The Northern Storm Brigade: It’s History, Current Status, and Why It Matters By Chris Looney

The Northern Storm Brigade: It’s History, Current Status, and Why It Matters
By Chris Looney: chris@sreo.org Research Analyst at the Syria Research and Evaluation Organization (SREO) based in Gaziantep, Turkey
For Syria Comment, March 18, 2014

  The Northern Storm Brigade (NSB: Arabic – Liwa Asifat al-Shamal) has been called many things since it was first formed in the early days of the uprisings in Syria. For some, it is a part of a contingent of secular FSA groups that represent the best chance for the West to counter the Islamification of the revolution. For others, it is a brigade of opportunists – smugglers and kidnappers with an ill-defined agenda willing to revise their ideology in order to maintain their influence and power.

In reality, the NSB is all of the above. In many ways, its story mirrors the story of the revolution; early on it was unable to coordinate effectively with other rebel groups or to secure significant western support, and later its downfall at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) foreshadowed the expanding role of extremists in the conflict. Because of these parallels, the NSB is to some extent a microcosm of the revolution, making its story essential for a thorough understanding of the war.

The Formation of the NSB and the Liberation of Azaz

The NSB was formed midway through 2011 in Azaz, a town in northern Aleppo right across the border from the Turkish city of Kilis. Strategically, this area was very important because of the Bab al-Salam border crossing, one of the main conduits for goods and people flowing into Syria. According to one founding member present at the initial meeting, the group rallied unanimously around Ammar Dadikhi, known to his followers as Abu Ibrahim.

Amar al-Dadikhi aka “Abu Ibrahim”, a large and scarred man who was alternately praised by many opposition activists for battlefield bravery and whispered about as an accomplished smuggler who once maintained extensive ties to the government.

Dadikhi had his roots in `Azaz, where he was a prominent businessman before the uprisings. While he had been known to tell reporters that he was in the fruit trade, activists and even members of the NSB acknowledge that he was a smuggler. However, it is important to note that this was not an entirely stigmatized profession in border towns, and in fact was seen by many residents as a natural part of the economy. While he focused primarily on cigarettes, the conflict opened new opportunities to expand the group’s operations into fuel and weapons trafficking.

Funding for the group came mostly through the business elite (smugglers) of Azaz, who were eager to contribute to the fight against Bashar al-Assad. Members of the NSB deny having received any sort of foreign backing, state or private, though this is impossible to confirm. But activists familiar with the NSB speculate that their story is true – support within Azaz and profits gained through continued smuggling were likely enough to sustain the small, local brigade.

This is in part why the NSB rarely coordinated with other brigades early on. Its geographical scope was at the start limited to Azaz, and that coupled with its self-sufficiency gave Dadikhi little incentive to integrate with other groups or, later, with the Supreme Military Council (SMC). As one activist put it, “(the NSB) was independent because smugglers like full control over everything.”

But this was hardly problematic as the NSB, alongside two other rebel brigades, fought the Syrian Army for control of Azaz. According to activists and members of the NSB, the group enjoyed widespread support during this period. When the town was finally liberated in July of 2012, the group turned over the task of governing to a local council, and despite some squabbles with residents retained its popularity.

Early Divisions

Still, during the battle for Azaz there was some discord within the brigade. In early 2012, a commander known as Ahmed Ebed split from the NSB and formed a new group called the Amr bin al-Aas Brigade. A schoolteacher before the revolution, Ebed was upset with Dadikhi’s focus on smuggling and unnerved by his secularism. He was by no means an extremist, caution two people familiar with the situation, but did believe politics should be informed by Islamic principles.

Because of Dadikhi’s popularity among his men, Ebed was not able to take many NSB fighters with him. Moving his operations outside of Azaz, he began to fill this void by recruiting and training the slow trickle of foreigners that had begun to make their way into Syria. According to the sources mentioned above, the first two men to join Ebed were two Iraqis who went by the noms de guerre of Abu Suhaib al-Iraqi and Abu Staif al-Iraqi. Both had extensive networks throughout the Muslim world, and they were able to leverage them in order to bring more fighters into Syria. By the end of 2012, the Amr bin al-Aas Brigade had largely fallen apart, many of its members leaving in order to join two newly formed groups with a more radical tilt – Jaysh al-Muhajereen and Jaysh Muhammad.

Abu Omar al-Shishani

Jaysh al-Muhajereen was formed during the summer of 2012 by Abu Omar al-Shishani, a Chechen who later would become the northern commander for ISIS. In March of 2013, it merged with Jaysh Muhammad and another group to form Jaysh al-Muhajereen wa-Ansar (the Army of Emigrants and Helpers) under al-Shishani’s leadership. After its forces were consolidated, al-Shishani reportedly controlled over 1,000 fighters. He would later leave and join ISIS, taking some of his fighters with him.

The Battle for Menagh Airbase

The NSB was at the height of its power when Azaz fell. One senior member estimates the group’s strength to have been roughly 1,100 at the time, though others have estimated it to be as high as 2,000. Yet its influence was concentrated almost exclusively in Azaz. It had no competition for the town, as Ebed and Shishani were operating elsewhere in Aleppo province. So with a hard fought victory now under its belt, the NSB quickly moved south to Menagh Airbase, a Syrian Army stronghold between Aleppo and Azaz that was being used by Assad to carry out airstrikes on Aleppo city.

