Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013
The local pro-government al-watan newspaper says that the minister of local management Omar Ghalawanji ordered his ministry staff to start implementing the recommendations of the parliament. The article lists the 3 new governorates at the end:
- Aleppo to be split in two, Aleppo and Rif Aleppo with Minbij as the capital of the rif (countryside)
- Splitting Al Hassaka and turning the Qamishli region which covers 60% of Hassaka into a governorate and it would be named Al Qamishli
- A new governorate to be named Al-Badia and its capital Tadmor (Palmyra), this governorate would include Tadmor and the surrounding areas which now belong to Homs.
The parliament decision was taken in December based on the “Budget and Accounting” committee local management recommendations.
’6,000 killed’ in bloodiest month for Syria crisis – Tuesday 2 April
The interview will be broadcasted today. This is just a trailer. Opposition forums are that saying that this is Assad’s way of denying assassination rumors that have been floating around. In this trailer he attacks Erdogan and says that the Erdogan government is implicated in Syrian blood and that Erdogan has been lying since the start of conflict
Syrian business man in Kuwait offers 10 Million SYP (approx. $95,000) for the capture of al-Jazeera and al-Arabia reporters in Syria and handing them to the authorities, live on state TV:
Asma al-Assad on Saturday celebrating mothers days with the mothers of Syrian army soldiers, Youtube
Here is a translation of the video thanks to A.N.
To all Syria’s mothers who sent their children….all their children, to protect the homeland, its pride and unity
Man in background: As i leave, i kiss the warmth of your morning. as i open the house door, your soul surrounds me, your soul protects. And those who protect Syria, like her sun…never die.
First woman: I have 8 children, and all 8 are in the army. And like every mother, i would like to have my children around me, but in this hour…they’re the redemption of the homeland. And on mother’s day, like every mother i tell him, stand by your homeland and defend it.
Second woman: I have 3 children in the army, Today is mother’s day and i vowed them for the country, i vowed them for Syria. Because Syria is the mother of all, and may god protect this country, protect Syria and protect the children and protect the Arab Syrian army.
Third woman: Every time i try to lay my head on the pillow, my eye finds that empty spot, i lay my hand on the pillow and the blanket and i smell them, i touch the pillow and the blanket and i try to smell their scent from the blanket.
Fourth woman: Today is Mother’s day and i really wish that my kids are ok, in the army, and may god protect this army and the homeland, may he protect Syria.
Fifth women: I have 3 boys in the military, my heart is on fire every time they leave the house. One was martyred and the other 2 i pray to god to protect them for me. A mother gathers…and Syria has gathered…
Fifth woman whispers ‘habibti’ [my beloved one] as she walks towards Asma al Assad. Asma hugs her and tries to comfort her.
Fifth woman: This is the mothers day occasion and i remember him wherever i go, he used to celebrate it with me, i wake up thinking of him and tell him goodbye before i go to sleep…And i praise Allah, this is a medal that i put on my chest….my beloved one was martyred and he was the most precious thing in my life, praise to Allah, praise to Allah…
Sixth woman: I have 4 boys, i would die for them but they’re vowed to this land…Anything as long as god ends this situation. Let them all die, i won’t be upset, if it end this situation(war)
Asma: When a child goes away, a mother’s heart will long for him, even his brothers are around to make up for his absence, the heart will always yearn for the one that is missing.
[mothers: the kid is precious but the country is more precious] But when they are all missing, who will the heart yearn to? they are all missing, They’re all risking their lives for the country. When something happens, we look up and we don’t see the missing one, we hug the ones that are here and we pray for the ones who are not, for Allah to protect them.
We start asking, how? where? what happened in his area? And when we realize that what happened wasn’t close to him we start praying for the rest of the youth of this country, for Allah to protect them. But if they were all missing, who are we going to hug? But if they were all missing, who do we ask about? About which area are we going to ask? And if we were able to check on one of them and make sure he’s ok, how are were going to check on the rest?
Every woman that has a child protecting this country is a majestic mother, and the woman that has a martyred child, who scarified its most precious thing to this country is more majestic. But you, what can one say about mothers like you, who send all their boys , and some of you, their daughters and husbands as well, you sent all of them to protect and defend this country. All of you are waiting for a child to celebrate mothers day with, but your children are all celebrating mother’s with Syria, who’s the mother of all. They say, there’s nothing more precious then a child except for the child of the child.
