Posted by Joshua on Thursday, May 10th, 2012
The main pillars of the Syrian regime are collapsing one after the other. The closing of the University of Aleppo signifies the beginning of the end for public education. It will only be the first of the universities to close. Most are trying to limp to the end of the academic year, but they will probably not be able to open in the fall. Students are becoming mobilized and radicalized.
The stories coming out about the government’s inability to import wheat and fuel-oil suggest that authorities can no longer provide the basic commodities that have long been the central job of the government. Electricity is already limited and will likely be cut further as fuel-oil scarcities become more acute. Bread scarcities will mean starvation for many. Refugees fleeing Syria have been reached 60,00 according to some sources, but those numbers include middle class Syrians who are re-locating as well as those driven into Turkey from Idlib, for example. But these numbers will seem small as the year wears on. Many Syrians of means that I know have left the country or are seeking employment outside the country. Most of my good friends in Damascus have already abandoned ship and moved to Amman. The car bombs at the Palestinian Intelligence Branch drove home the point that the insurgency is getting more lethal and capable all the time. Damascus must worry about becoming more like Baghdad and Kabul.
The government will shift tactics and learn to find wheat and possibly fuel, but it will become ever more expensive and difficult. Reports from some friends in Syria suggest that Iran is pumping a fair amount of money into the Syrian regime to keep it solvent and hold the pound steady. This suggests that collapse is not imminent and that the government will be able to continue to provide basic food and necessities if it can find new short-cuts around sanctions. All the same, the pillars of the regime are wobbly and the opposition, despite taking a pounding, seems poised to continue growing in strength and organization.
Haytham Manaa makes the case for dialog and peaceful change. He almost makes it sound possible.
Assad Still Standing, By Stuart Draper
An excellent short documentary and overview of the struggle in Syria by Draper
LONDON: Syria is finding it increasingly hard to buy grain on international markets because sanctions have blocked its access to trade finance, while growing numbers of its citizens are struggling to obtain food after more than a year of conflict. …
Syria is finding it increasingly hard to buy grain on international markets because sanctions have blocked its access to trade finance, while growing numbers of its citizens are struggling to obtain food after more than a year of conflict.
… Syria relies on food imports for almost half of its total needs, with wheat used for food, while maize and barley are used mainly for animal feed. “Syria has deep problems at the moment finding companies willing to offer grain such as barley. You can’t open a letter of credit and the risks associated with any deal seem to be rising all the time,” one trade source said.”The Commercial Bank of Syria (the country’s largest state-owned bank) is not accepted any more and there are currency related difficulties, so they are going to find it hard to meet their grain needs.”
….Last month the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation forecast that Syria’s cereal import needs in the marketing year 2011/12 would rise to 4 million tonnes, 1 million tonnes higher than the previous year.Separately, the International Grains Council has forecast Syria will need to import 900,000 tonnes of wheat in 2011/12, up from 500,000 tonnes in 2010/11.
“Syria is facing trade problems and based on anecdotal reports what seems to be happening now is that companies are pulling out of the country due to the security and operating risks, so that is a challenge for the government in terms of imports,” “In Syria bread is subsidised, so controlling bread prices will be an important strategy for the government.”
A confidential United Nations aid document obtained by Reuters showed at least 1 million Syrians need humanitarian aid. “Access to food has become an increasing issue in Syria,” the U.N. aid document said.
“Over the past 12 months, there have been sharp increases in food prices in many locations, unemployment has risen, the Syrian pound has depreciated in value; and many of those who have relocated no longer have access to subsidised food.”
….While western sanctions are not meant to target food imports, the complexity of trade, including extensive due diligence, is expected to weigh on deals. Legal specialists say for companies operating in the EU, dealing with Syrian state entities involved in food or receiving payments over a certain amount require authorisation from national authorities.”No big player would want to burn their fingers on Syria at the moment and when it comes to selling on your own name or account, forget it – there are just too many hurdles,” another trade source said….The World Food Programme said the number of people to whom it was supplying aid in Syria was expected to rise to half a million in coming weeks from the 250,000 assisted during April.”Informal observations and field monitoring have shown that vulnerability to food insecurity has increased dramatically in areas affected by the unrest,” WFP spokeswoman Abeer Etefa said.”Overall poverty levels are also increasing, access to basic supplies and services is deteriorating; since May 2011, prices of most items, notably food and fuel, have risen by approximately 50 percent and the Syrian pound has devalued by approximately 50 percent against international currencies.”