The siege of Menagh began in August of 2012 but quickly stagnated. The base was surrounded by open fields and heavily fortified with tanks, artillery, and snipers, making it difficult for the rebels to break through.

Complicating the situation for the NSB was the fact that the battle took a heavy toll on its senior leadership. In January of 2013, Dadikhi was wounded in a skirmish and evacuated to Turkey, where he would later pass away. Other commanders, including Hadi Salo and Samir Akkash, were killed during the campaign as well, forcing younger, less experienced fighters into high-ranking roles.

In addition, the NSB began to lose some of its forces to brigades with more Islamist orientations. According to one source close to the group, these defections were not too substantial, but did signal the growing role of Islam in the conflict. “(At this time) a lot of Syrians (were becoming) much more religious because of the war,” he says.

As the siege of Menagh wore on, the groups taking part in the fighting mushroomed. By the time the base finally fell on August 5, 2013 extremist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra (Al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria) and ISIS had played important roles in its capture. The NSB was part of this victorious coalition, but came out of the fight somewhat weakened.

Hostages, McCain, and Amouri

During the struggle for Menagh, the NSB was also dealing with three separate issues that, according to its members, would profoundly affect the future of the organization. The first stemmed back to an incident that had occurred on May 22, 2012. A bus full of Lebanese citizens had been making their way home from a Shi’a pilgrimage in Iran when they were stopped by the NSB at a checkpoint outside of Azaz. In an interview with NPR, Dadikhi claimed the men in the group introduced themselves as military experts from Hezbollah, believing he and his troops to be government soldiers. The NSB would hold 11 of the men captive, setting off a hostage crisis that would last 17 months.

Dadikhi’s claims were vehemently denied by both the hostages and their families, and were met with intense speculation in the media. Yet the debate within the NSB and other rebel groups was not over the identity of the prisoners – of that they were certain. Rather, it was over what they should be exchanged for. For Dadikhi and many of his followers, they hoped to barter for the release of activists held by the Assad regime. Yet this was hardly unanimous. Liwa al-Tawhid, a moderate Islamist group that enjoyed a friendly relationship with the NSB, pushed Dadikhi to return the hostages only in exchange for a significant supply of weapons. According to one source, this became a mild dispute between Abdul Qader Saleh, Liwa al-Tawhid’s leader, and the NSB.

On May 27, 2013, with the hostages still being held and negotiations largely stalled, a visit from US Senator John McCain would again push the NSB into the spotlight. McCain traveled to Azaz with General Salim Idriss, then the commander of SMC, to meet with a contingent of FSA leaders from across Syria. Among these groups was the NSB, and McCain drew considerable criticism for allegedly crossing paths with Dadikhi and Muhammad Nour, another member of the brigade that was directly involved in the kidnappings. Despite the fact that at this point Dadikhi had been killed and the connection to Nour was later refuted, the speculation still sullied McCain’s visit and made his push for further funding of the FSA ring hollow.

Circled are: Abu Youseff left, and Muhammad Nour, right. Two men Lebanese reports claim were responsible for the border kidnapping and continued detainment of 11 Shiite pilgrims.

But according to members of the NSB, the aftermath of the visit was much worse for the brigade. At this point, the group had taken significant losses in the battle for Menagh, and was hoping McCain’s trip would translate into tangible aid. “We expected him to at least send food, if not weapons or money” spat out one fighter, bitterly. “But he did nothing.”

As several other fighters and activists explained it, the visit turned out to be an inflection point for the brigade. Not only did they fail to secure the support necessary to revive the NSB, ISIS later used McCain’s visit (among other things) as an excuse to attack Azaz. Despite the fact that the fighters acknowledge that this would have happened anyway, the hostility with which McCain is held by many NSB members suggests that he became a scapegoat for the group’s problems as their situation deteriorated.

Another reason the NSB had begun to decline was the death of Dadikhi. While he was alive, his fighters had described him as a “charismatic leader”, a sentiment still echoed today. He is remembered with nostalgia and spoken about with reverence, his followers reminiscing about how he was “more concerned about civilians than his fighters” and “cared about his people” rather than personal gain.

This contrasts heavily with their opinions regarding Samir Amouri, who would take Dadikhi’s place after his death. Amouri had been a political leader within the brigade and was in charge of the Bab al-Salam border crossing, an important source of revenue for the NSB. One journalist recalls being charged up to $300 to cross into Syria, and with Dadikhi gone this proved to be an important source of power for Amouri.[1] In addition, he also had several family members in influential positions within the brigade and thus was the natural successor to Dadikhi, a decision that it seems was not highly controversial at the time. Though in hindsight several NSB members say they knew it was the wrong decision, there is no evidence presented of anyone actively opposing Amouri or splintering away from the group at the time.

Under Amouri’s leadership, however, the hostage crisis would eventually be resolved in a complex deal brokered by Qatar that involved the NSB, the regime, Lebanon, and Turkey. Believing the Turks had the ability to influence the NSB, a group calling themselves the Visitors of Imam Ali al-Rida kidnapped two civilian Turkish pilots in Lebanon on August 9, 2013 and held them as collateral for the release of the Shi’a hostages. By this point, only nine men remained with the NSB, as the group had released two as a gesture of good will. Despite claims in the media that they had been transferred to another rebel group known as the al-Islam brigade, NSB members assert that the prisoners were never outside of their control. Eventually, a deal was struck that released the hostages in October in exchange for 200 women being held by the Assad regime and the Turkish pilots.