I know that there are mothers who sent off the child and the son of the child to protect this country and i know that some you have packed their grandchildren bags themselves before those grandchildren went to volunteer and enlist.
These hands are the ones that nurtured and taught, and as they nurtured their children, they also nurtured the love of the country in those children. And with every heart beat of horror and fear for them, there’s another heart beat of determination, persistence and power.
The stand that you take today, is an example for me and for every Syrian mother who was taught that she has to give a lot, and that for sacrifice to be considered as such, it has to be bigger. Today, like every year, the spring starts and this year, you are the spring and your tenderness will help the flower, roses and jasmine bloom. The jasmine that you’ve protected and still protecting with your souls and children. It is true that the child is precious, but you have shown the entire world, that the country is more precious. Its true that the child is part of the soul, but by sending all your children to protect it, you’ve taught us with your actions, and not in words, that the soul loses its value for the sake of the country.
Its true that mothers are precious, very precious, but you’ve taught us that the homeland is more precious. Instead of worrying about yourselves and your lives, you worried for all of Syria, instead of your children worrying about you, they worried for all the mothers of the homeland and they went to protect you and the homeland, knowing that Syria is the mother of all.
Today, they, along with me, you and a lot of mothers with us, came together to tell our motherer Syria, that the homeland is precious. May Allah protect you[Syria], and if your youth remains like this, you’ll be okay every year
“The Revolutionary Front to Free Syria” Formed in Egypt
It is an empty shell writes Aron Lund.
A reporter sent me this information and asked if this the group was legitimate.
A spokesperson for the Free Syrian Army Council of Damascus and Suburbs said his council sent a representative to meet with about 30 to 40 percent of armed rebel forces who sent representatives to Cairo who on Sunday agreed to form the Front Revolutionary to Free Syria.He said they want to work with Idriss and Khatib and Hitto but formed their own large council to be sure the Coalition and Idriss’s commanders find the foreign funding and distribute it equitably (my words). If I understood him correctly he said this new military-political union represents about 50 to 60,000 Syrian rebels.
The numbers given are much too high. The group does exist, el-Jabha el-Thawria li-Tahrir Souriya. Here’s a thing on it in Sharq Awsat.
I can’t tell what’s happening with people like this Abu Hadi, on the ground in Syria, but as far as I know all of the factions involved are microscopic and exile-run.
- Wahid Saqr is an Alawite ex-security defector who has long been in exile in London, with no known entourage.
- Louai Zoubi is an eccentric ex-jihadi salafi from Deraa who has been making noise about armed action since late 2011, but seems to sit in Saudi Arabia or somewhere. Two of the groups involved consist of him and his cronies (Mouminoun Yusharikoun & Majlis Tamthili Meidani). It is a bit of a tell that they need to count him twice to make the front seem bigger.
- Gen. Hajj Ali (also from Deraa) was supposed to lead the KSA-backed “Syrian National Army” in Aug-Sep (can’t remember) 2012, but that fell apart instantly after being founded. He’s in Jordan I think. If I’m not mistaken he might still be the top-ranking defector so far, but he hasn’t got any real allies. Until now, that is. The group he claims to represent is probably just him and a few other defectors.
- The tribal council could be a real force, there’s something like that which has been involved in previous coalitions. But there’s probably several such councils, I have no idea what this represents.
From the people involved, I’d guess there’s been Saudi funding, or at least funding from interests associated with KSA. If someone were to pour lots and lots of cash into this over an extended period of time, it might evolve into something bigger, but if not it sounds like a totally marginal project. What unites these people is mainly that they have no influence on their own.
News Round Up
The civil war raging in Syria is sparking shortages and fury in Damascus’s Old City, writes Alex Thomson, Chief correspondent for Channel 4 News.
… A middle-aged man shouted in English: “You are not welcome. You are starving us. You are stopping us living here. You should report this. It is the sanctions. Go home.”
