“Protesters Want Changes to Syria’s Power Structure,” Landis on NPR

Protesters Want Changes To Syria’s Power Structure : NPR – Listen to 5 minute clip

The Assad family, which has ruled Syria for the last 40 years, belongs to the Alawite religious sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam. It includes only 12 percent of the country’s population. Syria expert Joshua Landis talks to Steve Inskeep about how the family has maintained its power.

5 minute clip – click here



It’s MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Steve Inskeep, good morning.

The secretary-general of the United Nations wants an investigation of Syria. Ban Ki-moon is asking why the government used tanks and live ammunition against civilians.

It is hard to get answers out of Syria right now. The country is largely closed to Western reporters. We do know that there have been protests in some cities. And we also know something of the Syrian power structure. The Assad family has controlled Syria for decades. They belong to the Alawite religious sect, an offshoot of Shiia Islam.

Professor JOSHUA LANDIS (Director, Center for Middle East Studies, University of Oklahoma): What you have today in Syria as an odd political structure, where the hell Alawites dominate the presidency, the security forces, the intelligence units, and they’re only 12 percent of the population.

INSKEEP: Syria expert Joshua Landis lived in the country in the past, and explains how the inside family has maintained its rule.

Prof. LANDIS: It is based on the family links and sectarian links. Syria spent almost 20 years as – you know, some people call it a banana republic – but it was extremely unstable. There were coups during the ’50s and ’60s all the time. The Assad’s figured out a way to stabilize Syria and that was by using traditional loyalties. These people at the top, they believe that there’s going to be civil war if they’re overthrown. They believe that they are the secular leadership.

Now, the opposition denies all this and says this is complete bunkum. Syria has split into two parts today and they’re not talking to each other. They both, in a sense, live in different worlds and they see Syria with different realities. And that’s the problem, is there is extremely – Syria is very split.

INSKEEP: The split being the people who are in charge, the Alawite sect and the people around Assad, and everybody else.

Prof. LANDIS: Well, there’s a lot of Sunnis. The Sunni upper classes, although they are critical of the regime – they see its faults – they’re clinging to it because they fear civil war. They fear Iraq. And many people in Syria see Iraq as a model for what may become of Syria, because the opposition does not have a leadership.

The great strength of the opposition is that it does not have a leadership, because the regime has not been able to arrest the people or find them. This is a movement led by young activists who are in their 20’s and early 30s, who are not centralized and who come from every different walk of life in Syria.

That strength, though, is going to become a real weakness if the regime becomes destabilized.

INSKEEP: We have mainly heard, in recent days and weeks, about protests in the southern city of Daraa. There have been rumors or reports of protests in other places but not nearly as large.

Do you have any sense of whether the opposition to Assad is nationwide?

Prof. LANDIS: The opposition is nationwide. Syrians have lived under this regime for 40 years. They’re fed up with the corruption. They’re fed up with the lack of freedoms. They want change. Many do not want to overthrow the system. They want to work through the reforms.

We have seen, in Damascus and Aleppo, the two major cities of Syria, people have not come out on the streets in big numbers. Demonstrations have started in the suburbs of the cities, the poorer suburbs, but they have not reached the center of the cities. That has to happen for this movement to really overthrow the regime.

INSKEEP: Why hasn’t it happened?

Mr. LANDIS: Because they’re frightened. The sort of middle-class, the stolid, conservative middle-class and upper middle classes, don’t want the civil war.

INSKEEP: It’s interesting when you say that people are frightened, you didn’t say that they were frightened first of Assad and his security forces, although I’m sure the people are. But that their greatest fear was what comes after Assad.

Mr. LANDIS: Yes. I mean there are a million Iraqi refugees in Syria. Three hundred thousand of them are Christians. Ten percent of Syria, six to 10 percent of Syria is Christian. The Christians have worked themselves into a lather of anxiety about the prospect of being ethnically cleansed if the state collapses. They’re clinging to this regime. Other minorities are doing the same.

This, increasingly as it moves on, although the slogans of the opposition are: unity, freedom, democracy, there is a boiling sectarian tension underneath it that has people very frightened.

INSKEEP: Joshua Landis lived for years in Syria. He is director of the University of Oklahoma’s Center for Middle East Studies.

Thanks very much.

Prof. LANDIS: It’s a pleasure.

Comments (61)

Akbar Palace said:

Professor Josh,

Did you mention my name in your interview?

Also, hopefully, you provided a disclaimer to NPR, stating that you have been an Assad supporter for years and that you support Hezbollah’s “jihad” against Israel.

BTW, when will they defund that government-subsidized crock called NPR?

April 27th, 2011, 1:42 pm



عاجل : الشبيحة والأمن يهاجمون اللاذقية

According to http://www.youkal.net regime security services are storming some parts of the city of Latakia at this moment.

April 27th, 2011, 1:51 pm


ziadsoury said:

Look at what aljazeera also doing.

Now they are peddling the same exact lines as Qadafi.

It is all about IQ.

April 27th, 2011, 3:01 pm


Ayman said:

If find it odd that NPR chose to present the analysis of a man who functions as a mouthpiece of the Syrian Baathist dictatorship.

April 27th, 2011, 3:10 pm


Solitarius said:


I find it odd that you find it odd that eventually some media outlet wants to try to listen to perhaps a different version. The local Syrian version deserves to be heard and is vastly different and more credible, at least in principle, than the version of outsiders who have no idea what is really happening.

This is a testimony of an unnamed citizen of Daraa. I suppose it has the same credibility as the unnamed “witnesses” that Aljazeera uses, thus that warrants the same kind of attention:

مرحباً جميعاً.

جميعكم يعلم أني من درعا وجميعكم يعلم مدى حبي وانتمائي لبلدي حالي حال كل سوري.

