The US Looks for a More Muscular Response to Syria; Damascus Sells Gold in a Sign of Poverty

Syria seems to be trying to sell Gold from its reserves in Dubai. A sign that it’s money is running low due to sanctions and revolt.

The Obama administration insists that it is about to make some important changes to its Syria policy. Everyone expects that it will assume greater leadership by helping to arm the opposition. So far Washington has raised the rhetorical bar while refusing action. Sanctions have been the most it is willing to offer. The other countries — Turkey, Saudi and France – have refused to take the lead. They want to see an American commitment before taking their hands out of the pockets.  On the NSC, Steve Simon, who has not been keen on military involvement, seems to be making way for Derek Chollet, whose old boss was Anne-Marie Slaughter. She is for military intervention in Syria, as she made clear on the Charlie Rose Show that I appeared on with her, Fouad Ajami and Thomas Friedman. Ajami makes the most compelling argument for a more active US role in embracing the “future” in Syria. Here is what Josh Rogin has to say about Chollet’s appointment in Obama searches for a ‘Plan B’ in Syria:

The new push includes adjustments in personnel handling the portfolio. Before March, National Security Council Director Steve Simon headed up the internal interagency process. Now, multiple officials confirm that NSC Senior Director for Strategy Derek Chollet has been added to the leadership of the Syria policy team and has been coordinating the interagency process for several weeks. Simon, Assistant Secretary of State Jeff Feltman, and State Dept. Special Advisor Fred Hof are still active on the Syria portfolio.

Clinton says Syria is at a “crucial turning point”. She will be in Paris tomorrow to try to figure out what the Western states can do that won’t suck them into another Iraq, but that will show some teeth. Right now, Russia is calling the shots in Syria. Ironically, the last country we pushed Russia out of,  because we demanded greater control over its affairs, was Afghanistan. Most American policy makers today would probably agree that Russian controlled Afghanistan was much better than what came after. Ammar Abdulhamid suggests that Syria is more liberal and less Islamist than Afghanistan or even Egypt and Tunisia. He believes that US caution about the rise of Islamists in Syria is ill-founded. Amal al-Hanano hares Abdulhamid’s determination to promote secular and pacifist Syrian interests.  She is calling on secular Syrians to organize and counter-balance the Islamists.

News Round Up

Syria Said to be Seeking Gold Sales From Reserves: Reuters Link
By John Irish and Amena Bakr

PARIS/DUBAI, April 18 (Reuters) – Syria is trying to sell gold reserves to raise revenue as Western and Arab sanctions targeting its central bank and oil exports begin to bite, diplomats and traders said.

Western sanctions have halved Syria’s foreign exchange reserves from about $17 billion, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Tuesday after a meeting with about 60 nations aimed at coordinating measures against President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

“Syria is selling its gold at rock bottom prices,” said a Western diplomatic source, declining to say where it was being sold.

A second diplomatic source confirmed the information, adding that Damascus was looking to offload everything it could to raise cash, including currency reserves.

On Feb. 27, the European Union agreed more sanctions including prohibiting trade in gold and other precious metals with Syrian state institutions, including the central bank.

Two gold traders in the United Arab Emirates said the Syrian government had been offering gold at a discount, with one saying it was making offers at about 15 percent below the market price.

The trader said Damascus was selling small volumes of around 20-30 kilos which were easier to offload, with offers being made through private accounts set up with free email providers……

The World Gold Council estimates Syria had about 25.8 metric tonnes of gold as of February 2012, representing about 7.1 percent of its total reserves….The Syrian pound hit a record low on the black market in March of around 100 to the dollar, compared to 47 before the protests erupted, sharply raising the cost of imports…

At Wednesday’s spot prices, Syria’s total gold reserves are worth around $1.36 billion. …

“The most stunning, unsettling conclusion I drew from the leaders of the Free Syrian Army was that they have essentially got no help from anyone. They are literally running out of ammunition while Assad’s forces are being resupplied by Iran and Russia,” Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) told The Cable in an interview.

Lieberman and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) spent their Senate recess on the Turkish side of the Turkey-Syria border, meeting with Turkish officials, FSA leaders, and refugees.

“What they want us to do is to lead. They want us to lead the Friends of Syria, who have given them increasingly sympathetic rhetoric but not the wherewithal to defend themselves,” he said

The Syrian internal opposition is buying weapons and ammunition on the black market at exorbitant prices and claims that large parts of the Syrian military are demoralized but are unwilling to break with the government until they see the opposition has real international support.

