Recapitalising the Syrian Banking System: Costs and Challenges

Andrew Cunninghamby Andrew Cunningham with Darien Middle East

It is hard to think about reconstructing Syria and its economy at a time when there is so much uncertainty about how the civil war will develop in the months ahead, but, as the fiasco of Iraqi “reconstruction” in the months following the overthrow of Saddam Husain has shown, failure to plan for the days when the conflict has ended will not only delay the process of reconstruction but may also lead to a continuation of bloodshed and violence.

It is in this context that Darien Middle East has developed an analysis of the costs and challenges that will likely be involved in the reconstruction of the Syrian banking system, building on our June 2013 analysis “Deconstructing the Syrian Banking System” (on Syria Comment; also available on the Darien website).

In terms of costs, we estimate that $10.5bn – $16bn will be needed to recapitalise the state-owned banks. This is about 20 – 30% of pre-civil war GDP. It is an amount of money that would not preclude a rapid recapitalisation, if western powers are willing to provide financial and technical support for the process.

As for the principal challenges that will be faced, much will depend on whether a strong government emerges from the conflict – one that is able to take and impose decisions reasonably quickly; or whether a post-conflict government is characterised by factional fighting. In the former scenario, reconstruction, including bank recapitalisation, will be a largely technical affair and can be achieved fairly quickly; in the latter scenario, reconstruction will be a hostage to political interest trading and is unlikely to progress quickly.

Three Stages to Quantifying the Scale of Bank Recapitalisation

The process of rebuilding the Syrian banking system falls into three areas:

  • First, we must take a view on the level of losses in the banking industry prior to the conflict.
  • Second, we must consider the extent to which such losses will have been increased by the conflict.
  • Third, we must consider the medium and long-term capital requirements of banks in post-conflict Syria.

Our analysis addresses only the state-owned banks in Syria. Private sector banks are likely to have been more solvent than state-owned banks going into the current crisis, since they are able better able resist pressures to lend to poorly performing state-owned enterprises. Private sector and Islamic banks accounted for only 6% of lending to state-owned enterprises at the end of 2010, although their share of banking system assets and of capital funds was nearly 30%.

Furthermore, private sector shareholders tend to take a more realistic approach to potential losses. Those that are subsidiaries of foreign banks will have been required by regulators in their home countries to make adequate provisions against losses.

Recapitalizing Syrian banks table 1

Table 1 – click for full-size image

Recapitalizing Syrian banks table 2

Table 2 – click for full-size image

If private sector banks need to be recapitalised, the funds will come from their owners and not from a future Syrian government or the international community.

The six state-owned banks account for nearly three quarters of all banking assets in Syria. The Commercial Bank of Syria accounts for about half of the combined assets of these six state-owned banks, and the Real Estate Bank about 15%.

Estimating the True Level of Non-Performing Loans

Estimating the cost of bank recapitalisation entails making some bold assumptions, the most important of which is about the level of losses that banks will be facing when the conflict ends.

The IMF’s 2009 Article IV report on Syria gives the ratio of non-performing loans (NPLs) to total loans at the state-owned banks as 5.9%. This figure, which the IMF sources to the Central Bank of Syria, is not credible. One must assume that the state-owned banks began the civil war with substantial undeclared credit losses on their balance sheets.

By way of comparison, the World Bank estimates that about a quarter of loans extended by Egyptian banks (both public and private) were non performing in 2005 before the Egyptian Central Bank began to clean up the banks’ balance sheets. The World Bank estimates that the NPL ratios of Tunisian banks were about 12% before the overthrow of Ben Ali, and puts the current ratios of banks in Jordan at about 8% and Morocco at about 5%. Tunisia, Jordan and Morocco have well-supervised banking systems and powerful central banks.

The Iraqi banking system provides a demonstration of how difficult it can be to estimate the extent of losses in a post conflict society. Work to rehabilitate the Iraqi banking system began soon after the overthrow of Saddam Husain in 2003 and picked up pace when the World Bank signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Central Bank of Iraq in 2006. Efforts focused on the two commercial banks, Rashid and Rafidain, which accounted for 90% of banking activity in Iraq. Yet seven years later, in its July 2013 Article IV Report on Iraq, the IMF was acknowledging that the net worth of the two banks remained difficult to estimate due to lack of transparency and the continuing presence of pre-2003 items on their balance sheets.

So, what is a reasonable estimate for loan losses in Syrian commercial banks?

At the end of June 2013, the median non-performing loan (NPL) ratio for privately owned banks that had published their full financial statements either on their websites or with the Damascus Securities Exchange was 43%. This compared to 21.5% for all such banks at the end of December 2012, and 7.5% at the end of 2011. Private sector banks can be expected to display stronger asset quality (i.e. lower NPL ratios) than the state-owned banks.

By way of comparison, Commercial Bank of Syria, the leading state-owned bank, reported a non-performing loan ratio of 3.5% at the end of 2011 (stating NPLs at S£12 billion, $227mn), compared to 1.6% at the end of 2010. The Real Estate Bank, reported an NPL ratio of 6.5% at the end of 2011 (stating NPLs S£685mn, $13mn) compared to 3.6% at the end of 2010. None of these figures is credible.

