Creating a Syrian Swamp: Assad’s ‘Plan B’

Creating a Syrian Swamp: Assad’s ‘Plan B’
By Joshua Landis
August 10, 2012

Is the regime’s “end game” coming soon? I fear not. Assad is likely to treat Syria as he did Iraq and Lebanon: he will work to break them apart. In 2005, a friend who was close to the regime told me that Assad and those around him were convinced that they could defeat President Bush’s attempts to change the regime in Syria. They said:

Bush thinks he can use Iraq against us. But Iraq is not a nation. We will help turn its factions against the US. It will turn into a swamp and suck the US in. This is what we did to Israel and the US in Lebanon in the 1980s.

Today, Assad will treat Syria as he did Lebanon and Iraq earlier. He will gamble that it is not a nation and will work to tear it apart. Already he has withdrawn from the Kurdish parts of Syria. Friends in Aleppo tell me that Assad is arming the Kurds there. He will arm the Arab tribes in the hope that they will resist central control. I am told that a number of the tribes of Aleppo gathered to condemn the Free Syrian Army following the killing of a leader of the al-Berri tribe, Ali Zeineddin al-Berri, also known as Zeno, who was accused of leading a pro-regime shabiha militia group. Assad will arm those that fear the Free Syrian Army, such as the Aleppo tribes, which he has used to police Aleppo. As Damascus and Aleppo slip out of his control, he may well try to destroy them sooner than allow them to fall intact to the Free Syrian Army. Anyone who has ruled Syria knows that Damascus is its linchpin. By reducing it to ruins, Syria may become ungovernable. He will build up the rural groups that have chafed under Damascus’ control.

In order to survive, Assad and his Alawite generals will struggle to turn Syria into Lebanon – a fractured nation, where no one community can rule. He may lose Syria, but could still remain a player, and his Alawite minority will not be destroyed. Today, Junblatt, Geagea, Gemayyal, Franjia and other warlords are respected members of parliament and society. All might have been taken to the international court and charged with crimes against humanity two decades ago. After all, somewhere between 100,000 to 150,000 Lebanese were killed out of a population of three million during the civil war. When the Lebanese came to terms with the fact that no one camp could impose its rule over the others, they had no choice but to bury the hatchet and move forward.

If Assad surrenders, hundreds of regime leaders will be executed or tried for crimes against their fellow countrymen. The broader Alawite community fears the possibility of aimless retribution. To avoid this, Assad is likely to pursue the Lebanon option: turn Syria into a swamp and create chaos out of Syria’s sects and factions. It is a strategy of playing upon divisions to sow chaos. Already the Syrian Army has largely been transformed into an Alawite militia. If Assad must withdraw from Damascus, he will have nowhere to fall back on but Latakia and the coastal mountains. I have argued that the Alawite region cannot be turned into an independent state, but it does provide Assad and the remnants of the Syrian Army a social base. Just as Lebanon’s Maronites did not create an independent state in the Lebanon Mountains, they did use it to deny Muslim forces undivided supremacy over Lebanon. The Syrian opposition will have difficulty defeating Assad’s army. This is certainly true if opposition forces remain as fragmented as they are today. Assad is gambling on his enemies being unable to unite. He is working assiduously to turn Syria into a swamp in order to save what he can of his power and the lives of those around him.

If Assad is successful in this ambition, there will be no clear endgame to the fighting in Syria. Syria’s Baathist regime cannot survive. It is already collapsing. Most state institutions are no longer functioning. Order has broken down in many parts of the country. New authorities are springing up as the old disappear. But Assad’s army in its transformed state is likely to remain a powerful force. It is difficult to see how a clear winner will emerge in Syria. A new national pact will have to be hammered out between the forces on the ground. But those forces are only just beginning to take shape in their new forms today.

Syria Comment News (No moderation of comments)

I will try abandoning moderation of the comment section for several weeks as an experiment. I have been receiving numerous complaints. I have had great trouble keeping good moderators because people are angry. Every moderator is attacked for being partisan and unfair. Their job becomes unsatisfying if not impossible. Consequently, I will try not to moderate the comment section for several weeks and pray that all commentators remain civil and resist attacks on other commentators. Attacking ideas is fine. Attacking people is not. I want to keep the comment section useful and friendly to all. Ideally comments will add valuable information for our readers. This blog is a group effort. Best to you all. Joshua

News Round Up

Will Syria’s Kurds benefit from the crisis?
By Jonathan Marcus BBC Diplomatic Correspondent

Sowing chaos?

…. Noted Syria expert Joshua Landis of the University of Oklahoma says that while Syria’s Kurds are a compact minority they are not a majority even in the north eastern border area with Turkey – where they constitute some 30-40% of the population.

They have sometimes tense relations with local Sunni Arab tribes who see this as an integral part of Syrian territory, reinforced by the fact that this is an area rich in oil resources vital to the Syrian economy.

Prof Landis argues that what is going on in the Kurdish north-east offers a useful pointer to President Assad’s “Plan B” should his control over key cities like Damascus and Aleppo crumble

He says that the “embattled president withdrew government forces from the north-east because he couldn’t control it and wanted to focus on the most important battles in Aleppo and Damascus”.

“But in the back of the president’s mind, there may be the thought that empowering the Kurds is a way of weakening the Sunni Arab majority and underlining the risks of fragmentation should his government fall. It’s a strategy of playing upon divisions to sow chaos,” he said.

This way, says Prof Landis, “the Syrian Army – which is rapidly becoming an Alawite militia, whilst still the strongest military force – may lose control over large swathes of the country, but will remain a vital factor in determining the political outcome in Syria”.

It is a bleak prospect.

Prof Landis asserts that President Assad “may lose Syria, but could still remain a player, and his Alawite minority will not be destroyed”.

“That’s the future of Syria,” he says, with little enthusiasm. “It’s what Lebanon was and what Iraq became.”

Insight: Syria rebels see future fight with foreign radicals
By Erika Solomon, ALEPPO, Syria | Tue Aug 7, 2012

A Free Syrian Army fighter screams in pain after he was injured in a leg by shrapnel from a shell fired from a Syrian Army tank in the Salaheddine neighbourhood of central Aleppo August 7, 2012.
REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

(Reuters) – Abu Bakr, a Syrian rebel commander on the outskirts of Aleppo, is a devoted Islamist determined to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. But the radical allies that have joined the rebels in recent months alarm even him.

“Let me be clear. I am an Islamist, my fighters are Islamists. But there is more than one type of Islamist,” he told Reuters. “These men coming fought in insurgencies like Iraq. They are too extreme, they want to blow up any symbol of the state, even schools.”