Red Cross: 1.5 Million in Syria Lack Basics
By AP / JOHN HEILPRIN Tuesday, May 08, 2012
(GENEVA) Fighting in parts of Syria has morphed into local guerrilla wars, the Red Cross said Tuesday, where the number of prisoners remains unknown and 1.5 million people need help getting food, water, shelter, power and sanitation.
Syria Central Bank Chief Says Reserves Steady as War Hits Growth
By Donna Abu-Nasr, 2012-05-10
May 10 (Bloomberg) — Syria’s foreign currency reserves are intact and the currency is holding steady even after more than a year of conflict that is weakening the economy, central bank Governor Adib Mayaleh said.
The Syrian pound is “steadfast” at about 68 per dollar after weakening from about 47 before the unrest began in March last year, Mayaleh said in an interview at the bank in Damascus today. “The proof is that there have been no shortages of any products in the market,” though the economy will suffer “a big weakness in growth” this year, he said.
Mayaleh said foreign currency reserves “haven’t retreated by one dollar or euro” since his term began in 2005. The bank said last year that reserves were about $18 billion. Syria’s inflation rate was 15 percent in January, Mayaleh said….. “We are facing a fierce and existential war on Syria,” Mayaleh said. He said attacks such as the bombing in Damascus today, which killed at least 40 people according to state media, are “aimed at shaking the stability of the regime and harming the unity of the people.”
The Economist Intelligence Unit estimates that Syria’s foreign reserves will drop to $10 billion this year while its economy shrinks 5.9 percent. Syria is under international sanctions including an oil embargo imposed by the European Union that has cost $3 billion in revenue according to Syrian government estimates.
Twin explosions rock Syrian capital,CNN International
Syrian troops say cease-fire hasn’t stopped rebel attacks
By David Enders | McClatchy Newspapers
IDLIB, Syria — With a United Nations-sponsored peace plan nearly one month old, Syrian soldiers in the country’s north say rebel forces trying to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad are continuing to launch attacks on their positions daily in apparent violation of a cease-fire and are strong enough that government troops cannot enter several towns and villages near this city.
The soldiers, who were interviewed by a McClatchy correspondent traveling with U.N. monitors, described attacks that had taken place every day this week. Gunfire and explosions could be heard after dark on Tuesday in Idlib and into early Wednesday morning, testimony to ongoing fighting. On Wednesday, soldiers manning a checkpoint outside the town of Ariha, south of Idlib, showed reporters damage to an armored personnel carrier that they said was caused by a bomb planted on a nearby road last week.
“I know 17 soldiers who have died in the last two or three months,” said Ahmed, who asked that he be identified by a single name only because he was not authorized to talk to reporters. “We can’t leave the city unless we are in armored vehicles.”
“For six months we have not been able to enter Ariha,” said another soldier, who asked that he be identified only as Mazen because he, too, had not been given permission to talk to visiting journalists. “Today there was an attack on every checkpoint here. Last night they attacked a checkpoint and detonated a bomb.”….
Ahmed and other soldiers in Idlib said there had been explosions in the city on Monday, when Syrians voted for a new Parliament.
“Many people didn’t vote because they were afraid,” Ahmed said.
Supporters of the anti-Assad uprising called for a boycott of the vote and said it was observed in many areas. In some places, polls didn’t open at all. Both sides have accused each other of threatening people who refused to go to the polls or supported the boycott.
Mazen listed nine towns and villages in the area around Idlib where soldiers were unable to go. He said the pace of attacks had remained steady for months as the army continued its campaign against the rebels.
Idlib itself, a city of about 150,000, was out of government control for months before the Syrian military retook it in March. Despite a heavy military presence here, attacks have continued, including a car bombing that destroyed a six-story building in late April.
Ahmed said the violence in Syria amounted to a civil war. Asked about the motivations of the men they were fighting, Ahmed said that the rebels wanted to destabilize Syria. He did not repeat government claims, however, that many of the rebels are foreigners, and most of the soldiers agree that the opponents they face are Syrian.
