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
By HELENE COOPER and MARK LANDLER, May 26, 2012

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

….MILITARY OPERATIONS

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
2012-05-27

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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1. Uzair8 said:

Are we going to see Assad and co. eventually go on the run like Karadzik/Mladic and remain hidden at any of numerous locations such as the coastal mountain region or supportive areas in Lebanon?

Btw I love the NPR logo colour sequence.

*********************************************************************************

Anyway, In other news:

Syrian diplomat in California defects from Assad regime
May 30, 2012

Syria’s honorary consul general in California said Wednesday he has defected from the regime of President Bashar Assad in protest of the killings last week in the town of Houla.

Hazem Chehabi, reached at his home in Orange County, said he had resigned his post and severed association with Assad’s government in protest of the attack Friday that left more than 100 Syrians dead, most of them women and children.

“You get to a point where your silence or inaction becomes ethically or morally unacceptable,” Chehabi said, describing the Houla killings as a “barbaric” incident with which he couldn’t be associated.

Read more:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/05/syrian-diplomat-in-california-defects-from-assad-regime.html

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May 30th, 2012, 4:51 pm

 

2. Uzair8 said:

“You get to a point where your silence or inaction becomes ethically or morally unacceptable,”

What then of supporting the regime?

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May 30th, 2012, 5:02 pm

 

3. SALAH ADDIN said:

Why all the fuss about the European and other countries asking the Syrian envoys to leave? Most of these envoys had left long ago, some even before these same countries recalled their ambassadors and shutdown their embassies in Damascus.
The Syrian embassies at those countries were shunned and isolated, and might as well be shutdown for any practical purposes.
The symbolic move is exactly that, symbolic and insignificant.
The US and the west have no plan for the Syrian crisis, other than lip service to the opposition, declaring that the regime lost its legitimacy and asking Assad to leave, and double down on sanctions to show how tough they are.
Turkey is discovering that it has no effective plan either, with the realization that its influence was exaggerated, and the tremendous investments it made, first with the regime over many years and especially later with the opposition, did not have the returns it counted on.
The Arab League and its member countries are faced with the fact that they mishandled the Syrian crisis and failed to provide a winning solution out of the crisis.
Will the Syrian warring parties sober up, save and preserve the last vestiges of what is left of the country, by seriously working on implementing the UN/Annan plan, or will they continue their spiral dive into the abyss, taking the country down with them?

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May 30th, 2012, 5:33 pm

 

4. zoo said:

Joshua,

Could you please provide the source of that quote and the name of the official who said that it is ‘clear’. I have not read that adjective used in any UN declaration. These are convenient accusations without serious proofs that have been carried by the media and now by SC.
“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.”

If you referred to Herve Ladsous, then these are his exact words as published and he never said that it is ‘clear’ quite the opposite.

“Ladsous pointed the finger at pro-government militias known as shabiha as well. “There were strong suspicious that the shabihas were involved in this tragedy in Houla,” he said.

But he added, “I cannot say that we have absolute proof.””

http://www.timesofisrael.com/un-points-finger-at-pro-syrian-thugs-in-houla-massacre/

“But there are also victims from individual weapons, victims from knife wounds and that of course is less clear but PROBABLY points the way to the (pro-Assad) shabbihas, the local militia,” he said.
http://www.yalibnan.com/2012/05/29/assad-shabbiha-likely-responsible-for-houla-massacre-un%E2%80%8E/

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May 30th, 2012, 5:53 pm

 

5. Ghufran said:

Salah addin ,thank you,it is nice to read a post that departs from the usual ” you did it,no, you did it” comments. One reason why Annan has not succeeded yet is that fighting parties have not given up on the idea of winning militarily,another reason is the double talk coming from a number of rich and powerful governments who can not publically oppose Annan’s plan but they do a number of things to undermine it. I yet have to see that the world is ready to help Syria with actions not words,and even if this day comes,Syrians from both sides still have to a accept the plan and agree that they have to choosebbetween half a victory or a complete defeat.

