Sheikh Arour Becomes Icon of the the Revolutionary Military Councils

Addendum (October 10, 2012): This is a correction sent to me by my friend Thomas Pierret, who follows the sheikhs of Syria closely.

Dear Joshua,
In your last post on Syria Comment, you write that Adnan al-‘Ar’ur has become a hero for cursing Alawites. I tend to disagree with that for two reasons:

1. The way al-‘Ar’ur is perceived by many, especially among minorities, has little to do with reality. In reality, al-‘Ar’ur does not speak much of the Alawites in his weekly TV programme, and he never “cursed” the community as a whole. His famous reference to “meat grinders” was very specific, it targeted “those who violated sanctities”, a reference to rapists. He made a very limited number of problematic statements regarding the Alawites but he’s never been “cursing” them. Accusations that he authorised the rape of Alawite girls a totally groundless.

2. Since Alawites do not feature very prominently in his weekly TV programme, focusing on al-‘Ar’ur sectarianism doesn’t help understanding why he has become a hero to many in Syria. The main reason is that none else has devoted a two-hour long weekly TV show to the support of the Syrian revolution (his programme is called “With Syria until victory”). None else (either among the political opposition or other anti-regime clerics) has bothered directly addressing the Syrians on such a regular basis and in such an accessible (populist, if you prefer) way. Al-‘Ar’ur is not only talking about politics in his show, he also (and mostly) addresses daily problems Syrians are faced with, from ritual issues to death and rape at the hand of the regime’s forces.

Best, Thomas, Lecturer in Contemporary Islam, University of Edinburgh

Here is the video of the “Meat Grinder” speech for anyone who is interested. He divides Syrians into three categories: those who support the revolution, those who ignore it, and those who oppose it. He insists the judgement against those who are against us will be great. He speaks of the Alawites in particular at the end, saying that any Alawites who stand with “us” will be protected, but “those that stand against us will have their flesh ground in meat grinders and fed to the dogs.”

Also read this article – Shaykh Adnan Araour is not the Imam of the Revolution, but he is certainly part of it. Posted on


Original Post follows

From Sunni friend who lives in Aleppo

The Islamic doctrine being championed by so many groups within the opposition has a major flaw: it condones interference into the beliefs and actions of any Syria to mend any wrong! This doctrine contradicts the constitutional rights and individual freedoms cherished by the civilized world. What is more, it is particularly intimidating to many non-Sunni communities of the Syrian mosaic. In my opinion. it is the key reason why the opposition has failed to unite. The Islamist groups represent a new tyranny. Rather than measuring a citizen’s rights by his devotion to al-Assad, they will measure his rights by his devotion to God and Muhammad.  This is the same mentality that we hoped to overcome. It is undermining opposition unity and plunging us into a civil war without end. Both sides preaching faith in their God and nothing else.

The opposition is mostly Islamist and they have adopted as their pope the corrupt  Sheikh Adnan Al Arour.  He twists the Koran to fit the its most radical interpretation. He feeds the anger and instinct for revenge among Syrians with God’s consent and blessing. No other accepted religious leadership exists or has been proffered by the opposition. Many Islamists have been awarded scholarships to the United States, the UK, and France to study (or be studied), there should be a better figure than Ar’our!

Adnan Ar’our, the controversial sheikh, has returned to Syria. `Ar`ur who became a hero to many in the revolution for cursing Alawites and regime supporters on Saudi TV. He has returned to Syria from Saudi Arabia. In this video he is the keynote speaker and honored Sheikh at a joint leadership meeting of the Revolutionary Military Councils. al-jazeerah video

The Revolutionary Military Councils claim that they represent 80% of the opposition. Their leaders hope that the other 20% will join them soon.

 Phil Sands on “Sheikh Adnan Arour’s meteoric rise from obscurity to notoriety”, written before the Free Syrian Army adopted Arour as their top Islamic Scholar.

Syrian rebels reportedly capture President Bashar Assad’s cousin, Reports Sheikh Adnan al- Arour,
By Jack Khoury and Reuters | Oct.06, 2012 | Reuters

Syrian rebels announced Saturday that they have captured Hussam Assad, the cousin of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The arrest was announced on the Twitter page of Sheikh Adnan Al Arour, who is considered one of the Salafi leaders in Syria. Al Arour claimed that his men successfully captured Hussam Assad, who is one of the men at the center of Assad’s security establishment.

A sect in the Middle: Syria’s Alawites endure considerable resentment
October 06, 2012 By Marlin Dick, The Daily Star

 ….More than one FSA battalion has named itself after Ibn Taymiyya, the 14th century Sunni Muslim scholar who urged the extermination of Alawites as heretics.

This kind of act cancels out any favorable rhetoric or actions by other elements of the FSA, some of whose spokesmen often promise to establish a Syria that is pluralist and civil, and not religious in character.

The latest misstep by the opposition was a video issued last week, in which FSA figures announced the unification of Revolutionary Military Councils in a number of major towns.

