Opposition Disunity Becomes the Problem as the West Gets its Ducks in a Row

Western diplomats have gotten their ducks in a row. They have fulfilled their goal of diplomatically isolating President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian regime. Sanctions have been tightened and plans drawn up for a total oil purchasing ban by the EU. The major European countries have now all reiterated Washington’s statement that Assad must go. They are committed to bringing down the Baath regime.

The Arab League has taken the initiative to ask for presidential elections in Syria and an end of repression. Russia and Iran, although presently sticking by Syria’s side, have openly criticized Assad for his repression. Russia’s delegation has just returned from Damascus. Western leaders have prepared the world to support the Syrian revolution. Some may even be contemplating an eventual military solution. Today arming Syrians is not being openly discussed, but many are coming to the conclusion that it may very well have to be somewhere down the road.

The stumbling block in the way of developing further momentum for the revolution is the Syrian opposition itself. Western capitals have been driving the momentum over the last weeks with condemnations, enhanced economic embargoes, and by herding Arab and Middle Eastern statesmen to make accusatory and condemning statements about the Syrian regime. If the opposition continues sniping among factions, momentum will be lost. To whom should aid be sent? To whom could arms be sent if a military option is to be opened? More importantly, whom should the Syrian people look to as an alternative to this government?

Burhan Ghalioun

The announcement of the formation of the Syrian National Council with Burhan Ghalioun, a sociology professor at the Sorbonne, as its president was immediately denounced by leaders of the opposition within Syria, who claimed it had no connection to activists within the country or control over events on the ground. Muhammad Rahhal, Chairman of the Syrian Revolutionary Council of the Coordination Committees, said:

“Those who formed the Syrian National Council are ghosts claiming to represent a large part of the Syrian people, while they have no relations whatsoever with the revolution. We are not part of the opposition abroad. The revolution has an internal body that decides its course.”

A full fledged food fight has broken out among opposition leaders over who should assume control over the revolution, whether it should take up arms, and what role foreign powers are playing. Underlying these overt clashes is the question of how much play should be given to Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood; Arabism versus Syrianism (the Kurds want recognition of their national and linguistic rights within a Syria that is not defined ethnically), and can ex-patriots lead or do they establish a “Chalabi effect?” Distrust of the West remains strong in Syria. Activists inside Syria don’t appreciate how Western governments must be brought along step by step. They cannot get out too far ahead of their people, who don’t want to spend money right now. Expats believe that Western governments are going to be crucial in bringing down the Assad regime and must be treated with respect and brought along. Some in Washington are already warning that the Syrian opposition will soon begin calling for external military intervention and that Washington should prepare itself and NATO to intervene.

[End of Landis commentary]

New Round Up

Formation of the Syrian National Council, August 29, 2011

A meeting of the Syrian opposition in Ankara, Turkey has formed the Syrian National Transitional Council, following in the Libyan opposition’s footsteps. It is to be headed by Dr Burhan Ghalioun, a prominent opposition figure.

He is a Syrian thinker, director of the Centre d’Etudes sur l’Orient Contemporain (Ceoc) in Paris, and a professor of political sociology at the Université de Paris III

They have chosen 94 members for the council, 42 of whom are inside Syria and the rest are in the Diaspora.

The press statement was delivered by a spokesman for the Youth of the Revolution, saying the choices of the head and members of the council were mad based on consultations and agreement with those in Syria.

Addendum: Majhool corrects in the comment section:

I just spoke to a Homsi Friend, he confirmed that Ghalioun Family is a small modest Sunni family.

Abughassan writes in the comment section:

It is premature to draw conclusions about the choice of Dr Galioun to be the president of the transitional council formed by the opposition. I am not even sure if this council will be THE council for the opposition. I certainly see it as a positive step that must be followed by the public release of a roadmap for change. The opposition needs to tell us where it is headed.

Contacts with moderate elements in the army and among community leaders seem to be a reasonable second step. The council will be DOA if it does not deliver a moderate and inclusive message that is peaceful at its core.

Galioun, as most of you know, is a secular Alawi who is a bitter opponent of the Baath Party. But he is also just as fiercely opposed to Islamist.  It remains to be seen how he will be received by conservative Muslims and how effective and influential he will be at his position. He is also an expat which will be used against him by both foes and friends.

Naming Galioun was a political move to assure some Alawis and deliver a message to islamists but it is obviously too early to say much about his appointment or election by the council.

Syrian uprising to get aggressive- Activist,
29/08/2011, By Paula Astatih

“Regarding the announcement of the establishment of the Syrian National Council, Rahhal told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Those who formed the council are ghosts claiming to represent a large part of the Syrian people, while they have no relations whatsoever with the revolution. We are not part of the opposition abroad. The revolution has an internal body that decides its course.”

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat- Muhammad Rahhal, Chairman of the Syrian Revolutionary Council of the Coordination Committees has announced that the council has adopted a resolution to soon move into the second stage of the revolution, which requires arming it, and moving towards an aggressive direction.

Rahhal told Asharq al-Awsat: “We have adopted the resolution to arm the revolution, which will take an aggressive direction very soon, because what we are facing today is an international conspiracy that cannot be confronted except by armed uprising.” Rahhal considers: “The circumstances no longer allow peaceful dealing with the criminality of the regime. Moreover, confronting the ghoul that seeks the protection of the world countries requires weapons, especially as it has become evident to all that the world has not supported the Syrian uprising except by words.”

“We will declare the revolution with what we have in our hands of weapons and stones, and we will respond to the calls of the masses for arming the uprising.” Rahhal added.

With regard to the sources of weapons, the Syrian activist told Asharq Al Awsat: “The Arab countries, which are supposed to help and support us, are cowards, and they refuse to act. Therefore, we will follow the Afghan example; when the Afghans were asked: Where will you get the weapons? They answered: As long as the United States is here, there will be weapons.”

Regarding the announcement of the establishment of the Syrian National Council, Rahhal told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Those who formed the council are ghosts claiming to represent a large part of the Syrian people, while they have no relations whatsoever with the revolution. We are not part of the opposition abroad. The revolution has an internal body that decides its course.”

Divisions in Syrian opposition over arming protesters
Aug 29, 2011, AFP

Cairo – The first signs of divisions among Syrian opposition groups emerged Monday over the contentious issue of arming the pro-democracy protesters.

The Local Coordination Committees of Syria (LCC) rejected calls by some opposition groups to arm the protesters, saying such a move would be ‘unacceptable politically, nationally, and ethically.’

The LCC, one of several online groups that have been organizing and documenting the protests, said arming the protesters would minimize popular support for and participation in the rallies.

The group said in a statement that it understood the motivation to take up arms, but rejected it. ‘The method by which the regime is overthrown is an indication of what Syria will be like post-regime,’ it said.

‘If an armed confrontation or international military intervention becomes a reality, it will be virtually impossible to establish a legitimate foundation for a proud future Syria,’ the statement said.

The regime of President Bashar al-Assad has cracked down on the pro-democracy protests that started mid-March, triggering international condemnation. The United Nations says more than 2,200 people have been killed.

Mohammad Rahhal of another group, Syrian Coordination Committees, supported the decision to arm the protesters.

‘We made our decision to arm the revolution which will turn violent very soon because what we are being subjected to today is a global conspiracy that can only be faced by an armed uprising,’ he told the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper on Sunday.

In Turkey meanwhile, some opposition members announced the formation of a National Transitional Council to lead activists calling for al-Assad’s ouster.

While a council spokesman said the members were chosen after consultations with activists and protesters in Syria, according to Al Jazeera, some members told regional broadcasters that they were not notified about or consulted on their appointments.

The council is to comprise 94 members – 42 in Syria – and be led by Burhan Ghalioun, a sociologist at the Sorbonne in Paris. Hundreds of Syrian dissidents had gathered in Istanbul last month and agreed to form a council in order to unify the opposition. more…

Syrian opposition decides to take up arms against Assad regime, 28.08.11

Leader of Revolutionary Council tell London-based As-Sharq al-Awsat that the only solution to regime’s violence is armed uprising.

The leader of the Revolutionary Council of the Syrian Coordination Committees, Mohammad Rahhal, said in remarks published Sunday that the council took the decision to arm the Syrian revolution.

Since mid-March pro-democracy protests have engulfed most of Syria calling for political and economic reforms as well as for the ousting of Syrian president Bashar Assad.

“We made our decision to arm the revolution which will turn violent very soon because what we are being subjected to today is a global conspiracy that can only be faced by an armed uprising,” he told the London-based As-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper. Circumstances no longer allow dealing peacefully with the regime’s “crimes,” he added. “We will use whatever arms and rocks … We will respond to the people’s calls to arm the revolution,” he said.

“Confronting this monster (the Syrian regime) now requires arms, especially after it has become clear to everyone that the world only supports the Syrian uprising through speeches,” he added. Rahal lashed out some Arab regimes and described them as “cowards.”

Assad’s troops have harshly cracked down on protests against almost five decades of Baath Party rule, killing over 2,200 people and triggering a wide-scale international condemnation.

Sami Moubayed in Gulfnews

….The Syrian state, however, until this very day, does not feel weak or in danger. Wishful thinking is one thing, but hard reality is another. On the contrary, Syrian authorities are firmly convinced that the “crisis” is ending and the nation is still very much under control. Schools and universities are opening next September, infrastructure projects are still underway, employees are still showing up at ministries, and state salaries are still being paid. No serious defections have taken place in the army or the foreign ministry, and no critical mass has been recorded in the capital Damascus. Also, the state feels that the demonstrators are getting fatigued because of fear, death and so many arrests during the past two months.

For their part, the rioters are also now certain that the state is much stronger than they expected and unlikely to relinquish power as the case in Tunisia or Egypt, anytime soon. Given the current balance of power, the street will probably never take Damascus or Aleppo — the two largest cities in Syria — and nor will the protesters ever occupy a central part of the capital, as they did with Tahrir Square in Cairo.

That explains why there are certain voices in the Syrian underground now calling for taking up arms, claiming that a “peaceful revolt” will never achieve its objective…..

Syrian Attorney General Bakkour Kidnapped in Hama, Sana Says, 2011-08-29
By Vivian Salama

Aug. 29 (Bloomberg) — A group of armed gunmen have reportedly kidnapped Syrian Attorney General Adnan Bakkour in the city of Hama while he was on his way to work today, state-run Sana news agency reported today, citing Hama police.

Everyone should buy this book of Ali Ferzat’s cartoons that Scott Davis published at Cune Press. It is excellent.

Some fear war, foreign intervention in Syria
By Phil Sand, Aug 30, 2011, the National

Damascus // With no sign that a political solution will be found to end a six-month-old uprising, Syria is sliding towards a full-blown war involving foreign forces, analysts and political figures in Damascus fear.

