Posted by Joshua on Monday, November 21st, 2011
MSNBC: Syria’s Assad vows to continue crackdown despite Arab League pressure
2011-11-20 01:19:11.139 GMT
Arab League Peace Effort in Syria Appears at Impasse
BY: Patrick J. McDonnell | Los Angeles Times
An Arab initiative to end violence in Syria appeared at an impasse Sunday, as Damascus and Arab foreign ministers failed to agree on a formula that would allow monitors into the country.
Syrian Rebel Group Claims Attack on Ruling Party Office in Damascu
BY: Hannah Allam | McClatchy Newspapers
Rocket-propelled grenades reportedly struck a Damascus office of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s Baath Party before dawn Sunday, the first attack of its kind in the capital since an anti-government uprising began last spring.
The SNC has finally issued it’s proposed “plan”. This comes three months after the Tayyar proposal. The SNC agenda claims it is committed to eliminating Syria’s present discrimination of non-Muslims and women. To stay true to this declaration it will have to eliminate article 3 of the constitution:
Article 3 [Islam]
(1) The religion of the President of the Republic has to be Islam.
(2) Islamic jurisprudence is a main source of legislation.
The SNC platform insists that it is committed to “Criminalizing all forms of oppression, exclusionary policies, and discrimination on the basis of ethnic or religious background, or gender.” The Muslim Brotherhood seems not to have had much to do with writing this document. Article 3 was inserted into the constitution after widespread demonstrations in 1973 protesting the Baathist attempt to eliminate special reference to Islam and religion as a basis for selecting the president and informing legislation.
The constitution guarantees national rights for the Kurdish people and a resolution to the Kurdish question in a democratic and fair manner within the framework of the unity of Syrian territory and people, as well as the exercise of rights and responsibilities of equal citizenship among all citizens.
The SNC is now working on a transitional government.
U.S.-based social science professor Amr al-Azm told Reuters: “The Council’s program has good points but the Council is acting like a political party rather than a broad opposition movement.”
The 260-member Syrian National Council, which is leading the opposition against the Assads’ 41-year rule, said a conference will take place in Egypt under the auspices of the Arab League, to bring together political factions and independent figures to plan the transition and set rules for a democratic system. “The opposition is more mature now. It is ready to agree on a common vision,” said SNC spokeswoman Bassma Kodmani.
“The Syrian regime is not isolated internally as many would like to believe. It retains a strong social base of support in major centers like Damascus, Aleppo and Latakia where 60% of the population live,” Gerges said. “There is a real danger that Syria has already descended into a prolonged conflict no one knows its outcome internally and regionally. I don’t see a way out for the Assad regime. Assad has no exit strategy. This is a fight to the bitter end for the family, the clan, with the mentality: either I am going to be killed or I kill my enemy,” Gerges said.
The Syrian government committee to rewrite the constitution claims it will eliminate Article 8, which proclaims the Baath Party the leader of politics and society in Syria.
Syp at 54.80: The Central Bank of Syria sold through an auction some USD 15 million in foreign currencies last week as it attempts to counter pressures on the Syrian Pound.
Syrian opposition leaders belonging to the SNC will hold talks in Montreal on teh 27th of november. Here is the announcement:ا
لأحد الواقع فيه 27 تشرين الثاني بلقاء ينظمه المجلس الوطني في مدينة مونتريال. يتحدث فيه : عبد الباسط سيدا، عفراء الجلبي، عماد الدين رشيد ، هيثم المالح، جودت سعيد ، مرهف جويجاتي، محمّد العبد الله، نبيل شبيب، أسامة القاضي ، توفيق دنيا.
