Posted by Joshua on Sunday, November 4th, 2012
Clinton’s Effort to Build a Syrian Government in Exile Seems Doomed
by Joshua Landis, Nov. 3, 2012, Syria Comment
Already the Syrian opposition’s back biting and emulous factions seem determined to sink Washington’s latest effort. Hillary Clinton is having a last go a putting together a “secularish,” upper-class leadership for the Syrian rebel effort. A swansong?
Washington’s Plan A, which was to create the SNC, went down in dust. By all accounts, Clinton cannot even stand to hear the name, SNC, uttered any longer.
Plan B was to set up the US office in Istanbul to meet and take the measure of Syrian militia leaders and local coordinating committee directors. The militia leaders scared Washington and the CIA. The word got out that they were “penetrated” by al-Qaida and Salafi types.
Plan C is now in the making. It is to return to the educated Syrians in the hope of doing a little shake-and-bake. Clinton is reconstituting some sort of US-friendly leadership drawn from elements of the old SNC with generous add-mixtures of Coordinating Committee types, some government defectors, and others who will join. It sounds as if the SNC is boycotting. Michel Kilo has said he will not join. Others are also taking a wait-and-see attitude.
The object of this exercise seems to be to glue some sort of US-friendly educated elite onto the military effort that looks too Islamist for Washington’s taste and not very human-rights observant.
But can this last minute fix possibly work?
This effort is almost identical to US and British efforts of the 1950s to stop Syria from slipping into the hands of the USSR, Nasser and the leftist Baathists.
Eisenhower and Anthony Eden did everything they could in 1956 to force Syria’s urban elites to cooperate in a pro-Western coup, but to no avail. The two largest parties in parliament – the People’s Party of Aleppo and the National Party of Damascus refused to cooperate among themselves in order to avoid revolution . Pro-Western Syrian politicians insulted and fought amongst themselves with such ferocity, that Western diplomats pulled their hair with despair as they sought to keep Syria from going “commie.”
When the coup failed, many of Syria’s leading pro-Western notables were accused of treason and fled the country. In 1957, the US sought to carry out another putsch, this time on its own. The “American coup”, as it was named, was no more successful. Some of the CIA operatives in charge of handling the Syrians are still alive. Additional Syrian politicians sympathetic to the West were forced to flee the country. Destabilized by Washington’s failed coup making, Syria announced the creation of the United Arab Republic only months later. Nasser become president and carried out wide-ranging land reform in order to destroyed the economic underpinnings of the urban notables that had allied with the West.
Today, Washington is again trying to rally the pro-Western elites of Syria into putting their shoulders to a common wheel with America. In 1957, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iraq cooperated in Washington’s efforts for regime change. Today Qatar replaces Iraq, but the line up of states helping the US in its “struggle for Syria” has hardly changed. Other aspects that have not changed are the infighting among Syria’s elites and the general resentment and distrust that Syrians share toward the US . It is hard to be optimistic.
News Round Up
Exclusive: Bashar Assad wants war not peace reveals Syria’s former prime minister Riyad Hijab
The most senior politician to defect from the Bashar al-Assad’s regime has revealed that the President repeatedly rejected calls by his own government for a political compromise, in favour of all-out war.
By Ruth Sherlock, Amman,04 Nov 2012
In his first full interview with a Western newspaper since he fled to Jordan in August, Riyad Hijab, the former prime minister, told The Daily Telegraph that he and other senior regime figures pleaded with Mr Assad to negotiate with the Syrian opposition.
One week before his defection, Mr Hijab, the vice-president, the parliamentary speaker and the deputy head of the Baath party together held a private meeting with Mr Assad.
“We told Bashar he needed to find a political solution to the crisis,” he said. “We said, ‘These are our people that we are killing.’
“We suggested that we work with Friends of Syria group, but he categorically refused to stop the operations or to negotiate.”
Mr Hijab referred to the war waged against the Muslim Brotherhood by Mr Assad’s father, Hafez, which led to the deaths of up to 10,000 people in an assault on the city of Hama.
“Bashar really thinks that he can settle this militarily,” he said.
“He is trying to replicate his father’s fight in the 1980s.” Mr Hijab was speaking as key anti-regime figures gathered in the Qatari capital Doha to replace the fractured opposition Syrian National Council with a new government-in-exile. Once formed, the new Council would seek to gain formal international recognition, and, crucially, better weapons.
Mr Hijab said he rejected an offer to be part of the US-backed proposal, promising to be a “soldier in this revolution without taking a political position”.