Seventeen months into the uprising against Assad, Syria’s rebels are grateful for the support of Islamist fighters from around the region. They bring weapons, money, expertise and determination to the fight.

But some worry that when the battle against Assad is over they may discover their allies – including fighters from the Gulf, Libya, Eastern Europe or as far as the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area – have different aims than most Syrians.

“Our goal is to make a new future, not destroy everything,” Abu Bakr said, sighing as he rattled his prayer beads. “As bloody as it is now, this stage is simple. We all have the same cause: topple the regime. When Bashar falls, we may find a new battlefront against our former allies.”

Abu Bakr and his comrades say they envision Syria as a conservative version of Turkey’s moderate Islamist rule, not an autocratic theocracy. They are unnerved by a recent kidnapping of foreign journalists and attacks on state infrastructure….

One of the most effective and elusive groups in Aleppo now sending reinforcements into Damascus is called Ahrar al-Sham, “The Free Men of Syria.” Its fighters accept the bulk of jihadist foreign fighters in Idlib and Aleppo, rebels say.

“They’re extremely effective and secretive. They coordinate with us to attack the regime but they don’t take orders from anyone. They get weapons and explosives smuggled from abroad that are much better,” said a rebel in Aleppo called Anwar.

Other groups are amateurs working alone, and it shows…


But most rebels don’t have clear answers for what they mean when they say they are Islamist or want an Islamic state.

“We want to build a state where our citizens are equal, Muslims and minorities,” said the young rebel Anwar, as he watched an Islamic TV station from a safe house in Aleppo.

“We want to be able to choose our own future, not have it be determined by poverty or our religion.”

The fighters from Syria are mostly poor, uneducated young men from rural areas. Decades of repressed anger have helped shape their ideas. Most say that as members of the country’s Sunni Muslim majority, their families were harassed and discriminated against by security forces.

….Commander Abu Bakr says that while he objects to the severe radical approach, he too hopes for an Islamic state.

“Let’s first get rid of the regime, re-establish stability, have national dialogue, and then gradually try to create the Islamic state and give people time to get used to it,” he said.

“I don’t want to immediately impose Sharia law and start cutting off people’s hands for stealing. I believe in Sharia. But if we force it on people, we will create fear. We have to assure minorities we will treat them well.”

Rebel fighters are exhausted and can’t afford to take on new opponents, said fighters from northern Idlib, in a convoy heading to the battle in neighboring Aleppo. Amr, a 20-year-old rebel, said his comrades had their hands full trying to topple the government and maintain order in areas they control.

“We already are fighting the regime and now we’re fighting crime. We just don’t have time to deal with these extremists,” he sighed. “But don’t worry, their day will come.”

On Damascus Streets, Front Lines Multiply
Neighborhood Patrols in Syrian Capital Take Up Arms for the Regime; In Some Areas, Rebels Are Manning the Checkpoints.

Syrian army fighters in Damascus in July. Regime backers have asserted control over much of the capital.

DAMASCUS—Syria’s capital, once a haven from the violence tearing through much of the country, now has multiple front lines and bears battle scars of its own.

A maze of checkpoints and neighborhood patrols run by the most hardened supporters of President Bashar al-Assad has allowed the government to reassert control in most areas—after rebel fighters stunned soldiers and residents last month.

Local councils of regime supporters, called Popular Committees, were months ago given the task by municipalities to guard their respective neighborhoods. Now, their members—mostly men in their 20s and 30s—have been armed with rifles and handguns, issued ID cards and given monthly salaries.

New license plates that read “protection of order” are displayed on a growing number of cars around the capital. The word for “order” in Arabic, locals point out, can also mean “regime,” a pun not lost on Syrians on both sides of the conflict.

But the weeklong government bombardment of crowded neighborhoods last month also gained rebel fighters some sympathy in other corners of the capital, making regime opponents out of displaced civilians and turning rebellious southern districts into nearly lawless enclaves. Still, many regime opponents say it was premature or reckless of rebels to bring the fight to the capital…..

Assad appears on TV with Iranian security chief
Washington Post

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a rare appearance with the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council on Tuesday in video footage broadcast on state television. Assad has made one appearance since the assassination of four top security officials on July 18. In video footage broadcast the following day, he was shown swearing in a new defense minister.

Saeed Jalili, a top security official in Iran and the country’s lead nuclear negotiator, visited Damascus on Tuesday to discuss the fate of 48 Iranians captured by rebels just outside the capital on Saturday, as well as the ongoing crisis in Syria.

“Kidnapping innocent people is not acceptable anywhere in the world,” Jalili said, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency. He said Iran would do what it could to “secure release of the 48 innocent pilgrims kidnapped in Syria.”

He also said the only way to resolve the unrest in the country would be to find a “Syrian solution.”

LBC: Samaha confesses involvement in bombing plans
August 9, 2012

LBC television reported Thursday that detained ex-Information Minister Michel Samaha confessed under interrogation that he had transferred “explosives from Syria to Lebanon in order to carry out bombings in North Lebanon, particularly in the area of Akkar, with Syria’s knowledge.”

Guardian (GB): The Muslim Brotherhood wants a future for all Syrians2012-08-06

The future of democracy in Syria is the subject of many concerns: people are worried about the treatment of minorities and women, possible acts of revenge, and the likelihood of transitional justice. Some ask about universal human rights. Others …

State Department and Pentagon Plan for Post-Assad Syria By STEVEN LEE MYERS and THOM SHANKER, August 4, 2012

WASHINGTON — Even with fighting raging in Syria and President Bashar al-Assad digging in, the State Department and Pentagon are quietly sharpening plans to cope with a flood of refugees, help maintain basic health and municipal services, restart a shattered economy and avoid a security vacuum in the wake of Mr. Assad’s fall, administration officials…

State Department Spokesman Patrick Ventrell said at a daily press briefing Monday:

“What we’re focused on and our concern is that as the opposition comes together with the remaining elements of the regime that don’t have blood on their hands, that they create an inclusive Syria where the rights of all Syrians are respected. And so that’s our focus and that’s what we’re directly communicating to the opposition, and that’s certainly where our feelings are.”..