أشكر لكم جميعكم تعاطفكم ووقوفكم إلى جانب أهل درعا ولربما حال لسانكم جميعاً يقول “هذا واجبنا تجاه أهلنا” ولكننننننن:

أنا أكتب لكم هذه الرسالة ولم يمض على وصولي من درعا نصف ساعة, أتيت ودمي يغلي ويفور وأريد أن أنقل “حقائق من درعا”

– كلنا موافق على أن خروج أهل درعا في البداية كان طلباً للإصلاحات بعد أن ضاقوا ذرعاً من ظلم المحافظ و”أعوانه ” -وأنا عشت ذلك جيداً – الذي أبا إلا أن يمارس ظلمه إلى آخر رمق متسبباً باستشهاد العشرات من

شباب درعا في محولة للحفاظ على المنصب.

– رفع أهل درعا مجموعة من المطالب ردت عليها الحكومة بإصلاحات نعلم جميعنا أنها خيالية ولكن المظاهرات استمرت.

– دعي أهل درعا إلى انتقاء من يمثلهم من وجاهات المحافظة وكبار عائلاتها ليذهبوا لمقابلة السيد الرئيس وفعلاً تم اللقاء واستمر لأكثر من ثلاث ساعات خرج بعدها أعضاء الوفد سعيدين وراضين جداً حتى أن الشيخ الصياصنة صرّح “والله, والله أن السيد الرئيس أكرمنا أكثر مما طلبنا”

وكمثال صغير على هذه المطالب هو إزالة الحواجز الأمنية والعسكرية من الطريق في مداخل درعا, وعاد أعضاء الوفد إلى درعا في نفس اليوم ولم يعترضهم حاجز!!!!

– هدأت درعا في الجمعة التي تلت اللقاء لكن الحال لم يكن كذلك في الجمعة التي تلتها وتفاجأنا بارتفاع سقف المطالب إلى “إسقاط النظام” دون مبرر, وجاء الرد من أعضاء الوفد “بأننا ما عاد مُنّا على حدا”.

– سأعود بكم قليلاً إلى الخلف إلى حادثة الصنمين في الأسبوع الثاني من المظاهرات حيث استشهد العديد من الشباب هناك ولكن السؤال: أين استشهدوا؟؟؟؟

بعد محاولة من “الزعران” -كما وصفهم أحد أهالي الصنمين- لاقتحام مركز تسليح الجيش الشعبي (للحصول على السلاح طبعاً) هاجموا بالحجارة مقراً مجاوراً للأمن العسكري وكسروا مدخل المقر مستعينين بعامود خشبي وفي نفس الوقت كان بعضهم يحاول تسلق السور.

إن كان أحدنا يقبل أن يحاول أحد ما اقتحام منزله بنفس الطريقة دون أن يحاول منعه بالقوة بإمكانه أن يرفض إطلاق النار من قبل رجال الأمن. وهذا برأيي ما يفسر هدوء الصنمين بعد هذه الحادثة.

– تلت هذه الحادثة مهرجانات خطابية تأبيناً للشهداء أحياها الشيخ “الأمير” فلان والشيخ الأمير علتان.

– أنا أعيش في قرية صغيرة لم تشهد أي مظاهرات ولكني فوجئت عندما ذهبت يوم الجمعة بأن هناك من يتظاهر وعندما سألت عن الموضوع وردتني ممن يتظاهر عدة أجوبة وهي بترتيب تصاعدي لمنطقيتها:

1- ما بعرف.

2- هيك.

3- لأنو هيك صار بتونس وبمصر…. إلخ.

4- أخي رياح تغيير وجاي على المنطقة خلينا نتظاهر.

5- والله تبهدلنا بين القرى كلهم طلعوا مو حلوة نضل ساكتين بعدين صايرين عم يسمعونا حكي عالطالعة وعالنازلة إنا نسوان !!!!

– يوم الجمعة هجمت مجموعات مسلحة على الجيش في نوى وفي إزرع وتم قتل الجنود في نوى على الهويات و أثناء التشييع في إزرع يوم السبت هجم عدد من المشيعين على الجنود المكلفين بحماية المشيعين محاولين نزع سلاحهم بالقوة فاضطر الجيش للرد. والكلام منقول عن أهالي المناطق المذكورة ممن زارونا في العيد يوم الأحد.

– من الهتافات: “إسلام ومسيحية ما بدنا علوية” (هتاف يدل على اللاطائفية)

“علوية بالتابوت ومسيحية على بيروت” (دليل آخر على اللاطائفية)

– يوم الأثنين هجمت مجموعة مسلحة على المشفى العسكري بالصنمين (كان عمي بالصنمين) واقتحام مدرسة البنات من قبل مجموعة من الزعران مرغمين آذن المدرسة والمدير إنزال الصور والشعارات لحرقها (سلميّة!!!!).

– المظاهرات في أغلبها مأجورة حتى أن أحد الممولين في الصنمين فر بالمال دون أن يحاسب الشباب عن ثلاثة أيام جمعة فاتت ويشهد باب داره يومياً مظاهرات للمرتزقة تطالب بـ “حقوقها المالية”

– دخول منازل عدد من العائلات في الصنمين لدعوتها إلى التظاهر وعند رفضهم عُرض عليهم المال فرفضوا عندها تم تهديدهم فخرجوا ليعودوا بعد المظاهرة ليجدوا بيوتهم منهوبة!!!!!

– مظاهر للحرية:

شجار بين صاحب محل أحذية وزبون يريد إرجاع حذاء اشتراه لكن صاحب المحل -وهو ابن بلدي- قال بدّل تبديل و ترجيع ما في ومن كلمة لكلمة بيضاربو, بيروح الزبون لعند أهلو بيكون رد الأب “روح جمّع إخوتك وبتروحو

بتجيبو ميّت, عم تفهموا؟؟؟ قانون ما في و دولة تحميه ما في!!!!”

اليوم وأنا قادم من قريتي و بعد طول انتظار أتى مكرو (ليس من مكروات الخط) فصعدنا وجلسنا بانتظار الانطلاق, وبعد لحظات فوجئنا بسائق مكرو (بس من الخط) عم يسب و يشتم وما خلّا و مما قال “بتنزل الركاب عالسيارة تبعي فوراً وإذا ما بتنزلهم بقلبلك سيارتك هون والله و إذا بدك تهرب بقطع عليك الطريق وبحرقلك السيارة هه, ترا قانون ما في و دولة تحميك مافي والله بحرقها”

– الناس في درعا تخرج بالتهديد ياشباب واللي انسحبوا من مجلس الشعب غصباً عنهم وحتى لو مو غصباً عنهم أي شو إلها طعمة استقالتهم هلأ والدورة خالصة بعدين شو صرلهم أربع سنين عم يعملو بالمجلس؟؟؟؟؟!!!!!!!!!

