Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, July 26th, 2011
A BBC Documentary: Sue Lloyd Roberts goes among the Activists: What Does the Opposition Want? Who are they?
Syrian to Allow Organized OppositionWall Street Journal
Christian Science Monitory: Nicholas Blanford
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s cabinet yesterday approved a bill to allow independent political parties other than the Baath Party, which has ruled the country since 1963.
The draft law, which has been under consideration for many years, is due to be taken up by parliament Aug. 7. Its stated aim involves “enriching the political life, creating a new dynamic and allowing for a change in political power,” said the state-run news agency SANA.
The move is the latest in a number promises aimed at denting Syria’s popular four-month uprising, which represents an unprecedented challenge to the 40-year Assad regime. But even if the law goes into effect soon, its impact is likely to be limited.
SANA reported that the bill prohibits parties founded on the basis of “religion, tribal affiliation, regions, and professional organizations as well as those which discriminate on the basis of race, sex, or color.”
Those restrictions suggest that Kurdish nationalist parties may not be recognized, along with the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamist party currently banned in Syria.
In addition, Article 8 of the constitution stipulates that the Baath Party is “the leading party in the society and the state.” Protesters have demanded that the article be appealed, but so far it remains in place.
Please respect FT.com’s ts&cs and copyright policy which allow you to: share links; copy content for personal use; & redistribute limited extracts. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to buy additional rights or use this link to reference the article – http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/345fc7f0-b6b1-11e0-ae1f-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz1T7iGtEHF
Activists greeted the news with indifference. “Who cares?” said Razan Zeitouneh, a human rights lawyer who has emerged as one of the most high profile figures in the pro-democracy movement. “We want to change them, not to change the party law.”
Iran draws the line with Turkey on Syria
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
“Iran had to choose between Turkey and Syria, it would choose Syria”
In a sign of growing Iranian misgiving about Turkey’s role in Middle Eastern affairs, Tehran has decided to throw its weight behind the embattled Syrian regime, even if that translates into a setback in relations between Tehran and Ankara.
Iran’s move is bound to represent a new thorn in ties, with multiple potential side-effects, since it comes at a delicate time when Turkey is pressuring Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government to adopt meaningful reforms and to give legitimacy to the Syrian opposition, which has repeatedly held meetings in Turkey.
Over the weekend, Tehran hosted Syrian Oil Minister Sufian Alaw for the signing of a major trilateral Iran-Iraq-Syria gas deal worth billions of dollars, while showering the Assad regime with unconditional praise as the “vanguard of resistance” that was subjected to psychological warfare and Western-Zionist conspiracy.
Articulating Iran’s steadfast support for its key Arab ally, Iranian first Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi used his meeting with Alaw to expel the slightest doubt about Iran’s stance on Syria, by stating that “Iran and Syria are two inseparable countries and allies, and Iran will stand by its friend and Muslim [neighboring] country, Syria, under all circumstances”.
In sharp contrast to Turkey’s support for the Syrian opposition, Rahimi dismissed the current unrest in Syria as “guided by arrogant powers and the meddling of enemies”.
Behind Iran’s new Syria move is a calculated gamble that contrary to some Western perceptions, the Assad regime is not completely isolated and still enjoys a considerable mass following. This is reflected in huge pro-government rallies consistently ignored by the Western media, and that with sufficient internal and regional support, Damascus could survive and ride out the current storm…..
it is not simply Iran but rather the triumvirate of Iran-Iraq-Syria that Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization member, has to reckon with.
Matthew Mainen, “Saudi Arabia’s role in Syria’s uprising.” – Institute for Gulf Affairs Policy Analyst
While Saudi Arabia’s involvement in suppressing Bahrain’s uprising is well documented, it’s behind the scenes role in Syria’s rebellion and Kuwaiti turmoil demonstrates that the monarchy seeks Arab-Islamic rather than Gulf hegemony. The collapse of the Syrian regime would albeit serve as the final blow to Iran’s quest for Mideast dominance, leaving Saudi Arabia the sole superpower. These prospects are troubling, given Saudi Arabia’s singular role in promoting Islamic extremism and its go-to move of creating sectarian tension.
For long it appeared that Iran was gaining the upper hand. By the end of 2008, Iraq’s Saudi-supported Sunni insurgency was defeated and Iraq’s Iranian backed Shia-majority asserted territorial control. In early January, Lebanon’s unity government collapsed, making Hezbollah a kingmaker. Then, on February 17th, Bahrain’s Shia majority, along with equally disgruntled Sunnis, rose up against the Sunni monarchy, presenting Iran with the perfect opportunity to attempt to backdoor into the Arab world.
Saudi Arabia acted swiftly, leading a contingent of over 2,000 Gulf troops to quell the uprising, but seeing a perfect opportunity to gain the initiative, Saudi Arabia went beyond Bahrain. Saudi affiliated members of Kuwait’s parliament, on the behest Saudi Arabia, called for a vote of no confidence on Kuwaiti Prime Minister Nasser Mohammed Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, who has good relations with Iran.