Taking into account the published non-performing loan ratios for the private Syrian banks; the figures from other state-led economies in the Middle East, such as Egypt; and the probable impact of a drawn-out civil war in Syria; it is reasonable to assume that between one half and three quarters of all loans extended by the state-owned banks will be impaired.

Of course, not all impaired loans entail a write-off of all funds owed. Loans can often be rescheduled, customers can be coaxed into repaying a proportion of what they owe in return for forgiveness of the rest, and sometimes banks can seize and then liquidate collateral. The recovery rate on impaired Syrian loans is likely to be low, but it will not be zero, especially in the case of loans to sate-owned monopolies that are likely to remain in business after the fighting ends.

In the past, the level of provisioning by state-owned banks against their non-performing loans appears to have been modest. The IMF estimated that provisions covered about one sixth of the gross non-performing portfolio in 2008 and 2009, and about 1% of the gross loan portfolio – in simple terms, about $200mn.

Syrian Banks Will Need Extra Capital to Raise Lending Rates during Reconstruction

Having predicted the unrecoverable portion of non-performing loans at the end of the conflict, and written those amounts of against existing capital funds, one needs to look ahead to the capital levels that banks will need to operate safely in future and also to meet the huge demands for finance that will arise during the reconstruction phase. Our analysis assumes the need for an un-weighted leverage ratio of 8%. This is high by international standards, but fair for Syrian banks.

As for the level of future lending, one must assume that after the conflict has ended Syrian banks will need to provide large amounts of money to fund reconstruction projects and enable new businesses to be established. Historically, Syrian banks have not lent as much to Syrian businesses as banking systems in other Middle Eastern (or other) countries have been lending to businesses in their own countries. Throughout the Middle East, bank lending is generally equivalent to about 55% of a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) according to the IMF. In Syria, this figure was about 40% in 2010, according to our calculations. So if Syrian banks are to play a full role in the country’s reconstruction they will need to increase their rate of lending, and to do this they will need more capital.

Based on these assumptions – the likely level of loan losses (50% – 75% of the loan portfolio is impaired and a significant proportion of that is unrecoverable), a capital requirement that can be considered prudent (an 8% un-weighted capital ratio), and a convergence by Syrian banks to the lending levels seen elsewhere in the Middle East (55% of GDP), we estimate that the cost of recapitalising the state owned banks is likely to range from $9bn to $16bn.


Syrian coins, image property of Darien Middle East

Supplemental: Steps to Recapitalise a Banking System

Recapitalising a banking system is not a fundamentally hard thing to do. It entails reaching a realistic valuation of the assets on banks’ balance sheets, deciding who is going to pay the difference between that valuation and the value at which the banks have been holding the assets on their books, allocating the funds to pay that difference, and then passing any regulations or laws necessary to execute the plan.

Difficulties and delays usually arise as a result of a lack of political and bureaucratic nerve or as a result of institutional obstruction by those who are vested in the status quo ante.

Finding the money necessary to recapitalize a banking system should not be a problem. In emerging markets, it is usually stateowned banks that need to be re-capitalised, and new capital can be provided in the form of government bonds and guarantees.

Issuing such bonds and guarantees increases the level of a government’s debt (as we have seen in Europe, as national governments moved to bail out insolvent banks), but robust analysis should already have factored in a government’s contingent liability to insolvent state-owned banks, with the result that a government’s economic debt ratios (as opposed to published debt ratios) change little after a bank bail-out is executed.

In the case of Syria, injecting $10bn into the banking sector would approximately double the country’s public sector debt. (Pre-civil war GDP was about $50bn and pre-civil war debt to GDP was about 20%.) When viewed against the cost of other emerging market bank bail-outs, such numbers are not prohibitive. Furthermore, it is reasonable to assume that as a result of sanctions the Syrian government’s obligations to western countries have been diminishing – so making the assumption of new debt easier to bear; and also that western governments would financially support the recapitalisation of the Syrian banking system under a post-Asad secular government.

That said, experience tells us that the key factor determining the extent to which the Syrian banking system can be transformed after the civil war, and the pace at which such transformation will occur, will be the political environment in which such transformation begins, rather than the financial cost of bank recapitalisation.

Efforts to recapitalise and modernise the Iraqi banking system began fairly soon after the overthrow of Saddam Husain in 2003. In their first years, such efforts achieved little and even now the Iraqi commercial banking system remains hugely dysfunctional and a weak engine for economic growth. (At the end of 2012, Iraqi banks’ loans to the private sector represented about 17% of their assets and were equivalent to about 8.5% of Iraqi GDP.)

There have been three key reasons for the slow improvement in the quality of the Iraqi commercial banking sector.

Firstly, efforts to reform the commercial banks had to start from a very low level – the Iraqi economy had been subject to wide ranging international sanctions for 13 years before the overthrow of Saddam in 2003 and prior to that the banks acted primarily as the tools of government rather than as commercial enterprises.

Secondly, the Central Bank’s ability to act decisively was constrained by rivalries and conflicts within the Iraqi government. In particular, the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance had a difficult relationship. (In 2012, the incorruptible Dr. Sinan al-Shabibi, who had fought to maintain the Central Bank’s independence, was removed from the Governorship by Prime Minister Maliki.)

