Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, March 27th, 2012
President Assad walked around Baba Amr neighborhood in Homs in this video. He promises to make it “better than it was previously” and demands a timeline for the completion of repair work. Al-Jazeera reports that his motorcade was sniped at during the trip.
The Syrian military is carrying out “mopping up” operations in the A’zaz, Hamadan, and Khraytan area, the poor industrial suburbs and towns north of Aleppo. Here is a video of an Mi-2 helicopter that fires a rocket, reportedly over A’zaz (Aleppo) (Thanks Thomas Pierret). Since Monday morning I have been receiving calls about the fact that the roads to the north are closed because of military action. Turkey has shuttered its embassy and Turkish airlines is pulling its flights to and from Syria, which is causing panic in Aleppo, where no open access to Turkey remains open. Businessmen are despondent about being able to keep business going between the two neighboring countries.
Annan says Syria accepts his UN peace plan which Annan insists is an “important initial step”.
Annan said the plan deals with “political discussions, withdrawal of heavy weapons and troops from population centers, humanitarian assistance being allowed in unimpeded, release of prisoners, freedom of movement and access for journalists to go in and out.”
“So we will need to see how we move ahead and implement this agreement that they have accepted,” said Annan.
Annan’s six point plan and its likelihood of success:
President Assad is looking for a way to end the uprising against his regime without stepping down or turning over power to the revolutionary forces. He believes that the Annan plan can be a step towards regaining international acceptance of his government.
Both sides believe that time is on their side. The Syrian government believes it has the revolutionaries on the run and is carrying out “mopping up” exercises in all the main centers of revolutionary action: Homs, Idlib, and the suburbs of Damascus and Aleppo.
The opposition equally believes that time and the world is on its side. It has refused to negotiate with the regime, believing that it will prevail because of international support, international sanctions against the regime, which have pushed the economy into a tailspin, and because both the Arab World and West have stated repeatedly that the Assad regime is finished and is a pariah to the international order. They await arms shipments, money and widespread defections to tip the balance of power against the Syrian Army. The opposition believes, correctly, that President Assad will not carry out reforms that will lead to his ouster. The new UN peace plan does not insist on Assad handing over power to the revolutionary leadership, which is why Assad finds it acceptable and why the opposition has denounced it.
Prohibiting Males of Military age to leave the Country
The Syrian government is prohibiting males aged between 18-42 from leaving the country before receiving clearance by the Military Conscription department. Many upper-class Syrians are leaving the country. Most with children have made arrangements to leave when the school year finishes in order not to disrupt the education of their young. Anyone with a child over 18 will now be stuck.
One Christian industrialist from Aleppo whom I know is telling his friends that he is leaving Syria. His factory in the northern suburbs has been shut down by the opposition and he is unable to travel there any longer because of military operations. He will abandon his property and has already informed his workers that he cannot keep the factory open and that they must fend for themselves.
Another factory owner, whom I know, organized a meeting with opposition leaders in A’zaz, where his factory is located. He could not travel there himself, but delegated a factory administrator who knows the opposition leaders of the town to carry out the talks on his behalf. The factor has already had 300,000 Syrian pounds requisitioned. The opposition agreed to allowing him to keep the factory open. I do not know what further arrangements were made in order to keep its doors open.
Landis and Bassma Kodmani, spokesperson for the Syrian National Council, discuss the state of the Syrian opposition and the Istanbul meeting with Sophie Claudet
Reporter for Al-Monitor
Also see this discussion of Syria with Robert Wright
Robert Wright and Joshua Landis (University of Oklahoma, Syria Comment) Discuss the situation in Syria
Alawites: the Mormons of Syria 7:23
The byzantine ideological backdrop to the revolts 9:57
Joshua: Mistrust could lead to a failed state 7:16
The available ideology for young rebels is jihad 8:20
For the West, another multibillion-dollar swamp? 10:52
Joshua: Intervention could make the chaos worse 3:03
News Round Up
Homs: A request for information about why it became a center of the Syrian revolution
My name is Jordan Cannon and I am a student at Oklahoma University putting together a research paper on the topic of why Homs became the capital of the Syrian Revolution. I am trying to gather a history of the city and insight from native Syrians to write the real story. Anyone willing to provide me assistance would be contributing to getting the word out as I plan on publishing this paper. Thank you.Jordan Cannon(580) 262-0112
“L’islam dans la révolution syrienne : 3 questions à Thomas Pierret,” La revue Politique étrangère.
