Intra-Alawite fighting in Qardaha not Confirmed; Turkey Denies Syria Captured Pilots Alive; `Ar`our Returns to Syria
Posted by Joshua on Monday, October 1st, 2012
Minister Calls on People to Raise Backyard Chickens as Subsistence Economy Takes Hold in Growing Parts of the Country – Syria Report
The Minister of Agriculture has called on Syrian citizens to raise chickens as formal economic patterns are gradually disappearing in growing parts of the country.
Jihad Yazigi has an excellent report on the Syrian economy given in London by the London School of Economics, “Inside Syria: 18 Months On,”
….Let’s run the figures in terms of numbers where we are today. Syria’s gross domestic product probably contracted last year anywhere between 12 and 15 percent and this year it will contract anywhere between 20, 25, 30, 35 percent and we don’t really know. We have absolutely no idea what’s going on in Aleppo, Idlib and Deir ez-Zor, but a very significant contraction. Unemployment is very high. In large parts of the country anyway unemployment is not an issue really because people are just fleeing violence. Foreign exchange reserves like I told you are down. The currency has lost 50 percent of its value in the last 18 months. It was traded at 47 SYP a dollar in March 2011. It is now at 70 SYP. It was at 70 SYP on Friday and 72 SYP on Monday and today at 74 SYP if I understand. Inflation is officially, in June, at 36 percent before the price was at 4 percent so it’s also a significant increase. Government expenses have been – I mean government has larger divested from the economy in terms of investment expenditures. It’s really paying only salaries.
Now, I’m giving you all this data and all these figures, but you have to realise that, in practice, you can’t really talk anymore about the formal economy. For instance, I’m taking about the inflation rate. Officially, that’s one of the very few indicators that are published officially publicly. It is at 36 percent, but you have to look at, first of all, these figures and then very different situations across the country. For instance, before coming to London, I met someone who has just comeback from a village near the city of Raqqah in the north east. So I was asking him about the economic and social condition there. It’s a village near Raqqah. He was telling me there is no gasoline whatsoever. Telephone is cut off, both the landline network and the mobile phone networks are cut off, no connections. A kilogram of tomatoes which was sold at 25 SYP a few weeks earlier is now sold at 125 SYP and the cooking gas cylinder is sold at a $100. It was very interesting because, for the first time, someone prices anything in dollars. In Syria, you price everything in pounds and, of course, it reminds you a bit of Lebanon where the currency devalued so quickly that people were obliged to fix the price in dollar. But still $100, that’s 10 times its price in Damascus. A cooking gas cylinder in Damascus is sold at 700 SYP in the market at $10…. Read it all
Adnan Ar’our, the controversial sheikh, has returned to Syria. `Ar`ur who became a hero to many in the revolution for cursing Alawites and regime supporters on Saudi TV, has returned to Syria. In this video he is a keynote speaker at a joint leadership meeting of the revolutionary military councils. al-jazeerah video
Fadi Salem on the fighting in Aleppo
Samar Yazbek writes, “shabbiha of Assad’s family, killed 5 of my family from the Othman Family in AL Qurdaha.”
Tweets – Claim fighting within Assad Clan in Qardaha, their mountain town
- Brian Whitaker
@Brian_Whit - Syria — tweets say fighting has broken out among Alawite families in Qardaha, Assad’s home town. Can’t confirm at present
- Mohja Kahf
@ProfKahf - Second source-Latakia ground activist-reporting that head honcho of shabiha Mohamad asaad dead of wounds from Qardaha gunfight #Syria
The news about Assad clan fighting cannot be confirmed and originates from All4Syria, Ayman Abdulnour’s site. Although an excellent site, it is sometimes quick to copy reports and must sometimes retract what turns out to be rumor.
– 2012/09/30نشر فى: أخبار محليةدمشق – كلنا شركاقالت مصارد متابعة لما يجري في القرداحة لـ (كلنا شركاء) أن مظاهرات تعم الآن هناك رغم انها مسقط رأس الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد وعائلته والقلعة الحصينة لمؤيديه ، وأفادت المصادر أن المدعو محمد الأسد (شيخ الجبل) قد لقي مصرعه على يد أحد أفراد عائلة الخيّر ، إثر اعتقال الدكتور عبد العزيز الخير على يدي رجال الأمن منذ أيام
يذكر أن آل الخير يشكلون عائلة معروفة تاريخيا ولها مكانتها التاريخية والدينية والثقافية عند أبناء الطائفة العلوية ويعتبرون جزاء هاما من مجتمع القرداحة قبل أن يجهز نظام الأسد الأب على العائلة ويدفعها نحو الصفوف الخلفية .
أما محمد الأسد فيعتبر المؤسس الرئيس لما يسمى بمنظمة الشبيحة والمتبرع الرئيس مع رامي مخلوف ومحمد حمشو وآخرين في تقديم الدعم والتمويل المادي والمعنوي لهذه المنظمة .