Thirdly, the high level of violence and insecurity throughout the country hampered day to day work, particularly of foreign experts trying to provide advice and guidance – if a visit to a bank is only possible when one travels by armoured convoy, the number of such visits will be limited and the quality and quantity of time spent advising local bank staff will be compromised. The security situation also prevented experienced Iraqi expatriates from returning to Iraq to work in banks.

Egypt provides a contrasting picture, albeit one which provides an inexact comparison. When the Central Bank of Egypt began its bank reform programme in 2005, there were already well-performing, privately-owned banks operating in Egypt that could provide examples of good practice, and occasionally supply experienced commercially-minded staff to the state-owned banks. Furthermore, the Central Bank enjoyed the full support of the Ministry of Finance and the highest levels of government. And of course, Egypt was peaceful. The biggest constraints to getting advice into the banks seemed to be the Cairo traffic jams! (The author speaks from personal experience!)

Why does capital matter?

Capital is a bank’s cushion against unexpected losses; as opposed to provisions, which are its cushion against loan losses that have already occurred or which are expected to occur. When a bank recognises loan losses, it writes down the value of those loans in its financial statements. If the losses so great that they overwhelm the bank’s loan loss provisions, the only way to balance the accounts is to write down the value of capital. If a bank depletes its entire stock of capital then it is deemed to be insolvent and should be closed down by its regulator (because having depleted capital, it will only be able to balance its books by defaulting on deposits or bonds). Even if a bank has positive capital, the regulator may still have reason to close it down, since all banks should maintain a minimum level of capital today to protect against unexpected losses in future.

The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, which sets international standards for banks, has called for regulators in require a minimum leverage ratio (that is, a ratio of capital to unweighted assets) of 3%. However, it is widely expected that regulators in underdeveloped or risky banking systems will require leverage ratios significantly above 3%.

Comments (84)

Pages: « 1 [2] Show All

51. ghufran said:

reconciliatory words from Erdugang, I almost forgot that this is the same guy who flooded Syria with terrorists:
قال رئيس الوزراء التركي رجب طيب أردوغان “إنَّ من يفجر نفسه باسم الإسلام في الأماكن المقدسة لا علاقة له بالسنة ولا بالشيعة، بل لاعلاقة له بالإنسانية والإسلام من قريب أو بعيد، فمن يقتل المظلومين في العراق وسوريا واليمن ولبنان هو يزيد، والمظلوم هو سيدنا الحسين”.
وأضاف أردوغان في خطابه أمام كتلته الحزبية في البرلمان أنَّ سيدنا الحسين بن علي لم يكن سنياً ولا شيعياً بل كان مسلماً، مبيناً أنَّ زمن الحسين لم يشهد سنة ولا شيعة.
Edu was denouncing islamist terrorists who practice detonating car bombs in civilian areas, including mosques, as a sport.
Speaking of terrorists, anybody knows why ISIS is leaving parts of Raqqa?

Thumb up 13 Thumb down 7

November 12th, 2013, 3:09 pm


52. Tara said:


Stop stoking and harassing Omen. Israeli or not, he is worth more than a million shabeehs ( minus one) in my opinion.. You’re crossing your limit. You need to stop.

Thumb up 6 Thumb down 16

November 12th, 2013, 3:13 pm


53. omen said:

49. oooo, someone is still smarting from being caught clueless. nobody is interested nor impressed whether or not you grasp of the concept of any subject. who cares what my stats are? only a lunatic with a fixation on numbers. what kind of a person has nothing better to do than to count each and every tweet i post that clicks across the counter? a loser, that’s who.

you know what? i want you to copy/paste every new tweet i post. go ahead, post my entire timeline onto the board. freaks like you don’t intimate me. if you had a real argument, you wouldn’t feel the need to stoop to psyche me out. this is more about your inadequacies than this is about me.

you’re creepy little freak who probably breaks into your neighbor’s house to rifle through her underwear drawer to count how many she has. my neighbor has a daughter with autism. she’s obsessed with counting dots on the wall. a higher form is asperger’s syndrome. that’s you. rain man simo is an excellent driver.

Thumb up 7 Thumb down 13

November 12th, 2013, 3:31 pm


54. ALAN said:

Nuclear Cruiser Leads Russian Task Force in Mediterranean
MOSCOW, November 11 (RIA Novosti) – The Russian Northern Fleet’s nuclear-powered missile cruiser Pyotr Veliky was assigned on Monday to lead the country’s permanent naval task force in the Mediterranean.
“The Pyotr Veliky nuclear-powered missile cruiser has joined warships in Russia’s task force in the eastern Mediterranean and is now leading the group,” the Northern Fleet’s spokesman, Capt. 1st Rank Vadim Serga, told reporters.
According to the official, the headquarters of the operational command of the task force, which includes warships from all four Russian fleets, was transferred to the Pyotr Veliky from the Black Sea Fleet’s Moskva missile cruiser on Sunday……..ДЖЩДЖЩДЖЩ

Thumb up 7 Thumb down 8

November 12th, 2013, 5:42 pm


55. zoo said:

Can’t be more clearly stated

New Syrian Opposition Coalition Initiatives Rejected by Jihadists

Fehim Tastekin, a Turkish columnist for the newspaper Radikal, says the SNC has been placed in a no-win situation, having to choose between either refusing to go to Geneva and face the loss of the support of the international community, “or agree to attend and lose Syria – that is, the armed opposition.”

