Rebels Get Missiles; Kurds; Aleppo; Opposition Divided; al-Qaida

Aleppo continues to be the focus of rebel strategy. Watch this AP video

Ghufran writes:

SNC is refusing to participate in Haytham al-Maleh’s conference in Cairo. Al-Maleh said, “I have been tasked with leading a transitional government,” Maleh said, adding that he will begin consultations “with the opposition inside and outside” the country. Maleh, a conservative Muslim, said he was named by a Syrian coalition of “independents with no political affiliation”.

Abdelbasset Seida, the leader of the Syrian National Council, said: “If each group came out alone announcing the formation of a new government without talks, this would end up in having a series of weak governments that don’t represent anyone.” Asaad, the putative commander of the Free Syrian Army called the new coalition “opportunists” seeking to benefit from the rebels’ gains.

More division and fighting over power. Armed rebels had a good day in Aleppo and around it while civilians paid the price. Alarabiya by accident showed an armed rebel using artillery, there are also reports about the use of tanks by the rebels near Saadllah Aljabiri square. This will be far uglier than the fight in Damascus,the damage to Syria’s economy will be enormous. Enjoy the ruins.

Syrian rebels acquire surface-to-air missiles: report
WASHINGTON | Tue Jul 31, 2012

(Reuters) – Rebels fighting to depose Syrian president Bashar al Assad have for the first time acquired a small supply of surface-to-air missiles, according to a news report that a Western official did not dispute. NBC News reported Tuesday night that the rebel Free Syrian Army had obtained nearly two dozen of the weapons, which were delivered to them via neighboring Turkey,…

Following the fall of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, some intelligence experts estimated that as many as 10,000-15,000 MANPADs sets were looted from Libyan government stockpiles. The whereabouts of most of these are unknown….. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the CIA, with Saudi backing, provided sophisticated shoulder-fired Stinger missiles to Islamic militants seeking to oust Soviet troops….

Lebanese columnist Rajeh Khoury predicted: “Syria could plunge into a long protracted civil war that could last years. The civil war in Lebanon, with its much smaller population of five million, lasted 15 years due to foreign interference so Syria would be much more complicated.

Samia Nakhoul for Reuters, “No happy outcome in Syria as conflict turns into proxy war,” – an excellent article

Some fear a Lebanon-style free-for-all, in which armed groups from different sectarian and ideological backgrounds fight for supremacy over territory, turning Syria into a patchwork that condemns its state to failure….

“We most definitely have a proxy war in Syria,” says Ayham Kamel of the Eurasia Group political risk consultancy. “At this point of the conflict it is difficult not to say that the international dimension of the Syrian conflict precedes the domestic one.”

“Syria is an open field now. The day after Assad falls you (will) have all of these different groups with different agendas, with different allegiances, with different states supporting them yet unable to form a coherent leadership.”

Patrick Seale, “The Kurds Stir the Regional Pot”, is the best summation so far. He lays out a brief overview of the main factions among the Kurds and then writes:

…Needless to say, these events have fired the ambitions of some Kurdish militants who imagine that a Kurdish Regional Government might now come to birth in northern Syria, on the model of the one in northern Iraq. The English-language edition of Rudaw (an Iraqi Kurdish periodical), carried a piece on 23 July by a Kurdish journalist, Hiwa Osman, in which he wrote: “The Kurdish Region of Syria? Yes, it is possible. Now is the time to declare it!” A Turkish journalist, Mehmet Ali Birand, went further still when he wrote that “a mega-Kurdish state is being founded,” potentially linking Kurdish enclaves in Turkey, Iraq and Syria.

Turkey is understandably alarmed by this resurgence of expansionist Kurdish goals. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Syria of giving the PKK ‘custody’ of northern Syria and has warned that Turkey would “not stand idle” in the face of this hostile development. “Turkey is capable of exercising its right to pursue Kurdish rebels inside Syria, if necessary,” he declared. He clearly finds intolerable the prospect of the PKK establishing a safe haven in northern Syria, from which to infiltrate fighters into Turkey. He has sent Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to Erbil to ask Massoud Barzani — no doubt in forceful terms — what game he thinks he is playing.

There is fevered speculation in the Turkish press that Erdogan is planning a military attack on northern Syria to create a buffer zone, with the twin objectives of defeating and dispersing Syrian Kurdish forces and of creating a foothold, or safe-zone, for Syrian rebels fighting Bashar al-Asad.

What of Syria’s calculations? There are three possible reasons why President Bashar withdrew his troops from the Kurdish border region: He needs the troops for the defence of Damascus and Aleppo; he wants to punish Erdogan for his support of the Syrian opposition; and, he is anxious to conciliate the Kurds, so as to dissuade them from joining the rebels. In fact, he started wooing them some months ago by issuing a presidential decree granting Syrian citizenship to tens of thousands of Kurds — something they had been seeking for more than half a century.

What does Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki think of these developments? He is clearly watching the Syrian crisis with anxious attention. If Asad were to fall and be replaced by an Islamist regime, this could revive the hopes of Iraq’s minority Sunni community — and its Al-Qaida allies — that Maliki and his Shia alliance could also be toppled. Another of Maliki’s worries must be the possible influx into Iraq from Syria of thousands of militant Kurds who would serve to strengthen Kurdish claims to Kirkuk and its oil.

What are the Kurds own objectives? In spite of the concessions Asad has made to them, they have no love for him. But nor do they like the opposition. The PYD is hostile to the Turkish-based Syrian National Council, which it considers a Turkish puppet. More generally, the Kurdish national movement, which is essentially secular, has long been at odds with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, and dreads its coming to power in Damascus.

The PYD leader Salih Muslim Muhammad is more philosophical. He was quoted as saying: “The ruling powers in Damascus come and go. For us Kurds, this isn’t so important. What is important is that we Kurds assert our existence.” The Syrian Kurds do not expect to win their independence from the Syrian state. They know that it is not a realistic goal: Kurdish enclaves in Syria are too scattered. They do seek, however, a large measure of autonomy, in which they no longer face discrimination, and in which their rights, both political and cultural, are guaranteed.

Erdogan is no doubt watching how the PYD and the KNC run the Kurdish towns they now control on the Syrian border. If they behave, he will not intervene. But if they start infiltrating fighters into Turkey, he is bound to react forcefully. For its part, the PKK has warned that, if the Turks intervene, it will turn “all of Kurdistan into a war zone.”

Free Syrian Army issues military-led transition plan ( thanks War in Context)
30 Jul 2012

AFP reports: Syria’s rebels distributed on Monday a “national salvation draft” proposal for a political transition in the country, bringing together military and civilian figures for a post-Bashar Al-Assad phase. The draft by the joint command of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) proposes the establishment of a higher defence council charged with creating a presidential […]

Aleppo Now and the Future of Armenians in Syria, by Keith Watenpaugh. – Youtube

Al-Jazeera, 6 June, “Behind the News”
, presented by Fayruz Zayyani, guests: Mustafa Sabbagh, head of the Syrian Business Forum, in the studio; and Syrian economic expert Samir Sayfan, via satellite from Dubai. – SN BBC Monitoring Middle East

Zayyani begins by saying: “Syrian President Bashar al-Asad appointed a new prime minister, and the new government will be tackling the economic file that is filled with problems generated during 18 months of protests.” She asks the following questions: “What is the enormity of the problems facing the Syrian economy? Can the regime tolerate them? Will the economic pressures prompt Al-Asad to make political concessions?”

The programme then carries a two-minute video report by Al-Jazeera correspondent Ibrahim Sabir on the Syrian economic crisis. He says: “Official IMF estimates note that the losses of the Syrian oil sector have reached about $4 billion and the Syrian pound has devalued by 45 per cent in the parallel market and 25 per cent in the official market. The value of stocks dropped by 40 per cent, an indication of the impact of the crisis on the business sector.”

Asked to talk about the Syrian economy, Sabbagh says: “The Syrian economy was totally exhausted prior to the revolution, and the events clearly exposed it more. We are witnessing a total collapse of the Syrian economy,” attributing the problem to the ruling party. He adds: “I believe that the current economic indicators are frightening with regard to the competitive economy and the basic economic status in general.”

Asked to explain how the Syrian revolution affected the economy and the main sectors that have been greatly harmed, Su’ayfan says: “One of the main problems is the regime’s weak management of the state and the economy, and one of the characteristics of the Syrian administration is that it has been accustomed to bringing in officials whom we call ‘unknown people’; that is, persons lacking history, efficiencies, experience, opinions, or stands.” He adds that these officials listen to what they are told and obey orders only. Concerning the impact of events on the economy, he says: “The impact is enormous due to the current security operations and the economic sanctions, which together created a difficult situation.” He explains that tourism, for instance, which yielded 11 or 12 per cent of the gross national product has completely collapsed, and the transport sector has greatly retreated due to the suspension of many industries and the increasing number of security checkpoints throughout the country. He adds that the oil sector retreated by 40 per cent due to the departure of foreign companies and Syria’s inability to export this commodity, reiterating that all these factors caused prices to hike and increased unemployment, which reached 30 per cent.