– الجيش مبارح كان عم يناشد المسلحين بدرعا إنو يا شباب سلموا السلاح و عليكم الأمان و ما بتخيل إنو حدا فينا رح يضل عم يتفرج لما يكون حدا عم يقوص عليه. بعدين من أين لكم هواتف الثريا يا أهل


– بصراحة درعا خرجت عن سيطرة الشرفاء من أهلا و صارت بأيد مجموعة من الزعران اللي عم يهددوا أهل درعا قبل غيرهم ودخول الجيش يا جماعة صار بطلب من أهل درعا لأنو صارو الشباب بدون دولة مستقلة وهذا ما لا يقبله سوري.

– أنا يا شباب كنت سعيد وفخور جداً يما قام به أهلي في البداية لأنهم سرعوا عجلة الإصلاح في البلد بشكل لا يصدق و ساعدوا دعاة الإصلاح في هذا البلد, لكن أن يصل الأمر إلى التمرد على الدولة والمطالبة بدولة مستقلة, هذا ما لا يقبله سوري شريف وما لا يقبله أهل درعا أنفسهم لأننا سوريون ونعتز و نفخر بذلك.

أنا آسف أني تكلمت بهذه الطريقة عن مدينتي ولكن إظهار الحقيقة أمر واجب خصوصاً في ظل الضيااع و التضليل الإعلامي الكبير وأنا أستغرب ممن لا يزالوا يلصقون سمة الحقيقة بالجزيرة فالحقيقة منهم براء وأنا أرى في استقالة العديد من الإعلاميين من قناة الجزيرة -وأولهم غسان بن جدو المعروف بالنسبة إلينا جميعاً بمصداقيته ومهنيته- دليلاً قاطعاً على تورط الجزيرة في الدماء السورية.

من يريد أن يستفسر أكثر فليقابلني شخصياً دون الرد على هذه الرسالة, وأنا أؤكد لكم بأني لم أقل كلمة واحدة دون أن أكون متأكداً فأنا ضد الخطأ ولو كان من يرتكبه أخي وليس ابن مدينتي.

وأطلب منكم عدم نشر هذه الوقائع باسمي كي لا تتسبب لي بالمشاكل.

والسلام عليكم ,إخوتي.

April 27th, 2011, 3:29 pm


Akbar Palace said:

If find it odd that NPR chose to present the analysis of a man who functions as a mouthpiece of the Syrian Baathist dictatorship.


Not odd at all. Typical NPR fare. They love despots and hate democracies. Anyway, they’re in trouble of being one of the first cuts when the budget battles start again.

This may help:


April 27th, 2011, 3:41 pm


why-discuss said:


Excellent insights of the situation on the field.

In the next few days, we’ll see where on which side the balance will move

April 27th, 2011, 3:43 pm


why-discuss said:


Maybe Rami Makhlouf corrupted NPR too.

April 27th, 2011, 3:54 pm


Henry said:

Lately, Landis appears to have really gone off the deep end in terms of his sympathy for the Assad military regime. He suggested in his Blogingheads.tv debate with Ammar Abdulhammid that Syria should consider military options for retaking the Golan. In the midst of this massacre he persists in parroting the talking points of the regime such as the notion that a civil war will erupt of the Assad dictatorship falls. He spreads rumors that dissidents are working with Israelis.

April 27th, 2011, 11:49 pm


Mina said:

It is very convenient that people are focused on Syria and the news have no time to comment on that

I am trying to find the deathtoll for Yemen since the beginning of the protests in January. Anyone? The European media show very little of the Yemen protests, no doubt because the niqab-ed ladies are not sexy enough for them and don’t fit in the “freedom” narrative easily. Same for Bahrain, the media gives a daily account but no cumulative figure, that would include the people killed at the beginning of February. The UNSC had nothing to say about the use of nervegas in Yemen, or I missed it?

In the meantime

It is only the second time Kandahar sees such a jailbreak, in 2008, it was 1000 who fled. Everybody has had a good winter and is ready for the spring fight? Are we so naive to believe it is not staged as a theater play?

April 28th, 2011, 1:18 am


jad said:

The story you linked #5 about Daraa is very realistic description of what’s going on there.

April 28th, 2011, 1:45 am


Souri333 (formerly Souri) said:

The situation in Damascus sounds very different from Aleppo:


In Aleppo, life is just as normal as it can be.

April 28th, 2011, 1:53 am


Mina said:

An interesting description of how corruption works in the West (“fund my university and i’ll train your officers”).

Just like Saudis funding US university professors’s chairs or Libya funding the London School of Economics. The great ultra-liberal model is naked and we can see through it in details !

Anf of course the now famous Blair/KSA deal


April 28th, 2011, 5:14 am


Revlon said:

Members of fourth brigade join Dar3a people and fight against forces of Maher Asad
April 27th
Eyewitness account

April 28th, 2011, 8:33 am


Revlon said:

Eyewitness from old quarter:
Dar3a is completely besieged and has turned into a stage for large scale army mutiny

No food, water, electricity or telecommunication.
He managed to escaped with family
His house was strafed with machineguns and he wasshot in the leg
Army factions fighting each other
Destroyed tanks were seen
Indiscriminate bombing of all houses along highway.
Hospitals occupied by armed forces.
No civilians on the streets

April 28th, 2011, 8:43 am


Revlon said:

قناة الثورة السورية – كلمة مسيحيي درعا
April 26th

April 28th, 2011, 8:57 am


Souri333 (formerly Souri) said:

I think the problem with Joshua Landis’s descriptions is that he is trying to explain a social phenomenon carried out by a social component that he is never been in touch with and he almost knows nothing about.

When Landis was in Syria, he must have interacted with educated people, university students, etc. Even if he had interactions with other segments of the society, these interactions must have been very limited and superficial. I can’t imagine that a radical Sunni Islamist would tell Joshua Landis what they really think on politics.

