Opposition Parties Fight in Cairo; Feltman Claims Sanctions Effective and Assad’s Days Numbered, Eyes on Turkey
Posted by Joshua on Thursday, November 10th, 2011
Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing Daniel Glaser has been travelling to Russia, Lebanon and Jordan. Lebanese banks are being asked not to open any accounts in Lebanon to any Syrian even in euro…without Lebanese residency. Syrian troops have been withdrawing from Homs after a bloody confrontation with protesters there who have been demanding regime change and freedom. Over 100 people have been killed in Homs over the last week.
Associate Press November 9, 2011
The National Coordinating Body for Democratic Change (sometimes called the National Coordinating Committee) and other individuals had planned to meet today with the Arab League in Cairo about how to take the process forward for regime change in Syria, but they were prevented by other oppositionists who used violence to stop the meeting taking place. Haytham Manna is the co-ordinator for the executive committee of the National Coordinating Body in Exile, and he was injured during the scuffle that took place. The NCB representatives were also pelted with eggs.
It is of great concern that violence would be used by one opposition group against another. It is widely expected that the violence came from supporters of the Syrian National Council, who have been encouraged by the assertive and sometimes aggressive behaviour of their leadership to see the SNC as being the only viable opposition, and their numerous requests to Governments that the SNC be officially recognised as the official transitional council, however their assertion that they have the overwhelming support of the Syrian people is ill-founded, as the National Coordinating Body attracts broad support from a diverse range of political groups and individuals inside Syria….
Burhan Ghalioun had decried the attack on Haytham Manna and Michel Kilo by members of the Syrian National Council in Cairo. He writes that a “Council that doesn’t respect the freedom of opinion and rights of others does not represent us [Syrians].”
US Officials Say Sanctions Against Syria Effective, 2011-11-09 , By DONNA CASSATA
Washington (AP) — Obama administration officials say Syrian President Bashar Assad’s days are numbered as economic sanctions and Arab League opposition have undermined the regime.
Jeffrey Feltman, an assistant secretary of state, and Luke Bronin, an official with the Treasury Department, told a Senate panel on Wednesday that sanctions by the United States and European Union have squeezed an already troubled Syrian economy. Separately, an increasing number of Arabs want Assad to go because he is destroying Syria….
U.S. Trying to Form Regional ‘Contact Group’ on Syria, November 09, 2011
By David Lerman
Nov. 9 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. is working to form a regional “contact group” to help resolve the crisis in Syria, a top State Department official told Congress today.
“We’re running with this idea,” said Jeffrey Feltman, assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian affairs.
Democratic Senator Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, the subcommittee chairman, proposed creating a “Friends of the Syrian People” contact group last month. He said today the group would serve “as a main point of international engagement for the democratic opposition and the Syrian people.”
Feltman said the State Department supports the idea. “We’re talking to others about it,” he said. “We’d like to try to get the Arabs themselves to play a leadership role in this.”
He said the issue may be raised at a meeting of the Arab League on Nov. 12. “Now is the time for the Arab League to really take some action,” he said.
Casey said his panel was exploring whether U.S. sanctions against Syria might be expanded to increase pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to step aside.
Luke Bronin, deputy assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes at the Treasury Department, said the impact of international sanctions against Syria have been “profound,” mostly because of European sanctions against the Syrian oil industry.
Aussama Mounajed on The World – NPR – Syrian Opposition Urges International Protection
Analysis: Syrian attack on rebel city mocks Arab peace plan
Alistair Lyon, LONDON | Tue Nov 8, 2011
(Reuters) – Syria’s assault on the recalcitrant city of Homs has shredded an Arab peace plan and exposed the failure of world outrage to force President Bashar al-Assad to halt a violent crackdown on an eight-month popular uprising.
Tanks and snipers have battled to cow protesters and hunt army defectors in Homs, killing more than 100, activists say, since the Arab League said on November 2 that Damascus had accepted a plan to pull the army out of cities and talk to its foes.
“The Arab peace plan died on arrival,” said Murhaf Jouejati, a Syrian-born scholar in Washington. “There has been no let-up in the violence. The Assad regime is in complete defiance mode.”
Arab foreign ministers will review the plan on Saturday, but Syrian opponents of Assad show no surprise at its fate.
“I don’t think anyone in his right mind was expecting Assad to pull his troops out of the streets and allow peaceful protests,” Walid al-Bunni, a lawyer and often-jailed dissident who left Syria for Paris two weeks ago, told Reuters….
