Bus Explosion in Damascus Sets off Wild Speculation

An explosion on a bus in Damascus sets off wild speculation.

Notice how the slight difference in photos used to compliment both the following stories helps substantiate two very different conclusions — one that the explosion was an accident that occurred in the empty bus while it was in the station undergoing repairs, the other that it was a terrorist attack possibly planned by Sunni (al-Qaida’esque) extremists out to kill Shiites and stir the sectarian pot in Syria. Also notice how the talented Chris Philips of the Guardian is able to work this last conclusion into a political message for president Assad, suggesting that because authoritarian surveillance has failed to stanch terror, the president should adopt Western logic to conclude that the full tonic of democracy and freedom will restor stability and quite to Syria.

SYRIA: Damascus explosion an accident, authorities say
December 3, 2009 |  LA Times


Syria-bus-ap

Observers are puzzled by a mysterious explosion aboard a bus in Damascus.The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency is reporting that an explosion that killed three people including a bus driver and two mechanics occurred when the bus’ tire burst, releasing a “strong wave of pressure.”

Footage from the accident aired on television showed the bus engulfed in flames.

The agency quoted Interior Minister Said Sammour as saying the bus was empty at the time of the explosion, undergoing repairs,  and that there was no evidence of terrorism.

But the story took a few twists and turns through the day.

Though Tehran and Damascus are allies, some of Syria’s Sunni Islamic fundamentalists say Iranian Shiites are preaching on their turf.

Early media reports said dozens of casualties had occurred in a bus explosion at a gas station near the Sayeda Zainab mosque, a popular Shiite Muslin pilgrimage site just south of Damascus that draws tens of thousands of Iranians.

Right after the blast, the Arab news channnel Al-Arabiya carried the headline, “Explosion targeted Iranian pilgrims.”

The Al-Jazeera network reported that “scores” of people had been injured.

And Press TV, Iran’s state-controlled English-language television channel, said on its website that Iranians had been killed in the blast, before taking  the story down.

Last year, 17 people died as a bomb exploded on the road leading to the shrine. The bombing was blamed on Sunni militants.

Al-Jazeera points out that the explosion coincided with a meeting between Syrian President Bashar Assad and  Saeed Jalili, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and the country’s top nuclear negotiator.

— Los Angeles Times

Explosion shakes Syrian security
By Chris Philips, guardian.co.uk, Thursday 3 December 2009 13

A bus blast that killed three may allow Damascus to crack down, but it calls into question the effectiveness of its rule by force
Syrian bus bomb

It is not clear what caused the bus blast that killed three people in southern Damascus. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

The explosion that ripped through a bus of Iranian pilgrims in Damascus, killing at least three people, will send shock waves through Syria. Until recently Syrians were used to seeing such blasts on their television screens rather than on the streets of their own cities, which they considered a rare stable point in the Middle East.

The explosion will remind Syrians of a bomb attack last September and the assassination of Imad Mughniyah in 2008. All of this adds to a growing sense that Damascus is no longer immune from the carnage regularly seen in neighbouring Iraq and Lebanon.

Though the circumstances around the latest blast remain unclear, with officials describing this as an accident caused by a burst tyre and one report claiming it was caused by a gas canister in a passenger’s luggage, fingers on the street will automatically point to militant Sunni Islamist groups. Syria’s Shia population is small, barely 13%, most of whom are not very religious Alawis, yet it was in one of Damascus’s few Shia regions, near the Sayyeda Zeinab shrine, where the explosion took place. As with last year’s bomb in the same region, the presumed suspects will be al-Qaida-inspired groups trying to stir up fitna (discord) between Syria’s Sunni and Shia communities. The fact that it was Iranian pilgrims that were killed supports the idea that Sunni militants are responsible – possibly an attempt to send a message against the Syria-Iran alliance at a time when Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, was in Damascus for talks.

Yet the timing for the attack is strange, as it does not reflect Syria’s recent successes in international relations. The 2008 bomb attacks were widely suspected to have ties to either Saudi Arabia or Saad Hariri’s Future Movement in Lebanon at a time when the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, had strained relations with both. However, following a detente with Riyadh which culminated in Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah visiting Damascus recently, and the formation of a new Lebanese government including pro-Syrian elements, which many expect will lead to Hariri himself visiting Assad’s capital, the motives for an external backer of Islamist militants have decreased.

