News on Houla Massacre

Few Good Options Remain To End Syrian AttacksMay 29, 2012
Talk of the Nation

Guests: Rami Khouri, editor-at-large, Daily Star
Joshua Landis, director, Center for Middle East Studies, University of Oklahoma

The U.S. joined Britain, Germany, and other Western countries in expelling senior diplomats from Syria in response to the weekend assault that killed more than 100 civilians. Syria’s government denies any responsibility for the attacks, the latest in a year-long struggle for control of the country.

From Foreign Policy

Thirteen countries have expelled top Syrian diplomats in efforts to pressure President Bashar al-Assad to halt over 14 months of violence. The expulsions have come after international envoy, Kofi Annan, met with Assad in Damascus, appealing to him to end violence. The countries, including the United States and Turkey, are protesting the killings of 108 people in the villages of Houla, near Homs, on Friday. According to Syrian Arab News Agency, SANA, Assad stated “armed terrorist groups escalated their terrorist acts noticeably as of late in various areas across Syria.” In contrast, the head of the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping, Herve Ladsous, said that evidence was strong that the government carried out the attack because some victims were killed by heavy artillery, resources only possessed by the Syrian regime. Russia and China have continued to stand by Syria. Russia issued a statement that the U.N. Security Council should not forward new measures to resolve the conflict, and said it would block any form of military intervention. China said it also opposed a military intervention, as well as a regime change by force. The United Nations Human Rights Council has scheduled a special session for Friday to address Friday’s massacre.

Free Syrian Army Warns President Assad that he will have only until Friday noon to carry out the UN plan before he must face the consequences.

“الجيش الحر”: 48 ساعة للأسد قبل “العواقب”..والجعفري:جماعات إرهابية

30 مايو 2012 – 10:53 PM : سيريا بوليتيك

العقيد المنشق قاسم سعيد الدين

قال الجيش السوري الحر أنه سيمنح الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد مهلة 48 ساعة للالتزام بخطة مبعوث الأمم المتحدة والجامعة العربية كوفي أنان، وإلا سيواجه العواقب. وجاء هذا التهديد الأربعاء على لسان العقيد المنشق قاسم سعيد الدين، وتم توزيعه على موقع “يوتويب”.

(CNN) — A witness to the brutal massacre in the Syrian town of Houla which left more than 100 people dead, many of them women and children, says he fears the killing will continue unless the international community takes action.

“We are human beings, not animals,” Mahmoud Al Houli told CNN by telephone. “I would like to call for the international community and the U.N. to save our souls, to help us find a solution. We only want freedom.” He said conditions in Houla were “desperate,” with medical supplies and food running low, and a build-up of military personnel in the area leaving residents dreading a second wave of attacks.

“We are very afraid that there will be another massacre,” Al Houli added. “Military reinforcements have been brought in, and artillery, and we are afraid that the massacre will happen again.” On Tuesday, a United Nations official said it was “clear” that Syrian government forces were involved in the slaughter last Friday, which he said was “an abominable crime.”

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N. human rights office, said the majority of victims died as a result of “summary executions” in which “armed men… went house to house, killing men, women and children.”

As the U.S. and Others Toss Syria’s Envoys, Is Moscow Changing Its Mind About Assad?
By Rania Abouzeid / Beirut Tuesday, May 29, 2012 – Time

Some observers say that the Houla massacre over the weekend, which left more than a hundred Syrians dead, including at least 32 children, may have prompted a shift in Russia’s stance…
So, Russia doesn’t support the Syrian government, yet it doesn’t want regime change but rather the implementation of a plan that effectively demands that Assad dismantle his own regime. Is that a shift in its policy?

No, says Professor Joshua Landis, a Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma who edits the prominent blog “Syria Comment.” “Russia has a long history of saying that they’re not stuck on Assad, they’re critical of the regime, they don’t like the killing, that this has to be done in a peaceful way, a peaceful transition of power,” Landis says. “But under it all what they’re saying is they want to see a credible opposition that can take power peacefully before they’re willing to change their policy.”…
Shaikh thinks Russia’s higher profile, particularly in the Middle East, is not something to crow about, because it’s being viewed “in negative terms.” It should be mindful of its wider interests in the region, he says, particularly its ties to Gulf powerhouses Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who vehemently oppose Assad.

Harling disagrees. “They’ve lost so much in this part of the world that they’re free, there’s nothing to lose,” he says. For his part, Landis says Russia’s Syria policy dovetails with its regional interests. “Russia’s wider interests, to me, are pushing back at the Americans, preserving Iran and Syria outside of U.S control and showing their friends that they can stand by them,” he says.

Ultimately, Russia’s political cover may help the Syrian regime stay in power for a little longer, but that may be all given that it has alienated wide swathes of its population. “I’m not sure this regime can survive,” Harling says, “with or without Russian support.”

The Syria Dilemma
by Philip Gourevitch June 4, 2012

In April of 1993, President Bill Clinton and Elie Wiesel presided over the dedication of the Holocaust Memorial Museum, in Washington, D.C. Wiesel spoke first. He asked, “What have we learned?,”…

….A few days earlier, at the G8 summit at Camp David, Obama had reiterated his call for Assad to relinquish power, but the Russians continue to regard the Syrian President as he represents himself, as a force of stability. Mikhail Margelov, speaking for Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, said, “One cannot avoid a question: if Assad goes, who will replace him?” The hawks have no answer, nor, for that matter, does anybody else, including the main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, a coalition of seven infighting factions—ranging from Christians to Kurds to the Muslim Brotherhood—composed almost entirely of exiles, whose only consistent demand is for international military intervention. The Free Syrian Army, an equally unlikely group, shares that goal, but has lately turned against the S.N.C., which now purports to be forming its own military wing.