While the rhetoric of the event was primarily nationalistic, the guest of honor at the long dais, flanked by a dozen officers, was Sheikh Adnan Arur, the regime’s favorite target of spite – a hard-line Sunni cleric who has been vicious in his rants against the Alawites.

For middle-of-the-roaders, the bloody crackdown by the regime against the population is a red line that has been crossed, and means the authorities do not deserve support.

But Arur is another red line, meaning that the FSA and the hard-core opposition should not be supported either.

Like other Syrians, Alawites have also been moving in different directions depending on their personal experiences with the violence.

Many have friends or relatives who have been killed in the battles, or kidnapped and murdered by either FSA groups or criminal elements. Others have known people who were kidnapped and then released safely, which can color the way a person views the rebel cause.

But as the conflict drags on, people are becoming steadily traumatized by all of the murder and destruction around them, and simply want an end to it all.

The fear that sect-based ethnic cleansing will break out should the rebels win remains dominant – but this fear, and the talk that Alawites are being targeted for liquidation, has been present since the beginning of the uprising.

Every week in which it fails to erupt as a widespread phenomenon is a boon for the sect, and for the country.

In exhibiting three significant orientations – pro-regime, pro-opposition and pro-solution – the Alawites would appear to mirror the rest of society more than people think.

Syrian activists reach across sectarian divide – BBC

…Syrian activist holding sign reading “There are two sects in Syria – the sect of freedom and the sect of the regime” The Nabd movement is trying to promote unity among sects working to bring down the Syrian regime

While the Syrian conflict has been characterised by fighting between the Sunni majority and ruling Alawite minority, it has also given birth to some movements which aim to bridge the sectarian divide, as Samer Mohajer and Ellie Violet Bramley report from Beirut.

Nabeel, a 24-year-old Alawite doctor from Homs, describes how he and other Syrian activists first decided to start campaigning against the regime of Bashar al-Assad in the summer of 2011.

“A bunch of us were having coffee in Homs,” he said. “We wanted to have some influence on our revolution, so we tried to do something to express ourselves, to express our opinions.”

The result was the creation of the Nabd (or Pulse) Gathering for Syrian Civil Youth – one of the many cross-sectarian movements that have emerged from Syria’s 18-month-long revolt.

They are designed to campaign against the regime, but also to promote unity among Syria’s religious sects in the face of the increasing role of foreign and jihadi fighters and the characterisation of the struggle along sectarian lines.

Syrian rebels celebrate in Idlib As violence has escalated in Syria, relations between sects have been tested

“We started our work in Homs, addressing the dangerous subject of sectarianism,” explained Nabeel. “We organised some protests involving guys and girls from all sects, distributed flyers and put posters up. We campaigned against violence and distributed flowers.”

Next came a sit-in, in the Khaldiyeh neighbourhood of Homs attacked by security forces, and a week of national unity.

Quickly, “things escalated until we had cells in every city – Damascus, Salamiyah [an Ismaili Muslim town], and Latakia [an Alawite centre],” said Nabeel.

The movement now boasts a Facebook membership of nearly 8,000. Events are designed to be inclusive, combating sectarian divisions in Syria through civil action.

Another founding member of Nabd, Sunni journalist Rafi, describes the movement as civil and secular. ….

Many Alawites and Christians are supportive of the uprising, but are unable to protest in their neighbourhoods. This failure to protest is read, often wrongly, as the result of pro-regime sentiment. …

Nabeel argues that the international media is partly to blame for failing to convey the complexity of the conflict, characterising it simply as an Islamic revolution or a Sunni revolution.

The Free Syrian Army (FSA), the collection of defected army units and armed civilians fighting the Assad regime, are often referred to as wholly Sunni, but Nabeel says he knows of many FSA members from minority groups and even some Alawites.

“The true activists in the FSA and in the non-violent movement know that there are lots of Alawites working for this.” Nabeel is quick to point out that, while he respects the decision of those who join the FSA, Nabd is “100% against violence”.

“The Alawite activists are doing us a big favour. Lots of communication devices, medical supplies and relief materials wouldn’t pass to the FSA without their help and that of other minorities,” he said.

Syria denies “Apologizing to Turkey” over shelling Akcakale

Syria/Turkey- Syria’s Regime clarified that it condoled the deaths of innocent civilians in Wednesday’s cross-border mortar fire incident but had not apologized to Turkey as it “applied investigations to ascertain the identity of those who had carried out the attack.”, according to Syria`s Information Minister statement earlier.

Syria’s permanent representative to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Bashar Al-Jafari announced on Thursday that the Syrian government had not send any apology letter to the Turkish government. He added that Damascus was not seeking an escalation in tensions with Turkey or other countries.

“The Syrian government has a key interest in maintaining good neighborly relations with Turkey,” ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari told reporters in NY.

“In case of border incidents between any two neighboring countries, governments should act wisely, rationally and reasonably.” al-Jaafari declared.

But he called on the Turkish government to cooperate with Syria on controls to “prevent armed groups from infiltrating through this border” to stage attacks in Syria.

Al-Jafari asserted that “the Syrian government is working on investigating the accident and not on apologizing”. He alluded to the official statement issued by the Syrian information minister Omran Al- Zoabi, which did not include any apology.

