Sanctions Stop Food Getting to Syria but Not Arms

The United States is reportedly developing a plan to vet members of the Free Syrian Army before Arab nations transfer arms to them. It hopes to avoid arming muhahideen who turn against America should they succeed in bringing down the Assad regime. The US does not want another al-Qaida on its hands. The race to arm Syria is heating up as Saudi arms shipments are said to be getting through now. Russia reportedly also has an arms shipment en route to Syria.  The UN is asking both sides not to send arms to Syria, but in vain. A new U.N. report blamed both sides for human rights violations, but explains that the Syrian army is killing many more people than the opposition. This also includes arbitrary arrests, torture, enforced disappearance and summary execution of activists, opponents and defectors.”To underline this, Syrian activists said government troops killed at least 50 people in the town of Houla in Homs province on Friday.

As Syrians begin to suffer from the lack of food, oil and gas products, they are questioning the wisdom of sanctions, which are a blunt weapon imposed to bring about regime-change and not improve human rights or relieve suffering. A new book on the Iraq sanctions demonstrates how destructive they were to the most vulnerable Iraqis. L.C. Brown, my adviser at Princeton, writes in Foreign Affairs that most studies estimate that “at least 500,000 children under age five who died during the sanctions period would not have died under the Iraqi regime prior to sanctions.” Joy Gordon, the author of the new book, also punctures holes in the argument that the Iraqi suffering was due to the abusive manipulation of the sanctions by the Saddam Hussein regime.This is not to mention that they decrease the likelihood of Syria making a democratic transition in the future.

Haaretz writes that Israeli intelligence believes that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, and several other senior officials were indeed poisoned, just as the Free Syrian Army claims. But prompt medical treatment saved their lives. “There was an attempt to poison Shawkat and the other senior officials, but it failed, and all those who were at the meeting are still alive,” an Israeli official said.

What one fears is political money – an interview with Samir Aita – Read the whole interview – Very good

The regime cannot survive. But what is to be kept in society?

BI: Can you speak some about the impact of international sanctions in Syria? Whom are they affecting?

Aita: They are affecting–in two major ways–the population more than the regime. ….

BI: What is your vision of the exit in Syria and are you optimistic about the opposition?

Aita: These days are very bad days for the opposition. They are very bad days for the Syrian National Council. It became a hope for the uprising for the people inside, but it failed to build democratic rules inside itself.

A few guys controlled the Syrian National Council completely from the beginning. There are [other] oppositions that are weaker. They have been hit first by campaigns of denigration by al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya, the Gulf media that supported the SNC, but also they failed on their own [to answer the needs of Syrians].

The opposition is somehow discredited–all of it. The situation is becoming not talking politics but talking weapons; the outcome of this will be determined by the weapons. No one knows who controls the armed opposition and what it wants, except overthrowing the regime. But the question is not only [one of] overthrowing the regime, it is what other regime should be built.

BI: You sound very pessimistic.

Aita: Some other path has to be found, built on international experience with conflict resolution, to get out of this messy thing. The US should be involved, but peacefully not militarily. My information is that the US will not intervene but is encouraging the flow of weapons into Syria. If Syria enters civil war, the image of the US will be [very] bad, like after Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. It brought war, not peace, stability and democracy.-Published 24/5/2012 ©

Samir Aita is a writer, editor in chief of Le Monde Diplomatique Arabic Edition and president of Cercle des Economistes Arabes.

Jihad Yazigi in Bitter Lemons

a reduction in agricultural input subsidies accompanied by a severe drought forced tens of thousands of farmers from their lands and reduced the contribution of agriculture from around 25 percent of GDP to 19 percent in less than a decade.

In addition, in order to respond to its dwindling revenues, the government drastically reduced its investment and spending and applied what in practice was a copy of the structural adjustment programs imposed by the International Monetary Fund on emerging countries. This contraction of the government’s role in the economy was most obvious in rural areas, where the core constituency of the Baath party resided.

In the midst of all these difficulties and state divestment, there was one positive consequence: the government managed to accumulate billions of dollars in foreign currency reserves and save them for future generations, thanks to its short oil boom that lasted most of the 1990s.

This is exactly what Syria is set to lose through the international sanctions imposed on its crude exports. The loss of billions of dollars incurred by the government in the last few months because of the sanctions will render the reconstruction of the country and future investment requirements more difficult to fund.

The issues highlighted above point to the tremendous economic problems faced by Syria’s society. There must, indeed, be no illusions. A happy end to the current protest movement, including the establishment of a democratic political system, will not mean an end to Syria’s economic woes. Syrians must recognize the challenges ahead and adopt a new economic strategy that puts economic development and employment at its center.

-Published 24/5/2012 © – Jihad Yazigi is the editor of the Syria Report.

Invisible War: The United States and the Iraq Sanctions
Joy Gordon

“The devastation of much of Iraqi society between 1990 and 2003 through [UN economic] sanctions … is a story that has been buried for the most part under layer on layer of diplomatic technicalities, obfuscation and sheer indifference … Her book deserves to be read and discussed widely.” —Eric Herring, Times Higher Education – In a powerful, original book, Gordon offers the most sophisticated and comprehensive analysis of the origins, administration, and impact of the Iraq sanctions regime. This is a damning account of how international administration was used by the U.S. and the UK for policy ends. Despite the rhetoric of humanitarianism, the sanctions were, in Gordon’s term, a humanitarian catastrophe.

