In Mezzeh, Wealthy Sunnis Begin to Demonstrate; Washington Unlikely to Arm Syrians Soon; Friends of Syria to Meetin in Tunis

The demonstrations in Mezzeh, Damascus, as shown above, suggest that the revolt has spread to the heart of bourgeois Damascus, an area many said would not be affected. The Homs repression is spreading revolt to new areas. The opposition is not being cowed. In this video police shoot into the air in order to frighten the women of Mezzeh, Damascus. It does not seem that security shot into the crowd, but the fear and anger is all too clear. It will grow.

[Correction] (A Friend wrote to say: “the demonstration was in old mazzeh, not the wealthy part, the part near the old hospital, the poor part.)

The Syrian opposition is gaining strength and spreading to new areas of Syria with each passing weak. Government action makes it stronger, as does government inaction. Assad faces a catch 22. He has no way forward. The opposition, despite its multitude of jostling leaders is developing new communication and activist networks all the time. The destruction of Sunni neighborhoods in Homs has outraged Syrians across the country. Growing lawlessness has dispirited those who would support the government. Inflation and economic hardship is overtaking everyone in a constant reminder that things will get worse and that Assad is leading the country off a cliff.

The “Friends of Syria” conference will be held in Tunis on Friday. It is still unclear which countries will be represented. One can assume that the Gulf countries, Egypt, Turkey, Europeans, and the US will be there, as well as the SNC. Will the Free Syrian Army be invited to send representatives? Will other military leaders turn up?

US General Dempsey said that it was “premature” to arm the opposition. In all likelihood, Washington will want to go slow on supplying weapons to opposition leaders – after all, whom would it give them to? The SNC seems too divided and too weak. Also, Saudi, Turkey and the US are unlikely to agree on whom to arm. Most importantly, however, the US has been unable to control events in the Middle Easter countries that have gone through regime-change. Washington’s record of picking winners is dismal. Ahmad Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress did not work out. Hamid Karzai? Few give him long odds of surviving US withdrawal. Bashir Gemayyel did not do well in Lebanon, if one goes back a few decades.

Washington may be well advised to hang back from supplying more than humanitarian and communications assistance for the time being. It will get a better sense of which leaders are able to speak for most Syrians in the future. If it backs one leader or party today, others may emerge tomorrow only to feel slighted or to turn for help from America’s competitors. Washington will not be able to change boats in mid-stream. What is more, the success and growing strength of the Syrian revolution suggests that Assad is unlikely to win. Support for the Syrian opposition is a humanitarian issue but not a strategic issue, if one calculates in a heartless fashion. The revolution will win on its own. Who knows, Syrians may even be the better for it?

العقوبات وحدها لن تُجدي by Nikolaos van Dam in All4Syria.

معظم الدول الغربية تفكّر من منظور العدالة وهي محقة في ذلك لأن هناك أشياء فظيعة تحدث في سوريا ولكن يجب عليهم أن يفكروا بطريقة للحل وهذا مالم يحدث على الأقل حتى الان.

– اختار الغرب العقوبات فهل ترى أن ذلك مجدٍ ؟
أنا أتفهم فرض العقوبات ولكنني أخشى أن تكون هذه العقوبات بدون النتائج المأمولة، إذا كنت ترغب بالسيطرة على الموقف فعليك أن لا تقطع التواصل المباشر لأنّ العقوبات بمفردها لن تكون مجدية.

– هل استخدمت روسيا الفيتو اذاً من أجل الحفاظ على القنوات مفتوحة مع النظام في سوريا ؟
يعتقد الروس أنه من المبكر اجراء التصويت على قرار في مجلس الأمن، وكانوا يعتزمون إجراء حوار مع الأسد في نفس الاسبوع كما كان لديهم مشاكل مع هذا القرار والذي يشير الى ضرورة تنحي الأسد لأن أي شيء يدعوا الى تغيير النظام هو قرارمشبوه بالنسبة لموسكو.

– هل للسيناريو الليبي حيث وافقت روسيا على التدخل تأثير عن موقف روسيا الحالي ؟
نعم بكل تأكيد ..فقد شاهدت روسيا كيف تم تحوير وتفسير قرار مجلس الأمن، فالقرار بدأ بمنطقة حظر طيران وانتهى بتغيير النظام من خلال الدعم العسكري لحلف الأطلسي، كما يعتقد الروس أنّ على الأمم المتحدة أن تدين العنف من قبل جميع الأطراف وليس من طرف النظام فقط…..

Ehsani on Aleppo:

Schools in Aleppo have been receiving bomb threats. Some have closed till march 6 (french school and Icarda). My sister pulled her kids out of the school on Thursday. Aleppo has lots of streets closed. Military and security everywhere. Ugly stuff. Just heart breaking.

Basma Qudmani speaks with 5 Israeli authors on French TV – this video has been circulating heavily on activist networks. Rumor is that it has been put out by Islamists within the SNC to delegitimize her and the liberals in the SNC.

She says approvingly that Egypt has an emerging civil society that has nothing to do with Islam. She says that Arabs need Israel’s existance.

This video is another expression of the tense battle being waged between the two wings of the SNC: Islamists and liberals. On Feb 15, Burhan Ghalioun’s term as leader of the SNC was extended by two months. He is a noted liberal, who like Qudmani has lived some three decades in Paris. It is noteworthy that the executive council of the SNC could agree to extend his term by only two months. Mechanisms for deciding on leadership are yet to be completely worked out. In the meantime, the liberals of the SNC seem to have the upper hand. Islamists put forward Haytham Maleh as their candidate. He is a human rights lawyer who has had a storied career defending activists in Syria. He has spend decades in prison himself and is fearless. He is in his 80s.

بسمة قضماني: العرب “بح اجة” لوجود “اسرائيل”!! ( فيديو)

Syrian opposition invited to Tunis conference

Syrian opposition groups will take part in an international conference on the crisis in Syria on Friday, Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem said, warning against an “Iraqi scenario”.

Abdessalem said participants at the Rome meeting of the so-called “5+5” states had agreed on the need to defend Syria’s territorial unity: “We don’t want an Iraqi scenario… We have to preserve the integrity of Syria.”

“I don’t think any Arab country is going to ask for military intervention (in Syria). European countries don’t want it either,” he said.

