“The Hamas-Syrian Split, a Dilemma for Iran’s Palestinian Strategy,” By Mohammad Ataie

The Hamas-Syrian Split, a Dilemma for Iran’s Palestinian Strategy
By Mohammad Ataie
for Syria Comment
May 13, 2012

Since the advent of the Iranian revolution, the Palestinian issue has been at the heart of the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy. For ideological and strategic reasons, supporting the Palestinian cause and resistance against Israel has been an integral part of the Islamic Republic’s identity and international approach. However, Iran’s Palestinian policy has, to a great extent, been forged under the influence of its alliance with Syria. That is why the tensions between Damascus and Hamas, brought about by the latter’s equivocal stance on Syrian crisis, have spilled over into the Palestinian movement’s relationship with Tehran.

Last February, on the thirty third anniversary of the Iranian revolution, Hamas’ Prime Minister in Gaza paid a visit to Tehran and met with the Iranian leader, Ayatollah Khamenehi. Given the rumors and reports of tensions between Iran and Hamas over the Syrian crisis, Ismail Haniyeh’s official trip was important and timely for the Islamic Republic. The visit conveyed a clear message that, in the words of Haniyeh, Iran’s support for Palestinian issue has “remained unchanged and unconditional” and that their ties are “as strong as before”. But some remarks that Iranian officials made during Haniyeh’s visit revealed how concerned Tehran is with a changing Hamas in the wake of the “Arab Spring”.

In the meeting between Haniyeh and the Iranian leader, Ayatollah Khamenehi warned him that “compromisers’ infiltration into a resistance organization would gradually weaken it”. He reminded Haniyeh that a once very popular Arafat lost his credibility when he distanced himself from resistance. Iran is obviously concerned with the recent signs of pragmatism in Hamas and reports of it reconsidering its strategy in the wake of the ascendance of its sister Islamic movements to power across the Arab world. But a graver concern for Tehran has been Hamas’ position regarding Syria. More than a year into the Syrian crisis, Hamas has refused to take sides in the conflict and has not concealed its intention to turn to new patrons in the region.

Tehran believes that Syria has fallen victim to a foreign plot. While Bashar al-Assad is carrying out reforms, Tehran says, there are foreign parties solely concerned with Assad’s alliance with the axis of resistance, that wreak havoc in Syria. This was what Iranian officials told Haniyeh in Tehran. Similar remarks were made by Ayatollah Khamenei earlier, in January, when he received the head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and warned about an American plan against Syria that aims to undermine the “line of resistance”, which is a reference to the alliance of Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah vis-à-vis the US and Israel.

In the past several months, the Islamic Republic has sought to convince the Hamas leadership to adopt its own reading of the Syrian crisis and at the same time cement the cracks that are appearing in Damascus-Hamas ties. Haniyeh’s visit to Iran and his statement that the movement would not abandon its long time base in Syria left an impression in Tehran and Damascus that the movement would not “stoop to pressures” and turn its back on Bashar al-Assad. However a mere two weeks after his visit, Haniyeh made unprecedented remarks in Cairo in support of the uprising in Syria which was interpreted as “Hamas’s first public break with its longtime patron”. During the Friday prayer at al-Azhar Mosque Haniyeh said “I salute all people of the Arab Spring, or Islamic winter, and I salute the Syrian people who seek freedom, democracy and reform.” This was disturbing for Iranian officials. Hossein Shikholeslam, a veteran Iranian diplomat, expressed his dismay at Haniyeh’s speech by saying that “this was not the position of those who struggle against Israel”. The former Iranian ambassador to Syria stated that “if Hamas abandons armed resistance, it will be no different from other Palestinian factions”. Again, in the latest sign of cooling in the Iranian-Hamas relationship, a member of the group’s political wing in Gaza said “Hamas will not do Iran’s bidding in any war with Israel”.

Hamas’ Syrian position is still quite nebulous as the movement’s leadership in Gaza and abroad remain divided over the Syrian crisis. But it is clear that the shadow of tensions between the movement and President Assad has already fallen over Hamas’ relationship with Tehran. For Iran, supporting Hamas is linked to its alliance with President Assad. In other words, despite the Iranian commitment to the Palestinian resistance, the Islamic Republic saw its relationship with the Palestinian as well as the Lebanese resistance from a Syrian perspective. This is well understood in the light of the three decades of Iran’s Levant policy and partnership with Syria.

Thirty three years ago, after the fall of the Shah, Yasser Arafat was the first foreign leader who arrived to revolutionary Iran. When the PLO leader, who was indeed a long time ally of many anti-Shah revolutionaries who had just risen to power in Tehran, delivered a zealous speech in front of thousands of Iranians in Tehran, the prospect of a strong Iranian-PLO axis could not have been brighter. In that speech he proclaimed “we will march to Jerusalem under a united Islamic flag”. But as developments began to unravel in Iran and Middle East, things changed between Tehran and the PLO.

From the very beginning, Hafez al-Assad carefully watched the PLO courting of Khomaini’s Iran. The B’ath regime kept a wide open eye on the extent of Iranian relations with Yasser Arafat, who was a challenge to President Assad’s initiatives both in Lebanon and on the Arab-Israeli front. Syrians were eager to make the new regime in Iran adopt its  Palestinian  vision  and  ensure  that  the  Islamic  Republic  did  not  go  too  far  with  the PLO. Initially Tehran was oblivious to Assad’s concerns on both the Lebanese and Palestinian fronts. When in late 1979, radical factions in Iran endeavored, in coordination with al-Fatah, to dispatch volunteer corps to Southern Lebanon, Syrians thwarted the initiative. From  the  perspective  of  President  Assad,  the  translation  of  an  emerging  Iranian-PLO  alliance into  creating  an  independent  axis  in  Lebanon  could  have  undermined  his  grand strategy in Lebanon which  was  contingent  on  eliminating  al-Fatah  autonomy  and  Arafat’s  state-within-a-state  in  his  backyard.

