Posted by Joshua on Sunday, September 23rd, 2012
Has the Syria State Collapsed? Not yet. It is still paying the salaries of hundreds of thousands of Syrians employees, pensioners, and security personnel
- The video announcing the move is titled “Communique Number One From The Inside”
Syria’s government employment roll is 1,072,000, according to Syria’s Statistical Abstract (2009). This figure excludes military and security forces, estimated at more than 300,000. Thus, the number of people benefiting in the largess would be close to 1.4 million, assuming pensioners are excluded.
Many people write that the State has collapsed. This will not be completely true until it stops paying salaries, which sustain many families. Salaries for pensioners and employees are being paid in those regions of Syria that retain government offices. Even in Kurdish controlled regions, government offices are still paying state employees even if they are not turning up to work. Admittedly inflation has diminished the value of salaries, and many services, such as education are being provided in only some areas. Subsidized foods and fuel are no longer being provided with any regularity.”… Despite the announcement of the command move, rebels still have to rely on Turkey as a rear base for supplies and reinforcements. In the past few months, rebels have captured wide swaths of Syrian territory bordering Turkey, along with three border crossings, allowing them to ferry supplies and people into Syria. FSA commander Col. Riad al-Asaad announced the move of the command center in a video with the title “Free Syrian Army Communique Number 1 from Inside.” Wearing a military uniform and surrounded by a dozen gunmen, the commander said the aim is to “start the plan to liberate Damascus soon, God willing.”
JimMuir of BBC News,writes: The move by the FSA command to set up shop inside Syria…implies confidence that rebel control of “liberated areas” in the north of the country is stable …
Landis in NYTimes argues: “The problem is that it gives the Syrian Air Force a target. We have to see whether this is a credible headquarters or just a mobile camp that gives them a P.O. box in Syria.”…. Though parts of Syria are outside government control, the air force bombs at will. …. Analysts said that Syria had long been home to the real commanders — “The purported F.S.A. leaders in Turkey have never exercised anything like full command and control over the rebellion,” said Michael Wahid Hanna, an analyst at The Century Foundation. “They have seen their role diminish as the center of gravity continues to shift to leaders and fighters inside Syria.”
The move might also signal a shift in relations between the armed Syrian opposition and Turkey, which has long sought to “run the show,” Mr. Landis said. While the rebels still need Turkey as a haven and arms conduit, a move into Syria may allow them to exercise more control, for instance, reducing the influence of groups favored by Turkey, like the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.
Syrian Kurds do not want independence, but greater autonomy within a Syrian solution, according to an activist with the Syrian Revolution Memory Project. He writes:
“the pictures that I see week in week out paint a different picture than what the PKK or PYD are portraying. What I observe in the pictures is a constant demand for a federated solution but a solution that is within the Syrian framework. The independence flag is always present, and demands for a federal solution can be seen on many of the banners as is the picture of the late Mishaal Timmo (who I believe was killed by the PKK/PYD?). Also the people that seem to organize these protest go by this name: “إتحاد تنسيقيات شباب الكورد” Kurdish Youth United Committee I have no idea to whom this group is affiliated but I would guess that they belong t the wider LCC network.”
The Afghanistan war budget for this year—over $110 billion. the national debt topped out at an astounding $16 trillion. The rising debt isn’t entirely due to the war in Afghanistan. But the war, which has cost over $600 billion to date, is one factor in America’s economic crisis. So is the $1 trillion plus spent on the Iraq war. This causes Americans to be reluctant to take the lead in Syria. The increase in insider attacks against NATO troops – 51 this year – has top leaders in Congress considering an accelerated draw down. Both Obama and Mitt Romney appear committed to a long-term continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan despite overwhelmingly popular disapproval, suggesting the war will continue whether the American people want it to or not.
Nir Rosen is one of the very best journalists on Syria. He has done a superb job writing up his observations drawn from his extensive traveling within the Alawite regions of Syria. As always, his insights ring true to what I know of Syria and the Alawites.
‘Among the Alawites‘ (Nir Rosen, The London Review of Books)
“Syria’s Alawite heartland is defined by its funerals. In Qirdaha in the mountainous Latakia province, hometown of the Assad dynasty, I watched as two police motorcycles drove up the hill, pictures of Bashar mounted on their windshields. An ambulance followed, carrying the body of a dead lieutenant colonel from state security. As the convoy passed, the men around me let off bursts of automatic fire. My local guides were embarrassed that I had seen this display, and claimed it was the first time it had happened. ?He is a martyr, so it is considered a wedding.’ Schoolchildren and teachers lining the route threw rice and flower petals. ?There is no god but God and the martyr is the beloved of God!’ they chanted. Hundreds of mourners in black walked up through the village streets to the local shrine. ?Welcome, oh martyr,’ they shouted. ?We want no one but Assad!'”