The decision by the SNC to indicate a willingness to attend Geneva talks had majority support from the 114-members but was not unanimous. And an influential member of the SNC, Kamal Lebvani cautioned against optimism over the chances of reaching a negotiated settlement saying “It can’t be implemented because the fighters are the ones who decide things not us.”

Thumb up 7 Thumb down 9

November 12th, 2013, 5:44 pm


56. ALAN said:

Celente: France blocks Iran deal for Saudi arms sales

Thumb up 7 Thumb down 9

November 12th, 2013, 5:45 pm


57. zoo said:


Last week, Ayman al Zarqhawi has ordered ISIS to leave Al Raqqa to the control of Al Nusra and fighters to go back to Iraq. He ordered the cancellation of ISIL.

Thumb up 8 Thumb down 8

November 12th, 2013, 5:48 pm


58. ALAN said:

it is not surprising to come across periodic foreign media reports exposing Ukrainian smugglers’ maritime weapons deliveries to Iskanderun for shipment to Syrian terrorists. As Ediboglu noted, Ukrainian “businessmen” usually indicate Egypt as their destination. However, they unload their weapons cache in Turkey before proceeding on to Egypt. This is done with the complicity of the Turkish authorities. Continuing down the line, Turkish customs and police officials guide the shipments into Syria through border checkpoints. A likely example of such “commercial transactions” occurred near the Aegean island of Simi on Nov. 8, when the Greek coast guard intercepted a Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship sailing from Ukraine to Iskanderun with 20,000 AK-47 assault rifles and other military hardware on board.
Since so-called commercial operations like these have practically become regular events, how are they viewed by the authorities and law enforcement agencies of Turkey and Ukraine?
How does the EU react to all this, considering that the incidents happen in its bailiwick?
Might the illegal transfer of jihadists and weaponry for them through Turkey to Syria be some sort of secret test of EU loyalty administered to candidates for EU membership, which include Turkey and Ukraine?

Thumb up 8 Thumb down 8

November 12th, 2013, 5:55 pm


59. ALAN said:

Syria’s Kurds move towards autonomy with announcement of transitional government

The main Kurdish party in Syria has announced plans to create a transitional government in the areas dominated by Kurds in the north-east of the country.

The move is the clearest sign yet that Syria’s Kurds are moving towards a long-held ambition of autonomy in the areas they inhabit.

The Democratic Union Party (PYD) – the largest Kurdish party in Syria – made the announcement following a meeting in the northern city of Qamishli that involved Christian and Arab groups from across the Kurdish-dominated areas of north-east Syria.

The plan calls for the creation of a parliament of 82 members elected from three cantons across the region, which will each have their own local assemblies.

“This administration will be democratically elected and we think it will be integral in the future for democratic Syria,” a PYD spokesman told The Independent.::::::::::::::ЖЖЖЖЖЖЖ
Syria: U.S. Starts Seeing The Real Alternatives

Thumb up 7 Thumb down 9

November 12th, 2013, 6:02 pm


60. ALAN said:

Blowback from Turkey’s turn-a blind-eye policy on Syria’s jihadi opposition
The sons feared lost to al-Qaida in Syria
Parents in Turkish town of Adiyaman tell of anguish of searching for offspring recruited for jihad in neighbouring country

Thumb up 7 Thumb down 9

November 12th, 2013, 6:20 pm


61. ALAN said:

When asked Mr Erekat what he plans to do in response to new settlement project, Erekat said he was going to “call FM of Qatar”, LOL.

Israel to build yet another 20,000 settler homes in West Bank

Thumb up 8 Thumb down 9

November 12th, 2013, 6:24 pm


62. Tara said:

Simo follows Omen on Twitter. Simo is hard at work analyzing every word Omen utters. Simo reads about popcorn omen mentioned at 3AM and concludes based on the popcorn evidence and the timing that Omen is beyond reasonable doubt an ….Israeli Mossad.

Brilliance! Isn’t it? No no no . Beyond brilliance.

The spin is that popcorn reference as we learned from Omen was a political reference in colloquial American.

And yes, Simo does not know enough to feel embarrassed.

And Tara can’t stop laughing.

Thanks Simo for the entertainment.

Thumb up 12 Thumb down 12

November 12th, 2013, 6:43 pm


63. ALAN said:

SL – ALAN, are you just here to tease us?
hahahahahahaha 🙂
No feasibility of personifying Thread! Russia has always called for and still calls for cultural and diplomatic means to resolve the crisis of any kind!

Thumb up 9 Thumb down 10

November 12th, 2013, 6:44 pm


64. Tara said:


Your selective tears when minorities get killed are مثيرة للاشمئزاز

You spent no tears on the 100,000 Syrians killed by your dear leader.

Go and cry alone.


Sorry for being blunt. It is an honest sentiment and must be said.