Iran learnt greatly from that early failed experience; that it could not ignore Syria’s regional weight nor Assad’s calculations in the Levant. Yet, it took a decade before Tehran and Damascus reached a modus vivendi. During the formative years of Syrian-Iranian relations throughout the 1980s, their disagreements ranged from the Palestinian issue to the Iraq-Iran war, to Hezbollah and Amal in Lebanon. In the mid 1980s, the Camp Wars and Assad’s policy to oust Arafat from Lebanon strained their bilateral relationship. The shelling of Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon by pro-Syrian Amal forces shocked the Iranian leadership and led to a period of friction with Damascus and even military confrontation with the Shi’i Amal movement which fought the PLO forces in Beirut and the Southern Lebanon. Nevertheless, over time, Tehran’s line steadily converged with Assad’s “Palestinian vision” which became a factor in the deterioration of the once much hoped for Iran-Arafat partnership. Indeed, Tehran realized that without Assad’s approval, making inroads into the Levant and their goal of “exporting the Islamic revolution” would not succeed.

No doubt that Arafat’s close ties with Saddam Hussein, a nemesis of both Assad and Khomeini, and his concession to recognize Israel also widened the chasm between the PLO and the Islamic Republic. From Assad’s standpoint, Arafat’s relationship with Iraq, Jordan and Egypt was to side-step Damascus and give other Arab parties decisive influence within the PLO at Syria’s expense. When in 1985 Arafat announced his acceptance of a joint Palestinian-Jordanian peace initiative, Syria and Iran alike lambasted the PLO chief. “Disillusioned” with Yasser Arafat and his moderation toward Israel, revolutionary Iran began to acknowledge Assad’s standpoint toward the PLO leader: that they had initially been, against all the advice of Assad, too optimistic about Arafat.

Since the early 1990s, Syrian-Iranian relations have turned into an enduring and strategic partnership with considerable achievements in keeping their common adversaries in check. In the Palestinian arena, Hamas and Islamic Jihad were the fruits of the convergence and cooperation between Islamist Iran and the Ba’thist Syria. Inspired by the 1979 revolution and Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas rose from the first intifada that Iran rallied strongly to it. Unlike Arafat’s PLO, Syria and Iran had a great deal in common in collaborating with Palestinian Islamists to derail grand US plans in the Middle East. Hamas emerged as the main Palestinian opponent of the Oslo accords, the US-sponsored peace process. It challenged a secular-Nationalist PLO that “betrayed Palestine” and defied Arafat’s authority who had once been the epitome of anti-Israel struggle for many Iranian revolutionaries.

The senior Assad wanted tractable leadership at the head of the PLO that would act according to his strategy in Lebanon and on the Arab-Israeli front. It was Hamas that inserted itself into his strategy and won exceptional support from Damascus. Now Hamas, reorienting itself in the wake of the “Arab Spring”, has turned into an ungrateful ally for Bashar al-Assad, who sees the movement’s leaders dealing with Arab states without consulting Syria and lauding the protests against his rule. Before the dust settles in Syria, Hamas is unlikely to shift from its equivocal position.

The movement’s cold shoulder to Damascus has posed a serious challenge to the integrity of the “axis of resistance”. Iran, for “the good of resistance”, is making every effort to prevent a break between the two key parties of the resistance camp. This is no easy position for Tehran, which has found itself locked between two pillars of its foreign policy; that of backing the Palestinian resistance and safeguarding its unique alliance with Syria.

Mohammad Ataie is an Iranian journalist and documentary film maker who writes on Iranian foreign and regional policy and on Arab affairs. He contributes to Diplomacy-e-Irani and other publications.

Comments (125)

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1. ann said:

Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood is gaining influence over anti-Assad revolt – May 12, 2012

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. 8)


Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood is gaining influence over anti-Assad revolt

By Liz Sly, Published: May 12

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.” 8)


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May 12th, 2012, 11:02 pm


2. ann said:

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.

The commission has asked the regional government to monitor the housing market in order to help accommodate the influx from Syria. This year Adygea, a mountainous area in Russia’s North Caucasus region, has received a quota to issue temporary residency permits to 457 immigrants.

“This is a serious, complex issue,” Adygean Prime Minister Murat Kumpilov said at the meeting.

“The republic has experience receiving and placing repatriates, but now we need coordinated action by all government bodies in order to provide the maximum assistance to our compatriots [from Syria],” he said.


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May 12th, 2012, 11:29 pm


3. ann said:

Sanity must prevail


The happenings in Syria can be a part of a guidebook dealing with the easiest way to destroy a country brick by brick, inch by inch. With each passing day, the violence in Syria is escalating and pushing the country deeper and deeper into the chasm of uncertainty. And with no end to the rising chaos within sight, there is a degree of frustration at the failure to find ways to end the slide towards absolute disaster. Even former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan has so far not lit up the dark road to peace.