The Syrian government news agency, SANA, reported that three members of the military killed by rebels were buried on Wednesday. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said that more than 11,000 people have been killed in the past 14 months, the majority of them civilians…..
The logic of the opposition: the right to kill
NYTimes – By ANNE BARNARD and HWAIDA SAAD
BEIRUT, Lebanon — More than a year into the Syrian uprising, protesters and fighters say, disparate opposition cells inside the country still scramble on their own for money and weapons, creating a risk that different factions will form conflicting loyalties to whoever ends up financing or arming them.
…The fighters and activists knew they were talking to journalists and have an interest in appearing neither sectarian nor extremist. But many spoke candidly of the uprising’s flaws and challenges, and one — a former interior decorator — volunteered that he had executed three men.
Abu Moayed said the battalion had captured about 35 government soldiers and militiamen and executed 10 after the authorities refused a prisoner exchange. He said he shot three, two Sunnis and an Alawite, who were implicated in killing hundreds. “Don’t ask the reason,” he said. “It’s not vengeance — it’s our right.”
…While many invoke God, expected in a religious country, seven identify explicitly as Islamist, for instance waving black flags with Koranic script, said Mr. White, who advocates military aid to rebels. There have been separate reports of fundamentalist groups operating in the north.
One fighter from Abu Omar’s group, the Golan Liberation Gathering, said he and friends sold their cars, rented an apartment, posed as laborers and staked out a government official. When they attacked, security forces overwhelmed them, killing his friends. “We knew we would die,” he said. “I’m not religious, I’m leftist — but all Syrians became suicidal.”…
But he admitted he acted from anger after the government killed two of his uncles, Khalid and Jamil al-Khatib. His father is missing and his wife and children are in hiding, he said, after a defecting soldier showed him a picture of his 5-year-old with words scrawled on the back: “To be executed.”
Recently, he said, he bought weapons on the Iraqi border with $35,000 from wealthy Syrians abroad — but does not take orders from anyone outside. …
Obama Hits Syria With Brutal Blast of Adverbs, By Jeffrey Goldberg
…. The administration’s unprecedented verbal and written sorties against the Assad regime have included some of the most powerful adjectives, adjectival intensifiers and adverbs ever aimed at an American foe. This campaign has helped Syrians understand, among other things, that the English language contains many synonyms for “repulsive.”….
Syria is holding parliamentary elections, which the government has characterized as a sign of its commitment to reform.
Syria holds parliament vote; opposition boycotts
Published May 07, 2012,Associated Press
DAMASCUS, Syria – Syrians cast ballots Monday in parliamentary elections billed by the regime as key to President Bashar Assad’s political reforms, but the opposition dismissed the vote as a sham meant to preserve his autocratic rule.
There were scattered reports of violence, including accounts from activists and witnesses that security forces launched deadly attacks on villages in central Syria where opposition supporters were refusing to vote. The reports could not be indepedently confirmed.
The voting for Syria’s 250-member parliament is unlikely to affect the course of Syria’s popular uprising, which began 14 months ago with largely peaceful protests…
Syrians questioning whether armed revolt works
By ZEINA KARAM | Associated Press – 2 hrs 38 mins ago
BEIRUT (AP) — The woman wearing a blood-red dress stood in the middle of a busy intersection outside Syria’s parliament holding up a red banner: “Stop the killing, we want to build a homeland for all Syrians.” Drivers tooted their horns and supporters clapped.
Rima Dali’s act of defiance last month — which landed the 33-year-old in prison for several days — was a call for the opposition to focus again on peaceful protests to bring down President Bashar Assad. It has inspired other activists who worry that their cause is going astray as more Syrians take up arms in the face of the regime’s withering crackdown.
They say armed resistance costs the opposition the moral high ground and boosts the regime line that it is battling terrorists, not a popular uprising. The spiraling violence has also taken on fearsome sectarian overtones, threatening to push the country into full-blown civil war. Al-Qaida-style suicide bombings have become increasingly common……
The parliamentary elections planned for May 7 become the first serious check for observers who have already arrived to Syria.
They will pass on the basis of the new constitution of the country accepted by the vast majority of voices on a referendum on February 26. The opposition already declared non-recognition of the new constitution and all decisions accepted on its basis that automatically means non-recognition of elections and a possible new round of opposition.
