News Round Up (19 August 2011)

Ehsani on Why Europe’s Impending Petroleum Product sanctions Will Hurt Syria

You ask how the trade embargo will affect Syria.

The answer to this will depend on the EU tomorrow. A draft circulated today that the region will ban the exports of refined petroleum products to Syria. Why is this important? Because while Syria may find buyers for its exports of crude (heavy type), what it really needs is to import refined crude. Iran also suffers from such a deficiency. This is why you see cars lined up at its gas stations in spite of the ample oil that it exports.

By placing the five different Syrian oil companies and agencies on the OFAC list, many countries and financial institutions will find it problematic to trade and do business with them. Iran will be an exception of course as it is under similar sanctions already.

By all accounts, Syrian businessmen report near 40-50% drop in general activity. The stock market is down by a similar amount largely reflecting this sentiment.

Again, what the EU does tomorrow with the export ban on refined petroleum will be key. The U.S. and the EU are likely to keep adding to the list of sanctions as this standoff continues. The pressure on the economy and the country’s finances are likely to intensify. Iran has been under similar sanctions and survived. I guess one argue that Syria can do the same. But, one must not underestimate the repercussions of these actions. When such measures are put in place, they are very hard to cancel and do away with.

The Syria Expert at the Economist Intelligence Unit responds

Ehsani, you are right to pick up on the importance of refined products imports (mainly mazout/diesel/gasoil), but it would be a mistake to rule out Iran as a potential supplier. Iran was dependent on product imports, but has turned that situation round through abolishing subsidies and upgrading its refineries, and is now in a position to export significant volumes of gasoline and diesel.

Syria’s products consumption has also been distorted by subsidies, and we can assume that if imports are curtailed consumption would fall either through rationing or increased prices.

Syria’s requirement for petroleum products has also been eased somewhat by significant increases in natural gas production over the past two years.

Assad to address Syrians on crisis
Thu Aug 18, 2011, Iranian TV

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reportedly plans to deliver a televised speech in the upcoming days to address the ongoing crisis in the country.

Informed sources say Assad plans to address the nation in the next two days about the months-long unrest in Syria that is feared to seriously harm the national unity in the country, a Press TV correspondent reported on Thursday….

Post Assad Syria will be Pro-Western Youtube

Syrian human rights activist Ammar Abdulhamid says democracy protesters are disgusted with Iran’s support of Assad regime.

Syria is disqualified from the next soccer World Cup.

Syria to allow UN investigators access
August 19, 2011 – AP

The United Nations said a humanitarian mission would go to Syria this weekend as European powers launched a campaign for UN Security Council sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad.

UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos announced the much delayed mission after a Security Council briefing which was told of a shoot-to-kill policy against protesters, stadium executions and children feared killed in Syrian government custody.

The civilian death toll from protests which erupted in mid-March has now passed 2,000, UN under secretary general B. Lynn Pascoe told the 15-nation body.
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Assad promised UN chief Ban Ki-moon in May that a UN humanitarian team could go to protest towns. His government had since blocked the mission. But Amos told reporters: “We have been guaranteed that we will have full access to where we want to go.”

Turkey and Syria – Economist
One problem with a neighbour: Turkey’s tough talk on Syria is unlikely to be matched by action

IN A small café outside Istanbul’s Fatih mosque, a slight bearded man lifts his shirt to reveal two deep bullet wounds. “Assad’s soldiers did this to me,” says Motee Albatee, who served as an imam at a Sunni mosque in the besieged Syrian town of Deraa until he fled the country several weeks ago. Mr Albatee is among a growing number of Syrian dissidents who have found sanctuary in Turkey, many of them in refugee camps near the border. Some are angry over the reluctance of Turkey’s government to get tougher with Bashar Assad, Syria’s president. “Turkey must set up a buffer zone [inside Syria]” to protect more refugees from the fighting, insists Yayha Bedir, a member of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. Like many seated around the table, he believes only drastic action will force the Syrian army to defect en masse, bringing down Mr Assad’s brutal regime.

Such talk is particularly loud online, where Syrian tweeters have voiced disdain for Turkey’s attempts to get Mr Assad to end the bloodshed. Their fury grew earlier this month when Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, flew to Damascus to deliver what Turkish officials tautologically called a final ultimatum. “We are at the end of our tether,” roared Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister.
In this section

Mr Assad’s response was to intensify his assaults against unarmed civilians, notably in the Mediterranean port of Latakia (see article). This prompted Mr Davutoglu to issue yet another warning: Turkey would not, he said, “remain indifferent” to continuing massacres. Yet he also ruled out intervening to create a buffer zone. So what leverage does Turkey actually have over its erstwhile Ottoman dominion?

None whatsoever, say critics of Mr Davutoglu’s much-vaunted “zero problems with the neighbours” policy. That is unfair. But as Soli Ozel, a political scientist, puts it, the Syrian crisis has revealed that “Turkey isn’t as influential as it thought.”….

Turkey’s Western allies are not about to mount an invasion of Syria. But they are turning the diplomatic screws, and are eager for AK to sever political and trade links with Mr Assad. But a bigger prize would be to drive a wedge between Turkey and Iran. Turkey’s mollycoddling of the mullahs has angered America, most recently when Mr Erdogan’s government voted against imposing further sanctions on Iran at the United Nations last year. Turkey has since sought to make amends. It has agreed to NATO plans for a nuclear-defence missile shield that is clearly aimed at Iran. And after some dithering, it is co-operating with the alliance’s military operations in Libya.

Yet Turkey is understandably wary of openly confronting Iran, one of its main sources of natural gas and the primary transit route for Turkish exports to Central Asia. Iran has also helped Turkey in its battle against the PKK—though it continues to flirt with hardliners who oppose any deal with the Turkish government. Lately the PKK has been stepping up the fight—some 30 Turkish soldiers have been killed in the past month. On August 17th, in a bid to quell mounting public anger, Mr Erdogan authorised the bombing of hundreds of PKK targets inside Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. But such actions have failed in the past and the last thing Turkey needs is a hostile Iran.

Besides, many of AK’s pious constituents see the unrest in Syria as yet another America-backed Zionist plot to pit Turkey against Iran. The ultimate goal, their thinking goes, is to cut Turkey down to size. Disappointingly, the same line is parroted by the main opposition Republican People’s Party, for all its claims of change under its new leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

So what are Turkey’s options? It can withdraw its ambassador from Damascus, continue to intercept the flow of weapons to Syria and impose economic sanctions. Other than that, as Mr Ozel suggests, it should desist from promising any more than it can deliver.

Anderson Cooper Calls BS On Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja’Afari

Iraq Leader Says the Arab Spring Benefits Israel
August 18, 2011, By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT

BAGHDAD — While Western leaders including President Obama called on President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to step down, Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, warned Arab leaders in a speech on Thursday that Israel would benefit the most from the Arab Spring.

“There is no doubt that there is a country that is waiting for the Arab countries to be ripped and is waiting for internal corrosion,” he said in Baghdad. “Zionists and Israel are the first and biggest beneficiaries of this whole process.”

Mr. Maliki, the leader of Iraq’s Shiite government, rarely mentions Israel in speeches. But he warned that those Arab countries experiencing democratic revolutions should be wary of Israel’s taking advantage of the turmoil.

“We must take notice and be careful not to be the prey of the ambitions of this usurping country,” he said.

Mr. Maliki, who has maintained a far friendlier tone toward the Assad government than many Arab leaders, did not refer to Syria in the speech. He said that Arabs deserved to have more rights, but that they should gain them through the electoral process.

Since the uprising in Syria began, Mr. Maliki has invited many Syrian officials to Baghdad to discuss stronger economic ties between the two countries. He has also said far less about the Syrian government’s bloody crackdown on dissent than he did when there was similar unrest earlier in Bahrain, where a Sunni monarchy holds sway over a predominantly Shiite population.

Many analysts have said that Mr. Maliki’s stance on Syria reflects Iraq’s increasing tilt toward Iran, a Shiite theocracy and a strong supporter of Syria. In 2010, Mr. Maliki relied heavily on Iran’s political support to gain a second term as prime minister. Others have said that Mr. Maliki is concerned that unrest in Syria could spill over the border into Iraq and further destabilize the country.

Why the WikiLeaks cable about Syrian regime is spot on
US diplomats describe the Assad government as institutionally dishonest, brutal and defiant
Thursday 18 August 2011

In the Wikileaks cable the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is described as ‘nasty’ and ‘abrasive’ by US diplomats. Photograph: SANA / HO/EPA

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s apparently disingenuous statement to the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, that military operations have ended comes as no surprise to diplomats with experience of working in Damascus.

Deceit is high on the list of qualities marking Syrian diplomatic relations, according to a frank US diplomatic cable from 2009 published by WikiLeaks this month.

“SARG [Syrian government] officials lie at every level,” wrote the US charge d’affaires in Damascus, Maura Connelly, as the US was beginning to re-engage with Syria after withdrawing its ambassador in 2005. “They persist in a lie even in the face of evidence to the contrary. They are not embarrassed to be caught in a lie.”

The portrait painted here fits with the behaviour of the regime towards its own people and the international community during the last five months: brutal and defiant.

In the cable the Syrian regime is described as willing to be “nasty” and using a style “at best abrasive and, at its worst, brutal” to achieve its aims.

This could involve anything from “harsh verbal attacks to intimidate and rattle foreign diplomats” to allegations made by Syrians abroad about harrassment by their own diplomatic staff. Other undesirable rules of engagement besides deceit are provided in the guide: “vanity and self-preservation” and the use of “non-sequitur” and “antagonism” as key strategies by officials, who are described as sticklers for protocol.

“The Syrians are not troubled by discord; they seek an upper hand in any relationship by relying on foreign diplomats’ instinctive desire to resolve problems,” Connelly wrote.

The cable suggests flattery may help lubricate meetings with Assad, whose weaknesses are described as vanity and abstraction – two hallmarks of his speeches during the current crisis.

The embattled president is described as less shrewd than his father, with a self-image as “a sort of philosopher king, the Pericles of Damascus” that influences policy to a “disproportionate” degree.

According to diplomats little has changed in the two years since the cable was written. “Syrian diplomats are a source of exasperation to all,” said one non-US western diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity. “The security state runs the show, officials are hard to get hold of and when you do, they repeat the latest regime line ad nauseum.”

The cable also exemplifies why the regime has been caught short by a generation of young people who use social media to disseminate information about the crackdown. At the time of writing the Syrian ministry of foreign affairs had no internal email system, relying solely on phone and fax.

The cable does note, however, that a few talented individuals allow the Syrian government to punch above its weight.