It takes two hands to clap. Or it can be said that it takes two to tango. So, it would be right to assume that a lot of time is being wasted blaming the government of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad for the violence. What about the role of the other side in the violence and chaos? Why is the international community not doing enough to put these troublemakers in the dock? Some countries, like Russia and China, have taken a pragmatic stand while almost the rest of the world seems to have only a one-point programme and this is to ensure the burial of the government in Damascus which has never kowtowed to the whims and fancies of the West. In fact the troublemakers in
Syria may be the puppets on a western string, dancing to a western tune.

The aims of these troublemakers may be many. One may be to destroy the well-equipped military whose personnel have a high motivation and morale. In the bargain, the Syrian state too would become ineffective and weak. That would suit the interests of the troublemakers who might be intent on becoming the regional hegemons. It’s time these mischievous elements were stopped from succeeding in their goals and destroyed. Otherwise, the region will
face grave dangers in the near future.


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May 12th, 2012, 11:43 pm


4. ann 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.”


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May 12th, 2012, 11:55 pm


5. zoo said:

Is Hamas having second thoughts about moving away from a still reliable and generous ally like Iran into the arms of Qatar and Turkey? Is the Moslem Brotherhood ideology they share, enough to ensure their reliability and generosity?

Hamas official meets Iran diplomatic, security chiefs
12 May 2012 – 19H34

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.


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May 13th, 2012, 12:05 am


6. ann said:

JAD where are you?!

Catch any NOVO RICH lately?

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May 13th, 2012, 12:06 am


7. zoo said:

Salehi hopes Hollande win will boost Iran-France ties
AFP – 10 hours ago


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.

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May 13th, 2012, 12:18 am


8. ann said:

Syria Accuses US, Allies of Aiding ‘Terrorists’ on the Ground

The charge has an element of truth to it

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 West 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.


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May 13th, 2012, 12:45 am


9. Syria no Kandahar said:

Killing of Mrs Fatima Alhassan in Deralzor ,She is
A teacher!! Killed by the barbaric criminals of FSA:

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May 13th, 2012, 1:27 am


10. Syria no Kandahar said:

Abu Baser Altartousi,Alqeda operative spreading his poisons in Syria’s youth…,now reportedly to be working inside Syria.Alqaeda is the engine of (Syrian Revolution ).MB ,Alqaeda,FSA and SNC
Are all united now by virtue of having the same enemy:

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May 13th, 2012, 1:49 am


11. Ghufran said:

Those who are telling you that the Palestinians share the position of the SNC,KSA and Qatar do not know or refuse to learn. There is a disgust and outrage among most Palestinians about the blood shed in Syria and a realization,shared by me and many others,that this regime must be changed and that Bashar should not be allowed to get out of this blood bath as if it was somebody’s else problem,but equating the position of palesinian politicians with that of average Palestinians is a grave mistake and reflects a considerable amount of ignorance and arrogance. Syrians and Palestinians have the most to lose if the destruction of Syria continues,and the winners will be Israel and dirty Harirites,not Lebanese Sunnis as a whole. It is not hard to see that there is a number of non Syrians on this blog,some of whom are celebrating the decay of Syria as a state,if this madness goes on you will have no country to go to,just a collection of provinces and ghettos dominated by the likes of Assads and GCC-made dwarfs.

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May 13th, 2012, 2:11 am


12. Syria no Kandahar said:

Can any of the Islamic revolution in Syria supporters give an opinion about this guy who foiled tens of bombs planted by (revolution )operatives until he gave the ultimate price ,his life,yesterday ….he saved probably hundred of Syrians lives,
Some of them could even be opposition supporters.Can any Syrians with a head not in the sand not be proud of such a guy?
قتل أحد عناصر سلاح الهندسة السوري خلال محاولته تفكيك عبوة ناسفة كانت موضوعة على زاوية حديقة صغيرة أمام فرع حزب البعث العربي الاشتراكي المطل على الحديقة العامة كبرى حدائق مدينة حلب .

وقال مصدر أمني لعربي برس إن ” الشهيد البطل المساعد أول أحمد الجاسم استشهد خلال عمله على تفكيك عبوة ناسفة زنتها 10 كغ من المواد شديدة الانفجار موضوعة في حديقة صغيرة أمام فرع حزب البعث العربي الاشتراكي مقابل الحديقة العامة “.

و أشار المصدر إلى أن الشهيد الجاسم فكك خلال الأشهر الأخيرة عشرات العبوات الناسفة و آخرها ظهر الجمعة حيث قام بتفكيك العبوات الخمس التي حاول انتحاري مجهول الهوية و الجنسية تفجيرها في حي الشعار .



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May 13th, 2012, 2:15 am


13. Syria no Kandahar said:

Alqaeda demonstrating in Sina,Egypt,in support of
Jihad in Syria!

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May 13th, 2012, 2:40 am


14. Syria no Kandahar said:

Ghawar 30 years ago diagnosed the problem…

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May 13th, 2012, 2:53 am


15. Syria no Kandahar said:

What is wrong with saying Islamic revolution ??
Is that an insult? You don’t think this is islamic revolution ? That is ok with me but you have to respect different opinions on your board.Trying to
Pick words here is really becoming like driving on
One of Syria’s roads these days you just don’t know when a road side bomb will hit you or
Some one will stop you for no reason.

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May 13th, 2012, 3:27 am


16. ann said:

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.


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May 13th, 2012, 4:13 am


17. ann said:

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.


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

After Israel formally took sovereignty over the strategic area in 1980, the Petroleum Act was applied to the area, allowing for the search for oil.

