News Round Up (Sept 25, 2012)

Bob BowkerA bleak future for Syria
Bob Bowker – ABC news, Australia

Professor Bob Bowker, from ANU’s Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, says the Assad regime is capable of preserving itself, but the institutions of the state are being reduced to rubble, both figuratively and literally.

An excellent analysis by Nir Rosen in the London Review of Books on the place of the Alawite minority in Syria, their dominance within the regime and their strong sense of vulnerability as a community should the regime fall provides an insightful appreciation of the outlook for Syria.

Rosen underlines the unwavering support for Bashar al-Assad among ordinary Alawites, no matter what violence is deployed by the Syrian regime against its opposition. He emphasises that for the Alawite rank and file, this is a primordial, existential conflict.

Rosen also makes the point that the regime continues to enjoy backing from privileged Sunnis as well. That remains an important, and generally under-reported factor: the regime would have fallen long ago if its base was exclusively Alawite.

Whereas the larger part, at least, of the Sunni population is now looking forward to an end to the regime which has brutalised their lives, it can continue to expect the urban Sunni middle class in Damascus and Aleppo to calculate the odds where their own interests are concerned.

They continue to back Bashar as a distasteful but superior alternative to the chaos that would follow a fall of the ruling elite, and the even greater consequences of an Islamist ascendancy for their interests, lifestyles and values. The likelihood, if not the inevitability, of such ascendancy is very high.

The material impact at present of jihadist fighters is easily over stated. Some analysts are reluctant to highlight it because it accords with the regime’s efforts at depicting the conflict as one against ‘terrorists’.

However the longer the conflict continues, the more likely it is that the jihadists will come to the forefront of the Islamist opposition, because they are clearly, by virtue of their experience, external support and commitment, a superior fighting force.

Meanwhile the Islamists more generally can be expected to develop the organisational skills and political capacity to draw upon the frustrations and anger of the lowest end of the Sunni socio-economic spectrum better than any secular-minded opposition groups.

Rosen finds the Alawites are not thinking (at this stage, at least) of withdrawing to an Alawite bastion based around their community in the mountains along the Mediterranean seaboard. They continue to see the state as their instrument for achieving their goals (which they appear still to define, in their own minds, in national, rather than sectarian terms).

Given the intermingling of Sunnis and Alawites in urban areas since the 1970s, and the proximity of differently-aligned villages to each other, especially on the plains to the east of the Alawite mountains, and the deployment by the regime of heavy weapons against civilian areas occupied by rebel forces or sympathisers, the scope for killing is vast. In practice, that may mean an even wider degree of bloodletting if the regime collapses.

Bashar al-Assad is a complex part of this picture. That he and those around him deserve to be on trial for crimes against humanity is beyond dispute. The application of overwhelming violence against civilian populations, no matter whether they harboured elements seeking to overthrow the regime, is despicable. But there is something deeply enigmatic, even tragic, about his role.

Bashar al-Assad never wanted to be the president of Syria. He was by inclination a reformer who failed miserably to show the qualities of leadership that the situation demanded, and that his own popular audience expected him to deliver, in the early phase of the uprising. The task was beyond him, as it would have been for most ordinary mortals. The choices he made (or perhaps was obliged to take by those around him) deepened the crisis. But few others from the elite would have performed at a level that might have averted the catastrophe that is now upon Syria.

If Assad sought to restrain those Alawites who are most disposed to use violence, he would probably be replaced by someone who was seen by the Alawites as more resolute. Those outsiders who call for Assad to go should be cognisant of that likelihood. Though no-one would wish it to happen, their approach is tantamount to opening the way to an even higher level of violence, because there is no political program that would prevent a last-ditch effort by the Alawites to put down their opponents, or the ethnic cleansing of the Alawites and their supporters by a victorious opposition.

Barring the effects of an assassination and a sudden collapse of Alawite morale, Syria has embarked on a conflict that is going to continue until the various parties are exhausted by the killing. There is no desire for a political solution, nor is there such a solution available. The external players all have interests in keeping their proxies in the field. The costs for them are minimal (except perhaps for Turkey, now facing growing pressure in regard to the refugee presence).

The Lebanese civil war continued for 15 years until the exhaustion factor took effect. Iraq has been subjected to political violence for nine years. We should not be surprised if the Syrian conflict matches those time scales.

The capacity of Arab countries to rectify the physical damage of conflict, especially when Arab funds begin to flow, should not be discounted. Jordan recovered from the material losses of the conflict with the Palestinians in 1970-71 as Gulf investors and then oil money fled Beirut. Lebanon, with Saudi funding, has recovered in most ways from the destruction and trauma of the civil war. Iraq, using its oil revenues, is moving gradually and painfully forward.

But it is not possible to predict how long it may take to rebuild the credibility and authority of the institutions of government, and a sense of political community, in countries where the social and political scars of conflict remain vivid, decades after the event.

In the case of Syria, the regime is capable of preserving itself, but the institutions of the state are being reduced to rubble, both figuratively and literally. Socially and perhaps territorially, the country is fragmenting.