Syria: Hezbollah training Alawite elite force
Sunday 30 September 2012
By Caroline Akoum

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Syrian military is forming a new elite force of made up of 60,000 fighters, according to a report from the “tar-Tass news agency. The agency cited an expert at the London-based International Strategic Research Institute as saying that “western intelligence has obtained information that the armed security regiments (the shabbihah) that are made up of the Alawite community would be integrated in a division similar to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.”

The expert pointed out that the preparation and training of this elite division is being done by Iranian experts in Syria who number around 2,000 and added, “We are expecting the number of government forces to double in the coming months which portends a prolongation of the conflict in Syria and provides Al-Assad’s regime with new prospects.” According to British analysts’ conclusions, this division that is being set up will when necessary provide protection for the Alawite areas on the Mediterranean coast.

Commenting on this information, the Free Syrian Army’s (FSA) deputy chief of staff, Colonel Arif al-Hamud, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the regime resorted from the beginning of the revolution to forming divisions it called “popular committees” in the Alawite areas that are made up of the community’s members. It armed and subjected them to military crash courses by Syrian intelligence services.

“But the regime is today resorting to turning these popular committees into military regiments that are sent to the hot areas and the best evidence is what happened in Darat Izzah in Aleppo countryside when the FSA succeeded in killing around 40 shabbihah elements from one village, Wadi al-Uyun,” Al-Hamud told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“We have confirmed testimonies by officers working in military intelligence and special forces who defected recently confirming that Iranian experts and from the Lebanese Hezbollah have started to run courses for trainees from the special forces and military intelligence, the majority of them Alawites in addition to some Sunni officers. These started in February and are continuing to this day with the course running between three and four weeks in (Al-Durayj) area that is near Damascus which was before then a training center for the Special Forces before the storm troopers and paratroopers’ school was built.” Al-Hamud added.
The FSA’s deputy chief of staff asserted that these officers who have defected had also taken these courses which focused on sniper and individual killing by forming small units capable of carrying out lightning and quick operations.

Al-Hamud went on to say that these divisions being professionally trained might form the nucleus of a special army that the regime is establishing for the purpose of suppressing the revolution, confronting the FSA and protecting the Alawite state, adding that a large quantity of military equipment and heavy weapons were recently transferred to the Alawite areas.

مصدر مطلع .. قتلى نادي الضباط بحلب يفوق 250 عسكري
– 2012/10/04نشر فى: أخبار عربية
مراسل المحليات : كلنا شركاء

أفاد مصدر مطلع لكلنا شركاء أن عدد قتلى نادي الضباط بحلب .. في حادث التفجير الرباعي في ساحة سعد الله الجابري .. يفوق 250 عسكري .. وعزى سبب ارتفاع القتلى بنادي الضباط لوحده .. لوجود ضباط وجنود تم سحبهم من حماة وادلب .. استعداداً لمواجهة الجيش الحر أثر قرار الحسم ..وتم حجز أماكن لمبيتهم في النادي ..
وأكد المصدر .. أن التفجير في نادي الضباط .. ماهو إلا دليل على وجود أشخاص داخل جيش السلطة ينسقون مع الجيش الحر بمعلومات دقيقة .. مذكرنا .. بتفجير هيئة الاركان العامة ..
ولدى سؤال المصدر عن عم قيام النظام بإذاعة العدد الحقيقي للقتلى .. قال أن هذه .. استراتيجية جديدة بات النظام يتبعها ..ابتدأها بحادث الاركان حيث أخفى عدد القتلى .. وربما لقناعة النظام بأن هذا يؤدي لهبوط في معنويات عناصر الجيش وشبيحته .


Brian Stoddard, “A House in Damascus.”

A House in Damascus recounts Brian Stoddart’s experience of living in an old house in the Old City of Damascus near the Umayyad Mosque, immediately prior to the 2011-12 upheavals.  The stories come from his daily interactions with “ordinary” Shamis, his observations of life in the city, and his reading of its history and culture. Given what has happened since, the hints at the desire for more “democracy”, the need for change and the wish for more interaction with the world take on strong resonance, a glimpse of daily life in Damascus on the eve of yet another great change.

Brian Stoddart is an Emeritus Professor at La Trobe University in Australia where he served as Vice-Chancellor and President. He trained and is widely published as a social historian, is a regular media and social media commentator on a range of issues, and now works as an educational higher education consultant, which is what took him to Damascus where he became fascinated by the city and the country.

Be Wary of Playing Turkey’s Great Game
By Con Coughlin

Syria might be getting all the blame for firing the first shot in the sudden eruption of hostilities on the Turko-Syrian border, but Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, can hardly claim to be an innocent party when it comes to stoking the fires of a conflict that retains the potential to ignite a regional conflagration. …. Like Mr Morsi, the Turkish leader would be happy to see the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria emerge as the eventual victors of the crisis in that country, a development which would lead to the establishment of a network of Islamist governments – a “Sunni arc” from the shores of North Africa to those of the eastern Mediterranean.

