Posted by Joshua on Monday, August 29th, 2011
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?
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…
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.
….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.
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.
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.”
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
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
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…
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.
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’
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…..
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,…