Sheikh al-Yaqoubi Elected to the NC—its first non-Brotherhood-aligned religious figure

The Rise of the Sufis

Matthew Barber

by Matthew Barber—This story first appeared on Syria Comment


Newly-elected to the Syrian National Coalition, Sheikh Mohammad al-Yaqoubi is moderate, influential, and ready to go to work


From the beginning of the uprising, mainstream Syrian Sunni ‘ulema—the traditional scholars who have spoken for Islam for centuries and who most Syrians recognize as the quintessential voices for religious interpretation—have been marginalized in the Syrian opposition, as Islamists of Salafi and Muslim Brotherhood persuasion steamrolled their way to dominance in both the SNC and the National Coalition. But an emerging Sufi current within the Syrian resistance could soon provide an alternative to Muslim Brotherhood hegemony and change the dynamics of the political opposition.

Sheikh Muhammad al-Ya’qoubi has just been elected to the National Coalition, the first figure of the Sufi ‘ulema to break through the Islamist exclusivity that has kept them out until now. His appointment will be announced shortly at a National Coalition conference. Along with other Sufi sheikhs, al-Ya’qoubi is heading up efforts to solidify a Sufi bloc of political leadership and nationalist-oriented rebel groups fighting in Syria who give allegiance to the leadership of Sufi ‘ulema. He also supports efforts to train Syrian rebels in Jordan.

Early on in the uprising, the Muslim Brotherhood worked to dominate the political opposition. The SNC primarily consisted of parties loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood. The National Coalition was later created to break this one-sided disparity, but ended up being dominated by others with Muslim Brotherhood connections, as well.

Sheikh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi

Sheikh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi

While this was the reality of the external opposition, an imbalance also formed on the ground inside Syria, as Islamist rebels received more foreign support and rose to prominence. Sheikh al-Ya’qoubi feels that the U.S. made the mistake of “leaving of the ‘Syrian file’ to the regional powers,” which allowed this trend to intensify as Gulf powers targeted Islamist groups with their aid. Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been primarily involved in arming rebels, but the Saudis recently pulled back their level of support. They have an ambivalent relationship with Islamist movements; on the one hand, they support the proliferation of one of the most extreme and anti-Sufi forms of Islam, Wahhabism, throughout the Muslim world. Simultaneously, they fear Islamist movements such as the MB who pose a political threat to monarchy. As the character of the militarized opposition has evolved increasingly toward Islamism, with a recent climax of Jabhat al-Nusra announcing allegiance to al-Qaida and declaring an Islamic state in Syria, reports suggested that the Saudis decided to cut off support they had been offering.

Declining aid, however, has ironically resulted in the end of much of the support that nationalist-oriented rebels were receiving, and many rebels have complained that the remaining contributions from Qatar are reaching only the Islamist fighters. Continuing trends solidifying Islamist domination of both the political and military oppositions have further weakened the desire of the international community for intervention in Syria, though the fact that several regions are now controlled by al-Qaida-linked groups has prompted some to call for the preparation of a drone strategy for Syria, prompting fears that it will end up looking like another Afghanistan.

Sheikh Muhammad al-Ya’qoubi’s entrance into the political opposition marks a development running counter to the dominant Islamist trend. Al-Ya’qoubi is respected as one of the leading scholars and Sufi clerics in Syria, and has been ranked as the second-most influential Muslim religious figure of the country. The brand of Islam he represents is expressed in a statement of sympathy he issued following the Boston Bombing. He studied in the West and is fluent in English and Swedish.

Traditional ‘ulema like Sheikh al-Ya’qoubi served for centuries as the interpreters of Islamic sources and traditions, but after the fall of the last Islamic empire, the process of modernization that accompanied the rise of the nation state presented a challenge to their role of traditional authority. The erosion of their power was further aggravated by the emergence of Islamist movements like the Muslim Brotherhood who introduced new interpretations of Islamic texts, contrary to the classical traditions that had existed for centuries.

Under the Ba’athists, some of Syria’s ‘ulema became seen as coopted figures who stayed close to the regime and lent it legitimacy. Others however, remained at arm’s length from the regime, and when the uprising began, they asserted their criticism of it, as did Sheikh al-Ya’qoubi. In addition to his widespread recognition among Syria’s majority Sunni Muslims, his credibility is bolstered by being the cleric who issued the first fatwa against Bashar al-Assad, in July of 2011.

After publically criticizing the regime’s violence against demonstrators in two sermons delivered at mosques in April and May 2011, he fled Syria and issued his fatwa against the regime. Sheikh al-Ya’qoubi represents the kind of moderate, traditional Islam that most Syrians are familiar with, the Islam challenged by both the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists. Though taking an unambiguous stance against the regime’s violence, injustice, and terror, he also continues to exert his influence encouraging rebels to avoid terrorism through fatwas condemning tactics such as car-bombings, kidnapping, landmines, the killing of prisoners, and violence against non-combatants politically aligned with the regime. Sheikh al-Ya’qoubi has combatted the fatwas of extremist clerics who have called for the targeted sectarian killing of Alawite women and children by issuing his own fatwas prohibiting the killing of civilians of the Alawite minority. He maintains a very clear position defending the rights of all minorities, including those condemned by extremists as heterodox.