He said the lack of serious action by the West had consolidated President Assad’s confidence.
“Bashar used to be scared of the international community – he was really worried that they would impose a no-fly zone over Syria,” he said. “But then he tested the waters, and pushed and pushed and nothing happened. Now he can run air strikes and drop cluster bombs on his own population.”
Mr Assad’s acceptance of ceasefire proposals by the United Nations envoys Kofi Annan and Lakhdar Brahimi during the 19-month crisis was “just a manoeuvre to buy time for more destruction and killings”, he said.
Indeed in a speech to his cabinet Mr Assad extolled only the dictums of warfare, Mr Hijab said.
It was as he watched his leader speak – coldly, confidently and gripped by the blind conviction that only military force would crush his enemies, he said – that Mr Hijab knew he had no choice but to break away.
“My brief was to lead a national reconciliation government,” Mr Hijab said. “But in our first meeting Bashar made it clear that this was a cover. He called us his ‘War Cabinet’.” The explosion at the Damascus national security building that killed the country’s defence minister and the president’s brother-in-law marked a turning point, Mr Hijab said. After that, no holds were barred.
“The new minister of defence sent out a communiqué telling all heads in the military that they should do ‘whatever is necessary’ to win,” he said. “He gave them a carte blanche for the use of force.” In recent months the formal government had become redundant, Mr Hijab said. Real power was concentrated in the hands of a clique comprising Mr Assad, his security chiefs, relatives and friends.
Certain that he had lost all influence, and watching the tendrils of smoke rising from his home town of Deir al-Zour near the Iraqi-Syrian border after another wave of air strikes, Mr Hijab plotted his escape: “A brother spoke with one of the Free Syrian Army brigades in Damascus,” he said. “We had expected to be at the border in three hours, but it took us three days.”
Since then, the violence has worsened and new fronts have opened across the country. On Sunday a bomb exploded in the centre of Damascus, wounding 11 civilians, state television and activists reported. The blast was detonated close to the Dama Rose hotel, which hosted Mr Brahimi during his recent visit to Damascus.
Rebels also claimed to have seized an oilfield near Deir Al-Zour, while fighting continued around army and airbases west of Aleppo, which the regime have used to strike rebel-held areas in recent weeks.
Mr Hijab said the violence would continue and the regime would stay in power for as long as Russia and Iran continued to provide support. But even if they cut their allegiance, he said Mr Assad would most probably still refuse to quit.
“I am shocked to see Bashar do what he has doing,” he said. “He used to seem like a good human being, but he is worse than his father.
Hafez is a criminal for what he did in Hama, but Bashar is a criminal for what he is doing everywhere.”
Syrian opposition meeting in Qatar to broaden, unify ranks
Reuters, November 4, 2012Syrian opposition begins talks to broaden, unify ranks
* Five days of talks in Qatar try to meld disparate groups
* Major goal is to align opposition abroad with rebels in Syria
* Some analysts are sceptical of major results
By Rania El Gamal and Regan Doherty
DOHA, Nov 4 (Reuters) – Syria’s splintered opposition factions began talks in Qatar on Sunday on forging a common front for their war against the army of President Bashar al-Assad, but analysts were sceptical that the meeting would bring immediate results.
It was the first concerted attempt to meld opposition groups based abroad and align them with rebels fighting in Syria, to help end a 19-month-old conflict that has killed more than 32,000 people and devastated swathes of the major Arab country. The war threatens to widen into a regional sectarian conflagration.
Tensions between Islamists and secularists as well as between those inside Syria and opposition figures based abroad have thwarted prior attempts to forge a united opposition and analysts sounded a note of caution about the five-day talks.
One Qatar-based security analyst, who asked not to be named, said: “No one was expecting anything to be delivered despite the heavy Qatari hand on this. The Syrian National Council is just too divided. We are likely only looking at a small movement forward.”
Sunni Qatar along with Saudi Arabia and Turkey are backing the mainly Sunni rebels, while Shi’ite Iran supports Assad.
The talks in Doha are intended to win greater international support for the rebels and crucial arms supplies. One aim is to broaden the SNC, the largest of the overseas-based opposition groups, from some 300 members to 400.
Opposition leaders hoped this would pave the way to a follow-up meeting in Doha on Thursday bringing in other opposition factions with the goal of creating an anti-Assad coalition and ending months of political and personal infighting.
“The main aim is to expand the council to include more of the social and political components. There will be new forces in the SNC,” Abdulbaset Sieda, current leader of the Syrian National Council, told reporters in Doha ahead of the meeting.
