Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011
A friend Writes:
A friend of mine attended the conference in Paris. Bourhan Ghalioun was not there because he was meeting the British officials. Basma kadmani was supposedly impressive. She spoke about them having refused to get any money from non Syrians even though they have been approached repeatedly. Having said, many wealthy Syrians are helping and are prepared to give more according to what my friend heard from there.
That is the truth and I know it for a fact. Many many many wealthy Syrians, inside and outside, are giving money. There is so much investment in anti-Bashar that it’s impossible to roll back.
I appreciate your insights and the unbiased approach with regards to the Alawite questions. As an Alawite myself, I was born in the mountains of Antioch,I am extremely worried about what is going on in the Middle East and the repercussions on my people in Turkey and Syria. My village is within miles of the Syrian refugees who are being “hosted” on the Turkish side of the border. Even though I have deep reservations about the Baath and their ideology and am in favor of open, transparent, pluralistic democracy based on human rights and the rule of law, it does not keep me from worrying about a disorderly unraveling of political order in Syria and what it represents for my people….
Syria, Iran and the Balance of Power in the Middle East
By George Friedman
Thus far al Assad has resisted his enemies. Though some mid- to low-ranking Sunnis have defected, his military remains largely intact; this is because the Alawites control key units. Events in Libya drove home to an embattled Syrian leadership – and even to some of its adversaries within the military – the consequences of losing. The military has held together, and an unarmed or poorly armed populace, no matter how large, cannot defeat an intact military force. The key for those who would see al Assad fall is to divide the military.
If al Assad survives – and at the moment, wishful thinking by outsiders aside, he is surviving – Iran will be the big winner
(CBS/AP) BEIRUT – The U.S. Embassy in Damascus urged its citizens in Syria to depart “immediately,” and Turkey’s foreign ministry urged Turkish pilgrims to opt for flights to return home from Saudi Arabia to avoid traveling through Syria. “The …
“Just because you are on the throne does not mean you are actually in power,” Nikolaos van Dam, Dutch scholar, author of several books on Syria, and former ambassador to Egypt, Iraq, and Turkey, among other places, told The Epoch Times.
“It is similar to the situation under his father [Hafez al-Assad]. [In charge] is a group of officers and security personnel who have very close ties and the same background,” he said.
Bashar al-Assad came to power as the anointed successor to his father, but his background in the West and manners misled many people into believing that he was more liberal than he turned out to be, or that he had more space to make changes than he did, van Dam says.
“The officers needed him and he needed them. But he did not earn his seat like his father, by winning it in a struggle. So it is a different situation.”
Nevertheless, says van Dam, as president, if he disagreed, he could have stepped down. “It would be rather strange to be president and not be responsible for your own deeds.”
Bruce Jentleson, professor of Public Policy and Political Science, and former senior adviser to the State Department, is of a similar opinion. “Power in Syria is more opaque than it was in Egypt, Tunisia, or Libya. While more than a figurehead, Bashar al-Assad doesn’t sit as much at the apex of power as Mubarak, Ben Ali, or Gadhafi did,” he said. “Syria could be left with Assadism without Assad.”
Thus, removing al-Assad from power may not automatically open up the process of change, he argues.
It may also prove desperately hard to do for anyone outside of the strong and well-armed Alawite minority elite that rule Syria, according to van Dam. He sees three possible main scenarios for transition in Syria.
One is a coup from within, by someone reform-minded who is far enough removed from power not to fear going down with al-Assad, but still close enough to have the muscle to do it.
Only people with power and arms could perform a successful coup in Syria. But it’s easier said than done.
— Nikolaos van Dam, Syria scholar
“Only people with power and arms could perform a successful coup in Syria. But it’s easier said than done. If you start contemplating it and taking people into confidence, you may be executed the next day,” he said.
The second scenario is that al-Assad agrees to step down and leaves the country, which would require guarantees that he will not be prosecuted.
The third is civil war, and this is by far the worst scenario, says van Dam. “The outcome is unknown, and it will be damaging for society for generations to come. You will have only losers in the end. Nobody wants this, especially not the mostly peaceful demonstrators,” he said.
A civil war also runs a high risk of destabilizing the entire region, according to observers. Lebanon in particular is often mentioned, but also Iraq and even Turkey may get drawn into it, van Dam said.