 Daily Caller: Behind the White House’s secret Syria plan 2012-08-07

 The White House won’t keep its own secrets, never mind those of the SEALs, Pentagon, or Israel — especially if leaking secrets helps President Obama look like a tough guy in his uphill re-election campaign. The latest leak is a gusher, and …

Divisions may hinder Muslim Brotherhood in Syria
© Oxford Analytica 2012 – Thursday, August 9 2012
At the start of the uprising in March 2011, the Muslim Brotherhood was not well placed to claim the leadership of post-Assad Syria: it had no organised presence inside the country and was beset by long-standing rivalries. However, the uprising has enabled it to bolster its credibility and re-establish a foothold among the domestic opposition. It is now on course to play a prominent role in the conflict — and the political system that follows the Assad family’s 40-year rule.
•The fall of the Assad regime will remove obstacles to increased Turkish, Qatari, and possibly Egyptian support.
•Both Iran and Saudi Arabia will resent the Brotherhood’s rise, with Riyadh trying to curtail its influence by supporting rival forces.
•The movement’s moderate positions are likely to make it appear as a ‘reasonable’ alternative to more radical Islamic forces.
What next
As soon as security conditions allow, the Muslim Brotherhood will return to Syria to claim a place within the new political order. This will not be an easy task. Although it will benefit from its connections with armed groups and foreign governments, it will face strong opposition from both Islamist and secular rivals. The movement will also need to address internal divisions, and rebuild its Damascus branch.
For decades, the Brotherhood has dominated the exiled opposition. This is a result of the mass exodus of its members that occurred between the 1963 Ba’athist coup that brought the Assads to power, and the regime’s final eradication of the movement’s presence inside Syria following the 1979-1982 Islamic uprising.
The Brotherhood played a leading role in the conferences held by exiled opponents in Turkey in the first half of 2011. It rapidly became the leading force within the main exiled opposition body, the Syrian National Council (SNC) that was created in Istanbul last August. It took about one-quarter of the seats and established alliances with many other members, including secular figures such as the SNC’s first president, Burhan Ghalioun. In addition to its size and experience, the Brotherhood has been able to influence the SNC’s decisions thanks to its close relations with the latter’s two main supporters, Turkey and Qatar (see QATAR: Foreign policy activism meets constraints – February 3, 2012).
Factionalism issues
However, the movement remains handicapped by factionalism based on long-running regional divisions. In the early 1970s, the Damascus branch seceded from the organisation and gradually ceased to play any significant role, even in exile. During the following decades, endemic rivalry persisted between the Aleppo and Hama branches. In 2010, the Brotherhood’s secretary-general, Aleppo branch member Ali Sadr al-Din al-Bayanuni, was replaced with a new leadership entirely composed of members of the Hama branch. This followed a number of leadership failures by Bayanuni, including his unfruitful alliance in 2006 with former Vice-President Abd al-Halim Khaddam, who by then was in exile.
The new leadership is headed by Riyad Shaqfa and his deputy Faruq Tayfur, the most senior Brotherhood representative within the SNC. Although the two branches have recently reconciled, the Aleppo branch has continued to act autonomously, to the extent that it runs its own coalition within the SNC, the National Action Group led by Ahmad Ramadan.
Rebuilding grass-root networks
The creation of a ‘liberated zone’ in the north could facilitate the Brotherhood’s return this year
After establishing its hegemony over the exiled opposition, the Brotherhood’s top priority has been to rebuild bridges with Syrian society. It has attempted to do this by channeling funds into the country, first for humanitarian purposes, then from late 2011 onwards, in support of armed groups. The reconstruction of the movement’s base inside Syria has thus been carried out on a clientelist basis rather than through the recruitment of genuine followers.
Its attempt to re-enter the Syrian political scene has relied on the movement’s own structures such as the Committee for the Protection of Civilians. The latter is an umbrella organisation that was created in December 2011 and subsequently secured the allegiance of several insurgent groups, the most powerful of which is the Khalid Bin al-Walid Brigade in Homs province.
Islamist competition
The Brotherhood’s rise may exacerbate Syria’s regional and ideological divisions
However, the Brotherhood has also been accused of using the SNC’s resources for its own purposes, in particular through its control of the Relief and Development Office. This issue has been a source of tensions not only with secular opponents, but also with other Islamist groups such as the Syrian National Movement. The latter constitutes a serious potential rival for the Brotherhood given that its leaders left Syria only after March 2011 and thus command a much fresher network of supporters on the ground.
Inside Syria, pro-Brotherhood brigades also compete with Saudi-backed military coalitions such as the Front of the Revolutionaries of Syria, and at least some branches of the Free Syrian Army that have reportedly distanced themselves from the Brotherhood-SNC-Qatar nexus (see SYRIA: Opposition splits cloud transition prospects – May 14, 2012).
Despite past tactical alliances with the Muslim Brothers, the Saudi monarchy is worried about the fact that their recent electoral victories in the region might encourage its own citizens to demand political reforms. In Syria, therefore, Riyadh has tended to support the Brotherhood’s rivals, particularly politically conservative forces such as Bedouin tribes and defected officers.
Policy agenda
Pragmatism would likely determine the movement’s actions once in power
In ideological terms, the Syrian Brotherhood espouses moderate positions in line with the regional movement. It has always advocated a form of ‘Islamic democracy’ that combines the institutions of a liberal democratic state (free multi-party elections, a powerful parliament, separation of power) with the ‘gradual Islamisation of law’. Over the last decade the organisation has clarified its position on religious minorities by rejecting any form of discrimination against them.
The Brotherhood’s economic policies advocate a radical break with the incumbent regime state-centred approach in favour of a liberal system characterised by minimal state intervention and maximum private initiative (see NORTH AFRICA: Islamists to be pragmatic on economy – April 10, 2012).
In the realm of foreign policy, the Brotherhood will have to walk a fine line between the advocacy of a nationalist agenda, which will be key to the movement’s legitimacy, and the need to follow a realistic course of action in order to preserve its relations with pro-Western states in the region
Nicholas D. Kristof: Obama AWOL in Syria
….As I see it, there are three main reasons for action in Syria.
First, the longer the fighting goes on, the more it destabilizes the region. Syria is now in a civil war linked to the Sunni-Shiite divide in the region. The more deaths, the more refugees, the more revenge killing, the tougher it will be to put Humpty Dumpty together. The longer the war persists, the more risk of spillover into Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan.
Second, Assad is believed to have many tons of sarin and VX nerve agents. Those chemical weapons could end up in the hands of jihadis or on the global black market, and we should work with Syrian rebels to help secure them if necessary.
Third, there’s a humanitarian imperative. It appears that several times more people have been killed in Syria than in Libya when that intervention began, and the toll is rising steeply.
Syrian rebels driven by religion, but on their own terms,” Wash Post
By Roula Khalaf and Abigail Fielding-Smith, Published: August 9

….Abu Berri says he became a committed member of the Salafists, the ultraconservative Sunni sect, after spending nine years in Saudi Arabia.