As a rule, Obama has avoided any rigid foreign-policy doctrine, preferring to indicate broad principles and then respond to crises case by case. By contrast, the absolutist rhetoric of moral certainty that the Holocaust museum inspires allows no room for political judgment; or even for acknowledging the political nature of the crises in which atrocities arise. Nonetheless, at the museum, Obama announced the creation of an Atrocities Prevention Board, to be run out of the White House, with the aim of coördinating the government’s response to outrages around the world. It is essentially a technocratic instrument of statecraft. Still, Obama seemed to recognize the awkwardness of such an initiative at a time when Assad remains in power, and the Taliban stands poised to reclaim swaths of Afghanistan. “There will be senseless deaths that aren’t prevented,” he said. “There will be stories of pain and hardship that test our hopes and try our conscience.” That, perhaps, is what we have learned. ♦

U.S. Hopes Assad Can Be Eased Out With Russia’s Aid

WASHINGTON — In a new effort to halt more than a year of bloodshed in Syria, President Obama will push for the departure of President Bashar al-Assad under a proposal modeled on the transition in another strife-torn Arab country, Yemen.

The plan calls for a negotiated political settlement that would satisfy Syrian opposition groups but that could leave remnants of Mr. Assad’s government in place. Its goal is the kind of transition under way in Yemen, where after months of violent unrest, President Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to step down and hand control to his vice president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, in a deal arranged by Yemen’s Arab neighbors. Mr. Hadi, though later elected in an uncontested vote, is viewed as a transitional leader.

The success of the plan hinges on Russia, one of Mr. Assad’s staunchest allies, which has strongly opposed his removal.

Patrick Seale, In Syria, this is no plan for peace

After the Houla massacre, it’s clear that the outside funding of the anti-Assad rebels is undermining efforts to end the conflict

Friday’s savage clashes at Houla, a village in the Syrian province of Homs, have aroused international indignation against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. It is the latest grisly episode in what is quickly developing into a sectarian civil war.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, makes no bones of her wish to overthrow the Syrian regime. She issued a statement saying: “The US will work with the international community to intensify our pressure on Assad and his cronies, whose rule by murder and fear must come to an end.” The UK government is to seek an urgent meeting of the UN security council.

Engineered by Kofi Annan – the UN and Arab League mediator – the ceasefire of 12 April is now in tatters. His peace plan called on both sides to put down their guns as a necessary preliminary to ‘”Syria-led” political negotiations. But the opposition – of which the most formidable element is the Muslim Brothers – is waging an urban guerrilla war backed by outside powers. This wing of the opposition does not want to negotiate with Bashar al-Assad: it wants to topple him.

The Gulf states have pledged $100m to the opposition, to enable it to pay its fighters and buy arms. The US has no intention of getting involved in a war in Syria itself, but it is said to be co-ordinating the flow of weapons and intelligence to the rebels. Although it says it supports the Annan plan, it is unashamedly undermining it by helping to arm the rebels. This is the central contradiction in US policy.

The only way to prevent a full-scale civil war in Syria – which would destroy the country, as happened in Iraq, and could destabilise the whole Levant – is to demilitarise the conflict and bring maximum pressure on both sides to negotiate. This is what Annan wants, but he is being undermined. He is due in Damascus this weekend in a forlorn bid to save his plan.

UN monitors counted 85 bodies at Houla. The opposition has blamed the regime for the slaughter, while the regime has put the blame on “terrorists” – that is to say, on its armed opponents, stiffened by Islamist jihadis, some of them linked to al-Qaida, who have been flowing into Syria from Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan. These jihadis are thought to be responsible for about a dozen terrorist acts, the worst of which, in Damascus on 10 May, killed 55 people and wounded close to 400.

Major-General Robert Mood, the Norwegian head of the UN observer mission, has been cautious in pointing the finger of blame for Friday’s Houla killings: “Whatever I learned on the ground in Syria … is that I should not jump to conclusions.” Probably, the truth is that the two sides share the responsibility.

The strategy of the armed opposition is to seek to trigger a foreign armed intervention by staging lethal clashes and blaming the resulting carnage on the regime. It knows that, left to itself, its chance of winning is slim. For its part, the regime’s brutality can be explained, if not condoned, by the fact that it believes it is fighting for its life – not only against local opponents but also against an external conspiracy led by the United States (egged on by Israel) and including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Britain and France.

The regime’s strategy is to prevent – at all costs – its armed opponents from seizing and holding territory inside the country, as this might give foreign powers a base from which to operate. As soon as it identifies pockets of armed opponents, it sends in its troops to crush them. That it often uses disproportionate force is not in doubt: this is all too predictable when a conventional army faces hit-and-run opponents. Trapped between opposing forces, civilians inevitably pay the price.

while the Houla attack was unusual in the number killed, it was standard operating procedure for Assad’s forces. The regime has essentially reverted to its preceasefire behavior, and the several hundred UN monitors on the ground are little more than a speed bump for violence against the people.

By Jeffrey White at WINEP


The regime has continued military operations throughout much of the country during the so-called ceasefire, though with special emphasis on the traditionally restive provinces of Idlib, Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Deraa, Rif Dimashq, and Deir al-Zour. Its tactics have included the following:

* Attempts to eliminate areas of rebel control (e.g., Rastan and parts of Idlib and Aleppo provinces) and destroy Free Syrian Army (FSA) formations there.

* Attempts to isolate centers of opposition/resistance by cutting essential services (water, power, and communications), severing road access, establishing fire bases from which to bombard these areas, and other methods.

* Bombardment of civilian areas, including Rastan, Hama, Homs, Khan Sheikon, Jisr al-Shughour, and multiple parts of Aleppo, Rif Dimashq, and Deraa provinces.