Pro-and anti-regime figures and independent analysts once spoke of civil war and international military intervention as remote possibilities. In the past 10 days, however, the already sombre mood in the Syrian capital has turned even darker and now there is a growing consensus that an escalation of armed conflict is likely, if not inevitable.

A turning point came on August 21, with the arrival of Libyan rebels in Tripoli. With the collapse of the Qaddafi regime, Mr Al Assad’s government saw its hope that Nato would be mired in another Afghanistan-style conflict melt away. Meanwhile, opposition activists and analysts took it as a signal that a once-distracted international community will now focus its attention – and perhaps military resources – on Damascus.

The fact that no state, including the Western nations most at odds with the Syrian regime, has proposed military intervention has done nothing to prevent grim speculation.

The gloom has been compounded by increasingly critical positions from the Arab League and from Turkey, whose president, Abdullah Gul, said Sunday that any reforms would now be “too little, too late.”

“Scenarios that lead to foreign military action in Syria grow more likely every day,” said one well-connected political analyst in Damascus, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He brushed aside Western and Arab League assurances that military action was not on the agenda, citing the rapid march to war in Libya as a precedent for how rapidly policies could change.

“The situation could start moving very quickly. If the [Syrian] regime keeps killing people in large numbers, we will enter a civil war, and if that happens Turkey, the West and the Arab states would decide to step in and finish it,” the analyst said. “That is exactly the direction we are now heading in.”…. “Every day we are coming up with political initiatives that we put to the authorities to avert the disaster of war and foreign military intervention but nothing is happening to change course,” said Mohammad Habash, a Syrian MP pushing for reforms. “Without real change, we go deeper and deeper into crisis. We are marching towards more bloodshed.”

Arab League proposes Syria peace plan, Telegraph
By Ben Farmer, 28 Aug 2011

The Arab League is sending its chief to Damascus with a peace plan to try and solve the bloody five-month-old Syrian crisis.

Nabil al-Arabi will visit the Syrian capital with “an initiative” to end the deadlock between the government and protesters, the league said in a statement demanding an end to the bloodshed.

The statement provoked an angry rejection from Syria though, which condemned it as “a clear violation … of the principles of the Arab League charter and of the foundations of joint Arab action.” Foreign ministers from the 22-member League met over the weekend in Cairo as an onslaught against anti-government protesters defied growing pressure from Damascus’s allies.

The United Nations has estimated more than 2,200 have been killed.

Months of international condemnation have failed to halt the bloodshed, which has seen the regime deploy tanks, snipers, and allegedly naval bombardment against street protesters.

In some of the weekend’s heaviest clashes, army defectors who had refused to fire on unarmed protesters reportedly fought loyalist troops in a northeast suburb of the capital.

Dozens of soldiers defected and fled into al-Ghouta, an area of orchards and farmland, after pro-Assad forces shot at a crowd of demonstrators near the Damascus suburb of Harasta to prevent them from marching on the capital, residents said.

Syrian authorities have denied any army defections, though protesters claim growing numbers of rank-and-file soldiers are mutinying against officers loyal to the Assad family.

One resident, who declined to be named, said: “The army has been firing heavy machineguns throughout the night at al-Ghouta and they were being met with response from smaller rifles.”

Security forces on Sunday shot dead two and wounded nine others in the northwestern province of Idlib, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Abdullah Gul, president of neighbouring Turkey, said he had lost confidence in Damascus’s promises to halt the crackdown and deliver reform.

“Today in the world there is no place for authoritarian administrations, one-party rule, closed regimes. Those either will be replaced by force, or the governors of states will take the initiative to administer,” Mr Gul warned.

Iran at the weekend warned Mr Assad to heed the “legitimate demands” of his people, but warned Nato would become bogged down in a quagmire if it interfered.

Ali Akbar Salehi, Tehran’s foreign minister, said: “Syria is the front-runner in Middle Eastern resistance (to Israel) and Nato cannot intimidate this country with an attack.

“If, God forbid, such a thing happened, Nato would drown in a quagmire from which it would never be able to escape …

“If the West should want to follow the same course as they have done in Iraq and Afghanistan they would not realise the desired result.”

William Hague, British Foreign Secretary, ruled out a Libya-style Nato military campaign in Syria.

He claimed the success of Libyan rebels in taking Tripoli “vindicated” Britain’s policy of military action, but said there was no consensus for action in Syria.

It was unclear when the Arab League delegation would reach Damascus and details of the peace plan were not disclosed.

Russian diplomats were also preparing to send their own delegation with a competing initiative, Moscow said.

Council seeks ‘resort to reason‘; Delegates also recognize Libyan rebels, ask UN to release frozen funds, assets
By SAMI ABOUDI, Reuters August 29, 2011

Arab foreign ministers told Syria on Sunday to work to end months of bloodshed, and decided to send Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby to Damascus to push for political and economic reforms.

But in a conciliatory message to Damascus, the ministers also said after an extraordinary meeting in Cairo that Syria’s stability was crucial for the Arab World and the whole region.

Assad receives a message on the Russian vision towards regional issues
2011-08-30

DAMASCUS, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad received Monday a message from his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev ….

SANA said Assad has expressed “appreciation of Russia’s balanced stance towards the developments in Syria.”

Assad said “each step Syria has taken towards issuing laws that lay foundations for a new political era was followed by an escalation of the regional and international campaign towards Syria’s Arab and regional role.”

Bogdanov voiced his country’s support to the process of reforms Syria has commenced in the economic and political fields, underlining the importance of continued coordination between the two countries in all fields.

The Russian envoy’s visit aims likely to feel out Syria’s position on the draft resolution and to what extent Damascus would commit itself to its provisions if Russia and China were able to pass it in the Security Council instead of the Europeans’ proposed one.

The Russian draft stresses that the only solution to the current crisis is “an inclusive and Syrian-led political process,” and urges the opposition to engage in political dialogue with the government.

US ‘encouraged’ by tougher Arab stand on Syria

WASHINGTON – The United States said Monday that it was “encouraged” and “heartened” by a tougher stand from Arab countries toward Syria’s deadly crackdown pro-democracy protesters.

“We are very much encouraged, heartened by the strong statements that we’ve seen over the weekend by the Arab League as well as by the Gulf Cooperation Council,” State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.

These are “further signs that the international community… is repulsed by the brutal actions of the Syrian government and is standing with the Syrian people,” he added.

If the Arab Spring Turns Ugly
By VALI NASR
Published: August 27, 2011

Vali Nasr is professor at Tufts University, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of “The Shia Revival: How Conflicts Within Islam Will Shape the Future.”
Graphic
Points of Confrontation

THE Arab Spring is a hopeful chapter in Middle Eastern politics, but the region’s history points to darker outcomes. There are no recent examples of extended power-sharing or peaceful transitions to democracy in the Arab world. When dictatorships crack, budding democracies are more than likely to be greeted by violence and paralysis. Sectarian divisions — the bane of many Middle Eastern societies — will then emerge, as competing groups settle old scores and vie for power. Syria today stands at the edge of such an upheaval. The brutality of Bashar al-Assad’s regime is opening a dangerous fissure between the Alawite minority, which rules the country, and the majority Sunni population. After Mr. Assad’s butchery in the largely Sunni city of Hama on July 31, on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan, the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni group, accused the regime of conducting “a war of sectarian cleansing.” It is now clear that Mr. Assad’s strategy is to divide the opposition by stoking sectarian conflict.

Sunni extremists have reacted by attacking Alawite families and businesses, especially in towns near the Iraq border. The potential for a broader clash between Alawites and Sunnis is clear, and it would probably not be confined to Syria. Instead, it would carry a risk of setting off a regional dynamic that could overwhelm the hopeful narrative of the Arab Spring itself, replacing it with a much aggravated power struggle along sectarian lines.

That is because throughout the Middle East there is a strong undercurrent of simmering sectarian tension between Sunnis and Shiites, of whom the Alawites are a subset. ….

Tehran presses ally Assad for reforms
Published: Aug 27, 2011 22:48 Updated: Aug 27, 2011 22:48

TEHRAN: The Syrian government should recognize the “legitimate demands” of its people, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, whose nation is the main ally of Damascus, was quoted as saying Saturday.

“The government should answer to the demands of its people, be it Syria, Yemen or other countries,” the ISNA news agency quoted him as saying. “The people of these nations have legitimate demands and the governments should respond to these demands as soon as possible,” Salehi added.

“We have the same stance toward popular developments in the Middle East and North Africa. We believe that the developments in the region emanate from discontent and dissatisfaction in these countries,” he said.

But he warned against toppling the Syrian regime. “A vacuum in the Syrian regime would have an unpredictable impact for the region and its neighbors,” Salehi said, referring to calls by the United States and European leaders for President Bashar Assad to step down.

Salehi’s comments came two days after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for dialogue between Damascus and the opposition to end months of deadly violence. “The people and government of Syria must come together to reach an understanding,” Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday.

Syria’s opposition has failed to offer a viable alternative, Aug 28, 2011. Russian News

Shortly after the execution of Saddam Hussein in December 2006, two stories began to circulate about his fate. One told of otherwise sane people reportedly seeing the face of the late Iraqi dictator on the moon on the night of his death. Another told a more believable tale: that the “real” Saddam was alive and well after a body double died on the gallows. It would only be a matter of time before he rose again.

These stories were, of course, nothing more than paranoid fiction. But they spoke to the psychological hold that Saddam maintained over much of the Iraqi public. People simply couldn’t believe his reign of terror was over. Indeed, some people didn’t want it to be.

A similar scenario is playing out in Syria today. Much like his father before him, Bashar Al Assad’s political decisions have rendered him illegitimate in the eyes of many. But fear of what could come next has kept his regime alive.

Mr Al Assad, like all totalitarian rulers, holds on to power in different ways: by force, by coercion, or by a combination of both. Decades of brutality have pushed some to accept tyranny.

But there are others who support the Assad regime for legitimate reasons. These Syrians, predominantly minorities, have profound concerns that must be duly addressed. And so far, the Syrian opposition has failed to reassure those sitting on the fence….

August 26, 2011
Iran Monitors Turkey’s Rising Regional Power
By Stratfor

A high ranking Iranian cleric used some tough language against Turkey on Wednesday. Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi – recently appointed to head the newly constituted Arbitration Council- accused Turkey of promoting a Westernized version of Islam to advance its interests in the region. Shahroudi, who is seen as a possible successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Turkey’s claims to be the “guardian of the resistance movement” are tarnished by Ankara’s relations with Israel and alliance with the United States. He said that Iran, despite its support of the Palestinians and efforts against the West, has been pushed to the margins.