Referring to the “Friends of Syria” conference on Friday, he added: “We believe that on the 24th of this month, we shall send a strong message to the Syrian government.”

Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said of the meeting: “It has to be inclusive. Of course the opposition has to be present.”

Abdessalem had said in Tunis on Friday that the SNC, the largest opposition group in strife-ridden Syria, would not be officially represented at the conference.

Trade with the US Falls 31 Percent over Sanctions – Syria Report

Syria’s Inflation Rate Doubled in December, 13-02-2012 Syria Report

Syria’s official inflation rate almost doubled in December, partially reflecting the steep increase in prices witnessed in the local market in recent weeks.

The Syrian Pound has remained stable since the beginning of February, trading at around 72 pounds per US Dollar in black market dealings.

Syria’s private banking sector saw a decline of some 13.5 percent in total assets last year although it managed to increase revenues and profits, largely on the back of foreign currency revaluations.

Poultry Farming Impacted by Revolution– Syria Report

…steep increase in the prices of eggs and chicken in the local market. Input prices, in particular for corn and soybean, which are used as feed for chicken, have risen. So has increased the cost of petroleum coke used for heating. One other factor that has impacted the industry is the current unrest. Indeed, most poultry farms are located in the Governorates of Homs, Hama and Rural Damascus, which are the hotbeds of the current popular revolt gripping Syria. …

According to some estimates, the number of people whose livelihood depends on the sector is around 1 million. The FCA estimates the average annual growth of the sector in the last decade at 15 percent. Last year, exports stood at around 1.24 billion eggs, or 35 percent of total production; Iraq is Syria’s main export market, the FCA report said.

2 judicial officials assassinated in Syria – LA Times

A judge and lawyer, along with their driver, are reportedly killed in Idlib. Across Syria, at least 20 are slain, including nine in Homs, the opposition says.

Syrian troops have massed around Homs as top US Officer says Arming Opposition Premature

The top US military officer, General Martin Dempsey, said any intervention in Syria would be “very difficult” and that it was “premature” to arm the unrest-swept country’s opposition movement.

And China’s influential People’s Daily warned any Western support for Syria’s rebels would lead to a “large-scale civil war”.

Activists and Syrian state media reported at least 14 people were killed on Sunday, adding to the more than 6000 people who have died in President Bashar al-Assad’s 11-month crackdown on dissent.

“Infantry troops arrived yesterday (Sunday) in Homs,” Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said by phone on Monday.

A Homs-based activist voiced fears of an imminent attack on Baba Amr, the main rebel stronghold in the central city, speaking of “unprecedented military reinforcements coming from Damascus”….

Tribal bonds strengthen the Gulf’s hand in a new Syria – The National
by Hassan Hassan,

Will the “tribal crescent” that extends from northern Syria to western Iraq and Jordan down to the Gulf, replace the Shia crescent? Underlying all the other complexities of Syria, ancient tribal allegiances that pre-date national boundaries add an additional layer of motivations…

details about the protest movement in Al Jazira show that the hold of the tribes remains strong. In the early months of protests, there was friction among the tribes on how to react. Al Jarrah, one of the powerful clans in the city of Al Bukamal, and a part of the Egaidat confederation, is led by a government official, who even armed some of the clan’s members to quell protests. This pushed another prominent tribe in the confederation, Al Dandal, to mediate between the government and young protesters, in an effort that failed. By then, some protesters had begun arming themselves and shooting at security forces

The chief of the Egaidat, who has influence across the tribes in the confederation, asked the pro-government leader to disarm his people and stop working with the security forces. Finally, tribal leaders on all sides agreed to prevent clashes with the security forces and to not interfere in the protests.

Other leaders have refused to take part in the protest movement because they feel it is their responsibility to protect their clan. Abdullah Ghadawi, a political editor for the Saudi newspaper Okaz who is from Al Bukamal, told me one tribal leader had said that he was against the regime but he could not endanger his tribe by fighting. For the same reason, heads of families say they stand by President Bashar Al Assad only to discourage their children from taking part in protests. A similar scenario plays out in Suwaida and Raqqa, where there have been few protests.

This influence will remain strong for the foreseeable future. Politicians may be drawn from the ranks of the educated younger generation, unlike in the past when members of parliament were almost all tribal leaders, but the latter will still be respected

Another possible trend that favours Gulf influence in Syria is the growing prominence of Salafism (as opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood, which has strong links to Turkey). Salafism is increasing especially in tribal areas, partly because of the return of Syrians who have worked in the Gulf.

How the Gulf states will use these levers of influence remains to be seen, however. “Saudi Arabia has a limited understanding of the nature and diversity of the Syrian opposition,” said Emile Hokayem, a Middle East analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, “and risks espousing too closely the perspective of its tribal and Wahhabi interlocutors.” Riyadh risks overreliance on the tribes, which remain largely divided

But if these links are harnessed, the Gulf states’ influence will extend from the north of Syria to western Iraq and Jordan, creating a “tribal crescent” in place of Iran’s “Shia crescent” that today extends from Iran to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Video: ‘No NATO military action in Syria’

Syria ‘disintegrating under crippling sanctions’
19 February 2012

Free Syrian Army members in Idlib, 18 FebOne of Syria’s leading businessmen says its economy is being crippled by foreign sanctions and that the government is slowly disintegrating.

Faisal al-Qudsi, the son of a former Syrian president, told the BBC the military action could only last six months and then there would be “millions of people on the streets”.

But he said President Bashar al-Assad’s government would fight to the end.

The 11-month uprising against Mr Assad has claimed thousands of lives.

Human rights groups have put the figure at more than 7,000, while the government says at least 2,000 members of the security forces have been killed combating “armed gangs and terrorists”.

The violence continued on Saturday, when Syrian troops fired on mourners during a funeral that turned into a mass demonstration in Damascus. Activists say at least one person was killed there and some 20 across the country.

‘Catch 22’:  Speaking to the BBC’s Weekend World Today programme, Mr Qudsi said the economy had been crippled by sanctions and that although Iran was sending money, it was not enough.