* Attempts to choke off smuggling routes and illegal crossing points along the border with Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, producing clashes with FSA elements and smugglers as well as incidents of cross-border fire.

* Efforts to reassert control of contested areas through large deployments of regular, irregular (shabbiha), and security forces (intelligence, police) and the establishment of fixed and mobile checkpoints.

Jeb Koogler and Noah Bonsey – the views of Syrian activists on the issue of international intervention:  I have been tracking the social media discussion on this issue for a number of months, mostly through the Syrian Revolution Facebook page. I’m not aware that much has been written on this subject previously (at least, not anything with any data attached to it!), so I think you’ll find it of interest.

Ghufran writes in the comment section:

As more details become available,the picture of a civil war in Homs starts to emerge. I knew there are holes in the story about Houla,the facts that are undeniable are:
1. There are, and continue to be, a strong presence of anti regime forces in Houla
2. Shelling did take place in Houla
3. More than 90 civilians were killed,some by using knives,not bombs or bullets
4. Two villages nearby,with alawi majority ,were attacked,close to 30 civilians were killed and two entire families were exterminated in cold blood.
Death in Syria is now the great equator,nobody is immune and no side can claim innocence, I have doubts that those who were unjustly killed will see justice served.
There is a civil war in Homs,denying that does not make this fact goes away,thinking that in a civil war you have saints on one side and devils on the other is a form of denial.

Ynet News (IL): Iran confirms sending troops to Syria

The Islamic Republic admits its forces are aiding Assad’s troops in crackdown in pro-democracy protesters; UN’s tally of fatalities in Syrian uprising is at 13,000 Dudi Cohen Published: 05.27.12, 18:11 / Israel …

The Caucus: Romney Faults Obama After Syria Crackdown
2012-05-27 By THE NEW YORK TIMES

May 27 (New York Times) — Mitt Romney on Sunday faulted the Obama administration for its policy on Syria in the wake of a brutal crackdown in the city of Haoula that killed scores of civilians, saying the president has failed to be assertive enough in confronting the Assad government.

Black humor, from Damascus to Homs
By James Harkin

Juergen said

Samar Yazbeks diary of the syrian revolution will be published in english by July. I just read her book in an german translation and I must say that hardly anything moved me like this memoir. I highly suggest to read this book. The English title will be “A women in the crossfire, diaries of the Syrian revolution” Here are some excerpts in Jadaliyya and Guardian

Syria using rape as weapon against opposition women and men
Security forces in Syria are using rape against both men and women as a tool to spread fear among the opposition, victims and human rights groups have told the Daily Telegraph.
By Ruth Sherlock, Ramtha,  29 May 2012

In the jails and interrogation centres of secret police, prisoners have been brutalised, either at the hands of officers, or more often with a bottle or other utensil. “In detention facilities rape is clearly used as a form of torture to humiliate and degrade people, and to bring back the wall of fear,” said Nadim Khoury, Deputy Director for the Middle East at Human Rights Watch.

Treasury Sanctions Syria International Islamic Bank, 2012-05-30  
By John Hughes

May 30 (Bloomberg) — Treasury acts to prevent Syria International Islamic Bank from helping as other banks evade U.S. sanctions, agency says in statement.

* Bank “surreptitiously facilitated” financing worth almost $150m from 2011 to 2012 on behalf of Commercial Bank of Syria, which is subject to sanctions

* Action closes off ‘key evasion route’ for Assad

Unclear if Houla massacre a Syria turning point, experts say – May 29, 2012 | LA Times

SteelGuru: Syria Thriving on Russian Coal – 2012-05-30

Reuters reported that International sanctions have failed to halt trade in Russian coal at Syrian ports, with buyers switching to the euro from the dollar in deals facilitated by the Syrian state bank and black-market players. Mr Tarik Al-Akkari Al …

‘Syria: The blood of future massacres is on Russia’s hands’ (David Ignatius, The Washington Post)

“The answer to the Syrian tragedy isn’t complicated: It’s a political transition, starting now, from the regime of President Bashar al-Assad to a government of national unity that includes the opposition but also retains the basic structure of the Syrian state…So why doesn’t it happen? The answer is that Russian President Vladimir Putin is playing a cynical game of power politics, delaying the transition that he nominally supports. He gives lip service to U.N. diplomacy as an alternative to war, but does nothing to advance it. So the question shouldn’t be how to turn up the heat on Assad, but rather, how to turn up the heat on Putin. Washington needs to be more persuasive with Moscow, but the heavy lifting here will be done by America’s partners in the region-Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, India-whose friendship or, at least, tolerance is important to Putin’s vision of Russian restoration.”

How About a Plan C for Syria ? – May 30, 2012 ⋅ By Marc Ginsberg

Bashar al-Assad will get away with it. He got away with Deraa. He got away with Homs. And he’ll get away with Houla. So will the armed opposition to the regime, along with al-Qa’ida and any other outfits joining in Syria’s tragedy. Yes, this may be the critical moment, the “tipping point” of horror,…

Comments (191)

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152. SALAH ADDIN said:


The point I was trying to make is that, so far there is not any evidence of IRG boots on the ground, taking part in battles on Syrian soil. If it is ever proven to be the case, a lot of Syrians will change their stance on Iran.
As far as whether the interview took place or not, I am afraid I can’t give you a good answer, because all I have to go on is hearsay.
Your attempt at sarcasm, regarding what the Iranian pilgrims, truck drivers and engineers were doing or praying for, did not rise to to your usual wittiness. Are you having a bad day?
As far as your comment re “sit” Zainab, I remember you questioning if there was a shi3i shrine in Damascus, and that was part of a lengthy exchange we had long ago.