Shahroudis comments come a day after another high-ranking cleric, Naser Makarrem-Shirazi (a grand ayatollah who is very close to the Iranian political establishment) criticized the Turkish government for turning against Syria, accusing Ankara of being at the complete disposal of the West. Earlier on Monday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sought Ankara’s help in protecting the Syrian regime from Western pressure during a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that lasted more than thirty minutes….

Turkey’s ‘house of glass’
Thursday, August 25, 2011
BURAK BEKDİL

Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek has an explanation for the most recent escalation of violence in Turkey’s southeast: Foreign powers!

Mr. Çiçek’s reply to a reporter’s question as to who these foreign powers are may well earn him a nomination for the 2011 Speech Apraxia Award: “We know who they are… Those who know who they are know who they are… And they (the evil foreign powers) know it’s them.”

In the previous rise of armed conflict between the Turkish military and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, the Turkish government subtly accused Israel for playing the Kurdish card against Turkey – while not minding to play the Hamas card against the Jewish state. Today, it seems, “those who know it’s them” are either the Iranians or the Syrians, or both. But is it not bizarre to see Israel, Iran and Syria in the same camp? A very rare gathering, indeed…

Wikileaks has released a US embassy cable dated 2008 about the sale of commercial Airbus planes which has been blocked by the USA .

The blockage was already a well known fact. What was not known is : It also stressed that the airframer had “no intention of structuring the deal to attempt to circumvent [US government] sanctions” – ruling out lease and purchase agreements with private third parties.

Russia, China resist U.N. Syria sanctions push: envoys
By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS | Fri Aug 26, 2011

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – A U.S. and European push to impose U.N. Security Council sanctions on Syria for its bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators is meeting fierce resistance from Russia and China, U.N. diplomats said.

The United States, Britain, France, Germany and Portugal have circulated a draft resolution that calls for sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, influential members of his family and close associates. They say they want to put it to a vote as soon as possible.

The measures are not as severe as U.S. sanctions in place and a proposed expansion of European Union steps against Damascus that would forbid the import of Syrian oil.

U.S., Israel Said to Monitor Suspected Syrian Weapons: WSJ 2011-08-27

WASHINGTON—The U.S. and Israel are closely monitoring Syria’s suspected cache of weapons of mass destruction, fearing that terror groups could take advantage of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad to obtain blistering agents, nerve gas …

Nasrallah urges Arabs to end unrest in Syria
By Dana Khraiche

BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah called Friday on Arab and friendly states to combine efforts to end the nearly six-month unrest in Syria, adding Syrian support for Hezbollah had been essential in the liberation of south Lebanon from Israeli occupation.

“Everyone who is a friend of Syria and seeks to preserve the country and its unity should combine efforts to help push them toward dialogue and peaceful resolution,” Nasrallah said during a ceremony for the occasion of Jerusalem International Day in Maroun al-Ras, a village on the Lebanese border with Israel.

Nasrallah praised Syria’s support for the Lebanese and Palestinian resistance, noting that if it wasn’t for the support of the Syrian leadership, Hezbollah would not have succeeded in liberating south Lebanon in 2000.

“This land here [south Lebanon] would not have been liberated it wasn’t for the resistance and the resistance would not have won if it wasn’t for the Syrian support,” Nasrallah said, adding that the Iran had also provided support, via Syria.

In 2000, Israel withdrew from south Lebanon in what has been described by Hezbollah as a victory for the party, as has the 2006 war between Lebanon and Israel.

Nasrallah also warned that any positive or negative developments in Syria would affect the entire region, including Lebanon, and would harm the chances of liberating Palestine, praising Syria’s role in supporting the Palestinian cause.

Syrian opposition tries to unite, Turkey pledges more support
25/08/2011

Syria’s fragmented opposition is on the edge of forming their leadership, as the unrest in the country is about to enter its sixth month.

The Syrian opposition gathered in Istanbul earlier this week and established the National Council after three days of meetings. The 120 members will be determined in two weeks.

“Options for the Assad regime are growing narrower by the day while the opposition is becoming bolder and more conscious of the pressing need to demonstrate that they are able to address the question of what happens after the collapse of the Assad regime,” says Amr al-Azm, a Syrian-American history professor.

Meanwhile, al-Azm adds, the opposition is unable to unite around a single representative body “that would then be able to speak on its behalf and articulate these demands in a cohesive and comprehensive manner”.

This is not easy “due to the unsettled relations between the various opposition groups and tensions that exist between those on the inside and the diaspora”, he tells SETimes.

“It is this daunting challenge of attempting to help the Syrian opposition coalesce around a representative body or council that Turkey may find a role to play in the coming days and weeks,” he adds.

Edward Dark, an activist from Aleppo and editor of the website Syrialeaks, said… “We view Turkey as a big brother who should protect us in our time of trouble… maybe [our] expectations are too high and sometimes unrealistic,” he tells SETimes.

Turkey, however, finds itself in a difficult position on the Syrian issue, while it tries to juggle its relations with the regime and links to the people.

“Maintaining this balance is not possible anymore,” Dark says, “The activists demand that Turkey sever its ties with the regime and take a very tough line, with threats of military intervention, under the umbrella of the UN or NATO.”

But in Ankara, officials seem unsure about the next step in their strategy.

“Our diplomacy is the diplomacy of persuasion,” Canan Kalsin, ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) vice-chairman for foreign affairs, tells SETimes, adding that Turkey will continue its efforts to bring the sides together for dialog.

“[Erdogan] warned last week that unrest in Syria is part of Turkey’s internal affairs. That means the strengthening of the PKK in Syria is very sensitive for us,” she adds.

Oytun Orhan, Syria analyst at the Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies, an Ankara-based think tank, explains that some in Turkey blame the recent wave of PKK attacks on Syria, believing that the al-Assad regime is tacitly backing the rebels in response to AKP government turning against its former ally.

“The regional picture is more complicated,” he told SETimes. “Syria is a key ally of Iran, which has, in recent weeks, suddenly stepped up its own attacks on PJAK, the PKK’s Iranian wing. Apparently, Iran also influences Turkey in this matter.”

Syrian Opposition Leader Riad Seif Recounts His Experiences in Prison and Says: ‘Dialogue Cannot Take Place between a Hangman and His Victim’
MEMRI TV

German prize for Syrian poet Sunday, August 28, 2011, BERLIN – The Associated Press

Adonis received the prize for bringing modern European ideas and critical thinking into current Arab culture.

Kordahi; Arab Star’s TV show pulled for his pro-Syria views
(DP-News – AFP)28/08/2011

DUBAI- The influential Saudi media group MBC has blocked the transmission of a game show because of the overtly pro-Syrian regime views of its Lebanese star presenter, Georges Kordahi. The Arabic-language version of the US show “You Deserve It” was to have been broadcast from September 10, and episodes had already been recorded.

In a statement received by AFP on Sunday, the Dubai-based Middle East Broadcasting Corporation said it had “taken this decision through respect for the feelings of the Syrian people.”

The Internet site of the Al-Arabiya satellite channel, which belongs to the MBC group, said Kordahi had been targeted by social networks and in Arab media for his remarks on the pro-government Dunia channel and on pro-Syrian Lebanese stations.

Diary from Syria: Ramadan Kareem or Ramadan Massacre
August 28, 2011 | By Jasmine Roman

….It has been confirmed that in a very wealthy neighborhood in Damascus city, gunshots were fired by security and police men on August 5th, 2011. The area was raided by more than fifty thugs and security officers searching for one unarmed young protestor who hopelessly hid behind the garbage box in the school yard. He was caught and beat violently by all fifty men with their wooden rods and guns. They then broke into the school and threatened to wreck the whole neighborhood if any word, photo, or video is released. This happened in my own street and the whole incident was witnessed by my own eyes. I was almost dragged and imprisoned by the security men as I was standing in the balcony with my family…..

Syrian gov’t troops kill 2 armed near capital: witness

DAMASCUS, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) — Two armed men were killed in clashes with Syrian government forces in Harasta suburb of capital Damascus late Saturday, an eye witness told Xinhua Sunday.

The witness, who asked for anonymity, said intense shooting occurred Saturday in Harasta after Ramadan night prayers between the government forces and armed men, adding that a number of parked cars were smashed with bullets from both sides.

The gunmen were armed with M16 rifles and pistols, said the witness.

After the shooting the government forces sealed off entrances of Harasta and prevented people of entering it, the witness added.

The report couldn’t be independently verified as journalists are banned from going to restive areas.

Iraq-Kuwait Tensions Rise Over Rocket Strikes - August 28, 2011

Shi’ite Militia Accused of Firing Rockets Against Kuwaiti Project

The disputes between Iraq and neighboring Kuwait are long-standing and well documented. Tensions between the two nations seem to be on the rise again as Iraqis loudly oppose the Mubarak al-Kabir Port project.

The opposition to the port centers from concern that it will reduce the value Iraq’s own nearby port of Grand Faw. This led a number of Iraqis to rally against the Kuwaiti project, with the port being the latest in a long line of bones of contention between the two.

Now, it seems, matters have gone beyond simple protest, as a group inside Iraq has fired a number of rockets against Kuwait. So far the rockets fell short of Kuwaiti territory, but led to angry complaints from Kuwait and a rebuke from Iraqi MPs, who warned that the situation could escalate.

CFR.org: How Will Assad Fall?
2011-08-29 by Elliott Abrams

It is easy to say that with Qaddafi gone, the next vicious regime to fall is that of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. ‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished, but realists and pessimists have …

Amid Syrian Raids, Reports of Desertions, By NADA BAKRI in NYTimes

reports that dozens of soldiers, possibly encouraged by the rout in Libya of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, had deserted their positions in a village near Homs,…

Comments (249)


Pages: « 1 2 3 4 [5] Show All

201. beaware said:

Syria unrest: Hama legal chief ‘resigns over killings’
31 August 11 18:17 ET’
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/mobile/world-middle-east-14738385
A man purporting to be Adnan Bakkour speaks in a video statement (31 August 2011)

A man claiming to be the top legal official in the central Syrian city of Hama has announced that he has resigned in protest at the crimes against humanity committed by security forces.

In a video statement, Hama governorate attorney-general Adnan Bakkour said he had evidence of more than 70 executions and hundreds of cases of torture.

It is not clear when he was filmed.

On Monday, the Syrian state news agency said Mr Bakkour had been kidnapped by gunmen while on his way to work.

It quoted the Hama Police Command as saying the attorney-general, his driver and a bodyguard had been abducted in the village of Karnaz.

