Posted by Joshua on Thursday, January 24th, 2013
Economy: Syria’s farming sector now in “tatters,” the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned Wednesday. Analysts said the growing privations could hurt the rebels as much as, or more than, the government of President Bashar al-Assad. …
Jihad Yazigi, editor of the Syria Report business newsletter, said the FAO report echoed other disturbing provisional agricultural data for last year, such as a decline of almost a third in the cotton crop and a 50 percent drop in sales at the state fertilizer company. A surge in fighting in the northeast of the country threatened to cause more suffering by affecting the wheat and barley crops concentrated there, he added.
Syria’s GDP declines: Syria’s GDP shrank by 29.1% during the 22-month uprising, the economic sanctions and continued fighting caused significant economic losses, Abdallah Al Dardari, Director of the ESCWA Economic Development and Globalization Division (EDGD) said during a press conference in Beirut on Thursday….
Although sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union do not officially target food or agricultural commodities, restrictions imposed on Syrian banks and trading companies mean that international institutions are reluctant to finance grain imports.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said Wednesday that wheat and barley production in Syria has been halved since the conflict broke out 22 months ago.
Government Increases Mazout Price: The Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Protection announced a 40% increase in the price of heating oil, thus bringing the price per litre to 35 SYP (US$ 0.49). The fourth such rise in less than a year comes as the country suffers a severe shortage of fuel which is sold at US$ 1.65 per litre in the black market.
Syria lends more money from Iran: Syria and Iran have agreed a $1 billion credit facility between Commercial Bank of Syria and Export Development Bank of Iran. The agreement was signed during a visit to Tehran by the Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi. The two countries had reached agreements on energy transmission and electricity equipment as well.
Syria Solution Requires Orderly Transition, Out for Assad: Kerry
2013-01-24, By Peter S. Green
Jan. 24 (Bloomberg) — Goal of Obama administration in Syria must be orderly transition from Assad to democratic opposition, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., says at Senate confirmation hearing.
* U.S. needs to change calculation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that “he doesn’t think he’s losing”
* U.S. must consider fallout of every decision made on Syria
* Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., says U.S. must supply arms to Syrian rebels to balance Iran’s aid for Assad
* “We need to tell Syrian people we are going to help them or not,” McCain says
* McCain asks Kerry to explore “different policy” than one pursued in last 22 months
* Kerry says he understands McCain’s frustration
* Kerry: “I don’t have optimism” about Russia helping U.S. find a way to change Assad’s mind
New Al-Qaeda Generation May Be The Deadliest One
By: Bruce Riedel for Al-Monitor. posted on January 24.
The fastest growing new al-Qaeda is in Syria. Using the cover name Jabhat al-Nusrah, al-Qaeda has become perhaps the most lethal element of the opposition to Bashar al-Assad’s brutal dictatorship. For al-Qaeda, Assad and the Alawis are a perfect target since many Sunnis believe Alawis to be a deviationist sect of Islam that should be suppressed. While al-Qaeda is only a part of the opposition in Syria, it brings unique skills in bomb making and suicide operations. Every week it gets stronger and better armed.
Now jihadist websites are reporting every day that new al-Qaeda “martyrs” from Saudi Arabia, Palestine and Egypt have died in the fighting in Damascus and Aleppo. Reliable reports from journalists speak of bands of jihadists operating in Syria with a loose affiliation to al-Qaeda and composed of Muslim fanatics from as far away as Pakistan, Bangladesh and elsewhere.
The Syrian al-Qaeda franchise has sought to learn from the mistakes of the earlier al-Qaeda generations. It avoids open association with the brand name and seeks to work with other Sunni groups. It is well armed, uses bases in Iraq for support and supply, and benefits from weapons supplied by Qatar and Saudi Arabia to the opposition. Its leader uses the nom de guerre Abu Mohammad al Golani, a reference to the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights
The longer the civil war in Syria goes on, the more al-Qaeda will benefit from the chaos and the sectarian polarization. It will also benefit from the spillover of violence from Syria into Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan that is now inevitable.
Like the rest of the world, al-Qaeda was surprised by the revolutions that toppled dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. Its ideology of violence and jihad was initially challenged by the largely nonviolent revolutionary movements that swept across North Africa and the Middle East. But al Qaeda is an adaptive organization and it has exploited the chaos and turmoil of revolutionary change to create operational bases and new strongholds.
(CNN) — When you think of refugees, you may think of huddled masses, tired and poor. But those aren’t the only types of people fleeing Syria. “Members of the regime, little by little, are flaking off,” U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford told CNN …
Recruiting civilians – al-Ahram Weekly
In a step that could lead to open civil war, the Syrian regime is setting up pro-regime militias in parallel with the country’s regular army, writes Bassel Oudat in Damascus
Syrian government officials said this week that the regime led by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad intended to form a new military entity called the National Defence Army (NDA) that would operate in parallel to the country’s regular forces.
The new military entity will reportedly include 20,000 members carrying light and medium weapons. These will be paid and will wear non-military uniforms. They will be deployed throughout Syria in towns and cities under the control of the armed opposition, and each group will receive local assistance from regime supporters.
The new entity will be divided into small units, each of which will be able to make its own decisions. Like other security and military forces in Syria, the units will not be accountable for any abuses they commit because there are legally protected from prosecution.
The opposition has said that in taking this step the regime is attempting to disguise the poor reputation of pro-regime militias that have committed massacres across the country, including at Al-Zaytoun, Al-Hasweya, Al-Howla, Al-Tremsa and Darya.
At the same time, it warns that the move will open the door to undisguised civil war in the country.