It is highly questionable whether such an outcome would benefit Western interests. And with the Turkish parliament yesterday approving a measure that effectively gives Mr Erdogan a “green light” to invade Syria, Nato leaders should take care not to involve themselves in a conflict that only helps to further the Turkish leader’s Islamist agenda.

The Delusion of Limited Intervention in Syria: Brian T. Haggerty

With Turkey’s decision to shell targets in Syria in retaliation for a mortar attack that killed five civilians inside the Turkish border, there are new signs that Syria’s civil war could escalate into a broader conflict…..

While the desire to act to prevent Syria’s conflict from spilling over borders and provide safe haven for the tens of thousands who continue to flee the repressive regime of Bashar al-Assad is understandable, the scale of such an operation is bound to be much larger than its proponents have suggested.

I conducted an open-source analysis to estimate the requirements for establishing command of the air over Syria. The study shows that the effort could require about 200 strike aircraft and more than 100 support aircraft for only the first waves of strikes, making a Syrian intervention many times larger than the opening phase of NATO’s recent air war over Libya. …..A U.S.-backed intervention along these lines, most recently advocated by Qatar and NATO allies France and Turkey, would unfold in two major phases. The first, establishing a no-fly zone, would require a sustained effort to degrade Syrian air defenses in order to achieve command of the air.

While dense and overlapping, Syria’s strategic air defenses present few serious challenges for Western air power. Most of the equipment consists of aging Soviet-designed surface-to-air missile systems that NATO either destroyed or countered with relative ease in previous interventions over Kosovo and Libya. Because many of these older systems are relatively immobile, it is likely they could be eliminated quickly using an initial barrage of cruise missiles launched from naval vessels in the Mediterranean, in combination with an early wave of air strikes.

But the Syrian systems have recently been augmented with more advanced and capable Russian designs, including the Buk-M2E and Pantsyr-S1. These and other mobile air defenses pose a larger threat. Should Syria’s mobile air defenses survive initial strikes, they could quickly complicate efforts to use air power to defend a safe zone from attacks by Assad’s ground forces. ….

Salad Becomes Syrian Luxury as Prices Surge in Wartime Economy
2012-10-04 By Donna Abu-Nasr

Oct. 5 (Bloomberg) — Syrian concierge Jameel Abdul-Razzak says he can no longer afford to buy cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce for the daily salad his family is used to.
The price of some vegetables in Damascus has jumped fivefold since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March last year, according to official figures….The economy alone probably won’t bring down the Assad government, said Ayesha Sabavala, an economist at the EIU.

“They’ve managed to go along with low foreign exchange reserves by reducing their imports and by getting only essential imports,” she said in a phone interview.

The EIU estimates that Syria’s currency reserves will shrink to $3 billion, equivalent to 4.2 months of imports, by the end of next year, from $19.5 billion at the end of 2010. The country is getting financial support from allies Russia and Iran, Sabavala said. ….The retreat from economic activity extends from big-ticket items down to basic groceries.

Auto dealer Samir Tarbeen said by phone from Damascus that he hasn’t made a sale in more than four months. “Banks have stopped lending and this made things worse for us,” he said.

About 30,000 cars were sold in the first half of this year, a drop from 103,000 a year earlier, according to the pro- government Al-Watan newspaper. ….

Saudis line up against Syria’s Assad
By Kevin Sullivan, Sunday, October 7, 3:25 PM

JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia — When King Abdullah announced a national fundraising drive to aid Syrian refugees in late July, Saudis quickly donated nearly $150 million.

Saudi national television hosted a telethon, with banks of men in traditional robes manning phone lines and computers. Donations came by text, by direct deposit into special bank accounts, or from families stuffing crumpled Riyal notes into collection boxes or donating their cars and even their watches.

Abdullah, normally a discreet behind-the-scenes conciliator, has denounced the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with rare royal rage, and his people have joined in with gusto.

Beyond humanitarian concerns, Abdullah sees an opportunity to strike a key strategic blow against Iran, Syria’s key ally and Saudi Arabia’s main rival for power in the Middle East, analysts and government officials said in interviews across this oil-rich kingdom.

Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran each claim to be the world’s true center of Islam. Both nations are struggling to expand their influence in a region upended by popular revolts that are shifting governments and long-standing alliances.

Assad’s government serves as Tehran’s key pipeline for transferring money and arms to Hezbollah, the Shiite militia in Lebanon. Abdullah sees Assad’s potential ouster as a way to choke off that flow and diminish the influence of an increasingly belligerent Iran, officials and analysts said.

“Syria is Iran’s entry into the Arab world,” said one Saudi official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “Take down Assad and you inflict a strategic blow on Iran.”

The official said Iran is “really on the ropes” because of international sanctions over its nuclear program. He said removing an ally as pivotal as Assad would make Iran “more vulnerable to sanctions.”

Saudi officials have been circumspect about their direct support to Syrian rebels, although government officials privately said Riyadh is buying arms and ammunition, as well as paying salaries for soldiers who defected from the Syrian military to join the rebels.

