Bourhan Ghalioun is Sunni; Big Demonstrations in Hama

Bourhan Ghalioun, the newly appointed President of Syria’s new Provisional Council, is NOT an Alawi, but a Sunni from a town hear Homs. I incorrectly said that Ghalioun was Alawi and posted the comment of a Commentator, who I trust, who wrote, saying Ghalioun was a non-religious Alawi. I apologize for getting it wrong. I corrected my statement with an addendum to the post of 29 August 2011 within hours of publishing it, after receiving notes from two other readers correcting me. But the damage was done. I apologize to my readers and to Professor Bourhan Ghalioun for mis-characterizing him as an Alawi.

A Syrian-American Dr. writes:

….I read with amazement the malignant, and more importantly, completely inaccurate, depiction of Dr. Burhan Ghalioun in your commentary dated 29 August 2011 as an Alawite. Feelings in Syria today have become extremely polarized and require a focus on accuracy of reporting. This is especially true with regards to subtle issues that have the potential to highlight and/or exacerbate an incredibly sensitive sectarian divide, as well as energize and further fragment the largely unsophisticated masses that are looking for leadership. ..

The language of Syria is changing as more people join the revolution, writes “Some Guy in Damascus:”

I was discussing things with a Homsi guy and asking him about the allegiance of a mutual friend( who I believed was against besho). مع او ضد ( with or Against) I asked him.

He replied مع( with) to my surprised expression…then he said things only Homsis can say: مع الثورة ( with the revolution) . Here in Damascus مع was reserved for the majority which was for bashar….the homsis changed all of that. It’s simple change of terminology that gives you an idea about reality.

Turkey is cutting military relations with Israel over the Mavi Marmara issue, but upgrading with NATO as it places new US missiles on its territory to protect against Iran. Turkey also ponders what its next move will be toward Syria.

The Oil Embargo: The West will likely allow economic sanctions to take their toll on the Syrian regime and society before pushing ahead with new measures. Full oil sanctions do not come into effect until November. Chris Doyle has written to explain:

The EU oil exports embargo actually come into force immediately but the mid November date is for existing contractual obligations. The Italians as stated got a delay but not as long as they would have liked. They deliberately did not include gas.

Will the Regime Collapse? Or Will it Have to be Pushed Over?

In a discussion with Ausama Monajed, a leading activist based in London, I was assured that the opposition leaders on the outside believe that the regime will collapse with increased defections. They insist that Syrians must not turn to armed resistance or try to open up a military option. They believe that “a tipping point” will be achieved by defections and sanctions that will cause regime change without excessive violence. They argue that as sanctions begin to bite, merchants and military personnel will begin to bail out. This will bring down the regime. I still have a hard time imagining how this works. How do merchants bail out? If all Sunni soldiers defect, the army will be much diminished and its legitimacy for those who support it today will be eroded, but would the regime collapse? Many may remain loyal and fight for the regime. If so, it makes sense that a counter military effort will have to be organized.

There remain a number of smart analysts who are not convinced that Assad will fall, or that if he does, it will necessarily be that bad for Iran or good for the US. One smart skeptic is Flynt Leverett, who writes:

… it is far from clear that the Assad government is actually imploding. It is obvious that a portion of Syria’s population is aggrieved and disaffected, but it is not evident at all that this portion represents a majority. President Bashar al-Assad still retains the backing of key segments of Syrian society. Moreover, no one has identified a plausible scenario by which the “opposition”, however defined, can actually seize power.

We have been through this sort of situation before. In 2005, in the wake of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri’s assassination, most Western commentators confidently opined that President Assad was finished. Instead, he not only survived, but came through the episode with greater authority domestically and having reasserted Syria’s unavoidably central role in Middle Eastern politics and diplomacy. In light of this history, assumptions that Assad cannot survive are, to say the least, premature. This is yet another example of something so utterly characteristic of the way in which Western analysts approach Middle Eastern issues, especially those touching on the Islamic Republic and its interests—analysis by wishful thinking

Second, while most Iranian policymakers and foreign policy elites would almost certainly prefer to see Assad remain in office, it is wrong to assume that Tehran has no options or is even a net “loser” if the current Syrian government is replaced. A post-Assad government, if it is even minimally representative of its people, is going to pursue an independent foreign policy. It will not be enamored of the prospect of strategic cooperation with the United States, and may be less inclined than the Assad regime (under both Bashar and his father, the late Hafiz al-Assad) to keep Syria’s southern border with Israel “stable”. Tehran can work with that…

Peter Harling, who has lived in Syria since 2006 and provides excellent analysis for ICG, disagrees.

The swift collapse of the Libyan regime is unlikely to have a decisive impact on the Syrian conflict, but it provides a serious hint as to its ultimate outcome. Syrian protesters did not need to see the rebels overtake Tripoli to boost their confidence; for months they have shown extraordinary resolve in the face of escalating violence. They will not give up if only because they know that worse would be in store were the security services to reassert unchallenged control. Colonel Qaddafi’s fall is relevant for a different reason: it provides evidence of the internal frailty of the patrimonial power structures that have plagued the region.

Such regimes ultimately rest on fear and opportunism far more than they do on institutions or a cause. They crumble the moment the army of zealots that form their ranks realize the battle is lost. One day, they appear strong. The next, they are gone. In 2003, when U.S. troops entered Baghdad, they revealed – much to their own surprise – that Sadddam’s regime was hollow. Tunisian President Ben Ali’s leviathan turned out to be a pygmy on rickety stilts. In Libya, loyalist forces had fought the rebels into a seemingly endless stalemate until they suddenly were swept away.

The Syrian regime is no different. Its compulsive use of thugs, known as Shabbiha, speaks volumes about the state of its institutions, even in the security sector. Its claim to embody resistance against the injustice of Israeli occupation and U.S. hegemony has been shattered by its treatment of its own people. Reforms have been exposed as a charade. And under any conceivable scenario, the economy will not recover under President Assad’s rule. …

How not to prolong the agony? At a time when the international community is feeling a compulsion to do something, the overriding principle should remain to do no harm. Two significant mistakes in particular should be avoided.

First, beware of far-reaching economic sanctions….The regime will pin economic woes on an international conspiracy. …Finally, they should be coupled with a credible, proactive plan to revive the Syrian economy in the context of a genuine political transition. Nothing will have a more profound impact on Syria’s business community, which is eager for reassurance that change presents real opportunities and not solely risks. … For now, there is no need for prematurely crafting a power-sharing arrangement. The focus should be on thinking through how to manage the transition’s early stages, sustaining basic governance, and reviving the economy.

News Round Up

More huge demonstrations in Syria, From: AFP, September 02, 2011 10:25PM

HUGE demonstrations have rocked Syria, including a rally urging Russia to stop arms sales to the regime and another in support of an official who resigned in protest at the government’s brutal crackdown, activists say. The protests came as the European Union adopted a ban on crude oil imports from Syria to punish President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for its brutal repression of protesters, diplomats told AFP.

The embargo will take effect on November 15 for existing supply contracts, after Italy demanded a delay, the diplomats said. The protesters across Syria were responding to calls posted on the internet for nationwide anti-regime demonstrations after the weekly Friday prayers under the banner of “death rather than humiliation.”

The Local Coordination Committees (LCC) said demonstrators rallied outside the home of the attorney general of the flashpoint rebellious province of Hama in support of his reported decision to resign…..

Pirouz writes:

So far the only video I’ve seen purported for today shows a few hundred protesters in Khaldieh (the caption says “thousands”). Anyone have any other videos to point to, for Friday’s protests? I’m beginning to think the protests are receding, without ever fully materializing in the capitol.

Syria’s opposition: Can it get together?
Syria’s disparate opposition must unite if it is to topple the regime
Sep 3rd 2011 | BEIRUT |

ANGER on the Syrian street is not just directed at President Bashar Assad and his regime. It is also being aimed at the opposition. Six months into the uprising and with over 2,200 dead, Mr Assad is still failing to quell the protests. In addition, he faces rising international pressure to step down. But one thing has so far helped him: the inability of the opposition to unite.

Whereas the street movement has become tactically adept, better organised and cohesive, political opposition groups inside and outside Syria are still fragmented. They are divided not just between exiles and those within. Individuals have been jockeying for position. “There have been a dozen conferences and statements in several cities but nothing to show for it,” says a protester. “Meanwhile we continue to go out and take the bullets.”

Proposals to create an all-encompassing opposition have come thick and fast. A National Initiative for Change was promoted in April by dissidents based in America. This was followed by a Conference for Change held in the Turkish resort of Antalya. Then came a gathering of dissidents in Istanbul under the aegis of a National Salvation Council, spearheaded by a lawyer, Haytham al-Maleh. At this meeting the Kurds walked out when others wanted to keep the word “Arab” in the name of the Syrian Republic. Then on August 23rd another national council was mooted but has yet to take shape.

