Opposition Meets in Tunisia as Arab Observers Enter Syria and Deathrate Rises

As the economic situation in Syria deteriorates steadily and the death-rate rises with an increasingly militant opposition, there seems no resolution in sight to the fighting in Syria. The Arab League is sending observers to report on the violence, but it is unclear whether they will act as a balm or catalyst to the conflict. Both regime supporters and opposition may well try to demonstrate wherever the observers turn up.

The SNC has met in Tunisia in order to announce a unified opposition statement, which is carried in full below. The opposition has shown increasing unity, although many important differences over strategy and objectives continue to divide its ranks.

Law and order are slowly collapsing in Syria, along with reliable supplies of basic goods and services. The opposition is becoming more capable, more numerous, and better armed; more Syrians are despairing of the Assad regime and believe the president lives in a cocoon. The international community has isolated Syria and continues to tighten sanctions and force western companies to withdraw from the country, which is causing the economy to contract rapidly. Syria’s GDP has shrunk by almost 30% in dollar terms since the start of the year — from $55 billion to $37 billion dollars, as the Syrian pound has collapsed from 47 to 62 to a dollar. Heating oil has all but disappeared from the market place; people are cold. Cooking oil is scarce and electricity in many cities is cut for hours on end during peek usage periods. Municipal elections, by all accounts, were a bust. It is hard to see how they can change much so long as article 8 of the constitution – the article guaranteeing the supremacy of the Baath in society and politics – remains in force. Syrian opposition forces asked their followers to boycott them. The notion of reform is dead. The opposition is determined to bring down the regime, not reform it. Anyway, Assad has shown no inclination to cut the authority of the patronage network and security forces that sustain his regime in power. One must assume he will fight to the end, that was the thrust of his recent ABC interview with Barbara Walters.

What we are witnessing in Syria, is not the clash of two titanic and centralized bodies: the state and the opposition. Instead, we are seeing the steady erosion of state authority and national institutions, as the opposition, which remains largely organized on a local basis undermines central authority at many points. Neighborhood committees and armed groups are forming in ever greater number. Most use the word “coordinating” in their title, but few relinquish local authority. They prefer to keep decision-making local and in their own hands. Some of this is for practical reasons. Spies are everywhere. I am told by good sources that one of the leading reasons why Aleppo has been so quite is that the local coordinating committees recently discovered that their efforts to put together surprise demonstrations were being foiled by informants. One recent opposition statement admitted that their ranks have been riddled with informers.

The opposition remains divided over central issues of strategy – especially over how to deal with the armed opposition to the regime. The Syrian National Council claims to have gained control over the Free Syrian Army, which claims, in turn, to have control over some 15,000 defectors and armed elements in Syria. This alleged hierarchy is by most accounts fictional. The opposition groups and cells in Syria – whether peaceful or armed – are working on their own. According to the New York Times “factionalism has been hindering the drive to topple Assad.”

Current Events in Syria
Illinois Public Radio, Host: David Inge
Radio Show – Go to six minutes to start interview about current situation in Syria

Pro-Assad demonstrators on Monday after announcement of Arab League Deal. Notice that they are fewer than in the past, when the square and side roads were packed

Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim (C) is now a key figure at the League

Members of the Free Syrian Army at a safe-house on northern Lebanon’s border with Syria.

Syria To Cut Public Spending To Head Off Crisis

DAMASCUS (AFP)–Syria has decided to slash public sector spending in a bid to head off a crisis for an economy that has taken a beating due to months of unrest and sanctions, media said Tuesday.

Prime Minister Adel Safar has issued an order for the public sector to reduce spending by 25% in a move designed at “limiting waste,” Al-Baath newspaper reported.

The cuts would be included in the 2012 budget and concern “fuel, maintenance, bonuses and transport expenses” that are usually allocated to civil servants, the report said.  Western powers have imposed sweeping economic sanctions on Syria, where the United Nations estimates more than 5,000 people have been killed since March asthe regime cracks down on a popular revolt.

Syrian Unemployment at Twice Previously Estimated Level – Syria Report

The Syrian Minister of Labour and Social Affair said last week that unemployment in the country stood at between 22 and 30 percent, a rate more than twice previously estimated levels….

Radwan Habib made this statement at the end of a Government meeting last week saying the new findings were the result of a field survey conducted by his administration. Until now, the Government put unemployment rate at 9 percent, well below the estimates of most independent analysts.

Gathering data on unemployment in Syria is difficult because few workers are registered with Social Security and Job houses but also because of cultural differences. In rural areas for instance, women working on cultivating land are rarely counted as workers, rather they consider themselves house wives.

Mr Habib did not give more details on the finding of the survey and did not say for instance whether the figure had been impacted by the current crisis engulfing the country. He did not say either why for so long the Government admitted to much lower figures. The fact that the margin is so high – between 22 and 30 percent – also casts serious doubts about the quality of the survey.

Syria Imposes Death Penalty For Arming “Terrorists”, 2011-12-20

DAMASCUS (AFP)–Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has signed into effect a law imposing the death penalty on anyone arming “terrorists,” state media said Tuesday, amid mounting clashes with rebel troops.

“The law provides for the death penalty for anyone providing weapons or helping to provide weapons intended for the carrying out of terrorist acts,” the official SANA news agency said. The Syrian authorities contend that nine-month-old protests are the work of “armed terrorists” not civilian demonstrators as maintained by Western governments and human rights groups.