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Syria’s behavior after the Arab peace plan was “absolutely unacceptable” and that it “could no longer be trusted.
But, like his British counterpart William Hague who deplored Syria’s policy, he offered no blueprint for action.
The West has urged Assad’s foes to form a united, coherent front, but Chatham House’s Shehadi said this was absurd, given the diversity of opinion lurking beneath years of repression.
“This is not really an opposition, this is the whole of Syrian society,” he said.
Without decisive outside moves or the growth of a more powerful insurgency at home, Assad could survive for years, said Joshua Landis, a Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma
“Today, the opposition remains weak and the Syrian military has the upper hand. That could change if the opposition begins to construct a real insurgency, if Turkey goes to war against Syria by supporting some sort of insurgency, or if a foreign intervention is launched, such as happened in Libya,” he said.
“None of these possibilities is on the horizon,” Landis added, arguing that small guerrilla groups might begin to proliferate and harass the Syrian military and state.
“If they gain traction, foreign funding and arms, they could transform into a real insurgency over time.”
Ankara weighs options in Syria stalemate
06 November 2011, Sunday / NOAH BLASER , İSTANBUL – Zaman
In the wake of last week’s failed bid by the Arab League to halt violence in Syria, Turkey now more than ever may be pressured into creating a humanitarian “buffer zone” in Syria, a form of intervention which regional experts say carries unknown consequences. “Some form of intervention in Syria will be considered seriously if events worsen and international action is absent.” Middle East expert Oytun Orhan told Sunday’s Zaman on Friday…..
According to Syria expert Landis, however, such potential escalations are exactly why Ankara must review intervention in Syria against the possibility of further engagement. “Once you go down that road, you’re going to war against Syria, and you’ve got to be prepared to finish the job,” he told Today’s Zaman in an interview on Thursday.
Talk of intervention also raises the question of how long Turkey might be willing to sustain a humanitarian intervention in Syria, and Landis believes that any mission would be up against a regime well prepared for extended conflict. “It is becoming increasingly clear to the West that Assad remains strong on the ground, his military has remained faithful, and he retains an important degree of support from a not inconsiderable segment of the Syrian people,” Landis told Sunday’s Zaman…..
US-Turkish Security Cooperation Deepens – Jamestown Org.
Turkey-US security cooperation has remarkably increased recently. The most visible indication for this policy shift came with Ankara’s decision to host the NATO early warning radars on its soil (EDM, September 20). Later, the United States committed to Turkey’s fight against the PKK, by agreeing to the basing of US unmanned Predator drones at Incirlik base to supply Turkey with actionable intelligence. Moreover, an interagency delegation led by US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Alexander Vershbow, to discuss how to improve the joint struggle against the PKK was another major development (Anadolu Ajansi, October 28).
Furthermore, Washington finally decided to sell three Super Cobra helicopters to Turkey, which Turkey had requested for some time in order to use against the PKK (www.ntvmsnbc.com, October 30). The fact that the sale is unlikely to encounter opposition from the Senate, despite many lawmakers’ discomfort with Turkey’s harsh policy on Israel, has underscored how largely the administration’s views on Turkey is shared in the US policy community.
It was against this background that Turkey’s Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz, while attending the American-Turkish Council’s annual conference in Washington, argued that Turkey and the US are rediscovering each other and are going through a unique period (Anadolu Ajansi, November 2).
Hivos – The Syrian Uprising and the Power of Stories – Newsletter Civil Society in West Asia-Issue 4
A Friend Writes:
Homs has seen killing based on ID cards and sect as has been reported. What makes homs different than lattakia and other places where sunnis and alawis live together is that in homs the sunni population is totally in unison. There are no income differences. The poor and wealthy sunnis of homs are all united.
I think it is more related to the profit and loss calculations …. in Lattakia the Sunnis are half … in Homs they are 80%, so they feel more powerful in Homs.
A Sunni Homsi friend replied:
Not true. Many in Homs don’t want to unite on rising against the regime. They don’t like the regime, true, but they don’t like the resistance either. The Sunni are now more afraid from the religious thugs than the regime. A person in Homs today is afraid to say no to the thugs roaming the streets.
In Lattakia they are surrounded with HEAVILY armed Alawite populations… You need to be totally delusional if you wanted to overpower the Alawites in Latakia.
Berlin – Syria’s top Sunni Muslim cleric has told a German magazine that the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, dreams of implementing reforms, stepping down and going back to being an eye doctor.
