In Mezzeh, Wealthy Sunnis Begin to Demonstrate; Washington Unlikely to Arm Syrians Soon; Friends of Syria to Meetin in Tunis
Posted by Joshua on Monday, February 20th, 2012
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.
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.
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.
Syria ‘disintegrating under crippling sanctions’
19 February 2012
One 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.