“Stone Age, Here We Come,” by Syrian Prometheus

Stone Age, Here We Come
By Syrian Prometheus* – Opinion Piece
For Syria Comment
Sept 13, 2011

Anyone who lived through the failed revolution of the 1980s, or the “incidents”, as we call them, will tell you that this current revolution still has a long way to go. Hafiz al-Assad, or “Senior”, used the iron fist for three years before he brought the people back under his firm control. It took a further seven years of severe isolation, privation, and an eventual rapprochement with the US over Iraq (Dessert Storm) before the populace began to experience a bit of relief – the economy loosened up and a measure of civic comfort returned to everyday life.

So, is this time different from the eighties? We have not even begun to reach the upper limit of civilian casualties and economic pain that this conflict will exact.

The economic costs of this revolution will be staggering. International banking institutions have already stopped accepting US dollar payments from Syrian merchants. No consideration is being given to the legitimacy and good reputation of individual merchants. It seems that banks have decided that sanctions against the Syrian government imply an embargo on private citizens as well. This is causing severe commercial dislocation as importers whose businesses are overwhelmingly denominated in US dollars scramble to pay in other currencies. By doing so, they are exposed to foreign exchange risks that they were not counting on. And these costs are only the tip of the iceberg. Merchants are being battered by the collapse in demand. They importing goods in much smaller amounts and selling under more restrictive terms that they used to. Only the most necessary staples have retained their markets. The velocity of money is slowing down to a crawl (much as happened during the financial crisis on the global stage in 2008). Reduced monetary velocity can only be offset by printing money to keep the economy primed to the same level. But, printing money is inflationary (not in a good way in this case). The next stage is likely to be stagnation. There are many bankruptcies looming. This, of course, means layoffs which will bring even less demand and will establish a vicious cycle of contraction, unemployment, and failure.

Many in Syria believe that this effort at revolution will be different from the revolt of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Conventional wisdom states that the telecommunication technology has changed the playing field, like it did in Egypt, and that the Syrian leadership must undertake a different calculus. The world is watching this time around. Yeah? So what?

Many in the opposition and the silent majority (cowards like me who yearn for a better future) observe that Syria’s isolation is much more severe than it was during Senior’s era of the eighties. That is true; Europe, the US, and much of the Arab World have declared their opposition to the Syrian regime and demand that the Assads leave power (I would like to know where to). With continued embargoes, sanctions, and economic pressures, the expectation is that the Syrian leadership will either be overcome by fear and throw down its guns, or develop a conscience when it notices that the sanctions are exacting a heavy toll on Syria’s most vulnerable citizens (Much as they did in Iraq between 1991 and 2003).

Sanctions are going to be a very interesting case study. They will provide a fascinating data base for future historians and policy wonks. Too bad that the Syrian people will pay the price with their innocent blood. In all likelihood, the regime has analyzed its odds carefully, both in terms of its monetary resources and its ability to turn up the level of pain.

It knows how much money it needs to pay for a protracted war against the population. To borrow a term from the “Godfather” movie, it is time to go to mattresses. The regime will:

  • Liquidate its opponents in such a way as to provide the most horrifying abject lesson to those of us who are cowards and readily intimidated. This explains the daily tales and videos of brutish behavior.
  • Wait for high-profile individuals to step out of line and make an example of them. The commercial elites are not only scared about losing their wealth and businesses that many have built up over generations of hard work, but they are scared of losing their lives.
  • Wait. Then wait. And when you are done waiting, wait some more. This is a lesson that Senior probably drilled into Junior. European and US elections are coming up soon. Syria is likely to be demoted relative to other issues for US politicians.  The “Pocket Book” is the number one issue over the next two years. The number two issue is…. Not sure there is a number two issue. Back to waiting; the regime will not be concerned with the numbers of casualties. It is said that one of its leading generals has mused about the expiration of a million Syrians during these trying times and was not greatly concerned.
  • Sow the seeds of regional conflict. Reestablish the PKK connections. Push Hizbullah’s buttons in Lebanon. See if Hamas can start a fracas. It is always worthwhile finding out if other existential issues can distract the people and bring them back in line.

Syria is being shaken down by a regime which acts remarkably like an organized-crime racket. To assume that it would respond to the tools of diplomacy and public opinion is naively optimistic. It is a parasitic entity; it has latched onto its host and is not likely to know that it is in trouble until the host has died.