This profoundly troubling story about U.S. foreign policy under three administrations reveals the shameful manner in which the United States relentlessly subverted the UN sanctions regime for Iraq, twisting it toward a purpose not approved by the Security Council. It is time Americans knew of the cruelty inflicted on Iraqis in our name behind closed doors at the UN in one of the morally most disastrous foreign policy decisions in American history. Gordon has documented it, calmly, courageously, meticulously, and convincingly.
–Henry Shue, University of Oxford, author of Basic Rights

She reports, most studies estimate that “at least 500,000 children under age five who died during the sanctions period would not have died under the Iraqi regime prior to sanctions.” She also punctures holes in the argument that the Iraqi suffering was due to the abusive manipulation of the sanctions by the Saddam Hussein regime. –L. Carl Brown (Foreign Affairs )

Provocative and sure to stir debate, this book lays bare the damage that can be done by unchecked power in our institutions of international governance.

Foreign Policy

As the United Nations’ observer mission has neared its full deployment of 300 monitors, international envoy Kofi Annan is preparing to travel to Syria to meet with the government to discuss the failing peace plan. The mission’s mandate is for 90 days and is set to expire in July. However, demonstrations and extensive violence continue throughout the country. Protesters took to the streets after Friday prayers in Damascus, Homs, Hama, Aleppo, and Deir el-Zour. According to the activist Local Coordination Committees, about 40 civilians were killed across Syria Thursday, and eight more on Friday. Prominent opposition member, Brigadier General Aqil Hashem, spoke to Britain’s House of Commons Thursday, appealing for an international intervention, in the form of targeted air strikes, to halt the fighting in Syria. His comments, however, highlighted the increasing divisions within the opposition. Meanwhile, Syria’s diplomatic mission in New York has been prevented from opening a bank account, and has complained that the United States, as the host country of the United Nations, is adopting “discriminatory” practices.

Russian arms shipment en route to Syria: report
By Louis Charbonneau | Fri May 25, 2012

Reuters) – A Russian cargo ship loaded with weapons is en route to Syria and due to arrive at a Syrian port this weekend, Al Arabiya television said in a report that Western diplomats in New York described on Friday as credible.

Syria is one of Russia’s top weapons customers. The United States and European Union have suggested the U.N. Security Council should impose an arms embargo and other U.N. sanctions on Syria for its 14-month assault on a pro-democracy opposition determined to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

But Russia, with the support of fellow veto power China, has prevented the council from imposing any U.N. sanctions on Syria and has refused to halt arms sales to Damascus….. Western diplomats and officials said the report was credible.

In a letter to the U.N. Security Council, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he had seen reports of countries supplying arms to the government and rebels. He urged states not to arm either side in the Syrian conflict.

“Those who may contemplate supporting any side with weapons, military training or other military assistance, must reconsider such options to enable a sustained cessation of violence,” he said.

Russia has defended its weapons deliveries to Syria in the face of Western criticism, saying government forces need to defend themselves against rebels receiving arms from abroad. [ID:nL5E8GEE2G] Damascus says Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Libya are among the countries helping the rebels…..

Israel steps up security ties with China
Associated Press, by Josef Federman – May 25, 2012

JERUSALEM — After a prolonged chill, security ties between Israel and China are warming up. With Israel offering much-needed technical expertise and China representing a huge new market and influential voice in the international debate over Iran’s nuclear program, the two nations have stepped up military cooperation as they patch up a rift caused by a pair of failed arms deals scuttled by the U.S...

(Reuters) – Syria is struggling to meet its grain import needs because of sanctions, raising the risk of bread shortages.
By Jonathan Saul and Michael Hogan. Fri May 25, 2012

Trade sources said a reluctance among foreign banks, shipowners and grain traders to sell to import-dependent Syria – even though food is not itself subject to sanctions – has forced Damascus into an array of unusually small deals, many arranged by shadowy middlemen around the Middle East and Asia.

“The main producer regions are very much at the centre of the civil war and although it is difficult to evaluate the impact this will have on the harvest, a significant disruption seems certain,” the firm said in its latest report last week.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, a benchmark for global grains traders, estimated last year’s wheat harvest at 3.85 million tonnes and barley at 700,000 tonnes. It estimates total annual grains consumption in Syria at 6.9 million tonnes.

U.N. officials have estimated at least a million Syrians need help with food and other essentials but have failed to agree a supply deal because the Syrian government wants to have control of the distribution of the aid.

“Food security of vulnerable populations in Syria is currently fragile,” said World Food Programme spokeswoman Abeer Etefa. “Overall poverty levels are also increasing and access to basic supplies and services is deteriorating.”….

“The middle men are driving this trade and can make serious money. Syria is making cash payments in euros or dollars through foreign exchange bureaux in places like Lebanon and the middle men will make the transactions from their accounts,” one trade source said. “They need to conceal deals.”

Private entrepreneurs, many previously unknown to major traders and based in Lebanon, Turkey, India and elsewhere, have been appearing to make purchases on the international market.

One Middle Eastern grain trader said the unusually small vessels arriving at Syrian ports with shipments of grain a fraction the size of a normally commercially viable shipment was an indication that Syria was losing the trust of major operators.

“Syria is in big trouble and can no longer call the shots on terms and conditions,” the trader said. “So they will try and take whatever they can even on tiny vessels.”

Port and ship tracking data, indicated three ships this week docked at Tartous carrying respectively from Turkey, Ukraine and Egypt: 27,000 tonnes of wheat; 8,000 tonnes of soybean; and a cargo of animal feed of 2,000 tonnes. Typical commercial grains cargoes are around 60,000 tonnes apiece.

