Syria: The West Should Stop Raising False Expectations – By Nikolaos van Dam

Syria: The West Should Stop Raising False Expectations
By Nikolaos van Dam*
Delivered at the Heinrich Böll Foundation, Berlin, 19 May 2014
Discussion series “Understanding Syria”. Discussion 3: German and European policy towards Syria: “Look the other way and wait as a strategy?

In my view there are two main ways of ending the conflict in Syria:

1. Further negotiations between the regime and the predominantly secular opposition groups. (Although I am aware that negotiations with the al-Asad regime may not yield much in the end, I do believe negotiations should be attempted more seriously than they have been so far in a proper effort to prevent further bloodshed).

2. To continue the present internal war until one side can claim victory.
For the secular opposition groups to win militarily, they need to be properly armed, but the West does not provide them with enough military support to achieve this. Al-Asad’s chances of winning the war have increased and Islamic extremist forces are now overpowering the predominantly secular opposition forces. The worse the situation becomes, the more the al-Asad regime starts to be seen as an option to be preferred over the radical Islamic state that the Islamist forces want to establish. If al-Asad does win this war, however, it will not be the end of this drama. For sooner or later there will be a reckoning against the al-Asad regime and its crimes against humanity. Therefore, negotiations are the better option, both for him and the opposition.

The Western approach to the Syrian uprising has from the very beginning been dominated by an overdose of wishful thinking, because precedence was given to supposedly democratic and moralistic ideals over realpolitik. Many Western politicians based their positions on their day-to-day domestic political reflexes, rather than on the long-term vision and result-oriented pragmatism that is needed to work towards genuinely helping to solve the conflict. Most Western politicians became fixated on the idea that the conflict could only be resolved if al-Asad was removed from power. They had clear thoughts about what they did not want, but no realistic ideas of what they wanted in al-Asad’s place. Yes, they wanted a democracy, but a violent deposal of al-Asad could not realistically have been expected to result in such a desired peaceful democracy.

Al-Asad never had any intention to leave. On the contrary, he intends to overcome the revolution and win the battle for Syria, whatever the costs. And the higher the costs, the more there is a will to continue the struggle, if only to prevent all the victims from having died in vain. It appears to be all or nothing for both al-Asad’s regime and the opposition movements; at least for the time being, as long as there is no war fatigue.

We should not expect any mercy in the way al-Asad’s regime deals with its opponents: there will be no pardon for the massive armed revolutionary opposition groups that are trying to topple the regime. It is to kill or be killed. A compromise has, as of yet, not really come in sight because a real compromise between the opposition and the regime, with real power sharing and substantial political reforms could be the prelude to the fall of the Ba’th regime later on.

If the regime were to be toppled, its leaders can expect certain execution, and the key figures of the al-Asad regime which have been recruited from the Alawi community can expect to be in severe danger, just like the Alawi community itself, even though this community contains many opponents to the Alawi dominated Ba’th regime. It would be naive to expect President al-Asad to sign his own death warrant.

By branding the rule of President al-Asad as illegitimate, Western countries may have been morally just, but they thereby prematurely cut off any opportunity they had to play a constructive role in helping find a political solution to the crisis. What should have priority: being morally correct or helping find a solution?

Many Western countries considered it politically inappropriate to continue to directly communicate with the al-Asad regime, since they did not want to be seen as condoning its methods. They did not want to be seen as being lenient or compromising their morality in any way with al-Asad’s forces, who already had the blood of hundreds of lives on their hands during the early stages of the revolution in 2011.

Three years after the beginning of the revolution, however, once it became apparent that the regime was much stronger than anticipated, and more than 125.000 dead had fallen, Western countries conceded that they needed to return to the idea of political dialogue, by helping organize the Geneva II conference in 2014. Iran was not allowed to participate in Geneva II, although it might have played a constructive role in trying to convince the Syrian regime to change its position.

In general, as the examples of excluding the PLO, Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran from serious negotiations in other conflict situations have shown, it is a grave mistake to exclude main players in a conflict from dialogue aimed at solving it. Such exclusion achieves nothing, and only contributes to postponing a solution and allowing further bloodshed.

Imposing sanctions in the first year of the revolution with the aim of hitting the hard core of the regime, whilst simultaneously wanting to spare the population from its negative effects, turned out to be illusionary, as could have been predicted on the basis of earlier experiences with boycotts and sanctions elsewhere (e.g. in Iraq). The wishful thinkers hoped that al-Asad would step down once enough pressure had been exercised by the countries condemning him, but dictators do not follow the rules of democratic accountability and decency. Additionally, sanctions that are not accompanied by dialogue or communication generally fail to achieve their intended aim.

Most Western countries closed their embassies in Damascus, thereby further cutting off any opportunities they may have had to engage with the regime, and to maintain a good understanding of internal Syrian developments. The closing of these embassies was meant to send a message of strongest condemnation to al-Asad from the European community, but the symbolism was probably wasted on the Syrian President, who is unlikely to have lost any sleep over the withdrawal of the Western community.

I do not want to argue that if Western efforts for dialogue with the Syrian regime had been taken up much more seriously at an early stage, there would have been any guarantee of success, but it should at the very least have been attempted. At an earlier stage, when much less blood had been shed, compromise would have been much less difficult to reach than it is now.

In its seemingly unwavering conviction that the opposition would be preferable to al-Asad, it was also overlooked that the al-Asad regime is supported by a substantial part of the Syrian population, perhaps some 30 per cent or more, including part of the Arabic speaking minorities (like the Alawis, Christians and Druze). This support should not be interpreted as the existence of real sympathy for the regime, but rather as the prevalent feeling among many that an alternative regime could be even worse. Many Syrians for the time being prefer to preserve their livelihoods under the existing dictatorship rather than having their livelihoods, their shops and spare sources of income and belongings destroyed as a result of the internal war, let alone having themselves and their families be killed. Many are just as, if not more, afraid of what the opposition could bring as they are of the regime’s way of ruling before.

Does the West still have options to help solve the conflict?