The Syrian National Council (SNC) held its first plenary meeting and conference in Tunis in December 17-18, 2011. The participants paid tribute to the Syrian people’s patience and the heroes who continue to demonstrate peacefully for dignity and freedom. The regime’s tactics, including the darkest of scenarios, to drag the nation into a civil war, have failed.
The council also called upon members of the Army and concerned citizens, who have yet to join the Revolution, to get involved in this cause.The SNC discussed key issues, including its own responsibilities, and concluded with the following outcomes:

At the Organizational Level:

  • The conference discussed and approved the Political Program of the SNC and the bylaws and regulations governing the ongoing relationships among its various institutions. The conference also restructured the SNC offices to promote the active participation of all political entities, including the driving forces of the Revolution and the independent national figures that have joined the SNC. The role of women in the SNC was also emphasized.
  • The SNC vowed to continue all efforts to promote national unity, and to expand national efforts to guarantee the success of the Revolution and provide a means to achieve its humanitarian objectives, including freedom and dignity.

At the Domestic Level: 
The SNC renewed its commitment to the Syrian people and to the achievement of their goals. This includes the primary objectives of the Revolution:

  • First, the ouster of the regime and its figures, along with all of its symbols and pillars.
  • Second, the establishment of a new Syria as a democratic, pluralistic, civil state, where all citizens – men and women – are treated equally under the rule of law.
  • The SNC reaffirmed its commitment to recognize the Kurdish national identity under the constitution. The Kurdish cause is an important part of a national issue of concern to the country as a whole.  Within the framework of unity in Syria, the SNC will resolve the injustices toward the Kurdish people by recognizing their national rights and compensating those affected.
  • The SNC stressed its commitment to recognizing the national identity of the Assyrian Syrians under the constitution, and called for a solution to this issue within the framework of national unity.
  • The SNC emphasized its rejection of any discrimination against any components of Syrian society, regardless of religious sect or ethnicity (including Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrian, Syriacs, and others), in the context of national citizenship.
  • The SNC pledged to make every effort to meet the demands of the Syrian people, including relief requirements in disaster areas, as they continue their peaceful Revolution and successful civil disobedience such as the Strike for Dignity.
  • The SNC and its institutions call on the Arab League, the United Nations, and the international community to take urgent action with regard to the protection of Syrian civilians and activists by creating safe havens and protected zones.
  • The SNC pledged to support the Free Syrian Army, recognizing its honorable role in protecting the peaceful Revolution of our people.
  • The SNC emphasized its commitment at all levels – media, economic, political, and diplomatic – to stifling the regime until its ouster.
  • The SNC reaffirmed its vision of the transitional period and the general principles for the new Syria, which seek to realize a general consensus. The SNC called on all Syrians to unite in confronting injustice and tyranny and to join the Revolution in crafting the future of Syria.

At the International Level:

  • The SNC emphasized its concerns with regard to cooperation with the members of the Arab League, the international community, and other international organizations to achieve the objectives and wishes of the Syrian Revolution. The SNC warned that the regime continues to disregard and circumvent the initiatives and sanctions imposed upon it. The SNC also stressed that the regime must not be granted any additional deadlines or chances.
  • Moreover, the SNC urged that all countries and citizens bear a moral and humanitarian responsibility toward the Syrian people, who are facing the worst of crimes against humanity. The SNC emphasized that it is in the best interest of foreign countries to stand with the Syrian people and not with a faltering regime.
  • The SNC stressed that the new Syria will restore national sovereignty to the occupied Golan Heights and support the complete and legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. This will lead to true stability in the region, as opposed to the repressive regime that threatens the stability and unity of the state, and prompts international intervention in Syria’s internal issues. The regime alone bears responsibility for the events in the country.

Burhan Ghalioun, leader of the SNC, recently ran into harsh criticism from supporters for stating that the future government of Syria would cut ties with Iran and Hizbullah and would “bank on our special relationship with the Europeans and western powers in helping us in reclaiming the Golan as fast as possible.” None of those statements appear in the latest policy statement. When the SNC was formed three months ago, it was stated that the executive – Ghalioun would serve a three month term. It is unclear whether the SNC has cleared up this sitution. A recent Wall Street Journal interview with Ghalioun carried this on the topic:

WSJ: The council’s leadership is assigned for three months terms. When does the current term end and who will lead a transitional government?

Mr. Ghalioun: To respect democratic principles, the president has a three months term, and it can be extended. My term began in October for three months. Extension is something that will be discussed—it’s a possibility.

Syria’s Opposition: What If We Offered Assad Immunity…?
By Rania Abouzeid / Time, Tunis Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011

…..The FSA was not represented at the Tunisian conference. “What for?” said one conference organizer, when asked about the rebels’ absence. “Riad al-As’ad is in charge of maybe five guys.” (See why Syria’s dissidents fear for their safety.)

“The FSA is an empty cardboard box,” said another participant. “It means nothing. And besides, if we want to try and win over the army, why would we bring the FSA here?”

Still, the FSA, unlike the SNC, has tremendous support inside Syria. There are increasing calls by protesters and defectors alike for weapons to take on Assad’s ruthless forces. Unless the SNC presents a viable alternative, the Syrian uprising may slip out of the political realm and into an all-out civil conflict, with dangerous sectarian undertones. “What difference can the SNC make if it gets international recognition and loses its legitimacy among the protesters? And what difference can the FSA make, if it fails to get all the emerging paramilitary groups to accept the authority of its Military Council and its leader?” Ammar Abdulhamid, a U.S.-based Syrian dissident who has been critical of the SNC said recently. Abdulhamid has criticized the SNC’s “lack of transparency” and claimed that several independent Syrians who wanted to attend the conference in Tunisia “as monitors” were not allowed in. “So long as SNC leaders remain more preoccupied with winning international recognition than they are with internal cohesion or outreach to their own people, they are destined to become as irrelevant and cut-off from realities as Assad is today,” he said.

Interview with Louay Hussein on FSA, civil war, sanctions, Turkey and an opposition upcoming conference: Louay is a long time opposition activist. He was first arrested in 1984 while finishing his fourth year of philosophy studies at Damascus University. He was released from jail in 1991. Earlier this year he successfully organized the first opposition conference to be held in Damascus (Samiramis conference) and launched “Building the Syrian State” political current (تيار بناء الدولة السورية)


Stratfor Challenges Narratives on Syria, December 20, 2011,
By Sharmine Narwani, Senior Associate, St. Antony’s College, Oxford University

… Inherent Bias in Syrian Data?