Further up the Mediterranean coast at Latakia, Syria’s main general cargo port, just a single vessel, carrying less than 10,000 tonnes of Ukrainian wheat from the Black Sea port of Mikolaiv, or Nikolayev, made a delivery in the past two days.


In better times, Syria has been a net exporter of grain. But intensive, state-sponsored production drives since the 1990s have drained the water table in areas like the Hauran plain, where the uprising began last year in the southern city Deraa among a population hit hard by drought and crop blight.

On Friday, an Agriculture Ministry official gave estimated harvest figures for this year that were a quarter lower than targets cited by the state news agency SANA. A production forecast of 3.7 million tonnes of wheat and 843,000 tonnes of barley compared to targets of 4.6 and 1.6 million respectively.

Independent analysts suggest state statistics may be optimistic. Influential French forecaster Strategie Grains said it had slashed its harvest estimate for Syria’s 2012 crop for soft and durum wheat by 900,000 tonnes to 2.5 million tonnes. That compared with a harvest of 3.3 million tonnes in 2011.

Divided Syrian Opposition to Choose New Leader
By: Khaled Yacoub Oweis | Reuters

The main Syrian National Council opposition group said it had accepted the resignation of its president, setting the stage for a showdown between the powerful Muslim Brotherhood and its political rivals over who will be the new leader.

Top Assad intelligence official said killed
march 27th:

Opposition sources said Col. Iyad Mando was killed in an ambush by Sunni rebels on March 26 near Damascus International Airport. They said Mando, identified as commander of a key unit in Air Force Intelligence, was shot to death after a rebel search that lasted several months […]
Reports of Mando’s death were published on several opposition web sites. The Assad regime did not confirm the reports.

Love in the Time of Syrian Revolution
Justin Vela – Thursday, May 24, 2012 – The Atlantic

A story of two young students, torn apart by one of the world’s most brutal regimes and reunited by the uprising against it

When Farah said goodnight to her boyfriend one evening in January 2007, she had every reason to expect to see him the next day. Though she’d only been dating Omar for a month, the two students at Syria’s Damascus University already shared a special connection. Their first date had been over coffee. Soon, they were wearing matching clothes. “See you tomorrow,” they told each other that evening. But that “tomorrow” would not come for five turbulent years…..He was angry, he told me. He had been tortured, his family virtually deserted him, and classmates informed on him. He wanted to “hurt” the regime. Compiling the reports were one of the few ways he could use its crimes against it.

“That’s the maximum that we could do,” Omar said of the reports. “There was no revolution. You were alone.”

When Omar met Farah, she, like most Syrians, was working neither for nor against the regime. He cared for her, but knew that bringing her into his activist world would put her unfairly at risk. So, when he disappeared, she had no way to know what had happened. “She was upset because she thought I had left her with no words,” Omar said. ….

Farah knew nothing of Omar’s life as an activist, his time in prison, or his struggle to find meaning until, four years after their last conversation, she flipped on the London-based Syrian satellite news station Barada TV and saw an interviewer discussing Syria’s burgeoning revolution with her one-time boyfriend. “It was a shock to see him on TV,” Farah said. “I was happy to know that he is a real activist and I said to everyone that he is my boyfriend, although me and my friends called him a bastard before and it was illegal to mention his name in front of me. But his attitude towards the revolution made me forgive him.”….

When Farah called him the next day, Omar did not answer. She looked for him in the dormitory and asked his friends, but no one would tell her where he was. She began to suspect that Omar, who was several years older and claimed to occasionally “travel,” had been playing games with their relationship. “I was angry, hated him a lot, and did not forgive him,” she recalled.

What she only learned later was that, in the early hours of the morning, eight Kalashnikov-wielding mukhabarat state police had arrested Omar in an Internet café where he had been chatting on MSN with a Syrian opposition member outside the country and e-mailing reports on detained students to international human rights organizations and Western embassies. At the time, Farah didn’t know he was involved in opposition activities, which had gotten him arrested before. Omar had so internalized his awareness of the regime’s reach that he’d kept this part of his life even from her.

“He never told me that he had been arrested, but I noticed that he had ideas [that were] anti-regime from his speech,” Farah told me after we first met in Istanbul this past February. “But in general he was a cold man that did not express everything to me.” His demeanor could be so cool, she said, that she and her friends would teasingly call him “Iceman.”

Omar was released from the feared Sednaya prison in 2008, having completed most of his three-year sentence. He looked for Farah, but she no longer lived in the university dorms, and he’d kept touch with few mutual friends who might be able to help. His time was also short. State security forces had kept his identity documents, which would only be returned when he reported for compulsory military service. But Omar had resolved to never join in service of the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad. He needed to go underground and assume a new identity, and quickly, even if that meant leaving Farah behind.

Syrian Crisis Spreads to Lebanon, Carnegie

Paul Salem argues that the international community needs to recognize the danger of using Lebanon as a proxy battle for another Arab country.

Uneasy New Players in a Precarious Lebanon
by Rudy Sassine

Recent events in Lebanon have reinforced a widespread belief that civil war is imminent. As the uprising in Syria has spilled over to the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, with clashes erupting between Alawites and Sunnis, and a number of Salafist factions turning increasingly belligerent after the arrest of one of their militant members by general security agents, some have begun to wonder how long Beirut will remain immune to the kind of sectarian conflagrations that will pit Sunnis against Shiites and plunge much of the country into mayhem.