Many of his peers, he says, are also becoming Salafists, even those who have little understanding of this brand of puritanical Islam. Abdelr Razzaq Tlass, the charismatic leader of a brigade in the city of Homs, traded his mustache for a beard, he notes. “They grow beards to defy the regime,” he says. “In fact, we’re even willing to say we’re al-Qaeda to annoy the regime.”

Syrian activists often play down the religious aspect of the country’s revolution, insisting that in a conservative society it is only natural that people who are suffering should seek refuge in religion. But as the regime’s brutality has intensified, the rebel movement has become more radicalized. In this overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim struggle against a minority Alawite regime, Salafists and other Islamists say they are fighting a jihad against the Assads.

Crime Wave Engulfs Syria as Its Cities Reel From War
By an employee of THE NEW YORK TIMES and DAMIEN CAVE
Published: August 9, 2012

….Kidnapping, rare before, is now rampant, as a man named Hur discovered here last month. He simply wanted to drive home. The man shoving a pistol into his back had other plans. “Keep walking,” the gunman told Hur, 40, a successful businessman, as they approached his car. “Get in.”

Hur said he initially thought he was being arrested by government agents. But then, after blindfolding him, his three captors made a phone call that revealed baser motives.

“They asked my family to ransom me with 15 million Syrian pounds,” Hur said of the abductors’ demand for about $200,000. “They were criminals, not a political group. They told me they knew me and they knew my family could pay.”….

It was Iraq, circa 2003, in miniature: in areas where decades of suppressive government have suddenly been lifted, looting, violence and sectarianism have begun to thrive.

But the lawlessness may be more systemic. For years, the Assad government relied for control on private militias called shabiha that were paid by the government or by its wealthy supporters. With the government stretched financially and many businessmen fleeing or switching sides, those payments appear to have stopped, Ms. Hanano and others said, leading many militia members to pay themselves however they can, often with violence as a byproduct….

“In the Shadow of Assad’s Bombs
by Samar Yazbek, a novelist and journalist, who is als the authorof “A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution.” Powerful personal account from an embattled village, written by an Alawi woman who has renounced the regime.
New York Times op-ed

….I was the only woman among them, and the young F.S.A. men treated me like part of the group. During that meeting it became clear that it’s a mistake to consider the F.S.A. as a single bloc. It is a hodgepodge of battalions, including secularists, moderate Islamists and all-too-ordinary people who joined up to defend their lives and their families.

At the end of our journey back to Saraqib, the commander told me, “We are one people, we and the Alawites are brothers. We had never thought about the sort of things that the regime is trying to stir up.”

I was silent for a moment, until I realized what he was telling me, the daughter of a well-known Alawite family that supports President Bashar al-Assad unconditionally. Some of my relatives have publicly disowned me for turning my back on the regime as many others have, announcing on Facebook that I am no longer considered one of them.

I squeezed the commander’s hand. ….

“There was an apple seller who came to Saraqib today. He was killed by that sniper up on the radio building. An army patrol passed by, took the apple cart and they all started eating the apples even as the merchant’s corpse was sprawled out on the ground,” she recounted. “The apple seller’s son was shouting and crying for someone to help him move his father so that he could give him a decent burial. One of them motioned at the son to go and ask the neighbors for help.”

Before the sound of a fighter jet flying overhead boomed, the woman said, “Poor guy. He was just a stranger who wanted to sell his apples.”

Comments (219)

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151. zoo said:

Those who would like Assad to fall are now confronted with the old Machiavelli vs. Kant philosophical dilemma: does the end justify the means or do the means determine the end? A comprehensive study, published by Columbia University Press and analyzing dozens of past cases, suggests that the latter is true.

It indicates that if a dictator is overthrown through peaceful struggle, there is a 51 percent chance of a successful democratic transition after five years. In case of an armed struggle, the chances are only three percent.

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August 11th, 2012, 10:57 am


152. Citizen said:

Syrian opposition in Germany, learned the basics of building democracy
More than 40 leaders of the opposition movement Syria participated in the workshop, which aimed at training in the construction of democracy.

According to RBC, the event was classified a few days ago in Berlin. But the press still leaked information about the lectures, which listened to the representatives of the Syrian protest movement.

According to the Israeli publication Haaretz, the Syrian opposition, in particular, became acquainted with the German experience in reforming the security services, visit the agency, which is the successor to the famous “Stasi” – the GDR’s secret police.

The mystery – a mystery, and the German Foreign Ministry confirmed the trainings.

“This is our clearly expressed political line – to promote understanding within the Syrian opposition and ensure that its personnel is becoming more professional,” – said the representative office, while stressing that Germany is not the organizer of the program.

According to the magazine, helping the Syrian opposition in learning the basics of building democracy in one country has a U.S. Institute of Peace, the U.S. State Department and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland. Germany is involved with the project only as an observer.

According to one of those responsible for conducting training Heydemanna Stephen, the purpose of training future leaders of the Syrian – they are learning how to avoid the chaos immediately after the fall of the Assad regime. In connection with this program was a resounding name of “The next day, assistance in the transition to democracy, Syria.

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August 11th, 2012, 11:00 am


153. ann said:

Clashes erupt near UN observers’ hotel in Damascus – RT report – 11 August, 2012

More clashes and street fighting are being reported in Syria’s capital. RT’s Oksana Boyko reports of “new intense clashes being heard” in Damascus “just outside the steps of the hotel UN observers are staying at.”

Boyko reports “shelling right next to Four Seasons [hotel] in Damascus”, which is just some 200 meters away from where the UN monitors are accommodated.

The explosion, which caused no casualties, went off about 100 meters away from the Four Seasons.

Gunmen simultaneously detonated two roadside bombs and clashed with police in central Damascus, AP reports.

RT’s Boyko correspondent on the ground in Damascus also tweeted about “several explosive devices detonated in central Damascus,” adding that they were “small enough to kill, but big enough to spread panic.”

One of the blasts went off in central Damascus’ Marjeh district, on a major square in downtown, when an explosive device planted under a tree was detonated by remote control as a vehicle carrying soldiers passed by, the Associated Press reported referring to an official at the scene.

Local state-run SANA news agency reports gunmen opened fire on civilians “to provoke panic” after that attack.

The other explosion went off near Tishrin Stadium, less than a kilometer away from the first one, SANA reported.