What political and ideological orientation Syria may take on over coming years will depend on whether the Assad regime does indeed survive the state. It will also depend, to some extent, on what happens in Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia over the next decade. But no country in the region will be immune from the consequences of what is now unfolding.

Bob Bowker is Adjunct Professor at the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Australian National University. He served in Damascus from 1979 to 1981, and was accredited as Australian ambassador to Syria from 2005 to 2008. View his full profile here. He was also ambassador to Egypt and Jordan.

President Obama – Why is the US supporting Al Qaeda in Syria? – Live Leak, Reality Check – short video, first several minutes particularly good.

Class Is Not in Session: The tragedy of Syria’s schoolchildren – FP

The Syrian Alawites and Negotiated Departure for al-Assad


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reiterated in an interview published Sept. 21 in Egyptian weekly magazine al-Ahram al-Arabi that the rebels seeking the collapse of his regime will not succeed. He added, however, that the door to dialogue remains open. The leaders of the Syrian military — who belong to Syria’s minority Alawite community, the pillar of the al-Assad regime — have thus far rejected the U.S.-led international offers to make a deal with the opposition. This is because al-Assad has managed to slow rebel advances, and because the Alawites are fearful of their status in a post-Assad Syria. But their opposition to a deal with the rebels does not mean they will continue to insist that al-Assad remain head of state.


The Alawites do not necessarily oppose a negotiated removal of the al-Assad clan from power, but they do oppose any deal that would lead to a weakening of their sect’s hold on power. This meshes with Washington’s desire to see regime-change in Syria but continuity of the state machinery. Ideally for the United States, Syria’s military-led security establishment would abandon al-Assad and negotiate an agreement with the opposition backed by the West, the Arab states and Turkey.

Zalmay Khalilzad, a prominent Bush administration envoy to the Middle East and South Asia, called Sept. 20 for the Obama administration to encourage Syria’s generals to carry out a coup against al-Assad. Washington has in fact sought just this. It has hoped that growing pressure from the rebellion would induce al-Assad’s generals to cut a deal to preserve the regime without al-Assad.

A Battle of Attrition

So far, the Alawites have not shown any interest in the international offer. All signs suggest that despite its setbacks, the military has decided to remain allied with al-Assad. To a great degree, this has been due to the situation on the battlefield, which is at a stalemate. While the fighting continues, neither side has been able to secure all of Aleppo or any other major urban center. The fighting in Syria instead has been a battle of attrition, with each side seeking to outlast the other. The regime weathered serious jolts over the summer, such as the bombing of the national security council building that claimed the lives of three top members of the Syrian security elite and the defection of prominent Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass, who had been associated with al-Assad.

The bombing and the Tlass defection demoralized the core of the military and led to further defections. Significantly, Tlass is a Sunni. Contrary to expectations, no further defections by prominent Sunnis have taken place, and the Alawite core remains intact.

Visit our Syria page for related analysis, videos, situation reports and maps.

Alawite reticence goes beyond battlefield assessments to fears of a loss of influence in any post-Assad power-sharing agreement. At this point, they have decided to stand their ground and fight. In his first interview since his defection, Tlass made the telling remark Aug. 30 that his main work is to convince the Alawites that they do not have to “commit suicide along with the regime.”

Convincing them to abandon al-Assad is one thing, since the Alawites have long realized that the beleaguered president is not salvageable. But convincing them to share power will be quite another. Any power-sharing deal will see them lose some of the privileges they have enjoyed since modern Syria’s creation in 1946. At best, they will be relegated to the status of junior partners in a Sunni-dominated regime. They will face the specter of retribution killings by Sunnis who long endured brutal suppression at the hands of the Alawite regime. Thus the Alawites have not leaped at the offer from the United States to mount a coup against al-Assad. At this point, they hope to avoid any major shifts so they can maintain a position of relative strength from which to better negotiate a deal with the opposition, hence their focus on the battlefield.

The Syrian Alawites and Negotiated Departure for al-Assad

A number of recent developments have worked in the Alawites’ favor. For many months, international stakeholders have grown wary of the possibility that ousting al-Assad and eliminating Iranian-led Shiite Islamist regional influence may be paving the way for Sunni Islamism, and perhaps even transnational jihadism. Last week’s violence and militia action in reaction to a U.S.-produced film deemed offensive to the Prophet Mohammad has reinforced this perception.

The Syrian regime hopes that the killing of the U.S. ambassador in Libya and other attacks on U.S. and Western facilities and personnel across the region will force the rebels’ international backers at least to pause and reassess the situation. One of the regime’s key demands has been that weapons and fighters flowing into the Levantine country need to be stopped. It is not clear to what extent this will actually happen, though any efforts in this regard would help the regime.

The Challenge of a Negotiated Settlement

Ultimately, all parties and international supporters involved want a negotiated settlement. Whether they can achieve it is another matter. Such a settlement depends on reaching a mutually acceptable balance of power between the Alawites and the Sunnis — on creating a formula where the Sunnis can achieve a significant amount of power without the Alawites losing too much of it. Something along the lines of the 1989 Taif Accords that ended 15 years of civil war in Lebanon would be required. Similar to the Taif agreement, a settlement in Syria will require a great deal of bargaining between Western and regional powers. The accord that ended the conflict in Lebanon required the region’s two main sectarian rivals, Saudi Arabia and the Iranians, reach an understanding, and Syria played a critical role in ensuring the implementation of the agreement.