If Israel were to discovere oil on the Golan Heights, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad would undoubtedly launch an international crisis. The international community, including the United States, does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan, despite the absence of any communities in the area when it was under Syrian occupation.

The exploration licenses were suspended when the government of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin tried to further negotiations with Syria for a peace agreement in the 1990s. Talks reached a point that resulted in a successful massive “The People are with the Golan” campaign.

Syria has demanded sovereignty over the water-rich Golan Heights since the 1967 Six Day War. During the first term of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government in the late 1990s, Syrian condemned reports, denied by the government, that Israel intended to allow exploration for oil. The government of Ehud Olmert conducted peace negotiations four years ago through a mediator, but no results were achieved.

Assad has occasionally offered to sign a peace treaty and resume diplomatic ties with Israel in return for a total surrender of the area, used by Syria to bombard Jewish communities on the eastern side of Lake Kinneret, known as the Sea of Galilee, before 1967.


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May 13th, 2012, 5:03 am


18. Syria no Kandahar said:

Armed Terrorist Islamic militia occupying one of the Christian villages in Hama
قسطل البرج kicking out Christians from their houses stealing their belongings:
دمشق, سوريا, 10 أيار-مايو (يو بي أي) — قام مسلحون اليوم الخميس بتهجير جميع العائلات المسيحية من قرية قسطل البرج في ريف محافظة حماه وسط سورية.

وقال مصدر محلي من السكان ليونايتد برس انترناشونال إن ” مسلحين تكفيريين من المنطقة جاؤوا إلى القرية وطالبوا منا عبر التهديد إخلاء منازلنا والخروج من القرية، بما بين أيدينا”.

وأضاف المصدرالذي فضّل عدم الكشف عن اسمه، أن المسلحين “سيطروا على منازل القرية كلها ، كما احتلوا الكنيسة وحوّلوها مقراّ لهم”.



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May 13th, 2012, 5:27 am


19. Syria no Kandahar said:

غزوة الثأر لأهل حمص
For those in doubt of Alqaeda natur of the Syrian crisis ….the 21st century halal

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May 13th, 2012, 5:48 am


20. Tara said:

Al-Nusra Front, black jihadists or elaborate regime plot to justify it’s brutality?

12 May 2012
Profile: Syria’s Al-Nusra Front

The al-Nusra Front has said it was behind Thursday’s bomb attacks in the Syrian capital, Damascus, …

Little is known about the shadowy Sunni jihadist group, which has also claimed almost all the other bombings that have rocked the country, including those in the capital in March and April.

Al-Nusra, which means “support” in Arabic, first appeared in January in its own initially sporadic media output, which has developed considerably with regular and increasing statements claiming attacks, and several well-produced videos.

The first attack it claimed was against a military target in the north-western city of Idlib, not far from the Turkish border.  Since then, the group has said it was behind the vast majority of bombings in Syria, which are occurring with increasing frequency.

Al-Nusra’s statements and videos are issued by its media group, al-Manara al-Baida (The White Minaret), and are regularly posted to jihadist, social media and video-sharing websites. There is even a Facebook page dedicated to the group.

Its videos are often filmed in the documentary style that major jihadist groups tend to employ, and include the wills of its alleged suicide bombers, whose names all suggest they are Syrian.

The group’s leader, Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani – a name suggesting links with the south-western Golan region – has not appeared in person in any of its videos, preferring to feature only on audio tracks.

This secretive approach extends to concealing of the identities of fighters and civilians appearing in the videos.

Al-Nusra’s propaganda often appears designed to appeal to ordinary Muslims.

It emphasises purported efforts to avoid civilian casualties and has pictured group members speaking to attentive crowds in Syrian towns.

The group frames its attacks as retribution for alleged atrocities committed by government forces.

There has been online criticism of the group, including suspicions that it could be an elaborate Syrian government plot to justify its crackdown on “armed terrorist groups”.

One such argument pointed to the fact that the group sometimes used Israeli- and Russian-made weapons in its videos.

If it were such an elaborate deception, however, it appears unlikely that such details would be overlooked.

The bombings and al-Nusra’s statements have also caused many to believe the group is linked to al-Qaeda.

Evidence to support this include the fact that al-Nusra claimed in its first video that its members included Syrian jihadists who had returned from fighting on other battlefronts.

This might have been a reference to Iraq, given suspicions by Western officials during the height of the insurgency there that militants were being armed by Syria and allowed to pass through its territory.



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May 13th, 2012, 8:11 am


21. ann said:

Opposition Leader Blames Foreign Hands for Deadly Blasts in Syria – 2012-05-13


“We are completely aware that there are many hands at work to destabilize Syria and spoil Annan’s plan in a bid to push Syria towards an unknown fate,” Secretary of Syria’s National Coordinating Body (Tansiq) Raja Nasser, whose party is the biggest among Syrian opposition groups and parties, told FNA on Sunday.

He underlined the opposition of Tansiq group to terrorist activities, and said, “We have selected the UN plan led by Kofi Annan and we hope that all the six goals of the plan would be fully materialized so that Syria would lie on the path of security and stability through an active and fruitful national dialogue.”

Nasser also rejected Qatar’s plan for a military attack on Syria, and said such solutions will yield no good results and make the crisis more complicated.


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May 13th, 2012, 9:09 am


22. irritated said:

#15 SNK

Put it in quotes.