Dissidents within Syria often accuse exiles of being too keen to spend time grandstanding in Western capitals. Protesters on Syria’s streets say that the better-known internal dissidents spend too much time currying favour with diplomats in Damascus. Many of Mr Assad’s foes in Syria, most of whom are secular-minded, are edgy about the role of Turkey, with its Islamist government, in hosting most of the opposition meetings. Even the two main activist groupings, the Local Co-ordination Committees and the Syrian Revolution Co-ordinators’ Union, have niggling differences.

On August 29th a new national council, apparently unrelated to the meeting six days before, put out a list (published in Ankara) of 94 members. Many of those on it immediately dissociated themselves, but most of them are now agreeing cautiously to be included. They are waiting to see how people in the streets respond to particular signs and chants, a rough yet innovative way of testing popular feeling.

The new council’s diversity is striking. Syrians of all hues are represented. Roughly half are in Syria, including Riad Seif, a veteran dissident, and younger activists, such as Razan Zeitouneh, a lawyer. It illustrates Syria’s changed political landscape. Heading the list is Burhan Ghalioun, an exiled Sorbonne professor in his 60s. A secular Alawite who has often appeared on foreign television channels during the uprising, he has managed to win a surprisingly large following inside Syria.

It is not surprising that Syria’s opposition lacks cohesion. The country embraces an array of religions, sects, tribes and ethnicities. Baathist repression over four decades has taken its toll. Many prominent figures in the opposition, including the Muslim Brotherhood, are still abroad. Veterans inside have made great sacrifices over the years, but they have been overtaken by the savvy young campaigners of the current uprising. It is too soon to say whether the latest council will gain momentum. But if a broad-based opposition front were able to establish itself as a clear alternative to Mr Assad and his ruling Baath party, he would go a lot sooner.

EU Bans Syrian Oil After Assad Dismisses Resignation Demands
2011-09-02, By Jonathan Stearns

Sept. 2 (Bloomberg) — The European Union banned imports of crude oil from Syria, expanding sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for its deadly crackdown on protesters. The oil embargo approved by EU governments today in Brussels affects Syrian exports valued at 3.16 billion euros ($4.5 billion) in 2010, according to the European Commission, the 27-nation bloc’s executive arm. Crude oil accounted for 88 percent of total EU imports from Syria last year, commission data show….. Total SA, Royal Dutch
Shell Plc, Repsol YPF SA and OMV AG are among oil companies, refiners and traders that had planned to ship about 162,200 barrels a day of Syrian crude this month, according to a loading program obtained by Bloomberg.

Syrians must contemplate foreign help – if not the West’s
Guardian on August 31, 2011
By “Abdur Rahman al Shami”

….But our peaceful revolution received no official support from the Islamic and Arab countries. All we got were hesitant platitudes from our neighbours. Likewise, the west called only for reform, or at most economic sanctions. This encouraged Assad to increase his repression in the hope that he would be able to quell the revolution quickly.

But our revolution gathered momentum. Always peaceful, and without any external intervention it spread, with more and more protesters, cities and villages taking part. Syrian opposition figures inside and abroad worked to support the revolution through a series of initiatives, culminating in the formation of national councils earlier this month.

The revolutionaries on the ground now find themselves confronting a new reality. On the one hand we are faced with Arab silence, an ongoing regional indecision – especially from neighbouring Turkey – and the west as passive spectators to Assad’s violations. On the other, Tripoli and Libya are liberated. While Nato support was helpful, credit must be given to the determination of the Libyan people and their tactics, including armed struggle.

There is no doubt that the Syrian revolutionaries will now carry out a reappraisal of their own position; especially as we witness the daily bombardment of Homs, Latakia and Deir al-Zour; while Hama is attacked, the plains of Houran bleed, Aleppo is terrorised and Damascus repressed. The revolutionaries are now questioning the peaceful nature of the Syrian revolution – we have not until now used arms against the regime – and also re-evaluting our position on foreign intervention.

There is a consensus against any western intervention in Syria. The country has a proud Arab nationalistic character, and suffered greatly in the colonial era. The example of Iraq is fresh in our minds and the presence of its refugees a constant reminder of their tragedy. We are well aware, too, of the sensitivity of the central status of Syria in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

However, this refusal to contemplate foreign intervention has allowed the regime to do whatever it wishes, knowing it will escape punishment. In the absence of a genuine alternative, the Syrian opposition must reconsider its position on foreign intervention; it is now essential that we prepare for this eventuality before it is too late.

It has become clear to us from intelligence and political analyses that the Syrian regime is pushing the country to civil war and partition; especially after reports of the arrival of large supplies of weapons from Iran to Syria via Iraq. It seems the regime and its allies would prefer a sectarian civil war in which they would have the upper hand militarily to a peaceful handover of power.

A civil war in Syria and its potential partition is not in the interest of its people. Likewise, it is not in the interest of Arab states, Turkey or the west, because it would lead to an unprecedented chaos and uncertainty from which none of these blocs or states would be safe, particularly Turkey.

It is therefore important to find a solution that stops Assad in his tracks. Given that Syrians will continue to object to western intervention, the formation of an Arab-Turkish pre-emptive force to protect the people in Syria is perhaps the best option. It could preserve the unity of the country and prevent chaos and violence.

Syrians have risen up against tyranny and are no less determined than their brothers and sisters in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. However, they are suffering extraordinary brutality and are looking for real regional support. This is a regional necessity. The Arab spring cannot flourish without Syria, where the Arab heart lies.

Michel Kilo writes that the internal opposition is united, but that the external opposition is fragmented – 2011-09-01

ناشط سوري : المعارضة السورية في الداخل “موحدة” أما في الخارج فهي “مشتتة

أعلن الناشط السياسي السوري ميشيل كيلو اليوم الخميس أن المعارضة السورية في الخارج مشتتة أما في الداخل فهي موحدة في الرأي, مشيرا إلى أن مطالب المعارضة الداخلية تتركز حول الحوار وإيجاد حل توافقي وعن نظام انتقالي يقود البلاد إلى الديمقراطية.

EU tightens sanctions against Assad’s regime
By Peter O’Donnell and Constant Brand
01.09.2011 / 05:20 CET

EU officials eyes formal agreement around the weekend. The discussions are coloured by awareness that an oil-trade embargo without wider international backing may not work, even though the US has also recently announced similar restrictions. Bill Farren-Price, of UK-based consultancy Petroleum Policy Intelligence, said the envisaged sanctions present difficulties and will hardly represent a knock-out punch for Syria. “There’s plenty of demand for Syrian oil not in the EU and that’s where they’ll sell it,” he said.

Jane Kinninmont, a senior research fellow for the Middle East and north Africa at Chatham House, a UK-based think-tank, also doubted that sanctions could bring about the collapse of the regime, even if there would be some effect on Syria’s sources of foreign income.

Richard Youngs of Fride, a Madrid-based think-tank, considers oil sanctions “more symbolic than substantial”. In his view, the “real problem” in Syria is the fragmentation of opposition forces, coupled with the EU’s failure to consolidate relations with opposition forces when they were “crying out for contact” before the repression.

Oil firms bet on survival of Syria’s Assad
By Reuters, 01 Sep 2011

Reuters reports: Oil companies in Europe are betting on the survival of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, in sharp contrast to their support for Libya’s opposition six months ago, even while the European Union is expected to soon slap oil sanctions on Damascus. Several tankers are sailing to Syria this week to either deliver fuel or pick […]

Several tankers are sailing to Syria this week to either deliver fuel or pick up crude, which may suggest that oil companies believe the rebellion in Syria will fail to overthrow Assad’s government.

The same companies, including Swiss-based trader Vitol, made the opposite bet when it came to trade in Libya. They agreed to supply opponents of Muammar Gaddafi with fuel in the hope their support would be rewarded at the end of the war.

“What oil firms are currently doing does really look like they believe Assad will win, and they will have to deal with him again,” said a Western diplomatic source….

Total CEO Says He’s Decided to Stop Shipping Oil From Syria, [They resisted quitting all week but now decided to leave]
2011-09-01, by expat 1000

Tom writes in the comment section

With regard to the National Council, many “members” announced a statement complaining that their names were quoted without their approval, including “Chairman” Ghalioun. So the Council broke apart in the air immediately after the announcement. This is my understanding.

Asharq al-Awsat article indicates that Saudi Arabia placed a complaint to Turkey by saying that Erdogan should not sell a dream (to topple al-Assad) to others.