Sheikh al-Ya’qoubi also differs with the Islamist agenda to “Islamize” Syria’s laws. The Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist groups promote a kind of activism that seeks to implement a greater degree of Islamic law in the state. The growing use of “Islamic law” by Jabhat al-Nusra and other Islamist groups in territory controlled by rebels likely prompted the announcement by Mu’az al-Khatib of an effort to introduce a “code” of Islamic law sanctioned by the opposition that the rebels could implement—an apparent attempt to assuage this desire manifesting in a stampede toward “shari’a” while ensuring that such a law would be relatively moderate. Where does Sheikh al-Ya’qoubi stand on this issue? He thinks Syria’s current family laws are just fine, and are already sufficiently compatible with the shari’a. He also believes that legal reform should not be pursued before a constitutionally-based committee can be formed which would tackle any needed changes, after the regime has fallen and a new Syrian government has been created.

Despite being well-known in Syria and playing an important role in the history of the uprising, Sheikh al-Ya’qoubi and other Sufi ‘ulema like him have been excluded from the political opposition. Desperation following the slow, groaning crisis of the opposition’s ineffectiveness, as well as fears that figures like al-Ya’qoubi may band together and form an alternative opposition have led to his appointment to the National Coalition, following a letter he drafted to Mu’az al-Khatib, signed by 25 Sufi sheikhs and containing an ultimatum about the need for their participation in the political process.

One obvious question is: what level of real influence will the Sheikh have? Does his participation mark the beginning of a trend, or will he merely be the NC’s token member of the ‘ulema?

In addition to having already played an important role throughout the uprising, Sheikh al-Ya’qoubi and other Sufi leaders have been building influence lately, working together for about six months to form an umbrella organization for rebel groups comprised of Sunnis and Sufis aligned with Syria’s mainstream values, rather than Islamist agendas. The organization is called the Movement for Building Civilization. He and his peers have produced a charter document which rebels groups can sign, pledging agreement with a set of foundational principles, including:

  1. Removing the regime while not destroying the state—protecting public institutions;
  2. The rejection of revenge, retaliation, and execution during the uprising, keeping the trials of war criminals for after the collapse of the regime and the establishment of a new government;
  3. After the collapse of the regime, rebel groups should cease to carry arms and their members should return to civilian life or join the national army;
  4. All ethnic and religious communities are to be defended as equal citizens under the law;
  5. No ethnic or religious group is to be held responsible for the crimes of the regime;
  6. A future Syrian government must operate according to a separation of judicial, legislative, and executive powers;
  7. The future government must be a democracy of political multiplicity and the 1950 Constitution should be in effect during the interim period until a new parliament is elected and a new constitution is agreed upon.

Many young sheikhs who joined the Syrian uprising are frustrated with their lack of options regarding conservative political movements to be aligned with. The three main options are Salafis, Hezb al-Tahrir, and Muslim Brotherhood movements, none of which well-represent mainstream Syrian Sunnis who look for the legitimacy of ‘ulema leadership. This concern was a primary motivation for the creation of the Movement for Building Civilization. Al-Ya’qoubi and the sheikhs he works with are in contact with over 200 rebel groups who consult them regarding principles, goals, and methods, but many of these groups are disillusioned with the inability of the Sufi and ‘ulema leadership to offer them any kind of practical monetary support. Lacking funding, groups that would like to follow moderate figures of the ‘ulema will remain vulnerable to recruitment by Islamist forces.

The formation of a Sufi bloc within the opposition could provide an alternative to the Muslim Brotherhood, one that would represent far greater numbers of Syrians. Sheikh Ya’qoubi has stated that he supports a government in which the Muslim Brotherhood can operate, but that he opposes a monopoly of any one faction. He told me in a recent conversation: “We may have to deal with an Ikhwaani prime minister in the future Syria. That is democracy. But the real question is: will the government be of all one color, or will it be inclusive?”

There’s no question about which demographic will win this war: the next power in Syria will be Sunni. And the question goes beyond “how big” a Sunni win will occur. The real question is: which Sunni group’s brand of Islam will define the political paradigm of the new state? The influence of ‘ulema who respect Syria’s diversity, promote a tolerant social sphere, and support an inclusive government structure will be extremely important in the nation’s future, and the international community should be in conversation with them.


Addendum: see the following post for an update on how Yaqoubi, though confirmed as a new member of the NC, subsequently had his appointment reversed at an opposition conference in Istanbul.

Comments (454)

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201. Juergen said:

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May 25th, 2013, 2:45 am


202. Juergen said:

Assads forces do what they can do best: shoot civilians, this time a young man at a checkpoint

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May 25th, 2013, 4:02 am


203. apple_mini said:

We know there are still a significant number of dissents/opposition inside Syria who reject violence. They are genuine and true opposition to the regime. For their non-violence ideology and practice, I hold them in the highest regard. For their courage to continue pursuing equalities and justice, they earn the utmost respects.

Yet, they are sidelined, prosecuted by the regime. Also they are ignored and neglected by those foreign backers for their zero contribution to the interests of those foreign backers.