ISIS Takes Over Azaz

According to one member of the NSB, after the fall of Menagh, ISIS “went straight for Azaz.” In reality, the group had established a presence there as early as July 2013 through the provision of services and da’wah outreach to the local population. Yet up until September there was no military component to this, and while the NSB remained wary of ISIS there were no outright clashes because the ISIS contingent was at the time very small and did not directly challenge NSB authority.

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Abu Suhaib al-Iraqi and Abu Staif al-Iraqi, the two Iraqi fighters who helped recruit foreigners

But this precarious peace did not last. In mid-September, tensions escalated because of a German doctor working in the local hospital in Azaz. ISIS accused the doctor of being a foreign spy and charged the NSB with aiding him, using this as an excuse to send in military reinforcements and begin attacking Azaz. What followed has been documented in great detail, with Liwa al-Tawhid temporarily securing a ceasefire between the two groups that ISIS would later violate, leading to renewed clashes and the eventual takeover of Azaz by ISIS in early October.

What has not been widely reported is the nagging reluctance within the NSB to engage in combat against ISIS, even after ISIS had begun to assassinate its leaders. While one senior commander in the NSB says he was suspicious of ISIS during the battle for Menagh and warned other brigades about them, within the rest of the group this conviction appears to hardly have been universal. Two activists tell of a meeting in a local mosque that occurred shortly after the incident with the German doctor, where dozens of members of the NSB and locals debated the escalating clashes with ISIS. The room was divided, says one of the men present at the meeting, but eventually those present agreed that they should avoid further conflict if possible and seek a mediated solution. The rationale behind this was not based on the fact that the NSB felt they were not powerful enough to take on ISIS; rather, it was founded on a hesitation to fight with their “Muslim brothers.”

It must be stressed that this was before ISIS, as one activist put it, “revealed (its) true colors.” After having fought alongside the group at Menagh, some members of the NSB were still uncertain of ISIS’ true intentions and skeptical that skirmishes between the two would evolve into full-fledged warfare. Wanting to return their focus to the regime, a quick, peaceful resolution to the dispute seemed not only practical, but also possible.

Of course, ISIS had other plans, targeting NSB’s already weakened leadership and decimating it even further. Now, NSB members say that ISIS fighters are “less than animals… We will burn them.” The war is now entirely against ISIS, they add. “We can deal with the regime after we deal with (them).”

Naddom and the Current Situation

Though some NSB members initially had doubts about direct confrontation, ISIS’ disregard for the agreement mediated by Liwa al-Tawhid quickly spurred them to action. Yet the brigade was no match for ISIS. According to one member, they were fighting with only Kalashnikovs and two machine guns at their disposal, and thus were easily overpowered. Another problem was leadership. Amouri proved to be entirely inadequate in battle, fleeing into Turkey as ISIS gained control. “We failed because of him,” says one senior commander, who notes with a wry smile that Amouri is now wanted by both ISIS and the NSB.

Taking his place would be Mahmoud Naddom, who by all accounts has been a much more effective leader. He would continue the resistance against ISIS, moving what was left of the brigade outside of Azaz and continuing to strike when he had the opportunity. Yet he was constantly losing men and thus had little impact. There were few leaders left, and many fighters fled into Kilis, the Turkish city just across the border. Here, the group remained organized, changing its strategy in an attempt to remain afloat. Realizing it needed help, the NSB began reaching out to other groups in an attempt to develop relationships and begin coordinating with other rebels, something it had been hesitant to do in the past. Its leaders are now actively seeking foreign support as well, maintaining that they are the West’s best hope to counter the Islamification of the revolution. “By encouraging the NSB and supporting us, we can get others to defect from Islamic groups,” says one member.

But there is little evidence that these efforts are working. On February 28, ISIS withdrew from Azaz in order to reinforce its positions in other parts of the country. At the time, one senior member of the NSB estimates that the group had only 300 men inside Syria. While some fighters (~70-100) went back to Azaz from Turkey, Liwa al-Tawhid still took control of the town. In addition, approximately 150 NSB members left the brigade to join Tawhid, leaving the current number of NSB troops inside Syria hovering around 200. Despite this, the group’s leaders are still confident that they can rebuild the brigade and are unwilling to merge with any other factions.

Conclusion

In many ways, the story of the NSB parallels the story of the revolution. Originally formed to combat the regime, internal funding interests impeded the group from actively coordinating with others, hurting the cohesiveness of the rebellion. The influx of foreign fighters and extremists would later weaken the NSB to the point where it ceased to be a factor on the ground. In the wake of the uprisings against ISIS, it now sees the opportunity to reestablish itself. But the road ahead will not be easy, and in a large part depends on securing foreign support. The NSB is not perfect, as one of its fighters acknowledged, but “we are good people… focused on combating (extremism).” Adds another, “we just want freedom for our country.”

 


[1] It is important to note that during the summer of 2013 the border post came to be shared with Liwa al-Tawhid. None of the NSB members interviewed were able to give adequate responses as to why this occurred or what the relationship entailed.

Comments (43)


1. ALAN said:

the United States would continue to support the genocidal “rebels” and death squads currently terrorizing the Syrian nation!

The Russians are planning to make Syria, America’s next Vietnam, if America invades Syria The Russians have been stepping up their support for Syria. The Russians expect the Americans to attack Syria as the result a contrived false flag.