المواضيع المطروحة للنقاش و التحاورهي :
= الأسباب القديمة و الحديثة التي أدّت الى قيام الثورة السوريّة من وجهة النظر القانونية
= مستقبل المنطقة العربية بعد الربيع العربي
= موقع الثورة الشعبية في سورية في الربيع العربي
= جيل الشبيبة: المستقبل و دوره في صناعة حقبة ما بعد الثورة
= العلاقة بين الثورات العربية و الجاليات المغتربة – سوريّة كنموذج
= الاسلاميون و العلمانيون… تاريخ صراع في حقبة استبدادية و مستقبل تنافس في دولة دستورية
= مستقبل العلاقات العربية \ الغربية بعد الثورات العربية بمنظور غربي
Syrian TV had the ministers of electricity and oil on Saturday afternoon.
The most important points expressed by the oil minister were that the tankers going from Homs to Damascus and Aleppo have been attacked several times by terrorists. This supports the report of Syria Comment in my last post. The gas trucks are being stolen or attacked in Homs. Also the pipeline from the refinery in Homs going to Aleppo have been sabotaged or attacked. The pipeline was attacked over a 100 times in Hama province and 280+ times in Idlib province.
He claimed that the amount of mazoot sent to each mohafaza has increased this year from 40-100 percent according to the request of each governor (exept for Homs which witnessed reduced consumption). The other reason is the distribution policies. So their could be corruption there too.
To summarize the reasons for the mazoot crisis:
1-Early cold weather
2-Sabotage and criminal acts
3-Poor distribution policies
5-monopolistic acts by private sector distributors.
Here are a few comments by friends who watched the Oil minister on Syrian TV.
- Syrian subsidizes mazoot by 500 billion syp or $10 billion dollars. This is 20% of gdp. It is the equivalent to the US Subsidizing oil by $2.8 trillion (20% of gdp)
- The Syrian government has been unable to build refineries or upgrade this in over 10 years of planning, which leaves Syria at the mercy of the international community and the EU today. Syria cannot afford to build even one refinery today, which is estimated to cost some $5-7 billion.
- Mazoot in Syria costs only syp = 15. In Lebanon it is Syria syp = 50. In Turkey the cost is syp = 105 Why would a Syria sell it for 15 when he can sell it at 30 to a group of guys who can get it into lebanon and sell it for 40 there or take it to Turkey and sell it for 60 or 70 there? By the way, you cannot find Mazoot at 22-25 as people are now claiming. In Aleppo one now has to pay 30 SYP for a liter of mazoot. People are in line for 3 hours to get 20 liters of mazout. Unbelievable.
What started as peaceful protests in Egypt’s Tahrir Square on Friday have escalated to clashes with security forces spreading to at least seven other cities over the past three days. The protesters are calling for the end of military rule by Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, who have been in power since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. They are criticized for seeking “supra-constitutional” powers in the drafting of a new constitution and for their proposed timetable keeping them in power until 2013. In battles between the army attempting to clear the square of protesters and rock-throwing demonstrators, an estimated 24people have been killed and over 1,700 wounded,
Revolutionary road: Among the Syrian opposition
By Emile Hokayem, Senior Fellow for Regional Security, IISS-Middle East 15/11/2011 11:34:15
After meeting with Assad loyalists and opponents in Lebanon last week, it is clear that the Syrian uprising’s third phase will be not only more violent but could be a decisive one. Free Syrian Army (FSA) commanders told me that they are gearing up for direct confrontation in coming months with the forces loyal to President Assad, regardless of whether they have the support of a foreign intervention.
They say defections are increasing, and a FSA officer boasted to me that men at arms number 17,000 across the country (most go north to the Turkish border, while an estimated 500 are coalescing at the border with Lebanon). Until regional conditions improve to their benefit, FSA commanders told me they are advising sympathisers to delay their defection.
Asked about his level of confidence in the Syrian National Council (SNC), the opposition’s umbrella group, a senior FSA officer said there were contacts but also disagreements because SNC members didn’t understand security matters. He also said that the FSA had to force the SNC to harden its position by threatening to form and announce an independent Syrian Military Council…
The business elites and Sunni urban class of Damascus and Aleppo have not yet deserted the regime. And, arguably thanks to regime manipulation, the uprising is increasingly acquiring a sectarian colouring. ….