Thumb up 10 Thumb down 15

November 12th, 2013, 6:48 pm


65. ALAN said:

US-Israeli computer super-worm hit Russian nuclear plant – Kaspersky
The CEO of one of the world’s foremost computer security firms says the Stuxnet worm that targeted Iranian nuclear facilities may have also infiltrated similar critical systems in Russia.

If accurate, allegations that Stuxnet snuck its way into Russia could implicate the United States and Israel in an even broader act of cyberwar than previously reported.

Since Stuxnet was discovered in 2010, the media has all but confirmed that the US and Israel collaborated on the computer worm to try and cripple machinery inside Iran’s nuclear power plants. Senior White House officials speaking to the New York Times have previously lent credence to that accusation, National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden confirmed in a Der Spiegel interview earlier this year and the origin of the worm is nowadays hardly contested. Speaking in Australia last week, however, the head of the international IT firm, Kaspersky Lab, raised new questions regarding the actual scope of the secretive program…………………………ЬЪцщфыя.

Thumb up 6 Thumb down 10

November 12th, 2013, 6:51 pm


66. ALAN said:

Greek coastguard commandeer cargo vessel, find 20,000 assault rifles

The Sierra Leone-flagged MV Nour M was detained in Greek waters on Friday. The 75-metre cargo is said to be a Lebanese general cargo vessel which left the Ukraine on October 25th. It made a stop in Istanbul on October 30th and remained there until November 3. There is some question as to what the ship did in the period it took to get from the Ukraine to Istanbul. For a ship of that class, it should have taken 30-40 hours to make the voyage. Instead, it took the Nour M 5 days. Once it left Turkey, its stated destination was Libya. Onboard, Greek authorities found 20,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles, and “significant quantities” of ammunition and high explosives. The media is speculating that the shipment was on its way to Syria.

So, the question becomes what was the planned destination of the weapons. 20,000 assault rifles along with ammo and explosives would cause a significant amount of chaos no matter where they ended up. In Syria, it could significantly boost the ability of the rebels to launch attacks on government held areas of the country. However, the ship is Lebanese and had left the Ukraine. That would lead one to believe that it would not have gone to the rebels if it had a destination of Syria. Also, it seems unlikely that if it were to go to bolster the rebels who are in turn being supported by Turkey that Greek authorities would have been tipped off to stop the vessel. On the other hand, if it was meant for the Syrian government there are safer and more direct means of transport…….ПЧБ

Thumb up 5 Thumb down 8

November 12th, 2013, 7:17 pm


67. Ghufran said:

A war within a war, Isis versus everybody else:
محافظة اللاذقية – المرصد السوري لحقوق الإنسان:: اتهمت الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام عناصر كتيبة مقاتلة بقتل أربعة من عناصر الدولة الإسلامية، في بلدة ربيعة بجبل التركمان جميعهم من جنسيات غير سورية،وذلك بعد أن قاموا بإيقافهم على حاجز للكتيبة في بلدة ربيعة، ومن ثم أطلقوا النار عليهم، وكانت مصادر موثوقة قد أكدت للمرصد السوري أمس أن القيادي في الدولة الإسلامية أبو أيمن العراقي قام بقتل 6 مقاتلين من الكتيبة ذاتها، كانوا معتقلين لديه في جبل التركمان عقب سيطرة الدولة الإسلامية على مقر الكتيبة قبل ايام ، ما أدى لاشتباكات بين الطرفين سيطرت على إثرها الدولة الإسلامية على بلدة ربيعة.
Rebel sources said that they will send an envoy to Russia, if this happens people will start making wild guesses and assume that a new chapter in this war will be opened.

Thumb up 7 Thumb down 6

November 12th, 2013, 7:56 pm


68. jo6pac said:

Reading through this story my only thought was why in Hell would the Assad govt. take a dime from the western bank world. The imf, world bank, and all those wonderful ngo have only one thought. We couldn’t kill enough Syrian people with hired thugs raining down bullets on the citizens of Syria so let do what we did to Greece enslave it’s citizens to poverty.

Yep proud to be an Amerikan:(

As if the world isn’t mean enough to refugees.

Thumb up 8 Thumb down 6

November 12th, 2013, 8:42 pm


69. zoo said:

Al Qaeda “benefactors” operate openly in Kuwait
Private Donors’ Funds Add Wild Card to War in Syria

A sign outside Kuwait City directing donors to a house used by Sheikh Shafi al-Ajmi to raise funds for Islamist rebels in Syria.

Published: November 12, 2013

AL SUBAYHIYAH, Kuwait — The money flows in via bank transfer or is delivered in bags or pockets bulging with cash. Working from his sparely furnished sitting room here, Ghanim al-Mteiri gathers the funds and transports them to Syria for the rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad.
Mr. Mteiri — one of dozens of Kuwaitis who openly raise money to arm the opposition — has helped turn this tiny, oil-rich Persian Gulf state into a virtual Western Union outlet for Syria’s rebels, with the bulk of the funds he collects going to a Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda.

One Kuwait-based effort raised money to equip 12,000 rebel fighters for $2,500 each. Another campaign, run by a Saudi sheikh based in Syria and close to Al Qaeda, is called “Wage Jihad With Your Money.” Donors earn “silver status” by giving $175 for 50 sniper bullets, or “gold status” by giving twice as much for eight mortar rounds.