It was a shock, in a country whose hospitality to foreign strangers is renowned. He would not shake hands. It was not the fighting that angered this businessman, nor the British government’s apparent wish to arm the rebels, but the EU sanctions that are preventing the transfer of money…”The sanctions are a huge problem,” said Abu Adham. “They affect prices enormously and also affect the sources of all our raw materials. Sometimes we can find alternatives but it is not easy and we have had to discontinue certain of our lines.”…
The cause of much disruption is indisputable. Damascus’s oil, petrol and diesel comes largely from a refinery to the west of Homs, 100 miles north. Road tankers are regularly attacked, as is the pipeline that connects the refinery to the capital. The highway south to Jordan is also increasingly exposed to rebel attacks. The only unaffected road out, either for people or for freight, is westwards to Lebanon.
There are long queues of cars for the few petrol stations still operating in Damascus, which are themselves targets for incoming mortars or even car bombs. People line up for fuel, tempers easily fraying, and the smell of petrol hangs heavy in the air as jumpy soldiers push people back and try to maintain order.
“I am seeing 30 years of economic planning fall apart before my very eyes,” said Elaine Imadia, shopping for fruit and vegetables with her daughter. A resident of the city for 53 years, she still has the drawl she acquired growing up in Palisades, New York. Her husband, Mohammed Imadi, is a former economy minister and a founder of Syria’s stock exchange.
“Prices have trebled and I really do not know how the poor people are managing right now,” she said. “The entire economy is being dismantled. Look around you here – the price of meat is unspeakably high and that’s just the beginning of it all.”
In fact you didn’t need to look far to see how the poor people are managing. They are doing something which is commonplace on the streets of London and New York – but until now has been a rarity in Damascus. A middle-aged woman sat at the street corner, quietly begging from passers-by.
Inside Obama’s Syria Debate
By Adam Entous, 29 March 2013, The Wall Street Journal Online
With the death toll mounting in the Syrian rebellion, the Obama administration has stepped up calls for strongman Bashar al-Assad to give up power.
But two years into the bloodiest chapter of the Arab Spring, the administration, under pressure from lawmakers and allies, has only taken halting steps to help provide training, equipment and intelligence to moderate rebel fighters.
That incremental shift is the product of a wrenching, behind-the-scenes debate over how best to drive Mr. Assad from power, contain Islamist factions inside the rebellion and keep the U.S. from being sucked into a new conflict just as it exits its longest war.
A reconstruction of months of conversations within the administration—based on interviews with two dozen senior officials in Washington, Europe and the Middle East—suggests that process has been slowed by internal divisions, miscalculations and bureaucratic inertia.
The Pentagon drew up military options but made clear to the White House they were unpalatable. State Department calls for intervention grew but weren’t aggressively pursued or enough to overcome White House resistance. Administration lawyers, meanwhile, raised doubts whether the U.S. even had a legal basis for using force in Syria. And America’s allies talked up the need to do something but got cold feet at crucial junctures so little was done.
Just as pressure to intervene grew last summer, White House officials were buoyed by a series of attacks where rebels appeared to be getting close to killing Mr. Assad. Several senior officials now acknowledge the U.S. misjudged how long Mr. Assad could hold on.
The cautious approach comes from the president himself, buttressed by advisers including Denis McDonough, now the White House chief of staff. Their view: Syria is awash in arms and adding more risks worsening violence without improving rebel chances of victory.
Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came to believe late last year that Washington could no longer watch the Syria carnage from the sidelines. But Mrs. Clinton and other advocates of arming the rebels didn’t in the end aggressively push for the initiative, put forward by then-Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus, as it became clear where Mr. Obama stood, according to current and former administration officials.
Arming Syrian rebels divided the cabinet coalition that had championed the 2011 Libya campaign, pitting Mrs. Clinton against U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice who emerged as a leading voice of caution.
The most engaged U.S. effort thus far comes from the CIA, which is working with European and Arab spy services to provide intelligence, training and logistical support to select rebel groups, according to U.S., European and Arab officials. Nevertheless, CIA operatives are frustrated by what they see as the Obama administration’s reluctance to provide the rebels with the items they say they need most, including arms and cash, according to current and former officials.
The CIA declined to comment.
