Defection Rumors Rife; Annan Diplomacy Founders

The big rumor today is that Mustapha and Firas Tlass fled Syria and are in Paris. Mustapha Tlass is ex-Defense Minister. His son is a major businessman and his second son, Manaf, is  a current top officer in the Syrian Army, born in 1964.

Both Tlass and opposition members in Paris reject these allegations, claiming, “Syrian regime stalwart and former defence minister Mustafa Tlass has arrived in Paris with one of his sons but they are not defecting, opposition representatives told AFP on Monday.”

The Tlass family has long been one of the highest placed Sunni families of the Assad regime. If there is any truth to the defection story, it would indeed be a blow to the regime. Firas Tlass has been flirting with the opposition since the uprising began. He frequently writes on the Facebook sites of “friends” who are opposition members, congratulating them on their stands. Most people laughed at this sort of thing because the Tlasses are considered to be pillars of the regime and always trying to play all sides.

It should be expected that Sunni defections from the regime will travel up the ranks as the civil war in Syria becomes ever more overtly sectarian in nature. It must be remembered that it took Iraq three years to launch its civil war in earnest. That was after the bombing 2006 of the Askari mosque in Samara’. It takes a long time for people who have lived together in relative harmony for decades to stop associating with each other and put hate in their hearts, but that is what we are seeing. It is what happened in Lebanon and Iraq.

Rumors are rife that Adeeb Mayaleh, the head of the Central Bank, is out or on his way out, and that he has been stripped of his authority. Rumors are also rife, of course, that he defected. I don’t know if any of this is true.

This is a note from a Syrian in Latakia:

Dear Joshua, I am a christian Syrian living abroad. Last month I went back to Syria and spent a week with my parents in Lattakia. Here are some observations.

“The son of my 2nd grade teacher is in prison. He was caught distributing pro opposition fliers. A few days ago, his flat burned down and his 3 kids died in the fire. His wife is in a critical condition.

A relative of my family lawyer, a university student was arrested couple weeks ago in Damascus. She was released the day I arrived.

Another guy from our neighborhood, though known to be pro regime, was picked up by the secret police at the university as he was leaving his mid term exam room. He disappeared for 2 weeks. He was just released…. Some name miss match they explained.

I was stopped at the airport. Was called to Damascus for questioning by an officer in one of the security branches. Without my father’s connections I am sure I would ve not been able to get the travel permission and to leave on time. I still don’t know what they wanted from me.

We hear stories about kidnappings taking place in the eastern part of the country near Deir Ezzor, in Homs and on the outskirts of Damascus in exchange of ransom.

Lattakia is one of the cities the least affected by the events. It’s kept under tight control by a strong pro regime presence. The government is doing all it can to show that it’s business as usual. They do amazing cleaning job after each Friday clashes. As I hang out with some friends at a coffee shop in the afternoon, life seems to go on as usual in the busy streets… but something weird is felt in the air… a thick layer of pessimism and anxiety is hanging over the city… everybody feels that it is boiling and it might explode at any moment. You can’t miss the signs:

My high school has become an army base. The main city square, less than 1000 yards from my parents flat and a center of protests in the early days, is now filled with soldiers and sand bags. “Al Assad soldiers” they proudly painted on the walls.

My friends drove me by the Ramel neighborhood. One of the hot areas in town. Army check points with sand bags control all streets entering the neighborhood. “POLICE” is painted on them. We all know it is the army who controls them and not the police.

Gunmen in civilian clothing are present at all hospital entrances. They are there to arrest wounded protesters seeking treatment.

4×4 trucks with armed men and mounted machine guns pass by every now and then.

Electricity is cut off 6 hours a day, 3 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. It is setting the rhythm for business hours. – Today Electricity is off 12 hours a day. it’s on and off every 3 hours.

The price for heating fuel has sky rocketed. The price for cooking gas has doubled. It s cold in my parents and my friends flats. It’s been one of the coldest and rainiest winters in Syria. People wear many layers indoors and sleep with thick wool covers- these are still the privileged neighborhoods. I can’t imagine the living conditions in rebelled areas.

I have just come back from a week stay in Syria. I left as the bombing of Homs was about to begin.”

Rescued journalist Paul Conroy describes the situation in the Syrian city of Homs as ‘systematic slaughter’

Paul Conroy, the British journalist injured in an attack on the Syrian city of Homs says the situation is not a war, but a “systematic massacre”.

World News: UN End Visit in Syria With No Deal

Syria attributes currency depreciation to speculation

DAMASCUS, March 9 (Xinhua) –Syria’s minister of finance attributed the depreciation of the Syrian pound to speculative traders’ manipulation in the black market, the state-run SANA news agency reported on Friday.

“The decline in the Syrian pound over the past two days was not caused by supply and demand issues. Rather, it was caused by speculative traders’ manipulation in the black market. These traders were after brisk and outrageous profits,” Mohammad Julailati was quoted by SANA as saying.

“Those manipulators are enemies of our people,” said the minister, charging that some Arab TVs have used the currency depreciation to deceive the Syrian people that the nation’s economy is in a bad shape.

In the past few days, the U.S. dollar was gaining value against the Syrian pound every passing hour and reached above 100 pounds in the black market on Wednesday, according to Julailati.

However, the central bank intervened on Thursday by officially announcing the exchange rate of the U.S. dollars at 80 Syrian pounds, forcing the black market to sell the dollars at the same rate, the minister said.

Since the eruption of unrest in Syria in March 2011, people have been rushing to change their Syrian pounds into U.S. dollars or gold to protect their wealth against the instability, bearing in mind what had happened in neighboring Lebanon after the eruption of civil war in 1975.

The intervention waiting game: a window for a new opposition?
11 March 2012 / NOAH BLASER , İSTANBUL – Zaman

As the international community remains hesitant about military intervention and Syria’s largest political opposition group remains divided, the likelihood for a new opposition leadership to develop amidst the country’s strengthening rebels may be growing.

“As the military opposition in Syria grows, a central leadership could emerge from the battlefield,” said Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies and associate professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Oklahoma. “If it can begin to coordinate the military resistance effectively, it might gain recognition as the Syrian opposition’s legitimate leadership,” he said in a Wednesday interview with Today’s Zaman.

Landis’ words come as the US, European, Arab and Turkish “Friends of Syria” alliance remains hesitant about military intervention or channeling arms to opposition groups, leaving Syria’s rebels to face Damascus’ military without outside aid for the foreseeable future….

One of the biggest unknowns in Syria has been whether or not the country’s fragmentary opposition, represented by the umbrella of opposition groups known as the Syrian National Council (SNC) will be able to pull together a coherent political and military opposition with a firmly established leader. So far, the SNC has remained fractured and doubts have grown about the leadership of Burhan Ghalioun, the group’s present leader. The SNC’s relationship with Syria’s armed opposition has also been tenuous, with rebel leaders criticizing the group for failing to provide them with money and arms.

“If Turkey and the international community see that the military and political opposition matures into a more unified, cohesive group, they will be more willing to help,” said Orhan. “That isn’t the situation right now.”

A new leadership on the ground?

With the influence of outside powers and opposition groups at a minimum, the question of opposition leadership may be left to Syria’s rebel forces. According to Landis: “If the conflict is left in the hands of local forces, the leadership question is going to be settled on the battlefield. A successful commander might emerge as the Washington or Atatürk of the resistance, and possibly of a new Syria.”

Presently, the country’s loosely coordinated group of anti-regime militias, known collectively as the Free Syrian Army (FSA), act independently. The present leadership of the FSA, headed by the defected Col. Riad al-Asaad from the Turkish border province of Hatay, has largely been ineffective at coordinating the FSA’s patchwork forces, while the unofficial center of the country’s opposition, the devastated city of Homs, was lost to the rebels this month as security forces pressed resistance hot spots across the country.