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May 30th, 2012, 6:01 pm

 

6. majedkhaldoun said:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-18274542
This is a very good article to read.
It is CLEAR that Shabbiha had committed the heinous crime, and Assad is responsible for all the crimes that has been committed so far
Civil war may not be much worse than what is going on now, Plan B must be to arm the syrian people, and arm the FSA with enough weapons to create at least balance of power with the Assad regime.
Assad is soulless,vampire ,bastard criminal.

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May 30th, 2012, 6:19 pm

 

7. irritated said:

MajedAlkhaldoon #6

From your article:

“They do not prove conclusively that the Syrian regime was responsible for the deaths on 25-26 May “

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May 30th, 2012, 6:49 pm

 

8. zoo said:

This is why it was committed now, isn’t? To give the last knock to Annan’s peace plan that most Western countries declared dead when it started. Will Annan be able to make it rebound?

News Analysis: Massacre in Syria’s Houla ignites diplomatic frenzy, serious challenge to Annan’s peace efforts
2012-05-31
http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2012-05/31/c_131621455.htm

DAMASCUS, May 30 (Xinhua) — The recent massacre that killed over 100 people in Syria’s central village of Houla has apparently hammered more nails into the coffin of the peace plan brokered by UN-Arab League joint special envoy Kofi Annan and opened the appetite of the super powers to divulge the possibility of military intervention in Syria had there be a consensus.

More…

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May 30th, 2012, 6:55 pm

 

9. Juergen said:

Majed

good you are back, can you share what you witnessed?

Uzair

good post yesterday about Mr and Mrs Assad, I was getting my intermediate level in IT through you, had to use some weird proxy settings to be able to watch.

It seems like that the Brits are quite shocked that a westernized couple can be so brutal, are those feelings genuine or just an other version of “rule britania” in a way that once you lived in the civilized quarter of this world, one can not be a barbarian anymore?

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May 30th, 2012, 8:16 pm

 

10. Syrialover said:

Ghufran is quoted in the main post above with the comment:

” Point 4. Two villages nearby,with alawi majority,were attacked,close to 30 civilians were killed and two entire families were exterminated in cold blood.”

Are you inferring that the victime were Alawi? Or that the attackers were? What you are saying?

The victims were Alawi or they weren’t. Anyone out there have any clear information on this?

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May 30th, 2012, 8:29 pm

 

11. Syrialover said:

Majedkhaldoun #6.

Thanks for the link to the article on satellite imagery evidence of the Syrian troop’s control of the massacre area.

There would be masses of fascinating satellite imagery like this accumulating for the war crimes proceedings. Assadist professional liars are helpless to do or say anything to refute this.

It would be great to know what the international intelligence services have on the rumoured assassination of Asef Shawkat and co. I still wonder if it is true, and if so whether the latest outrages by the regime could be revenge.

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May 30th, 2012, 8:45 pm

 

12. SALAH ADDIN said:

1. UZAIR8 said: Syrian diplomat in California defects from Assad regime…
Hazem Chehabi, reached at his home in Orange County, said he resigned…

Hazem Chehabi, the son of General Hikmat Chehabi who was the chief of staff of the Syrian Army during Hafez Assad’s rule and the Hama massacre of 1982, can now join the club of Jihad and Jamal Khaddam, the sons of Abdul-Halim Khaddam and Ribal Al-Assad, the son of Rifaat Al-Assad.
Will Firas and Manaf Tlass join the club?

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May 30th, 2012, 8:47 pm

 

13. zoo said:

Germany rejects threats of military intervention
Bernard Henry Levy calls for a remake of Libya.
05/30/2012

Weighing Military Intervention Hollande’s Syria Comments Irritate Berlin

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/french-president-leaves-open-possibility-of-military-intervention-in-syria-a-835906.html

Berlin reacted with surprise and irritation on Wednesday at French President François Hollande’s statement that he would not rule out international military intervention in Syria. Officials were quick to state that Germany is not considering military options, and some said Hollande’s position was made for domestic political gains.
Info

German politicians from both ends of the political spectrum expressed surprise Wednesday at French President François Hollande’s statement that he would not rule out international military intervention in Syria.

Hollande made the comments on French television Tuesday night, adding that such intervention, as was the case with Libya in 2011, would require a mandate from the United Nations.