The regime is not going to respond to the delusional premise that peaceful demonstrations work. It is probably thinking about “fish-in-a-barrel”.

One way to stop the slaughter is to let the Sunni population arm itself. the Alawites have already done so. However, in a recent post, you have pointed out several reasons as to why that will not be the case. The BRICS will not permit it – being so concerned with the rule of international law. The West does not want another Afghanistan that much closer to home.

But, here is the rub, the Syrian on the street, being shot at, wondering where his sibling or parent has been locked up, feeling angst about impending starvation, and reeling about his family’s disastrously bleak prospects will not understand why he has been forsaken. HE WILL NOT FORGIVE!

Syria is already in a state of civil war. It just happens that one side has all the weapons.

The continued poverty and the absence of the rule of “fair” law will continue to corrode the social fabric of the nation. If anyone thought that corruption and graft were widespread today, just wait. Moral standards will become so twisted in the coming year and the need for survival so strong that the Syrian social contract will metastasize into something unimaginable. Society as we know it will collapse. A radical Islamization can potentially stave off such a collapse. But, it remains to be seen what brand of conservative Islam will prevail.

Couple the significant private sector slowdown with reduced receipts from oil and tourism and you will be staring economic collapse in the face.

Personal credit cards of all Syrians are no longer being processed.

I have often wondered about places like Saddam’s Iraq, North Korea and other similar locals. How could a country survive and move forward while millions are starving? How come the people do not leave the country and see how the rest of the world works and then bring back such exotic ideas as freedom, prosperity and self determination? How come the people have not risen up to throw off the yoke of a bankrupt ideology whose only purpose is to perpetuate itself through a cult of personality?

Well, the leader does not care about the people whose lives are nothing but value-less ephemeral playthings. Really, not one iota.

The populace is either too weak, too afraid, or simply does not know better. Things are so bleak that a father is forced to decide between doing what is right and feeding his starving children. One can argue that doing the right thing is the right thing to do. A small bit of sacrifice now is all that is needed to make sure that the value of future gains for the this person’s children and his neighbors are worth the price that is being asked now. Alas, this is not a rational matter. Given the immediate cost, this person will in all likelihood sell his soul to the devil before making the necessary sacrifices.

This is the wager that the Syrian leadership is making.

How does one get off this train wreck? Damned if I know. The regime has led us down a most destructive path. The damage is done. What remains to be seen is how high the price is going to be.

Stone Age, here we come.

* Syrian Prometheus is a Syrian-American businessman.


News Round Up

OFAC Issues Libya, Syria General Licenses, September 12, 2011,

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control released a set of general licenses late Friday governing transactions with entities in Libya and Syria.

Regarding Libya, OFAC authorized transactions (pdf) with subsidiaries of the Libyan National Oil Corp., except Zueitina Oil Co., “provided that such transactions do not involve the Libyan National Oil Corp. or any persons whose property and interests in property are blocked other than the authorized subsidiaries.”

Though the license doesn’t limit authorization to a specific list of subsidiaries, a number of those named in the document were placed under U.S. sanctions in March, among them Arabian Gulf Oil Co., Azzawiya Oil Refining Co. and Brega Petroleum Marketing Co.

U.S. persons doing business with the Syrian government prior to Aug. 18 have until Nov. 25 (pdf) to conduct any transactions that wind down their contracts, according to a license issued by OFAC.

Under the license, the U.S. person has to file a detailed report with OFAC within 10 days of completing the transaction that includes the date and value of the transaction.

OFAC said Friday that international organizations such as the United Nations, its specialized agencies and contractors can continue their business in Syria (pdf) and still comply with the Aug. 18 executive order sanctioning the country, provided they meet some specific conditions.

U.S. individuals living in Syria are authorized to pay day-to-day personal expenses “that are ordinarily incident and necessary to their personal maintenance within Syria” such as the purchase of personal goods, housing costs and taxes under a license issued Friday (pdf) by OFAC.

However, those day-to-day expenses cannot include paying debt on an account or institution blocked under a previous executive order; transactions involving property blocked by previous sanctions on Syria; or employment or a new business venture in Syria.