“They are all waiting for the U.S. to say ‘We’re in this,'” Lieberman said.

There was at least one State Department official inside the McCain-Lieberman meeting with leaders of the FSA, Gen. Mustafa al-Sheikh and Col. Riad al-Asaad, two U.S. officials confirmed. The FSA leaders asked the United States to provide RPGs, anti-aircraft guns, and ammunition. The FSA leaders also said they have proof that the Assad regime is using helicopter gunships to attack civilians in the city of Idlib, as apparently shown in this YouTube video.

Turkish officials told McCain and Lieberman that they were willing to let weapons flow over their borders and consider other more aggressive steps to help the internal Syrian opposition, but that they won’t do so unless Washington leads the way…..

Obama administration searches for a ‘Plan B’ in Syria
Posted By Josh Rogin Wednesday, April 18, 2012 -Foreign Policy

The White House is unhappy with the options it’s been given on Syria and is searching for a new strategy for removing President Bashar al-Assad, The Cable has learned.

“There was a fundamental decision made at the highest level that we need a real Syria policy with more options for the president,” one administration official with knowledge of the internal deliberations said. “Our allies were coming back to us and saying ‘What’s your next move?,’ and we were forced to admit we didn’t have one.”

The new push includes adjustments in personnel handling the portfolio. Before March, National Security Council Director Steve Simon headed up the internal interagency process. Now, multiple officials confirm that NSC Senior Director for Strategy Derek Chollet has been added to the leadership of the Syria policy team and has been coordinating the interagency process for several weeks. Simon, Assistant Secretary of State Jeff Feltman, and State Dept. Special Advisor Fred Hof are still active on the Syria portfolio.

Chollet, the former deputy to Anne-Marie Slaughter at the State Department’s Policy Planning shop, has also been nominated to be the next assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, replacing Sandy Vershbow, who is now deputy secretary general of NATO. Chollet has taken on the day-to-day management of the interagency process while he awaits confirmation.

New options are now being considered internally, including another discussion of setting up buffer zones inside Syria, one administration official confirmed. The administration has also authorized direct contact with the internal Syrian opposition, including the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and at least one State Department official has met with the FSA’s nominal leaders in Turkey.

The rethink comes eight months after Obama explicitly demanded the Syrian leader’s removal, saying, “The time has come for President Assad to step aside.”

His administration is still struggling to come up with a way to make that call a reality…..

UN monitors flee Syrian protest after gunfire
By BEN HUBBARD,

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian security forces opened fire Wednesday on anti-regime demonstrators surrounding the cars of a U.N. team meant to monitor a shaky cease-fire, sending the observers speeding off and protesters dashing for cover, according to activists and amateur videos.

The fresh violence in a suburb of Damascus, the Syrian capital, provided the first public glimpse of the work of the small team struggling to reinforce the international community’s stumbling efforts to end 13 months of deadly conflict in Syria.

The shooting, which wounded at least eight people, could also complicate the deployment of a larger U.N. mission to help a cease-fire take hold between President Bashar Assad’s forces and opposition fighters.

The difficulties of the team’s mission was clear Wednesday during its visit to the suburb of Arbeen, just northeast of Damascus.

The team did not announce its plans to visit the area, but a local activist said residents guessed they were coming when tanks posted throughout the area withdrew early Wednesday.

People quickly drew up signs as well as a list of the 34 residents killed since the start of the uprising and information on the scores who have been detained, an Arbeen activist named Ahmed said via Skype. He declined to give his last name for fear of retribution.

Amateur videos posted online showed hundreds of demonstrators crowding around at least three U.N. Land Cruisers, waving Syrian flags and chanting against the regime. In one video, a man with a microphone and huge speakers on the back of a pickup truck led the crowd in singing “Bashar, Bashar, we will not kneel!”

A handwritten sign apparently taped by a demonstrator on one of the cars read, “The murderer keeps killing, the observers keep observing and the people keep up the revolution.”

In another video, the protesters were walking down a boulevard surrounding the cars when a boom rang out, sending demonstrators scattering. Smoke rose in front of the crowd and the cars sped off, sirens blaring. In yet another video, protesters sprinted down side streets while gunfire is heard nearby.

Ahmed, the local activist, said the group was marching toward a square where the government had posted plain clothes security offices called shabiha and government supporters holding a counter demonstration.

“We started walking with the observers thinking that they’d protect us, but then the shabiha started shooting at us, even when the observers’ cars were at the front of the march,” he said.

After the observers left, security cars drove through the area firing, injuring about 20 people, he said.

