Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, November 6th, 2012
Joshua Landis, Syria Comment
Nov. 6, 2012
Syria is disintegrating ever more quickly into every more factions.
This week we have reports of Palestinians killing Palestinians in Yarmouk and Tadamon. Kurds and Arabs are fighting, although, it appears the rebel woman commander Dejik Nurin is NOT dead. There is an urgent effort afoot to smooth over the hostilities between FSA and the Kurds. Barzani, Iraq’s president warned Syrian Kurds not to fight among themselves or to be sucked into the “fires of discord.”
Various FSA militias are fighting among themselves for checkpoints and border crossings. Car bombs and kidnappings abound. An Islamist car suicide bomber, reportedly from al-Nusra Front, drove into a center used as a base by Syrian security forces and pro-government militia in Hama province, killing at least 50 people. The poor are plundering the rich. The rich are fleeing in every greater numbers in order not to become targets of the poor. Everyone has a price-tag on his head. Wow to those who have wealthy relatives in the West. The cousin of a friend just went down stairs in Aleppo this morning to find, “You are next. Allahu Akbar,” written on the windshield of his car. He called wealthy relatives in the US. They are flying him and his family from Aleppo to Beirut on Friday. Their thinking is that they will spend much more on him when he is kidnapped. It is less expensive to pay for him to leave today than ransom him tomorrow.
The FSA captured an oilfield near Dayr az-Zur, which is only one among many to be had, but how anyone can make money from oilfields today is unclear. I have published maps of the oil fields. The Kurdish region has many, which should be able to pay for autonomy and perhaps eventual independence. Aleppo will be turned into a wasteland because it is the major prize of the North. The FSA moved into Aleppo too quickly, before having any plan for capturing it. But once in, there was no turning back. It is too important a prize for either side to leave to the other. Only the poor will remain in Aleppo.
Wealthier Syrians are confabbing in Doha with the Emirs and Americans in an effort to somehow get regime-change without a loss of control. But the meltdown is well on its way and has a dynamic all its own. There is no stopping it now. Syria is unleashed. Guns rule and the strong will eat the weak. Brahimi speaks of Syria turning into Somalia and a “big catastrophe.” If that happens, it will become a prime target for American and Israeli drones, which will troll the skies in hunting aL-Qaida and those with a long beards, as is the case in Pakistan and Yemen.
News Round Up
The outsiders, who entered Aleppo in July, have fought to a deadlock with government forces. Many residents of the once-prosperous city resent the fighters’ presence.ALEPPO, Syria — They are this ancient city’s bedraggled warriors: plowmen and …
These rebels who entered Aleppo from semirural, tradition-bound suburbs and agricultural areas found no spontaneous outpouring of support, no waves of sleeper cells yearning to join the revolution. Many shopkeepers in the historic Old City seem to avoid eye contact with the scruffy legions strutting along the cobblestoned streets of this former Silk Road terminus.
A reporter escorted by rebels on a recent visit couldn’t escape the sensation of accompanying an occupying force.…
As the Syrian opposition journalist Malik el-Abdeh puts it, ”the salafi narrative is the only narrative that will make any sense if you’re a religious Sunni in Syria today. The salafis are all about one thing: Ibn Taimiya, Ibn Taimiya, Ibn Taimiya. And what did he say? He said the Noseiris are more dangerous than Jews and Christians, you mustn’t trust them. Over the past year and a half, this has come to be seen as true by many in Syria. Also, jihad is a fundamental part of their beliefs; for a salafi, what makes you Muslim is your capacity to go and fight a jihad. So this jihad-focused ideology, which is anti-Noseiri and anti-Shia, becomes very attractive to a young Sunni man who’s been radicalized and wants to get out and fight.”16
In northern Syria, an opposition figure said rival rebel groups clashed Sunday for control of the Bab al-Salameh border crossing with Turkey. The crossing has been in the hands of rebels since July. The opposition figure spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear of retaliation.
He said the fighting was between the Northern Storm Brigade and the Amr bin al-Aas brigade, which has a large number of Islamic radicals.
There are dozens of opposition groups and rebel brigades fighting in the civil war. Rivalries are common, although violent clashes are unusual.
A Turkish government official based in the border town of Kilis confirmed two Syrian rebel groups were “engaged in a power struggle,” fighting each other for control of the Bab el-Salameh border crossing. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government rules, said Turkish officials were still trying to determine who the two groups were.
BEIRUT – The international envoy for Syria fears the country could turn into a new Somalia unless its crisis is resolved, warning of a scenario in which warlords and militia fill a void left by a collapsed state. In an interview with the London …
The Daily Star
Cameron backs safe passage for Assad
2012-11-06, By Hannah Kuchler
Nov. 6 (Financial Times) — David Cameron has said Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president, should be allowed a safe passage out of the country if it would end the bloodsh…
U.S. Presses Fractured Syrian Opposition To Unite
by Deborah Amos
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton says Washington needs “an opposition that will be on record strongly resisting the efforts by extremists to hijack the Syrian revolution,” (1)
Libya helps bankroll Syrian opposition
Excerpt from Financial Times:
The top financier of the Syrian opposition is no Arabian Peninsula oil kingdom or cloak-and-dagger western spy outfit, but struggling, war-ravaged Libya, which is itself recovering from a devastating civil conflict.