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June 1st, 2012, 12:38 am


153. Son of Damascus said:

Houla and its consequences

The massacre of women and children has increased the isolation of Assad

EYE-WITNESS testimony leaves little doubt about what happened on May 25th in Houla, a small farming town on Syria’s western plain. Two hours after the noon prayer, tank and mortar fire from nearby Syrian army positions began to rain down on Houla and an outlying hamlet called Taldou, perhaps in response to an attack by rebel forces on an army checkpoint. Just before sunset armed men, some in combat uniform and others in civilian clothes, swarmed in from neighbouring villages. Moving from house to house in Taldou, they herded families into single rooms and systematically gunned and hacked them down, sparing not a soul. Another wave of invaders arrived later at night, some in armoured vehicles, and continued the slaughter.

UN observers who surveyed the scene the next day counted 108 dead, including 49 children. The massacre was one of the bloodiest yet in a civil war that has cost an estimated 12,000 lives since unrest started in March last year. But similar assaults, on a smaller scale and often carried out by the shabiha, as the government’s paramilitary thugs are known, have been taking place across swathes of the stricken country.

Shelling has also continued unabated around the major cities of Hama and Homs, north of Damascus. On May 29th near Deir ez-Zor, a town 450km (280 miles) to the north-east, UN observers found the bodies of 13 men whose hands had been tied before they were shot in the head. Houla is different, because few tragedies have been as well documented and few have prompted such global revulsion.

Despite the Syrian government’s blanket denials of involvement, 13 countries, mostly in Europe but including the United States, Japan and Turkey, expelled Syria’s diplomats. Even Russia, hitherto protective of an old client state, joined other Security Council members in denouncing the attack, though its diplomats shied away from directly assigning blame. Kofi Annan, the joint UN-Arab League envoy and sponsor of a six-point peace plan, flew to Damascus to plead with President Bashar Assad to uphold the ceasefire ostensibly in place since April.


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June 1st, 2012, 12:42 am


154. annie said:

NK | May 29, 2012 at 06:34

Why Your Argument that the Assad Regime Couldn’t Have Committed the Houla Massacre is Dumb

When news of the Houla Massacre first appeared, the usual radical skepticism reserved only for the Syrian revolution ensued. Many claimed they wanted to wait to ‘wait for the facts’, because, as you know, they frequently accuse the Syrian opposition of ‘faking’ massacres to garner public sympathy. As news kept pouring out, we finally learned that the UN observers arrived to the scene in Houla, and confirmed that a massacre had taken place. The news was confirmed by activists on the ground, foreign news outlets, and the UN observers, and we were all waiting on the regime’s information outlets to see what they would have to say about the matter. When the regime news outlets finally did say something about the massacre, they reported it with what they said was another massacre in al-Shumariyeh, which many pro-regimers were describing as a ‘counter-massacre’. Yet, when the news of the Houla Massacre was finally confirmed by all sides, we entered the second stage of radical skepticism: who did it? The regime reported it as ‘armed terrorist gangs’, and the opposition reported it as being committed by agents of the regime.

Since then, an increasingly prevalent argument in an attempt to claim the regime is innocent is the functionalist argument. The functionalist argument, exemplified by this post, argues that the regime could not have perpetrated the massacre in Houla because states usually operate according to their interests, and the Assad regime did not benefit at all from the Houla Massacre, and thus, could not have perpetrated this massacre.

First of all, to make this argument in the first place, one has to completely close their eyes to the thousands of Syrians already killed by the regime. Was it, then, in the regime’s interest to open fire at protesters? To imprison thousands? Was it in the regime’s interest to arrest and deport Salameh Kaileh(who many, even people who normally defend the Syrian regime, decried)? Was it in the regime’s interest to destroy Baba Amr? In order to make the functionalist argument in regards to Houla in the first place, one has to act like that the Syrian regime has been innocent up until this stage, as if this is a new development. After all in order to ask, “Why would the Assad regime massacre people?” one has to have had their eyes closed for over a year. They also have to be ignorant of the Hama Massacre in 1982. How did the regime benefit from that massacre? Well, it put down an uprising for one. This time they were trying to do the same thing, except they messed up because people actually found out about it.

Second of all, the functionalist argument is correct in stating that states usually operate according to their own interests. However, to make this argument about the Syrian state specifically shows a lack of knowledge as to what comprises the Syrian state. The Syrian state has two components: one is formal, the other informal. The formal component is the “official” state apparatus. It is made up of the normal institutions of the state, that is, the military, the police force etc. The informal component of the Syrian state is the “shabiha state.” Shabiha are groups of thugs and mercenaries who are loyal to the regime but who do not fall under the official state apparatus. Why have shabiha in the first place? Because, unlike the official state apparatus, which is(at least, in theory) guided by state logic, rationality, and have self-defined goals(for example, put down the protest movement), shabiha represent the irrational, brutal, vengeful, regressive, and tribal component of the Assad regime. It resembles a mafia more than a state apparatus, and that is why it is an informal part of the state.

The fact that the shabiha do not operate according to state logic is exemplified in this article by Syrian dissident Yassin Al Haj Saleh. In the article, Saleh tells an anecdote from the 1980s that gives us insight into how the Syrian shabiha operate:

“By the 1980s the shabiha were untouchable and operated with impunity in the coastal city of Latakia. The late respected Syrian intellectual Elias Marcos, once recalled that he had been sitting in a cafe in Latakia when shabiha members entered and amused themselves by forcing patrons to lie on the floor beneath their tables. They killed a young man who objected to their insults; they used threats to obtain property and possessions for reduced prices or for free; their leaders raped attractive young women; and they offered to resolve disputes in exchange for a hefty commission from both sides, ensuring victory for the party that paid the most.”