Syria cease-fire gives nonviolent activists a new beginning
Bloodshed alienates the silent majority, activists say. The truce, while not perfect, has eased violence and provided peaceful protesters a chance to be heard.
By Alexandra Sandels, Los Angeles Times, May 6, 2012
BEIRUT — More than a year after the uprising began, only 50 people were still around to protest in a Syrian town of burned buildings and pockmarked storefronts.
But for the residents of Anadan who came together to call for freedom and dignity on the morningSyria’scease-fire began last month, it was as though the revolution had begun again.
“We were willing to come out like it was our first day,” said Abu Ghaith, an activist in the town near Aleppo that rebels seized and lost again to government forces. “Our strength is in being peaceful.”
For months, activists who helped spark the uprising against the regime of President Bashar Assad by nonviolent means had seen it slip away as others in the opposition took up arms and the conflict began to resemble a civil war….
The conflict over the course of the revolution is not only about who speaks for the opposition but also about the consequences of toppling the regime.
“Our purpose is to build Syria more than to destroy Syria; we don’t want to destroy the country as we try to oust the regime,” said Yusuf Ashami, an activist using a nom de guerre who fled Syria months ago because he was wanted by the security forces for organizing protests.
Last month, he joined about 200 other activists in Cairo to found the Syrian Democratic Platform, a coalition of activists who feel that the revolution has been overtaken by armed factions.
Like others in this camp, Ashami doesn’t oppose armed rebels defending protesters, but doesn’t believe they should be on the offensive. History, he said, proves that armed revolutions take a long time to unseat regimes and often result in another form of oppression and dictatorship….
UN convoy attacked in Syria; 7 killed
Arab News – 10 May, 2012
Syrian rebels killed at least seven pro-government militiamen in a Damascus suburb yesterday, activists said, and an explosion wounded eight soldiers escorting UN cease-fire observers in the southern province of Daraa.
The Damascus attack with rocket-propelled grenades on a bus carrying the fighters through the suburb of Irbin prompted the army to seal off the area and respond with shelling, activist Mohammad Saeed said.
By Neil MacFarquhar
“…A broad spectrum of political organizations outside the country are jockeying for position, anticipating a new, democratic government in Syria for the first time since a 1963 military coup established the supremacy of the Baath Party and emasculated the rest… The jockeying has alienated many Syrians, particularly those inside, who complain that members of the fractious opposition exile group, the Syrian National Council, are fixated more on grabbing appointments that they can leverage into domestic influence later than on forging the unity needed to defeat the government. The wrestling continues nonetheless. It remains unclear which group, if any, will emerge the dominant player…All the Islamist groups agree this is not the time for pushing divisive social issues like banning alcohol or veiling women, and they acknowledge that internal squabbling only serves Mr. Assad’s interests. The longer and more militarized the fight, they and others worry, the greater chance that radical jihadists will become the face and power of the resistance…The Brotherhood’s supporters argue that Syria’s diversity, with large minorities of Alawites, Christians and Druze, will defeat any effort to impose Islamic law. They argue as well that democracy is a natural fit because Syria has long adhered to the Sufi school of Islam, …Ultimately, the battle for Syria’s future boils down to identity, whether Syrian society is by nature religious or secular, and how either identity might be represented by whatever replaces the stifling Baath Party. Will Syria’s diversity tear it apart, or can a pluralistic, democratic nation that respects equal rights emerge from its jumble of rival religious sects, ethnic groups and age-old tribes?”
ANTAKYA, Turkey (Reuters) – Rebel fighter Mustafa and his trio of burly men look out of place at a trendy Turkish cafe near the Syrian border, dressed in tattered jeans and silently puffing on cigarettes as they scoop into tall ice-cream sundaes.
Their battleground is across the frontier in Syria, where they are fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad. But like many rebels in northern Syria, they are so desperate for weapons and money, they are searching for new donors in Turkey.
“When it comes to getting weapons, every group knows they are on their own,” says the 25-year-old with a patchy beard. “It’s a fight for resources.”
Nominally Mustafa’s rebels fight for the Free Syrian Army (FSA), but the FSA, lacking international recognition or direct state funding, is a often just a convenient label for a host of local armed groups competing fiercely for scarce financing.
So fiercely, they sometimes turn their guns on each other.
