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 © bitterlemons-international.org

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 © bitterlemons-international.org – 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.

HARVEST FORECASTS SLASHED

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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251. Uzair8 said:

Anyone know who the ‘Abdel Razzak family’ are. My mind went to Abdul Razzak Tlas earlier but now I see there may be no connection to him. The Tlas family would also mean Assad Senior’s right hand man Mustafa Tlass and relatives. He is still loyal to Assad isn’t he?

?

From AJE:

“Most of those killed belonged to the Abdel Razzak family. Local activists provided Human Rights Watch with a list of 62 dead members from the Abdel Razzak family. According to survivors, their family owns the land and farms next to the national water company and the water dam of Taldou, and lives in eight or nine houses next to each other, two families to a house.”

http://blogs.aljazeera.net/liveblog/houla-may-28-2012-1437

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May 28th, 2012, 8:57 am

 

252. Uzair8 said:

Sometimes I don’t know who I (and revolutionaries) dislike more. Bashar Assad or Bashar Ja’afari.

This may even have the potential to split the opposition further with a faction breaking away instead focused on demanding the removal of Ja’afari. Lol.

“Tsunami of lies!”

The greater the blame, the bigger the denial.

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May 28th, 2012, 10:01 am

 

253. Uzair8 said:

#253 SHABBI7*

“I (and revolutionaries)”

* In case you’re referring to me.

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May 28th, 2012, 10:22 am

 

254. Son of Damascus said:

Sick ironic joke of the revolution someone that chose to name themselves after a bunch of callous child murderers and rapists is giving lessons in morality, go figure!

Bita3ref shou ma3na elkhajal? I am not sure you do!

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May 28th, 2012, 10:43 am

 

255. Tara said:

Obama can keep his solution to himself.  Revolution must mount to revolutionary changes…

Syria: why Russia changed tack
Moscow’s step towards backing Assad’s dethronement owes much to Putin’s unsentimental calculations of national advantage

Russia’s support for Sunday night’s UN security council statement condemning the Houla killings is the first positive news to come out of the Syrian crisis for months. It opens up the possibility, hitherto remote, that Washington and Moscow may find common cause in easing out Bashar al-Assad and defusing the rebellion against the Damascus regime.

Russian spokesmen moved quickly on Monday to suggest events in Houla, where the UN says 116 civilians including dozens of children died in a bombardment by government forces last Friday, were “murky”, that regime opponents carried much of the blame for the carnage, and that Russia’s opposition to regime change remained steadfast.

But there was no escaping the fact that the unanimous UN statement represented a breach in the diplomatic defences Moscow has erected around the Syrian regime. And it can be assumed with some certainty, given its importance, that Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, will have taken the decision himself.

… by agreeing with the US and Britain that Assad is in violation of international law through his resort to “outrageous use of force”, Moscow has taken a both substantive and symbolic step towards backing the Syrian leader’s dethronement.

Russia has been under intense diplomatic pressure to shift position, pressure that has begun to damage its wider interests in the Middle East, …

A more likely explanation is the return to the foreign policy helm of Putin, reinstalled this month as Russia’s president. Putin is no dove, no cuddly peacemaker, as he has demonstrated repeatedly in conflict zones from Chechnya to Georgia. His approach is more that of a hard-nosed, unsentimental calculator of national advantage.
….
Under the nascent deal, Russia would agree to the removal of Assad and his replacement by a less controversial government figure, following the example of the transition in Yemen. The regime would remain largely intact, and so too would Russia’s Syrian sphere of interest, including its commercial relationships and its naval base.

For his part, under such a scenario, Obama would be able to claim that the Syrian boil had been lanced without resort to military intervention (which Russia strongly opposes).

Any such outcome would be hard for the democratic Syrian opposition to swallow and would fall far short of the regime-changing revolution many are seeking. It also implies an amnesty for Assad and his henchmen, and leaves open the question where the Syrian president might go if he were forced into exile.

………………
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/28/syria-why-russia-changed-tack

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May 28th, 2012, 10:44 am

 

256. Tara said:

Shabbih

Your post is unacceptable and you should offer an apology.

We are all revolutionaries. Like it or not.

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May 28th, 2012, 10:46 am

 
 

258. Tara said:

Syria Lover@241

I was…in the ancient past. I saw something graceful in her face. Oh boy, how wrong was I. I only seeالساحرة الشريرة in her now.

“dying of ugliness”…what an expressive phrase. Brilliant!

Ugliness is the worst mental state anyone can have. It is a curse..