According to a budget released by the Syrian National Council and posted to its website late on Sunday, the Libyan government contributed $20.3m of the $40.4m that the opposition umbrella group has amassed since its creation in August 2011.
Qatar gave $15m while the United Arab Emirates contributed $5m, according to the document.
Unlike Qatar and the UAE, which are absolute monarchies, Libya has embarked on a rocky path towards democracy and shares an ideological vision with Syrian revolutionaries.
The SNC’s publication of its budget appeared aimed at boosting its credibility by being transparent over its financing. According to the document, the SNC still has about $10.7m in the bank.
The report breaks down expenditures by both category and geography. According to the six-page document, 11 per cent of the money collected has been spent on overheads, with the rest devoted to aiding Syrians inside the country or refugees in neighbouring states.
Roughly 7 per cent of the funds, or about $2.8m, has been allocated to the Free Syrian Army. About $290,000 has been spent on hotels for SNC representatives during travels abroad. The organisation spent about $160,000 on relief efforts for the two mostly ethnic Kurdish provinces of northwest Syria.
In an apparent attempt to shore up its status ahead of a meeting later this week to discuss the US-backed proposals, the SNC announced on Monday that it would expand its membership to include more people from inside Syria.
A decline into uprising: How the geographic roots of revolt mirror Damascus’ economic mismanagement
By Jihad Yazigi on November 01, 2012 – Executive
While there is a general consensus that the uprising gripping Syria since March 2011 is part of the broader regional movement for better governance and more freedoms, there has been little debate as to the extent to which the economic and social conditions prevailing in the country contributed to the uprising. The question of whether Syrians revolted because of their thirst for freedom, justice and dignity or whether they did so because of their poor economic and social conditions remains, however, important if one wants to understand the reasons that led to the uprising and produce viable economic reconstruction plans.
At the beginning of 2011, Syria had been witnessing for several consecutive years an average annual growth in its gross domestic product (GDP) of between 4 and 5 percent, limited current account, trade and fiscal deficits, a stable foreign exchange rate, rising foreign investments and a curtailed inflation rate. These positive macroeconomic data hid, however, many imbalances that lay behind them, and other longer-term trends must be taken into account in order to better understand the dynamics of the revolution.
The level of GDP growth, for instance, may be high by Western standards but is wholly inadequate by Syrian ones. Indeed, according to most analysts, an average growth of 8 percent is required to generate enough jobs for new labor-market entrants. For more than three decades GDP growth has fallen short of that level, meaning an uninterrupted increase in unemployment for some 30 years in a row….
Booms and busts
A look at longer-term trends helps puts things in perspective. In 1946 Syria was a founding member of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the predecessor of the World Trade Organization — out of only 23 countries in the world. In the 1950s, when Algeria was still under French rule and the majority of ‘third world’ countries were still fighting for independence, Syria had a buoyant economy and a vibrant political life. Then, three decades of strong state investment in the country’s physical infrastructure and in its health and education services helped boost the country’s development indicators. In the 1970s, Syria’s Human Development Index — a composite statistic of life expectancy, education and income calculated by the United Nations — was growing at a rate among the highest in the world. In 1983, Syria’s per capita GDP, at $1,901, was higher than that of Turkey — $1,753 — and almost on par with that of South Korea ($2,187). That was only 30 years ago.
Surveying what followed in the 1980s is important in order to trace back the economic challenges the country now faces. At the beginning of that decade the Syrian economy contracted sharply, partly as a consequence of the fall in global oil prices and the decline in remittances and aid from Gulf countries. The foreign currency reserves dried up, leading to a rapid devaluation in the value of the Syrian Pound starting in 1986; this year marked the beginning of the implosion of Syria’s middle class. ……
Starting in the 2000s, and coinciding with Bashar al-Assad succeeding his father as president, the decline in oil production again threatened the government’s fiscal position and serious economic reforms finally began. …. These developments spurred the creation of modern and relatively sophisticated banking and insurance sectors with the entry of some two dozen regional banks and financial institutions in the market. The expansion of retail trade and of the tourism industry was evidenced with the construction of large malls and the entry of global hotel operators. What is more, concessions were awarded to private international companies for the management of the country’s two ports of Tartous and Lattakia and there was a general boom in the services sector.
However, this policy of economic liberalization was marred with mistakes typical of similar processes in other developing countries.
The downside of opening up….
Was Murdered Lebanese Intel Chief a Hero or Double Agent?
By Erich Follath | Der Spiegel
Shadi Hamid writes: One of the great mysteries of the past four years is how Barack Obama — who rose to the presidency, in part, on his promises to fundamentally re-think and re-orient U.S. policy in the Middle East — has instead spent his term running away from the region. It is difficult to remember [...]