…..At the border post of Bab al Hawa some days later, a confrontation was brewing between the jihadis and Syrian rebels.
Fighters from the Farouq brigade – one of the best-equipped and most disciplined units in the FSA – were sleeping on the grass in the shadow of a big concrete arch. The fighters wore military uniforms and green T-shirts emblazoned with insignia of the brigade – an achievement in the disarray of the revolution. They had many tanks and armoured vehicles captured from the Syrian army parked around the border post, under cover.
Nearby, a group of 20 jihadis had gathered in a circle around a burly Egyptian with a chest-long silver beard.
“You are in confrontation with two apostate armies,” the Egyptian told the men, referring to the Syrian army and Free Syrian Army. “When you have finished with one army you will start with the next.”
The confrontation had started a few weeks ago, when the foreign jihadis, who played a major role in defeating government forces at the border post, raised the black flag of al-Qaida, emblazoned by the seal of the prophet, on the border post.
The Farouq brigade demanded the flag be lowered lest it antagonise the Turks and threaten the rebels’ vital supply route. One bearded fighter in the Farouq brigade, a salafi himself, said he had pleaded with jihadis, telling them that their presence would stop Nato from sending supplies. “They told me they were here to stop Nato,” he said.
The rebels gave them an ultimatum to evacuate, and the jihadis had taken up attack positions on the stony hills overlooking the post, surrounding the Farouq fighters. who in turn were threatening to use their armoured vehicles.
I spoke to the regional commander of the Farouq brigade, a muscular young lieutenant from the southern province of Dara’a called Abdulah Abu Zaid. “I will not allow the spread of Takfiri [the act of accusing other Muslims of apostasy] ideology,” he told me in his military compound a few kilometres from the border post. “Not now, not later. The Islam we had during the regime was disfigured Islam and what they are bringing us is also disfigured. The Islam we need is a civil Islam and not the takfiri Islam.”
The jihadis, he said, had looted and stolen from the local people and demanded protection money from local businesses in order not to steal their merchandise. “I managed to stop them,” he said, “and I won’t let them spread here.”
Later that day he issued an ultimatum to their commander, a Syrian called Abu Mohamad al Abssi, to leave the area with his foreign jihadis or he would be killed.
I met Abu Mohamad, a monosyllabic doctor, the next day. He emphasized that he had been struggling against the regime since 1992 while the Free Syria Army were defected officers who until recently served the regime. The Arab spring was, he said, a result of Islamic fervor.
“We will never leave our positions here,” he said in a quiet voice. “God-willing we will win.”
A few days later, Abu Mohamad’s body was found in a ditch. He had been kidnapped and killed.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad spoke with Egyptian news outlet, al-Ahram al-Arabi, in a rare interview. He said that armed groups are exercising terrorism and are not popular with Syrians, and that his regime would not fall like that of Libyan, Muammar al-Qaddafi. Of the regional overthrow of Arab regimes, Assad asserted it had “not worked in the interest of freedom, democracy, or ending social injustice as much as helped create chaos.” The opposition Syrian National Council has continued to call for intervention in the civil war in Syria that increasingly appears to be moving toward stalemate. A Syrian warplane hit a fuel station killing an estimated 54 people after opposition forces overtook an area on the fringes of al-Raqqa province on the border with Turkey, which has long been a government stronghold. Raqqah province, in north central Syria, sits strategically between the heavily contested and embattled Aleppo and Deir al-Zour provinces. The gas station is south of the border crossing of Tal Abyad, which the opposition reportedly gained control of after days of fighting. Tal Abyad is at least the third border crossing between Syria and Turkey overtaken by the opposition. Fighting additionally continued in Aleppo and across Syria with at least 225 people reported killed on Thursday.