وقد طوقت الاجهزة الامنية جميع الطرق المؤدية الى القرداحة بعد نشوب قتال بين عائلات ال الخير وال عثمان والعبود وبين اقرباء بشار الاسد .
Today, Iran’s currency plummeted to an all-time low: 32,500 rial to the dollar. The hyperinflation is thought to be the result of oil sanctions that could lose the resource-rich nation $50 billion in revenue this year. Yet reports coming out today say they also are giving billions to the Assad regime in Syria to help fund the civil war — up to $10 billion according to the Times of London.
Turkey Denies Al Arabiya Report That Syrians Captured Its Pilots
2012-09-30 By Selcan Hacaoglu
Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) — Turkish Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin denies a report by Al Arabiya that the two pilots of a Turkish fighter jet, shot down by Syria, were captured and killed by Syrian forces.
• Ergin says the television report is “baseless”
• Ergin insists the bodies of the pilots were found in the wreckage of the plane deep in the Mediterranean
MEMRI: Pro- And Anti-Assad Camps Share Concerns Over Syria’s Possible Disintegration Into Separate Sectarian, Ethnic Entities,” By: N. MozesColumnists, Syrian Oppositionists: Assad Will Establish An Alawite Mini-State In The Coastal Region
In contrast to the situation in the Kurdish region, where an independent, or at least autonomous, Kurdish entity indeed seems to be emerging, the situation in the ‘Alawite region is less clear, and reports regarding the emergence of an independent ‘Alawite state are of uncertain reliability.
Since the start of the uprising, the main elements of the Syrian opposition, chiefly the SNC, have denied claims that the protests have a distinct sectarian or ethnic nature, and have described these claims as propaganda meant to harm the legitimacy of the uprising. They have avoided collectively accusing certain sects of collaborating with the regime, and have characterized the uprising as a popular one encompassing all sectors of Syrian society. However, others in the opposition claimed that, if pressed, Assad would not hesitate to divide Syria in order to ensure his survival, and would establish an Alawite mini-country in the Syrian coastal region, which has a large Alawite population. One of the first to mention this possibility was ‘Abd Al-Halim Khaddam, former Syrian vice president and one of the heads of the Syrian opposition abroad. In January 2012, Khaddam claimed that Assad was arming and fortifying the ‘Alawite region: “Bashar and his clan have distributed rifles and machine guns in ‘Alawite towns and villages, and last month began transferring heavy weapons by land to the coastal region, in order to hide them in the hills and mountains… All the missiles and strategic weapons were also transferred there, as well as some tanks and artillery, because the regime needs them to suppress protestors in the cities. Bashar also planned to send fighter planes to the airfield in Al-Latakia… and is implementing a plan meant to spark a sectarian war… One month ago, Assad told one of his allies in Lebanon of his intention to establish an ‘Alawite state, from which he could launch a sectarian civil war.” However, Khaddam recently questioned the possibility of establishing an Alawite enclave, “since no [Syrian] citizen would agree to the rending of the national fabric.” Similar statements were made by a senior source in the FSA to the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat: “The regime’s strategy is based on uncompromising combat in Damascus and Aleppo, and if it cannot control them, it will establish a separatist ['Alawite] state on the Syrian coast…” He added that the opposition would relentlessly fight this state.
Khairallah Khairallah, a Lebanese columnist for Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, claimed that the regime was fighting the opposition in Homs due to the city’s location and its status as the main obstacle to establishing a sustainable ‘Alawite state. The Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai recently reported that the Syrian regime had transferred chemical weapons from a storage facility to Tartus, and estimated that this was done as part of the establishment of an ‘Alawite enclave on the Syrian coast.
Various columnists explained that both Assad’s allies and his opponents, in the region and internationally, have an interest in Syria being divided. Saleh Al-Qalab, a former Jordanian information minister, said that Russia and Iran have a vested interest in defending an Alawite state if one is established, since it will enable them to maintain their influence in the region. Columnist Mu’ataz Al-Murad wrote that the superpowers have a vested interest in dividing Syrian society, since it will lead to minorities asking for their guardianship, thus granting them a foothold in the country.
Columnists: Small Chance For Establishment Of Sectarian States
On the other hand, there are some who dismiss the possibility that viable sectarian and ethnic states will be established, due to the objections among the minorities themselves and for demographic reasons.
‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, director of Al-Arabiya TV and former editor of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, spoke of the difficulties that Assad would face if he established an Alawite state: the rebels would pursue him wherever he went, and the Alawites would not agree to defend him and establish a state in a hostile environment and under continuing threats. According to Al-Rashed: “Even if there are internal forces who want to dismantle Syria into mini-states, the region will not tolerate this scenario and countries like Turkey and Iraq will not stand idly by…” George Soulage, a columnist for the Lebanese daily Al-Jumhouriyya and a former advisor to Lebanese defense minister Elias Al-Murr, mentioned several strategic factors that prevent the establishment of a stable Alawite state, such as the lack of infrastructure and defense capabilities. According to Soulage, such a state would not receive international or Arab recognition, and would thus remain isolated. He added that Alawites are no longer the majority even in the coastal region.
Suleiman Taqi Al-Din, a columnist for the Lebanese daily Al-Safir claimed that, even though there is a Kurdish area that is independently administrated, a northern Sunni area that includes provinces outside the control of the regime, and a coastal area with a nearly independent Alawite majority, “this is not a sure path to a division that would cause total separation from the mother country, or to the formulation of plans to establish sectarian mini-states…” He added that, though sects in various countries can cause anarchy and strife, it is only superpowers that can create states in conflicted regions.”
* N. Mozes is a research fellow at MEMRI.
Syrians Trade Blame for Fire
By SAM DAGHER, WSJ
BEIRUT—Syria’s regime and rebels traded blame for a massive fire that continued Sunday to devour parts of Aleppo’s vast ancient market—a treasured commercial, historical and cultural hub—as angry residents tried to assess the damage.
The fire’s origin was unclear, but coming days after rebels announced a fresh offensive to try to break the more than two-month stalemate in the battle for the strategic northern city, it is bound to further polarize Syria’s conflict-weary population.
Meanwhile, some members of Syria’s opposition began questioning the motives and tactics of the Aleppo insurgents who are ostensibly their allies. Some openly accused them of committing war atrocities and taking cover in congested residential neighborhoods and the old city—a Unesco World Heritage site—and using these areas to launch attacks on regime forces.
“People are worn out,” said an Aleppo native and senior member of the Syrian General Revolutionary Commission, a main opposition umbrella group. “It is the same back and forth, the government makes gains and the rebels reclaim a neighborhood; one side calls it cleansing and the other side calls it liberating and the people are paying for it.”
Pro-regime Syrian media didn’t mention the fire in their reports, only referring to continuing operations against “mercenary terrorists” in Aleppo.
The Aleppo native said members of the Tawhid Brigade, the main rebel group now fighting in Aleppo, have become rogue “armed gangs” that are only nominally associated with the Free Syrian Army. That army is itself a loosely linked grouping of local militias and defected military officers fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime across the country.
This summer, rebels launched a campaign to bring their fight into the heart of the capital, Damascus, and the country’s most populous city, Aleppo, for the first time.
Control over Aleppo is essential for any plan to create a haven for the opposition in the north, where rebels control much of the countryside.
Most Tawhid fighters came to Aleppo in July from rural predominantly Sunni Arab areas outside the city and harbor animosity toward an ethnically and religiously diverse urban population that has for the most part remained neutral in the conflict or supportive of Mr. Assad and his Shiite-linked leadership.
One of Tawhid’s leaders, defected army colonel Abdel-Jabbar al-Ughaidy, rejected the Aleppo native’s assessment during a telephone interview, blaming regime forces for instigating the attack in Aleppo’s old city.
Video footage posted by Syrian activists on YouTube Sunday—showing huge flames consuming thick wooden doors in the market, a warren of vaulted stone passageways—appeared to offer a more nuanced narrative.
A man, who identifies himself as a Free Syrian Army fighter, can be heard on the video saying that regime forces fired mortar and artillery shells at rebels amassed in the ancient market, causing the conflagration.
“They are shooting at us with snipers so that we do not extinguish the fire, these are people’s shops, their livelihood,” shouts the man as gunfire pops could be heard in the background.
Hassan Sheit, who owns an antique store in the market, said regime forces cordoned off the old city Sunday, keeping shopkeepers out as firetrucks and ambulances rushed in. He said both rebels and regime forces blamed each other for the fire, while some Aleppo residents were describing it as a “revenge attack” by rebels to punish merchants who have not supported them.Mr. Sheit, a Sunni Muslim, said he didn’t know his shop’s fate but that he spent most of the day comforting his Armenian-Christian neighbor whose jewelry store was lost in the fire. “He was sobbing like a child,” he said.
“Nobody is telling the truth,” said Mr. Sheit in a telephone interview. “The old city is the pulse of Aleppo, its heart.”
Residents fear that some of the almost 240 classified monuments in the old city might have been damaged by the fire, including its 13th century Antioch gate and the sprawling Ottoman-era Khan al-Jumruk, which once housed the trade missions and consulates of the British, Dutch and French imperial powers.
Aleppo is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities and was a key stop on the so-called Silk Road. Its walled old city, which incorporates the ancient souks, mosques, schools and the remains of cathedrals, is both a commercial hub and a tourist draw. It has undergone renovations in recent years funded by the German Organization for Technical Cooperation and the Aga Khan Foundation, among others.