What interest does the Syrian state have specifically in the shabiha committing any of the actions mentioned above? If we zoom in on each specific incident, it has none. How does forcing everyone in a cafe to lie on the floor benefit the Syrian state? It doesn’t, in the short-term. But if we look at the bigger picture, incidents like this invoke fear of the shabiha, who know that at the end of the day, they have the state backing them. The state has no interest in these specific incidents, but it has an interest in maintaining fear of shabiha, which in turn translates to fear of the state.


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June 1st, 2012, 12:56 am


156. Juergen said:

Antoine 89

Well, i havent heard from this torture technique in my country, i think certain things just work well in other cultures. I mean the more rigid way sexuality is granted in the ME gives understandings why rape and sodomy of detained is committed in that numbers.( i mean it degraces the victim much more than other things) Rafik Schami wrote that in the early days of Hafez interrogation officers of the STASI came to train syrian intellegance officers especially in interrogation techniques. Schami pointed out the fact that those trainers brough their german shepard dogs with them stirred up an first strik of the seydnaya prison. The people detained were saying its better to be tortured by an arab than by a german and his dog.

A friend of my father was in the most known east german prison, and he said that they really were working on breaking your identity. He told me that he survived the prison only mentally in good shape because he was thinking all the time about books he had read. An other men from prison got mentally sick, because they had manipulated his light in his cell, it would flicker all the time.

I dont think you can blame the Ottomans for the torture regimes you have nowadays, indirectly the consequences were of a colonial setup of artificial states that many tribes and countrymen were mixed and stability was always an issue, that may be one reason why we have seen so many harsh and strong dictators.

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June 1st, 2012, 12:59 am


157. Juergen said:

Zoo 100

you cant make an ugly pig dress up to look like a swan

You know i have seen so many ugly paintings of Bashar especially in the countryside, that I sometimes thought for the safety of the painter or about the loyalty of those who put up this piece of art. But we should ask Tara for a listing from 1-10 if the eyedoc is a handsome fella.


I reacted towards the article, i respect you and your postings.

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June 1st, 2012, 1:24 am


158. Juergen said:


Antoine, I really like this teacher, somehow i had a thought in my mind he looks a bit like the syrian cousin of Borat.

I hope Hamza will be always remembered:

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June 1st, 2012, 1:44 am


159. Syrialover said:

# 154. Annie

Every time I read something like that excellent piece you posted, I wonder is there ANY equivalent informed analysis and discussion ever produced by those on the opposite side of the fence?

No there isn’t. Never. It doesn’t exist.

And # 147 Son of Damascus

You remind us that there has been a steady stream of Houla-style activities going on all along (the only difference in this case being the scale and the presence of UN witnesses).

Anyone who has been following events in Syria for more than a few weeks will know such things are casual and routine for the Syrian regime and that those taking up airspace with their shallow “denials and defence” on Houla are being ridiculous.

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June 1st, 2012, 2:54 am


160. Amjad said:

“How come they chose to go somewhere else, rather than join the fight on the side of the rebels? Could it be that they don’t agree with the rebels ways or their cause?”

What a magnificent observation. Now we know for sure that all the parents in London who sent their kids away during the German bombings in WW2 were all secretly Nazi sympathizers. And the Kuwaitis who fled their country after Saddam’s invasion were all members of the Kuwaiti Baath Party! Well done sir, well done indeed!


Why would the regime arrest and abuse a Belgian professor who wrote sympathetic articles about it? It doesn’t make sense (the regimists will whine), it harms the regime, the regime would never do something like that. Only, they did. The regime has a habit of getting itself into a big mess and then whining about conthpirathies.

So, still waiting on “Al Jaysh el Basel” to round up the so called terrorists that apparently can operate with impunity in and around Al-Houlla. No? Lost track of them? Did they all disappear in their black CIA helicopters?

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June 1st, 2012, 4:04 am


161. Amjad said:

And by the way what’s with all the hating on Damascus? I’m not from Damascus, but keep in mind that Homs and Idlib had alot of geographical advantages and social-makeup that helped the FSA flourish and elude the Assadstan forces. In fact the FSA’s best sniper in Baba Amr was a defector from Aleppo who knocked off half the shabihas in Burj Hanadi on Brazil road, and thus kept it open for ordinary people, otherwise the whole of Inshaat would have been bottled up.

The regime wouldn’t be keeping half its paid lackeys in Aleppo and Damascus if it was so sure nothing would happen if they removed them.

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June 1st, 2012, 4:09 am


162. Mina said:

Never too late… Bill Clinto now compares Syria to Bosnia.

From the Angry Arab
Libyan fighters and kidnappers in Dir`a
Firas Ash-Shufi, correspondent of Al-Akhbar wrote this piece about the boiling anger in Suwayda’ (against the armed gangs of the Free Syrian Army). He told he watched videos of the murders by those Salafite gangs. He told me that Jordanian intelligence is very active in smuggling fighters and that there are tens of Libyan volunteers (mercenaries?) among the fighters. They almost instigated a fight with the Druzes of Suwayda’ (most of whom still support the regime despite please by Walid Jumblat whose popularity in the area is akin to my popularity among Saudi princes) when they kidnapped Druzes, and then the Druzes kidnapped a large number of Sunnis from the area. High level intervention ended the tense moment and hostages were freed. Those deeds of the armed Syrian groups are never mentioned in the Western press.

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June 1st, 2012, 5:06 am


163. Alan said:
Obama vetoed Assad assassination attempt
../../.. Specifically, the Franco-Saudi plan called for 12 hours of air strikes on Assad’s presidential palace northeast of Damascus that would be accompanied by American fighter jets launched from a US aircraft carrier stationed in either the Mediterranean or Red Sea with their sights set on the Syrian air defense system. Additionally, Obama was asked to approve US warplanes to keep the Syrian Air Force grounded and perhaps even call upon America’s cyberwarfare capabilities to keep Assad’s radar systems and anti-missile programs offline, reports Debka…/../..