– Western military intervention with “boots on the ground” seems to be out of the question. There is no political appetite for it. When the Syrian regime used chemical weapons in Summer 2013, thereby crossing president Obama’s so-called “red lines”, neither the US nor the UK reacted militarily although it had been suggested they would. This seriously undermined Western credibility and demonstrated that their moral threats had no teeth.

– The West’s declared aim to arm the opposition, thereby strengthening their chances of winning the war, seems to have been restricted mainly to non-lethal weapons. It is, however, impossible to win a war with non-lethal weapons. When the EU arms embargo against Syria had been lifted at the insistence of the UK and France in 2013, there was – contrary to expectation – no real change as far as arms deliveries to the opposition were concerned. It turned out that there was no political will to really arm any part of the opposition, even the predominantly secular side. Questions were raised around which of the many opposition groups should be armed and with what aim, as the West obviously wanted to avoid an Islamic extremist dictatorship at all costs. But was there any guarantee that arms provided to others would not end up in their hands? What the West clearly wants to see is a moderate democratic secular pluralist successor regime, but is such a regime a serious possibility? I don’t think it is a realistic prospect; at least not in the foreseeable future.

– The rationale behind delivering arms might also be to provide a counterweight to the regime, strong enough to help force a negotiated settlement. For that to happen, both sides should be convinced that this would be the best, or least bad option. The question remains, however, whether the party that thinks it can win the battle is prepared to negotiate, except perhaps for tactical reasons. Western politicians may continue to pay lip service to the secular opposition, but as long as they do not provide them with the necessary means to win the battle, their moral support has hardly any value. While clearing their political conscience by expressing support for the opposition, they are, in reality, unintentionally helping al-Asad move towards victory.

– In order to play a role in helping achieve a solution, Western contacts need to be maintained with both sides, not just with the opposition. Syrian National Coalition offices could for instance be welcomed in European capitals, as was recently done in the US. It should be clear, however, that such a move would presently be not much more than moral support. At the same time, direct contacts with the Syrian regime should be continued or reestablished.

– Various EU-leaders have on several occasions called for the imposition of no-fly zones in Syria to protect the opposition and population from air-based regime attacks, but nothing has come of this. This may partly be due to the fact that imposing a no-fly zone implies direct war with the Syrian regime.

-The setting up of humanitarian corridors to help the population gain access to food aid has turned out to be unsuccessful as well. Although the relevant Security Council resolution was passed in February 2014, this has so far been no more than a success on paper.

– Most actions by the West have been reactive, with no clearly defined plan or aim for the future beyond removing President al-Asad and his regime from power. The absence of this type of analysis is surprising, particularly given the fact that a future regime could, for example if it were to be a radical Islamist dictatorship, turn out to be worse than the current regime.

– Most Western policies have been no more than declaratory, with few tangible positive results on the ground for the opposition. Supposedly, the good intentions that were widely expressed, were generally not followed up by concrete actions, because the Western countries had their hands tied politically.

A key question that has run throughout debates around the Syrian crisis has been: do we want justice? The answer is, yes, of course, but at which cost? It is easy to say that president al-Asad should be tried for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. So he should. But does that help us in finding a solution? I would say it does not. Let us make no illusions. The idea that Al-Asad would ever be able to leave Syria alive for such a court case, is extremely unrealistic.

Calling for justice is good in itself, as is the documenting of all the war crimes that have been committed. This has to be done, of course, but not over and above efforts to proactively work towards finding a solution and preventing the further bloodshed that will undoubtedly continue if no serious negotiations are facilitated among Syria’s various clashing factions. The call for justice needs to be a part of wider efforts to create peace, focusing on Syria moving forward, rather than merely focusing on the punishment of those that are guilty for the crimes against the Syrian people committed in the recent past. A solution must be found before justice can be done. It cannot be the other way around.

The West should stop raising false expectations, as it has so often done in the past, and adopt an attitude of result-oriented pragmatism in an effort to really help solve the conflict.

* Nikolaos van Dam is the author of The Struggle for Political Power in Syria and former ambassador of the Netherlands to Iraq, Egypt, Turkey, Germany and Indonesia.

Comments (56)

Syrian Nationalist Party said:


May 19th, 2014, 2:49 pm


Observer said:

Full of crap.

The West should just continue to gaze at its umbilicus and leave the ME alone.

It will come back to burn it.

In the meantime the destruction is ongoing.

Iran is now happy to have a HA like Alawi organization that is military within a majority Sunni state.

Which means a Lebanon like solution which means no solution at all just a postponement of the future huge conflagration as the Shia and Alawis are a minority in contrast to the lebanon

May 19th, 2014, 5:33 pm


habib said:

“They did not want to be seen as being lenient or compromising their morality in any way with al-Asad’s forces, who already had the blood of hundreds of lives on their hands during the early stages of the revolution in 2011.”

Funnily, the same doesn’t seem to be a problem for them in Egypt, where they’re cosying up to Sisi whatever he does.

But he isn’t an infidel Alawite allied to Iran, of course.

May 19th, 2014, 5:54 pm


Ghufran said:

This is a late but good confession that western intervention in the middle east brought nothing but destruction, division and disorder. The other side of failed intervention in the region is the rise of Islamist fascism with its violent foot soldiers who practice jihad against other Muslims and citizens of victim countries but stay away from fighting Israel.
New thawrajiyyeh are right in their opposition to Arab dictatorships but what they offer as an alternative is a cure that is worse than the disease.
The west in the middle east is not, and was never, an honest broker for freedom and democracy. NATO destroyed Libya with the help of Islamist in the name of getting rid of Qadhafi but is now only interested in buying Libyan oil at a deep discount while leaving Libyans to kill each other.
You can not understand NATO foreign policy in the region until you see it through its animosity towards Iran and its alliance with Israel and the GCC Bedouins. Western politicians have openly shown that they do not believe Arabs are mature and civilized enough to build a functioning political system and accountable government, so they, those politicians, will only support puppet governments that act as agents who do what they are asked and are only allowed to implement policies that serve western interests and that of Israel.
Sameh Mazhar posted an article where he draws comparison between Syrian jihadists and the Libyan ones, he agreed with many of us that Syria was destined to become another Libya, however, Iran, Russia and what is left of the Syrian army have made the repetition of the Libyan scenario much harder.
كل ثوره و انتم بخير يا أمة ضحكت من جهلها الامم