When I listen to the way Landis talks about the “opposition” as he calls it, I remember Ammar Abdulhamid, Barada TV, and the people who comment on this blog. This is very natural because to Joshua Landis those people are the “opposition.”

For somebody who has been in touch with the social component that is actually demonstrating on the ground (for example, an Alawi, Christian, or secular Sunni Syrian who lives inside Syria), Landis’s description sounds ridiculous. 90% of those who are demonstrating and chanting “freedom” do not even understand what an emergency law is (this is a reality, not an exaggeration). They only know that they want to topple the anti-Islam Alawi regime.

April 28th, 2011, 9:24 am


syau said:

Revlon, #14 & 15,

Coached eyewitnesses on Al Arabia and Aljazeera are not not credible. These news agencies among others have lost their credibility due to their inacurate account of the situation and downright fabrications. This is yet another leap of desparation. The government is there at the request of the Syrian people to quell the violent destabalisation endorsed by your beloved Syrian revolution and murder and mutilation wich is the stamp of the MB. The government and the army will restore peace to Syria.

Anyhow, comment 14 regarding the Fourth Brigade, is ridiculous, but that’s ok, when a movement is about to fail in their attempts to cause chaos, destruction, violence, murder and mutilation, they will become desparate and will try any means possible to be heard. Even making ridiculous comments/coached eyewitness reports.

April 28th, 2011, 9:31 am


Atassi said:

Rasem Atassi:”imprisoned without due process”
A known human rights activist and president of the Syrian Human Rights Organization. He was born to the Atassi family of Homs, a respected family who led the national movement and produced many public figures in Syria and abroad, including three head of states, several ministers and prime-ministers, ambassadors, high ranking army officers, and many educated and outspoken personalities. Mr. Rasem was educated locally, then was admitted to the University of Aleppo were he obtained his bachelor degree. While a student in Aleppo he became active in national movements, especially ones that were concerned with Arab Unity, forming a student organization in 1968 that was called The United Arab Movement. He remained active until 2000 when he took part in founding the Syrian Human Rights Organization, a branch of the Arab mother group. He participated in its first convention that took place that year in Homs, and was elected vice-president. However, Mohammd Raadoon, the president of the organization was shortly detained by the Syrian government, and Atassi replaced him as interim president. In 2006, he was elected as formal full president of the organization. During the years he was active in the field of human rights, participating in conventions both inside and outside Syria. On many occasions he was harassed by the Syrian regime and was prevented from traveling abroad several times to participate in activities that may cause embarrassment to the Human Rights record of the current government. In 2011, Atassi reported on the crack down of the government on peaceful protestors when country-wide demonstrations erupted in Syria to protest corruption and the lack of basic human rights. As an outspoken public figure and an opponent of dictatorship he was detained on April 26th, 2011 and accused of inciting public unrest. He is to appear in front of military tribunal, even though he is a civilian. Such arrest goes against all local and international laws. Atassi was imprisoned without due process. Atassi is married to the daughter of the former head of state, the late General Louay Atassi

April 28th, 2011, 9:35 am



يا اخي حلوا عنا واتركونا بحالنا ولا تسرقوا يوم الجمعة منا ولا تخطفوا الجامع
يوم الجمعة للراحة والجامع للصلاة : اذا عندكم شي روحوا لاي مكان بس اتركوا لنا الجامع لأنه ملينا وقرفنا منكم وكل يوم جمعة نحط ايدنا على قلبنا من قرفكم وفوضاكم
وبصراحة انتم من تحتجون انطلاقا من الجامع لا يشرفنا ان تمثلونا وانتم لا تمثلوناولن تمثلونا واذا كنتم مجاهدين فهاكم مكة والمدينة حرروها فيها ثواب اكبر واجر اعظم
الا هل بلغت اللهم اشهد

April 28th, 2011, 9:36 am


Mina said:

Revlon #14
There must be a mistake in the video, this one is less than a minute long and the guy says that there is no food and water.

April 28th, 2011, 9:40 am




April 28th, 2011, 9:48 am


Aatssi said:

LONDON, April 28 (Reuters) – Crowds camped out in London and foreign dignitaries flew in from around the world for Friday’s wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, a marriage full of pomp and ceremony that has thrust the monarchy to centre stage.

Showing that behind the pageantry lay a serious political event, Britain withdrew Syria’s invitation, saying its crackdown on pro-democracy supporters made it inappropriate that its ambassador should attend

April 28th, 2011, 9:52 am


atassi said:

28 April 2011
The Evening Standard
(c) 2011 Associated Newspapers. All rights reserved

BRITAIN today ordered Syria’s ambassador to stay away from the royal wedding in response to the bloody crackdown in his country.

The Foreign Office told Sami Khiyami that his presence at Westminster Abbey tomorrow would be “unacceptable”.

Foreign Secretary William Hague acted after talks with Buckingham Palace. A Foreign Office spokesman said: “In the light of this week’s attacks against civilians by the Syrian security forces, which we have condemned, the Foreign Secretary has decided that the presence of the Syrian Ambassador at the royal wedding would be unacceptable and that he should not attend.

“Buckingham Palace shares the view of the Foreign Office that it is not considered appropriate for the Syrian ambassador to attend the wedding.”

More than 400 people are said to have been killed as Syrian president Bashar Assad has deployed his army to crush a pro-democracy uprising.

Britain has “utterly” condemned the violent repression and this week summoned Mr Khiyami to the Foreign Office demanding an end to the use of force. News that he was still on the guest list caused outrage but both the Foreign Office and the Palace had earlier insisted it was normal diplomatic protocol.

The Foreign Office spokesman added: “Representatives of countries with which the UK has normal diplomatic relations have been invited to the wedding. An invitation does not mean endorsement or approval of the behaviour of any government, simply that we have normal diplomatic relations with that country.”

The blacklisting of Syria’s envoy marked an escalation of Britain’s condemnation of President Assad’s actions. Just yesterday Mr Hague claimed he was really a reformer whose true aims were being thwarted by others in the ruling elite, suggesting it was “not too late” for him to abandon repression and open up the regime.