“Everyone needs weapons. There is tension. There is anger and yes, sometimes there is fighting if rebels in one town seem to have an unfair share of weapons,” said Mustafa, who comes from Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib, which borders Turkey and has been a hotbed of resistance to Assad.
Such mistrust is compounded by the competing agendas of outside parties who are further fragmenting the rebel movement….
Syrian activists: Explosion in Aleppo kills 5
By BEN HUBBARD, Associated Press – 5 minutes ago
BEIRUT (AP) — An explosion in a car wash in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo killed at least five people on Saturday, activists said, while another blast in the capital destroyed nine cars.
Bomb attacks have grown more common in Syria’s two largest cities as the uprising against President Bashar Assad grows increasingly militarized. Many in the opposition have taken up arms since protesters first took to the street in March 2011 and now regularly clash with government forces around the country.
But Aleppo and Damascus have remained largely in Assad’s grip, shaken only by bomb blasts that often appear to target buildings associated with the military and security services.
The U.N. says more than 9,000 people have been killed since the uprising’s start.
Saturday’s blast in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, hit a car wash and killed six people, Aleppo activist Mohammed Saeed said via Skype. He said the business in the city’s southern Sukari neighborhood is owned by a man who serves in pro-government militias known as the shabiha.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on activists inside Syria, said five people were killed in the attack.
The blast follows increasing unrest in the city with university students taking to the streets and being violently dispersed by security forces.
A 16-year-old was shot dead during a protest Friday, one day after four students were killed during arrest raids in university dorms.
Also Saturday, an explosive planted under an army vehicle in Damascus blew up, damaging nine cars.
The blast shook a downtown neighborhood near a military food cooperative, and left a crater in the street, according to a reporter from The Associated Press who visited the scene.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the explosions.
UN Observer Mission in Syria chief Robert Mood (C-R) on Thursday called on regime forces to make the first move to ensure a ceasefire in the strife stricken country. (AFP/Joseph Eid)
The head of the UN mission in Syria said on Thursday that government forces must make the first move to end nearly 14-months of bloodshed after a watchdog said a security force raid on a university campus left four students dead.
The Syrian Opposition, Non-state Players, and the Peace Process
Sami Moubayed in Huff Post
The Syrian opposition today has to sit back and come up with answers to the following questions: What to do with the military, governmental, and security institutions if they come to power? How to manage the Syrian economy? How to handle Syria’s relationship with people like Muqtada al-Sadr and Hasan Nasrallah? More importantly, what to do with the Syrian-Israeli peace process, which is now on hold? This is something that is extremely important to both Israel and the U.S., and which is being completely overlooked in all rhetoric and strategy since March 2011. Israel has not changed its conditions for peace, after all, since the famous Assad-Clinton meeting in Geneva in March 2000. Back then, it explicitly asked for full sovereignty over the Jordan River and Lake Tiberias, which is their major freshwater reservoir. Israel wanted a sovereign corridor of ten meters on both sides of the creek from the springs of Banias in the northern Golan down to Lake Tiberias. Hafez al-Assad said no, refusing to accept the 1923 international borders, abiding by the June 4 borders, while turning down all suggestions for territorial swaps. At one point, if the regime is changed in Syria, new rulers will have to answer these very thorny questions, and U.S. officials are doubtful that neither they nor the current regime can deliver anymore when it comes to peace. And if they do, it is doubtful that their peace can last.
These are challenges that are yet to be addressed properly. If the opposition does have answers, then they have not yet been articulated properly to those who matter in Washington circles, which might explain why the U.S. is seemingly so reluctant to push for real change in Syria.
Syria’s Threatened Minorities
By JONATHAN RANDAL
Published: May 4, 2012
The longer the struggle for power in Syria drags on, the greater the danger for its minorities and, equally ominously, for those in neighboring states. This is the human dimension of the stalemated Syrian violence that is often obscured by overarching geostrategic considerations….
the region’s minorities increasingly risk becoming expendable collateral damage in the open-ended civil war in Syria. Many of Syria’s ruling Alawites — and their Kurd, Assyrian, Maronite Christian, Greek Catholic and Orthodox fellow minorities, indeed even the prudent Druze — feel caught in a vicious zero-sum game.