In a case of Obama playing a bad game of checkers when Putin is playing chess, Putin will take steps to collapse the dollar if America invades Syria. This will be subject of the next installment on this topic. Russia’s strategy may actually have been revealed in a recent Hollywood movie and in one of the Call of Duty games.

If you do not have guns, ammunition, food and water, you needed to start gathering, yesterday. All signs point to the time being very short with regard to waltzing down to your supermarket to buy eggs and milk.

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March 19th, 2014, 3:26 am

 

2. Jamil Hanna said:

This is the policy that will destroy the modern world and the civilizations.The racists in the US such as Senator McCain support the Qaeda style factions in the Moslem world in order to force midieval laws and destroy any attempt to realize human rights and democracy . I n Europe they support the New Nazists and the Facists mainly in Ukraine. I believe they are heading to the fall of the western civilization and to achieve what Hitler failed.

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March 19th, 2014, 3:34 am

 

3. Aboud Dandachi said:

Thank you for this detailed and comprehensive history of the NSB. It is very interesting to read about the evolution of a brigade during the conflict.

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March 19th, 2014, 5:36 am

 

4. ALAN said:

For the Syrians – the most likely target of this act of spite – they are now just seeing the light at the end of a 3 year long tunnel of bloodshed and destruction. For the West to strike now, in effect further perpetuating the conflict or turning it back in favor of the foreign militants that have been conducting it on the West’s behalf since 2011, would be an unforgivable crime against humanity.

The West’s foreign policy has become impulsive, illogical, and appears to move from one ill-conceived machination to another, with each one further undermining the West’s own credibility and legitimacy as well as its overall political, economic, and strategic stability. It is the sort of reckless, self-destructive snowballing effect seen during the decline of the Roman Empire.

And like the Roman Empire, the West stands to take many with it as spite, impulses, and insatiable greed continue to drive it downward. For more sensible policy makers in the West, now would be a good time to consider another option – one of accommodation and acceptance of a multipolar world in which the nations of the West could still function and indeed thrive, if only they can accept the resignation of their self-assumed primacy over all others. An attack on Syria, or any other nation for that matter, will only accelerate, not arrest the fall of the West – that they seem oblivious to this glaring reality is another indicator that they have altogether lost their footing upon logic and reason.
http://journal-neo.org/2014/03/19/us-expels-syrian-diplomats-dangerous-desperation-in-the-air/

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March 19th, 2014, 9:04 am

 

5. Sami said:

A very well researched and written post.

Any idea what brigades NSB is collaborating with now other than Liwa Al-Tawhid?

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March 19th, 2014, 9:56 am

 

6. apple_mini said:

I took a wild guess those SNC members in Damascus might be just those threatened and disgruntled ex-MB members.

The opposition is facing another major reshuffle, possibly a reset after Saudi declared MB as terrorist group.

In the forth year of ongoing Syria destruction, Assad is getting stronger and the opposition is getting more fragmented.

It is as we have learned from history: Sometimes you do not need to be stronger than your enemy, you just need to outlive it.

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March 19th, 2014, 12:19 pm

 

7. Uzair8 said:

Mr Putin intervenes in Ukraine and Pr. Obama (west) makes a little noise, perhaps some light sanctions.

The west may soon intervene in Syria and Pr. Putin will only make a little fuss as he’ll be busy with Ukraine. Perhaps that’s why it would be the right time to intervene in Syria as Mr Putin is too distracted to make any real noise in response.

The US expelling the Syrian embassy staff is usually a sign of coming military action. Perhaps a worried Assad regime, sensing danger, caused the incident against Isreal as a reminder*, to those who may be getting ideas (intervention), that it can cause trouble in the region (esp. against Isreal). Isreal has since retaliated against regime forces.

We watch developments carefully…

* Iran may have advised the regime to send the reminder

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March 19th, 2014, 12:58 pm

 

8. Uzair8 said:

A regime supporter on Shiachat said much the same thing in response to the closure of the embassy:

I suspect this too.

A major invasion of Syria is in the works.

Some recent developments:
1. USA expelling Syrian diplomats in recent days.
2. Saudis buying Paki{stani} mercenary army favors.
3. Saudis purchasing Paki{stani} ammo and weapons.
4. New legions of terrorist trained in Jordan.
5. Turkey planning to increase their ‘presence’ in Syria to protect ottoman king’s grave.
6. Israel started shelling across the Sheba Farms.
7. Russia distracted/vindicated on Ukraine. West needs a quick equalizer.
8. US increased navy presence in Black Sea, on the back of Ukraine.

Pray for peace.

http://www.shiachat.com/forum/topic/235021149-syrian-embassy-closed/#entry2683376

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March 19th, 2014, 1:05 pm

 

9. ALAN said:

عزير
Pakistan will get air defense systems from Russia because the Obama Drones have exceeded all limits in taking the lives of civilians! You have to be happy about it!!! :)

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March 19th, 2014, 1:48 pm

 

10. Tara said:

Congrats to the Syrian people for the liberation of central Daraa prison and the release of few thousands political prisoners.

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March 19th, 2014, 2:00 pm

 

11. ALAN said:

congrats to the Syrian people! a special operation led Dooku Omarov and destroyed every single one of his bandits!

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March 19th, 2014, 2:27 pm

 
 

13. Tara said:

I heard Sahar, Asma’s mom is afraid to go outside her house in London as people spit on her and her husband when they see them outside. What is the use of blood money Sahar when people spit on you?