Asked what actions the new government will take to confront this situation, Sabbagh says that the new government is totally rejected, because it was the product of illegitimate elections. He adds: “The latest Syrian Central Bank report was published last year one month after the beginning of the revolution, at which time the bank’s assets of foreign currency reserves were estimated at $17.6 billion, but the bank has suspended publishing its monthly reports ever since.” He expresses belief that these reserves decreased by $5 billion, saying: “Accordingly, we are on the verge of witnessing a major crisis.” He reiterates that the unemployment rate exceeds 40 per cent at present, which means that the situation is very scary and tragic.

Asked what makes the Syrian regime capable of maintaining economic balance, even apparently, and whether its Russian and Iranian allies are the main factors enabling it to achieve this, Su’ayfan says: “The Syrian regime’s remaining in power in such a manner depends on two factor s: The stock that Syria previously had in possession and its ability to produce food commodities without external help. However, what really keeps the regime strong are the security forces and the army.”

Zayyani notes that the Syrian Business Forum has allocated $300 million to support the Syrian revolution, and she asks Sabbagh to explain how this fund can affect the life of citizens who are greatly suffering from the current crisis. Sabbagh says that announcing the allocation of this amount of money is to convey a very clear message to the regime that “the Syrian business community does not support this regime, as it has alleged,” reiterating that this community comprises very well-known businessmen and that Syrian businessmen have been doing well abroad following the regime’s crackdown on them inside Syria. He adds: “The establishment of this fund took place openly and the money spent from this fund so far has exceeded $100 million or even close to $150 million.” He notes that the humanitarian situation in Syria is critical, particularly as some 1.5 million Syrians have been forced to migrate within Syria only, and that had it not been for the assistance they receive, including the forum’s assistance, the situation would have been much worse. He emphasizes that the $300 million is not the maximum ceiling of this fund and that the expected contributions will greatly exceed this figure.

Concerning the role of Syria’s allies, Su’ayfan says that “the real financial support for the Syrian regime comes mainly from Iran, then comes Iraq, which has opened its markets for Syrian exports.” He adds that Lebanon helped execute some financial transactions, circumventing the economic sanctions imposed on Syria, reiterating that Russia provided political support, enabling the regime to remain in power. He explains that Russia hinted recently at the possibility of changing its stance on Al-Asad and supporting the political transition when he steps down from power. Asked for how long the regime can continue to show strength, he says: “If Russia, in particular, alters its stand, the time for the regime to remain in power will be limited to a few months only; let us say two or three months, at which time the regime will be obliged to accept a political solution.”

Asked until when the economic pressures and undeclared political deals will impact the Syrian regime’s current stand, Sabbagh says that the Syrian people have proved that they are determined to proceed along the path of the revolution, and it appears that they have succeeded in forcing Russia to reconsider its stand; thus, necessitating the regime to find an outlet. Concerning the economic pressures, he says: “The Iranian economic situation is not good also due to sanctions imposed on the country and the crisis it is witnessing.” He calls on Russian businessmen to make some recalculations and pressure their government, saying: “Frankly speaking, Syria will witness enormous reconstruction projects, and those who supported the revolution will have a big share of these projects.”

Asked how the economic factor can impact the situation in Syria, Su’ayfan says that this factor will affect the capability of the regime to grant benefits to others, particularly Syrian businessmen, reiterating: “When the regime becomes unable to provide stability, security, food, medication, clothes, housing, and good standards of living, and when it becomes the cause of instability, difficult conditions, and inability to provide benefits, it will certainly lose its legitimacy. The turning of businessmen against the regime recently and the participation of Damascus and Aleppo in the revolution’s mobility through the strike that they staged are another form of expressing such a stance.”    Source: Al-Jazeera TV, Doha, in Arabic 1830 gmt 6 Jun 12

 Al-Qaida turns tide for rebels in battle for eastern Syria – Ghaith Abdul-Ahad

In his latest exclusive dispatch from Deir el-Zour province, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad meets fighters who have left the Free Syrian Army for the discipline and ideology of global jihad

A member of a jihadist group sprays the slogan ‘No Islam without Jihad’ in Arabic on the wall at a border crossing with Turkey. Photograph: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

As they stood outside the commandeered government building in the town of Mohassen, it was hard to distinguish Abu Khuder’s men from any other brigade in the Syrian civil war, in their combat fatigues, T-shirts and beards.

But these were not average members of the Free Syrian Army. Abu Khuder and his men fight for al-Qaida. They call themselves the ghuraba’a, or “strangers”, after a famous jihadi poem celebrating Osama bin Laden’s time with his followers in the Afghan mountains, and they are one of a number of jihadi organisations establishing a foothold in the east of the country now that the conflict in Syria has stretched well into its second bloody year.

They try to hide their presence. “Some people are worried about carrying the [black] flags,” said Abu Khuder. “They fear America will come and fight us. So we fight in secret. Why give Bashar and the west a pretext?” But their existence is common knowledge in Mohassen. Even passers-by joke with the men about car bombs and IEDs.

According to Abu Khuder, his men are working closely with the military council that commands the Free Syrian Army brigades in the region. “We meet almost every day,” he said. “We have clear instructions from our [al-Qaida] leadership that if the FSA need our help we should give it. We help them with IEDs and car bombs. Our main talent is in the bombing operations.” Abu Khuder’s men had a lot of experience in bomb-making from Iraq and elsewhere, he added.

Abu Khuder spoke later at length. He reclined on a pile of cushions in a house in Mohassen, resting his left arm which had been hit by a sniper’s bullet and was wrapped in plaster and bandages. Four teenage boys kneeled in a tight crescent in front of him, craning their necks and listening with awe. Other villagers in the room looked uneasy.

Abu Khuder had been an officer in a mechanised Syrian border force called the Camel Corps when he took up arms against the regime. He fought the security forces with a pistol and a light hunting rifle, gaining a reputation as one of the bravest and most ruthless men in Deir el-Zour province and helped to form one of the first FSA battalions.

He soon became disillusioned with what he saw as the rebel army’s disorganisation and inability to strike at the regime, however. He illustrated this by describing an attempt to attack the government garrison in Mohassen. Fortified in a former textile factory behind concrete walls, sand bags, machine-gun turrets and armoured vehicles, the garrison was immune to the rebels’ puny attempt at assault.

“When we attacked the base with the FSA we tried everything and failed,” said Abu Khuder. “Even with around 200 men attacking from multiple fronts they couldn’t injure a single government soldier and instead wasted 1.5m Syrian pounds [£14,500] on firing ammunition at the walls.”

Then a group of devout and disciplined Islamist fighters in the nearby village offered to help. They summoned an expert from Damascus and after two days of work handed Abu Khuder their token of friendship: a truck rigged with two tonnes of explosives.

Two men drove the truck close to the gate of the base and detonated it remotely. The explosion was so large, Abu Khuder said, that windows and metal shutters were blown hundreds of metres, trees were ripped up by their roots and a huge crater was left in the middle of the road.

The next day the army left and the town of Mohassen was free.

“The car bomb cost us 100,000 Syrian pounds and fewer than 10 people were involved [in the operation],” he said. “Within two days of the bomb expert arriving we had it ready. We didn’t waste a single bullet.

“Al-Qaida has experience in these military activities and it knows how to deal with it.”

After the bombing, Abu Khuder split with the FSA and pledged allegiance to al-Qaida’s organisation in Syria, the Jabhat al Nusra or Solidarity Front. He let his beard grow and adopted the religious rhetoric of a jihadi, becoming a commander of one their battalions.

“The Free Syrian Army has no rules and no military or religious order. Everything happens chaotically,” he said. “Al-Qaida has a law that no one, not even the emir, can break.

“The FSA lacks the ability to plan and lacks military experience. That is what [al-Qaida] can bring. They have an organisation that all countries have acknowledged.

“In the beginning there were very few. Now, mashallah, there are immigrants joining us and bringing their experience,” he told the gathered people. “Men from Yemen, Saudi, Iraq and Jordan. Yemenis are the best in their religion and discipline and the Iraqis are the worst in everything – even in religion.”

At this, one man in the room – an activist in his mid-30s who did not want to be named – said: “So what are you trying to do, Abu Khuder? Are you going to start cutting off hands and make us like Saudi? Is this why we are fighting a revolution?”

“[Al-Qaida’s] goal is establishing an Islamic state and not a Syrian state,” he replied. “Those who fear the organisation fear the implementation of Allah’s jurisdiction. If you don’t commit sins there is nothing to fear.”

Religious rhetoric

Religious and sectarian rhetoric has taken a leading role in the Syrian revolution from the early days. This is partly because of the need for outside funding and weapons, which are coming through well-established Muslim networks, and partly because religion provides a useful rallying cry for fighters, with promises of martyrdom and redemption.

Almost every rebel brigade has adopted a Sunni religious name with rhetoric exalting jihad and martyrdom, even when the brigades are run by secular commanders and manned by fighters who barely pray.

“Religion is a major rallying force in this revolution – look at Ara’our [a rabid sectarian preacher], he is hysterical and we don’t like him but he offers unquestionable support to the fighters and they need it,” the activist said later.