Abdul Rahman al-Rashed, general manager of Saudi-owned al-Arabiya television and an influential political analyst, said Saudi officials have paid for Kalashnikov rifles and other Russian-made weapons for defected Syrian soldiers who have been trained on Russian arms. Saudi officials have also financed shipments of millions of rounds of ammunition for the rebels, he said, echoing a common assessment among Saudi analysts.

Some analysts here said Abdullah wants to do more for the Syrian opposition, but he is being restrained by Washington. They said U.S. officials have discouraged Riyadh from sending heavier weapons, particularly shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles, known as MANPADS, to combat Syrian government air attacks. They said U.S. officials are worried about such weapons ending up in the hands of extremist elements among the opposition forces, a concern reported over the weekend in the New York Times.

“They wanted to send MANPADS to the Syrians, but the Americans are worried — the Americans are blocking that,” said Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist and media executive with close ties to the Saudi elite.

Abdullah has resisted calls for more military action, including a recent proposal from Qatar for a coordinated Arab diplomatic and military response to Syria’s violence.

Government officials insist that Saudi Arabia has not sent armed fighters to Syria. Analysts here said a few Saudi militants may be fighting in Syria, but they are not sanctioned by the government.

Abdullah has cracked down on clerics who have called for young men to travel to Syria, and Saudi Arabia’s official clerics have issued warnings telling young people not to join the fight.

The Saudi government fears kindling another generation of Saudi religious warriors like those who went to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets in the 1980s. Those fighters, including Osama bin Laden, eventually became a radicalized fighting force that turned on the Saudi royal family and gave rise to al-Qaeda.

“Saudis don’t want their youth going there. They do not want to repeat the mistakes of Afghanistan,” Khashoggi said. “Saudis in Syria are a recipe for terrorism.”

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Simon Henderson, a Saudi Arabia specialist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said “exporting jihadis is what the Saudis have always done — to Afghanistan, to Bosnia, to Chechnya.”

“Of course, the Saudis, both in public and private, say that they are not sending jihadis to Syria,” he said. “Do I believe them? No, although I have yet to see evidence to confirm my suspicions. . . . If, as I suspect, we have allowed another generation of Saudi extremist youth to receive battle training, then it is easy to predict the probable consequences — a new al-Qaeda-type of terrorism, threatening us all.”

Abdullah became the first Arab leader to publicly rebuke Assad in August 2011, when he said the crackdown in Syria was “not acceptable to Saudi Arabia” and called for Assad’s government to make “comprehensive reforms” before it is “too late.”

“Either it chooses wisdom on its own, or it will be pulled down into the depths of turmoil and loss, God forbid,” Abdullah said.

Saud Kabli, political and foreign affairs columnist for the al-Watan newspaper, said the Saudi public was growing increasingly angry about the situation in Syria, which has put pressure on Abdullah to take a tougher stance. “This is the first time that the Saudi government bends to the will of the people on foreign policy,” Kabli said.

Abdullah’s relations with Assad have been strained at least since the 2005 assassination of Rafiq Hariri, the former prime minister of Lebanon. The Syrian government is widely be

“Abdullah was extremely close to Hariri,” said Robert Lacey, a British author who has written extensively on Saudi Arabia. “Hariri became a Saudi citizen, he was Saudi’s man in Lebanon. His death was very painful for Abdullah, and he holds a personal grudge against Assad.”

Many here have argued for the government to help overthrow Assad by force, either by more aggressively arming the Free Syrian Army or intervening as part of an international military force.

“I think we should be doing more,” said Sondus Al-Aidrous, 23, a therapist at a private hospital. Like almost all Saudi women, she was fully veiled in black, with only her eyes visible, as she shopped for makeup at the chic Kingdom Mall in Riyadh. “I know we send money, but we should have stopped the violence.”

The Saudi public’s connection to Syria is strengthened by the fact that more than a million Syrians live in Saudi Arabia. Jameel Daghestani, a Syrian community leader in Riyadh, said many are long-time residents, but he estimated that up to 90,000 have come to the kingdom to stay with family or friends since the violence in Syria began. Many of them are benefiting from a recent decree by Abdullah that Syrians visiting Saudi Arabia may indefinitely renew their visas.

Bashir al-Azem, a Syrian who runs a construction company and has lived in Saudi Arabia since 1966, said the Syrian community has raised millions of dollars — mainly for humanitarian relief, but also to support the rebels. He said he personally has donated more than $530,000, and his company contributed an additional $266,000 during the national telethon.

“For the first six or seven months after the revolution, I said whatever money I send, I do not want it to buy any weapons,” he said. “But after seeing all the killing, I don’t mind. I tell them, if you need bullets, buy them.”

Reem Fuad Mohammed, 46, a wealthy Saudi from Jiddah whose family is in the construction machinery business, said she was so saddened by televised images of the Syria violence that she collected $500,000 in cash and goods and shipped them to Syrian refugees in Lebanon in May.

She spent an additional $100,000 of her own money to equip a small health clinic in Lebanon and pay for medical treatment.