“Once the committee was gone, there was no one else to see what they were doing,” he said.

The team’s head, Col. Ahmed Himiche, declined to comment on the incident, saying the team would report only to the U.N.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said eight protesters were wounded in Arbeen.

The group, which relies on an activist network in Syria, also said government forces shelled opposition areas in the provinces of Homs in central Syria and Idlib in the north.

For its part, Syria’s state news agency said roadside bomb attacks in Idlib and Aleppo killed 10 security officers and one civilian. The incidents could not be independently verified. The Syrian government bars most media from working in the country…..

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused Syrian opposition forces of provoking the government’s backlash in order to thwart the cease-fire. He urged nations that have leverage with the opposition to force it to abide by cease-fire….

“There must be a tough demand not to allow any provocations and respect the cease-fire,” Lavrov said….

Clinton Says Syria Measures to Be Discussed Tomorrow in Paris
2012-04-18 By Roxana Tiron

April 18 (Bloomberg) — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she will attend a meeting in Paris tomorrow to dicuss with allies what further measures may be taken against the Syrian government and in support of the opposition movement. The “ad hoc group” meeting will be led by French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, Clinton said, speaking to reporters today in Brussels.

Syria is at a “crucial turning point” at which the government either will abide by the UN-backed peace plan or face further sanctions, she said.

Foreign Policy

The ceasefire appears to have broken down, as levels of violence remain high in several regions in Syria. Up to 70 people have been killed by heavy shelling in the Jourat al-Shayah, Qarabis, Bayada, and Khaldiya districts of Homs, areas that have remained out of government control. According to the Local Coordination Committees, clashes continued in Deraa and Aleppo, as well as in the Idlib province where government troops were accompanied by tanks and helicopters. The Syrian government has said it is willing to comply with Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan. However, the regime has only agreed to a small United Nations’ observer mission of 250 monitors, and it refuses independent air support despite recommendations of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said, “I think this is not enough, considering the current situation and considering the vastness of the country.” Meanwhile, the advance team of monitors has not yet been permitted to operate throughout the country as negotiations on a memorandum of understanding between the Syrian government and the U.N. team have stalled.

The leading voice of the opposition talks to PJ Media about the state of the conflict.: Syria’s Revolution: An Interview with Ammar Abdulhamid
by Barry Rubin, April 17, 2012

(Ammar Abdulhamid has been the most articulate and credible voice of the Syrian opposition and the movement to overthrow the current regime. Barry Rubin interviewed him to get a clearer view on what’s going on in Syria and on what the future prospects are for the bloody conflict.)

What should we know about the Syrian regime that we don’t already know?

That it is not reformable and that its key leaders can never be part of the solution.

What are the causes of the uprising?

Lack of developments when it comes to basic services and infrastructure along with increasing poverty, absence of any accountability on part of the leadership, the sense of impunity that corrupt officials on the local and national levels exhibit on a daily basis, the failure of President Bashar al-Assad to show himself as a true reformer, and his increasing involvement with the corrupt practices of his family and friends.

Can you describe for us the Syrian opposition, both within the country and outside?

We have two types of opposition: the traditional and the new. The traditional opposition is made of old parties and figures who have been around for decades, and the new one is made up of the activists who started and continue to lead the revolution.

The arrogance of the traditional opposition and their inability to provide effective representation and guidance to the revolutionaries created a problem of mistrust between the two, and does not augur well for the ability of such coalitions as the Syrian National Council (SNC) to provide effective leadership either now or during the transitional period. The new opposition is pragmatic, goal-oriented, and open to new possibilities as far as relations with the outside are concerned, or how the state should be administered in the future. The traditional remains ideological, dominated mostly by Leftist and Islamist elements, and unable to be proactive or to come up with actual strategies and programs for effective communication and representation.

So, the real dichotomy is between these two types of opposition groups, not between those inside the country and those outside.

You have often been critical about the organization and strategy of the leading opposition groups. Can you tell us more about your view, and also provide a description of the main opposition organizations?

Traditional opposition groups keep thinking along ideological lines, and they fail to listen to the protesters and their demands. They keep seeing leadership as a right rather than a responsibility. They keep confusing making policy with making pronouncements and confusing coming up with strategies with academic research. This is why they can never be effective leaders.

For this, the international community needs to conduct outreach efforts to identify leaders and forces on the ground. They need to work with existing traditional opposition in order to make them better at the task of communicating with grassroots protesters and enablers of the new emerging leadership. Many believe that the regime will never negotiate its way out of power, but it seems the same applies for traditional opposition figures and parties. They will never accept giving their positions to the new emerging figures; they seem incapable of coming to terms with the failure of their ideologies at inspiring this mass moment.