But as the brutality of Damascus’ crackdown has grown, defections to the FSA have sharply increased, with senior rebel leaders claiming that a record number of 50 officers — allegedly among them six brigadier-generals and four colonels — defected to the ranks of the anti-regime FSA last week. The number of low-level defections is also reportedly rising, with scores of newly posted online videos showing small bands of soldiers proclaiming their own revolutionary brigades.

Rising defections, says Landis, are only one sign that the regime is losing its grip in the country. The economy has been hard hit by sanctions, with the Syrian pound losing 90 percent of its value in recent months. Meanwhile, the use of indiscriminate violence in majority Sunni areas, says Landis, has succeeded in turning much of the country against the minority Alawite regime. “I don’t see Homs as a lethal blow. More and more Syrians are coming to the understanding that it has no future. Syrians are hungry and cold,” he stated.

While other analysts have speculated that the opposition will nevertheless remain a mild nuisance to the Syrian military, Landis says Damascus will be gradually less and less able to keep up with a growing insurgency. “Even if there are several different, uncoordinated militia groups, they are going to attack in a classic guerrilla strategy. Insurgent improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and snipers are going to snap the military’s morale pretty quickly and, if it can’t move on the highway because of IEDs, whole chunks of the country will fall out of its control.”

Last week, a Pentagon report stated that IED usage by the opposition has more than doubled since December. If such tactics do win Syria’s militias independent territory, it might allow room for them to meet and coordinate the resistance under a single leadership.

Managing the opposition from abroad?

As questions abound regarding the ambitions of Syria’s militias and Western fears grow about al-Qaeda’s potential influence on the resistance, the anti-Assad “Friends of Syria” alliance may wish to exert its own influence over the opposition through arms transfers, argues Steven Heydemann of the United States Peace Institute.

Heydemann, who told Today’s Zaman that peaceful political opposition groups like the SNC have been sidelined by the military opposition, believes that outside powers would be wise to stem the potential rise of a strictly military leadership by channeling arms to the opposition through the SNC. “The issue here is managing the militarization of the opposition. If we allow armed groups to form their own leadership without any command and control flowing back to civilians, we will see the proliferation a ‘guys with guns’ form of leadership,” Heydemann said. “Instead, the ‘Friends of Syria’ group could use arms to strengthen the SNC’s relationship with the Free Syrian Army. If the SNC could offer militias badly needed arms and supplies, I suspect that the odds are fairly high that they could reach a deal.”

However, the probability of such assistance seems slim in the foreseeable future. “We really don’t know who [the opposition] is that would be armed,” US Secretary of Sate Hillary Clinton told the press last month as she noted al-Qaeda and Hamas’ recent endorsement of the FSA….

The broader point may be that outside powers now have little control over the course of the conflict and the opposition that fights it. “The US and other ‘Friends of Syria’ nations won’t be able to hand the keys of the government to an opposition of their choosing when the conflict is over. They’ve raised the rhetorical bar against Assad, but there’s not much else they can do,” Landis said.

Fresh Fighting in Syria, Assad Backs ‘Honest’ Peace
by Edward Yeranian | Cairo March 10, 2012 – VOA

….Joshua Landis, who is head of the Middle East Studies program at the University of Oklahoma, says the Assad regime thinks it is winning the battle against the opposition, and that both sides’ unwillingness to compromise paves the way for a bleak future in Syria.

“This is a zero-sum game. There isn’t a compromise that can come out of this that I can see. Once Assad steps aside, the entire edifice of the regime is going to crumble. … There’s very little that can take the place of the Syrian Army or the Syrian government, and that has people wringing their hands in Syria. They don’t see a way out of going down a very dark tunnel, which is in the direction of what happened in Iraq or what happened in Lebanon during the darkest period of the civil war,” he said.

Landis foresees a growing cascade of defections from the upper echelons of the Syrian regime, but argues that President Assad’s Alawite allies are not likely to desert him. “They understand,” Landis says, “that they need to hang together or be hanged apart.” He also paints a somber picture of an increasingly sectarian conflict: “It takes a long time for people who’ve lived together in relative harmony for decades to stop associating with each other and put hate in their hearts, but that’s what we’re going to see.”

Video: Syrian forces launch massive assault on Idlib – al-Jazeera – Youtube: 11 Mar 2012

Legislation from POMED

The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee approved “The Syrian Freedom Support Act”, H.R. 2106, introduced by Committee Chairwoman lleana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY). The bill imposes new sanctions on Syrian energy and financial sectors.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced “The Syria Democracy Transition Act of 2012”, S. 2152, to promote U.S. objectives in Syria and the departure of President Bashar Al Assad.

Syria’s Bashar al-Assad firmly in control, U.S. intelligence officials say
By Greg Miller and Karen DeYoung, Friday, March 9, 7:15 PM

A year into the uprising in Syria, senior U.S. intelligence officials described the nation’s president, Bashar al-Assad, on Friday as firmly in control and increasingly willing to unleash one of the region’s most potent militaries on badly overmatched opposition groups.

The officials also said Assad’s inner circle is “remaining steadfast,” with little indication that senior figures in the regime are inclined to peel off, despite efforts by the Obama administration and its allies to use sanctions and other measures to create a wave of defections that would undermine Assad.

Assad “is very much in charge,” said a senior U.S. intelligence official responsible for tracking the conflict, adding that Assad and his inner circle seem convinced that the rebellion is being driven by external foes and that they are equipped to withstand all but a large-scale military intervention.

“That leadership is going to fight very hard,” the official said. Over the long term, “the odds are against them,” he said, “but they are going to fight very hard.”

The comments, provided by three intelligence officials on the condition of anonymity to share candid assessments, were the most detailed to date by U.S. analysts on the status of the uprising, which began last March.

The officials said the regime’s tactics have taken a more aggressive turn, and newly declassified satellite images released Friday show what officials described as “indiscriminate” artillery damage to schools, mosques and other facilities in the beleaguered city of Homs in recent weeks.

Overall, they described Syria as a formidable military power, with 330,000 active-duty soldiers, surveillance drones supplied by Iran and a dense network of air defense installations that would make it difficult for the United States or other powers to establish a no-fly zone.

“This is an army that was built for a land war with the Israelis,” said a second senior U.S. intelligence official. After the regime hesitated to attack civilian population centers earlier in the conflict, its “restraint . . . has been lifted,” the official said.

Syrian forces continued their month-long shelling of the opposition stronghold of Homs, in the west-central part of the country, on Friday, according to news reports. Thousands demonstrated in other parts of the country in anticipation of the scheduled arrival of Kofi Annan, the special envoy of the United Nations and Arab League, in Damascus on Saturday. He is expected to meet with Assad.

U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, who visited Homs this week, said she was “devastated” by what she saw in the ravaged city. “There are no people left,” she said.

Amos, speaking in Turkey after visiting refugee camps along the Syrian border, said the Assad government had agreed to a “limited assessment” of humanitarian needs but had refused “unhindered” access for aid organizations and “asked for more time” to consider U.N. proposals for extended assistance for civilians.

In Washington, the intelligence officials cited a number of factors protecting the regime from collapse. Not least among them is the level of motivation in an inner circle convinced that yielding power will mean death or life imprisonment.

U.S. intelligence has also detected an escalation in lethal support from Syria’s closest ally, Iran. Officials said that Iran had previously been supplying mainly training and equipment to suppress opposition forces but has recently begun sending small arms and sophisticated equipment for monitoring and penetrating rebel groups.

Iran has shared equipment and expertise developed during its efforts to put down its own internal rebellion in 2009. Syria also has a small fleet of unarmed drones that appear to have been supplied by Iran before the uprising began, the officials said.