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May 28th, 2012, 11:08 am

 

259. Uzair8 said:

UnverifiedRumour

Syria#FSA to suspend further poison plots for duration of Annan visit#

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May 28th, 2012, 11:13 am

 

260. zoo said:

The “activists” always helping the media campaign with authentic photos…

The Houla massacre photo that was on the first page of many newspapers and was provided by the ‘activists’ is a 2003 Iraq photo.

http://static.olj.me/images/news/large/761033_86431745560.jpeg

BBC News uses ‘Iraq photo to illustrate Syrian massacre’
The BBC is facing criticism after it accidentally used a picture taken in Iraq in 2003 to illustrate the senseless massacre of children in Syria.
Photographer Marco di Lauro said he nearly “fell off his chair” when he saw the image being used, and said he was “astonished” at the failure of the corporation to check their sources.

The picture, which was actually taken on March 27, 2003, shows a young Iraqi child jumping over dozens of white body bags containing skeletons found in a desert south of Baghdad.

It was posted on the BBC news website today under the heading “Syria massacre in Houla condemned as outrage grows”.

The caption states the photograph was provided by an activist and cannot be independently verified, but says it is “believed to show the bodies of children in Houla awaiting burial”.

A BBC spokesman said the image has now been taken down. -

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May 28th, 2012, 11:32 am

 

261. irritated said:

260. Uzair8 said:

“Syria#FSA to suspend further poison plots for duration of Annan visit#”

Especially if the FSA poison just provokes a diarrhea

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May 28th, 2012, 11:38 am

 

262. zoo said:

Russia: “Without Assad, the Annan plan cannot be performed. Who is the negotiating counterpart of the military opposition?” he said.

Russia seeks to deflect blame from Assad
By Charles Clover in Moscow, May 28, 2012

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b57b5d5e-a8b4-11e1-be59-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz1wBC5nCfA

….
US and European officials say this process must lead to the departure of President al-Assad and new elections.

“We have said all the way back from last August that finding a solution to this involves [Assad] standing aside,” said Mr Hague.

However, Mr Lavrov firmly rejected this saying: “For us it’s not the most important thing who is in power in Syria. For us the main thing is to provide for an end to the violence.”
….
“They are waiting for the Annan plan to fail, so they can say Assad has deceived everybody, that he has not fulfilled his obligations and therefore we need to support the military opposition” said Mr Pushkov, adding that western support for the Syrian opposition destroys any incentive for them to negotiate.

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May 28th, 2012, 11:44 am

 

263. zoo said:

Was Nasser al Kidwa, nephew of Yasser Arafat and Annan’s deputy finally allowed in Damascus? There has been no word in the press about him

“But a senior Arab League official said Syria has denied permission for Annan’s deputy to travel to Damascus. Syria insisted the decision against former Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa was not personal, but rather because it did not want to deal with the Arab League,”

Read more: http://www.3news.co.nz/Syrian-Government-denies-massacre/tabid/417/articleID/255739/Default.aspx#ixzz1wBEoMTxZ

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May 28th, 2012, 11:55 am

 

264. zoo said:

More details about BBC’s Houla “propaganda” photo

PHOTOGRAPHER, MARCO DI LAURO, EXPOSES BBC’S USE OF HIS IRAQ PHOTOS AS PROPAGANDA FOR HOULA MASSACRE

Posted on May 27, 2012

Italian photographer, Marco Di Lauro, has exposed the BBC which illegally used one of his photographs taken in Iraq as anti-Syrian Propaganda on their website’s front page.

http://syria360.wordpress.com/2012/05/27/photographer-marco-di-lauro-exposes-bbcs-use-of-his-iraq-photos-as-propaganda-for-houla-massacre/

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May 28th, 2012, 12:00 pm

 

265. bronco said:

Uzair8 #251

“Most of those killed belonged to the Abdel Razzak family. Local activists provided Human Rights Watch with a list of 62 dead members from the Abdel Razzak family”.

If this true, that so many members of the same wealthy family be executed, appears to me more like a intra or inter villages vendetta that took advantage of the chaotic situation and using the possible shelling and the elusive ‘shabbiha’ as a cover up.
If this is the case, I expect retaliation from the Al Razzak family soon and escalation of violence in the area.

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May 28th, 2012, 12:06 pm

 

266. Antoine said:

267. BROCNO said:

Uzair8 #251

“Most of those killed belonged to the Abdel Razzak family. Local activists provided Human Rights Watch with a list of 62 dead members from the Abdel Razzak family”.