Now that Syria itself is the subject of civil war, the situation is much more difficult. Sectarian polarization in the region has increased exponentially since 1989 due to the rise of Iran and its Arab Shiite allies. International stakeholders’ competing interests will also complicate the situation.

Talk also has centered on attaining a Yemen-like solution for Syria, in which President al-Assad exits the scene and the various elements of the regime reconfigure themselves into a new government without regime change. But such a settlement would entail a new power-sharing agreement that brings in the Sunni opposition. It is also not at all certain whether al-Assad would agree to step down quietly. Convincing him to could only take place if his generals, the Iranians and the Russians pressed him and he was given financial, legal and political guarantees.

Assuming he did agree to depart, there is still the question — much on Iranian and Russian minds — of whether the Alawites could remain a strong force without the al-Assads at the helm. A new, capable Alawite leadership would thus have to emerge before the Alawites would be comfortable having al-Assad exit.

Al-Assad’s departure is not imminent, however, in large part because Iran — the most influential player that could facilitate or hinder such an outcome — has been kept out of the process. But in the past few days, initial signs have emerged that the United States might be willing to allow Iran a role in planning Syria’s future.

When were the minorities oppressed?
By Michel Kilo, Monday, 24 September 2012 – al-Arabiya

 Just as the militarized Ba’athist regime incited the people against their Kurdish brethren, it also incited all Syrians against one another, carefully implanting doubts amongst them, instilling and fortifying various prejudgments and poisoning their consciousness. It became increasingly easy for the regime to charge citizens with any amount of hostility, playing an important role in shaping their opinions and attitudes towards one another. The regime was unable to win over its citizens after the role it played in the Arab and Syrian defeat during the June Aggression (Six Day War), and therefore did not fulfil any of its promises but in fact achieved their opposite, drawing out a comprehensive strategic game of ‘divide and conquer’ instilled to tear the community apart, hell bent on pitting citizens against one another, exploiting any differences found amongst them or those that the regime was successful in implanting. Such policies had no purpose other than to transform the Syrian society into discordant conflicting factions, unable to agree on any one uniting ideology or common principle other than those ridiculous ones related to the health of the regime’s policies and the ingenuity of its omniscient leader, as well as the inevitability of continued devotion and loyalty to him under any condition or circumstance, on the basis that he was the foundation, the immortal father whom the mortal obsolescent populace owed everything to, including their very existence.

This strategy was the essence of the regime’s internal policy for almost half a century,….

The oppression of minorities will end with the end of a regime that had been hell bent on awakening sectarian strife and implicating Syrians in conflicts they were successfully moving past. Had that not been the case, it would not have been possible for Hafez Al Assad and scores of Alawite youth to move up the army ranks; they would not have been able to participate in the heart of power, eventually usurping it.

Fearful Alawites pay sectarian militias in battered Homs
Tuesday, 25 Sep 2012 | Reuters, by Solomon
(The identity of the journalist has been withheld for security reasons)

HOMS, Syria (Reuters) – “Shabbiha” militias in Syria’s most shell-shocked city used to offer fellow minority Alawites protection out of solidarity. Now, security comes at a price: About $300 a month.

Alawite residents in Homs say they are being coerced into helping fund the war effort of the “shabbiha”, brutal sectarian militias supporting President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on an 18-month-old rebellion.

“The shabbiha exploit our fear. Every time, there is some excuse – they need food or ammunition. But it’s basically a silent understanding now that each month the wealthier families pay,” says Fareed, a greying surgeon who lives with his family in Zahra, an Alawite district of Homs.

The cost of war is rising at the site of the longest- running battle between Assad’s forces and the rebels. Fareed fears his children could be kidnapped for ransom if he doesn’t pay the shabbiha what they call “protection money”.

Shabbiha are formed mostly from members of Assad’s own Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam. They have been the fiercest enforcers of a bloody crackdown on the uprising led by Syria’s majority Sunni Muslims, even accused of massacres.

The disgust some Alawites have at the idea of paying for them symbolizes a greater inner conflict many in their sect are struggling with: Do they risk rejecting the crackdown by their Alawite-led government and its brutal militias? Or do they buy in, literally, to the shabbiha argument that this is a fight for existence against Sunnis determined to take revenge?

“I’m not comfortable with it, it seems wrong. But I have no choice,” says Saeed, 40, a balding engineer in a slick black suit. “If I didn’t pay, I could be at risk. These guys are dangerous.”

After months of fighting, only the shabbiha-guarded Alawite enclaves like Zahra are relatively unscathed. Zahra has swelled to nearly 200,000 Alawites in recent months.

The neighborhoods belonging to Hom’s large Sunni population have become graveyards of bombed buildings and shattered streets. Very few families remain.


With jobs and money drying up due to the unrest, the $300 fee is no small sum.