There are also “reports of militants targeting Parliament building in the center of Damascus,” RT’s Boyko says.


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August 11th, 2012, 11:08 am


154. Norman said:


I wish i could agree with you, but Syrians have conflicting loyalties, between Islamic Nation, Arab Nation, Syrian Nation and their local cities, it is hard to find one loyalty that they agree on , many Sunni thinks that you have to be Muslim to have equal rights and the extreme of them thinks that Alawi should go back to the mountains and go back to be the servants in the Sunni families houses, many of them have more affinity to a Muslim in Kashmir and the US and want equal rights for him while denying the same for their fellow Christian Syrian, the problems that Syria has and was suppressed by the secular Baath party, the crises is making these feeling more obvious with killing people for their ethnic or religious association.

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August 11th, 2012, 11:11 am


155. omen said:

Two prominent Shiite clerics in Lebanon, Mohammad Hassan al-Amin and Hani Fahs, issued a joint statement on Thursday calling on Lebanon’s Shiites to support the popular uprising in neighboring Syria.

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August 11th, 2012, 11:11 am


156. jna said:

“I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of the land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. Never was there a clearer case of ‘stealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in.’ I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which every where surround me. We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members. The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus. . . . The slave auctioneer’s bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master. Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave-trade go hand in hand together. The slave prison and the church stand near each other. The clanking of fetters and the rattling of chains in the prison, and the pious psalm and solemn prayer in the church, may be heard at the same time. The dealers in the bodies and souls of men erect their stand in the presence of the pulpit, and they mutually help each other. The dealer gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit, and the pulpit, in return, covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity. Here we have religion and robbery the allies of each other—devils dressed in angels’ robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise.”
― Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

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August 11th, 2012, 11:11 am


157. bronco said:

134. habib

I agree. Yet there is another sort of “immigration” to Syria. It is the religious ideology brought by the Syrians workers coming from Saudi Arabia and the GCC where Islamism is flourishing together with a rich economy. It is easy for them to associate these two especially as the economy of Syria is not in a good shape.
I am convinced that for many poor Syrians, beyond the cliche of freedom and justice, they believe that in an Islamist Syria they’ll be richer.

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August 11th, 2012, 11:14 am


158. Ghufran said:

علمت صحيفة “الحياة” أن “مساعد الامين العام للامم المتحدة جيفري فيلتمان أجرى مشاورات مع السفير السوري في الأمم المتحدة بشار الجعفري تناولت احتمال اختيار الأخضر الإبراهيمي خلفاً لكوفي أنان، وأن الحكومة السورية لم تحدد موقفها بعد حيال تعيينه”.

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August 11th, 2012, 11:15 am


159. ann said:

Govt troops regain control of Aleppo – 11 August, 2012

­The Syrian army says its forces have also taken control of a large part of the central neighborhood of Bab al-Hadid in Aleppo.

Syrian troops and rebels fought fierce battles earlier on Friday.

Government troops have managed to repel a rebel attack on Aleppo’s international airport, state news agency SANA reported. Free Syrian Army fighters had tried to attack it, blocked the road leading to the air hub, but the “army hit back and killed most of them.”


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August 11th, 2012, 11:16 am


160. bronco said:

140. Norman

If the Baath ideology has imposed by force on them a common world view, it is natural that now, as the grip has fallen, that they realize and focus more on their differences.
Yet ultimately they can and will discover by themselves more what they have in common than what separates them.
This bloodbath can be seem as a temporary catharsis or all sorts of repressed frustrations. Its duration and its aftermath may bring back the Syrians together, like the civil war brought the Lebanese together.
I think they have much to loose if they split and with time passing, they are increasingly aware that they are alone to solve their problems.
Call me optimistic…

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August 11th, 2012, 11:27 am


161. Citizen said:

Qatar offered Syrian ambassador $5.8mn for defection – report
Qatar’s ambassador in Mauritania allegedly offered his Syrian counterpart an advance payment of US$1 million and a monthly salary of $20,000 over 20 years, trying to convince the diplomat to defect and voice support for the opposition.
Hamad Seed Albni was also offered a permanent residence in the Qatari capital Doha, but refused the proposition, claims Lebanese-based Al-Manar TV. The diplomat reportedly called the offer a “blatant interference” in Syria’s affairs and warned not to come up with such initiatives anymore.
Bashar al-Assad’s government has endured a number of high-profile defections recently. Diplomats representing Syria in the United Arab Emirates and Iraq, Abdel Latif al-Dabbagh and Nawaf al-Fares, abandoned their positions and so did the country’s Prime Minister Riyad Hijab. The officials explained their defections, saying they could not work for a regime oppressing its own people..

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August 11th, 2012, 11:28 am


162. Citizen said:

“The West is smelling blood right now because of the recent events, including the fleeing of the prime minister. What the Clinton administration [sic] is trying to do right now is try to coordinate some sort of military approach with Turkey and possibly also with the help of Israel and other Atab countries because they feel the opposition has a chance to retain its stronghold in Aleppo,

US and Turkey to consider no-fly zones for Syria

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August 11th, 2012, 11:32 am


163. omen said:

Around noon
yesterday, the first such attack was launched on a prison near central Aleppo. Rebels claim the two-hour fight for control of the facility led to the deaths of guards and freedom for many inmates, some of whom then quickly joined their ranks.

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August 11th, 2012, 11:36 am


164. zoo said:

Jordanian minister denies Farouk al Shara defection

Amman – Osama Al Rantissi
Saturday, 11 August 2012 14:29 GMT
A Jordanian minister who wished to remain anonymous has told Arabstoday that there is no truth to reports by the Now TV satellite channel on Syrian Vice President Farouk al Shara’s alleged defection from the Syrian regime.
The television report said al Shara had fled for neighbouring Jordan, along with a number of Syrian officers.

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August 11th, 2012, 11:37 am


165. Syria no Kandahar said:

Analyzing Syria is always very complicated but this is the theory I believe is going on:
It is very clear that the intentions of all the major opposition supported external players is to divide Syria into states,but they want to do that very slowly,that way it comes as a reality factامر واقع at the end of this game.i think if the intention is to bring down the regime or kill the president,that could have been done in one month,we all know that.same thing if the intention was to let the terrorists and wahabists and the 1% none terrorists revolutionists win that could have been done a while ago,by supporting them by real actions not by hot what really is being done
Is making Syrians (all Syrians ) bleed and sophicate slowly until the Syrian state body gets dismembered into pieces.

