabitants now under control of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the most powerful Al Qaeda (AQ) affiliate currently operating in Syria.

Since ISIS came to power in May, its abuse of Raqqa’s citizens has been well documented. It has begun to enforce its extreme interpretation of Islam upon the city’s residents, forcing women to “cover their beauty,” banning tobacco products, and brutally repressing dissident voices.

On the surface, this violence appears to be indiscriminate and irrational. Yet, it is also organized and tactical. For a group that has never before fully controlled a large city, the transition from insurgent to administrator has hardly been smooth. Still, ISIS has managed to develop a robust, systemic strategy of governance for Raqqa that links the city to sister strongholds in Iraq. Through the control of goods and services, ISIS has made the city’s residents dependent on it. As intricate as it is oppressive, this strategy is serving ISIS well; ISIS has consolidated its authority in Raqqa as it expands its reach over much of eastern Syria and Iraq.

ISIS Gains Control

Raqqa remained relatively calm throughout the first two years of the revolution. A city with roughly 240,000 residents before the war, the population quickly swelled to one million as refugees fled the escalating conflict. Still, strong ties between local tribal leaders and the regime ensured stability in the province, allowing Assad to retain control despite committing minimal forces to the region. Thus, as support for Damascus eroded and rebel forces began to move in towards Raqqa in late February, they were able to take the city with relative ease.

As the first provincial capital to fall fully into rebel hands, the March 4 takeover of Raqqa was a significant step forward for the opposition. The victors were a contingent of rebel battalions that included Ahfad al-Rasul, a moderate Islamist group with strong ties to the Western-backed Supreme Military Council (SMC), Jabhat al-Wahdet al-Tahrir al-Islamiyya, a small regiment of local militias, and Ahrar al-Sham, a powerful Salafist brigade.

Looming among them was another group active in the campaign to liberate Raqqa that was perhaps more formidable than the other three combined. Jabhat al-Nusra (JN), at the time the only AQ affiliate fighting in Syria, would soon exert its authority in the city.

Bolstered by deep pockets and a strong alliance with Ahrar al-Sham, JN pushed forth a strict Islamic agenda. Despite this and its subsequent record of civil and human rights abuses, the group at least managed to avoid alienating the entire community. Speaking to The Telegraph, one storeowner put it simply. “I like Jabhat,” he said. “They are better than the regime at any rate.

A big reason for this was JN’s deep local ties. Even with its links to AQ, which were not made public until April, many of the group’s fighters were still Syrian, some even from Raqqa province. Thus, they were able to forge more intimate connections among the community. “They don’t wear face masks,” said one resident while speaking with Syria Deeply. “People have friends who are in al-Nusra.”

Yet Nusra’s rule in Raqqa would be short lived. In April, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, head of what was then known as the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), announced that JN would be merged with ISI to form ISIS.

JN’s leader, Abu Muhammad al-Golani, rejected this union, asserting his group’s independence and, for the first time publicly, swearing allegiance to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the head of AQ. Despite al-Zawahiri’s June order that the two remain separate, al-Baghdadi forged ahead in his attempt to integrate the groups.

In Raqqa he was particularly successful. JN had been formed with strong support from ISI, and a significant number of its fighters had fought in Iraq and remained loyal to al-Baghdadi.

By May, ISIS had lured away many of JN’s forces in Raqqa. This, combined with an influx of foreigners as ISIS made its way into Syria, cemented al-Baghdadi’s takeover. The group celebrated its victory with the execution of three Alawites in a town square on May 14.

The ar-Raqqa executions ~ Confirmation of the Islamic State in Iraq and as-Sham

As ISIS solidified its authority, the violence only increased. Protests became a nightly ritual throughout the summer, reaching a crescendo in mid-August when ISIS responded to a gathering by firing rocket-propelled grenades into the crowd. While JN had clashed with the more moderate brigades in Raqqa, ISIS turned these disputes into a verifiable war. The group used a series of four suicide car bombings to take out the leadership of Ahfad al-Rasul, a battalion that enjoyed strong support from the local population. It even squabbled with JN in an attempt to assert itself as the sole legitimate AQ affiliate in the city.