Eating Cinnabon in Damascus
Why are foreign brands like KFC, the Four Seasons, and Cinnabon still trying to make a buck in Syria?
BY KATIE PAUL | MARCH 26, 2012
With insurance rates soaring, logistics risky, and the plummeting Syrian pound making import purchases increasingly expensive, the cost of doing business in Syria has skyrocketed. As business owners raise prices to compensate, middle-class customers with shrinking purchasing power are increasingly staying away, even from previously insulated retail spots like the Cham City Center, a mall that brought in foreign brands like Cinnabon and United Colors of Benetton when it opened in 2007. “It was very puzzling to me, but until the last week of December, Cham City Center mall was packed whenever I went, even during the middle of the week,” said one foreign banker based in Damascus until last month, when his bank closed up its Syria office.
The strain has not gone without notice in the Assad regime’s propaganda department, which has tried to convince consumers they can do just fine without the rest of the world. All over downtown Damascus, added the banker, billboards are preaching self-sustainability as part of a governmental public awareness campaign to put a euphemistic spin on things: “Let us wear what we weave,” the billboards tell Damascenes. “Let us drink what we squeeze.” “Let us eat what we grow.”…
Costa has been putting into storage the equipment and furniture for its seven shuttered shops, hoping for a brighter day, according to a franchise manager. He added that KFC, which the franchise runs as well, closed two locations in Aleppo and two in Damascus, after members of its management staff came under a hail of bullets while driving on the country’s main north-south highway past Homs last April. Employees from both brands have been re-assigned to office work or to one of the safer KFCs in Damascus. One KFC remains in Aleppo, since, unlike Costa’s coffee, chicken can be sourced locally, thus avoiding the now-treacherous highway route.
All Syrian businesses are being forced to scrimp, save, or close up shop, not just those with foreign goods. Though the government has not provided any economic indicators for months, some estimate that after years of 5 percent yearly growth, gross domestic product may have shrunk by up to 15 percent over the past year — a downturn that affects all types of businesses, most severely, of course, in restive areas like Homs. The closure that probably had the biggest impact on the population was the recent announcement by major foreign airliners like Air France that they were stopping flights to Syria, a move that has increased the sense of isolation, says Yazigi of The Syria Report. And with the 12-hour power cuts and fuel shortages now common in Damascus, even for the well-off, the idea of hopping a flight to Paris seems like a world away….
NOT SUPPORTING THE OPPOSITION “WITHIN SYRIA” IS SUPPORTING ASSAD
By Andrew J. Tabler and David Pollock
Failure to support the opposition “within Syria” — armed and unarmed — would allow Assad to stay in power for much longer.
During their March 25 meeting, President Obama and Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed that part of the agenda of the April 1 “Friends of Syria” summit in Istanbul will concern “nonlethal assistance” to the opposition “within Syria.” This indicates that the administration is beginning to accept a “tragic truth”: without much greater U.S. support for the opposition on the ground, Bashar al-Assad’s regime will certainly massacre many more civilians all over Syria, and Assad himself will almost certainly remain in power for the foreseeable future.
Egyptian liberal bloc walks out of Islamist-dominated parliament
Lawmakers from the liberal bloc walked out of an Egyptian parliamentary vote deciding on the composition of a 100-person panel tasked with drafting Egypt’s new constitution. The bloc, which includes three liberal parties that hold nine percent of seats in Egypt’s lower house of parliament, cited differences with the Islamist parties, which hold a majority in both houses of the legislature. The constituent assembly will be comprised of 50 sitting politicians and 50 members of trade unions and civil society. Forty of the 50 parliamentarians are expected to come from the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood Freedom and Justice Party or Salifist al-Nour party. Naguib Sawiris, founder of the liberal Free Egyptians Party, said: “It’s ridiculous: A constitution being written by one force and one force alone.”