Syrian Rebels Become More Lethal

As Syria’s rebel militias become more lethal, foreign analysts are trying to determine how Islamic they are, how to unify them, and what role the West can play in guiding Syria toward an outcome favorable to its interests. The Syrian government is exploiting Western concerns that the Syrian militias could turn out to be harmful to Western and Israeli interests. Deborah Amos explains that Damascus is arresting most moderates in an evident attempt to create an “either-or” dilemma for Western governments and Syrians themselves: they must choose either between and Assad dictatorship or divided Islamists. This has been the Assad strategy for 40 years. Liz Sly explains that in fact the Muslim Brotherhood is gaining influence over the revolt. Sharmine Narwani, in contrast to Deborah Amos, highlights the brutal and Islamist characteristics of some of the rebel groups, suggesting that the stark choices Syrians face are not manufactured by the Assad regime, but real. She suggests that the Western press has tried to whitewashed the distasteful realities of Homs’ Farouq Battalion to fit its narrative of brutal regime versus good people.

News Roundup

Foreign Policy Round Up: 23 Syrian soldiers killed in Rastan as divides spark clashes in Lebanon

During overnight clashes in the Syrian city of Rastan, 120 miles north of Damascus in Homs province, at least 30 people were killed, including 23 Syrian soldiers, in what has possibly been one of the deadliest attacks on government troops in the 14-month revolt. The attacks came after a weekend of shelling by Syrian security forces on the opposition-held town during which dozens of people were injured. Additionally over the weekend, Syrian forces raided the Damascus suburb of Qaboun and a Sunni farming village in the province of Hama killing at least five people and torching homes. Meanwhile, in an online video, an obscure Islamist group claimed responsibility for Thursday’s car bombings in Damascus that killed over 55 people. Al-Nusra Front said it orchestrated previous attacks and the group is suspected to have ties to al Qaeda. However, the video has been met with suspicion as it was vague and did not come through the typical channels. The European Union has imposed new sanctions on Syria, in its 15th round of doing so. The Syrian regime claims to be conducting reforms, as it held parliamentary elections last week for which the results are expected to be released on Tuesday. The opposition condemned the elections as “a farce.” Violence appears to be spilling over into neighboring Lebanon in the city of Tripoli. The clashes were sparked by weekend protests demanding the release of a man detained on charges of terrorism. Approximately four people were killed including one soldier in violence believed to be fueled by sectarian tension.

Aron Lund, “Divided They Stand: An overview of Syria’s political opposition factions” FEPS think tank in Brussels just published this long piece by Sweden’s foremost Syrianist. Lund also wrote The Ghosts of Hama

Largely Unseen, Syria Carries Out Arrest Campaign
by Deborah Amos – NPR

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government has waged a two-pronged campaign against the opposition, critics say. His military continues to fight, while nonviolent activists are being detained in increasing numbers, according to monitoring groups.

President Bashar Assad’s regime has launched a new and sweeping arrest campaign of opposition activists and intellectuals in the past few weeks, according to Western analysts and diplomats.

The growing tally of arrests has gone largely unnoticed, overshadowed by the daily violence that threatens to jeopardize the U.N. peace plan. But in combination, both are undermining the already faint hopes of peace.

“It’s a political decapitation,” says Chris Doyle, director of the London-based Council for Arab-British Understanding. Doyle is monitoring the arrests and believes the regime aims to eliminate negotiating partners from what he calls “the rational opposition.”

An Accelerating Campaign

Most analysts say the campaign began with the arrest of Mazen Darwish, a prominent human rights worker and the director of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression. Darwish was jailed in February after a raid on his offices in the capital. Arrests have accelerated in recent weeks in what a U.N. Security Council diplomat terms a new phase in Syria, as the regime winds down an intense military campaign.

According to Syrian activists, the most recent arrests include Mahmud Issa, an opposition lawyer and activist from the coastal city of Tartous. In Damascus, Ahmad Mouaz Al Khatib, a moderate religious leader, was jailed in early May along with Salameh Kaileh, a noted leftist and a political commentator.

Last week, the two sons of Fayez Sara, founder of the Association of Syrian Journalists, were arrested after a 6 a.m. raid on Sara’s house by security police, according to his lawyer. Sara had been part of a “national dialogue” sponsored by the regime last summer in an earlier attempt to open talks with the opposition.

“They are arresting left, right and center,” says a Damascus-based analyst who asked not to be named for his own safety.

Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood is gaining influence over anti-Assad revolt – May 12, 2012
By Liz Sly, Washinton Post

As the Brotherhood starts distributing weapons inside the country, using donations from individual members and from Persian Gulf states including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, it is going to great lengths to ensure that they don’t fall into the hands of extremists, Drobi said.