By late September, many battalions had resorted to an alliance with JN, believing it to be the only force left in the city still capable of countering ISIS. But this had little effect, as ISIS retained control and by November had received pledges from 14 local tribes, presumably out of fear. As one activist glumly put it in an interview with Syria Deeply – “We have a saying in Arabic. The hand that you cannot beat: kiss it, and pray that it breaks.”

The Governance Strategy of ISIS

ISIS shows no signs of weakening in Northern and Eastern Syria. On the contrary, because of its strategy of governing ISIS has grown stronger in the face of increased opposition to its rule.

ISIS placed greater importance on asserting full control over the city than on winning the goodwill of the populace. It solidified its rule through intimidation, rather than the more diplomatic means that Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) had employed. This strategy was evident by the public executions of May 14 that the group used to announce its presence. From that day, ISIS began to arrest dissidents. It currently holds approximately 1,500 prisoners in Raqqa, often mistreating and torturing them.

A pillar of this crackdown has been the Islamification of the city. Christians, who have a long history in Raqqa and who made up 10% of its population before the war, were not aggressively persecuted under JN. Though churches were closed and services suspended, families were able to remain and continue their lives unmolested.

Yet as ISIS gained control, violence against Christians increased. The group held public bible burnings, destroyed churches, and kidnapped priests, causing most of the city’s Christians to flee.

Despite the ensuing backlash, these actions did achieve a significant strategic objective for ISIS, an organization that makes no pretense about preserving minority rights. By expelling Christians, it has paved the way for a series of indoctrination programs that aim to promote both religious purity and the AQ principles through youth reeducation and a careful manipulation of civil society.

For ISIS, this is a long term strategy. The group seems confident in its ability to maintain power for an extended period of time, and while it is comfortable sustaining its rule through coercion in the short term, ISIS has also engineered a series of initiatives aimed at rebuilding its reputation among the community.

In addition to writing textbooks for schools, ISIS has sought to reframe itself as part of the mainstream revolution, countering the widely held belief among locals that it either collaborates with the regime or is made up primarily of foreigners who have no connection to Syria. Many of its prisoners are labeled as regime sympathizers, and the Alawite population has been driven from the city.

In addition, it has targeted media outlets in an attempt to control the flow of information. In early November, the Raqqa Information Center (RIC) shut its doors after one of its correspondents was beaten and “accused of treason and espionage.” In casting the RIC as hostile towards the revolution and implying a connection with the regime, ISIS has continued in its bid to reposition itself as liberators moving the city forward into the post-Assad era rather than as an occupying force regressing to autocracy.

The shutdown of the RIC and other media outlets has also served to somewhat isolate Raqqa from the rest of Syria. Though residents still have many other ways to access information, the media blackouts have been reinforced by other actions designed to create an environment where Raqqans are increasingly dependent on ISIS for basic goods and services. In September, ISIS closed the only remaining foreign exchange office in Raqqa, which had allowed money to be sent into the province from abroad. The group also controls the majority of wheat and oil coming into the city and provides food relief packages to families throughout the region. As this dependence increases, ISIS undoubtedly hopes it can transform it into loyalty and gain popularity among the community.

In implementing this strategy of dependence, ISIS has also expanded the connection between the territory it controls in eastern Syria and its strongholds in Iraq. For an organization that does not recognize colonial borders, fusing the two regions is of key strategic importance as it works towards the establishment of an Islamic emirate. The flow of funding from Iraq into Syria has been a source of strength for ISIS, allowing it to outpace rival opposition groups. Through extortion and other criminal techniques, ISIS is able to raise an estimated $8 million a month in Mosul alone.

By using this funding to take advantage of poorly governed territories in Raqqa, eastern Syria, and Anbar province, ISIS has carved out a safe haven from which it has the ability to conduct external operations. Although ISIS may be focused on consolidating its rule locally and expanding its sway within Syria and Iraq for the time being, attacking the West remains a long term strategic objective.


Since its takeover of Raqqa in May, ISIS has employed a governance strategy that has focused on solidifying its rule through intimidation, creating an economy of dependence, and seeking to integrate eastern Syria with its strongholds in Iraq

In this regard it has been highly successful. Yet its hostility towards minority groups, draconian legal system, and brutal repression of dissidents has generated a significant backlash, severely undermining the group’s credibility and keeping it from being seen as a legitimate part of the opposition. Because of this, ISIS’ current governance strategy is likely unsustainable.