The problem with information that originates from opposition groups is that there is a clear interest in disseminating “beneficial” data and underplaying “damaging” statistics. And that dynamic applies to the government too – which is why we take Syrian regime pronouncements with a grain of salt.

You don’t see the Syrian opposition taking an active role in publicizing the slaughter of rank-and-file soldiers, for instance – except to claim these forces are being shot for deserting the army. Twitter is abuzz right now with news that more than 70 of today’s 100+ dead are “deserters.”

Nor do you hear about the numbers of pro-regime civilians killed by the armed opposition – some of them allegedly while “demonstrating” in support of the Syrian regime.

Now, this does not mean that the Syrian opposition lies outright to gain sympathy and foreign support – mostly because the “opposition” is not homogenous and comes in different shapes, sizes and flavors.

But Strafor clearly questions the intent of some of these groups based on very recent evidence of disinformation campaigns:

The Stratfor article focuses primarily on opposition efforts to create the impression in the past few weeks that there is a significant split within President Assad’s own clan and within his Alawite minority sect, members of which man the top jobs in the country’s armed forces and key government positions.

Among these high-profile gaffs are a December 10 report alleging that “Syrian Deputy Defense Minister and former chief of military intelligence Asef Shawkat had been killed by his aide and former General Security Directorate chief, Gen. Ali Mamlouk.”

Stratfor posits that the unfounded “image of two senior-ranking Sunni members of the regime drawing guns on each other” helps to create ” a compelling narrative” for groups that wish “to undermine the perception that al Assad’s inner circle is united in the effort to suppress the opposition and save the regime.”

In yet another example, a December 9 statement published in the Saudi-owned Asharq al Awsat by the previously-unknown “Alawite League of Coordinating Committees” which claims to represent the Alawite community in Syria, “rejected any attempt to hold the Alawite sect responsible for the ‘barbarism’ of the al Assad regime.” Stratfor says the planted story gives “the impression that the Alawite community is fracturing and that the al Assad regime is facing a serious loss of support within its own minority sect.”……….

Three videos that have been circulating

Syria Observatory of  Human Rights accused of false reporting by Nizar Nayouf. Its leader was long a major source for Western reporters on Syria.


Inside Syria: the rebel call for arms and ammunition
Exclusive: With Syrian rebels desperate for arms, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad finds smugglers doing a roaring trade selling guns and bullets

Hussam is a soldier in the Syrian army. His brother and two cousins are fighting for the rebels.

“I would defect tomorrow if you could protect my family,” Hussam said. “But if I defected they would arrest my father and my brothers and the whole family wuld have no income. The regime is still in control.

“I am as low as I can be, my morale is below zero. I don’t know what to do, my family and people are getting killed – yet still there are no defections in the army.

“When they say the Syrian army is an ideological army they are right. The political officers and the Ba’ath party and the Assad family control the army. Even if a general did defect, he wouldn’t defect with his tanks and soldiers, he would defect on his own. So arming of the revolution is a mistake, it will not be strong enough to stand against the army and resist properly.

“With my artillery unit I could sweep through Benish in one hour. When the officers and the regime tell the soldiers that the villagers are armed, they will come in scared and shoot at everything.

“But when soldiers know that they are facing unarmed civilians, they are human beings after all. How many bullets were fired when they toppled Mubarak? Zero. Now everyone is armed, fine. But what’s next?

“If you want officers to defect give them a no-fly zone, give them a safe haven, where they can take their families.”….

Hameed: He later joined the Free Syrian Army under the command of Colonel Reyadh Assad.

“We did nothing there [in Turkey], just sat in our tents and watched TV and sometimes gave press interviews. I told them I hadn’t defected to sit in a tent, I wanted to fight. They kept telling me to wait, that they had a plan, but nothing happened.”

After three months in Turkey Hameed ran away again; this time he arranged for the rebels to smuggle him back into Syria.

“There is no such thing as a Free Syria Army,” he said. “It’s a joke. The real revolutionaries are here in Syria in the mountains.”

On Zawiya mountain, I met another defected officer. He had taken leave from the army to see his family, and when he reached his village he joined the fighters in the mountains.

“The regime can’t reach my family,” he said. “That’s why I could run away.” Most soldiers couldn’t defect because they feared for their families if they did. “The army is under the strict control of the political officers, who ensure we live in cocoon where we can’t see what’s happening outside.” Soldiers were not allowed to watch the Arabic news channels, just the propaganda served up by state TV, he said. “The political officers tell us every day that we are fighting armed gangs paid by the Americans and the Saudis.

“If only they would impose a no fly zone,” he said, “then the whole army would split.”

“The Free Syrian Army: Syria’s Future Army of Liberation?”,
By Nicholas A. Heras in Siyese

Syria is in a state of civil war. Whether a de jure or a de facto civil war, an escalation of the civil conflict that has already cost the lives of over 4,000 Syrians is imminent. Thus far, the Syrian armed forces, and their appendage Alawite militia the Shabiha, have maintained a violent superiority over the protesters and rebellious population of Syria. Unfazed by this balance of violence, one opposition movement, the Free Syrian Army, is ready, willing, and able to take up arms to defeat the Al-Assad government.

The Free Syrian Army is composed of mainly Arab Sunni Muslim former soldiers from the Syrian army. Led by Col. Riad Al-Asaad, the Free Syrian Army claims to number between 10,000-20,000 members, and growing. Most of its rank-and-file defected from the Syrian army because of crises of conscience towards using lethal force against Syrian civilians protesting the Al-Assad government. It is organized into 22 “battalions” that operate throughout Syria, although recently the Free Syrian Army has been mobilizing with particular intensity in and around the front-line central-western cities of Homs and Hama, and in the northwestern region of Idlib….