ISTANBUL — After three decades of persecution that virtually eradicated its presence, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has resurrected itself to become the dominant group in the fragmented opposition movement pursuing a 14-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

Exiled Brotherhood members and their supporters hold the biggest number of seats in the Syrian National Council, the main opposition umbrella group. They control its relief committee, which distributes aid and money to Syrians participating in the revolt.

The Brotherhood is also moving on its own to send funding and weapons to the rebels, who continued to skirmish Saturday with Syrian troops despite a month-old U.N.-brokered cease-fire.

The Brotherhood’s rise is stirring concerns in some neighboring countries and in the wider international community that the fall of the minority Alawite regime in Damascus would be followed by the ascent of a Sunni Islamist government, extending into a volatile region a trend set in Egypt and Tunisia. In those countries, Brotherhood-affiliated parties won the largest number of parliamentary seats in post-revolution elections.

“First, we are a really moderate Islamic movement compared to others worldwide. We are open-minded,” Drobi said. “And I personally do not believe we could dominate politics in Syria even if we wanted to. We don’t have the will, and we don’t have the means.” […]

From Jihad Yazigi – Syria Report

Electricity Price Hike Highlights Difficulties of Manufacturers: Syrian manufacturers, along with other business sectors, are increasingly suffering from the deterioration in the political, economic and security environments.

Syrian Pound Stable as Central Bank Devalues Official Rate step-by-step: The Syrian Pound is remaining stable in the local currency market as the Central Bank of Syria gradual pushes its official rate closer to the black market level.

Israel fears Assad fall may bring Al-Qaeda to Golan

May 14 (PTI) — A senior Israeli military official said that Israel is closely tracking events in Syria, fearing the collapse of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime could see the

Syrian Golan Heights fall to groups like Al-Qaeda. The military official told AFP that such a situation could create a dangerous security vacuum similar to Sinai. “If the Assad regime will fall, the biggest threat is that the northern border, the no-man’s land, can be taken over by groups like Al-Qaeda,” the official in Israel’s northern command said on condition of anonymity.

The fear is that the strategic plateau could slide into a situation similar to that in Sinai, where a wave of lawlessness has left the Egyptian army struggling powerless to rein in militant activity.

Last year, gunmen snuck across the border from the Egyptian territory and carried out attacks in southern Israel that killed eight people. “This could happen if the Assad regime collapses,” the official warned.


Senator John Kerry (D-MA) called on the U.S. to change the dynamic on the ground through the creation of safe zones and lethal aid. Kofi Annan asserted a violent civil war may be on the horizon and the U.S. has continued to prepare alternative measures if the Annan proposal proves ineffective. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) said the U.S. should partner with its allies in order to establish safe zones on the borders of countries neighboring Syria and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) continued to call for the arming of the Syrian rebels. Andrew Exum wrote that military intervention would serve U.S. interests, but remains unlikely. Itamar Rabinovich argued that while inaction is understandable, it very well might lead to the outcome that opponents of intervention want to avoid, while Haitham Maleh wrote that the international community’s response has been at best “poor” and that the Syrians have “felt forgotten.” Salman Shaikh said that the failure of Annan’s plan was because it was produced under the belief that the Assad regime would adhere to it. The Arab World, said Jane Kinnimont, has had a long deficit of democracy, but ironically has had no shortage of elections. Regarding the elections, Shadi Hamid said they were “cosmetic,” Oraib al Rantawi said the elections “were a step in a void.” Bilal Y. Saab said, “Syria is slowly but surely turning into another Iraq.” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said al-Qaeda’s presence in Syria has increased. Ryan Spencer wrote in The Telegraph that the chances of international intervention in Syria are getting more and more remote. Yochi Dreazen wrote in the National Journal that the Obama administration will have to decide to stick to the current diplomatic or consider arming the rebels. David Ignatius wrote that Obama’s believes that part of the opposition “could be worse than Assad” and worries that “a protracted struggle is empowering precisely these people.”

“If the Syrian opposition’s failure to forge a truly inclusive national movement can be traced to one geographic area, then that failure shows up most clearly in Syria’s east. For it is here where the Syrian National Council has been unable to win over influential leaders. And without them, efforts to topple the regime will remain in jeopardy…In many ways, Syria’s east has been forgotten by all sides. An estimated 75 per cent of the region has no presence of regime forces as it mainly consists of agricultural lands and small towns or cities. Many areas had been declared “liberated”; the regime has launched assaults to reclaim areas only when it had a surplus of forces…In their minds, Syria’s east has been neglected by the Baathist regime for decades; the current opposition would do the same if it comes to power. To counter this perception, the SNC must coordinate with groups from the region inside and outside the country, especially in Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, where Al Jazira is well represented.”

Homs Opposition: Al Farouq Battalion is Killing Us
By Sharmine Narwani – Sun, 2012-05-13 19:17- The Sandbox

It is extremely rare to have a direct peephole into events on the ground in Syria. The hard-fought battle over narratives often leaves truth in the dust. But among the cache of recently leaked emails (exclusive to Al Akhbar) from Syrian National Council (SNC) President Burhan Ghalioun’s inbox, comes this gem – important information that further highlights the glaring loophole in UN Envoy Kofi Annan’s demilitarization plans for Syria: rogue fighters.