Another FSA commander in Deir el-Zour city explained the role of religion in the uprising: “Religion is the best way to impose discipline. Even if the fighter is not religious he can’t disobey a religious order in battle.”…

“On Sunday, Panetta predicted that the crackdown in Aleppo will prove “a nail in Assad’s coffin” by turning even more people against the government.”

Washington’s seamless transition in Syria is an illusion — and bad policy
Geoffrey Aronson, Foreign Policy

…The limitations of Syria’s political leaders across the spectrum have been exacerbated by the decisions of the international community. The first error was to see Syria through the lens of an idealized Arab Spring — inaccurately branded as a twitter-fueled democratic revolution against autocracy. The second was to frame the rules of the game as a zero-sum military contest between Assad and his opponents. The third error was to sabotage through faint support the option of international support for a political transition. By doing so, both the regime and its opponents were encouraged to embrace what each does best. By acting in this manner, what began as a limited revolt against the center now threatens the very viability of state itself.

The regime and its opponents are locked into a race to the bottom. The international community, driven by its own competing interests, is feasting off of this grisly spectacle….

Despite recent rebel gains, Syrian civil war far from over
From Ivan Watson, CNN
July 31, 2012 –

….The rebels also have been able to establish growing enclaves in northern Syria and attempted to seize a number of key border crossings last week. They already control much of the main western highway from Aleppo to the Turkish border.

But on Tuesday, Syrian forces clashed with “armed terrorist groups” on the outskirts of Aleppo and destroyed nine armored vehicles “with all terrorists inside,” state-run TV reported.

In several neighborhoods, those who remained were left without phone, Internet or electricity service as tanks shelled the city, according to Deama, an activist in the city. CNN isn’t using her full name because disclosing it could put her in danger.

“We’re afraid they are going to do something worse. Usually, they will cut off connections and isolate these neighborhoods more when they are about to make something worse,” Deama said Monday.

And in Tunisia, his first stop on a visit to the Middle East, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told CNN that al-Assad “knows he’s in trouble, and it’s just matter of time before he has to go.”

Asked what he’d say to the embattled Syrian leader, Panetta said, “I would say if you want to be able to protect yourself and your family, you better get the hell out now.”

The United States is providing nonlethal aid to the rebels, including communications gear. Other countries are providing more direct military aid, Panetta said, “so there is no question that one way or another, they are getting the support they need in order to continue this fight.”

Aleppo residents have mixed reactions to Syria rebels
Reuters’ Erika Solomon has been speaking to residents of Aleppo who have differing views of the rebels:

“I would say 99.9 percent of the people aren’t fasting. How can you fast when you hear mortars and artillery hitting the areas nearby and wondering if you will be next?,” said Jumaa, a 45-year old construction worker with deep wrinkles etched into his leathery skin. “We have hardly any power or water, our wives and kids have left us here to watch the house and have gone somewhere safer. It’s a sad Ramadan.” Despite that, Jumaa is excited to see rebels on the streets of Syria’s second city. “My spirits are high. Seeing them from my doorstep makes me feel the regime is finally falling.”

Crouched on the next stoop, his neighbour sees it differently. “All we have now is have chaos,” Amr grumbles. Some of the men object angrily. “But they are fighting to free us from oppression,” one says. Amr shakes his head. “I’m still oppressed, stuck between two sides making me to choose. I just want to live my life.” …

Whenever rebels idle their trucks on the street, residents come up asking for help to get gasoline for their cars. Many beg the fighters to open more bakeries so the breadlines move faster, and spare people an exhausting hours-long wait in the hot sun. But some in line nod approvingly. “They don’t let anyone cut in, no one is better than anyone else now. The bakers aren’t allowed to hike prices on us,” says Umm Khaled, her face wrapped in a conservative black veil. “For the first time in this city, I feel like all of us are equal.”

Down the street, a crowd of men gather to watch rebels inspecting a burned out police station they stormed last week. Papers, stray shoes and police caps litter the charred building. One man shakes his head as he watches the scene. “We don’t even know these fighters, they don’t talk to us much. But people here just accept whoever has power,” one man whispered. “I’m not with anyone, I am with the side of truth. Right now, that is only God.”….


The Independent’s Kim Sengupta has been in Salaheddin, in the midst of the government offensive to clear the main opposition stronghold in Aleppo and writes that the state’s claim to be in complete control of the area is “obviously false”.

Standing on the road where most of the fighting was taking place, Sheikh Taufik Shiabuddin, the district’s rebel commander, said he welcomed a chance to refute “Assad’s lies”. He counted off the triumphs so far on the fingers of his hand. “We have destroyed two tanks, seven armoured carriers and killed 200 of their soldiers. They had attacked us with a force of 3,000 and they cannot get in. We shall be going forward to them soon, the enemy is suffering,” he said to chants of “Takhbir” (call to God) from his followers, who gathered around him.

The regime’s forces may be suffering, but they still appeared to have a lot left in reserve, judging by the regularity with which mortar and light-artillery rounds came whizzing over. A helicopter gunship made several passes overhead, but it would have been difficult for the pilot to pick out targets in such confined quarters and it flew off to attack elsewhere.

Looking from the fourth-floor balcony of an abandoned flat, curtained like almost every other balcony in the area, one could see a row of eight green Syrian army tanks, possibly Russian made T-55s, with their barrels pointed towards the streets of Salaheddine. “They have been firing from the tanks, but all they are hitting are empty buildings” said the Sheikh’s brother, Ahmed. “We have lost some people for sure, 15 martyrs and 40 wounded. They have tried to bring their tanks in here and we’ve hit them hard. Assad’s people know we are waiting.”….