The voice and power of the foreign backed opposition come from their violent partner: the rebels. The regime is willing to negotiate with them is because the regime cannot eradicate those rebels. And it makes governing the country almost impossible.

We have been hoping and pushing the opposition to participate a peace talk with the regime so we can have the violence stopped.

We really do not know much about the opposition’s real political ideology and agenda. We do hope they can form a force to push the country closer to democracy which might be able to do a lot good for the country.

We can only hope so. In my mind, those people like May Skaf and others using their voice and thoughts to stand up against the regime are the true hope of this country.

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May 25th, 2013, 7:26 am


204. Ziad said:

Row on arming Syria rebels deeply divides EU, Britain and France loose support

A fierce row over whether to arm Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s forces has left the European Union deeply divided days before the bloc needs to decide on renewing existing sanctions.

After months of bitter argument the issue comes to a head next week, with EU foreign ministers pressed for an answer at talks Monday, their last get-together before the expiry at midnight May 25 of far-reaching EU sanctions against the Assad regime, including an arms embargo.

Britain and France want the arms embargo maintained against Assad but relaxed against the opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC). At best, they said, it would be lifted entirely for the rebels; at worst changed, with “some very serious amendment that allows us to send them more assistance.”

But other EU nations and aid groups are vehemently opposed to any change, citing the huge risks involved.

“Transferring more weapons to Syria can only exacerbate a hellish scenario for civilians,” said aid organisation Oxfam’s Anna Macdonald. “The UK and France are charting a risky course of action. Diplomacy should be the priority.” After a flurry of negotiations, held daily at different levels over the past week as the May 31 deadline nears, Brussels diplomats and officials say the 27 EU nations have split into three groups over the question.

Should the bloc fail to agree a joint position by May 25, the whole sanctions regime including the arms embargo would lapse, allowing the delivery of weapons to both rebels and the regime.

“We haven’t taken the decision to supply arms but we believe member states should have the flexibility to do so,” said a UK diplomat who asked not to be identified.

Sweden, Austria oppose move

Violently opposed to the demands by Britain and France, which appear to have lost the support of Italy and Spain, are Scandinavian nations led by Sweden as well as Austria and the Czech Republic.

They want the current sanctions regime simply rolled over as it stands on the grounds that more weapons will cause more bloodshed and could end up in the hands of the growing numbers of radical Islamists joining rebel ranks.

The third group of nations, some of whom complained of being held to ransom by Britain and France, are seeking a compromise to avoid an embarrassing EU split.

“It’s of paramount importance for the EU to come up with a common position,” said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Friday.

“The worst would be to for Europe to show its divisions to Syria. That would likely very much please the Assad regime.

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May 25th, 2013, 10:52 am


205. revenire said:

Juergen I hope one of the videos includes a cook book for cannibals.

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May 25th, 2013, 10:56 am


206. ann said:

Syria opposition say regional power games stall meeting

By Serene Assir (AFP) – 1 hour ago

ISTANBUL — Regional bids for influence over Syria’s divided opposition have stalled progress at a key meeting of the war-torn country’s main opposition group, blocking discussions on whether to hold peace talks with the regime, opposition members told AFP Saturday.

“You have Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pushing to include up to 30 new members in the National Coalition. Their goal is to downsize the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence over the group,” a Coalition member said on condition of anonymity.

“On the other hand you have Turkey, Qatar and to an extent France backing the Coalition as it stands,” he added, describing perceptions that Islamists control the Coalition as “exaggerated”.

Referring to Saudi Arabia and the United States, another Coalition member told AFP: “We are being threatened that they will not give us any money or even weapons, and even that (Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad will stay in power if we don’t allow this expansion.

“This is scandalous. This competition for power is killing the Syrian opposition,” he said on condition of anonymity.

The Coalition, which depends on foreign backing, has long been marred by regional rivalries that play out through disagreements among its members.

Qatar supports the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group, while conservative Saudi Arabia is seeking to reclaim its historic role of regional powerhouse, opposition figures say.

But by Saturday, despite countless hours of official and sideline meetings, members were still deadlocked over whether or not to expand the group.

Though several lists of some 200 dissidents’ names have been proposed, the one with the strongest backing is a 25-member list proposed by veteran secular dissident Michel Kilo.

Dissidents say Saudi Arabia and its ally the United States want Kilo’s list to join the group.

The list reportedly includes several women as well as members of Syria’s numerous ethnic and religious minorities.

The Coalition has long been accused by Syrian opponents of having a poor record of inclusiveness.

“We definitely need to include more women. Right now, only three of our members are women, and that is not right,” said Coalition member Samir Nashar.

“Of course we need to expand. But the regional fights for influence and over who gets to go to Geneva 2 is the real issue here,” said one of the Coalition members who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Coalition in its current shape is dominated by main opposition bloc the Syrian National Council, in which the Muslim Brotherhood plays a key role.

“If Kilo’s list gets accepted, then it will dominate the Coalition. The reason for this deadlock is because everyone wants to call the shots when the Geneva 2 negotiations start,” said a dissident from northern Syria who is not a member of the Coalition.


