Posted by Joshua on Monday, July 2nd, 2012
When Bashar al-Assad goes, his regime, in all probability, will go with him. His remaining followers will run for the doors causing the Baathist edifice of the Syrian state to come crashing down like a house of cards. After all, it is built on loyalty to the man and family.
Many are looking for a way to broker a soft landing for the regime. Although noble, this undertaking may be a fool’s errand.
The next leaders of Syria will want to purge the Party and Assad loyalists from government. They will have to reward their own and build a new system staffed by those now sacrificing for the regime’s overthrow. This is what happened in Iraq, the other home of the other Baath Party. Can Syria really be different? P.M. Maliki is busy purging the Baghdad government of the last of the US’s “power sharing” elements in order to build loyalty and stability there. A hybrid regime is hard to imagine.
The Syrian army increased its shelling of the suburbs of Damascus, and the provinces of Homs, Daraa and Deir Azzour.
Revolutionaries captured two top-ranking regime officers; Brigadier General Munir Ahmad Shalabi of the General Intelligence Palestine Branch, and Major General Faraj Shihada Maqet.
- The Syrian President has issued three new decrees to enable his government to fight “terrorism,” including a law that will enable the dismissal of civil servants.
- Syria’s consumer price index rose 32.51 percent in May on an annual basis, although on a monthly basis prices actually declined, the Central Bureau of Statistics said.
- All stocks traded at the Damascus Securities Exchange fell again last week with the total value of shares falling more than 50 percent compared to the previous week.
- A shipment of Iranian fuel reached the Syrian port of Banias at the end of last week, according to local media reports.
- Tourist Arrivals Fell 79% in the Four Months Ending April
- Hotels Statistics in Damascus
2009 2010 2011 Occupancy rates (%) 71 74 21 Average Room rates (USD) 236 233 168 REVPAR (USD) 168 172 35
Russians and Syrians, Allied by History and Related by Marriage
Olga Kravets for The New York Times
Roksana Dzhenid lives in Moscow with her Syrian husband, but many wives like her live in Syria.
By ELLEN BARRY, July 1, 2012
MOSCOW — On one jasmine-shaded block in the Syrian port city of Latakia, Natalya lives three doors away from Nina, two from Olga, across a narrow alley from Tatyana, and a short walk from Yelena, Faina and Nadezhda. They are all women from the former Soviet Union who married Syrian men. Pan out to the greater expanse of Syria and the number of Russian wives grows to 20,000, the human legacy of a cold war alliance that, starting in the 1960s, mingled its young elites in Soviet dormitories and classrooms….“They are wives of the elite, who can have some influence, but it’s a soft influence,” said Nina Sergeyeva, who until recently led an organization of Russian expatriates from her home in Latakia. “The elite of Syria, the men, are very oriented toward Russia.”…. “Based on the recent experience of evacuation from Lebanon and Palestine in recent years, problems always arise — though there we weren’t talking about thousands or tens of thousands of people, but several hundred,” said Yelena Suponina, a Moscow political analyst specializing in the Middle East. The task of evacuating Russians from Syria, she said, “would be 100 times worse.”….
Soviet women had their own reasons to pursue Syrians — nondrinkers who, thanks to the Baath Party’s ties to the Communists, traveled freely in and out of the Soviet Union. A new wave of marriages followed the Soviet collapse, as young women sought a way out of economic chaos.
“Let all the world hear this: Russian men, maybe not all of them, but more than half of them are gigolos,” said Roksana Dzhenid, who married Wa’el, a businessman, in 2000, and lives with him in Moscow. He benefited too, she noted, by escaping the intense family ties that come with a Syrian bride.
“If there is a quarrel, what will a Russian woman do? She will cry,” she said. “Maximum, she will go to her friend and say, ‘He is such and such.’ And what will an Arab woman do? She will gather a posse of all her relatives. She may run at night to her husband’s mother and sister and start yelling.”…
Svetlana N. Zaitseva, who spoke by telephone from her home in the Syrian port city of Tartus, was 19 when she met her husband, a linguistics student living in the same dormitory in what was then Leningrad.
She and her friends had only the dimmest idea of what life was like in other countries, she said. In the Soviet Union, “it was like the entire world was our friends, brothers and comrades.” Six months after the two met, she said, “I realized that we loved each other and could not live without one another.”
“From the height of my age, I must say that it’s of course better to marry someone from your own country,” she said.
But that decision is long past for Ms. Zaitseva, 62, a mother of three and grandmother of four. She is clinging to the hope that the conflict will end; but even if it escalates into war, she said, she would still choose to stay in Syria to the end.
“It cannot be otherwise,” she said. “We have become part of this place. Our children are here, who are citizens of Syria, and our grandchildren. Everything here is ours.”