A few days later, a professor of King Saud Univ. said, on the same paper, that Turkish role has ended and that Turkey may publish a statement of excuse or withdraw its ambassador from Damascus, but they won’t do anything more than that against Syria.

A few hours ago, Nuland of the US attacked Syrian foreign minister by using exceptionally excited expression. Previously the US has frozen assets of 3 Syrians who don’t have any assets in the US. No one will call it a sanction.

US calls Syrian minister Assad’s ‘shameless tool’. Any move in the UN Security Council will be blocked by Russia. All of these would be an indication that the one who is standing at a crossroad is the United States, not Syria.

I remembered a miserable intelligence failure by Israel in Lebanon in 1982. They relied on the Maronites only, and failed.

This time, Turkey could not fulfill its promise to topple al-Assad due to their low quality of Middle Eastern studies and intelligence as well as immaturity of strategic planning. The US relied on Turkish Sunnis only, and is about to fail.

Turkey to Station U.S. Radar to Counter Iranian Rockets SEPTEMBER 2, 2011

WASHINGTON—Turkey has agreed to station a high-powered U.S. radar on its territory as part of a missile defense system to protect NATO allies from the threat of long-range Iranian rockets.

The deal for Turkey to host the so-called X-Band radar at one of its military bases accelerates deployment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization-backed early warning system.

Assad Regime in Syria Crucial to Iran
interview, Council on Foreign Relations | Karim Sadjadpour says that if the Syrian government fell it would be a tremendous blow to the Iranian regime and threaten Tehran’s support of Hezbollah.

LA Times [Reg]: Iran lawmaker says Tehran should not back Syrian regime 2011-09-02

Reporting from Tehran and Beirut— In a sign that Syria’s crackdown on dissent is fraying one of its few alliances in the region, an Iranian lawmaker said in an interview published Thursday that his nation should be supporting the protesters and …

Obama, American liberator?
By Reuel Marc Gerecht and Mark Dubowitz, Published: September 1

… Syria will be his real test. … Unlike Iran, the Assad regime could be hurt rapidly and perhaps decisively by sanctions…. Obama wouldn’t necessarily have to lead from the front. … Bashar al-Assad’s bloody oppression gives Washington the high ground. What seemed impossible five months ago is becoming practicable.

And the Syrian opposition has unified sufficiently to be an effective recipient of Western aid. Funds for striking workers, a wide variety of portable encrypting communications equipment and, critically, a cross-border WiFi zone that extends to the city of Aleppo, the commercial hub of Syria just 23 miles from Turkey, could greatly aid the opposition’s resistance. Covert action takes two to tango: Let the Syrian opposition tell us what it needs. Washington shouldn’t be more “virtuous” than the people dying. Even the unthinkable — Western military action — has become more likely because of Libya. If the Sunni-Alawite sectarian split in Syria worsens, it’s not that hard to imagine a scenario in which Sunni Turkey will be forced to provide a refugee haven across the Syrian border. A NATO-backed no-fly, no-drive, no-cruise zone could follow. And the realignment of Turkey, which under the Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had been seriously flirting with Damascus and Tehran, back toward Europe and the United States would also be a blessing for the region. ….

Syrian opposition provoked into dialogue boycott – Lavrov
© AFP/ Louai Bashara
MOSCOW, September 1 (RIA Novosti)

A group of states is provoking the Syrian opposition into boycotting discussions on “quite realistic” reforms proposed by President Bashar Assad, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday.

“Why is it that in Yemen, where a serious armed conflict is taking place, all the members of the international community are reasonably trying to encourage dialogue between the authorities and the opposition, while in Syria a number of influential states are persistently provoking the opposition to boycott national dialogue proposals and to inflate confrontation?” Lavrov said at a meeting with students and professors at Moscow State University for International Relations.

He said that international partners refuse to even discuss the reforms proposed by Assad, which are “belated, but yet quite realistic.” He reiterated that though Russia condemns violence in the country, it considers any interference into Syria’s domestic affairs inadmissible. “We clearly stated this position, including during the UN Security Council vote on a special statement on the Syrian issue,” Lavrov said.

Before we take down Assad
By Rajendra Abhyankar
The Syrian regime has to be given an opportunity to make changes within a finite period, and with agreed-upon benchmarks.

Is Syria burning? Most emphatically not. This was the overwhelming impression after a visit there late last month. Nor does it look as if the regime is on the verge of collapse. As an international group of journalists invited by the Syrian government, we visited, in addition to Damascus, Hama and locales near Homs. From the many Syrians we met, the common refrain was, “We do not want to become the next Libya” – referring to the total disarray there months after NATO intervention. Given its pivotal position in the eastern Mediterranean, any precipitate international action to provoke change in Syria would affect the entire region, including Israel.

Media reports clearly biased against the Syrian regime make reality appear far worse than what we encountered on the streets of Damascus. Yet under an overlay of calm, the tension was palpable, especially in Hama.

There is much that is wrong in Syria, and much that has to be fixed, if the Syrian people are to enjoy their democratic political, economic and social rights. But, the reprehensible brutality reportedly employed against the protesters still does not justify armed groups’ violence against the state. The reform plan offered by President Bashar Assad on August 22 – local and parliamentary elections within six months and an end to the predominance of the Arab Baath party – though a first step, is the last chance for the regime’s survival.

Escalating with each passing Friday, the protests have themselves changed in character. All the centers of protest have been Sunni-majority cities – Daraa, Jisr-al-Shughour, Deir Ezzor and Homs – bordering each of Syria’s fractious neighbors. Cross-border smuggling of arms and funds to the protesters was repeatedly mentioned by local observers. Hama, in the center of the agricultural heartland, is a case in itself, with a long history of antipathy to the regime among its Sunni business- and land-owning classes. In 1982, this led to the infamous military operation against the city.

The escalating anti-regime sentiment has at least five distinct causes: First, 40 years of a heavy-handed security system that has quelled dissent; soaring real-estate and rental costs in the major cities that has placed a heavy burden on a population already living at the margin; widespread corruption and capitalism dictated by cronyism; neglect of agricultural and rural infrastructure; and finally, a lack of jobs and educational opportunities for a growing proportion of youth.

In considering Syria’s future, many factors need to be weighed. First, is regional stability. Under the Assad regime, the border with the Golan Heights has been kept quiet…

across the state; the trade unions, with a membership of 2.5 to 3 million, especially as the state is Syria’s largest employer; and, the army, about 400,000-strong, which has mainly been used to protect the nomenklatura and keep a lid on Lebanon. The three groups account for 6 million out of a population of 22 million…..

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251. ann said:

Some 450,000 Israelis march at massive ‘March of the Million’ rallies across country

Protests held in major cities across Israel represent of the biggest rallies in the country’s history. Protest leader: We have chosen to see instead of walking blindly toward the abyss.

By Oz Rosenberg, Ilan Lior and Gili Cohen – 21:28 03.09.11

Over 450,000 protesters attended rallies across the country last night calling for social justice in what was the largest demonstration in Israeli history.

The main protest took place in Tel Aviv’s Kikar Hamedina, where some 300,000 people gathered after marching from Habima Square about two kilometers away. Protest leader Yonatan Levy said the atmosphere was like “a second Independence Day.”

Protest leaders Daphni Leef and National Student Union Chairman Itzik Shmuli both addressed the Tel Aviv crowd. “Mr. Prime Minister, the new Israelis have a dream and it is simple: to weave the story of our lives into Israel. We expect you to let us live in this country. The new Israelis will not give up. They demand change and will not stop until real solutions come,” Shmuli said.

“My generation always felt as though we were alone in this world, but now we feel the solidarity,” said Leef. “They tried to dismiss us as stupid children, and as extreme leftists,” but last night’s countrywide protest proved otherwise, she said.

Dr. Shiri Tannenbaum, a medical resident leading the young doctors’ protest against the recent collective wage agreement signed between the government and the Israel Medical Association, also spoke at the Tel Aviv rally.

In Jerusalem, an unprecedented 50,000 people filled Paris Square and the surrounding streets, almost twice the number that attended previous protests this summer.

Actress and comedienne Orna Banai told the crowd in the capital: “I am not amused that there are hungry children here; that we have a soldier rotting in captivity for five years; that Israel is one of the poorest examples there are of human rights.”

The chairman of the Hebrew University Student Union, Itai Gotler, said: “We changed this summer. The voice of the mother, the teacher, the student, have been heard…The fire of protest was lit in Tel Aviv, but the tent city in Jerusalem shows that the protest belongs to all of us.”

Gotler said the Jerusalem tent city was closing down, but pledged to continue the struggle.

Yehuda Alush, 52, from Be’er Sheva, among a group of protesters from the Negev who marched to the capital, said: “This protest must not stop or we’ll lose.” In Haifa, the protest drew 40,000 people, many of whom waved red flags.