If this true, that so many members of the same wealthy family be executed, appears to me more like a intra or inter villages vendetta that took advantage of the chaotic situation and using the possible shelling and the elusive ‘shabbiha’ as a cover up.
If this is the case, I expect retaliation from the Al Razzak family soon and escalation of violence in the area.

___________________________________________________________________

And what is the basis of your conclusion, ?

Btw family based vednettas do not take place in Syria. Syria is not a tribal based country. The last time there was a family based vendetta in the Middle east was betwen teo Beduin familes in Sinai, Egypt, 6 years ago.

Syria for the last 100 years has not seen 1 recorded case of clan and family vendetta bloodletting. I ask you to show me 1 news report from Syria in the last 100 years of any sucb incident. This is simply not part of Syrian society.

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May 28th, 2012, 12:21 pm

 

267. Ghufran said:

Guilty parties are not likely to push for an independent investigation,all signs point to killing done by one side with counter killing from the other side,those massacres in Syria are not possible without the active participation of Syrians,we need to be honest enough to acknowledge this simple truth,some of you are worried that speaking about the sins of other Syrians means trying to get the regime off the hook.
Here is more on the Yemeni type solution being looked at by the US:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/27/world/middleeast/us-seeks-russias-help-in-removing-assad-in-syria.html?ref=middleeast

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May 28th, 2012, 12:24 pm

 

268. Mina said:

Antoine 268
Since how many years you have not put a foot in the Middle East? Have you ever visited the Middle East, outside of its capitals and 5 stars hotels? To claim that there is no vendetta in Syria (or Jordan, Yemen, Egypt, Iraq, etc…………) is…………….. delusional or a pure lie?
Could you provide the name and some details about this Sinai vendetta you claim to know for sure?

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May 28th, 2012, 12:29 pm

 

269. Antoine said:

I am proposing that the LCCs and FSA in Daraa make a direct appeal to the tribes across the border in Jordan – like the Bani Hassan, etc. to help them with weapons. The Jordanian Army is totally dominated by the tribal people of Jordan, if the revolutionaries of Daraa – who must be sharing some links with Jordan – make a direct appeal to the tribes of Jordan to give them weapons from the Jordanian Army, that will be wonderful. The Jordanian tribes are the pillars of the Jordanian Monarchy and the Army, if they can be totally dedicated to the cause of the revolution, that means that we can count on the support of the Jordanian Monarchy.

So far the response of the Jordanian Monarchy has been very ineffective. They are not allowing the FSA to operate freely. What we need to do is to make a direct appeal to the tribes of Jordan to ask their sons in the Jordanian Army to give the weapons to the FSA and to help them smuggle those across the border.

Please discuss this idea.

Is there anybody on thus blog from Daraa ?

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May 28th, 2012, 12:49 pm

 

270. Antoine said:

270. Mina said:

Antoine 268
Since how many years you have not put a foot in the Middle East? Have you ever visited the Middle East, outside of its capitals and 5 stars hotels? T
___________________________________________________________________

Mina al-ishtiraki ,

I visited Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt in the year 2009. I visited 45 towns, cities and villages across 14 Governorates of Egypt.

I visited 17 towns and 34 villages in 6 Governorates of Jordan, including the town of al-Ramtha, which is just across the border from Daraa.

I also visted Wadi Khaled in Lebanon, which is now a major hub of the Free Syrian Army.

It is more likely you don’t have much of an accurate idea about Syria.

I knew right away, when you claimed that Daraa was a hotbed of Islamist activity and that Deraa has always been a centre of cheap anti-Assad fundamentalism. Anyone who is aquainted with Syria knows this is not true.

Have you seen even 1 Salafi Mosque in Daraa ?

On what basis did you conclude that there are Islamists in Daraa ?

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May 28th, 2012, 12:57 pm

 

271. Antoine said:

Btw, Mina, I do not have enough money to put up in a 5 star hotel in Syria or any other Middle Eastern Capital.

I prefer to eat along with factory workers.

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May 28th, 2012, 12:59 pm

 

272. Juergen said:

Massacred Syrian children were ‘bound before being shot’
Some of the children killed in the Syrian town of Houla at the weekend were tied up before being shot, activists claim.