Nour Ali is a pseudonym for a journalist based in Damascus


Iranian aid boosts Syrian regime’s survival chances

Wednesday, August 17 2011, Oxford Analytica

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday urged regional powers Turkey and Saudi Arabia to call on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, while Iran continued to stand by its Syrian ally, warning that Western interference in the country would stoke public hatred in the region. The close alliance between Syria and Iran is based on shared ideological and strategic interests, including anti-US and anti-Israeli postures and support for the Lebanon-based Hizbollah. Together they form the pillars of what has been described by concerned Sunni neighbours as the ‘Shia Crescent’ of countries stretching from Iran to Lebanon. Damascus is critical to Iran’s rising regional hegemony, and represents its most valuable ally. If the Assad regime collapsed, Iran would lose its corridor for arms shipments to the Levant, as well as its strongest ideological bulwark.
Impact
• Increasing international isolation of the Syrian regime will increase its dependence on regional ally Iran.
• Iranian military aid will boost the Syrian forces’ efficiency and prolong the regime’s survival.
• Tehran will be the major economic beneficiary of new international sanctions against Damascus.
• Iran’s promise of over 5 billion dollars in aid will compensate any loss Syria suffers in trade with Turkey.
• With Riyadh leading Arab efforts against the regime, Syria is set to become the newest battleground between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
What next
Iranian penetration into Syria will become more obvious in coming months, particularly on the military and economic fronts. Its recent offer of a short-term loan and free oil deliveries will be the first of several aid measures aimed at propping up Assad’s regime. Iran’s moves will balance any threats coming from Ankara to cut trade or engage militarily. The Alawi-dominated regime’s crackdown on its largely Sunni population and its increasing isolation alongside Iran will polarise the already tense standoff between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Sectarian tensions will increase in the region as both countries corral support for their respective Sunni and Shia constituencies.
Analysis
Syria’s violent crackdown on a five month civil uprising has increasingly isolated it from its Sunni neighbours in the Middle East. Amid mounting diplomatic pressure for an end to the violence, Iran has stood firmly in support of its Syrian ally, criticising any outside interference. In contrast to mainstream Arab TV stations, Iran’s media is providing only cursory coverage of events, adopting the Syrian regime’s line that ‘gangs and terrorists’ are the primary instigators of the violence (see SYRIA: Regime to hold firm against growing pressure – August 2, 2011).
Strengthening ties

Iran is contributing arms and military personnel to the Syrian secret service, as well as increasing its economic aid to the embattled Assad regime. …..

Outlook
International isolation will bring Iran and Syria closer together, increasing economic, military and political ties. With Iran’s support, the Assad regime will be able to withstand sanctions, and continue to attack the opposition. Having so far avoided serious reforms, the Assad regime is unlikely to undertake these now. With Riyadh bolstering the Sunni majority, and Iran the Alawi minority, a stand-off can be expected for some time to come.

U.S. favors Muslim Brotherhood over pro-democracy Syrian opposition
Wednesday, August 17, 2011 World Tribune

WASHINGTON — The administration of President Barack Obama has selected the Muslim Brotherhood over the pro-democracy opposition to lead Syria after the expected ouster of President Bashar Assad, a report said.

The Hudson Institute, a leading consultant to the Defense Department, asserted that the administration has decided to work with Turkey and the Brotherhood in Syria for a post-Assad government. In a report by Herbert London, the institute said Obama has dismissed the pro-democracy opposition as an alternative.

“It would seem far more desirable to back the democratic influences — the political organizations that require cultivation and support — despite their relative weakness at this moment,” the report, titled “U.S. Betrays Syria’s Opposition,” said. “It is these religious and secular groups that represent the real hope for the future and the counterweight to the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

London, president of Hudson until 2011, said the State Department has ignored non-Brotherhood opposition groups. In July, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton invited Brotherhood operatives and urged them to work with Turkey to help oust Assad.

“Missing from the invitations are Kurdish leaders, Sunni liberals, Assyrians and Christian spokesmen,” the report said. “According to various reports the State Department made a deal with Turkey and Muslim Brotherhood representatives either to share power with Assad to stabilize the government, or replace him if this effort fails.”

Hudson cited the Syrian Democracy Council, which contains a range of ethnic and religious minorities, including Alawites and Christians. SDC was not invited to the State Department.

Independent: Robert Fisk: It’s his fast-disappearing billions that will worry Assad, not words from Washington, 2011-08-18

Obama roars. World trembles. If only. Obama says Assad must “step aside”. Do we really think Damascus trembles? Or is going to? Indeed, the titan of the White House only dared to go this far after condemnation of Bashar al-Assad by Saudi Arabia, … A Swedish government agency recently concluded that Syria was largely unaffected by the world economic crisis – because it didn’t really have an economy……

UN report says brutal crackdown in Syria ‘may amount to crimes against humanity’
By FRANK JORDANS
Associated Press
18 August 2011

GENEVA (AP) – Government forces in Syria may have committed crimes against humanity by conducting summary executions, torturing prisoners and targeting children in their crackdown against opposition protesters, a high-level U.N. human rights team said Thursday.

Their report recommends that the U.N. Security Council refer Syria to the International Criminal Court for prosecution of alleged atrocities, a move that is likely to be discussed by the council at a closed-door session in New York later Thursday…..

Expert doubts Syrian leader has Swiss stash
Thelesklaf says it would be hard to prove a direct link between Assad and assets (Keystone)
by Simon Bradley, swissinfo.ch

Swiss financial crime expert Daniel Thelesklaf has told swissinfo.ch he seriously doubts Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has assets hidden in Swiss banks.

Switzerland announced on Tuesday it was extending sanctions against Syria to include travel bans and asset freezes against Assad and nine senior officials, in a move that follows the European Union and the United States.

Syria is Switzerland’s fifth major case of frozen assets this year.

So far it has frozen SFr60 million ($69 million) belonging to former Tunisian dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and his clan.

It has also identified about SFr400 million belonging to former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his close entourage and some SFr360 ​​million belonging to Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi and his clan. Switzerland has also frozen SFr70 million in assets belonging to former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo and his entourage.

Thelesklaf, who is executive director of the Basel Institute on Governance, recently accompanied a Swiss delegation to Egypt and Tunisia as an independent observer to discuss the return of any illicit funds held in Swiss banks.

swissinfo.ch: Do you think Assad and his clan have a secret Swiss fortune stashed away?

Daniel Thelesklaf: I would be very surprised if Assad held assets in Switzerland. That would be a very weak signal.

I have no idea about the possible size of the assets, but I would be surprised if a direct link to Assad could be detected. His negative track record is well known.

THREE WAYS TO HELP PUSH ASAD ASIDE, By Andrew J. Tabler, August 18, 2011, WINEP

Experts Skeptical Syria’s Assad Will Resign
By Cecily Hilleary, VOA, Washington

…. Five months into the Syrian uprisings, Bashar Al-Assad may have lost credibility, but he has not lost his stranglehold over the country.  “I think the main thing that is maintaining Bashar al Assad in power is the inability to see beyond him from Western policy makers,” says Nadim Shehadi, an Associate Fellow at the London-based think tank Chatham House. In other words, Shehadi explains, “Assad creates smokescreens that prevent the world from seeing beyond him, by creating the circumstances whereby people would be afraid of what comes after he falls.”What exactly are those smokescreens?  To Shehadi they are a myriad of Western worries he says the Syrian President deliberately feeds: “Iran would come in, Al Qaeda would take over, the Muslim Brotherhood, there would be civil war like Iraq…chaos in Lebanon, chaos in the whole region.”….

“The opposition is very fragmented,” says Shehadi. “There is no leadership. That’s because this regime doesn’t allow for an opposition to be united, coherent and credible.”

Stephen McInerney, Executive Director of the Washington, D.C.-basedProject on Middle East Democracy, agrees. “A lot of the key people that will emerge as leaders,” he says, “are keeping a low profile, and a lot of people who are being active in this protest movement don’t want to be known at this point, because if they are prominently known as leaders of the opposition and the protest movement, they are more likely to be targeted, and their work more likely to be eliminated.”

At a recent press conference in Washington, D.C, Radwan Ziadeh, who is also a Visiting Scholar at The Institute for Middle East Studies at George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs, acknowledged the lack of unity among Assad’s opponents. “It’s not easy,” he said, “to come up with a united opposition after 47 years of dictatorship. But even though the Syrian opposition does not have a united leadership, they do have a united agenda: A free Syria, for all Syrians.”

Fears of Civil War

Ziadeh also addressed concerns about religious, ethnic and sectarian divisions. In a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and other diplomatic officials he stressed that the new Syria will be politically, ethnically and religiously inclusive. “We don’t want anybody to be excluded by the transition.”

Not even the Baath party, he adds.

Still, Washington has publicly stated that it is looking for clearer signs from the opposition. The State Department said this week said that U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford continues to meet with the Syrian government and the opposition on a daily basis.

“I think where we are in our discussions with the opposition,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters, “is to continue to encourage them to work together, to be unified in their message, and to come up with a clear roadmap of their own for a democratic future for Syria.”

Time: Syrian Regime Hunts Army Defectors Who Seek to Save Citizens, 2011-08-18

TIME’s reporter in Syria meets up with military defectors, even as the Assad regime rushes to find and exterminate them Syrian Regime Hunts Army Defectors Who Seek to Save Citizens…

The group of soldiers, all of whom were lieutenants from Rastan, had mainly been stationed in the southern city of Dara’a, where the antiregime uprising erupted in mid-March, as well as in the capital of Damascus. The men had each escaped from their various deployments and returned to their hometown. Two days before TIME visited them, they had donned their uniforms again to publicly announce their defection as a group in a brief, boilerplate video statement that was uploaded to YouTube and later aired on al-Jazeera. They made individual videos too, like a 48-second clip showing First Lieutenant Fadi Kism, a bearded man with dark eyes and plump lips, announcing his defection from the army’s Third Division. “I’m doing it because of the destruction that I saw in Rastan, and in Homs, in Dara’a and Hama,” the 23-year-old tells the camera. (See “A Visit to Hama, the Rebel Syrian City That Refused to Die.”)

The next day, around 1 p.m., shortly after his mother had watched the video of Rastan’s defectors on al-Jazeera, Kism was dead, killed in an ambush by loyalist soldiers who had tricked him and his colleagues into thinking they wanted to join them. A firefight broke out, the defectors say, in an account verified by several civilian witnesses interviewed independently. The official Syrian news agency SANA ran a short piece the next day saying that “an armed terrorist group” had “set an ambush, four kilometers east of Rastan city, opening fire on a convoy carrying officers to their workplaces.” An officer and two soldiers were killed, the report said, adding that three loyalists were wounded. “We only protected ourselves,” says Lieutenant Ibrahim Mohammad Ayoub, one of the remaining eight defectors. “We are not interested in attacking unless civilian lives, or our lives, are in danger.”

The defectors say they are being hunted down by a regime that won’t forgive disloyalty. They insist they are only protecting their townsfolk, but it seems like they themselves are in need of protection.

There are reports, difficult to verify, of soldiers being killed by their colleagues for refusing to shoot protesters. Low-level military defectors are breaking away in small numbers, but there have been very few high-ranking deserters, largely because the military’s upper echelon is made up of officers from the same Alawite minority sect that President Bashar Assad belongs to. TIME spoke to one of the most senior defectors, Colonel Hussein Harmoush, in northern Syria in June, just hours before he crossed into Turkey. Harmoush now claims to speak for the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA), a loose grouping of defectors that is reportedly headed by Colonel Riad al-As’ad, whose whereabouts are unclear. Still, beyond a few amateur video statements — which encourage other soldiers to desert and offer promises to protect civilians — there is precious little proof of the FSA’s existence, at least in any regimented form…..

SAC welcomes Obama’s call for Assad to ‘step aside’

Syrian American group urges Russia, China, Brazil, India to end support for Syrian dictator

(Washington, D.C., 8/18/11) – The Syrian American Council (SAC) welcomed the statement today from President Barack Obama calling for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad to “step aside,” and expressed optimism about new measures introduced to further isolate the Assad regime…….

In a statement, SAC Chairman Dr. Louay Safi said:

“We applaud President Obama and his administration for finally calling for Bashar Assad’s immediate resignation. We appreciate the leadership from the United States over the past month to further isolate the Assad regime, and we welcome the Executive Order from the President with hopes that it will hasten the end of the Assad regime and stop the bloodshed of innocent men, women and children.