They portrayed the political opposition to Assad as disorganized and hobbled by a lack of experienced leadership. The officials described efforts to unify and attract a broader following among Syria’s minority groups — another objective of U.S. policy — as having limited success. The Syrian National Council, dominated by exiles who are mainly Sunni Muslims, has been trying to attract Christians, Druze and Kurds away from Assad.

Fears that the opposition will oppress minorities or worse have been regularly stoked by the regime, which is dominated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

The intelligence officials also echoed concerns expressed by U.S. military leaders in congressional testimony this week about providing weapons to the armed elements of the opposition. They are equipped mainly with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades, giving them little firepower compared with Assad’s formidable forces.

An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 soldiers have defected and form the bulk of the Free Syrian Army. It is organized loosely, without effective command and control, and it has few links to the political opposition, according to U.S. intelligence accounts.

Protecting those forces would be a daunting task. One of the officials said that Syria’s air defenses include hundreds of surface-to-air missile sites and thousands of antiaircraft artillery installations.

Describing the dimensions of the challenge, this official said that Syria, barely one-tenth the size of Libya, has an army four times as big with five times the air defense assets, most of it supplied by Russia.

So far, the officials said, the bloodiest attacks against the regime appear to have been carried out by al-Qaeda elements seeking to slip unannounced into opposition groups that do not seem eager to have any affiliation with the terrorist network.

The U.S. officials said that al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq has reversed the flow of a pipeline that once carried fighters and weapons through Syria to battle U.S. forces at the height of the Iraq war.

“That network is still there,” said the first U.S. intelligence official, who acknowledged that the size and composition of the al-Qaeda presence in Syria is unclear. Some al-Qaeda members may be Syrian, others Iraqis.

The officials said their judgment that AQI — as the Iraq affiliate is known — was behind vehicle bombings that killed dozens of people in Damascus and Aleppo in December and January is based more on the nature of the attacks than independent evidence of al-Qaeda involvement.

The greatest damage done so far to Assad’s regime has been economic, intelligence officials said. Sanctions imposed by the United States and the Arab League, as well as European curbs on importation of oil, have caused spikes in unemployment, fuel prices and budget deficits in Damascus.

Over the long term, the officials said, economic hardships may be the most effective tool for unseating Assad. Still, the first U.S. intelligence official said, “to this point, we have not seen that having an effect on the regime’s ability to prosecute the war.”

W(h)ither Syria?
Brian Stoddart, March 11, 2012

Syrians were focus of NYPD surveillance
Saturday, March 10, 2012

Muslims of Syrian descent were the targets of surveillance by the New York Police Department — to the surprise of members of that community who said their ancestors have been here for generations and they consider themselves “Americanized.”

The report was the latest in a series of revelations that the NYPD had done extensive surveillance on Muslims in New York and New Jersey, including mosques, student groups and businesses. The surveillance has sparked an outcry from Muslim groups and civil rights advocates who charge the department was monitoring people based on religion and without any link to criminal activity.

On Friday, The Associated Press reported the NYPD compiled a report that listed “locations of concern” including businesses owned by Syrian Muslims in New York City.

The NYPD report points out that the largest concentrations of Syrian Muslims were in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn and in Paterson. The U.S. Census Bureau counted 295 people of Syrian ancestry in Paterson in the 2005-09 American Community Survey.

Mazen Tinawi of Wayne said Syrians generally do not live together in neighborhoods as do other newer immigrants from Arabic-speaking countries and have fanned out across the region and the U.S.

“It’s surprising to me that we’re talking about this,” he said. “We don’t live in a community. We’re very Americanized.”

Tinawi said he felt the same loyalty to the U.S. as do other Americans.

“I will not allow anyone to harm my neighbor and my children or anybody,” he said.

The NYPD’s report notes that the majority of Syrians that police officers met were second or third generation.

A widening rift between the NYPD and federal law enforcement seemed to intensify this week when Michael Ward, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Newark division, criticized New York police spying during a press conference, saying it has compromised trusted sources in the Muslim community. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called reports of NYPD surveillance in New Jersey “disturbing” during a Senate subcommittee hearing.

New York’s mayor and police commissioner have steadfastly defended the secret surveillance on New Jersey college campuses and in Newark and Paterson as legal and constitutional.

Syrians immigrated in large numbers to the region in the late 1800s and early 1900s and many of them came to Paterson, drawn by its thriving silk industry, said Matthew Jaber Stiffler, a researcher at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Mich.

Museum exhibit

The museum is documenting the experiences of early Syrian immigrants in the region in an exhibit called “Little Syria” that is scheduled to open in New York this fall. The “Little Syria” refers to the thriving Syrian neighborhood in lower Manhattan from the late 19th century through the mid-20th century.

The earliest Syrian immigrants were mostly Christian. Muslims started to arrive in the 1920s and 1930s, Stiffler said.

Some Americans may have Syrian ancestry that’s just a quarter or an eighth of their total heritage, Stiffler said.

“It’s a diverse community and some have been here for decades and decades,” he said.

Tinawi noted that Syrians had not been tied to terrorist acts. “I think all Muslims feel the same,” he said. “We are good Americans and we respect the law.

The report about Syrians instructs police to focus only on Muslims and not on the large population of Syrian Jews. No mention is made of Christians, who make up a large number of Syrian-Americans.

Jamal Laham, a Syrian immigrant from Garfield, said it was unfair for the NYPD to single out only Muslims. “Why do you want to go after me just because I was born a Muslim?” he said.

Sami Moubayed, “If Annan were to walk out on the Syria Mission, who would care?” on the front page of

Kathimerini (EN): Athens-based firm keeps heating fuel flowing to Syria

By Jessica Donati & Emma Farge Oil traders arranging millions of dollars worth of fuel shipments to Syria sit in the office of a little-known firm in Greece. The fuel, liquid petroleum gas for cooking and domestic heating, is not covered by …

The first wine from Syria is about to be released onto the UK market
Monday 12 March 2012
by Adam Lechmere

Domaine Bargylus, near the town of Lattaquie, or Latakia, in the north-west of the country, is a 12ha vineyard planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.Bargylus is a part of an enterprise started in 2003 by the Lebanese-Syrian Saadé family, which bought land in Syria, and also in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, in order to make wine ‘which has everything to do with the land’.

Saadé businesses include marine and land transport, wine, tourism, property development and finance. Although the Romans made wine here 2000 years ago, this is now the only commercial winery in Syria, Sandro Saadé, who with his brother Karim directs the company, said. ‘It is the only recognised wine produced to international standards.’

Comments (250)

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201. Ales said:

On a day of 1st meeting of Friends of Syria:

THE Department of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday said a Filipino woman working as a maid in Syria was killed when she and her employer’s family were ambushed by “armed gangs” in Homs last Feb. 24.

The DFA said in a statement that the report on the death of Meran Prieia Montezor, 23, came only last March 12 from the Philippine embassy in Damascus.

The ambush allegedly took place at around 11 a.m. near a textile company within the industrial district of Homs.

Montezor, who hails from Camarines Sur, and the child she was caring for were both hit by bullets, including her Syrian employers.

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March 14th, 2012, 10:57 am


202. ann said:

Prominent Syria Dissidents Defects From The Opposition – March 14, 2012

BEIRUT—Two prominent Syrian dissidents said Wednesday they have quit the main opposition group that emerged from the year-old uprising against the regime in Damascus, predicting more would soon abandon what one of the men described as an “autocratic” organization.

The resignations from the Syrian National Council dealt another blow to the opposition, which has been hobbled by disorganization and infighting since the popular revolt against authoritarian President Bashar al-Assad started a year ago with protests calling for political reform.