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June 1st, 2012, 5:50 am


164. Alan said:

opinion russian young thinker
Europe’s owner, czar Putin, will come to visit his colonies which bows to him to scrap some financial crums to try to save themselves ! One hopes that Putin has sufficient intelligence not to repeat the western mistakes ( lies, military occupations to steal something, manipulated media,irrelevant political representation, sevitude by the judiciary and defunct capitalism ) but to follow the marxist capital valoritazion so clearly demonstrated by China. Good luck Mr. President.

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June 1st, 2012, 5:59 am


166. SALAH ADDIN said:

While I would never accuse the Himsis of cowardness, especially under the current circumstances, I wanted to bring up some questions challenging Antoine’s calling Damascenes cowards. Judging from your reaction, it worked.
Now on your sarcastic observation that the British parents are all Nazi sympathizers, due to them sending their kids away. Those parents enlisted as volunteers in both civilian and military war efforts in their neighbourhoods, where they fought the fires under bombing raids, and organized civil patrols and lookouts among other civil deffense activities. I am afraid your comparison has a basic fallacy, in that those Londoners stood their grounds and fought back the Nazi air raids with everything they had. The citizens of Hims chose to leave town and did not join the rebels or show any evidence of solidarity with them.
I was asking questions and did not say that I came to any conclusions.

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June 1st, 2012, 6:54 am


167. Tara said:


You are very polite and respectful.  Agree my comment can be perceived as distasteful and perhaps offensive to Shiaa.  Although, I came off sarcastic, my character begs for humility.  What I was trying to say is that we did not make up the story, the Iranian regime confirmed it and I believe it was not a Freudian slip.  It was intended for the world to know.


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June 1st, 2012, 7:40 am


168. majedkhaldoun said:

Three massacres in one week, all committed by the regime,by the shabiha,and the goverment soldiers.
1) Alhouleh heinous crime against innocent kids and women
2) in Dair azzour, where 13 men , with their hands tied behind their back ,they were shot dead.
3) and today workers in a factory,were shot dead,their bodies were found sprawling with hideous injuries, close to Qusair,in Homs province.
To deny the goverment involvement in all these crimes is just stupid, and futile.
Syria will block the human rights investigations,in Houleh crimes, adding evidence that the regime is lying.

In Houleh they found a knife with engraved shabih name on it was used in slaughtering the kids,another evidence that the shabihas are the one involved in this crime.a picture of the knife is showen on syrian national front blog.

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June 1st, 2012, 7:47 am


169. SimoHurtta said:

The Syrian government is under scrutinity by the UN observers, by the media and by the international community, while nobody is elevating its voice about the abuses of the opposition.

Some days ago a Finnish lieutenant colonel serving with the UN observers in Syria was interviewed in the Finnish television news. He said that it is clear that the outside forces and opposition troops are at least as guilty for the violence as the government is. Naturally such an high officer could not reveal details, but linked to Houla massacre his answer gives the impression that …

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June 1st, 2012, 8:00 am


170. Dawoud said:


Welcome Back, Majed!

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June 1st, 2012, 8:15 am


171. Dawoud said:

Yesterday, I was at my son’s lacrosse 7PM EST practice and listening live to Aljazeera English on my phone. Mr. Joshou Landis was interviewed live and I can list a few of the points that he said (I am paraphrasing him, not exact quotes):

1) Bashar’s army is spreading thin, and that’s why it is giving arms to Alawite villagers and militias-the Shabiha. These Alawite shabiha committed the Houla massacre. The Syrian army can’t deny responsibility/knowledge because its tanks were seen and verified through satellite imagery shelling Houla just before the Alawi Shabiha entered the village.

2) The regime is eventually doomed because the armed opposition, the FSA, will continue to get stronger because of Saudi/Qatari/external supplies!

3)no moral equivalency between the murderous regime and the people opposing it!

Free Syria, Free Palestine!

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June 1st, 2012, 8:24 am


172. SALAH ADDIN said:

Good morning. So you were not having a bad day, you just lost control of your character? Ok i take your word that your character begs for humility, and that it will not look down on Iranian pilgrims visiting the Shrine of Sit Zainab.
On a serious note though, your assertion that IRG has boots on Syrian soil and is involved in the fighting in Syria, without any credible evidence, is speculative at best, manipulative and underhanded at worst.
If you have any evidence to back up your claim that “we did not make up the story, the Iranian regime confirmed it and I believe it was not a Freudian slip. It was intended for the world to know.” please provide such evidence.
Like I said before, those accusations were made by many, since the start of the revolt in Daraa, without any proof to back them up.
You can echo them if you choose, but they will lack credibility without the necessary hard evidence.

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June 1st, 2012, 8:44 am


173. zoo said:

This Friday is the ‘volcano of rage’

On the first Friday since the Houla massacre, opposition activists called o n Syrians to rise up across the country in honour of the 49 children who were among the 108 dead in Houla counted by the UN mission

“A new volcano of rage is exploding thanks to them,” protest organisers said on their Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page, which has been a major engine of the 15-month uprising against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

“For those pure souls who sacrificed themselves at the altar of our freedom and sacrificed their blood … tomorrow Friday, we will rise up in such a resounding way, and we promise them, there will be no second Houla,” they said.