The Free Syrian Army, acting upon the insistent advice of the Syrian National Council, has reduced its operations to defensive actions, in order to lessen the risk of an all-out civil war and put the burden of offensive actions and the bloodshed that would result from them on the Syrian military. This willing defensive tactical stance adopted by the Free Syrian Army indicates that it is ready to march to the same beat as the Syrian National Council,….

The rise of the Free Syrian Army,
By Chris Zambelis in Asia Times

Syrian Army Defectors Reportedly Kill 27 Soldiers.
By NADA BAKRI, December 15, 2011

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The armed insurgency against the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has become more organized in recent weeks, with defectors launching attacks that have become bolder and in some cases more sophisticated, according to activists and residents inside the country and in exile.

The latest attack took place on Thursday at dawn, when military defectors killed at least 27 soldiers,…

One opposition leader in exile, whose assertions could not be immediately confirmed, said that weapons were also being smuggled to Syria from Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq, and that defectors were now better armed and financed.

The attacks in recent weeks have escalated around Dara’a, in the south, and in Hama, a tense city in central Syria where vast protests gathered earlier this year before security forces retook the city in August.

Discontent is greater in these areas, observers say, where a majority of the people are poor Sunni Muslims who have suffered under government neglect, a longstanding drought and a sense of disenfranchisement by a government dominated by Alawites, a heterodox Muslim sect to which Mr. Assad belongs.

This week alone, the observatory reported four deadly attacks against government troops in Hama and Dara’a Provinces, including an ambush on Wednesday that killed at least eight members of the security forces.

“Where else are we going to find government forces vulnerable?” said Ammar al-Wawi, a former soldier reached by phone in an area near the Syrian-Turkish border. “Confrontations will happen in hot spots and where there are protests, discontent and serious opposition to the regime.”

Mr. Wawi said he left the army in March, after the uprising started. He and some other fighters said their initial goal was to ambush and kill soldiers who were headed to crush protests. For months, the government has intermittently cracked down on restive cities, sending in tanks, killing civilians and making arrests, according to activists.

Though the Free Syrian Army — a group of mainly army defectors whose commanders are based in Turkey — claimed to have staged most of the recent attacks, some activists and American officials disagree over the degree of coordination. Many of the attacks themselves often seem haphazard.

Estimates of the numbers of defectors vary wildly. An Obama administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, estimated their total at 1,000 to 3,500. The official said that armed civilians had apparently joined some of the defectors.

Some activists have suggested that parts of Dara’a and Hama Provinces have become so hostile that security forces are finding it difficult to enter them.

A town near Dara’a called Hirak has witnessed daily antigovernment protests in recent weeks, and residents there say that it has become off limits for security forces.

An opposition activist who did not want to be identified said that about 800 fighters, mainly army defectors, were based there.

“The regime hasn’t attacked once in recent weeks,” said Anwar Fares, a human rights activist from Dara’a. “They have been attacked on the outskirts of the town several times, so they are now scared and stay away.”

Mr. Fares said an increasing number of Syrian civilians were joining the defectors, especially people who had lost family members in the government’s crackdown.

27 Dead After Syrian Government Forces, Defectors Clash

… Analyst Harling said, however, that growing ranks of defectors are now often inflicting casualties on government forces that “exceed the number of victims among protesters.” He added that the “dynamics on the ground appear to be shifting in favor of the insurgency.”

Harling insists that he sees “ominous trends” pointing to “regionalization of the Syrian conflict.” Despite those trends, though, he argues there is “no strong, tangible evidence that a regional proxy war has started yet.” Syrian forces, meanwhile, continue to target defectors whom they see as a growing threat.

Free Syria Army Will Retaliate if 21 Members are Executed

The Free Syrian Army, which has waged a rebellion against the government of President Bashar al-Assad since June, said it had received information that 21 of their number are to face a firing squad within the next 24 hours.

The rebels said they would retaliate against government forces and militiamen loyal to the regime in the city of Homs, an opposition stronghold, if the executions take place.

“I have a personal message for the army: If the army executes these men, there will be a very harsh retaliation against them here in Homs,” Abdul-Razaq Tlas, the commander of one of two rebel battalions in the city, told the Daily Telegraph.


Top story: U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told the U.N. Security Council that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown against domestic protesters “constituted crimes against humanity,” and that Syria should be referred to the International Criminal Court. Pillay also revised the U.N. estimate for the death toll during the nine-month-old uprising, saying that more than 5,000 people had been killed, including 300 children. Another 14,000 people are believed to have been arrested, while 12,400 people had fled to other countries, she said.

Syrian workers hold general strike; voter turnout is low in local elections – From Foreign Policy

Syrian opposition activists said most of Syria’s capital of Damascus has been shutdown, and shops throughout the country were closed in the largest general strike since the protest movement began in March…. At the same time, the county is holding local elections for 17,588 seats in Syria’s 1,337 administrative units. Overall, voter turnout is expected to be very low as opposition activists have called for a boycott and many residents fear leaving their homes to go to the polls. The voting comes amid one of the fiercest clashes since the start of the uprisings between government forces and defectors loosely aligned into the Free Syria Army (FSA). Syria’s 12th Armored Brigade, based in Isra, a town 25 miles from Jordan in the south, stormed the town of Busra al-Harir, where the FSA was allegedly hiding and waging attacks. Inan escalation of international tensions, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe made a statement accusing Syrians of being behind the attack that wounded five UNIFIL peacekeepers in southern Lebanon last week, though he offered no evidence. Meanwhile, the Arab League will meet on Saturday to discuss Syria’s conditional acceptance of a peace plan involving international monitors.

Economic Impact of Strike Difficult to Assess – from Jihad Yazigi’s Syria Report

Business activity remained apparently normal in central parts of Damascus and Aleppo on Sunday, although other parts of the country appeared to be complying with calls for a general strike by the Syrian opposition.