Like many another dominant minority throughout Middle Eastern history, President Bashar al-Assad’s beleaguered Alawites both protect and manipulate Syria’s other minorities. Assad relentlessly insists they are all under growing threat from the still disorganized and disparate opposition drawn from the Sunni Muslim community which accounts for 70 percent of Syria’s population.
That way, the longer the strife goes on, the less isolated his Alawites (perhaps 12 percent of Syrians) feel and the more they justify their backs-to-the-wall defense of privileges accumulated over more than 40 years in power. The counterexample is Iraq, where America’s war put the majority Shiites in power and minorities paid a heavy price. …
“To counter that fate and prevent further turmoil spreading throughout the region, the United States and allies would do well to work with — rather than against — Russia to prod all Syrian parties to the negotiating table and have them eschew escalating violence. That again involves swallowing hard and somehow persuading Assad and the insurgents to talk. That’s a tall order and the hour is late.
Halabi writes in the comment section May 5th, 2012, 1:24 am :
This is why minorities support Assad? The fear of retribution for crimes committed against innocent civilians? The New York Times op/ed mentions Hama and Sabra and Shatila in 1982. We also have thousands of people murdered in this era, all to prevent the possible bloodbath against minorities in the future.
This kind of thinking, as well as believing that the Baath party is popular or the upcoming elections are anything but a farce, will never, ever solve the crisis in Syria nor bring democracy to the country. By supporting a regime that kills its own citizens while its enemy occupies its territory, that has oppressed people from every class and sect, the we-love-you gang has made it clear what they want: to rule over Syrians by force, forever.
I think the revolution will succeed in the long term. Along the way there will be a lot of pain, mostly suffered by the opposition, but there will be no peace for Assad and his supporters. I wake up in the morning hoping for a better future; we-love-you wake up hoping that Assad’s soldiers continue to raze towns and villages they don’t like, worrying about summer vacations, the value of their dubious fortunes and how to spin the latest conspiracy theory while enjoying freedom in the West.
Perhaps the solution is for Assad’s soldiers to kill and expel enough Sunnis so the minorities become the majority. Of course, according to we-love-you logic, the new minority would feel threatened so it should then be allowed to massacre as many minorities as they want. Or we could get rid of the criminal police state that has destroyed our country for two generations and try to establish a just government for all…
Two bombs explode on Damascus highway: residents
By Mariam Karouny | Reuters
DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Two bombs detonated on a central Damascus highway on Saturday, destroying nine cars, residents said, in a further sign that rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad are shifting tactics towards homemade explosives.
An Islamist group calling itself the Support Front for the People of the Levant claimed responsibility for that bombing and for an April 24 attack on the Iranian cultural consulate in Damascus. Iran is one of Syria’s closest allies.
Pentagon Defends Buying Copters From Russia Trader Aiding Assad
2012-05-08, By Tony Capaccio
May 8 (Bloomberg) — The Pentagon must pay Russia’s state- run arms trader to provide helicopters for Afghanistan’s air force even though the company also been has supplying Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with weapons to kill his own people, according to the Defense Department’s top policy official. The U.S. Army has taken delivery of nine Russian-made MI-17 helicopters for the Afghans from Rosoboronexport under a $375 million contract issued in May 2011, with six more awaiting shipment and another six to be delivered by May 31, Acting Undersecretary for Policy James Miller said in a previously undisclosed March 30 letter to lawmakers. The U.S. has an option to buy an additional 12 Russian helicopters for the Afghans, who have been flying them for 30 years…..
The Syrian Democratic Forum/Platform
Haytham Khoury [email@example.com]
I am writing to express my unhappiness with Syria Comment. Since we established our group the Syrian Democratic Forum/Platform last February, the only news that was published on SC regarding our group was under the title “Two different Syrian Opposition organizations expressed their own formulations of the Kurdish question in Syria”. Although our vision of Syria, as a multi-national state and from which our group’s view for the question Kurd arises, is an original one, I believe this is not the most significant contribution of our group for the political and civil life in Syria.
First, the idea of our group is a creative one. Indeed, our group is not a political organization per se. It is “a political, civil and democratic forum. It is a platform for critical appraisal, knowledge exchange and field activities”, as it has been defined in its identity statement released on Feb 18, 2012. Our group’s mission is the advancement of the Syrian society and public life at all levels, including political, intellectual and social.