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May 13th, 2012, 10:32 am


23. zoo said:

Turkey like the BBC, are shifting and following the new media trend while Ghaliun babbles

All agree on Qaeda link in Syria attack


The United States, the Syrian regime and the opposition have all pointed to al-Qaeda involvement in the twin car explosions that killed 55 people on May 10 in Damascus. However, an opposition group has blamed the Syrian regime for links to the al-Qaeda forces responsible for the blasts.
Paris-based Burhan Ghalioun, chief of the opposition Syrian National Council, said the explosions appeared to be the work of al-Qaeda forces that he said were linked to the al-Assad regime, speaking at a news conference in Tokyo.

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May 13th, 2012, 10:38 am


24. Aldendeshe said:

AL-NUSRA Fake group…Fake Videos…Fake Name-de-gur…But who is behind it is the question. If the regime will release survailance videos, that are not doctored, one can absolve them somehow, not totally.

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May 13th, 2012, 10:43 am


25. zoo said:

Villages that shelter armed gangs, the FSA and possibly infiltrated Al Qaeda operatives are targeted by the Syrian army.
Innocent civilians are paying the price.

Syria troops seize Sunni village, kill seven: activists
Reuters – 4 hrs ago

Opposition activists said the Sunni Muslim village, one of dozens that have been torched since Assad’s forces seized control of the cities of Homs and Hama, had been a flashpoint for regular demonstrations against Assad.

Its defiance had angered the inhabitants of a nearby Alawite village called al- Aziziyeh, a recruiting ground for a militia loyal to Assad known as shabbiha, which participated in a separate assault on Tamanaa on Friday, the activists said.

Tensions between the two villages had risen after militia men from al-Aziziyeh killed two youths in Tamanaa on Friday after opening fire on an anti-Assad demonstration there, local activists said.

Towns and villages in the region, which is mostly Sunni but has some Alawite areas, have also been giving shelter to Syrian Free Army rebels, who have been stepping up their guerilla attacks on the Alawite-led military.

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May 13th, 2012, 10:45 am


26. Syria no Kandahar said:

Read how revolutionist almost killed this priest!! Why? What has he done wrong?
Isn’t this WAHABISM and following KSA orders to kill the great Syrian ethnic mosaic …..
تعرض كاهن كنيسة الملاك ميخائيل للروم الكاثوليك الأب جورج لويس لاعتداء في مركز مدينة قارة” التابعة لمحافظة دمشق

وعلمت وكالة أنباء (فيدس) الفاتيكانية من مصادر محلية سورية أن “اثنين من المسلحين الملثمين دخلا منزل الكاهن وهدداه بالسلاح مطالبين إياه بمفاتيح المبنى لتفتيشه، ثم ربطاه وأمراه بتسليمهم المفاتيح، وبسبب تردده، ضربه أحدهما على رأسه بزجاجة، مما تسبب بجرح عميق بقي ينزف بغزارة، ثم ضرباه على وجهه وكسرا أحد أسنانه” حسب قولها

وأضافت الوكالة الفاتيكانية أنه “بعد أن سرق المسلحان بعض الموجودات المقدسة والكمبيوتر المحمول، حبسا الأب جورج في الحمام وكمما فمه بشريط لاصق، ثم حاولا خنقه بأنبوب”، لكن “بعد إشارة تلقياها، انسحبا وتركاه فاقد الوعي لكنه كان ما يزال على قيد الحياة”، وتابعت أنه “بعد نحو ساعتين تمكن الكاهن وهو مقيد اليديين من الاتصال بأحد أبناء رعيته وطلب المساعدة”، حيث نقله لتلقي العلاج

هذا وقد ادان الاعتداء زعماء دينيون ومدنيون من المسيحيين والمسلمين في المدينة، ومن المتوقع أن يلتقي قادة المعارضة يوم غد الأحد، رئيس الدير التابع لكنيسة الروم الكاثوليك، بهدف تجنب فتنة طائفية، على الرغم من أن وضع المسيحيين الخمسمائة في قاره لا يزال صعبا، بعد أن عاشوا دائما في وئام مع مواطنيها السنّة الذين يقترب عددهم من 25 ألف نسمة



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May 13th, 2012, 10:46 am


27. Tara said:


If it really is a terror jihadist group, the regime should cooperate with international Qaeda experts to expose them….unless, the regime has something to fear…

Suicide bombing no matter what the target is not acceptable and should be persecuted.

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May 13th, 2012, 10:48 am


28. fadikhaldoun said:

Moderator Note Comment was awaiting Moderation, I updated the time stamp

SC Moderator

My father has sent me a message saying high to Joshua Landis, My father name is Majed Khaldoun

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May 13th, 2012, 11:21 am


29. Juergen said:

Terrorists now visit universities???


Aleppo institute for electrical engineering

here is a nice photoalbum of the revolution supporters in Berlin


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May 13th, 2012, 11:24 am


30. Tara said:

Fadi Khaldoun,

Hi. Is your dad Ok? When is he coming back? Is he having a good experience? Say Hello to him from (ALL) of us.

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May 13th, 2012, 11:25 am


31. jna said:

Panetta: ‘There Is an Al Qaeda Presence in Syria’


At a briefing at the Pentagon with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Panetta was asked by a reporter, “Secretary Panetta, if I may, on al Qaeda in Syria, you’ve said that we don’t have any indication of al Qaeda in that — those double explosions that took place in Damascus. But what kind of assessment do you have on al Qaeda activity in Syria? Because the Syrian government confirms that al-Qaida is active in Syria. Do you have an indication to say that al Qaeda is actually active, how big it is, and is it a concern for you?”