The Haifa protest focused on the issue of discrimination against Arabs. Shahin Nasser, representative of the Wadi Nisnas protest tent in Haifa said: “Today we are changing the rules of the game. No more coexistence based on hummus and fava beans. What is happening here is true coexistence, when Arabs and Jews march together shoulder to shoulder calling for social justice and peace. We’ve had it. Bibi, go home. Steinitz, go and don’t come back, Atias, good-bye and good riddance,” he said, referring to the prime minister, the finance minister and the housing minister, respectively.

The chairman of the University of Haifa’s student union, Yossi Shalom, told the crowd, gathered at the foot of the Bahai Gardens in the city’s German Colony, “There is no more beautiful sight than social solidarity. As a student, this is the most important lesson I have learned in recent months.” At the protest in Afula the numbers reached 12,000; in Rosh Pina, 7,000 and in Kiryat Shemona, 7,000.

Meanwhile, in the south, a total of more than 1,000 people took part in rallies in Mitzpe Ramon and Arad. Ya’akov Laksi, an organizer of the protest in Arad, told the crowd: “Social justice means Arad will no longer be called an outlying town. We need to bring people work.”

Laksi said organizers had expected only 100 protesters.

“We want the government to increase funding, not take from someone else,” Eyal Adler, an organizer of the protest in Mitzpe Ramon said.

A protester who gave her name as Ruthie, said: “We are far from the eye of the media, but we deserve no less funding and a change in the funding map of Israel.”

Concerns over possible rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip led the Home Front Command to issue a directive prohibiting demonstrations in Be’er Sheva, Ashdod and Ashkelon.

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September 3rd, 2011, 10:05 pm


252. Tara said:


I saw it on Alarabya and then found it on you tube.


Who is hosting morning manaeesh zaatar in Shaalan? You?

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September 3rd, 2011, 10:10 pm


253. Husam said:

Saydnaya Prison Massacre Explained via latest Wikileaks:

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September 3rd, 2011, 10:14 pm


254. Tara said:


True’s link in 248 is a must read!. Thanks True.

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September 3rd, 2011, 10:30 pm


255. Some guy in damascus said:

The arnous speaker incident was hilarious.
Someone placed a lot of speakers atop a tall abandoned building in arnous. He had the speakers remote activated to broadcast anti-regime chants. When the shabeeha thugs hurried to catch the demonstrators, they were faced with staircases lined with motor oil, HAHA. It took them like 30 minutes to get up. It’s also worth noting that many of the nearby stall owners took part in this operation.
@ true ,
I’d be more than honored to host you guys. Damascus has a lot to offer, shawerma, falafel, sabara……more specifically midan they’re awesome at oriental food.
I’m sorry homsis, forgive me but what’s kriesh?

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September 3rd, 2011, 10:42 pm


256. Husam said:

Interesting Facts on Libya:

In 1951, Libya was the poorest country in the African continent… Before Gaddafi, the literacy rate was less than 20%. Now the literacy rate has soared up to 83%. That is a monumental increase!

Before the NATO bombings, Libyans enjoyed the highest standard of living in Africa. For the benefit af those relying solely on the main stream media for news, let me point out certain aspects of the Libyan Jamhariya Government.

Were you aware that that electricity is free for all Libyans.. there is no monthly electricity tariff bills to pay?
What about healthcare? Free as well to all Libyan citizens… sounds great, no?
As regards to education… that is free as well for all Libyans.

Newly married couples get $50,000.00 to buy their own home… but somehow that does not seem enough right? How about this then.. the differential amount will be financed by the Libyan Central Bank at zero interest rates!

If a Libyan buys a car, the government pays 50% of the purchase price, the rest? Bingo! You guessed right, the rest of his loan will be financed as well.. at zero interest rates!

Any Libyan wishing to be a farmer is given free use of land, equipment, livestock and seeds..

And where does all these moneis come from? Quite simple really, it is the profits from the sale of oil. Period. Another interesting fact.. the price of gasoline in Libya is $0.14 .. yup, fourteen cents per liter.

Let’s see what will happen to all this when the capitalist storm in.

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September 3rd, 2011, 10:51 pm


257. beaware said:

Egypt edging near recession
Farah Halime
Sep 4, 2011
The Egyptian economy, reeling from a big budget deficit in tandem with falling GDP and the government’s decision to brush off privatisation, has been the subject of criticism.
Khaled Desouki / AFP
CAIRO // Egypt’s economy is struggling to overcome a tussle among private companies hoping to take advantage of the fall of big business and to overcome the interim government’s resistance to any move towards privatisation as reminiscent of the Hosni Mubarak era.

Experts representing the country’s private sector have criticised the government’s decision to brush off privatisation as a means of supporting the economy.

Six months on from when Mr Mubarak stepped down from the presidency, Egypt is still reeling from a big budget deficit and falling GDP.


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September 3rd, 2011, 10:55 pm


258. Syria no kandahar said:

Your site has become a place where MB members talk about flafel and shawarma.

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September 3rd, 2011, 11:00 pm


259. ann said:

*** How you get around Syria’s Kurds refusal to be part of the NeoCONS agenda (revolution) on Syria? ***

*** The headline from AFP reads: “Syrian Kurds meet in Sweden to push Assad’s ouster”.

But when you start reading the body of the story, You very quickly realize how misleading the headline is, and how those “Syrian Kurds” have nothing to do with the Kurdish people and their political parties inside Syria! ***

Syrian Kurds meet in Sweden to push Assad’s ouster

(AFP) – 15 hours ago

STOCKHOLM — Around 50 expatriated Syrian Kurds gathered here Saturday for a two-day conference on how to strengthen Kurds inside Syria and get them more involved in efforts to overthrow Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

“We want to push the Kurdish people inside Syria to support the revolution more… Kurdish people both inside and outside Syria need to work harder to change this regime,” said Massoud Akko, a Kurdish writer living in Norway who helped organise the conference.

The first meeting of The Conference of Syrian Kurdish Youths Abroad gathered more than 50 people from across Europe, the United States and the former Soviet Union to a large room in the Swedish parliament, Akko told AFP.

Members of parliament, politicians, writers, intellectuals and rights activists figured among the attendants.

“We tried to invite people living in Syria too, but it was too difficult for them to come. They have a travel ban,” he explained.

Organisers said in a statement ahead of the conference their aim was to help “provide a clear vision and practical projects to activate the Kurdish role inside Syria and abroad in toppling the regime of Bashar al-Assad and realise the peaceful transition of power to the people.”

Akko said the ultimate goal was to establish “a pluralist, democratic civil state” that would give Kurds equal rights.

“There has been violence on the Kurdish people in Syria long before the uprising began (in March). Kurds do not have equal rights. There are many things pushing us to energetically take part in the revolution,” he said, also stressing the need to put more pressure on the international community to help push through a regime change.

In their earlier statement, organisers said “the conference will provide a roadmap that provides a fair political solution for the Kurdish people’s cause according to the rules of the UN and international treaties, and at the same level with all other (ethnic groups) in Syria”.

When the conference concludes Sunday afternoon, organisers will publish a declaration of intent and announce possible future meetings of the conference, Akko said.

According to the United Nations, more than 2,200 people have been killed in Syria since the protests began.

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September 3rd, 2011, 11:06 pm


260. Some guy in damascus said:

I heard about this incident in Homs where , shabeeha clones were chasing 2 demonstrators. 1 of the demonstrators tripped and was immediately surrounded by 5 shabeeha. His accomplice shouted: Abu issam! There are 5 kufar surrounding you, blow yourself up!.
And the cowardly shabeeha immediately ran away.
Of course he had no explosives, he just wanted to free his fellow country man.
@ snk.
I’m going to say this once: I don’t support the MB and personally, I want a liberal Syria.
Talking about Syrian gastronomy isn’t really contributing , but hey! It beats the angel plays you make.

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September 3rd, 2011, 11:07 pm


261. ann said:

*** Notice how the occupied Syrian Golan is OMITTED from the discussions on Middle East peace ***

EU Ministers Discuss Syria, Middle East Peace

European Union foreign ministers kicked off a two-day meeting in Sopot, Poland, Friday to discuss a variety of common topics, including the Middle East peace process and sanctions against Syria.

The 27 EU member nations are looking at taking a unified position on Palestinian statehood in a United Nations vote later this month. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who backs an independent Palestinian state, urged the EU to reach a consensus so it can “speak with a single voice.”

