Posted by Joshua on Friday, December 23rd, 2011
Two suicide bombs outside of government security locations in Damascus killed 40 civilians and soldiers and wounded 100 according to Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad — as reported by the government’s Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA).
The attacks have come after one of the most violent weeks since the beginning of the Syrian regime’s crackdown on uprisings nearly ten months ago, and was the first such assault seen in the capital of Damascus.
Iraqi political leaders canceled crisis talks scheduled for today and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki threatened to end power sharing in the government after Baghdad saw a series of violent blasts.
Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin reported that: “The capital has been relatively quiet. If the government is trying to say this is the work of protesters or even al Qaeda sympathizers, the attack is in the heart of the capital and that makes the government look very vulnerable.”
Meanwhile, the British-based advocacy group, Avaaz, reported it has evidence that the death toll since the beginning of the government crackdown has reached 6,237civilians and soldiers, which includes 917 government forces, 400 children, and617 people whose deaths were a result of torture.
Opposition activists claim the government staged the attacks as part of a scheme to convince the Arab League delegation that arrived in Damascus on Thursday that there is no government crackdown, but that violence in the country has been the work of “armed terrorist gangs.”
I was asked by journalists today what I thought about the notion that the Syrian government planned the car bombs to provide a pretext for their increasingly violent crackdown on the opposition. It reminds me of the notion that Washington was behind the World Trade Center bombing to provide a pretext for invading Iraq. I don’t give either much credibility. Both fit a rather perverse “qui bono,” or “who benefits” text, but I shouldn’t think that either are likely. I am only surprised that we haven’t seen the use of suicide bombing sooner.
The context of the bombings are the growing frustration of the opposition. The Assad regime remains strong compared to opposition forces. The external opposition leaders – the NSC – do not have a strategy for bringing down the regime that is realistic. Following this week’s Tunis meeting, the SNC demanded immediate foreign intervention to protect the Syrian people and stop the regime. At the same time it demanded that opposition groups within the country forgo militarization. The SNC snubbed the Free Syrian Army which has been trying to put together a military option. There is no likelihood that Western powers will intervene in Syria anytime soon. As the death-rate rises, opposition frustrations are also rising, increasing the probability that radical groups will begin to carry out suicide operations in an attempt to break the stalemate.
Law and order are also breaking down in Syria, which means that we should expect the spread of radical groups. The Syrian state, being one of the most intrusive and repressive in the Middle East, was able to thwart radical groups. As its capabilities decline, so will its ability to keep such groups from penetrating Syrian society. But the real reason for such bombings is the desperate political situation. Until Syria produces an ability to resolve its conflicts by political means, the chances are that the daily diet of suicide bombings that have become a part of political life in Iraq, will also become common in Syria.
Benzene prices were raised in Syria from syp 44 to 50 (13.6 percent). This is further sign of the breakdown of the government’s ability to provide for the people as it used to. Sanctions are working.
…. Tabler added that the increasing militarization of the revolt and the exiled opposition’s growing support for armed action creates a policy dilemma for the United States. “We don’t have a policy for dealing with the fact that many people are taking up arms,” he said.
IRAN EMBASSY IN DAMASCUS CONFIRMS KIDNAPPING OF FIVE IRANIAN TECHNICIANS IN SYRIA – MEHR NEWS AGENCY REUTERS
The Syrian authorities detained the prominent figure Abdul Azeez Al-Khair for a day while he was leaving the country at Damascus airport to travel to Cairo. He was going to participate in discussion with the Arab League as a member of the delegation from the National Coordination Body – NCB, that includes Haytham Manna, Saleh Mohammed and Rajaa Al-Naser. Although released, he has had his passport taken from him to keep him from joining opposition members abroad.
Around 50 US-based experts on Middle East policy and strategy signed an open letter to President Barack Obama this week imploring him to demonstrate greater leadership on the Syria crisis. Their petition calls for tougher sanctions, greater contact … Tony Badran issued the letter….
Seth Cropsey, a fellow at the Hudson Institute and a former US national security official, said he personally supports the deployment of special forces to the country. “Military intervention could be useful in the form of special operations forces that would help organize, train and equip groups that oppose Assad,” he told the Post. “I support the use of such forces, as well as intelligence assets” to help unseat the Syrian president,” said Cropsey, who also signed the petition….
Aljazeera doesn’t Broadcast SNC: After Syria signed the Doha agreement allowing the Arab League observers into Syria, Aljazeera didn’t broadcast the SNC conference form Tunis. The Aljazeera adviser on Syria who is close to the SNC is now also showing on Alarabiya.
Thomas Pierret writes “Un nouveau billet sur son blog: Islam et politique en Syrie: Les mystérieuses Qoubeysiyyat divisées face à la révolution
Syria Steps -corruption and import tariffs. الشهابي: مشكلتنا في الفساد الجمركي..وقدمنا رؤية واضحة لتطوير الصناعة
A friend writes: “4 years ago, I met the general manager of one of the new private banks in Aleppo. We talked about staffing. He said his problem was recruiting senior people from the commercial bank of Syria. Why I asked. He said that their salaries are around syp 20,000 a year. He would entice them by paying them between syp 75,000 and 100,000 a month. None would come because they make multiples of that at the commercial bank of Syria outside their salaries. Every loan they make, they get paid a chunk personally.”
الحرب تُعلن رسمياً على مدير التجاري السوري War between Mayale and Dergham people at the Commercial Bank واقتراح بمناظرة تلفزيونية تجمع درغام وميالة وجليلاتي…كي نفهم…!؟
Azmi Bishara shreds the SNC to pieces (without mentioning it) for how it begs for Arab and international intervention and how it uses tashbee7 against other opposition.
Assessing Assad – Foreign Affairs
The Syrian leader isn’t crazy. He’s just doing whatever it takes to survive.
BY BRUCE BUENO DE MESQUITA, ALASTAIR SMITH | DECEMBER 20, 2011
….Following the logic we set out in The Dictator’s Handbook, we believe Assad has been misunderstood and maybe, just maybe, even misjudged. In the book, we argue that no leader — not even a Louis XIV, an Adolf Hitler, or a Joseph Stalin — can rule alone. Each must rely on a coalition of essential supporters without whom power will be lost. That coalition, in turn, counts on a mutually beneficial relationship with the leader. They keep the ruler in office, and the ruler keeps them in the money. If either fails to deliver what the other wants, the government falls.
Assad is no exception. Just as he said, it is not his government. He cannot do whatever he wants. He might even be a true reformer, as many in the Western media believed prior to the Arab Spring, or he may be the brute he now appears to be. The truth is, he is doing what he must to maintain the loyalty of those who keep him in power. …
The Alawites make up 70 percent of Syria’s career military, 80 percent of the officers, and nearly 100 percent of the elite Republican Guard and the 4th Armored Division, led by the president’s brother Maher. In a survey of country experts we conducted in 2007, we found that Assad’s key backers — those without whose support he would have to leave power — consisted of only about 3,600 members out of a population of about 23 million. That is less than 0.02 percent….
CFR: Why Syria’s Regime Is Doomed, 2011-12-22
Amid mounting violence that has killed more than five thousand in Syria, it is “almost inevitable” the regime of President Bashar al-Assad will collapse, says Dennis Ross, a former senior Middle East adviser to President Obama. “When a regime is ..,.