Those not named by the set of U.S. sanctions on Syria that have accounts in U.S. financial institutions can continue to operate their accounts (pdf) provided they are for a personal nature and do not involve transfers that were prohibited by previous OFAC licenses.

Comments (826)

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801. Aboud said:

True, we don’t need NATO or any outside force to take on the security forces. Many soldiers in the army want to defect, but need a place to defect to.

That’s why Homs is such a favorite place for defections. From such a central location, a soldier can go anywhere they want, as opposed to the limited options available in Damascus and Aleppo (where you can realistically only go one way and stay in the country).

Baba Amr in particular lies next to open ground and farms, where units can desert to and make their way to their towns.

The shabeha are not motivated by ideology, they are motivated by money. When the chance of them getting killed is high, the regime won’t be able to pay them enough to risk their lives.

The Syrian army’s training and equipment are both obsolete. A dedicated armed force could make life very difficult for units known to be ultra loyal to the regime.

The best tanks the army has can be taken out by relatively lightly armed defenders. The Air Force is in such a hopeless state of disrepair that it is useless for anything except indiscriminate mass bombings.

Besho hasn’t dared step foot out of Damascus in seven months. If I decide in the morning to take a trip to any corner of Syria, I could. Frankly, I have more freedom to move about that Besho. More in fact, than a Alawite, whose head has been filled with lies about kidnappings and killings.

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September 18th, 2011, 8:10 pm


802. Norman said:



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September 18th, 2011, 8:29 pm


803. SYR.EXPAT said:


Dear SGID,

Sorry to hear about your relative. Please accept my condolences.
He and the other martyrs of this revolution have done their part. Their death won’t go in vain, God willing.

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September 18th, 2011, 8:32 pm


804. Tara said:

Rai upholds remarks on Syria, Hezbollah’s arms
September 19, 2011 02:31 AM
By Hussein Dakroub
The Daily Star



“It’s high time for the Lebanese to sit together at the dialogue table. We must be up to the level of those [pre-independence Lebanese leaders] who sat before us and worked out the Muslim-Christian National Covenant,” Rai said in a speech at a dinner hosted at a restaurant in Baalbek by Sheikh Mohammad Yazbeck, head of Hezbollah’s religious committee. “It’s high time to sit together courageously and open our hearts to each other.”

At the dinner attended by senior Hezbollah officials, Yazbeck gave Rai as a gift a handmade Iranian carpet depicting Jesus Christ’s Last Supper.
Yazbeck also gave the patriarch a book he wrote on the Virgin Mary.


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September 18th, 2011, 8:34 pm


805. sheila said:

To all,
Here is the link to Bakkour’s interview:

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September 18th, 2011, 8:40 pm


806. TRUE said:


In terms of sects and backgrounds, Libya, Egypt and Tunisia are not diversified enough to speculate a civil war, while countries such as Syria, Lebanon and Iraq are always on “waiting” status for the sectarian gunpowder to catch on fire.

See after six months the issue can’t be summarised and simplified by eliminating individuals (Betho or the stutter Maher) and the solution of musical chairs is NO valid anymore. We need to get more pedantic and pay attention to the actual damage occurred, a damage which can’t be fixed with smart bombs or executions in Almarja square (although it might be needed).

Tara, sadly speaking, people have lost their Syrian identity and fully adopted their sectarian madness. The regime’s burned land strategy has paid off and further extended its affect into every Syrian’s mind. Think about all these little kids who are witnessing this era, It will take us a LONG time to trust each other again and restore that once called “Syrian identity”.

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September 18th, 2011, 8:43 pm


807. TRUE said:


Bro I hear you clear an loud, but you know deep inside me I know it’s not that simple and when the real shit hits the fan you know exactly how we all gonno end up like.

I totally agrree, Homs is the key and the secret word no doubts!!! and my hunch tells me in a short while it will be declared the first liberated and independent city of the new Syria and then Betho the criminal will be forced to bombard it from air.

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September 18th, 2011, 8:46 pm


808. Darryl said:

Norman, It seems while I was away burning piles of dead wood at my hobby farm, you have created a big spot fire of your own here on SC.

Regarding your comment though, While I would like to strongly denounce the act of killing Mr G Matar and other innocent people by who ever was responsible, I agree the action of Mr Ford and his cohorts was simply opportunistic. In American movies and police drama, they always showed the crime perpetrator at the crime scene. That is only the figment of imagination on the script writers, off course.