He said the meetings will also elect a new executive committee and leader for the SNC, criticised in the past over perceptions of domination by the Muslim Brotherhood.
The United States called last week for an overhaul of the opposition’s leadership, saying it was time to move beyond the SNC and bring in those “in the front lines fighting and dying”.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the meeting in Qatar would be an opportunity to establish a credible opposition.
Internal feuding, a lack of cooperation between leaders abroad and fighters in Syria and the rising clout of autonomous Muslim militants in rebel ranks have deterred Western powers keen to see Assad gone from offering more than moral support.
Influential opposition figure Riad Seif has proposed a structure melding the rebel Free Syrian Army, regional military councils and other insurgent units alongside local civilian bodies and prominent opposition figures.
On Sunday, Seif said the initiative has won the backing of “12 key countries” but would not specify which ones. He said if a decision on the new leadership was made on Thursday, “maybe 100 countries will recognise this new leadership as the legitimate and only representative of the Syrians.”
Those countries would convene a “Friends of Syria” meeting in Morocco to support the new elected group, he said.
IMPROVING PITCH FOR ARMS
Western, Turkish and Arab recognition of the new opposition structure, Seif said in an interview with Reuters last week, will help channel anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to the rebels and “decide the battle”…..
Alawite FSA supporter whose father backs Assad tells of a Syrian family ripped apart
The National, Justin Vela, November 4, 2012
Loubna Mrie is one of the few who belong to the minority Alawite sect of Syria’s president, Bashar Al Assad, and oppose his rule.
The 21-year-old activist, from a village near Latakia, said the country’s conflict has torn her family apart. She fled to Turkey in August after hearing security forces knew about her role in smuggling bullets to the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA). En route, she was recorded talking to an FSA rebel in a video that was uploaded to YouTube. Within days, her mother was kidnapped from her home and has not been heard from since.
Ms Mrie blames her father, Jaodat Kamel Mrie, for the abduction.
“He is ready to do anything to show his loyalty to the government and Bashar Assad,” she said in an interview last week.
At the beginning of the uprising, her father, 69, a wealthy businessman, became a member of the dreaded shabiha, armed Alawite groups accused of acting as government sponsored militiamen.
Ms Mrie said he felt his financial success was due to privileges granted by the regime. He began arming unemployed Alawi men, paying them to carry out attacks, and training them.
“I am sure he is responsible for what happened to my mother,” she said.
Her decision to work against the regime came from a fierce independence her mother had instilled in her, she said. Her parents had divorced when she was in fifth grade and growing up she only saw her father a few times a week. Because so many people in Latakia, where she attended university, were pro-regime, she left for Damascus and begin assisting the FSA. [Continue reading...]
The Furies have not been kind to Aleppo’s Great Mosque and Souq. In 1,300 years of history, their columns and colonnades have been consumed by fire, destroyed by earthquake, levelled by the Mongols.
Aleppo’s medieval fabric, its miles of winding markets and 1,000-year-old mosques, Koran schools and merchant houses with overhanging balconies of wood and iron latticework, is being dismantled…..
The rebels seized half of Aleppo, including parts of the Old City, in July. For weeks, they were held at bay by troops in the Citadel which, as intended by Aleppo’s first inhabitants thousands of years ago, acts as a natural raised vantage point.
But they were able to make strategic thrusts, and a month ago surged west into the oldest part of the city around the Mosque. It was during this fighting that the Souq caught light, flames roaring through the fabrics and spices, the silver and gold shops that were one of Syria’s biggest tourist draws, down the miles of arched shop fronts, stripping them of their wooden panelling to the stone and brickwork beneath.
Both sides blame each other. The rebels also claim it was a regime tank that punched man-sized holes through the walls of the haberdashery market; ash eddies in the shafts of sunlight now beaming in. …..
The souk is not beyond restoration. When that will be is less clear….Mr Khalil shook his head but also reflected that unlike the men on either side who had been killed these wonders would yet live to see another day.
“It is very bad and very sad,” he said. “But we can rebuild it, after the revolution is over.” Unesco has called on both sides to spare these “monuments to human history”. It seems neither is listening.
Amr Sherif عـمرو (@Amr5herif) /4/12, 2:20 PM
الشيخ كريم راجح ردًا على مَن يريد محاصصة طائفية في #سوريا كالتي في لبنان : لا يوجد في سوريا طائفة اسمها السنة، السنة هي الأمّة والباقي طوائف