News Round Up (13 January 2013)

This is the saddest Friday demonstration video- town of Binnish. via Ben Hubbard

Syrian foreign ministry in a letter to UN claims that more than 1000 factories have been dismantled in Aleppo and sold to Turkey by rebels and gunmen. I have asked an Aleppine factory owner if this is true. His answer:

“I don’t know about the numbers, but many factories have been stripped and sold. Of course, Assad is responsible for this by not offering to step aside and setting in place a process for a smooth transfer of power.” My own factory has not been stripped, but the safe box with all operating expenses was taken by the local militia commander. My foreman negotiated with him and he has since protected the factory building. It is closed and all employees have been dismissed. A factory near to mine, which is owned by a Christian who was known to be close to the regime, has been stripped.

Speaking of distressing, read what Ribal and Rifat al-Assad are trying to do to Chris Doyle and his wonderful wife, Rim. Extra-ordinary. Thuggery reaches into the British parliament. MP Daniel Kawczynski has taken up the Assad cause and savaged the Doyles on Rifat’s behalf. Why would he do that? See Syria: Lies and slurs for those who dare to challenge Ribal and Rifat Assad – Global Arab Network.

Video: Latest developments in Syria following Assad’s speech – Aljazeera presenter Hazem Sika discusses with guests Fawaz Gerges, director of the Middle East Centre and professor of International Relations at London School of Economics; James Jatras, a former US diplomat and a senior fellow at the American University in Moscow; and Shashank Joshi, an associate fellow at Royal United Services.

Assad still confident that he can control Syria,” by Liz Sly in Wash Post

First Legislative council established by National C0uncil for Idlib province


إدلب تشهد تشكيل أول مكتب تنفيذي للمحافظة غير خاضع للحكومة السورية13
يناير 2013 – 06:16 م : إدلب، أكرم الإدلبي
مؤتمر تشكيل المكتب

شهدت مدينة الريحانية التركية اختيار مكتب تنفيذي عن محافظة ادلب، وهو أول مكتب تنفيذي غير خاضع لسلطة الحكومة السورية المركزية، يتم تشكيله في محافظة سورية، منذ اندلاع الأزمة عام 2011.

وقال رئيس المكتب المنتخب، وعضو الإئتلاف الوطني عن محافظة ادلب الأستا عدنان ناصر الرحمون، لـ”سيريا بوليتيك” إنه “بلغ عدد الحاضرين للمؤتمر 400 ناشط من محافظة ادلب، منهم 120 ناشط يشكلون الامانة العامة، وقام أعضاء الأمانة العامة باختيار 10 أعضاء للمكتب وأضيف اسمي كوني عضو الائتلاف عن محافظة ادلب، حيث جرى انتخاب رئيس المكتب, وحُصر الانتخاب والترشح بين أعضاء المكتب”.

“Securing Lebanon’s Offshore Energy Fields Raises New Security Challenges.”  by Nick Heras – Jamestown

Syria: A jihadi paradise
By Pepe Escobar, Jan 11, 2013, Asia Times

….If you want to know what’s really going in Syria, look no further than Hezbollah secretary-general Sheikh Nasrallah. He does tell it like it is.

Then there’s what Ammar al-Musawi, Hezbollah’s number 3 – as in their de facto foreign minister – told my Italian colleaguem Ugo Tramballi. The most probable post-Assad scenario, if there is one, will be “not a unitary state, but a series of emirates near the Turkish border, and somebody proclaiming an Islamic state”. Hezbollah’s intelligence – the best available on Syria – is adamant: “one third of the combatants in the opposition are religious extremists, and two-thirds of the weapons are under their control.” The bottom line – this is a Western proxy war, with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) acting as a “vanguard” for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Rebel area shows limits of rebel push for Damascus
By By BEN HUBBARD | Associated Press

Twin airstrikes by government jets on a large, rebel-held suburb of Damascus on Thursday sheered the sides off apartment towers and left residents digging through rubble for the dead and wounded.

The bombing of Douma came amid a wave of attacks on rebellious districts of the Syrian capital, part of the government’s efforts to keep rebel fighters out of President Bashar Assad’s seat of power. Late Thursday, a car bomb exploded at a gas station inside the city itself, killing at least nine people, activists said.

Douma, the largest patch of rebel-held ground near Damascus, illustrates why the opposition’s advance on the capital has bogged down. Despite capturing territory and setting up committees to provide basic services, the rebels lack the firepower to challenge Assad’s forces and remain helpless before his air force….In November, residents formed a civilian council to provide services for the estimated one-third of Douma’s residents who have not fled the violence….Douma has more than a dozen rebel brigades, and the city’s fighters have joined battles in many other areas around the capital….

The Syrian Conflict Is Not About Democracy

Post by Extension Blog

October 22, 2012


Mark Tomass, former research fellow at the Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies, provides insight into the Syrian civil war and a suggested path ahead for US policy. Tomass was born and raised in the Assyrian Quarter of Aleppo, Syria. He lived through the Muslim Brother’s rebellion of 1979–82 and the Lebanese Civil War of 1975–90.

The truth about US support of Syrian rebels

…The administration is betting this kind of qualified support will help overturn the regime. And the United States will appear to be on the side of victors. Its real motive is to weaken Iran’s regional influence by a proxy war that would destroy its ally….US support for the rebels and those who call for an interventionist US policy are under the illusion that the antigovernment rebellion is a prodemocracy one. But the rebels have no conception of freedom and democracy in the Western tradition….

Iraq War Poll Finds Most Think War Was Mistake” (Huffington Post)

Syrian refugee’s astonishing story of survival – BBC

…”I was stopped at a checkpoint. The (pro-government) gunmen asked me where I was from. They asked for my passport and ID. They took everything I had on me: my phones, my gold rings. They put me in the boot of a car – four other guys were already in it. And they took us to an air force intelligence building.

“After three days with no food or water, late at night, the gunmen told us that they would take us to another station. They took us and they put all of us into a car – there were 21 of us. They drove us to a deserted area.”