“Video of one group of the 49 children posted online showed some of them had their wrists bound with blue ties, a common substitute for handcuffs in the Arab world.
Though it was not possible to verify whether this had been done before or after death, one activist group cited a witness saying the Alawite “Shabiha” or militia accused of the massacre did it to punish the children’s father.
“One eye witness, who is a lady in her late 50s from Houla, confirmed that the Shabiha handcuffed the children of Abbara Family, and told the father to look at their children, how they will be killed in front of his eyes, before they killed him,” a spokesman for the Syrian Network of Human Rights told The Daily Telegraph.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9295268/Massacred-Syrian-children-were-bound-before-being-shot.html

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May 28th, 2012, 1:04 pm

 

273. Antoine said:

Syrian army being aided by Iranian forces

Iran confirms Quds force’s presence in Syria with Revolutionary Guards commander saying troops ‘helped prevent more massacres’

_________________________________________________________________

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/28/syria-army-iran-forces

“A senior commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has admitted that Iranian forces are operating in Syria in support of Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Ismail Gha’ani, the deputy head of Iran’s Quds force, the arm of the Revolutionary Guards tasked with overseas operations, said in an interview with the semi-official Isna news agency: “If the Islamic republic was not present in Syria, the massacre of people would have happened on a much larger scale.”

Isna published the interview at the weekend but subsequently removed it from its website.

It quoted Gha’ani as saying: “Before our presence in Syria, too many people were killed by the opposition but with the physical and non-physical presence of the Islamic republic, big massacres in Syria were prevented.”

The west has accused Iran of providing military and technical support to Assad to quell protests since the start of the uprising in Syria. Iranian officials in return played down the accusations by saying the country only supported Syria morally.

As the wave of protests swept across the Middle East, Tehran’s leaders found themselves in the peculiar situation of praising the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen but condemning them in Syria, its close ally in the region……………

…….Iran’s Quds force has been in the spotlight in recent years mainly for its activities inside Iraq.

Part of the responsibility of the Quds force is to protect the concept of Islamic revolution which the revolutionary guards view as being closely tied up with protecting Khamenei.”

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May 28th, 2012, 1:06 pm

 

274. Antoine said:

Btw for those doubting the veracity of above article, Guardian is an Ishtiraki paper with a history of impartial coverage of Middle East politics.

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May 28th, 2012, 1:08 pm

 

275. Antoine said:

“all signs point to killing done by one side with counter killing from the other side”

__________________________________________________________________

The vast majority of the victims are from Houla and are the victims of Government forces. While counter-attacks may have taken place, the victims of those attacks have been a very small percentage of the 116 people killed on Friday.

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May 28th, 2012, 1:10 pm

 

276. Juergen said:

Antoine

I would not be so sure that there are no “vendettas” in Syria, it may be less than in othre more tribal societies likewise in Yemen and the Sinai. I remember visiting one poor family who lives next to an ancient church called Mushabaq ( near Aleppo)
The mother told me that two of her sons are in prisons for shooting at an other family, the reason was that the other family took sheep from their stock, and painted their fur. As I mentioned before, honor killings( among all faiths) do exist ( about 400 cases a year) in Syria.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=312017792213430&set=a.100976926650852.1777.100002156341766&type=1&theater

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May 28th, 2012, 1:15 pm

 

277. Mina said:

Antoine,
Terrorists and Shabeehas are mass-killers. If the shabeehas of Fulla have decided to eliminate a whole family, it is called vendetta and probably followed the murder of someone among them. You won’t sell anyone that Bashshar calls the shabeehas and ask them to ruin the Annan plan.
Survivors testimonies
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-18240460
As usual in this one year long civil war, it is the narrative and the momentum which count. Everyone heard yesterday that the people died from army’s shelling… then a little later, it is the shabeehas and their personal interests and sponsors, just like Iraq…

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May 28th, 2012, 1:18 pm

 

278. Son of Damascus said:

Yet another wonderful piece by Amal Hanano.

The armchair pundits were right, and Syrians pay for it

On Saturday, May 12, a group of activists held a candlelight vigil inside the Damascus Citadel, in honour of the victims of the twin bombings that shook the capital two days prior, killing 55 people, wounding dozens more on the busy street near the notorious “Palestine” Intelligence branch. The quiet vigil was soon broken up by security forces. At least 12 activists were detained.

Although these aggressive acts by Assad regime forces are predictable – expected even – this vigil should not have been problematic. In the aftermath of the bombings, an outpouring of outrage and concern had flooded Syrian television screens and social media platforms. It seemed that mourning this tragedy was allowed – encouraged even – but on condition that grief is expressed by only one kind of citizen: the regime loyalist.