“We urge the United Nations to follow with an immediate resolution that holds the Assad regime accountable for its crimes against humanity that President Obama referenced, which include the ‘imprisoning, torturing, and slaughtering’ of thousands of innocent Syrians.

“We specifically urge the leaders of Russia, China, Brazil, and India to immediately cease protecting the Assad regime, and to stand on the right side of history by supporting Syria’s peaceful revolution. By opposing a UN Security Council resolution, these governments are directly facilitating the massacres we have witnessed in the past month. Any government or organization that can exert pressure on the Assad regime to step aside and allow the Syrian people to take control of their destiny must do so immediately.

“Finally, we wish to commend President Obama for reminding all people that the fate of Syria is firmly in the hands of the millions of Syrians who have admirably taken to the streets ….

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101. beaware said:

Syria dissidents eye unity in Istanbul
Friday, August 19, 2011
Sevil Küçükkoşum
ANKARA- Hürriyet Daily News
http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=syria-dissidents-eye-unity-in-istanbul-2011-08-19
Syrian opposition plans to gather in Istanbul on Sunday in order to select a national council among all Syrian opposition committees. Ankara is not contributing to their gatherings but will be watching it closely, according to an official

Members of the Syrian opposition are expected to form a national council Sunday as an alternative to embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a gathering in Istanbul, according to likely participants.

The task of the Syrian national council is to organize opposition parties and formulate “a road map to transform Syria into a democratic system,” Local Coordination Committees of Syria spokesperson Mohammad al-Abdullah told Radio Sawa on Friday. “The [national] council is an attempt to represent the opposition and [show] the aims of the Syrian revolution to the international community.”

The Syrian opposition has already held meetings in Istanbul; the national council that is expected to be elected Sunday would include all committees elected at previous conferences, Omar al-Muqdad, head of the Legislative and Consultative Committee mandated by Syrian opposition group the Conference of Change, told the Hürriyet Daily News on Friday.

There have been a number of discussions on the election of the national council, and the initiative is still being negotiated, Ammar Qurabi, head of Syria’s National Organization for Human Rights, told the Daily News.

More than 40 Syrian “revolution blocs” have forged a coalition to unite their efforts against the Assad regime, according to a statement received Friday by Agence France-Presse. “We announce today the establishment of [the] ‘Syrian Revolution General Commission,’ the result of merging all the signatory Syrian Revolution blocs both inside and outside Syria and those who are invited to join as well in order to have, through this commission, a representation of the revolutionaries all over our beloved Syria,” the statement said.

Members of Syrian opposition to President Bashar al-Assad are expected to meet in Istanbul on Sunday for a meeting intended to elect a national council, according to an opposition member who will take part in the meeting.

“The [national] council is an attempt to represent the opposition and [show] the aims of the Syrian revolution to the international community,” Local Coordination Committees of Syria spokesperson Mohammad al-Abdullah said Friday. More than 40 Syrian “revolution blocs” have forged a coalition to unite their efforts against Assad’s regime, according to a statement received by media outlets on Friday.

Turkey is reluctant to follow the United States and European powers in calling for Assad to step down. Ankara has been consistent in its position that the Syrian people must make the call first, but the situation is made difficult by the lack of a cohesive opposition party.

Turkey biding time on Assad departure call

Ankara, meanwhile, has been reluctant to follow U.S. President Barack Obama’s call on Assad to step down, yet has still been remaining in contact with the Syrian opposition.

The Syrian people must first say “go” to Assad, but, pending Sunday, there is not yet any uniform Syrian opposition asking the president to quit, a Turkish official told the Daily News.

“It’s open to debate in terms of what the Syrian people on the streets are opposing. Some of them want change and ask for reforms, some demand a change of regime. But there has not been a uniform structure [in the Syrian opposition on the streets],” the official said.

Turkey does not rule out calling on Assad to quit, but says it is too early to call for the president’s departure.

Turkey has contacts with the Syrian opposition both within Syria and outside the country, the official said.

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August 19th, 2011, 7:01 pm

 

102. jad said:

سوريا بعد الثمانينيات

ساطع نور الدين
أصدر الغرب حكمه النهائي على نظام الرئيس السوري بشار الاسد، بعد تسامح وتمهل وتردد. الإجماع الاميركي الاوروبي الغربي لم يتشكل بسهولة. كان الاوروبيون أول المبادرين، وكان الاميركيون آخر الملتحقين، بعدما اغلقت دمشق النافذة التركية بقوة، ولم تفتح اي نوافذ عربية او دولية بديلة، واظهرت براعة استثنائية في كسب المزيد والمزيد من الاعداء والخصوم، وفي اختراع الاوهام وتصديقها.
ما سمي بالخيار الامني كان حاسما في بلورة ذلك الاجماع. ارتفع عدد القتلى والجرحى الى ارقام قياسية غير مقبولة حسب معايير الحاضر، التي تختلف بشكل جوهري عن معايير الثمانينيات. وتحولت ملاعب كرة القدم في العاصمة وفي مختلف المدن الكبرى الى معتقلات جماعية لم يخرج منها حتى الان الا الجثث او الجرحى. واجريت تصنيفات خيالية للمعارضين، كادت تحول شخصا معتوها مثل الشيخ عدنان العرعور الى اسطورة، وحكمت على الشعب السوري بانه قطيع مسير من الخارج، الذي غرر به ودس بين صفوفه ارهابيين.. انضم اليهم اللاجئون الفلسطينيون الذين كانوا منذ اللحظة الاولى للانتفاضة السورية في منتصف آذار الماضي موضع شبهة واتهام وتحولوا في الايام القليلة الماضية الى هدف.
ما سمي بالاصلاح كان مجرد خداع. لم يعط النظام الانطباع بانه راغب او قادر على القيام بالعملية الجراحية التي تقتضيها ظروف المرحلة. كان يميل بين الحين والاخر الى عمليات تجميلية، لكنه سرعان ما كان يتراجع عنها. ولعل الاجتماع الاخير للرئيس الاسد مع قيادة حزب البعث، كان السبب الرئيسي في ذلك التحول الجذري في الموقف الاميركي والغربي. تحدث عن مؤامرة خارجية تشبه مؤامرة العام 2005، التي كان مصدرها لبنان حسب التعريف السوري المعروف.. مع ان الادلة على هاتين المؤامرتين واهية، تماما مثلما هي الادلة على ان التمديد للرئيس اميل لحود كان قرارا حكيما .
والاسوأ من الربط بين المؤامرتين واتهام الشارع السوري نفسه هذه المرة بانه متآمر مع الخارج، هو ذلك الاستنفار للحزب المنقرض من اجل الانخراط اكثر فاكثر في معركة النظام، وحثه على العودة الى القواعد وسؤالها رأيها في المسيرة الاصلاحية، مع ان الجواب قاله البعثيون قبل الاجتماع وبعده، وهو انهم يرفضون بشدة إلغاء المادة الثامنة من الدستور، ويصرون على عدم التخلي عن مكتسبات القرن الماضي، في قيادة الدولة والمجتمع.. الى الخراب.
الاجتماع بحد ذاته كان استفزازا للشارع السوري وللخارج العربي والغربي. والاعلان عن المؤتمر القطري في الخريف المقبل كان تحديا، واستخفافا لا مثيل له بعقول السوريين وافكار جميع الوسطاء الذين كانت نصيحتهم الاولى والدائمة الى النظام هي التضحية بالحزب، غير الموجود اصلا، كعلامة على حسن النية والعزم على الاصلاح والتغيير، والدخول في معركة انتخابات نيابية ورئاسية مبكرة كان يمكن، قبل الحملة العسكرية الرمضانية على المدن، ان تضمن للاسد وللنظام الفوز بغالبية مريحة!
قاتل النظام السوري بأفكار الثمانينيات وادواتها واساليبها، لكنه خسر المعركة.. وهو يظن انه لم يخسر الحرب.

http://www.assafir.com/Article.aspx?EditionId=1926&ChannelId=45450&ArticleId=2533&Author=%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%B7%D8%B9%20%D9%86%D9%88%D8%B1%20%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AF%D9%8A%D9%86

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August 19th, 2011, 7:08 pm

 

103. Ali said:

Observer,

I heard more along the lines of this report.

Terrorist groups in Homs are wearing army clothing. Citizens are urged to be very careful not to mistake them for the army and actually communicate with them. Especially in areas of Karm Al-Shami and Zuhra.

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August 19th, 2011, 7:14 pm

 

104. SYR.EXPAT said:

Even Japan is calling for Assad to step down.

الكاتب وطن
الجمعة, 19 أغسطس 2011 20:54

دعا وزير الخارجية الياباني ماتسوموتو تيكاكي الحكومة السورية الى الكف فورا عن استخدام القوة ضد المدنيين قائلا ان طوكيو ستسدعي سفيرها في سوريا لاجراء مشاورات حول الوضع في البلاد.
واعلن ماتسوموتو في بيان “من المؤسف للغاية أنه على الرغم من الطلبات التي قدمتها اليابان ودول أخرى كثيرة بالمجتمع الدولي فان الاستخدام الواسع النطاق للقوة من جانب السلطات الأمنية السورية يواصل التسبب في سقوط العديد
من الوفيات والاصابات في صفوف عامة الناس”.
وأضاف ماتسوموتو “تعتقد اليابان بأن الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد قد فقد بالفعل ثقة المجتمع الدولي ولم يعد قادرا على حكم البلاد بصورة مشروعة ويجب عليه أن يتنحى”.
وتابع “نولي اهتماما كبيرا باتفاق توصل اليه الرئيس بشار الاسد مع السكرتير العام للامم المتحدة بان كي مون في 17 اغسطس لوقف العمليات التي تشنها قوات الجيش والشرطة واجراء اصلاحات في الدستور واصلاحات أخرى وقبول دخول بعثة للأمم المتحدة لتقييم الأوضاع الإنسانية في البلاد”.

Read more: حتى وزير الخارجية الياباني: الاسد فقد ثقة المجتمع الدولي وعليه ان يتنحى http://www.watan.com/news/حتى-وزير-الخارجية-الياباني-الاسد-فقد-ثقة-المجتمع-الدولي-وعليه-ان-يتنحى.html#ixzz1VWG3BJ46

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August 19th, 2011, 7:15 pm

 

105. beaware said:

An uncertain Arab transition
By David Ignatius, Published: August 18
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/an-uncertain-arab-transition/2011/08/18/gIQA16IWOJ_story.html
American intelligence analysts, like most U.S. observers, have often referred to the process unfolding in the Middle East as the “Arab Spring,” with its implicit message of democratic birth and freedom. But some senior analysts are said to have argued for a more neutral term, such as “Arab transition” — which conveys the essential truth that nobody can predict just where this upheaval is heading.

The uncertain transition rumbled on last week in Syria: President Bashar al-Assad’s hold on power appeared to weaken, with his military stretched to the breaking point in an attempt to control the protests. On Thursday, President Obama, evidently sensing that the endgame is near, called on Assad to step down.

Syria illustrates the paradox of the Arab transition. The courage of the Syrian people in defying Assad’s tanks is breathtaking. Yet this is a movement without clear leadership or an agenda beyond toppling Assad. It could bend toward the hard-line Sunni fundamentalists who have led the street fighting in Daraa and Homs, or to the sophisticated pro-democracy activists of Damascus. The truth is that nobody can predict the face of a post-Assad Syria.