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August 11th, 2012, 11:38 am


166. zoo said:

The Syrian Spillover
Is anyone prepared for the unintended consequences of the war for Syria?

The Syrian civil war has gone from bad to worse, with casualties mounting and horrors multiplying. Civil wars like Syria’s are obviously tragedies for the countries they consume, but they can also be catastrophes for their neighbors. Long-lasting and bloody civil wars often overflow their borders, spreading war and misery.

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August 11th, 2012, 11:40 am


167. omen said:

150. zoo, i thought i read he was under house arrest.

snk: Syrian state body gets dismembered into pieces.

but it’s the apologists who call for a separate alawite state.

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August 11th, 2012, 11:40 am


168. Ales said:

Chemical weapons are just like other weapons, used to kill and scare. Israel had nuclear weapons, so Syria got chemical weapons as a mean of deterrence, using same “no mention” policy. In last time, these weapons are discussed only because they are now also deterrence against foreign plots ala No-Fly-Zone.

USA-Turkey is not concerned about Syrians (or human rights or anything touted at UN meetings), but about what could happen to Turkey and NATO military bases if they used for establishing no fly zone.

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August 11th, 2012, 11:40 am


169. Syria no Kandahar said:

Omen said:
Inmates joined the rebels.
Killers joined killers.

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August 11th, 2012, 11:43 am


170. zoo said:

house arrest
It was a rumor, some zealous TV decided to spread another one.
False news are flying high.

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August 11th, 2012, 11:44 am


171. bronco said:

138. Citizen said:

Syrian opposition in Germany

You mean the expats who are ready to return to manage the country after having watched from their comfortable homes the killings and destruction?
Will they be tolerated by the Syrians who were on the ground suffering? I doubt.

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August 11th, 2012, 12:04 pm


172. omen said:

the regime continues to stand because of sunni support.

The difference between a trickle of defections and a division or battalion changing sides could tip the scales in favour of the opposition, says Wayne White of the Washington-based Middle East Institute.

But the absence of mass army defections shows there are “still a sufficient number of Sunni Arabs throwing their lot in with the regime.”
“Of the officers above rank of colonel, I estimate that two thirds are not Alawites,” White says.

According to a Lebanese security official, there are about 1,200 brigadier generals in the Syrian army, and only about 40 have defected. In contrast, there are only about 100 senior-ranking generals, all of who remain loyal.

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August 11th, 2012, 12:08 pm


173. zoo said:

Syria and the Invisible Hand of Foreign Intervention

Eric S. Margolis
August 10, 2012

The Polish Zionist ideologue Vladimir Jabotinsky, the father of Israel’s right wing, observed nearly a century ago that much of the Arab world was a fragile mosaic. A few sharp blows, he wrote, would cause it to shatter, leaving Israel the region’s dominant power. Jabotinsky may have been right.

Even if the Bashar al-Assad regime manages to hang on in Syria, that country’s economy is being wrecked, its people driven into poverty and neighbors tempted to intervene. Israel just threatened to attack Syria’s modest store of chemical weapons. Turkey is stumbling into the morass, egged on by the Saudis and Gulf Arabs. Russia’s national prestige is increasingly involved in Syria—which is as close to its borders as northern Mexico is to the United States. Iran may yet get involved.
Fast-forward to today’s Syria. As a former soldier, I cannot believe that anti-Assad forces in Syria have made such great strides on their own. All armed forces require command and control, specialized training, communications and logistics. How have anti-Assad forces moved so quickly and pushed back Syria’s capable, well-equipped army? Where does all their ammo come from? Who is supplying all those modern assault rifles with optical sights?

Other unverified reports from the Mideast suggest that the U.S. mercenary firm formerly known as Blackwater (it recently changed its name to Academi) is training Syrian rebels in Turkey, moving in veteran mercenaries from Iraq, where there were once fifty thousand U.S.-paid private soldiers, and sending combat units into Syria.

Antiregime groups such as the Free Syrian Army probably would be ineffective without some kind of covert Western support. Whether they can grasp power from the jihadis who now dominate the streets remains to be seen. This gambit worked in Libya—at least so far. Syria, in contrast, is a very complex nation whose modern era has been marked by instability and coups.

After overthrowing one Syrian government in the late 1940s, Washington wisely backed off from Syria. Now it may get drawn back into the vortex of one of the Mideast’s most difficult nations.

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August 11th, 2012, 12:09 pm


174. zoo said:

The rebels agenda matches one of the USA’s

The Realist Prism: Grateful or Not, Syrian Rebels Likely to Advance U.S. Interests
By Nikolas Gvosdev, on 10 Aug 2012,

America’s prime geopolitical objective in Syria is to break once and for all the alliance between the Assad regime and the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has allowed Tehran to extend its influence into Lebanon and, via Hezbollah, to threaten Israel itself. To this end, and despite the claims that Washington is “doing nothing” in Syria, the United States has been providing communications and logistical support to the opposition, while U.S. allies in the region have been providing them with funds and weaponry. But even if America did not lift a finger to help the rebels defeat Assad, any successor government in Damascus — especially one that represented the interests of the country’s Sunni majority — would move to terminate the alliance with Shiite Iran.

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August 11th, 2012, 12:13 pm


175. zoo said:

U.S. fears extremists could highjack goals of anti-Assad rebels
August 11, 2012 |

WASHINGTON — Al-Qaida has advanced beyond isolated pockets of activity in Syria and now is building a network of well-organized cells, according to U.S. intelligence officials, who fear that the terrorists could be establishing a foothold that would be hard to defeat if rebels eventually oust President Bashar Assad.

At least a couple hundred al-Qaida-linked militants already are operating in Syria, and their ranks are growing as foreign fighters stream into the country daily, current and former U.S. intelligence officials say. The units are spreading from city to city, with veterans of the Iraq insurgency employing their expertise in bomb-building to carry out more than two dozen attacks so far. Others are using their experience in coordinating small units of fighters in Afghanistan to win new followers.

In Syria on Friday, rebel commanders appealed anew for better weapons from abroad, complaining that Assad’s forces have them badly outgunned from the air and on the ground. In fact, rebel leaders say that with so little aid coming to them from the U.S. and other nations, they are slowly losing the battle for influence against hard-line militants. They say their fighters are sometimes siding with extremists who are better funded and armed so they can fight the far stronger Syrian army.

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August 11th, 2012, 12:16 pm


176. VISITOR said:

The details of Samaha arrest, interrogations and confessions,

No one from outside of Syria is plotting for sectarian upheavals or breakups. It is only the Nazi-like criminals occupying Damascus who are doing that.