Another group that has been mentioned as influential is what Jentleson calls al-Assad’s “business cronies;” businessmen, many of them members of the al-Assad family, who have made a lot of money by colluding with the government. Despite their economic power, they may not have much political influence, however, according to van Dam. And it’s hard to know which way they would swing if the regime showed signs of going down.
“They want to be safe. They cooperated with the regime out of self-interest. The regime has many supporters, but how many of them support it out of conviction? The businessmen are probably afraid of the alternatives. What if a Sunni regime that discriminates against Alawites would come to power?” asks van Dam.
Regardless of what happens within the regime, van Dam thinks that the rest of the world has locked itself in a dangerous position by simply declaring the Assad regime illegitimate and proposing sanctions, for lack of other means of exerting pressure.
“The EU has not even tried to negotiate with al-Assad. Having only sanctions cuts off your ability to influence. Sanctions killed 300,000 people in Iraq, and it didn’t help. Imagine that the regime stays in power for several years, then what? It is better to be pragmatic and avoid bloodshed,” he says.
In his view, the Arab League is probably the best chance for a peaceful resolution at this point. Although they have not been successful so far, he thinks they have a greater chance at convincing their Arab brothers than the West does.
Overall, the situation doesn’t look good for Syria. “It is hard to be optimistic,” said the former ambassador.
Hezbollah ‘cripples’ CIA — or so it seems
BEIRUT, Lebanon, Nov. 22 (UPI) — Hezbollah’s roll-up ofan alleged CIA operation in Beirut has given the Iranian-backed movement an immense boost at a time when its ally, the Syrian regime in Damascus, is fighting for survival…. The U.S. reports over the last several days about how Hezbollah’s formidable counterintelligence arm was able to uncover CIA recruitment of its personnel and expose an entire CIA network to infiltrate the movement’s security apparatus indicate that Hezbollah crippled the U.S. operation.
“Beirut station is out of business,” one CIA source was quoted as saying by the Los Angeles Times Sunday….
Hezbollah and Lebanese authorities have also arrested more than 150 people, including senior army officers and prominent political figures, on charges of spying for Israel, with Hezbollah the primary target. By any standards that’s a massive network — and it must be presumed others remain at large.
Since qhadaffi fell, i hear libyan real estate is up 3 times
Cameron: War looms in Syria
David Cameron urged world leaders to “engage” with Syrian opposition groups yesterday as he warned the country was on the brink of a full-scale civil war.
The Prime Minister praised interventions by Turkey and the Arab League against Bashar al-Assad’s brutal suppression of protests. Speaking alongside Turkish President Abdullah Gul in Downing Street, he said: “Today we had important discussions on Syria, where now a full-scale civil war is a real possibility.
“The world now needs to get behind with concerted pressure on the regime and positive engagement with the opposition, who can represent Syria in an inclusive transition,” he added.
“Syria is now at a dead end so change is inevitable,” Mr Gul had earlier said.
CNN: Cyberwar explodes in Syria
Istanbul (CNN) — A familiar digital chime rang on the computer. Someone was calling via Skype from Syria. It was a law student and opposition activist from the city of Homs who uses the pseudonym Musaab al Hussaini to protect himself from arrest. …
“It Will Not Be Syria, It Will Be Libya”: 20,000 marchers in Tahrir Square, November 21, 2011
“This is the breaking point we were all waiting for. Getting rid of Mubarak was just the warm-up. This is the real showdown.”
In a challenge to the ruling military council, Egypt’s interim cabinet has offered to resign. 20,000 people have occupied Tahrir Square since the weekend and many have clashed with security forces in some of the worse violence since the uprising earlier this year that overthrew Hosni Mubarak. At least 33 people have been killed and over 1,500 injured so far. Thousands are reportedly chanting “The people want the end of the field marshal,” a reference to Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the leader of the military council, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). They are also chanting “it will not be Syria, it will be Libya.”….
“”The Muslim Brotherhood and other political parties met on Monday after which the Brotherhood issued a “collective apology” for not joining the protesters’ calls for the SCAF to loosen its hold on power earlier. But the Brotherhood, which is the best organized of Egypt’s political organizations and stands to win a majority in the upcoming elections, also said that it would not participate in the “million man march.”””