Pro-Saudi MPs such as Waleed al-Tabtabaie have called for political union with Saudi Arabia. While Kuwait is a Sunni majority state, it has a large and disenfranchised Shia minority. The second they protest for equality, and they eventually will, the calls for unification will grow louder as Saudi troops will be invited to “secure” Kuwait from an “Iranian plot.”
Already, Saudi Arabia and their Kuwait protégés are constructing a unified foreign policy, which is first emerging in Syria….
Using Saudi-owned television stations, the monarchy has opened the airwaves to carefully selected Sunni Syrian clerics. Adnan al-Arour, for example, has called on his Sunni counterparts to “grind the Alawites and feed them to the dogs.” His calls were recently answered, with Sunni-Alawite clashes in Homs.
These relatively small sectarian clashes are a precursor to what further Saudi involvement entails. A fullscale ethnic conflict has the potential of mirroring the Iraqi civil conflict, especially because what the Alawite minority lacks in numbers they make up for in arms and military training. This is to say nothing, of the possibility of Syria being flooded with Saudi-born jihadists as was the case in Iraq.
Prince Nayef, Saudi Arabia’s de facto crown prince, played a decisive operational role in Iraq’s Sunni insurgency, sending prominent terrorists such as Abdullah al-Rashoud to Iraq. His son has played a similar role. The clerical establishment also involved itself throughout the insurgency by collecting funds and even issuing a fatwa calling on Muslims to join the jihad in Iraq.
The United States cannot sit on the sidelines as Saudi Arabia helps shape Syria’s future. Regime change is desirable. Saudi-sponsored regime change is not. As things stand now, the most active Syrian opposition figures are Saudi-sympathizers. A progressive and democratic Syria aligned with the United States will do the most to contain Iran, not a Saudi proxy….
NICOSIA — Representatives of Syrian anti-regime protesters are to meet on Wednesday in Turkey to discuss coordination and strategy, a Syrian activist said.
Bahiya Mardini, who heads the Cairo-based Arab Free Speech Committee, told AFP in Nicosia on Tuesday that the meeting would be the first of its kind since dissent against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad erupted in mid-March.
Syrian dissidents have already met in Istanbul, but there has been no gathering of people directly connected to the almost daily protests that have shaken Syria since March 15.
The Istanbul meeting will run until Saturday and focus on “developing the coordination between activists and working groups of the revolution,” said Mardini.
She said training sessions will be held during the four-day gathering, as well as workshops covering several aspects of revolutionary work, from the legal, political and media aspects to logistics.
Lee Smith argues that it is unlikely Assad can maintain much of his power through Ramadan, which begins the first week of August.
Radwan Ziadeh argued that the stalemate in Syria will only be broken by the international community and the military.
New York Times editorial called for stronger sanctions
The first reports of attacks on Kurds emerged.
Michel Kilo’s book-lined apartment in a Christian neighborhood in Damascus is a quiet contrast to streets where protesters demand an end to Syria’s repressive regime…..
Long banned from speaking out, Kilo was heard by the Syrian people for the first time last week in a government-sanctioned opposition meeting. Syrian state television broadcast the event. Kilo sent out tweets outlining his recommendations, saying the government must:
-Recognize political parties.
-Allow the opposition to publish a newspaper as a trust-building measure.
-First, send the army back to base.
“They are sending troops to places where we never imagined they would send troops,” says Kilo.
His participation in the opposition conference drew criticism on Facebook sites. Protest organizers said the meeting was a mistake. It gave credibility to the regime. But Kilo says the protest movement makes mistakes, too.
“I think they make a big mistake when they believe that some words are sacred — for example, ‘the people’ or ‘the street.’ They do not represent the whole street.”
Kilo lives in Damascus, where support for Assad is real, but even in the capital the demand for change, for reform, for a new system of governance, is strong. The protest movement opened that debate and there is no going back, he says.
So, is this gentle criticism from an older critic to a new generation?
Kilo’s jowly face breaks into a wide smile, his thick eyebrows move up his face and he laughs. “I am telling you, I am old, but mentally, I am very young. What the youth have managed to do is enormous. They have the right to criticize all of us.”
Kilo’s criticism is focused on a regime that he says still does not believe in reforms, but can no longer suppress a whole country.
The Priest who expelled US Ambassador Ford from his church defends his actions and explains his stand against the revolution. (Champress)
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates—When Khulud Abu-Homos, a television producer at OSN network here, decided to dub the Harry Potter movies into Arabic for distribution in the Middle East, she faced a quandary: which Arabic? The Arab world, it turns out, …
U.S. softens its criticism of Syria
By Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times, July 20, 2011
Since Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s sharp words last week, the Obama administration has stopped short of calling for President Bashar Assad to resign and has toned down its rhetoric.
….But Clinton backed off on Saturday, saying the administration still hopes that Assad’s regime will stop the violence and work with protesters to carry out political reforms. On Monday, European Union ministers also called on Assad to implement reforms and made it clear they still hoped he would do so.