There is no doubt that the answer lies in a number of interrelated domestic and regional factors. Key factors determining the course of events in Lebanon are Hizballah’s alignments with the Assad regime’s interests in addition to its domestic electoral calculations in anticipation of Lebanon’s 2013 parliamentary elections….

Charles Glass in the National
May 23, 2012

The rebellion against tyranny is turning into a sectarian and class war that could destroy Syria for a generation and drive out those with the talent, education or money to thrive elsewhere. Neither side speaks of conciliation. The end game for both requires the destruction of the other. Foreign backers appear to encourage confrontation, when they should seek agreement to save Syria from the fate of its neighbours Lebanon and Iraq.

Colonial threads combine to strangle a sectarian Syria
The National 23/5/12

Twenty-five years ago, I travelled by land through what geographers called Greater Syria to write a book. I began in Alexandretta, the seaside northern province that France ceded to Turkey in 1939, on my way south through modern Syria to Lebanon. From there, my intended route went through Israel and Jordan. My destination was Aqaba, the first Turkish citadel of Greater Syria to surrender to the Arab revolt and Lawrence of Arabia in 1917. For various reasons, my journey was curtailed in Beirut in June 1987. (I returned to complete the trip and a second book in 2002.)

Beyond Bashar, Syria’s Rebels Are Facing Far More Significant Resistance
By: Charles Rizk | The Daily Star

the Iranian leadership still unreservedly supports its Syrian counterparts again the domestic uprising. On July 15, 2011, Iran and Syria signed a $10 billion gas agreement. And soon thereafter, in August, Tehran allocated $23 million for the development of the Syrian base in Latakia. Fighters from the Iranian Al-Quds militia have also taken part in the repression, alongside a Syrian force generously supplied with Iranian weapons.

Today, it is this powerful Iranian-Syrian bloc, with its Iraqi extension, that is covering Bashar Assad’s back and confronting the Syrian rebels. That explains the regime’s capacity for endurance and its indifference to international pressure. This indifference is all the more pronounced in that it is sustained by the backing of Russia, which has been able to reconstitute itself and stage a strong comeback in the Middle East by taking advantage of events in Syria….

For Russia, the restoration of the state and the domestic economy is a precursor to restoring its influence worldwide. This determination, coinciding with the revolt in Syria, gave Putin the opportunity to display his country’s new diplomatic assertiveness. Russian intransigence over Syria could be explained by the fact that the relationship with Damascus is all that remains from the Soviet era, which were built on three pillars: Egypt, Iraq and Syria.

…. In 2010, Moscow signed an arms contract with Damascus worth $700 million. This was followed by the delivery of Yak-130 aircraft worth $550 million.

The inflexible Russian position on Syria in recent months has also reflected a general sense of unease towards the United States, notably since NATO began installing an anti-missile shield stretching from Poland to Romania, at Russia’s doorstep.

… If Western objections to the indefensible character of the Assad regime carry little weight in Moscow, it is because they are taken out of context. Russia is not worried about Assad; it is largely indifferent to his personal fate and to the nature of his regime. What counts most for Moscow is to impose a multilateralism that turns to its advantage, on the ruins of America’s global hegemony.

The main factor driving the convergence of views on Syria between Russia and China at the Security Council is China’s mainly economic interest in Iran, the third main source of oil for China. This situation assumes even greater importance in that international sanctions on the export of Iranian oil have made the Chinese market indispensable for the Iranians. If China decides not to go along with these sanctions, its share of Iranian trade will grow and Beijing will benefit from highly advantageous prices. Iran’s objective, as announced by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in September 2010, is to raise the level of this trade to $100 billion by 2015.

China, Russia and Iran support for Bashar Assad makes a Western military intervention in Syria impossible, given the likely catastrophic repercussions for all concerned. In the eyes of this coalition, Assad is a tool and pretext. He is the façade against which the courage of the insurgents will continue to collide as long as Russia and its allies on the one side, and the United States and its allies on the other, fail to dispassionately settle their differences, therefore reach agreement over their contending interests, through negotiations.

Is there really a Saudi – Turkish divide?
25/05/2012, By Adel Al Toraifi. As-Sharq al-Awsat

….What about the Syrian crisis? Anybody observing the Saudi-Turkish talks must realize that they are in perfect harmony regarding the necessity of ousting Bashar al-Assad. One side may be issuing stronger statements than the other, but practically speaking, there is no difference between their view and handling of the crisis. As for the claims that Saudi Arabia and Turkey are making different demands of Syria, this discourse is lacking in evidence. Of course, there are differences, but we have not seen Saudi Arabia or Turkey backing one opposition party over another. Of course, the Muslim Brotherhood constitutes an overwhelming majority of the Syrian opposition abroad, however this is in accordance with the fact that the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is the largest established political party for Syrians abroad, therefore it is not wise to disregard it when considering the forthcoming period.

Developing Saudi – Turkish relations is important, because there is more that unites these two countries than divides them. However, like bilateral relations between any countries, the language of interests is the natural gauge regarding rapprochement. Of course, there are natural differences between the two countries, but to describe them as “frenemies” is an over-exaggeration.

NetApp Investigated by U.S. on Syria Surveillance System Sale
2012-05-25,   By Ben Elgin and Vernon Silver

May 25 (Bloomberg) — U.S. regulators are investigating how a multi-million-dollar storage system from NetApp Inc. came to underpin a sweeping Internet-surveillance system being built last year for the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad….