Still, ISIS thrives on instability, and as the Syrian war reaches its 1,000th day with no end in sight, the group is likely to be able to maintain its hold in Raqqa. Whether it can learn from its mistakes remains to be seen, but absent a dramatic shift in the trajectory of the conflict, ISIS is here to stay.

Comments (425)

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401. zoo said:

The Guided Kingdom’s only export: Oil and Terrorists

Iraqi expert: 60% of gunmen fighting in Iraq come from KSA

Follow -up (IraqiNews.com) The expert in the Iraqi Security Affairs Saeed al-Jaiyashi assured that almost 60% of the gunmen who entered Iraq between 2005-2008 were of Saudi nationality, noting that “the statements of the secretary general of Hizbullah, Hasan Nasrallah, and the representative of Syria at the UN, Bashar al-Jaafary, confirm that this case is repeated in Lebanon and Syria.”

Read more: http://www.iraqinews.com/baghdad-politics/iraqi-expert-0-of-gunmen-fighting-in-iraq-come-from-ksa/#ixzz2nSEx6iDi
Follow us: @IraqiNews_com on Twitter | IraqNews on Facebook

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December 14th, 2013, 8:13 am


402. Observer said:

SL thanks for the note.

In reality this is an indictment of the one party rule of more than 60 years that failed miserably in every corner and every aspect of governance in Syria:

Education: many a sixth grader in Syria cannot read or write because of the policy of automatic advancement regardless of performance, a policy meant to show good statistics.

Defense: A defeat in 73 and a complete cease fire since then without any attempt to recover the land. Inability to defend against repeated raids and inability to preserve the armed forces for external threats.

Economy: collapse of the previous regime that at least provided some modicum of support to the millions now revolting and a transformation of the economy into the personal fiefdom of a family

Infrastructure: Projects that came about for a so called economic boom that remained agricultural based and without any prospect of improvement. Even oil exploration was halted because no company could do business with so much corruption.

Health: crumbling health system and a water supply system that is to this day without purification leading to endemic cholera and parasitic infestation of the food supply.

So, what happens when you have a failed state is a return to the family clan sect ethnicity group identity to support you. A best example is the system in Lebanon whereby if you want to get an education you have to get it from the office of this or that sect leader. Likewise, I know for a fact that 90% of all higher education posts in Syria were distributed according to sectarian basis and not on merit.

So once you have an identification on sectarian basis, it is almost by definition an exclusivist one. Let us take the Iranian constitution that posits that sovereignty belongs to God not to the people; that the rule is based on that of the supreme jurisprudent and that the Shia creed is the basis of legislative laws. In this it automatically excludes Jews for example or Armenians. So what is an Iranian if he is not muslim? What is the identity of the citizen around which everyone agrees upon and on which the rule of law is based to keep the country in a cohesive state?

Let us also take Iraq. The Arab Nationalists all accuse the US correctly that it came into Iraq to bring in democracy and left with a sectarian based constitution. Well the reality is that the previous regime has so badly oppressed the minorities and the majority that both wanted in the new constitution a guarantee of their sectarian based rights. The Kurds did not want any central power that would oppress them again, the Shia never wanted a regime that killed their leaders and Iran never wanted another strong Iraq to threaten it again. So the US screwed up as usual and yet now the country is in the hands of its people it is up to them to rewrite the constitution but alas the state is so weak that only a reverting to the sect will do.

Many on this and other blogs lament that the fate of the minorities in the ME is threatened. I share fully their apprehension and I think it would be a tragedy and a catastrophe that after living together for millennia we cannot accept each other any longer. But let us be frank with each other about this as well.

First, when the Ottoman state weakened in the 19th century it actually scapegoated the minorities and the minorities fate was and continues to be used as an excuse for outside christian powers to intervene as Russia does today for example.

So, the minorities espoused fully the Arab National Movement as in it they could find a place that would supersede the Muslim identity that was the glue of the Ottoman empire ( in disguise or otherwise is not important ) and in it they can find a citizenship whereby the minority status would dissolve fully.

In this Nationalism many Sunnis and Shias agreed fully but for this idea to take hold and to grow a functioning governance of some sorts was an absolute necessity and in this the failure is complete. Statist Security Regimes were established in Egypt and Syria and Jordan and to a certain extent in Lebanon and more so in Iraq. Socialist based economically centralized states that did not even go through an industrial revolution brought a complete disaster as well impoverishing many and stifling free enterprise. The defeat became complete with the abject 67 war that resulted in all three armies not only defeated but completely destroyed and Israel expand its area several fold and in control of water resources and maritime routes.