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March 14th, 2012, 11:10 am


203. ann said:

‘No independent journalism anymore’ – ex-Al Jazeera reporter – 14 March, 2012

Television channels have turned into political parties, pushing the agenda for some outside forces, former Al Jazeera correspondent in Beirut, Ali Hashem, told RT. Hashem has come in spotlight after resigning from the television citing its bias.

In emails leaked by Syrian hackers, Ali Hashem vented his anger over Al Jazeera’s one-sided coverage of Syria and its refusal to cover the events in Bahrain. In an exclusive interview with RT, the former Beirut correspondent Hashem refrained from discussing his resignation, but stressed that these days, independent media is a myth.

“There is no independent media anymore. It is whose agenda is paying the money for the media outlet,” he said. “Politicization of media means that media outlets are today like political parties. Everyone is adopting a point of view, fight for it and bring all the tools and all the means they have in order to make it reach the biggest amount of viewers.”

It is now the job of the viewer to compare the news from several different sources and then make his own conclusions, the journalist believes. “Today we are in the era of open source information and everyone can reach whatever information he wants.”

Hashem said the problem with this picture is that some news outlets can reach bigger audiences than others. “What they say will [seem] to be a fact while it might not be the fact,” he said.

Mass media should be “immune” when it comes to war and conflict, as this guarantees freedom of speech, Ali Hashem believes.

“In the year 2006, Israel bombarded Al-Manar television because they said Al- Manar was doing propaganda war against Israel,” he said. “Al-Manar was on one side of this war and they were supporting the Hezbollah and the resistance and the war against Israel. But does this give Israel the excuse to bombard Al-Manar? Certainly not.”

“We should as journalists, whatever our point of view is, (because it is clear there is no independent journalism anymore) have the right to say whatever he wants safely, without being threatened to be bombarded or killed or executed or arrested,” Hashem concluded.


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March 14th, 2012, 11:21 am


204. ann said:

Our Own Camille Otrakji On RT TV!

Back Homs: Rebels flee, French troops captured by army

Go Camille

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March 14th, 2012, 11:28 am


205. jad said:

Tora Bora in Homs!
مسلحين من افغانستان ام منشقين في حمص؟

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March 14th, 2012, 12:16 pm


206. Tara said:

The weather is gorgeous outside where I am at. Sunny and warm. Since I am done with the Aspirin business, I want my guy whi knows himself (and you guys) to pay attention to vitamin D, leave home and take a walk in the sun. Skip opinion-ating and reading politics for one hour and take a walk with arms and legs exposed to the sunshine. It is good for you. Also have your doctor check your vitamin D level. I guarantee you it is low and needs serious supplement.

I am not being silly. I am very serious about it.

Kandi, let me see how you can make fun of my advise. There is no Mehshi involved.

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March 14th, 2012, 12:18 pm


207. jad said:

The $ is down to 73-72 per SYP
“إنخفاض سعر صرف الدولار في السوق السوداء إلى 73 ل.س”

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March 14th, 2012, 12:19 pm


208. ann said:

Two dissidents quit Syrian National Council

­Two dissidents have quit the Syrian National Council (SNC) in another blow to the main opposition group. One of those who resigned, Kamal al-Labwani accused the leadership of controlling the body’s work while most of its 270 members are sidelined. “There is no council, it’s an illusion,” AP quoted him as saying. Al-Labwani was jailed in 2005 for dissident activities and released in November, said the SNC leaders were running the organization “autocratically” and compared the council to President Bashar al-Assad’s ruling Baath party.


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March 14th, 2012, 12:33 pm


209. bronco said:

207. jad said:

“The $ is down to 73-72 per SYP”

Are the recent turns of the political situation reflecting in the exchange rate of the SP, from 100 to 73 in a 3 days?

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March 14th, 2012, 12:40 pm


210. ann said:

Syria responds to Annan’s proposals on ending yearlong crisis – 2012-03-14

Speaking to reporters, Jihad Makdissi said Annan presented his proposals in the form of a non-paper “and we have studied them for 48 hours and sent back a non-paper as our reply.”

“We are fully committed to making Mr. Annan’s visit a success and positively engaging with him,” Makdissi said, adding that the Syrian government “are diagnosing in a realistic way the crisis and are committed to a peaceful path of dialogue and political solution.”

Meanwhile, Makdissi stressed that the efforts towards peace need the participation of all other parties and called on those who are inciting the media with hostility to stop such practices.


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March 14th, 2012, 12:43 pm


211. zoo said:

Send money for weapons or money for food?
UN warns 1.4 million risk hunger in Syria
AFP – 52 mins ago
Civil unrest is putting 1.4 million people at risk from hunger in Syria, which must raise cereal imports by around a third to offset a loss in local output, the United Nations’ food agency said Wednesday.

“Continued civil unrest in the Syrian Arab Republic since mid-March 2011 has raised serious concern over the state of food security, particularly for vulnerable groups,” the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) said.

The agency said that last year’s cereal production in Syria — estimated at 4.2 million tonnes — was about 10 percent less than the previous five years’ average, following late and erratic rains and widespread civil unrest.

“In several areas, it is reported that civil insecurity prevented farmers to access their farmland during the harvest,” it said.
Syria, which relies on food imports for almost half of its domestic use, should import around 4.0 million tonnes of wheat for food use and maize and barley for feed — about 1 million tonnes more than the previous year, it said.

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March 14th, 2012, 12:44 pm


212. jad said:

I don’t know if it’s related or not, but I read this article about the issue on Alakhbar that may explain a bit more of the steps the Syrians are planning to do regarding the currency rate, it seems that 70 is the threshold they are aiming for.
Ehsani is the one who knows this things, I’m so not good in economy:

عملة ورقية جديدة قريباً: توقيف مضاربين مرتبطين بجهات خارجية

دمشق ــ الأخبار
فقدت العملة السورية أكثر من نصف قيمتها خلال عام بعدما وصل سعر صرف الدولار الأميركي إلى 81 ليرة مقابل 49 قبل نحو سنة. كذلك ارتفعت الأسعار بنسب كبيرة، وسط حجم هائل من المضاربات في السوق، يشارك فيها سوريون يستفيدون من الأزمة، فيما تتهم السلطات السورية السعودية وقطر بلعب دور كبير في هذه المعركة الاقتصادية.

وإلى جانب الخطوات الإدارية ومحاولة رفع مستوى الإنتاج والرقابة، فإن دمشق مشغولة هذه الأيام بالحديث عن قرار سيطبق خلال فترة قريبة جداً لمواجهة الحرب على الليرة السورية. اذ تقرر توزيع أوراق نقدية جديدة، انتهى العمل من طباعتها، واستبدال الأوراق النقدية السورية المتداولة بها، على أن تقتصر على المقيمين داخل سوريا، ما يترك كميات العملة الموجودة في الخارج في خزائنها وبلا أي قيمة. ومن المفترض بحسب الخطة، أن يُعطى السوريون مهلة ثلاثة أيام للقيام بعملية التبديل هذه، على أن يحتاج تبديل أي مبلغ من المال فوق الــ١٠ آلاف ليرة سورية إلى موافقة خاصة.
وقال مصدر مطلع لـ«الأخبار» إن مجموعة من المضاربين وتجار العملة تم توقيفهم أخيراً في عدد من المحافظات، مشيراً إلى أن جهة خارجية عربية تقوم بتعويض خسائر هؤلاء الناتجة من المضاربة، والهدف هو الاضرار بالاقتصاد السوري. وأكد المصدر أن التحقيقات الأولية تشير إلى أن مدينة عربية على ساحل البحر الأحمر تعتبر مركزاً للجهد المالي المعادي للاقتصاد السوري وتمويل المضاربين.
من جهته، قال محمد غزال، وهو خبير اقتصادي، لـ«الأخبار» إن سعر الصرف الطبيعي والمتوازن، بناءً على المعطيات المرتبطة بالاقتصاد السوري والظروف السياسية المحيطة ينبغي ألا يتجاوز سقف الـ70 ليرة مقابل الدولار، بعد احتساب تراجع إيرادات النفط نتيجة العقوبات والانكماش الاقتصادي.
وأضاف غزال أن الدور الذي ينبغي على المصرف المركزي القيام به، هو إعادة الثقة إلى الليرة السورية، وصغار المودعين، الذين أقبلوا على تحويل عملات أجنبية وذهب إلى ليرة سورية، لإيداعها في المصارف الحكومية دعماً للاقتصاد الوطني، لافتاً إلى أن تلك الشريحة تضررت بشدة نتيجة انخفاض قيمة العملة

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March 14th, 2012, 12:48 pm


213. ann said:

Syria says gave positive response to Annan – March 14, 2012,0,1154348.story

“The tone of our reply was positive,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdesi told reporters in Damascus, adding Syria had offered “clarifications” on implementing some of the proposals.