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May 25th, 2013, 10:56 am


207. Ziad said:

Why we oppose U.S. and Israeli intervention in Syria

“Friends of Syria”: another face of imperialism

Stepping up the imperialist-led campaign, on May 22, the so-called “Friends of Syria” met in Amman, Jordan. Led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the other “Friends” at the meeting were the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

The open aim of the “Friends” is the overthrow of existing government in Syria. Its concluding statement speaks of “supporting the legitimate rights of the Syrian people” and “a new Syrian constitution with equal rights for all.”

This supposed concern for “human rights” in Syria is nothing but the crassest cynicism.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE and Jordan are all police-state, absolute monarchies, sustained in power by U.S. support. Saudi Arabia has never had an election, women are forbidden to drive cars and public beheadings are a frequent occurrence. Britain and France are the former colonizing powers in the region, striving to retain their influence today. Germany and Italy shared in the colonial division of Africa; half the population of Libya died under Italian rule during World War II. Turkey has long repressed the Kurdish population inside its borders, as well as unions, leftist parties and other progressive organizations. The Egyptian government is suppressing the opposition as it seeks to consolidate its power.

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May 25th, 2013, 11:01 am


208. Dawoud said:

The invading terrorist Lebanese Shia party Hizbass commits a massacre in Syria’s al-Qasir! Shame on حسن نصر الشيطان
Hasan the Devil!

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May 25th, 2013, 11:02 am


209. Dawoud said:

P.S., Thanks George Sabra (the interim leader of the opposition) for accurately describing the Hizbass terrorists in Syria as invading Iranian agents. He also accurately said that Hizbass’ fate will be similar to that of all invaders of Syria: Syria will become their graveyard!

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May 25th, 2013, 11:06 am


210. Dawoud said:

watching now on Aljazeera Arabic the live speech of the Lebanese invading terrorist from Hizbass, Hasan the Devil (the fu**kinG Bast@@d)! His hypocrisy has so far made me say all f and indecent words that I can say! The F. BasT@@d hypocrite is reading from the holy Quran! What an F. hypocrite!!!!!!!!!!!! As a Palestinian, I ask you Bast@@d Hasan the Devil don’t mention the 1948 al-Nakbah because my people know that you are causing another Nakbah in Syria! The Devil is still talking about my Palestine so that people forget about his ongoing war crimes in al-Qasir and Syria! His terrorist militia has so far killed more Syrians in al-Qasir than Israel killed in besieged Gaza in the last Zionist war of 2012

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May 25th, 2013, 11:11 am


211. Dawoud said:

……….I am running out of indecent curse words to say while watching on Aljazeera Mubasher Arabic the live speech of Hasan the Devil, the terrorist from the Lebanese Shia Hizbass!!!!!! His hypocrisy and cult-of-personality propaganda is beyond imagination. Many of his terrorist supporters are probably NOT watching because they are busy burying their dead terrorists, who were killed while occupying al-Qasir!

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May 25th, 2013, 11:31 am


212. ghufran said:

A new Fox News poll finds that nearly a quarter of voters (23 percent) thinks the U.S. should get more involved because it’s a humanitarian crisis and Syria is a strategically important country. However, nearly three times as many, 68 percent, say the U.S. should stay out because it’s a civil war and the U.S. could actually end up helping anti-American extremist groups.
Syria is a rare instance of agreement across the political spectrum: majorities of independents (65 percent), Democrats (69 percent) and Republicans (70 percent) agree the United States should stay out of Syria.
Voters who have served in the military also say the U.S. should not intervene (67 percent).

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May 25th, 2013, 11:59 am


213. revenire said:

Sayyed Nasrallah is on live now.

He is detailing the crimes of the Takfiris.

What an amazing man.

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May 25th, 2013, 12:00 pm


214. revenire said:

Former Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is taking a beating for his wild predictions that Assad would fall quickly.

After recapping Barak’s foolishness, reporter Yakov Katz writes in May 23 Daily Beast:

“Israel’s assessments were grossly inaccurate. Ehud Barak, Israel’s defense minister until two months ago, predicted in June 2011 that Assad would fall by the end of that year. When that turned out to be wrong, Barak again tried to predict what would happen, saying in February 2012 that Assad would fall within weeks.”

Ironically, it was Barak who fell long before Assad.

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May 25th, 2013, 12:05 pm


215. revenire said:

Ghufran while that poll might be correct it would not matter to a dictator like Obama – who uses the government to harass and silence opposition to his murderous plans.

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May 25th, 2013, 12:07 pm


216. ann said:

Iraq launches massive operation to curb flow of Sunni fighters to Syria – 2013-05-25

Some 20,000 troops attack hideouts of fighters linked to Sunni groups, including Al-Qaeda as they look to secure key road leading to Syria

BAGHDAD – Iraqi forces mounted a massive operation on Saturday to better secure the country’s western desert amid concerns it is being used by Sunnis heading to fight in neighbouring Syria.

Some 20,000 troops attacked suspected hideouts of fighters linked to Sunni militant groups, including Al-Qaeda, and looked to secure a key road leading to Syria, top officers said.

Troops were also moved to the 600-kilometre (375-mile) border with Syria.

“The operation is large and backed by the air force,” Staff General Ali Ghaidan Majeed, the head of ground forces, said. “It has resulted in the arrest of several Al-Qaeda members and the destruction of some of their strongholds.”