Last but not least, I would like to remind my fellow minority conscious people that the minorities themselves failed totally and miserably in also proving to the majorities that they are full fledged honest compatriots that are fully integrated into the fabric of our societies: the Maronites in Lebanon initiated the civil war and allied themselves with the Israelis in bringing destruction on the country, the Shia which are the largest minority in Lebanon have a proportion of them fully under the control of the supreme leader; the Sunnis in Iraq in the late years of Saddam oppressed Kurds and Shias alike and the Baath with its many Shia members became the instrument of a clan and a family; the Alawi rule in Syria consolidated fully the apparatus of governance around the sect and the sect only. The Druze serve in special battalions in the Israeli Army and as border guards are notorious for being extremely harsh on the Sunnis of Palestine ( not the Christians by the way ).

So when the minorities lament the rise of sectarianism they are partly to blame. Again and again I will say it: the minorities wanted the majority to be secular while they retained their minority based identity and privileges.

So I am a pessimist and at times a cynic. I am tired of the people of the ME continue to blame others for their ills. For the Iraqis to stick with the flawed constitution that they have means to me eternal conflict, for the Syrian regime to blame the KSA for its ills means eternal abdication of responsibility, for the Christians to continue to live with fear instead of hope means eternal dissociation from the communities they live in.

As a matter of fact, the Zionist entity’s ability to have a Jewish Homeland is now the envy of the minorities. All of them without an exception lament the fact that they cannot carve out a state for themselves because of the population mixing.

One of my cousins said that the Syrian National State is the ideal solution whereby the people of the Fertile Crescent join together as Syrians and in such a state, there is only minorities no single majority. There is not enough of anyone to claim a majority. So I challenged him in writing a constitution for such a state. I do so to all on this blog as well.

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December 14th, 2013, 8:36 am


403. alan said:

/I was just getting ready to set up a JCC there for the hebrews flocking to all those Saudi air bases/
Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Salman bin-Sultan Al Saud and two other officers secretly visited Israel, according to reports by the Palestinian news portal al-Manar and Israeli radio.

Bin-Sultan, who is the brother of Saudi Arabia’s spy chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, “met Israeli security leaders” and one of the “Israeli military bases accompanied by a senior member of the Israeli staff board”, the al-Manar report said, quoting “confidential sources”.

On November 17, the British newspaper The Sunday Times reported that Riyadh has given the go-ahead for Israeli planes to use its airspace for possible attacks on Iran over Tehran’s nuclear energy program.

Riyadh denied the Saudi-Israeli cooperation in preparation for an attack on Iran’s nuclear program.

who dares?

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December 14th, 2013, 8:44 am


404. habib said:

“So when the minorities lament the rise of sectarianism they are partly to blame. Again and again I will say it: the minorities wanted the majority to be secular while they retained their minority based identity and privileges.”

Bollocks. What privileges? And what identity? Who asked Sunnis to cease identifying as Sunnis? One thing is being religious, another thing is to be a raving fanatic.

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December 14th, 2013, 9:32 am


405. zoo said:

The kidnapped Syrian nuns to be exchanged for emprisonned Saudis jihadists? Why are the opposition and its ‘allies’ not intervening to free the nuns?

Syrian government negotiating with rebels to free seized nuns: activists

BEIRUT — The Syrian government is negotiating with rebels to release 12 nuns seized earlier this month from a convent north of Damascus, two activists said on Saturday. The rebels are demanding that hundreds of imprisoned women activists be freed in exchange for the nuns, they said.

Reports of local cease-fires and other short-term deals have become more common as Syria’s three-year-old civil war drags on, but talks leading to prisoner exchanges still appear to be rare.

The negotiations were also confirmed by a Syrian opposition activist who requested anonymity, as he was discussing talks conducted by other parties. He said the rebels were also demanding the release of imprisoned Saudi Arabian nationals captured while fighting for the opposition.

Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/world/syrian-government-negotiating-with-rebels-to-free-seized-nuns-activists-1.1592314#ixzz2nT2yaSoC

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December 14th, 2013, 11:37 am


406. zoo said:


Who is whining and complaining that they are powerless victims and haven’t stopped calling and begging other countries in all possible channels to intervene to help them?