The Struggle for Syria in 2011, Middle East Security Report 2, December 12, 2011
By Joseph Holliday
Executive Summary

This paper provides context for understanding the cycles of violence in Syria. The first section provides a brief historical overview of sectarianism in Syria in order to understand its role in the current conflict. The second section provides a framework for understanding the operations and strategy of the Assad regime. The paper then analyzes regime security operations in seven regions: Dera’a province; Damascus; Homs and Hama in central Syria; the coastal region; Idlib province; the Arab east; and the Kurdish northeast. The paper concludes with an examination of regional and international responses to the conflict…..

Syria Holds Local Polls as Violence Continues, By: Al Jazeera and Agencies | Al Jazeera

Syrian opposition officials in London reported that Deputy Minister of Defense of Syria Assef Shawkat, husband of Bushra Assad, was killed during an argument with his aide General Ali Mamlouk. Stratfor is reporting this, which seems like unreliable gossip or misinformation to me.

Blogger, Rami al-Jarrah, describes his escape from Syria, 12 Dec 2011

Rami al-Jarrah, who was blogging and tweeting from Syria under the pseudonym “Alexander Page,” just fled the country after his real identity became known to the intelligence services. Upon his arrival in Qatar he almost got sent back to Syria but thanks to a swift outpouring of support on Twitter, he was allowed in….

Syrian minister of petroleum claims smuggling and hording is main cause of scarcity.

العلاو: العامل النفسي للمواطنين وانخفاض السعر والتهريب من أسباب أزمة المازوت والغاز

Factional splits in Syrian opposition hinder drive to topple Assad New York Times
Posted: 10 Dec 2011 05:00 AM PST

The New York Times: Even as the government of President Bashar al-Assad intensifies its crackdown inside Syria, differences over tactics and strategy are generating serious divisions between political and armed opposition factions that are weakening the fight against him, senior activists say. Soldiers and activists close to the rebel Free Syrian Army, which is orchestrating […]

New Parties Announced

More and more opposition parties and groups are announcing themselves each week. For example, Murhaf Jouejati, a Washington DC based academic and member of the SNC, announced the formation of a new political party – The National Consensus Movement.  A new Islamic Front announced itself in Cairo a few days ago. The Kurdish parties are sitting on the sidelines. They don’t trust Turkey, which has been sponsoring opposition groups, and they don’t trust Arabs, who are suspicious that Kurdish demands for “national” recognition and autonomy are but a prelude to calls for independence. The minorities remain fearful of the possible tyranny of Islam. They insist that their liberties will be steamrolled by the growing strength of Islamic parties. Many see the Arab Spring to be a thinly disguised “revenge of the Sunnis.

إسلاميو سوريا يعلنون التيار الوطني السوري من القاهرة

السبت 14 من محرم1433هـ 10-12-2011م الساعة 08:18 م مكة المكرمة 05:18 م جرينتش

مفكرة الإسلام:‎ قرر إسلاميو سوريا تشكيل “التيار الوطني السوري” بهدف إيجاد صيغة سياسية لثورتهم تدافع عن مطالبهم بالتوازي مع العمل النضالي والثوري على الأراضي السورية، وذلك في خضم الشهر التاسع للثورة، وأكدوا أن النظام السوري فقد شرعيته ولا مجال للحوار معه ولا مناص عن رحيله.

وبحسب صحيفة “الأهرام” المصرية فإن التيار الاسلامي الوطني السوري – الذي تم تدشينه من نقابة الصحافيين ظهر اليوم – ينبثق من المقاصد الإسلامية الأصيلة التي أكدت المحتوى الأخلاقي والروحي للرسالات السماوية التي صبغت الثقافة الإنسانية وعبرت عن جوهر الثقافة السورية المتجددة.

وتشمل أهداف التيار تحرير الفرد والمجتمع من الاستبداد والفساد والسعي لتحقيق ذلك على أرض الواقع سياسيًا واجتماعيا وثقافيا، ودعم استقلال سوريا بالمحافظة على قيم الجمهورية والنظام الديمقراطي التعددي التداولي وإقامة دولة المؤسسات والمواطنة وسيادة القانون.

ومن أهداف التيار كذلك تعزيز الحريات المدنية والسياسية والاقتصادية والدينية لجميع السوريين والعمل لبناء وطن يحتضن الجميع ويوفر العيش الكريم الحر لكافة أبنائه، وتعزيز دور الشباب في المجتمع السوري لما يمتلكون من قدرات مبدعة ولما اثبتوه من دور رائد في الثورة السورية.

وقال الدكتور عماد الدين الرشيد، رئيس المكتب السياسي للتيار الوطني السوري: “التيار ليس محاكاة لتيار سابق أو موجود ولكنه تيار إسلامي بسيط هدفه حماية المواطنين وتوفير السلم لهم، والتيار يمثل ضمانه للسلم الأهلي”.

وأضاف الرشيد: “مضي 60 يومًا علي مبادرة الجامعة العربية ولكن مازال نظام الأسد يمارس “الافتراس” تجاه الشعب، ورؤية التيار تتعلق بالوضع السوري وخاصة الجيش الوطني الذي تحول إلى أداة قتل في يد النظام”.

وتابع أن الوطنيين من أبناء الجيش انشقوا عنه وشكلوا الجيش الحر، نافيًا أن يكون إسقاط النظام السوري بالضغط الأجنبى ولكنه من خلال الضغط الشعبى.

Jerusalem Post: ‘No substitute for US leadership on Syria’


WASHINGTON – Syria is too important a country for its crisis to be handled by any actor other than the United States, experts on Mideast geopolitics and national security said late last week at an annual policy conference in Washington. The US and …

Tony Badran – a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the Washington think tank that organized the event – said neither the Arab League nor Turkey wield the necessary military or diplomatic clout to end a nearly nine-month government crackdown said to have killed at least 4,000 people.