Seeking credibility, Syrian regime allows opposition group to go ahead with Damascus meeting
By Associated Press, Updated: Sunday, September 23,
DAMASCUS, Syria — Syrian opposition figures who reject foreign intervention in Syria’s 18-month conflict called for the ouster of President Bashar Assad at a rare meeting Sunday in the nation’s capital. The gathering was tolerated by the regime in an apparent attempt to lend credibility to its claims that it remains open to political reform despite its bloody crackdown on dissent…..On Thursday, two senior NCB leaders disappeared after landing at Damascus International Airport, along with a friend who was to pick them up, and the NCB has blamed the regime for the disappearance. The government claimed the three were kidnapped by “terrorist groups,” a phrase it uses for rebels. Syria seizes opposition members after China trip – opposition By Oliver Holmes, (Reuters) – Security forces seized three members of Syria’s government-sanctioned opposition shortly after they returned from an official trip to China, a spokesman for the group said on Friday.Syria says missing opponents kidnapped by “terrorists”
DAMASCUS, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) — A total of 28 Syrian opposition groups and parties announced Saturday the indefinite postponement of the long-awaited National Conference for Rescuing Syria, which was slated for Sept. 23. Full story
History Repeats Itself as Tragedy – FP
The must-read secret Pentagon memo on Syria’s 1982 massacre.
Opposition tells pope Syria regime threat to Christians, 2012-09-23 (PTI)
Syrian Christian opposition leader George Sabra told Pope Benedict XVI that the survival of the Damascus regime poses a threat to the country’s Christians, the Syrian National Council said today.
“The survival of the (President Bashar al-) Assad regime is a danger to Christians and Muslims in Syria alike,” Sabra, who is spokesman for the opposition SNC, told the pontiff during a visit to the Vatican yesterday. Sabra, who was accompanied by the exiled group’s head Abdel Basset Sayda in meeting the pope, also thanked him for his visit to Lebanon and guidance to Middle East Christians, the SNC said in a statement.
How does Bashar al-Assad view Syria?
Posted: 21 Sep 2012 – FP
David W. Lesch, author of Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad, writes: I got to know Assad fairly well over the years. I do not see him as either an eccentric or as a bloodthirsty killer, along the lines of Muammar al-Qaddafi or Saddam Hussein. People I know who have met all three …
Assad’s removal perhaps will just be a matter of time — although it may take longer than many want. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to be a pretty sight. As Anne Applebaum once wrote in an article on revolution and the former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, for there to be an orderly transition from dictatorship to democracy, two elements are crucial: “an elite willing to hand over power, and an alternative elite organized enough to accept it.”…
Syria: Is the Proposed Cure Worse than the Status Quo?
By: Barry Rubin
… The Turks want a Muslim Brotherhood government; the Qataris do, too. The Saudis want to get rid of the current regime and replace it with a Sunni, anti-Iran one. With proper U.S. leadership and coordination the Saudis might play a constructive role but given Obama’s policy they will mainly just support Sunni Islamists as they did in Iraq.As if to outdo America, the French government is actually supporting for Syria’s leader a loudmouth former regime insider of no proven talent who is a radical Arab nationalist and someone who the rebels loathe….
“…The real humanitarian disaster would come with a total government collapse and rebel victory because there are “at risk” minorities in the path of the mostly Sunni revolution. The Christians and the Shiite Alawites risk the fate of Iraq’s Sunnis and Christians in the wake of the decapitation of the Sunni dominated Saddam Hussein regime. Like Iraq’s Sunni minority, the Alawite minority in Syria will likely be targets of a revenge seeking Sunni majority. Realists in the Assad government, such as the recently departed Prime Minister, are probably now looking for an emergency landing and negotiations may be their only alternate runway.
As much as I hate to admit it, the Russians are probably right in trying to prevent an outright rebel victory. They see the unintended consequences more clearly than our neo-hawks who are urging military intervention. As always, the Russian reasoning is cold blooded and cynical, but those of us who are veterans of Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan know the horror that can ensue when governance breaks down completely. The best chance for a negotiated end to the civil war would be an American-Russian-Turkish sponsored cease fire and peace conference. The Russians have leverage with the Assad government, but the rebels know that American and Turkish economic and diplomatic support is needed for any reasonable attempt to build a post-Assad government that has real legitimacy beyond the Sunni neighbors in the region…”
U.S. pundits commenting on the protests that have swept across the Middle East this past week have focused on finger-pointing and partisan sniping, with conservatives calling for Washington to show more strength and liberals advocating more outreach. Few have wanted to deal with a far more unpleasant reality: The de facto pro-U.S. coalition of Turkey, Israel and moderate Sunni Arab states is disintegrating.
Why the Syrian Rebels May Be Guilty of War Crimes By: Aryn Baker | Time
Condi Rice autobiography, she says King Abdullah of KSA always HATED Bashar Assad, he hated his father but respected Senior’s power.