Labour MPs had raised fears that Mr Khiyami could be at the wedding President Assad was simultaneously unleashing fresh violence against his own people. More clashes are expected after Friday prayers tomorrow.

“We could have the horrific spectre of killing on the streets of Syria while the Syrian ambassador is in Westminster Abbey for the royal wedding,” said shadow defence minister Kevan Jones.

The acting high commissioner of Malawi also had his wedding invitation revoked. Flossie Gomile Chidyaonga was ordered to leave the UK at the earliest opportunity in response to the expulsion of the senior British diplomat in the African republic. As a result, the invitation was withdrawn.

The Crown Prince of Bahrain, Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, said he would not attend the ceremony after violent clashes in his Gulf kingdom.

Tony Blair said he did not mind missing the wedding despite anger from Labour MPs that Mr Khiyami had been invited while the former prime minister — and Gordon Brown — had not.

During a visit to Colombia, Mr Blair said it was “not a problem at all” and wished Prince William and Kate Middleton every happiness.

Pressure on President Assad grew today as more than 200 members of the ruling Ba’ath party quit in protest at the crackdown. The UN Security Council failed to reach an agreement on a statement proposed by Britain and other members condemning the use of force against peaceful protesters in Syria.

April 28th, 2011, 9:58 am


Mina said:

Reading this interesting post from the Gay Syrian Girl’s blog

I find it interesting that even in the highest spheres the Alawi/Sunni factor plays a role.

Just to be precise about the mosaic of people in Syria, not only the Alawites are Shia. There is a strong Ismaili community in the Western part of the country and the Druze are actually themselves an offshoot sect of the Ismailis as well. So that makes 3 Shia sects, a dozen of Christian ones, and at least 3 Sunni ones (the Shafiis and Hanafis, who are ‘local’ and the Salafi/Wahhabi, imported in the last 20 years).

April 28th, 2011, 10:06 am


s.s said:

لقي ما لا يقل عن 14 شخصا, من بينهم أجانب, مصارعهم في انفجار في مقهى بمدينة مراكش المغربية.

وذكرت مصادر طبية أن 11 أجنبيا وثلاثة مغاربة قتلوا جراء الانفجار.
وقالت وزارة الداخلية في بيان لها إن الدلائل الأولية تشير إلى أن الانفجار كان عملا إجراميا

The country does not matter whether it is Syria, Morocco, Jordan, etc..Radical Islam’s only language is killing…..They kill anywhere, anytime to pass their agenda….What is going in Syria is part of this agenda…….Thankfully Jordan and Turkey now seem to realize that this plot is even bigger than Saudi’s intention to just slap Syria in the face. The Syrian unrest carry the signature of terrorist groups like MB and Al Qaeda. The UN also aware of this danger for that reason they fell short of passing any law against Syria.

Syrian government have been a leader on the war against terrorism for many years. USA should continue to support the efforts of war on Radical Islam i.e Terrorism not only in Syria but worldwide and they should learn from the Syrian experience as well.

Radical Islam is a danger that all the free world is facing and unless a world wide collaboration in place, this radical islam will continue to kill innocent people.

April 28th, 2011, 10:19 am


AIG said:

As the supporters of Hamas and Hezbollah and the allies of Iran, Syria has been one of the main reasons radical Islam is rising.

April 28th, 2011, 10:33 am


JAMAL said:






April 28th, 2011, 11:08 am


Mina said:

Sorry, no one reading this blog will buy this piece of propaganda.
Radical/Political Islam is now spread by 200+ Gulf channels and these have a lot of impact on generations who do not care about books nor about history. The very Israeli narrative that “the Jews are a nation” does not mean anything. What do you make of all the Christians and Muslims who were originally Jews or Pagans but simply converted through the centuries, to start with Saint Paul, for example? Are they “jewish” if their mother is?
You think the settlers and the Zionist policy of bringing one million Russians in the last twenty years to change the ballot results towards the right side have no role to play in the rise of radicals who decided for armed resistance? By the way, Hamas was created by the Israelis themselves in the prisons to use it against the bad Fatah-leftists, don’t you know that?

April 28th, 2011, 11:57 am



The Syrian Army will accomplish its mission in Daraa and will be the safekeeper of a united Syria. Those who put Daraa in harmsway will learn their lesson.

April 28th, 2011, 12:09 pm


Ayman said:

Bashar (Malik al-Shabiha) is absolutely insane. According to the head of the IAEA, he was attempting a build a nuclear reactor. Is there a better way to start a war?


IAEA chief: Syria tried to build nuclear reactor
JameY Keaten and George Jahn
Globe and Mail Update
Published Thursday, Apr. 28, 2011 12:13PM EDT
Last updated Thursday, Apr. 28, 2011 12:16PM EDT

The U.N. nuclear agency on Thursday said for the first time that a target destroyed by Israeli warplanes in the Syrian desert in 2007 was a covertly built nuclear reactor, countering assertions by Syria that it had no atomic secrets to hide.

Previous reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency have suggested that the structure hit could have been a nuclear reactor. Thursday’s comments by IAEA chief Yukiya Amano were the first time the agency has said so unequivocally.

By aligning the IAEA with the U.S., which first asserted three years ago that the bombed target was a nuclear reactor, the comments will increase pressure on Syria to stop stonewalling agency requests for more information on its nuclear activities.

Mr. Amano spoke during a news conference meant to focus on the Fukushima nuclear disaster after a visit to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to discuss clean-up efforts at Japan’s tsunami-ravaged nuclear plant.

“The facility that was … destroyed by Israel was a nuclear reactor under construction,” he asked in response to a question from The Associated Press, repeating afterward: “It was a reactor under construction.”

April 28th, 2011, 12:36 pm


Solitarius said:

Revlon @ 14 and 15

I really would like to sympathize with you. I’m scrambling for any real evidence of what’s going on. However if those two videos are the best you got then there is a problem. So-called eye-witness accounts are plenty but they lack credibility. the other video of Daraa doesn’t show anythign but a few fuzzy people running.