In the last 3 years, I don’t recall having seen any Syrian minority leader calling a foreign country for help.

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December 14th, 2013, 11:57 am


407. zoo said:

By welcoming the Islamists fighters to help ‘topple’ Bashar al Assad, the opposition have brought a disaster on them and on Syria

Growing strength of Syria’s Islamist groups undermines hopes of ousting Assad


The west is being forced to rethink its support for rebel alliance in civil war as forces linked to al-Qaida gain ground

What is already happening, according to some accounts, is discreet talks with some more moderate groups in the Islamic Front, which reportedly took place in Turkey, headed by US envoy Robert Ford, who travelled to London on Friday to consult with other western backers of the Syrian opposition, including the UK.

In a further development yesterday – underlining the rapidly changing dynamics of the conflict – a rebel commander with the Islamic Front told Reuters they would be talking with US officials in Turkey this week, perhaps incluidng Ford, to seek an agreement on arms supply and co-ordination in areas controlled by the front. That followed an announcement on Friday in London that the Islamic Front would be invited to join the opposition delegation to the Geneva talks.

Jane Kinninmont of the foreign policy thinktank Chatham House:
“Assad is making advances, he has presented himself as a partner with the west in getting rid of his chemical weapons, and is promising elections. With the rising concern over the Islamist factions, and no prospect of outside military intervention, the levers that could be used to remove him are disappearing.”

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December 14th, 2013, 12:18 pm


408. zoo said:

The Islamic Front dealing with the USA is modelled on the “Prophet Mohammad temporary and tactical truces with enemy tribes “. Will the USA play the game?

Syrian Islamist rebels to meet US officials: Opposition sources
Reuters , Saturday 14 Dec 2013


Syrian rebel commanders from the Islamic Front which seized control of bases belonging to Western-backed rebels last week are due to hold talks with US officials in Turkey in coming days, rebel and opposition sources said on Saturday.

The expected contacts between Washington and the radical fighters reflect the extent to which the Islamic Front alliance has eclipsed the more moderate Free Syrian Army brigades – which Western and Arab powers tried in vain to build into a force able to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

The talks could also decide the future direction of the Islamic Front, which is engaged in a standoff with yet more radical Sunni Muslim fighters from the al Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

A rebel fighter with the Islamic Front said he expected the talks in Turkey to discuss whether the United States would help arm the front and assign to it responsibility for maintaining order in the rebel-held areas of northern Syria.

Contacts with the United States will not be undertaken lightly by the Islamic Front, which includes Salafi groups such as Ahrar al-Sham brigades which are mainly hostile to the West and have rejected US-Russian backed U.N. peace talks for Syria, due to be held in Switzerland next month.

But their leaders have compared engaging with Washington to the Prophet Mohammad’s temporary and tactical truces with enemy tribes as he built up his power.

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December 14th, 2013, 12:30 pm


409. Tara said:

Observer # 404

Zoo does not recall minority leaders asking for foreign help.

He does not recall Assad ( Alawi leader) surrendering the country sovereignty to Iran and to HA. He does not recall Christian leaders begging the western “Christian conscience” to keep Batta in power. He does not recall the freaky sister from Hell Fadia aka Agnus going in a state-sponsored visit to Israel to drum up help!

Is this inability to remember an an act of dementia or an act of lying ?

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December 14th, 2013, 12:52 pm


410. alan said:

— No one is expecting a tank invasion of Saudi Arabia anytime soon, but the kingdom just put in a huge order for U.S.-made anti-tank missiles that has Saudi-watchers scratching their heads and wondering whether the deal is related to Riyadh’s support for the Syrian rebels. – See more at:

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December 14th, 2013, 1:00 pm


411. Uzair8 said:

Sleeping with the fishes


I knew Riad Hijab reminded me of someone. After all this time it’s come to me.

Luca Brasi.

Don did you send him? You think you could fool us? Call him off please!

Revolutionaries be careful, he’s possibly armed and wearing body armour (vest).

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December 14th, 2013, 1:00 pm


412. Uzair8 said:

Don look away now. Actually your view on this would be welcome.

Saw this story on Shiachat.