NetApp Investigated by U.S. on Syria Surveillance System Sale
2012-05-25 13:23:37.883 GMT

By Ben Elgin and Vernon Silver
May 25 (Bloomberg) — U.S. regulators are investigating how
a multi-million-dollar storage system from NetApp Inc. came to
underpin a sweeping Internet-surveillance system being built
last year for the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Comments (333)

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301. AIG said:

“This is why the logic that the villagers feel ‘safe’ under the FSA control is debatable. Maybe they are too fearful to talk or move.”

But of course this never applies to Syrians living under the Assad regime. When they say they love the regime it must be true because of course they are not afraid to say otherwise. It is becoming difficult to count the layers of hypocrisy displayed in the pro-regime arguments.

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May 28th, 2012, 3:42 pm


302. Uzair8 said:

I sense Annan is becoming fed up and is on the edge. The wily old fox has been given the run-around by the elusive rabbit.

Annan is in Damascus as we speak. Annan can end this once and for all.*

*Godfather 3. Calo pays a visit to Lucchesi.

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May 28th, 2012, 3:52 pm


303. bronco said:

#287 Mjabali

Thanks for clarifying the inaccurate information parroted by the medias about Al Houla.
The articles published with a rare speed are full of false, inacurate and misleading information.
They all implied that it is one village and that it is inhabited exclusively by sunnis.

An official and accurate investigation is necessary to dispel the rumors and the misinformation of the media

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May 28th, 2012, 3:52 pm


304. Ghufran said:

A fake photo about alhoula massacre was quickly discovered:

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May 28th, 2012, 3:57 pm


305. omen said:

to my shock, someone i follow on twitter, someone i’ve had exchanges with, disclosed today, may 28th, marks the one year anniversary his family was told his brother had been murdered by the regime.

this is what happened to his brother.

there is a point of view that gets channeled on this blog. a worry that elites in syria will lose their privileged class if the revolution were to succeed. a narrative that pits the rich against the poor.
but when a regime is willing to kill well known and successful doctors for no good reason, then the regime is not the bulwark it sets itself up to be as all that is standing between high culture and the unwashed masses. the truth of the matter is, it is the regime itself who are the barbarians at the gate.

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May 28th, 2012, 4:00 pm


306. zoo said:

Annan in Damascus for 3 days
He said that the Security Council has requested the United Nations to continue investigating the attacks in al-Houleh, stressing that those responsible for these brutal crimes must be held accountable, adding “I understand that the government is also investigating.”

Annan said the people who stand behind the incident should be held accountable, adding that Syria’s ordinary citizens are paying the highest price in the 15-month conflict.

Annan urged the Syrian government to take “bold steps” to signal that it’s in Syria’s intention to resolve the crisis peacefully, adding “this message of peace is not only for the government, but for everyone with a gun.”

“It is the Syrian people, the ordinary citizens of this great country, who are paying the highest price in this conflict… our goal is to stop this suffering. It must end and it must end now,” Annan said.

He also urged “everyone involved to help create the right context for a credible political process,” making it clear that his message “is not only for the government but for everyone, every individual with a gun.”

Annan said his six-point plan must be comprehensively implemented, “and this is not happening today.”

Annan added that he expects to have serious and frank discussions with President Bashar al-Assad. He said that he expects to have “serious and frank” discussions with the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, , and that he also looks forward to speaking with a range of other people and actors during his three-day visit to Syria.

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May 28th, 2012, 4:01 pm


307. AIG said:

If Ann or Zoo have already posted this, I apologize.

Damascus Merchants Strike Over Houla Killings
AMMAN (Reuters) – Sunni Muslim businesses closed in Old Damascus on Monday in the biggest act of civil disobedience by the capital’s merchant class, a backbone of support for President Bashar al-Assad during Syria’s 14-month revolt, activists said.

The show of defiance was in protest against the massacre of at least 108 civilians in the town of Houla in central Syria, [ID:nL5E8GSF7O] and follows strikes elsewhere over the previous two days, they said.

“More than 80 percent of shops have closed in some areas. The army and police are going around the old city with microphones shouting orders for merchants to re-open their shops,” an activist called Nader said by phone from the area.

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May 28th, 2012, 4:04 pm


308. Ghufran said:

The errors you see here about alhoula area is at times caused by ignorance. Those who do not know must look things up or ask before they make a claim or pass a judgement especially when they are 6,000 miles away. Other people are on a mission and they do not care about the truth,it is also “interesting” that a number of them are not even Syrian. This is not the time for thugs or dwarfs to inform the public, we need quality journalists,it is tragic that much of what is being said about Syria since March of 2011 is only fit for a trash dump.
Take this post at its face value,it does not target any particular poster.

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May 28th, 2012, 4:13 pm


309. zoo said:

Tit for Tat 2, FSA VS PKK

Border tensions rise as Turkey says Syria is giving PKK free rein

Thomas Seibert
May 29, 2012

ISTANBUL // Turkish authorities say they have evidence that Kurdish militants enjoying increasingly free rein in Syria brought 40 kilograms of plastic explosives across the border into Turkey to stage a major attack last week.
The claim is a new sign of tension between the two countries that could trigger a military escalation at the border, analysts said yesterday.

“Tensions will rise further, and even an armed confrontation is possible,” Ihsan Bal, an anti-terrorism expert at the International Strategic Research Organisation (Usak), a think tank in Ankara, said yesterday.

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May 28th, 2012, 4:15 pm


310. Osama said:

299 Bronco

You make a good point. There are many open questions that need answers.