But their plots will fail as this horrible plot has failed.

Those who are calling for such divisions on this blog are of the same caliber as the Nazi-like criminals occupying Damascus. And they too will fail.

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August 11th, 2012, 12:36 pm


177. zoo said:

Syria for dummies: Why Bashar is far from having lost. (In french)
By Fabrice Balanche, Syria specialist

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August 11th, 2012, 12:46 pm


178. omen said:

159. ZOO

margolis doesn’t utter a single word about the regime’s crimes against humanity.

if he’s so curious, he should get down on the ground to syria to see what is what.

Now it may get drawn back into the vortex of one of the Mideast’s most difficult nations.

hucksters work to cover up simple truths by creating complexities. either that or their vision is marred by ideological blinders. this situation couldn’t be any clearer: the world either tolerates genocide or it doesn’t.

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August 11th, 2012, 12:59 pm


179. bronco said:

#162 Visitor

While the anti-Syria Arab press is commenting and throwing accusations based on leaks of the interrogation of Michel Samaha, the foreign press is still cautiously waiting for the official results of the investigation before joining in.

In my view, this story has more ramifications than it appears.
It is certain that it could be big PR blow to the regime if it is proven that it was a government directed Syrian plot that Samaha was executing.

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August 11th, 2012, 1:00 pm


180. zoo said:


The world either tolerates genocide or it doesn’t.

The USA has a long history of genocide, starting with the american Indians and continuing with Hiroshima and Vietnam.

It is doing the same now in Afghanistan under a new label: “National Security”
It is not to give lessons to anyone.

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August 11th, 2012, 1:06 pm


181. irritated said:

Thumbs spamming has started, watch it in action!

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August 11th, 2012, 1:09 pm


182. omen said:

the u.s. doesn’t constitute the world.

zoo, so you’re voting pro genocide?

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August 11th, 2012, 1:11 pm


183. Citizen said:

Russia to US: You’re Breaking Up (Too)
• Alaska would revert to Russia, and Hawaii would become Chinese or Japanese.
• The West Coast (the three Pacific states, joined with Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Arizona in a Californian Republic), would fall to China or at least be under Chinese influence.
• A Texas Republic, which would also include New Mexico, Oklahoma and all the other traditionally southern states (except the Carolinas, the Virginias, Kentucky and Tennessee), would similarly be either directly or indirectly under the sway of Mexico.
• The aforementioned southern exceptions would join the northeastern states in forming a bloc that might join the European Union.
• The rest – all midwestern and western states – would be at Canada‘s mercy.

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August 11th, 2012, 1:14 pm


184. zoo said:

As the Syrian army regains control of Aleppo using heavy weapons, the Turkish army got control of Semdinli in Hakkari province occupied by Turkish Kurd rebels( conveniently called Kurdish militants) using intensive bombing for 3 weeks.

Turkish forces end anti-PKK operation in Semdinli
Sat Aug 11, 2012 3:53pm GMT

HAKKARI, Turkey (Reuters) – Turkish armed forces have ended an almost three-week operation against Kurdish militants in the southeast region of Semdinli, bordering Iran and Iraq, and have killed “a large number” of fighters, the local governor said in a statement on Saturday.

Turkish jets have bombarded Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) positions around the mountainous region in one of most intense bouts of fighting in recent years in a decades-long conflict which has killed 40,000 people.

“The aerial-supported operations launched by our security forces on July 23, 2012 … were completed on August 11, 2012 morning,” said the governor’s office of Hakkari, the province where Semdinli is located.

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August 11th, 2012, 1:15 pm


185. Richard said:

KENNETH M. POLLACK has another thoughtful article on Syria:

He seems to be saying that U.S. intervention of some sort is inevitable.

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August 11th, 2012, 1:22 pm


186. VISITOR said:


Obviously, as a menhebek, you are not familiar with procedures regulating rule of law. So you jumped the gun into accusing a very well respected news organization, with dedicated reporters who often pay with their lives, of bias against the cronies occupying Damascus. Let me put it to you in plain Arabic. You only needed to read the title to know that these are no leaks and no rumors any longer,

القضاء اللبناني يتهم مدير الأمن القومي السوري علي المملوك بالتخطيط لارتكاب جنايات

You see when the judiciary moves, even in a dysfunctional state as in Lebanon, then invoking the mantra of rumors and leaks is no longer relevant.

So what are going to spin now? Israel supplied Samaha with the explosives and logistics to perform this heinous act?

Isn’t it becoming obvious that this despicable band of thugs and Nazi-like criminals occupying Damascus is behind all the sectarian violence that we witnessed first in Iraq and now in Syria not to mention the sectarian-instigated crimes committed in Lebanon over the last ten years?

What about this other source?

This is even more detailed as it clearly says that the judge indicted Samaha along with the two Syrian Genrals, Mamlouk and Adnan.

You mean foreign press like SANA, Dunya, 3alam, RT, Xinhua, Press, atofindia? Right?

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August 11th, 2012, 1:24 pm


187. Citizen said:

what is the price issue?

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August 11th, 2012, 1:26 pm


188. VISITOR said:

Dear Administrator/Dr. Landis,

Why do I have a comment awaiting moderation?

Wasn’t moderation removed from this blog?

Besides this is not my first comment

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August 11th, 2012, 1:26 pm


189. VISITOR said:

So, I am posting again that same comment to make sure I didn’t type anything wrong like name or e-mail address.



Obviously, as a menhebek, you are not familiar with procedures regulating rule of law. So you jumped the gun into accusing a very well respected news organization, with reporters who often pay with their lives, of bias against the cronies occupying Damascus. Let me put it to you in plain Arabic. You only needed to read the title to know that these are no leaks any longer,

القضاء اللبناني يتهم مدير الأمن القومي السوري علي المملوك بالتخطيط لارتكاب جنايات

You see when the judiciary moves, even in a dysfunctional state as in Lebanon, then invoking the mantra of rumors and leaks is no longer relevant.

This is even more detailed and clearly says the judge indicted Samaha and the two Syrian Generals, Mamlouk and Adnan,

So what are you going to spin now.? Israel supplied Samaha with the explosives and logistics to perform this heinous act?

Isn’t it becoming clear that this despicable band of thugs and Nazi-like criminals occupying Damascus was behind all the sectarian violence that we witnessed first in Iraq and now in Syria not to mention the sectarian instigated crimes committed in Lebanon over the last ten years?