It seems most likely then that these militants will be locally based, operating independently of former external supporters. This would be supported by the seemingly low-tech nature of the attack. There is an element of karma here, given that the Syrian government previously facilitated many such groups in their passage to fight the insurgency in Iraq. Damascus may now find it has opened a Pandora’s box of Islamist militants who question either Sunni Syria’s alliance with Shia Iran, or its attempted rapprochement with the west, or both.

In spite of the destruction, however, the Ba’ath regime can actually use explosions such as this to its advantage in the short term. It can portray itself as a fellow victim of al-Qaida-type terrorism to western powers in its attempts to continue an international rehabilitation. At the same time, it can use the threat of future attacks to justify its tight grip on its own population, boosting a security presence and further stifling opposition.

In the long term, however, the regime has a developing problem. Whether this explosion proves to be a terror attack or not, the perception that its iron-fisted approach to governing can protect Syria’s civilians from the carnage of its neighbours is being challenged. Internal militant groups do exist, and are willing to strike. Three explosions, alongside Israel’s raid on a suspected nuclear facility in 2007 and the US attack over the eastern border from Iraq in late 2008 openly question the Ba’ath regime’s claim to provide “autocratic stability”.

Given that the traditional rule by force is proving unable to adapt to this new climate, perhaps Assad should look into gradually developing more of a rule by consensus.

Syria angry over inaction on Israel
Dec. 2, 2009

DAMASCUS, Syria, Dec. 2 (UPI) — Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem criticized the U.N. Security Council for not doing enough to end Israeli settlement activity.

The minister in a letter to a U.N. committee on Palestinian issues complained Israeli violations were nearly a daily occurrence, the official Syrian Arab News Agency reports.

Moallem criticized the international community for its inability to curb what he described as flagrant violations of international law.

His comments were echoed by Turkish President Abdullah Gul, who told the Jordanian al-Rai newspaper that Ankara would not stand for Israel’s current course of actions.

“We must solve our regional problems without resorting to major powers outside the Middle East,” he added, noting regional problems require regional solutions.

Moellem added that Damascus felt there was a solution to regional problems in various peace summits sponsored by Middle East states and U.N. resolutions, particularly Resolution 497 that says Israeli claims to the Golan Heights region are invalid.

Mistral Warship Offer Symbolizes New Franco-Russian Strategic Partnership
Jamestown Foundation by Vladimir Socor

….The French government wants to sell one or, better, several vessels of this class to Russia for billions of dollars, generating jobs at ailing French shipyards, and for drawing Russia into an as yet ill-defined “common security space,” which would bypass NATO and the EU and potentially override their common policies (EDM, September 18, November 2)….. French officials are now also starting to speak about a Franco-Russian “modernization partnership.” This seems designed for France to emulate Germany’s officially declared “modernization partnership” with Russia and to catch up with Germany in Russia’s estimation at least politically, if not in overall capability. During Putin’s visit, French energy companies announced intentions to join Gazprom’s Nord Stream and South Stream projects. For its part, Renault is prepared to rescue Russia’s insolvent automobile producer AvtoVaz


Israel decries proposed E.U. stance on East Jerusalem

JERUSALEM — Israel on Tuesday criticized a proposed statement by the European Union recognizing East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state — part of the country’s growing resistance to efforts to pressure it into reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians in the absence of dir…

EU envoys: Israel trying to sever East Jerusalem from West Bank
By Barak Ravid
HAARETZ, 02/12/20

A classified report drafted by European consuls in East Jerusalem and Ramallah slams Israeli policy in East Jerusalem and recommends that the European Union take steps to strengthen the Palestinian Authority’s status in the city. It also advises taking various measures to protest Israeli policy in the city, as well as sanctions against people and groups involved in “settlement activity” in and around it.

The report, a copy of which was obtained by Haaretz, is updated annually by EU representatives to the PA. This year’s report was completed on November 23 and presented to EU institutions in Brussels a few days ago.

Due to the sensitivity of the document, the EU has never before published it, and in previous years Israel pressed the EU hard not to do so, for fear the publication would further undermine the European public’s already negative view of Israel.

