Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, May 25th, 2011
Opposition groups and activists are planning to meet in in Antalya, Turkey from May 31 to June 2 in an attempt to elect a transitional council, connect with protesters inside the country, and present the international community with a clear alternative to Assad.
In April, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood gathered in Istanbul, where a press conference was held by Riad al-Shaqfa, a mentor of the Muslim Brotherhood. It was carried live on Al Jazeera. The meeting was organized under the auspices of the Independent Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association, or MÜSİAD, but the financer and the real organizer was Gazi Mısırlı, one of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and a Syrian who has been living in Turkey with Turkish citizenship, the Syrian ambassador to Ankara, Nidal Kabalan, told the Hürriyet Daily News.
“The conference will be open to all supporters of the opposition, independent personalities and representatives of all faiths,” Ammar Qurabi, president of the Egypt-based National Organisation of Human Rights, told AFP. He referred to the Damascus Declaration, which was formed in 2005 and demanded an end to the domination of the ruling Baath party, free elections and the release of political prisoners.
Listen to this Radio Show to hear Ausama Monajed, an important England based activist
– Questions Over Syria: ‘Who’s Leading Revolution… Are We Going To Have Stability?’
“Here and Now” on NPR - “We look at what’s next for Syria with Landis and Monajed.”
London-based activist Ausama Monajed, who lives in England and issues – Syrian Revolution News Round-ups, is leading Syria’s online opposition and says that the Syrian government won’t be able to stop change simply by shutting down telephone lines or by closely monitoring Internet-based protest, as they have for years.
But Syria expert Josh Landis of the University of Oklahoma, describes deep divisions in Syria, where many residents are fearful of change. Landis said, “You know the anxiety for many Syrians is…. who is leading this revolution, what do they want, who’s going to take over, are we going to have stability?” We look at what’s next for Syria with Landis and Monajed.
The Syrian administration has also been irked by the meetings of Syrian opposition figures in Istanbul in April. “I think Turkey has been trying to play a role, maybe which, in principle, has a good intention, but the Muslim Brotherhood, those who have taken part in armed operations against the Syrian army in 1980s, have Syrian blood on their hands,” Kabalan said.
“For us, the Muslim Brotherhood is like the PKK is for Turkey,” he said, referring to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. “The Muslim Brotherhood has been attacking the army. You have to understand that sensitivity.”
Kabalan said the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood had been engaged in a dialogue with the Syrian government, but added that he was talking about the military wing of the group.
“At the gathering in Istanbul a press conference was held by Riad al-Shaqfa, a mentor of the Muslim Brotherhood. It was carried live on Al Jazeera – an unwelcome development, I have to be honest. We did not like it. You should not give a platform to people with blood on their hands,” he said.
“The issue is who is meeting and what the decisions are. If it was a meeting to initiate a peaceful constructive dialogue with the country, it was not a problem,” Kabalan added.
The meeting was organized under the auspices of the Independent Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association, or MÜSİAD, but the financer and the real organizer was Gazi Mısırlı, one of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and a Syrian who has been living in Turkey with Turkish citizenship, Kabalan said.
“When President al-Assad came to Istanbul [in 2009], Mr. Erdoğan introduced this guy and said, ‘Please, my brother Bashar, help this man.’ Mısırlı is the financer of most of the actions,” the ambassador said. “He was welcomed by Bashar al-Assad personally to go back to Syria. This was a year and a half ago, and he did not give one single answer.”
“We are very sorry for every single drop of blood that has been shed on Syrian soil. Syrian blood should be spread in Palestine, in fighting Israel, not in fighting in Syrian cities,” he added.
Kabalan said the unrest in Syria was almost over and that the government had obtained confessions from arrested armed people of at least 11 nationalities, including those from Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Eritrea and Somalia.
Asked about criticisms that al-Assad’s regime is slow in acting on reforms, the envoy said such changes take time, citing the Turkish government’s efforts to change the constitution over the past four to five years.
Turkish experts who visited Damascus have contributed to legislation on a multiparty system, a new law for local administration and a law on peaceful demonstrations, he said.
US policy on Syria ‘depends on success in Libya’,
Kim Ghattas By Kim Ghattas BBC News, Washington, 24 May 2011
…. In Washington as well as European capitals, the consensus seems to be that Mr Assad’s days are numbered even though there is no decision to call on him to go.
While the West decided it could never work with Col Gaddafi again, there would still be a willingness to work with Mr Assad if he suddenly made concrete, genuine efforts towards dialogue and democracy.
The US and its Western allies also do not want to call for the departure of another leader and find him still sitting in his presidential palace weeks later, said a European diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity.
“If we want to address Syria, we have to deal with Libya first,” said the diplomat.