Second life

Mohammed peeked from his blindfold.

“They put us all on our knees – all 21 of us. They began firing. I passed out when they shot at us. I woke up after 10-15 minutes and saw the gunmen’s car leaving. I saw that everybody around me was dead.”

Mohammed was seriously injured.

“I was hit by five bullets,” he says, pointing to each of the wounds in turn. “One of them hit my ear, one went into my shoulder. Two hit in my leg, and another hit my hip.”

He rolls up his trouser leg to show the wounds in his ankle.

“I got up and started walking but kept falling every 10 metres. I knocked on a door and a woman answered…

Hospitals targeted in the Syrian war as the wounded face dwindling options – CNN International

Syria conflict: Brahimi says Assad can’t be part of transition – live updates – Via Matt Weaver

Beirut (DPA) — Syria’s state-run media Thursday lashed out at United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, calling him a “puppet” of the West after he criticized a plan by President Bashar al-Assad to end the country’s nearly two-year conflict.

“Why didn’t Mr. Brahimi, when he visited Syria last month, express such views to President al-Assad? He waited until he got his instructions from the Western countries and made his statement on Wednesday,” Syrian television said.

Al Watan, a state-run newspaper, said Brahimi “has taken off the mask of impartiality he has worn” since he was appointed for the mission in August.

Syria And Iraq: A Five State Solution?
January 9, 2013, By Jacob Wolinsky

…Split up Iraq and Syria into five separate states. A druze state in southern Syria, Alawite state on the coast, a Sunni state spanning across the borders, a Shia state in Southern Iraq, and a Kurdish state across the Northern borders of both countries. As noted, I do NOT want the US or Europe to do this, but it could be an option for the citizens of each country to implement. I doubt the five state solution will happen, but want to throw out the idea as one way to decrease a tension in the region….

Role of Syrian Women Evolves as War Rages On By Carol Morello | The Washington Post

…because the men in their lives urged them to stay away as the revolt turned into a much more dangerous civil war — they are playing a more traditional role in humanitarian relief, bringing food, medicine and clothing to refugees. The fighting is almost exclusively the province of men, and relatively few women are among opposition political leaders….

But at the grass-roots level, few women attend the political conferences held around Turkey to discuss building a transitional government and institutions if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is toppled. “About 200 people were at a conference I attended. Maybe 10 of them were women,” said Rania Kisar,….“A lot of women could do a great job in politics,” she said. “But society, and the traditional culture, won’t take them seriously.”

Karen Leigh  –  January 08, 2013 – Syria Deeply
An Alawite Nurse in a Sunni Hospital

Traveling through rebel-held parts of Latakia province, in the Jebel Turkman region, we met 34-year-old Umyara, an Alawite nurse working in a field hospital. In Latakia, a stronghold of President Bashar al-Assad, Sunnis and Alawites have lived side by side for centuries. Now, with intense fighting in the Alawite-led regime and the mostly Sunni-led Free Syrian Army, many fear that the animosity could spread to civilians across the religious divide.

The nurse, who asked us not print her full name or photo, speaks on the stairwell outside the hospital’s new surgery room, built with donations from two American medical NGOs. She met us alongside Dr. Mohammed, the Sunni orthopedic surgeon who serves as her boss and the chief of this hopsital.

The hospital has only been open for 20 days; the surgical unit is located underground for safety, as the area is heavily bombed and rocketed by regime forces.

A hospital in Homs, courtesy of Shaam News Network

“Before I came here, I worked for 14 years in the Assad Hospital in Latakia City,” she says. Now her husband and five children have moved to the mountains with her, to hide from regime forces who might be angry with her defection to a Sunni hospital in FSA territory. “I never feel any tension working here – we’re all people with the same degrees, no difference between Sunnis and Alawites in the hospital. We are one medical team.”

But the fact still stands that should Assad be removed from office, Alawite civilians like Umyara could face reprisals from angry Sunnis. “I am surely afraid for my safety after Assad falls,” the nurse says, despite assurances from local FSA leaders.

For now, within the hospital walls, Dr. Mohammed doesn’t see a distinction.

“Most of our patients are Sunni, but it’s no problem with us if someone who comes in is an Alawite…this is why she came to work with us.”

Every day, he says, his staff sees 20-35 patients, most of them injured in the war. A few days ago he treated a patient with cancer and has seen others with diabetes and hypertension. But the hospital doesn’t have have the medicine or resources to properly treat those patients – part of what he describes as a crisis in specialized care, one that now affects nearly every Syrian city.

When we met the doctor had just performed surgery on a young rebel fighter whose palms had practically been blown to pieces in an explosives accident.

The nurse says that as a Sunni fighter, his treatment would have been varied, at best, at her old regime-supported hospital. “I am working here now to help people, all people. Before, the treatment was specialized just for the Alawites.”

At the Assad Hospital, they might treat Sunnis, “but afterwards, the Assad forces come and get them and take them away. This has happened since the beginning of the revolution, since March of last year. I feel better now,” working here….

Dr. Haj was gentle and polite, but spoke with bitterness at how he hears the West assess Syria’s war. “They say that chemical weapons are the red line,” he said, referring to President Obama’s public warning to Syria’s government that a chemical strike might prompt an American military response.

“But we are dying from other ways. It is not good enough to die from shelling or disease? The international community laughs at our suffering.”…

Mr. Saleh rattled off what he and his family faced: No heat, no electricity, no money, no medicine, no doctor and no home, except this unlit, borrowed room.

The children sat silently, under shared blankets, bundled in thick clothes. Their father’s soft voice filled the space.

“We don’t know how we will survive the winter,” Mr. Saleh said. “We wait for the mercy of God.”

Comments (222)

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201. zoo said:

Assad can’t be excluded from 2014 vote: Syria minister
by AFP
January 15, 2013

Beirut:President Bashar al-Assad should be allowed to stand in the 2014 election like any other candidate and it is up to the Syrians themselves to decide their future leadership, a senior official has said.”We are opening the way for democracy, or deeper democracy. In a democracy you don’t tell somebody not to run,” said Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad in an interview with the BBC on Monday.