During an interview in her elegant Jiddah home, she picked up her iPhone and dialed Hasna Hassoun, a Syrian woman she met in Lebanon who lost her husband, two children and both legs in a Syrian government attack.

Hassoun spoke on the phone as she was lying in a hospital bed while a doctor measured her for prosthetic legs. “I was so happy that the people of Saudi Arabia were helping,” she said. “I felt like a whole family was taking care of me.”

Syria’s suffering opens a door for Washington
Patrick Cockburn, Sunday 7 October 2012, Independent
World View: As sanctions bite in Iran and Turkish shells fall, US is well placed to broker regional peace talks

….After the US presidential election, Washington could well decide that it is in its interests to go along with Turkish urgings and give more military support to the Syrian opposition. The US might calculate that a prolonged and indecisive civil war in Syria, during which central government authority collapses, gives too many chances to al-Qa’ida or even Iran. It has had a recent example of how a political vacuum can produce nasty surprises when the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, was killed in Benghazi last month.

An ideal outcome from the American point of view is to seek to organise a military coup against the Syrian government in Damascus. Zilmay Khalilzad, a former US ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan, wrote recently in Foreign Policy magazine that the US should take steps “empowering the moderates in the opposition, shifting the balance of power through arms and other lethal assistance, encouraging a coup leading to a power-sharing arrangement, and accommodating Russia in exchange for its co-operation”.

By becoming the opposition’s main weapons’ suppliers, the US could gain influence over the rebel leadership, encourage moderation and a willingness to share power. Mr Khalilzad envisages that these moves will prepare the ground for a peace conference similar to that held at Taif in Saudi Arabia in 1989 that ended Lebanon’s 15-year civil war. It is also what the US would have liked to have happened in Iraq after 1991.

More direct military involvement in Syria could be dangerous for the US in that it could be sucked into the conflict, but outsourcing support for the rebels to Saudi Arabia and the Sunni monarchies of the Gulf may be even riskier. Arms and money dispensed by them are most likely to flow to extreme Sunni groups in Syria, as happened when Pakistani military intelligence was the conduit for US military aid to the Afghan Mujahideen in the 1980s.

Instead of a fight to the finish – and that finish would probably be a long way off – a peace conference with all the players may be the only way to bring an end to the Syrian war. But it is also probably a long way off, because hatred and fear is too deep and neither side is convinced it cannot win. . [Continue reading…]

Rebels say West’s inaction is pushing Syrians to extremism
by C.J. Chivers reports:October 7, 2012 – New York Times

Majed al-Muhammad, the commander of a Syrian antigovernment fighting group, slammed his hand on his desk. “Doesn’t America have satellites?” he asked, almost shouting. “Can’t it see what is happening?”

A retired Syrian Army medic, Mr. Muhammad had reached the rank of sergeant major in the military he now fights against. He said he had never been a member of a party, and loathed jihadists and terrorists.

But he offered a warning to the West now commonly heard among fighters seeking the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad: The Syrian people are being radicalized by a combination of a grinding conflict and their belief that they have been abandoned by a watching world.

If the West continues to turn its back on Syria’s suffering, he said, Syrians will turn their backs in return, and this may imperil Western interests and security at one of the crossroads of the Middle East…..

Comments (365)

Pages: « 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 [8] Show All

351. Ghufran said:

This is a good read from the Guardian:
I support focusing on the armed forces, a credible and functional army will do three things:
1. Keep the country in one piece
2. Protect civil peace
3. Stop foreign terrorists

Thumb up 7 Thumb down 10

October 10th, 2012, 11:17 pm



296. ZOO said:

289. Tara

Weak and guilty ones gets agitated…

hmmmmm, not Irritated?

Thumb up 8 Thumb down 13

October 10th, 2012, 11:37 pm


353. ann said:


Turks making Syrian pilot sign ’emergency landing, no F-16s’ statement – crew and passengers – 11 October, 2012

Passengers onboard the plane intercepted by Turkish jets said that security forces were making the crew and passengers sign fraudulent papers suggesting that the plane made an emergency landing and no Turkish military were involved in the incident.

­Hours after Turkish authorities announced that the Syrian Airlines passenger plane intercepted by its F-16s was granted a departure clearance, the aircraft remained on the tarmac in darkness.

“Four people onboard have been beaten up, two crew and two passengers, as they tried to force them to sign documents,” Sherin Azis, a hostess on the plane, told RT by phone. “We don’t know what these papers are about. We are scared for the fate of the captain. He was taken away and threatened with arrest if he does not sign an emergency landing paper.”

Fatima al-Saman, a passenger and a mother of three, also told RT that the captain was being forced to sign a release stating that military planes were not involved and the plane just made an emergency landing.

“If we do not agree to these terms, they will take the captain kind of hostage,” al-Saman said. “They are threatening us. The captain has now returned and said that ‘either I sign the document that I made an emergency landing or they are taking me hostage.’”

The plane has been surrounded by people in masks who have detained all the cargo and were looking through what looked like boxes with documents, passengers said. The Turkish authorities were interested in some spare parts, which a businessman bought in Russia and was transporting to Syria, al-Saman said. She said that as far as she could tell, they were clearly not weapons.