Annan’s spokesman said earlier he had received Assad’s reply to his proposals, but that questions remained over the response.

Adding to the uncertainty, a senior Western diplomat in the region said Damascus had rejected Annan’s suggestions. He gave no details.

A Middle Eastern diplomat characterized the response from Damascus as “not a ‘no’, but they are discussing some of the points they are not convinced about.”


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March 14th, 2012, 12:49 pm


214. zoo said:

He looks really ill…
Sarkozy: Assad is a killer, must face world court

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March 14th, 2012, 12:59 pm


215. jad said:

Not a single jet plane was used in this conflict yet the terrorists decided to go an destroy them, and they tell us that they care for Syria…Sure!

عملاء المخابرات التركية يستهدفون طائرة سورية

عملاء المخابرات التركية يستهدفون طائرة حربية وهي رابضة في قاعدة “ابو الضهور” حيث كان يعمل العميل الأسعد

استانبول ، الحقيقة ( خاص): استهدف عملاء من المخابرات التركية في ما يسمى “الجيش السوري الحر” طائرة حربية سورية وهي رابضة أمام هنغارها في قاعدة” أبو الضهور” الجوية شرق إدلب قبل نحو أسبوع. وأظهر شريط وزعه العملاء (منشور جانبا) عددا منهم وهم يقومون بإنزال قاذف مضاد للدروع من سيارتين في منطقة التلال المحيطة بالقاعدة قبل أن يتوجهوا إلى تخوم المطار ( حوالي 1 كم) ويطلقون قذيفة على الطائرة التي اندلعت فيها النيران. وليس معروفا بعد التاريخ الدقيق لتنفيذ العملية التخريبية، ولو أن الشريط جرى توزيعه في السابع من الشهر الجاري. كما أنه ليست واضحة نوعية الطائرة ما إذا كانت “ميغ 21” أو من طرازات أحدث ، بسبب عدم وضوح الصورة، إلا أن المرجح جدا أن تكون “ميغ 23 ” ، أخذا بعين الاعتبار الحجم الواسع لمدخنة المحرك ، وطريقة وقوف الطائرة بشكل مائل نحو الخلف ( مقدمتها أعلى من مؤخرتها) ، وهو من خصائص ربوض “ميغ 23” على الأرض. كما أن هناك ـ وكما يبدو رغم التصوير الجانبي ـ مدخنتين للطائرة ، وهذا أيضا من مواصفات “ميغ 23” التي تعمل بمحركين. كما أنه من الواضح أن الطائرة تبدو في حالة “عمرة” ( إصلاح) ، بالنظر لأنها تقف بين مدخلي هنغارين وتسد مسرب المناورة أمامهما ، وهو أمر لا يمكن أن يحصل إلا حين تكون الطائرة في حالة إصلاح.

يشار إلى أن العميل رياض الأسعد ، قائد ما يسمى “الجيش الحر” كان يعمل تقنيا في ” سرب البعث” في القاعدة المذكورة قبل فراره إلى حضن المخابرات التركية. وكان الأسعد وعد مؤخرا بتنفيذ ما أسماه “عمليات نوعية ستفاجىء النظام”! فإذا كانت هذه عينة من “عملياته النوعية” التي وعد بها ، فلن يكون من شأن الأمر سوى تأكيد المؤكد، وهو أنه عميل رخيص لا يستحق حتى صفة مخرب.

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March 14th, 2012, 1:06 pm


216. mjabali said:


Obviously the rich Gulf states fighting al-Assad are playing with the Syrian currency. They can do that. They have the means and of course the will. But, this does not mean that the Syrian currency and economy are healthy and strong. The state is crumbling and many of its enterprises are getting ransacked. As far as i heard things are expensive from the simple fact there are no safe roads anymore. The country is a danger zone. It is going to be years for the damage done to be fixed.

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March 14th, 2012, 1:07 pm


217. Alan said:

‘Media – West proxy to fuel Syria conflict’

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March 14th, 2012, 1:15 pm


218. Alan said:

Lavrov rules out Russia’s military presence in Syria
MOSCOW, March 14 (Itar-Tass) — Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has ruled out an opportunity for Russia’s military presence in Syria.
In his response to the question on Russia’s possible presence in Syria with a view to challenging the U.S. prestige, the minister underlined that “such a goal will be wrong.”
“We need to strengthen our image and not to crush out other’s one,” he told a State Duma session on Wednesday.
At the same time Lavrov noted that “the United States’ influence in Iraq and Libya has not strengthened,” he said.
The diplomat underlined that Russia’s military presence in Syria “would contradict Russia’s basic interests.”

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March 14th, 2012, 1:25 pm


219. ann said:

Wag the dog: How to cook-up Syrian drama – 14 March, 2012

‘Danny’ is a Syrian opposition activist who reports from Homs for CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. He is attached to the opposition movement and regularly calls for military invasion of Syria. He’s identified as Danny Abdul Dayem, a 22-year-old British citizen of Syrian origin.

Danny is far from being a lone soldier in an increasingly dirty information war. Investigative journalist Rafik Lotf has spent months looking at the background to footage that has helped shaped global opinion on the conflict. He told RT that Al Jazeera is involved in video fabrication to discredit the Syrian regime and cites a video described by Al Jazeera as proof Syrian Govt forces had bombed an oil pipeline.

“I know this video is on the Al Jazeera server. It is clear it is not an explosion but they ignore that and keep on reporting on the way they need to see it,” he said.

It is even thought that the clip may have been staged by rebels who blew up the pipeline themselves, as alleged on


Most recently shocking footage emerged of some 47 bodies, including women and children found with their throats slit, bearing stab wounds and signs of rape. The opposition called for a UNSC emergency meeting on ‘the massacre’.

Assad’s government, in turn, announced that ‘terrorist gangs’ killed those in the video and claimed Homs’ residents recognized relatives among the dead, who had been previously kidnapped by the Syrian rebels.

As the mutual blame game spirals downwards and civilian suffering continues, the recent resignations of key Al Jazeera journalists may serve as a clear indicator – that some mainstream Syria conflict coverage is far from objective.


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March 14th, 2012, 1:36 pm


220. Mina said:,1518,821144,00.html
Interview with Tunisia’s Prime Minister
‘Military Intervention in Syria Would Be Pure Madness’
New Sharine Narwani article:
Hollywood in Homs and Idlib?
Or what side of al Qaeda are you exactly?

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March 14th, 2012, 1:42 pm


221. Badr said:

Regime supporters, this is what professor Landis is telling you!

Analysis: Options for military intervention in Syria
By Jonathan Marcus
BBC Diplomatic Correspondent

Joshua Landis, director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, says: “Despite the growing chorus of politicians calling for US leadership in Syria, the Obama administration is adamant that Washington should not take the lead, but follow regional partners, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.”