May 19th, 2014, 8:40 pm


Ghufran said:

SOHR poll:
هل تتوقع نجاح احمد الجربا بجلب اسلحة نوعية للمعارضة السورية ؟
نعم – 20%
لا – 80%
Do you think Ahmad Jarba will succeed in obtaining advanced weapons for rebels?
Yes 20%
No 80%
For now, rebels chief at FSA surrenders his resignation:
وزير دفاع الحكومة السورية المؤقتة يستقيل احتجاجا على نقص الدعم

May 19th, 2014, 9:57 pm


Aboud Dandachi said:

I read this article several times, and for the life of me I still dont understand what Van Dam is proposing. So let me put it in simple terms; as long as Assad and his 15 mukhabarat are still around, the only thing those countries hosting millions of Syrian refugees can look forward to is to host them for many more years to come, and the only thing those inside Syria can look forward to is the merest echos of what once used to be a state.

The West and the GCC can keep sanctions on Syria for decades to come at no political or economic cost to themselves. There is no incentive whatsoever for those countries to ease the pressure on the Assad regime, especially in light of Bashar’s blatant and now well-known collusion with the worst Islamist terrorist groups in the region.

May 20th, 2014, 8:24 am


Uzair8 said:

Important BBC article. Assad hasn’t the forces to defeat the revolution on all fronts. The South may be the key. Some snippets but there is more:

Syrian rebels launch Golan Heights offensive
13 May 2014


“For the past two months the Syrian army has suffered major setbacks in the southern sector,” the veteran Israeli strategic commentator Ehud Yaari told the BBC.

“I have always believed that the key to the conflict would be in the southern sector and it’s beginning to tilt that way.

“The way the Syrian army and its allies like Hezbollah are deployed means that there is an opening in the south.”


“The rebels have broken the defensive system of the Syrian forces in the area {localised area}, which is relying upon heavy artillery fire in response.”
Ehud Yaari


May 20th, 2014, 8:26 am


Mina said:

For the archive, on the kidnapping of the Time jouralist recently

May 20th, 2014, 8:48 am


sami said:

If the fear of extremists ruling Syria (It is beyond me how Assad is not seen as an extremists) is what worries Mid East pundits, what makes them so sure that those that rose up against the Asadists extremists won’t rise up against the religious extremists?

I would like to remind Van Dam that it was secularists ordinary Syrians that first rose up when the religious opportunists were cowering away in the darkness. Only when the situation unraveled to what we see it today did those religious fanatics gain momentum.

May 20th, 2014, 9:58 am


John Cabral said:

The best part of Van Dam’s comments was his suggestion that the “West” (the US, UK, France and Germany?) should stay in communication with the Asad government. Keeping some kind of contact with both sides, with all of the conflicting parties, regardless of whether you like them or not, is crucial if “the West” or anybody else is going to help put an end to the bloodshed in Syria.

Van Dam believes “the West’s” moral scruples led them to immediately take sides against the Asad government in favor of the armed opposition. Maybe so. More important would be the U.S. government’s geopolitical strategic considerations. Asad is friends with our enemies (Iran and Russia); Asad is opposed to our friends (Israel); what advantage can we obtain in this civil war in Syria? What can we gain from the fighting? It is this calculating attitude which the US and “the West” must put aside so that it can assume the role most people in the US and UK and France etc. would like it to assume: the role of promoting world peace.

John Cabral

May 20th, 2014, 11:36 am


Austin Bodetti said:

The Syrian government funds extremists. Nothing can be worse than this government.

May 20th, 2014, 3:46 pm


Ghufran said:

Obama to NC and FSA visiting team: Sunnis in Syria are the reason why Assad is still in power:
قال قياديان في الائتلاف الوطني السوري وهيئة الاركان السورية المعارضين إن الرئيس الاميركي باراك اوباما ابلغ وفد الائتلاف الزائر لواشنطن الاسبوع الماضي بان وجود السُنة في الجيش السوري كان وراء بقاء نظام بشار الاسد في الحكم حتى الان وليس الدعم المقدم من روسيا وايران.
واضاف المصدران اللذان فضلا عدم الكشف عن هويتهما ان اللقاء مع اوباما الذي استمر نحو ٤٠ دقيقة “لم يتضمن اجابات قاطعة بشأن الكثير من المطالب” لكن الرئيس اوباما ومستشارته للامن القومي سوزان رايس لم يعترضا على مقترحين تقدم بهما الجربا اولهما “شراء المعارضة السورية للاسلحة من طرف ثالث” و “مساعدة واشنطن للمعارضة السورية المقاتلة بصيانة الاسلحة” التي تغتنمها من مخازن القوات الحكومية.
وقال القياديين إن “الطرف الثالث الوارد في مقترح الجربا يشير الى السعودية” واضافا “حديث اوباما عن السُنة في الجيش النظامي كان مفاجئاً”، بحسب ما نشر الصحفي ” زيد بنجامين ”
The most senior officer killed this year in the Syrian army, General Is’haq, was from a Sharkasi village in the Golan area, he served as a top officer in air defense division.

May 20th, 2014, 8:24 pm


Ghufran said:

Unconfirmed news that abu Omar alshihsani of Isis was killed by Nusra in dayr Azour :
وأشارت معلومات صحافية إلى انّ “ابو عمر الشيشاني” وهو القائد العسكري الميداني للتنظيم، قد قتل اليوم اليوم اثر اصابته في اشتباكات عنيفة بين “داعش” وتحالف “الجيش الحر” و”جبهة النصرة” و”الجبهة الاسلامية” قبل يومين في دير الزور.
وكان ابو عمر قد نقل الى مستشفى الرقة لتلقي العلاج الا ان اصابته البليغة اودت بحياته.