An Iraqi fighter in Syria’s civil war – Independent

In Syria, Opposition Struggles To Gain Foreign Support
February 20, 2012 – Stratfor

Despite several efforts to come together, Syria’s opposition groups remain fractured. There are two viable groups that the West could work with, the Syrian National Council and the National Coordination Committee, but they have incompatible views on how to oust the regime and neither has the clear support of Syria’s protesters. Unless they can overcome their differences, the opposition groups are unlikely to receive the international support they need to overthrow the regime in Damascus.


Since the beginning of the unrest in Syria, a propaganda war has raged between the regime of President Bashar al Assad and the various opposition groups. The Syrian regime has portrayed itself as united and strong and the opposition as radical terrorists. Meanwhile, the opposition has claimed that the regime is splintering and that the opposition is strong and capable of replacing it. Perception is important because the Syrian opposition cannot succeed in ousting the al Assad regime without the support of the Syrian people and foreign governments.

But the reality is that despite extensive efforts to unite, Syria’s opposition groups remain fractured. Of the 14 or more opposition groups in the country, only two, the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the National Coordination Committee (NCC), are being considered by the West as feasible groups to work with to bring about democratic change inside Syria.

Comments (379)

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1. Areal said:

The title ” Wealthy Sunnis begin to demonstrate” is very misleading.
Wealthy people don’t demonstrate in the streets.

The demonstrators are poor people from the suburbs of Damascus.
Four protesters and two security persons were killed .
So you have the choice between
– the fairy tale of unarmed protesters protected by the Free Syrian Army
– the reality of OTAN’s countries armed MB thugs manipulating crowds

By the way , where are the links to Syria Report articles ?

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February 20th, 2012, 3:05 pm


2. areal said:

Syria ‘disintegrating under crippling sanctions’

‘Catch 22′: Speaking to the BBC’s Weekend World Today programme, Mr Qudsi said the economy had been crippled by sanctions and that although Iran was sending money, it was not enough.

The word Iran does not appear in the crippled BBC voice recording of Mr Qudsi which appears on the BBC webpage.
Syria ‘disintegrating under crippling sanctions’

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February 20th, 2012, 3:28 pm


3. ghufran said:

I have to agree with Areal on the myth that rich Sunnis are demonstrating in Damascus. Rich Damascenes are either abroad or staying home watching demonstrations on TV.
In very revolution,poor people provide the fuel and others harvest the fruits.
A cease fire will be attempted in Homs to allow food and medicine to get to the needy but that is not going to happen until the fighting parties allow it at the expense of their pride,this is exactly when pride should take the back seat.

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February 20th, 2012, 3:31 pm


4. Alan said:

اذا حذفنا صوت معلق الفيديو من مجلس الشيخ سعد ( الحريري ) المنشور أعلاه ذو اللهجة الحمصية و ليست الدمشقية ، فاننا
1- لانشاهد تشييعا أو صورا لتابوت محمول.
2- نرى في وسط التجمع البشري عدد ليس بقليل من النساء .
3- لاشيء في الموقع يدل على أنه في المزة بدمشق
4- عند (اطلاق النار المفترض) لم تخلى النسوة المكان غريزيا و بسرعة و قام المصور بهز كامرته عوضا عن تركيزها في محاولة لتغطية الحدث.
5- هناك سماع لاطلاق نار لم تخيف المصور، المتمركز على سطح المبنى و لم يحاول تصوير مطلقها .
6- هناك طلقة دخانية واضحة لتفريق التحشد وقف عندها المصور كونها حدث هام.
7- بقيت النسوة اللواتي من المزة الى نهاية الفيديو في الساحة .
8- قطع الفيديو في الدقيقة 2 و لم يكتمل منطقيا .

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February 20th, 2012, 3:44 pm


5. Antoine said:


I don’t think either the FSA or the LCC will agree to a ceasefire in Homs and allow the ICRC to get in after what happened in Zabadani. Until and unless there are strong safeguards against arbitrary arrests and detentions by the regime, there simply can be no trust, and trust is essential. The regime cannot be trusted to keep its word and thats is what is making the rebels to keep on fighting. Don’t you think so ?

Many of the FSA in Homs have killed many security officers and it is naive to think the regime will let them go if they can get their hands on them.

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February 20th, 2012, 3:47 pm


6. Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Do “Arabs need Israel’s existence” ?
I rather not answer.

But definitely, the Arabs discover that Israel is a stabilizing agent in the Middle East. And I’m sure that in light of the recent events, the Arabs are reevaluating many of the “truths” they are being taught from childhood about Israel.

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February 20th, 2012, 4:25 pm


7. Areal said:

Free “Syrian” Army stronghold equipped with Milan missiles

Voltaire Network | 16 February 2012

The Battle of Homs was particularly deadly for the belligerents on both sides, as well as for civilians. During the first three days, the Syrian Arab Army was warded off by the rebels that blocked all entry points to their neighborhood. They destroyed all approaching armored vehicles using Milan missiles. Ultimately, the Syrian Arab Army had to resort to multiple rocket launchers to bombard the Milan firing posts, at the risk of causing heavy civilian casualties.

Each Milan shooting station, located on every street going into Bab Amr costs 100,000 euros, and each missile about 12,000 euros. The missiles were fired at a rate two to three rounds per minute. This equipment is manufactured by North Aviation (France) and MBB (Germany). It is supposed to have been given to the Free “Syrian” Army by the United Kingdom and Germany.

In April 2011, Doha officials acknowledged that Qatar had delivered Milan missiles to Libyan insurgents from Benghazi to help overthrow the Arab Jamahiriya, by way of the UN resolution that allowed the delivery of “defensive weapons ” (sic) to the Libyan opposition.


My comment

Who is funding so heavily the “rebels” ?
Who has trained the rebels ?

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February 20th, 2012, 4:27 pm


8. Son of Damascus said:

So all those people that were protesting in Mazzeh are not from Mazzeh but from the suburbs?

Which means they all had to coordinate together for transportation, logistics, crowd control, getting through numerous army check points to get to Mazzeh, preform a “make belief” funereal for a boy murdered by the regime all to deceive the world.
As oppose to the people of Mazzeh demonstrating because they have had enough of this dictatorship.

Does everything need to be a conspiracy, logic be damned? Why can’t you just recognize the tremendous gumption of the people of Mazzeh to come out in numbers after all that is being done by this criminal regime to suppress their demand, and right for freedom?