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June 1st, 2012, 8:52 am


174. Amjad said:

#166 No no, please let’s continue with this rather remarkable theory you’ve come up with. We can then assume that all the Palestinians who left their homes in ’48 and ’67 did not believe in the idea of Palestine, and thought they’d make it easier on the Israelis to gobble up the West Bank. And the Syrian refugees from the Golan obviously don’t believe that the Golan is Syrian, which is why they fled their homes. ANY refugee anywhere who flees from a warzone is obviously siding with the side that is oppressing them.

Only slightly less ridiculous than the notion of Pakistanis in Al-Houlla.

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June 1st, 2012, 8:55 am


175. majedkhaldoun said:

Dawood, Juergen, Syrialover,Thanks a lot

It is time to criticize Barack Obama,and vote for Romney who is siding with the syrian people, what Obama says is not consistant with what he does, Syrian issue must become a campaign issue against Obama, Obama is very weak,not trustworth and ineffective,even in his handling with the american economy,more of my friends are tilting to vote for Romney,because of Obama position on handling the syrian crisis.
Inspite of that I believe the Syrian revolution is not going to stop till the Assad regime is removed, the people in Syria are fed up with dictatorship and lies from the regime and its supporters. the stability of this regime does not depend on economic factors,even that it is worsening,but depends on the brutal oppression practiced by the assad troops and shabihas.It is security stability.
Arming the syrian people, and the FSA is very important, FSA is stronger if they have allies, and USA is waiting to see the results of Egyptian election, as they do not afford islamists in Egypt and in Syria, even that I believe Syria will not be ruled by Islamists.

Civil war is not much worse than what is goin on in Syria now, it is also unavoidable, the regime will not go till the country is destroyd, we have to accept civil war, and the sooner it starts the sooner we will get rid of this vampire, the evil regime.and I am sure many in the Alawite sect will join the revolution, and the Christians will be part of this revolution,

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June 1st, 2012, 9:01 am


176. irritated said:

Dead end with Putin

Ms Rice is thus offering the newly re-elected President Putin a choice: either to work in concert with the western powers to bring about an orderly political transition in Syria, or to face the prospect of Nato – or some other group of nations – intervening in Syria, and once again showing the world that Russia’s pretensions to global power are hollow.

The first question Mr Putin has to answer will be the one framed by Ms Rice. Does he think that the US will take military action “outside the authority of the Security Council” against the Assad regime? The short answer must be no.

Russia sees Mr Obama as a man uncomfortable using military force (though ambitious in the covert forms of warfare such as drones) who sees foreign adventures as likely to harm his re-election prospects. So the idea of him leading a Nato air campaign in Syria is ruled out, even when being egged on by his Republican rival for the presidency, Mitt Romney. Given the lack of unified Syrian opposition, the chances of this happening look even slighter.

What if his plan is far grander: halting, at the gates of Damascus, what he sees as the green tide of Sunni Islamism stretching from Morocco, through North Africa and the Levant to Turkey and thence almost to Russia’s unstable southern border? If that is the case then to prosecute a civil war in Syria, far from being a disaster, is both necessary and desirable – like the one he fought in Chechnya.

If that is Mr Putin’s thinking, then Susan Rice has good reason to be alarmed.

Mr Putin will hear more of the same argument today, when he visits Germany and France. It is time for him to say how Russia will use its influence on Mr Al Assad in Syria.

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June 1st, 2012, 9:02 am


177. zoo said:

The Western promoters of democracy are having second thoughts…

The Arab Spring was no prelude to democracy
The rush to back change for change’s sake in the troubled region of North Africa has proved somewhat naive.

This is particularly true in Syria, where the minority Alawite clan headed by President Bashar al-Assad, which represents just 10 per cent of the population, is involved in a desperate battle for survival against the majority Sunnis.

There are no doubt some members of the Syrian opposition who would genuinely like to see a more democratic system of government established in Damascus. But as the recent experience of similar protest movements in Libya and Egypt demonstrates, the voices of those calling for Western-style liberal reforms are invariably crushed by the more ruthless, and better organised, forces of militant Islam and military tyranny.

And it is for this reason that, as we weigh our options for Syria, we should proceed with the utmost caution. There is, of course, always the possibility that the Assad dictatorship will be replaced by a Western‑style democracy similar to that in neighbouring Lebanon.

But in view of the growing influence of al-Qaeda and other hard-line Islamist groups in the conflict, that seems a remote possibility. Saudi Arabia, the country that gave the world al-Qaeda and the Taliban, has now emerged as one of the most influential backers of the rebels, with all the implications that could have for the country’s post-Assad settlement. The Saudis’ growing involvement in the conflict, moreover, has led to an increase in Iranian activity, with detachments of Revolutionary Guards being sent to Damascus to save Assad.

The Syrian conflict certainly has all the potential of turning into a major regional conflict between the competing forces of militant Shia and Sunni Islam. If that happens, the West will be hard-pressed to choose which side it wants to win.

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June 1st, 2012, 9:05 am


178. zoo said:

Post revolution in Libya

Gaddafi’s Torture Centers Continue
Jun 1, 2012 4:45 AM EDT
The dictator’s death didn’t end the country’s human-rights abuses. Jamie Dettmer on conditions inside the prisons.

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June 1st, 2012, 9:07 am


179. Tara said:


Hi, where you in Hatay?

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June 1st, 2012, 9:07 am


180. zoo said:

More empty talks from the superpower

Iranian support for Assad regime ‘needs to stop,’ Pentagon says
By Carlo Munoz – 05/31/12 02:56 PM ET
Iran’s continued efforts to prop up Syrian president Bashar Assad’s regime is generating concern inside the Pentagon and raising tensions among U.S. allies in the region.

“We have reason to believe Iran continues to assist [the] Assad regime,” Defense Department spokesman Capt. John Kirby told reporters on Thursday, during a briefing at the Pentagon. “That needs to stop.”