But Alawites in Zahra say that while they know the money they pay is extortion, and that shabbiha violence towards Sunnis puts them more at risk, they are regularly reminded of how precarious their fate is.

As the sound of crashing mortars in the distance shakes the silverware on his dining room table, Fareed stops his rant against shabbiha and sighs.

“Some days, I think we really do need them to protect us,” the elderly doctor says, surveying his four children silently eating their meal.

The fight for Homs has fallen off the front pages as battles erupt in Syria’s bigger cities, Damascus and Aleppo, but it has not eased. Gunfire perpetually rings in the background. Buildings are collapsing in the daily hail of mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

Shabbiha gangs used to rake in money by looting rebellious Sunni districts in Homs after the army raided them. But now that source of cash has run dry. Asking for “protection money” may be a way to make up for that.

The groups have become well organized in Homs. They have divided Zahra into six regions, each with a local “boss”.

In each area, the boss sends young men with shaved heads and camouflage pants to monitor, strutting about with their rifles in hand. The army stays out, only manning road blocks on the outskirts of the district.

“There is no state presence in Zahra any more, even though it is surrounded by Sunni areas. Yet it is the safest place in Syria,” says Saeed, reluctantly giving the shabbiha their due.

One improvement residents say their donations funded is the building of two 20-metre high blast walls towering over Zahra’s main square. The street had once been within easy range of rebel gunmen atop buildings in neighboring districts.

“This used to be the deadliest spot in Zahra,” says Manhal, the surgeon Fareed’s son, as he walks behind the two massive white-washed walls.

Instead of seeing residents scurrying below, all gunmen nearby can see now is a giant poster that shabbiha plastered over the wall: A portrait of former President Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father, who ruled for nearly 30 years until his death.

Frustrated rebels have taken to shooting at the picture instead. The eyes, nose and mouth are riddled with bullet holes.


Not far from Fareed’s family home, Wael “the accountant” combs a thick glob of hair cream into his dark hair and gets on his motorbike to make the monthly rounds for his boss.

“In my area we have 15 families. I get the money for the boss whenever there is a need: weapons, gas, car repairs, food for our boys,” says the 25-year-old tough.

Wael doesn’t think what he does is exploitative. He sees it as a service that residents need to pay to maintain. Unhappy residents can leave Homs if they want, he argues. “We even arrange convoys to help them get out – that costs 10,000 lira ($120).”

There is no end in sight to Syria’s civil war. International powers are too deadlocked to negotiate. Fighters show no interest in laying down their arms. Meanwhile, groups like the Alawites feel more vulnerable, and the shabbiha have taken advantage.

Umm Hani, a mother of two in Zahra, noticed the trend after a stunning bomb attack in July that killed four top security officials in Damascus.

“After that, the regime was shaken. And the shabbiha started to take more power, they started to demand more money. Without saying a word, they made their message clear: We are the ones responsible for you. Pay up.”

There are deep wrinkles around Umm Hani’s blue eyes after months of anxiety. Alawites like her feel trapped. She doesn’t have enough savings to leave Syria. She feels she would be unsafe in the mostly Sunni refugee camps on the borders. Paying is the only choice.

“Where can we go? Who would accept us? So we stay, and we deal with our new little pharaohs.”

Comments (234)

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201. Tara said:

A good step towards self redemption.

One of Syria’s richest men to help fund a rebel army

The Syrian regime’s richest opponent, the business magnate Firas Tlass has pledged his fortune to the “revolution”, promising to fund rebel groups, humanitarian aid and an organisation to deal with the chaos after President Assad has gone.

“I am supporting a complete program [to oust the regime]. I am putting my fortune behind this, totally, until the end,” said Mr Tlass. “But this is nothing. If I give all my money it is not worth one gram of the blood spilt by the Syrian people.”

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September 27th, 2012, 6:31 pm


202. Jasmine said:

Visitor @ 198
And it was very nice having a dialogue of deaf with you !!

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September 27th, 2012, 6:43 pm


203. SANDRO LOEWE said:

Strange rummors about Dictator Assad having been poisoned with a developed agent that could end his life in a maximum of 4 months?
Anyone heard about it?

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September 27th, 2012, 6:44 pm


204. habib said:

187. Tara

Flunked math.

201. Tara

So it’s yet another opportunistic Tlass playboy. No surprise there.

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September 27th, 2012, 6:47 pm


205. Visitor said:

202 J,

You are quite welcome. And wish you a good trip in or out of halu-land whichever way you choose.

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September 27th, 2012, 6:53 pm


206. SANDRO LOEWE said:

Now we can see the chaos created by Putin and Iran for trying to avoid the sovereign people express and fulfill their demands. This chaos could have been avoided had been Assad a reformer. But he was not, he pretended to be a merely modernizer and even this was not true. As a result Syria and its people is destroyed in total chaos and disarray.

Well maybe I misunderstand the whole issue. Assad is in fact a real reformer, with his acts he will open the door to a regime change and the rebuilding of almost all syrian villages and cities. He will even offer his own life for Syria. Congratulations Assad The Last.