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February 20th, 2012, 4:29 pm


9. Areal said:

Policy of targeted killings in Damascus
Voltaire Network | 17 February 2012

Sheikh Mohammed Ahmad Sadeq, Imam of the Anas Bin Malek mosque in the al-Midane neighborhood of Damascus, was shot dead by an armed terrorist group on Thursday, February 16.

In a recent sermon, the Sunni cleric condemned calls by the opposition to sabotage Syria.

He had urged the Ulama of Damascus to sit around the same table to issue a statement appealing for an end violence, regardless of the source.

Sheikh Sadeq, who held a doctorate in Islamic law, was married and had four children, one girl and three boys.

On Saturday, February 11, unidentified gunmen had assassinated brigadier general and doctor Issa al-Khawli, director of Hamich hospital, outside his home in the northeast of the capital. The general was the father of three girls and a boy.

A report, published 3 March 2009, by the U.S. State Department’s human rights section gave a small glimpse of the practice of targeted killings in Muslim countries.

According to the document, Israeli and foreign agents sent by Mossad, in cooperation with the United States, have killed at least 350 Iraqi scientists and more than 200 academic figures and university professors, in addition to hundreds of pilots, officers and engineers.

The principal mission of these “death squads”, which have operated in Iraq since 2003, was to bribe Iraqi specialists and, in case of refusal, to eliminate them.

As we had anticipated in December, while it had originally applied the humanitarian military intervention scenario that had worked in Libya and Yugoslavia, NATO must review its script for Syria in the face of the double veto. Now, it’s a question of applying the same strategy which used in Iraq, i.e. weakening the country until the next opportunity to attack crops up.

Article licensed under Creative Commons

My comment:
Who can believe that secret services from democratic countries ever killed people in foreign countries or even lied to their government ?

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February 20th, 2012, 4:47 pm


10. Darryl said:


Amir, Israel is needed to keep the peace in the Arab Islamic world, otherwise major strife will start among all the clans in the tents and will quickly spread everywhere like wild fires.

In the past they succeeded in focusing on Israel as the enemy and were distant pals, now the west has managed to brain wash the Bedouins in thinking that Syria is the real enemy and Israel has a free hand to eliminate more Palestinians and breath a bit easier.

Look at what is happening now, all of the Arab Islamic states are in a low level fight among each other. Since when is Syria and Egypt have become enemies? There is definitely smoldering logs and smoke in the tents.

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February 20th, 2012, 4:48 pm


11. Ghufran said:

This sounds like a statement from SANA,but it is not:
الرياض- (يو بي اي): وصفت السعودية الاثنين، ما يحدث في محافظة القطيف بأنه “إرهاب جديد”، واتهمت جهات خارجية بتحريكه، مؤكدة أن رجال الأمن سيواجهونه “بيد من حديد”.
This is the link:

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February 20th, 2012, 5:08 pm


12. jna said:

Asharq Al-Awsat Interview: US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford

Read all:

… In the end, it is up to the Syrian people themselves to put the details in place regarding how power is transferred. This is an issue that we, and other friends of Syria, have discussed with the Syrian opposition. The Arab League has provided the general framework, and it is up to the Syrians themselves to put the details in place.

… Our message is the same: violence will make finding a political solution more difficult, whilst there is no security solution [to the Syrian crisis]; for suppression is not a solution, neither is civil war. Therefore the opposition must know how to coordinate alliances, and convince the al-Assad regime that it must step down to allow the peaceful transition of power. This is in the interests of all Syrians, whether Alawites or Christians or Sunnis or Druze or businessmen or military…all segments of Syrian society have an interest in ensuring peaceful transition of power.

…However the unity of the Syrian army at the present time makes it difficult to think that it is within the capabilities of the FSA or any other armed opposition group – even if they are provided with more weapons – to overthrow the Syrian regime by force. In fact, this will only result in more violence. Instead of this, we must focus our efforts to push the Syrian government, via political, diplomatic and economic pressure, to stop its attacks on civilians. With concerted and intense efforts in this regard, we can make President al-Assad understand that he is not in a position to continue to rule, and that he cannot return to the embrace of the international community, and so it would be better for himself and his family to leave now and let others in the Syrian government negotiate over the transition of power.

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February 20th, 2012, 5:20 pm


13. SANDRO LOEWE said:

Does anybody know what happened in Zabadani from ¨ceasefire¨? How many were arrested? How many killed? Anybody can provide a link? Communications have been cut one moth ago and it is impossible for me to contact anyone there.

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February 20th, 2012, 5:23 pm


14. Antoine said:


Are you from that area ? Apparently the FSA withdrew to Bloudan and some escaped to Lebanon – with their weapons – and most key LCC activists escaped as well. Out of frustration, the regime forces started arresting many young people, perhaps as many as 50 to 60, nobody knows where they are. The soldiers also vandalised the rich villas owned by the rich Damascenes and even carried off the doors of the houses, hehe. The sad thing is that the regime succeeded in deploying snipers on government buildings in Zabadani and some people have been shot recently.

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February 20th, 2012, 5:30 pm


15. Mina said:

After the “friends of Lybia”, the “friends of Syria”… and with such friends they don’t need enemies.
Look at their old friends the Egyptians, not even able to run elections properly. After the threat of the 500 LE was dismissed by many (since the Western press did not mention it, it shouldn’t be true!), the majlis al shura election saw only 15 PERCENT PARTICIPATION! Absolute record!
And as if it was not enough, the election of the majlis al shaab might be canceled.

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February 20th, 2012, 5:37 pm


16. zoo said:

Iran to supply electricity to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon
February 20, 2012 01:21 AM
The Daily Star

BEIRUT: Iran is to supply Lebanon, Syria and Iraq with electricity in accordance with an economic protocol of understanding signed over the weekend, the National News Agency reported Sunday.

Iranian Energy Ministry official Muhammad Bahzad said of a total of 1,200-1,300 megawatts, Iraq would get 1,000 megawatts while Syria and Lebanon would share the remaining amount “within a couple of months.”