Senior Foreign Ministry officials said this year’s report “left a harsh impression” in Brussels and helped Sweden promote its plan to have the EU formally recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.

Israel stripped thousands of Jerusalem Arabs of residency in 2008
By Nir Hasson
HAARETZ, 02/12/2009

Last year set an all-time record for the number of Arab residents of East Jerusalem who were stripped of residency rights by the Interior Ministry. Altogether, the ministry revoked the residency of 4,577 East Jerusalemites in 2008 – 21 times the average of the previous 40 years.

In the first 40 years of Israeli rule over East Jerusalem combined, from 1967 to 2007, the ministry deprived only 8,558 Arabs of their residency rights – less than double the number who lost their permits last year alone. Thus of all the East Jerusalem Arabs who have lost their residency rights since 1967, about 35 percent did so in 2008.

According to the ministry, last year’s sharp increase stemmed from its decision to investigate the legal status of thousands of East Jerusalem residents in March and April, 2008. The probe was the brainchild of former interior minister Meir Sheetrit (Kadima) and Yaakov Ganot, who headed the ministry’s Population Administration.

The ministry said the probe uncovered thousands of people listed as East Jerusalem residents but were no longer living in Israel, and were therefore stripped of their residency. Most of those who lost their residency for this reason did not just move from Jerusalem to the West Bank, but were actually living in other countries, the ministry’s data shows.

Those deprived of their residency included 99 minors under the age of 18.

Attorney Yotam Ben-Hillel of Hamoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual said the 250,000 Arab residents of East Jerusalem have the same legal status as people who immigrated to Israel legally but are not entitled to citizenship under the Law of Return.

“They are treated as if they were immigrants to Israel, despite the fact that it is Israel that came to them in 1967,” he said.

A resident, unlike a citizen, can be stripped of his status relatively easily. All he has to do is leave the country for seven years or obtain citizenship, permanent residency or some other form of legal status in another country, and he loses his Israeli residency automatically.

Once a Palestinian has lost his residency, even returning to Jerusalem for a family visit can be impossible, Ben-Hillel said. Moreover, he said, some of those whose residency Israel revoked may not have legal status in any other country, meaning they have been made stateless.

“The list may include students who went for a few years to study in another country, and can now no longer return to their homes,” he said.

Sami Moubayed writes:

Dear AUB Alumni and friends,

I am pleased to announce that the Damascus Chapter of the AUB Alumni Association will be holding its Annual Dinner on December 10, 2009 at Khan As’ad Pasha in the heart of the Old City. The event starts at 8:30 and will be attended by AUB President Peter F. Dorman, his first official trip to Damascus since becoming head of AUB in March 2008.

Tickets will be available on sale as of tomorrow at the following: Guess Store (Malki) or through Ms Rama Tarabishy (0988-811-112, email: rama.tarabishi@transtek.com) Ticket price: 2,500 SP. All proceeds will go to the Syrian Students Scholarship at AUB.

Vanity Fair, here from FLC

“… the truth about Prince may be orders of magnitude stranger than fiction. For the past six years, he appears to have led an astonishing double life. Publicly, he has served as Blackwater’s C.E.O. and chairman. Privately, and secretly, he has been doing the C.I.A.’s bidding, helping to craft, fund, and execute operations ranging from inserting personnel into “denied areas”—places U.S. intelligence has trouble penetrating—to assembling hit teams targeting al-Qaeda members and their allies. Prince, according to sources with knowledge of his activities, has been working as a C.I.A. asset: in a word, as a spy. While his company was busy gleaning more than $1.5 billion in government contracts between 2001 and 2009—by acting, among other things, as an overseas Praetorian guard for C.I.A. and State Department officials—Prince became a Mr. Fix-It in the war on terror. His access to paramilitary forces, weapons, and aircraft, and his indefatigable ambition—the very attributes that have galvanized his critics—also made him extremely valuable, some say, to U.S. intelligence….”
(Continue, here)

Syrian government reacts angrily to National Geographic article
18 november, 2009
The Syrian government has reacted angrily to an article published in the National Geographic magazine, calling it ‘condescending and inaccurate’.
The National Geographic magazine

The National Geographic has defended its article on Syria

The article, written by correspondent Don Belt, described Syria as “a place where you can dine out with friends at a trendy café, and then, while waiting for a night bus, hear blood-chilling screams coming from a second-floor window of the Bab Touma police station”.