Though Sarkozy’s position is backed by a number of member states, such a consensus may be difficult to achieve. The United States has said it would veto the Palestinians’ U.N. bid, and both Germany and Italy oppose the move, calling instead for a return to Arab-Israeli peace talks.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the European nations are united in their desire to restart the peace process. She says the eventual goal is a two-state solution, in which a secure, stable Israel exists side-by-side with a secure, stable Palestinian state.

The meeting also is focusing on ways to stop the violence in Syria. In a statement Friday, the EU said it was imposing an embargo on Syrian oil imports, which will cost President Bashar al-Assad’s government millions of dollars every day in money it earns selling oil to the EU.

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September 3rd, 2011, 11:19 pm


262. Norman said:

I have a feeling that the world is going toward a world government that the West control and decide winners and losers.

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September 3rd, 2011, 11:26 pm


263. Some guy in damascus said:

@ Norman
I agree.
And we syrians have a name for it. It’s called poliception like the movie inception only it’s politics this time.
We live in a dictatorship(Assad regime) that’s part of a world dictatorship.( UN security council)
It’s a nightmare within a nightmare!!!!

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September 3rd, 2011, 11:31 pm


264. Norman said:

The day will come where the poor of the world will rise against the rich, that will be something to see,

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September 3rd, 2011, 11:55 pm


265. ann said:

What’s the end-game for the Syrian crisis?

Sep 4, 2011

Where and how will the Syrian story end?

It is unlikely that the Syrian opposition would turn to armed resistance against the regime in the present circumstances, suggested the columnist Mazen Hammad in the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.

It is not an option in the face of an all-powerful military machine adamant on breaking the backs of protesters. The “violence for violence” equation is impracticable in Syria for the time being.

While the Syrian authorities are continuously increasing the number of security roadblocks in various cities, they refuse to listen to the counselling of Russian friends or to the threats of their US enemies. During the five months since the start of the uprising, the Assad regime proved that it is bent on pressing forward with the violent clampdown. It seems that the regime is convinced that terrorist radical infiltrators are instigating the people into an armed confrontation.

“No one knows where the Syrian story would end, but the developments on the ground indicate that matters are at risk of becoming explosive as armed cells would be formed to perpetrate attacks on the army and the armed forces and slowly chip away at the regime’s power.”

President al Assad’s biggest fear is to be forsaken by Moscow and maybe even China, which would give the UN Security Council the opportunity to impose the harshest of sanctions on Damascus.

Turkish position constitutes precedent

The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, didn’t disappoint us when he decided to expel the Israeli ambassador in Ankara and cut military ties in protest over the Israeli massacre on board the Mavi Marmara aid ship to Gaza last year, said Abdelbari Atwan, the editor-in-chief of the London-based Al Quds Al Arabi daily.

“This is the first time in decades that an Islamic state dares to defy Israeli arrogance so firmly,” he said. “Traditionally, Arab states would swallow their pride and yield to Israel’s blatant insults.”

Turkish-Israeli relations have been rapidly declining over the last three years. What once was a comprehensive strategic alliance and joint military manoeuvres is now a minimum of diplomatic representation.

The Turkish government didn’t succumb to the Israeli blackmail attempts to instigate Turkish neighbours against it or to pit the Armenian lobby in Congress. It insisted on demanding an apology and financial damages for the massacre that killed nine Turkish activists.

“This courageous Turkish position constitutes a precedent of great importance,” he said. “Many Arab and Islamic countries that maintain diplomatic ties with Israel would be advised to follow suit as a response to Israeli aggression and conceit.”

Arab Christians are unclear about Spring

It seems that Christians of the Middle East are ambivalent about the revolutions reshaping the Arab world, wrote Mohammed al Sammak in the opinion section of the Emirati newspaper Al Ittihad on Friday.

On the one hand, Middle Eastern Christians see the positive aspect of the Arab uprisings, bringing down repressive regimes and carrying the promise of freedom, dignity and human rights. On the other they see no clear alternative to these toppled regimes and dread the ascendance of radical Islamists to power.

“Their misgivings are legitimate; ignoring them would be self-delusion,” the writer said. “The fact that Muslims keep telling Christians ‘don’t worry about it’ won’t dissipate those misgivings.”

What’s more, this apprehension lands Middle Eastern Christians into a more serious dilemma: whether to take the side of authoritarian regimes on the basis that they are at least familiar with the scope of that suffering; or face the uncertain prospect of a form of religious fanaticism that, once in power, may infringe upon their freedom of religious practice.

“Middle Eastern Christians have been an essential component of post-independence Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, because they opposed colonisation. But what would be their status the day repressive regimes fall, and they hadn’t been opposed to them?”

South Sudan’s ties with Israel are worrying

Every state has the sovereign right to establish the diplomatic ties it considers constructive, but the newly established state of South Sudan has taken it a bit too far when it picked, of all places, occupied Jerusalem to headquarter its embassy in Israel, stated the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej in its editorial yesterday.

The move sends an extremely negative message to Arabs and offends the Palestinian cause and the right of Palestinians to establish their own state, with Jerusalem as its capital. Such a decision on the part of the South Sudanese government amounts to “a deliberate choice to take the side of the enemy of the Arabs”.

This was not all unexpected, though. Even before the admission of South Sudan as the 193th state in the UN General Assembly earlier this year, its leaders never hid their intention to fully open up to Israel. Their argument has been that a number of Arab states have normal relations with Israel, and Israeli flags flap high in their capitals.

“Such a pretext is not convincing,” the paper said. Granted, some Arab nations do have normal ties with Israel, but why would South Sudan insist on having its embassy in Jerusalem, not in Tel Aviv, which is significantly less symbolic?

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September 4th, 2011, 12:19 am


266. ann said:

Sanctions cloud Syria’s big plans

Sep 4, 2011

The EU’s ban on oil from Syria has further jeopardised energy projects in the country, where pressure is being put on the Al Assad regime over the violent treatment of political protesters. With foreign investors reluctant to get involved, there is much at stake — and little time, April Yee reports

Until recently, Syria was not a big presence in energy markets, coming in at number 33 on the list of the world’s top oil producers.

Yet it hoped to transform itself from a minor crude exporter into a major transit point for the world’s energy.

Just this year, the government signed deals for multibillion-dollar pipelines from Iran and Iraq, invited foreign companies to drill offshore for the first time and sought builders for a 100-megawatt wind farm.

Now, increased sanctions on the regime of Bashar Al Assad, the Syrian president, have put those plans in doubt.

Yesterday, the EU formalised a ban on imports of Syrian oil, depriving the regime of its main crude customer. The ban does not extend to investment in energy projects, but mounting international pressure on the Al Assad regime because of violent crackdowns on protesters could scare off foreign investors.

“They’ll all be very reluctant to put new money in while there’s so much uncertainty,” says Catherine Hunter, an energy analyst at IHS Global Insight in London. “Finance from developmental organisations is drying up.”

The price for Syria could be high. Deadlines are approaching for international bids for two new oil and gas production sites, and Iran and Iraq were relying on Syria to serve as a gateway for their oil and gas to reach European markets.

The National looks at some of the projects hanging in the balance.


Syria’s oil production peaked in 1996, when it pumped a record 582,000 barrels per day (bpd), according to the US Energy Information Administration.

By last year, that had declined to 387,000 bpd. Most of that was heavy oil, a product from ageing fields not as highly valued by refiners.

Starting last year, Syria began opening up new areas to drilling to boost its declining output.

In May, it awarded licences to France’s Total and Petro-Canada to explore a set of onshore blocks. Dana Gas, an energy company based in Sharjah, has also bid to explore part of the remaining share.

State-owned China National Petroleum Corporation, which holds a one-fifth stake in Syria’s main production consortium, was among the other bidders.

Chinese companies could gain an edge in energy project awards if European companies withdraw, said an oil industry official.

“The opportunity will be favourable for Chinese companies, in the event of withdrawal of European investments, to buy assets,” Ali Abbas, the director of Syria’s General Petroleum Corporation, was quoted as saying on the Syrian news website Day Press. Next month and in November, foreign companies face deadlines to bid for two more projects, one to drill offshore for gas and another to develop oil shale resources.

The oil shale blocks 96km south-west of the city of Aleppo hold an estimated 39 billion tonnes of deposits. But turning the mixture of hydrocarbons and rock into fuel is more challenging and costly than pumping crude.


“Really, Syria’s long-term potential is all about transit,” Ms Hunter says.

Two pipelines more than half a century old link Iraqi and Saudi oilfields with the Syrian coast, a potential route for export to western markets via the Mediterranean. But both have been unused for years.

In June, Syria and Iraq penned an early-stage agreement to repair one of the pipelines and build two new ones that would transport 2.75 million bpd.

The following month it signed a preliminary deal with Iraq and Iran for a US$10 billion (Dh36.73bn) pipeline to send Iranian natural gas through both countries and on to Europe.