‘I am convinced that he will introduce reforms gradually and permit fair and free elections with independent parties,’ Sheikh Ahmed Badereddine Hassoun, the grand mufti and most senior Sunni Islam figure in Syria, told Der Spiegel.
‘Then, after a peaceful transition, he may be ready to hang up his hat. He is not president for life,’ he added. ‘The former eye doctor Bashar al-Assad wants to return to his old profession. I could well imagine this. He has several times told me of his dream to be in charge of an eye clinic’.
The magazine said its reporter interviewed the cleric in Arabic last week at his home in the Syrian city of Aleppo. The interview appeared in German in the print version of the magazine which went on sale Monday.
Letter from Europe: NATO’s Noble Words Go for Naught
A friend writes: “got a call from pro guy who is so upset with what Hassoun said. He is fuming over how Hassoun can say Bashar will leave and become eye doctor? who will fight for him if he is going to quit down the line.”
Another friend writes:
I HAVE NO IDEA WHY I BOTHERED TO READ THIS SANA ARTICLE. PERHAPS ITS MY INTEREST IN REAL ESTATE AND TANZEEM. THIS SIMPLE EXAMPLE SHOWS HOW TOTALLY BROKEN THE SYSTEM IS. HOW DO YOU FIX AND REFORM INCOMPTENCE AND FAILURE LIKE THIS? THINK OF HOW MANY YOUNG PEOLPLE HAVE GOTTEN ANGRY AND FRUSTRATED. THIS STORY OF 42,000 IS JUST IN THE LATTAKIA DISTRICT. JUST THINK OF ALEPPO, DAMSCUS, HOMS. THE FAILURE OF THIS SYSTEM IS MONUMENTAL. I SEE ZERO CHANCE OF ANY PROGRESS. BIG FAT ZERO. I have talked about the lack of tanzeem for a long time. It has caused real estate prices to stay very high and has made it very hard for new housing units to be supplied. Even a government agency entrusted with supplying youth housing is stuck and cannot do a thing. Cna you imagine the provate sector then? In lattakia, 8000 people signed up . So far only 327 were delivered. 600 are “to be delivered”. The whole task is to house 42,000 people. Back in 2002, 3220 people signed up and were supposed to take delivery in 10 years (next year). in 2004, 2716 more signed up and were also promised delivery by 2014. What is the problem? The government agency “almouassa al aama lil iskan” that is in charge is yet to secure the land for the project. Their first step was to do “istimlak” in 2007. Four years later, everything is frozen. Not only this but the promised prices for those who signed are now higher. Why? Because the “istimlak” that they did in lattakia turned out to cost more than they thought and they therefore had to compensate their original owners by more than thought. given the rising costs, the “mouassase” opted to borrow from the government general budget without interest so that they can open roads, bring electricity and sewer system to the project. Why the delay was the question asked to the project manager? He explained how they took orders before securing the land. When some land was secured through istimlak, they were not able to pay the original owners or find them alternative housing. Will they be able to compensate for all the delays and all the other mistakes? The Answer is that a committee was formed (what else?) to “study” how much each should be paid. http://www.sana.sy/ara/348/2011/11/08/380458.htm
The Financial Times
Money has been streaming out of Syria as fears for the unstable economy lead Syrians to seek a safer place for their assets, according to members of the country’s business community.
Cash is being smuggled over the border to Lebanon “every day, every hour,” said one Syrian businessman, while another claimed Syrian money is being stashed in the grey economy that has long existed between the two countries.
In what many see as an example of the cross-border transfer, Syrian state news reported last month that officials had intercepted over $100,000 worth of Syrian pounds being smuggled across the Lebanese border under the seat of a car.
Samir Seifan, a Dubai-based Syrian economist, estimated Syria’s middle and upper classes had moved between three and five billion dollars out of the country since unrest broke out in March, alarmed by pressures on the currency and the dearth of investment opportunities.
“The easiest way to smuggle money out of Syria is into Lebanon,” said Mr Seifan. “There are established channels.”
Reports of the cash exodus highlight the growing financial pressure on President Bashar al-Assad’s Damascus regime, after nearly eight months of bloody confrontations between anti-government protesters and the regime’s brutal security forces.
The loss of foreign currency earnings from the decimation of the tourism industry and an EU embargo on Syrian oil exports have put pressure on the Syrian pound, which has lost 10 per cent of its value against the dollar on the black market since the start of the unrest.