“Once upon a time we cooperated with the Americans in Iraq,” said Mr. Mteiri, a former soldier in the Kuwaiti Army, recalling the American role in pushing Iraq out of Kuwait in 1991. “Now we want to get Bashar out of Syria, so why not cooperate with Al Qaeda?”

Outside support for the warring parties in Syria has helped sustain the conflict and transformed it into a proxy battle by regional powers, with Russia, Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah helping the government and with Saudi Arabia and Qatar providing the main support for the rebels.

Thumb up 7 Thumb down 5

November 12th, 2013, 9:03 pm


70. zoo said:

Who does the SNC represents in Syria?

Syria: Jaysh Al-Islam rejects Geneva II conference
Leaders of the Jaysh Al-Islam faction say the Geneva II conference does not address the main objectives of the Syrian revolution

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Jaysh Al-Islam (Army of Islam) faction of the Syrian opposition, which includes 60 of the groups fighting against Bashar Al-Assad’s government, has reaffirmed its objection to plans for an international peace conference on the Syrian conflict in Geneva.

The conference, backed by the US, Russia and the UN and dubbed “Geneva II,” was originally planned to take place at the end of the month, but has now been put on hold for an indefinite period. It has also been criticized by several Syrian rebel groups, especially Islamists.

Jaysh Al-Islam’s political coordinator, Mohammed Alloush, told Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday that “any political solution should be imposed from the field, not from foreign parties,” and that the Geneva II conference was focused enough on the objectives of the armed opposition groups, including “toppling the regime and the trial of its members.”

Jaysh Al-Islam was formed in September under the leadership of Zahran Alloush, the commander of the Islamist Liwa Al-Islam faction based in the countryside around Damascus. The organization originally comprised 43 militia groups, but has since grown to encompass 60.

Thumb up 5 Thumb down 8

November 12th, 2013, 9:27 pm


71. ghufran said:

The FSA joint command said that arrangements are being made to send a military delegation to Moscow for “direct negotiations” to end the crisis, expressing its belief that the Geneva Conference will fail, said Fahad Al Masri, a spokesman for the joint command. He told Italian (Aki) that “there is a need to maintain the security and military institutions, restructuring the army to prevent the fall of Syria into a complete chaos.

Masri said “we believe that the so-called Geneva Conference 2 will be a failure by all standards, we also believe that a political solution for the transitional phase and the cessation of violence and the return of the country’s security and stability can only be achieved with the departure of Bashar Al-Assad and 52 other regime figures who gave the orders to kill and destroy and the formation of a Presidential Council by a joint civilian and military figures acceptable to both parties and the Higher Council for defence and security (approved list of candidates) to restructure the military and security institutions on a national basis”

“Bashar Assad does not want a political solution to the crisis, if he wanted it he would not have chosen the security solution at the beginning of the crisis, he now wants the opposition to surrender rather than negotiate with the regime, adding that “the international community is trying to push Syrians towards despair to accept whatever is offered. The military advances by the regime in some areas and blocking arms supply for rebels in other areas come within this standard”

The national coalition and other politicians are not true representatives of the people or the Syrian revolution and its demands.” “These formations established under alliances between the Muslim Brotherhood and the people’s Party (Communists) and others, is mostly a group of drifters, dreamers and amateur politicians.

(That was an edited Bing Translation. The piece has some interesting points but whether Al-Masri has any power over rebels is another matter)

Thumb up 7 Thumb down 5

November 12th, 2013, 10:16 pm


72. Sami said:

“Sami the whole idea of Twitter is that people follow and watch what others write…”

Something very essential that you seem too stiff to understand about Twitter, it is made so people can exchange ideas and debate right on it believe it or not (albeit in 140 characters or so). So the next time you see a Tweet on Twitter by Omen, why don’t you engage her(?) there. Who knows she(?) might even reply back.

“I know that is a bit difficult to tolerate for a person like you as a member Saudi Religious Police and a active Al Qaida warrior”

I think I would need to be Saudi to be a member of the Haya’at Al’A’mr Bil Ma’arouf wa Nahi A’An Al-Munkar, and usually many members come from a specific area of Saudi Arabia called Al-Qaseem (although not exclusively), and I would need to live in Saudi.

As for being an active Al-Qaeda Warrior, well you got me. I am known as the resident chef among my jihadi brothers in arms, they call me Osama Bin Cookin. Simo, my Tabouly will make you want to shake shake your booty! Guaranteed to make you shake twice or I chop your head off!

(If you’re wondering I look just like the Swedish Chef but with a beard)

Now if you don’t mind as I am sure these “issues” that are bothering you are of extreme importance to you, they have nothing to do with Syria. Can you please attempt to add to the debate about Syria, and not distract us with your temper tantrums about Twitter?

Thumb up 7 Thumb down 8

November 12th, 2013, 11:53 pm


73. zoo said:

U.N. denounces mortar attacks on schools in the Syrian capital,0,7114650.story#axzz2kTR4tg7n

BEIRUT — The United Nations on Tuesday denounced as “barbaric” a series of recent mortar attacks on schools in Damascus, Syria’s capital, that have left at least four students dead and dozens others injured.