It’s my understanding that if the situation is truly that bad and with fighting amongst the army then it wouldn’t be so hard to see some footage of wild explosions and sounds of gun battles all night long. I really doubt the Syrian government is stupid enough to repeat Hama and destroy civilian quaters. Such videos will leak immediately and will be catastrophic. I’m not saying that they are angles.. obviously we all know our regime and we all know how blood thirsty they can be.. but for opposition to keep repeating that right now Daraa is being bombarded and there are fights amongst the army units is hard to swallow with such lack of good videos. It’s time now someone showed up with a good HD camera since they already have satellite phones apparently.

Just trying to get as much to the truth as possible.

for Mina at 22

The Shiaa themselves don’t consider the Alawites and the Druze as muslims. Just a couple of days ago a Shia man that is highly knowledgeable reminded me of that fact, which is that they and definitely the Sunni finally agree that both Alawites and Druze are infidels and would go straight to hell. He was clear and frank when he said that he has to wash his hand if he shook hands with an Alawite before prayer. In fact his testimony is very interesting giving the context in which me and him were having a conversation, in which has was talking about the closing Shia Sunni gap and how his people, the Shia of Lebanon, have come a long way since the old days and how now they no longer curse the Caliphes and Aisha as usual (but only Mouawiya and Yazid)… So after such enlightened, frank, and progressive talk, to hear his position on the Alawites and Druze I can’t help but believe that he is speaking the truth.

This shows that what perhaps the Alawite people consider as their allies, might be the first to turn against them in the future.

April 28th, 2011, 1:02 pm


AIG said:


Not only Paul was Jewish but so was Jesus. So what? It took a couple of centuries for Judaism and Christianity to drift apart, it was not a clear cut process. To be a Jew you of course need to self identify as one. You are mixing up what a Jew is for the Israeli law of return (a legal meaning) and what it really means to be a Jew. Any person that self identifies as a Jew and is willing to tie his destiny to that of the Jewish people is welcome in my book. Do any of the people you mention pass this simple test?

Radicals cannot prosper in vacuum. They need state support. And that is what Syria under the Assad regime has done and that is why people refer to it as a terror supporting state.

April 28th, 2011, 1:07 pm


Shami said:

The Asads(al jahesh ) must pay for their crimes that’s why the syrian people should make sure that they can not escape abroad.

April 28th, 2011, 1:08 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Frankenstein’s Monster

By the way, Hamas was created by the Israelis themselves in the prisons to use it against the bad Fatah-leftists, don’t you know that?

Hamas was not “created” by Israel. Hamas is a Palestinian product since they can’t seem to produce anything else. I suppose the Israelis also wrote the Hamas charter?

For a more nuanced recounting of the history of Hamas:


Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas have been tolerated by the Arabs and the rest of world. So when Arabs complain about the Muslim Brotherhood, some bit of head scratching is in order.

Israel’s support for Hamas initially was similar to the US support for the Taliban. We both got our hands bit, and this is why any support of muslim organizations must be rendered with extreme caution.

April 28th, 2011, 1:10 pm


AIG said:

And by the way, Syria was trying to build a nuclear reactor:

April 28th, 2011, 1:13 pm


Solitarius said:

AIG @28

I believe the accepted idea is that radicals flourish in a vacuum not the opposite. They thrive under weak central governments. They never work with governments locally, but governments will obviously support foreign radicals operating in other countries when such radicals are required to carry out sophisticated tasks. Syria is labeled as a state supporter of terrorism because we live in a funny world. Any way, if we are a supporter of state terrorism, then Israel IS state terrorism itself.

April 28th, 2011, 1:16 pm


AIG said:


Syria is labeled a terror supporting state because it is true. They support Hamas which is a terrorist organization that killed 1,000 Israelis by blowing up restaurants, buses, hotels etc using suicide bombers. All this was supported by the Syrian regime. Its hands are red with the blood of 1000 innocent Israeli civilians and now also at least 500 Syrians.

April 28th, 2011, 1:32 pm


Mina said:

It’s official: the US are getting bankrupt very soon

Think about all these millions of dollars in the Gulf banks who are not worth anything !

April 28th, 2011, 1:47 pm


AIG said:

Is this fake or not:

Were the soldiers shot by the Syrian army?

April 28th, 2011, 3:41 pm


majedkhaldoon said:

Your friend interpretation is his own and many sunni not all,In Quraan it is very clear, whoever believes in God,and do right(do good and avoid bad deeds),he has nothing to fear,so in Islam jewish,christians ,Sabe2a ,only God will judge them at the day of judgement,one can say that Druze and Alawite ,since they believe in God,their deeds during their lives,will determine weather they will go to Heaven or Hell.

Why is it that the Syrian goverment is sending more troops to Deraa,it seems to me that they would not do it unless there is problem in Deraa.

Patrick Seal was interviewd today,and he said that Syrian Goverment is making bad mistake in resorting to military action,and he advises Assad to resort to real reform, reform that will convince the people that opression is gone and he believes in freedom

April 28th, 2011, 3:58 pm


Solitarius said:

If I can’t deem the video to be fake, at least it doesn’t seem overly authentic neither. i didn’t see any wounds. just blood stains which could be anything. At the same token, these could have been soldiers who were ambushed and took refugee with civilians until reinforcements arrive. It’s impossible to tell.. what is unacceptable however is seeing Aljazeera English endorse this video as evidence of the soldiers being shot by fellow Syrian army … this is just preposterous.. it cannot be understood as anything but deliberate fabrication whether or not the wounds are real.

April 28th, 2011, 4:17 pm


jad said:

Why the video is mute?

April 28th, 2011, 4:32 pm


Solitarius said:

It isn’t. they are mainly saying “don’t give them water”.. nothing else stands out. i don’t know why they don’t wish to give them water. Slightly salty water is good for blood loss to restore blood volume but they don’t seem to be bleeding all that much. Giving a bit of regular water shouldn’t be harmful either way.

April 28th, 2011, 4:38 pm


Mina said:

“Radicals need state support”
So now that the Guantanamo files can be read in the Spiegel online, the Guardian, the NYT, can you tell me
1) what the West is still doing in Afghanistan? They even have a governement there, and real cheated elections, like in all nascent democracy (see Iraq).
2) Who funded the “Radicals” more, the former Taliban governement or Saudi Arabia?
3) Why were dangerous prisonners released from Guantanamo and innocent kept? Why were some people working for both al-Qaeda and the MI6? What of the responsibility of the governments who sent and trained djihadists to Afghanistan against the Russians?