There had been no other reports about Mr Bakkour since then.

In his statement, which was posted online on Wednesday, he said he was resigning because of the “al-Assad regime and his gangs”.

Mr Bakkour gave the reasons for his decision as:

* The killing of 72 prisoners in Hama’s central prison on 31 July 2011, including peaceful protesters and political activists
* The burying of more than 420 victims in mass graves in public parks by security forces personnel and the pro-regime shabiha militia; he said he was told to report that the victims were killed by armed gangs
* The arbitrary arrests of peaceful protesters; he said there were approximately 10,000 prisoners in total
* The torture of prisoners at branches of the security services; he said approximately 320 people had died under torture
* The demolition by the army of homes with people still inside in his district of Hama, al-Hadima

Mr Bakkour said he would make documents supporting his allegations available later, but in the meantime would name “criminals” who he said had massacred unarmed protesters.

They included the local heads of the interior ministry, police, military intelligence, air force intelligence, and the General Security Directorate. He also accused several named officers of torture.

The publication of the video came as troops backed by tanks raided houses in Hama searching for activists behind the protests calling for the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad, residents said.

……………

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August 31st, 2011, 6:22 pm

 

202. beaware said:

*

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August 31st, 2011, 6:23 pm

 

203. hsyrian said:

An Indian diplomat understands Syria

If the likeness between ravaging regime change scenarios in Iraq and Libya is any indication, the future of Bashar al-Assad’s sovereignty in Syria might be hanging by a thin thread. The heart of the matter – underscores this analyst – is that regime change in Syria is absolutely central to US designs on the Middle East. The stakes are so intertwined that a host of stragetic gains could be achieved in one fell swoop, not least shaving Russia’s and China’s clout in the region. This is not an opportunity that Washington would want to miss.
…….

However, the western mind is famous for its innovative capacity. Without doubt, Syria occupies the heart of the Middle East and conflict breaking out there will most certainly engulf the entire region – including Israel and, possibly, Iran and Turkey. On the other hand, the calibrated western moves in the recent weeks, racheting up sanctions, are strikingly similar to those taken in the prelude to the Libyan intervention. Sustained efforts are afoot to bring about a unified Syrian opposition. Last weekend’s conclave held in Turkey – third in a row – finally elected a ‘council’ ostensibly representing the voice of the Syrian people. Evidently, a focal point is being carefully crafted, which could be co-opted at a convenient point as the West’s democratic interlocutor representing Syria. The fig-leaf of Arab League support is also available. The ‘pro-West’ Arab regimes, which are autocratic themselves, have reappeared in the forefront of the western campaign as the flag carriers of representative rule in Syria.

Conceivably, the main hurdle would be to get a United Nations mandate for the western intervention in Syria. But the Libyan experience shows that an alibi can always be found. Turkey can be trusted to play a role here. When Turkey gets involved, Charter 5 of the NATO can be invoked. The heart of the matter is that regime change in Syria is imperative for the advancement of the US strategy in the Middle East and Washington is unlikely to brook any BRICS obstacles on its path, since the stakes are very high. The stakes include the expulsion of the Hamas leadership from Damascus; the break-up of the Syrian-Iranian axis; isolation of Iran and a push for regime change there; weakening and degradation of Hezbollah in Lebanon; and regaining Israel’s strategic dominance over the Arab world. And, of course, at the root of it all lies the control of oil, which George Kennan had said 60 years ago are “our resources – and not theirs” [Arabs’] – which are crucial for the continued prosperity of the western world. Mock at him if anyone claims that cash-strapped western governments and their war-weary citizens have no more appetite for wars.

Finally, all this means in geopolitical terms the rolling back of Russian and Chinese influence in the Middle East. A subtle western propaganda has begun pitting Russia and China as obstacles to regime change in the region – standing on the ‘wrong side of history’. It is a clever ideological twist to the hugely successful Cold-War era blueprint that pitted communism against Islam. The body language in the western capitals underscores that there is no conceivable way the US would let go the opportunity in Syria.

http://www.voltairenet.org/It-is-going-to-be-Syria-s-turn

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August 31st, 2011, 6:23 pm

 

204. Khalid Tlass said:

^ I wouldn’t be so optimistic brother (Abu Umar). From what I’ve observed about this guy (SyrianCommando a.k.a Schrodinger), he’s a dangerous type and I think he has links with al Mukhabarat al Jawiyyah. Like I said, he always knew about the military operations BEFOREHAND. How do you think eh ? These guys are dangerous and not like the poor stupid brainless Menhebaks like Mjabalai or Afram, lol. Whether he is a Sunni or not, these guys need to be exterminated. Don;t count on the loyalty of Sunnis, we are not at all like Shias , we have no solidarity among ourselves. Hpw do you think ppl like Najib Mikati, Khaddam, Mustafa Tlass came about . Hell, even Rafiq Hariri was a Menhebak.

As for SyrianCommando, what do you know abt him on SC ? I’m knew on SC, but the guy does not seem like the typical stupid Menhebak. He has brains, and he also knows some secret information. He is in full form on http://www.ShiaChat.com, you can go there and see 4 urselves, his future predictions always come true.

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August 31st, 2011, 6:29 pm

 

205. Tara said:

Beaware

What does * mean? A star?

One of your early articles today had August 3 date instead of August 31.

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August 31st, 2011, 6:29 pm

 

206. Humanist said:

Re. sunni-soulmates (s-s) Abu Umar and Khalid T:

The AssadS are in fact SUNNIS by conversion (look it up!), so ACCORDING TO YOUR LOGIC all Sunnis of Syria should LOVE THEM (and by the same logic all the alawires should hate them because they betrayed their own sect).

It just doesn’t work that way….

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August 31st, 2011, 6:30 pm

 

207. beaware said:

How Saudi Arabia can contain Iran – and other benefits from Syria’s turmoil
http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2011/0831/How-Saudi-Arabia-can-contain-Iran-and-other-benefits-from-Syria-s-turmoil

Saudi Arabia is facing its biggest foreign policy obstacle (and opportunity) yet – one whose outcome matters deeply to the US. How the kingdom handles Syrian turmoil will determine its leadership standing in the region and its containment of Iran.

By Bilal Y. Saab
posted August 31, 2011 at 11:35 am EDT
Washington

All of a sudden, Saudi Arabia finds itself facing a historic opportunity to greatly enhance its strategic position in the Middle East and perhaps even assume an undisputed leadership role in Arab politics.

And this is hardly just an internal Saudi matter.

The regional status of the kingdom is a matter of some importance to the United States and its policies in the Middle East. Given the (still solid) strategic alliance between the US and Saudi Arabia, it goes without saying that a more influential and assertive Riyadh helps Washington achieve its overall foreign policy goals in the region, most urgent of which is checking Iran’s power and preventing it from becoming a nuclear power state.

So what is this new Saudi opportunity all about? It starts in Syria

RELATED: Seven reasons why Syrian opposition hasn’t toppled Assad

Earlier this month, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia issued a strongly worded statement against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad for his brutal crackdown against Syrian protestors, asking him to stop the “killing machine and end the bloodshed.” He also pulled his ambassador to Syria out of Damascus.

Mr. Abdullah’s statement is worth paying close attention to because it reflects not only the kingdom’s foreign policy shift toward relations with Syria but also its new regional approach toward this period of uncertainty and upheaval that has been rocking the Middle East.
Saudi priority No. 1: Contain Iran

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, Saudi Arabia has focused all its efforts on fulfilling a single task in foreign policy: the containment of Tehran’s power and influence in the region. Saudi Arabia’s rulers saw (and continue to see) the world, almost exclusively, from the prism of the “Shiite octopus.” Always reacting to Iranian moves, Saudi Arabia seemed behind, trying to limit Iranian advances and minimize costs as much as possible.

Containing Iran was never easy because Tehran had done a masterful job projecting its power onto the Levant and Arab Gulf where the kingdom had vital political and security interests. After the 2003 Iraq War, containing Iran became much more difficult because the elimination of late Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, a longtime foe of the Iranians, offered Tehran a huge opportunity to dominate the politics and security of oil-rich Iraq. Iran’s rise after the fall of Baghdad prompted leaders in the region, including King Abdullah II of Jordan, to speak of a “Shiite Crescent.”

The Saudis looked at their relations with Syria as a means to slow down, or perhaps more realistically, manage Iran’s rise and growing influence. They needed someone that could carry their messages and concerns to the Iranians. Yes, Syria had harassed and often eliminated the kingdom’s allies in Lebanon, and yes, it had armed and offered political backing to pro-Iranian Hezbollah, but the thinking inside the kingdom was that this was no time for payback. Indeed, the House of Saud calculated that a rupture in relations between them and the Syrians would most likely turn the job of containing Iran from difficult to impossible.

RELATED: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s top 5 quotes to the UN, 2005-2009

Therefore, the decision was to turn a blind eye (at least temporarily) to Syrian mischief in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, and Iraq – even if it came at the cost of important Saudi interests – on the condition that the Syrians show good faith and gradually distance themselves from Iran. While Abdullah never expected Mr. Assad to break completely with Iran, he wanted to see the Syrian leader cooperate on sensitive matters and give more priority to Arab affairs.

Yet what Riyadh had not realized (until now) was that the very network of relations it enjoyed in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, and Iraq that was being constantly undermined by Syria was in fact the very tool that was necessary to successfully implement the Iran-containment policy.

Here’s one example. When Saudi Arabia sought several understandings with Syria on Lebanon during the 2009 to 2010 period, it was, in effect, hurting its chances of containing Iran because these deals ended up bolstering the strength of Iranian-backed Hezbollah. At the same time, these deals ended up weakening Saudi Arabia’s allies in Lebanon, including Saad Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, son of Rafik whom Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran are suspected of killing in February 2005.
No longer turning a blind in Syria

But turning a blind eye to Syria’s mischief and connection to Iran is now all over.

Abdullah’s recent statement suggests that Saudi Arabia is no longer viewing its relations with Syria in the same light. The House of Saud has finally decided instead to take advantage of the vulnerability of the Syrian regime and grab the great opportunities presented by the crisis it is facing:

First, with Assad potentially gone (or with his role transformed), Saudi Arabia could find a “natural” ally in a new, Sunni-dominated government in Damascus, and consequently extend its influence in the Levant. Equally, if not more, important, with a new Syrian political order that is friendly to the Saudis, Iran will lose a gigantic gateway to the Arab world and therefore find it much harder to fulfill its goals in the Middle East. This will allow the kingdom’s Lebanese allies to breathe again.