Syria is different through Russian eyes
By Andrei Nekrasov

It is normal that news headlines differ from country to country, but the western world might be interested to know that Syria has not been among the main news items in Russia. If there is a report on an event that is all but impossible to ignore, such as the massacre in Tremseh on July 12 , it is like this one from “Syrian insurgents have been instructed to kill as many people as possible.”
The Russian word boyeviki, used to describe the rebel fighters, is less neutral than “insurgents” and is just one step away from bandits or terrorists. It passed from slang into the mass media during the war in Chechnya in the 1990s as a way of branding the Chechen separatist fighters. It is also worth noting in the report cited above the use of the words “instructed to kill”. They are intended to hint clearly that the opposition are acting on the orders of some invisible masters.The report, which was on prime time TV, featured Anastassia Popova, a young and charismatic reporter. She provided “evidence” of the rebels killing innocent people in Tremseh, while claiming that the majority of those killed by the army were armed fighters and deserters. The reporter also claimed that the UN authorities were hampering her crew because of its country of origin.
Russia’s government is stubbornly supporting Bashar al-Assad and, true to Soviet-era traditions, it is unashamedly using the media it controls to justify its policy. Vladimir Putin’s control of information is not absolute. The internet has so far been almost completely free. However, the truth is Mr Putin does not need to exert control over public opinion on Syria.
Most people in Russia see the fighting there as a proxy war between their country and the west. While the humanitarian crisis receives little attention, the diplomacy is the focus of regular and detailed reports. The “struggle for peace” of foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and Russia’s UN mission, against “aggressive western powers bent on force”, are what we mostly hear about in reports on Syria.
The government encourages this proxy war narrative, as it has a vested interest in portraying itself as the defender of a nation’s geopolitical position against the west’s perceived global expansion. While many of Mr Putin’s other policies are increasingly under attack, most Russians share the divisive world view that he projects. Even the independent internet-based media’s “objective” reporting tends to present Mr Assad’s version first and as fully legitimate. That is not a result of any direct pressure from the government….
By David Pollock – WINEP
A sudden political shift among Syria’s three million Kurds, who now control much of the country’s border with Turkey, provides an opportunity for the United States to better coordinate its policy with regional allies and to encourage the Syrian opposition to respect minority rights.
While world attention focuses on bombings and clashes in Damascus and Aleppo, Syria’s Kurds buried their internal differences in mid-July, with Iraqi Kurdish help and Turkey’s blessing, and then promptly kicked Syrian regime forces out of their territory. This is a major blow to the regime, potentially clearing the northern approaches to Aleppo for opposition forces. But Kurdish relations with the rest of the Syrian opposition remain a deeply divisive issue.
Syria’s Kurds have lately been sharply split between two major movements: the Party of Unity and Democracy (PYD), founded in 2003, which collaborated both with the Bashar al-Assad regime and with the violently anti-Turkish Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK); and the Kurdish National Council of Syria (KNC), an amalgam formed in October 2011 of fifteen local parties opposed to both Assad and the PKK. Over the past year, as the wider Syrian revolution intensified, these two movements often came to blows in Syria’s Kurdish regions. Previous attempts to reconcile them, notably in January and again in May 2012, came to naught; their differences were simply too deep, and their supporters too evenly matched, to make a lasting agreement possible.
Against this inauspicious background, in early July the president of the neighboring Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, Masoud Barzani, summoned Syrian Kurdish leaders from both main rival factions to his headquarters in Salahaddin, Iraq, just outside Erbil, in yet another attempt to hammer out an accord. This time the attempt succeeded, despite reported opposition from die-hard PKK supporters both inside the PYD and among the Syrian Kurdish PKK fighters in the Qandil mountains near the Iraq-Turkey-Syria borders. Underlying this surprising success is the increasingly prevalent perception, even among his erstwhile allies, that Syria’s President Assad is losing his grip on power.
The PYD-KNC agreement signed July 11 has not been officially published, but its main points were read out to the author in Istanbul two days later by one of the senior participants in the negotiations. First, the PYD and the KNC will stop fighting each other, and instead join together in a new Supreme Kurdish Council for their region of Syria. Second, the PYD will henceforth focus exclusively on the Kurdish issue inside Syria, not across the border in Turkey — clearly implying that the party now promises to cease any practical support to the PKK. Third, the newly unified Syrian Kurds will expel Syrian government officials and security forces from their area — where, until just two weeks ago, many regime institutions had been operating almost normally, despite the turmoil elsewhere in the country.
So far, against all previous expectations, this intra-Kurdish accord is largely holding. Syria’s Kurds have stopped fighting against each other. The PYD’s break with the PKK is not definitive, but events and interested onlookers are pushing in that direction. And within the past two weeks, Syrian regime forces withdrew or were expelled from one Kurdish town after another, although some skirmishes are still being reported in Qamishli and other eastern border areas. Some local Kurds are helping Aleppo resist the Syrian regime siege, though on the whole Syria’s Kurds are now concentrating on securing their own areas.
The Syrian opposition and the Kurdish parties, however, remain sharply at odds over Kurdish demands for recognition as a distinct people inside Syria, with their own cultural and linguistic rights under some form of “political decentralization.” According to senior Syrian opposition figures, tribal sheikhs, and Free Syrian Army (FSA) commanders in Antakya and Istanbul, if the Kurds get autonomy, then what about Syria’s multitude of other minorities? Moreover, these figures say, Turkey will strive to block any such Arab-Kurdish agreement in Syria.
So far, the Syrian National Council (SNC), still the main organized opposition group, shows no sign of budging from this position. On July 22, its president, Abdul Basset Sieda, himself of Kurdish origin, met with Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu and then issued a contemptuous and misleading declaration: “The Syrian regime has handed over the region to the PKK or the PYD. The areas where these Kurdish factions have raised their flags are those Bashar al-Assad gave them. The Kurdish people are not on the side of these two groups, but on the side of the revolution. But some sides have their own agenda which does not serve the Syrian national issue.”
To some extent, according to private accounts of Syrian opposition deliberations, this attitude reflects deference to perceived Turkish wishes. But that is precisely why there is now some hope for greater SNC flexibility on this issue: Turkish policy toward the Syrian Kurdish question is quietly shifting, away from automatically associating Kurdish political activism in that country with the PKK terrorist threat to Turkey.
Any Kurdish issue is a very sensitive one in Turkey, and the new developments right across the Syrian border are no exception. The Turkish media are, as usual, sharply divided on this matter. Reporters and columnists who support the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) stress the potential benefits for Turkey of a rapprochement with Syria’s Kurds, while the opposition press is raising the specter of another hostile, pro-PKK front. Official Turkish statements promise to respond firmly to any Syrian-based PKK provocations, and the local press has reported additional military movements southward from Sanliurfa, toward the Kurdish areas across the Syrian border.
But Turkish official statements also subtly suggest that Ankara will tolerate advances by Syria’s own Kurdish groups – if it sees clear signs that the PYD has abandoned the PKK. On July 22, a Turkish government source was quoted as saying that “we will closely monitor whether the PYD acts with other Kurdish groups or not.” Similarly, on July 25, for instance, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that “We will not allow the terrorist organization to pose a threat to Turkey in Syria; it is impossible for us to tolerate the PKK’s cooperation with the PYD.” This relatively cautious and discriminating response can be partly credited to Turkey’s excellent working relationship with Masoud Barzani, who brokered the latest Syrian Kurdish agreement and continues to play a key role in its implementation. Accordingly, this week Davutoglu is scheduled to meet with Barzani in Erbil to discuss coordinating the next steps in this very delicate policy adjustment.
It is good news that Syria’s Kurds are moving to patch up with each other and with two neighboring U.S. friends — with the KRG, and even with Turkey — while turning against Assad’s regime. Ironically, however, this important positive shift is also raising tensions with the majority Arab groups inside the Syrian opposition, and between the KRG and the Arab-dominated central government in Baghdad, which has sent forces to the border area to confront local KRG units.
U.S. policy should do more than just urge Arabs and Kurds to reconcile their differences in each country. Ideally, Washington should advise Syrian opposition figures that, since they need to attract the country’s minorities, their best course is to engage more creatively with those groups — not try to impose on them some particular “vision” of a future Syria, however “pluralistic.” Conversely, the United States should encourage Syrian and Iraqi Kurds to support the Syrian opposition in every possible way. The price, well worth paying, is for Washington to adjust its policy by prodding the Syrian opposition toward greater recognition of Kurdish rights — and offering increased U.S. support to the Syrian opposition as a crucial incentive.
Looking further ahead, U.S. help in planning for a post-Assad transition should pay urgent attention to deconflicting Arab and Kurdish political claims and aspirations inside Syria. This is every bit as acute an issue as the much more widely recognized Alawite one; the Kurds are about the same percentage of Syria’s total population, and many millions more Kurds in Iraq and Turkey make the involvement of Syria’s neighbors much more likely. At a minimum, working with Turkey, the KRG, and others, the United States should strive to avert violent Turkish-Kurdish or Arab-Kurdish conflict in Syria or on its borders. At the same time, despite its more limited leverage, the United States should urge Baghdad more forcefully to defy Iran, reconcile with the KRG, and abandon support for the Assad regime.
Could This Man Lead Syria After Assad?
Defector and Syrian Gen. Manaf Tlas is being groomed to lead after Bashar al-Assad falls. But will anyone follow?By |Posted Tuesday, July 31, 2012,

Defected Syrian Gen. Manaf Tlass
Photograph by Adem Altan/GettyImages.

“Bashar is president or we burn down the country!” That is the menacing message being scrawled on burnt houses and bullet-pocked stone walls by pro-Assad forces as they make their way across Syria. The graffiti often appears following an assault by the Shabiha, an Alawite militia drawn from the same sectarian community as the country’s elite. Days into the regime’s siege of Aleppo, President Bashar al-Assad is now sending the same message to Syria’s financial capital and largest city. Convoys of regime forces have encircled Aleppo, and Air Force jets and helicopters are now pounding rebel-controlled neighborhoods. “Aleppo will be the last battle waged by the Syrian army to crush the terrorists,” boasted Al Watan, a pro-regime newspaper, “and after that Syria will emerge from the crisis.”

The rebels are confident, too. They have stock piled ammunition, medical supplies, and called in reinforcements from insurgent battalions across northern Syria, as well as sympathizers from abroad.  “Tunisians, Egyptians, and Libyans,” said one activist, who says he saw fighters from these countries in a mountain camp outside the city. The battle for Aleppo is shaping up to be a decisive moment in Syria’s civil war, as the Syrian army carries out a full military assault on a city of 2 million people.

Some of the most critical blows to Assad’s regime have come far from the battlefield. In recent months, Assad’s top political, diplomatic, and military circles have suffered a number of prominent defections. None may be more significant than Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlas, the most prominent military defector thus far. The Sunni Muslim general has ties to both the Alawite establishment and the military elite. A figure as senior as Tlas may seem late to have quit the regime—he defected on June 6, 2012—but his timing may be perfect. Arab and Western governments are rushing to put together a transitional strategy for post-Assad Syria. Tlas appears to be backed by Saudi Arabia and, according to the Wall Street Journal, U.S. officials are in discussions with Middle East governments to place Tlas at the “center of a political transition.” “If he’s pushed by desperate big powers, its wishful thinking,” says Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center. “They are scrambling. They’ve chosen the wrong man with a very dubious background and history.”….

Comments (407)

Pages: « 1 2 3 4 [5] 6 7 8 9 » Show All

201. omen said:

194. MJABALI said: I think the moderator is one of the commentators. Dr. Landis should not let this happen.

mjabali for moderator!

hey, why isn’t my comment posting?


wb snk.

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August 2nd, 2012, 7:49 pm


202. darryl said:

Mr Moderator/Owner,

Please remove my profile and posts from this website if that is all too possible. This will be my last post on this blog rest assured.

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August 2nd, 2012, 8:00 pm


203. omen said:

125. AMJAD said: To be executed by the FSA, you’d have to have racked up a months long record of being a murderous thug

152. GHUFRAN said: I am glad there are still people who believe this garbage, it is a sign that no matter how slow or wrong one can be, there will be somebody else who is even slower and more wrong. that statement is not just wrong, it stinks, it basically labels every victim of assassination by the opposition as a thug or a murderer, this kind of filth is only worthy of a sewage pond not a respectable blog.


if you had evidence, ghufran, to refute it, you could cite it. instead, you resort to name calling. not very persuasive. we’ll wait for you to craft a better counter-argument.