Panetta responded by confirming the terrorist group’s presence, but provided few details.

Al Qaeda anywhere is a concern for us,” said Panetta. “And we do — we do have intelligence that indicates that there is an al Qaeda presence in Syria. But frankly, we don’t have very good intelligence as to just exactly what their activities are. And that’s the reason we can’t really indicate specifically what they are or are not doing. But they are a concern. And frankly, we need to continue to do everything we can to determine what kind of influence they are trying to exert there.”

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May 13th, 2012, 11:33 am


32. mjabali said:

Interesting article: too bad no one wants to discuss it.

Iran and its relations to the Sunnis is at the heart of the Syrian quagmire which makes the Sunni/Shia conflict at the heart of the Syrian conflict. This Sunni/Shia hatred had affected the quest of Syrians to get rid of an authoritarian regime.

There in the Middle East today a huge problem: Sunnis/Shia relations. It is going to cause conflicts for a long time. Many Sunnis are hell bent to fight what they consider the “infidel” Shia. The Shia on the other hand do not call openly yet to fight and exterminate the Sunnis, and of course they are not weak.
Iran and the Iraqi Shia are watching the outcome of what is going on in Syria and of course they are trying to make it in their favor. Syrians are becoming pawns in this situation.

The Iraq/Iran war of the 1980’s is going to be repeated but probably Iran and Iraq are going to be on one side this time. Sunni Arab states are going to fight the Shia no matter what. The sectarian hatred is reaching unprecedented levels. Also, of course, the rich Sunnis would try and push the other Sunnis to fight the Shia the same way they did in the 1980’s. Jordan, Syria are good fertile ground for men willing to fight the infidels: of course the Royals would cast a blind eye to their ultra conservative constituents who would go and fight. This scenario is very possible and is going to happen if no one stopped this religious madness.

So, to look at Hamas and how it is joining the Sunnis in their fight against Iran one can see it as logical and expected move. Iran was friends with Hamas when no Sunni state dared to be the friend of Hamas or be associated with that Islamic group. Money is guiding the compass of loyalty here for sure.

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May 13th, 2012, 11:35 am


33. Aldendeshe said:

I was going to wait a month before discussing this INVESTIGATION point, to see if ever one will come up. I mean, nothing, just swept under the rug, no forensics, no site documentation, no surveillance footage, no eyewitness testimonies, cleaned up the site right away. All we have is just one fake video for COR and that is it. Why the Baathist regime did not seal the area and ask for FBI and other International Criminal Investigators to come and help in forensics? Very strange indeed.

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May 13th, 2012, 11:43 am


34. Antoine said:

33. ALDENDESHE said:

“…Why the Baathist regime did not seal the area and ask ….”

To those who argue “why would the regime bomb itself ?” , the answer is simple, the regime is NOT bombing itself, it is bombing innoccent hardworking bread-winners going about their business. A bomb detonated 150 to 200 metres away from Security compound causing only a few window panes to shatter is not called “bombing itself”. I mean anybody who looks closely can see the bombing was carried out carefully to cause as minimum damage to security building as possible.

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May 13th, 2012, 11:53 am


35. mjabali said:


The BBC article you linked too is written by an someone who did not do their homework well.

One paragraph as an example is when the article goes:

“The group’s leader, Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani – a name suggesting links with the south-western Golan region – has not appeared in person in any of its videos, preferring to feature only on audio tracks.”

First of all, the name Jawlani means the one from al-Jawlan and not only from the south western part of it. This is a ludicrous claim. Also “Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani” appeared in a video but they blurred his image as you will see in the link below.

Jabhat al-Nusra is out in the open. They have a website and you can go and see it for yourself. They may seem shady a little because of the method and timing of their suicide attacks.

If you want to know more about the groups’ logic here is a link that had been posted on Syria Comment before for a man giving a speech in a mosque in Reef Dimashq. It is a very interesting speech. (Many said this is a Jawlani)

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May 13th, 2012, 12:04 pm


36. Antoine said:


Another thing to take note of is the recent protests in Afrin, Reef Halab. It is a common knowledge, that this is a hardcore Kurdish town and have been PKK stronghold and logistics centre for the last 3 decades and more. Now last Friday there have been large supposedly anti-regime protests in Afrin ( the first anti-regime protests in 14 months) in which supposed PKK supporters and cadres marched openly with their little Red flags and communistic slogans. So now it is claimed that PKK is joining the protests.

Now it is common knowledge also, that PKK is still allied to the Assad regime ( like Hamas ) and actually functioning as regime’s shabbiha in al-Hasakeh and Qamishli. PKK has been one of the strongest beneficiaries of the regime after Hezbollah-Amal, Hamas, PFLP-GC and Hizb al-Daawa Iraqi.

This regime is really slippery, it is a real challenge to counter all its tricks. Can SNP come up with strong solutions to counter the regime’s slipperiness ?

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May 13th, 2012, 12:05 pm


37. MICHEL said:

Uzair, here is the same shabbih at the damascus bombing funerals:

he’s on the left shaking hands with people who enter

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May 13th, 2012, 12:17 pm


38. bronco said:


“So, to look at Hamas and how it is joining the Sunnis in their fight against Iran one can see it as logical and expected move.”

The conflicts in the region are much more complex as they are at least 5 protagonists:
-Moslem Brotherhood
-Moderate Sunnis
This is without taking into consideration the geopolitical and international players.