Only now if the current US and French governments, who have shown tremendous empathy toward Syrians, could move their hard working ambassadors from Syria to Israel and move those current lazy ambassadors from Israel somewhere else. Perhaps Mr Ford and his cohorts will have guts to show some empathy and support for the many Palestinians who are being killed on a daily Basis, perhaps they can help relocate the families that are being thrown on the street to make room for more Jewish convert settlers, perhaps they can carry a pick and shovel and help transplant all those blessed olive trees that are being ripped from the ground to make room for “playboy” style condos. Did you know it takes about 7-10 years of hard labor for an Olive tree to produce a worth while crop?

A Change of Subject and thread

OTW, Syria will not become like Israel. Apart from the lack of conscious that many Israeli’s have shown so far which I hope Syrians will continue to have, Syrians will never have the open mind and work ethics that Israelis’ in general have. Hence, we can all dream for as long the sun continues to shine to no avail. Some how most Syrians end up opening their mind and change habits once they are displaced from their country.

Recently, someone mentioned Steven Jobs of Apple who is half Syrian by blood. I sometimes think, had Steven Job was born and raised in Syria, he may have ended selling parsley and mint bunches for Tabouleh on the Syrian street like many other kids.

There are too many shackles, sinkers and plenty of ego in that country. Hence, we can’t be like Israelis’ I believe, we can’t face the truth and bury the past.

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September 18th, 2011, 8:51 pm


809. Norman said:


I have a story for you about the length that an Olive tree takes to produce,

a man was walking along the road , he saw a very old man planting olive trees, he asked, you are so old and an olive tree will take a long time to produce, why are you wasting your time, he answered,


That is spirit of doing for others as others did for us,

Something for people to think about and work for a long term plan,.

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September 18th, 2011, 9:03 pm


810. Tara said:


It is sad indeed. As much as I want to deny it, it is so un-deniable. The Syrian identity is the collateral damage. We all lost it one way or the other, completely or partially. It would be extremely difficult for the new generation to sort out Alawi Shabeeha featured on all torture movies from Samar Yazbek and Aref Dalila. It will be very difficult for the new generation to sort out Mr. Rai patriarch from kilo and George Sabra. This will go down as Assad’s legacy in Syria. He did not celebrate his sect, he sacrificed it and by doing so he destroyed the Syrian fabric.

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September 18th, 2011, 9:09 pm


811. sheila said:

To #795. SS,
You talk like you are the head of the mukhabarat: as always talking too big for very small brains and I do not mean that as an insult, rather a mere statement of fact. You said: “Syria does not want any elements from HA and Iran; simply we do not need that. We value the relations with them, the strategic one, but we are able to take care of your beloved thugs. So far we deployed a fraction, tiny one, of the army to deal with the criminal islamists”. Wow. Very impressive. You can kill people all on your own. And as of your statement: “What we have in prison is soo valuable as they are giving up imortant information regarding the rest of the chain. Do not worry, will treat them well”. Thank you for reassuring us all that people in your custody are “treated well”. We have seen first hand how well you treat detainees with all methods of torture. I can not believe how simple minded and arrogant you are. Every single study proved that all you get from torture is what you want to hear, never the truth. So enjoy every second of this imaginary world that you live in, because it is slowly but surly loosing its inhabitants to attrition.
P.S. I guess since we have 5 million in army and intelligence, a ratio of one Syrian soldier per Israeli citizen. Everybody, we are surly going to get all Palestine back.

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September 18th, 2011, 9:28 pm


812. majedkhaldoun said:

you say that Bashar has to announce election and he should not run, Norman this is not what Bashar will do, do you believe he will do that?Or is iy going to be rigged election?

Tara you asked if peaceful demonstration can topple Bashar
Simple answer NO, in Egypt there was no brutal suppression by the army,the security forces were not able to cope with the security that is needed, here in Syria we have army against the people, and large number of Shabbiha.

you have dictatorship mentality,the revolution will continue and mature inspite of everything you say.

In WAR everything become possible, even what is bad and morally not acceptable becomes acceptable and practiced, this is the true ethics of war, no one should should say this is moral and this is not moral, war is fought for survival it is either one side die or win, with death looming morality disappear.