Jerusalem Post:

Israel Prefers Assad Over Islamists In Syria

Israel’s preference is for President Bashar Assad to remain in power rather than see radical Islamist forces take control in Syria, the former military chief of staff is quoted in Wednesday’s edition of the daily tabloid Ma’ariv as saying.

Dan Halutz, who served as IDF chief of staff during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, told a gathering in Moscow that the prospect of al-Qaida-affiliated elements ruling Damascus in place of the Assad regime would be more problematic from Jerusalem’s standpoint…



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December 14th, 2013, 1:06 pm


413. ALAN said:

Syria: Unravelling the Truth. Ottawa Conference with Michel Chossudovsky and Atif Kubursi, December 15
Ottawa City Hall, Jean Pigott Hall, 110 Laurier Ave.E.
Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013

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December 14th, 2013, 1:15 pm


414. Uzair8 said:


No more arms race!

‘I hope the Russians love their children too.’

A brilliant song from Sting equally critical of Soviet Union and the US.

‘We share the same biology
regardless of ideology’

Sting – Russians

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December 14th, 2013, 1:20 pm


415. Uzair8 said:

Yesterday I talked about North Korea being a frightening place to live in. Later on the radio I heard a discussion on the recent developments from there and heard how the young leader was following in the footsteps of his predecessors in carrying out purges, playing one (individual/faction) against another. Eventually purging all of them one by one.

Imagine being an officer in such a regime. You must know eventually your time will come, even if you may be in favour currently. If one wanted to avoid such an ‘inevitable’ fate can you get out? Are you stuck? Scary thought.

Would they let you leave? Can you just knock on your superiors door and say ‘I fancy a change in career. I hope you understand.’

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December 14th, 2013, 1:32 pm


416. ALAN said:

There is no alternative for “Night Hunter”! It’s fantastic!

КА-50 КА-52 Beauties!


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December 14th, 2013, 1:48 pm


417. SANDRO LOEWE said:

Assad mafia in Dubai should be executed by legal or unlegal means.

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December 14th, 2013, 1:53 pm


418. Uzair8 said:

This polar snowstorm will hamper the regime so called ‘offensive.’

The rebel capture of Adra was timely. The regime and hezbo reinforcements claimed to be heading there will now struggle to do so. Rebels will presumably have time to dig in now.

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December 14th, 2013, 3:13 pm


419. zoo said:

Can Israel and Qatar learn to be friends again?


The world’s richest country had relations with Israel until 2009. In a shifting Middle East, alliances can always be revived

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December 14th, 2013, 3:50 pm


420. zoo said:

A look at the Islamists groups, their ideologie and achievements: Al Nusra and ISIS

Opinion: The “Exile” and “Separation” of Syria’s Islamist Groups

If we were to study the declared beliefs of Syria’s jihadist groups, we would soon be struck by the fact that the main jihadist groups have not, in fact, revealed a clearly defined ideology. They are content with a highly professional media rhetoric, which has focused on their unrivaled military capability in their fight against the Syrian Army, while deliberately and consistently obscuring the political and social aims of their fight. Indeed, they are content to murmur vaguely about two organically linked principles: nusra and ghurba.

In this context, and contrary to how it would initially appear, Baghdadi’s “state” appears to be drowning in its ghurba, whereas the strategy of the Al-Nusra Front appears closer to achieving the aims of ISIS.

But given the severity of the social destruction in Syria, the engrossment of the leaders of the conflict in local power struggles, and their lack of concern for their supposed popular base, it has become impossible to talk about the real needs of society. Yet these war games and power struggles will render the leaders of the conflict nothing more than ineffectual warlords presiding over a devastated country.

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December 14th, 2013, 9:14 pm


421. zoo said:

Sharia law imposed in Christian village in Syria


(AGI) Damascus, Dec 14 – Salafi and Al Qaeda terrorists of Jabhat al Nousra went to the parish priest of the Christian village of Kanaye’, on the banks of the Orontes river in the Idlib Governorate, northern Syria, and ordered him not to toll the bells. They said it was forbidden for women to go out in the streets, even to go to church, and that they must wear an Islamic veil if they leave the house. The terrorists threatened to kill them all should they fail to obey, sources of the Syrian Christian community told AGI, adding that the people of Christian villages had already experienced this over a year ago. . .