“Syria is a pillar of the Iranian axis. Only the US can do this – it can’t be outsourced,” Badran said. “The US acting like a human-rights NGO just won’t cut it.”

Turkey, which shares a 900-km. border with Syria, has raised the possibility of creating a buffer zone along their the frontier, but has also shrunk from the prospect of large-scale military action.

Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said military operations in the country would present difficulties not encountered in this year’s NATO intervention in Libya.

“Unlike Libya, Syria has a massive air defense system. The US could handle it, but not the Turks,” he said.

Current and former US officials from both sides of the aisle called for Washington to show greater leadership against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-New York) said America must honor its responsibility as the champion of freedom-seeking peoples worldwide.

“People care what the US says and look to it as a beacon of democracy. Shame on us if we shirk that duty,” said Engel, who in 2003 sponsored the Syria Accountability Act….

Bashar al-Assad Isn’t Going Anywhere (Voluntarily)

Max Fisher – Atlantic

Though some media critics were disappointed by Walters’ interview, it did lead Assad to reveal his intentions. His message to the world, delivered through one shrugging denial or smiling falsehood after another: I’m not going anywhere.

Friend Writes: Electric cuts in Aleppo now 6 hrs a day – three in morning and three in evening.

The weather in Aleppo is very cold. Since Mazzout is in short supply, many are trying to economize on use of heaters. They are buying electric ones for single rooms. Unused parts of the house are left without heat. So many people are doing the same that the electric grid cannot keep up with demand. Just now, Aleppo has been over three hours without electricity. My sister’s daughter is doing her school work under candle light. When i called they were so fed up staying home without light that they decided to park the car in the middle of the city and sit inside it to pass time till the electricity is back.

قال وزير الكهرباء عماد خميس:”لقد تجاوز الطلب على الطاقة الأولية لجميع حواملها لعام 2010 (24) مليون طن مكافئ نفط وتشير الدراسات إلى أن هذا الطلب سيتجاوز (70) مليون طن مكافئ نفط في عام 2030 وستكون الفجوة كبيرة بين هذه الكمية وكمية الإنتاج من المصادر الاحفورية والتقليدية المحلية والتي لن يتجاوز اجماليها (28) مليون طن مكافئ نفط في ضوء المعلومات والبيانات المتوفرة لدى وزارة النفط”.

 وأشار الوزير ان تعويض العجز بمصادر الطاقة بالاستيراد من الخارج سيكلف خزينة الدولة حوالي 1.7 تريليون ل.س بالقطع الأجنبي وسيكون تأمين هذا المبلغ من أهم وأصعب التحديات التي ستواجه أصحاب القرار وقد يستنزف أهم موارد سورية المالية، مما يبطئ معدلات الناتج القومي

Many argue that Syria is fine since it has low debt, but simply to upgrade the electric grid will cost the country $28 billion. This is more than 50% of GDP. Its like saying that the American economy needs $7 trillion to upgrade its electricity. Syria has low debt but that is largely because it has resisted making improvements to its antiquated infrastructure. Syria needs a massive modernization campaign.

Until the Tunisia conference Hytham Mannaa was against SNC. He’s with the NCC. Walid Bunni left the SNC. Those division seem to be on the mend.

Read Juan Cole’s Hizbullah Leader Condemns Syrian Opposition

Republicans Decry Obama Israel Policy in Bid for Jewish Vote

Gingrich called for the overthrow of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying the U.S. should push for regime change in Iran and Syria. He vowed to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a sensitive topic in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. And, if elected, he promised to appoint John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, as secretary of state, prompting wild applause from the standing-room-only audience.

National Coordination Body for Democratic Change has produced a draft document of proposals for the creation of the Syrian General Congress. The NCB delegation is currently in Cairo working with the Arab League to unify the ranks of the Syrian opposition.

The draft proposals present a critical opportunity to put an end to the multiple and various voices of the democratic opposition, to build a core foundation for the struggle to overthrow the regime with all the supporting infrastructure, and a program for transition and the building of the pluralist democracy based on citizenship, law and respect for the rights of persons and groups, and to ensure the preservation of fundamental freedoms, social justice and territorial integrity within the homeland of Syria, which is part of the Arab world.

The National Coordination Body for Democratic Change refuses the call for external military intervention, and will not accept the participation of any person involved in economic or political crimes. Participants in this conference should agree to reject and resist any form of sectarianism or the mobilization of sectarian violence, militarism and exclusion. The conference is presented as the basis upon which to unite the efforts of the opposition forces and figures across a broad base upon the principles of consensus and democracy.

The National Coordination Body for Democratic Change proposes that the Preparatory Committee will include members of the SNC, NBC, Kurdish representatives, trades unions and public figures.


How Turkish perceive women and religion: a revealing survey of modern Turkey.

“The findings of a 2011 survey by a team of academics from Istanbul’s Bahçesehir University revealed hints about the related Turkish mental paradigm: 33 percent of Turks think women deserve to be beaten; 60 percent (both male and female) think women should obey men and surprise, surprise, 81 percent identify themselves as religiously devout. A separate study in 2010 had found that 25 percent of Turks think it would amount to sinning if women and men worked in the same office.”

In Syria, Expelling the Peacemakers
By STEPHANIE SALDAÑA, Op-Ed Contributor, Published: December 8, 2011, New York Times

SEVEN years ago, I stood in the chapel of a monastery in the Syrian desert and stared up at a wall of frescoes from the 13th century.

Nearby, a burly man in a gray habit was explaining the paintings to a family visiting from a neighboring village. “That’s Mariam, may peace be upon her,” he said, pointing up. He moved his hand toward the bearded portrait of a man. “And that’s Ibrahim al-Khalil, may peace be upon him.”