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

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February 20th, 2012, 5:39 pm


17. zoo said:

To avoid upheaval, “Qatar, with probably fewer than 250,000 citizens, passed an $8 billion pay raise for public sector employees, representing a hike of between 50 and 120 percent”

Slippery Choices for the Gulf States
By Jon Alterman. February 20, 2012

The Gulf Arab States have a dilemma. One reason that they have been able to avoid upheaval over the last tumultuous year in the Middle East is because they have made their already generous public subsidies even more generous. But within the short-term fix is a set of longer-term problems that could profoundly affect regional stability.

In the most basic sense, wealthy Arab governments increased their spending last year in order to improve internal security. Saudi Arabia, for example, announced plans to spend an additional $130 billion, representing approximately 30 percent of GDP. Much of the money is targeted at housing, salaries, and unemployment benefits-all essentially public subsidies. Qatar, with probably fewer than 250,000 citizens, passed an $8 billion pay raise for public sector employees, representing a hike of between 50 and 120 percent. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) gave $10 billion each to member states Oman and Bahrain to improve housing and infrastructure, spreading the wealth, and stemming the protests. The governments are using plentiful oil money to buy internal peace.

However, that strategy brings with it a high cost, which influences regional as well as domestic politics. When oil prices have been low, the government of Iran has sought regional stability through less aggressive regional policies. When they have been high, the government of Iran has sought to enhance its regional influence. When oil prices dipped in the mid-1990s, for example, President Mohammed Khatami initiated a rapprochement with Iran’s Arab neighbors, strengthening ties and lowering the rhetoric that had reached a fever pitch in the years immediately after the 1979 Iranian revolution

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February 20th, 2012, 5:45 pm


18. SANDRO LOEWE said:

I remember being in Damascus the first week of last March, when someone who I think has connections with security services told me that the following week Syria was going to begin having troubles and demostrations. The following week began the revolution. After this many minhebbaks I met in Damascus told me during April, May and June the same story: ¨It seems Assad is taking control of the situation and in two or three weeks the whole thing will be over¨. Even during summer and autumn every minhebbak I met in Damascus told me that the President was ready to make amendments and solve the quiz. But at the same time, from the first week of this revolution, through eleven months, month after month, until today every oppositor (from indisde and outside Syria) has declared to me the same story: ¨That the president is going to be done in two or three weeks, one month maximum¨.

So it seems that the sense or reality about balance of powers, and specially about the power of the opponent side, in both cases, in simply unexistent. I can understand that a mass of people without a clear leadership has no strategy and cannot control their moves, that are based on basic needs, dignity, revenge and hatred for the regime abuses. But when it comes to the ¨elected¨ President-King of a country it is simply UNFORGIVABLE to ignore the nature of his opponent.

In this argument I do not judge who is right or wrong in their demands, although of course I consider the regime to be a gang of mafias and criminals.

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February 20th, 2012, 5:47 pm


19. SANDRO LOEWE said:


Thanks a lot for your help information. Now that comunnications are cut, it is much easier to find detailed information about Homs (due to the presence of some press correspondants) than about areas that are suffering a lot like Daraa area, Zabadani area or Idlib region. My direct contacts in Zabadani informed me that the overwhelming majority in Madaya and Zabadani (Bloudan only partially) where massively against the regime, and had purchased arms for self-defence from June and July. All regime informers (moukhbireen) where killed or thrown out of the town. They were very optimistic too about Assad falling long time ago. But as logics teaches it will take long until Assads fly away.

Regarding the stolen doors I guess the new owners will suply the sentence ¨This is from the grace of God¨ by this one: ¨This is from the grace of Bashar¨.

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February 20th, 2012, 6:01 pm


20. Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Hollywood Paliwood now Homsiwood

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February 20th, 2012, 6:10 pm


21. Anton said:

Dear Mr. Joshua Landis

As today post is going very fast, below is copy of my earlier question, not to be missed:

Can you please explain to me/us why you are labeling/labeled President Assed as dictator from your point of view?

Thanks in Advance.

PS: I just re-post, as I am really interested to hear your argument

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February 20th, 2012, 6:24 pm


22. Syria no Kandahar said:

So you are linking a clip to support that you,israel ,
Europe and Arabs are supporting terrorists liars.

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February 20th, 2012, 6:29 pm


23. DAWOUD said:

# 6 Mr. Amir

Please seek the folks in this video because they are the most qualified persons to answer your question. Also, please enjoy the music. If you don’t understand Arabic, please go to Nazerath and ask any Arab to translate to you what their city’s daughter, Rim Banna, has sung:
“The night has fallen down – Rim Banna”

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February 20th, 2012, 6:33 pm


24. Tara said:

“Homs, city of torture” is the title of the article and I add “Syria, country of sadism”. I don’t believe I have lived with and was related to monsters…. 

Author Jonathan Littell tells how Assad’s security forces target medical personnel and how he was smuggled to the heart of the Syrian conflict

Jonathan Littell
Monday 20 February 2012 14.59 EST

Such practices are in no way isolated cases, individual initiatives fuelled by sadism or overzealousness, outside of any control. On the contrary, they are codified and regulated by a set of procedures far older than the current uprising, as Abu Salim, a military doctor who served for two years in the mukhabarat, the Department of Military Intelligence, before defecting to the opposition to run a makeshift clinic in Homs, testifies: “What is the mission of a mukhabarat medical doctor?” he calmly asks as my tape recorder runs. “I will explain it to you. Firstly: to keep alive the people subjected to torture so that they can be interrogated for as long as possible. Secondly: in case the person being interrogated loses consciousness, to attend to him so that the interrogation can continue. Thirdly: to supervise the use of psychotropic drugs during the interrogation. We used chlorpromazine [an anti-psychotic drug prescribed, usually, for schizophrenia], valium, and rubbing alcohol – for instance, by pouring a litre into the nose, or else by subcutaneous injection. Fourthly: if the person being tortured has reached his threshold of resistance and is in danger of death, the doctor can request his hospitalisation. However, the doctor cannot make the decision: he must write a report and the officer in charge of the interrogation then decides whether or not to grant the transfer. Before the revolution, almost everyone was transferred; now, it’s only the important prisoners. The others are left to die.”