A plan to end Syria’s civil war, agreed in Geneva in June during talks among global powers and the UN, envisages the establishment of a transitional government but it does not refer to Assad going — a key demand of the opposition.Muqdad’s remarks come after Assad unveiled in a rare speech on January 5 in Damascus his own three-step peace initiative for the strife-torn country.

He offered dialogue with the opposition to end the conflict — but only with elements he deemed acceptable, not rebel-affiliated groups he termed “killers” and “terrorists” manipulated by foreign powers.His plan was rejected outright by the entire opposition as well as by the West, and it was criticised heavily by UN-Arab League peace envoy Brahimi who termed it “perhaps even more sectarian, more one-sided” than previous such initiatives.

In Monday’s interview, Muqdad reiterated Damascus’ long-held view that calls for Assad to quit immediately are foreign-backed and illegitimate. “It is a coup d’etat if we listen what to those armed groups and those elements of Syria are proposing,” said Muqdad.”The president now and many other candidates who may run will go to the people, put their programmes and be elected by the people,” Muqdad told the BBC.”So the ballot box will be the place where the future of the leadership of Syria will be decided.”The United Nations says that more than 60,000 people have died in the Syria conflict which began 22 months ago, on March 15, 2011, with peaceful protests that quickly erupted into deadly violence in the wake of a harsh regime crackdown.

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January 15th, 2013, 8:58 am


202. Syrian said:

The regime planes bomb Aleppo university over 50 students killed!/photo.php?fbid=392661687494372&id=235395973220945&set=a.235630623197480.54109.235395973220945&__user=0

نحن بلمشفى هلأ عدد الشهداء حوالي50شهيد واغلبن طلاب ومحروقة 15سيارة بالعالم يلي فيها..وماضل شي اسمه دوار عمارة .وبعد ضربة الطيارة بدقيقتين اجت قناة الدنيا كيف لحقو مابعرف واليوم اول مرة بيجي الامن علجامعة من الصبح وشادي حلوة اكل قتل

شهادة احد طلاب جامعة حلب

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January 15th, 2013, 9:19 am


203. zoo said:

The Aleppo University is firmly under the army control.
It gives a “clear” idea who may want to bomb it or shell it…

January 15, 2013
An explosion has hit the university in Syria’s northern city of Aleppo, causing casualties.

State television blamed the explosion on “terrorists,” a term officials use to refer to rebels fighting against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

The report did not specify the number of victims.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 15 people were killed and dozens of others injured.

It said it was not immediately clear whether the blast was the result of a bomb explosion or shelling.

Aleppo University is said to be in territory firmly controlled by the army.

Aleppo is Syria’s largest city and has been a major front in the conflict between government troops and rebels since July 2012.

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January 15th, 2013, 9:25 am


204. zoo said:

Russia Closes Aleppo Consulate
© AFP/ Miguel Medina

DAMASCUS, January 15 (RIA Novosti) – The Russian Consulate General in the northwestern Syrian city of Aleppo has suspended operations, a spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Syria reported on Tuesday.

“The operations of the Consulate General in Aleppo have been suspended,” the spokesman said. “Regarding all consular-related issues, contact the consular department of the Russian Embassy in Damascus.”

Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, 340 kilometers (211 miles) north of the capital Damascus, has been the scene of months of vicious fighting between government forces and rebel groups. Most of Aleppo is controlled by the Free Syrian Army, an armed opposition group. The city’s residents are suffering shortages of food and electricity.

Fifteen civilians were killed and dozens injured by two blasts that “shook the area in between the University Residence and the Architecture Building in the southern part of the Aleppo University,” the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Facebook on Tuesday. The monitoring body said the cause of the explosions was unclear, but the city has previously been hit by government airstrikes as well as rebel car bombs.

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January 15th, 2013, 9:32 am


205. zoo said:

France needs Arab’s money for its adventure in Mali.
Will Qatar pay for both the French and islamists?

“We — not just the French, but all nations — have to combat terrorism,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said during a visit to the United Arab Emirates in the Persian Gulf, announcing that donors would meet later this month, probably in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to discuss financing an offensive against the rebels in Mali, Reuters reported.

“Everybody has to commit to oneself in fighting against terrorism,” Mr. Fabius said. We are pretty confident that the Emirates will go into that direction as well.”
“We — not just the French, but all nations — have to combat terrorism,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said during a visit to the United Arab Emirates in the Persian Gulf, announcing that donors would meet later this month, probably in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to discuss financing an offensive against the rebels in Mali, Reuters well.”

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January 15th, 2013, 9:42 am


206. Syrian said:

افادت هيئة الثورة السورية عن ارتفاع عدد القتلى الى 46 بعد قصف لطيران النظام السوري على جامعة حلب.

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January 15th, 2013, 9:44 am


207. zoo said:

The West: We love the ‘good westernized’ moslems, we kill the ‘bad uneducated ‘ ones

The bombing of Mali highlights all the lessons of western intervention

The west African nation becomes the eighth country in the last four years alone where Muslims are killed by the west

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January 15th, 2013, 9:49 am


208. zoo said:

in case Al Assad goes, worse problems looming for Turkey that NATO can’t solve: The Syrian Kurds

Turkey’s troubles with Syria: Answer requires men, not missiles
by Lt. Andrew Self*
15 January 2013

In a post-Assad Syria, or even one in which the regime survives as a hobbled political entity, Turkey must be prepared for the prospect of a larger Kurdish insurgency than they have experienced to date. An armed and independent Syrian Kurdish faction to its south, coupled with an already well-established PKK network and a politically frustrated Kurdish population within Turkey, is the necessary recipe for an insurgency. This is Turkey’s greatest threat, and this threat cannot be dealt with by the use of Patriot missiles.