The Syrian confrontation is already devolving into a regional proxy war. Iran has been rushing assistance to Assad, who is Tehran’s key Arab ally and provides a lifeline to the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon. To counter the Iranians, a newly emboldened Saudi Arabia has been pumping money to Sunni fighters in Syria. Damascus is the fault line — for Sunni-Shiite tensions, and for the confrontation between Iran and the United States and Israel.

Despite these uncertainties, Obama is right to demand that Assad must go. Some commentators have chided the White House’s hyper-caution. (Saudi Arabia, hardly a beacon of change, denounced Assad a week ago.) But I think Obama has been wise to move carefully — and avoid the facile embrace of a rebel movement whose trajectory is unknown. America’s goal should be an inclusive democracy that enfranchises the Sunni fighters in the streets, yes, but also protects Alawites, Christians and Druze who fear a bloodbath.

As the Arab transition moves through summer toward fall, it’s a good time to take stock — and to remind ourselves that there won’t be any automatic movement toward prosperity and rule of law. The citizen revolt that began in Tunisia is surely a positive trend — and it’s unstoppable, in any event. But analysts offer some important cautionary points:

●The Arab movements for change will probably retard the process of economic reform that was underway in nations such as Egypt. President Hosni Mubarak was an arrogant leader, but over the past decade he did encourage free-market policies that helped boost Egypt’s growth rate over 5 percent. Two architects of those pro-market policies were Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif and Trade Minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid. Both have now been charged with corruption. The populist anger is understandable, but it won’t help Egypt get much-needed international investment.

●Democracy is likely to disappoint the protesters. They went into the streets to demand a better life — jobs, freedom from the secret police, personal dignity — and they want these rights now. Hopefully, citizens in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Yemen and the rest will soon be able to vote for democratic governments. But struggling democracies often aren’t very good at meeting the basic demands that spawned the revolutions. Asia put economic reform first, with political reform gradually following. The Arabs have decided to go the other direction — with uncertain consequences.

●The Arab transition needs to embrace the tolerance of secular societies rather than the intolerance of theocracy. That’s one lesson this generation could learn from the “Arab Renaissance” movements of the last century. The Baath Party and the Nasserites are rightly rejected now, but in celebrating “Arab nationalism” they gave an identity to citizens that was broader than religion, sect or tribe. That spirit of inclusive identity will be essential for a happy Arab future.

Viewing events in the Arab world, President Obama has talked often of being “on the right side of history.” But frankly, that’s an incoherent concept. History doesn’t have a side; it isn’t a straight line that moves inexorably toward progress. Movements that start off calling for liberation often produce the opposite.

What should guide U.S. policy in this time of transition is to be on the right side of America’s own interests and values. Sometimes those two will conflict, requiring difficult choices, but they coincide powerfully in the departure of Syrian President Assad.

davidignatius@washpost.com

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August 19th, 2011, 7:17 pm

 

106. Ali said:

@63 Observer,

I heard more along the lines of this report.

Terrorist groups in Homs are wearing army clothing. Citizens are urged to be very careful not to mistake them for the army and actually communicate with them. Especially in areas of Karm Al-Shami and Zuhra.
Clashes are taking place in:

Khalidiya (Khaled Bin Alwalid Mosque), Bab Amr, Bayada roundabout, Jouret Al-Arayes near the national hospital and Bab Dreib.

Additionally, even heavier gunfire in Bab Sba’.

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August 19th, 2011, 7:22 pm

 

107. Aboud said:

More appalling abuse by the Syrian “Army” in Hama. An army of rabbits that would piss its pants if a single Israeli squadron flew over head.

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August 19th, 2011, 7:40 pm

 

108. Haytham Khoury said:

Dear Hamster:

I wish I could be the next Prime Minster of Syria, but I can’t. If I could, I would have promised you to save the life of every Syrian. If I could, I would have promised you to protect the living of every Syrian. If I could, I would have promised you to restore the dignity of every Syrian.

I like politics because if you practice the real one, it is about human beings. It is about protecting their lives, their living and their dignity. I like the real politics, because it is noble.

Further, I like politics, because it is about dancing on fine strings. It is about manoeuvring to reach your noble goals. It is about building alliances even with your ideological opponents.

I hope all Syrians one day will learn how to be politicians. May be that day Dale Anderson will change his opinion and will say “The Syrians like everybody”.

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August 19th, 2011, 7:42 pm

 

109. beaware said:

Syrian opposition to announce “National Council” – Source
19/08/2011
By Raghida Bahnam
http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=1&id=26288
London, Asharq Al-Awsat – Asharq Al-Awsat has learnt that the Syrian opposition is preparing to announce the establishment of a “National Council”, which will form the nucleus of a future Syrian government, following the ouster of the al-Assad regime.

In a telephone interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Syrian political activist Adib Shishakly said that the announcement of the “National Council” will be made from Istanbul on Sunday, 21 August 2011. He also revealed that he will be a member of this “National Council” which will be made up of between 115 and 125 members.

Shishakly confirmed that the “National Council” will represent all of Syrian society, and bring together the different strands of the Syrian opposition. He revealed that the Syrian opposition figures who took part in the Antalya Conference and the National Salvation Congress in Istanbul, will participate in the “National Council”, adding that efforts are also being exerted to include the Syrian opposition who met in Brussels in June.

Shishakly, who is a member of the National Salvation Congress that was held in Istanbul in mid-July, also told Asharq Al-Awsat that coordination is taking place with the Syrian opposition inside Syria to ensure that the “National Council” represents the Syrian people, of all different backgrounds and sectarian affiliation. He said “we formed an internal committee to consult on this issue” adding that “there will be no icons [within the National Council], but rather technocrats and opposition figures that have been chosen in a scientific manner based upon the geographic distribution of the [Syrian] provinces to ensure that all ethnicities and sects are represented.”

The Syrian political activist denied that the announcement of this “National Council” was in any way tied to the EU and Washington’s recent calls for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down from power. Shishakly stressed that the forthcoming opposition conference in Istanbul – where the “National Council” will be announced – will be different than previous opposition conferences, as it will a “unified conference for the Syrian opposition.” He also revealed that invitations had been sent to Syrian opposition figures at home and abroad, and that the formation of a Syrian opposition human rights committee, and media committee, would also be announced during this conference.

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August 19th, 2011, 7:44 pm

 

110. beaware said:

Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan on the Situation in Syria
August 19, 2011
http://www.mofa.go.jp/announce/announce/2011/8/0819_01.html

1. Japan has for some time been calling upon the Government of Syria to listen to the wishes of its people and voices of the international community and immediately cease the use of force against civilians, progress toward urgent and practical dialogue with the public – including the opposition – and quickly start fundamental reforms toward democratization.

2. It is highly regrettable that despite requests by Japan and many other members of the international community, the wide-scale use of force by Syrian security authorities has continued to cause many deaths and injuries among the general populace. Japan firmly reproaches the Syrian security authorities that have used force against civilians and call for the immediate halting of such activities.

3. Japan shares the serious concerns of the international community regarding the situation in Syria. Japan believes Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has already lost the trust of the international community, can no longer legitimately govern the country and should step aside.

4. Japan holds great interest in the agreement President Al-Assad made with United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on August 17 to halt military and police operations, carry out reforms of the constitution and other reforms, and accept a United Nations mission to evaluate humanitarian conditions in the country.

5. In relation to the above, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the Syrian Arab Republic Toshiro Suzuki will temporarily be back to Japan for a consultation on the situation in the country.

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August 19th, 2011, 7:47 pm

 

111. Abughassan said:

Qadhafi is reportedly preparing to leave Libya. This symbolic move can give a shot in the arm to Arab springs advocates. I do not want to see another Libya in Syria or any other country,and I hope that a peaceful transitional of power in Syria is still possible.Daraa is again losing lives..
(jad,I always liked your style despite disagreeing with your support of Bashar, I would love to see you staying away from verbal insults,I want to hear your opinion, ignore those who use a language that reflects their upbringing,I am probably older than you and I hope that you do not see this as a lecture,it is an advice from a fellow Syrian who appreciates your contribution to this forum).

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August 19th, 2011, 7:55 pm

 

112. Tara said:

I am very hopeful.  This week was a very good week.   US and EU called on Assad to step down.  US imposed oil and gas sanctions on Syria.  EU to vote on similar sanctions on Monday. UN Human Rights Council meeting on Monday to mandate a televised hearings for Syrian victims to testify.  Most importantly however is the announcement that the opposition is meeting in Istanbul on Sunday to form a united national council and to establish a road map and perhaps elect a transitional exec committee.  The youth is heavily participating for the first time as per the article cited above.   Muhamad al Abdalla, the local coordination committee spokesperson will be part of it.  The united opposition will certainly answer the open question posted by Turkey and even by Obama when both declared that “decisions should be made by the people of Syria and that the US cannot and will not impose this transition upon Syria”. While it is so clear to the mamnhebaks that the Syrian people have already spoken, I do not believe that this message was as clear enough to the world so far due to a fragmented and non- homogenized opposition.

After hopefully a successful meeting in Istanbul on Sunday, both Turkey and US would be able to say that the Syrian people have already decided: down with the regime and both will do what they can to help.  I expect a united opposition, with a unified message that the Syrian people do not want the regime, and a solid road map with a goal of building a democracy inclusive of all sects and ethnicities would also help rallying BRIC to follow the western block to condemn the regime and hasten it’s fall.     

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August 19th, 2011, 8:00 pm

 

113. Abughassan said:

Let us see who will attend,their plan and who the leaders are,Tara ليجي الصبي منصلي عالنبي
A political solution is best for Syria ..

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August 19th, 2011, 8:08 pm

 

114. beaware said:

Thursday, August 11, 2011
A New Syrian Regime Might Be Better for Israel
by Prof. Eyal Zisser
Published August 2011
http://uprootedpalestinians.blogspot.com/2011/08/new-syrian-regime-might-be-better-for.html
The Syrian Uprising: Implications for Israel
Eyal Zisser

* In Syria, the story is the emergence of social groups from the periphery and their struggle to gain access to power and take over the center. The emergence of the Baath party and the Assad dynasty in the 1960s involved a coalition of peripheral forces led by the Alawites, but many others joined who came from the periphery. Now, because of socioeconomic reasons, the periphery has turned against the regime.

* Before the uprising, Bashar al-Assad was supported by the Islamic and radical movements in the Middle East. Most Muslim Brothers supported him – in Jordan, Egypt, and Hamas. Now they have turned their back on him, led by Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood on a global scale, who reminds them that, after all, Bashar is an Alawite and supported by the Shiite camp.

* Turkey, under Prime Minister Erdogan, had become a close ally of Syria. But Erdogan has no reservations regarding the possibility that Muslim radicals might come to power in Syria if Bashar falls. On the contrary, the Sunni radicals and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood are Erdogan’s close allies, as is Hamas. So Turkey has nothing to lose if Bashar falls.

* If Bashar falls, the situation is likely to be similar to that of earlier decades, with a very weak central regime. This could lead to border incidents with Israel, but not a war, with terrorist acts that a weak regime cannot prevent.

* The Syrian opposition will eventually take over and, as in the case of Egypt, they know that their interests lie with friendship with Western countries like the United States, and not with Iran. So in the long run, a new Syrian regime might be better for Israel than this current regime.

…………

A New Syrian Regime Might Be Better for Israel

The weaker Syria is, the stronger Lebanon will be. Any regime change in Syria could be a blow to Hizbullah, even though Hizbullah does represent many of the Shiites. It is a deeply rooted, authentic Lebanese Shiite power center. However, it was the help of Syria and Iran that turned Hizbullah into a regional power. Taking Syria out of the equation could reduce Hizbullah to a more reasonable size – to become a strong Lebanese party but not more than that.