The members of the FSA I met or talked to make another case: while they certainly care about the protection of civilians, they argue that only when Assad’s air dominance is eroded can major units defect with all their gear and heavy weaponry and confront the regime’s hardcore loyalists. They say it makes no sense for these would-be defectors to flee with mechanised assets, transport vehicles and command-and-control equipment if this makes them more visible and more vulnerable from the air. They add that a no-fly zone would help them capture and occupy barracks, government buildings, roads and other infrastructure, which they have refrained from doing so until now. To be sure, this military rationale does not align with the logic of humanitarian intervention under the responsibility to protect doctrine that was invoked in Libya…
Guardian (GB): After Syria’s year of revolution, the end of Assad is in sight
By Rana Kabani, 2011-11-21
….I, for one, can remember a Syria…. where religion was still safely lodged in the house where it belonged, along with the wine-coloured prayer rug, the amber rosary and the manuscript Qur’an on its mussadaf stand. A Syria before Jamil Assad – Bashar’s uncle – allowed Iranian officials to enter our borders gleefully with their sackfuls of cash to recompense conversions….
The consequences of 40 years of the policies of Hafez al-Assad and then his son Bashar – which turned our national army into a sectarian mafia family’s private militia, and our state’s coffers into that family’s piggy bank to be raided at whim – have been the tit-for-tat sectarian crime that has so revolted the vast majority of Syrians, who have seen post-occupation Iraq martyred by sectarian killing fields, and the government of Lebanon become hostage to an armed state within a state…. we see the end in sight for the “banality of evil”. It’s been a long and painful time coming.
Maher Arar on the Syrian Conflict video interview by TRNN.
Under pressure to act on syria, Turkey rules out intervention Zaman
20 November 2011, Sunday / CEREN KUMOVA/NOAH BLASER, ANKARA/İSTANBUL
As voices from within Syria’s opposition movement increasingly call for a Turkish “civilian protection” mission in Syria’s eight-month-old conflict, Turkish officials have denied speculation that Turkey is discussing a no-fly zone with opposition groups and say that peaceful methods must first be exhausted in the Syrian conflict.
“There exist no military plans between Turkey and Syrian opposition, and no plans for a Turkish move have even been discussed,” a Turkish official told Sunday’s Zaman. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the fragile nature of a possible military move against Syria, insisted that a possible Turkish mission to intervene in conflict between president Bashar al-Assad and anti-regime protesters was a “one-sided” plan. The official’s words come as opposition forces increasingly called for some form of outside intervention in a conflict that the UN estimates has claimed over 3,500 lives.
Saudi Arabia expands its power as U.S. influence diminishes
By David Ignatius, November 18, Wash Post
Over this year of Arab Spring revolt, Saudi Arabia has increasingly replaced the United States as the key status-quo power in the Middle East — a role that seems likely to expand even more in coming years as the Saudis boost their military and economic spending….
The more-assertive Saudi role has been clear in its open support for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is Iran’s crucial Arab ally. The Saudis were decisive backers of last weekend’s Arab League decision to suspend Syria’s membership (though they also supported the organization’s waffling decision Wednesday to send another mediation team to Damascus). Money is always the Saudis’ biggest resource, and they are planning to spend it more aggressively as a regional power broker — by roughly doubling their armed forces over the next 10 years and spending at least $15 billion annually to support countries weakened economically by this year’s turmoil. …
The Saudi shopping list is a bonanza for U.S. and European arms merchants. That’s especially true of the air force procurement, with the Saudis planning to buy 72 “Eurofighters” from EADS and 84 new F-15s from Boeing. The rationale is containing Iran, whose nuclear ambitions the Saudis strongly oppose. But Riyadh has an instant deterrent ready, too, in the form of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal that the Saudis are widely believed to have helped finance.