“The target of the operation is also to clean the desert of the terrorist elements that exist there.”

Two senior commanders in Al-Qaeda’s local front group, the Islamic State of Iraq, were among those killed.

Majeed did not say how many troops had been sent to the border.

The operation is being carried out in parts of border provinces Anbar and Nineveh, where Iraqi and Western officials are concerned that Sunni militant groups opposed to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and to Iraq’s Shiite-led government have set up camp.


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May 25th, 2013, 12:09 pm


217. gufran said:

We talked about this when NATO attacked Libya, now you see what type of freedom NATO brought to Libya:
باريس, (ا ف ب) – قال خبراء ان الجنوب الليبي الذي قدم منه مسلحون اسلاميون هاجموا الخميس ارليت واغاديز في النيجر، تحول في الاشهر الاخيرة الى احد معاقل تدريب خلايا القاعدة في المغرب الاسلامي بعد الهجوم الفرنسي في مالي.
وفي هذه المناطق الصحراوية المترامية الاطراف الخارجة عن كل سيطرة، اصبح المسلحون المتطرفون يملكون قواعد جديدة يهددون منها بلدان المنطقة وخصوصا الدول التي ايدت فرنسا في هجومها في مالي.
ويقول محمد واغاغا احد قادة تمرد الطوارق في النيجر بين عامي 2007 و2009 والشخصية التي لا تزال مؤثرة في المنطقة، ‘حتى قبل حرب مالي كانت ليبيا معقلا للارهابيين’.
واوضح ‘ان الحدود بين النيجر وليبيا يصعب جدا مراقبتها انها نافذة سهلة الاختراق’ مضيفا ‘لا يمكن لاي قوة عسكرية ان تدعي القدرة على السيطرة عليها مهما كانت الامكانات التي تملكها (..) الارهابيون يعرفون تماما المنطقة ويمكنهم التسلل كما يحلو لهم بلا مشاكل وبما انه يبدو انهم على اطلاع جيد عن الاوقات المناسبة (للتسلل) يمكنهم التحرك باي وقت’.
ولما فوجئوا بسرعة وقوة التدخل الفرنسي في مالي، اختار عدد قليل من عناصر القاعدة وحلفائهم المقاومة، لكن معظمهم تفرقوا في المنطقة وفضل الكثير منهم التوجه الى الجنوب الليبي المعروف بانه معقل تهريب منذ القديم.
وقال الان رودييه مدير البحوث في المركز الفرنسي للبحوث حول الاستخبارات لوكالة فرانس برس ‘قبل العملية الفرنسية في مالي بل وقبل الثورة الليبية، كان الجنوب الليبي منطقة مفتوحة جدا (..) والقاعدة تستخدم منذ زمن بعيد طرقاته وهي تعرفها معرفة جيدة جدا’.
واضاف ان ‘السلطات الليبية لا تسيطر الا على طرابلس ونواحيها لا غير. وليبيا بحالة فوضى تذكر بوضع الصومال. وقد ابرمت بعض القبائل في الجنوب الليبي اتفاقات مع جهاديين على قاعدة +نسمح لكم بالمرور
وتتركونا وشاننا+ وهناك آخرون لا يملكون القوة لمواجهة’ عناصر القاعدة
You can not make chicken soup out of chicken poop

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May 25th, 2013, 12:18 pm


218. revenire said:

The liberation of al-Qusayr proceeds: “I’ve never seen a day like this since the battle started,” activist Malek Ammar told Reuters news agency from the town. “It’s like they’re trying to destroy the city house by house.”

Glory to the heroes of the SAA and Hezbollah.

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May 25th, 2013, 12:21 pm


219. zoo said:

No “massacre” in Qusayr, just slow eliminations of the Al Nusra terrorists and their Salafi allies.

Rebels are largely surrounded in Qusair, a town of 30,000 that has become a strategic battleground.
More than 22 people in opposition-held areas have been killed, most of them rebels, and dozens were injured, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

A fighter from Hezbollah forces in Qusair told Reuters that advances were happening at a very slow pace.

“We are in the second phase of our plan of attack but the advance has been quite slow and difficult. The rebels have mined everything, the streets, the houses. Even the refrigerators are mined.”

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May 25th, 2013, 12:28 pm


220. Ziad said:

“And enough of this we are sectarian. We lost martyrs in Bosnia fighting for the right. And they are majorly Sunni. Not Shia.”

Hassan Nassrallah

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May 25th, 2013, 12:41 pm


221. revenire said:

The so-called opposition are the ones who have murdered Sunni – both soldiers and civilians. Most of the army is Sunni and at least 35% of the casualties are army soldiers. The dead civilians – murdered by car bombs and mortar shells – have been slaughtered by the terrorists.

Assad protects the nation.

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May 25th, 2013, 12:46 pm


222. annie said:

من المسجد الاقصى و نهاية الشبيح ابو عرفة المؤيد للنظام السوري في جمعة 24-5-2013

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May 25th, 2013, 12:58 pm


223. revenire said:

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb: “I have been waiting for these words of assurance for two years now from the Seyyid and he finally said them: ‘As I promised you victory before [in July 2006], I promise you victory again!’ Now I know Syria will be liberated. Allahu Akbar!”