Many observers are concerned that the Syrian opposition might be dominated by Islamists who would institute an even worse government for Syria, at least in international terms. How would you respond to that view?

There are Islamists, that’s for sure. But Syria’s ethnic makeup is simply too diverse to allow for the kind of dominance we saw in Egypt or Tunisia. However, since winning elections is about organization and not just demographics, and since Islamists are better organized and funded, there is definitely a need for domestic and international players concerned about Islamist influence to begin preparing themselves with all seriousness for the transitional period ahead.

What is the strategy of the Assad regime in trying to survive?

Transforming the crisis into a sectarian conflict; play on minority fears about the Sunni Arab majority in order to bring these minorities to the side of the regime or at least to neutralize them. Use overwhelming force and foster the expansion of pro-Assad militias and death squads to terrorize and punish the population of restive communities. Play on the fears of Western powers toward Islamists by trying to cast the revolutionaries as Salafist. Rely on support from Iran, Hezbollah, the Maliki government in Iraq, and Russia to keep the international community at bay and incapable of adopting strong policies toward the situation….

Why should the world support the Syrian opposition’s struggle?

Besides the geopolitical gain of weakening Iran’s grip over the Middle East and containing its rise as a major source of instability there, there is the added humanitarian advantage of preventing a rapid balkanization of our troubled region. The Assads are driving the country and the region to the brink of implosion into warring ethnic enclaves. The world needs to stop them and to help the Syrians in their search for alternatives.

What do you think is likely to happen in Syria?

Irrespective of my wishes, the inability of the Obama administration to move quickly on this matter has allowed for the situation to turn into a proxy war involving all major regional players as well as Russia and China. This is going to be a longer-term struggle and the humanitarian cost will be too high. I will keep up my activities meant to support the local resistance and empower the more pragmatic and representative elements to emerge as the true leaders of Syria down the road, but this will not be an easy task.

We were let down by the leaders of the international community and the leaders of the traditional opposition, not to mention our intellectual elite, and it’s clear by now that we have no true friends. Still, we have no choice but to soldier on, as we transform from a protest movement into a more complex resistance and liberation movement.

(For more on Ammar Abdulhamid: he is a liberal Syrian pro-democracy activist whose anti-regime activities led to his exile in September 2005. He currently lives in the United States. He is the founder of the Tharwa Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to democracy promotion, and is a fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He writes Syrian Revolution Digest, a blog dedicated to following events and monitoring trends related to the Syrian Revolution.)

Any Given Friday
How a battle over a Facebook page became a war for the soul of the Syrian revolution.
BY AMAL HANANO | APRIL 18, 2012

….Last week, before the Facebook polling closed for the name of the April 13 protests — the day after the U.N. ceasefire deadline, the day in which solidarity was key — one name was in the lead: the Friday of the Armies of Islam. Yet another divisive (and completely off message) choice. This time, however, peaceful activists were ready to take action and fight back in a battle for the Friday name.

On Wednesday, April 11, media activists on Facebook and Twitter began a campaign to “rock the vote” for Friday’s name. They advocated the secular, inclusive choice, “A Revolution for all Syrians.” It was an intense campaign. Usually around 8,000 votes are cast each week, but last week there were more than 30,000. It was as much a battle between Islamic sentiment and secular inclusiveness as it was a struggle between those dedicated to solely an armed resistance, and those who still valued the power of nonviolent activism. ….
The gap between the two names slowly narrowed, and eventually the message of unity won by almost 2,000 votes. This small but significant victory unleashed palpable excitement among Syria’s online activists: There was a sense that they had been heard and gained control of the revolution’s message, at least for the moment. It was a needed boost of energy to a group of worn-out activists and, more importantly, it proved that a revolution within the revolution was not only possible but necessary.

ASSAD MUST BE FORCED TO ALLOW PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY
By Andrew J. Tabler
April 18, 2012

…Syrians are afraid to express their demands as part of the “Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, pluralist system” and have demonstrated in lesser numbers than expected over the past week. Even if a viable ceasefire can eventually be brokered, protests and other forms of civil resistance will be the key means to judge what the people want going forward….  severely limiting the people’s ability to use civil resistance to make Assad “step aside” — the stated goal of President Obama. The regime has had a far harder time dealing with civil resistance over the past year than armed resistance. Assad’s actions thus far indicate that he wants to use the Annan plan to grind down not only the armed opposition, but the overall protest movement as a whole….