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March 19th, 2014, 2:54 pm

 
 

15. Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Alan,

Just out of curiosity: Do you or don’t you support states that occupy territories, which they consider as historically theirs?
.

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March 19th, 2014, 3:14 pm

 

16. ALAN said:

………………
In June 1992, a year after the start of the Madrid peace talks, the then departing Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, revealed to an Israeli newspaper that he would have kept negotiating “for 10 years and in the meantime we would have reached half a million [Jewish squatters] ” in the West Bank.

He lamented: “In the next four years I will not be able to complete the [Jewish] demographic revolution,” explaining that “without this demographic revolution, there is no reason to hold autonomy talks as there now is a risk of a Palestinian state.”

True to Shamir’s vision, consecutive Israeli governments, from the left and the right, dragged the negotiations over almost a quarter of a century, surpassing Shamir’s goal of more than half a million, thus making it geographically unfeasible to establish a viable Palestinian state.

The ostrich-like US and its subservient European Union suffer from a delusional denial syndrome. They refuse to read palpable writings on the wall: Israel perceives the Palestinian state as a risk and uses peace talk to realize the Jewish “demographic revolution”.

The Israeli-centric and overextended use of the US’s veto power at the UN Security Council has become the main obstacle to reaching peace in the Middle East. It can even be argued that it is contributing to many of the world’s conflicts today.

Incidentally, it was Israel’s US firsters who fabricated the evidence to justify the occupation of Iraq, and are now advocating war with Iran and Syria.

Other world powers jumped on the bandwagon too. Russia has employed the same tired privilege of the UN Security Council veto to ease its annexation of Crimea. But only with one difference: unlike the people of population Crimea who ostensibly sought Russian support, the inhabitants of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights overwhelmingly rejected Israeli annexation.

China is employing the same privileged veto power in its islands dispute with Japan and to maintain its influence over Korea.

Acting on behalf of Israel, the US has turned the UN Security Council from a guardian of world peace to a club of hubris kingpins violating international law and creating a new world disorder.

http://www.redressonline.com/2014/03/usas-israeli-inspired-new-world-disorder/

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March 19th, 2014, 3:41 pm

 

17. ALAN said:

the World is laughing at U.S. over the antics of the undynamic duo!
The world laughs at rightwing nuts afflicted with Obama Derangement Syndrome!

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March 19th, 2014, 4:25 pm

 

18. ALAN said:

A typical case – rabies of the uterus ….
Samantha Power: undiplomatic behavior of U.S. ambassador to the UN
A photograph of the U.S. permanent representative to the UN, Samantha Power fiercely trying to explain something to his Russian counterpart Vitaly Churkin, became an instant hit online. On Thursday night diplomats again come face to face at the next meeting of the Security Council in the Crimea.
http://russian.rt.com/article/24709

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March 19th, 2014, 4:58 pm

 

19. ghufran said:

It is obvious now that this “revolution” on the ground is not led by politicians with ties and nice suits but rather by terrorists and foreign Jihadists whose job is to throw rockets on civilian areas, the latest reached Latakia proper (a very serious escalation), kill prisoners, a new video emerged on SOHR which was too gruesome to watch or post, and detonate car bombs in civilian areas, the last was in Homs.
Without a doubt, supporters of rebels actions today are worse than the enemy they claim to be opposing and fighting and have thus lost any moral high ground they may once enjoyed, a matter for debate any way. The Assad government is not likely to open another front with Israel or reduce pressure on rebels around Damascus. For the regime few rockets that fall on Latakia and few hundred kidnapped alawites are not enough to end the odd situation in northern Latakia once and for all because the jewel is, and always was, Damascus. Assad takes alawites for granted and expect them to fight and die but will not forgive them if they dissent.
Sadly enough, what rebels in northern Latakia want is a harsh response from the public against refugees, most of whom are sunni, they want to see a mini civil war in Latakia, that has not happened yet and I am hopeful that it will not happen because Latakia may be the last area in Syria where people from different backgrounds are still living in peace with each other and still able to keep the hope for a national reconciliation alive.

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March 19th, 2014, 6:48 pm

 

20. Tara said:

Having Lattakia and the coast feeling a taste of what Homs and Aleppo and other cities and towns endured is a step long due.

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March 19th, 2014, 9:34 pm

 

21. Ghufran said:

Tara, really ?
Those rockets were launched from a village near Ras Albaseet , more than 20 km away, and fell in a crowded civilian area where Syrians from all sects live together, indeed most people who live in Latakia today are Sunni from other parts of Syria.
There is no doubt this was a terrorist act that will hurt the same people the terrorists and their supporters pretend to protect, it can only strengthen the regime’s position in the coast and give new credibility to the accusations that rebels now are common terrorists who are only interested in killing Syrians, the rebels lost yabroud and about to be kicked out of qalamon altogether, so they decided to shell latakia at random with Grad missiles.
Inflicting terror on Latakia will not reduce the pressure on Damascus, it is the other way around, watch and see.

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March 19th, 2014, 9:59 pm

 

22. Hopeful said:

With his determination to “win at all costs” and his utter disregard for his own civilians and the international community, Assad has proven to be a strong militia warlord, but a miserable (not to mention criminal) national leader.

For those of you regime supporters who genuinely care about your country, Syria (and not just the survival of your cult and sect), I would very much like to engage in a constructive debate about the “day after”.