May 20th, 2014, 11:21 pm


Juergen said:

Syrian humor

I am waiting for the electricity for years now…

May 20th, 2014, 11:32 pm


Ghufran said:

200 meters separate the Syrian army from Akeppo central prison. Further gains were made in sheikh najjar area.
If Akeppo falls or gets surrounded like Homs, a new chapter will start and a resurgence of the old militia attacks will be much harder to plan.

May 21st, 2014, 1:35 pm


Ghufran said:

After 18 months of being under siege, Aleppo central prison is now within reach and the tight circle built around it by islamist fighters is likely to break in the next 24 hours. Judging by rebel media comments, the fall of the area around ACP will be the most significant military breakthrough in Aleppo since July, 2012

May 21st, 2014, 9:08 pm


Sami said:

Another extraordinary short by Vice New this time Aleppo is the focus.

A City Left in Ruins: The Battle for Aleppo

May 21st, 2014, 11:30 pm


ghufran said:

An Armenian fellow from Syria does not think a major offense on Kasab is coming any time soon, he also accuses Armenian outside Syria of ignoring their brothers and sisters and being soft on Turkey:

Khalil Hanounek
بدي احكي بصراحة ﻻخواني ابناء كسب ..بدكون تطولوا بالكون ….وما تزعلوا من الحقيقة …. الجيش السوري البطل الموجود في كسب بيعمل كل امكانياته بس الحل العسكري حاليا الظاهر ما اجا وقته …اذا بدنا الحل فكروا بطريقة اخرى وهادي نصيحتي …اذا كان في نفوذ ارمني او اذا بقي نفوذ ارمني في العالم اﻻفضل يتحركوا بالمصالحة بارسال وفود الى الدول العظمى للتدخل والضغط على المجرم اردوغان لسحب اﻻرهابيين اللي بيعملوا تحت قيادته ..بس المشكله انو اﻻرمن مع اﻻسف ضغف نفوذهم العالمي واكبر برهان موقفهم الضعيف من دعم اهالي كسب عند الهجوم التركي في 21 اذار 2014 تحركاتهم كانت شبه معدومة وخاصة في لبنان مركز حزب الطاشناق مع اﻻسف اصبح الحزب ضعيف متهلهل واﻻحزاب اﻻخرى اﻻرمنية في لبنان اصبحت مثل ورقة شجر في فصل الخريف صفراء ميتة .اما في امريكا اللوبي اﻻرمني اصبح مترهﻻ نسي انه هناك ارمن في كسب هجروا عام 2014 من قبل الحكومة التركية .اما ارمن اوروبا نخجل ان نقول انه هناك ارمن اجتمعوا في ليون في فرنسا ليجمعوا تبرعات من اجل كسب فكان المبلغ 2000 يورو ياللعار ….اما ارمن الوطن وحكومتهم حاولوا ان يتظاهروا بانهم مهتمين باهل كسب بعد التهجير ولكن ماهي النتيجة نسوا بعد شهرين ان ارمن كسب مازالوا مهجرين ونسوا ان تركيا عدونا اﻻول والبضائع التركية في كل شارع من شوارع يرفان والفوضى والرشوى واﻻهمال عنوان المرحلة الحالية في الحكم …مع اﻻسف مازلنا نتدحرج الى اسفل الهاوية عالميا نحتاج الى منقذ لنعود الى عنفواننا اﻻرمني اﻻصيل ..ااى عهد فرطان …وكوميداس ..واابطل ديكران عودوا اقرأو التاريخ لتتذكروا امجاد شعبنا اﻻرمني لقد نسيتموه …مع اﻻسف

May 21st, 2014, 11:35 pm


Juergen said:

Novelist Asmaa al Aswany still sees that Mubaraks mentality rules the country

May 22nd, 2014, 2:09 am


Juergen said:

sometimes the boldness comes as a surprise. I urge all to watch this commercial for the “election” of the beast. It was produced and aired on the iranian station Al Alam. Please watch it to the very end :

May 22nd, 2014, 4:07 pm


Syrian Nationalist Party said:

Vote for Syria, defeat its enemies.

In Syria we are faced with two choices; voting Assad for President and saving Syria, or creating a power vacuum
for Obamaite genocidal Islamic terrorists to rape, slaughter, behead, kidnap and plunder under the eyes of United Nations
and NATO. Join the Syrian Nationalist Party and nearly 23 million Syrians in asking President Bashar Assad to run, win and
complete the mission of exterminating NATO Islamic terrorists.

Read the complete message:

May 22nd, 2014, 4:41 pm


ghufran said:

Syrian government TV from Aleppo Central Prison, what was lost in every celebration you see from pro or anti regime media is the fact that Syria is in ruins and has a human disaster on hand, the question is how to stop the bleeding and not whether a piece of land is controlled by the regime or the rebels. Having said that, most Aleppines today have little problem seeing regime troops advancing, they tried rebels since July 2012 and got nothing except misery and humiliation. You know how bad the situation in Syria is today when the Assad regime is seen as the better one !!

May 22nd, 2014, 6:38 pm


Sami said:

To say the people of Aleppo support and welcome the Assadist militia that is dropping barrel after barrel filled with TnT atop them is nothing more than feeding obfuscation and perpetuation the myth that Assad is the lesser evil.

Yes, many people in Aleppo reject the rebels and are tired of war. Tired of seeing their children die and their neighbourhoods turned into rubble. But the fact that they reject the rebels does not in any way shape or form translate to support for Assad.

There is no solution with Assad. He’s the magnet for the destruction and mayhem. His forces have monopolized death, and created the worst humanitarian disaster on earth today.