On the political side, the Russians are look like they might be about ready to sell Bashar out, apparently the “Yemeni model” is back on the table. Lavrov did not provide a robust defense and instead, laid the blame equally between FSA and Regime. (see RT and ITAR/TASS)

Unfortunately, I suspect the revolutionaries will be very disappointed if that happens, because they will see their money and weapons dry up over night. Just when they were about to get their fight on…

Russia’s weak stand could be the tipping point and it could backfire and result in quick collapse (serious detections could result) and then we’re in full blown civil war, with ethnic, sectarian killing every where. Russia needs to grow a pair and keep it together if they want to get anything out of this, amateurs!

The next few days will be critical to see if the regime can keep it together. If they do manage to see out the week, expect more massacres to “keep the pressure on”

Stay tuned

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May 28th, 2012, 4:24 pm


311. Juergen said:


See, I did not write that article, I just posted it. Dont worry you run into open doors when it comes to quality of journalism about the ME here in Germany. BTW to publish a good map of Syria would be a good business to start after the Assads, this silly map i have from Syria isnt worth any, streets are not registred, names are different and well thats due to the Assad cult, everything is related to the Assads, Assad lake, Assad damn, and the famous Djebel Druz is called Djebel Arab…

Ah before i forgot, many villages in Syria are big enough to be a town, what makes a syrian town for you? 2 Assad monuments?


In North Korea they are not even allowed to have mobile phones. I bet Bashar has second thoughts about introducing mobile phones and internet in the country.

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May 28th, 2012, 4:27 pm


312. bronco said:


Russia’s strategy is working.

Russia has decided to change the international perception that it blindly supports Bashar Al Assad and his regime. It is now coming out with more ambiguous declarations that are immediately picked up and stripped from their context by the media to be presented in sentences like these” Russia condemn Syria’, “Russia ready to dump Bashar Al Assad”, “Russia is distancing from Bashar al Assad”

Russia’s strategy seems to work as now Russia does not appear as a biased and blind support of the Syrian regime and therefore could gain more acceptance from the Syrian opposition and the international community.

In perspective, Russia has succeeded in transforming the ‘regime change’ plan concocted by Qatar, Turkey and the SNC into a ‘peace plan’ under UN control that includes a dialog between the opposition and the Syrian regime.
Russia is now working on the next step which is to eliminate any opposition group that refuses the dialog with the regime.
The SNC is dead, The Friends of Syria too, the supporters of the hardline, France, is weaker. Turkey is isolated as even Qatar and Saudi have calmed down from verbal attacks on Bashar al Assad.

The aim of the Russians now is to evaluate the FSA capabilities and willingness to take over the opposition representation and move into the dialog part of the six-point Annan plan.
If the FSA shows its acceptance of that role, than Russia will lower its rhetoric on Bashar Al Assad as to gain the trust of the FSA.
In view of the new tone of Russia toward Bashar, I think the step two has started. More pressure is being applied both to the FSA and to Bashar to accept the dialog with the FSA as part of the opposition.
Of course elements loyal to the SNC and its sympathizers as well as some die hard within the Syrian regime are trying to prevent this dialog to happen. Bombs attacks and the massacre in Al Houla are part of these attempts to derail the plan.
Contrary to the USA, Russia’s strategy has been well thought and consistent. It is working patiently toward its aim that happens to coincide with UN Annan plan.

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May 28th, 2012, 4:44 pm


314. Juergen said:

Financial Times Deutschland about the role of Russia

“Moscow must stop supporting the regime nor in any way. It may not provide more instruments of death to the Assad regime, and it must give the UN Security Council’s hardline attitude when it comes to a clear position and to harsh sanctions. The Russians are the only ones that the regime can not stop it.”

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May 28th, 2012, 4:56 pm


315. Tara said:


The scenario is simple and plausible.  While the regime bombarding al Houla with heavy machinery, families taking shelter in their house, the shabeeha executed collective punishment, perhaps randomly  choosing 3 houses next to each others and slaughtered every one.  The goal is to teach towns and villages to not give moral or material support to the FSA otherwise, they may end up with a similar fate.  This happened in Karm al  Zaitoun too.  There are no FSA members assigned to protect houses.  There are FSA members fighting the regime, not watching out for massacres to happen.

I see no holes in this scenario whatsoever Bronco.  The Towns and villages support the FSA because the FAS members are their sons and nephews.

There has been no single account from any refugee implicating the FSA.  There are countless accounts incriminating the regime.

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May 28th, 2012, 5:18 pm


317. Tara said:


Thank you for posting the link of Damascus strike. Time for Damascus proper to rise otherwise it should be put to shame for generations to come.

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May 28th, 2012, 5:20 pm


318. Syria said:

305. OMEN

Thankyou for that post. That torture killing of an innocent young medical specialist displays the sickening, terrifying TRUTH about the Assad regime and how it has always behaved.

Evil stupidity. Waste. Filthy, pointless terror and violence.

Watch for more cases like this to become known when the families are no longer afraid to talk about them.

It’s revealing that professional liars here rush to give this story the red thumbs down.

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May 28th, 2012, 5:46 pm


319. Syrialover said:

305. OMEN (4 pm)

Thankyou for that post. That torture killing of an innocent young medical specialist displays the sickening, terrifying TRUTH about the Assad regime and how it has always behaved.

Evil stupidity. Waste. Filthy, pointless terror and violence.

Watch for more cases like this to become known when the families are no longer afraid to talk about them.

It’s revealing that professional liars here rush to give this story the red thumbs down.