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May 25th, 2013, 1:08 pm


224. ann said:

Syrian troops regain airbase in central city – 2013-05-25

DAMASCUS, May 25 (Xinhua) — The Syrian troops regained a rebel- held airbase in the central strategic city of al-Qussair on Saturday, local media said.

The al-Daba’a airfield was stormed by the troops Saturday after intense fighting had flared up in al-Qussair a week ago.

Saturday’s battles concentrated on a number of northern areas of al-Qussair, reports said.


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May 25th, 2013, 1:14 pm


225. Tara said:

France rules out Iran joining in Syria peace talks By JPOST.COM STAFF05/25/2013 18:29

Ahead of meetings with US, Russian counterparts, France’s foreign minister says Tehran involved in crisis, no desire for peace.

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May 25th, 2013, 1:18 pm


226. revenire said:

Tara France has nothing to say about anything except what goes on INSIDE France. They are a weak former colonial power and back terrorism in the world.

I enjoy hearing them spout off.

Long live President Assad!

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May 25th, 2013, 1:50 pm


227. revenire said:

Nasrallah defends Hezbollah fighting extremists in Syrian town of Qusayr

Hezbollah Secretary-General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah has defended the Lebanese resistance movement’s decision to fight foreign-backed militants in the Syrian border town of al-Qusayr.

Nasrallah made the remarks on Saturday during a ceremony marking the 13th anniversary of the withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon, known as the Liberation Day.

The Hezbollah leader said if foreign-backed militants win the war on Syria, they will turn their weapons on Lebanon.

Nasrallah further pointed out that the extremist Salafist groups form the backbone of the unrest in Syria, adding that the US-backed armed groups are also a threat to all Lebanese communities.

The Syrian army pressed ahead to liberate al-Qusayr in Homs Province fully from the foreign-backed militants on Saturday, seizing al-Daba’a military airport north of the town.

The army also regained control of the Ba’ath Party headquarters in the strategic town that borders Lebanon, killing large numbers of foreign-backed militants. The government forces have inflicted losses on the militants and destroyed their weaponry and equipment.

Nasrallah said the ongoing war in Syria is part of an American project to change the balance of power in the region in favor of the Israeli regime.

He, however, promised victory against the Salafist groups in Syria.

“I say to all the honorable people, to the Mujahedeen, to the heroes: I have always promised you a victory and now I pledge to you a new one” in Syria, he said.

“We will continue along the road … bear the responsibilities and the sacrifices. This battle is ours … and I promise you victory,” he said.

The leader of the resistance movement also dismissed accusations that Hezbollah is a sectarian movement.


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May 25th, 2013, 2:10 pm


228. zoo said:

Syrian opposition talks in stalemate as Geneva peace conference looms

Syrian opposition talks in Istanbul have so far failed to unite liberal leaders and Islamists of the Syrian National Council. The opposition risks being unable to present a coherent front at the forthcoming Geneva conference, making it irrelevant.

The two opening days of negotiations of the Syrian opposition have been fruitless as the Islamist-dominated Syrian National Coalition refused to admit liberal opposition leaders into its ranks.

Also, the opposition failed to elect a new leader of the coalition, which remains without a chief since the resignation of Moaz al-Khatib, a former Damascus religious leader, in March.

“We are back to square one,” a source in the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) told Reuters before the start of the third day of negotiations.

When Russian FM will meet his American counterpart next week, they will have to coordinate the list of participants of the future peace conference. However the question now is who among the Syrian opposition ranks would have authority to speak on behalf of all variegated opposition groups.

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May 25th, 2013, 2:13 pm


230. Dawoud said:

217. annie

Thanks Annie, too many memories! I prayed so many times with my grandfather inside al-Haram al-Sharif المسجد الاقصى المباركin occupied Jerusalem. I know that my Palestinian people, as this video you are posting shows, do NOT support the murderous Bashar who is killing his people.

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May 25th, 2013, 2:30 pm


231. revenire said:

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May 25th, 2013, 2:32 pm


232. zoo said:

Al Zawahiri echoes Sabra in calling for Jihadists to rescue al Qusayr

In Turkey, the acting president of Syria’s main opposition group harshly criticized Hezbollah for its role in Qusair. “Some Lebanese are being sent to Syria as invaders in order to return back home in coffins draped with shame,” said George Sabra of the Syrian National Coalition.

“Oh Syrians, come and rescue Qusair, Maadamiyeh, Daraya and eastern Ghouta so that Syria remains, as it is today, a graveyard for invaders,” Sabra said, referring also to suburbs of the capital Damascus where Syrian troops have been on the offensive over the past weeks.

In an indication that the rebel’s weeklong stand is also becoming a symbol outside Syria, Mohammed al-Zawahiri, who is the brother of al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and is himself a prominent jihadi figure in Egypt, issued a statement alongside 19 other ultraconservative Islamists and former militants to all Muslims to “help our people in Qusair.”

“It is the duty of each Muslim to repel this aggression and stop the injustice, first by jihad with arms,” the statement carried by a militant website said.