Mr Landis argues that the simple fact is that the Obama administration sees no strong reason to intervene.

“US officials are unanimous in arguing that the Assad regime is doomed and can only hang on for a limited time, with or without increased US support for the Syrian opposition. I think they are right in this analysis.”

“This means that the US has no compelling national security interest in jumping into the Syrian civil war that is emerging. The regime’s days are numbered.”

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March 14th, 2012, 2:03 pm


222. Alan said:
Twenty US soldiers involved in Kandahar killings
unless it shouldn’t be expected?
An Afghan committee says that up to 20 US soldiers have been involved in the Sunday killing of at least 16 Afghan civilians in Kandahar Province.

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March 14th, 2012, 2:16 pm


223. Uzair8 said:

#215 JAD

You mean this story (quote from AJE ‘Inside Idlib’ blog comment section?:

“Just watched a you tube of the FSA attacking an airfield and destroying a 40 million pound jet with an Anti tank missile. Happy days!. The FSA should be directly armed and supplied with as much of this stuff as possible. Obviously someone has been training them ;).” 3hrs ago.

People getting upset at this report will be questioned about any indifference to the reports of horrendous regime massacres.

Btw another quote from their 13 minutes ago. Any truth to it?:

“Syria is to launch a new currency. Exchanging old for new currency needs approval for SYP 10,000 or more ($125). Syrian money outside Syria will be worthless.”

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March 14th, 2012, 2:35 pm


224. Uzair8 said:

James Denselow, Syria expert based in Kings Colleg, London, who has lived in Syria for a year was on BBC radio 5 last night. He made some interesting comments:

– The regime is the state. If it falls the state falls.

– 20% of the people are pro-regime. Another 20% are against. 60% are in the middle.

Listen from 6 minutes.
For the above comments go to 11 minutes.

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March 14th, 2012, 2:48 pm


225. Tara said:

Moscow lost the Arab street and feels the cold shoulder and the growing anti-Russian sentiment. This might have bee the reason for the latest statement by Lavrov. The Arab street should go out and burn Russians flags in support of the Syrian revolution.

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March 14th, 2012, 2:52 pm


226. Tara said:

71 killed in by Bashar al Assad in Syria today. Alfatiha upon their souls.

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March 14th, 2012, 3:02 pm


227. Uzair8 said:

We are almost at the one year mark and I’m sure Prof Landis will be preparing a new post to coincide with this date.

A time for all to reflect and assess the situation. I guess the regime and opposition will be too busy to find time to stop and reflect. It is probably a time for the silent majority or the uncommitted to reassess their position and the future.

A year of chaos. Can they expect another year of the same? Can they or the country afford to face another year. Do they give up on the regime having any hope of restoring order? Do they remain silent and uncommitted? Is it time to join the opposition and speed up the overthrow of the regime?

These are some of the thoughts and questions they will be reflecting on.

A few months away is Ramadan. Another turning point. A time in which people (muslims) think beyond their own personal interests. A time in which the silent block will find it hard to conveniantly ignore their conscience.

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March 14th, 2012, 3:04 pm


228. ann said:

Isn’t destabilizing Syria is what israel wants?!

Military intervention would destabilize Syria – Brzezinski – 14 March, 2012

Resolving the Syrian conflict by force would be “counterproductive, premature and destabilizing,” says former US National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.

But even if the West intervenes, with America directly involved, there is a risk that that the conflict will turn out to harm the US more than help it, Brzezinski said, notably in terms of the Muslim perception of America. He also reminded his audience about Iraq and Afghanistan, where he said the US “has been for too long.”

However, the Carter administration’s National Security Adviser did not rule out US military involvement, saying that if neighboring Turkey and Saudi Arabia, along with the Arab community, support “a course of action that they think is needed for resolving the Syrian problem,” Washington will “fully support” it.

And if so, the US will “act a little bit a way” as “we acted in Libya” – “support from the back.”

“I think [it] would be counterproductive, premature, and probably even regionally, perhaps destabilizing,” he concluded.

Libya methods won’t work in Syria

“For example there was significant military and political opposition, at a high level, to Gaddafi, which surfaced immediately when the unrest erupted into violence. And that the Gaddafi regime was not a fully institutionalized regime, but highly personalized regime with special arrangements with particular tribes, also contributed to political stability. Once the special arrangements started breaking down the whole thing started breaking down,” explained Brzezinski while talking at a panel at the University of Maryland.

Besides that, Brzezinski said, air strikes against Assad regime “are not going to be very effective.”


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March 14th, 2012, 3:13 pm


229. zoo said:

Diary In Syria
Jonathan Steele
8th March

‘I’m an atheist but I call out “Allahu Akbar” because it makes people feel strong,’ my escort, Anwar, explained on our way home. He is a Circassian, a member of a Caucasian minority which fled to Syria to escape the tsar’s armies. ‘“Allahu Akbar” is also a riposte to a regime slogan that says: “Bashar and nobody else.”’ Later, we had a glass of wine in a smoke-filled café in an upper-class district of Damascus. Anwar’s friend Rime admitted that she was petrified before each ‘party’. ‘Calling out “Allahu Akbar” helps to calm me down,’ she said. ‘But there’s another thing. In detention they sometimes force prisoners to shout, “There is no God but Bashar,” so the protesters want to show there is an alternative.’

The question of how far the protest movement is controlled by Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood is one of the major unknowns of the Syrian crisis. An even bigger question is the extent of support for the resistance a year after the unrest began. No one can accurately gauge the size of the movement, but despite its surface calm, and the usual traffic jams, Damascus feels like an occupied city. Opposition activists whisper at café tables, never sure whether the people sitting around them are informers. Many activists have gone ‘underground’, living away from home to avoid arrest. People use Skype or proxy SMS networks to make it harder for the regime to listen in. Many supporters of the regime, as well as some in the opposition, see sectarian divisions as fixed: they claim that all Alawites, the minority Shia sect from which the Assad family comes, are pro-regime, as are ethnic and religious minorities, Kurds, Druze, Circassians, Armenians and Christian Arabs (totalling about 40 per cent of the population). This seems too simple.

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March 14th, 2012, 3:21 pm


230. Mawal95 said:

Armed rebels wearing bulletproof vests and having possession of two tanks owned by the Syrian army. Most of them are wearing carefully trimmed Salafi-style beards. These rebels are in high spirits. I suspect a date in January. Video uploaded today but undated.

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March 14th, 2012, 3:23 pm


231. zoo said:

Syria struggles with crippled economy

Syria’s currency has lost 50 percent of its value since the uprising began one year ago.
GlobalPost reporter in DamascusMarch 14, 2012 06:15

DAMASCUS, Syria — After a 20 percent pay raise took his monthly salary to about $500 at a state-run company here, Abu Bassam was doing better than your average Syrian employee.

Then began the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

Now, state oil revenues have been slashed under crippling international sanctions. Tourism is nonexistent, and confidence in the economy is at an all-time low. As a result, the Syrian pound (SYP) has lost a full 50 percent of its value, falling to the psychologically hard-to-stomach yardstick of SYP100 to $1, compared with SYP48 when the crisis began.

“So now my salary is actually $250: In a year, I lost half my monthly salary while prices of commodities doubled,” said the 50-year-old, a father with four children in school and a three-room home in the struggling Damascus suburb of Hajar al-Aswad.

On his way into work, he said, the usually tight-lipped passengers on the minibus now all chat away about money and prices. And when he returns home ready to enjoy the traditional, leisurely mid-afternoon lunch, Abu Bassam now often finds his wife driven to distraction by pressures on the family purse.