Ammar Abdulhamid, a long time Syrian dissident who has been living in exile in the US since 2005, suggests the administration is slowing down the process that would lead to calls for Mr Assad to leave – trying to buy time “while they try to finish things in Libya”….
Mr Abdulhamid acknowledged that another reason why the US has refrained from calling on Mr Assad to go is its uncertainty about a post-Assad future.
“They don’t believe he’s a reformer, but they can’t see an alternative,” he said.
A large number of opposition groups are now reportedly planning to meet in Turkey at the end of the month, to attempt to elect a transitional council, connect with protesters inside the country, and present the international community with a clear alternative to Assad.
If they succeed, it would move the debate about Syria into a new phase.
Syrian president, top officials, businessmen hit by EU sanctions
Brussels (DPA) — Syria’s president, its vice-president, a top adviser, a slew of security officials and several businessmen loyal to the regime were officially banned on Tuesday from travelling to the European Union, with any assets they may hold in the bloc frozen. The names of the 10 new individuals targeted in the EU’s second round of Syrian sanctions were published in its official journal, marking their entry into force….
In Iran, an additional five people and 72 companies involved in activities involving nuclear or ballistic missiles have been hit with travel bans and asset freezes, including companies with locations in Germany, Belarus, Malaysia, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Malta, Cyprus and the Isle of Man.
Canada imposes economic sanctions on Syria in response to crackdown
Washington Post -
Canada’s sanctions will prevent Syrian leaders from travelling to Canada and essentially ban trade between the two countries. The measures are largely symbolic because Canada exports only about $60 million annually to Syria, and receives less than a tenth that in imports.
Reporting from Beirut— The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog released a detailed report saying Syria “very likely” pursued a clandestine nuclear program, an assertion that is expected to add pressure on a regime already reeling from protests at …
[A reader pointed out that this is probably not true - Thanks]
NATO hits Tripoli in largest strike yet
Syrian capital’s residents on edge
Jocelyne Zablit , 24 May 2011, Agence France Presse
Damascus remains relatively untouched by the pro-democracy protests roiling Syria, but even supporters of the regime in the capital are becoming edgy about the mounting death toll and wondering where the country is headed.
While on the surface all appears normal in the city, with shops open, traffic jams and crowded sidewalks, it is clear that the unrest is on everyone’s mind and that with each new demonstration, casualty and sanction the tension rises a notch.
Many hunker down in their homes at night instead of socialising, while some evening events are being cancelled or moved up so that residents can rush home early.
“Two weeks ago we still believed the government’s assertion that everything was under control and that the crisis was over,” said one local resident, traditionally a supporter of President Bashar al-Assad.
“But the future suddenly looks dark and I wonder down what path the regime is taking us,” added the woman, who like others mentioned in this article refused to be named.
Many people in the metropolis of some four million — where the Alawite-controlled authoritarian regime has a strong base of support among minority Christians and members of the Sunni bourgeoisie — seem baffled by the turn of events.
“It is beginning to sink in that this is not going to be over soon and that the country is undergoing major change,” said one businessman. “Nothing will be the same as before anymore.”
Assad still enjoys strong support in the capital but there are growing fears that the situation is spiralling out of control and that the unrest could eventually hit Damascus and Aleppo, the two major power centres largely spared the violence so far.
‘The impact of Syria’s unrest on Iran‘ (Jubin Goodarzi, The Iran Primer–USIP)
“For Iran, the ouster of President Bashar Assad in Syria would arguably be the most significant setback since the end of its eight-year war with Iraq in 1988 and possibly even since its 1979 revolution. Regime change would be a major blow for both Iran’s ideological and foreign policy goals. Syria has been Iran’s only stalwart supporter over the past 32 years. It was one of the few Arab states that stood by Iran during its eight-year-long war with Iraq in the 1980s. Over the past three decades, Syria has also served as a major conduit for Iranian arms shipments and support to Lebanon’s Hezbollah. The militant Shiite movement represents a major asset for Tehran and Damascus in the regional power struggle against Israel, the United States and their allies. Since the end of the 2006 Lebanon conflict, Damascus and Tehran have rebuilt Hezbollah into a formidable force with an arsenal estimated at 40,000 rockets and missiles.”
ZEINA KARAM Associated Press= BEIRUT (AP) — Syria’s foreign minister acknowledged Monday that European sanctions will hurt Syrian interests, but he said Damascus will not allow foreign countries to impose their will on Syria.
Debate Over Religious Freedom in Syria Causes Anger in Los Angeles Diaspora, Mary Slosson for Huffington Post
Features Ammar Kahf, a leader of the local opposition protests and the Los Angeles representative of the Syrian Emergency Task Force. He is brother of Mohja Kahf, who is the wife of Najib Ghadbian. All are among the 20 or so signers of the “National Initiative for Change”