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September 27th, 2012, 6:56 pm


207. zoo said:


The revolution is winning? Winning what? The country is half destroyed, Syrians whom the FSA promised to protect are either dead or in a refugee camps, the rebels keep claiming they liberated 70% of the country, yet they keep begging NATO, the USA, Turkey and now an Arab army to save them from total destruction.
Even Qatar said that the situation has reached an ‘unacceptable stage’, meaning that the rebels are loosing and wasting Qatar’s money and they need to be rescued urgently by any means.

The FSA, whose vocation is to protect the civilians is now sending car bombs with suicidal young men that ended up killing only civilians. That’s winning?
That’s getting closer to the cliff.

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September 27th, 2012, 7:20 pm


208. zoo said:

What the Salafis Want: An Interview with the Blind Sheik’s Son
He wants his father freed and Shari‘a imposed unquestioningly on Egypt. Other than that, Mohammed Abdel-Rahman doesn’t want to cause trouble
By Ashraf Khalil / Cairo | September 27, 2012 | 3

To even approach Mohammed Abdel-Rahman, you have to take off your shoes. The son of the man Americans call the Blind Sheik — Omar Abdel-Rahman, who is serving a life sentence for seditious conspiracy in a North Carolina prison — spends part of each day calling for his father’s release at a makeshift open-air sit-in outside the walls of the U.S. embassy in Cairo. A collection of blue straw mats are spread across the concrete, ringed by about eight pairs of shoes along the edges. Several times a day, the mats become prayers rugs, so no shoes are allowed.

I went looking for him to talk about the role of Salafis — the controversial and conservative Islamists who are wielding new and often troubling political influence, in the eyes of Westerners and secular Arabs — in the new Egypt and in the Arab world after over a year of uprisings. The interview would be part of a major story by Bobby Ghosh in the Oct. 8 issue of TIME

Read more:

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September 27th, 2012, 7:22 pm


209. Ghufran said:

I hope this is not true,but I read two reports about a suicide bomber in Idleb on a motorcycle who had his son,a minor, behind him. The two were killed along with a soldier and one civilian, please tell me the story is not true.
Despite the mess, Iran managed in winning the release of 3 Iranians who were kidnapped in Azaz and lavrov revealed that the US had direct contact with the regime about the chemical weapons while alarabi “clarified” hamad’s statement about sending Arab military force to Syria claiming that what Hamad meant was a peace keeping force, even Jinblat was uncomfortable with the attack on army HQ saying that the army who is now killing Syrians is the same one that fought in 1973 and tried to defend Lebanon in 1982. Army source said that none of the rebels killed and captured in the attack were Syrian.
FSA was vague about who carried the attack but a jihadist group claimed responsibility.
The bloody race to score a victory before US election has started, I agree that Bashar will be Assad the Last, I just hope we do not see another dynasty under the flag of Islam,I still believe that Syria can only be governed from the middle.

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September 27th, 2012, 7:39 pm


210. Ghufran said:

Erdogan wants a dialogue with the PKK
انقرة – أشار رئيس الوزراء التركي رجب طيب اردوغان إلى العمل على اجراء محادثات جديدة بين الدولة والمقاتلين الأكراد، في الوقت الذي تواجه فيه حكومته تصاعدا في العنف الانفصالي في جنوب شرق البلاد.
وقال اردوغان في مقابلة تلفزيونية مع القناة السابعة في وقت متأخر من الأربعاء “فيما يتعلق بإيمرالي من الممكن إجراء المزيد من المحادثات”، في إشارة إلى جزيرة في الجنوب من اسطنبول يحتجز فيها زعيم حزب العمال الكردستاني عبد الله اوجلان.

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September 27th, 2012, 7:52 pm


211. Observer said:

The video from Al Manar showing the taking back of the army HQ building is quite interesting
1. This so called losing revolution is able to hit at the heart of the army HQ
2. Three stories are left completely gutted and burning
3. Three dead are found inside, with three having held off the “men of Assad ” as they call themselves.

And yet we have a delusional pro regime supporter telling us that they are losing.

This is happening in the country called Syria, known for its ever pervasive and most omnipresent security services that require a check on every single aspect of your life. Having a wifi in your home for example require a security clearance and a visit to at least three ministries.

The most difficult thing that a person does is to look hard just beyond its nose.

In the meantime, the sectarian Iraqi regime is paying Syria’s generosity with smuggling Iranian weapons and denying Syrians a refuge from oppression. These are the same that suffered under the helicopter attacks of Saddam.

What a huge demonstration of stupidity, obtuseness, barbarity, and utter backwardness that this regime and its supporters have turned to be.


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September 27th, 2012, 8:08 pm


212. Visitor said:

It was a very bad day for the Iranian delegation in the Big Apple today.

After the beating of FM spokesman by his own countrymen, AhmadiNejjad gets snubbed by another Arab Spring leader.

Yemeni President refuses to meet with Nejjad in NYC,

It looks like Hadi has outmaneuvered Morsi by miles.

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September 27th, 2012, 8:09 pm


213. Observer said:

On a different note the speech by that stupid Bibi today clearly shows why in Europe a secret poll has indicated that the vast majority of Europeans believe that Israel is the number one threat to world peace.