Instead, Turkey needs to prepare for a prolonged counter-insurgency that will require significantly more infantry and combat arms personnel than are currently present in Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Urfa, Siirt and Mardin provinces. Turkey must take note of America’s successes and failures in Iraq and Afghanistan. There, “boots on the ground” personnel spearheaded by an aggressive infantry and supported by an expansive intelligence apparatus engaging in political and social counter-insurgency activity, rather than explicitly military kinetic operations, proved most success

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January 15th, 2013, 9:59 am


209. revenire said:

Tara in any nation you would be arrested for the crimes you’ve committed. You do so only because you ran away from Syria (or so you say). You do so from your hiding spot in the United States.

If you advocated murdering the president of the United States you’d be arrested. You believe you can do this because you see Assad as a dictator and illegitimate. One could make that argument about many world leaders today and I have heard Internet ravings like this about Putin, Obama, Hollande, etc. Free speech is a right but there are limits in all nations.

I have watched you call for sectarian blood. I have watched you single out Alawites and what you have called “traitorous Sunnis” for revenge – threatening that they will all pay a price for supporting the president. This is a hate crime because of the sectarian nature and it is also a crime. A person can’t go around threatening people because they support their president. You feel safe because you’re on the Internet but let me assure you that you’re not as hidden as you believe.

I have seen you defend Jabhat al-Nusra. They’ve been labeled a terrorist organization by the nation you say you currently reside in. The US added them to their list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations ( If the FBI knew who you were I am pretty sure they’d want to take a look at you closer. You can’t support Jabhat al-Nusra from the US. It is illegal. Jabhat are terrorists according to the United States government. Now I am certain that the US doesn’t like Assad much, or many reasons, but they like Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda) even less.

You, like many expats, sit blabbing all day, every day, about Assad – blaming him for everything but he is just an excuse isn’t he? You want the entire nation changed. Well, that won’t happen how you want and if it does happen there will be hundreds of thousands of dead Syrians and the rest of your days on Earth will be haunted.

The opposition fears open elections. They want Assad removed and fear him running in 2014. They know he would be elected. They know that any opposition candidate (and I assume there would be several) would have little chance against Assad. He has the “party machine” – if you will – in place. They also has the support of the majority of Syrians. The opposition knows this. Assad knows the opposition is splintered in a thousand pieces.

Tara you need to change your ways if you want to be accepted as a Syrian again. Many leave their homeland and become traitors. I assure you many, many Syrians see you as a traitor.

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January 15th, 2013, 10:02 am


210. zoo said:

The Aleppo university bombing: An attempt by the rebels to create a media diversion from their debacle in the suburbs of Damascus?

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January 15th, 2013, 10:03 am


211. Tara said:


I am in no mood for futile argument. Your threats do not bother me. You seem to be interested in the interaction more than in what is being said.

I am asked to send Batta and Asma a baby shower gift. Any suggestion?

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January 15th, 2013, 10:12 am


212. revenire said:

Tara, and other terrorist supporters (talking to you Bill Scherk and you Amal Hanano), the US State Department doesn’t mince words below. Al-Nusra IS Al-Qaeda. If you’re in the United States and you issue public statements of support for the al-Nusrah Front terrorists you could very well be arrested under US law (Bill gets out of it because he’s in Vancouver).

Senior Administration Officials on Terrorist Designations of the al-Nusrah Front as an Alias for al-Qaida in Iraq

Special Briefing
Senior Administration Officials
Via Teleconference
Washington, DC
December 11, 2012

MODERATOR: Good morning everyone, and thank you for joining this call this morning. Today, we’re going to have a background call with three senior Administration officials. We have – Senior Administration Official One will be [Senior Administration Official One]. Senior Administration Official Number Two is [Senior Administration Official Two]. And then [Senior Administration Official Three] is our Senior Administration Official Three.

So they’re going to talk about some of the designations and then take a few questions. So we’ll start with our Senior Administration Official Number One, over to you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Okay. The State Department has formally amended al-Qaida in Iraq as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and Executive Order 13224 designations to include the alias al-Nusrah Front. Al-Qaida in Iraq, or AQI, was first designated by the State Department in October of 2004. By way of background, in 2011, the AQI emir, Abu Du’a, tasked Abu Muhammad al-Jawlani to establish al-Nusrah Front in Syria. Abu Du’a provides strategic guidance to al-Jawlani, al-Nusrah’s leader.

Since November 2011, al-Nusrah Front has claimed hundreds of attacks, nearly 600, in major city centers across Syria in which numerous innocent Syrians have been injured and killed. AQI has dispatched money, people, and materiel from Iraq to Syria over the past year to attack Syrian forces both on its own initiative and at the request of AQI’s facilitation network members in Syria.

Al-Nusrah Front has sought to portray itself as part of a legitimate Syrian opposition, but today’s actions are intended to expose them and make clear that the United States believes that al-Nusrah’s extremist ideology has no role in a post-Assad Syria. Among the consequences of today’s actions is a prohibition against knowingly providing or attempting or conspiring to provide material support or resources to or engaging in transactions with al-Nusrah Front.

It’s important to note that the designation of al-Nusrah Front does not mean we have changed our view regarding Assad as the leader of a state that has been a designated state sponsor of terrorism since 1979. Today, we’ve also sanctioned pro-Assad regime elements, and my colleague from the Treasury Department will speak more specifically to these sanctions and to the designation of two key members of al-Nusrah Front. Over.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Good morning. This is [Senior Administration Official Two] from the Treasury Department. Thank you. Today, we have taken a number of actions alongside and in coordination with our colleagues at the State Department in order to continue and intensify our pressure against the Assad regime, its affiliated militias, and to take action against terrorist leaders who are active in Syria.

Since the beginning of the uprising in Syria, we have been working to powerfully and swiftly intensify sanctions against the Assad regime, to isolate the Syrian Government, hasten Assad’s fall, and to encourage those within the Syrian Government to abandon the regime’s campaign of violence. We have also used targeted sanctions to expose and combat the interventions of Iran as well as terrorist groups like Hezbollah which have been actively supporting Assad’s regime.