Though it may seem like a mundane story, it was anything but ordinary. The visitors, who had climbed a flight of some 350 stairs to arrive there, were Muslims. The man describing the frescoes to them was Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, an Italian Jesuit priest who was speaking to them in the local Arabic dialect.

The frescoes he was pointing to were Christian, but he was identifying the figures using their Arabic names from the Koran. It was a remarkable moment, and the message it contained was simple: Despite their differences, Muslims and Christians believe in the same God.

Last week, the Syrian government issued an order that after 30 years in the country, Father Dall’Oglio would be expelled.

Father Dall’Oglio founded the community of Deir Mar Musa in 1982, at the height of the Lebanese Civil War. He had hiked out into the desert in search of a ruined Byzantine monastery. After spending 10 days praying in the rubble, he was inspired to rebuild the monastery and to found a community of monks and nuns dedicated to prayer, silence and hospitality. The Syrian monastery, situated between Iraq, Lebanon, Israel and the West Bank, would symbolize peace. The community would welcome each Muslim visitor as a sacred guest, just as Abraham, in both the Bible and the Koran, had welcomed the angels of God. ….The devastating fate of the Christians in Iraq has already served as a warning. Father Dall’Oglio’s expulsion, if it is carried out as planned, will send a clear message to all of them — that the regime’s support of Christians is not unconditional. Those who dare mention the oppression of the Assad regime or who advocate for a dialogue to change the country will be deemed members of the opposition.

This puts local Christians in a bind. To seek change may put their community at risk. Yet to remain silent in the face of injustice will surely reduce Christianity to an identity, a sect, and not a living faith seeking to follow the message of the gospels. It will also strain a relationship between Muslims and Christians in Syria that has existed for over a thousand years. ….

Syria Added to Higher-Risk Shipping Zones By Marine Insurers

Raising the stakes: Russian military support for Syria, By James M. Dorsey

Russia is stepping up military support for Syria; reinforcing its opposition to international efforts to force President Bashar al-Assad to halt his eight-month-old crackdown on anti-government protesters. In so doing, Russia is turning the Syrian crisis into an international test of wills….

CFR.org: Assad’s Revelations, 2011-12-08

Jerusalem Post: Analysis: Word of caution on Assad’s fall, 2011-12-13

Defense Minister Ehud Barak was reported this week as predicting that the regime of Bashar Assad would fall within weeks. Certainly things are not going well for the Assad family dictatorship. The bloodletting continues as the Free Syrian Army and …

Pro-regime Aleppo Industrialist has Factory Burned Down an Aleppine writes:


المؤشرات تؤكد أنه بفعل فاعل ومخطط بعناية لهُ

حريق ثانٍ في معامل ( علبي تكس)..الخسائر مليار و 500 مليون ليرة..ولقمة مئات العمال, 13/12/2011 – syriasteps

 حلب- خاص– سيرياستيبس:

 شب صباح اليوم حريق ثانٍ في معمل ( علبي تكس) بعد أقل من أسبوع على الحريق الذي طال صالة النسيج ( البرادي).

ويبدو أن الحريق الجديد بفعل فاعل ومخطط له وبما يؤكد أيضاً أن الحريق الأول أيضاً مفتعل .   هذا وساد مدينة حلب جو من الاستنكار والحزن , إذ أن معامل ( علبي تكس) تشغّل آلاف الموظفين وتتمتع عائلة علبي بسمعة طيبة في المدينة, كما أن إنتاجها يغطي عشرات المصانع التي ستتضرر بشكل مباشر من جراء الحريق.


By Steven Beasley, Michael Eisenstadt, and Jeffrey White

Without external intercession, the violence in Syria is likely to escalate, with destabilizing consequences for its neighbors, particularly Lebanon and Iraq…..

Syria Added to Higher-Risk Shipping Zones By Marine Insurers, 2011-12-13

By Michelle Wiese Bockmann

Dec. 13 (Bloomberg) — Marine insurers added Syria to a list of countries deemed higher-risk for shipping, and removed Qatar, the Ivory Coast, and parts of Mindanao, the Philippines.

The Joint War Committee, which represents Lloyd’s of London underwriters and other insurers, listed Syria as a higher risk on a notice to members published Dec. 8. The declaration lets underwriters charge an additional premium based on the value of ships calling in the area.

(CNN) — Pressure is growing for world leaders to respond to Syria’s brutal crackdown on anti-regime protests.

Alawite political figure speaks out against sectarian violence

Amman: A Syrian Alawite centrist political figure said on Tuesday that four of his relatives were shot or kidnapped in sectarian violence threatening to undermine a nine-month pro-democracy uprising.

In a rare named testimony about sectarian killings that have racked the central city of Homs in the last few weeks, Mohammad Saleh told Reuters the four were targeted because they were Alawites, the same sect as President Bashar Al Assad.

“The violence by the regime has provoked counter violence. But a crime is a crime and it has to be condemned,” said Saleh, a former political prisoner, by phone from Homs, a city of one million, 140km north of Damascus.

“I went to jail for a civilised Syria, not to replicate the values of the regime,” said Saleh, who spent 12 years in jail for his opposition to Al Assad’s father, the late president Hafez Al Assad, from whom Bashar inherited power in 2000.

A FORMER senior diplomat yesterday became one of the most senior Syrian regime insiders to openly denounce the government of President Bashar al-Assad, calling on the international community to protect civilians.

Mohammad Bassam Imadi, previously Syria’s ambassador to Sweden, fled to Turkey with his family 10 days ago. He told The Times that many inside the Syrian government secretly wanted Mr Assad to fall.

“People even high up aren’t loyal to the government, but they can’t do anything,” he said. “They are scared for their lives and families. I have so many friends who have said this to me.”

He said their resentment had been driven by the regime’s failure to grant reforms in the early stages of the uprising.