Martyrs have become the new commodity in the “media” war between opposition and loyalists, in order to claim the right to grieve the innocent civilians caught in the explosion, one needed to exclusively claim the official narrative and no other. But two days after the severe breach to national security, and the shrill claims that the country is under attack by international terrorist groups – this time, specifically Al Qaeda – why was the regime threatened by an innocent candlelight vigil? Because it threatened to unite the people and undermine the regime’s divisive tactics with a simple but powerful message: “Stop the killing.” And as we know, the Syrian regime does not like to take orders from anyone – not from Kofi Annan’s six-point “ceasefire” plan, and definitely not from a group of youth carrying candles and flowers.

In the aftermath of this week’s deadly massacre of over 100 people in Hula, the victims themselves have been classified into groups. The UN has placed the responsibility of deaths by shelling on the regime but has left the question of who slaughtered children open – committed perhaps by unknown “armed gangs” – as if the regime is incapable of committing such atrocities. As if such brutality was too extreme for even the Syrian regime.

In a recent interview Bashar Al Assad declared Syria is “losing the media war” but “reality is what matters.” Really? That’s news to many in the opposition. After filming hundreds of thousands of videos documenting the regime’s shelling, destruction and torture, along with protests, funerals, mass graves and thousands of corpses, somehow, the conflict is still painted in the media as unclear, unverified, and always “complicated”.

“It’s complicated,” is the one thing everyone agrees. Nuanced, circular arguments were debated while analysing an “Arab Spring” country, while the people from these countries chanted for freedom and saw themselves mirrored in the same struggles unfolding across borders. But the regimes and media insisted: Egypt is not Tunisia; Libya isn’t Egypt; Yemen isn’t Bahrain; and Bahrain isn’t Syria. Of course, Syria is definitely not Libya. Syria’s future, at best, should be compared to Iraq’s present or Lebanon’s past.

Cynics on the sidelines belittle the number of dead. They claim the videos are fabricated and declare the truth as elusive. They ridicule claims that bombings and coordinated murder cannot be executed by the regime, because it would be stupid for a regime to attack itself. But they do not state the facts.

Apologies to the Syrian people were made months ago, along with predictions of the inevitable civil war. We were told that the ever-sectarian revolution would be weaponised and radicalised. We were warned that our infiltrated and hijacked revolution would spark violence and would “spill over” across borders.

And now, 14 months in, the armchair pessimists lean back and smugly say, “I told you so.”

[...]

http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/comment/the-armchair-pundits-were-right-and-syrians-pay-for-it#full

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May 28th, 2012, 1:33 pm

 

279. Son of Damascus said:

Ammar AbdulHamid

U.S. Hopes Assad Can Be Eased Out With Russia’s Aid

That this is indeed the essence of Obama’s Administration’s approach on Syria has been quite apparent for months now. That’s why when I finally had a chance to go to Moscow and meet with some of Russia’s policy people, I took it. The trip, which took place between May 18 and 25, gave me an opportunity to know for myself how hard of a challenge changing Russia’s position will be, especially considering how attached to the status quo its leadership seems to be.

Now, and after spending a week there, and while I wouldn’t necessarily judge the differences between U.S. and Russia’s positions over Syria as unbridgeable, let’s just say that there are quite a few circles that need to be squared first before agreement is reached. The Russians are not attached to Assad, but they are attached to the regime and their base in Tartous. What the “regime” means to the Russians is Alawite control of security and military apparatuses. If regime survival under this formula is not possible, than the powers-that-be in Russia would not be too opposed to the fragmentation of Syria so long as coastal areas remain under Alawite control, which is the likely outcome in this case. To ensure getting their desired outcome, the Russians will continue propping up the regime by supplying it with arms, which they claim are not meant to be used against protesters but against future western intervention, and by continuing to be a stumbling block in the way of any meaningful UN-led action or condemnation.

Still, believe it or not, that is not even the real problem. After all, and as the NY Times report indicates, and considering their growing disaffection with Syria’s fractious opposition, the Obama Administration is indeed seeking a deal that eases Assad’s way out but keeps the regime pretty much intact. But who can sell this plan to the revolutionaries? That’s the real question and the real problem. The off-switch to this revolution, if it exists, lies squarely in the hands of young protest leaders scattered throughout the country, and the arrangement sought by Obama and the Russians is simply too cynical to satisfy them. The protest, the crackdown, the defiance, the reprisals, and the massacres all will continue even with the Assads out of the picture so long as what gets put in place after his departure continues to lack popular legitimacy. And popular legitimacy cannot be given to a regime that is still dominated by military and security apparatuses that are still dominated in their turn by Alawite generals and officers. Pure and simple.