Second, Saudi Arabia could assume an undisputed leadership role in the Arab world and the region, now that Syria is facing an existential crisis, Egypt is in what could be a lengthy transitional stage in its politics, and Iraq’s politics are dangerously paralyzing and unstable.
The balancing act ahead

But the kingdom knows very well that if the Syrian regime falls, there will be inherent risks during the transition, all of which will require prudent but also forward-looking Saudi statesmanship and crisis management. On the security front, things could (but not necessarily) turn ugly if Assad goes, with sectarian fighting inside Syria spilling over to Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East.

At home, the Saudi leadership cannot pressure the Syrian regime too much because it knows that it is in an awkward, hypocritical position (the kingdom is second to none when it comes to denial of political rights and freedoms, especially to women, in the Middle East). Its vocal opposition could awaken a so-far relatively dormant Saudi population, especially its Shiite part in the Eastern province.

RELATED: Syria 101: 4 attributes of Assad’s authoritarian regime

Because of the risks and uncertainties of the Syrian crisis, Saudi Arabia is aware that it has to engage in a very delicate balancing act. Too much pressure could backfire. Too little could see the opportunity for greater regional leadership and containment of Iranian influence slip away. In its place, Turkey could step in as a major power broker and manage Syria’s political future.

The current upheaval in Syria and shifting sands in the greater Middle East is one of the most challenging foreign policy tasks that Saudi Arabia has had to deal with since its creation in 1932 – and it’s one whose completion is of great concern to the US as well. If it succeeds in setting itself up for leadership in Syria, the kingdom could become a revived, major player on the regional scene, and Washington could rejoice for finally having an ally that is capable of confronting Iran. If Saudi Arabia fails in this balancing act, it risks becoming far less relevant and falling well behind nations such as up-and-coming Egypt and rising Turkey. And then Tehran would rejoice.

Bilal Y. Saab is a visiting fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

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August 31st, 2011, 6:38 pm

 

208. beaware said:

#146
Syrian Activists: Tanks, Troops Raid Hama, Make Arrests
31 August 2011
http://www.voanews.com/english/news/middle-east/Syrian-Activists-Say-Troops-Raid-Central-City-128763968.html

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August 31st, 2011, 6:43 pm

 

209. Khalid Tlass said:

Also, what do you think abiout the Sabra and Shatila massacre, I mean do you think Assad amd the Syrian regime had some responsibilty ? Though most sources blame Israel and Ellie Hobeika-Kateb Party, I have heard that Assad and his cronies cannot escape responsibility ?

Hariris are equally odious. Their greatest allies are the killers of Sabra and Shatila and Hariri senior was a henchman of Papa Assad. Their Saudi daddies do not have the guts to take any concrete action against Iran and Assad. If they spemnt their huge money WISELY instead of spending it on women, and if Saudi really cared, they would have sent their Air Force and Special Forcres to knock out the Besho brigades and put kll the Asad family.

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August 31st, 2011, 6:44 pm

 

210. Chris W said:

I think Israel and the hawks have mistimed their attempt to overthrow Syria.

It’s true the US is something of a puppet of Israel, but only so far. US politicians are even more in awe of opinion polls. Egypt is still under military rule, only less efficiently than before. Libya shows every sign of descending into chaos; no alternative government has stepped in to govern; and Afghanistan is an ongoing source of embarrassing news headlines.

If US public support was going to be brought behind the current ‘plan’ to throw Syria into anarchy, it ought to have been timed to happen now; but the US is still dithering.

As elections in Syria draw closer, even the ignorant but fundamentally decent American man-in-the-street is going to wonder if there’s any reason – apart from the satisfaction of Jewish spite and revenge for military humiliations at the hands of Hezbollah – for the people of Syria to have to undergo the very real chaos which we not only remember from Iraq, but of which scenes of anarchy in Libya are about to provide a nightly reminder.

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August 31st, 2011, 6:59 pm

 

211. Some guy in Damascus said:

@Syrian hamster, BAAHAHAHAHAHA. Wt was up with that Asian animation, did besho’s counter-productivity reach new limits??
It seems there are less people who can stand up to the regime now? Especially on SC. Winds of change anybody?

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August 31st, 2011, 7:10 pm

 

212. Tara said:

Some mamnhebaks

I do not like this sectarian hateful language. You’re reminding me with a great movie I saw several years ago of a blind man who was given a chance by god to see. He some how misused his new found vision and therefore god, displeased with him, took his vision away again. The movie was sad beyond measure..

No one will allow Qurdaha to be leveled after the revolution succeeds. This is not why 2300 people died. You are disrespecting the bravest and the finest who sacrificed themselves for all of us. Please stop!

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August 31st, 2011, 7:11 pm

 

213. N.Z. said:

Jumblatt defected once again, the barometer of Arab politics. A telling sign?

I believe so.

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August 31st, 2011, 7:13 pm

 

214. True said:

If that’s their belief then fair enough, I couldn’t care any less BUT the issue is why do they keep claiming being Shi’a while they are not? and why do they worship the Assadians?

— sorry for the long post i just thought to share it with you folks

http://www.angelfire.com/az/rescon/mgcalawi.html

CHAPTER 4 THE ALAWIS

RELIGION

The ‘Alawis believe in the absolute unity and transcendence of God who is undefinable and unknowable. God however reveals himself periodically to man in a Trinitarian form. This has happened seven times in history, the last and final revelation being in ‘Ali, Muhammad, and Salman al-Farisi. (Salman was a Persian disciple and close companion of Muhammad).
The first person of this Trinity (‘Ali) represents the Meaning of the Deity (Ma’na) which is the inner essence of God. The second person (Muhammad) is the Name or the Veil of Deity (Ism, Hijab) – its outward manifestation. The third person (Salman) is the Gate (Bab) of the Deity, through whom the true believer can gain an entrance to the mystery of the Godhead as revealed in ‘Ali.
The first person, the Ma’na, is the real substance of God, the source and meaning of all things. The other two are derived from him and inferior to him. They are emanations of the Ma’na’s light. In ‘Alawi theology ‘Ali is thus placed above Muhammad in the hierarchy of the trinity. All attributes and names of God are given to ‘Ali and worship is directed to him.
Muhammad emanated from the light of ‘Ali’s essence, and ‘Ali taught him the Quran. Muhammad’s role as Ism (Name = Logos?) was to create and sustain the universe, and as Veil (Hijab) to reveal ‘Ali to mankind. Muhammad is thus the intermediary between man and God.
Salman in turn emanated from Muhammad and is the only Door (Bab) which leads to the Ma’na through the Ism. He also appeared as the angel Gabriel to guide Muhammad into the Quran. He is also called the Holy Spirit and the Universal Soul, the third person in the ‘Alawi Trinity.
The ‘Alawi profession of faith states: “I testify that there is no God but ‘Ali ibn-Talib the one to be worshipped, no Veil but the Lord Muhammad worthy to be praised, and no Gate but the Lord Salman al-Farisi the object of love”.
The mystery of the Trinity is the centre of ‘Alawi worship and rites. It is symbolised by the three letters AMS (Arabic ‘Ain, Mim, Sin) standing for ‘Ali, Muhammad and Salman. These three are one and it is blasphemy to try and separate them. Meditating on the relationship between the three persons of this Trinity is part of ‘Alawi religious practice.
Out of the Bab emanated the five Lords of the Elements (Aytam – incomparable ones), who are also identified with real historical figures. These powers (hierarchies) under Salman, are the creators and sustainors of this universe. Below them are five further spiritual ranks. All these heavenly beings appeared in human form and are personified in Nusairi notables.
In addition to the hierarchies, the ‘Alawis also revere many prophets and apostles. The total number of hierarchies, apostles and prophets is said to be 124,000.
Light is the very essence of God, so the ‘Alawis worship the sun and the moon seeing them as the abodes of ‘Ali, Muhammad and Salman. Actually there are two divisions within the ‘Alawis: The Shamsiya (from the Arabic Shams, meaning sun), identify ‘Ali with the sun and Salman with the moon. The other group, the Qamariyah (from Qamar, the moon), identify ‘Ali with the moon and Salman with the sun. Prayers are said facing the sun.
The heavens are worshipped as God’s abode. ‘Alawi worship of sun, moon and sky can be traced back to the Sabean sect, an ancient Aramaic community of upper Mesopotamia (Harran) who worshipped the sun, moon and the five planets. They believed that God had one essence but was multiple in his manifestations.
Like Twelver Shi’ites, the ‘Alawis believe in the twelve Imams from ‘Ali down to Muhammad the Mahdi, each of whom had a Gate (Bab) who served as the pathway leading believers to the Imam. The twelfth Imam disappeared leaving no Bab. This position was then claimed by ibn-Nusayr the founder of the ‘Alawi faith. The Imams are seen as pre- existent heavenly spirits around God’s throne who later descended to earth in physical bodies to lead humans in praise back to God.
The ‘Alawi feasts include the general Muslim feasts of ‘Id al-Fitr ( but without the fast of Ramadan) and ‘Id al-Adha (without the pilgrimage to Mecca). From Shi’a Islam they celebrate ‘Id al-Ghadir that commemorates ‘Ali’s nomination as successor to Muhammad, and the ‘Ashura that commemorates the martyrdom of Hussein, ‘Ali’s son, at Karbala.
The Persian Nawruz (New Year, held in Spring and symbolising the change from cold to heat), and the Mihrajan (signifying the change from heat to cold in the Autumn), are also celebrated by the ‘Alawis revealing the strong Persian links of their religion.
Christian feast days such as Christmas, Epiphany (the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist), Pentecost and Palm Sunday are celebrated. Also the feasts of Saint John the Baptist, Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Barbara and Saint Mary Magdalene.
The ‘Alawis also celebrate a ceremony resembling the mass (Quddass), where wine and bread are consecrated and partaken of by the male initiates. The wine especially is considered to be the very essence of God (‘Ali), transsubstantiated by the mass and offered to the believer. It is called “The Servant Of Light” (‘Abd al-Nur). Vines are treated with great respect in ‘Alawi culture.
The main ‘Alawi Holy Book is the “Kitab al-Majmu'” compiled by al-Khasibi and containing 16 Suras. Other sacred books are: Kitab al-Mashaykha (manual for Sheikhs), Kitab Majmu’ al-‘Ayad (Book of Feasts) and Kitab Ta’lim al-Diyana al-Nusayriyyah, the ‘Alawi chatechism.
The ‘Alawis believe in the transmigration of souls (metempshychosis, reincarnation). Unbelievers (Muslims, Christians, Jews) return as animals, whilst ‘Alawis are reincarnated in other ‘Alawis and eventually can reach the state of luminous stars!
Another important ‘Alawi principle is that of Taqiya – religious dissimulation, practiced also by Shi’as and the Druze. ‘Alawis may pretend to adhere outwardly to the majority religion in order to ensure their own survival. This also means keeping the ‘Alawi religion and its principles hidden from outsiders.