Each country in the region (and the international community) is pushing for its preferred candidates and ideology in the new Arab republics thus creating dangerous confrontations on the ground.
Each country has its own reasons to push their candidates: Security concerns, greed, ambitions, ideologies etc..

Hamas is marginally interested in these Sunni-Shia conflict as it weakens and overshadows the Palestinian cause.
They continue to rely on Iran for material support and I doubt they will ever take a stand against Iran who is their staunchest and yet the most reliable supporter.

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May 13th, 2012, 12:19 pm


39. Antoine said:

Huge funeral for martyr in Reef Deir al-Zour (Deirezzor) –

I am worried by the increasing tribal nature of the conflict in Deir al-Zour. Since there are no minorities in that Province,Huh ???the regime has struck deals and alliances with some tribes, mostly in a numerical minority, [……]. andHuh ??? armed them to work as shabbiha against the majority tribes of the […..]. Thanks to the regime’s alliances with some tribes it has managed to hold on to Deirezzour City.

It should be noted that above mentioned tribal loyalties do not resonate with the urban educated youth of that Province.

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May 13th, 2012, 12:20 pm


40. zoo said:

The armed opposition rejects the UN observers as ‘perjurers’


The observers arrived in Syria last month to monitor the implementation of Annan’s six-point peace plan that calls mainly for the halt of all violence by both sides of the conflict in order to pave the way for a political settlement to the 14-month unrest.

However, the opposition has shown thin patience towards the observers’ mission, as the head of the rebels fighters stated that the observers “have become perjurers.”

Some banners have also been lifted in some opposition protests, urging the observers to leave. “Your presence hurts us,” one of the banners read.
The opposition has claimed that many activists have been detained after meeting with observers, saying that the observers’ tours and their meetings with activists have to some extent helped the government to locate the whereabouts of those activists and arrested them later.

The international community has shown commitment to the Annan plan as the most suitable means to bring the Syrian crisis to a close. The Syrian government has also stressed its commitment to facilitating the observers’ mission in order to make it a success.

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May 13th, 2012, 12:31 pm


41. zoo said:

The Saudi-Qatar moves in Lebanon.
After the failure in Syria, Qatar is attempting to introduce its Moslem Brotherhood arm in Lebanon by luring Hariri’s movement away from the Salafists.

Lebanon: Future Movement Turns to Islam


In light of recent developments in the Syrian and Lebanese political scenes, Doha and Riyadh seek to prop up the Saad Hariri’s Future Movement with a strong ally. This ally is none other than the Lebanese branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

A few months ago, the secretary general of al-Jamaa al-Islamiya, the Lebanese branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Ibrahim al-Masri, flew to Qatar in an unannounced trip . According to several sources, he was greeted warmly and provided with financial and political support.

Doha does not care about the ideological differences that have caused hostility between the Wahhabi movement and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). This is the opposite of the Saudi position, which is sensitive towards the issue and takes it into special consideration.

Doha is also not satisfied with Hariri’s political performance in Lebanon. It criticizes his leadership for being unable to effectively ride the wave of the moment.

While Arab popular revolutions thrived, Hariri’s politics were of retreat and pulling back from the realities on the ground in Lebanon. In their view, Lebanon should have been the backyard of the revolution against the regime of President Bashar Assad.

Doha believes that the MB (al-Jamaa al-Islamiya) are the best choice to fill this political void in lebanon.

Following dialogue between Qatar and the Saudis, the Future Movement and al-Jamaa al-Islamiya began drafting a document of common national constants.

In the current exceptional circumstances, al-Jamaa will be the one who is expected to take charge. It will follow the Syrian mobilization and the efforts of Gulf countries, especially Saudi and Qatar, in order to support the overthrowing of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

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May 13th, 2012, 12:41 pm


42. omen said:

32. mjabali

i wondered what iran and syria would look like today if this hadn’t happened:

The 1953 Iranian coup d’état (known in Iran as the 28 Mordad coup[3]) was the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh on 19 August 1953, orchestrated by the intelligence agencies of the United Kingdom and the United States under the name TPAJAX Project.[4]

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May 13th, 2012, 1:02 pm


43. mjabali said:


Yes the area has more players, but, the Sunni vs Shia fight is the dominant one these days in my humble opinion.

Minorities are going to be hurt as they have been for the last hundreds of years. They are not organized and therefore i would not consider them as a player on the long run. They have been getting hit and their numbers dwindling every day. The Alawis are the only exception because they have the power now to fight and stay alive for the moment. If all minorities (including the Muslim Sunni moderates) are united: there is another story for sure.

The Middle East is polluted with religious scores to settle. No one is accepting a role of any type of communal state.

The foreign players are too many and of course none is helping end the violence.

Hamas and Iran are going have not so warm days like they did in the last ten years or so. The Sunni street is filled with the anti Iran sentiments. The Salafis and the Muslim Brothers share views about Iran and the Shia, and these days the “Muslim moderates” are joining the same attitude into starting to adopt the anti-Shia positions.

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May 13th, 2012, 1:05 pm


44. omen said:



Aleppo industrialists getting hot under collar abt electricity price hikes. Shihabi even talks of corruption. http://bit.ly/J5acjw

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May 13th, 2012, 1:09 pm


45. Badr said:

“the south-western Golan region” means the south-western part of Syria, and not “the south western part of al-Jawlan”.

BBC: “The group’s leader has not appeared in person in any of its videos”
MJABALI: “Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani appeared in a video but they blurred his image”
What’s the difference?