“Usually my salary covers all our food and bills for the month. But this month my wife told me the money had run out after just nine days,” he said. “I don’t know what to do. She went to buy some commodities and came back from the shop very upset because the price of sugar is now 110 Syrian pound, whereas it was 75 just a few days ago.”

Staples like rice and eggs have tripled in price over the year, while cooking oil has doubled, according to residents of the capital. Bakeries, subsidized by the state, have held their price of SYP15 for eight pieces of traditional flat bread.


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March 14th, 2012, 3:25 pm


232. Syrialover said:

Wake up!

Get on to this! The Assad family exposed through their emails.

Shopping online and joking while Babr Amr is happening. Plus lots, lots more to enrage and disgust the world.

And here’s why it is likley to be genuine (and read the stories linked in the sidebar to this to get the full staggering picture)

Great timing for Syria Day.

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March 14th, 2012, 3:34 pm


233. Tara said:

“Sam is Bashar and AK is Asma”. Read on.  Very interesting.  The monsters shop on the Internet.  ..Never again would they shop anywhere else…except the internet.. What a pity.  

How do we know the Assad emails are genuine?
It is impossible to rule out the possibility of fakes in the email cache, but several pieces of evidence suggest they are authentic, Wednesday 14 March 2012 14.07 EDT
In Asma’s case, there are a host of emails sent between and Asma al-Assad’s family which offer compelling proof. Many emails sent to “ak” from her family begin “Hi Asma”, and one of her family’s email header lists as Asma Akhras, Asma al-Assad’s maiden name.

There are many other examples of family members sending affectionate emails to Asma at the “ak” account. On 21 November 2011, one of her brothers sent her photos of their father’s recent birthday party, with the subject line “Dad’s birthday 2011”. The photos show Asma together with identifiable family members standing in a kitchen. The brother also circulated the photos to her other brother.

Could a third person be using either of the accounts?

Emails from the “ak” account sometimes sign off with “Alia”. Syrian opposition activists say this is Asma borrowing the name of a company secretary, Alia Kayali, who works at al-Shahba’s London office. They say the real Kayali had no access to the “ak” account. The Guardian has been unable to contact the real Alia Kayali to verify this, but it seems unlikely that such an intimate email account would be available to an underling. In a conversation with her friend Sheikha al-Mayassa al-Thani, the daughter of the emir of Qatar, Asma was asked if al-Thani could pass Asma al-Assad’s private “ak” email address to the wife of Turkey’s prime minister, who wanted to get in touch. Asma al-Assad replied four days later: “I would prefer that she did not get my email – I use this account only for family and friends.” Asma al-Assad signed herself “aaa”.

It would appear that Asma is shopping under a nom de plume. In correspondence relating to at least two different purchases, mails to suppliers are signed Alia Kayali, but other mails to Asma’s associates are unsigned. Bashar also appears to borrow an identity – that of Ayman Mikati of Fifth Avenue, New York – to shop on iTunes.


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March 14th, 2012, 3:38 pm


234. Tara said:


Asma on July 19 2011:  “kisses to you all.  We are fine”     

But Assad’s email, using the pseudonym Sam, reflected none of the bloody turmoil or diplomatic jeopardy facing his country. In a bizarre message apparently from the Syrian leader, he sent his wife the lyrics of a country and western song by the US singer Blake Shelton, and the audio file downloaded from iTunes.

Laden with self-pity, the communication appeared to exemplify the cocooned life of denial that Assad, his family and inner circle were leading while the country erupted around them. The first verse reads: “I’ve been a walking heartache / I’ve made a mess of me / The person that I’ve been lately / Ain’t who I wanna be.”

The emails appear to show how tens of thousands of dollars were spent in internet shopping sprees on handmade furniture from Chelsea boutiques. Tens of thousands more were lavished on gold and gem-encrusted jewellery, chandeliers, expensive curtains and paintings to be shipped to the Middle East. While the country was rocked by Assad’s crackdown on dissent, his inner circle was concerned about the possibility of getting hold of a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, or a new chocolate fondue set.

On 19 July 2011, Asma al-Assad could be found placing orders with her cousin Amal for jewellery made by a small Paris workshop. She requested four necklaces: “1 turquoise with yellow gold diamonds and a small pave on side” as well as a cornaline, “full black onyx” and “amethyst with white gold diamonds” of similar design. Amal replied that she would “launch” the order in mid-August with a view to getting it done “by mid-September”. On 23 July 2011 Asma said she didn’t mind the delay and added self-deprecatingly: “I am absolutely clueless when it comes to fine jewellery!” She signed off as “aaa” with: “Kisses to you both, and don’t worry, we are well!”
The emails suggest a woman preoccupied with shopping – but also with an eye for a bargain. She was eager to claw back VAT on luxury items shipped to Damascus, it emerges, and complained when a consignment of table lamps went missing in China. Emails sent from her personal account also concern the fate of a bespoke table, after it arrived with two “right” panels instead of a right and a left one. More than 50 emails to and from the UK deal with shopping.

In July, “Alia” is found placing an order for about £10,000 worth of candlesticks, tables and chandeliers to be shipped from a Paris designer through a state company in Dubai. In early November, as protests continued, a London art dealer received a message asking about the availability and price of works costing between £5,000 and £35,000 each. In late January “Alia” unpacked a pair of bedside tables shipped from a Chelsea cabinet maker, only to discover a mistake. She complained they had “different finishes and they have different colour draws!?”.

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March 14th, 2012, 3:54 pm


235. Son of Damascus said:


Did I not tell you about this already.

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March 14th, 2012, 3:58 pm


236. Syrialover said:

And on the Assad emails,

Remember the Guardian were key players in the Wikileaks exposure. They know what they are doing and wouldn’t touch it if they thought it risked being a hoax.

It’s going to be hard for the distraction faction and block of red thumbs voters here to live this one down.

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March 14th, 2012, 3:59 pm


237. Uzair8 said:

This is amazing! They are being exposed in every way imaginable and from unexpected sources. Who would have thought it? In a water-tight police state.

It’s game over for them. What were we talking about yesterday? Incrimination? Well it seems the sentence has been passed. Before they could even have the chance to celebrate and consolidate this ‘victory’ in Idlib before moving on to push the ‘advantage’ home this bad news to popped up to put a dampner on things.

What an embarrassment. Who’d want to be a regime supporter? The impossible job got even more impossible.

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March 14th, 2012, 4:04 pm


238. Syrialover said:

Asma Assad, now finally exposed as a Leila Ben Ali in training.

I always expected that as more years passed she will look and act more like the hated Tunisian dictator’s wife.

But more humiliation and insults for Syrians who have have been forced to eat the personality propaganda and fake images about family man Assad and his wonderful wife.

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March 14th, 2012, 4:09 pm


239. Syrialover said:

New post just started. Switch your comments to there

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March 14th, 2012, 4:16 pm


240. Tara said:

SOD and all

New post is on. Mover over.

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March 14th, 2012, 4:17 pm


241. Alan said:

كل من تناول الشأن السوري فشل ، بدء من الولايات التحدة وأجهزتها الاستخبارية و كندا مرورا بكافة الدول الأوروبية و معها تركيا و اسرائيل و الناتو مضافا اليها دول الخليج جميعها و بعض الدول العربية كتونس و ليبا و جزء من لبنان و جزء من الأردن و الأمم المتحدة و جامعة حمد العبرية و بعض معارضة الخارج و بعض معاضة الداخل و المنظمات الدولية و الة الاعلام العالمية و منظومة الانترنت و المواقع الاجتماعية و الغرف السوداء و الأقمار الصناعية ! كلهم هؤلاء حساباتهم خاطئة ! حل الموضوع السوري سيأتي من النظام هكذاشاءت الجغرافيا السياسية ! هناك من يعتقد ببذل المزيد من اللولبيات عل الأمر سيتغير ! لن يتغير بالرغبات و لا بالخزعبلات ! العملية السياسية و نبذ العنف هي التي ستخرج سورية من الانسداد !