The actions we took today fall into basically two buckets: actions against two militias that have been perpetrating violence in coordination with and in affiliation with the Assad government, and then actions in concert with the al-Nusrah action that the State Department has announced to target two main leaders of the Nusrah Front. I’ll take those in turn.

Since the beginning of the unrest in Syria, the Shabiha have operated as a direct action arm of the Government of Syria and its security services, with Shabiha units providing support to units from designated security services, such as the Syrian Air Force intelligence and Syrian military intelligence, that have been among the most active in the violence. Ayman Jaber is currently a Shabiha leader responsible for directing Shabiha operations in Latakia, Syria on behalf of the Syrian regime and is working with the Ministry of Defense and other senior regime officials, including Maher al-Assad, to procure weapons for the Shabiha units under his command.

His brother, who we are also designating today, Mohammad Jaber, arranged for the transportation of pro-Syrian regime thugs from the Shabiha to Turkey in order to attack anti-Syrian regime persons there.

The other pro-regime militia that we are sanctioning today is Jaysh al-Sha’bi, which operates throughout Syria and has been particularly active in Damascus and Aleppo where the militia has supplemented Syrian Government forces operations against the opposition. Jaysh al-Sha’bi was created and continues to be funded and maintained with support from Iran and Hezbollah, and it is modeled after the Iranian Basij militia, which has proven so deadly and effective at using violence and intimidation to suppress political dissent in Iraq.

In addition to our actions against the regime proxies, Treasury is targeting Nusrah Front leaders Maysar Ali Musa Abdallah al-Juburi and Anas Hasan Khattab. Al-Juburi is the religious and military commander for the Nusrah Front in eastern Syria. He moved from Mosul, Iraq to Syria in late 2011 with the objectives of transferring al-Qaida’s ideology and techniques to Syria and forming likeminded terrorist groups.

Khattab was involved with the formation of the Nusrah Front for AQI and has communicated with AQI leadership to coordinate the movement of funds and weapons for the Nusrah Front. Khattab also works closely with al-Qaida-linked facilitators to provide logistical support to the Nusrah Front. All of these actions are a part of our ongoing efforts to target actors within Syria working to frustrate the desires of the Syrian people to end the violence and to realize a representative government. We will continue to target the thugs that have worked with the Assad militias, just as we will the terrorists who try to cloak themselves in the flag of the legitimate opposition.

And with that, I’ll turn it over to [Senior Administration Official Three].

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: Thank you very much. The steps that we are announcing today in Washington really are the result of growing American concern about the escalation of violence in Syria.

First of all, let’s be clear: The Syrian regime started this violence by brutalizing what was a peaceful protest movement. We all know that. We all understand that. And the Syrian regime has used aircraft, it has used artillery, and it appears that it has even used missile to attack the Syrian population and to attack what was a peaceful protest movement. And we have considered the Syrian regime to be a State Sponsor of Terrorism since 1979. We’ve taken additional steps against the regime in terms of sanctions and in terms of isolating the Syrian regime and putting pressure on it internationally and economically.

Today’s actions against the Shabiha, against the Jaysh al-Sha’bi – the People’s Army as they call it – against people like Ayman Jaber and Mohammad Jaber are both a recognition of the violence that the regime is inflicting on the Syrian people, and then it also repeats and emphasizes our message that the Syrian regime needs to stop that, and Assad needs to step aside and a political transition needs to begin.

But when we think about that political transition, extremist groups that are denouncing the government and attacking the government, they themselves, as extremists, have no role in that transition and in a future Syria. The protest movement that started out peacefully that I mentioned – it started out peacefully in February and March of 2011 – has always called for a tolerant Syrian society which is free, which respects the human rights of all Syrians equally. That was in the national vision statement that the Syrian opposition published in Cairo on July 3rd, 2012 – that is to say about five months ago, five and half months ago – and in other statements which Syrian opposition figures have announced. But Nusrah, as [Senior Administration Official One] was just talking about, and as [Senior Administration Official Two] was saying, the Nusrah Front is directly linked to al-Qaida in Iraq, and we know what its ideology is.

And we know that the Nusrah Front has denounced the Syrian Opposition Coalition’s founding, that it rejects the vision statement that was issued in Cairo, that I mentioned, of a tolerant society, and insists that instead of elections there must be an Islamic state imposed upon Syria. And the Nusrah Front, extremists like it, have no place in the future of the Syrian society, in a tolerant society. And so we have made clear that Nusrah also is an extremist organization and it has to be isolated and that more moderate forces, more forces that believe in tolerance as a model for Syrian society, they need to carry the work of the political transition forward.

I think I’ll stop there.

MODERATOR: Thank you. At this time, Operator, we’ll be ready to take questions for our three senior Administration officials.

OPERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to ask a question, please press * followed by 1 on your touchtone phone. Once again, for any questions, please press *1 at this time. One moment, please.

And we’ll go to the line of Ilhan Tanir with Turkish Daily. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks so much. Quick couple questions. One of them is: How is the reaction so far from the Syrian – other Syrian opposition groups? As far as we can see, there is a lot of complaining about this decision on Twitter and social networks that – argument is while the U.S. Government has been talking, Nusrah Front is coming here to fight, and basically they are fighting with the Assad regime, and die.

Can you give us what kind of reaction and see if the Nusrah Front is fighting with the Assad regime? I just don’t understand what kind of message is that you mentioned. The message is to Assad regime to leave, but you are labeling his organization as a terrorist organization while they are fighting with the Assad regime. Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: I guess I’ll take my first stab at that. I don’t know if my colleagues want to join in later. I will let the Syrian opposition representatives speak for themselves. I don’t need to speak on their behalf. It’s not proper. What I would say is that the United States and other Friends of the Syrian People have long acknowledged the Syrian people’s right to self-defense and to defend themselves against the brutality of the Syrian regime. There is no question about that, and we have been saying that for many, many months.