‘ALAWI SOCIETY

The ‘Alawi community is organised as a secret society, revealing its teachings only to the fully initiated who pledge themselves to keep them secret. Initiation is an extremely important ceremony, and special signs of recognition are used to identify members.
The ‘Alawi community is divided into the “Khassah”, the initiated religious leaders who learn the mysteries of the religion, and the ignorant majority called “‘Ammah”. Any male over eighteen can try and receive initiation if he passes certain tests. He is then attached to a spiritual guide and can gradually ascend to higher degrees of initiation (Najib, Natik, Imam). All Khassah must pledge to keep the secrets of the faith (Kitman) and it’s obligations.
The ignorant ‘Ammah are expected only to keep general moral rules, be loyal to the community’s spiritual leaders, celebrate the ‘Alawi feasts and make pilgrimages to the tombs of various holy men, amongst them al-Khidr (Elijah, St. George) and other saints venerated also by Muslims and Christians.
Religious knowledge is the exclusive privilege of the men, so only males are initiated. ‘Alawis believe that women were created from devils. Women therefore have a low status in ‘Alawi religion and society. They are not taught any prayers nor are they initiated into the secrets of their religion.
After initiation the new disciple is gradually introduced to the mysteries of his religion and is entitled to partake in the celebration of the mass and to receive the consecrated wine in which ‘Ali has manifested himself.
‘Alawi society is still strongly tribal and patriarchal. Feuding was the norm until the beginning of this century, and marauding into the territories of neighbouring non-‘Alawi communities was common. Today the community is fairly united under its religious leaders. The problems they now face are those of the new ideas penetrating the younger generation as larger numbers seek further education in universities.

EVANGELISM AMONGST THE ‘ALAWIS

There are many nominal Christian and heretical Christian elements in ‘Alawi religion. They include the concept of the Trinity, the celebration of the mass, the keeping of Christmas and other Christian holy days. Christian names such as Matthew, Gabriel, Catherine and Helen are common.
Much of our knowledge about the ‘Alawi religion comes from an ‘Alawi convert to Christianity, al-‘Adani, who was burnt alive for his apostasy and for divulging the secrets of the ‘Alawi faith. There are very few ‘Alawi converts at this time, and no Christian workers specialising in outreach to the ‘Alawis.
As with the Druze and other similar closed and secret sects, the ‘Alawis are enslaved by spiritual principalities and powers who will not easily be shaken. Much specific intercession has to be made on their behalf, followed by the praying forth of skilled workers to this specific field who will be willing to immerse themselves in ‘Alawi culture and befriend ‘Alawis as they seek for opportunities to share Christ with them.
Whilst there are superficial similarities to Christian doctrines, concepts and practices, we must be careful to realise the differences. We must present them with a loving and feeling personal God with whom we can have a relationship as opposed to their abstract and unknowable God, and explain the concept of incarnation, where God not only manifested himself in human flesh, but actually was made flesh and dwelt amongst us in Jesus Christ.
Christ must be presented as truly God and truly man, who fulfills all they would look for in ‘Ali and Muhammad and Salman – and much more. The fulness of the Godhead dwells in him, and he is the only Mediator and the only Door. It will not be easy to avoid confusion with their concepts of a multitude of divine ranks and manifestations, where Jesus is but one of many and may be seen as an earlier manifestation of Muhammad
The problem of sin must be pushed to the forefront, and with it the concept of sacrifice and atonement which only Christ could perfectly achieve.
Taqiyah presents us with both an opportunity and a problem. On the one hand it would allow a true seeker to come a long way in accepting Christian teaching and practice whilst still within the ‘Alawi framework, on the other hand we could never be sure of the real motives of such seekers and would have to humbly leave such soul searching to God

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August 31st, 2011, 7:17 pm

 

215. Some guy in damascus said:

@ Tara
I absolutely agree, I get offended from this sectarian talk ,and would like to emphasize that there will be no bombing or assault on qurdaha. Khalid tlass , please stop these threats. Qurdaha is Syrian…..first and foremost.

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August 31st, 2011, 7:19 pm

 

216. beaware said:

Iran makes a u-turn on Syria
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MI01Ak01.html
After months of tacitly echoing Damascus’ dismissal of the growing political opposition as armed gangs and foreign agents, Tehran has adjusted its policy by referring to the “legitimate demands” of protesters and the need for the embattled regime of Bashar al-Assad to respect “people’s right to elect and achieve freedom”, to quote Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad in a recent interview with an Arab network.

Simultaneously, in the wake of last week’s European Union sanctions on the elite al-Qods branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, accusing it of providing material support to Damascus to suppress the ongoing revolt, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Ramin Mehmanparast, has categorically denied the EU’s accusation, branding it “unfounded

and aiming at blaming other countries”.

At least 88 people, including 10 children, have died in detention in Syria since unrest broke out in March, according to Amnesty International. Majority of the victims were tortured or ill-treated, Amnesty said this week. At least 2,200 people have been killed since the start of the uprising, according to the United Nations.

“Iran’s reading of the crisis situation in Syria has turned a leaf toward political realism, that is, the knowledge and realization that Assad’s regime may crumble in the not too distant future and Iran should not be hooked to a sinking ship,” said a Tehran University political science professor who spoke to the author on the condition of anonymity.

He added, however, that Iran’s ruling elite was still optimistic that with “due changes and reforms”, the embattled Syrian government could survive and “in essence Iran has not advocated anything that President Assad himself has not already accepted in principle”.

The million dollar question, though, is whether or not Assad’s reform initiatives, such as adopting a more liberal press law, reflect a remedy too late, in light of the climbing death toll in the streets of various cities and the likely prospect of the capital city’s imminent infection by the virus of popular protests.

Behind Tehran’s decision to alter its approach to the Syrian political crisis are a number of important regional as well as internal considerations. As masters of survival who have successfully weathered the torrents of war, armed opposition and mass protests over the past 32 years, the leaders of the Islamic Republic are political pragmatists who rarely allow the rather thick lens of ideology or dogma to obliterate their grasp of political dynamics. They prefer to be ahead rather than behind political curves.

In essence, that means a dualistic approach toward Syria from now on, one track being in league with Turkey and other regional powers pushing for democratic reform, the other still in sync with alliance politics dictating discrete support for Assad’s regime and opposing any Libyan-style foreign intervention.

According to various media reports in Iran, last week’s Tehran visit by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, was an important catalyst in shifting Iran’s policy away from a blind support for Assad and in favor of a more nuanced approach that emphasizes genuine political reforms.

There are those in Tehran who think that Iran has decided to move closer to its Arab neighbors in the Persian Gulf by distancing itself from the moribund Assad regime, which may experience serious cracks in its political, administrative and military institutions in the immediate future as a result of the growing mass discontent.

In turn, this raises a fundamental question: how valuable is Syria’s alliance to Iran today, and is it worth risking a major cognitive dissonance, in light of Iran’s overt support for the Arab Spring?

Indeed, the instant result of Iran’s new approach toward Syria is that it closes the previous gap, between Iran’s support for political transformations in other parts of the Arab world and Iran’s non-support for the similar process underway in Syria, thus allowing Tehran to declare that it pursues a consistent and logical policy with respect to the current Middle East upheavals.

Perhaps equally important, the new Tehran policy toward Syria is bound to reward the regime by also bringing Iran and Turkey closer together, in light of Ankara’s recent announcement that it has “lost confidence” in the Assad regime. (See Iran draws the line with Turkey on Syria Asia Times Online, July 26, 2011.)

Iran’s primary concern is the vital Persian Gulf, and despite all the talk of “strategic depth” as a result of the alliance with Syria, the principal concern of Iran is to improve its standing in the immediate region that has vast geo-economic value.

No longer menaced by Iraq, as it was during the bloody eight-year war during the 1980s, Iran is fundamentally less beholden to Syria acting as a “vital bridge to the Arab world”, particularly since the gates of diplomacy with the Arab world’s biggest power, Egypt, have begun to slowly open, given the prospect of normalization between Tehran and Cairo.

In addition, Tehran’s leaders have not forgotten recent statements from Damascus of support for Saudi intervention in Bahrain, in the name of Arab nationalism, which truly surprised and even dismayed Tehran.

“There has always been a nagging concern that Assad’s regime would sell out Iran in no time if the price was right, but that never happened and Assad we may recall solidly supported Iran during the upheaval of 2009 following the presidential elections,” says the Tehran professor.

As a result, Tehran has nuanced itself rather than come out too strongly against Damascus, thus protecting itself from the charge of hypocrisy and double standards, this while harvesting the gained ability to push for reform in neighboring Bahrain, where the simmering protests have met the iron fist of Saudi-backed official repression. Said otherwise, Iran can now have a greater say in Bahraini affairs, by opting to recognize the legitimacy of the Syrian opposition.

But, as with any major policy shift, there are also unintended consequences, such as a cooling in relations with Damascus in the event that Assad survives. Damascus would then look at Iran as a half-loyal friend that cannot be fully trusted.

There is, in other words, an inevitable element of risk in Iran’s new policy that could adversely affect its regional fortunes, depending on the dynamic of political change in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran’s Foreign Policy (Westview Press) . For his Wikipedia entry, click here. He is author of Reading In Iran Foreign Policy After September 11 (BookSurge Publishing , October 23, 2008) and his latest book, Looking for rights at Harvard, is now available.

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August 31st, 2011, 7:22 pm

 

217. sheila said:

Dear #186. Husam,
Your assessment is very good if it weren’t for the following:
1- I am not criticizing somebody else’s religion, nor am I judging. I am a Sunni Muslim and I am debating my own religion that I feel has been hijacked by people who refuse to use their brains and continuously act like robots who follow what the so called “scholars” decided for them, when Sunni Islam is based on the person’s direct relationship with God and personal responsibility for his or her actions.
2- I have clearly started my post with the following statement ”As much as I believe in personal freedom and the right of women to cover their heads if they want to”. So, clearly I totally agree with your statement “If women have the right to bare all, they should have the right to bare none”.
I hope this clarifies my position and removes me from your hypocrites list.

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August 31st, 2011, 7:30 pm

 

218. Tara said:

Syrialover from previous post

Sorry to sound blunt but “the best way to link an article” you described in your post is a “self-proclaimed” assumption. I prefer how other posters link their article and I suggest that they leave it as is.

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August 31st, 2011, 7:34 pm

 

219. Aboud said:

“He has brains,”

*facepalm*

This is the same guy who kept insisting there were Indian-Zionist pilots in the 1973 war, and who said he would sue us if we called him a terrorist. He left this website after being roundly ridiculed and made fun of.