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August 11th, 2012, 1:31 pm


190. zoo said:

167. omen

“Genocide” is massively killing people because of their ethnicity, race or religion, I think this is without any doubt a terrible and unambigous crime
Example: The USA killing the Indians, the German killing the Jews, The Turks killing the Armenians. The European religious wars are full of such genocides.

When it has to do with killing a group made of nationals without a specific religion or ethnicity, then the question will be: Is this group outlawed? If it is, then killing its members is not genocide, it is self defense.
That’s what the Turks are doing with the PKK, made up of Turkish Kurds that they have labelled at outlaws and “Kurdish terrorists”.
That’s what the Syrian army is doing with the rebels they have labelled as ‘terrorists’

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August 11th, 2012, 1:31 pm


191. omen said:

170. richard, this so called expert, one of the cheerleaders of the stupendously idiotic iraq invasion, doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

I just got a copy of Ken Pollack’s latest book on Iran, The Persian Puzzle, and was shocked on flipping to page 429, the Author’s Note at the end of the book, to read that Pollack has never been to Iran and doesn’t speak Persian, has only dribs and drabs of Arabic.

either that or he twists facts in order to fulfill an ideological agenda.

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August 11th, 2012, 1:37 pm


192. Tara said:


Hamza al khateeb was killed and tortured because he was a terrorist? Sorry, this is called genocide if intellectual honesty is to be respected.

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August 11th, 2012, 1:38 pm


193. omen said:

zoo, most of the people regime has murdered were unarmed.

i had a comment for you, richard, re pollack, but it went on vacation.

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August 11th, 2012, 1:39 pm


194. bronco said:


While Michel Samaha has admitted his crimes, I don’t understand how the Lebanese justice can “indict” the two Syrian counterparts as they have neither been interrogated nor admitted the felony.
Is their “indictment” relying exclusively on the declaration of Michel Samaha?
Isn’t the indictment a presumption of guilt to be determined during a trial?

There is more to come about that story, I am sure,

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August 11th, 2012, 1:58 pm


195. zoo said:

176. omen said:

zoo, most of the people regime has murdered were unarmed.

The accusation could be manslaughter, non assistance of people in danger etc… Yet an investigation would determine what it was.

It is not because they were unarmed that it is a ‘genocide’.

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August 11th, 2012, 2:02 pm



Dr. Landis,

I think you’re oversimplifying the case for Syria by giving Bashar Assad a lot of credit for what he can do. Mr. Assad derives his power from the junta around him and the ba’ath national leadership and he’s their man to implement the major decisions, especially what’s happening these days. If Bashar decides to pack up with Maher and the fourth division and head up to the coast, he won’t be able (or allowed) to do it right now. That will only happen if they’re in full retreat mode and the major cities have fallen in the hands of FSA/rebels. Right now, the status quo continues for a short while as there’s still some dim hope that they can return the situation to normalcy and keep their power and protection, I’m talking about the whole regime. When those in power realize they’re no longer protected, they will start fleeing or going underground and that’s when things will unravel and I don’t think anyone knows what will happen then.

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August 11th, 2012, 2:02 pm


197. Tara said:


Samaha’s arrest is the best thing that happen in the ME after the launch of the Syrian revolution. Slowly but surely, the criminality of Bashar’s regime will be exposed to the world. Where is the powerful HA in all of this? Has the other criminal Hassan NAsrallah made any statement in that regard?

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August 11th, 2012, 2:05 pm


198. irritated said:

Funny that no one of the Syrian pro-rebels have any objection that the PKK made up of Turkish-Kurds rebels who want “freedom” and “dignity” are called “terrorists”.
Neither they object that the Turkish army is violently killing them as the Turkish government say it does that to preserve the integrity of Turkey at any costs.

Double standard, isn’t?

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August 11th, 2012, 2:13 pm


199. VISITOR said:

180 TARA,

I agree 100%



Again your new comment reflects a deep lack of understanding for the rule of law, typical of a menhebek state of mind.

An indictment simply means that the judge has sufficient ground based on evidence of an investigation to proceed with the judiciary process. That evidence could be a confession, hard evidence, a testimony, corroboration of different testimonies, or in some cases circumstantial evidence. More than one of the above elements are present in Samaha’s case.

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August 11th, 2012, 2:33 pm


200. zoo said:

A rosy, dreamlike view of “Post-Assad” Syria, for a change

A peaceful post-Assad order is probable
August 11, 2012 12:48 AM
By Rami G. Khouri

The prevalent perceptions I refer to include that Syria will long remain locked in domestic strife; the Alawites will face eternal hostility and revenge; sectarian civil war is likely to break out; the post-Assad struggle for power will be chaotic and perhaps violent; Syria could easily break up into several smaller ethnic statelets linked to neighboring states or compatriots.

While some or all of this might happen, I suggest that we must keep open the possibility that Syria’s post-Assad transition will be much less chaotic or violent than many fear, for several reasons:

The Syrian people are too intelligent, sophisticated and cosmopolitan to allow themselves to sink into a dark pit of sectarian warfare, even if their sick Baathist-led, Alawite-run power elite uses sectarianism and the specter of post-Assad chaos as tools of intimidation – tools that have failed miserably, in any case.

Syrians of all identities will be so pleased to start a new life of normalcy, freedom, dignity and citizenship the day after Assad is toppled that they will be too busy re-creating their own country in their own image to be sidetracked into domestic warfare.

The day after Assad will not necessarily be a moment of chaos. A reasonably orderly transition could occur, because a credible, indigenous structure for governance already exists. The dozens, perhaps hundreds, of local committees across Syria that have been organizing the revolt against Assad family rule will emerge the day after with immense legitimacy, authority and logistical capability in governing at the local level.

They will maintain order and security, resume normal economic activity, provide basic services, and initiate a transitional justice mechanism that will satisfy the widespread and understandable need for justice and accountability for those officials who abused their power and humiliated – and recently slaughtered – their countrymen and women for so many years.

Syrians know .. that only some Alawites and other government and security officials are to blame for the violence and intemperance of the regime that has mismanaged the country for decades. Transitional justice mechanisms and respectable constitutional guarantees of equal citizenship for all in the new Syria could prevent an Alawite-Sunni war, or long-term Alawite isolation.

Many around the world – in Dubai, Beirut, Istanbul, Washington, Berlin and other cities – are now working on plans for a post-Assad transition. Most of these will have only minimal relevance, because the only really credible political management work will be done by the Syrians who emerge from the resistance committees to shape the new government.
I believe that will happen soon, and I will dance with joy for them when it does.

Read more:
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::

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August 11th, 2012, 2:34 pm


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