“It is not possible to allow Bashar Assad to massacre his own people,” Hollande said.

But politicians in Berlin indicated that Hollande had taken things too far. “As far as the German government is concerned, there is no cause for speculation over military options,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “And we want to avoid a wildfire in the region.” Instead, the international community should make a unified effort to increase political pressure on Assad’s regime, he said.

French activist and philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, who was influential in former French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s support for intervention in Libya last year, wrote an open letter to several European papers Wednesday, calling on the new French president to “take the initiative in Syria.” In Berlin, Hollande’s comments were viewed as a response to Lévy’s letter.

Washington, on the other hand, showed caution Tuesday in talking about Syria, and President Barack Obama dismissed calls by his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, to take a more direct course of action in the country.

“We do not believe that further militarization of the situation in Syria at this point is the right course of action,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney. “We believe that it would lead to greater chaos, greater carnage.”
more…

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May 30th, 2012, 9:17 pm

 

14. zoo said:

Dead end for the EU pressures on Syria

Is EU short on options to end violence in Syria?
By Claire Rosemberg | AFP – 5 hrs ago

http://news.yahoo.com/eu-short-options-end-violence-syria-201343830.html

After 15 rounds of sanctions, but split on diplomatic and military options to end the violence in Syria, Europe appears to be running short on means of pressuring President Bashar al-Assad.

Divisions over how to help end a bloody 15-month conflict threatening to erupt into civil war flew into public view Tuesday when the 27 European Union states failed to jointly expel Syrian diplomats from their respective capitals.

At talks in Brussels following Friday’s Houla massacre, EU ambassadors agreed “to look at possible further restrictive measures” but it was “hard to see what else to sanction”, said Josef Janning of the European Policy Centre in Brussels.

“Sanctions have limited effect on autistic regimes, mainly preoccupied by their own survival,” he added though analysts are agreed they hurt the economy.

The air war in Libya however left Europe sorely divided, and analysts Janning and Burke termed Hollande’s stand mere “rhetoric”.

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May 30th, 2012, 9:35 pm

 

15. zoo said:

The FSA gives an ‘ultimatum’ to the Syria government to respect Annan’s peace plan otherwise it will “restart protecting the villages”. Did they stop protecting the villages to abide to the Annan’s plan?

http://news.yahoo.com/west-expels-envoys-over-massacre-syrian-children-064007147.html

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian rebels on Wednesday gave President Bashar al-Assad a 48-hour deadline to comply with an international peace plan otherwise they would renew their battle to overthrow him.

Colonel Qassim Saadeddine of the rebel Free Syrian Army said its leadership had set a deadline of 0900 GMT Friday for Assad to implement the peace plan, which includes a ceasefire, deployment of observers, and free access for humanitarian aid and journalists.

If it fails to do so “we are free from any commitment and we will defend and protect the civilians, their villages and their cities,” Saadeddine said in a statement posted on social media.

More…

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May 30th, 2012, 9:40 pm

 

16. zoo said:

Israel to provide humanitarian relief to Syria?
Israel’s Defense Minister Calls for More Action Against Assad
May 30, 2012 1:05 pm
By JODI RUDOREN / The New York Times

http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/world/israels-defense-minister-calls-for-more-action-against-assad-638170/

TEL AVIV — Defense Minister Ehud Barak of Israel on Wednesday praised the United States and other countries for ousting Syrian diplomats but said it was not sufficient, declaring that the massacre of 100 people in Houla “compel the world to take action — not just talk, but action.”

“I don’t think that Assad lost an hour of sleep last night because of those people leaving,” Mr. Barak said, referring to the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and the diplomats removed Tuesday. “More concrete action is required,” he added. “These are crimes against humanity and it’s impossible that the international community is going to stand aside.”

At the same time, in an interview on Army Radio on Wednesday morning, Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz said that Israel should consider providing humanitarian relief along its border with Syria in the Golan Heights.

more…

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May 30th, 2012, 9:50 pm

 

17. Tara said:

Joining Western powers, Turkey cuts Syria ties
ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News

The Turkish government could extend measures against the Syrian regime in the coming days, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters yesterday without giving details. International measures against Syria since the killings in Houla are a “display of sensitivity” on the issue, Erdoğan said. “We cannot remain silent. Staying quite, giving consent to cruelty is also cruelty.”