Big weapons purchases have been a Saudi penchant for decades. More interesting, in some ways, is their quiet effort to provide support to friendly regimes to keep the region from blowing itself up in this period of instability. The Saudis have budgeted $4 billion this year to help Egypt, $1.4 billion for Jordan, and $500 million annually over the next decade for Bahrain and Oman. They will doubtless pump money, as well, to Syria, Yemen and Lebanon once the smoke clears in those volatile countries.
“In outlays, we’ve budgeted $15 billion a year just to keep the peace,” says one Saudi source, adding up the economic assistance to Arab neighbors. But that’s hardly a stretch for a country that, by year-end, will have about $650 billion in foreign reserves.
The Saudis speak more charitably of the United States than they did a few months ago, after reassuring visits by Vice President Biden and national security adviser Tom Donilon, and close military and intelligence cooperation continues. But President Obama is seen as a relatively weak leader who abandoned his own call for a Palestinian state under Israeli pressure. The United States isn’t exactly the god that failed, but its divine powers are certainly suspect in Riyadh.
Opposition figure warns that Syria could be ‘drifting towards civil war’
The Irish Times – Saturday, November 19, 2011
Writer and former political prisoner Louay Hussein talks to MICHAEL JANSEN in Damascus
SYRIAN OPPOSITION leader Louay Hussein regards the crisis in his country as “most dangerous” and believes “all indications say the situation is drifting towards civil war”, although a “majority of Syrians are against war”.
Speaking to The Irish Times in the modest office of the Building the Syrian State movement he founded, Hussein, a writer and political prisoner from 1984 to 1991, explains why he takes such a dark view.
“People who took part in the protests during the first three months were different from the people now,” he says.
The original protesters “had political ideas and values and called for liberty and equality. They were for positive action . . . During this stage, I was part of the movement in the street, as an organiser. But we lost contact because of arrests and loss of communications.”
Then, he says, “others joined the protests in reaction” to killings and detentions.
“They regard this regime as murderers rather than a tyranny or dictatorship and raise harmful slogans” by calling for external intervention or executing Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
Hussein, a slim professorial figure with grey curls and a bristle of moustache beneath an eagle nose, adds: “Now protests are diminishing because of the violence and the occupation of protest zones by the security forces.”
He estimates that 15,000 people have been detained since protests began in mid-March, and says there has been a turnover in the prisons, with some people arrested while others are released. “I know the situation from experience. I multiply how many people can stand in a cell by the number of prisons,” he jokes.
Hussein does not think the Syrian National Council, an umbrella grouping of mainly exiled opposition groups favoured by the West, could gain international recognition and sideline Syria-based factions with popular followings. “I do not think the US is ready to recognise this council.”
In his view, the EU will follow Washington’s lead but perhaps not Turkey, which brokered the formation of the council. He expresses concern that Ankara might try to use its strong ties to the council to advance Turkey’s agenda on the international scene. However, he observes that the “council has a lot of financial and diplomatic support. Many EU states give visas to its members but not to us.”
He adds that “council members say what outsiders want to hear”, without elaborating.
Hussein warns that it is “dangerous” for outside powers to rely exclusively on opposition groups “because they do not represent the will of all the people . . . some support the regime”. He says it would be a mistake to equate the Syrian National Council with the rebel movement that took power in Libya.
In spite of escalating clashes between the army and armed opposition elements, Hussein insists that the uprising must be peaceful and hopes the Free Syrian Army formed by deserters will be marginalised.
“I don’t know anything about the origin of the Free Syrian Army. It has no political arm . . . Its members want to fight tyranny to bring tyranny. I’m afraid they will be freedom fighters like the Taliban of Afghanistan.”
Commenting on the opposition, he says: “Historically, the opposition has always been in a bad situation, it is not organised.”
He does not believe veteran leaders who have fought the regime in the past and served terms in prison can lead at this juncture. “We need new leaders to emerge from the street.”