“These barbaric acts must stop,” Maria Callvis, director for the Middle East and North Africa for the United Nations Children’s Fund, said in a statement. “All those with influence in Syria have a moral obligation to respect the sanctity of children’s lives and ensure that schools remain a place of safe refuge.”

No one has taken responsibility for the attacks, but rebel forces based on the outskirts of Damascus daily fire mortar shells at the capital, which is firmly under government control. Civilians often are killed or injured.

The government blames “terrorists’’ — its term for armed rebels — for the mortar barrages.

It is not clear whether the attackers are aiming at specific targets or firing randomly into neighborhoods deemed to be largely loyal to the government of President Bashar Assad. Attacks Monday killed and injured schoolchildren in two mostly Christian neighborhoods, whose residents are generally regarded as pro-government. The mortar shells and home-made rockets being fired into the capital from rebel-held suburbs are not especially accurate, experts say.

Human rights groups have regularly condemned large-scale government bombardment of civilian districts under rebel control. The daily shelling of Damascus by rebels has not generated comparable levels of international censure. But the rising number of casualties among schoolchildren prompted UNICEF to voice its outrage.

The government said Monday that four children were killed and four were injured when a mortar round struck a school bus in the Bab Sharqi [Eastern Gate] district of central Damascus. The bus driver was also killed, and two school administrators were injured, according to official accounts. The bus was struck in front of the Risala school, the government said.

Also on Monday, mortar rounds struck St. John of Damascus School in the Qassaa district, injuring 11 children, the government said.

They were the latest in a string of mortar attacks that have hit school facilities in Damascus in recent weeks, injuring more than two dozen children, the U.N. noted.

Thumb up 7 Thumb down 5

November 13th, 2013, 12:05 am


74. Sami said:


@ 71

Interesting proposal. and it is really harsh on the SNC (deservedly so). While the SNC has some great members within its ranks they are outnumbered and outmatched by those with their only political aspiration is the advancement of their own pockets, and getting facetime at so and so Satellite Station.

Getting the Russians to agree is something important and worth every effort. Get them to see that preserving the State over the regime is more important, and the more they preserve the regime the more Syria disintegrates.

Can you link the article if you don’t mind? Or is that the entire article?

Thumb up 7 Thumb down 7

November 13th, 2013, 12:09 am


75. zoo said:

While the SNC eternally debates with the FSA about uniting, the Syrian army is getting hold of rebels areas and may make Geneva 2 a simple formality to declare that the only future the opposition has got is to become opposition parties within a Baath dominated government.

Denoument in Aleppo – Serious attack on rebels in Syria’s largest city
By Michael Collins, on November 12th, 2013
– See more at:

The recent gains by the Syrian Arab Army near Aleppo positioned the government for a major attack. It appears the attack has commenced. Syrian troops, Hezbollah fighters, and Iranian Revolutionary Guard are openly discussed as part of the battle. It is worth watching U.S. reaction to the presence of foreign troops on the Syrian side. If it’s muted and there’s no threat of a Western intervention, we can reasonably assume that the defeat of the jihadist dominated rebels is sanctioned by higher authorities, namely the United States and Russia. If Aleppo comes under government control, there is little left for the rebels to do other than counterattack. If they do so and fail, it should be all over except the rebuilding of the war torn country, care for the injured, and the mourning. – See more at:

Thumb up 6 Thumb down 5

November 13th, 2013, 12:14 am


76. zoo said:


It took 2 years for the FSA to realize that the keys to Syria are Russia and Iran.
Now that they have lost all their illusions about France, UK and the USA, and that they see the SNC using KSA to promote a ‘legitimacy’ they never had, the FSA has no choice than turn to Russia that the SNC has snubbed several times.
Yet if they have the illusion that Russia will dump Bashar Al Assad just because they ask for it, they are going to face another shock.
If ever Bashar Al Assad leaves, it will be from his own will at the time of 2014 elections and only at the condition to find a person who can lead the country.
The FSA must finally deal with that reality.

Thumb up 6 Thumb down 6

November 13th, 2013, 12:24 am


77. Juergen said:

Black Market in Lebanon: Syrian Refugees Selling Organs to Survive

In the shadow of the Syrian civil war, a growing number of refugees are surviving in Lebanon by illegally selling their own organs. But the exchange comes at a huge cost.

“Lebanon has a tradition of illegal organ trading. The country has immensely rich people and a huge number of people living in poverty. And organ traffickers don’t need to worry about government controls. Those are exactly the ideal conditions for organ trafficking, said Luc Noel, transplant expert at the World Health Organization in Geneva.

Every year, tens of thousands of rich Arabs from around the region come to Beirut for treatment in the country’s excellent hospitals. The authorities don’t pay attention whether a patient flies home with a new nose — or with a new kidney.”

Thumb up 3 Thumb down 7

November 13th, 2013, 12:31 am


78. Sami said:

The Russians might hold the key but the Iranians definitely do not. Iran and its agents are part of the problem and will never be part of the solution.

Only those parroting Iranian Propoganda and supporting thugs would find Iran a solution.

Thumb up 5 Thumb down 6

November 13th, 2013, 10:08 am


79. ziad said:

Syrian opposition leaders met Tuesday with Israeli Deputy Jacob Murjy in Turkey to coordinate positions.