The article deeply offended Syria’s government, and the Syrian ambassador to the US issued a point-by-point rebuttal.

Mr Belt argues that the article is an accurate account of life in Syria and the perception of those who live there.

World Update’s Dan Damon brought together Don Belt and Ahmed Salkini, spokesman for the Syrian Embassy in Washington.

Comments (26)


1. why-discuss said:

It is interesting that any event in Syria is interpreted immediately as lessons to Bashar al Assad. Why is is friendly with Iran? he should break up with this rogue state? why is he using force against terrorists? he should negotiate in ‘consensus’ with Al Qaeda ? why is he hosting Baath exiles, he should kick them out. Why is allowing the Baath operatives he hosts to bomb Iraq? he should close his borders. Why is his security apparatus weakening? he should as National Geographic recommends it, eliminate it.
There will be hundreds of versions of this event. Al Manar, Hezbollah radio, said it was a gaz bonbone that was part of the luggages of a pilgrim that exploded. I guess whatever the Syrians will say will not be believed. What the West is writing is speculation tainted by their current political agenda. Let’s wait for the Iranians as there are the first interested to get to the truth.

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December 3rd, 2009, 5:03 pm

 

2. majedkhaldoun said:

A.P. said
I agree. Countries do not have the right to invade and threaten other countries, plain and simple.
He says something but not mean it. Israel invaded Egypt in 1956,and 1967,and 1973 Israel invaded Syria and Lebanon,infact Israel invaded and occupied pakastine.

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December 4th, 2009, 2:03 am

 

3. mick said:

Random Thoughts, by Chris Philips…

Syria doesn’t have bombings (para 1)

Syrians are getting upset with all the bombings (para 2)

Now let’s repeat every rumor and cliche about Syria and spin into some massive fairy tale.

Receive paycheck for sounding smart!

Now look at the bus. The explosion was centered around the engine compartment. Not a roadside bomb. Not a passenger. Not in the luggage compartment. And from and engine compartment explosion Chris Philips has spun a massive Middle Eastern yarn using just about every player in the Middle East.

I’m suprised he didn’t raise the notion that it was Walid Jumblatt finally getting revenge for his father.

Maybe I shouldn’t give him ideas.

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December 4th, 2009, 2:39 am

 

4. Akbar Palace said:

majedkhaldoun said:

Israel invaded Egypt in 1956,and 1967,and 1973 Israel invaded Syria and Lebanon,infact Israel invaded and occupied pakastine.

Majedkhaldoun,

In terms of the Crusades, the issue is cut and dry. European countries sailing several thousand miles to over-run a Middle Eastern people is a terrible act of aggression.

In terms of the Israeli-Arab conflict, the above wars were acts of self-defense against warring, neighboring countries.

(BTW – I like the term “pakastine”.)

http://www.adl.org/ISRAEL/Record/sinai.asp

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December 4th, 2009, 12:43 pm

 

5. SimoHurtta said:

What was the “self-defence” in 1956 Akbar? Earning plutonium producing nuclear reactors and technology from “crusaders” by killing Egyptians and stealing their land is actually not a reason to call it self-defence.

BTW you said one day ago “I agree. Countries do not have the right to invade and threaten other countries, plain and simple.”
Well coherence (and moral) has never been one of your strengths Akbar.

In terms of the Crusades, the issue is cut and dry. European countries sailing several thousand miles to over-run a Middle Eastern people is a terrible act of aggression.

Country’s do not sail Akbar. Their armies do. If European countries did/do not have that “right” so explain us why USA has then right to do that and “sail” to steal the Iraqi oil? On the other hand are a collection of mostly East European “potato farmers” and their children in Israel, kicking and humiliating Arabs, really Middle Eastern people?