DAMASCUS, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) — British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Monday called on Syrian opposition to “unite” against President Bashar al-Assad, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov chided such calls from Western countries as provocation.
“It is important for opposition groups to be able to put aside their own differences and come to a united view of the way forward, ” Hague made the remarks after meeting with Syrian opposition representatives in London on Monday.
However, he said Britain was not ready to recognize the Syrian opposition as the country’s legitimate government.
“We are not at the point of a formal recognition, partly because there is not a single council as there was in Libya. They are not in control of territory in Syria as the council was in Libya and the international community has not reached that point,” Hague said.
Meanwhile, Lavrov said that “so far, when the Arab League (AL) urges to stop the violence and start dialogues, Western countries and some countries in the region call for the opposition to avoid such dialogues with Bashar al-Assad’s regime.”
Abuses over international law and the UN authority cannot be allowed, Lavrov added.
The remarks of Hague and Lavrov came after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s confirmation that he would press on with a crackdown against what he called armed groups targeting civilians, policemen, army personnel in his country despite increased pressure from the AL.
“The conflict will continue and the pressure to subjugate Syria will continue,” Assad told the Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper. ” However, I assure you that Syria will not bow down and that it will continue to resist the pressure being imposed on it,” he said….
In yet another move to place pressure on Damascus, the AL has said that it will sponsor a meeting combining different opposition figures to help them form a united front….
Louis Charbonneau, Reuters, November 21, 2011
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Syria’s U.N. envoy on Monday slammed a draft U.N. resolution condemning the Syrian government’s eight-month crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, calling it a “declaration of war” on Damascus.
Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari was referring to a draft resolution on Syria which Germany submitted to the U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee. The draft, which was crafted by Germany, Britain and France, has five Arab states among its 61 co-sponsors.
“This was tabled in the context of declaring a political and media and diplomatic war on my country,” Ja’afari told the committee, which is comprised of the 193 U.N. member states.
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“It is a declaration of war that aims to affect the independence of our political decision-making and stop us from moving ahead in our national political agendas,” he said.
Syria has promised the United Nations that it would halt military operations against civilians and implement political reforms. But U.N. officials say Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has failed to keep any of his promises.
The draft resolution says the committee “strongly condemns the continued grave and systematic human rights violations by the Syrian authorities, such as arbitrary executions, excessive use of force and the persecution and killing of protesters and human rights defenders.”….
BEIRUT, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) — Lebanese Shiite armed group Hezbollah confirmed Monday its support to Syria and Iran against ” international conspiracies” and said it opposed that Lebanon be used as a launch pad for plots against its biggest neighbor.
“What is taking place in Syria is an international conspiracy that targets Syria due to its position as a rejectionist state as well as its supportive policies to Arab and Islamic resistance movements, especially in Palestine,” Hezbollah and its ally Lebanese Shiite group the Amal Movement said in a joint statement.
“We affirm our support to Syria, its people, army and institutions, and oppose the use of Lebanon as a launch pad to conspire against sisterly Syria,” the statement added.
“In a significant failure for the United States in the Mideast, more than a dozen spies working for the CIA in Iran and Lebanon have been caught and the U.S. government fears they will be or have been executed, according to four current and former U.S. officials with connections to the intelligence community.
The spies were paid informants recruited by the CIA for two distinct espionage rings targeting Iran and the Beirut-based Hezbollah organization, considered by the U.S. to be a terror group backed by Iran.”
Some Damascene businessmen still supporting the regime:
دعا إلى فرض حالة الطوارئ وتشكيل مجلس استشاري
الدكتور العطار : كل من ترك البلد وعاش مترقبا ليس وفيا
في بداية الأحداث…حدد الدكتور عبد الرحمن العطار موقفه بالإعلان عن أنه ( ولعله كان يتحدث باسم كل تجار دمشق الشرفاء ) ضد المجهول الذي يحرض ويحمل السلاح…وأنه مع المعلوم – الذي هو الدولة والوطن –.
مرّة ثانية نلتقي العطار ..و مازال ثابتاً على موقفهِ, فمن لا يكون وفياً لوطنه – في هذه الظروف التي وصفها بأنها الأقسى التي تتعرض لها سورية. – ..لا يستحق العيش فيه بل إنه يرى أن كل رجل أعمال وكل تاجر و صناعي وثري اختار ترك البلاد والعيش في بلد آخر مع أسرته خلال هذه الظروف بأنه غير وفي وبأنهم يرتكبون خطأً جسيماً بهذا التصرف..