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May 13th, 2012, 1:14 pm


46. mjabali said:


Iran today affect Syria and the area not because of what had happened in 1953, but because of what happened in 1979 when the religious establishment took over the Iranian state.

Back between 1953 and 1979 the Sunni Arabs did not dare raise any issue with the strong Iran that was the ally of Israel and the West (US and Britain). Saddam gave the Shah the respect and of course when the al-Khmumayni came so power replacing the Shah things have changes.

The Sunnis became aware of this religious revolution of 1979 that came against a royal family? Remember that up to that moment, Sunni Islam had a historical alliance with the ruler most of the time.

The 1979 Iranian Revolution changed the Middle East. The same year also witnessed the start of the war between the Assad the father and the Muslim Brothers. Madrasat al-Madfa’iyah incident happened in 1979. In this war between Hafez al-Assad and al-Ikhwan Iran became a close friend with al-Assad. Both have a common enemy: Saddam and the rest of the Sunnis.

Things changed a little now: there is no more Saddam and now Syria is becoming a very hot ground for this fight to be settled.

If Musadeq had won in 1953 and was able to take over Iran, he would have created a country probably better than most of Europe. That would have been great for the area. He would have been, if helped, spearheaded fighting religious conservatism that is taking the Middle East to hell.

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May 13th, 2012, 1:23 pm


47. mjabali said:


There is a difference between someone you just hear his voice and an actual person you see move even if his face is blurred.

You can see the body movement and what he is wearing and so on…

From the video you can tell many things.

That man has an AK47 giving this speech in the mosque, do you think you could have seen this on voice only recorded tape?

In the video you could see what was the reaction of the people to certain calls: can you see that in a recorded audio tape?

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May 13th, 2012, 1:26 pm


48. bronco said:


“The Sunni street is filled with the anti Iran sentiments.”

A year ago Bashar was a hero, Mobarak and Ben Ali staunch allies of the West. The streets are erratic, they change according to the manipulation of their emotions of the moment.

The main problem is that the Arab Spring has overshadowed the unifying Palestinian issue by bringing hopes for change to a better life to the street. With time, the streets will face with disappointment the empty promises of the Arab Spring and the Islamist ideologies that wouldn’t have changed the jobless rate and the poverty or even made it worse. They will turn back against their leaders who will redirect them to the Palestinian-Isreali conflict as an excuse as it has always been.
For me, it is a matter of one or two years before the streets will shift again and the Shia-Sunni antagonism may fade away… temporarily.
About the minorities, I think they can play a role of “compromise” candidates.
Sunnis and Shias could opt for a non-threatening minority ruling (Kurd, Christian, Alawite) as a last resort when they can’t ensure their own candidate in countries where the minorities have a strong presence. Lebanon is a good example and Syria was and still is.

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May 13th, 2012, 1:40 pm


49. MICHEL said:

Michel, Please do not personalize your comments, or insult other commentators.

SC Moderator

#18 Syrian no kandahar,

this is complete bullshit, and christian mnhbbakjis are the one that hurt us the most. they are scared of muslim rule, ok, that does not mean they should support a government that is slaughtering muslims at the very moment.

the regime has killed thousands of innocent people, jailed and tortured many more, where is your disdain?

they openly admit that they would like to keep a government that butchers other people as long as it doesn’t butcher them. The problem with that self-fulfilling prophecy is that when you support a brutal regime to kill others, and it collapses like they always do, then you’ve exposed yourself to retaliation.

I’ll post this again:
Pro-Assad logic:
1. Commit acts bordering on genocide against peaceful political dissenters (the majority of them being sunnis) for the first few months of the uprising
2. As a result of #1, some jihadists enter syria to fight for the oppressed sunnis, rise of extremism and sectarianism, some people start doing terrorist acts out of desperation
3. Discredit the opposition and the revolution because of #2, legitimize Assad

Go back watching Addounia and reading syriantruth, you’re a good bashar slave.

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May 13th, 2012, 1:50 pm


50. omen said:

the u.s. not only overthrew mosaddegh, we also betrayed our supposed ally, the shah:

Scholars who study the Iranian Revolution of 1979 have paid a lot of attention to the internal factors that precipitated revolt. Now, a new study argues that the United States secretly helped create the conditions that led to the overthrow of its ally, the Shah.


Andrew Scott Cooper’s “Showdown at Doha: The Secret Oil Deal That Helped Sink the Shah of Iran” combs through recently de-classified documents tracing a 1976 agreement between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to lower oil prices. The behind the scenes look at the dealings helps explain Iran’s 1977 economic crisis that undercut the Shah’s power and eventually helped lead to the Iranian Revolution.


The “showdown,” Cooper says, began in 1974, as the shah made it clear to the White House that high oil prices were the price of political stability in Iran. At that, even Kissinger’s rock-solid support began to falter.

In 1975, Kissinger finally seemed to break his commitment to Tehran, saying the US would use all available means “to prevent strangulation of the industrialised world”.

One of those means was to ally with Saudi Arabia against Iran. The Saudis then defied Opec with a lower oil price and flooded the market with cheap crude.

We know, of course, what happened next. In 1974, the Watergate scandal brought Nixon down and the wall of secrecy that surrounded those previously murky oil deals collapsed. On its knees, Tehran begged a $500 million loan from the US that arrived too late; and more and more talk circulated about Ayatollah Khomeini becoming a possible successor to the shah.

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May 13th, 2012, 2:32 pm


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