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May 28th, 2012, 5:50 pm


320. Tara said:


In response to your question, Hassan Nasrallah has declared himself as an enemy to the Syrian people and we should simply treat him as such. The Iranian regime (not the Iranian people)has declared itself as an enemy to the Syrian people and we should treat it as such.

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May 28th, 2012, 6:11 pm


321. omen said:

308. Ghufran said:

Other people are on a mission and they do not care about the truth,it is also “interesting” that a number of them are not even Syrian. This is not the time for thugs or dwarfs to inform the public, we need quality journalists,it is tragic that much of what is being said about Syria since March of 2011 is only fit for a trash dump. Take this post at its face value,it does not target any particular poster. 4:13 pm


i seem to recall you not long ago, throwing a few rocks at saudi royals. are you saudi?

i think it’s a safe bet that you’ve had some criticisms to make re the u.s. occupation of iraq and afghanistan. are you iraqi? are you afghan?

i don’t see you holding regime apologists to task for denigrating every other regime under the sun in a herculean but vain attempt to make the assad regime look marginally better by comparison.

try as they might, loyalists attempting to put lipstick on this regime isn’t very convincing. the artifice just makes it look more menacing.

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May 28th, 2012, 8:13 pm


322. bronco said:

#315 Tara

“There are FSA members fighting the regime, not watching out for massacres to happen.”

I thought they claimed over than over that their purpose is to protect the civilians.. Obviously, as you said, their purpose is now to fight the regime. Then their supposed agreement with Annan peace plan is a lie.
Your scenario is exactly what you are meant to believe. I yet do not trust the ‘activists’ declaration and the assumptions the media does to convince the world that it’s time for a military strike on Syria.

I prefer to wait for the official UN investigation on the ground and not fall into the trap of wild speculations.

I am still convinced that both the FSA and the regime are been pressured to come to the dialog table.
Time will tell if they will do it soon enough.

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May 28th, 2012, 11:27 pm


323. Tara said:


Is this not an evidence?  

Houla massacre survivor tells how his family were slaughtered

Syrian boy, 11, claims he played dead to escape pro-Assad gunmen who killed five members of family in Houla
Monday 28 May 2012 13.36 EDT

An 11-year old boy has described how he smeared himself in the blood of his slain brother and played dead as loyalist gunmen burst into his home and killed six members of his family during the start of a massacre in Houla, central Syria.

The young survivor’s chilling account emerged as Russia continued to blame both Syrian troops and opposition militias for the weekend rampage in the town that left at least 116 people dead and prompted fresh outrage against the regime’s crackdown.

Speaking to the Guardian, the young survivor said government troops arrived in his district at around 3am on Saturday, several hours after shells started falling on Houla.

“They came in armoured vehicles and there were some tanks,” said the boy. “They shot five bullets through the door of our house. They said they wanted Aref and Shawki, my father and my brother. They then asked about my uncle, Abu Haidar. They also knew his name.”

Shivering with fear, the boy stood towards the back of the entrance to his family home as gunmen then shot dead every family member in front of him.

“My mum yelled at them,” said the boy. “She asked: ‘What do you want from my husband and son?’ A bald man with a beard shot her with a machine gun from the neck down. Then they killed my sister, Rasha, with the same gun. She was five years old. Then they shot my brother Nader in the head and in the back. I saw his soul leave his body in front of me.

“They shot at me, but the bullet passed me and I wasn’t hit. I was shaking so much I thought they would notice me. I put blood on my face to make them think I’m dead.”

Apparently convinced their work was finished, the gunmen moved on to other areas of the house, from which they proceeded to loot the family’s possessions, the boy said. “They stole three televisions and a computer,” he said. “And then they got ready to leave.”

On the way out of the house, the boy said the gunmen found the three men they had been looking for. They killed them all. “They shot my father and uncle. And then they found Aref, my oldest brother, near the door. They shot him dead too.”

The Guardian contacted the boy through a town elder who is a member of the Syrian Revolutionary Council and is now caring for him. We are unable to independently verify the account and have chosen not to name the boy for security reasons.

The boy said he waited until the armoured personnel carriers had moved from his street, then ran to his uncle’s house nearby, where he hid. He said the same militiamen knocked on the door minutes later, asking his uncle if he knew who lived in the house that they just rampaged through.

“They didn’t know he was my relative and when they were talking to him they were describing six people dead in my house. They included me. They thought I was dead.”

Throughout a 15-minute conversation, the boy remained calm and detached until he was pressed on how he knew the gunmen were pro-regime militia men, known as al-Shabiha. The irregular forces have been widely accused by residents of Houla of entering homes and slaughtering families. At least 32 of the dead are children and many of them appear to have been killed at close range.

“They got out of tanks and they had guns and knives,” he repeated. “Some of them were wearing civilian clothes, some army clothes.

“Why are you asking me who they were? I know who they were. We all know it. They were the regime army and people who fight with them. That is true.”

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May 28th, 2012, 11:34 pm


324. AIG said:


There is no better evidence than this, direct eye witness evidence.

Now wait for regime supporters to demand this boy come forward and give evidence to the regime investigation. May I suggest an answer? How about letting the Western press into Houla to talk to survivors. Will the regime allow that? They won’t of course, because they know who is responsible for the massacre.

I hope the UN investigators get to talk to the boy without endangering his life.

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May 29th, 2012, 12:13 am


325. bronco said:

#323 Tara

“Speaking to the Guardian…. ” and
“We are unable to independently verify the account and have chosen not to name the boy for security reasons.”

That is what makes it a tabloid information.