WSJ RT Brussels: EU Goes Silent On Assad Departure
2012-04-18 By Laurence Norman

….Last August, to considerable fanfare, Washington and Brussels made a joint declaration on Syria. Enough was enough, they said. The rising death toll, continued repression and broken reform promises of President Bashar al-Assad …Officials note that Mr. Annan’s six-point plan is not just about stemming the violence. It also demands the Assad regime allows peaceful protests and accepts a Syrian-led political process to address what it calls “the aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people.”

The hope in Brussels is that once the violence has ebbed, Mr. Annan will unleash a political reform and democratization process whose momentum will sweep away Mr. Assad, like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Tunisia’s Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh before him.

Syria must be held to the law of war
By Laurie R. Blank and Geoffrey S. Corn, Special to CNN
April 4, 2012

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151. jad said:

أولويات ما بعد بقاء الأسد
ابراهيم الأمين
{…}
المعارضات السورية للنظام ليست في وضع يؤهلها لوضع برنامج عمل مشترك. القيادة السياسية والمالية والأمنية المتروكة لأطراف خارجية، تعكس الأزمة البنيوية التي لا فكاك للمعارضة منها إلا بموقف عملاني رافض للتعاون مع جهات عربية وغربية لا تريد سوريا قوية.
وإذا كانت الفترة الماضية قد شهدت الموجة الأعنف من الاعتراض، وما رافقها من حرب إقليمية ودولية لإطاحة الأسد، فإن فشلها في تحقيق النتيجة، دفعها إلى المربع الثاني، الذي يقوم على حرب استنزاف مفتوحة، وشاملة لكل أنواع الأسلحة. من الحصار الاقتصادي والمالي المفتوح، إلى إضعاف قدرات دولة مترهّلة أصلاً، وصولاً إلى دعم النشاط المسلح ضد الدولة ومؤسساتها العسكرية والأمنية والمدنية. وهي حرب تستند إلى تعبئة مذهبية وطائفية لا سابق لها، وستكون نتائجها بطيئة التراكم، لكنها نوعية النتائج، لناحية الفرز الأهلي الأكثر خطورة على تماسك أي مجتمع في العالم.
{…}

داعمو مشروع إطاحة الأسد، ينطلقون في مقاربتهم للأزمة السورية من مبدأ استحالة التعايش مع الحكم الموجود الآن في دمشق، وأنه غير قادر على تلبية موجبات تطوير سوريا وحفظ استقرارها وسلمها الأهلي ومصالحها القومية. يتصرف هؤلاء على أساس أنهم قوى عظمى، أو أنه بمقدورهم قلب الطاولة ساعة يشاؤون، أو أنهم يقدرون على مدّ المعارضة السورية ــــ على اختلاف أطيافها ــــ بما تحتاج إليه من أدوات في هذا الصراع. لكن هؤلاء ينسون أنهم خارج دائرة التأثير الفعلي، وأن الأدوار الوحيدة المتاحة لهم، هي أشبه بأدوار «الكومبارس» لا أكثر ولا أقل. وكل ما يقدرون عليه، مجرد إطلاق مواقف وبيانات ومقالات وخلافه من أدوات الحرب عبر شاشات البلازما… وإذا وجد هؤلاء أن أضعف الإيمان عندهم إعلان موقف من زاوية أخلاقية، فهم أحرار؛ لأنه ليس بمقدور أحد منعهم من هذا الحق، لكن قد يكون من الضروري لفت انتباه اللبنانيين إلى أن الحرية التي يتغنّون بها والتي تتيح لهم قول الكثير، لا معنى لها في غياب القدرة على تحويلها إلى قوة مساءلة أو محاسبة. وهذا هو مرض «الحرية في لبنان».
الواقعية السياسية تفترض التعامل مع المرحلة، الآن، على أساس تلبية متطلبات مرحلة «ما بعد بقاء الأسد»، لا مرحلة «ما بعد رحيل الأسد». وإذا كان هؤلاء يريدون لنا بعد سنوات أو عقود أن نقرّ لهم بأنهم توقعوا لنا، قبل أربعين سنة، رحيل الأسد، فلهم ذلك. لكن، ليتعاملوا مع عقولنا بشيء من الجدية، وليتوقفوا عن هذا السيل من المزاج السمج، وخصوصاً عندما يذهب الحديث بعيداً عن التغيير الديموقراطي الكبير الذي ينتظرنا. وهو حديث افتراضي، يشبه بيانات «الإخوان المسلمين» وتعهداتهم. هذا التنظيم الذي يسيطر مناصروه على المشهد الشعبي في غالبية الدول العربية اليوم، لكنه التيار الذي يمارس سلوكاً شبيهاً جداً بسلوك القوى الشيعية العراقية التي تمسك البلاد هناك منذ عقد إلى الآن، وكل همها الانتقام من سنوات الإقصاء التي عاشتها في السجون أو المنافي.
{…}
أما في بلاد الشام، فلم يظهر لنا منهم، حتى الآن، سوى العنف المكتوم الذي شاهدنا بعض فصوله الدموية في الأزمة السورية، بينما نشهد فصوله الكلامية المفتوحة في لبنان… وما بقي في العالم العربي، يمكن اختصاره لمن يرغب بتجربة هؤلاء على أنواعهم في العراق تحت الاحتلال وبعده، بينما تستقر الوهابية على «أم المعارك في دول الجزيرة العربية».
مبروك لثائري الطقس العربي بكل فصوله. هذا الحشد من الانتهازيين والقتلة وعملاء الاستعمار الذين ينتشرون في أروقة الحكم وعوالم المال والإعلام الآن.
http://www.al-akhbar.com/node/62603