However, acknowledging the right of self-defense is not itself a justification for extremism. And I want to underline here that many people in Syria are afraid of extremism. Many people in Syria are not fighting for an extremist cause. Rather, they are fighting to have their dignity respected, they are fighting to have their human rights respected, and they do not want – and the United States and the Friends of Syria do not want one terrorist regime to be replaced by a new extremist model. Rather, it is important that Syrians who believe in tolerance, Syrians who believe in the respect for the human rights of all Syrian citizens be the ones who move the political transition forward.

And so there is no contradiction. Instead, what is important is to understand that extremists fighting the Assad regime are still extremists, and they have no place in the political transition that will come. Bashar al-Assad will depart. If he departs today, it’s better than if he departs tomorrow. There is too much bloodshed. But extremists should not dictate that political transition.

OPERATOR: You do have a question from the line of Michael Gordon with The New York Times. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, this is primarily for [Senior Administration Official Three], but the others can chime in. Could you please explain what practical, tangible effect this edict on the Nusrah Front might have? It stated that it would prohibit American or American entities from providing support. Are there any such Americans who are providing support? And if not, how will this affect those who have been providing support who are probably sympathetic with this group?

And lastly, tomorrow there’ll be a meeting in Morocco of various opposition groups and Friends of Syria. Do any members of this political opposition gathering in Morocco have influence or control over armed opposition elements in Syria today?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: Michael, I’m going to let my colleagues answer the question about the practical and tangible effects because they’re more involved in the immediate implementation of the measures. But on the – with respect to your last question about members of the Syrian opposition who will come to Morocco for the Friends of the Syrian People meeting, what I would say on that is that there are not members of armed groups represented at this meeting that I am aware of.

However, there are people here who definitely coordinate with armed groups, with the Free Syrian Army, and who have regular contact with elements of the Free Syrian Army. That is not to say they are giving instructions to it; they do not. It is not to say that they are telling it what to do or what to say in the international field; they are not. In a sense, the Free Syrian Army is a separate organization from, for example, the Syrian National Council or the Syrian Opposition Coalition. They are separate organizations. But there certainly are communications between the two, and there are members of the Syrian political opposition here in Morocco who contact and talk to people from the Free Syrian Army.

I’m – I’ll turn it over to my colleagues to talk about the practical and tangible effects and your other question.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Okay, so I think I need to go next. This is [Senior Administration Official One]. Michael, as we said at the top, the technical impact of the – adding al-Nusrah Front as a new alias for AQI, includes this prohibition on knowingly provided material support and the freezing of all property and interest in property in the United States or that come within the United States under the control of U.S. persons. So there are some practical sanctioning effects of the designation, and it can be a powerful tool over the long run, for law enforcement purposes.

But I think one of the primary effects of this designation is to really expose the presence of al-Nusrah Front, an organization that has been established by the leadership of AQI in Syria, and its activities there.

SENIOAR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: If I could just add – this is [Senior Administration Official Two] – exposing the operations and the identities of al-Nusrah’s leaders is a key objective here. So I just wanted to underscore that. Having these individuals on a blacklist has a practical impact beyond just the direct implications of U.S. law. It means for individuals who have demonstrated that they desire to travel back and forth across borders, actions like these in the past have frustrated that ability, have exposed them to being interdicted and detained.

It also means that as al-Nusrah tries to wrap itself in the legitimacy of the opposition that does reflect the Syrian’s people desires, we have called them out, and for those who are seeking to support the legitimate opposition of the Syrian people, we have drawn a bright line. So I think there are very real sort of second-order effects to today’s actions as well.

OPERATOR: You do have a question from the line of Margaret Brennan with CBS News. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. This is a question for [Senior Administration Official Three]. Al-Nusrah Front is viewed as an effective, very lethal fighting force inside of Syria. When it comes to what’s actually happening on the ground right now, what does today’s action do in terms of in any way lessening what they control or what they influence inside of Syria?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: Al-Nusrah Front is one of many groups that are fighting the Syrian regime now. It is not the only one. And in fact, it is a minority. Its influence has grown over recent months, but it still represents a minority element within the broader armed opposition to the Assad regime. So I don’t want to leave any kind of impressions that we are in any way acting against the broader Free Syrian Army, which is a much bigger organization.

And I’d be very clear we talk – I myself talk to the Free Syrian Army, and we have talked to them about things like the code of conduct and how to treat prisoners, et cetera. We have gotten assurances, and we have seen in many instances good behavior and even sanctioning against those elements of the Free Syrian Army that have acted improperly or against that code of conduct. Nusrah, by contrast, has actually been involved in summary executions of prisoners, for example. Whether the American steps today will immediately curtail Nusrah’s capabilities, I don’t think they will, but I think other nations that are involved in helping the armed opposition will now take more seriously our concerns about the Nusrah Front and its expanding influence, and it is important for countries to understand what al-Nusrah is and what it represents.

And it is important for the Syrians in the political opposition and in the armed opposition to understand what Nusrah is and what it represents. The time of a political transition is approaching. It’s approaching quickly as events on the ground move. And it is important to understand that Nusrah is an extremist group that cannot possibly be a part of the political transition to a tolerant and free Syria.

OPERATOR: Next we will go to the line of Mina al-Oraibi. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. This is a question also for [Senior Administration Official Three]. If I can ask, do you expect a position to be taken against Jebhat al-Nusrah Front in Marrakesh tomorrow from other countries? And I also wanted to know, you said you have been in touch with the FSA, so have you informed them in advance of this designation? And have they voiced concerns to you about Jebhat al-Nusrah Front and what they’re doing on the ground and whether that actually makes certain civilians in Syria wary of the opposition?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: The meeting in Marrakesh hasn’t started yet. The ministers have not arrived. And so I don’t want to prejudge what the outcome will be. But what I would say is that the previous Friends of the Syrian People meetings in Tunis, in Istanbul, and in Paris, in each of those occasions, the partner states of the Friends of the Syrian People have emphasized their support for a tolerant Syrian society. They have emphasized their hope that the next Syrian government, after the Bashar al-Assad regime ends, will be one that respects human rights and that treats all Syrian citizens equally, without discrimination, and without prejudice because of their ethnic or religious views. And I do not think that this Friends of Syria conference will deviate from that strong support, that vision of the next Syrian government, after the political transition begins.