After all the wars and occupations and displacements and colonization, this stupid guy with his stupid evil Zionist ideology wants another war and with Iran now.

Even though Iran is playing dirty in Syria I do still believe that Zionism is at the root of all the ills of the ME, with a huge dose from our own shortcomings to boot.

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September 27th, 2012, 8:37 pm


214. Visitor said:

US official predicts that FSA will on its own defeat the criminal regime this November.

The US despite its bad performance on Syria still has some good intelligence that can be relied on.

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September 27th, 2012, 8:46 pm


215. Tara said:

The de-defection was a forgery.  What a retarded regime!  They lied in March, 2012 and forgot about their lie in Sep 2012.  How many time they have been caught?   They really are utterly stupid.

One of the defectors (seen on the far right in Russia Today’s photograph) has been identified as Yasser Fawzi Abd, whose defection to the regime was first announced six months ago.

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September 27th, 2012, 8:55 pm


216. Darryl said:

Visitor # 185
Secularism has noting to do with Atheism,it embrace the religious and non religious.”

Secularism DOES NOT embrace religious and non-religious beliefs, it separates them from the state.


Another form of secularism may eventually flourish in the Middle East that will not be hospitable to atheism. In fact, this form of secularism existed during the early centuries of Islam when Europe was still ruled by the Church and knew nothing about secularism. In other words that form of secularism may experience a revival. But seculaism with atheism is a non-starter in the Muslim world.”

My dear Visitor, this is an interesting comment here. My philosophically view of the early part of “Islamic secularism” that you are alluding to here was a necessary state of existence, rather than a principle. In those early years, the majority of people were still not Muslims and even those who called themselves Muslims were not quite sure what it means to be a Muslim as the foundations of the religion were still fluid and being formulated. Hence, in those early years “The Islamic” system was more flexible to accommodate the various people who lived under an Islamic rule and different their thoughts were tolerated, their was a fair degree of free speech also. I cannot see some of the ahadeeth and “sirat al rasool” being written in today’s environment.

Therefore, I will put to you that Islam is more “workable” when it is not a majority that dominates every facet of daily life so that competition is not eliminated.

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September 27th, 2012, 9:03 pm


217. Visitor said:

This is a clear example of the delusional Ghufran who claims in 209 that even Jinblat was uncomfortable with the attack on the army HQ in Damascus. Ghufran was insinuating the Jinblat as he spelled the name is having a change of heart and criticizing the revolution. However, if you read the full story as linked below you would realize that Jinblat or Jumblat was in fact attacking idiot prethident and the kremlin,

This is one example of many delusional spins that we often see spun here on SC by the likes of Ghufran. The objective is always to paint the revolution in dark colors while, if it is not possible to defend idiot assad, at the least ignoring his idiocy.

This revolution will not tolerate half solutions or those who speak from different sides of the mouth as Ghufran does. Those who follow this practice are clear enemies of the Syrian people and partners in the crimes perpetrated against Syrians.

It is very unfortunate that Ghufran, a non-Syrian, was raised in Syria. He is an example of those who do not appreciate hospitality and generosity of the good Syrian people. People like that cannot be trusted. I have known, unfortunately, many Palestinians with similar traits but also other Palestinians who have good traits and appreciate hospitality. Ghufran is the bad kind.

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September 27th, 2012, 9:06 pm


218. Tara said:

The rebels should also target Batta and his family as well as the regime’s thugs with a similar message.   

Syria texts rebels: ‘Game over’
(UKPA) – 5 hours ago
Syrian authorities have sent text messages nationwide with a message for rebels fighting President Bashar Assad’s regime: “Game over.”
The messages signed by the Syrian Arab Army also urged the rebels to surrender their weapons and warned the countdown to evict foreign fighters has begun. The texts appear to be part of the regime’s psychological battle against the rebels, but are highly unlikely to have any effect on fighters intent on toppling Mr Assad.
Syrians say they began receiving the messages a day after rebels bombed a military command centre in Damascus – a major security breach of the heavily guarded capital that highlighted the regime’s growing vulnerability in the face of a rebellion growing in confidence and capabilities.
People with mobile subscriptions received the messages while those with prepaid phones did not, residents in the Syrian capital said.

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September 27th, 2012, 9:09 pm


219. Visitor said:

216 Darryl,

Your knowledge about the history is doubtful and deficient. Islam ruled Arabia and all the Arabs were Muslims before it spread out to the rest of the world. The myth that you keep perpetrating about Muslims being non-majority in conquered lands is fundamentally flawed. While Muslims conquerors tolerated non-Muslims and still do based on Qura’nic injunctions it took less than a century to convert Egypt, north Africa, Mesopotamia, Persia and Muslim parts of Asia. During the reign of Caliph Umar Ibn Abd-al-Aziz majority of Syrians and Iraqis were Muslims,

Umayyad rulers to whom we owe the greatest Islamic conquests in history were culturally secular in the same vein as you would look at the US when it was first founded. They did not need any input from non-Muslims to establish their rule.

The Abbasids followed in their footsteps as they inherited the state intact. Muslim Spain owes its greatness to the Umayyad and not to backward Christians of the time who did not even understand their own faith.