Erdoğan said he believed those who stayed close to the Syrian regime would not be able to continue. “It would be self-denial. Nobody could tolerate that.”

Asked if Turkey was considering a “buffer zone” on Turkish-Syrian border, the prime minister said the Turkish government had not yet made any decision on the issue. “That is a step we could take depending on future developments,” he said.

Ankara ordered “Syria’s charge d’affaires in Ankara and all other diplomatic personnel to leave our country within 72 hours as of May 30, 2012,” a foreign ministry statement said Wednesday. 

“It is out of the question for us to remain silent and not respond to this action, which constitutes a crime against humanity,” the statement said. Syria’s charge d’affaires was summoned to the Turkish foreign ministry on Wednesday and was notified of the government’s decision, it added.

Meanwhile, Ankara is reducing the number of its staff at the consulate in Aleppo, which remains Turkey’s sole functioning diplomatic mission in Syria. “Five diplomats returned to Turkey just before the [expulsion] decision. More will be returning soon and only a minimum number of personnel will stay to take care of the needs of Turkish nationals,” a Turkish diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News. 

Ankara’s expulsion decision does not cover the Syrian consulates in Turkey, the diplomat said. The consulate in Istanbul will continue to function, while the one in Gaziantep has already been closed by Syria itself.

More…
http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/joining-western-powers-turkey-cuts-syria-ties.aspx?pageID=238&nID=22001&NewsCatID=338

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May 30th, 2012, 9:57 pm

 

18. bronco said:

I had hopes that the FSA would play a leading role in the opposition to replace the SNC, but theor recent declaration show that leadership in the FSA is totally absent and that it has become the toy of different factions with different agendas.
In my view, if the FSA officially announces its withdrawal from the Annan peace plan in 48 hours, the Annan plan will be considered void. The Syrian army will then launch an all out war similar to Baba Amr on Rastan, Houla an all the areas under control of the rebels. Until now they were trying to refrain using heavy weapons. If the plan is dead, nothing will stop them for using them on large scale.

It’s the last chance for Annan to increase pressure on the FSA and the opposition to form a serious and discipline coalition. Yet, I think like the SNC, the FSA is irremediably divided and polluted and will desintegrate just like the SNC.

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May 30th, 2012, 10:04 pm

 

19. Tara said:

Why is Qatar and KSA silent lately?

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May 30th, 2012, 10:31 pm

 

20. norman said:

The lies about Syria are overwhelming and the goal is to destroy the chance of putting Syria back together , many of the supporters for the government are looking for an all out war, many in the opposition are looking for the same, that indicate that Syria is going into a war and a change from a chronic problem to an acute one.at least with that even if many get killed Syria as one might survive.a winner will emerge,

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May 30th, 2012, 10:52 pm

 

21. annie said:

Qunfuz

Robin Yassin-Kassab
Arm the Guerrillas

This was published at Foreign Policy.

There are some, perhaps many, Syrians who detest their government and are entirely aware of its treasonous nature — yet wish for the demonstrations and the guerrilla actions of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to stop and for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to regain control as soon as possible. They take this position out of a profound pessimism: They believe it is impossible to uproot the surveillance-and-torture state and its deep sectarian substructure, that more people will die the longer the unrest continues, that the economy will collapse further, and that nothing will alter the end — Assad’s inevitable victory. Some Syrians go so far as to say that the regime itself, or a branch of it, is surreptitiously encouraging demonstrations so as to have an “excuse” to teach the new generation an unforgettable lesson.

full article : http://qunfuz.com/2012/05/31/arm-the-guerrillas/

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May 31st, 2012, 1:15 am

 

22. annie said:

http://blogs.channel4.com/alex-thomsons-view/searing-grief-houlas-survivors/1739

The searing grief of Houla’s survivors
Warning: You may find some of the content in Alex Thomson’s accompanying video distressing.