قيادات من المعارضة السورية اجتمعت اليوم مع النائب الاسرائيلي يعقوب مرجي في تركيا لتنسيق المواقف.

كثيرون غرفوا بالخبر، وتيقنوا منه حينما اعلنته الإذاعة الإسرائيلية قبل دقائق… وأضافت بأن قيادات المعارضة السورية نقلت له امتنان السوريين لاسرائيل لاحتضانها اجرحى الثورة..
لكن كم منا يعرف يعقوب مرجي؟ كم منا يعرف تعصبه المقيت ضد العرب والمسلمين؟ كم منا يعرف توليه حقيبة وزارة الأديان في الحكومة الصهيونية؟ كم منا يعرف أنه نائب في الكنيسيت عن حزب شاس الذي لم يشتهر له شعار اكثر من شعار زعيمه ومرشده الروحي الحاخام عوفتديا يوسف الذي قال فيه: اقتلوا العرب كما تقتلوا الصراصير؟
المصيبة الكبرى ان بيننا من السوريين ومن العرب من يتحدث بلا خجل عن ذلك العار المسمى بالثورة السورية.

عمرو ناصف

Thumb up 3 Thumb down 6

November 13th, 2013, 10:39 am


80. SimoHurtta said:

52. Tara said:


Stop stoking and harassing Omen. Israeli or not, he is worth more than a million shabeehs ( minus one) in my opinion.. You’re crossing your limit. You need to stop.

Tara I make a couple of comments in a week, at the most. Omen has written here hundreds if not thousands of comments during the civil war time. Also you Tara are very active. I have writing comments to SC for years before you and Omen crawled up.

You and Omen are all the time criticizing others for their opinions if their opinions differ from yours, often in a very personal level and style. Why can we others not criticize Tara and Omen? Two sets of rules or what?

62. Tara said:

Simo follows Omen on Twitter. Simo is hard at work analyzing every word Omen utters. Simo reads about popcorn omen mentioned at 3AM and concludes based on the popcorn evidence and the timing that Omen is beyond reasonable doubt an ….Israeli Mossad.

I have not hinted now Omen being a Mossad operator. Actually now when I have seen what Omen produces, it is clear that Omen is too – well less talented – to be a such. Mossad certainly has some minimum demands. It was Omen herself who proudly mentioned Mossad in her comment, I mentioned only Tel Aviv which is not equal to Mossad. But the clock times when Omen is active are more “fitting” to Tel Aviv’s timezone than to the Californian timezone, meaning, that if Omen is a average granny who writes on daytime and sleeps when people normally sleep.

The point why I did rise the Omen popcorn comment was the TIME not popcorn. Eating popcorn is not in itself hilarious. But beginning to want and make popcorn at three o’clock in the night and telling it to the whole world is hilarious. The reason why I stumbled to Omen’s popcorn message was simply that it was then at that time her latest tweet and so on the top of the list. I did not search it.

You or anybody else are free to check the timestamps of Omen’s messages. Both SC’s comments and Twitter’s messages have a marked time (GMT+5). It is easy to “estimate” is a person who claims to be American really that. What is the likelihood, that a normal American writes massive amounts of tweets and blog comments through all the night and is still active during daytime? Is it more likely for a granny, to make popcorn during the day in afternoon or at 3 o’clock in the night? From there comes the ironic Tel Aviv “speculation”.

Reading and commenting Omen’s and Tara’s comments here and in Twitter is in no way harassing or stalking. Internet’s blogs and Twitter are not personal protected communication. If you both see commenting your behaviour and comments as stalking as such so please stop writing. If somebody in earnest believes, that I use more than one minute of my time reading Omen’s twitter and SC feed he/she must be nuts. Anybody is free to test, go to Twitter and choose @omen_99. I guaranty, that 15 minutes is the maximum. Also Tara your extreme Sunni comments with rather rare seen direct hate messages against Shia and Iran are a bit disturbing reading for all of us in the West. But you have the right to free speech, even you are not allowed to drive in your beloved divine kingdom.

Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

November 13th, 2013, 3:40 pm


81. Tara said:


Speculating that Omen is Israeli based on timing of eating popcorn in order to discredit his massage on the comment section is not only funny but bankrupt and personal. It adds no value. Value comes when you challenge the massage not when you speculate about the massager identity.

And why would him bring Israeli discredit him on SC? The humanity and knowledge he adds to the SC is indispensable.

Please do not teach me about hate when you yourself full of hatred. Trying to discredit omen by assuming he is Israeli is a hate massage. Don’t you think?

Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

November 13th, 2013, 4:42 pm


82. Akbar Palace said:

Sim –

Here’s your chance to help an arab in need (since you haven’t done anything else).

Please help “Yitzchak Rabin” join the IDF.

BTW – Tara is one of our most respected commentators here. She doesn’t “crawl”.

Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

November 13th, 2013, 4:54 pm


83. Tara said:


Message not massage.

Sorry. I often post waiting for red light to turn green.

And thanks AP.

Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

November 13th, 2013, 7:20 pm


84. Sami said:


Message vs Massage

Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

November 13th, 2013, 9:41 pm


Pages: « 1 [2] Show All

Post a comment