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August 2nd, 2012, 8:01 pm


204. ghufran said:

Abu Hamza, a Free Syrian Army colonel from the Jebel al-Zawiya district south of Idlib, told the Guardian that neither the FSA nor local communities could provide shelter or food for the thousands of displaced civilians being forced to sleep in fields or on the streets of towns and villages.
More than 250,000 refugees are believed to have fled Aleppo in the past fortnight, with large parts of the city of 2.5 million people now empty.
“We can’t feed them,” he said. “We need help. We don’t even have food for our own families, or for ourselves. We cannot survive for much longer under these conditions. We are talking a few weeks.”
comment: one might think that the brilliant leaders of the armed rebels would have thought of an exit strategy before sending thousand of troops to an area that is not too sympathetic to their ways even if it was sympathetic to their cause. Somebody on the regime’s side decided that there is no need to assault the city with heavy weapons and kill thousand of people,instead he instructed his men to wait even as rebels advance.

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August 2nd, 2012, 8:07 pm


205. ghufran said:

Silou on Syria’s chemical weapons:
Adnan Silou, who fled to Turkey nearly two months ago, said he told his interrogators that the stockpiles of chemicals remained secured, but that regime leaders would likely deploy them if they were cornered. “I am sure about this,” he said. “They were a weapon of last resort and what will happen when that day comes.”
Silou, who retired from the Syrian military’s most controversial unit in late 2008, said he had been consulted by still serving officers throughout the past three years and was able to inspect an inventory of the weapons 10 days before fleeing.
“Every one of the stockpiles was intact, although it appeared that some had been moved,” he said. “Not even a centimetre had disappeared from the supplies as I knew them three years ago.”
Syria’s chemical weapons included Sarin, mustard and nerve gas, which could be deployed via artillery shells, rockets, or aircraft, Silou said. He said making them combat-ready was a difficult process, requiring components to be brought together from various locations across the country.
He identified the main chemical depots as being 10km east of Damascus and 10km south of Homs. “They were called units 417 and 418 and they are heavily protected,” he said. Chemicals have also been stored in the eastern desert city of Deir el-Zour.
“All of these things I told the Americans and the Turks when they took me to Ankara,” he said. “They wanted to know everything. I told them that only the president could give the order to weaponise them. It would have to be Assad.”
Comment: is there any Syrian on this board who does not believe that Silou is a traitor of his own country?
Being anti regime does not mean spilling your gut out to foreign intelligence officers, on a lighter note,it is also clear that this guy was marginal and not very bright.

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August 2nd, 2012, 8:16 pm


206. omen said:

203. why blame the rebels when it’s the regime who has cut off access to food?

204. ghufran, you find reassurance in the fact that bashar maintains a viable chemical stockpile as a trump card? sick.

this is what treason looks like: loyalist who tacitly sanction chemical warfare and the gassing of fellow syrians as an acceptable last option.

is there no barbarity from this regime you won’t stomach?

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August 2nd, 2012, 8:33 pm


207. ann said:

Regrets and fingerpointing as world powers swallow Annan’s resignation – 03 August, 2012

While most countries regretted the decision, some used the opportunity to take new jabs at the Syrian leadership.

­Washington said Annan’s resignation highlighted Russia’s and China’s failure to support action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney added that Assad continued to “brutally murder” his own people, in spite of promises to follow Annan’s six-point plan.

The reaction out of London largely echoed what the world had already heard from America.

“We understand Annan’s frustration that, due to vetoes in the Security Council, the international community was unable to give him the support that he needed and requested,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement.

Hague also noted that the Syrian government was failing to meet its obligations according to the Annan plan, instead continuing to repress its people. Nevertheless, Hague commended Annan’s efforts and stressed that the best chance of bringing about a peaceful solution to the crisis would be to stick to outgoing the envoy’s plan, as well as the Geneva communiqué adopted in June.

However, Prime Minister David Cameron signaled what could be a new, harsher period in the West’s treatment of the Assad regime.

The Annan plan “hasn’t worked because we have got this appalling bloodshed. I think what we need to do is actually ramp things up,” he told Sky News.


“Kofi Annan is an honorable man and a brilliant diplomat, so I regret this very much,” Putin said. “But I hope that the international community will continue the efforts to end violence.”

Moscow was happy to learn, though, that the UN and Arab League are looking for a successor to continue the peace mission, remarked Russian envoy to the UN Vitaly Churkin.

“We understand that it’s his decision,” Churkin told reporters. “We have very strongly supported Kofi Annan’s efforts. He has another month to go, and I hope this month will be used as effectively as possible under these very difficult circumstances.”

Syria voiced regret over Annan’s resignation, reaffirming its support of the principles he laid out.

“Syria still believes the only way out of the crisis is a national dialogue and a peace resolution, not a foreign intervention,” the Syrian Foreign Ministry said, adding that Damascus would continue its pursuit of terrorism and its bid to ensure security in the country.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon commended Annan’s efforts to put an end to the Syrian conflict.

“Kofi Annan deserves our profound admiration for the selfless way in which he has put his formidable skills and prestige to this most difficult and potentially thankless of assignments,” Ban noted in a statement. “I will continue to draw on his wisdom and counsel, and on the work of the Office of the Joint Special Envoy.”


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August 2nd, 2012, 8:35 pm


208. Amjad said:

“ne might think that the brilliant leaders of the armed rebels would have thought of an exit strategy before sending thousand of troops to an area that is not too sympathetic to their ways even if it was sympathetic to their cause”

*facepalm* The FSA has done more to bring medical aid, food supplies and help evacuate refugees across the borders than the Syrian regime ever has done. I wish these judgmental self-important types would take a minute to consider what they sound like.

One might think that a government that claims to be protecting the country from foreign plots would set up refugee camps and send officials to the affected areas.

One might think that the hospitals would be full of demonstrators caught in the “crossfire” as the regime claims.

One might think that the prethident and his wife would at least attend one military funeral.

One might think that people could indulge in some independent thinking. But then one would be disappointed.

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August 2nd, 2012, 8:39 pm


209. Amjad said:

#200 Not really. The whole premise of the article has been lifted from the latest ICG report. It states that the regime has degenerated to such an extent that it is now little more than a militia. Militias don’t need borders, or international legitimacy, or to worry themselves about providing services to war torn areas, or pay the salaries of civil servants. So it is impervious to sanctions and diplomatic isolation, in the same way that the Black Knight in Monty Python couldn’t feel any wounds in his legs or arms after they were cut off.

It’s like saying that Nazi Germany by April 1945 was impervious to strategic bombing, as by then there was nothing left to bomb. Yes, the regime is now impervious to any tool that the International community has limited itself to thus far; sanctions, diplomatic isolation. An insect has much simpler needs to exist than a mammal. It means that the way is open for more forceful methods. In its weakened state, it is doubtful the regime can long stand a well equipped and trained foe.

Over in Israel, young people are planing business exits for their start ups. While in Syria, young people are struggling to get a basic Internet connection. Pathetic.

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August 2nd, 2012, 8:49 pm


210. VISITOR said:

The delinquent criminal regime of goons, the assad regime of occupation, and its gangs of thuggish killers are the only terrorists in Syria


Jordanian FM confirms last night’s 6-hour long battle between the Jordanian Army and the mobsters of the criminal regime. Casualties were reported,

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August 2nd, 2012, 8:54 pm


211. Aldendeshe said:

he instructed his men to wait even as rebels advance.

They know the rebels are on very tight leach, militarily, financially and logistically. They know when they desperate and hungry, they will rob, kill and turns the citizens against them, turn them from liberators to thugs by waiting. There is no urgency as Damascus to put it down.

لالقيادة سورية الحرة من عملاء الاستعمار الصهيوني الامبريالي الغربي
سورية الحرة هي سورية النزيهة

المالح وابنه سرقا مبلغ 33 مليون دولار من أموال “الثورة” قبل أن تجمدها الألمانية بعد قصة ابنه مع “عاهرة”

الله يوفقك وينصركم الله يعظّم وينصر المسلمين المجاهدين لتنسى فلسطين الأسلامية والقدس نحن معكم بكل نصرة جهاد حتى تحرير مكة المكرمة مسقط واندالوسيا باكو وكازاخستان انشآ الله

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August 2nd, 2012, 8:58 pm


212. Ghufran said:

وصف الدكتور محمد حبش عمليات إعدام زينو بري والشيخ عبد اللطيف الشامي واختطاف الشيخ محمود حسون في حلب بالعمل المحرّم.
ولفت الدكتور حبش على صفحته الشخصية على “فيبسوك” إلى أن إعدام الأسير لا يجوز في الشرع ولا الدين، وأنه لا يحل لأحد أن يقتل أحدا إلا بمحاكمة ودفاع وقانون وقضاء.
وأشار حبش إلى أنه يدين هذه العمليات بقدر ما أدان سابقا جرائم النظام، حسبما ذكر.
وأبدى العضو السابق في مجلس الشعب السوري تخوفه من أن يسلك الثوار في سوريا نفس السلوك الذي قال إن المخابرات تتبعه في الاعتقال بلا سبب والتعذيب بلا سبب وربما الإعدام بلا سبب.
واستشهد العلامة السوري بقوله تعالى “ويطعمون الطعام على حبه مسكينا ويتيما وأسيرا”.