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May 31st, 2012, 1:19 am

 

23. Juergen said:

Anti spy device may turn out to a trojan horse

“Is it a cyber war against its own people? Ironically, in the use of software, the Iranians and Syrians, in order to circumvent the censorship measures in their countries, experts have now discovered a Trojan horse software that can allow government investigators access to the PC of the user.”

http://translate.google.at/translate?sl=de&tl=en&js=n&prev=_t&hl=de&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.spiegel.de%2Fnetzwelt%2Fweb%2Fanti-zensur-software-simurgh-verbreitet-trojaner-a-836037.html

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May 31st, 2012, 1:32 am

 

24. Uzair8 said:

Welcome back Majed.

#9. Juergen

So it’s possible to watch simply by adjusting the proxy settings? That’s good news. The alternative is torrents but I’m not sure of their legality or safety.

Britain and the West in general form their view based on interests. The powers that be know very well the reality of regimes like Assad’s.

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May 31st, 2012, 6:07 am

 

25. Syrialover said:

I force myself to look at those 13 bound and murdered men in Deir Al-Zor because I want to acknowledge and honour them, apparently “army deserters”, killed like many other decent, normal men trapped in the Syrian nightmare.

They are brave and sane humans, refusing to act at gunpoint to kill their fellow citizens on the whim of vicious criminals and psychopaths. People who wanted to live and let others live.

That’s how the normal world sees and will remember them. But to the Assad regime they were something they “owned”, slaves with no worth except as tools to help them cling to power. And to be casually disposed of when they wouldn’t buy into the insanity.

THERE LIES THE SICKNESS, THE PRIMITIVE, UGLY MENTALITY OF THE ASSAD REGIME.

Who the HELL do the Assads think they are? And who and what the hell do Assad’s supporters think the regime is?

Do these supporters feel “owned” by the Assad regime as well? Or do these people see themselves as entitled to “joint ownership” with the Assads of the Syrian people? It is likely to be the latter.

Another planet. A sick fantasy planet. Assad or burn the country. All those people must die before him because he personally “owns” them.

Think about it and it makes nonesense of every other argument.

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May 31st, 2012, 6:16 am

 

26. VOLK said:

President Vladimir Putin warned Thursday that Russia’s position on Syria would not shift under pressure despite the crisis likely topping the agenda during his upcoming visits to Berlin and Paris.
“Russia’s position is well-known. It is balanced and consistent and completely logical,” Interfax quoted Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov as saying.
“So it is hardly appropriate to talk about this position changing under someone’s pressure.”
Peskov said Russia’s refusal to back further action against the regime after last week’s Houla massacre and other attacks on civilians was based on an approach “completely free of emotions, which are hardly appropriate here.”

http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=403469

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May 31st, 2012, 6:20 am

 

27. Syrialover said:

Thanks Annie for that link.

There you have it clearly from witnesses, Alawi and Shia militia.

No more mysteries and conjecture about what happened at Houla.

Read it: http://blogs.channel4.com/alex-thomsons-view/searing-grief-houlas-survivors/1739

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May 31st, 2012, 6:41 am

 

28. Tara said:

A split within the FSA? Or lack of communication ability between the internal and the external FSA?  Has the US provided the FSA with communication equipments as promised?  The SNC is fractured and now the FSA?  

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/middle-east-live/2012/may/31/syria-bashar-al-assad#block-5

9.43am: The head of the Free Syrian Army, Colonel Riad Asaad, has muddied the waters by denying that his forces have issued the Syrian government with a deadline demanding instead that Kofi Annan declares the ceasefire over so that rebels can carry on military operations.

Speaking to al-Jazeera, Asaad, he said:

There is no deadline, but we want Kofi Annan to issue a declaration announcing the failure of this plan so that we would be free to carry out any military operation against the regime.

He claimed that rebel forces had so far honoured their commitments to the plan.

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May 31st, 2012, 7:22 am

 

29. mjabali said:

Syrialover:

What happened in al-Houla is very obvious now. Locals now have militias that are killing and kidnapping the other side. The number of those kidnapped tell you the real story. All sides are armed now. This is becoming the norm in most parts in that area where there is contact. The Assad forces get involved with the anti Assad forces. It is becoming obvious that both parties have blood on their hands.