Iranian forces have been a source of “tangible and intangible” support to Assad during his nearly year-long effort to quash opposition forces by any means necessary, Kirby said.

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June 1st, 2012, 9:10 am


181. zoo said:

“Similar moves in Syria could meet with considerable disapproval in the region.”

NATO Intervention in Libya Unpopular in Arab World
Least popular in North Africa
Analysis by the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies
May 31, 2012

WASHINGTON, D. C. — After French President Francois Hollande in an interview Tuesday hinted at an openness to military intervention in Syria, the question of whether NATO should intervene in the violence-rattled country has again come to the forefront. While distinct differences exist between the conflicts in Libya and Syria, Gallup data from 2012 show pluralities in the Arab world opposed NATO’s intervention in Libya in 2011, suggesting that similar moves in Syria could meet with considerable disapproval in the region.


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June 1st, 2012, 9:23 am


182. majedkhaldoun said:

special thanks to Tara.
I would rather talk privately.

your comment is despicable, I pay Romney campaign , I am not on his payroll

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June 1st, 2012, 9:29 am


183. zoo said:

The USA is not insisting that Bashar al Assad to step down anymore.

“The president has called for Mr. Assad to step down, a demand ignored by the Syrian leader and one that Ambassador Susan E. Rice at the United Nations acknowledged on MSNBC on Wednesday “is really not realistic at this stage.”

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June 1st, 2012, 9:29 am


184. irritated said:

#186 Majed

With your record of failed predictions, Romney should not be too happy to have you as a supporter.

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June 1st, 2012, 9:35 am


185. SALAH ADDIN said:

In 1948 many of the Palestinians remained in Palestine and were not assimilated by Israel even after over 60 years creating a demographic problem for the makeup of Israel. The ones who left were either driven out at gun point after the massacre of their entire villages, or they had listened to the Arab Armies promising them to return in a few days. The ones that left formed the backbone of the PLO factions and turned the refugee camps into the main source of the PLO factions recruits. In 1967 the majority of the Palestinians of the Gaza strip and the West Bank stayed put and resisted the occupation ever since. They don’t leave even when they have their houses blown up by Israel. Again it is a fallacy to compare them and their circumstances to what took place in Homs.
You need to take my full post in comment #127 in consideration and not a part of it and use that part out of its context.
Is it possible that the citizens of Hims might have more in common with those in Damascus and Aleppo than with Al-Farouq Battalion?

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June 1st, 2012, 9:36 am


186. zoo said:

Obama’s Syria Policy: Ask Putin
May 30, 2012 • By LEE SMITH

Instead, the White House is betting on Russia. The premise is that Moscow is close enough to the Assad regime that it could pull off a soft coup that would get rid of the Syrian strongman. What should make it attractive to the Russians, the administration contends, is that such a coup would preserve an Alawite minority regime and ensure Russia’s interests in the eastern Mediterranean. The problem here is that Vladimir Putin doesn’t want to get rid of Assad, and even if he did, it’s not at all clear he has the ability to do it.

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June 1st, 2012, 9:44 am


187. Tara said:

Friday-of-the-volcano- of-rage.  I prefer more subtle name in case the volcano does not erupt.

On the first Friday since the Houla massacre, opposition activists called o n Syrians to rise up across the country in honour of the 49 children who were among the 108 dead in Houla counted by the UN mission

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June 1st, 2012, 10:32 am


188. bronco said:

#187 Tara

It should have been a volcano of prayers and mourning among all the religious communities, not of rage.

Rage is what impotence makes one feel

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June 1st, 2012, 11:50 am


189. zoo said:

Syria Says Saudis Sabotaging UN Plan by Arming Rebels
By Henry Meyer and Stepan Kravchenko – Jun 1, 2012 9:36 AM ET

Syria’s ambassador to Russia said Saudi Arabia and Qatar are sabotaging a United Nations plan to end a 15-month conflict by continuing to arm rebels in violation of a cease-fire agreement reached in April.

“Weapons are entering Syria through its borders with Lebanon and Turkey,” Riad Haddad said in an interview at the Syrian embassy in Moscow today. “And these are heavy weapons.”

Assad isn’t ready to step down and Syria won’t accept a solution similar to what happened in Yemen, said Haddad.

“President Assad enjoys a wide popularity in Syria and our army supports him too and the leadership is conducting reforms,” the Syrian envoy said. “So I completely rule out the Syrian leadership accepting the Yemeni scenario.”


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June 1st, 2012, 11:58 am


190. Tara said:

Dear Bronco

I like that very much.. A volcano of prayor and mourning…

May be save the rage into the following Friday.

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June 1st, 2012, 12:00 pm


191. zoo said:

Saudi Arabia desperate strategy : Bring the price of oil down to 60$ to cripple Iraq and Iran’s economy

“You have to understand our geopolitical equation and vulnerability,” the Saudi businessman is cited as saying.

“Our two most dangerous enemies are Iraq and Iran. Both are Shia, and both are trying to destabilize the Arab world and our Sunni kingdom by funding terrorism. Our only weapons against them are our wealth and our oil. Their current vulnerability is their financial fragility. Their financial reserves are a fraction of ours, and they desperately need money to prop up their economies,” he said.

The Saudi ruling council’s plan is to ramp up oil production over the next two years and seize the moment to strike at Iran and Iraq, the businessman, who is described as “very rich and presumably well-connected”, explained.

“Iraq and Iran need to produce and sell their oil at well over $100 a barrel. In the next 24 months, we will gradually increase our production with the objective of breaking the price of crude down to sixty dollars a barrel,” he said.

The businessman, who is not part of the Saudi extended royal family, added that the plan has the backing of other Persian Gulf monarchies.

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June 1st, 2012, 12:02 pm


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