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August 2nd, 2012, 9:04 pm


213. Ghufran said:

قال غورسيل تكين النائب عن حزب الشعب الجمهوري المعارض في تركيا إن وزير الخارجية التركي أحمد داود أوغلو سيقال من منصبه قريباً. وأضاف تكين “عن نية لتعيين نامق كورهان السفير التركي السابق لدى شمال قبرص في مكانه”. ولفت تكين في مقابلة مع محطة “سي ان ان تورك” الاربعاء إلى أن داود أوغلو لم يوقع حزب العدالة والتنمية ورئيس الوزراء التركي رجب طيب أردوغان في المشاكل فقط ولكنه أوقع تركيا كلها في المشاكل.

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August 2nd, 2012, 9:11 pm


214. Tara said:

Graphic footage coming out from the massacre Bashar committed against the Yarmuk Refugee Camp. Trail of bodies again. Isn’t time yet for divine intervention?

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August 2nd, 2012, 9:13 pm


215. bronco said:

As predicted, whether the rebels are able to secure a zone a la Benghazi in Aleppo or they are totally crushed, the need for a political transitional government is badly needed.
That’s the new buzz word all over the countries concerned by the situation in Syria.

After 15 months of gestation, the opposition has been able to deliver a child, the armed opposition, that has been immediately fed and pampered by some countries eager to topple a man who has treated them of half-men or have stood on their way to tame the Resistance to Israel

The trouble is that these countries have no tradition of democracy and power sharing as they are authoritarian family managed countries, therefore, despite their money and maybe because of their money, they have had a negative influence on the embryo.

So the second child, the unified political arm of the opposition, remained immature and crippled with a short life span.

Without such entity it is impossible for the West to manage the situation without involving themselves deeper as they did in Iraq, that means: The heavy burden of “nation building”. Most western countries refuse vehemently a costly remake of Iraq..
So today, despite the hopes and plans, the West countries are cornered and will remain cornered until they find urgently an artificial insemination that may give birth to a ‘transitional’ government. The danger is that it may take 15 more months and may turn out to be a monster.

On the other hand, if the Syrian government is able to secure Aleppo, it would just have to wait for the West to call for a dialog.
Whether the rebels win or not, they will be hampered by the absence of a political umbrella and may end up fighting against each other for power as they have different agendas and are manipulated by different ideological currents, often incompatible.

Unless the West is able to quickly find an acceptable leadership among the opposition factions, I think that time is playing in favor of the Syrian government.

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August 2nd, 2012, 9:19 pm


216. ann said:

Syrian people’s daily life – 2012-08-03

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August 2nd, 2012, 9:20 pm


217. Aldendeshe said:

Can you please send the footage when it is photoshopped to Zionist owned outfit like CNN and Fox, they will love it, they have no req. for authenticity. Be another Michael Hezarkhani will ya. Make sure the rockets shown are labled “Syrian Scuds” in English, for maxium impact on bedouins gulping coke by the gallons watching it.

لالقيادة سورية الحرة من عملاء الاستعمار الصهيوني الامبريالي الغربي
سورية الحرة هي سورية النزيهة

المالح وابنه سرقا مبلغ 33 مليون دولار من أموال “الثورة” قبل أن تجمدها الألمانية بعد قصة ابنه مع “عاهرة”

الله يوفقك وينصركم الله يعظّم وينصر المسلمين المجاهدين لتنسى فلسطين الأسلامية والقدس نحن معكم بكل نصرة جهاد حتى تحرير مكة المكرمة مسقط واندالوسيا باكو وكازاخستان انشآ الله

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August 2nd, 2012, 9:27 pm


218. ann said:

On Syria, Saudis Belatedly Brief African Group, On 120 Votes, Bill Clinton Buzz

By Matthew Russell Lee, EXCLUSIVE

UNITED NATIONS, August 2 — Late Thursday on the eve of the Friday morning General Assembly vote on Saudi Arabia’s resolution about Syria, the Saudi Permanent Representative belatedly met with the African Group on 47th Street.

Inner City Press, which in three articles this week questioned why the Saudis met with all regional groups except Africa, heard about the meeting and went to stake it out, the only media in front. The Saudi Permanent Representative smiled as he left, saying “you are everywhere.”

African diplomats said “he had to come” and “he came just to say he had.” One let it be known that the UK has said there are already 120 votes for the watered down Saudi resolution.

But there are still disputes, for example whether the resolution should “welcome” decisions of the Arab League, or merely “note” them. This is another right about “regime change” and sanctions, even with those words technically out of the text.

Another proponent of the amended resolution told Inner City Press he expects 125 votes in votes, while having projected only 70 if it had not been amended.

The draft, which Inner City Press obtained from a well placed member state after 5 pm on August 1, is set for voting August 3 at 11 am (not 10 am as French Ambassador Gerard Araud said on camera midday Thursday, just to clear that up). Inner City Press is putting the draft online here.

Buzzy footnore: Speculation of who might replace Kofi Annan is rife, one source telling Inner City Press that Bill Clinton, who essentially admitted the UN brought cholera to Haiti, is in the mix.


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August 2nd, 2012, 9:30 pm


219. Ghufran said:

الكلام لالك يا كنه اسمعي يا جاره
The first post-transitional Egyptian cabinet was officially sworn in Thursday amid criticism it contained too many old regime figures and further underlined the power the military still wields in post-revolution Egypt.
The new cabinet comprises a range of technocrats, mainly promoted from within the ranks. The Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), took five portfolios: information, housing, higher education, youth and manpower. There are two women in the new cabinet, including the only Coptic Christian minister, Nadia Zachary, who will head the ministry for scientific research.
In a nod to the other major power in the country, the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf), Hussein Tantawi, remained in his post as minister of defence, highlighting once again the balance of power between Scaf and the Brotherhood in post-revolution Egypt.

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August 2nd, 2012, 9:33 pm


220. Ghufran said:

A letter to the Guardian:

• If a few hundred armed rebels were lodged in south London, wouldn’t we expect our government to use every means to destroy them? Would we blame the rebels or the government for collateral damage? What hypocrisy is it to say the Assad government should just give up? Why do we cheerlead religious extremists? Do we want another Sunni tyranny like Saudi? Are we happy to create a sectarian conflict? Have we forgotten Afghanistan? Iraq? Is it all designed to help the coming war against Iran? Two things seem clear: imperialism in the Middle East is very much alive and kicking and we’re not being told the full truth.
Paul Baker

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August 2nd, 2012, 9:40 pm


221. ann said:

On Syria, Araud Disses Churkin’s “Conspiracy Theory,” Ladsous Floats Away

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 2 — When the Syria meeting of the UN Security Council broke up late Thursday afternoon, it was Russian Permanent Representative Vitaly Churkin who made it first to the UN TV microphone.

He said that inside the meeting, the Western countries had not explained to his satisfaction why they want the UN observer mission to end on August 19.

During the meeting, another Security Council member told Inner City Press it would be a matter of “saving face,” after the (mostly) UK drafted July 20 resolution used the term “final” extension.

Inner City Press asked Churkin if it would be possible to maintain after August 19 a UN presence in Syria, for example with personnel of the UN Department of Safety and Security, without passing a new resolution. Churkin said no, then said Russia would be willing to “re-name” the mission.

French Permanent Representative Gerard Araud, August’s Council president, began by chiding Churkin for speaking first. Inner City Press asked him about the EU’s Kristalina Georgieva’s statement that humanitarian aid delivery in Syria is helped by the UNSMIS mission, even now.

This, Araud did not answer. Rather, he focused with rhetorical flourish on Inner City Press’ second question, about Churkin’s surprise that Kofi Annan’s deputy Jean Marie Guehenno had been called by to Paris for a job with the French government.

Araud said this was a “conspiracy theory,” and that Churkin had spend too long on the Middle East. He emphasized that it was the new, Francois Hollande, government which offered Guehenno the post. But it is only to write a white paper.

To some it seems that if the Annan mission were going better, at least from France’s point of view, Guehenno might not have been “called home.”

When he was asked how Russia inside the meeting had argued for UNSMIS to stay in Syria, Araud took another pot-shot, saying, you should ask Churkin and Ja’afari, Syria’s Ambassador. There were smiles in Araud’s entourage, and in truth it was more entertaining that most Council president’s stakeouts. Will Churkin or Ja’afari fire back?

Next up was Guehenno’s successor, with fellow Frenchman Alain Le Roy in the middle, as head of UN Peacekeeping: Herve Ladsous. His spokeswoman — lead spokesman Kieran Dwyer is said to be away on business travel — announced from the beginning Ladsous would take only two or three questions, fewer than Churkin or Araud.

Even so, Ladsous barely answered, and as more detailed questions began — like why he took half of UNSMIS out despite what the EU’s Georgieva said — Ladsous floated away from the microphone, taking no Press questions (as he vowed, not liking or being able to handle critical coverage), saying only “We are working.”

Working on what? Dismantling the UN Mission and its credibility?


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August 2nd, 2012, 9:46 pm


222. Tara said:


Whether the rebels win or not, they will be hampered by the absence of a political umbrella and may end up fighting against each other for power..”