As for Yasin Haj Saleh, I spoke about his writings and the truth in is and you gave me a sob story about how he went to prison. There is no connection between the two. Let us talk if it is true the claims in his article. We see day after day people attributing crimes to Alawis in order to demonize the sect as a whole and the myth of al-Shabi7a fits this. Yasin al-Haj Saleh should have left his room and asked few people from Lattakia at least, or chatted them on facebook…ask them questions to know the real story.

AS for why I do not write my account about al-Shabi7a; it is because I have lots of work. have a good day

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May 31st, 2012, 7:44 am

 

30. Uzair8 said:

A couple of days ago (Tuesday evening?) the Al Jazeera English website (or blog section) was closed for maintenance. It was back up yesterday. It seems they have removed the blog comment sections. Very disappointing. Al Jazeera, why?

Anybody know more?

The revolution won’t be the same without it.

http://blogs.aljazeera.net/liveblog?f0=field_ns_topic%3A153

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May 31st, 2012, 7:58 am

 

31. Syrialover said:

# 29. Mjabali

Thanks for your response.

It’s not a “sob story” about Yasin Haj Saleh being in prison – it’s a prime part of his life stolen because he happened to be born a Syrian under the Assads. But he didn’t allow that to destroy him and that makes him remarkable.

Also, he quotes real people and sources for what he said. Not speculating. If you feel aggrieved about his comments on Lattakia I hope in a new Syria you will tell him so to his face in public or in writing and be heard by everyone. I think he would take it. We all know that limitations on knowledge and understanding of what happens in Syria by people living in Syria can be the result of engineered information control and suppression, not wilful ignorance. That’s why people are shouting “give us freedom”. Freedom to easily discover the truth.

I agree with you strongly about not demonizing the Alawi. As many here have pointed out, they are equally victims caught up in the Assad hell and nightmare. But if a group of militia under that banner has committed crimes, it should not be officially denied and others blamed and the lies used as a smokescreen for further sinister attacks.

If some Syrians had not taken up arms after Assad’s attacks on their fellow civilians they would not be normal human beings. I am mystified by the demands of some here that they should put down their weapons and…what? Wait to be rounded up for revenge?

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May 31st, 2012, 8:25 am

 

32. Uzair8 said:

Assad’s fall

How long will Putin protect a cruel ally?

May 31, 2012

[Selected quotes]

There are limited ways for the U.S. and its allies to tilt Assad into the retired column:

• Arm the rebels that oppose the regime. This apparently is beginning to happen. The Syrian government is slaughtering women and children in their homes. Give the rebels weapons to put more pressure on Assad.

• Strangle the Syrian economy. Sanctions against Syria’s oil industry have drained billions from the country’s economy so far, causing widespread fuel shortages. Now the U.S. and its allies should tighten the economic noose. Isolate Syria. Dry up foreign investment.

To no one’s surprise, Russian President Vladimir Putin has remained Syria’s staunchest ally, blocking strong UN Security Council action against Assad for months.

Why? Money and influence. The Russians have major oil and gas investments there. Damascus is also a major trading partner and a good-paying customer for Russian arms. Most of all, Russia likes having a client state in the heart of the Middle East, so it can pretend it is a world power.

[...]

Putin doesn’t want to be seen as buckling to American pressure to abandon an ally. Regime change is likely to come in Syria only when Russia is finally convinced that a crippled, cornered Assad is no longer a valuable ally.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-edit-syria-20120531,0,2533018.story

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May 31st, 2012, 9:21 am

 

33. zoo said:

Do Shabbiha wear long beards and shaved head?

http://news.yahoo.com/11-old-played-dead-survive-syria-massacre-200513272.html

“The Syrian boy tried to stop himself from trembling, even as the gunmen, with LONG BEARDS and SHAVED HEADS, killed his parents and all four of his siblings, one by one.”

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May 31st, 2012, 9:38 am

 

34. bronco said:

The Western countries condone that Israel occupies illegally part of Palestine, to protect the jews from the Palestinian’s “murdering intentions”
Now they the condone that armed gangs occupy part of Syria to protect the inhabitants from the “murdering intentions” of the Syrian government.