May 22nd, 2014, 9:24 pm


ghufran said:

The army is pushing in Aleppo but is also asking rebels in Daraa to lay down their weapons according to SOHR:
محافظة درعا – المرصد السوري لحقوق الإنسان:: أبلغت مصادر المرصد السوري لحقوق الإنسان أن الطيران المروحي ألقى منشورات يطالب فيها المقاتلين بتسليم أسلحتهم خلال 10 ساعات، وينص المنشور على : ” ماذا حققتم من تدمير وتخريب التحصينات التي بناها الشعب والجيش لمواجهة الكيان الصهيوني وصد عدوانه عن أرضنا وشعبنا..
لا شي سوى خدمة العدو وستدفعون الثمن غالياً إذا بقيتم على ضلالكم..
Sami, People in Aleppo will not forget regime bombs but they will also remember the car bombs, rockets and mortar shells of the rebels. After 2 years of rebels control, residents in eastern Aleppo are ready to see the rebels leave, that does not mean that people of Aleppo will suddenly fall in love with Assad, it simply means that Aleppines, and most Syrians, want to live. While we count the regime mistakes, and there are many, we must remember the rebels failures. I see no future for Islamists in Aleppo unless Turkey sends its troops inside Syria and the Syrian army collapses, both scenarios are unlikely now.

May 23rd, 2014, 12:14 am



Breaking: New chemical attack in Hama. One more time…. Thanks to Obama and Putin.

مركز حماة الإعلامي: 50 حالة اختناق في قصف بالغازات السامة على مدينة كفرزيتا بريف حماة

May 23rd, 2014, 10:11 am



Bashar Al Assad has proven to be one of the two best presidents of Syria during last 44 years. As the has been just two presidents in this period we can say he is the worst of last 44 years.

Assad is a very democratic person, he would never order the killing of 300.000 men, women and children and provoke the exodus of 12.000.000 unless they were terrorists.

May 23rd, 2014, 10:28 am


ghufran said:

A cease fire agreement is reached in 3 areas in South Damascus:
أفادت مصادر سورية بتوقيع اتفاق “مصالحة” بين “الجيش الحر” من جهة وبين الجيش السوري من جهة ثانية جنوب العاصمة دمشق.
وقالت المصادر إن الاتفاق شمل وقف اطلاق النار في مناطق القدم والعسالي وجورة الشريباتي، والبدء باعادة تأهيل هذه المناطق بعد عام ونصف من الاشتباكات العنيفة التي شهدتها.

May 23rd, 2014, 5:26 pm


Juergen said:


The World’s Most Humble President Just Opened His House to 100 Syrian Refugee Children

The news: One hundred children orphaned by the Syrian civil war could find a home in Uruguayan President José “Pepe” Mujica’s summer retreat, “a mansion and riverfront estate surrounded by rolling pastures,” according to Yahoo News. That would be a welcome sight for any of the hundreds of thousands of refugees displaced by Syria’s political turmoil.

May 24th, 2014, 12:40 am


Badr said:

Damascenes fear Assad election will provoke rebel onslaught

“In what kind of crazy world do I get sent to shoot rockets at buildings then pay to rebuild them?” said Hassan, a 19-year-old conscript.

May 24th, 2014, 6:07 am



SAMI @ 9
The fear of extremists ruling the Middle East is not what worries pundits, it is their business.

How many Bulgarian or Hungarian studies programs do we have in the US? you get my drift.

May 24th, 2014, 8:23 am


Jasmine said:

Let’s assume that the west has miscalculated on Syria,but the end results have served them well so far;destroying and weakening another strategical link to Iran,which served Israel and SA so well.
Without sounding too much conspiratorial,the aim is never to stop the fight in Syria,western moral values were not applied in the recent invasions to Libya,Iraq or Afghanistan.

If Russia and China are not using their Veto ,Syria would be invaded long time ago by the west,and they are only protecting their interests in Syria and preventing the invasion of the west to acquire new cheap natural resources from the ME.

Syrian blood has proved to be the cheapest in decades,this is very sad indeed.

It is very interesting to watch how Europe is doing the U turn in Diplomacy with Syria.

May 24th, 2014, 12:05 pm


Ghufran said:

This is a letter that is being sent to key congressmen and senators about the war in Syria, feel free to copy it and share it with friends:
The honorable….,
My name is ….., I am a Syrian American citizen who is concerned about renewed calls to send more arms to Syrian rebels, most of whom were engaged in war crimes and have pledged allegiance to alqaida and its affiliate, Nusra, which are designated as terrorist groups by our government and most western governments. Those groups, with the help of the Islamist government of Turkey and the dictatorships of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have used residential areas and heavily populated cities as lauch pads to attack the Syrian army and shell civilian areas with mortar bombs in addition to using car bombs in heavily populated areas. Scores of civilians were killed in Syria by Islamist terrorists who also looted and desecrated churches and Christian villages.
Syrian jihadists that our government is considering supplying with sophisticated weapons may be fighting regime forces in Syria today but they are also killing non combatants and have threatened western countries and our allies in the region. They may use missiles to shoot Syrian jets now but they will use the same weapons to down civilian planes and military jets from surrounding countries and beyond.
Syria needs a political solution and that will not happen if the war is prolonged and militant groups receive more funding and weapons. Efforts must focus on forcing the Syrian regime to accept a cease fire and allow transparent elections that give Syrians the freedom to choose their government. I therefore ask you not to support any overt or covert initiatives to supply weapons to Syrian rebels who after more than three years of foreign support failed to topple the regime or bring freedom and security to Syria. A vote for extending the war in Syria is immoral and against our national interest.

May 24th, 2014, 9:32 pm


Ghufran said:

( launching pads not lauch pads)
iPads are not as smart as you think

May 24th, 2014, 9:42 pm


Syrian said:

“WASHINGTON — President Obama, seeking to answer criticism that he has forsaken America’s leadership role, plans to lay out a retooled foreign-policy agenda on Wednesday that could deepen the nation’s involvement in Syria but would still steer clear of major military conflicts.”

May 24th, 2014, 11:19 pm


Badr said:

“Efforts must focus on forcing the Syrian regime to accept a cease fire and allow transparent elections that give Syrians the freedom to choose their government.”

To whoever wrote the letter,

Any specific suggestions on how to do precisely that?