Syria-based rebel fighters and activists said they would boycott an opposition meeting in Cairo on Monday, denouncing it as a “conspiracy” that served the policy goals of Damascus allies Moscow and Tehran.
The two-day meeting, to be attended by the main exiled opposition bloc, the Syrian National Council, and other smaller groups, is intended forge a common vision for a political transition in Syria after 16 months of bloodshed.
“We refuse all kinds of dialogue and negotiation with the killer gangs…and we will not allow anyone to impose on Syria and its people the Russian and Iranian agendas,” said a statement signed by the rebel Free Syrian Army and “independent” activists.
The boycotters said the talks follow the “dangerous decisions of the Geneva conference, which aim to safeguard the regime, to create a dialogue with it and to form a unity government with the assassins of our children.”
“The Cairo conference aims to give a new chance to (UN-Arab League) envoy Kofi Annan to try again to convince Assad to implement his six-point plan… while forgetting that thousands have been martyred since the plan came into force,” they said.
Aleppo in the Syrian Uprising | Near East Quarterly, www.neareastquarterly.com
By Harout Ekmanian
Harout Ekmanian is a freelance journalist and lawyer from Aleppo. The Second City Since the middle ages, Aleppo has been a major trade and commerce hub for the entire east Asia region. It was one of the three most important cities of the Ottoman Empire, […]
The Aleppo Chamber of Commerce stated in its meetings in May 20125 that the price of building materials has nearly doubled. The real estate rents have also doubled. According to data provided from the central bureau of statistics, the rise of inflation in only one month was six per cent in February 2012, whereas the rise of the prices in the first quarter of 2012 was 60 per cent.6 The rise of prices between January 2011 and January 2012 was recorded at 42 per cent.7
Compared to 2005, the prices of food, medicine, clothing, transportation have risen more than 72 per cent overall in Syria. In Aleppo only, that number reaches as high as 89 per cent.8
Economic sanctions imposed on Syria by EU, Arab countries and Turkey, have played a huge role in the economic meltdown of the country. The instability of the situation in Syria have also made a number of leading Syrian businessmen in different sectors resorting to take flight to Jordan, the UAE and Egypt.9…..
The Dilemma facing Aleppo’s Minorities
Christians in Syria have always enjoyed special advantages by undertaking a pseudo governmental role inside their communities. According to a report published on the Syria Comment blog, the number of Christians in Aleppo is already below 100,000. Many analysts predict harsher days for Christians in the future.12 ….
What comes next?
…..The people in Aleppo will also understand that history and memory are not exclusive for governments and its politicians, but it belongs to the whole population. Citizens will start to feel the importance of being a part of the process, rather than following the impromptu judgments of greedy businessmen and corrupt politicians.
With Aleppo beginning to revolt, it would appear naïve to implement the same kind of drastic government solutions that are being put into practice over a year ago in other Syrian cities and towns. That would only fasten a very ugly departure for the regime with the country falling into an undesirable chaos. The sooner they step back from the way to hell, the more helpful it would be for most of the parties inside Syria. In either case or the other, change is inevitable. It is simply a matter of time.
Moscow Russian officials will hold talks in Moscow with two key Syrian opposition leaders and United Nations envoy Kofi Annan later this month, amid signs that the Kremlin is ready to throw its weight behind Mr. Annan’s revised plan for a …
Ghatan Sleiba, from the pro-Assad al-Dunya channel, says he has been providing intelligence to the rebels for months. A presenter from the Syrian regime’s main television channel has defected to the opposition and revealed he had secretly provided …
This article addresses the approaches of Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq in dealing with the Kurdish issue, with a special focus on historical background. In addition, the article discusses how this issue affects relations among the aforementioned countries and whether cooperation on this issue is possible. The article also examines how the Arab Spring […]
…THE ARAB SPRING, SYRIA, AND THE KURDISH ISSUE
The wave of protests calling for greater freedoms, respect for human rights, and improving living conditions throughout the Arab world reached Syria. Operations such as massive naturalization of undocumented migrants have been organized by granting Syrian citizenship to more than 300,000 Kurds to ease the mass disturbances. Besides this, Syrian Kurdish opposition leader Tammo, leader of the Future Movement, who openly called for the Asad’s overthrow, was assassinated by the Asad regime in October 2011. The day of the funeral, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Qamishli. It was the largest protest in the northeast since the beginning of the uprisings against the Asad regime.