The email sent to Ghalioun on March 25 summarizes a meeting held by members of various armed opposition groups operating in Homs – chiefly to address the pressing problem of the rogue al-Farouq Battalion.

The email’s author “Abu Majd” claims that 24 different armed groups in Homs started to work together in part because of the behavior of the Farouq Battalion, some of whose members are shown in this video from a few days ago. The problem with al-Farouq, says the email, is:

“Its monopoly over decision-making in its areas, its attempts to subjugate whoever is outside its command by force, and adopting what they call a “big stick policy” in dealing with other fighters.”

Confirming occasional Arab media accounts of fighters turning on each other inside opposition-dominated neighborhoods, Abu Majd accuses the Farouq Battalion of:

Unjustified violence against their adversaries and other anti-regime groups that are not subsumed under the rubric of al-Farouq Battalion resulting in a heavy human toll. For example, al-Farouq’s mild punishment/warning to fighters in Bab al-Sibaa led to the death of five martyrs.

One wonders how these deaths were characterized in the daily “casualty counts” disseminated by Homs activists and reported widely by foreign media.

Painting a picture of a Homs opposition fraught with disputes that have “plagued the revolutionary movement there,” the email illustrates some fundamental differences in the armed groups. On one hand, you have the participants of the meeting recapped in this email, who clearly view themselves as sharing a distinct outlook, and who insist that:

Certain groups within the Syrian opposition and external/regional forces have pushed fighters in Homs to this divided state of affairs…they are aware of the difference between civilian regime loyalists and armed killers…they condemn the few armed men in Homs who have committed violence against civilians in neighborhoods loyal to the regime.

National Jrnl: Decision Time Coming on Syria, 2012-05-11

The Obama administration is nearing a potential decision point on Syria: stick to the current diplomatic approach, which shows no signs of persuading Bashar al-Assad to step aside, or offer assistance to the country’s rebels despite the risks of …

Syria exile opposition, world powers lack leverage
By Oliver Holmes,  ROME | Mon May 14, 2012

(Reuters) – When it comes to influencing Syria’s bloody struggle between President Bashar al-Assad and rebels trying to unseat him, the exile opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) seems as helpless an onlooker as world powers groping for a strategy.

The SNC tepidly backed the peace plan U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan agreed with Assad a month ago with the support of the West, China, Russia, the Arab League and almost everyone else.

But Annan’s ceasefire is in tatters and the rest of his six-point deal is mostly confined to the paper it was written on.

U.N. monitors are trickling in, but it is unclear how even the full 300-strong team can halt a budding civil war in Syria, where deadly car bombings present a murky new challenge for the Syrian opposition and its Arab and Western well-wishers alike.

Zuhair Sahloul – a large money-changer – has fled Syria (in Arabic)

هروب رجل الاعمال السوري زهير سحلول الملقب ( بالحجي والمعروف بالسحلول ) يعمل بالصرافة وتحويل العملات وله دور مؤثر في الاقتصاد السوري

السحلول يمتلك مطبعة اسلامية باسم( مطبعة غار حراء ) يستخدمها لطباعة المصاحف وبالكتب الدينية كغطاء لاعماله .. عرف عن السحلول مشاركته لرامي مخلوف ولعدد من المقربين من السلطة

السحلول غادر البلاد وحول ارقام كبيرة من امواله المنقولة وسندات وتحويلات مصرفية كبيرة الى الخارج في اشارة الى بدء تفكك الدائرة الاقتصادية المقربة من النظام وسيشهد الاقتصاد السوري مزيدا من الانهيار الاقتصادي سيتضح خلال الايام القليلة القادمة .

Circassians from Syria Return to Russian Homeland – 13/5/2012

A first group of 25 Circassians from Syria have arrived in the southern Russian republic of Adygea for permanent resettlement in their ancestral homeland, the head of Adygea’s committee on nationality affairs said.

“The Syrian Circassians are coming on the usual terms, the same used with all repatriates,” Asker Shkhalokhov said at the first meeting of the commission to support compatriots in Syria.

“Most of them are renting apartments. The issue of providing land for them to build homes is being examined,” he said.

Nasrallah: Hizbullah Can Hit Every Target In Tel Aviv – May 13, 2012

Hizbullah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said Friday his organization is capable of striking very specific targets in Tel Aviv and in every part of occupied Palestine as well.

“For every building in Dahiyeh, several buildings will be destroyed in Tel Aviv in return. The time when we were displaced and they don’t has gone. The time when our homes were destroyed and theirs remain has gone,” Nasrallah said, adding that the time when “we will stay and they disappear has definitely come.”