April 28th, 2011, 4:43 pm


AIG said:


If you have issues with the US government take it with them.
The two wrongs make a right approach of yours is childish.

April 28th, 2011, 4:52 pm


why-discuss said:

I listened today on NPR to a round table with Joshua Landis and Rami Khoury.
Joshua was saying that even if Bashar succeeded in staying in power, the economics of the country where no one will invest will move him out.

Bashar al Assad makes a serious overture for PEACE WITH ISRAEL with the return of the Golan. I guess this is already taking place..
No Syrian demonstration gave importance to the Resistance. They want freedom and bread, so they’ll get that and more
Hamas bureau will move to Egypt that now see itself as an important player in the region. Hezbollah will stick to Iran.
Then all western contries will hail Bashar. The money will pour in syria.
The country that may be affected negatively is Lebanon, because they will have to naturalize their 500,000 palestinians, something Syria has almost done.

Bashar has this important card in his hand, he wants peace with Israel!

April 28th, 2011, 4:55 pm


ziadsoury said:


I wonder if she has any problems with the siege of Daraa and the massacre that is happening as we speak!!!!????

April 28th, 2011, 5:33 pm


Mawal95 said:

The official website of the Syrian government has this statement dated today Thursday 28 April: “Ministry of Interior Urges Citizens to Abstain from Holding any Rallies, Demonstrations or Sit-ins under any title without taking official license. The Ministry warned that the laws in force in Syria will be implemented for serving the security of the citizens and the stability of the homeland.” http://www.sana.sy/eng/21/2011/04/28/343873.htm

Can anybody tell me if the government is granting licenses for Friday demonstrations tomorrow?

More generally, what are the plans for tomorrow for each side? Regardless of whether the demonstrations are licensed or not, I think we should expect a smallish turnout like last Friday. I think we should also expect lots of violence. It’s going to be an interesting day for Syrian news and comment.

April 28th, 2011, 5:42 pm


NK said:


You’re talking as if Syria and Israel already have negotiated and agreed on the terms of a peace treaty.

1- Israel will never return Golan to Syria in these circumstances, the Syrian regime is currently not stable, the economic conditions in Syria are bad which means even if the regime survived the current events, it’s very likely for unrest to break again in the future. Will Israel give up the only leverage it has against Syria only to find itself facing a new enemy in the future ? I seriously doubt it.

2- The Israeli/Syrian border is Israel safest border, it’s been so for ~40 years, also Syria doesn’t have the military power to liberate Golan, doesn’t have the political leverage to force Israel’s hand into giving up the Golan, or the economic influence to pressure Israel on that issue, again Israel will gain nothing from handing Golan back to Syria, it will actually lose quite a lot, not to mention the current Israeli government will oppose such a move.

3- Bashar needs this Syrian arch enemy (Israel), to justify the many violations committed by his regime, and to gain legitimacy, with a peace treaty he will lose his image as “THE ONE AND ONLY ARAB LEADER IN THE FACE OF ZIONISTS AND U.S HEGEMONY”, he might want peace with Israel, but the majority of Syrian population hate Israel and will never agree to such peace (thanks for Baathist curricula the regime drilled into the minds of Syrians over the past 50 years), any peace treaty will require a rehabilitation of this mentality otherwise it’ll be extremely unpopular, the regime can do without more unpopularity right now.

4- A peace treaty will require time, the two sides will need to sit and negotiate most likely through many sessions, assuming both sides agreed to sit and talk, can the Syrian economy survive that long ?.

April 28th, 2011, 5:45 pm


Averroes said:

Vikram Dodd – guardian.co.uk April 28, 2011

The former head of an agency accused of torture and human rights abuses is expected to be a guest at Friday’s royal wedding, the Guardian has learned.

Sheikh Khalifa Bin Ali al-Khalifa is a former head of Bahrain‘s National Security Agency (NSA) and will attend the wedding in his role as the current Bahraini ambassador to London.

British sources confirmed he had been invited and a spokesperson for the Bahraini embassy in London said he was expected to attend.

Khalifa was head of the agency from 2005 to 2008. The pressure group Human Rights Watch alleges that in 2007 detainees in Bahrain suffered torture including electric shocks and beatings.

On Thursday an invitation to attend the wedding was withdrawn from the Syrian ambassador to London because of concerns over domestic repression and human rights abuses. Libya is also excluded.

Bahrain has in recent months been wracked by protests and its government has been accused of unleashing a violent crackdown on dissent.

The concerns led to Bahrain’s crown prince declining to attend the wedding after originally being invited. However an invitation remains open to Khalifa, who became Bahrain’s ambassador to London in 2008.

According to the ambassador’s biography on the embassy’s website, he was head of the NSA from 2005 to 2008 before taking up the London posting.

A spokesperson for the Bahraini embassy in London confirmed the ambassador had been invited to the wedding and said: “I’m expecting he’s going to participate.”

A spokesperson for St James’s Palace said: “All heads of mission in London from countries with whom the United Kingdom is in normal diplomatic relations have been invited to the wedding. We acted in consultation with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.”

A Human Rights Watch report on torture in Bahrain found: “Since the end of 2007 officials again have used torture and ill-treatment, particularly during the interrogation of security suspects. Human Rights Watch’s conclusion is based on interviews with former detainees and others, as well as its review of government documents.

“Security officials appear to have utilised a specific repertoire of techniques against many of those arrested designed to inflict pain and elicit confessions. These techniques included the use of electro-shock devices, suspension in painful positions, beating the soles of the feet (falaka) and beatings of the head, torso, and limbs.

“Some detainees also reported that security officials had threatened to kill them or to rape them or members of their families.”