واصفاً المعارضة بالكرتونية – ومتسائلاً- كيف يمكن لأولئك أن يجلسوا في الصالونات – صالونات الدول التي تتآمر على وطنهم- ويتحدثوا عن الناس الذين يموتون في الشوارع فكيف يمكن أن يشعروا بهم…!؟
العطار وفي رده على سؤال ” لسيرياستيبس” قال : النظام لن يسقط وستخرج سورية أقوى, ولكن لابد من تحويل مؤسسات الدولة كلها إلى ورشة عمل حقيقية لتصحيح الأخطاء ووضع سياسات جديدة أكثر انعكاساً على الأرض خاصة لجهة تعيين المسؤولين, وهنا تساءل العطار ( متألماً) ..أين هو التمثيل الدمشقي في مختلف المؤسسات بدءاً من المؤسسة الحزبية إلى مجلس مدينة دمشق..إلى …
Turkish Leader Calls for Assad to Resign in Syria
By SEBNEM ARSU, November 22, 2011
ISTANBUL, Turkey — In his most blatant criticism yet of Syria’s political repression, the prime minister of Turkey said for the first time on Tuesday that the Syrian president should resign, raising the pressure on him from a country that Syria had once counted as its friendliest neighbor and economic partner.
The criticism by the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, was not totally unexpected, given Mr. Erdogan’s increasing exasperation with Mr. Assad’s intransigence over the political uprising against him, now in its eighth month. But Mr. Erdogan’s comments were notable nonetheless for his explicit language, in which he also likened Mr. Assad to the self-delusional dictators of history who have met violent and messy ends, most recently Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya.
“Just remove yourself from that seat before shedding more blood, before torturing more and for the welfare of your country as well as the region,” Mr. Erdogan said of Mr. Assad in a televised statement at his party meeting in Ankara.
If you are interested in what Salafi and Wahabi shaykhs are saying about Syria and the Alawis, watch this Fundamentalist Christian network with clips of a number of shaykhs. It is revealing.
Independent: Robert Fisk: Egyptian crisis gives Syria time to talk about democracy, 2011-11-23
Egypt is the best thing to happen to Syria for a long time. Just when Western leaders – and Qatar – were hounding President Bashar al-Assad for his brutal suppression of opposition demonstrations, along comes the latest crisis in Egyptian cities …
U.S.’s Rice Will Say UN Mandate Stopped Rwanda Repeat in Libya, 2011-11-23
By Flavia Krause-Jackson
Nov. 23 (Bloomberg) — U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice will say the use of military firepower against Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi prevented a catastrophe akin to the 1994 Rwanda genocide, in the capital Kigali today. “Every situation is different, of course, and calls for a different policy response,” Rice will say in a speech today, according to a draft obtained by Bloomberg News. “Yet many of us heard strong echoes of 1994 when Muammar Qaddafi promised that he would root out the people of Benghazi and go house to house killing innocents like ‘rats.’” Visiting Rwanda after a surprise trip to Libya, Rice’s comments come as the international community pursues alternatives to military intervention to stop bloodshed in Syria, where a government crackdown on protesters has killed more than 3,500 people, according to UN estimates.
‘The tide turns against Bashar Assad’ (The Economist)
“Turkey, the neighbour with the biggest punch, has been fiercest in calling for Syria’s regime to reform or die. Its government hosts the main political opposition, the Syrian National Council (SNC), and harbours the leaders of the Free Syrian Army, a burgeoning group of defecting soldiers. More recently Turkey has threatened to cut off electricity to northern Syria. Tensions between Syria’s internal and external opposition inevitably persist, though the SNC is doing quite well in maintaining a broad front that includes a strong component of Muslim Brothers as well as secular liberals. Some council members may be drawing premature hope from Libya’s experience, in the unwise expectation that the West and the UN may impose a no-fly zone over Syria and invoke a “responsibility to protect” civilians. Despite the Arab League’s increasingly robust demands that Mr Assad should engage in a proper dialogue, he still seems unlikely to do so. But his room for manoeuvre is a lot more limited than it was even a month ago.”