I agree. The political opposition carries a historical responsibility of unifying to move forward. Although, I said I would give my vote to Haytham al Maleh..I don’t think his unilateral declaration of being “self -appointed” is helping, to the opposite, it is creating more division.

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August 2nd, 2012, 9:53 pm


223. ann said:

Aerial bombardment kills 16 rebels in southern Syria | Aug 3, 2012

AMMAN: Syrian army helicopter bombardment killed 16 rebels from the same family in the southern Hauran Plain, a strategic region that links Damascus with Jordan, where fighting has intensified in the past several days, opposition sources said on Friday.

The loss on the rebel side came after fighters attacked an army roadblock on Thursday near the town of Busra al-Harir and were pursued from the air, the sources said, adding that army artillery also started shelling the town.

“The 175th Regiment is now shelling Busra al-Harir from Izru,” an opposition activist in the region said, referring to a Syrian army base near the main highway linking Damascus to the border city of Deraa, birthplace of the 17-month revolt against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.


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August 2nd, 2012, 9:59 pm


224. syria haters said:

I can’t wait for two things in my lifetime. After, these terrorists take over Syria, I pray to god they turn their guns north, southeast, n southwest. That’s right turkey, ksa, isreal. Or better yet, I can’t wait for all that oil to run out from underneath your dirty sandals, you head choppin, blood thirsty, wahabi murderers. Just wait n see…..all the billions spent American weapons from Egypt, n all the gulf state customers, will probably turn on isreal one day. The real losers will be ksa n Israel. So keep supporting those terrorists.

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August 2nd, 2012, 10:01 pm


225. irritated said:

172. ghufran

It looks like the Christians, the Circassians, the Armenians and even the Druzes are not changing they mind, despite the calls from the zaim Jumblatt.

Now that they lost the Kurds to the regime, the opposition is trying to stir the Palestinians by ‘creating’ massacres. I hope the Palestinians won’t be fooled, keep cool and remain neutral.

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August 2nd, 2012, 10:02 pm


226. Ghufran said:

أقرّ رئيس المجلس الوطني السوري السابق برهان غليون بوجود مسلّحين أجانب يقاتلونَ في صفوفِ المعارضةِ في سورية. وقال غليون في مقابلة مع إحدى القنوات الفرنسية “إن هؤلاء هم الخطرون ولكنهم قلّة” مضيفاً “إن السوريين لا يندمجون في القاعدة قطعاً ولا يؤمنون بأفكارها”.
ورأى المعارض السوري أنَ “معركة حلب ستحسم نهاية هذا الشهر أو خلالَ أسابيع على أبعد تقدير في حال عجز النظام السوري عن إرسال قوات إضافية إلى المدينة” قائلاً “بالنظر إلى الظروف الراهنة حلب ستتحرر”.

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August 2nd, 2012, 10:10 pm


227. omen said:

Syrian Leader’s Weapons Under Strain

many of the Syrian government’s most powerful weapons, including helicopter gunships, fighter jets and tanks, are looking less potent and in some cases like a liability for the military of President Bashar al-Assad.


Close observers of his military say Syria is having trouble keeping its sophisticated and maintenance-intensive weapons functioning.


Analysts said Syria’s fleet of Mi-25 Hind-D attack helicopters, which numbered 36 at the start of the conflict, is insufficient to hold back rebels as the number of fronts, from Aleppo and Idlib in the north to the suburbs of Damascus in the south and Hama and Homs in the center of the country, continues to proliferate.

Maintenance technicians are struggling to keep the machines aloft in an intense campaign and in the searing heat and sand associated with summer desert war. Estimates are that only half his fleet can be used at a given time, with some helicopters cannibalized for spare parts and Mr. Assad dependent on supplies from Russia.


One video, which analysts said was credible, showed a fighting group in Rastan with what appeared to be two-thirds of an SA-7 shoulder-fired, heat-seeking missile system.

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August 2nd, 2012, 10:21 pm


228. bronco said:

#220 Tara

They cannot get to a consensus on a person, that’s the drama of the opposition and the advantage of the Syrian government who despite sanctions, insults, criticism, threats has remained cohesive and united, politically and militarily behind their leader.

While the whole present political system of the Baath party in Syria is made on compromises and acceptance of the differences of religions and ethnicity, the political system of Qatar and KSA is rigid, sectarian, closed and uncompromising. The non-collaborative value has propagated within the opposition that these countries created and influenced.
This is why the opposition will not be able to agree on anybody unless it is imposed on them. Yet, pumped by their ego, their greed and the illusion that the West is with them, they are now resisting Qatar and KSA candidate, Manaf Tlass and the local Syrian opposition candidate Haytham Al Maleh.
They look for a candidate within the FSA, but Ryad Al Assaad is detested and the others have little weight.
As you see they have a serious problem to solve and time is running out, not for the regime anymore, but for the opposition to make sense of all these deaths.

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August 2nd, 2012, 10:21 pm


229. zoo said:

Ghaliun hopes and see himself already in Aleppo’s presidential palace. Who is “WE”?

“If Aleppo falls, then automatically we are going to establish headquarters at the presidential palace,” said Burhan Ghalioun, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council, late Wednesday in Paris. “”There will be nothing more that will stand in the way of the Free Syrian Army. Hama, Homs to the outskirts of Damascus have in large part been liberated.”

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August 2nd, 2012, 10:37 pm


230. zoo said:

USA: No arms for the rebels. We love Annan’s plan for a peaceful transition even if Annan left desperate.

US stands firm against arming Syrian rebels

“Our position has not changed: We provide non-lethal assistance to the opposition,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said aboard Air Force One.

“We don’t believe that adding to the number of weapons in Syria is what’s needed to help bring about a peaceful transition.”

But the United States maintained that Annan’s six-point plan was “a framework we continue to support and to go forward with in the context of our wider strategy.”

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August 2nd, 2012, 10:40 pm


231. Norman said:

The winner in Syria is going to be the one that can endure.

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August 2nd, 2012, 10:48 pm


232. omen said:


another dispatch from austin tice:

Rebels give inside account of Damascus fighting, saying holding neighborhoods was never plan

DAMASCUS, Syria — Rebel fighters who planned and participated in intense fighting in the Syrian capital two weeks ago say they never intended to capture and hold portions of the city. They view the skirmishing, widely seen as a victory for the government, as just the opposite.

“It was an excellent victory,” said Abu Abdullah, a commander in the unit that exercises rebel tactical control over the western half of Damascus. “We accomplished our objectives, gained experience, and had very low casualties. The Free Army is stronger as a result, and the regime is weaker.”

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August 2nd, 2012, 10:51 pm


233. Ghufran said:

أعلن العميد نصر مصطفى، نائب رئيس فرع المخابرات الجوية في محافظة دير الزور، انشقاقه عن النظام وانضمامه إلى الجيش السوري الحر بسبب ما وصفها بالجرائم التي ترتكب بحق الشعب السوري.

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August 2nd, 2012, 11:25 pm


234. zoo said:

News Analysis: Syrian crisis sees no foreseeable solution in near future

DAMASCUS, Aug. 2 (Xinhua) — The Syrian crisis that has been dragging on for 17 months is unexpected to draw to an end soon, as speculations are high that it would go on for months and even years, no matter whether the regime is overthrown or not.

Observers have sounded the alarm that any settlement to the crisis doesn’t necessarily hinge on toppling the regime, given the fact that the country is veering towards an internal conflict and Syrian opposition parties are going through internal fragmentation.

Some world powers and regional powerhouses frequently said that the collapse of the Syrian regime is inevitable and is around the corner, and they have even started talking about post-President Bashar Assad era, without hiding their fears of the expansion of fundamentalists in the area.




Analysts say that chances for a political settlement in Syria are “nil” after 17 months of regional and international attempts..


The Syrian opposition is obviously having difficulty agreeing on a common vision. What looked like minor differences have turned out to be great points of contention.
For those reasons, observers have drawn a bleak vision for the future of Syria.

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August 2nd, 2012, 11:31 pm


235. mjabali said:


It is very obvious that something is going on on this blog since this new moderator came along.

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August 3rd, 2012, 12:12 am


236. Visitor said:

Mr. Gerard Araud, French permenant rep. At the UNSC and it’s current President, indicated that the resignation of Mr. Annan is insignificant. Among other things, he mentioned that the mission members spend 90 percent of their time in the hotels rendering their presence meaningless. He also mentioned that it is unlikely the UNSC will agree on an extension of the mission when it officially expires end of August. Discussions, he said, will be limited only to establishing security zones to provide relief to refugees. He blamed Russia for the deadlock and made scathing criticism of its maneuvering tactics at the UNSC.

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August 3rd, 2012, 12:18 am


237. Son of Damascus said:


“Even some superpowers, like Russia, are believed to be trying to have a solid foothold equal to that of the United States in the area via their support to Syria.”

This is wishful thinking, the Russian support towards the Assadi regime overwhelmingly exceeds the support provided by the US to the opposition. How many gunships/tanks/artillery/APC/Fixed wing planes has the US provided VS what the Russians have?