Some Kurdish groups are wary of joining the Syrian National Council (SNC) due to the SNC’s lack of clear-cut policies regarding the status of the Kurds in a post-Asad era and disputes concerning the number of seats the Kurds would hold in the SNC. For instance, the only Kurdish party that attended the Istanbul meeting of Syrian oppositionists, Tammo’s Future Movement, wanted the name of the country changed from the “Syrian Arab Republic” to the “Republic of Syria.” When the other delegates at the conference refused this request, these Kurds walked out in protest. The Kurds’ concern is that the opposition against the Asad regime is dominated by Islamists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and that they do not support Kurdish demands for local autonomy. Turkey’s active role in Syria’s uprisings also raises concerns with the Kurds. Kurds believe that Turkey would not leave things to take their own course in Syrian Kurdistan if Asad’s regime in the country were to fall.
It has even been observed that some of the KDP and PKK are used by the regime as “al-Shabiha” (pro-Asad regime armed thugs and mobs). The PKK receives further support from the regime. The Asad regime is using the PKK card as leverage against Turks. The PKK has done little to dispel such suspicions, and some statements made by Kurds seem to verify this argument. For instance, in an interview, Cemil Bayik, one of the group’s leaders, warned that if Turkey were to intervene against Assad, the PKK would fight on Syria’s side. The PKK also serves as a means for the Asad regime to keep the Syrian Kurds in check. The PKK’s Syrian branch, the PYD, pulled out of the negotiations with other Kurdish parties. They do not support the protests. Some Kurds have accused the PKK of playing a role in Tammo’s assassination and claim that they warned not to work with the mainstream Arab opposition…..
According to one political analyst, Syria’s regime is not taking action against the PKK due to Turkey’s current anti-Asad position. Furthermore, the Asad regime uses the PKK to control Syria’s Kurds and prevent the Kurds in Syria from taking an active part in the Syrian uprisings. The SNC hopes to win over the Kurds against the Asad regime by changing its former stance on the Kurdish issue. To this end, former SNC President Burhan Ghalioun has promised a decentralized government, which would enable local authorities to take control of their affairs and would allow for national recognition of Kurdish identity in the post-Assad Syria. Moreover, Abdulbaset Sieda, a secular Kurdish academic and politician, succeeded Ghalioun in June 2012 to reconcile rival factions within the SNC…..it thus seems impossible for these four states to maintain collaboration on the PKK issue. However, cooperation in preventing the establishment of an independent Kurdish state does seem feasible and likely to continue.
Tension Rises Along Turkey-Syria Border
By: Patrick J. McDonnell | Los Angeles Times
Turkey said Sunday that it had scrambled fighter jets along its increasingly tense border with Syria after Syrian helicopters were detected close to the two nations’ long frontier.
Authorities said no armed confrontation and no violation of Turkish territory took place, according to Turkish news reports. But the incidents on Saturday underscored how the more than 500-mile border has gone from being a hub of free-flowing commerce to a potential tinderbox for a regional military conflict….
HOMS, Syria (Reuters) – When rifle-toting members of Syria’s shabbiha pro-government paramilitary gangs strut into a shop, cowed residents of Homs know to clear out of their way.
Accused of atrocities that include the massacre last month of scores of women and children – many of whose throats were slit and heads bashed in – the militiamen cut to the front of the queue as shoppers shrink back and staff rush to serve them.
In their informal uniform of camouflage trousers and white sneakers, the young recruits swan down the streets of the Alawite neighborhoods, set up checkpoints at a whim and stop traffic to question drivers.
“We don’t know when they’ll show up and when they’ll disappear,” whispered Abu Tamam, from the Alawite neighborhood of Zahra where hundreds of men have joined shabbiha gangs. “Some of their leaders are the biggest thugs in the neighborhood. Now they’re supposed to be our saviors.”
Lawless groups of shabbiha now style themselves as above the control of the very security forces that created them to support the brutal crackdown on the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad that began in March 2011.
Homs is filled with men like short, fat, balding 40-year-old Louay. He hardly looks like a gang leader. But he is not afraid of force, and he claims he takes orders from no one – not even the government he is fighting to protect.
“If the government can’t end this farce, we will. I have boys who would eat rocks,” he growls. “Enough is enough. The army has been at it for a year and can’t put a stop to this.”
Your Syria Is My Bahrain
By: Mark N. Katz | The Moscow Times
ISTANBUL — When Syrian forces shot down a Turkish reconnaissance jet last month, Turkey vowed to take “necessary steps” and its prime minister declared Syria a “clear and present danger.”
Video: Can foreign powers determine Syria’s future?
01 Jul 2012 al-Jazeera (thanks to War in Context)
U.S. must arm Syria rebels despite Islamists: opposition
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis, 01 Jul 2012
Reuters reports: Syria’s opposition says the United States must overcome its fear of Islamists among the rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, and start arming the resistance movement to show it wants the entire ruling elite removed. Islamists are among the most effective fighters against the Syrian leadership, some opposition figures said, and Washington […]
….Opposition campaigners and Free Syrian Army commanders said the rebels need weapons such as shoulder-fired missiles to destroy the tanks and bring down the helicopters that Assad is using against the uprising. Washington could anyway supply parts of the diverse rebel movement which are more to its liking.