Like for Israel, they say they support the peace plan and they keep arming the occupiers and applying non stop sanctions and threatening military on the legal owner of the land.
They kept saying from day one that its the only plan and then they immediately add that it will fail. Then Victoria Noland makes an apocalyptic description of what would happen.
There is no opposition to put pressure on. It is a bunch of leaderless and disorganized militants, who have recruited some confused defectors, mentally damaged young men from Iraq as well as jihadists who only care about spreading violence. The recent events, attacks and declarations have shown that they are dangerous, divided and incapable of leading a peaceful negotiations.

Cornered by sanctions and harsh threats, the Syrian government can’t give up power to this group. It has nothing to loose anymore.

The ultimatum is the other way around: If the rebels armed gangs do not withdraw from areas they occupy by force, they will be dislodged by force. The UN should allow all civilians to leave the villages after the Syrian army announces the time of the assaults. If Turkey is the closest location, Turkey is prepared to host them.

There is an urgency, if Annan and the western countries ‘allegedly’ supporting the peace plan do not find a immediate way to mediate and ask the FSA and its armed gangs to leave the areas they occupy, this is what is going to happen.

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May 31st, 2012, 10:06 am

 

35. Tara said:

Zoo

I think shabeehat al Assad come in all shapes and forms. Shami once linked a photo of original Shabeeh to Samara that etched in my mind. Mixture of fat and puffed muscles (from steroids), shaved head, tattoos, and thick ugly beard. I wish Shami links it again.

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May 31st, 2012, 10:09 am

 

36. Uzair8 said:

34. Bronco

“Now they the condone that armed gangs occupy part of Syria to protect the inhabitants from the “murdering intentions” of the Syrian government.”

There is a danger that ordinary defenceless people, who when faced with slaughter decided to take up arms in self defence, are being labelled as ‘armed gangs’.

‘Armed gangs’ alludes to the ‘other’, the unknown.

It could be inhabitants taking up arms to protect themselves and other inhabitants. No shame in condoning this in the face of regime slaughter.

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May 31st, 2012, 10:22 am

 

37. Uzair8 said:

#35 Tara

You mean like the following. The other day I checked Google Images for Shabeeha and this was the first image:

http://thesyrianpulse.com/tag/shabeeha/

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May 31st, 2012, 10:24 am

 

38. Tara said:

Uzair

OMG. This is the exact picture.. Thanks very much.

On a light note, if all men look like that, ….

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May 31st, 2012, 10:28 am

 

39. zoo said:

#35 Tara

I have not seen the photos, but two descriptions by the children do not fit the Shabbiha: The killers were wearing military clothes and white sneakers and they wear long beards and shaved heads.

Shabbiha may have macho look (tattos muscles..), but they do not wear military clothes and they certainly don’t try to look like jihadists coming from Afghanistan or Iraq.
I remember well a video made by a BBC foreign journalist in the mountains where the rebels were hiding that among them there was several men with long beards and shaved head. At that time, I was surprised but this video was never found again
There has been many reports of such men killings civilians. I remember one eye witness, I think it was in Deraa, saying that as they were killing sunnis, they must be iranians! This is certainly not a look you’ll find with Iranian soldiers.

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May 31st, 2012, 10:32 am

 

40. Tara said:

Zoo

Look at the photo Uzair linked.

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May 31st, 2012, 10:37 am

 

41. zoo said:

Tara

I have not seen any other photos like this is one in the whole internet. As this one is not signed and comes from an anti-regime site its credibility is doubtful. Anyway who is the man with eye glasses tatooed on the arm of the guy? He looks Pakistani to me.

In all the other photos and videos on internet, they look like plain people with no distinctive signs.

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May 31st, 2012, 10:57 am

 

42. Tara said:

Zoo

I think the original shabeeha that Bashar attempted to reign in when he was prepped for the presidency look like the photo. Those were Alawi thugs that terrorized Lattakia. As the shabeeha phenomena flourished after the start of the revolution and more members including Sunnis became shabeehat al Assad, their mission has drastically changed from mafia- like activities into terrorism and pure savagery and their current members at large lost their original look so to speak.