Syria supported the Shiites in Lebanon, but at the same time gave some backing to the Sunnis because the logic behind Syrian intervention in Lebanon has always been: divide and rule. A Sunni regime in Syria might change the balance in Lebanon in favor of the Sunnis.

A new regime in Syria could mean a return to the 1950s and 1960s when there was a weak, decentralized Syrian government with strong regions. Each region has its own ethnic and communal characteristics, and there may be a coup d’état from time to time and a lack of stability. The worst scenario is that Syria will turn into a new Iraq, because there are now not only historical accounts to settle but current accounts as well. There have been 2,000 Syrians killed and the families will ask for revenge, not from Bashar but from their Alawite and Christian neighbors.

I do not think it is in Israel’s interest to have Bashar in power. Certainly, as in Egypt, it is always possible that the Muslim Brotherhood might take over in Syria, but I am not sure that this will be the case. If Bashar falls, the situation is likely to be similar to that of earlier decades, with a very weak central regime. This could lead to border incidents with Israel, but not a war, with terrorist acts that a weak regime cannot prevent. The Syrian opposition will eventually take over and, as in the case of Egypt, they know that their interests lie with friendship with Western countries like the United States, and not with Iran. So in the long run, a new Syrian regime might be better for Israel than this current regime.

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August 19th, 2011, 8:13 pm

 

115. beaware said:

Report: U.S. favors Muslim Brotherhood over pro-democracy Syrian opposition
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
http://www.worldtribune.com/worldtribune/WTARC/2011/me_syria1033_08_17.asp

WASHINGTON — The administration of President Barack Obama has selected the Muslim Brotherhood over the pro-democracy opposition to lead Syria after the expected ouster of President Bashar Assad, a report said.
The Hudson Institute, a leading consultant to the Defense Department, asserted that the administration has decided to work with Turkey and the Brotherhood in Syria for a post-Assad government. In a report by Herbert London, the institute said Obama has dismissed the pro-democracy opposition as an alternative.

“It would seem far more desirable to back the democratic influences — the political organizations that require cultivation and support — despite their relative weakness at this moment,” the report, titled “U.S. Betrays Syria’s Opposition,” said. “It is these religious and secular groups that represent the real hope for the future and the counterweight to the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

London, president of Hudson until 2011, said the State Department has ignored non-Brotherhood opposition groups. In July, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton invited Brotherhood operatives and urged them to work with Turkey to help oust Assad.

“Missing from the invitations are Kurdish leaders, Sunni liberals, Assyrians and Christian spokesmen,” the report said. “According to various reports the State Department made a deal with Turkey and Muslim Brotherhood representatives either to share power with Assad to stabilize the government, or replace him if this effort fails.”

Hudson cited the Syrian Democracy Council, which contains a range of ethnic and religious minorities, including Alawites and Christians. SDC was not invited to the State Department.

“From the standpoint of Foggy Bottom [State Department] it is far better to promote stability even if this means aligning oneself with the goals of presumptive enemies,” the report said. “This, however, is a dangerous game that not only holds U.S. interests hostage to the Muslim Brotherhood, but also suggests that the withdrawal of American forces from the region affords the U.S. very few policy options.”

Officials confirmed the State Department invitation to Brotherhood-aligned opposition groups. They said the Brotherhood has often boycotted U.S.-sponsored sessions that included organizations opposed by the Islamist movement.

London said the U.S. ban on SDC represented an insult to pro-democracy forces in Syria. He cited reports that the Brotherhood was playing a major role in attacks on Syrian security forces in a campaign supported by Iran, Jordan and Turkey.

“At the very least Secretary Clinton should hear the SDC argument,” the report said. “Leaving this body out of the Syrian conversation is an insult to what America purports to care about. Assad should see that his opponents are not merely those complicit in stabilizing a murderous regime, but those with genuine democratic impulses and who represent a significant portion of the Syrian people.”

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August 19th, 2011, 8:17 pm

 

116. Tara said:

Abughassan

Inshallah يجي هالصبي صرنا عم نستنا كتير

Fetal ultrasound indicating he is alive and well. I am really hopeful. I met Muhamad al Abdallah personally and he is awesome. The Istanbul meeting is going to be different than all others. The key word here is the youth participation. They need to be assertive enough. I hope the youth has matured by now. We do not want anyone with an agenda of reserving a seat in a future government. We want genuine patriots.

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August 19th, 2011, 8:20 pm

 

117. beaware said:

Bashar Ja’afari (Syria) on Syria – Security Council Media Stakeout
18 August 2011
A very thorough presentation with Q/A

Informal comments to the media by H.E. Dr. Bashar Ja’afari, Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations, on the situation in Syria.

[English, Arabic and French]
Running time: 00:23:24

http://www.unmultimedia.org/tv/webcast/2011/08/bashar-jaafari-syria-on-syria-security-council-media-stakeout.html

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August 19th, 2011, 8:32 pm

 

118. jad said:

Dear Abughassan,
I’m don’t support this ugly regime and will never do, my only crime is that I want dialogue between all parties, and I want things to get calm so people start to get organized in political parties so they can make the changes all of us want, unfortunately, some people on this site are blind and like to throw accusation when you disagree with them without reading what you actually write.
It’s annoying to keep wasting your comment on trying to explain yourself.

When I link an article it doesn’t mean that I stand with everything written in the article it’s a way to give another view of the story otherwise we will be posting and linking the same materials.
Go read all my comments you wont find one comment I wrote in supporting of this brutality and crimes that is taking place in Syria.

Regarding that low life provocative person called Atassi, he has no right to attack me out of the blue without any reason, he always do that and he’s been asked not to communicate with me at all, so he’d better stick to that rule.

Please don’t worry about writing to me or even lecturing me, I don’t mind :)

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August 19th, 2011, 8:34 pm

 

119. syau said:

Tara,

Imperialistic powers have no leverage in Syria. All they can do is impose sanctions, a reinforcement of previous and an extension of recent sanction. As I have said before, Syria is accustomed to living with sanctions. Although any sanctions imposed on Syria harm none other than the very people they are falsely claiming to want the best for, the Syrian people, they will get by just as they have done before.

Endorsing sanctions against Syria, therefore its people highlights the true colours of the revolution and those affiliated with it.

#106, Terrorists deserve everything they get. Your ridiculous rant is laughable.
God protect the Syrian Arab Army and hasten their efforts in eradicating all terrorists in Syria.

عاشت سورية وجيشا وشعبا وقائدا المفدى

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August 19th, 2011, 8:40 pm

 

120. Abughassan said:

Syrian events as seen by a leftist opposition Turkish journalist.

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August 19th, 2011, 8:45 pm

 

121. SYR.EXPAT said:

Syria might allow the Red Cross to see people who were arrested during the protests. Not free access to see all those who were arrested, but only those the Syrian government allows to be seen. For example, they can have some of their informants pose as prisoners and say how well they were treated.

The time is up. Sooner or later, the torturers will have pay the price for their crimes.

سوريا من الممكن ان تسمح للصليب الاحمر مقابلة معتقلين
نقلت وكالات انباء عن اللجنة الدولية للصليب الاحمر يوم الجمعة بان “سوريا على وشك منح اللجنة الدولية للصليب الاحمر امكانية الوصول الى سجونها وذلك للمرة الاولى لمقابلة اشخاص اعتقلو خلال الاحتجاجات”
http://www.syria-news.com/

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August 19th, 2011, 8:48 pm

 

122. Tara said:

Sayuياعيني يا

I am very saddened every time you write a post and address it to me. To tell you the truth I skip lots of ” mnhebaks” posts. I do not skip yours. I do truly believe you are a decent person ( I just see it through the computer screen, Tara has a psychic ability) and it saddens me very much how you continued to deny the legitimacy of this revolution. I know Sayu you live in Australia now but I am sure if you have lived in Syria before, you must have witnessed what I have witnessed living in Syria. I have said my family was well connected and “never oppressed” but all other people were. The revolution was long due. Any one could see it coming. All of us are surprised it took that long. I also know that you know I am not a terrorist and I am not sectarian. I do not hate Alawites or Christians or anyone. I am not in this revolution for any reason other than a genuine sympathy towards the oppressed. How can you deny this?

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August 19th, 2011, 9:02 pm

 

123. SQI said:

we have here two attitudes from Syrians on sanctions : one is frightened (expressed by Ehsani), the other is apprehensive , but confident (expressed by SOURI333). http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/?p=11456&cp=all#comment-268138

Dr. Landis why do you highlight or favor only the more frightened opinion ?? that is not fair. unless the Agenda is to reighten people , not to expose all opinions and attitudes towards the subject of sanctions

Ehsani: I guess one argue that Syria can do the same. But, one must not underestimate the repercussions of these actions. When such measures are put in place, they are very hard to cancel and do away with.

SOURI333

If we can endure a few years without trading with them it will be great because I am sure we will develop and find many alternatives to their products, thus we will become much less dependent on them.

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August 19th, 2011, 9:30 pm

 

124. beaware said:

International Court lacks jurisdiction over Syria
By Colum Lynch
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/checkpoint-washington/post/international-court-lacks-jurisdiction-over-syria/2011/08/19/gIQAAu08PJ_blog.html
Facing a new U.N. call for an international investigation into alleged Syrian attacks on protesters, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, issued a statement Friday reminding the world that he currently has no legal authority to open such a probe.

Only the U.N. Security Council, which is divided over how to respond to the Syrian crackdown by President Bashar al-Assad, can grant the prosecutor the authority to do so.

“The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has received communication from various parties alleging that crimes against humanity, including arbitrary detentions, killings of peaceful demonstrators and torture are being committed in Syria,” according to Florence Olara, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor. “The Office of the Prosecutor at this stage has no jurisdiction to investigate these allegations because Syria is not a State Party to the Rome Statute which governs the ICC.”

Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, asked the U.N. Security Council Thursday to authorize an ICC investigation into alleged Syrian crimes, citing mounting evidence that the government has committed crimes against humanity during its five-month long military operation against mostly peaceful anti-government protesters.

Her office released a report Thursday that documented “widespread and systematic” abuses by Syrian security forces. It claims to have identified the names of 1900 civilians who have been killed since the upheaval began in mid-March. Her office has compiled a confidential list of 50 Syrian officials suspected of committing such crimes.

The United States, Britain, France, Germany and Portugal, have begun negotiating a resolution that would sanction Syria for its conduct. Philip Parham, the deputy ambassador for Britain, which is leading the drafting process, said it was not clear whether the draft would call for an ICC prosecution in Syria. But he said: “I don’t want to pre-empt discussion in the Council, but I would say that several members of the Council in the discussion we just had made the point very clearly that those responsible for the violence need to be held accountable.”

The U.N. Human Rights Council, meanwhile, will convene a special session on Monday to consider Syria’s human rights record in recent months. It remains unclear whether the rights council will recommend a role for the ICC, but a senior council diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was likely the council would make some statement calling for perpetrators of serious crimes to be held accountable.

The International Criminal Court was established in 2002 to prosecute the most serious crimes, including crimes against humanity and war crimes. It has jurisdiction only over countries that have signed and ratified the treaty, known as the Rome Statute, establishing the tribunal. The sole exception is when the U.N. Security Council decides to launch an investigation into abuses in countries that have not ratified the treaty, as it has done in Sudan and Libya.