In other words, if the Obama Administration is pinning its hopes on squaring circles in order to reach an agreement with Russia on a deal that will be dead on arrival as far as most Syrians are concerned, then, Syria’s fate as a country has already been sealed. She will be no more. Russian policymakers insist that this is an acceptable outcome as far as they are concerned, but how about American officials? Is the dissolution of Syria as a state acceptable for them as well?

But then, perhaps Senator McCain is right in his assessment of President Obama’s policy at this stage. Perhaps, all that U.S. officials want to achieve at this stage is to kick this bucket until after the elections, without considering the serious consequences of further delays.

Note: It should be borne in mind that locals in Houla made clear from the beginning that most victims of the infamous massacre were slaughtered by pro-Assad militias who stormed into town after it was pounded by regular troops. For Russian officials to use this fact to deflect blame from the regime is grotesque. For the UN resolution to fail to name pro-Assad militias as culprits paves the ground for further acts of genocide.

http://syrianrevolutiondigest.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/obama-russians.html

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May 28th, 2012, 1:37 pm

 

280. sf94123 said:

Throughout history, Middle Easterners were easily manipulated and persuaded by religion, money, and power to kill, conspire, lie, and deceive each other. The killings in Houla were no different. Pre-planned massacre. I am disgusted!

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May 28th, 2012, 1:40 pm

 

281. Hopeful said:

There were many videos on youtube today regarding the strikes in Damascus. Here are a few:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_57ksWjG3M&feature=youtu.be
http://youtu.be/nlvkRRoiXsg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byvxEEFsVXM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQWk8CDHfmM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-rkDgoRwO8

What strikes me about these videos is that they were all shot with “hidden” phone cameras. People are afraid of being seen videotaping shops in public. What does this tell you about the state of suppression and fear in the capital? How can any intelligent person believe that people are behind the “reforms” when these same “people” are still afraid of carrying cameras on the street, fifteen months after these reforms started?

Yeah, sure, feel free to form a political party and register it with the state, but don’t you dare carry a phone camera around, Ok? Are you feeling free today?

There is no other country in the world today where citizens are afraid of carrying a camera. Oh wait, yes there is one: North Korea!

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May 28th, 2012, 1:45 pm

 

282. Mina said:

Elections? What for? News from the Arab Spring.
http://www.albawaba.com/news/libya-election-seif-islam-handover-delayed-427214

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May 28th, 2012, 1:48 pm

 

283. Mina said:

Hopeful
Today is Monday, so hairdressers and many others don’t need to strike to be closed; plus it is a Christian religious feast.

Syrian strikes business as usual…

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May 28th, 2012, 1:51 pm

 

284. Tara said:

A UN observer, Martin Griffiths, conclude Sabeeha committed the massacre.   

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9293588/Syria-Houla-massacre-they-moved-from-family-to-family-killing-them-one-by-one.html

Martin Griffiths, the deputy commander of the UN’s observer mission to Syria, on Sunday attempted to lead a small team of peace monitors and aid workers into the area where at least 90 people died on Friday, despite the firefights that continued to rage all the time they were there.

Mr Griffiths said both the Free Syrian Army (FSA) command in Rastan and civilian eyewitnesses in Houla itself had said the same thing.
Shelling of the town began at about 12.30pm after prayers and lasted about two hours.
Then, from around 3pm, groups of armed civilian militias — known as the Shabiha — began moving house to house and the killings, using knives and firearms, began.

According to both sources speaking independently, it went on for hours, family by family. Both groups say the killings continued until about 2am on Saturday.

The evidence is simply this: the fact that in Houla right now you still find civilians where the FSA control the ground. Yet there are none (except corpses) where the Syrian army is in control.
So you ask yourself this: why do people remain in one area and not the other? Why do civilians apparently feel safe with the rebels? Why have they fled the area controlled by their own government’s army?
We cannot be sure as yet. But since civilians do not feel safe under the protection of their own army it suggests they perceive a link between that army’s shelling and the murderous Shabiha who came afterwards on Friday in Houla and will surely come again.

Read more.

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May 28th, 2012, 1:56 pm

 

285. Hopeful said:

Mina,

Looks like you missed my point completely. I was referring to the fact that people are afraid of being seen carrying phone cameras in public.

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May 28th, 2012, 1:59 pm

 

286. Mina said:

Hula would be a shabeeha revenge for Teldo?

