Posted by Joshua on Friday, September 2nd, 2011
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…..
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.
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…..