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May 25th, 2013, 2:34 pm


233. Dawoud said:

Palestinians in Ramallah rally in support for Syria and its blessed Revolution!

Chanting: “We and Syrians One One People,” “From Ramallah to al-Assad’s house: Syria wants freedom,”……….”Salute from Ramallah to Der’ah, Homs, etc.

من رام الله لدير الزور: شعب سوريا ما بنهان
من رام الله لدير الزور: يسقط حزب الديكتاتور

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May 25th, 2013, 2:42 pm


234. Dawoud said:

Occupied Palestinians and Oppressed Syrians rally in support for each other: A message from besieged Gaza to Free Syria:

مظاهرات دعم متبادلة بين سوريا وغزة‬‎

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May 25th, 2013, 2:47 pm


235. Tara said:

The story of hopeless opposition. Who is refusing to unite? Why can’t they get exposed and paraded by names? Get Suhair Attasi to be the president and let her protected by y
the US negotiates Assad’s exit. Damn them all for they are becoming an enemy to the Syrian people.

Syrian opposition resumes tough talks on unity for peace push
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
ISTANBUL | Sat May 25, 2013 2:17pm EDT

“The coalition risks undermining itself to the point that its backers may have to look quickly for an alternative with enough credibility on the ground to go to Geneva,” a senior opposition source at the talks said.

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May 25th, 2013, 3:00 pm


237. Alan said:

12 Chechen Fighters Killed in Central Syria
Chechen Rebels Have Flocked to Syria to Fight Russian-Backed Govt
Rocket attacks in the Hama Province have killed 12 rebel fighters today, according to opposition spokesman, and all 12 have been identified as Chechens who came to the country specifically to join the rebellion.

The report didn’t provide details on which faction they belonged to, but large numbers of Chechen fighters have been flocking to Syria for months, mostly to join the Islamist factions in the country.

While Syria is among the most active wars for Islamist fighters it isn’t entirely happenstance that they are choosing to go there. The Syrian government is extremely close allies with Russia, and many of the Chechen fighters are the same ones who resisted the Russian occupation of Chechnya.

The deaths underscore the growing foreign element within the rebellion, something the Assad government has sought to emphasize. At the same time, Assad is relying increasingly on foreign fighters from Hezbollah in battles along the Lebanese border, showing just how regional this war is becoming.

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May 25th, 2013, 3:10 pm



This site was created by regime propagandist extraordinaire. Its main “consumers” are regime propagandist. Joshua Landis and his sidekicks will not abandon their “clients”. When he dared, the response was a swift callous and unethical outing of the moderator.

Good to see the honorable Ghassan Karam posting.

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May 25th, 2013, 3:18 pm


239. Hanzala said:

Whatever the Kuffar do, they are always faced with the ever vigilant Muslim, who neither tires or gives up hope! Allahu Akbar

Militants, Chased From Mali, Pose New Threats

Four months after French troops cleared Islamist fighters from the desert towns of northern Mali, U.S., French and African governments see a worrying new trend: Many of the same militants are regrouping in neighboring countries.

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May 25th, 2013, 3:37 pm


240. Hanzala said:

Al-Qaeda seizes territory in Yemen’s Hadramawt

ADEN, Yemen: Fighters loyal to Al-Qaeda have seized control of villages near the Yemeni port city of Mukalla in an apparent bid to take over swathes of the southeastern province of Hadramawt, the interior ministry and residents said on Friday.

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May 25th, 2013, 3:38 pm


241. Uzair8 said:

Sorry if this article has been posted already. I’m short of time and will catch up on unread comments later.

From Foreign Policy Blog:

Is Assad really winning?

Friday, May 24, 2013

After two years of crowing that the end of Bashar al-Assad was nigh, the official and popular perceptions in the United States and Europe of the Syrian president’s staying power have shifted dramatically. There’s a new narrative taking hold, fueled by both media reports and assessments by Western intelligence agencies — that the Assad regime is largely stable, and making significant gains against the rebels throughout the country.

Not so fast. While the regime has made progress on a few fronts, its actual territorial gains are so far rather minor. And in other parts of the country, it’s the rebels who are still on the offensive. The Syrian war isn’t turning into a regime rout — the stalemate is only deepening.


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May 25th, 2013, 3:40 pm


243. Ziad said:

TARA is having bouts of depression because the fake world she constructed where Bashar and Assma are bad and the source of every evil act in the world, and the revolution is good and unified and strong and humane and will be supported to victory by Qatar, KSA, Turkey, and FUKUS is collapsing in front of her eyes.

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May 25th, 2013, 3:44 pm


244. Mina said:

Tara, you didn’t get it: the one thing Iran and Jabhat al Nusra and the MB agree on is that a woman can’t be president.

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May 25th, 2013, 3:47 pm


245. Uzair8 said:

Sh. Yaqoubi’s response to Mr Nasrallah’s speech:

Muhammad Al-Yaqoubi ‏@Shaykhabulhuda 1h
Hezbollah was born in Lebanon, fostered in Iran; and will soon be buried in Syria.