Akram sent me this: “The “Arab” Syrian Army and the “Free” Syrian Army are exchanging massacres in what seems to be a fevered race concerning who can kill the largest number of Syrians. The match is taking place in the Province of Homs.
In Al-Houla (Homs), at least 92 civilians, 32 of them were children were killed in an artillery and tank bombing by the the Syrian Army (read here
and you can watch this video and more others)
In another two villages in Homs, Al-Shumaryiah and Teldo, the Free Syrian Army committed a massacre against many families
It’s worth to mention that the sole source of information regarding Al-Shumaryiah/Teldo massacres was the Syrian news agency Sana who in turn, turned blind-eye on Al-Houla one.
I’m writing this trying hard (for the first time) not to cry… Children bodies…. more than what I can bear…. ”
http://angryarab.blogspot.it/2012/05/massacres-in-syria.html

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May 28th, 2012, 1:59 pm

 

287. mjabali said:

Juergen said:

“Some of the children killed in the Syrian town of Houla at the weekend were tied up before being shot, activists claim.”

Jurgen you are repeating a mistake I have been seeing in the news day after day.

There is no town in Syria called Houla, there is an area called Houla, or to be more exact it is the Valley of al-Houla سهل الحولة which contains a number of villages. The killing that happened recently happened in Talldo تلدو a village in the Valley of al-Houla.

Many made this mistake and this shows the level of true information we get.

So when you read in the news that al-Houla is being bombarded this makes no sense because of the simple fact that some villages are Alawis and considered pro Assad.

As for what had really happened no one knows, and I personally would not doubt any of the two parties of committing this.

So far there is not one single accurate account to what had happened. But for sure we saw dead Syrian kids that were paraded in front of cameras. Was this for a reason?

al-Houla is an area where Alawis and Sunnis exist in the same village (like Akrab for example). This incident has to be investigated correctly and not let go like many others.

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May 28th, 2012, 2:02 pm

 

288. Tara said:

Angry Arab should commit suicide. He is pathetic. And I as Syrian do not accept his tears. I wish the images of the slaughtered babies haunt him forever.

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May 28th, 2012, 2:05 pm

 

289. Tara said:

Ghalioun, the outgoing president of the SNC, remains the face of dignity of the Syrian people.  The battle of liberation of Syria has now begun.   

http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=236009

Syria opposition calls ‘battle of liberation’ if UN fails

Syrian opposition head Burhan Ghalioun called yesterday for a “battle of liberation” against the regime until the United Nations takes action under Chapter Seven which allows military intervention.

“I call on the Syrian people to lead a battle of liberation and dignity, relying on its own forces, on the rebels deployed across the country and the Free Syrian Army brigades and friends,” he told a news conference in Istanbul.

Ghalioun, outgoing leader of the Syrian National Council (SNC), said such action would be taken “unless the international community assumes its responsibilities under Chapter Seven” of the UN charter.

Read more

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May 28th, 2012, 2:07 pm

 

290. mjabali said:

SF

You are right in every word. Religion and power killed thousands of people throughout the years. What happened in the Valley of al-Hula recently is dirty. It is destroying the essence of the Syrian society. al-Hula Valley is a very mixed area. There are Sunnis and Alawis in the Same village. Christians live there. There are Ismailis. There are even Sharkas and Turkman villages in the area.

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May 28th, 2012, 2:12 pm

 

291. Hopeful said:

Re: Mina #286

Unfortunately, this is the result of decades of suppressive dictatorial regime, combined with intolerant religious culture/teachings.

As I said before, Syrians must look inwards first to look for explanations, answers and solutions and stop blaming others. What creates massacres like this is “hatred” NOT weapons or money. Weapons and money are the tools, but hatred is the motivation/driver.

Shame! Shame!

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May 28th, 2012, 2:13 pm

 

292. DAWOUD said:

I am checking back here on “Syria Comment” only to see if the supporters/apologists for Syria’s war criminal hereditary “president” are still supporting him, especially after the latest massacre. It looks like they are still doing so. No shame! No sense of any morality!

Free Syria, Free Palestine!

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May 28th, 2012, 2:40 pm

 

293. mjabali said:

Badr:

You asked me about my opinion about the solution for Syria. I am in no position to theorize first of all, but since you asked here are my two cents.

The solution I envision would entail a speedy end to all forms of violence first while allowing free press to investigate what really happened and will happen.

The situation now is so chaotic and is getting worse.