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December 14th, 2013, 9:22 pm


422. zoo said:

It’s Putin vs Bandar Bush on the Syrian chessboard


Everyone remembers the spectacular four-and-a-half hour meeting last August in Moscow between President Putin and Bandar Bush — aka Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi Arabia’s Director of National Intelligence.

Well, there was a remix last week, also in Moscow. And once again in absolute secrecy, until a formidable leak from “a close and reliable source” in Russia reached Lebanese newspaper al-Manar.

Bandar Bush’s first offensive was a disaster; not only did Putin rebuff his attempt to “bribe” Moscow into abandoning Damascus, but subsequently Russia was pivotal in preventing the Obama administration from bombing Syria.

Now Bandar Bush has “offered” softer terms. After all, Saudi Arabia is on board with the Geneva-2 peace conference scheduled for January 22 — although it didn’t used to be. President Bashar Assad may remain in Damascus during this period, but real power should be transferred to an interim government headed by the “opposition” (which opposition is open to speculation; certainly the “rebels” controlled by Riyadh).

Moreover, Bandar Bush expects Russia to pressure Assad not to call for a 2014 presidential election. According to the Syrian constitution, a new constitution should be written and approved during the interim government and only then elections should be called — with Assad excluded. If Moscow abides, Saudi Arabia will be more than willing to “contribute” to the cost of rebuilding Syria (which it helped destroy via financed/weaponized mercenaries).

Leaving aside the mind-boggling spectacle of the House of Saud’s medieval paradise dictating the terms for the future of a third country, President Putin’s answer can be summarized as a model of restraint.

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December 14th, 2013, 9:26 pm


423. zoo said:

The expat opposition funded, guided and advised by Qatar, Turkey, France, the UK and the US is now officially in “great difficulty”. Surprise?


Fabius dampened expectations on the Swiss talks
and acknowledged for the first time that Syria’s moderate opposition was in trouble.

“Bashar al-Assad says he will send representatives to Geneva. While Mr Assad has a lot of faults, he is not an idiot … we can’t see why he would hand over all his powers. As for the opposition that we support, it is in great difficulty,” Fabius said.

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December 14th, 2013, 9:42 pm


424. Observer said:

Tara and SL

Here is the NYT today with the news that a prominent cleric has issued a call for Shia to go fight in Syria from his place in Qom. He is Iraqi and is claiming that the fight is for the defense of………. Islam.

So we now have a most prominent cleric asking his followers to go defend Islam in Syria and be allies with a supposedly secular state fighting Islamist Jihadi fighters.

Here is the article

Now this is not made in Zionist land or CIA basement or in some MI6 conspiracy. It is made in Iraq-Iran and the 50 year Sunni Shia war is off to a good start.

As for asking for help; our historian in residence has actually told us before my dear Tara that
1. He wished the collaboration with the Crusaders was deeper

2. He admits that the ancestor asked France to grant them a state

3. The Sykes Picot agreements came to the fore when the Bolsheviks wanted to payback the English and French showing that they always wanted to carve out the Ottoman empire.

4. The various communities have asked for protection each from its patron country the Orthodox from Russia and the Protestants from Britain and the Catholics from France and Italy.

Once again no one really reads carefully what I write and if they do they really do not seem to understand. I wonder whether my prose is at fault.

There is no question that the Ottomans ruled with oppression. There is no question that minorities suffered. There is no question that minority rule like the Sunni in Iraq or the Sunni in Bahrain has failed in bringing in a modern state. But the worst failures are those of Maronite minority rule in Lebanon and Alawi rule in Syria whereby the opportunity to usher in a modern state and a true Arab Secular Identity for after all they were champions of Arab Nationalism has failed totally because the previous oppressive period has rendered them immune to modernity and immune to transcendence.

They will have a resentful Sunni population for 50 generations

Now for the record I do not know if God exists and I do not think for one second that the religions of the world today offer any explanation but they do offer strife and intolerance unfortunately.

I see no end in sight. I just finished watching Al Ikhabaria from the regime side. Things are not going well at all for them these days.

For the cleric in Qom to issue an edict to go fight in Syria is telling.

Let us see what the IRGC will do.

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December 15th, 2013, 10:39 am


425. living and working in dammam saudi arabia said:

Saudi is a fairly relaxed place in actuality and you’ll be on the entire pretty much ignored
in the malls etc by the locals as long as you are not breaking any
of their many guidelines.

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May 19th, 2016, 4:15 am


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