May 25th, 2014, 4:51 am


Juergen said:

I think they need to work on the scripts for the “opposition candidtates in the Presidents office…

May 25th, 2014, 1:45 pm


ghufran said:

If Iran reaches a deal with the West and Lebanon ends the political stalemate and Hamas-PLO agree on a unity government then a deal on Syria may not be that hard to reach. Part of the deal is making Assad a transitional and not a permanent figure in a future Syrian government. Regardless if you support Assad or not, his presence at the helm represents a real problem if the goal is to keep Syria in one piece. External opposition is not liked by people in Syria and is only serving as boogey man to intimidate the regime, those people at the NC are paid employees of NATO and the GCC, most Syrians would prefer figures from inside Syria and more independent personalities to represent the opposition.

May 25th, 2014, 4:42 pm



When I look at the news about elections in Syria I feel like going to vommit.

Nouri is sure about his victory….bla bla bla.

Go ALL Criminal Regime Supporters !!!!!

May 26th, 2014, 12:36 pm


ghufran said:

According to a Syrian human right organization, Father Paolo was killed by ISIS:
أعلنت “الرابطة السورية للدفاع عن حقوق الإنسان” المعارضة، أن تنظيم الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام “داعش” أعدم الأب باولو دالوليو بعد ساعتين فقط من سجنه في مدينة الرقة، في 29 تموز / يوليو الماضي، حيث تم ذلك على يد مقاتلين سعوديين وباستخدام 14 رصاصة، وفق بيان صدر عن “الرابطة الحقوقية” الاثنين، والذي أكدت فيه أنه مستند إلى شهادة أحد العناصر المنشقة عن داعش.
and according to Moaz alkhatib, the GCC Bedouins need to liberate their own countries before they liberate Syria:
قال الخطيب في تدوينة له في صفحته على موقع التواصل الاجتماعي “فيسبوك”: “قادة ومفكرون غير سوريين يطالبون عملياً باستمرار الدماء حتى آخر طفل في سوريا”.
وأضاف: “بالمناسبة.. أقترح تحرير بلادكم أولاً، ولا تمصوا ثانية دماءنا التي صبغت الأرض وصارت في نُسُغ كل وردة فيها كما فعلتم عشرات السنين”.
كما كتب الخطيب في تدوينة أخرى “ليتفضل السادة السياسيون والمختصون وبعيدو النظر والمنظرون والمفكرون الثوريون، ومن لهم سنوات ينصحوننا ولم ينقلوا معلومة صحيحة، ومن عندهم آراء بعض الدول أشبه بوحي منزل.. ولا ننسى قادة الأحزاب التي حتى على الفيسبوك لا يتجاوز عدد أفرادها ركاب حافلة، والمتعجلون الذين يهاجمون كل شيء قبل أن يفهموه”.
وأضاف: “ليتفضلوا جميعاً بتقديم أي مقترح لإيقاف نزيف الدم في بلادنا، وسواء أكان هذا المقترح عملياً أم نظرياً، فسأشكرهم واحداً واحداً، وسأعتذر منهم فرداً فرداً، رغم أن الكثيرين منهم، حتى عندما يتبين لهم خطأهم لا شجاعة عندهم ولا يعتذرون”.
وتابع رئيس الائتلاف السابق: “ليتفضلوا باقتراحاتهم وسأكسر مغزلي.. يا من لا تتقنون إلا النقد القاتل والسخرية والاستهزاء: كفاكم، فوطنكم هو الذي يضيع.. إن كنتم تعقلون”.
Alkhatib also has harsh words for Syrians who want this war to continue, he pointed to internet thawrajiyyeh on facebook, I guess that could include blogs too !!

May 26th, 2014, 1:20 pm


Hamoudeh said:

Is this why you never mention your sources Ghufran?

That’s the article you copy/pasted from, it can also be found here:

Other than on the site of some Khomeinist preacher, these are the only two places Google could find the article. So, what we have here is an .ir/.sy propaganda piece which contains a selection of alleged quotes from Moaz al-Khatib.

The source of the first quote in the article cited here is alleged to be Moaz Khatib’s facebook page. I checked his official page, they’re not there:

Google however found it here:

In other words, no source so far, and to say that it’s on his page is not really giving a source either.

The source of the second quote is also said to be his facebook page, and yet again it’s not there.

Google did however find it here:

and here:….-%D9%81%D9%87%D9%84-%D8%AA%D9%85-%D8%A5%D9%8A%D9%82%D8%A7%D9%81-%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1%D9%88%D9%81%D9%87-%D8%9F/

and here:

Not literally .sy and .ir, but that’s the only difference. It doesn’t really matter who’s quoting from what since there’s no actual source.

Even though no source is given for the third and fourth quote either by saying it is from “elsewhere” (not facebook), Google found this article:

Something very different, and with a different picture of what the quote is used for by the propaganda outlets. I didn’t bother to verify the accuracy of the quotes, even though it’s not something to be taken on face value.

For the source of the fifth quote we have to go back to the Elam and Arabi Press articles, which means there is no source and none is given to begin with, not even “somewhere”.

The article continues but Ghufran copy/paste ends, so I’ll leave it at that after adding that I did happen to find one of the unmentioned quotes on his facebook page, in this article:

And while at it, this is also worth listening to, it’s the latest post on the page:

None of this corresponds with the picture the article seeks to portray, even if all the “quotes” turn out to be actual quotes. Of course, Ghufran saw it fit to make matters even worse by adding racist remarks and some extra twists. I don’t know where he spoke about blogs and pages, or if it’s in other quotes from the article or from elsewhere, but he certainly doesn’t look at and address people in a degrading way such as by speaking of “GCC Bedouins”. I don’t know what Ghufran’s background is, but I’m sure there are ways to mock it.

One thing’s clear, this identifying with Moaz al-Khatib for propaganda purposes that’s being sold here isn’t worth a dime. Is Ghufran imagining someone else perhaps? It doesn’t seem to be the Moaz al-Khatib who is a member of the Syrian Islamic Council formed not so long ago:

Is it the Moaz al-Khatib who most recently posted an interview in which supports the “covenant” that nearly all Islamist brigades agreed upon? (See the soundcloud link, from 6 minutes onward).