Nasrallah also condemned the terrorist attacks that hit Damascus on Thursday. “It’s funny that some accused the Syrian regime of being behind the terrorist attacks. How come a security system sends suicide bombers – if it has suicide bombers – and booby-trapped cars to destroy its intelligence and security centers. It’s illogical.” […]

Hamas official meets Iran diplomatic, security chiefs
12 May 2012 –

AFP – Hamas foreign minister Mohammed Awad was in Tehran on Saturday for meetings with senior officials including Iran’s top diplomat and a security chief, Iranian media reported.

During his visit, which had been unannounced, Awad met with Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and Saeed Jalili, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, the reports said. “Palestine belongs to the Islamic world and must be freed. Thank God, victory is near,” Jalili said during their encounter.

Awad, for his part, thanked “the Islamic Republic of Iran for its practical support” for the Palestinian cause. “The liberation of Palestine has been promised by Allah, and we must make new initiatives and lead efforts to realise that promise,” he was quoted as saying. […]

Salehi hopes Hollande win will boost Iran-France ties

Iran’s foreign minister hailed Francois Hollande’s election as French president, voicing hope it can boost bilateral ties, as he met visiting former French socialist premier Michel Rocard.

Ali Akbar Salehi “welcomed the victory of Francois Hollande and hopes to see a new approach taken between Tehran and Paris in all areas based on mutual respect” during their meeting in Tehran late Friday, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Socialist leader Hollande, who will be inaugurated on Tuesday having defeated Nicolas Sarkozy in a run-off for president on May 6, has distanced himself from Rocard’s visit.

Rocard “is not carrying any message nor has he been vested with any mission” by the French president-elect, a member of his entourage told AFP on Saturday, adding it was a “private visit.”

“The position of Francois Hollande on the Iranian nuclear programme is known,” said the diplomat.

“Iran must comply with its international obligations and abide by the resolutions of the UN Security Council to cease nuclear activities without credible civilian purpose.”

Rocard arrived in Tehran early Saturday on an unofficial three-day visit first planned for April but postponed after the 81-year-old was hospitalised in Stockholm in late March. His visit comes as Iran is preparing for a new round of talks with world powers in Baghdad on May 23 that will focus on the disputed nuclear drive.

Syria Accuses US, Allies of Aiding ‘Terrorists’ on the Ground
by John Glaser, May 12, 2012

Syria accused the U.S. and its allies on Saturday of colluding with al Qaeda-linked militants to target the the government of Bashar al-Assad, as the aftermath of a string of bombings in Damascus and Aleppo by shadowy militant groups.

“Western countries and the United States, which made alliances to wage wars using the pretext of fighting terrorism, are now making alliances with the terrorists which Syria has been facing,” Information Minister Adnan Hasan Mahmoud said.

But the Syrian government’s accusations against the Wes

do have a kernel of truth to them. The U.S. and its allies are in fact sending aid to the opposition, which even they have admitted contains elements of Islamic extremists and militant groups tied to al-Qaeda.

“This terrorist escalation using booby-trapped cars with tons of explosives to target the Syrian people … is a continuation of the bloody terrorist tactic used between armed groups and al Qaeda, along with the international Western countries that support them with weapons and money,” the Assad regime spokesman added. […]

CBS Sets Purchase Price of USD at 62.92 and 66.75 for Intervention Purposes – May 13, 2012

DAMASCUS, (SANA) – The Central Bank of Syria (CBS) set the price of USD exchange rate against the SYP at 62.92 by purchasing and at SYP 63.30 by selling.

According to the bulletin of foreign currency exchange rate issued by the CBS, the purchase price of Euro reached SYP 81.23 while the selling rate reached SYP 81.80.

Israel to Search for Oil on the Golan Heights – 5/13/2012

Israel has decided to search for oil on the Golan Heights after 20 years of delay due to objections from Syria.

Comments (328)

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301. omen said:

as reported earlier in washington post, rebels are now being helped in getting arms from qatar & saudi arabia. this indicates a shift in u.s. policy. previously obama was discouraging countries not to arm the rebels.

what caused the shift?

the failure of the annan plan?

people were being killed before. why would it matter that people were still being killed under the ceasefire?

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May 18th, 2012, 2:00 pm


302. omen said:

ehud barak was on cnn.

MORGAN: Shouldn’t the international community now be driving as hard against Syria as they did in the Libyan situation?

BARAK: … I think that the ways should be found, while pushing harder to change the situation in Syria, preferably through the Yemenite example, namely to let the Assad and his group go out and try to keep, not to repeat the mistakes in Iraq, not to — not to dismantle their party, the intelligence, the armed forces, to find a way to keep a role for Russia, a living role around the table of nations.

Because if you try to do it in a way that will deprive them from their only asset down in the Middle East, they will resist it. And it’s — it could be extremely influential. But to mention Iran, it will be a major blow to Iran when Assad falls. And they are now supporting him very actively. It will be a weakening blow to the Hezbollah and probably Islamic Jihad.