Libyan fighting in Syria symbolizes fears
Nick Paton Walsh and James Foley
Thu September 20, 2012
- Foreign fighters with Syrian rebels
- One such Libyan fighter tells CNN he is a freedom fighter not an Islamist
- Experts differ on how many foreign fighters are in Syria and what they will want when the fighting ends
(CNN) — Feras races across a dusty crossroads, firing his AK-47 wildly at regime forces somewhere down the road ahead of him. This is Aleppo, and he is one of many rebel fighters there, slogging it out street by street, often not seeing their enemy or much progress for weeks.
But Feras is different in a way that has sparked great fears and controversy. Feras is Libyan. He is one of Syria’s “foreign fighters.”
The presence of foreigners among the ranks of Syria’s rebels has been seized on by nearly all sides to suit their purposes…..
He staunchly rejected claims that foreign fighters are radicals or have links to al Qaeda. “I’m only a student. I left my money, my student, my family. We are not al Qaeda. We are not coming to break this country, we’re coming to help.”
He says his politics are simple. He wants an Islamic government for Syria but only, he says, because most of its people are Muslim anyway.
This is for him a fight to help another people, after which he wants to return home to Libya. And he rejects the more radical ideology of Salafists.
He knows about loss himself. His brother was killed in Libya’s civil war, and he still wears his black shirt. And since he has been in Syria, a Libyan friend of his has also been killed in the fighting.
Ducking in and out of Aleppo’s ruins, and narrowly missing being hit by a tank shell, it’s clear he is willing to endure great risk to this end. In fact, he tells Foley he is willing to die for this cause…..
Veteran Syria analyst Joshua Landis said one of the most important roles that these foreign elements had played so far was that of “scaring the Gulf states and the USA from further involvement. An obvious thing to do [to help the rebels] is to send Stinger [surface to air] missiles. That would change the balance of power but nobody wants to do that,” he said, citing concerns such potent weaponry could fall into the wrong hands.
But he added fears of radicalism were also being used by foreign powers to excuse a lack of intervention.
“It is cover for a lot of other things. Syria is a poor broken down country, a swamp. Obama is clear is that he does not want to get into Syria. They are reaching for every pretext under the sun. They do not want to get into another major nation building project. So they are cutting Syria off.”…
Managing the Collapse of the Assad Regime’ (Ausama Monajed, The Huffington Post)
“The FSA should begin by consolidating its leadership under one commanding general. This would not only address foreign frustrations of not having a central point of contact with the FSA but would also make transferring funds and arms much easier. Moreover, it would increase accountability should outside arms find their way into the hands of extremist groups, who may later use these arms against Western interests, similar to the recent attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi which resulted in the tragic death of four Americans, including the Ambassador. United States Defence Secretary Leon Panetta testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee last March that “there has been no single unifying military alternative that can be recognised, appointed, or contacted” in the Syrian opposition. A centralised command with clear leadership for the FSA would close this gap and facilitate greater cooperation with Turkey, Gulf countries, and the West. It would also help the FSA prioritise its operations during the political transition in Syria, from locking down Assad’s cache of chemical weapons to securing the country’s volatile borders.”
In Syria, Aleppo residents grapple with hardship, uncertainties– Los Angeles Times, September 19, 2012
As fighting drags on, Aleppo has gone from Syria’s affluent business hub to an edgy, apocalyptic city where life and commerce have yielded to homicidal mayhem.
ALEPPO, Syria — The elderly woman, covered in a long black gown and matching headdress, was despondent. Tears of anguish flooded her eyes. She stood at the entrance to the cobblestone streets of the Old City, pleading with the rebel fighter.
“Why can’t you get the bakeries running?” she implored, saying she had spent four hours seeking fresh bread for her family. “We are not accustomed to living like this.”
At the receiving end of her exhortations was a strapping 27-year-old country boy with a white T-shirt, sandals and a rifle who called himself Abu Mohammed.
“We can’t do everything,” he shrugged, blaming government forces for blocking fuel supplies to operate the bakeries. “We can’t fight a war and run a city.”
US should buy Syria’s chemical weapons
By PORCHER L. TAYLOR
The US should offer to buy Syria’s WMD before they fall into the wrong hands.
Unlike former US president George W. Bush’s quixotic and futile quest to find weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, gone is the decades-long intelligence community surmise that Syria possesses large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.
Chillingly, last month, Syria’s Foreign Ministry publicly made a smoking-gun confession that it not only possessed these WMD, but would use those weapons against outside interveners in its prolonged civil war. The US and Israel replied with gusto to Syria’s thinly veiled threat.