The U.S.’s Syria strategy is emblematic of the administration’s policy of limiting Washington’s role as global policeman. In NATO’s campaign against Libya’s Col. Moammar Gadhafi, Mr. Obama insisted European powers play a leading combat role. After French forces went into Mali to fight al Qaeda linked forces in January, Mr. Obama sent cargo and refueling planes to help Paris but no fighter jets or armed drones.
Critics within the administration and in the Syrian opposition say the administration’s reluctance to arm moderate groups has strengthened Islamist fighters who could dominate the country when the regime falls.
At a news conference last week in Jerusalem, Mr. Obama defended his approach.
“It is incorrect for you to say that we have done nothing,” he said. “We have helped to mobilize the isolation of the Assad regime internationally. We have supported and recognized the opposition. We have provided hundreds of millions of dollars in support for humanitarian aid.”
From the outset, the U.S.’s moves were marked by caution. In August 2011, after months of debate among top advisers, Mr. Obama called for Mr. Assad to “step aside.” Still, Mr. Obama by design didn’t say the U.S. would “force” Mr. Assad out, according to officials who helped formulate the statement.
In one meeting in January 2012, a senior U.S. official met in California with supporters of the Syrian opposition and said “all options are on the table”—the U.S. government’s official position.
“But as I was mouthing the words, I began to wonder if I was doing the right thing,” said the official, who has since left the administration. “It was always a struggle to keep up (rebel) morale without misleading anyone.”
In April, the Pentagon readied preliminary options for White House staff that included no-fly zones and limited aerial strikes, but they weren’t presented to the president.
In the weeks that followed, top White House officials met with planners at the Pentagon to discuss options, which included arming rebels without links to Islamist groups and providing them with tactical training. No option received much high-level support at the time. “Nobody could figure out what to do,” a senior defense official said.
America’s hands-off policy was dealt a shock on June 22 when a Turkish reconnaissance plane was shot down by Syrian air defenses.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised alarms in the U.S. by suggesting that Turkey might invoke NATO’s Article V, which says alliance members should treat an attack against one as an attack against all, potentially triggering a military response.
Neither the U.S. nor NATO was interested in rushing to Article V, a message that was conveyed to the Turks, according to NATO diplomats. Turkey instead invoked Article IV, which triggered emergency consultations but no further action. And U.S. Navy Adm. James Stavridis, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s supreme allied commander, had NATO’s defense plan for Turkey rewritten to reassure the Turks and deter Damascus from widening the conflict.
NATO was so wary of getting pulled into Syria that top alliance officials balked at even contingency planning for an intervention force to protect Syrian civilians. “For better or worse, Assad feels he can count on NATO not to intervene right now,” a senior Western official said.
Within the Obama administration, pressure for a policy change began to grow in July after diplomatic efforts by international envoy Kofi Annan collapsed, sapping hope for a nonmilitary transition. Rebels upped the ante by taking their military campaign to Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. Opposition leaders were hopeful the U.S. would intervene on their behalf, based in part on comments from top State Department and CIA officials.
Senior officials who wanted the U.S. to do more, particularly at the State Department, grew frustrated with the White House, according to current and former officials.
The administration committee charged with Syria policy was kept on a tight leash by Mr. McDonough, then the deputy national security adviser and a close confidante to Mr. Obama, participants say. They said Mr. McDonough made clear that Mr. Obama wasn’t interested in proposals that could lead the U.S. down a slippery slope to military intervention; instead, he had the committee focus mostly on post-Assad planning.
“It was clear to all participants that this was what the White House wanted, as opposed to really focusing on key questions of how do you get to the post-Assad period,” one participant said.
Administration officials said one of the reasons the committee was told to focus on post-Assad planning was because intelligence at the time created “a sense” in the White House that Mr. Assad could be killed by rebels or his own people, eliminating the need for riskier measures to support the rebel campaign.
Officials said Mr. McDonough held smaller side meetings in which officials debated whether the White House should authorize so-called “accelerants”—covert measures designed to speed Mr. Assad’s fall. Those proposals, too, met with caution at the White House, which worried it could undercut U.S. efforts to persuade Russia to halt military aid to the Syrian regime.