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May 31st, 2012, 11:10 am

 

43. Son of Damascus said:

Zoo,

It took me all of two seconds to find this on youtube (who are the shabeeha).

From the video it is clear the man is NOT Pakistani, and that he is proud to be a shabeeha.

BTW if you look closely to the photo that Uzair8 linked, the shabeeh has Bashars face tattooed on his left bicep, don’t know many Pakistani’s that would actually do that, do you?

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May 31st, 2012, 11:12 am

 

44. zoo said:

Syria: The Current Situation and Possible Solutions
By Hassân Abbas
Heinrich Böll Foundation
Middle East Office

http://www.lb.boell.org/web/52-722.html

….
It is a whirlpool dragging the country deeper into violence. At present the country is engaged in a minor form of civil war, that we can call a confined civil war. If the whirlpool is to be calmed, the regime still has the power to solve the crisis by stopping the slaughter, withdrawing its troops, releasing prisoners and inviting the opposition (as represented by those part of the uprising) to engage in a negotiated transfer of power. Without this the current polarization of the country will continue, the confined civil war will spread and international intervention – perhaps under cover of an Arab initiative – will be the inevitable result with the consequent destruction of the country. But will the regime see fit to act? Unfortunately not, it seems. It will stay its course, pulling down the temple on its own head and on Syria itself.

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May 31st, 2012, 11:27 am

 

45. Tara said:

Lip service?

11.37am: Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said those responsible for last week’s Houla massacre in Syria should be punished, the Associated Press reports.

“We (in Iran) are quite disappointed about this,” Ahmadinejad said from Tehran in an interview with the France 24 TV station. “Any individual who committed these murders is guilty … The people responsible for this massacre must be punished, must be sanctioned.”

Ahmadinejad declined to say who he believed was behind the attack, but added: “It seems unbelievable to me that a government would engage in killing its own people …. (but) I’m not excluding anyone from this responsibility,” he said.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/middle-east-live/2012/may/31/syria-bashar-al-assad#block-5

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May 31st, 2012, 11:50 am

 

46. zoo said:

43. Son of Damascus

That’s an entertaining montage of photos from a Club of narcissic body builders posing for photographer.

They do not look threatening at all despite the grand music and the red warnings.

If you want to convince any one , please show photographs of them in actions, killing, torturing… not posing with their buddies, their sweet dogs or showing their muscles. I doubt very much that it will take you 5 minutes to find them…

I did not know Bashar wears glasses on tattoo. The photos are all of the same guy. I thought Shabbiha were in the thousands.

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May 31st, 2012, 12:47 pm

 

47. Syrian Nationalist Party said:

45. Tara said:
Lip service? Ahmadinejad…
___________________________________________________________________

At least he paid lip service, what did the Qatari Emir and King Abdullah paid to Sunni Syrians. Now, or in the past 40+ years.

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May 31st, 2012, 12:55 pm

 

48. Antoine said:

S.O.D,

My main truck with the inhabitantsDamascus is that they are not supporting the revolution as much as they should, and I think it is mainly because of 2 reasons –

1. They are “not men” ,

2. They just want to enjoy life and eat lobster and french wine in Damascus restaurants and raise a toast to Bashar and Asma.

Correct me if I am wrong about the reason why Damascus has not joined the revolution.

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May 31st, 2012, 1:03 pm

 

49. Tara said:

Antoin

Please stop it. The worst thing now is to fight among each other.

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May 31st, 2012, 1:10 pm

 

50. Son of Damascus said:

Zoo,

I linked that specific video in reply to your “he looks Pakistani” comment. You were the one denying he was a shabeeh not me.

As for shabeeha wearing “white sneakers” with army fatigues here is a video showing some of them wearing some:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyju-eWCeOM&feature=related

(Notice the white Addidas shoes at the 0:03 mark in the video)

Another one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9RRVGWDrPQ&feature=BFa&list=PL525E2385E194304B

(pay attention to the 0:16 mark in the video)

Yet another:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eg8xsU4kk8g&feature=BFa&list=PL525E2385E194304B

(0:06 mark)

Are these proof enough for you, or would you like some more?

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May 31st, 2012, 1:11 pm

 

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