So basically, it’s something — you know, sometimes people contemplate probably better that they will win out. I don’t believe it. It’s better to reach a conclusion there and try to keep civil society, the present organs of power, basically in place, without the elite which was kind of extremely intimate and close to Assad.


barak wants to keep the homicidal torturers in place!

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May 18th, 2012, 2:06 pm


303. omen said:

not to dismantle their party, the intelligence, the armed forces,

why does barak want to keep the intelligence wing of the regime? are they working for bashar? or are they in service to israel?

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May 18th, 2012, 2:24 pm


304. Dawoud said:

300. TARA said:

“The Friday of the heroes of Aleppo University.”

Yes, Tara, they were-and will always be-heroes!

Tara (pro-regime folks, whom I don’t respect, please don’t answer), is it true that 100 Iranian Revolutionary Guards are stationed at the post office in al-Thawra Street in Damascus in order to terrorize Syrians?

Thawra, thawra, hata al-Nars! Revolution, Revolution until VICTORY!

p.s., Syria is neither Qom, nor Najaf, nor Houthi land, nor Naserellat’s Dhayiyah al-Janoubia!

Free Syria, Free Palestine! Bahrain will ALWAYS remain ARAB!

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May 18th, 2012, 2:27 pm


305. Tara said:


I don’t know. I am not in contact with anyone in Damascus. A Shiaa Iranian freind of ours told me there are IRGs in Syria and the Iranian people don’t want them back. Another Iranian freind, a doctor of Kurdish origin is supporting the revolution against Batta. People in middle eastern countries usually feel differently than their regime.

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May 18th, 2012, 2:57 pm


306. Tara said:

There were 648 demonstrations in Syria today.

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May 18th, 2012, 3:01 pm


307. Katamon said:

Omen, because Barak thinks that in Syria, like Iraq, the State and the Baath party are the same. When the party falls, the state crumbles, resulting in anarchy and sectarian warfare. There is probably going to be Islamist groups operating against Israel as well with no central government to rein them in. Barak doesn’t like that possibility very much.

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May 18th, 2012, 4:02 pm


308. Uzair8 said:

In a meeting with Qatari PM Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, PM Erdogan repeats his call for upto 3000 UN monitors. I think he has suggested a higher figure than one he will be satisfied with. I agree with him.

Turkish PM calls for up to 3000 observers for Syria
Friday, 18 May 2012

“My brother al-Thani and I, we have been enjoying mutual relations with (Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad. … We were friendly,” Erdogan also noted.

“But if you become a tyrant upon your own people, we cannot keep on supporting you.”

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May 18th, 2012, 4:48 pm


309. Juergen said:

Ì´d like to share a funny comment which I read today in the Süddeutsche Zeitung magazine. They have made a story about what foreign citizens like to watch in tv. There was the obvious mixture between arab idol and turkish soap operas by those they asked. A syrian lady with the name of Zovina Awadis( age 62) said the following: “I always watch Al Jazeera, the news channel. Even though they lie often, especially concerning Syria! The channel is financed by Quatar and the Sheikhs there want to get rid of President Assad. I believe that Assad is a good men. My daughter does not think so, she says that Assad must go likewise Mubarak and Ghaddafi have done before. She always watches the german news, in which they critize Assad. Well everyone has his own opinion, but my opinion is right, because I am older.”


Also on FB the rumour is spreading that Maher is dead, I read that in Saarmin near Bab al Hour the FSA surrounded a unit of the syrian army,and Maher was killed in it. An other report said that Maher was shot by own of his own bodyguards. Well, we will see if that turns out to be true. I am not sure if that would change anything for the better or not.

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May 18th, 2012, 4:53 pm


310. Dawoud said:

305. TARA

Thanks Tara. I heard this on Aljazeera from an opposition leader. He seemed sure about that, and that’s why he mentioned the post office and al-Thawra Street. He also mentioned the presence of Hasan Nasrellat’s Hizbistan’s Shabiha in Syria and named the town, which I have forgotten. I was driving and listening on my Android phone (hands free through the car’s speakers in order to stay safe and keep advocating on behalf of the just causes of Syria and Palestine)!

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May 18th, 2012, 4:56 pm


311. Uzair8 said:

#309 Jeurgen

Thanks for that info. I’ve been hoping for more word on this.

I guess the demise of M. Assad would at least be a morale boost for the opposition and the opposite for regime forces. They may go on a instinctive angry rampage.

Assads inner circle will become even smaller. For Bashar it will be a massive loss without his brother who had his back.

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May 18th, 2012, 5:10 pm


312. zoo said:

Who is the “third’ element? Your guess.

Ban, UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan and Major General Robert Mood, the head of the UN ceasefire observer mission in Syria, share a “genuine concern” that “terrorist groups are already taking advantage of the continued violence and insecurity in Syria,” the spokesman said.