Capital controls introduced by Damascus in August prevent people from buying more than $2,000 a year in Syria without justification. Though locals say dollars can still be bought, with increasing difficulty and risk on the black market, many people are said to be seeking ways around restrictions on transferring money out of the country.
According to one of the Syrian businessman interviewed by the Financial Times, some people exchange Syrian money brought into Lebanon ‘under the table’. “We’re not Europe,” he said wryly.
As quantities appear to be either small or bypassing formal channels, the money does not show up in financial institutions in Lebanon, Syria’s neighbour, which is a crucial link to the wider world. The banking sector, under the watchful eye of the US Treasury, which this year placed sanctions on a Lebanese bank it alleged was laundering drugs money, has increased its customer accountability requirements, and overall deposits of local currency and dollars have gone up by less than they did over the same time period last year.
Lebanon’s usually freewheeling money changers are reluctant to talk about Syrian money, although the owner of one exchange bureau in Beirut said he was currently processing 400-500,000 Syrian pounds a day (roughly $8-10,000), compared with 100-200,000 ($2-4,000) a week before the crisis.
Another man in the bureau warned: “Its more dangerous to talk about this than politics,” an oblique reference to the Syrian security services’ tentacular reach into Lebanon.
Jihad Yazigi, an economic analyst and editor of the newsletter ‘The Syria Report’, said Syrians had “got used to finding ways to get money out of the country,” after years of tough restrictions on capital movement before limited economic reforms began in 2005. He said one trick was to pay someone inside Syria in Syrian pounds, in exchange for a return payment in a foreign currency in a bank overseas.
Observers of the capital flight say it is a steady flow rather than a panicked rush that could bring the Assad regime down in the short term. The Syrian Central Bank governor recently claimed Damascus had $18bn worth of foreign reserves – about 30 per cent of GDP – to keep the pound stable.
But analysts say the real amount of resources with which Mr Assad’s government has to defend the pound – and keep itself alive economically – is unknown because of a lack of transparent accounting. “The truth is that probably no one knows – not even the regime,” said one diplomat in Damascus. Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2011.
US to Work With Arab Spring’s Islamist Parties
2011-11-08 By BRADLEY KLAPPER, Published November 07, 2011
WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared Monday that the Obama administration would work with ascendant Islamist parties of the Muslim world, answering one of the central U.S. policy questions resulting from the Arab Spring.
Delivering an address at the National Democratic Institute, Clinton offered a forthright embrace of the democratic changes enveloping North Africa and the Middle East at a time when the euphoria of the successful revolutions from Egypt to Libya is giving way to the hard and unprecedented work of creating stable democracies.
After decades of partnering dictators throughout the region, her message was that the U.S. would approach the new political landscape with an open mind and the understanding that long-term support for democracy trumps any short-term advantages through alliances with authoritarian regimes.
While she reached out to the religious-rooted parties expected to gain power in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere, she said nothing about changing U.S. policies toward Hezbollah and Hamas, which have performed well in Lebanese and Palestinian elections but are considered foreign terrorist organizations by the United States.
“For years, dictators told their people they had to accept the autocrats they knew to avoid the extremists they feared,” Clinton told an audience that included former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. “Too often, we accepted that narrative ourselves.”
After almost a year of protests and crackdowns, armed rebellion and civil war, the Arab world’s upheaval has left a jumbled mosaic of liberals and Islamists, military rulers and loose coalitions of reformers. No country appears unalterably on a path toward democratic governance, and for the people of the region and the United States the stakes of long-term instability are high.
U.S. interests, including the security of oil supplies, military relations and Israel’s defense, have forced the Obama administration to engage in flexible diplomacy, with different messages for different countries.
The one-size-does-not-fit-all approach has meant U.S. support for an imperfect military stewardship over Egypt ahead of elections for a new parliament and president, and largely overlooking ally Bahrain’s rough response to protests earlier this year. Washington helped a military effort that ultimately deposed Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi. It also demanded that leaders in Syria and Yemen leave power, without any real means to make them do so.
“There will be times when not all of our interests align,” Clinton said. “That is just reality.”
Still, she moved to counter an increasingly common criticism from Republicans, including among presidential hopefuls, that the Obama administration’s boisterous support for the Arab Spring has foolishly opened the door to Islamist takeovers of once secular governments. Clinton took a hardline, deriding the suggestion that faithful Muslims cannot thrive in a democracy as “insulting, dangerous and wrong.” She said the United States would work with any individuals and parties willing to uphold fundamental values.