Likewise, high-level White House national security meetings on Syria focused on what participants called “strategic messaging,” how administration policy should be presented to the public, according to current and former officials who took part in the meetings.
Another administration official disputed that account, saying there were multiple cabinet-level meetings “with extensive and rigorous analysis presented” and that he didn’t recall strategic messaging ever being a “central topic of discussion at senior levels.”
In July, shortly after Mr. Annan’s negotiations broke down, the U.S. military’s Joint Staff began formally presenting military options to the White House. One of the no-fly zone options called for a bombing campaign followed by round-the-clock combat air patrols.
In those briefings, attendees say, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other top military officials emphasized the risks, including hitting civilians: “It would look like we were carpet bombing the Syrians,” said a former senior U.S. official who attended one of the briefings.
Defense officials say the Joint Staff presented the best options available. Top military commanders acknowledge they weren’t enthusiastic about the options because they didn’t see them as viable. “Some things are what we call wicked problems,” one senior defense official said.
Advocates of intervening faced another hurdle: administration lawyers. Lawyers at the White House and departments of Defense, State and Justice debated whether the U.S. had a “clear and credible” legal justification under U.S. or international law for intervening militarily. The clearest legal case could be made if the U.S. won a U.N. or NATO mandate for using force. Neither route seemed viable: Russia would veto any Security Council resolution, and NATO wasn’t interested in a new military mission.
Administration lawyers honed a third legal justification: collective self-defense, according to current and former officials involved in the deliberations. To work, however, Syria would have to attack one of its neighbors. Besides occasional errant Syrian artillery shells that veered into Turkey, Damascus kept a lid on cross-border tensions to avoid provoking a response.
In August, Mrs. Clinton flew to Istanbul, prepared to look at a no-fly zone, which Ankara earlier had floated to NATO as an option. But Turkish officials told their American counterparts later in August that they weren’t prepared to move forward with a no-fly zone, and the option—already opposed by the U.S. military because of concerns about Syria’s air defenses and Russia’s reaction—died there, U.S. officials say.
The idea of arming secular rebels was popular among CIA field officers who wanted better relations with fighters. It also was more palatable to administration lawyers.
The debate came to a head in an October meeting in the White House Situation Room.
Mr. Petraeus, leaning forward during his presentation, made a forceful case for arming rebels, arguing it would help the U.S. build pro-Western allies and shape future leaders of a post-Assad Syria.
Mrs. Clinton spoke in favor of the initiative but her remarks were brief. U.N. Ambassador Rice argued strongly against arming the rebels, citing doubts about the opposition. Ms. Rice through a spokeswoman declined to comment.
Other White House advisers worried that providing arms, without toppling Mr. Assad, risked making the U.S. look ineffectual. Moreover, such a move would leave the president open to attack if the arms found their way into the hands of extremists.
Shortly after the meeting, Mr. Petraeus resigned over an extramarital affair. A CIA analysis played down the impact of arming the rebels on accelerating Mr. Assad’s fall, and the proposal to arm the rebels died.
At a congressional hearing in February, Republican Sen. John McCain, who has long advocated intervening to protect Syrian civilians and arm rebels, asked then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Dempsey if they had supported the Petraeus-Clinton proposal to arm the rebels. Both men said yes.
The answer infuriated the White House, which didn’t want to put a spotlight on internal divisions and the options privately presented to Mr. Obama.
As the administration debated what to do, the death toll in Syria soared, from 4,000 in late 2011 to nearly 70,000 now, according to U.N. estimates.
In his first news conference as the new defense secretary earlier in March, Chuck Hagel called the administration’s decision to provide only nonlethal support the “correct policy.”
BRICS Summit draws clear red lines on Syria, Iran
By Sharmine Narwani, April 3, 2013,
on Syria, the BRICS fully backed the Geneva principles as the framework for resolving the two-year conflict:“We believe that the Joint Communiqué of the Geneva Action Group provides a basis for resolution of the Syrian crisis and reaffirm our opposition to any further militarization of the conflict. A Syrian-led political process leading to a transition can be achieved only through broad national dialogue that meets the legitimate aspirations of all sections of Syrian society and respect for Syrian independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty as expressed by the Geneva Joint Communiqué and appropriate UNSC resolutions.”