Annan has said he believes there is a “third element” operating in Syria alongside government and opposition forces.

“We have not yet been able to ascertain who this element belongs to — who it is — and we are in the process of doing so,” Annan’s spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said in Geneva earlier.

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May 18th, 2012, 5:32 pm


313. zoo said:

Humiliated by the fiasco of his creation, the SNC, Erdogan chose to vent his anger by invectivating Bashar al Assad for the nth time in the presence of his ideological ally, Qatar.

Friday,May 18 2012, Your time is 5:38:06 PM
Al-Assad cannot stand against people’s will: Turkey’s PM

PM Erdoğan reiterates that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad cannot last long if he stands against the will of the people, speaking at a meeting with his Qatari counterpart, also a staunch critic of the Syrian regime

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said yesterday that the Syrian regime could not last if it continued to disregard the “will of people,” responding to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s recent interview.

“More than 10,000 people have been killed. There are tanks in the streets. [In such a situation] we cannot say ‘Bashar: you are doing good,’” said Erdoğan yesterday at a press conference after meeting with his Bulgarian and Qatari counterparts in the Bulgarian city of Varna, Anatolia news agency reported.

“Today, I declare it clearly from Bulgaria that Bashar will not stand against the will of people. This is because what people want will come true sooner or later,” said Erdoğan.


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May 18th, 2012, 5:46 pm


314. bronco said:

Zoo #313

Note that there is a slight change of tone from Erdogan. He does not compare Bashar to Qaddafi or Hilter anymore and does not ask him to step down either. There is now an ‘IF’.

“the Syrian regime could not last IF it continued to disregard the “will of people,”

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May 18th, 2012, 6:08 pm


315. William Scott Scherk said:

Growing out of some ignorant observations on Canada’s Vimy memorial in France, I wrote this piece for comment on Facebook. It seems appropriate to put it also at Syria Comment and at Walls. I mentioned Alex (Camille Otrakji) by name in a shameless attempt to get his reaction.

Yesterday he wrote that he found it remarkable. And the SC Moderation Team also told me it would get by the filters, so …

In my mind, no picture of war can be beautiful (in theory), for a poignant act of valour or dreadful sacrifice can too easily be dressed up on a stage with bunting and stirring Nationalist anthems and aggression and “heroes” (or what my compatriot/concitoyen Camille Alexandre Otrakji might mean by heroes) — because valour is almost always painted by innocent blood — no matter how stirring the anthem, no matter how emotive the theatrics, no matter how crazed with State pomp (Russia/France/Britain/USA/China).

Yet some images are still moving, emotively beautiful — as clarity of vision, as a strong dose of reality can be beautiful in effect, beautiful in outcome, even if painful and disturbing to experience.

This is why we cherish and protect and maintain our unifying myths. When Canada’s Quebecers were polled back in my Montreal days, in a year-end l’Actualité roundup of opinion, the cover line was Le Canada dans l’peau. The image was of a faceless male’s sleeveless t-shirt. The shirt featured the fleur-de-lysée flag of the nation. On the bicep however was the tattoo Je heart [Big Maple Leaf]. One of the inevitable set of political questions on sovereignty checked to see what circumstances might budge Quebec opinion on independence past 50%

The only scenario that got above 50 was if an independent Quebec got to keep the name (Canada) and the anthem (O Canada) and the symbols (Maple Leaf, beaver, etc). 75 percent of Quebecers would have been fine with that. I was struck by the power of Canada’s mythic culture in Quebec.


As myths battle in Syria, with great valour, as shells hiss and thud, as blood flows and drains, as real folks become ‘ghosts,’ here is a striking image from 1931 – Ghosts of Vimy Ridge. No Royal Socialist Confederated Canuckistani can be totally ignorant of our war myth and our settling our national symbols … and here it is as X-File. Beautiful and horrible as Myth must be. It is a treasure from the collection of Parliament.

I shall repost this starkly beautiful painting again on November 11th, I hope at eleven minutes after the eleventh hour.

The universality of war and destruction tells me that what myths survive must unite in pain and in purpose. No current Syrian Myth can solve X in the horror-stricken daily equation, not without new work, not without time and trust, not without morality clarity and consensus.

I think a mythos must be generally agreeable for a nation to ascribe to it, any nation that has known great death. If Canada is a nation born at Vimy Ridge (but not in Charlottetown), where will the new Syrian myths be tabled and agreed? Is this uniting myth already fielded? Can someone solve the equations?

Here is the image, Ghosts of Vimy Ridge, from 1931:

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May 18th, 2012, 6:10 pm


316. Uzair8 said:

Syrian opposition buoyed by Aleppo rallies
Friday, May 18

“The opposition is much more divided than we think, the security apparatus is cohesive, and still the regime subscribes to the idea that this is a security situation,” Gerges said.