[Landis comment on Kurds: In the following article CJ Chivers explains that some Kurds are siding with the Syrian rebels against Assad. This is particularly true of the Kurds north of Aleppo, who, unlike the Kurds in the northeast of Syria, cannot dream of establishing their own Kurdish state. They know that they must live with Arab Syrians and they have had enough of Assad. The Kurds in the East are largely making a different calculation. They prefer not to be governed by either Assad or the rebels. Islamist Arab militias are attacking the Kurds in the East because they don't want to allow the PKK to establish an autonomous region. ]
Defying Common View, Some Syrian Kurds Fight Assad,
The New York Times
Kurds who are part of a group fighting the Assad government met Sunday in Alghooz, a village in northern Syria.
By C. J. CHIVERS, January 22, 2013
….the scenes in Alghooz and in a string of Kurdish villages north of Aleppo present a more complex picture of Syria’s Kurds and their ambitions and relations with the government. Kurds here fiercely note that they have suffered under Mr. Assad’s rule, too, and taken up arms against him. They sharply contradict the notion that they rely on Mr. Assad’s government for protection.
And so while there have been signs that many Kurds remained pro-government, with some pro-P.K.K. fighters clashing with rebels, hundreds of others have joined the Free Syrian Army, as the loosely assembled antigovernment fighters call themselves, Kurdish and rebel leaders say.
The flatlands north of Aleppo are spotted with towns. Local men said that about 40,000 Kurds live here, and that their families have produced more than 600 fighters against Mr. Assad.
The fighters are organized into at least eight separate groups, Kurdish leaders and fighters said. Their names include the Islamic Kurdish Front, the Pesh Merga Falcons and the Martyrs of Mecca.
Defying official and popular accounts of Kurdish loyalties, these men fight beside Arabs against Mr. Assad. They and their leaders bluntly denounce the P.K.K., which the United States and Europe consider a terrorist organization, and also criticize many Kurdish nationalists, saying that calls for an independent Kurdistan are not a vision they share.
“We are not interested in a separate homeland,” said Yousef Haidar, 72, Alghooz’s mukhtar, or village elder. “We want to be part of Syria.”…“There has been much propaganda that the Kurds are with the regime,” Mr. Abdulkader said. “We are not with Assad. We are fighting him.”
The regime continues to seek opportunities to delegitimize the revolution and create a rift among Syrians…..
We are saddened by the events that have transpired in the city of Ras Al-Ain ,and we have been working tirelessly to suppress and avoid conflicts there. We remind everyone that, whoever collaborates with the regime and helps to murder our people, will be held accountable for all his/her actions. Our moral, social and religious principles reject these actions….
Stratfor has received indications that the real aim behind the formation of the Druze militia is not to align the Druze with the Free Syrian Army, but to organize a military force to defend Sweida after al Assad’s fall. Many Druze fighters from Lebanon (including fighters from the militias of Druze leaders Jumblatt, Wahhab and Talal Arslan) allegedly have traveled to Druze areas of Syria to further this effort. In what could be an indication of dealmaking under way, unconfirmed rumors have Jumblatt encouraging officials in his Progressive Socialist Party to find apartments in the Chouf Mountains for select members of the Alawite regime who intend to flee Syria once the regime collapses. Jumblatt’s communications with Syrian Alawites have allegedly been facilitated by Northern Lebanese Maronite leader Suleiman Frangieh, who has retained close ties with the Alawite regime in Syria.
Fund Syria’s Moderates – By Robin Yassin-Kassab Foreign Policy
….It’s too late for a happy ending in Syria. There are no easy answers to the country’s enormous problems, but there is an obvious first step toward a solution: funding the moderate Islamists and secularists of the Syrian National Coalition, which will then feed the hungry and fund the fighters, empowering them to buy the weapons they need….
Syrian Palestinians Fear Three-Way Fight for Control of Refugee Camps By David Enders | McClatchy Newspapers
How Will al-Assad Leave? By Tariq Alhomayed | Asharq Alawsat
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has recruited a brigade of women to man checkpoints and carry out security operations as he attempts to free up soldiers in his beleaguered army to fight the rebels. Dressed in fatigues and armed with Kalashnikov
Burhan Ghalyoun said it outright: “The US has stopped its support for the revolution because of Israeli concerns.”
Syria builds paramilitary force aided by Iran: activists | News , Middle East | THE DAILY STAR dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-Ea…
Some Algeria Attackers Are Placed at Benghazi
By ADAM NOSSITER: January 22, 2013
…“This is the result of the Arab Spring,” said the official said, who spoke on condition of anonymity because investigations into the hostage crisis were still under way. “I hope the Americans are conscious of this.”
American counterterrorism and intelligence officials have said that some members of Ansar al-Shariah, the group that carried out the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, had connections to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, one of the militant groups now holding northern Mali. But American officials have also said that the Qaeda affiliate played no role in directing or instigating that Benghazi attack.
Similarly, Egyptian security officials said they believed that a longtime Islamist militant from Egypt was involved in the gas field attack, but the officials did not know of any connection to the Benghazi attack as well….. Having already experienced a large-scale Islamist insurgency in the 1990s, in which perhaps as many as 100,000 were killed, Algeria had no intention of experiencing another,
BAR ELIAS, Lebanon —nearly 50,000 Syrians fleeing the violence and reporting their presence to the United Nations in neighboring countries over the past week. With the total number of refugees estimated at more than 670,000 and no end in sight to the bloodshed, last month’s U.N. forecast that there would be more than 1 million refugees by June is on track to be surpassed well before that
IPA (AU): False dawn: the Arab Spring
IPA REVIEW ARTICLE | Daniel Mandel In a sense, the so-called Arab Spring can be said to have begun on 26 December 2010 in the Tunisian hinterland township of Sidi Bouzid, where a 26-year-old impoverished vegetable seller and father of eight, Mohamed …