Here is my argument – so long as Assad insists on hanging on to power, with the support of his loyalists and allies, Syria has a spectrum of possible outcomes. The worst would be a prolonged civil war that may last for 10-20 years. The best would be the emergence of a weak fragmented state, kinda like a mega Lebanon, where the same faces continue for decades pickering about the same issues of today, and the same groups keep relying on outsiders help to survive. Syria would lose its national identity, independence, and unity as a nation.

Wouldn’t a better outcome be that sane heads from both sides get together and work on forming a national unity government that excludes Assad, his murderous security forces and his corrupt cronies, but includes many of the statesmen and honest army units in government today? I would bet that this governing body will be able to marshal international and domestic help to fight and defeat the terrorist jihadis inside Syria today. Would’t the Syrian army, and honest government officials, prefer to be working *with* and not *against* their people and the world in their genuine attempt to fight the jihadis?

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March 20th, 2014, 12:27 am

 

23. Hopeful said:

#21 Ghufran

I agree with your sentiment. Nothing good will come out of shelling Latakia, or any other cities for that matter. However, I have two points to make:

1. I would not put it past the regime and his gangs to be the ones responsible for these acts. Precisely because I agree with you that these acts turn the people against the rebels and against the revolution. The regime ultimate goal today is the exhaust the rebels and population into a total surrender.

2. If the war comes to Latakia and Damascus, the result will be the same as in Homs and Halab: destruction, devastation, death and pain. We all know that Assad and his gangsters could care less. We all know that the radical jihadis could care less. Both groups see Syria and its people as collateral damage to their ideological agendas. Both needs to be stopped, and fast, before we lose the rest of the country.

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March 20th, 2014, 12:38 am

 

24. Ghufran said:

Rebels in jabal alturkman took responsibility for shelling Latakia and promised more attacks. Abu Omar aljiblawi bragged about this in an interview with alquds alarabi and a number of pro rebel media outlets declared it as a ghazwah against shabeehas !!
Time to fess up and get off the “they did it to make us look bad” wagon. There are deniers on both camps and that only allows mistrust to grow among Syrians. Covering for rebels crimes is not less sinful than covering for regime crimes.

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March 20th, 2014, 1:01 am

 

25. Hopeful said:

#24 Ghufran

The statement “I would not put it past the regime…” does not imply denial of the rebels responsibility. I have consistently condemned the rebels attacks on civilians, and many of them have committed atrocities. My mistrust of the regime and its actions does not translate to giving the jihadis high marks for respect of human rights. The regime has clearly shown its utter disregard for civilians so I am never ready to clear them of any wrongdoing with regards to car bombs and arbitrary shelling. Tell me, why should I trust the regime with anything they say?

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March 20th, 2014, 1:23 am

 

26. apple_mini said:

Watching Ghufran debunking haters and deniers from the opposition is how I start my day on SC.

As always, the disgraceful hater is screaming about death to Alawites. Then the denier is always coming in with insidious insinuation: the regime is killing its supporters and bombing its families of its army to undermine the “revolution” in a twisted and bizarre conspiracy.

Until both the hater and the denier got pinned down by facts like the way cockroaches got crushed and splashed under my shoes.

I’d like to find out whether there is a single opposition member outside the country who is not insane about their bleak revolutionary landscape.

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March 20th, 2014, 2:15 am

 

27. Alan said:

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March 20th, 2014, 4:01 am

 

28. mjabali said:

Apple Mini:

Tara’s family are still to this day officials in al-Assad’s structure.

She wishes death upon the Alawis (this is no secret). She stated this over and over.

She also curse at the Alawites with the most racist childish rants over and over (Matthew Barber is sleeping as we could see).

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March 20th, 2014, 6:19 am

 

29. ALAN said:

Lavrov: The end of the bipolar system failed to enhance stability, while competition is on the rise, President Putin said

US officials lined up Wednesday in high dudgeon over Israel’s defense minister Moshe Ya’alon’s remarks in which he described the US as broadcasting weakness in the Ukraine crisis.
http://debka.com/newsupdatepopup/7632/

Israeli military and political expert, former head of the Secret Service “Nativ” Yakov Kedmi asserts that no war in Ukraine will not. But if Kiev turn away from Russia , it was waiting for a financial collapse, poverty and food riots …

.

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March 20th, 2014, 6:19 am

 

30. Tara said:

Mjabali,

You’re correct. My family is in ابن أنيسة structure. They are the rotten apples and I am the good one. And they deserve nothing but a spit on the face and to stand trial for their crimes. And yes, I stand my position. A balance of terror must be accomplished in Syria in order for Assad gangs to reconsider. This is a simple principal!. As long as Assad can terrorize the rest of the country while his supporters are safe, he and they will continue to do so. It is when his البيئة الحاضنة get threatened and “terrorized” in a very similar fashion that they threat and terrorize their enemy (fellow Syrians) that they we’ll reconsider their support. And yes, you are correct. I wish those who killed and cheered killing Syrian to die. Not the Alawi supporters alone all those who are killing Syrians including the Sunnis supporters and ISIS.

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March 20th, 2014, 6:54 am

 

31. mjabali said:

Tara:

Aneeseh that you speak as if she is your house maid is the wife of a powerful president and the mother of another. Who is your mother? Zanubia?

Unless you are sleeping under a rock you should have known that the Alawite areas have been hit hard by the Sunnis for a long time. Rockets had been falling on Alawite areas for a long time Tara. So the terror you are talking about existed for a long time. Stop screaming.

Note: I hope you tell us more if the Alawites came from behind the cows or not..?