His movement urges dialogue while the Syrian National Council rejects contact with the regime. He was the first to organise a meeting of opposition groups in Damascus. This took place at the end of June.
“There is always a possibility for dialogue,” he says, but dialogue can take place only “when the regime is ready for dialogue”. Unfortunately, he says, the regime “thinks dialogue is an exchange of points of view . . . not a means of reaching accommodation”.
“We tried many times to speak with the government. At first the regime did not acknowledge us, now it recognises us. Now that the time is ripe for dialogue, conditions do not give us a chance.”
He pauses, adding: “We don’t trust the government.”
Free Syria Army gathers on Lebanese border
Rebels say conflict is now inevitable – and government forces are hedging their bets
Martin Chulov, The Guardian, Fri 18 Nov 2011
Somewhere along the emerald green ridge ahead Syrian troops guard the restive border with Lebanon. Behind them lie piles of upturned orange earth where land mines have been freshly buried. Ahead of them, across a deep, rain-soaked valley which spills into Lebanon, the rebels who were once their comrades in arms are preparing for war.
The rebels of the Free Syria Army who have found refuge on this volatile strip of borderland move freely around on motorbikes that are well within range of Syrian loyalist snipers. But they say they no longer fear their former army colleagues in the hills nearby. Instead, they are looking to them for help.
“There are 100 of them in the valley,” said a former member of an intelligence unit who fled the embattled city of Hama in August and is now based in the Lebanese village of Nsoub. “But the day before yesterday I personally brought 30 people here.” Of the troops still serving with the Syrian army, he said: “They helped.”
Senior commanders have ordered their men to seal the border, but the sharp rise in defectors to have crossed into northern Lebanon in the past week suggests that many soldiers are already hedging their bets.
And Syria’s growing isolation also seems to be invigorating the exiled defectors, who this week received about 70 men who were all sent on to safety within a day of crossing the border.
“We have been talking with them [the nearby troops] for many months,” says a second man, a Lebanese national who lived in Syria for 25 years, but fled when the uprising started in March. “There are many who are waiting to see what happens before making their move.”
This rag-tag group does not pretend to have a leader calling the shots. Like the rest of the nascent Free Syria Army, the rebels of north Lebanon appear to be a loosely formed force with no direction from any central command.
But someone in northern Lebanon is helping them co-ordinate an exodus, and plan for an escalation that they all say is now inevitable.
“Most of the [defecting] soldiers are not deployed in the places where they live,” said the newly returned Lebanese man. “So when they get [into Lebanon] they are being sent on to cross the border [back into Syria] in the nearest area to their home.”
Some of the group of 30 who arrived on Wednesday are thought to have been sent to Turkey, where they will then be redeployed to areas along the border near their home villages.
Once inside Syria the men will join the growing band of rebels, who have launched a string of attacks on regime forces, culminating this week in their most audacious operation so far: an assault on naval intelligence bases on the outskirts of Damascus.
The men say they don’t know who paid for their journeys. “All I know is that I call members of the co-ordinating committee,” said the defected soldier. “They come and get them and then I don’t see them. There are definitely more [defectors] than there used to be.”
Those who have fled say the situation inside Syria has now passed the point of no return.
Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s President for 11 years, speaks the lines of Western liberalism but plays the part of ruthless dictator. He’s the leader who allowed Syrians to have cellphones and access to the Internet; who ushered in economic and …
The agency’s crucial post in Beirut is affected after the arrest of several informants this year, sources say.
By Ken Dilanian, Los Angeles Times, November 21, 2011
The CIA was forced to curtail its spying in Lebanon, where U.S. operatives and their agents collect crucial intelligence on Syria, terrorist groups and other targets, after the arrests of several CIA informants in Beirut this year, according to U.S. officials and other sources.
“Beirut station is out of business,” a source said, using the CIA term for its post there. The same source, who declined to be identified while speaking about a classified matter, alleged that up to a dozen CIA informants have been compromised, but U.S. officials disputed that figure.