April 28th, 2011, 5:56 pm


why-discuss said:


You have a bad memory: Israel and Syria were very close to a peace deal just before Gaza war through Turkey. They had agreed on most of the terms.
Bashar does not need an archi-enemy anymore, the whole western world is now his enemy. That could change very quickly if he agrees to a peace treaty soon.
We all know that any other regime supposedly democratic that may follow him, if any, will take more years to negotiate. Remember that Egypt did not make peace with a democratic leader. The Western country know that very well.
Syria has no more resources to be kind to refugees and to the resistance, who have been of no help in this difficult times. Iran also has not been helpful, so I guess Bashar’s choice is very simple: He renounces to the Baath ideals of the Arab unity ( totally absent from the protesters demands) and move on to save his country and his skin, who would blame him?
He may loose Iran’s timid investments and he’ll get the EU and US investments. I think it is highly possible that will happen sooner than you think

April 28th, 2011, 6:03 pm


NK said:


My memory is fine actually, before the Gaza war Syria and Israel were not ready to sign a treaty, they were getting ready to move from indirect negotiations to direct negotiations. Listen to what Bashar had to say about this on many interviews.

It’s true Egypt didn’t have a democratic leader when they signed the treaty, but the situation is different, Egypt did liberate Sinai, and Israel was in a bad spot (more or less) when they signed the treaty, the “Cold” peace definitely was good for Israel. The same can not be said today, Israel already enjoys cold peace with Syria, just read the Israeli newspapers and you’ll notice that peace with Syria is extremely unpopular among Israelis these days. Maybe I’m wrong, I’ll leave it to AIG, AP and other Israelis on this blog to tell us how the Israeli street feels about this issue.

Still given that Syria blamed the fall of Mubarak, Ben Ali, and soon Saleh on their alliance with the U.S/Israel, I find it hard to believe Bashar will jump right into that boat, I think that will be political suicide for the Syrian regime even though I agree with you that the U.S camp is much better than the Iranian camp.

April 28th, 2011, 6:39 pm


Equus said:

@ 5. Solitarius,

May be you should translate what the gentleman of Daraa said to English and post it in New York times in order for the West to start getting a glimpse of reality. There is a gentleman under the name of Moustaf Nour publishes in NY times from Syria, painting different perspective. It’s good to voice various perspectives and readers will have the full picture. I would have done it but my Arabic is pathetic, however I managed to get the gist of the article.

April 28th, 2011, 7:07 pm



Ziad @#49
I am sure she is devastated, like all Syrian parents are, for these are very sad times which Syria is experiencing. We have to face reality that the rebels and the extremists have pushed Syria to the brink and the government/regime must restore law and order. The Army was the last resort after more than five weeks of trying to level with the rebels and negotiate with the elders in Daraa.
If the Army fails to restore law and order, then you can kiss Syria goodbye as it will turn into what Iraq, Lebanon and Somalia became during the civil war.
If you thought the abuses of the government/regime were unbearable, ask the Lebanese, the Iraqis and the Somalis about abuses of warlords and militias running wild and imposing their law, the law of the jungle.
By the way both Abou Musaab Al Zarqaoui in Iraq and Mohamad Ali Farrah Aidid in Somalia thought they were imposing Sharia law, and they were God fearing rebels to the core. The home of Zarqawi in northern Jordan is just across the border from Daraa. I bet you the same tribe has clans on both sides of the border.
Have you seen the videos of Zarqaoui beheading his victims in Iraq?
If the Syrian Army fails in Daraa I bet you Revlon will be posting videos showing rebels executing beheading ceremonies under the command of their Emir in charge of Imarat Daraa.

April 28th, 2011, 8:21 pm


why-discuss said:

Unrest in Syria continues while locals arm themselves – Jableh


“in fact the call for an Islamic autonomy became no secret as it was announced from the mosque of the City of Banias. and a call for JIHAD has been several times addressed the sectarian fanatics.
some open bloody messages were aired of kidnapped victim which is assassinated and butchered in public like NIDAL JANNOD. who was one of the first victims of JIHAD.”

April 28th, 2011, 9:32 pm


why-discuss said:


“I think that will be political suicide for the Syrian regime ”

It is about to die, no? What can they loose?

April 28th, 2011, 9:36 pm


S.A. said:

Post 21. Atassi. “Syrian Ambassador no longer welcome at Abbey”
Absolutely ridiculous behavior by the most hypocritical government in the world. They pretend that they are worried about people who are killed in Syria when they went into Iraq with Bush and participated in destroying a whole country with millions of people killed and displaced. They also watched when Israel under the pretext of hunting terrorists in the Gaza strip, killed thousands of innocent civilians. What did they do when the ethnic cleansing was taking place in the former Yugoslavia? The double standard and hypocrisy is already old news for the British government. It seems that this is the one trait that they cannot ever get rid off. History is my witness (remember the Balfour Declaration of 1917 – nice words but not a finger lifted to enforce “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”).

It is absolutely disgraceful and ridiculous to withdraw an invitation like this. They certainly are not going to change anything by doing this except show their true double standards and confirm to other people that you can never trust the United Kingdom’s puppet government. The last thing that they are really worried about is the well-being of the Syrian people!

April 29th, 2011, 1:10 am


Mina said:

Thanks for this comment. I have no doubt indeed that a so called “freedom of press” in Syria would bring the same as in Iraq: dozens of religious channels, shii and sunni, cursing the other segments of the population. We can witness now how the western press is free, having for only source the reports of Wissam Tarif which seem to me fabricated in 50 percent case, and the role the western press has, after al jazeera, in attempting to create a momentum while turning a blind eye on exactions in Bahrain and Libya: frankly, are thirty thousand deaths worth the liberation of Benghazi from Qaddafi? Even if it seemed a good idea to forbid a massacre by a psychotic calling his citizens coakroaches and repressing indiscriminately his opponents and his supporters by launching mercenaries in the cities, it was clearly a trap in which al jazeera and the very pious people it invited all the way at the beginning, played a role.

April 29th, 2011, 1:31 am


محمود said:

اخرجوا أيها القراء من صالة السينماهده فان هدا الفيلم بايخ !!! هناك فيلما أكثر اثارة في صالة سينما أخرى مجاورة – اسم الفيلم الفوسفور يضيء سماء غزة !!!

April 29th, 2011, 6:02 am


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