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August 31st, 2011, 7:37 pm

 

220. beaware said:

Peace with Israel in post-Assad Syria possible, dissident says
By OREN KESSLER
08/30/2011 02:39
http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=235932
Syrian Kurdish opposition leader to ‘Post': “Many members of the Syrian Democracy Council have no problem recognizing Israel, making peace.”
A functioning, democratic Syria at peace with its neighbors is possible in the post- Bashar Assad era, a Washington- based Syrian Kurdish opposition leader told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

“We have a new vision for Syria – a federal Syria, a just Syria – not an Arab republic – that is inclusive, whether you’re Kurd or Arab, Christian or Muslim,” said Sherkoh Abbas, president of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria (KNAS).
He said a country as homogeneous as Syria is best suited to a federal model, in which areas with high minority populations enjoy certain powers not wielded by the national government.

The new Syria that Abbas envisions would be at peace with all of its neighbors, including Israel.

“Many Syrian religious and tribal leaders who are now part of the Syrian Democracy Council have no problem recognizing Israel and making peace,” he said. “They want to focus on Syria, and they have problems replacing one dictator with another – whether that’s Islamists or another group.”

Abbas dismissed the notion that because Assad has kept the Syrian-Israeli border largely quiet during his reign, the Syrian president is somehow a force for regional stability.

“Look at Hamas and Hezbollah.

Is Israel more stable today, or its borders more secure?” he said. Syria is a major sponsor and arms supplier for both radical groups, and a close ally of Iran.

“The only people who benefit from this regime staying in power are Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and other organizations that promote terrorism. Everyone else will win by removing this regime,” he said.

Of all Syrians, he said, Kurds are among the most favorably inclined to Israel. “Kurds in general have absolutely no problem with Israel. Israelis don’t kill us; they don’t take our land or oppress us. Why would we have a problem?” he said. “As for Kurdish religious leaders, they often say that the Koran says Israel belongs to the Jews, who are God’s chosen people, so why we should fight them? Even atheists say why should we fight the fight of Arab nationalism, which uses Islam to serve its own needs? We don’t want to fight – Jews are God’s people as well.”

Since it was taken over by the Ba’ath Party in 1961, Syria – or officially, the Syrian Arab Republic – has systematically discriminated against Kurds living in its northeast and along the Turkish border. The Kurdish flag and language are banned, land confiscation and resettlement are common and an estimated 200,000 to 500,000 Syrian Kurds are without Syrian citizenship.

“There are close to 4 million Kurds in Syria, but in the Syrian Constitution we don’t exist,” Abbas said. “The Kurds in Syria have been ignored for more than five decades.”

Abbas founded the KNAS, an umbrella group of Syrian Kurdish parties, in 2006 to give a voice to a community whose leadership had been all but silenced over decades of Ba’ath rule. “Most leaders of Kurdish political parties in Syria are in jail, so we had to come up with an alternative for bringing out the voice of the Syrian Kurds to the international community,” he said.

Abbas is also a member of the Syrian Democracy Council, a coalition of Syrian ethnic and religious groups – Arab, Kurdish, Druze, Assyrian Christian, Alawite and others – that he says strives to create a democratic Syria as an alternative to either the current regime’s radical Arab nationalism or the Islamism of groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.

The KNAS had sent unofficial representatives to a June conference of the Syrian opposition in Turkey, but Abbas said the group quickly withdrew its representatives after discovering that Turkey was actively supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic parties at the other factions’ expense. Ankara’s support of those groups, he said, was aimed at ensuring that Kurds in Syria – and by extension, in Turkey – remain in a disadvantaged position.

Abbas said the West needs to take firmer diplomatic action to help push Assad aside. “Now is the time for the international community, the US, Europeans and Israel to push for democracy in Syria,” he said.

“We can learn from the experience in Iran in 1979, where the Americans and Europeans didn’t support the minorities and democratic groups, and that’s why opportunity was given to the Islamists there.”

Still, he said, fears of an Islamist takeover in Syria are overblown, as the Muslim Brotherhood is far less popular in the country than in Egypt, where some experts expect the group to receive a plurality of votes in national elections later this year. “Most people rising up in Syria are not Islamists,” he said. “But the Muslim Brotherhood in Turkey and some Salafis from the Gulf countries are trying to divert this revolution in a different direction.”

Abbas said distorted census numbers help the Assad regime claim Islamist power is greater in Syria than it actually is.

“Now they say Kurds make up 10 percent of the population, whereas two years ago they said it was zero percent. We say we’re about 20%. There are about a million Kurds in Damascus, 800,000 in Aleppo and 2.5 million in the Kurdish region in Hasaka and along the Turkish border – that’s closely to 4 million Kurds,” he said.

“So you have Kurds, Alawites, Druze, Ismailis and Christians – that makes up about 50% who are not Sunni and Arab. And if you look at the Sunni Arabs, most aren’t even pro-Muslim Brotherhood,” he said.

Abbas hails from Qamishli, the main Kurdish hub in Syria’s northeast, which has seen significant protests during the five-month Syrian uprising. He has lived in exile in Washington for close to three decades.

In April, Assad announced his government would grant citizenship to Kurds living in and around Qamishli, an area with a majority Kurdish population.

A 1962 census deprived one-fifth of the area’s Kurds of citizenship on the dubious pretext that they had infiltrated from Turkey decades earlier.

“They created the problem and now they’re making it seem as if they’re trying to resolve it,” Abbas said, adding that of the hundreds of thousands of stateless Kurds, only about 3,500 have been granted citizenship since the announcement.

Syria’s future – and that of its Kurds – hangs in the balance, but there is one thing Abbas is certain of. “Dynasties have a beginning and end,” he said.

“The Assad dynasty’s end is near.”

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August 31st, 2011, 7:38 pm

 

221. sheila said:

Dear #183. Khalid Tlass:
Revenge is sweet at that specific moment and then you have to deal with the guilt and shame for killing the innocent. I want all those responsible for the killings to be brought to justice, but I do not want their children killed because of what they did. No guilt by association. I think you are a person who believes in God and should know that their judgment will be very severe indeed when they meet their creator.
Regarding the “hijab”, I think you missed my point that all those “scholars” can tell us what they think, but as true Muslims, we are ultimately responsible for our actions. God ordered us 19 times in the Koran to think. I believe we should oblige and use our brains.

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August 31st, 2011, 7:39 pm

 
 

223. beaware said:

Damascus feels effects of crippled economy
By Kristen Gillespie and Jabeen Bhatti, Special for USA TODAY
http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/story/2011-08-30/Damascus-feels-effects-of-crippled-economy/50196646/1
DAMASCUS, Syria – The rows of sparkling 18-carat-gold bangle bracelets have long since been removed from the cramped, tiny jewelry shops in the Salihiya neighborhood of Damascus. Many of the shops and travel agencies clustered in this popular shopping district are closed until further notice.

More than 8.3 million tourists passed through Syria in 2010, generating 12% of the gross domestic product, according to the Syrian Ministry of Tourism. This year, the streets of the Syrian capital tell a different story: Empty Internet cafes and deserted dining tables at popular restaurants show the cloud of fear and uncertainty that hangs over the city.

Young Syrians, notably recent college graduates, are not finding work and gloomily predict dismal professional prospects if they stay in Syria. A 31-year-old unemployed graduate in English literature was having no luck finding work, describing the city as being “at a standstill.”

The bloody crackdown ordered by President Bashar Assad against protesters in cities throughout Syria is having an effect in the capital, his base of power. International condemnation of the military assaults have prompted trading partners in Europe and elsewhere to hold off on business dealings, and tourists have been scared away, said experts and residents of Damascus.

Assad has always had the support of Syria’s merchant class centered in Damascus, a cosmopolitan city by most standards. Protests against the regime here have been minor while tens of thousands of Syrians have filled the streets in cities such as Homs, Hama and Deir El Zour.

Economic ruin could collapse regime

more….

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August 31st, 2011, 7:55 pm

 

224. N.Z. said:

Seems that Muslim men are obsessed with woman’s hair, and the west is obsessed with her “hijab”.

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August 31st, 2011, 8:09 pm

 

225. Darryl said:

174. AKBAR PALACE said:

The reason Jewish Women expected to wear a covering for their head is because Jewish tradition says the following (as I have been told):

A Women’s glory is in her hair, therefore when a woman stands in the temple in front of Yahwe, then only God’s glory should be visible. This is the reason Christian Women in the Middle East cover their hair in church or when they approach the Altar on sunday to receive communion (bread and wine) from the priest.

I hope that helps you AP.

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August 31st, 2011, 8:10 pm

 

226. Afram said:

Khalid Tlass:
(deleted for insult. This is a warning)

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August 31st, 2011, 8:15 pm

 

227. True said:

Betho and all Assadins should go back to the mountains!! Not the Syrian coast mountains but the Sinjar mountain where they originally came from.

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August 31st, 2011, 8:35 pm

 

228. amal said:

226. AFRAM

That was very very funny :D

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August 31st, 2011, 8:46 pm

 

229. some guy in damascus said:

@ AMAL
SO, HOWS THE SGID is in TEL-AVIV story working out for you :D

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August 31st, 2011, 8:51 pm

 

230. amal said:

229. SOME GUY IN DAMASCUS

THERE IS A SUCKER BORN EVERY MINUTE

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August 31st, 2011, 8:56 pm

 

231. Husam said:

Dearest Sheila:

I respect your opinion and I already knew that you were Sunni from earlier post. You can say, question, and do whatever you want about about any religion, yours or others without offending or judging. I would like to share with you a very significant letter of one woman who chose to wear a Hijab.

Why I wear a Hijab:

I probably do not fit into the preconceived notion of a “rebel”. I have no visible tattoos and minimal piercing. I do not possess a leather jacket. In fact, when most people look at me, their first thought usually is something along the lines of “oppressed female.” The brave individuals who have mustered the courage to ask me about the way I dress usually have questions like: “Do your parents make you wear that?” or “Don’t you find that really unfair?”

A while back, a couple of girls in Montreal were kicked out of school for dressing like I do. It seems strange that a little piece of cloth would make for such controversy. Perhaps the fear is that I am harboring an Uzi underneath it! Of course, the issue at hand is more than a mere piece of cloth. I am a Muslim woman who, like millions of other Muslim women across the globe, chooses to wear the hijab. And the concept of the hijab, contrary to popular opinion, is actually one of the most fundamental aspects of female empowerment.

When I cover myself, I make it virtually impossible for people to judge me according to the way I look. I cannot be categorized because of my attractiveness or lack thereof.