An Islamic cleric has cleared the path for rebels in Syria, who are trying to oust President Bashar Assad, to rape women, so long as they’re non-Sunni. Salafi Sheikh Yasir al-Ajlawni, who hails from Jordan but who lived in Damascus for 17 years, …
Rebels on the ground say they, not expatriates or educated opposition outsiders, deserve leadership roles in a civilian government for post-conflict Syria.
….Several armed rebels watched as another rebel, a tall, slender man in a black ammunition vest and bandanna, scurried from vehicle to vehicle, asking: “Where’s the 500? Here, give me the 500.” In his hands he held a stack of cash and passes stamped with the seal of the newly formed highway patrol.
The patrol was set up two months ago to quell crime on the roads, mostly robberies and kidnappings, and had been widely praised until it began imposing a toll in March: 500 Syrian pounds (about $7) for cars and 1,000 pounds for tractor-trailers.
There are now almost two dozen checkpoints stationed along the highway from the Turkish border through Aleppo and Idlib provinces, manned by hundreds of rebels……
For the next few hours, the men engaged in a combative and highly charged discussion. It was about the black banner, but more than that about the direction the Syrian uprising has taken. The men of the house feared that it had been hijacked by Islamists, led by Jabhat al-Nusra, who saw the fall of the regime as the first step in transforming Syria’s once-cosmopolitan society into a conservative Islamic state. All four men said they wanted an Islamic state, but a moderate one.
A few days earlier, a massive black flag bearing the shahada had been hoisted atop a flagpole in Raqqa city’s main square, in front of the elegant, multi-arched governorate building. “We will become a target for American drone attacks because of the flag—it’s huge,” said Abu Noor, a wiry young man who worked in a pharmacy by day and at night volunteered to guard the post office near his home against looters. “They’ll think we’re extremist Muslims!” (There haven’t been such strikes in Syria yet, though the possibility is much discussed here.)
“There is no moderate Islam or extremist Islam,” the Jabhat member said calmly. “There is only Islam, and Islam is under attack in the West regardless of whether or not we hoist the banner. Do you think they’re waiting for that banner to hit us?” he said.
Abu Mohammad, an older man in a tan leather jacket and a white galabia (a loose, floor-length robe), interjected: “What we’re saying is, put the flag above your outposts, not in the main square of the city. We all pray, we all say, ‘There is no god but God,’ but I will not raise this flag.”
“This is an insult to people who died for the revolutionary flag,” said Abu Abdullah, a former English major at the university.
“We are not forcing anything on anyone,” the Jabhat member said. “We offered it as a choice. We did not take down the revolutionary flags in the city—even though we could have.”
Official Vision of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, Carnegie – March 29, 2013
Summary: What follows is a summary of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood’s 2004 document “The Project of our Political Future, the Vision of the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria.” It is written from the Brotherhood’s perspective….
Goals and PrinciplesThe Muslim Brotherhood wishes to build a modern state that works to achieve God’s law. Our program is based in the Quran and the Sunna, which make up the sharia. The sharia is sent as a mercy to mankind and is timeless in its application through renewed judicial interpretation to different ages.Freedom is the most important value for Muslims, and we believe in full freedom of thought and conscience.God has commanded justice for all human beings, and Islam prohibits injustice or aggression.God made people into nations and tribes to know one another, not to hate each other—diversity is an essential part of human civilization.Calling others to God and to the way of Islam is an essential aspect of our way and our project.Jihad is one of the essential parts of our project—a jihad against oppressors and aggressors who go to war with Islam but that denounces aggression and initiating hostilities. Jihad can only be for justice and for helping each other. If any Muslims are being harmed, other Muslims should help—even through arms—and assist the oppressed…..
- Dealing with non-Muslims in dialogue and cooperation is in the interest of our nation and homeland, as is maintaining unity except in ways that would contradict the law of God.
- All solutions for all problems come from Islam, and all policies should be in the framework of the sharia.
- Islamic law should be applied onto society through a gradual approach just as Islam should be gradually learned and practiced.