It is amusing to see now when the Western pressure against Israel has been gradually increasing the pro-Israeli extremists like you are beginning to speak about crusaders and negative “European” influence. In the comments of articles of the recent political moves, like EU’s possible diplomatic decision to demand 1967 borders, the main message by pro-Israeli activists is “stay out of our affairs”. Amusingly these comments do not mention “keep sending us money, free weapons and keep up buying our mini-tomatoes and blood diamonds”. Without European and US (=Crusaders) support Israel can’t exist in its present Zionist “style”.

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December 4th, 2009, 3:49 pm

 

6. Akbar Palace said:

Sim said:

What was the “self-defence” in 1956 Akbar?

Yes, most definately. If this link doesn’t work, go to the mfa website or read a book about how Israel’s neighbors terrorized the Jewish state, unbelievably, BEFORE Israel occupied any holy Arab land. Besides supporting cross-border terrorism, Egypt also prevented Israel from navigating the Suez Canal and, often, the Straits of Tiran.

http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Foreign+Relations/Israels+Foreign+Relations+since+1947/1947-1974/27+Statement+to+the+Knesset+by+Prime+Minister+Ben-.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crusades

BTW you said one day ago “I agree. Countries do not have the right to invade and threaten other countries, plain and simple.”
Well coherence (and moral) has never been one of your strengths Akbar.

Sim,

Speaking of morals, when did the Arabs and Jews of the Levant ever attack or terrorize France, England, Germany or Scandinavia? Yet, the Crusaders travelled long distances to claim land thousands of miles away and killing untold THOUSANDS of people.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crusades

In terms of morality, the Crusader slaughter doesn’t even lie in the “same plane” compared to the terrorism Israel had to endure from Egypt and the rest of her “neighbors”.

That is why agreed with SNP when he stated:

It was sheer diabolic evil when the various Christian Crusaders invaded and occupied the Middle East, Moslem and Jews were slaughtered like cattle.

I still agree with him.

It is amusing to see now when the Western pressure against Israel has been gradually increasing the pro-Israeli extremists like you are beginning to speak about crusaders and negative “European” influence.

Glad this amuses you. Actually SNP brought the Crusade issue up without my help.

Yes, believe it or not, not only have muslim extremists killed more Arabs than Israelis, but Christian Crusaders have too. If I am not mistaken, The Crusades left a huge “bruise” on the Arab psyche and rightly so. Certainly, this can be seen in context of the ongoing war again Islamic extremism.

On the other hand are a collection of mostly East European “potato farmers” and their children in Israel, kicking and humiliating Arabs, really Middle Eastern people?

Sim,

Despite all your time on this website, I see your prejudices and biases are still running high. I suggest you increase your reading to include Israel. Most Israeli Jews have a non-European heritage:

Nearly 60% of Israeli Jews are Arab Jews, Iranian Jews, Turkish Jews, Kurdish Jews, Berber Jews, Bukharan Jews, and other Afro-Asiatic countries or are descended from such Jews, and about 40% are European or descended from European Jews.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Israel

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December 4th, 2009, 6:15 pm

 

7. majedkhaldoun said:

A.P.
you just do not make sense,in 1956 Israel attack egypt along with france and England because Nasser nationalized the Suess Canal.It was pura agression against Egypt by Israel. stop talking nonsense and stop deceiving and twisting facts.

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December 5th, 2009, 11:35 am

 

8. Qifa Nabki said:

Setting aside the “lessons from terrorism” business, isn’t it obvious that this was not caused by a tire explosion?

And why would the government invent a false story if the gaz bonbone theory were true?

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December 5th, 2009, 1:04 pm

 

9. why-discuss said:

QN

Maybe because the shock of the tire explosion caused the gaz bonbone to explode, just an wild guess. I guess the investigations are going on and no terrorist organization have yet claimed responsibility.
The iranian press seems to ignore it and it is not taken seriously by the Iranian governement. In view of the hundred thousands of iranian pilgrims visiting Damascus has there been any new security measures near the Shrines?

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December 5th, 2009, 5:04 pm

 

10. Akbar Palace said:

And why would the government invent a false story if the gaz bonbone theory were true?

QN,

Is it that complicated? Perhaps the GOS:

a.) It isn’t comfortable admitting there was a breakdown in Syrian security

b.) The government is used to disinforming a helpless, freedomless citizenry

Isn’t this what everyone has come to expect from the Assads for the past 40 years? Bad news is always swept under the rug, excused, or spinned. Just like this website.