The change in tone reflects the continuing debate over whether Syria’s ruler is likely to survive the current turmoil, and how best to use the limited diplomatic tools available to pressure him.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasized that democratic transitions in the Arab world must be led from within. A State Department spokesperson condemned the travel restrictions on the U.S. ambassador.
The spokesman, Martin Schäfer, said that Berlin’s coordinator for Middle East policy, Boris Ruge, had held talks with opposition members as well as Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem on two occasions.
…Germany is one of the first Western countries to announce direct contacts with the Syrian opposition, which has held several meetings in Turkey.
…Germany, which holds the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council this month, has stepped up diplomatic efforts in the Middle East and North Africa in recent weeks in response to the wave of uprisings.
New Loyalties and Old Feuds Collide in Syria: New York Times
“If this regime lasts, there’s absolutely going to be a civil war, absolutely,” said Iyad. Quoted by Anthony Shadid. Syria is awash in stories of solidarity, but older forces — geography, class and, in particular, religious sect — can also tear it apart.
[This is the eighth part of Amal Hanano’s diary of her trip back to Aleppo. You can read previous posts here] By coincidence, I was reading Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections while in Aleppo, although it may not have been pure coincidence, as sometimes books seem to possess magically perfect timing. (Last year’s Freedom may have been the more appropriate title for my trip, but I have a habit of reading books out of sequence.)
the people’s desire to un-correct his family’s corrections. For what is Arab Spring but the struggle to undo the sabotage and abuse of power, inflicted upon the people by their dictators? In the age of the people’s corrections, the salty refusal to deny reality and the bloody refusal to fear the future, have become the strongest tastes on our palette, but we have an intense craving for another, sweeter taste.
The Syrian Revolution is a massive red, reset button for justice, equality, and liberty. We are the corrections, united in our history, diversity, and even dysfunctionality.
nuffsilence writes in the comment section of last post:
It is deeply ironic that the new party law demands that all processes and deliberations within a party be transparent and democratic.
Deeply ironic that the Syrian regime would stipulate this when the regime itself has never practiced democracy at national level or even within the Baath party itself.
فاقد الشيء لا يعطيه
“A victorious rebellion can put into place the structures it has built in opposition, changing the institutional quality of the whole state. Therefore, a rebellion with strong and coherent authority can be a significant boost to state building if it wins its civil war. However, when a rebel army assumes formal control, it also assumes new constraints and opportunities, deriving from the capture of territory and from the acquisition of membership in the international system, which can reformulate its authority” Theodore McLauchlin
3:16الشريط الكامل لمجزرة جسر الشغور بحق المفرزة الأ… Grisley footage of the dead police and security kill at jisr al Shaghour before they were placed in the mass grave. This footage is much like that famous video of the dead rebel supporters in Deraa who were killed on the rooftop. In both cases the killers feel compelled to kick their victims and denigrate them by calling them bad names. I suppose it helps to assure the killers that they have not committed a crime.
Nicholas Blanford writes in today’s Christian Scientist Monitor that “More than 120 soldiers have also reportedly been killed, although it is unclear whether they were killed by armed gangs and extremists, as the government says, or were shot by fellow soldiers for refusing to fire on protesters.” It is not clear whether this footage proves that rebels and not security forces shot the soldiers in Jisr, but like most of these videos, it would seem to be what it purports to be: video of the recently killed taken by the rebels to commemorate their job.
Half of Syrians Fleeing to Turkey Have Returned Home, Today’s Zaman
Syria in the shadow of Libyan parallels
By Victor Kotsev
TEL AVIV – The clearer and neater the narratives presented by the international media, the more suspicious they are. This rule of thumb has retrospectively proved its value in numerous conflicts and uprisings in the past decades, including the color revolutions of Eastern Europe, the conflicts surrounding the break up of the former Yugoslavia, various African civil wars, and the Arab Spring this year in countries such as Libya, Egypt and Yemen.
The pattern is repeating itself in Syria. On the surface, the fault lines appear simple, even though this makes the conflict no less of a quagmire. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is sticking to his guns even as the pressure on him escalates and his legitimacy seemingly declines.
…..Conversely, al-Jazeera and other protest-friendly media may have labeled the pro-Assad demonstrators as “mnhebak” (“we love you,” or political Hare Krishnas of sorts), but this does not erase the fact that said “mnhebak” represent a legitimate Syrian political voice. There is every indication that they are not simply regime-paid thugs, as some accusations against them have it. Neither is the opposition as democratic and unified, and nor is the conflict as simple as many reports have it. 
….The most optimistic scenario currently being discussed involves some sort of a gradual transition to democracy in Syria and a broad and lengthy reform implemented by the Assad government and accepted by the protesters. Such a reform would necessarily require the removal, and perhaps exile, of key regime figures such as the president’s brother Maher, the hardline commander of the feared 4th Armored Division.
….Such simplistic narratives have been known to serve very well complex geostrategic games and foreign interests. Judging from ample past examples, this will bring nothing good to Syria and to the region; it may, however, signal the onset of a new international stage in the Syrian conflict.