A Profile of Yakzan Shishakly, a man who went from managing an air conditioning business in Texas to running a refugee camp inside Syria. The Olive Tree Camp in Idleb province is now home to 26,000 people, at peak times 1,000 people show up in a day. In a follow-up Google Hangout with Shishakly his insights on the humanitarian crisis were profound: fears of epidemics spreading as winter thaws, kids who once hoped to attend school now selling cigarettes in the street.
In the southern part of the country, we looked at how Kidnappings and Extremists in Swaida Lure the Druze into Conflict – reaching into a religious community that had stayed relatively neutral until now.
The Stalemate in Syria, By MATTHIEU AIKINS – NYTimes blog
….As a result of the relative calm, civilians have returned to the city in droves. A photographer friend who had last visited in November was astonished to see neighborhoods he remembered as ghost areas now bustling with activity during the day — streets packed with cars, carts piled with fresh vegetables and supplies like LED lights, batteries and dry goods. There is even fresh fish from the Euphrates, trucked in from Deir Ezzor, more than 300 kilometers away.
The hospitals, mercifully, are no longer the charnel houses they were when heavy shelling rained on civilian areas daily. “There are less casualties than before, even though there are many more civilians,” said Abdul Qadr Mohannad, a surgeon at the Al Daqaq Hospital.
The humanitarian situation is still dire, of course. Most rebel areas lack reliable access to electricity, water or proper medical care; garbage is piling up in the streets; and unemployment and inflation have put many families in desperate financial straits. But for the moment an uneasy calm prevails over the city. Neither side seems interested in committing the manpower, the weaponry and the ammunition necessary to break through the other’s line…..
New Hashish home delivery business in Damascus, caused by deteriorating police force grip. Sky News. Increased smuggling operations across the lebanese-syrian border
FSA soldiers and regime forces “selling crude oil by the truck to Turkey”, according to new Guardian interview with a Nusra fighter:
Foreigners make up a tiny fraction of the Syrian opposition | FP Passport
Tuesday, April 02, 2013
Israelis: What do you think of what is happening in Syria? by Corey Gil-Shuster (below)
First Christian Brigade formed in Syria (Cannot verify)
Ahrar al-Sham final video on blowing up check points around Aleppo.
From an Aleppo business man – “My father’s Aleppo business this month better than last three.”
read my blog on “How the jihadi factions are willing to apply Sharia in al-Raqqa” levantnbeyond.blogspot.fr/2013/04/how-ji…
Chechen Insurgency Leader Doku Umarov Tells Chechens Not to Fight in Syria By Mairbek Vatchagaev | Eurasia Daily Monitor
Turkey’s Economy Slows to Lowest Since 2009 By Daniel Dombey | Financial Times
Iraq’s Christians Face Hardship, But Peaceful Easter Also Highlights Promise By Jane Arraf | The Christian Science Monitor
As Syria’s War Rages, Villagers Who’d Fled to Cities for Better Lives Return By David Enders | McClatchy Newspapers
US-Syria trade close to nil: Trade between Syria and the United States fell some 93 percent in 2012 according to the US Census Bureau.
Syria’s HDI improves: Syria improved its Human Development Index value, in spite of the increasingly violence, according to the UNDP.
Telecommunication industry sustains heavy losses:Profits halved last year at MTN-Syria, one of Syria’s two mobile phone operators, over rising expenses, according to audited statements published by the company.
France backtracks on arming Syrian rebels: French President Francois Hollande said on Thursday that the situation in Syria was still too unsure to start supplying weapons to opposition rebels.
Russia and Iran continue their support to Assad: Iran and Russia harshly criticized the Arab League for allowing an opposition leader to fill Syria’s vacant seat at the organisation’s annual summit. Russia also said it will fight the opposition’s move to take Syria’s UN seat.