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December 6th, 2009, 1:33 am

 

11. norman said:

It is interesting how an explosion of a bus in Syria would lead to speculation about the failure of security in Syria as if the country is becoming an Iraq or KSA,

Recently a criminal went into a cafe in Washington state and killed 4 police officers in uniform , If something like this happened in Syria we would be hearing about a coup attempt and the killing of the attacker as a revenge as it happened in Washington state with killer of the officers .

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December 6th, 2009, 2:26 am

 

12. why-discuss said:

Norman

The contradiction is that everybody in the West, even National Geograohic, was criticizing Syria for having an overpowering “mokhabarat”. Now everybody is reproaching Syria of its inefficiency.

Instead of criticizing them western powers should offer them training and support.

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December 6th, 2009, 5:03 am

 

13. Shai said:

“The Settlers are our Brothers”
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1132643.html

“Settlers vow to violate Freeze Order”
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3815424,00.html

Brothers? Law abiding citizens?
The only connection I have to these people is that, by pure chance, we both speak the same first-language.

If (our brothers) continue down this path, we’ll soon find ourselves in 1861. And the Occupation of Palestine will be the Slavery we’ll fight a civil war over.

The future of Israel lies in the hands of less than 5% of its population, who believe in the divine right to practice racial policy.

Akbar should ask himself, with each day that passes, how impatient does he grow with his “brothers” in the Jewish Settlement of Efrat? Why is it, that despite the wonderful opportunity the creation of The Jewish State gave all Jews worldwide, still MOST Jews have not emigrated to Israel? Most homeless Jews aren’t interested in this “Jewish shelter”. I wonder why…

Akbar’s “brother” AIG likes to exhaustively repeat on QN’s Blog “Israel is the only state where Jews DON’T NEED A VISA!” But then why do most Jews prefer living in visa-required states?

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December 6th, 2009, 5:08 am

 

14. Off the Wall said:

Dear WD
Notwistanding my full agreement with you regarding the hypocricy of the west, and of psudo journalists passin for men of the pen, In any arab country, a Mukhabarat with technological edge is IMHO a rather scarey prospect?

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December 7th, 2009, 1:21 am

 

15. Alex said:

British expert finds Syria’s claims to be very plausible.

In Syria, the dust settles, the story holds

Phil Sands, Foreign Correspondent

THE NATIONAL

December 07. 2009 12:48AM UAE / December 6. 2009 8:48PM GMT

The wreckage of an Iranian pilgrims’ bus after an explosion last week on the outskirts of Damascus. Phil Sands for The National

DAMASCUS // If you read, watched or heard any of the recent news reports out of Syria, you probably know that Sunni extremists set off a bus bomb in the Shiite neighbourhood of Saida Zeynab on Thursday, killing at least three people and raising fears of rising sectarian tension.

The Syrian authorities denied the explosion was a bomb, but ironically explained the fatalities had been caused by an “overinflated tyre”. The various news reports naturally mentioned this denial, but did so in a way that made it clear nothing of the sort could have been true.

Photographs of the damaged coach, the windows smashed, its side torn and blackened from fire, emphasised the point this was not the result of an accidentally popped tyre.

The only problem with all of these accounts is that there may not have been a bomb after all. The explosion, in fact, could well have been caused by an overinflated tyre.

“It’s well known within the industry for people to be killed from over inflating tyres,” explained a senior engineer at a leading tyre manufacturer in the UK.

He spoke on condition of anonymity because his company, a global brand that makes tyres for cars, lorries and aircraft, did not want its name associated with a fatal incident it had not been involved in.

The engineer, who said he had heard of the Damascus explosion, stressed it was impossible to know with certainty what had taken place without visiting the site. But, he said, tyre explosions could be extremely powerful.

“Coach or lorry tyres are not like those on cars,” the engineer said. “They have plies inside them, metal reinforcement that lets them keep their shape. And you put a lot of pressure in these tyres, say 90 pounds per square inch, that’s three times more than a car, it’s a lot of pressure.

“If you put too much air in, or if the tyre is old and weak and not properly maintained, it can explode, and those metal plies are probably going to go flying.”