—Rima Abushakra in Beirut contributed to this article.
Write to Sam Dagher at email@example.com
A Well To-Do Syrian Sunni Friend in Aleppo writes:
For a Better Understanding of Aleppo
Over the past few decades, Aleppo’s city center has changed significantly due to a large influx of rural mirgrants. This is no different than other major cities in Syria, but in Aleppo’s case, the countryside is particularly poor and culturally challenged. The city’s diverse resources, cultural sophistication, and business-oriented mentalities characterized its people with generosity and high bigotry-tolerance threshold. Thus, they did not stand in the way of the migrants setling in sectarian neighborhoods, as long as the city made money selling them those houses (or in occasions for humanitarian reasons as with Armenian refugees). And of-course, accompanied with intentional city planning negligence, for over 30 years now, sinking the city in property conflicts. In the 1980s, the regime also laid siege to random communities to punish the city for its sympathy with the Muslim Brotherhood….
The current city neighborhoods are denominated to specific minorities by one or more of the following criteria: religion, sect, clan, region, or tribe.
Thus, Christians, Mardini, Kurds, Armenian, Syriac, shia, Jews (until recently) had their own quarters in the Muslim canvas covering the city, while condensations of regional, clan, and tribal neighborhoods emerged all over the city like Anadani, Izazi, Babi, Deiri (Deir Al Zor), Heib clan, Bar’ri clan, Naim tribe, Battoush tribe, Jeiss tribe, Sukhni tribe… all have their own alleys and districts within the city.
Worth mentioning that, in the business environment, no such divisions exist in the city, and no one is sanctioned according to any criterion. No one is denied entry to the markets……
Dictator’s family descends from Iranian Jewish origin, so-called expert asserts, in interview on station that also first broadcast Arabic-dubbed clip of anti-Islam film
The Battle for Aleppo By Jonathan Spyer | The Weekly Standard
….Neither commander professed loyalty to the notional overall leadership of the FSA, at the time still based in Turkey. “I’m a field commander,” Saumar said, “and I’m part of the Aleppo military council. But I’m not part of any external group, and I don’t see them as authoritative.”
Both men stressed an underlying unity among rebel units deriving from the simple goal of defeating and destroying the Assad regime. In Aleppo, I found no reason to doubt this claim, but it raised as many questions as it answered. The FSA is almost exclusively Sunni Arab. But it is not, as one Assad propaganda campaign with some success in Western capitals has it, motivated solely or mainly by Islamist ardor, either of the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafist variety. But if the FSA’s only basis for unity is military-tactical, what does this mean for the future political direction of Syria, in the event of the regime’s defeat?
My attempts to bring up the subject of the Syrian National Council or any of the other supposed umbrella groupings of the opposition were immediately dismissed.
The two most noticeable rebel units in Aleppo, and the only two who appear to transcend the general arrangement of local FSA-affiliated battalions, are the Tawhid Brigade and the Ahrar al-Sham group, both of which are tied to the Islamist current. Checkpoints affiliated with these groups have been established at the most prominent entrance points to the city, testifying to a sort of hierarchy of units, in which these feature close to the top.
Ahrar al-Sham fighters, in their mode of dress and their slogans, clearly identify themselves as Salafist Islamists. Their checkpoints and positions fly white, black, and green flags with slogans from the Koran written on them. They are rumored to be supported by Saudi Arabia and to be affiliated with al Qaeda. My own contacts did not extend to this organization.
Tawhid fighters, by contrast, do not markedly differ in their appearance from the FSA groupings. But the brigade, doubtless the largest single rebel group operating in the Aleppo area, maintains a separate leadership structure from the Aleppo military council and the FSA. I met with one of Tawhid’s leaders, in the Saif al-Dawli section of the city. The man, middle-aged, ginger-bearded, from the Al-Bab area northeast of Aleppo, described himself as one of the five commanders of the brigade. He was frank regarding Tawhid’s differences with the FSA and the Aleppo Military Council. “At the moment the Military Council has cut support from us. But we believe it will be restored in the near future.”
What was the reason for the cut in support, I asked. “Fear,” he said. “Fear of the Islamic states.” (Tawhid is rumored to be a major beneficiary of aid from Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood.) And was this fear justified? Was Tawhid receiving aid from Islamic countries and movements? I didn’t expect a straight answer and was not disappointed. “Relief materials only,” he replied.
In contrast to the FSA fighters and field commanders that I met, the Tawhid commander had no hesitation in describing his political ambitions for Syria. “All the forces want one thing, one thought—an Islamic state, but with protection for minority rights.”
He was predictably dismissive of the Syrian National Council, describing it as a “spokesman” for the Syrian people, rather than a political authority. “The real leadership is inside Syria, in the field—not in Turkey.”….