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March 14th, 2012, 4:34 pm


242. Alan said:

Cameron considers necessary work with the Russian Federation and China on a problem of Syria
WASHINGTON, RIA Novosti news agency, Maria Tabak. The prime minister of Great Britain David Cameron warns that Assad’s actions will inevitably lead to revolution or civil war and consequently it is necessary to work with Russia and China over the solution of the Syrian problem, the head of the British government at joint press conference with the U.S. President in Washington told on Wednesday.

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March 14th, 2012, 4:42 pm


243. SANDRO LOEWE said:

[ Sandro, this comment was filtered by the word list and put in Spam. I can remove that word from the filter.]

US and UK are act as if they were afraid of Syria-Iran-HA axis, and they are. They have almost nothing to lose if they keep the status quo since they have no serious allies in these countries. While if they try to change something they could lose too many lifes that would represent a political price for Obama and Cameron.

The solution US and UK propose is: let Assad kill all insurgency to its roots and let´s expect he finishes his job as soon as possible so we can rely on his authoritarian figure once again to keep stability. We do not care a sh** about freedom and dignity of syrian people and we need Assad dictatorship to keep syrians under slavery status. For the sake of Israel and the Oil.

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March 14th, 2012, 10:05 pm


244. ann said:

Syria Puts On Mass Rally in Support of Assad – March 15, 2012

The government has appeared to gain confidence in recent days, driving rebels from strongholds in the north and sweeping through Dara’a as international efforts to stop the violence appeared to stall and public strife erupted among exile opposition leaders.

The large rally organized in support of the government came a day after the main Syrian exile opposition group suffered a serious fracture as several prominent members resigned, calling the group autocratic, dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and powerless to help Syrian rebels as government forces, having flushed insurgent strongholds in the north, swept into the rebellious southern city of Dara’a.

The government’s near-complete takeover of the cities of Homs and Idlib fueled frustration with the exile group, the Syrian National Council, said one activist who had resigned, Kamal al-Labwani, a respected dissident released from Syrian prison last year halfway through a 12-year sentence.

The council, he added, was in danger of causing splits in Syrian society by failing to create a single rebel military command under its control, leaving individual militias to seek their own sources of help. He accused Muslim Brotherhood members within the exile opposition of “monopolizing funding and military support.”

The 270-member council has been plagued by internal disagreements. A member of its executive committee, Samir Nachar, played down the latest frictions, saying the members had not submitted formal resignations. One, he said, was simply frustrated at his exclusion from a meeting with the United Nations special envoy, Kofi Annan. Mr. Nachar said Mr. Labwani had attended few meetings.

Mr. Nachar acknowledged the council needed to improve but said disagreements were inevitable, noting that many members had never met before the uprising and had widely varying backgrounds and opinions.

But this time the departing members include some well-known figures with deep credibility among Syrians both inside and outside the country, including Mr. Labwani and Haitham Maleh, an executive committee member and lawyer in his 80s who served many years in prison after defending Syrian dissidents, including Muslim Brotherhood members.

Mr. Maleh could not be reached for comment, but told Al Jazeera that he had resigned because of chaos within the group and doubt over what it could accomplish, adding, “We have not gotten very far in working to arm the rebels.”


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March 15th, 2012, 8:43 am


245. Henry said:

It is interesting that Assad and his regime partners write in English to one another. Are they better able to write in English then Arabic?

How ironic that the leadership of a Baathist regime uses English to communicate with one another.

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March 15th, 2012, 12:48 pm


246. Mina said:

243 Sandro
Allah yunawwir ‘alayk… akhiran…
i. e. “the Syrian Falluja”.
Doooorrak djayy ya Abu Sa’ud!

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March 15th, 2012, 1:03 pm


247. annie said:

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March 17th, 2012, 4:57 am


248. Leo Syriacus said:


On the subject of vitamin D I can add, from clinicl experience as I co-authored a study about vitamin D3 supplementaion, that if you live any where north of the Carolinas you will benefit of 1000 international units daily ( exposure to the sun in most of Europe and North America is not even half sufficient)

So yes, all of you, especially women and the over 50 crowd, soak in some of the sunlight and be grateful there are no tanks, artillery, shabiha, or armed gangs that bug your compatriots and if you can not then visit your neighbour hood friendly pharmacist and get a pill, it is good for your bones, prevents certain cancers, and make skin cells regenerate better

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March 17th, 2012, 11:07 am


249. Leo Syriacus said:

A year has gone by and the revolution/insurregency in Syria is getting more and more complicated…for six months the regime has claimed that it is “mopping up” the “terrorist armed gangs” only to see more and more civilians particularly women and children embracing the revolution.

For six months the opposition members have spoken of the “regime last days” only to see the regime holding strong in military and political sense

For almost a year the combined Arab/EU/US sanctions have crippled the Syrian economy and despite hurting the Assad Mafia and their business men allies the most in lost revenues the sanctions did hurt the average Syrian more as the poor face a crisis and the middle class slip towards poverty

For months American and European diplomats and their regional allies kept threatening Assad only to back off military intervention when words and declarations stop

The Assads and their opponents (SNC..etc) are both enjoying the status quo and the average Syrian suffers

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March 17th, 2012, 12:24 pm


250. Leo Syriacus said:

After my “bitch-fest” post I want to follow up with a more meaningful post:

Could we keep Syria Comment an English language only blog?

[ In a word, no. Arabic articles and comments have been part of Syria Comment since its inception.

Syria’s majority language is Arabic, and much breaking news, information, and comment is available only through Arabic-only sites (as well as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube …).The great common language of the Middle East and North Africa, spoken in every world capital, official language of the UN. A non-starter kind of suggestion for Syria Comment, sorry, but thank you for inviting this clarification.

Bing, Google and others offer translation services, and Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Internet Explorer etc., have toolbars or extensions to make rough Arabic instantly available in their browsers.

I apologize for holding this comment for too long today, Leo.]

I refer many non-Arabic speaking friends to visit the blog only for them to complain about the Arabic content.there are plenty of Arabic language blogs about Syria yet very very few English ones.

2-Supporters of The Revolution:

Please referain from arguing with the Basharophiles and instead discuss strategies for Post-Baath Syria that preserve the Syrian state its economy and institutions.

Any human with basic intelligence and moral decency will be against this regime and its children killing crimes and laughable media

At the same time you should all stop the infiltration of the revolution by foreign jihadis and be realistic of your expectations of the rag-tag militias of the FSA and squabbling opposition

3-Supporters of Bashar:

I love calling you Basharophiles!!

The regime is DOOMED..plain and simple no repressive, minoritarian, corrupt regime can last long against the will of most of its people and the Cosmic Conspiracy that includes everybody in the universe with its latest joining partner:The Mighty Easter Bunny!!

Instead of living in the delusion that this movement is just a terrorist-jihadist-foreign conspiracy engage with your fellow Syrians on how we can achieve the following:

* Peaceful tranisition of power
* Fair trail to everyone responsible for bloodshed in the last year
* Preventing “Vendetta” and “Settling Scores” outside the legal system in the post-Bashar Syria
* Preserving the Syrian state, its army, economy, and resources
* Ensuring the secular nature of the political system by engaging progressive Islamist parties ( the Turkisk, Malaysian, Indonesian style) versus Wahabism or Velayat Al-Faqih that can prevail if we mistakenly portray the regime as protector of secular Syrians of any creed
* Economic development
* Major political and social reforms

I am hopeful for Syria s future
I hope you all are

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March 17th, 2012, 11:20 pm


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