Eyewitnesses to the explosion reported hearing a bomb go off, something the engineer thought could well have been a tyre. “A lorry tyre bursting at 120 PSI [pound-force per square inch] or something makes a hell of a bang; it sounds like a bomb,” he said.

Thursday’s blast left parts of the bus badly damaged, its windscreen smashed and engine burned. A van some 15 metres away had a piece of shrapnel-like debris punched through its window and there were three confirmed deaths.

However, while significant, the scale of destruction did not measure up to that caused by the car bombings so common in neighbouring Iraq; those bombs sometimes throw heavy engine blocks 30 to 50 metres, blow craters into concrete roads or demolish the walls of surrounding buildings. Windows in the immediate vicinity get broken.

When the Syrian security forces finally allowed journalists onto the blast site in Saida Zeynab, it was clear there was no crater. A taxi parked alongside the coach, on the same side as the explosion, had some of its windows smashed, but not all of them. There was even some unbroken glass in the immediately adjacent tyre workshop.

And the coach itself, while damaged, was far from torn to pieces. Most of the bodywork was intact, the engine and chassis appeared to be in place, even the seats above the site of the explosion, while misshapen, were still there.

Fire damage was significant but, in light of the British tyre engineer’s comments, it seems possible that flying metal debris could, for example, have punctured the fuel tank or fuel lines resulting in a blaze.

Under those circumstances, the claim that the explosion came from a burst tyre does not sound so ridiculous as it undoubtedly does at first glance.

A more important question is why would any Sunni militant detonate the bomb in a petrol station when, five minutes drive away, is the Sayda Zeynab shrine, always densely populated with Shiite pilgrims?

One critical point the speculative stories failed to address was just why the Syrian authorities would claim a bombing had been an accident. Syria repeatedly justifies its harsh suppression of all internal dissent on the grounds of a domestic threat from violent Islamic extremists. A bomb would fit that narrative perfectly, whereas a blown tyre does not.

Thursday’s explosion might well have been a militant attack, as was widely implied. But, utterly implausible as it may at first sound, there are reasons to believe the Damascus bomb of December 3 may not have been a bomb at all.

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December 7th, 2009, 8:19 am

 

16. Akbar Palace said:

Shai,

Although 5% of Israelis live over the meaningless “Green Line”, a majority of Israelis do NOT see this imaginary line as the border. You may see it this way, but your countrymean do not. Convince them, not me. I don’t vote in Israel.

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December 7th, 2009, 6:00 pm

 

17. Shai said:

Akbar,

You’re wrong. The point is not the Green Line, it’s the two-state vs. no-state solution. There’s no doubt that the majority of Israelis are for a two-state solution, because the alternative is something they perceive as being worse. At the same time, the overwhelming majority (if not all) of the Settler “brothers”, including your own in Efrat, are for a one-state or no-state solution. They’re perfectly happy sitting atop their hilltops in their cozy little warm cottages, while the Palestinian villages underneath, and in the surrounding valleys, are not only stuck 50 years back in time, but in fact have no independence or freedom as any other people on this earth do.

Since the two-state solution will have to also be a viable one, there’s little doubt it will be based mostly on the 1967 lines, with exceptions probably in the three main settlement blocs, in return for land inside Israel. Most Israelis understand this, and accept it. Most settlers do NOT! If they did, they would understand that continuing to build settlements is not only illegal, but in fact contradictory to a viable two-state solution. Simply put, the more settlements there are in the West Bank, the less likely a two-state solution becomes.

Your “brothers” in Efrat couldn’t give a rat’s ass if the Palestinians living around them never had a state of their own. The majority of Israelis probably think differently.

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December 7th, 2009, 9:40 pm

 

18. December 7, 2009 « Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? said:

[…] writer can take to the Internet, set up a blog, and – perhaps – become the go-to source for this or that specialized branch of knowledge. An alternative crop of experts has arisen, which rivals […]

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December 8th, 2009, 12:21 am

 