With respect to the Free Syrian Army, they know our concern about the Nusrah Front. I have talked to them myself about it and we have talked to others in the Syrian opposition over the past month. And they know what our position is and I’ll leave it at that.

OPERATOR: And you do have a question from the line of Joyce Karam with Al Hayat. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, hi. My question is also to [Senior Administration Official Three]. Would this make it more likely that the U.S. would arm non-extremist elements in the Syria opposition? And if the regime targets al-Nusrah Front now, would the U.S. be okay with that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: I’m sorry. I didn’t understand the second question. Can you say it again?

QUESTION: Yeah. If the Assad regime goes ahead and targets al-Nusrah Front, would you be okay with that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: I see. Okay. With respect to your first question, we have always said with respect to our policy on providing arms that, number one, we do not provide arms to the Syrian opposition now. We have also said that the President has never ruled out in the future providing arms, but we do not do it now. But number three, for us, providing arms has to be done in a way that helps promote a political solution. And until we understand how these arms promote a political solution, we do not see how provision of arms is a good idea.

With respect to the Assad regime targeting al-Nusrah, I would simply say that we have condemned the Assad regime as a state sponsor of terrorism. We have condemned the Assad regime’s incredibly brutal and excessive, egregious acts of violence against the Syrian population. The news from yesterday is just shocking. I’m not going to comment on when it targets al-Nusrah, except to say that we condemn extremism on both sides. We condemn extremism that is the Syrian regime, and we condemn extremism in the Syrian armed opposition. Neither one of them presents a good – neither one of them presents a realistic way forward for a Syrian political transition that wants to give the Syrian people a system that will be free and respect the human rights of all Syrians.

MODERATOR: Operator, we’ve only got time for one more question.

OPERATOR: Okay. And that question will come from Hannah Allam with McClatchy Newspaper. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes. Thanks for the call. I was wondering, how do you disentangle the sort of Free Syrian Army rebel units from Jebhat al-Nusrah fighters when there appears to be such close coordination on the battlefield that’s opened the door to a scenario where somebody like the Syrian Support Group could come under scrutiny for providing materiel support to Jebhat al-Nusrah via these other more accepted rebel groups? And also has the U.S. talked to the Qataris and the Saudis about cutting off Nusrah – not just state funding but the individuals that are believed to be funding them from those countries? Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: I’m going to answer the second question first about our diplomatic work. And then with respect to the first question, I’ll make a comment or two on that, and then – and/or [Senior Administration Official Two] may wish to add something in terms of distinguishing.

With respect to our diplomatic contacts, we absolutely have made our views known about Nusrah to our international partners that are working with us to find a solution, a peaceful and political solution to the Syrian crisis. We absolutely have informed them, and they too know about our views.

I think it is also important here to note one positive sign of how the Free Syrian Army itself has understood the threat that Nusrah represents to the political transition in Syria, which is that during the meetings in Antalya in Turkey last week where they were working to set up a unified command for the Free Syrian Army, notably excluded from that meeting was the Nusrah Front, and we think that was a wise decision. With respect to distinguishing, as I mentioned in Antalya, the groups themselves know who Nusrah is, and I think they are better understanding the threat that it represents.

And so we will certainly continue our discussions with them, which in many cases will be an effort to convince more and more elements of the Free Syrian Army to stay away from al-Nusrah. But as I mentioned, the meeting in Antalya was a step forward. I don’t know if [Senior Administration Official One] or [Senior Administration Official Two] want to comment on that business about distinguishing between elements of the Free Syrian Army and other elements of – or I mean, Nusrah.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I think the only thing I would add to that is that we’ve taken an important step today to help these groups make the – underscore the importance of the distinction, and the most important thing that we can do in our own assistance is to continue to, as we always do, to strive to ensure that our assistance doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.


MODERATOR: Thank you all for joining the call today, and thank you to our officials, and have a good day.



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January 15th, 2013, 10:12 am


213. revenire said:

Tara I am not interested in your opinions. When you came down on the side of terrorism you and I were “done” as they say.

I posted it for the record, for posterity.

As far as futile arguments go: that is your chief occupation here. After all, is anything more stupid than asking what Asma wants for the new child? Or saying Batta will fall 2000 times a day? It is all you do (beside wishing death on Syrians who support the president).

Syria has no room for you. If you support al-Nusra US law enforcement will find you quite easily. Keep saying how you think they should be supported as they blow up villages and behead Christians.

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January 15th, 2013, 10:16 am


214. Tara said:


Take your Lithium.

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January 15th, 2013, 10:22 am


215. apple_mini said:

#202 Please do NOT insult our intelligence. The damage clearly shows from either IED or shelling. There is no way it is caused by aerial bombing if you just have a little common sense about physics.

Besides, why the regime would attack the university which is fully under the regime’s control? Would that cause more troubles for the regime itself plus adding panic in its turf?

Moderate opposition members should at least have some decency to condemn those terrorist attacks. That way the silent majority of Syrian people can still see some hope on the opposition side. That will also win some hearts from those university students and faculty members who have suffered greatly in this horrific attack.

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January 15th, 2013, 10:29 am


216. zoo said:

Another ironical outcome of the USA so called “counter terrorism” training…

US trained Mali officers switched side and join the Mali Islamists and an American-trained officer who overthrew the elected Mali president in a coup.

” For years, the United States tried to stem the spread of Islamic militancy in the region by conducting its most ambitious counterterrorism program ever across these vast, turbulent stretches of the Sahara.

But as insurgents swept through the desert last year, commanders of this nation’s elite army units, the fruit of years of careful American training, defected when they were needed most — taking troops, guns, trucks and their newfound skills to the enemy in the heat of battle, according to senior Malian military officials.

“It was a disaster,” said one of several senior Malian officers to confirm the defections.

Then an American-trained officer overthrew Mali’s elected government, setting the stage for more than half of the country to fall into the hands of Islamic extremists. American spy planes and surveillance drones have tried to make sense of the mess, but American officials and their allies are still scrambling even to get a detailed picture of who they are up against.