Super powers (US and Russia) are not doing enough to curb the violence done by the regime and the opposition. The US is playing catch in the Middle East that has been changing fast in front of our eyes. The US did not have any clear policy to deal with the situation. The Russians are more clear on the other hand. The Russian are supporting al-Assad. It is clear that they do not want to lose Syria also. These two super powers are needed for any solution.

The Arab countries are two camps based on Muslim sectarian affiliations. You have Sunni countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar who are helping the armed opposition. Also, you have Shii Iraq where the government is very worried about a Sunni neighbor with an ax to grind. The situation in the whole are could take a turn to the worst: major Shia vs Sunni war. See, all possibilities are on the table. Stopping violence and sitting on a table is one smart way.

As for Syrians themselves: We deserve better and what is going on is failure from all parties: government and opposition.

The Assad government is a failure because of the simple fact that thousands of Syrians are dead among them around 5000 soldiers and counting. This is a failure in the leadership. Syria is destroyed under this government: factories, businesses, schools, etc… The population under this government became more along their religious identity more than their Syrian identity. The list goes on…

The opposition is a failure because it is not elected, fragmented and as violent as the regime. I will say no more but I wish my country Syria peaceful times.

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May 28th, 2012, 2:42 pm

 

294. Dawoud said:

288. TARA

I agree with you.

What do you think we should do to the al-Dahyiah al-Jounobiah propagandist, Hassan Nasr-illat of Hizb-illat, whose shabiha are clearly assisting Bashar’s murderous regime?

Free Syria, Free Palestine!

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May 28th, 2012, 2:45 pm

 

295. Dawoud said:

280. SF94123

Although I proudly declare myself here as the most anti-Bashar/Nasr-illat/Israeli occupation commentator here, I sense a little anti-Arab racism in generalizing about “Middle Easterners.” The latest disgusting massacre was carried out by a minority war criminal regime! Please don’t GENERALIZE! Still, the “civilized” European Nazis and colonialists killed more innocents! It will take Bashar al-Assad and his murderous clan a few more years to catch up with Europe’s war criminals. In any case, Bashar is the worst Arab dictator in modern Arab history. He has surpassed Nuri al-Maliki, Moqtadah al-Sadr, and even Saddam!

Free Syria, Free Palestine!

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May 28th, 2012, 2:56 pm

 

296. Dawoud said:

Final comment/though:

1) Where are the well-known pro-Bashar commentators here? Are they taking a break because it is getting harder defending a war criminal dictatorial regime?

2) BOTH Zionist occupiers and pro-Bashar shabiha think that they are above the law! My early comment and post regarding Jewish settlers shooting unarmed Palestinian peasants while the Israel army is doing NOTHING is a proof!

Free Syria, Free Palestine!

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May 28th, 2012, 3:03 pm

 

297. Syrialover said:

#280. sf94123 wrote: “I am disgusted!”

And most here will be deeply disgusted by your foolish, ignorant and racist remark about “Middle Easterners”.

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May 28th, 2012, 3:15 pm

 

298. Syrialover said:

It makes sense that Mina loves to quote Angry Arab. They share a completely confusing and inconsistent agenda, with hostility to the west and indifference to Syrians the main theme.

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May 28th, 2012, 3:20 pm

 

299. bronco said:

#284 Tara

There is something I don’t understand in Martin Grifith’s report.

If Houla has been under the control of the FSA for a long time, why hasn’t the FSA tried to protect these families from the armed men who were rampaging from family to family killing them? Wasn’t the claimed vocation of the FSA to protect civilians in the villages they control?
There has been no FSA or ‘armed men’ reported killed. Where were they?

In any case I don’t not expect any eyewitness to accuse the FSA either or negligence or blind eye, since they they are under their control.
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.

There are many unanswered questions.

This event needs a thorough investigation far from the media. We have here a single UN British observer reporting his ‘first impressions’ to a British newspaper who publish it as it was the conclusion of the investigation.
It’s a shame to play with such a subject to publish scoops, but anyway after the stolen Iraq 2003 picture published by the BCC under the title “Houla massacre” , the opportunism of the media trapped by tough competition is obvious.

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May 28th, 2012, 3:33 pm

 

300. irritated said:

#269 Antoine

“They are not allowing the FSA to operate freely. What we need to do is to make a direct appeal to the tribes of Jordan to ask their sons in the Jordanian Army to give the weapons to the FSA and to help them smuggle those across the border.”

Why would they exchange so easily their loyalty to their country for a loyalty to the Syrian FSA? I just don’t see what’s would be the motivation?

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May 28th, 2012, 3:42 pm

 

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