The planned pipeline would stretch 5,000km and connect to the Arab Gas Pipeline, which stretches through Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Turkey.


Like other oil producers in the region, Syria was eager to replace some of the fossil fuels it burns to produce power for its citizens with renewable energy. Its plan was to build wind farms of between 50 and 100 megawatts each near the ancient town of Palmyra and Damascus, the capital. Last year it awarded the Danish wind giant Vestas the contract for its first wind power plant, a 90-megawatt array near the town of Homs.

In January, the government awarded a contract to Spain’s Gamesa to build another wind farm near the same city, a project worth €60 million (Dh313.1m).

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September 4th, 2011, 12:28 am


267. Revlon said:

182. Dear Aboud, thank you for the link to this foreign correspondant’s strory from Homs.

I must say, this four part article has been the best piece of reality reporting I have read on the living hell in Homs city, particularly for activists and their families.

The presence of tens of thousands of detainess in make shift school-prsions, the lack of safe medical care for the wounded, and the clandestine organ-trade in a large secret prsion outside the city of Homs paint a picture much worse that I ever imagined.

The deterioration of morale amongst security forces is encouraging.

Armed resistance is still limited to guarding activists and make-shift hospitals.

Activists in exile or posters on this blog have been accusing activists like Ahmed or Mazen, in this article, who are calling for international-NATO’s protection, of lack of wisdome, hot-headedness, or worse; conspirators!

I would like to invite them to thoroughly read this foreigner’s account of the gruesome realities that activists and demonstrators are going through, put themselves and their families in their shoes and then darw their own conclusions!

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September 4th, 2011, 12:35 am


268. ann said:

Gulf to help EU as Syrian oil banned

Sep 4, 2011

The Gulf is poised to help Europe to meet its energy needs as a ban on Syrian oil comes into play.

Yesterday, the EU formalised an embargo on Syrian oil, increasing pressure on the regime of Bashar Al Assad, the Syrian president, to halt its violent clampdown on protests.

The fresh sanctions come at a particularly tough time for the EU, which relies on Syria for 1.5 per cent of its oil supply, as demand grows for winter fuel and oil production from Libya remains stalled.

“Europe needs a lot of oil ahead of the winter to produce more heating oil, and in the absence of Libyan crude it’s not possible to replace all of these barrels,” said Ehsan Ul Haq, a senior market analyst at KBC Energy Economics in the UK. Saudi Arabia, he added, could send more oil to Europe to replace Syrian oil.

Last year, Europe bought 95 per cent of Syria’s crude exports, contributing €3.1 billion (Dh16.18bn) to the country’s oil revenues.

The sanctions, which were negotiated last week and came into effect yesterday, make it illegal to enter into new oil import contracts or, after November 15, to fulfil existing contracts with Syria. That followed the US decision last month to ban Syrian energy imports.

In particular Syria’s sulphur-laden oil is similar to Saudi crude, making it easy for Riyadh to step in to meet the gap. Syria currently exports about 160,000 barrels per day (bpd).

Also as the world’s top exporter, Saudi Arabia holds most of the Gulf’s spare pumping capacity and took the lead this year in replacing the loss of Libyan crude.

In July, Saudi Arabia pumped close to 9.8 million bpd, its highest level in 30 years, according to the International Energy Agency, an oil consumer watchdog in Paris. Every summer the kingdom burns extra oil to meet peak demand. “Electricity demand usually goes down after the summer, so they can send these additional barrels to Europe instead of decreasing production,” said Mr Ul Haq. “They can easily send 200,000 [or] 300,000 barrels of oil to Europe.”

However, a sustained increase in Saudi production could increase tension within Opec. Saudi Arabia and other oil producers clashed at June’s meeting over whether to increase the oil organisation’s pumping levels.

The mounting sanctions on the Syrian regime have also led companies to re-evaluate their exposure to Syria’s energy industry.

“Obviously Syria can sell its oil in other places, but there’s going to be a disruptive effect as traders look at Syria in their portfolio,” said Catherine Hunter, an energy analyst at IHS Global Insight in London. “There will be the actual compliance of the letter of the law and there will be the cautionary compliance beyond that.”

The Anglo-Dutch company Shell, Spain’s Repsol and the Austrian energy company OMV, in which Abu Dhabi owns a 20 per cent stake, are among the oil companies that have contracts to ship Syrian oil this month.

Total, the French oil major, has said it will stop shipping Syrian oil and will cancel a cargo the company was to load this month. “I took this decision very clearly,” Christophe de Margerie, the chief executive, said. “It’s been stopped.” The French company, however, has not announced any plans to pull out of an existing exploration venture in Syria.

Gulfsands Petroleum, a British oil company, halted payments last month to a cousin of Mr Al Assad and temporarily stripped him of voting rights. The cousin, Rami Maklouf, owns 5.75 per cent of the UK company.

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September 4th, 2011, 12:45 am


269. ann said:

Special Tribunal for Lebanon concealed evidence Al-Qaeda cell killed Hariri

Saturday, 09.03.2011, 01:54pm

WASHINGTON – In focusing entirely on the alleged links between four Hizbullah activists and the 2005 bombing that killed Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the indictment issued by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon earlier this month has continued the practice of the U.N investigation before it of refusing to acknowledge the much stronger evidence that an Al-Qaeda cell was responsible for the assassination.

Several members of an Al-Qaeda cell confessed in 2006 to having carried out the crime, but later recanted their confessions, claiming they were tortured.

However, the transcript of one of the interrogations, which was published by a Beirut newspaper in 2007, shows that the testimony was being provided without coercion and that it suggested that Al-Qaeda had indeed ordered the assassination.

But the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) was determined to pin the crime either on Syria or its Lebanese ally Hizbullah and refused to pursue the Al-Qaeda angle.

Detlev Mehlis, the first head of UNIIIC, was convinced from the beginning that Syrian military intelligence and its Lebanese allies had carried out the bombing and went to extraordinary lengths to link Ahmed Abu Adas, who had appeared in a videotape claiming responsibility for the assassination for a previously unknown group, to Syrian intelligence.

Violating the general rule that investigators do not reveal specific witness testimony outside an actual courtroom, Mehlis described testimony from “a number of sources, confidential and otherwise”, which he said “pointed to Abu Adas being used by Syria and Lebanese authorities as scapegoat for the crimes….”

Mehlis cited one witness who claimed to have seen Adas in the hallway outside the office of the director of Syrian intelligence in December 2004, and another who said Adas had been forced by the head of Syrian military intelligence to record the video in Damascus 15 days before the assassination and was then put in a Syrian prison.

Mehlis quoted a third witness, Zouheir Saddiq, as saying that Adas had changed his mind about carrying out the assassination on behalf of Syrian intelligence “at the last minute” and had been killed by the Syrians and his body put in the vehicle carrying the bomb.

The Mehlis effort to fit the Adas video into his narrative of Syrian responsibility for the killing of Hariri began to fall apart when the four “false witnesses” who had implicated Syrian and Lebanese intelligence in the assassination, including Saddiq, were discredited as fabricators.

Meanwhile a major potential break in the case occurred when Lebanese authorities arrested 11 members of an Al-Qaeda terrorist cell in late December 2005 and early January 2006.

The members of the cell quickly confessed to interrogators that they had planned and carried out the assassination of Hariri, The Daily Star reported Jun. 6, 2008.

Obviously based in large part on the interrogation of the cell members, the Lebanese government wrote an internal report in 2006 saying that, at one point after the assassination, Ahmed Abu Adas had been living in the same apartment in Beirut as the “emir” of the Al- Qaeda cell, Sheik Rashid.

The full text of the report was leaked to Al Hayat, which published it Apr. 7, 2007.

The report said Rashid, whose real name was Hassan Muhammad Nab’a, had pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1999 and later to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq.

Rashid had also been involved in the “Dinniyeh Group” which launched an armed attempt to create an Islamic mini-state in northern Lebanon in 2000, only to be crushed by 13,000 Lebanese troops.

The members of the Al-Qaeda cell later retracted their confessions when they were tried by military courts in summer 2008 for “plotting to commit terrorist acts on Lebanese soil”, claiming that the confessions had been extracted under torture.

But the Al-Qaeda cell members were being held by the Ministry of Interior, whose top officials had a political interest in suppressing the information obtained from them. The full transcript of the interrogation of one of the members of the cell was leaked to the Beirut daily Al Akhbar in October 2007 by an official who was unhappy with the ministry’s opposition to doing anything with the confessions.

The transcript shows that the testimony of at least one of the members contained information that could only have been known by someone who had been informed of details of the plot.