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May 18th, 2012, 6:10 pm


317. zoo said:

SC is a good example

The continuing violence has only intensified the polarization to the point that some media outlets have become platforms for settling scores between the opposing parties.

The same has happened on the internet, which has turned into a space where Syrian youth exchange accusations and insults, and where casual allegations of treason are common.

Some observers have even begun to mock the way Syrians debate, which often starts with political views and ends with sharp insults.

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May 18th, 2012, 6:22 pm


318. irritated said:

#316 Uzair8

When Aleppo, the city, not the towns and villages surrounding it, will go on serious strikes on weekdays, then we’re talking about a serious challenge to the regime.

Venting anger on “Fridays only” has shown to be ineffective.

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May 18th, 2012, 6:32 pm


319. zoo said:

Lutfallah 2: Smugglers of The Mediterranean
By: Nasser Charara
Published Thursday, May 17, 2012

The interception of the Lutfallah 2 ship laden with arms off the coast of Tripoli raised fears that northern Lebanon is becoming the main gateway for weapons smuggling to the Syrian opposition.

After the entry of the ship Lutfallah 2 into Lebanese waters and its discovery on April 28, two other warehouses full of imported weapons for the Syrian opposition were uncovered on the coast of Tripoli.

Two days later, the security forces began following and monitoring a third ship seen heading towards Lebanon’s northern coast.

A source in French intelligence blames the intensity of arms smuggling into Syria through Lebanon on the recently implemented procedures by Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq.

The three countries are making it more difficult to smuggle arms through their borders with Syria.

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May 18th, 2012, 6:41 pm


320. Tara said:

Shame on the students loyalists to the regime.  I read such a report and feel that Observer is right.  Divide Syria and let them get a freaky independent Alawi state.  We have suffered long enough.  It is one thing when the regime oppress you and a whole other thing when you neighbor hateful monsters.  I could not care less about my past Syrian identity.  That whole concept was a blatant lie.  

Students Are Assailed at a Protest in Syria
Published: May 17, 2012

BEIRUT, Lebanon — In the presence of United Nations monitors, hundreds of students converged on the campus of the leading university in Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city, on Thursday for an antigovernment protest that was set upon by pro-government students and security forces.

The protest and the mayhem, conveyed by students who streamed live video to the Internet, was the first big demonstration at Aleppo University since security forces raided and emptied the dormitories two weeks ago in a crackdown that left at least four students dead. The university was then closed. It reopened Sunday.

The strife that has thrown other major Syrian cities into turmoil during the 15-month-old uprising had long been less visible in Aleppo, Syria’s commercial hub in the north and a residual bastion of support for President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

Syrian political analysts have said that Mr. Assad’s intolerance for opposition demonstrations in Aleppo reflects his intention ultimately to subvert the peace plan brokered by the United Nations and the Arab League. Under that plan, 300 truce monitors are to be in the country by month’s end.

The streaming videos showed hundreds of students from different institutions protesting at Aleppo University while truce monitors were there. The students gathered inside and outside the campus square. Some students spoke with the monitors, showing them lists of students they said had been detained or killed, said Thaer al-Ahmad, a law student reached by phone.

“Student loyalists to the regime started throwing stones at their colleagues who are antiregime,” he said. “Later, a large number of security forces headed toward the campus, surrounding it from all sides using tear gas.”

Clouds of tear gas smoke could be seen in some video clips. The number of injuries or arrests was not clear.

The apparent inability of the United Nations monitors to avert the Aleppo confrontation was echoed elsewhere on Thursday, with activist groups reporting that Syrian military forces lobbed at least 30 shells into the central town of Rastan and skirmished with rebels in other cities. Random shelling also killed a family of five in the Damascus suburb of Douma, and activists posted graphic videos of the mangled victims.

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May 18th, 2012, 6:52 pm


321. omen said:

307. Katamon said:
because Barak thinks that in Syria, like Iraq, the State and the Baath party are the same. When the party falls, the state crumbles, resulting in anarchy and sectarian warfare. There is probably going to be Islamist groups operating against Israel as well with no central government to rein them in. Barak doesn’t like that possibility very much. 4:02 pm


katamon, thank you for answering but syria is not iraq. the reason iraq crumbled was because a foreign occupier was in charge, ignorant in the ways and culture of the country. someone who did not have iraq’s best interests at heart.

that is not the case in syria.

syria is capable of continuing to stand absent a torture regime! syrians are not beasts who need to be tamed by a whip and a stick.

there are several accounts about the organizing capacity of the FSA and the LCC.

here is one:

The group had taken over security responsibilities in northern Qusayr, even bringing at least one former police officer back to work,

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May 18th, 2012, 7:27 pm


322. omen said:

190. Tara said:

The LCC denouncing the SNC in it’s current shape and hailing the FSA. I am impressed with the below statement that I think reflects political maturity and awareness of the LCC. I think after this, the SNC should disintegrate itself and regroup, adopt s new name, elect a new president, preferably 2 co-presidents, one of them an LCC member, sign the Kurds up even if it to agree to some “painful” Kurdish demands, issue a strong statement in regard to their vision of preserving minorities, governmental institution, the army, and even the Baath party (being one of multiple parties in the free Syria, denounce in the strongest unequivocal terms the Jihad ideology and it’s tactic of suicide bombing, then start doing business again.
May 17, 2012 at 12:53am ·


hear hear! this belongs to the new thread.