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March 20th, 2014, 7:11 am

 

32. Tara said:

Ghufran,

“Those rockets were launched from a village near Ras Albaseet , more than 20 km away, and fell in a crowded civilian area..”

Wasn’t that what the regime did all along? The regime is the one who drew the rule of engagement and his supporters cheered. Why are they crying one when the rebels are playing by the same rule? How on earth the regime can be subdued if the rebels continue to fight it with poetry? And who care about alienating his بيئة حاضنة from the revolution? Have they ever supported it or lifted a finger when watching Batta’s massacres?

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March 20th, 2014, 7:18 am

 

33. Tara said:

Mjabali,

Anisa is matriarch criminal. A wife of a mass killer, and a mother of another mass killer who probably did not pass high school exam. She is nobody. My mother is beautiful and educated woman.

And You did not come from behind cows. Assad and his family did.

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March 20th, 2014, 7:24 am

 

34. SYRIAN HAMSTER said:

MJABALI

Aneeseh is the wife of a criminal president and traitor of his country who paved the path of destruction and was responsible for countless murders and mayhem in Syria and around the region. She raised bullies,thieves, and murderers and failed miserably in bringing up her litter, and thus deserves no respect except through suspicious primitive loyalties.

For me, it has nothing to do with her origin, geographically, ethnic, or otherwise. She and her clan are backward stone age thugs and through her own side of the mafia clan, which she protected, much more pain was dolled out to Syrians as their livelihood was stolen so that the women in her clan could live in Paris and London and pretend to be civilized.

Their rise to power was vulgar, their stay in power is vulgar, and their entire set of ethos is vulgar. No matter how much “power” their mafiosos husbands have.

So basically she raised a litter of thugs, mentally deranged, psychologically damaged mass murderers.

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March 20th, 2014, 9:36 am

 

35. Sami said:

Apple,

Does a barrel bomb dropped from a helicopter blindly distinguish between pro-regime and anti-regime lives?

Does a SCUD shot at university students writing their exams differentiate between who supports the regime and who does not?

Do cluster bomblets filled with white phosphorus and dropped on a school see whose parents are rebels and who are not in order to kill them?

The only insidious insinuation is that the regime would not bomb its own subjects when in reality it has been doing so for three years. Unless of course you don’t see non-Alawites as humans worthy of living of course…

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March 20th, 2014, 10:04 am

 

36. Observer said:

Kudos to all that call a spade a spade.
While the Whoe Wide Universe is conducting a War against the ever so glorious Resistance Axis of the Great Golorious Modern Advanced Victorious Ray Ban Field Marshal of the Syrian Arab Army and his Steadfast Supporter from the Martyr Seeking Party of God of the 12there Imamate and Under the Guidance of the Infallible Supreme Leader and Jurisprudent we have the following important news about how the rest of the world is advancing while the iPad Retard and his Cow Dung Using Mafia Regime is practicing Barbarity. Here enjoy

Sorry for the lenght but could not find the link. Was sent to me as a text by the way

By Joel Achenbach, Published: March 17
In the beginning, the universe got very big very fast, transforming itself in a fraction of an instant from something almost infinitesimally small to something imponderably vast, a cosmos so huge that no one will ever be able to see it all.
This is the premise of an idea called cosmic inflation — a powerful twist on the big-bang theory — and Monday it received a major boost from an experiment at the South Pole called BICEP2. A team of astronomers led by John Kovac of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysicsannounced that it had detected ripples from gravitational waves created in a violent inflationary event at the dawn of time.
Graphic