The testimony came from Faisal Akhbar, a Syrian carrying a Saudi passport who freely admitted being part of the Al-Qaeda cell. He testified that Khaled Taha, a figure the U.N. commission later admitted was closely associated with Adas, had told him in early January 2005 that an order had been issued for the assassination of Hariri, and that he was to go to Syria to help Adas make a video on the group’s taking responsibility for the assassination.

Akhbar recalled that Sheikh Rashid had told him in Syria immediately after the assassination that it had been done because Hariri had signed the orders for the execution of Al-Qaeda militants in Lebanon in 2004. Akbar also said he was told around Feb. 3, 2005 that a team of Lebanese Al-Qaeda had been carrying out surveillance of Hariri since mid-January.

Akhbar also told interrogators some details that were clearly untrue, including the assertion that Abu Adas had actually died in the suicide mission. That was the idea that the cell had promoted in a note attached to the videotape Adas made.

When challenged on that point, Akhbar immediately admitted that a youth from Saudi Arabia, who had been sent by Al-Qaeda, had been the suicide bomber. He acknowledged that Rashid had told him that, if detained, he was to inform the security services that he knew nothing about the subject of Abu Adas, and that he was to warn the other members of the cell to do likewise.

But the interrogator employed a trick question to establish whether Akhbar had actual knowledge of the assassination plot or not. He gave the Al-Qaeda cadre a list of 11 phone numbers, four of which were fake numbers, and asked him if he remembered which ones were used in the preparations for the assassination.

Akhbar immediately corrected the interrogator, saying there had only been seven numbers used in the preparations for the assassination, including the five members of the surveillance team. That response corresponded with the information the investigation had already obtained, and which had not been reported in the news media.

The response of UNIIIC, under its new chief, Belgian Serge Brammertz, to the unfolding of an entirely different narrative surrounding the assassination was to shift the focus away from the question of who were the actual perpetrators of the bombing.

In his March 2006 report, Brammertz said the “priority” of UNIIIC “is being given not to the team that carried out the assassination but to those who ‘enabled’ the crime”.

And Brammertz had still not abandoned the story originally planted by the false witnesses in 2005 that the role of Adas in making the videotape had been manipulated by Syrian intelligence.

In his June 2006 report, Brammertz said the Commission continued to “entertain the idea” that whoever detonated the bomb may have been “coerced into doing so”. And in the September 2006 report, he suggested that Adas may have been coerced into delivering the videotape, just as Mehlis had suggested in 2005.

Despite the official Lebanese government report confirming it, Brammertz never publicly acknowledged that Adas was deeply involved with an Al-Qaeda cell, much less that its members had confessed to the killing of Hariri.

Daniel Bellemare, the prosecutor for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, similarly chose not to pursue that evidence, which directly contradicts the assertion in his indictment that it was a Hizbullah operative – not Al-Qaeda – who had convinced Adas to make the videotape.

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September 4th, 2011, 12:58 am


270. ann said:

Syria terrorist admits Saudi, Jordan links

Sun Sep 4, 2011 4:27AM GMT

Syrian officials say a captured terrorist has confessed to receiving foreign aid and instructions from contacts in Saudi Arabia and Jordan to deface Damascus.

In comments televised on Syria’s national television on Friday, Ammar Ziyad al-Najjar admitted that he was involved in a group that received instructions on how to kidnap people and blame it on the Syrian government, Syria’s official news agency SANA reported.

The man also confessed to, among other crimes, purchasing firearms and distributing them.

He also recounted how groups of outsiders, many of whom not Syrians, showed up during the attacks on police stations in Hama.

Najjar said the men would distribute food and drink to demonstrators, sometimes slipping money into the food to encourage protests and adding stimulant powders at other times.

There was another type of pills that made people more aggressive — pills that were given openly to members of the foreign-backed terror squads, he explained.

Syrian state television has also broadcast other reports showing seized weapons caches and confessions by terrorist elements describing how they obtained arms from foreign sources.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March, with demonstrations being held both against and in support of the country’s President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

According to the Syrian government, unknown gangs are responsible for the deaths and are the driving factor behind the unrest in the country.

The Syrian government says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country and security forces have been given clear instructions not to harm civilians.

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September 4th, 2011, 1:06 am


271. ann said:

Turkish Navy Will Escort Gaza-Bound Aid Ships

In light of Israel’s refusal to apologize to killing Turkish aid workers last year, Turkey is implementing more aggressive postures

by John Glaser, September 03, 2011

The Turkish navy will significantly increase its presence in the eastern Mediterranean and plans to escort civilian ships carrying aid to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as part of a “more aggressive strategy” following the release of the UN Palmer report on the 2010 Gaza flotilla.

“The eastern Mediterranean will no longer be a place where Israeli naval forces can freely exercise their bullying practices against civilian vessels,” a Turkish official was quoted as saying.

The announcement comes after the leaking of the UN report on the Mavi Marmara flotilla killings. The report characterized Israel’s killing of aid workers as “excessive and unreasonable.” Still, Tel Aviv refused to apologize for the incident, maintaining that killing civilians aboard a ship filled with humanitarian supplies headed for suffering Gazans was an act of self defense.

In response, the Turkish government expelled Israel’s ambassador and is considering legal action against the Israeli soldiers and all officials involved in the attack. In the event of another aid ship headed for Gaza, the Israeli navy will be less apt to raid the vessel if the Turkish navy is there to protect it.

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September 4th, 2011, 1:14 am


272. True said:

@ 254. Tara, no worries i could not but share it with you folks 🙂 another reason why Homs should be the capital, its people simply wicked!!


For those who’re still suspecting that ABOUD lives in Homs, i can simply vouch or him as no one would know that Kreish was closed during the month of Ramadan unless you keep driving by its shop everyday.

i did call one of my mates on Homs and he confirmed this fact.
you off the hook mate while I’m sure Menehbeks still believe you;re in Boston somewhere getting paid by G.Bush lol

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September 4th, 2011, 3:27 am


273. Revlon said:

Officer Udai AlAli and five soldiers of his unit who defected and joined FOM in Rastan, yesterday.

أوغاريت انشقاق الملازم عدي العلي وانضمامه لكتيبة الضباط الأحرار 3 9 2011

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September 4th, 2011, 4:05 am


274. solitarius said:

272. True,

It’s well known in Homs that Kreish closes every Ramadan. This is not a special case this year. I don’t really follow posts closely here to know whether ABOUD is inside or outside Homs, but knowing this simple fact doesn’t mean one is currently in Homs.

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September 4th, 2011, 4:31 am


275. Chris W said:

I guess ‘Aboud’ deserves credit. Getting the details right is the mark of good fiction.

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September 4th, 2011, 4:44 am


276. Mina said:


What a deal… France gets a big share in Lybia oil in exchange of letting the US finally achieve their taking over of Iraq, something they refused to C Rise some ten years ago. Now France US and UK are just paying for their dark games: a society where you are obliged to export youth into wars just to avoid local civil war, it reminds me of “Bowling for Columbine”, where Moore pointed at the bad consciousness of these guys all making a living from selling bombs for Lockheed Martin at the time of the war in Yugoslavia.

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September 4th, 2011, 4:57 am


277. Revlon said:

Sources close to authority claim that Major general Habib was killed after resignation.

العماد حبيب: قتله النظام بعد بث فيديو “الإستقالة”!


أكّدت مصادر سورية قريبة من السلطة أن العماد علي حبيب قُتِل بعد استقالته!

وردّاً على سؤال حول الفيديو الذي ظهر فيه العماد حبيب بعد “إقالته” من منصب وزير الدفاع السوري، قالت المصادر أن السلطات السورية قامت بتسجيل شريطين وليس شريط فيديو واحد للعماد علي حبيب بعد الإقالة يؤكد فيهما أنه “استقال لأسباب صحية”! وأضافت المصادر أن العماد حبيب قُتِل بعد تسجيل الشريطين، وأن ذلك يفسّر إختفاءه التام منذ بث الشريط!

وتحدّت المصادر سلطات دمشق أن تسمح للعماد حبيب بالظهور على شاشة التلفزيون في “بث مباشر” إذا كان على قيد الحياة كما تزعم السلطة.

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September 4th, 2011, 5:18 am


278. Aboud said:

SGID, once you’ve tasted Kreish’s sheesh sandwiches, you’ll want to move to Homs 🙂 It’s a place near Dablan street that’s been around since I can remember.