“The U.S. has intelligence on the ground and by clever management it can channel weapons to the right people. First it has to give a clear signal that it really wants an end of the Alawite-dominated police state in Syria and not just the sidelining of Bashar,” said Tello, speaking from Istanbul.
World powers struck an agreement on Saturday that a transitional Syrian government should be set up to end the conflict in which more than 10,000 people have died, but they remained at odds over what part Assad might play.
So far the United States has supplied almost negligible amounts of “non-lethal” aid such as walkie-talkie radios trickling across the Lebanese border, opposition figures said. Officials have made clear Washington opposes arming the rebels because they lack a unified command and due to concerns that high-tech weapons may fall into the hands of Islamists.
Mohaimen al-Rumaid, a member of the Syrian Rebel Front, said Washington was failing to recognize that the country’s Islamist rebels were different from the Taliban fighting NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, and that they were not anti-American….
Hamwi said U.S. officials appeared to be collecting intelligence on the rebels without helping them.
“Activists meet with them hoping to get medical supplies and they start asking for information about the Free Syrian Army. The United States seems not to mind Assad inflicting so much bloodshed as he can so the people become utterly exhausted and accept whatever deal Washington wants,” Hamwi said….
Mustafa al-Sheikh, a general in the Free Syrian Army who heads an organization of senior officers who have defected, said Washington could channel weapons “to trusted rebels and help to ensure stability after Assad falls”.
….”The United States, Israel and other world powers have calculated their interest in the region the last five decades based on minority rule in Syria,” said Sheikh who is based at a camp set up by Turkey for defecting officers on the Syrian border.”Washington does not want to risk a Sunni ascendancy by supporting the Syrian revolution, even as Assad continues his bloodbath and gets more support from Iran,” said Sheikh.
Video: Alawite activists flee to Turkey
01 Jul 2012 , aL-Jazeera
Disorganized Like a Fox – Foreign Policy
Why it’s a great thing that the Syrian opposition is fragmented.
By Elizabeth O’Bagy, a research analyst at the Institute for the Study of War and author of the report “Syria’s Political Opposition.”
….By adopting a decentralized leadership system, the Syrian opposition has succeeded in creating the foundations for greater political pluralism. For almost half a century, Syria suffered under the de facto one-party rule of the Baath Party. Ultimately, these organizations may reverse that destructive legacy, becoming fully functional political movements capable of creating the type of multiparty system necessary for a successful democratic transition.
That, of course, is a long way off, and in the meantime the positive influence of these grassroots movements is increasingly under threat. As the uprising drags on, activists have become increasingly desperate to receive direct aid and support. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and global jihadi networks linked to al Qaeda are manipulating this growing desperation, providing material support to those groups that promise to support their foreign agendas
The proliferation of money and weapons may have accelerated the revolution, but it has not supported the development of political structures inside Syria. These foreign sponsors risk dividing and radicalizing the opposition. Rebel leaders have already reported that in some cases, receiving foreign aid comes with implicit conditions, forcing them to act in ways contrary to their desired direction. In a leaked email, rebel commander Abu Majd wrote, “The basis of the crisis in the city [Homs] today is groups receiving uneven amounts of money from direct sources in Saudi Arabia, some of whom are urging the targeting of loyalist neighborhoods and sectarian escalation.” Moreover, in areas where Assad’s crackdown has been harshest, including in the cities of Homs and Rastan, hard-line Salafi groups have gained a foothold within the opposition. In early April, following the regime’s offensive against Homs, for instance, accusations emerged that the rebels’ Farouq Battalion had begun collecting jizya, a tax on non-Muslims, in areas of Homs province.
To reverse this dangerous trend, the United States should take the lead in coordinating international support with the aim of reinforcing the grassroots political structures already operating inside Syria. U.S. intelligence officials have acknowledged that they are vetting the flow of weapons to Syrian rebels to ensure they do not fall into the hands of al Qaeda militants. This policy is a step forward, but it comes with risks. Facilitating weapon transfers to certain groups could empower militias at the expense of the grassroots political opposition. One key condition for future arms transfers should be that groups receiving weapons agree to submit to civilian command structures.
The Syrian grassroots opposition has protested and fought the Assad regime for more than a year now, largely without tangible support from abroad. In areas that have effectively fallen from Assad’s control, these local and provincial committees have already become the de facto government. These committee leaders could very well be Syria’s future power brokers, and U.S. officials must get to know them now. If U.S. officials do not, they may find this promising new generation of Syrian leaders destroyed by both the Assad regime and radical Islamist movements, who will only carry Syria into a bloody and catastrophic civil war.