Ripples from the Big Bang

“We’re very excited to present our results because they seem to match the prediction of the theory so closely,” Kovac said in an interview. “But it’s the case that science can never actually prove a theory to be true. There could always be an alternative explanation that we haven’t been clever enough to think of.”
The reaction in the scientific community was cautiously exultant. The new result was hailed as potentially one of the biggest discoveries of the past two decades.
Cosmology, the study of the universe on the largest scales, has already been roiled by the 1998 discovery that the cosmos is not merely expanding but doing so at an accelerating rate, because of what has been called “dark energy.” Just as that discoveryhas implications for the ultimate fate of the universe, this new one provides a stunning look back at the moment the universe was born.
“If real, it’s magnificent,” said Harvard astrophysicist Lisa Randall.
Lawrence Krauss, an Arizona State University theoretical physicist, said of the new result, “It gives us a new window on the universe that takes us back to almost the very beginning of time, allowing us to turn previously metaphysical questions about our origins into scientific ones.”
The measurement, however, is a difficult one. The astronomers chose the South Pole for BICEP2 and earlier experiments because the air is exceedingly dry, almost devoid of water vapor and ideal for observing subtle quirks in the ancient light pouring in from the night sky. They spent four years building the telescope, and then three years observing and analyzing the data. Kovac, 43, who has been to the South Pole 23 times, said of the conditions there, “It’s almost like being in space.”
The BICEP2 instrument sorts through the cosmic microwave background (CMB), looking for polarization of the light in a pattern that reveals the ripples of gravitational waves. The gravitational waves distort space itself, squishing and tugging the fabric of the universe. This is the first time that anyone has announced the detection of gravitational waves from the early universe.
There are other experiments by rival groups trying to detect these waves, and those efforts will continue in an attempt to confirm the results announced Monday.
“I would say it’s very likely to be correct that we are seeing a signal from inflation,” said Adrian Lee, a University of California at Berkeley cosmologist who is a leader of PolarBear, an experiment based on a mountaintop in Chile that is also searching for evidence of inflation. “But it’s such a hard measurement that we really would like to see it measured with different experiments, with different techniques, looking at different parts of the sky, to have confidence that this is really a signal from the beginning of the universe.”
The fact that the universe is dynamic at the grandest scale, and not static as it appears to be when we gaze at the “fixed stars” in the night sky, has been known since the late 1920s, when astronomer Edwin Hubble revealed that the light from galaxies showed that they were moving away from one another.
This led to the theory that the universe, once compact, is expanding. Scientists in recent years have been able to narrow down the age of the universe to about 13.8 billion years. Multiple lines of evidence, including the detection of the CMB exactly 50 years ago, have bolstered the consensus model of modern cosmology, which shows that the universe was initially infinitely hot and dense, literally dimensionless. There was no space, no time.
Then something happened. The universe began to expand and cool. This was the big bang.
Cosmic inflation throws gasoline on that fire. It makes the big bang even bangier right at the start. Instead of a linear expansion, the universe would have undergone an exponential growth.
In 1979, theorist Alan Guth, then at Stanford, seized on a potential explanation for some of the lingering mysteries of the universe, such as the remarkable homogeneity of the whole place — the way distantly removed parts of the universe had the same temperature and texture even though they had never been in contact with each other. Perhaps the universe did not merely expand in a stately manner but went through a much more dramatic, exponential expansion, essentially going from microscopic in scale to cosmically huge in a tiny fraction of a second.
It is unclear how long this inflationary epoch lasted. Kovac calculated that in that first fraction of a second the volume of the universe increased by a factor of 10 to the 26th power, going from subatomic to cosmic.
This is obviously difficult terrain for theorists, and the question of why there is something rather than nothing creeps into realms traditionally governed by theologians. But theoretical physicists say that empty space is not empty, that the vacuum crackles with energy and that quantum physics permits such mind-boggling events as a universe popping up seemingly out of nowhere.
“Inflation — the idea of a very big burst of inflation very early on — is the most important idea in cosmology since the big bang itself,” said Michael Turner, a University of Chicago cosmologist. “If correct, this burst is the dynamite behind our big bang.”
Princeton University astrophysicist David Spergel said after Monday’s announcement, “If true, this has revolutionary impacts for our understanding of the physics of the early universe and gives us insight into physics on really small scales.”
Spergel added, “We will soon know if this result is revolutionary or due to some poorly understood systematics.”
The inflationary model implies that our universe is exceedingly larger than what we currently observe, which is humbling already in its scale. Moreover, the vacuum energy that drove the inflationary process would presumably imply the existence of a larger cosmos, or “multiverse,” of which our universe is but a granular element.
“These ideas about the multiverse become interesting to me only when theories come up with testable predictions based on them,” Kovac said Monday. “The powerful thing about the basic inflationary paradigm is that it did offer us this clear, testable prediction: the existence of gravitational waves which are directly linked to the exponential expansion that’s intrinsic to the theory.”
The cosmological models favored by scientists do not permit us to have contact with other potential universes. The multiverse is, for now, conjectural, because it is not easily subject to experimental verification and is unobservable — from the South Pole or from anywhere else.

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March 20th, 2014, 11:57 am

 

37. ALAN said:

Dear moderator!
shown a yellow card for 36. OBSERVER for the long comment!

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March 20th, 2014, 3:13 pm

 

38. ALAN said:

@FrankfurtFinanz
The day the Russians replace Americans on the ISS space station w/ Chinese astronauts will be an indication sanctions getting more serious

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March 20th, 2014, 3:16 pm

 

39. ALAN said:

The United States only real viable option will be to open a second front in Syria. This will be followed by an attack upon Alaska by Russian forces who have already propositioned assets in Alaska right under the eye of the Obama administration.

It is at this point, that the Chinese intentions will be known. Until now, China has been playing both sides of the fence. However, this is about to end. The moment that the US attacks Syria, the Chinese will play their hand and a depleted American force will be overwhelmed.
And just how the Chinese will interject themselves to this conflict will be made clear in the next part of this series.
Deep silence…………………………………………….

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March 20th, 2014, 3:33 pm

 

40. ALAN said:

spin of IDF can be broken!

IDF Drills Invasion of Syria

On March 20, 2014, Hebrew media main story was Russian preparations for occupying additional areas of Ukraine. The day after Syria achieved gains in the Golan Heights, the IDF started a hurried drill which enjoyed an unusual media coverage in real time. The exercise prepares forces for entrance into Syria.
http://www.roitov.com/articles/bashan.htm

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March 20th, 2014, 4:46 pm

 

41. SYRIAN HAMSTER said:

Happy mother’s day tomorrow to all wonderful free thinking mothers. On this blog, I mean Tara of course.

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March 20th, 2014, 6:20 pm

 

42. SYRIAN HAMSTER said:

speaking of the thuria al-athad thpathe agenthy, many Syrians recognize that a space programme begins with sending a monkey to space (see mullahstan) . Being in thpathe would definitely be a great campaign advert for monkey dog-poop athad. Let us sent it to thpathe, one way ticket*.

———————————–
* Note: anneetha and athma can altho go to thpathe with the monkey for free as these freeloaders always did.

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March 20th, 2014, 6:24 pm

 

43. Tara said:

Dear Syrian Hamster,

Thank you. I love you too.

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March 20th, 2014, 7:23 pm

 

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