Everything happens as if, faced with the police and security grid of the Ba’ath party and the mukhabarats – a grid that has dominated the life of the country for decades – society had in these past few months put in place a counter-grid, almost as effective, made of civilian activists, notables, religious figures, and, more and more, armed forces – the deserters who form the FSA. This counter-grid resists the other one, circumvents it, and is even starting to absorb it in part. When you travel between the Lebanese border and Homs, it becomes visible. There has, of course, always been a passive resistance to the regime’s grid, but now this second grid has completely broken away from its ties to the former. As if Syrian society, since the spring, had split in two, and as if both parallel societies were coexisting in the country

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February 20th, 2012, 6:38 pm


25. SANDRO LOEWE said:


Just check up any dictionary:

An individual who, in apparent time of national crisis, assumes all law-making authority; who “dictates” the law; who assumes power not because of any constitutional process but by force, by virtue of his person and not any legal right.

Franz Neumann wrote:

“By dictatorship, we understand the rule of a person or a group of persons who arrogate to themselves and monopolize power in the state, exercising it without restraint.”

In ancient Rome, dictatorship was anticipated and planned out as a response to national crisis or menace such as war or famine. In those short-term dictatorship, law-authority, with the law-enforcement machinery of the army behind it, vested in a single person in order that decisions could be made quickly, responsive to the crisis at hand. In this sense, the dictator in Rome was a constitutional dictator as his tenure was provided for in the Roman edicts of government.

Oliver Cromwell became dictator in England circa 1653 and others have been wrongfully labeled such by their political enemies.

Jeffrey Archer once wrote:

“Democracy takes time. Dictatorship is quicker but too many people get shot.”

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February 20th, 2012, 6:41 pm


26. SANDRO LOEWE said:


If not enough pls check this:

Noun 1. dictatorship – a form of government in which the ruler is an absolute dictator (not restricted by a constitution or laws or opposition etc.)

Also see:
Police state – a country that maintains repressive control over the people by means of police (especially secret police).
Monocracy, One-man rule, Shogunate, Stalinism, Totalitarianism, Tyranny, Authoritarianism, Caesarism, Despotism, Absolutism
Autocracy, Autarchy – a political system governed by a single individual

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February 20th, 2012, 6:44 pm


27. SANDRO LOEWE said:


Definition of police state:

Noun 1. Police state – a country that maintains repressive control over the people by means of police (especially secret police).

Also see:

dictatorship, monocracy, one-man rule, shogunate, Stalinism, totalitarianism, tyranny, authoritarianism, Caesarism, despotism, absolutism – a form of government in which the ruler is an absolute dictator (not restricted by a constitution or laws or opposition etc.)

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February 20th, 2012, 6:45 pm


28. SANDRO LOEWE said:


If not enough:

According to ¨YOUR DICTIANORY, THE DICTIONARY YOU CAN UNDERSTAND¨, definition for children:

A dictator is a ruler with total power or is someone who rules by force regardless of what others want or need. (noun)
An example of a dictator is someone who rules a country by force and who cares only about his own needs and not the desires of the people.

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February 20th, 2012, 6:50 pm


29. zoo said:

Pro-Bashar demonstrations in Hatay, Turkey

سود سوريا في انطاكيا: الله سوريا بشار و بس

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February 20th, 2012, 6:52 pm


30. irritated said:

#28 Sandro Loewe

“If not enough”
“By dictatorship, we understand the rule of a person or a group of persons who arrogate to themselves and monopolize power in the state, exercising it without restraint.”

Yes, it is enough. I am now convinced that the King of Saudi Arabia and the King of Bahrain are dictators. Thank you

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February 20th, 2012, 6:58 pm


31. SANDRO LOEWE said:


Who said Saudi Arabia was not a dictatorship? Most arab countries in the Arab League are dictatorships. But syrians must fight first of all for their rights in Syria. When we enjoy freedom then we will be free to help others or not (saudis, iranians, etc.). If you wanna be controlled by I dictatorship it is up to you. Most people who are given the right to chose do not desire dictatorships.

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February 20th, 2012, 7:04 pm


32. DAWOUD said:


Thanks Prof. Landis, et al. for posting this video. It answers the question of whether Bashar is a murderous DICTATOR. It also shows the courage of my fellow Syrians, who face with their bare chests al-Assad’s bullets. We, Syrians, owe them a lot because they are fighting for our freedom, dignity, and justice.
Finally, this video explains my anger whenever I see anybody apologizing on behalf of Syria’s genocidal dictatorship.
Whether Ms. Qadamani spoke with Israelis is irrelevant. The Syrian Revolution is neither about her nor about Ghalion. One day Syrians would choose their leaders in true elections. Figures who support Zionists’ agenda would find their popularity numbers in Syria similar to tonight’s temperature in the NY State region where I live (15F, -9.44C). It is preposterous for Bashar’s apologists to think that what Ms. Qadamani said in 2008 would de-legitimize the entire Syrian Revolution. Rami Makhlouf’s kind words about Israel security didn’t slow the Syrian Revolution. Neither would Qadamani’s 2008 appearance.

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February 20th, 2012, 7:09 pm


33. Tara said:

EU needs not to worry.  Assad and his thugs will not allow refugees to cross borders.  He will kill them first. 

A refugee crisis caused by the Syrian conflict is threatening to de-stabilise the entire Middle East, the EU’s commissioner for humanitarian affairs warned today, writes Henry McDonald in Dublin.

More than 100,000 people have been forced to flee their homes due to the violence in Syria with those numbers expected to rise according to Kristalina Georgieva.

The EU commissioner for international co-operation humanitarian aid and crisis response also told The Guardian that reports reaching the EU via its sole representative in Damascus indicated that both sides in the armed conflict were firing on ambulances belonging to the International Red Crescent/Red Cross.

Speaking in Dublin today, Georgieva said: “We are operating on the assumption that 70,000 people have been displaced internally and around 30,000 to neighbouring countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.”

She pointed out that the World Food Programme is planning to import supplies for around 400,000 civilians caught up in the conflict.
…. .

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February 20th, 2012, 7:09 pm


34. Tara said:

Syrian forces mass outside rebel city and Homsis are going to fight until the last person.
21 FEB ‘1210:49AMSOURCE: AAP

Syrian tanks and troops have massed outside the resistance stronghold of Homs for a possible ground assault that one activist warned could unleash a new round of fierce and bloody urban combat even as the Red Cross tried to broker a ceasefire to allow emergency aid in.
…. .
The opposition has lionised it as “Syria’s Misrata” after the Libyan city where rebels fought off a brutal government siege. Assad’s regime wants desperately to erase the embarrassing defiance in Syria’s third-largest city after weeks of shelling, including a barrage of mortars that killed up to 200 people earlier this month. At least nine people were killed in shelling Monday, activists said.
…. .
Syria-based activist Mustafa Osso told The Associated Press that Assad’s military should face strong resistance as residents plan to fight until “the last person”. He added that Homs is facing “savage shelling that does not differentiate between military or civilian targets”.
…. .