Aboud and Khaled,
bombing, assasination ,kidnaping,intimidation,armed burglary,media propaganda, all are parts of armed resistance

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September 18th, 2011, 9:34 pm


813. TRUE said:

@ Tara

Nicely said!! Thanks for hearing me.

Last Sat I went to the park for a function and I come across an Alawi friend of mine and his wife (secular and open minded) who I have a great deal of respect. We started with the Hi’s and How’s, then three of us started playing the denial game, we were masters in it as we talked about everything literally everything from baseball to Rugby all the way to the coming declaration of Palestinian state. However, we were short and coward maybe ashamed to scratch the surface and have some closure about the real deal. After almost half an hour we looked at each other and said “this is not working, let’s just drop it and stop playing smart” with no further word, not even bye, everyone gone on his way.

I did reflect on it and resolved that if we’re the people, who are FAR away from the centre of events, are suffering such serious ramifications just tell me how the real people on ground would feel? “collateral damage” indeed

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September 18th, 2011, 9:36 pm


814. Norman said:


I hope that you are wrong and he will do the right thing,

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September 18th, 2011, 9:42 pm


815. abughassan said:

The fact that the regime was not toppled after 6 months of protests and fighting made many people think that the only way out is an armed resistance,or virtually a civil war where a fraction of the society is sacrified to save the majority (an old Fatwa from Saudi Arabia),the truth is that there will not be a short civil war in Syria,if we get to that point,such a war will be bloody,costly, long and will lead to a divided country. My own assessment is that we will have a prolonged period of inner fighting but not a full-blown civil war. A regime change caused by “sudden events” is the best hope for a fast recovery,but this remains more of wishful thinking than probable solution. In Syria today,a major coup is very difficult but not impossible,Bashar knows that he needs to leave but he is trying to leave on his terms,and top Generals may at some point do something if the country seems to be enetring a new phase (i.e a civil war ).
As for Homs,the regime will not allow it to become another Benhgazi,this is why the reposnse in Hama was brutal,I tend to believe that the regime will repeat what it did in Hama to stop Homs from becoming the starting point of a “liberation movement”.
Regime supporters are telling some fearful Homsis that Homs will be like Hama,relatively subdued,within two weeks.
I never believed that bombs and guns will solve Syria’s problems,and I am still hopeful that Syrians can get out of this mess without having to kill each other at checkpoints.
(aboud,there are unarmed people getting killed in Syria,and not all of them are anti regime,check your references,I know you have many).
Few spoke about tension between friends due to sectarian feelings,my situation is even worse,I managed to irritate people from all sides,I suspect that alawis think I am sunni and sunnis believe I am alawi,many do not know that I could not care less,I hate both sects,as sects not people,equally :).
Syria can not eneter the 21st century without throwing sectarian loyalty in the trash can.
(take this tip from an old man,this blog is well-known,there are informants on this forum and there are probably a presence of the Mossad too and other interested Intelligence agencies,do not give your personal e-mail to anybody you do not personally know,I trust Joshua’s judgement but I do not know why he allows some suspicious bloggers to spread filth and hate on such a visible forum)..

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September 18th, 2011, 10:59 pm


816. Aboud said:

“Perhaps Mr Ford and his cohorts will have guts to show some empathy and support for the many Palestinians who are being killed on a daily Basis”

Wow. Dude, are you in all seriousness, blaming the American and French ambassadors for a hypothetical situation, created completely from your imagination? Seriously?

How many funerals has Besho been to? Heck, when was the last time he stepped outside of Damascus? Double heck, when was the last time he’d been to Hama or Dar’a? Now ask yourselves when was the last time the American and French ambassadors had been to those places.

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September 18th, 2011, 10:59 pm


817. Aboud said:


“As for Homs,the regime will not allow it to become another Benhgazi”

Hehehe, alas you are right there. It can’t anyway. Hama and Deir el Zour slipped out of the regime’s control because there were no security forces there. Homs has a division within the city proper, and a couple more outside it.

As for a “final” operation to finish off Homs, we have already had it…about half a dozen times I think. Unless we’ve driven Besho to the point of madness that he’s going to fire chemical tipped Scuds at us 🙂

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September 18th, 2011, 11:04 pm


818. majedkhaldoun said:

Sheila,I could not see Bakkour video,You said he is outside Syria, I hope he is careful,safty is not sure thing,even he is outside syria.