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May 18th, 2012, 7:37 pm


323. Tara said:


No lobster for Syria.  No precious gems, jewelry, designer cloth, sexy perfumes, or furs for Asma, and no alcohol on top of that….  Ouch!  Now that sucks.  How can a girl lives without this?!  

Canada tightens Syria sanctions, targets luxury goods

The additional measures prohibit the export of jewelry, gems, precious metals, watches, cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, perfume, designer clothing and accessories, furs, sporting goods, private aircraft, gourmet foods, lobster, computers, televisions and other electronic devices to Syria.
As well, Ottawa imposed sanctions against Syria’s state-run radio and television, General Organization of Tobacco, petroleum exporter Altoun Group, and against three individuals associated with the Assad regime.
Under Canada’s eighth round of Syria sanctions, those cited will be subject to an asset freeze and a prohibition on economic dealings.


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May 18th, 2012, 7:41 pm


324. omen said:

217. annie said:
Says Rime Allaf (who was never published or quoted on SC) :

Don’t miss a word! Palestinian writer Salameh Kaileh describes his jailing, torture and abuse (of Palestinians in general) at the hands of the Syrian regime. Do please show to the “resistance” and the “conspiracy” crowd! 4:44 pm


i wish you’d post more to make up for the deficit!

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May 18th, 2012, 7:46 pm


325. zoo said:

No US boots, Syrian, Turk or Qatari boots can do the job

Turn the tide against Bashar al-Assad
By Joseph I. Lieberman, Published: May 17

That is why stopping Syria’s slide into civil war and anarchy is not just a mission of mercy but also an imperative for U.S. national security.

First, we must dramatically step up efforts to provide the Syrian opposition with the means to defend themselves against Assad, so that it becomes clear he cannot win on the battlefield and must seek a negotiated exit.

As in Libya, no U.S. troops should be put in Syria, nor should the United States act there alone. Our partners in the region have the funding, weapons and territory necessary for a full-scale effort to train, equip and sustain a more capable, professionalized and inclusive resistance against Assad — and they seem ready to do so.

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May 18th, 2012, 8:26 pm


326. Alex said:


The findings of that poll are very relevant to Syria today. All the Symbols that united Syrians a year ago are now fading. From the two flags to the marginalized national anthem, Syria’s previously proud role as a resistance camp hub, Syria’s exceptional stability, its coexistence, its most famous actors (Doreid Lahham …), even the most popular songs by Fairouz …

This is not different from the civil war years in Lebanon … there was no symbol left to unite them… made it easier for them to fight each other … fight those who carried a different flag, surely they are an enemy if they carry a different flag.

l’Actualité roundup of opinion, the cover line was Le Canada dans l’peau. The image was of a faceless male’s sleeveless t-shirt. The shirt featured the fleur-de-lysée flag of the nation. On the bicep however was the tattoo Je heart [Big Maple Leaf]. One of the inevitable set of political questions on sovereignty checked to see what circumstances might budge Quebec opinion on independence past 50%

The only scenario that got above 50 was if an independent Quebec got to keep the name (Canada) and the anthem (O Canada) and the symbols (Maple Leaf, beaver, etc). 75 percent of Quebecers would have been fine with that. I was struck by the power of Canada’s mythic culture in Quebec.

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May 19th, 2012, 3:27 am


327. omen said:

221. Juergen said:
Here is a interesting article about the shady Al Nusra islamist group. 5:45 pm


you like to keep these treasures buried.

this merits more discussion.

But the films are circulating on the net apparently not always authentic. Thus, the Nusra Front has now denied being responsible for a video that the weekend has been published under her name . It had a speaker with a distorted voice over the responsibility for the double attack, which killed about 70 people last Thursday had been .

, The group said “The video and the accompanying statement full of errors” are now in a new letter. “We of the military branch neither an endorsement nor a denial, or any information received regarding the operation,” it says it on. “If we get more information, we will publish them on the official Dschihadistenforen.”

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May 19th, 2012, 3:53 am


328. chb said:

So Erdogan says “But if you become a tyrant upon your own people, we cannot keep on supporting you.”
Swell. How many Kurds died all these yrs under Turkish bombs ? How many Kurds will wreck havoc all over Turkey (let alone Syria) if properly coaxed into it ?
Moreover, I would take Erdogan’s stance a little more seriously if his closest allies in this turmoil weren’t dictators too.

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May 19th, 2012, 5:59 pm


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