KurdWatch, March 31, 2013—KurdWatch is releasing an Air Force Intelligence Service protocol from November 3, 2011, according to which representatives of the regime met with the chairman of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), Salih Muhammad Muslim, at the end of October 2011 in Damascus in order to convince him to work together. He is quoted as saying that the PYD or rather the National Union of Forces for Democratic Change, of which the PYD was a member, does not advocate for an overthrow, but rather for a reform of the government. Should Bashar al-Assad step down and then renew his bid for the presidency, he would vote for him. According to the document, Salih Muhammad Muslim further stated that he would try to convince the Kurds to do the same, because Bashar al‑Assad is the best person for Syrians in general and especially for the Kurds. In a conversation with KurdWatch on March 30, 2013, Salih Muhammad Muslim stated that he could not recall the meeting described. He said that during his time in Damascus and beyond, he maintained no contacts with the government. Furthermore, he stressed that the PYD has been calling for the fall of the government since September 17, 2011. He also said that he has never spoken out for the re-election of the president. KurdWatch will soon release the complete interview [download PDF].
Sorting out the Syrian opposition
By David Ignatius, April 2, Wash Post
As the decisive battle for Damascus approaches, the array of Syrian opposition forces facing President Bashar al-Assad appears to share one common trait: Most of the major rebel groups have strong Islamic roots and backing from Muslim neighbors.
The Free Syrian Army has developed a rough “order of battle” that describes these rebel groups, their ideology and sources of funding. This report was shared last week with the State Department. It offers a window on a war that, absent some diplomatic miracle, is grinding toward a bloody and chaotic endgame.
The disorganized, Muslim-dominated opposition prompts several conclusions: First, the United States will have limited influence, even if it steps up covert involvement over the next few months. Second, the post-Assad situation may be as chaotic and dangerous as the civil war itself. The Muslim rebel groups will try to claim control of Assad’s powerful arsenal, including chemical weapons, posing new dangers.
Although the Syrian revolution is two years old, the rebel forces haven’t formed a unified command. Gen. Salim Idriss, commander of the Free Syrian Army, has tried to coordinate the fighters. But this remains a bottom-up rebellion, with towns and regions forming battalions that have merged into larger coalitions. These coalitions have tens of thousands of fighters. But they lack anything approaching the discipline of a normal army.
Even though the rebels have only loose coordination, they have become a potent force. They have seized control of most of Aleppo and northern Syria, and they are tightening their grip on Damascus, controlling many of the access routes east and south of the city, according to rebel sources. Free Syrian Army leaders believe that the battle for Damascus will reach its climax in the next two to three months…..
The lineup of opposition military groups is confusing to outsiders, but rebel sources say there are several major factions….
Realistically, the best hope for U.S. policy is to press the Saudi-backed coalition and its 37,000 fighters, to work under the command of Idriss and the Free Syrian Army. That would bring a measure of order and would open the way for Idriss to negotiate a military transition government that would include reconcilable elements of Assad’s army.
“Consolidating forces under Gen. Idriss would extend his recognition and credibility,” explained a Syrian rebel activist here Tuesday night. But without a strong Saudi push, this coordination is a long shot.
Rebel sources here say the opposition has developed plans to train Syrian police, purify water supplies and teach forces how to dispose of chemical weapons — all pending approval. Such plans offer the best chance for mitigating the Syrian disaster. What is the United States waiting for?
SYRIA AT THE CROSSROADS: U.S. POLICY AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE WAY FORWARD
Edward P. Djerejian and Andrew Bowen
Baker Institute Scholar for the Middle East, Rice University’s Baker Institute
WSJ- The time has come for U.S. Strikes in Syria
Tuesday, April 02, 2013 By JOSEPH LIEBERMAN
In response to recent reports that the Assad regime in Syria may have used chemical weapons against the rebel opposition, President Obama declared that such a development, if confirmed, would be a “game changer.”
But regardless of the kind of weapons Assad is using to slaughter his people, Syria is already a moral and strategic calamity that is growing worse by the day, not only for Syrians and their neighbors but also for vital national interests of the United States. That is why it is already past time for a change in American policy toward Syria….
In addition to giving Islamist extremists a new foothold in the heart of the Middle East, a radicalized and balkanized Syria is also certain to spill over, threatening the stability…. This is very much like the nightmare scenario the U.S. confronted in Iraq in 2006….What is required now is a limited campaign of U.S.-led airstrikes to neutralize Assad’s planes, helicopters and ballistic missiles, which are being used to terrorize the Syrian population…. As in the Balkans in the 1990s, peacekeeping forces will be needed if there is any prospect of holding Syria together, along with a large-scale international effort to train Syrian forces that can maintain security….
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