The ICC is currently carrying out investigations into atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Northern Uganda, the Darfur region of Sudan, the Central African Republic, Kenya and Libya

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August 19th, 2011, 9:38 pm

 

125. Abughassan said:

More indications that the Mideast is about to witness more violence. Candidates include :
Iraq (more violence),Lebanon,Gaza (started already),more border attacks by Kurds,more troubles in Egypt (especially the Sinai),and the obvious one:Libya.
You have to wonder how Europe managed to form the EU when european nations
in that block speak more than a dozen languages,fought a number of wars among themselves,have a diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds,etc. Compare that to
Arabs who contributed very little to the world in the last 8 centuries and became the laughing stock of the world. Arabism may be the biggest lie ever told,Syrians are well advised to divorce that idea and clean their house instead of waiting for some rich goat lovers to save their country. Islamic unity and the so-called
Islamic Umma only live in history books,and those who try to sell the idea are not much different from Baathists.
A friend commented by saying that nations ruled by corrupt dictatorships can not unite because they will fight over money and power,this is why,according to him,these two ideas have failed.

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August 19th, 2011, 9:50 pm

 

126. Norman said:

Apparently, the US said that president Assad is standing in the way of the opposition and the Syrian people , still it said that it has no intention to any militery intervention,

The quest is : Will the opposition see that as a reason to continue what they are doing, knowing that with force they have no chance of winning, or see that as a support from the US for their cause, but no militery support, and move into talks to have a new political system,,,,,, I am not hopeful that they get it, or they want a peaceful solution.

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August 19th, 2011, 9:54 pm

 

127. beaware said:

Analysis: Peril and promise in twin Syria, Libya crises
Reuters 19 Aug 2011
By Mark Hosenball and Laura MacInnis
http://news.yahoo.com/analysis-peril-promise-twin-syria-libya-crises-232225390.html
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Now that he has called for Syria’s leader to leave, President Barack Obama faces the daunting challenge of smoothing the way to a post-Assad era — just as another Arab strongman looks increasingly beleaguered in Libya.

The twin crises appear to offer opportunities for U.S. foreign policy — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is an ally of Iran, foe of Israel and sponsor of the armed militant group Hezbollah, while Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has vexed U.S. officials for decades.

But they also bring grave risks at a time when Obama is focused on domestic affairs.

Between them, Assad and his late father have ruled Syria with iron fists for 41 years. U.S. and European officials privately concede that civil and political chaos in Syria might be the most likely result if Assad abruptly leaves power.

Syria’s political opposition is even more disorganized and fragmented than Libyan rebels who now appear to be closing in on Gaddafi’s stronghold in Tripoli.

After weeks of resisting, Obama, backed by the European Union, called on Thursday for Assad to go during the same week that Gaddafi’s position in Libya appeared to erode, as rebels seized the key western city of Zawiyeh.

With a war-weary U.S. public and tight budgets, the White House has made clear it has no plans to put troops on the ground in Libya or Syria, either to topple their leaders or engage in “nation-building” should they depart.

“The same concerns that apparently constrained the administration from calling for Assad’s ouster persist today: how do we force Assad out? Does the fall of the Alawite regime result in sectarian chaos? And what comes after this regime amid potential Islamist extremism?” said Juan Zarate, a White House counterterrorism adviser to former President George W. Bush.

Assad and much of his ruling circle are members of the minority Alawite sect, which makes up about 12 percent of Syria’s population.

“The calculus to call for Assad’s ouster has come too late, and it’s now time to find ways with our partners to shape the coming days in Damascus,” Zarate said.

The Syrian opposition, which ranges from secular reformers to Islamists in the Muslim Brotherhood, has made halting steps at unity.

On Friday, more than 40 “revolution blocs” announced they had forged a coalition to unite their efforts to overthrow Assad, according to news reports.

“The opposition, on its own and without international involvement, has made significant strides over the past several months to unify,” a senior U.S. official said this week.

“We can’t predict how long this transition will take. Nothing about it will be easy. But we’re certain that Assad is on the way out,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

STRUGGLE MAY DRAG ON

Former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin predicted the struggle in Syria would go on for some time “because of Bashar’s limited incentive to cry ‘uncle,'” but would result ultimately in Assad’s demise.

That might be followed by a weak, Sunni-dominated government and McLaughlin said such an outcome would itself present many challenges.

He said it would “transform Syria into a political battleground between competing regional players, mainly Shiite Iran — which will be losing its closest ally and the avenue through which it supplies its Hezbollah proxy in Lebanon — and Saudi Arabia, which will see an opportunity to checkmate Iran’s regional influence by aiding Syria’s Sunni majority.

“Just the usual simple Middle East equation — actually what is already three-dimensional chess will become more like a mosh pit.”

It is unclear how much planning the Obama administration has done for a post-Assad Syria. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met publicly for the first time this month with Syrian activists.

But in Libya, a rapid succession of rebel victories has accelerated Western postwar planning, even as officials discounted intelligence reports suggesting Gaddafi’s departure was imminent.

The NATO alliance on Friday authorized formal planning for post-Gaddafi Libya. Next week, rebels of the Transitional National Council will meet in Dubai with officials from the United States, Britain, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and perhaps others, “all devoted to the day-after planning,” an Obama administration official told Reuters.

The working idea is that the UAE, Jordan and Qatar would put together “a bridging force” of 1,000 to 2,000 personnel to be deployed in Libya just after Gaddafi goes, the official said.

White House officials are concerned that unless transition plans are firmed up now, post-Gaddafi Libya may be chaotic and it may be impossible to fulfill the West’s promise to protect Libya’s population from a humanitarian crisis.

Some U.S. and European officials say that despite its better organization and purported recent advances, Libya’s opposition movement is not ready to govern.

The optimistic scenario U.S. and European officials hope will develop in Libya is that Gaddafi will decide to go fairly soon but enough of his government and forces will remain intact to enable the formation of a transitional government that can maintain a measure of civil order.

(Additional reporting by Andrew Quinn, Arshad Mohammed and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Warren Strobel and Peter Cooney)

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August 19th, 2011, 9:58 pm

 

128. Tara said:

Kandahar

Where are you?

I hope you are working on my story.. The one with a happy ending.

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August 19th, 2011, 9:59 pm

 

129. SQI said:

#121. ABUGHASSAN
thanks for this link.

Syrian events as seen by a leftist opposition Turkish journalist.

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August 19th, 2011, 10:05 pm

 

130. ann said:

*** THIS SO CALLED POLL IS RIGGED TO ANSWER “YES” EVEN IF YOUR CHOICE IS “NO”!!! ***

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/poll/2011/aug/18/syria-libya-military-poll

To run a test VOTE write down the results displayed after you VOTED

Purge your browser cash VOTE again and observe the “YES” tally increase and the “NO” tally decrease!!!

Repeat and review your results

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August 19th, 2011, 10:28 pm

 

131. jad said:

Ann,
Almost all polls similar to this one are fixed.
Now cooper is having similar poll if the UN should act on Syria, the results are also YES, the hypocrisy is that all the almighty ‘revolutionists’ are saying that they don’t want any foreign intervention most of them will vote YES on such atrocities against the same people they pretend to talk for..
https://www.facebook.com/questions/10150751631440533/

I don’t know why the west is denying that it will attack Syria while they can’t wait to destroy our land with the help of the usual traitors. it’s striking how the Israelis halt all their protests the moment they felt that Israel having trouble while our ‘heroes’ are celebrating the destruction of their own country.

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August 19th, 2011, 10:37 pm

 

132. SQI said:

Hugo Chavez to take Venezuela’s riches away from the West

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has decided to secretly transfer the gold reserves and financial accounts of the nation to Russia and China. The news was voiced by representatives of the Venezuelan opposition. This is not a hoax.

Chavez’s opponents refer to a certain document, which the president signed on August 12. Officials of the Venezuelan administration confirmed the intention. In the words from the President of the Central Bank of Venezuela, Nelson Merentes, the president hopes to diversify the currency reserves. The reserves are said to be invested in the markets of developing states, such as Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa.

http://english.pravda.ru/world/americas/19-08-2011/118801-chavez_venezuela-0/

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August 19th, 2011, 10:40 pm

 

133. ann said:

Turkey’s double-standard policy on Syria

http://www.tehrantimes.com/index.php/component/content/article/1759

The Turkish military’s recent massive attacks on Kurdish separatists have raised the question of why Turkey is criticizing the Syrian government for its crackdown on armed terrorists.

In response to PKK terrorist attacks in which several militants were killed, the Turkish armed forces have conducted extensive operations against PKK bases in southern Turkey and northern Iraq over the past month.

Over twelve PKK commanders have been captured during 24 operations conducted in the Kurdish regions.

According to the Turkish security forces and Turkey’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, a number of people have been killed and many others injured in the recent operations.

Hundreds of tons of ammunition and bombs have been used by the Turkish military in the recent crackdown on the Kurds.

So how can Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticize the Syrian government for attacking armed terrorist groups while Turkey is conducting such massive operations in response to a few attacks by some PKK insurgents?

No one can deny that the Turkish government has the right to protect its territorial integrity. However, the Turkish government does not seem to recognize such a right for other neighboring countries like Syria.

Erdogan and his government should show more respect for others, and it would be better for them if they made a more precise analysis of the current situation in Syria, especially in regard to the U.S. and Israeli meddling in the country.

The recent incidents in Turkey and Syria have similar root causes. In other words, the hands of the U.S. and Israel are quite obvious behind the developments in both countries.

In recent years, the promotion of unity among Muslim countries has been one of the main priorities of Turkish foreign policy. Thus, Turkish officials are expected to adopt a more vigilant approach in dealing with the situation in Syria.

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August 19th, 2011, 11:12 pm

 

134. ann said:

Syria sees FIFA World Cup ban as politically motivated
Sport 8/20/2011 12:44:00 AM

http://www.kuna.net.kw/NewsAgenciesPublicSite/ArticleDetails.aspx?id=2186012&Language=en

DAMASCUS, Aug 19 (KUNA) — FIFA said on Friday that the Syrian football team has been disqualified from the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, after fielding an ineligible Striker George Mourad.
In turn, FIFA reinstated Tajikistan in its place. Despite previously representing Sweden, Mourad played in last month’s qualifier against Tajikistan.

He scored in the first leg, which Syria won 6-1 on aggregate.
Mourad participated in the Swedish Olympic team during its participation in the Olympic qualification of 2003-05.
A statement by FIFA said that its Disciplinary Committee on 17 August declared the first-leg match of the Second Round (Syria-Tajikistan of 23 July 2011) to be lost by Syria by forfeit (0:3) due to an ineligible player in the Syrian team taking part in this match.

“The FIFA Disciplinary Committee reached the same decision regarding the second leg match (Tajikistan-Syria of 28 July 2011) due to the same ineligible player also taking part in this match,” the statement said.

“In conformity with Article 7 of the Regulations for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, the Bureau of the Organizing Committee for the FIFA World Cup took the following decisions,” the statement said, adding “Tajikistan will take Syria’s place in Group C of Asia qualifying along with Japan, Uzbekistan and North Korea.” Meanwhile, according to Syrian News Agency (SANA) which quoted the President of Syrian Football Federation Faruoq Saria as saying that the federation took all of the necessary procedures to ensure participation of the mentioned player in accordance with FIFA regulations.

“FIFA bylaw with regard to approval of player transfer from the Swedish federation, does not need approval from FIFA, only from the transferred to federation, according to FIFA bylaw, said Saria.
Saria asserted that the banning of the Syrian team from the second round of qualifications comes due to political unrest and developments in Syria.

The Syrian official added Mourad was born in Syria and has a Syrian and not Sweden nationality, and the player played in Swedish National Olympic team.