19. Friend in America said:

Just a couple of comments on the explosion:
1) An examination of the first photo shows a tyre lying on its side to the right of the bus. It looks intact. The outside rear tyre is on the bus and intact. We may assume the inner tire on the right rear is also intack. Neither tyre shows any evidence of having exploded.
2) In the second photo 2 men are looking at the tyre lying on its side – the same tyre as in photo #1. Again, the tyre appears intack.
3) I am not familiar enough with that model of Scania bus to identify what the rear compartment is used for. Maybe this model has a luggage compartment behind the wheels, but in most buses of this type that compartment holds small packages and bus supplies (a good place to hide a small bomb). Examining photo #2, the items still in that rear compartment do not look like luggage. Packages perhaps. That compartment may have been the bomb location, but I rather think it was on the other side. If so, it was not a large bomb by today’s terrorist standards but sufficient to destroy the rear of the bus and some of its passengers.
4) It was large enough to destroy most of the upper floor at the rear 1/4th of the bus. Far more havoc than a tyre burst can do.
5) There is some persuasion to the surmise that the perpetrators are internal Sunni extremists. This observation, raised by other writers, is based upon possible motives. It is not conclusive. Another possibility is Al Qada operatives; there were AQ operatives in Syria last year or the year before and they were suspected in the 2008 attack near the shrine. But nothing is conclusive about AQ either.
6) What is curious is why the government thought it necessary to issue a make up (cover up) story. The government could have said there was an explosion caused by unknown sources, then have follow ups; that would make it look like it was investigating diligently. My guess is they feared how Teheran would react and therefore issued the cover up almost immediately. The reaction in Teheran would be a genuine concern.
Let’s see how this gets played out.

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December 8th, 2009, 2:04 am

 

20. Yossi said:

What a spinster…

Netanyahu: Syria willing to renew talks without conditions

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1133510.html

I don’t recall the Syrians placing pre-conditions on indirect talks, the pre-conditions were on direct talks…

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December 8th, 2009, 2:22 am

 

21. norman said:

Yossi,
You are right ,

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December 8th, 2009, 2:57 am

 

22. Shai said:

Yossi,

Netanyahu was wise to say that. If he does plan on talking to the Syrians, and if he does plan on giving back the Golan, he has to start showing the Israeli people how “he”, through his brilliant skills, makes Syria change its tough stance.

Since perception is so important here, Syria would be wise to help Netanyahu achieve more of these tiny moments of “victory”.

As you know, one of my favorite episodes in History is the Cuban Missile Crisis, of October 1962. The very wise diplomat Llewellyn “Tommy” Thompson suggested to Kennedy that Khrushchev was in quite a fix, and if he could get away with a deal that says “Kennedy was going to destroy Castro, and I prevented it!”, he would accept that. It was all about perception. Kennedy realized that, accepted that rationale, and instead of inflaming the situation further (as all his other advisers suggested), he chose the non-belligerent path and in so doing helped Khrushchev help himself.

There’s a lot Syria and Israel can learn from that episode… how two nations can come extremely close to clashing, and yet find the way out. In our case, to Peace.

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December 8th, 2009, 5:07 am

 

23. Yossi said:

Shai,

I agree, it’s a spin that is possibly well-intentioned.

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December 8th, 2009, 5:14 am

 

24. Shai said:

I hope so… 🙂

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December 8th, 2009, 5:43 am

 

25. Akbar Palace said:

More misinformation to correct, more Deja Vu

Syria: No peace talks without Israeli promise to return Golan

By Haaretz Service

Syrian President Bashar Assad said he would begin peace talks with Israel only after Netanyahu “guarantees the full return of land and rights,” the Syrian News Service reported.

Assad said that talks without preconditions were “unacceptable,” and that he expected the full return of land and rights before he would begin any peace talks.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1129626.html

Friend in America,

You mean you don’t believe the faithful Syrian government explaination about the exploded tyres?? By doubting the Syrian leadership, you may, inadvertently, disrupt your chances of being taken seriously here on SC.

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December 8th, 2009, 6:10 am

 

26. Shai said:

It is about time someone in the international arena stated loud and clear: Jerusalem is the capital of two states – the Israeli and the Palestinian one. This is two-decades overdue. How do we know that? Because for the first time, BOTH sides accepted the statement – especially Israel (via our own FM, Avigdor Lieberman!) This is a good sign. The declaration needs to be repeated from now on by everyone, ad nauseum, starting with the Obama administration.

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3817116,00.html

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December 8th, 2009, 5:44 pm

 

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