I don’t think so, and I don’t think speaking of our poor hero Paolo Dall’Oglio, may God protect him and grant him freedom and security, and rumours that Daesh killed him is going to convince anyone. “Someone somewhere” is saying that Daesh purposefully leaked false information. In the end it’s Bashar al-Assad who chased him out of the country and who is in more than one way responsible for the presence and activities of Daesh in Syria.

Father Paolo and Shaykh Moaz may be very much alike, but I don’t see how Ghufran fits into that picture.

May 26th, 2014, 10:59 pm


Juergen said:

just a reminder, this is the regime we are dealing with, nothing brings us TOGETHER with such degraded humans who torture, rape and kill.

May 27th, 2014, 12:27 am


Mina said:

A former French diplomat writes about the current situation in Aleppo

Britons are the worse type of djihadists in Syria

May 27th, 2014, 6:32 am


Ghufran said:

There are attempts to broker a deal between rebels and government forces in northern latakia after many foreign jihadists abandoned the area:
عُقد مساء أمس اجتماعٌ في مدينة أنطاكيا التركية ضمّ وفداً من وزارة المصالحة الوطنية في الحكومة السورية، ووفداً من أهالي قرى جبل الأكراد، الخاضع لسيطرة قوات المعارضة في ريف اللاذقية.
وأفاد ناشطون مدنيون معارضون أن الوفد الحكومي اقترح نقاطاً دعا للتفاوض عليها مع الأهالي للوصول إلى ما وُصِف بالـ”تسوية”.
وتضّم النقاط حسب المعارضة “وقف إطلاق النار من الطرفين” وعودة النازحين من قرى جبل الأكراد إلى بيوتهم وفك الحصار الذي تفرضه قوات النظام السوري عن الجبل، إضافةً إلى “إطلاق سراح المحتجزين من قبل الطرفين”، و”تسليم قوات المعارضة سلاحها” للنظام، ورفع العلم السوري الذي يعتمده النظام فوق الجبل، بحسب ما أورد ” مكتب أخبار سوريا “.

May 27th, 2014, 1:55 pm


Mina said:


What is your take on this? Obviouly PBS would not be allowed to realize such a documentary without the explicit agreement of the US-affiliated militaries giving the training (some of them do appear in the film).
The US seem to want the Syrian opposition to believe it is not letting them down, but at the same time, it will also get the Europeans think that they do want to prolonge the Syrian war as long as possible, not letting Bashar al Asad gain any benefit from his military advance and from the 3rd June election (for which Germany, France and Belgium have announced they would not let Syrians on their soil cast their votes).
At the same time, the supposed chlorine attack sequence is very fishy, to say the least. It helps giving support to a recent declaration by Fabius saying “he has proofs of renewed such attacks”, while at the same time, the explanation given does not stand: we are told that the US trained rebels could not go there to help the victims because it was too dangerous, which is a convenient excuse not to provide any other documentation of the attack than “the unverified video posted online by the victims”.
At 15′, I hear a Yemeni speaker telling the US trained rebel that they can come, it is safe because no Syrian jets are to be seen in the sky, but the voice that finally conclude the conversation just a few seconds later saying “mashi mashi” is not the same voice…
The whole sequence is very oddly edited.

May 28th, 2014, 2:36 pm


Observer said:

Only someone who lives in Syria can say that PBS cannot do anything without some permission.

That is the proof beyond a shadow of a doubt that dictatorship starts with the mind and once the mind is controlled the mouthpiece becomes just that.


There are clans and families with flags and security services. Some with money and brutality and some with brutality without money. All have Ray Ban shades.

As for the elections: we have proof beyond a shadow of a doubt that the vast majority of the Alawi community is in deep with the regime.

They know that without this regime they will be at best equal citizens and at worst outcasts again

Amazing how the ideology keeps trumping freedom.

And to have them talk of their accomplishments and superiority ; what a farce of a sect and a regime and in this they are only equalled by the Sunnis that have nothing to produce but chopped off heads

May 28th, 2014, 5:45 pm


ghufran said:

Most Americans are not comfortable seeing resources and political capital, and may be lives, being invested in what they see as a civil war between a brutal dictatorship and a militant Islamist rebel movement, what has changed is the emergence of a bigger opposition to providing support for rebels but that is exactly what some people in the US government are trying to do.
I see the piece on PBS as a sign that the anti war camp is upset and wants the uninformed average American to know that their CIA and even their President are saying something but doing the opposite, I do not believe the US government has censorship authority over PBS except in matters that are considered top national security secrets, PBS is simply doing its job here.
What is the next step?
Write to key Congressmen and newspapers and share the PBS piece with everybody who may be interested and expose the unethical and counterproductive work championed by certain elements in the US Congress and the CIA which will undoubtedly harm our interests as US citizens and increase the risk of creating a larger and more lethal terrorist movement among Jihadists in Syria who will copy the behavior of Mujahideen in Afghanistan.
It is weird that only 4 days after I posted a suggested letter (to be sent to Congress)about the subject that we see this report from PBS. Our politicians will never learn, but I truly believe US public opinion this time will make it very hard for any US president to engage US troops and assets in any foreign war unless the US is attacked, the outrageous part is that the CIA Syrian rebels program will do just that: give religious zealots and Islamist terrorists another chance to attack the hand that feeds them.

May 28th, 2014, 6:30 pm


Observer said:

99.99999999% of Americans like me do not give a rat’s ass about Syria or the ME.

The problem is beyond solving. The idea is to prolong the war and destroy as much of the ME as possible either by neglect, outright mismanagement, folly of invasion, folly of setting red lines that are not enforced, stupidity of thinking that you can withdraw from the world and not have this blow back, madness to try to tame a world that does not want to be tamed, nation building in tribal societies, or to have a discourse with either Shia or Sunni Islam as they descend in front of our eyes into the abyss.

I vote for complete withdrawal from the region starting with complete cessation of all forms of cooperation and support to the Theocratic State of Israeli Apartheid.