“They started unloading some packages. They opened them, took pictures. There were many people. We all saw what was in there. There were no weapons. You could see it with an unaided eye!” she said. “They just had some spare parts and papers – objects, but there were no rockets. It is all a lie.”

The captain himself did not even know why the plane was ordered down, al-Saman said. She added that the search involved only luggage, and the passengers were mainly ignored by the Turks.

“Everyone is ignoring us, making it seem like we do not exist,” she said. “The Russian Consulate did not get back to us. A lady has called one of the passengers and told her that the [embassy staff] are not being allowed to enter the airport territory. They have led us out of the plane where we kept asking for help, but everyone seems to ignore us.”


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October 10th, 2012, 11:38 pm


354. zoo said:

The fiasco of the Syrian plane

Erdogan wanted to humiliate Syria, but he also inadvertedly annoyed Russia and by nor finding any weapons, he has covered himself with ridicule. Russia’s embassy in Ankara is demanding explanations as 17 Russians were in the plane and were not allowed to meet the Russian diplomats at Ankara airport.

The grand Vizir said that there were articles that were ‘questionnable, objectionable”. What were they? His silence indicates that it was just a face saving declaration to avoid even more ridicule.

I thought the Turks were smart, but it seems that their smartness is limited to war of words, religion and money. As time passes, their real face is showing.
Was Turkey framed by a false alert? Now we will have the pro-chaos say that it was the work of the Syrian mokhabarat to mislead Turkey into ridicule.

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October 10th, 2012, 11:47 pm


355. ann said:

‘Turkey violated Convention on International Civil Aviation’ – top aviation official to RT – 11 October, 2012

The passengers of the plane forced by Turkish jets to land in Ankara spent over five hours inside the plane while its cargo compartment was searched in a breach of international regulations, the director of Syria’s civil aviation agency told RT.

­”After crossing into Turkish airspace, our plane was forced by Turkish Air Force F-16 jets to land in Ankara,” Geida Abdellatif told RT. After landing, the plane was subjected to a search of its cargo compartment.

“The crew and the passengers have been on board for five hours and 25 minutes,” she said. “Everyone is fine, but it was a stressing experience for them. Everyone on board is waiting for a check. This situation violates humanitarian norms. There is no cargo on the plane other than passengers’ personal possessions and luggage.”

RT: Do you think Turkey violated international regulations for civil aviation?

GA: Certainly the Convention on International Civil Aviation was violated. The crew members are assisting the passengers onboard, trying to comfort them, to overcome the stress. That’s the most important thing for us now. We are in constant contact with the captain of the plane. What we know about the situation on board comes from him. We are supporting him and the crew morally.

The passengers were offered food and drinks. Crew members are helping the passengers. Many of whom are old people, children and women. There are Syrian and Russian citizens among them. We contacted the captain via mobile phone.

RT: What are you doing in response to the events? What your reaction will be?

GA: We shall file a complaint with the International Civil Aviation Organization, with the Arab Civil Aviation Commission, with all the international humanitarian organizations, objecting to the inhuman measures taken against the passengers and our plane.

Turkey sends three flights [daily] to Syria, to Damascus and Aleppo, and never did the Syrian aviation authorities in any way abuse them.

RT: Turkey has cut its air traffic with Syria starting today.

GA: This will only hurt the Turkish side. We did not receive any preliminary request to detail the cargo onboard the plane; we were forced to land by military fighters. If we received such a request, we would have replied to it.

There were only civilians and their luggage on board. Searching them is possible only if all the rules are observed, and not in this inhumane manner, when all the passengers and crew members are held onboard the aircraft for such a long time.


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October 10th, 2012, 11:48 pm


356. Syrialover said:


Yeah, yeah, a marvellous idea, a credible and functional army.

But what to do about the current substitute for an amy, an Assad-sponsored militia now burning the country with the assistance of Iran and Russia?

An army that has been personally serving the Assads for over 40 years, which has as its main enemy the Syrian people?

Continue your comment, please Ghufran.

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October 10th, 2012, 11:52 pm



@ 263 (for now)
Any half self respecting Arab would say….

What follows in that comment proves beyond reasonable doubt that MJABALI’s dog knows better than someone on this forum.

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October 10th, 2012, 11:52 pm


358. Syrialover said:

ZOO #352,

You’re such a hard man, ZOO.

The poor battered Turks. With all your relentless hard-hitting verbal attacks they will be whimpering for help.

You’ll single-handedly be pulling NATO into this conflict if we’re not careful.

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October 11th, 2012, 12:05 am


359. zoo said:

The U.S. Must Limit Saudi Influence in Syria
By Frank J. Mirkow, on 10 Oct 2012, Briefing

As the civil war in Syria becomes more acute, the United States must reassess its strategy toward that key Middle Eastern state, in particular, its stance on the role that Saudi Arabia has been playing in the Syrian conflict. Continued Saudi influence in Syria will only further destabilize the situation on the ground, undermine U.S. interests in the region and dim the prospects for a future democratic Syria.