Revlon, you’re welcome. I wouldn’t have known about that article if the Menhebaks hadn’t “leaked” it LOL! 🙂

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September 4th, 2011, 6:58 am


279. sheila said:

Dear #201. Norman,
You said: “If the Syrian army were killing his own people then will see hundreds or thousands dead each day”. No one can dispute this. Indiscriminate shelling by tanks would have caused far more causalities, but it would have also created the urgency for the world to act and forced the west to intervene. Exactly like what happened in Libya. It was not until Gaddafi’s troops were marching toward Benghazi promising to kill everyone, that the urgency to interfere before a massacre would be committed, arose. Then you said: “they are securing the country and arresting the violators of the peace and shooting back at the people shooting at them”. Now that is complete and utter nonsense. The army is out on the street to quell the demonstrations and stop them from growing, by using every scare tactic in the book: random arrests, torture, killings, terrorizing the residents and the list goes on. The goal is to keep the Assads in their thrones and nothing else. It is painful for all of us to see how our government can care less about the country and the people. Had Bashar really wanted to push Syria forward, he could have done a lot in 11 years. If you look at his record of reforms, you can clearly see the pattern of reforms that presented opportunities for his family and cronies to make billions. The reforms that are very necessary for the country to advance, were completely ignored: improving education, fighting corruption, creating institutions, making the judiciary truly independent, Improving the infrastructure and the list goes on. Look at China and tell me what happened there in the last 11 years. The difference between Syria and China is that China is ruled by those who are working hard to improve their country and we are governed by those who are working hard to increase their bank accounts in Switzerland. This point takes me to your last statement: “the government will (not)give power peacefully as the opposition is not seeking power peacefully”. I am sorry Norman, but the government will not give power period. Whether the opposition is peaceful or not. To reiterate, the wellbeing of the country and the safety of its people is really the last thing on the government’s mind.

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September 4th, 2011, 9:32 am


280. Norman said:


It is interesting that you compare Syria to china,

Syria has been under attack since 1948 and under sanction since 1978 , while China has the US market for the last 40 years with free trade and preferential treatment, Israel has even better deal from the US and the EU as a payback for the Holocaust.

Syria did a lot in the last 11 years with economic reform , not political one, they were following the Chinese model, unfortunately the West does not want reform in Syria they want to destroy the stand the Syria has toward the Palestinians and Arab rights.

Actually the economic reform that president Assad started with redistribution of wealth by taxation is what started this uprising that is being used to destroy Syria with the complicity of some Syrians.

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September 4th, 2011, 11:09 am


281. Abughassan said:

There might be a generational rift in the Arab Springs,and I do not think this should surprise any of us. Expats and older Syrians inside Syria deserve little credit,if any,for the changes we are witnessing today.It was the youth who started and maintained this uprising,however,this group is underrepresented in all of the councils we see here and there because they are not equipped to act like politicians and give speeches to the media and get their pictures taken with the likes of Hillary. We knew for years that the young generation in the middle east is a time bomb,and mid eastern governments did very little to tackle their problems especially unemployment and lack of political freedom. Now we are stuck: the youth are not willing to compromise and the elderly may not be able to deliver. Look at Egypt,young people,many without jobs and without hope,keep demonstrating and asking for justice and more measures to change the society they live in while the military council is struggling to keep order and prevent more chaos and stop the bleeding in the economy. No solution in Syria is likely until the regime starts to listen to the youth movement and stop brutal arrests and oppression. What started as an uprising for dignity and accountability is now a campaign to change the regime,and the right thing to do is for Bashar to begin a transition that ends with his departure,those cosmetic steps he proposes will not calm the streets.

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September 4th, 2011, 11:43 am


282. sheila said:

Dear #280. Norman:
Come on Norman. You are educated and smart. How can you write that?
1- China is a very complicated country in terms of ethnicities and religion. I thought comparing us to China would put this” Syria is a very complicated country” to rest.
2- “Syria’s been under attack since 1948 and under sanctions since 1978 why?. Because of our “smart” leadership. “while China has the US market for the last 40 years with free trade and preferential treatment”. Why?. Because its leadership actually cares for the country and works for the advancement of its people. The Chinese took all sorts of belittling and abuse from the US until the day they can stand up tall and dictate their terms. We, on the other hand, are our own worst enemy. Instead of trying to lift ourselves up by aligning ourselves with the winners, we align ourselves with the losers, because they tell us what we want to hear.
3-“the West does not want reform in Syria they want to destroy the stand the Syria has toward the Palestinians and Arab rights”. What stand?????
4- “Syria did a lot in the last 11 years with economic reform”. Really Norman???. Yes, you are right if you look at Rami and co’s bank accounts, everybody else have been suffering: agriculture is literally destroyed because of “alkiadeh alhakeemeh“, between failed irrigation policies and rotten imported seeds because somebody made more commission on them, industry was and still is at the mercy of the “masool“ who will share in your profits in exchange for “facilitating“ your business. And taxation………… Are you going to tell me that Rami was paying his share?. Please Norman. Yes, taxation could be what started the uprising, when people saw how they have to pay and all those pigs sucking Syria’s wealth get away with it. Oh please…

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September 4th, 2011, 12:01 pm


283. beaware said:

At least 15 dead in Syrian violence
September 4, 2011 – 11:04PM
At least 15 people died in violence across Syria on Sunday as the visiting Red Cross chief sought access to those detained in five months of anti-regime protests.

Six soldiers and three civilians were killed when an armed group opened fire on a bus in Maharda, central Syria, state news agency SANA reported.

“Nine people, among them an officer, were killed and 17 others wounded this morning in Maharda in an ambush by an armed group who opened fire on a bus carrying soldiers and labourers going to work,” it said.
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SANA said a security patrol killed three of the assailants and seriously wounded a fourth.

The Local Coordination Committees, which group anti-regime activists on the ground, said security forces shot dead three people in the Khan Sheikhwan area of Idlib province in northwest Syria.

Security forces encircled hospitals “to prevent the wounded from being brought in for treatment”, it charged.

On Friday, SANA said gunmen in Khan Sheikhwan had kidnapped Wael Alia, corporal with Syria’s internal security services.

International Committee of the Red Cross chief Jakob Kellenberger flew into Damascus on Saturday for talks with President Bashar al-Assad over access to prisoners and areas of unrest.

According to activists, 27 people were killed in operations by the army and security services across Syria on Friday and Saturday.

The latest bloodshed came as European ministers warned of more sanctions in addition to an oil embargo over Syria’s defiance of mounting international calls to halt a deadly crackdown on anti-Assad protests.

More than 2200 people have been killed in Syria since almost daily protests began on March 15, says the UN, while human rights groups say more than 10,000 people are behind bars.

Apart from the oil embargo that went into effect on Saturday, the EU expanded a list of about 50 people, including Assad, targeted by an assets freeze and travel ban.

The embargo is aimed at depriving Assad’s regime of a vital source of cash, as the EU buys 95 per cent of Syria’s crude exports.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton warned on Saturday that the body would “continue to put the pressure on and to look for ways of doing so”.

Marianne Gasser, the Red Cross delegation chief in Damascus, said Kellenberger would stay in Syria until Monday afternoon and meet Assad, Prime Minister Adel Safar and Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.

Kellenberger’s office said that during a previous visit in June “an understanding was reached” for “enhanced access to areas of unrest, and negotiations would take place concerning ICRC visits to detainees”.

Asked about the possibility of visiting detainees, Gasser said: “We are confident that we will be able to start visiting people detained by the interior ministry.

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September 4th, 2011, 12:07 pm


284. sheila said:

To dear AbuGhassan #281,
Very well said.

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September 4th, 2011, 1:48 pm


285. transformation said:

Wake up people!! Here is the true face of The Sunni. See it with your own eyes! May God Protect the Innocent!!/photo.php?v=2263064372058

No one deserves to die like that! ):

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September 4th, 2011, 10:52 pm


287. Bill said:

Dear Professor Landis:

I would like to bring to your attention an Arabic article that was published in Al Quds Alarabi for Subhi Hadidi. I don’t know if you can read and write Arabic, but if you don’t you should ask an Arabic speaker to translate it to you. He blames your for being behind the widespread wrong info. regarding Burhan Ghalyoun’s religion. He also accuses you of having friendship with those in the Syrian regime. the title of his article is “Ghalyoun the Alawi, and al-Assad the Democrat.” He also describes you as being one of the “Orientalist Youths.” The link to his article is:\2011\10\10-30\30qpt998.htm&arc=data\2011\10\10-30\30qpt998.htm

I used to infrequently view your blog, but (although I respect your right to take any intellectual position that your wish) I find it intellectually troubling that any scholar would NOT wholeheartedly embrace the cause of the freedom-loving Syrians, who have been terrorized for over 40 years on the hand of their hereditary dictator and his brutal father. I think, and I respect your right to disagree with me, that intellectual “fairness” should not mean giving an equal time to Bashar (the hereditary dictator) al-Assad and to the courageous Syrian demonstrators.

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October 31st, 2011, 1:02 pm


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