In a bold but prudent effort to help stabilize a post-Assad government and to pre-empt the need for either the US or Israel to raid and secure Syria’s WMD stockpiles, the US should offer to buy those WMD now from the Syrian National Council and the Free Syrian Army. As a pre-emptive economic diplomacy carrot, the price should be at least $80 million.
The predominant Syrian opposition forces could use the money to reboot that nation’s economy out of the ashes of civil war with a Marshall-type Plan. Once purchased, the US must destroy Syria’s WMD at one of the US Army Chemical Materials Agency’s disposal sites in the US, under the watchful eyes of UN inspectors.
Surprisingly, remarkable precedent exists in the US diplomacy playbook for such a cash-for-weapons disarmament deal. In 1997, the Pentagon exercised the power of the purse by pre-emptively buying twenty-one of the then top-of-the-line MiG-29 fighter jets from Moldova, a former Soviet republic, after Moldova tipped the US off that Iran was on the verge of buying the jets.
Quickly moving in, the US Air Force bought the jets for allegedly $80 million. Ominously, fourteen of the planes were nuclear-capable S models – which had never been analyzed by the US intelligence community. Here we had the Pentagon snatch a potential military threat out of the weapons marketplace by simply outbidding a pariah state. President Barack Obama should be just as innovative and savvy with Syria’s WMD. I proposed in a 1997 op-ed article that the Pentagon should offer to buy Saddam Hussein’s purported cache of WMD…..
The writer is a West Point graduate and a professor in the School of Professional & Continuing Studies at the University of Richmond. He once taught the national security law course in the university’s School of Law.
The mystery of the Syria contact group
By Vijay Prashad – Asia Times
In late August, Egypt’s new president Mohammed Morsi proposed the formation of a regional initiative to stem the conflict in Syria. Five decades ago, Egypt and Syria were yoked together to form the United Arab Republic, an experiment that lasted less than three years. Since then relations between the two states has ebbed and flowed, reliant more on the winds of mutual opportunity…
When Morsi asked the Saudi Arabia to sign up to the Contact Group, it had little choice but to join and take the fourth seat. A credible source from the website Jadaliyya tells me that the Saudi Arabia and the Iranians “struck a deal” at the Organization of the Islamic Conference meeting held in Mecca this August when the Contact Group idea was mooted. “The Saudis would drop its steroidal support of the Syrian opposition in return for the Iranians convincing Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province Shias to tone down their opposition against al-Saud, if not altogether stopping their protests, threats and demands,” the source says.
A source from the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Foreign Affairs would neither affirm nor deny this story, but would say that “it is a likely tale. There were discussions between the two parties about a ‘cease fire’ in the eastern part.” ….
One of the tasks of the Contact Group is to provide the new UN envoy, the Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi with a mandate and a roadmap. Brahimi came to Cairo from his meeting with Assad in Damascus. He immediately met the Arab League’s head, Nabil al-Arabi and sat in with the Contact Group.
….Gregory Gause (author of The International Relations of the Persian Gulf, 2010) says, “Saudis think that their side is winning and they don’t want to give the Iranians a seat at this table. They want to beat the Iranians in Syria.”….
As Turkey’s Davutoglu put it, “Consultations with Saudi Arabia are necessary because the kingdom is a key player in the attempt to reach a solution to the Syrian crisis.” If the key player skips more meetings, it will dampen confidence in the Group and therefore in Brahimi for a regional solution to the Syrian crisis.
The Contact Group will meet again at the sidelines of the UN’s General Assembly next week. The Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry will not confirm that its representatives will be at the Group’s meeting. The Egyptians, Iranians and Turks are enthusiastic. So is Brahimi. The road to peace in Syria might go through the Contact Group. But it requires Saudi Arabia involvement to make it credible….
DAMASCUS, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) — Syrian troops Friday uncovered a mass grave with 25 dead bodies in a restive part of suburban Damascus, the state-run SANA news agency said.
The grave was dug out at al-Qadam, which has recently been a hotbed of armed confrontation between the government troops and the armed rebels.
SANA said the residents of al-Qadam had tipped the Syrian troops about the grave, adding that the bodies had been found handcuffed and eye-folded. It said “armed terrorist groups” committed the massacre.
The clashes in Syria have spread to several hotspots nationwide but mainly taking place in the northern city of Aleppo and at a cluster of southern suburbs of Damascus, such as Hajar al-Aswad, Tadamun and al-Yarmouk camp for the Palestinian refugees, where the Syrian authorities said they have rounded up more than 100 “terrorists” on Thursday.