In addition to narrowing the base of support for the Syrian opposition, Saudi support for the religious extremist segments of the opposition will strike a blow against the future prospects for Syrian democracy. No government is more singularly unsuited to the fostering of a pluralistic democracy in Syria than the tribal absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia. The nature of the Saudi regime guarantees that when it comes to postconflict reconstruction in Syria, the Saudis will be hostile to any form of government that does not hold a narrowly defined version of Sunni Islam at its center.
While the administration’s reticence to escalate its involvement in Syria is understandable, Saudi Arabia’s unobstructed interference in the Syrian conflict is likely to produce a political outcome that undermines both American interests and the prospects for a democratic Syria.

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October 11th, 2012, 12:12 am


360. zoo said:

“Recent months have underscored a long-standing problem for Turkey: it remains reliant on multilateral action and on U.S. assistance to carry out military operations”

Could Turkey Beat Syria?

Aaron Stein, Dov Friedman
October 10, 2012

As the first news broke last week that a second Syrian artillery shell had struck Akcakale and killed five civilians, Turkey had already begun taking decisive action. Turkey immediately returned fire, and the following day, parliament approved the prime minister’s request to conduct cross-border military operations.

…The lack of military systems needed to carry out Turkey’s numerous threats has undermined Ankara’s attempts at coercing Assad to make concessions. While military confrontation was always unlikely, Assad has appeared unconcerned with Turkish threats on numerous occasions. Damascus quietly dismissed Turkey’s loud proclamations on possible unilateral intervention—eroding the threat of credible action and undermining Ankara’s overall policy objectives. The shelling, therefore, should not be viewed as the precursor to war but as Turkey enacting the most limited means of reprisal.

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October 11th, 2012, 12:17 am


361. Syrialover said:

New thread started

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October 11th, 2012, 12:28 am



rt, SPANN, ZOO, and their top aviation experts

Article 1
The contracting States recognize that every State has complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above its territory.

Article 4

Misuse of civil aviation
Each contracting State agrees not to use civil aviation for any purpose inconsistent with the aims of this Convention.

Article 16
Search of aircraft
The appropriate authorities of each of the contracting States shall have the right, without unreasonable delay, to search aircraft of the othercontracting States on landing or departure, and to inspect the certificates and
other documents prescribed by this Convention.

Article 35
Cargo restrictions
(a) No munitions of war or implements of war may be carried in or above the territory of a State in aircraft engaged in international navigation, except by permission of such State. Each State shall determine by regulations what constitutes munitions of war or implements of war for the purposes of this Article , giving due consideration, for the purposes of uniformity, to such recommendations as the International Civil Aviation Organization may from time to time make.
(b) Each contracting State reserves the right, for reasons of public order and safety, to regulate or prohibit the carriage in or above its territory of articles other than those enumerated in paragraph (a): provided that no distinction is made in this respect between its national aircraft engaged in international navigation and the aircraft of the other States so engaged; and provided further that no restriction shall be imposed which may interfere with the carriage and use on aircraft of apparatus necessary for the operation or navigation of the aircraft or the safety of the personnel or passengers.

Source: Convention on International Civil Aviation, AKA Chicago Convention, 1944

There are additional conventions. Turkey’s action must also be considered in light of the Montreal Convention (prohibiting use of force against civilian aircraft, but also under the Begin Convention (prohibiting the carrying of explosives on civilian air crafts.

Similarly, some week points in the Chicago convention is that state are provided with instruments to require the landing and search of unscheduled flights, but not explicitly of crafts suspected of violations on munitions clause. However, the munition clause listed above, provides for Turkey to use appropriate means.

Once an aircraft lands, in a designated costume ariport, a state has full right to search the craft.

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October 11th, 2012, 1:06 am


363. Mina said:

For anyone who has heard the French news today the Turks have found weapons, parts for missiles etc. Who is to trust?

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October 11th, 2012, 5:08 am


364. zoo said:

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October 11th, 2012, 8:53 am


365. jake said:


“In that event, we are already waiting for them in the Mountain, in Jabal Turkman- Burj Kasab Latakia mountains, and in Qalaat-Hosn Krak des Chevaliers in Wadi Nassara.”


Idiot. Wadi nassara is entirely christian, if anything they are fighting alongside the alawites emptying the nearby rebel strongholds (which they have i.e. tal-kalakh and qalaat-hosn)

and Jabal Turkman is fighting against incredible odds, turkmen are a minority there except for a few villages near the border of turkey. majority of residents there are alawite and christian (who are supported and reinforced by the army and security forces). the only reason they (i.e. turkmen insurgents) exist is because of their backer turkey across the border supplying them, whereas most of the civilian turkmen population in latakia fled syria into turkey:

And if you are waiting in the mountains, the alawites are waiting in the sunni stronghold of homs:
“The rebel stronghold of Homs is on the brink of collapse: alawite-dominated forces controls 75% of the city and is advancing swiftly”

not to mention that the regime (which many perceive to be alawite-dominated) has alawite settlements and populations in and around the sunni strongholds of damascus

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October 13th, 2012, 8:24 pm


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