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February 20th, 2012, 7:53 pm


35. sheila said:

Dear Son of Damascus,
Through all your indignation, you have to admit that Alan’s shrewd analysis @4 put Sherlock Holmes to shame.
I am still waiting for Dr. Landis to explain to Anton why he called Bashar Al Assad a dictator. That ought to be interesting!

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February 20th, 2012, 7:57 pm


36. Ghufran said:

The dead end this uprising has reached is not just due to a brutal and corrupt regime that failed to adapt but it is also the product of a divided and inflexible opposition,especially the SNC. A major failure was not having a clear and steady position about “arming” the opposition at the beginning then endorsing violence in the name of self defense even after it became evident that most of the armed attacks took the form of revenge,ambushes and even assassinations which did not spare unarmed and non combatant regime supporters and people who are labelled as regime sympathizers. The result was chaos,loss of security and the introduction of alqaida and other terrorist groups that are now fighting under the opposition flag. This changed environment led NATO leaders to the conclusion that their “good” money and resources may actually be used to support “bad” revolutionists. What we have now is a country at the verge of a civil war,an economy in the intensive care,a bigger class of impoverished and helpless citizens and a regime that succeeded in hijacking the minority vote. Go ahead and enjoy those achievements and get ready for a bloodier and more serious phase if no political breakthrough is not achieved in the very near future. For the time being,let us all enjoy exchanging charges of treason when the real treason is selling Syria’s future to keep this criminal regime or bring a new collection of thugs blessed by Goats and War Lords.

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February 20th, 2012, 8:00 pm


37. Ghufran said:

The dead end this uprising has reached is not just due to a brutal and corrupt regime that failed to adapt but it is also the product of a divided and inflexible opposition,especially the SNC. A major failure was not having a clear and steady position about “arming” the opposition at the beginning then endorsing violence in the name of self defense even after it became evident that most of the armed attacks took the form of revenge,ambushes and even assassinations which did not spare unarmed and non combatant regime supporters and people who are labelled as regime sympathizers. The result was chaos,loss of security and the introduction of terrorist groups that are now fighting under the opposition flag. This changed environment led NATO leaders to the conclusion that their “good” money may actually be used to support “bad” revolutionists. What we have now is a country at the verge of a civil war,an economy in the intensive care,a bigger class of impoverished and helpless citizens and a regime that succeeded in hijacking the minority vote. Go ahead and enjoy those achievements and get ready for a bloodier and more serious phase if no political breakthrough is not achieved in the very near future. For the time being,let us all enjoy exchanging charges of treason when the real treason is selling Syria’s future to keep this criminal regime or bring a new collection of thugs blessed by Goats and War Lords.

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February 20th, 2012, 8:07 pm


38. Ghufran said:

For those who are still scratching their head,or any other body part,wondering why the west is taking a second look at the Syrian opposition,the simple answer is the use of violence and the infiltration of opposition ranks by terrorists,domestic and foreign.
Nobody is equating the brutality of the regime with that of the armed revolutionists,and I certainly could not care less about such a conversation,because losing the moral high ground in any conflict means the end of the slogan “good against evil”.
Those who want to save the revolution are those who reject random violence,and those who do not are only interested in a regime change even if the new rulers are a mix of goatanized sheikhs and Hariri-type thugs.

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February 20th, 2012, 8:36 pm


39. Tara said:

Worlds affairs to be handled by the G-20 rather than the UNSC?

Turkish FM favors G-20 over UN on the Syria issue

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the deadlock in the U.N. Security Council encouraged the Syrian regime to increase its assault on the dissidents, speaking in Los Cabos, Mexico where is he attending the foreign ministers’ meeting of the G-20 states. 

“The Syrian government is holding bloodier operations as it has the impression that the international community will not act following the vetoes of Russia and China to the U.N. Security Council resolution,” he said. Blaming the U.N. for its ineffectiveness in the post-Cold War era because of its dependence on five permanent members’ votes, Davutoğlu praised the G-20 for “having a more embracing character.” 
Speaking to reporters after making a speech in the first G-20 foreign ministers’ meeting on Feb. 19, Davutoğlu also said that the G-20 is more representative than the U.N.
…. . 

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February 20th, 2012, 8:37 pm


40. majedkhaldoun said:

Members of Free syrian army, will be present in Tunis meeting,along with SNC members and hopefuly other opposition members.

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February 20th, 2012, 8:38 pm


41. Tara said:


I share your sentiment. The brilliant analyses like the one in #4 and the inquisitive questions like the one Anton has for Joshua is what makes me completely and totally attached to SC…

I have very soft heart for brilliance and sophistication. Just can’t help it…

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February 20th, 2012, 8:44 pm


42. ann said:

Syria’s Assad stresses accusation of armed groups behind unrest – 2012-02-20

DAMASCUS, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reiterated Monday that Syria is targeted by armed groups backed by foreign parties in a bid to destabilize Syria and undermine any effort for a solution, state-run SANA news agency reported.

Assad made the remarks during a meeting with Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the International Relations Committee of Russian State Duma.

For his part, the Russian diplomat reasserted his country’s support for the underway reforms in Syria, adding that efforts should be continued to reach a political solution to the crisis.

He said that the solution should be based on dialogues among concerned parties and without foreign interference, underscoring the importance of security and stability in Syria to the Middle East region and the world.

Pushkov also voiced his country’s rejection of any foreign intervention in Syria’s internal affairs, adding that the Russian stance stems from its “keenness to cling fast to the International Law principles and to achieve the interests of the Syrian people.”

The United Nations Security Council should not be biased in favor of any party concerning the Syrian crisis, he noted.


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February 20th, 2012, 8:49 pm


43. Tara said:

The US may help the Syrian opposition to weaken Iran.  Not exactly my fairy tale definition of benevolence!