Compare this to life in today’s society: We are constantly sizing one another up on the basis of our clothing, jewelry, hair and makeup. What kind of depth can there be in a world like this? Yes, I have a body, a physical manifestation upon this Earth. But it is the vessel of an intelligent mind and a strong spirit. It is not for the beholder to leer at or to use in advertisements to sell everything from beer to cars!

Because of the superficiality of the world in which we live, external appearances are so stressed that the value of the individual counts for almost nothing. It is a myth that women in today’s society are liberated! What kind of freedom can there be when a woman can not walk down the street without every aspect of her physical self being “checked out”?

When I wear the hijab I feel safe from all of this. I can rest assured that no one is looking at me and making assumptions about my character from the length of my skirt. There is a barrier between me and those who would exploit me. I am first and foremost a human being, equal to any man, and not vulnerable because of my sexuality.

One of the saddest truths of our time is the question of the beauty myth and female self-image. Reading popular teenage magazines, you can instantly find out what kind of body image is “in” or “out.” and if you have the “wrong” body type, well, then, you’re just going to have to change it, aren’t you? After all, there is no way that you can be overweight and still be beautiful.

Look at any advertisement. Is a woman being used to sell the product? How old is she? How attractive is she? What is she wearing? More often than not, that woman will be no older than her early 20s, taller, slimmer and more attractive than average, dressed in skimpy clothing. Why do we allow ourselves to be manipulated like this?

Whether the 90s woman wishes to believe it or not, she is being forced into a mold. She is being coerced into selling herself, into compromising herself. This is why we have 13-year-old girls sticking their fingers down their throats and overweight adolescents hanging themselves.

When people ask me if I feel oppressed, I can honestly say no. I made this decision out of my own free will. I like the fact that I am taking control of the way other people perceive me. I enjoy the fact that I don’t give anyone anything to look at and that I have released myself from the bondage of the swinging pendulum of the fashion industry and other institutions that exploit females.

My body is my own business. Nobody can tell me how I should look or whether or not I am beautiful. I know that there is more to me than that. I am also able to say “no” comfortably then people ask me if I feel as though my sexuality is being repressed. I have taken control of my sexuality. I am thankful I will never have to suffer the fate of trying to lose/gain weight or trying to find the exact lipstick shade that will go with my skin color. I have made choices about what my priorities are and these are not among them.

So next time you see me, don’t look at me sympathetically. I am not under duress or a male-worshipping female captive from those barbarous Arabic deserts! I’ve been liberated.

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August 31st, 2011, 9:03 pm

 

232. some guy in damascus said:

amal,
im not going to fight over the internet like a 12 year old, i just wanted to rub it in. i love the feeling of refuting idiotic statements and stories from people like you. next time bring something worth debating with some credibility( enter ammar shami). btw, wheres your team? SNK,SAMARA,ALI and the other bunch….
guys i was wondering, are there any other blogs i can debate with menhebaks? SC has run out of them.

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August 31st, 2011, 9:04 pm

 

233. amal said:

232. SOME (Deleted For Honesty) IN DAMASCUS

Wait until NATO and Israel starts raining DEMOCRACY over your head. Leaving no stone unturned in your beloved Damascus, and you becoming a refugee in your own country living under a tent like the Iraqis and the Palestinians. Maybe I’ll debate you then.

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August 31st, 2011, 9:31 pm

 

234. Aboud said:

SGID, well done, you now have your very own obsessed-menhebak-stalker-groupie :) Remember to feed her with sarcastic a comment or two, it keeps them wound up hehehehehe :)

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August 31st, 2011, 9:50 pm

 

235. beaware said:

اعترافات ارهابي دير الزور وارهابي جسر الشغور

Aug 29, 2011

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August 31st, 2011, 9:50 pm

 

236. Tara said:

Khalid Tlass

You said “Moussa Sadr was a criminal terrorist, his only aim was to provode “oxygen” to his co-religionsist in Lebanon and to the Assads. He was a staunch enemy of the PLO”

Can you elaborate further on the relationship between Moussa Sadr and the PLO?

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August 31st, 2011, 9:53 pm

 

237. Akbar Palace said:

Amal,

Are you seriously saying that Syrians prefer an Assad-led autocracy with no freedom of speech and no elections to an Israeli democracy?

If you really believe that, why are there no free elections in Syria?

Arab-Israelis are not refugees.

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August 31st, 2011, 9:59 pm

 

238. beaware said:

Adonis becomes first Arab writer to win Goethe prize
Tuesday 30 August 2011
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/aug/30/adonis-arab-win-goethe-prize
The Syrian poet Adonis has become the first Arab writer to win Germany’s prestigious Goethe prize.

The 81-year-old poet, a perennial favourite to win the Nobel prize for literature, was presented with the award by the city of Frankfurt on Goethe’s birthday, 28 August. The jury called him “the most important Arab poet of our time”, and praised his “eminent literary talent, his cosmopolitanism and his contribution to world literature”.

The €50,000 Goethe prize is given every three years on Goethe’s birthday to an individual whose work reflects the spirit of the German master, and has been won in the past by Sigmund Freud and Herman Hesse, and more recently by the Israeli author Amos Oz.

“Just as Goethe popularised Arabic poetry with [his book] West-Eastern Divan, Adonis carried the accomplishments of European modernity into Arabic cultural circles, with great effect,” said the jury.

Born in Syria as Ali Ahmad Said Esber, Adonis adopted his pen name – after the Greek god of fertility – in his late teens. Imprisoned for his political activities, he moved to Beirut in 1956 and now lives in exile in Paris. He is the author of more than 20 books in Arabic, and is known for his experimental writing, breaking away from the formal structures of traditional Arabic poetry.

“I wanted to draw on Arab tradition and mythology without being tied to it,” he told the New York Times last year. “I wanted to break the linearity of poetic text – to mess with it, if you will. The poem is meant to be a network rather than a single rope of thought.”

Already the recipient of the Bjørnson Prize in 2007, the first International Nâzim Hikmet Poetry award and the Syria-Lebanon Best Poet award, Adonis has been given odds of 10/1 to win this year’s Nobel, behind Cormac McCarthy and Haruki Murakami.

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August 31st, 2011, 10:02 pm

 

239. Aboud said:

My God, a Syrian poet wins a prestigious award, and some menhebak retard “dislikes” the comment. Seriously, you people really need help :)

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August 31st, 2011, 10:09 pm

 

240. Tara said:

Ali Ferzat and Adonis both won international awards. How come the “Arabic cinema” never been internationally acclaimed? Is there such a thing called “Arabic cinema” or this is branch of visual art that does not currently exist in the Arab world?

It is shame that lots of Syrian and Egyptian actors stood by the tyranny.

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August 31st, 2011, 10:25 pm

 

241. Norman said:

Arab intellectuals do not win any awards unless they speak against their contries or pro peace with Israel,

Tara, many Syrian documentaries won awards in Kane, others might know the names,

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August 31st, 2011, 10:44 pm

 

242. Tara said:

Norman

You mean Cannes film festival? Even if true, documentaries are different than films.

Adonis won international award in 2007. Was he speaking against Besho then?

Finally, Besho is not Syria, so your first statement needs to be rephrased.

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August 31st, 2011, 11:15 pm

 

243. ann said:

A Roman Holiday for Assad?

By John Tabin on 8.31.11 @ 10:57PM

Financial Times:

http://spectator.org/blog/2011/08/31/a-roman-holiday-for-assad#

European Union efforts to impose an oil embargo on Syria suffered a setback on Tuesday when Italy broke ranks and insisted the sanctions be delayed until the end of November, when existing supply contracts will have expired.

The Italian objections angered several other member states, including the UK. But European diplomats insisted the issue could be resolved on Wednesday, when EU officials are scheduled to meet again on the issue…

European leaders had hoped to finalise the oil embargo by Friday, when EU foreign ministers are gathering for a high-profile meeting in Poland, and some diplomats worried that the Italian move would now make that impossible. “They [the Italians] simply couldn’t agree on the date that these existing contracts should phase out,” said a European official.

Other diplomats noted the timing of the sanctions was the only issue in dispute, making a quick resolution possible. “The question is only about when this is going to start,” said one. “There is a good chance we get an agreement by the end of the week.”

However, the move angered countries that were backing a quick move towards sanctions, which argued a delay in implementing them could blunt their effectiveness.

Let’s be clear here: Assad’s security forces have killed more than two thousand protestors in the past six months. A significant portion of the money used to pay those security forces comes from oil revenues. And Rome wants to keep the money flowing for three more months. Here’s their spin:

A spokesman for Italy’s foreign ministry said Rome still supported oil sanctions but that it was important to delay their start “to protect European industry”.

“We have been among the most vocal in criticising the regime, and were the first to recall our ambassador,” said the spokesman, Maurizio Massari. “The debate is on the application of this principle: we have asked that these sanctions could start, in effect, from November 30 in order to safeguard the existing … supply contracts.”

Come si dice “shut up and put your money where your mouth is” in italiano?

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August 31st, 2011, 11:25 pm

 

244. Norman said:

Tara,

President Assad is Syria as Obama is America until there are new presidents.

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September 1st, 2011, 7:57 am

 

245. Akbar Palace said:

President Assad is Syria as Obama is America…

Norman,

I would insert between “Assad” and “is”: “thinks he”.

I say this because Assad was not elected in a free multi-party election.

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September 1st, 2011, 8:59 am

 

246. norman said:

AP,

And the POP is the head of the Catholic Church and is not elected by the people,

president Assad is still the president of Syria , like or not .

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September 1st, 2011, 9:12 am

 

247. Akbar Palace said:

Assad is Loved

Norman,

Yes, I know Assad is the self-appointed and president-for-life of Syria.

However, you said, “Assad is Syria”.

Considering the overwhelming demonstrations in Syria, I think your statement is debatable. We’ll never really know if “Assad is Syria” until he is elected in a free election. Just my opinion.

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September 1st, 2011, 9:21 am

 

248. norman said:

AP,

I think that you are playing with words and you are much better player than i am , i am just saying that as an attack on president Obama is an attack on the US , an attack on president Assad is an attack on Syria, just an opinion .

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September 1st, 2011, 9:27 am

 

249. Syria Comment » Archives » “Who is Mohammad Rahhal, the Syrian Revolutionary who Called for Armed Resistance and Attacked Burhan Ghalioun?” said:

[…] Ghalioun?” By Christiane Lange for Syria Comment August 7, 2011 Muhammad Rahhal made a big splash last week when he attacked Burhan Ghalioun, the newly appointed head of the Syrian National Council. By […]

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September 7th, 2011, 12:51 pm

 

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