In brief, stop implying and insinuating that Islam needed input from indigenous populations. If true, we would not see any trace of Islam in countries that stretch as far as Indonesia, Malaysia and other places whose populations in many respect are better Muslims than many Muslim Arabs.

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September 27th, 2012, 9:22 pm


220. Tara said:

The test messages the regime sending to the rebels are a sign of desperation.  It took only 3 men from the FSA to terrorize the fort that is called رئاسة هيئة الأركان, the very symbol of the regime.  Next target is the presidential palace.  A source from Damascus told me Batta can’t sleep anymore. I suggested some alcohol.  I hope with the sanctions, he can only find very bad and cheep brands.  

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September 27th, 2012, 9:42 pm


221. Darryl said:

219. VISITOR said:

“Your knowledge about the history is doubtful and deficient. Islam ruled Arabia and all the Arabs were Muslims before it spread out to the rest of the world. The myth that you keep perpetrating about Muslims being non-majority in conquered lands is fundamentally flawed.”

My dear Visitor, stop reading your myth books. Based on your argument, there should be no non-Muslims in Syria, Iraq or Egypt.

“While Muslims conquerors tolerated non-Muslims and still do based on Qura’nic injunctions it took less than a century to convert Egypt, north Africa, Mesopotamia, Persia and Muslim parts of Asia.”

Stop reading those myth books again. All tolerance verses toward non-Muslims in the Qur’an have been abrogated or simply have conditions. There is very very little tolerance and lots of convenience.

“During the reign of Caliph Umar Ibn Abd-al-Aziz majority of Syrians and Iraqis were Muslims,.”

please desist from reading those myth books for the love of Allah and His Messenger!

“Umayyad rulers to whom we owe the greatest Islamic conquests in history were culturally secular in the same vein as you would look at the US when it was first founded. They did not need any input from non-Muslims to establish their rule.”

The early Ummayyds were just barely Muslims. It was under Abdel Malik that the Ummayyds became more Islamic. Please desist from reading the myth books for a bit.

“The Abbasids followed in their footsteps as they inherited the state intact. Muslim Spain owes its greatness to the Umayyad and not to backward Christians of the time who did not even understand their own faith.”

Absolutely right, it owed the greatness to the Byzantine Christian culture in Syria and Greek culture in North Africa that was adopted and spread by the Ummayds. The Ummayads thankfully did not spread the tent culture of Arabia to Spain.

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September 27th, 2012, 10:19 pm


222. Ghufran said:

Reuters reported what we predicted months ago. The absence of state security forces and the attacks by rebels gave shabeehas and thugs a business opportunity. People are paying an average of $ 300 a month for protection in alzahraa-Homs which now hosts more than 200,000 people,mostly alawis.rebels are also collecting “taxes” in some sunni dominated areas according to western reporters. This is an EOE Syrian style, next will be insurance against kidnapping.

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September 27th, 2012, 10:49 pm


223. Johannes de Silentio said:

221 Darryl

“the tent culture of Arabia”

Thank you, Darryl, for reducing Visitor (AKA VAT) to his basic chemical properties. That little putz has been kicking his can all over SC for far too long, telling all and sundry how it shall be when the 12th Iman (or somebody) shows his face on Planet Earth.

But it’s cruel and a bit extreme to refer to the Quran as a “book of myths.” And I’m sure you didn’t mean it in a general sense. You were simply saying it to VAT specifically in the hope that he would soil his diapers in rage.

At some point in the near future, I would hope you’ll apologize to the many good and moderate Muslims on SC for this inappropriate reference to their holy book, over which poor VATTY obsesses unhealthily.

On a separate note, Walid Jumblatt has to be the winner, hands-down, of the Middle East Ugly Man Contest.

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September 27th, 2012, 11:06 pm


224. Visitor said:

I have a comment in response to Darryl 221 that only Dr. Landis can release from the filter. I tried twice to post it and it doesn’t show.

It answers all your allegations Darryl.

I’ll try to rephrase it again in order to bypass the filter, but it is long. I hope Landis releases the current comment in his filter and save me the trouble.

For some reason, if you take longer time to write in the SC editor before hitting the submit button, then the comment ends up in the filter. And once it goes to the filter the next submit will automatically filter it.

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September 27th, 2012, 11:29 pm


225. Visitor said:

223, I have no idea why Darryl has to apologize to Muslims? Are you imagining Things he did not say? Or are you another comprehension deficient reader?

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September 27th, 2012, 11:35 pm


226. Johannes de Silentio said:

224. VAT:

“I have a comment in response to 221 that only Dr. Landis can release from the filter. I tried twice to post it and it doesn’t show. It answers all, Darryl.”

We’re all literally choked with anticipation, VATTY

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September 27th, 2012, 11:36 pm


227. zoo said:

The recent proof of US intelligence excellency in the middle east is the absurd killing of the US ambassador in Libya

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September 27th, 2012, 11:52 pm


228. zoo said:

Intervention Won’t Save Syria: (There is no need as the Sunnis majority rebels are surely winning the war against the ‘oppressive quasi-Shiite Alawite minority’)

Gary C. Gambill
September 27, 2012

Instead, it is Syria’s Sunni Arab majority that is suffering at the hands of an oppressive minoritarian regime.