I don’t need the Guardian to make the investigation. The UK press has proved to be unreliable and manipulative with the Murdoch scandal. The most recent is the BBC photos showing Houla massacre when it was a 2003 Iraq photo.
These articles supposedly interviewing eye witnesses are anecdotes for some readers looking for gory details. They are not reliable.

We need a formal UN investigation. Until then, there are only unanswered questions about this tragedy.

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May 29th, 2012, 1:07 pm


326. zoo said:

France backs off from ground military intervention

“Mr. Fabius ruled out any ground intervention in Syria, which he said would carry the risk of a “regional extension” of the conflict.

“The Syrian Army is powerful,” Mr. Fabius said. “No state is ready to consider ground intervention at the current time.”

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May 29th, 2012, 1:13 pm


327. zoo said:

Do Shabbihas usually name themselves openly when their perpetrate hideous crimes or it is a make believe?

“Witness accounts described how some militiamen went through houses chanting, “Shabiha for you, Assad,” Mr. Colville said in an interview, using a term for pro-government thugs.”

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May 29th, 2012, 1:18 pm


328. omen said:

327. zoo said: Do Shabbihas usually name themselves openly when their perpetrate hideous crimes or it is a make believe?

“Witness accounts described how some militiamen went through houses chanting, “Shabiha for you, Assad,” Mr. Colville said in an interview, using a term for pro-government thugs.”


what’s your theory? that rebels waited for the regime to stop shelling? then rushed in to kill civilians while posing as shabbiha?

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May 29th, 2012, 3:24 pm


329. omen said:

326. zoo said:
France backs off from ground military intervention

“Mr. Fabius ruled out any ground intervention in Syria, which he said would carry the risk of a “regional extension” of the conflict.

“The Syrian Army is powerful,” Mr. Fabius said. “No state is ready to consider ground intervention at the current time.”


when is the west going to stop giving the regime a green light to continue their slaughter?

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May 29th, 2012, 3:30 pm


330. habib said:

No foreign fighters in Syria? LOL!

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May 30th, 2012, 2:47 pm


331. habib said:

327. zoo said:

“Do Shabbihas usually name themselves openly when their perpetrate hideous crimes or it is a make believe?”

Typical false-flag operation. One of them could just as well had said he was Bashar al-Assad himself.

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May 30th, 2012, 2:51 pm


332. Osama said:

312 Bronco.

Thanks for your reply. I agree with you that Russia is trying to achieve something and keep the current regime more or less intact. But I don’t think they planned or anticipated Al houla massacre. Therefore they could not have a prepared strategy and I believe that their response, as you rightly said, is meant to absorb the surge of negative publicity.

Unfortunately, the Russians are out gunned in this media war, so they backed off. When they saw that the story was not as it first seemed they quickly went back to their original position.

In regards to murders themselves, I still would like several questions answered:
1) what was the motive? Who was the Abdulrazzak family? What was their affiliation? Where were the men that killers were looking for? Where are they now? It seems only right that they need protection as it seems they were the primary targets?

2) what time did the murders happen? We are told the army fired at the town during the day, in which less than 20 people died? Who were the people who died in this incident? Were any of them women and children or were they all men? We are also told that the Army only fired at the town from a distance and the FSA attacked them AFTER this incident? Also, we are told that the executions happened in two rounds, why? Who controlled the town during all of this time?

3) why is the UN still saying they can’t say who committed the executions? If the FSA is in control, their should be plenty of witnesses, someone must have seen something and if everyone else abandoned this part of the town why did the Abdulrazzak family feel safe to stay, especially with their men gone?

Is it possible this was a local feud? Is it possible that some of the armed men somehow blame the Abdulrazzak’s for something that happened that day and they went looking for them to get revenge and things got out of control when they could not find the people they were looking for? Is it possible that these hot heads then told the rest of their gang and the boss came up with this plan to try and fool everybody….

Governments all over the Arab world are known for using the families of their enemies as leverage, if they can’t find the son they take the father into custody, haven’t the “activist” been telling us about this behavior?

In regards to the poor boy who survived, he cannot help, his testimony amounts to: he saw the perpetrators, and they could have been anybody?

Can the boy identify any of the men involved if he saw any of them again?

I don’t mean to offend anybody by the above, or to insinuate that the shibeeha did NOT do it… I feel strongly that the truth must come out and I don’t to just let this pass as another example of how evil the government is. These killers need to be found and it is the responsibility of the FSA, the Syrian government and the UN to act to reach this end?

Also, I am worried why the NATO F/UK/US are not calling for investigation, why are they just pushing the escalation agenda, a report from UN placing the blame on the Syria government will surely give them huge boost to their efforts?

They love to get reports from UN on Iraq WMD, or Iran Nuclear or STL, these have always helped them against their enemies… Surely these women and children deserve that much!

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May 30th, 2012, 4:10 pm


333. bronco said:

Ossama #332

I agree that the Houla massacre has a lots of questions that no one seems to bother of acknowledging.
Russia was ready for such excesses. They lip condemnation of the Syrian regime will be useful to make them appear less bias for future negotiations. They have then reaffirm in force that both parties were responsible/
About the survivors and a possible investigation, ZOO has made an analysis of the declaration of the children survivors and there are some troubling elements that seem to point to some FSA ‘rogue elements’ as the killers rather than to the Shabbiha.

It is only a basic assessment but it adds doubts to the affirmation of the Shabbiha’s responsibility in the cold blood massacre that the media is spreading without any investigation or tangible proofs

If you missed them these are some of the links.

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May 30th, 2012, 6:32 pm


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