Btw what the hell does [sic] SPLITED mean?

Guess Xinhua is allergic to checking not only the facts, but spell check as well.

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August 3rd, 2012, 12:24 am


238. Son of Damascus said:


Has there been a moderator that you did not have a problem with?

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August 3rd, 2012, 12:27 am


239. mjabali said:

Son of Damascus:

Sorry son of Damascus but let me correct you:

Alawis are from two major groups even if they belong to many different tribes.

Second: educated Alawis (from rich and poor families) were most of the time anti Assads. Many spent years in prison. Hafez, as you said discriminated against those because they did not like him from the start.

Among those around Hafez and Bassar al-Assad it is Mohammad Nasif who is from a very big Alawi family. He is from the family of Ismail al-Hawash, who had a mini state within the Ottoman empire in the 19th C.

Some like Duba and Haydar may have came from clergy family but before 1970 no one have heard of them. They are from the same group as al-Assad.

the Assads, kept the Alawis from the group different than theirs’ out of the high posts. They used the poor uneducated alawis as their private soldiers.

As for moderators: They have problems with me more than I have problems with them. I like this blog to be without moderation.

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August 3rd, 2012, 12:33 am


240. Observer said:

Rumors are running that one of the killed in the Damascus bombing was Bandar as he was meeting the others. I know Debka claims he was killed by an Iranian unit but Debka in my opinion has the same reputation as SANA when it comes to reliability; so I dismiss this source out of hand.

Bandar has not been seen; Fredo has not been seen either. Is there a reason for these vanishing acts? Does anyone here have an inkling about these?
Is it true that the grave of Hafez was bombed?

Did anyone see the funeral of Asef in Tartous?
It is clear that Iran and Russia are embarrassed by Annan resigning and their outlets Press TV and RT are mention this in passing. They know that they are to blame for its ineffectiveness. Anyway, the revolution has moved from slogans to rocks to RPG’s and more on the way.

It boggles my mind in what kind of universe the regime is in.

Norman thinks it is an endurance test; well the analogy is wrong for in this case the regime is eating itself.

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August 3rd, 2012, 12:35 am


241. Aldendeshe said:

“Kofi Annan is an honorable man and a brilliant diplomat, so I regret this very much,” Putin said

Sure, but he signed the death warrant of 3 million moslems, when he knew it is all fabricated lies presented by Powell and CNN/Fox.

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August 3rd, 2012, 12:45 am


242. Observer said:

According to Haitham Al Maleh for the record MAJBALI Mohamad Nasif used drug addicts to torture prisoners and he met with Hafez every day at 4 am to give reports about the security situation and he was very effective in suppressing the MB revolt in the 80’s

I agree with Majbali that all sects and ethnic groups are victims of the dictatorship. I also think that this clique has even cornered the Alawi community into thinking that a Rwanda fate awaits them if the regime falls. In this they show truly unimaginable cruelty and barbarism.

However, it is clear that the number of non Alawi members that are supportive of the regime is dwindling fast and that even the profiteers are now sitting on the fence and the majority of those that can leave have left and those behind are just sitting tight.

It is also clear that the regime relied on the sectarian card for a very long time and that the Alawi community passively or actively benefited from this sectarian thinking driven by old grievances.

Majbali please tell us what is the core elements of Alawi belief and are there secret tenants and what differences are there with Shia and why are they called Alawi?

A civil society rises the citizenship above these differences. The differences acquire significance and sects sprout and flourish when the central state is weak and the ideological background of the society fails to provide answers and solutions.

Sunni islam is sick and its politicizing a danger to its spirituality. I see these days the deification of the Prophet which is blasphemy to me and the Zionization of Islam by imparting a “chosen” mentality for its adherents. Both are abhorrent and disgusting but in fairness I see a deep sectarian fanaticism in our brothers the Shia that is anathema to everything that Ali Ibn Abi Taleb stood for. The recent events have unmasked this streak in some.

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August 3rd, 2012, 12:49 am


243. Juergen said:

Joschka Fischer, ex foreign minister under Schröder has written this article about the afterrmath of the Assad regime. He was very influental on Germanys stand against the war in Iraq. His statement to Colin Powell, I am not convinced is quite famous.

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August 3rd, 2012, 12:50 am


244. sf94123 said:

Post # 235: MJABALI, you are 100% right! Had the same feeling as I was reading this morning.

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August 3rd, 2012, 1:31 am


245. mjabali said:


Let me focus on one important question you asked instead of trying to answer to the various points in your post.

You said: “Mjabali please tell us what is the core element of Alawi belief and are there core secret tenants and what differences are there with Shia and why are they called Alawi?”

To answer this I need days of writings and footnoting, but I will try and make it brief.

1- The core element of Alawi belief is mixture of religions and beliefs mixed with Islam through an interpretation of al-Quran that does not match any other.

Some of these elements are pre Islamic and related to the philosophy of Plotinus and his school of Neoplatonism.

Sufi masters (Naqshbandi, Janbalani..etc) played a major role into shaping this creed.

As for al-Quran they think everything in it has two meanings: the one on the surface al-Zaher, and what is inside of the words: al-Batin, hence came the word Batiniyah.
Alawism is a product of an age where philosophy was brought in to interpret Islam.

2- The secret tenants you asked about mr. Observer are probably the way the Alawis look at Omar, Othman, Abu Bakr and Mu’awiyah. The Alawis started hiding their way of looking at Islam because of persecution.

3- As for the difference between the Alawis and the Shia: They both follow the teachings of Ja’far al-Sadeq as their juriprudincical reference. But the Alawis do not look at the descendants of Prophet Mohammad the way the Shia do look at those who claim that line. The Alawis are more independent than the Shia, who are always under a huge group (al-Asyad) that claim to be related the prophet Mohammad and therefore should rule. They do not practice the self beating known to Shia. The Shia base most of their practices on al-Quran, while Alawis still recite “prayers” written by al-Khasibi and his students.

4- They are called Alawis because they consider Ali ibn Abi Taleb a man with special supernatural qualities.

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August 3rd, 2012, 1:42 am


246. mjabali said:


I just wrote you a response to your question about the Alawis’ core ideas…It is in the spam prison…if it did not appear I will try and write it again in the morning…

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August 3rd, 2012, 1:44 am


247. omen said:

ammar abdulhamid

Insider Information

While many expect the General Assembly to pass a resolution calling on Assad to step down, friends at the UN tell me that the paragraph calling on Assad to step down was actually removed following pressures from India, South Africa and Brazil, among others.

The recent decision by the U.S. Treasury Department to allow for the Syrian Support Group to gather funds on behalf of the Free Syrian Army falls strictly under the nonlethal assistance policy, so no weapons can be purchased using any funds collected by the Group.

The decision will not have much of an impact when it comes to reality on the ground for two more reasons. First, many Syrian-American are already sending funds to the FSA even without such approval, and second, Syrian-American donations will remain a drop in the bucket in comparison to what can be collected from Gulf supporters. Saudi donors just collected $100 million meant to support the Syrian rebels, following a five-day fundraising marathon.

It should be noted in this connection that reports claiming that rebels got their hands on MANPADS from external sources, have been vehemently refuted by rebel leaders on the ground.

The Obama Administration is still MIA in Syria, and although some pundits applaud that, but they seem to have a different endgame in sight where a protracted civil war in Syria and its eventual implosion may not be such a terrible development, the human cost notwithstanding.

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August 3rd, 2012, 1:48 am


248. Uzair8 said:

New Syrian defense minister, symbol of regime’s brutal war
Thursday, 02 August 2012

When Sunni officer Fahed al-Freij was promoted to replace Syria’s defense minister, slain in a bomb attack two weeks ago, few people paid much attention and rebels dismissed him as inconsequential.


Rebels seems to have changed their opinion of Freij.

“We did not know who he was at first. We have checked now. He is a Bedouin from Hama, commander of the operations (to crush opposition in) Deraa and Homs during the revolution,” said a rebel commander in Damascus.


But the rebels are now better equipped and determined to fight back. A group of gunmen posted a Youtube video after his appointment saying that his tribe disavow him and that he will be their target.

“We inform him that he will be our coming target..we tell him that victory is coming. God is Greatest.”

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August 3rd, 2012, 1:55 am


249. Aldendeshe said:

To the stupid kid that is cheating the thumbing up/down. We are counting the visitors on our stat generator and can see when you dumb ass add a block of 10 or 4 and no new visitor visited the site. Childish poorley trained Langley kid.

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August 3rd, 2012, 2:30 am


250. Uzair8 said:

Syria banks face deposit challenge as civil war expands
Thu Aug 2, 2012

(Reuters) – Now that rebels have carried Syria’s civil war from remote villages to the capital and the commercial hub, a banking system that survived 16 months of unrest will face its biggest test.

In most of the country, banks have been managing to stay open, thanks to strenuous efforts by their managers and the needs of desperate customers who continue to deposit money because they can find no safer place.

But the spread of major fighting to Damascus last month, and then to Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city and top commercial centre, marks a new, more destructive period for the economy, putting banks under fresh pressure.

Read more:

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August 3rd, 2012, 2:35 am


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