They chose to build their fortress there, let them deal with it.

As for the regime and the rebels, the fools think that there is such two entities. There are Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Fanatic Sunnis running the show.

If you do not admit to this new reality you must be living in lala land.

May 28th, 2014, 6:49 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

I highly recommend watching Obama’s speech at West Point from today.

Except from the part about America’s “exceptionalism”, it’s very sane and makes a lot of sense.

May 28th, 2014, 8:01 pm


Jasmine said:

GHUFRAN is going to like this poem:
اخرقصيدة لأحمد فؤاد نجم
إلى الأمة العربية ، بعد الـ ” طُز ” لم يعُد يليق بكِ التحية
ما أخبار فلسطين؟ .. شعبٌ بلا وطن .. وطنٌ بلا هوية
ما أخبار لبنان؟ ملهى ليلي كراسيه خشبية وطاولته طائفية
ما أخبار سوريا؟ تكالبت عليها سكاكين الهمجية
ما أخبار العراق؟ بلد الموت اللذيذ والرحلة فيه مجانية
ما أخبار الأردن؟ لا صوت ولا صورة والإشارة فيه وطنية
ما أخبار مصر؟ عروس بعد الثورة ضاجعها الإخوانجية
ما أخبار ليبيا؟ بلد تحوّل إلى معسكرات أسلحة وأفكار قبلية
ما أخبار تونس؟ إنتعل رئاستها مهرّج بدعوى الديمقراطية
ما أخبار المغرب؟ إنتسب إلى مجلس خليجي باسم الملكيّة
ما أخبار الصومال؟ عِلْمها عند الله الذي لا تخفى عنه خفيّة
ما أخبار السودان؟ صارت بلَدان والخير خيران باسم الحرية
ما أخبار اليمن؟ صالحها مسافر وطالحها كافر وشعبها قضيّة منسيّة
ما أخبار عُمان؟ بلد بكل صدق لا تسمع عنه إلا في النشرات الجوية
ما أخبار السعودية؟ أرض تُصدّر التمر و زادت عليه الأفكار الوهابية
ما أخبار الإمارات؟ قبوّ سري جميل تُحاك فيه كل المؤامرات السرية
ما أخبار الكويت؟ صارت ولاية عربية من الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية
ما أخبار البحرين؟ شعب يموت ولا أحد يذكره في خطاباته النارية
ما أخبار قطر؟ عرابّة الثورات وخنجر الخيانات ومطبخ للأمبريالية
إلى الأمة العربية ، بعد الـ ” طُز ” لم يعُد يليق بكِ التحية

لم يعد يليق بكِ سوى النعيق والنهيق على أحلامك الوردية
لم يعد يليق بكِ سوى أن تكوني سجادة تدوس عليها الأقدام الغربية
لم يعد يليق بكِ شعارات الثورة حين صار ربيعك العربي مسرحية
لم يعد يليق بكِ الحرية حين صارت صرخاتك كلها في الساحة دموية
لم يعد يليق بكِ أن تصرخي بالإسلام وتهمتكِ بالأصل أنكِ إرهابية
لم يعد يليق بك يا أمة مؤتمراتها مؤامرات وكلامها تفاهات وقراراتها وهمية
لم يعد يليق بكِ التحية .. يا أمة دفنت كرامتها وعروبتها تحت التراب
وهي حيّة !!!

May 28th, 2014, 11:23 pm


Mina said:

Probably real news should be sought for here rather than on PBS
(for public BS…?)
Moderate rebels were known to collaborate at times with Al Qaeda in their fight against the regime. Can you describe how the current split between these two groups occurred in the south of Syria?

For a long time the moderates, if we call them the moderates and the FSA, and some more moderate Islamist brigades, have been very keen to downplay the presence of and the role of Jabhat Al Nusra, the official Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria. They were very, very much at pains to say that Al Nusra was really not a major player, that they had a small presence that was not significant and they would sometimes piggy-back on operations and claim the credit for it. They’d also stress that ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the group so extreme that even Al Qaeda kicked it out, they also don’t really have a presence in Deraa. So it was long seen as very much a moderate front.

That view has collapsed, almost over the past several weeks, with Al Nusra really announcing its presence there by kidnapping a Free Syrian Army officer, a senior officer called Ahmed Nehmeh. He was a key link between the Free Syrian Army and their foreign backers in terms of weapons supplies and cash and so on to rebel brigades inside Syria. Al Nusra kidnapped him and forced a confession out of him. Basically, they said they are going to put him on trial. They refused to negotiate over that.
Deraa is a fiercely, proudly, almost tribal area. They call themselves big families not tribes. They pride themselves in having links to the West and links to the Gulf and education and not being religious extremists. And yet this element of religious extremism has crept in there. A lot of that has to do with Jordanian, Saudi, and Libyan emirs who have gone in as foreign fighters and taken the lead of Al Nusra in the south. So most of the rank and file, which might be about 2,000 fighters, are local guys. The moderates say these are local guys, they are not Al Qaeda ideologically. They are our brothers and sons and nephews and none of them know who the Al Qaeda leadership is and they really don’t care about fighting the Americans or fighting the Israelis. They are very much fighting the regime. But the ideological leadership of Al Nusra in the south is very much Al Qaeda.

What is the secret military command centre in Jordan that seems to be giving weapons and military advice to the rebels?

It’s known as the MOC by rebels, which stands for military operations command, which seems to be a very Western piece of military jargon. It’s basically general intelligence directorate headquarters in Amman, effectively the head of Jordanian secret services. Apparently there is an operations room there, where a dozen or so military officers from a dozen or so countries, including the US and Gulf countries and some EU states, sit there and advise the FSA on it’s military operations and supply them with weapons and cash. Right down to the point if FSA bridges want to launch an operation they will go in with their plans and run them by these military experts from various supporting countries, who will then say you should tweak this part of the plan, you need more men, you need certain weapons to do this. They’ll advise them whether or not to go ahead with it and whether or not they’ve got the resources to do so.

June 1st, 2014, 12:02 pm


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