Religious and secular parties alike “must reject violence. They must abide by the rule of law and respect the freedoms of speech, religion, association and assembly. They must respect the rights of women and minorities,” Clinton said. “They must let go of power if defeated at the polls.”
“In other words,” Clinton added, “what parties call themselves is less important to us than what they actually do.”
To underline her point, she welcomed the Islamist party Ennahda’s strong showing in “an open, competitive election” in Tunisia last month, and said America will work with the party’s leaders as they join secular groups in writing a new constitution and governing.
Tunisia, however, holds little strategic value for the U.S. The story is different with Egypt, a bulwark of American influence in the Middle East under Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule.
U.S. officials have watched warily in recent months amid souring Egyptian-Israeli relations, violence against minority Copts and renewed popular frustration with a military leadership determined to maintain its grip on the future of the country, if not its governance. Since Mubarak’s February ouster, Clinton has gone out of her way to describe Egypt’s ruling military council as “an institution of stability and continuity,” even as the U.S. has been frustrated by the council’s slow pace of democratic reforms and continuation of the emergency laws that were a mainstay of abuse during the Mubarak era.
She took a tougher approach Monday, saying real power needed to be transferred in Egypt. “If, over time, the most powerful political force in Egypt remains a roomful of unelected officials, they will have planted the seeds for future unrest,” Clinton said. “Egyptians will have missed a historic opportunity.”
By JUDY DEMPSEY
(International Herald Tribune) — BERLIN
People in the region have been encouraged by NATO’s involvement in Libya. Sections of the Syrian opposition have called for some kind of international intervention to stop the killing of protesters by President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces, which continues despite mediation efforts by the Arab League.
Mr. Assad has warned against any intervention. “Syria is the hub now in this region. It is the fault line, and if you play with the ground, you will cause an earthquake that would burn the whole region,” he told The Sunday Telegraph, a British newspaper. Colonel Qaddafi had made similar declarations about any outside intervention. That did not stop the United Nations from giving the green light for the NATO mission.Yet Mr. Rasmussen’s noble words about principles and power are unlikely to be translated into NATO action in Syria or, for that matter, taking on other new missions in the near future.
“The main reason is the profound change taking place in the United States with regard to defense spending and foreign policy priorities,” said Nora Bensahel, deputy director of studies at the Center for a New American Security, a research group in Washington. The U.S. defense budget will be reduced by more than $450 billion over the next 10 years, amounting to nearly 10 percent of current expenditure, according to the Pentagon. If deeper cuts were made, Dr. Bensahel said, they “could undermine the ability of the U.S. to protect its vital interests worldwide, engage key allies and modernize after a decade of grueling ground wars.” Last year’s defense budget amounted to $553 billion, according to the Pentagon. The United States’ foreign policy shift from Europe to Asia also means that if and when NATO next chooses to intervene on Mr.Rasmussen’s terms, there is no guarantee that Washington will be enthusiastic to play a leading part. The Libyan campaign was the first test of how far the United
States could depend on its European allies to lead a mission.
Summing up the experience, Mr. Rasmussen said the Europeans lacked reconnaissance, intelligence and heavy airlift equipment. The United States filled those gaps. But analysts warn that the United States will not be willing to do so indefinitely, given its financial straits.
Damascus’s upper class clings to its privileged illusions
Jasmine Roman, Nov 7, 2011
As one example, poor people have started to feel the scarcity of heating diesel; they have to register their names at the general distribution company, known as SADCOP, which cannot meet requirements. Yet wealthy people can always pay double the price and a bribe to get their diesel. High fuel prices were one of the core demands that had been submitted to President Bashar Al Assad at the very beginning of the unrest.
“The government is punishing its people and trying to tell them that you either support us entirely or you’ll be smashed and die of hunger,” a government engineer said recently.
It is a complex scene and growing more so. Sanctions will unquestionably damage the economy. But it is the businessman and prominent figures in the regime who are best insulated against the short term, and it will be mainstream low-income Syrians who will be affected first…. poor people have started to feel the scarcity of heating diesel; they have to register their names at the general distribution company, known as SADCOP, which cannot meet requirements. Yet wealthy people can always pay double the price and a bribe to get their diesel. High fuel prices were one of the core demands that had been submitted to President Bashar Al Assad at the very beginning of the unrest…