Also in sharp contrast to major intervention precedents, this group is already on track to win the war. With a fivefold demographic advantage over President Bashar al-Assad’s quasi-Shiite Alawite sect and growing material support from surrounding states, the overwhelmingly Sunni rebels are sure to eventually overpower regime forces. That’s why they have zero interest in negotiating with the Syrian president.
The best-case scenario of such a settlement (assuming a highly unlikely change of heart by Russia and the acquiescence of Iran) would mean a Lebanon-style interim power-sharing formula, which might cut down on the violence but only at the cost of stunting Syria’s political recovery. This is precisely why the rebels will never agree to it.

Absent a workable plan for saving lives or a compelling strategic rationale for intervention, the United States should stay out of the conflict—while using all means short of force to dissuade the participants and their regional backers from committing egregious human-rights abuses. Once the smoke clears, Syria will need a benefactor with clean hands to help it pick up the pieces.

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September 28th, 2012, 12:11 am


229. Atheist Syrian Salafist Against Dictatorships said:

#213 Observer

An anonymous thumbs up won’t do here, I have to put it out there on the record for all to see:


Hope you won’t mind my borrowing your last line, Observer, to use here and there as the need arises, with credits of course

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September 28th, 2012, 12:24 am


230. zoo said:

Will Erdogan become Turkey’s first popular voted president in 2014 election: The struggle against Abdullah Gul has already started.

But if one is to go along with the findings of the Metropoll survey, 51 percent said they would rather see the incumbent, Abdullah Gül, win the contest for the presidency if he were running against Erdoğan.
Meanwhile, the Metropoll survey also showed that 56 percent of those questioned did not approve of the government’s Syrian policy. In addition to this, there is the fact that Erdoğan, who is increasingly accused of displaying authoritarian tendencies, has been a divisive, and not a unifying figure in Turkey.

Today we see a country that is even more divided than before along the religious-secular, Alevi-Sunni, Turkish-Kurdish fault lines. This is clear evidence that Erdoğan has not used his strong mandate (he got one out of every two votes in the June 2011 elections) to unify the country.

His and the AKP’s mission appear instead to push an ideological line that has Islamic conservatism at the core. This is apparent, for example, in the changes to the education system that have opened the path to more Islamic education at a younger age. This appears to be in line with Erdoğan’s openly declared desire to see a “religious generation emerge in Turkey.”

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September 28th, 2012, 12:24 am


231. zoo said:

America’s Inevitable Retreat From the Middle East
Published: September 23, 2012

THE murder of four Americans in Libya and mob assaults on the United States’ embassies across the Muslim world this month have reminded many of 1979, when radical Islamists seized the American mission in Tehran. There, too, extremists running wild after the fall of a pro-American tyrant had found a cheap way of empowering themselves.
But the obsession with radical Islam misses a more meaningful analogy for the current state of siege in the Middle East and Afghanistan: the helicopters hovering above the roof of the American Embassy in Saigon in 1975 as North Vietnamese tanks rolled into the city.

That hasty departure ended America’s long and costly involvement in Indochina, which, like the Middle East today, the United States had inherited from defunct European empires. Of course, Southeast Asia had no natural resources to tempt the United States and no ally like Israel to defend. But it appeared to be at the front line of the worldwide battle against Communism, and American policy makers had unsuccessfully tried both proxy despots and military firepower to make the locals advance their strategic interests.

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September 28th, 2012, 12:33 am


232. Atheist Syrian Salafist Against Dictatorships said:

#209 Ghufran:

So will you actually BELIEVE us if we tell you that it is not true?
In fact one wonders at the real objective of your repeating the story here and asking that question. And pardon me for repeating again: how about linking your source? You’ll have many telling you the obvious immediately: that “the letter’s content is apparent from the address” as the Arabic saying goes.

Ditto for the Jumblat story: let us see the whole thing! link it, man! Or is that going to reveal how you choose only bits to base your conclusions on? AND AGAIN, one has to wonder at the the real objectives, especially when a little decoy of “I agree that Bashar will be Assad the Last” is stuck on right at the end there, almost surreptitiously after a series of several glaring attempts to besmirch and sully the revolution.

حرية حرية
واحد واحد واحد
الشعب السوري واحد
والنصر آت بالرغم عن أنف كل أسدي مجرم ح.ق.ي.ر

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September 28th, 2012, 12:46 am


233. Atheist Syrian Salafist Against Dictatorships said:


To me, “The national Interest” should change its name to “The Israeli Interests” since a lot of what one reads there, though without explicitly stating it, is directed at looking out for the Zionist entity’s welfare first and America’s second, or even at great detriment to the US’s.

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September 28th, 2012, 1:38 am


234. Jasmine said:

Zoo 207
I never said that the revolution is winning !
My argument is that with these fanatics around,soon Syria will need a second revolution to counteract their miserable doing in the country.
Very sad indeed.

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September 28th, 2012, 2:37 am


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