Third road plan by Muhammad Habash may embarasse the regime.
Civil war is it going to be short? what is the definition of short?external factors may make it short.,when can we say that civil war started, what are the indicators?

High emotions are dividing families,Syria will not be divided, no small division can survive,two parts are important,Damascus and Aleppo,the plan is for sudden move and surprise the regime as in Tripoli liberation.

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September 18th, 2011, 11:36 pm


819. Darryl said:

816. ABOUD said:

Wow dude Aboud! the first thing American politicians stated dude Aboud (wow it actually rhymes), “is that we want a regime in Syria to serve American interests”. Freedom for Syrians was not mentioned as I recall, perhaps it will be a by-product, I do hope it will be a Damascene rose smelling by-product. You will probably get a few left over turkey (the bird not the country since you have a habit of misunderstanding my words 🙂 ) stuffing crumbs dude Aboud. I am starting to like the way it sounds!

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September 18th, 2011, 11:56 pm


820. Aboud said:

Hehe, Aboud the Dude. Nice. Aboud the Pony Tailed Dude. I got more titles than Queen Victory.

““is that we want a regime in Syria to serve American interests””

Could you provide a source for that? I’d be shocked if the Americans were rooting for a regime that served Russian interests. But hey, maybe the Russians are providing diplomatic cover for the sake of a regime that served Botswana’s interests. I’ve heard of stranger things. Especially from the menhebaks.

(Only a menhebak would be shocked to discover that American diplomats are working in the interests of America. Duh).

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September 19th, 2011, 12:20 am


821. Revlon said:

As a far as the ground revolution activists, demonstrators and their silenced supporters is concerned, the debate on whether to maintain pure peaceful activism to topple the regime or to support it with armed movement has become academic.

Exile oppositional figures accustomed to writing philosophical treatise in the peace and quiet of their ivory towers and to debating academic issues while sipping Martini’s in their favorite cafe trottoire’s in Europe should be left alone.

They need not and should not be consulted on what form of resistance would best protect the lives and living of demonstrators, activists and their loved ones.

On the other hand, the same oppositional figures need to stop clainiming their representation of the revolution’s interests. One look at facebook Syrian revolution websites and the the signs raised by demonstrators in hundreds of Youtube videos is enough to show the SOS of the beseiged public.

Areas that have been facing the fircest crackdown overlap with where defections has been taking place.
The successful operations that have been carried out by the legitimate, defected armed forces are snowballing and represent the early signs of the battle for the Liberation of Syria.

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September 19th, 2011, 1:11 am


822. Some guy In damascus said:

I think it was great of dr.landis to allows some filthy commentators ( menhebaks or yil3an abook )to post, it gives you an idea about their mentality and their society’s mentality. We examined a specimen of the Syrian fabric.

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September 19th, 2011, 3:01 am


823. MSMII said:

While Assad copies the riot and population control, Obama is cnuggling up to Ahmedinijad. I am sorry for the Syrians who have and are likely to die during all of this.


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September 20th, 2011, 9:52 am


824. Abu Hanifa said:

To my chagrin, a civil war in Syria seems inevitable. It is clear that the government feels that it can only survive by using brute force. Equally clear is that the demonstrations are used by the anti-government groups simply as a matter of tactics. These groups will not use force against the government now because using force at this point is counter-productive. These forces know that the regime will not fold as a result of peaceful demonstrations and outside pressure. They are waiting for a shift in power (a shift in the loyalties of some of the army’s middle brass) that will allow them to use force successfully. Given that we now have an average of 40, mainly civilian, deaths per week, this shift is inevitable, and so is a protracted armed conflict where both sides will give it everything they have got..

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September 20th, 2011, 4:44 pm


825. andrew mangold said:

nato destroyed libya and installed a violent, brutal and ruthless group to power, and they will do undoubtedly do the same to syria.

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October 25th, 2011, 5:55 am


826. Six mois de contestation en Syrie. Et après ? | Groupe de soutien à la révolte du peuple syrien said:

[…] prédit Syrian Prometheus, un homme d’affaires syro-américain, dans une note sur le blog Syrian Comment. Et, au bout du chemin, « deux options. Soit le régime part ou soit le peuple […]

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November 27th, 2011, 2:41 pm


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