Obama, Arab allies eye no-fly zone that could ‘paralyze’ Syrian military

US says Assad regime in Syria is doomed, urges opposition to prevent sectarian strife,
By MATTHEW LEE, 14 December 2011, Associated Press Newswires

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Obama administration is predicting the downfall of Syrian President Bashar Assad with a senior official likening his authoritarian regime to a “dead man walking” over its brutal crackdown on pro-reform demonstrators and increasing international isolation.

The State Department official, Frederic Hof, told Congress on Wednesday that Assad’s repression may allow him to hang on to power but only for a short time. And, he urged the Syrian opposition to prepare for the day when it takes control of the state in order to prevent chaos and sectarian conflict.

“Our view is that this regime is the equivalent of dead man walking,” said Hof, the State Department’s pointman on Syria, which he said was turning into “Pyongyang in the Levant,” a reference to the North Korean capital. He said it was difficult to determine how much time Assad has left in power but stressed “I do not see this regime surviving.”

The Syria Crisis: Assessing Foreign Intervention
December 15, 2011 | By Scott Stewart, Stratfor

The ongoing unrest, violence and security crackdowns in Syria have been the subject of major international attention since February. Our current assessment is that the government and opposition forces have reached a stalemate in which the government cannot quell the unrest and the opposition cannot bring down the regime without outside intervention…..

US interference in Syria could bring about another Iraq
By Charles Glass, The Evening Standard 15/12/11

The withdrawal of most United States forces from Iraq this week is anything but the end of American military involvement in the Middle East. The latest focus of Washington’s attention is Syria, where the United Nations says 5,000 people have been killed since the uprising erupted in March. Before American (and probably British) soldiers are asked to give their lives in another Arab country, they are entitled to ask important questions. Is Washington attempting to install a democratic government in Damascus? Or is it seizing the opportunity to bring down Iran’s main Arab ally in advance of an American or Israeli attack on Iran?

History has not been kind to Syria’s desire for change
The National 16/12/11, Charles Glass

A dog in Lebanon, an old joke goes, was so hungry, mangy and tired of civil war that he escaped to Syria. To the surprise of the other dogs, he returned a few months later. Seeing him better groomed and fatter than before, they asked whether the Syrians had been good to him. “Very good.” “Did they feed and wash you?” “Yes.” “Then why did you come back?” “I want to bark.” It is impossible not to sympathise with Syrians’ desire to be treated like adults. The Syrian regime is not alone, of course, among Middle East dictatorships in regarding their people as subjects rather than citizens. Under the portrait of the great dictator, little dictators grant some supplicants permits, demand bribes from others and abuse the rest. Syrians can identify with what Italians under Mussolini used to say: “The problem is no

t the big dictator. It is all the little dictators.” Little dictators, though, thrive under the big dictator. But all dictators are at risk from changed international circumstances, a spark (like a self-immolation in Tunisia) or the sudden realisation that the regime is vulnerable. People in Syria have reasons to demand change, as they have in the past. I hope, for their sake, that things turn out better this time.

Syrie : l’islam dans la révolution
Par Thomas Pierret

Syrian blogger Razan Ghazzawi’s release came after an international campaign

Comments (507)

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501. Khalid Tlass said:


Nowhere in SC have I ever attacked the Druze. My attacks have mainly been concentrated on the Alaiws, Shias and a few racist Islamophobic Christians.

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December 23rd, 2011, 5:14 pm


502. Juergen said:

I just got off the phone with a friend from Damascus. He said that Damascus is filled now with villagers, they feel unsafe in the villages and keep coming to the city to seek shelter.
He said prices are getting high now as well.

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December 23rd, 2011, 5:15 pm


503. Khalid Tlass said:


Kuffar is not a dirty word, nor even a swear word. It means someone who don’t believe like we do. get over it.

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December 23rd, 2011, 5:21 pm


504. habib said:

“Unbeliever” is not a negative word? Hahaha!

And about the timing of the bombings, is it a coincidence it came just after the anti-Shia bombings in Iraq?

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December 23rd, 2011, 8:32 pm


505. Juergen said:

I dont believe that there is such a thing as an syrian Al Quaida, why havent we heard from them before? Given the nature of this security apparatus i can not imagine that this regime would nuture something like that inmidst syrian society. If for one sec i would believe it, then the consequence would be that bascharboy should worry about his sleep now. If they could enter this highly secured area, then Melke is not much safer. Its like the overrun of the embassies,no one believed that the state was not capable of stopping those thugs to enter VAE and saudi property, at any given day the area is filled with security and informants. The speed of this regime to declare this crime to be ralated to Al Quaida is crazy, not even the US did that after 9/11. You may all proove me wrong, i think this was the worst attack and the first suicide attack on syrian soil. I remember that there was a bomb near the airport almost 2 years ago, people got killed and i never heard anything again why and what happend. I heard that this too was heard throughout Damascus as well.

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December 23rd, 2011, 11:40 pm


506. Syrialover said:

The Arab League is a tragic joke and insult to every normal decent human being in the Arab world – nothing but a stale junkyard of elderly cronies of dictators.

Its appointment of a dumb thug Sudanese “General” to strut into Syria was a lazy, inept and very stupid decision. How can he judge Assad for doing what he and his fellow war criminals back home in Sudan regard as normal?

Read: http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/12/27/syrian-activists-alarmed-by-sudanese-general-heading-arab-league-peace-mission/

The leadership and secretariat of the AL clearly saw the job to be done in Syria as so low status and meaningless it could be shoved onto a black African they personally look down on.

The AL is shaming and betraying the Arab world the same way as Mubarak, Ben Ali, Gaddafi, Saleh and Assad have done.

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December 27th, 2011, 11:24 pm


507. Syria's protesters are on their own | Brian Whitaker - ScrollPost.com said:

[…] is in deepening financial trouble and its authority is crumbling. As Syria watcher Joshua Landis noted on his blog:“What we are witnessing … is not the clash of two titanic and centralised […]

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January 9th, 2012, 9:21 am


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