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August 19th, 2011, 11:17 pm

 

135. sheila said:

To all,
I think this sentence that Ehsani wrote in the last discussion, sums up where Syria Alassad is today and the major accomplishments of this regime:

“Robert Fisk of the “Independent” just published an article where he wrote that a Swedish government agency recently concluded that Syria was largely unaffected by the world economic crisis – because it doesn’t really have an economy.”

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August 19th, 2011, 11:18 pm

 

136. True said:

@ Menehbeks

Would you honestly keep supporting Besho if he, for some reason, decides to confiscate your dad’s luxurious cars (funded by taxpayer)?

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August 19th, 2011, 11:20 pm

 

137. beaware said:

Activist: It’s Time For Syrian Opposition To Unify
by Kelly McEvers
August 19, 2011
http://www.npr.org/2011/08/19/139764406/activist-its-time-for-syrian-opposition-to-unify?ps=rs
President Obama has now called on Syrian President Bashar Assad to quit. But if he did, or if he is toppled, who would replace Assad?

There’s no clear answer. Assad and his late father, Hafez Assad, have ruled Syria for four decades and have not tolerated anything that resembles a genuine opposition inside the country’s borders.

“There is no opposition in Syria. There are opposition groups,” said Lebanon’s Wissam Tarif, who has been a prominent campaigner for democracy and human rights in the Middle East.

Divided Opposition

The problem, Tarif says, is that the emerging opposition groups are deeply divided, with no real plan of how the country would be run in a post-Assad era.

Tarif is currently in Beirut and has been documenting the deaths, injuries and detentions in Syria during Assad’s harsh crackdown on protesters over the past five months.

Tarif has been in touch with those leading the protests, and he used to work with anti-government groups inside Syria. Those groups made no real progress until the Arab Spring turned much of the region upside-down. And they still lack unity and direction.

By some counts, there are at least seven Syrian exile groups, each with its own leaders and its own ideas about how the country should go forward.

Then there’s the internal opposition, which has been criticized by some activists for being too close to the Assad regime.

And finally there are the young protesters who have taken to the streets. But Tarif says even they are divided and ill-equipped to provide real leadership.

“There’s millions of people taking to the streets, willing to die for freedom. And it’s a hell of a very difficult job. But it’s not enough,” he says, adding that the demonstrators “do not know how to do politics.”

Call For Unified Council

Tarif says all of these groups need to work together on a transitional council. It would be something of a shadow government, similar to what the rebels have created in Libya. However, that Libyan council has been filled with friction recently.

Still, Tarif says the important thing is to create a council and start working on how to get rid of Assad, maintain stability and run a new country.

“They have a lot of political differences, they have a lot of different political visions, and they have to overcome it,” he said.

Up to now, anti-government groups in Syria have preferred to remain decentralized. This made it more difficult for the Syrian security forces to track them down.

The Obama administration criticized the Assad regime for months, and on Thursday called for him to step down. Assad has given no indication that he’ll comply. But Tarif says it’s time for the opposition to step up, stop arguing and unify.

“Such leadership has to emerge. And it has to emerge yesterday. They don’t have time,” he says.

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August 19th, 2011, 11:23 pm

 

138. beaware said:

Syria’s Crackdown Provokes Sharp Debate
by Kelly McEvers
August 19, 2011
http://www.npr.org/2011/08/19/139793733/syrias-crackdown-provokes-sharp-debate?ft=1&f=2&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NprProgramsATC+%28NPR+Programs%3A+All+Things+Considered%29&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher
Over the past five months, the Syrian military has repeatedly used tanks and heavy weaponry on cities and towns that are centers of protest.

As has been the case most every Friday since March, demonstrators turned out in huge numbers after the midday prayers, and there was more violence. Activists said that Syrian security forces fired at protesters across the country, reportedly killing at least 20.
Assessing whether this Syrian strategy is working depends on whom you ask — and which version of the military crackdown in Syria you accept.
The anti-government version is that peaceful protesters are being attacked by the army.

The government version is that the military is battling an armed insurgency, led by terrorists.
Even in neighboring Lebanon — which was basically occupied by Syria for almost 30 years — people are divided on the subject. There, rallies in support of protesters and those championing the Syrian president are both common.

Amin Hotait, a retired general in the Lebanese army, remembers the lengthy Syrian presence in his country.
He says it’s no surprise that Syria is using tanks against its own people, saying that’s how forces around the world deal with terrorists and other armed opponents.

Hotait claims there is a parallel to NATO military operations in Afghanistan and Libya.
In Afghanistan, Hotait says, NATO is using aircraft and tanks, and in Libya, he says NATO is using aircraft against men armed with only rifles.
“That’s the rule of the military, and this is the rule of the operations,” he says.
But in the case of Syria, human-rights groups say the way civilians have been killed and injured — from indiscriminate shooting and shelling, and from forced disappearances — amounts to crimes against humanity. The U.N. is deciding whether to refer the case to the International Criminal Court.

But if the Syrian military is not actually fighting a large-scale insurgency but instead using its army to put down a mostly peaceful uprising, then what is the strategy?

“There is no strategy,” says Elias Hanna, another retired Lebanese general who has experience with the Syrians. “The strategy is the survival.”

“In Syria you cannot really differentiate between the regime itself, the intelligence apparatuses … as well as the army. If one loses the other loses,” he says.

If the goal is total regime survival, the enemy is the people who oppose the regime. And that means killing your own people, as a way to keep governing your own people.

In other words, Hanna says, it’s a strategy that’s eventually doomed.

The protesters in Syria hope that army commanders will realize this dilemma and begin refusing to shoot their own people — or that large numbers of soldiers will defect to the rebel side.

But one retired Syrian officer, who spoke to NPR by Skype, says this scenario is very unlikely. He did not want to give his name or his rank for fear of reprisals.

He says his fellow officers enjoy great perks, such as money, cars, houses, power, and impunity. So why would they want to defect?

What’s more, he says, what could they defect to? So far there’s no unified opposition in Syria and the punishment can be brutal.

One of his friends recently did defect and then left the country. Now the man’s father and two brothers in Syria have been thrown in jail.

The Syrian regime has spent four decades building a military bent on survival, the retired officer says. It’s not going to give up easily.

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August 19th, 2011, 11:25 pm

 

139. sheila said:

To all,
Somebody (I think Either Haytham or Abughassan) suggested that we should explore why each one of us is pro or against regime. I think we should do just that. Each one of us can write about why they are taking their position. We should be very honest. Is it a result of bad experiences, fear of opposing your family, fear of chaos, genuinely believe in Bashar Alassad, fear of retaliation, economic fear.. Etc.
I think this will help us all understand.
There are always two sides to every argument. It is not always black and white. Most of the time, it is just different shades of gray. I have a feeling that most of us are in the gray zone: some in the dark gray and others in the very light gray.
What do you think? Would you like to try this exercise?

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August 19th, 2011, 11:32 pm

 

140. ann said:

Washington’s growing PKK liability

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=washington8217s-growing-pkk-liability-2011-08-18

The United States may want Turkey to remain focused on Syria, now that there is a growing rift between Ankara and Damascus, but with 43 Turkish soldiers killed by the outlawed Kurdistan People’s Party, or PKK, in one month alone, this is unlikely to happen. Matters can, in fact, be expected to get worse from the U.S. perspective on a number of levels because of these attacks.

We already had a foretaste of this with Thursday’s air strikes against the terrorist group’s training camps in northern Iraq by the Turkish Air Force. Furiously angry Turks want the Turkish army to level these camps in the Kandil Mountains, and strong remarks from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan indicate he is listening.

While wishful thinking in the West, judging by the countless articles on the topic, many want Turkey to establish a buffer zone in Syria against Bashar al-Assad’s brutal military machine, but there is more likelihood that this will happen in Iraq instead, where the Turkish military already has a foothold.

Turkish incursions into northern Iraq will of course produce yet more negative fallout for Washington, since it will drive a wedge between Ankara and the Kurdish administration in northern Iraq at a time when the two sides have belatedly come around to laying the groundwork for good ties, especially after Erdoğan’s visit to Arbil in March.

Even worse for Washington is that there is no one left in Ankara who will listen to exhortations from the U.S., or warnings from Europe, aimed at stopping Turkey from doing what it feels is necessary in the face of the public outcry against the PKK.

To the contrary, most Turks believe – rightly or wrongly – that the U.S. military in northern Iraq is actually turning a blind eye to PKK members in the region, and that talk from Washington about “helping Turkey against the PKK through intelligence sharing” is merely a smokescreen designed to obscure this fact.

U.S. officials deny this vehemently, of course, but many Turks maintain that if this assistance was “meaningful” then these PKK attacks would not be taking place with such impunity. There is also a widespread notion that the U.S. is actually helping The Party for Free Life of Kurdistan, or PJAK, an Iranian offshoot of the PKK which also has camps in northern Iraq, in order to destabilize Tehran.

In the meantime, ties between Turkey and Iran may have soured somewhat because of radically divergent views over developments in Syria, but the latest PKK attacks are likely to force Ankara to cooperate more with Tehran against PKK/PJAK camps in northern Iraq, once again to the annoyance of Washington.

The bottom line is that the Turkish public is clamoring for retaliation and – just as it was after 9/11 and before the U.S. invasion of Iraq – facts matter little when this is the case. In the meantime, most Turks believe Washington does not want to bloody its hands against the PKK, while it expects Turkey to bloody its hands against Islamic terrorism.

We will never know the extent to which Washington is helping Turkey against the PKK, and how effective this is, since U.S. officials, when asked, say this is “classified information.” Given that this is the case, most Turks draw their own conclusions on the basis of what is actually happening.

But the situation that is unfolding now shows clearly that the PKK is becoming a serious liability for Washington as well, given its own expectations for a Middle East that is already in turmoil. It remains to be seen if this will push the Barack Obama administration into changing tack and getting involved more visibly against the PKK.

What is clear, however, is that Ankara is not going to wait for this to happen, given the successful way the PKK has agitated the Turkish public, leaving Erdoğan no choice but to put on his war paint.

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August 19th, 2011, 11:37 pm

 

141. Revlon said:

92. Dear Amir,
I have no particular names as I do not have enough information to make an informed judgement.

In lieu, I would merely apply the basic principles of modern business in choosing the executive committee (executive board): A strong track record and successful carreer in management.

The United Oppositional front would merely be the benefactors (The board of trustees) They would set the targets and monitor the achievements of the EC by holding regular meetings.

It might be useful for members of the executive committee to sign a pledge not to join the future elected Government. Such will decrease the unnecessary competition to fill these posts.
Cheers

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August 19th, 2011, 11:41 pm

 
 

143. Haytham Khoury said:

Sheila

The idea is excellent. I will do tomorrow. It is midnight here.

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August 20th, 2011, 12:03 am

 

144. jad said:

It sounds that Homs is a war zone today:

HNN شبكة أخبار حمص
المواجهات العنيفه مستمره مع المسلحين في بابا عمرو

الاشتباكات المسلحه مع الارهابيين على طريق حماه بالقرب من حي القصور

-المسلحين يستعملون قنابل يدويية الصنع
في منطقة المريجة خلف جامع كعب الأحبار.

-الاشتباكات قائمة بين المسلحين وبين عناصر الأمن
في البياضة بالقرب من مستوصف البياضة.