Second, the plan of actions that we have set for our group is an audacious one. One of the major goals that we have set for our group is to unify the infamously fragmented Syrian opposition, as it has been stated in The Declaration of the Proceedings of the General Assembly of the Syrian Democratic Forum, released on April 17th, 2012. In this declaration, our goal to unify the opposition has been expressed as follows: “Indeed, the SDF perceives that one of its tasks is to launch a plan to unite the Syrian opposition of all spectra, accompanied by mechanisms and timetable for its implementation, through the formation of internal and external committees for cooperation and consultation. These plan and mechanisms are to be put into effect as soon as possible; with the reaffirmation that what is meant by unity of the opposition is to have a common vision, program, and political will; and taking into account that the basis for the indispensable unity of the opposition is the unity of purpose. By this purpose, we mean bringing the regime down; building a democratic civil state based on equal citizenship; clearly specifying the path leading to the future of Syria after the fall of the regime; and providing a clear vision for the new Syria. In this regard, it is the responsibility of the committee elected by the General Assembly to put this into practice.”
Here is a link for a video an interview that I did with the Egyptian satellite TV channel, Nile TV, in which I explained our plans for unifying the opposition.
Best regards, Haytham
The Syrian Uprising Special Report on the Jamestown Foundation website for $20.00.
Militant Leadership Monitor subscribers will receive a free PDF copy of this and all future QSRs in their email. Content:
Measuring The Temperature Of Revolt In Syria: A One-Year Assessment, By Chris Zambelis Sheikh
Adnan Al-Arour: The Salafist “Godfather Of The Syrian Revolution”, By Jacob Zenn
Who’s Who In The Syrian Opposition: An Overview Of 15 Key Opposition Leaders, By Sami Moubayed
The Right Hand Of Bashar Al-Assad: A Profile of Maher Al-Assad, By Wladimir van Wilgenberg
The Free Syrian Army: An In-Depth Profile Of Colonel Riad Al-Asaad By Francesco F. Milan
Salih Muslim Muhammed: Leader of PKK Syrian-Affiliate PYD, By Michael Gunter
Syria beats back its rivals
Samuel Segev, 05/8/2012
TEL AVIV — Syrian President Bashar Assad proved Monday once again that with the support of Russia and Iran, he is still able to politically defeat the United States, Turkey and the Persian Gulf countries.
Based on a new “constitution” that was unilaterally approved last February, the Syrian people were asked Monday to elect 250 new members of parliament, from among 7,195 candidates in 15 electoral districts. The Syrian opposition boycotted the elections. So did the Western powers. But it really didn’t matter.
For Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies, the purpose of the elections was to demonstrate that the country is moving towards normalcy, even when the elections were held under the threat of a gun. The opposition argued that the presence of 60 United Nations observers, who came to Syria at the request of former UN secretary general Koffi Annan, was not sufficient to assure “real free elections.
On the eve of Monday’s elections, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told thousands of Syrian refugees in Turkey that “your power is increasing by the day and your victory is near.”
This sounded like an empty promise. The day Erdogan made his statement, Dennis MacDonough, the U.S. deputy national security adviser, told an academic gathering in Washington that a military solution in Syria is not now under consideration and that the U.S. is working with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Jordan to find other solutions for Syria.
But what are these other solutions? A quick look on the ground reveals that little is under control, whether in political or security terms. Despite the regime’s announced acceptance of Koffi Annan’s ceasefire plan, violence continues, with the depressingly familiar daily toll of casualties.
American officials are well aware of this situation. They acknowledge that Syria is not Libya and Homs is not Benghazi. The air defence of Syria is thicker than that of Libya. The Syrian army, in general, is stronger. Thus, there is in Damascus a strong feeling that the introduction of outside weapons would deepen the internal conflict.
This is not a serious argument. The regime and its vigilantes are fully armed. The helicopter gunships thrown into battle are a reminder of the disparity in firepower between the regime and its opponents
There are suspicions that the Obama administration does not want to see the Assad regime fall. Some even believe that Obama’s Syrian policy is hostage to his electoral ambitions in November. The president has no real interest in fully taking on the Iranian regime, so Syria continues to twist in the wind.
Meanwhile, the U.S. and Iran are engaged in a process of pressuring Lebanon to maintain its neutrality…..