Google translation of facebook response:

Sheikh Abul Huda Yacoubi declares:
Hassan Nasrallah’s speech a declaration of war on the Syrian people and the Sunnis, and if Hezbollah was born in Lebanon and baby and grew up in Iran, it would be buried in Syria, the power of God and Jihad heroes.

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May 25th, 2013, 3:48 pm


246. Ziad said:

Nasrallah: we cannot side with the beheaders in Syria

There are two major security threats currently facing Lebanon: Israel, and the presence of radical salafis fighting to overthrow the Syrian government, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech Saturday.

Nasrallah, speaking on the 13th anniversary of the liberation of South Lebanon from Israel’s 18-year military occupation, justified Hezbollah’s continued armament by insisting that the Lebanese state has not prepared for a future attack by Israel.

“We have a state which cannot stop the bloody confrontation in Tripoli. We have a state that cannot agree on on an electoral law, a state of confessionalism,” Nasrallah said, adding that the resistance is the only force capable of defending the country.

“After the 2006 war I said build a capable state, and we will fight under the state,” he added.

Israel and its allies want to prevent Lebanon from building a strong state, he added, because they know a robust Lebanese army with modern weapons could not be co-opted by the West like other Arab armies.

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May 25th, 2013, 4:02 pm


247. apple_mini said:

An interesting observation: News about Syria on Yahoo site used to have a slight edge by anti-opposition and anti-rebels posts and comments over pro-opposition ones.

Nowadays, anti-opposition and anti-rebels dominate every piece of news with about 8-1 ratio of thumb-up against thumb-down. Also, those posts no longer differentiate the rebels from Al Qaeda.

This probably does not mean much. But the tide on PR front has completely changed in favor of the regime for its tough fighting against extremists. This is true on every news media and polls.

If the regime can show some sincere and honest initiatives to end the violence, enough for them to score more political chips. On top of military gains, I doubt the opposition and the rebels will ever be able to regain momentum inside Syria or outside.

Let us face it. None of the agitators in the west can really risk there extremely unpopular policy of backing the rebels and opposition without considering political fallout and blowback.

We are still watching the eccentric Erdogan approaching panic attack.

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May 25th, 2013, 4:03 pm


248. Akbar Palace said:

Dr. Barber,

You said Sheikh Yacoubi is a “moderate”.

Define “moderate”.


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May 25th, 2013, 4:06 pm


249. ann said:

Syrian opposition in knots over Muslim Brotherhood: dissidents – 4 minutes ago

By Serene Assir (AFP)

ISTANBUL — A Saudi-led bid to dilute the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence over Syria’s main opposition has thrown the group into disarray, dissidents said Saturday, with some even warning that the power tussle is “killing” the group.

But a bid by Saudi Arabia to weaken the Muslim Brotherhood and to hold sway over the Coalition has overshadowed the debate, dissidents said.

“You have Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pushing to include up to 30 new members in the National Coalition,” said one Coalition member on condition of anonymity.

“Their goal is to downsize the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence over the group,” he said.

“On the other hand you have Turkey, Qatar and to an extent France backing the Coalition as it stands.”

Another Coalition member told AFP that Saudi Arabia and the United States have even threatened to cut off support if the opposition refused to admit the new members they were backing.

“We are being threatened that they will not give us any money or even weapons, and even that (Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad will stay in power if we don’t allow this expansion.

“This is scandalous. This competition for power is killing the Syrian opposition,” he said on condition of anonymity.

The National Coalition is currently dominated by the Syrian National Council, in which the main political bloc is the Muslim Brotherhood.

Qatar and Turkey, whose leaders are close to the Brotherhood, back the Islamist movement.

Conservative Saudi Arabia however, opposes it and supports more radical Islamist rebel groups on the ground.

Opposition figures see Saudi Arabia as simply seeking to reclaim its historic role of regional powerhouse.

In Istanbul, Saudi Arabia and its allies are pushing the Coalition to admit a new list of members proposed by veteran secular dissident Michel Kilo. If accepted, the Muslim Brotherhood would lose its sway in the Coalition.

One Coalition member, Samir Nashar, described Kilo’s allies as “too ready to dialogue with the regime, and that’s why we resist his entry”.

But the official command of the rebel Free Syrian Army backs Kilo’s bid.

“Yesterday we were in a meeting with (FSA command chief) Selim Idriss, Michel Kilo and several other patriotic personalities from Kilo’s list. We saw he is a fighter, a patriot,” FSA political and media coordinator Louay Muqdad told AFP.

Kilo’s list reportedly includes several women as well as members of Syria’s numerous ethnic and religious minorities.

“The regional fights for influence and over who gets to go to Geneva 2 is the real issue here,” said a Coalition member who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“If Kilo’s list gets accepted, then it will dominate the Coalition. The reason for this deadlock is because everyone wants to call the shots when the Geneva 2 negotiations start,” said a dissident from northern Syria who is not a member of the Coalition.

The Coalition, which depends on foreign backing, has long been marred by regional rivalries that play out through disagreements among its members.


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May 25th, 2013, 4:24 pm


250. revenire said:

The Western-created “opposition” is falling apart. I’ve heard reports of suicide attempts by its leaders. I won’t mention names until it is confirmed but it is well known George Sabra suffers from depression.

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May 25th, 2013, 4:33 pm


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