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January 15th, 2013, 10:35 am


217. Tara said:


And if the bombing of Aleppo’s university turned out to be an air bombardment, would you still think it is the opposition stealing a plane and bombing the students?

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January 15th, 2013, 10:39 am


218. zoo said:

#215 Apple_mini

The University blast: a rebels attempt to divert the media from focusing too much on the debacle of the armed gangs in Damascus suburbs?

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January 15th, 2013, 10:40 am


219. Majed97 said:

In Mali, they call them Alqaeda fighters/terrorists; in Syria they call them protesters/rebels/oppositions/activists…

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January 15th, 2013, 10:58 am


220. omen said:

swaida was mentioned earlier. anybody know what to make of this oddity?

Video: Jabhat al-Nusra gives 48 hours for Al-Suwayda Governorate residents (Druze) to stop fighting with Assad

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January 16th, 2013, 7:41 pm


221. William Scott Scherk said:

When the US State department announced its update to Executive Order 13224, news agencies and reporters generally ran with the news that Jabat al-Nusra was named a terrorist organization.

Not much remarked was the designation of the irregular militias as terrorist organizations.

As one of our commentators yammered:

Tara, and other terrorist supporters (talking to you Bill Scherk and you Amal Hanano), the US State Department doesn’t mince words below. Al-Nusra IS Al-Qaeda. If you’re in the United States and you issue public statements of support for the al-Nusrah Front terrorists you could very well be arrested under US law (Bill gets out of it because he’s in Vancouver).

[ . . . ]

[quoting State dept spokesperson] Al-Nusrah Front has sought to portray itself as part of a legitimate Syrian opposition, but today’s actions are intended to expose them and make clear that the United States believes that al-Nusrah’s extremist ideology has no role in a post-Assad Syria. Among the consequences of today’s actions is a prohibition against knowingly providing or attempting or conspiring to provide material support or resources to or engaging in transactions with al-Nusrah Front.

Now, did that poster skim past this part of the self-same comment?

The actions we took today fall into basically two buckets: actions against two militias that have been perpetrating violence in coordination with and in affiliation with the Assad government, and then actions in concert with the al-Nusrah [ … ] the Shabiha have operated as a direct action arm of the Government of Syria and its security services, with Shabiha units providing support to units from designated security services, such as the Syrian Air Force intelligence and Syrian military intelligence, that have been among the most active in the violence. [ … ] The other pro-regime militia that we are sanctioning today is Jaysh al-Sha’bi, which operates throughout Syria and has been particularly active in Damascus and Aleppo where the militia has supplemented Syrian Government forces operations against the opposition. Jaysh al-Sha’bi was created and continues to be funded and maintained with support from Iran and Hezbollah, and it is modeled after the Iranian Basij militia, which has proven so deadly and effective at using violence and intimidation to suppress political dissent in Iraq.

Copy. Paste. Post post post. Drink French wine. Burp. Carry on …

Here below is the official designation from the Treasury Department, which enforces the order’s sanctions — with details on the Assad-affiliated militias deemed terrorist organizations.

Recall that our plagiarist used multiple posts to menace TARA, and recall also that he botched his reading: the crime that applies to US citizens contains this proviso: the crime is perpetrated when the citizen ‘knowingly provides material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization (FTO)’

In other words, the anonymous FTO supporter REVENIRE is a much more choice target for Homeland Security than is TARA — by his own terrorist-supporting words on this blog.

Jaysh al-Sha’bi

Jaysh al-Sha’bi is a militia controlled by the Syrian government and has conducted unilateral and joint operations with Syrian military and security elements against the Syrian opposition that have resulted in the deaths and injuries of Syrian opposition members.

Jaysh al-Sha’bi operates throughout Syria and has been particularly active in Damascus and Aleppo, where the militia has supplemented Syrian government forces’ operations against the opposition.

Iran has helped establish and train the Jaysh al-Sha’bi militia in Syria to support the Asad regime and relieve pressure on Syrian government forces. Since mid-2012, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and Hizballah have provided training, advice, and weapons and equipment for Jaysh al-Sha’bi. Iran has also provided routine funding worth millions of dollars to the militia.

Iran’s IRGC Commander Mohamad Ali Jafari also claimed that the militia, which he claimed has 50,000 members, was modeled after Iran’s own Basij, a paramilitary force subordinate to the IRGC that has been heavily involved in the violent crackdowns and serious human rights abuses occurring in Iran since the June 2009 contested presidential election.


Since the beginning of the unrest in Syria, the Shabiha have operated as a direct action arm of the Government of Syria and its security services and Shabiha units have provided support to units from designated security services such as the Syrian Air Force Intelligence and Syrian Military Intelligence.

Shabiha units have worked with Syrian Military Intelligence to provide security at Syrian regime facilities and to man security checkpoints in Syrian cities and the Shabiha have been used by the Syrian military during operations in and around Damascus to interrogate and kill potential supporters of the Syrian opposition.

In addition to the Shabiha being identified as part of the Government of Syria pursuant to E.O. 13582, today the Treasury Department also designated the group pursuant to E.O. 13572 for being responsible for or complicit in the commission of human rights abuses in Syria, including those related to repression.

Since the beginning of the unrest, the Shabiha have fired into crowds of peaceful Syrian demonstrators, shot and killed Syrian demonstrators, arbitrarily detained Syrian civilians, and shot Syrian soldiers who refused to fire on peaceful demonstrators. In May 2011, the Shabiha were firing on Syrian civilians trying to cross into Lebanon near the town of al-Bire, Lebanon.

Nice stalking with you, young snuggle bunny. Fais gaffe!

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January 18th, 2013, 1:52 am


222. abc said:

For anyone who loves Aleppo.

Here’s a beautiful tribute to the city by writer Nihad Sirees, who puts his memories of growing up there against the violence and horror of the present.

Geography of Secrets:

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January 19th, 2013, 11:21 pm


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