Two Senators Say U.S. Should Arm Syrian Rebels
Published: February 19, 2012

The senators, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, both Republicans, laid out a series of diplomatic, humanitarian and military aid proposals that would put the United States squarely behind the effort to topple President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. The senators, both of whom are on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that rebel fighters deserved to be armed and that helping them take on the Syrian government would aid Washington’s effort to weaken Iran.
…. .
The detail in the American senators’ comments, made at a news conference during their visit to the Afghan capital, Kabul, appeared to signal that these were themes they would address when they arrived in Cairo, their next stop. The senators are leading a bipartisan delegation that stopped in Kabul to meet with military officials, diplomats and President Hamid Karzai.
…. .
Still, the administration has made a point of working through the Arab League and the United Nations rather than giving the appearance that the United States is trying to intervene in Syria, in part to avoid giving Iran any excuse to get involved on behalf of its regional ally, analysts say.

The senators, on the other hand, cited Iran as a major reason for action in Syria, even if only indirectly.

Mr. McCain said the United States would not have to send weapons directly to the opposition but could work through “third-world countries” and the Arab League.

Mr. Graham also endorsed arming those who are fighting Mr. Assad, and he suggested that the Arab League, which has called for Mr. Assad’s departure, could be a conduit. A byproduct of a more interventionist policy would be to weaken Iran.

“Breaking Syria apart from Iran could be as important to containing a nuclear Iran as sanctions,” Mr. Graham said. “If the Syrian regime is replaced with another form of government that doesn’t tie its future to the Iranians, the world is a better place.”
…. .

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February 20th, 2012, 8:59 pm


44. Darryl said:

Tara, I was wondering what is your feeling about the plight of Mr Hamza Kashgari who is facing the Saudi sword man to get the chop for tweeting a few comments and then hunted down?

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February 20th, 2012, 9:00 pm


45. zoo said:

Geopolitics Hijack the Arab Spring –

Lull after the storm
Brahma Chellaney, Hindustan Times
February 19, 2012

A year after the Arab Spring came to symbolise the ascent of people’s power, hope has given way to a bleak sequel. The democratic awakening has fallen prey to international geopolitics that has helped cleave the Arab Spring into two parts, with the America-backed kingdoms escaping change but the non-monarchical republics coming under varying degrees of pressure.

The promise of a new era of democracy has been blighted in much of the region by continuing political repression. Worse, war clouds have appeared on the horizon.

What began as protests against food prices, corrupt leaders and lack of government accountability has assumed ominous dimensions. From the rampant but largely unreported human-rights abuses in post-Muammar Gaddafi Libya to the increasing bloodshed in multi-ethnic Syria, the developments are making the future of the extended region from the Maghreb and the Sahel through the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea more volatile and uncertain.

Bahrain stands out for carrying out the region’s most-successful suppression of an Arab Spring movement, thanks to a Saudi-led military intervention and continuing Western backing. Whereas Cairo’s Tahrir Square has come to epitomise the power of ordinary people to rise up against tyranny, Bahrain’s Pearl Roundabout was simply obliterated with bulldozers — an action that was followed up with arrest and torture of activists as well as of the doctors and nurses who treated the injured. Yet a year later, family-run Bahrain’s future looks anything but stable.

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February 20th, 2012, 9:03 pm


46. irritated said:

31. SANDRO LOEWE said:
“Who said Saudi Arabia was not a dictatorship? Most arab countries in the Arab League are dictatorships.”

So you are asking the help the rich dictatorships of the GCC to get rid of Syria’s “dictatorship”?
Do you trust them to bring a democracy in Syria, when they can’t even spell it?
This kind of games is very dangerous it can turn against you unless you prefer a Wahhabi ‘democracy’ to an Alawite ‘dictatorship’

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February 20th, 2012, 9:10 pm


47. ann said:

Bad vibes: Fear of foreign threat soars in Russia – 20 February, 2012

Global upheaval, NATO interventions, US missile defense in Europe or just bad vibes? Whatever it is, a recent poll suggests that Russians are more nervous these days about security. Just two years ago, 47 percent of Russians said they were concerned the country would experience some sort of foreign military incursion; by January 2012, that number soared to 55 percent.

Since 2010, the world has experienced a so-called “Arab Spring,” which saw military intervention courtesy of NATO forces in Libya, where militant opposition forces killed former leader Muammar Gaddafi; Russia, meanwhile, is attempting to prevent another similar type of one-sided intervention in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad is trying to hold onto power.

The struggle to avoid another full-blown military attack in the Arab world could play some role in Russia’s present attitude toward foreign military adventures, as well as their ultimate objectives.


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February 20th, 2012, 9:15 pm


48. irritated said:


If the wealthy are demonstrating, why none followed the ‘massive’ strike called for by the Opposition on Facebook the next day?

Maybe these wealthy were demonstrating against the 12 hours electricity cut that Damascus is suffering now. I wonder why there is no single interview with one of these wealthy, just a video from a roof? I would have been curious to hear what they say.
Where are the foreign journalist when they are needed?

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February 20th, 2012, 9:18 pm


49. zoo said:

Syria: 14,600,000 Citizens to Participate in Constitution`s Referendum
(Dp-news – Sana)
DAMASCUS- Syrian Deputy Minister of Interior for Civil Affairs, General Hassan Jalali said Saturday that almost 14,600,000 throughout Syrian governorates are eligible to participate in the referendum on the new constitution in Syria.

Gen. Jalali added that 13,835 offices were devoted to the referendum, including offices opened on land borders and at airports to enable all citizens to practice their right to referendum.

He said the referendum will be held under the supervision of a central committee chaired by the interior minister and two of his assistants.

President Bashar al-Assad issued Wednesday the Presidential Decree No. 85 for 2012 stipulating for setting Sunday / 26/2/2012 / as a date for referendum on the draft Constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic.

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February 20th, 2012, 9:29 pm


50. Tara said:


The guy is a jerk for the way he taunted the religious authorities but that does not warrant a capital punishment.  May be a punishment similar to denying the Holocaust in Europe?  KSA has to chose what century it is in.  And if it continued to live  in the 8th century, the Saudi royals are going to be facing an Arabic spring soon.  

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February 20th, 2012, 9:30 pm


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