المجموعات المسلحة تتمركز على أطراف
باب عمرو وحي السلطانية
وتطلق رصاصها الغادر والكافر باتجاه الأمن
والأمن يرد عليهم بقوة

اللهم احفظ أخوتنا في قوى الأمن من الغادرين

خاص شبكة أخبار حمص الأولى
http://www.facebook.com/HNN.SYRIA

تجدد الاشتباكات بشكل عنيف جداً في كل من :
الغوطة
الانشاءات
باب عمرو
باب السباع
حي النازحين
الشماس
ومناطق أخرى لا يمكن تحديدها
طالما أن صوت الرصاص عم يضرب من شمال حمص لجنوبها
والعكس صحيح

ولكن الرد يأتي قوياً جداً من الجيش

هل سنشهد اليوم حملة تطهير من العيار الثقيل
على غير ما شهدناه في المرات السابقة

الدعاء للجيش الباسل بانتصاره على هؤلاء الكفرة

جب الجندلي :

إصابة ثلاثة عناصر أمن بجروح
بعد أن قامت مجموعة مسلحة باطلاق الرصاص عليهم
مستخدمين سلاح بومباكشن

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August 20th, 2011, 12:03 am

 

145. jad said:

عاجل||مصر:
مصر تسحب سفيرها من تل ابيب رسميا لحين الإنتهاء من التحقيقات

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August 20th, 2011, 12:06 am

 

146. ann said:

*** THEY’RE BACK! ***

*** NeoCONS propaganda machine is back in full swing! ***

“Daniel Pipes discusses uncertain times in the Middle East”

http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2011/s3298064.htm

ALI MOORE, PRESENTER: American writer and often controversial commentator Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum and is visiting fellow of the Hoover institution of Stanford University.

He’s currently in Australia as a guest of the Australia and Israel Jewish Affairs Council.

He joined me from our Brisbane studio a short time ago.

Daniel Pipes, welcome to Lateline.

DANIEL PIPES, MIDDLE EAST COMMENTATOR: Thank you.

ALI MOORE: If we can go straight to those overnight attacks in Israel. Hamas denies involvement but Israel has already carried out airstrikes over the Gaza strip, Hamas has vowed revenge.

Are we now looking at a potential major military escalation between Hamas and Israel?

DANIEL PIPES: Indeed. And it has further complications because for the first time in many years the Sinai Desert, the Sinai Peninsula, which is next to Israel, seems to be anarchic. And it appears the Egyptian government is not fully controlling it.

And so this could be the first of many attacks, perhaps from Gaza, perhaps from Sinai itself, perhaps from Hamas, perhaps from other groups. So there is potential for much more trouble here.

ALI MOORE: Well indeed, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israeli sovereignty was harmed and he said Israel will respond accordingly; what does this mean for relations with Egypt?

DANIEL PIPES: Well Egypt is in transition now. Hosni Mubarak, who ruled the country for 30 years, was deposed in February by other military leaders. And it’s now another military leader, by the name of Tantawi, who’s in effect running the country.

We don’t know all that much about Tantawi, he’s only been in power for half a year, does he really want some major change with Israel or not? I tend to doubt it. Does he not want to control the Sinai Peninsula? I think he does.

So I’m inclined to see more continuity than change. But this certainly is a change and we will see how important it is. I worry that this could suggest that the Egyptians are not really willing to put in what it takes to control their own territory.

ALI MOORE: And, of course, Israel has been crucial to Israel’s security for what, three, four decades?

DANIEL PIPES: There was a peace treaty in 1979 between Israel and Egypt, correct.

ALI MOORE: So what happens now do you think?

DANIEL PIPES: Well as I say, Egypt’s in transition and we’re still, we the world and the Egyptians, are still finding out what exactly is happening in Egypt. As I suggested earlier, I think there’s more continuity than change. I think there’s likely to be crackdown eventually by the Egyptians, but in the meantime it could be a source of significant problems, a source of warfare.

I wouldn’t call what happened now terrorism, it was more a military assault. It was a pitched gun battle, it was explosives, it was an attack. This is something rather new, so we’re feeling our way in a new direction.

ALI MOORE: And we’ve seen Israel respond obviously in the Gaza Strip. But more broadly, how do they respond to this situation along this very long border in the Sinai Desert? I mean essentially they’re being forced to respond to the aftermath or the fallout from the Arab Spring?

DANIEL PIPES: Well what they’re doing is building a fence, a security fence, as they have in the West Bank. It’s not completed, but this incident has spurred them to move up the completion date to the end of 2012, roughly a little bit over a year from now.

It’s wild, there’s no real security there. And for years the Bedouin, the nomads of the Sinai, have been crossing between Egypt and Israel with impunity; smuggling, bringing in refugees from Africa.

This was an incident waiting to happen and now Israelis are taking steps to prevent it from happening in the future. But there’s still over a year of vulnerability before that fence is finished.

ALI MOORE: Well let’s turn to Syria. How significant is president Obama’s call for the Syrian president, Assad, to go; along of course with the leaders of the UK and France and Germany?

DANIEL PIPES: I think it is significant. I think the fact that the leaders of these four countries, plus the Saudi leader and a number of other Arab leaders, have come out and criticised the Syrian government, and now gone the extra step of calling for the removal of Bashar al-Assad, gives the Syrian population more hope, more expectation they can have help from the outside world.

It’s a serious step. It’s not exactly the same as helping them directly with arms or money or other benefits. But it is a serious sign of solidarity with the opposition in Syria. They are not alone.

ALI MOORE: Would you ever expect them to take that extra step, because it has to be said that President Assad has remained relatively resilient to outside pressure, and indeed is now saying that the military and police operations are over?

DANIEL PIPES: I can imagine, yes, that the outside world, the great powers, the western powers, will give aid to the Syrian opposition.

Now it’s a little difficult, because there’s not an organisation. But I can imagine sending them money, arms, perhaps through Lebanon, perhaps through Turkey. It could happen, perhaps through Iraq, perhaps through Jordan. It’s not inconceivable as this confrontation between the population and the government goes on month after month and it gets uglier and uglier.

Yes, president Bashar al-Assad has said that the operations are over, but he said a lot of things over the last half year that turned out not to be true. I would tend to not expect this one to be accurate either.

ALI MOORE: Would there really be appetite though, I suppose, to get involved to that extent? Of course the US has taken until now to even make this call for Assad to go, it’s been extremely hesitant to jump in. And of course everyone is well aware of the situation in Libya, which has gone for months and months when there was original talk of weeks and weeks?

DANIEL PIPES: Absolutely. The situation in Libya has turned out quite different from the expectations. There have by now, it’s worth noting, been 17,000 military sorties in Libya. Now I can’t see anything like that happening in Syria, but I can see more than what we’ve seen so far.

And it’s worth noting that, from the western point of view, the real strategic importance of Syria is not what’s happening in Syria itself, but the fact that the Syrian government has been aligned, allied even, with the Iranian government for 30 years.

The Iranian government is our main problem. Were the Syrian government to change hands, were the Assad regime to fall, then this would deal a significant blow to the Iranians, which is really the most important thing from our vantage point.

So there’s a lot at stake in Syria at this time.

ALI MOORE: That said, doesn’t it depend entirely on what follows, what a post-Assad regime or a post-Assad Syria would look like? We’ve just talked about what’s happening in Egypt, and it’s a country in transition, how certain can you be of what would follow president Assad?

DANIEL PIPES: I’m not at all certain. It could be something more liberal and it could be something more Islamist. And I think part of what I hope the west will do is to help the liberal forces.

But even if it were Islamist I believe, with some certainty, that there would be a break in relations with the Islamic republic of Iran. And that to me is of great importance. So I would rather have the devil I don’t know than the devil I do know in the case of Syria.

In Libya I’m more cautious.

ALI MOORE: I was going to say though, in Syria is there also a risk sectarian civil war though?

DANIEL PIPES: There is indeed, there is indeed. The big question in Syria is whether there will be a sense that the Syrian people as a whole rise, have risen up against their autocratic, brutal government; or whether this is ultimately a fight between the Sunni majority and the Alawene minority that has been ruling in Syria for four decades.

That’s an open question at this time and it’s dangerous, no question.

ALI MOORE: And in Libya, you said you’re more cautious?

DANIEL PIPES: In Libya more cautious, despite the fact that my government, the US government and others, have been trying to get rid of Gaddafi in effect for months now.

I’m not so quick to want him out. I have no, nothing to say good about Gaddafi, he’s a wretched, maniacal leader who’s done terrible injury to the country.

But he is an isolated leader, whereas were the Islamists to take over, the people who want to apply Islamic law, and that’s who might be really finally ultimately in charge in Benghazi, I worry they’ll be connected to the larger Islamist movement across the Middle East and the globe. And they could be even more dangerous than Gaddafi. And so I’m not so eager to have Gaddafi leave, until I know more about who’s there in Benghazi

ALI MOORE: That said though, that ball is already well and truly rolling, isn’t it?

DANIEL PIPES: It is indeed. And the fall of Zawiya just now and other developments suggest that there could be a collapse of the Gaddafi government in Tripoli. It does look more likely than not at this point. I’m worried about it.

ALI MOORE: You say that you’re concerned about what would take over, but as you also say, your government and many other governments have now recognised the rebels as the legitimate governing forces in Libya. What is the seed of your concern?

DANIEL PIPES: Well, it’s a very strange thing. We’ve gone to support the rebels and we’ve recognised the rebels and we don’t know who they are. We don’t know who we’re backing. This is not a very smart policy. Isn’t it better first to know who you’re working with before you support them?

It was done in a fit of emotion and worry and here we are. So I think it was one of the less cautious efforts by NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) or western powers.

ALI MOORE: Who do you think they’re working with?

DANIEL PIPES: I fear that these are ultimately Islamists who will take control.

ALI MOORE: On what grounds?

DANIEL PIPES: There’s plenty of indication to suggest that the Islamists have an important role in the rebel forces, that they’re being cautious about showing their face, but that when they succeed and Gaddafi’s gone, they will then emerge as the power behind the rebels. And the more friendly faces will be pushed to the side and the Islamists will be in charge of Libya. This is not a good development.

I would rather have Gaddafi there than the Islamists. I think he is more isolated and in the end less dangerous than the Islamists would be.

ALI MOORE: As we said, though, the ball is already well and truly rolling on the removal of Gaddafi …

DANIEL PIPES: Indeed.

ALI MOORE: … although it is taking a lot longer than everyone said.

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August 20th, 2011, 12:08 am

 

147. Ali said:

The intelligent Pres Kalbama attempting to answer a STUDENTS question. Didn’t go down very well.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwQt3J1sjfQ&feature=player_embedded#!

GREAT ANSWER KALBAMA!!! UMM…UMM…YOU REALLY ANSWERED THE UMM…QUESTION!!!

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August 20th, 2011, 12:20 am

 

148. jad said:

ANN,
“*** THEY’RE BACK! ***”
They never left to come back..

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August 20th, 2011, 12:22 am

 

149. N.Z. said:

Sheila, there is always two sides to each story, true. But when it comes to dignity, there are no shades to dignity.

To oppress a nation for forty plus years, deny them dignity, freedom of speech and any form of social justice, more to turn a nation into slavery, serving one leader, one ideology for 41 years, you become colour blind. To answer your question, you either accept living under slavery, or demand emancipation.

Those who invent excuses, ifs and buts, are either selfish or are affected by the Stockholm syndrome.

As you once quoted a Syrian woman, who rightly defined the protesters mindset, almout wala-elmazala, this is precisely the emancipators mentality. Their colour is my colour. Reclaiming our dignity, our nation, we will start rebuilding on a clean palette, knowing well ahead, “It is not always black and white. Most of the time, it is just different shades of gray.”

What are your thoughts.

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August 20th, 2011, 12:24 am

 
 

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