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April 19th, 2012, 11:25 pm

 
 

153. jad said:

Washington’s options in Syria:

تردد وتساؤلات في واشنطن حول سوريا .. وبانيتا يرى وضعاً معقداً
جو معكرون

التساؤلات في الكونغرس أمس حول التعامل مع سوريا كانت أكثر من الأجوبة: هل المصلحة الأميركية في الاستقرار أم تغيير النظام؟ هل تسلح واشنطن المعارضة السورية أم تكتفي بالضغط على النظام حتى ينهار سياسيا؟ وزير الدفاع الأميركي ليون بانيتا قدم الصورة الأكثر وضوحا حول تفكير الإدارة الأميركية في الملف السوري.

وقال بانيتا، خلال جلسة استماع أمام لجنة القوات المسلحة في مجلس النواب، «بدلا من محاولة تلبية المطالب المشروعة لشعبه، تحول نظام (الرئيس السوري بشار) الأسد إلى العنف ضد شعبه. لقد كان العنف وحشيا ومدمرا. لقد وضع الشعب السوري في موقف يائس وصعب»، مؤكدا أن النظام «فقد شرعيته وانه ليس هناك حل فعال لهذه الأزمة من دون رحيل الأسد».

واعتبر أن «استعادة الهدوء في المدن والقرى في أنحاء سوريا ليس سوى اختبار واحد للأسد في الأيام المقبلة»، مشيرا إلى انه «من كل زاوية الوضع في سوريا شديد التعقيد». وأضاف «نعلم أيضا أن المشكلات المعقدة في سوريا لا يمكن معالجتها بإجراءات أحادية من قبل الولايات المتحدة أو أي بلد آخر».

وأكد بانيتا أن السياسة الأميركية تتمحور حول مواصلة الضغوط على النظام السوري لعزله و«تعزيز المعارضة السياسية غير المسلحة وتوحيدها في سوريا» وتوفير مساعدات إنسانية إلى الشعب السوري و«نحن نراجع ونخطط لمجموعة من الإجراءات قد تكون ضرورية لحماية الشعب السوري». وتابع «مقاربتنا انه يجب أن نبقي كل الخيارات على الطاولة مع إدراك حدود القوة العسكرية على أن نكون مستعدين لأي إجراء مطلوب». واعتبر ان سوريا ليست كما ليبيا حيث كان هناك إجماع دولي للتدخل ومعارضة ليبية أكثر تنظيماً ولديها سيطرة على الارض.

وقال بانيتا «السجل العام، وأكثر أهمية السجل الاستخباراتي الذي لدينا، أنه كان هناك دائما علاقة وثيقة بين سوريا وحزب الله، وانه كان لحزب الله دائما بعض مستوى من الحماية. حزب الله مجموعة إرهابية نشرت الإرهاب ليس فقط في المنطقة بل في أمكنة أخرى. وأي شيء لإضعاف مجموعة إرهابية هو في مصلحتنا». ورأى ان «المشكلة هنا ان الاسد يبدو انه لا يزال يحافظ على ولاء المؤسسة العسكرية حتى لو كان هناك انشقاقات بارزة». ورأى ان «أفضل سيناريو هو ان يلتزم النظام السوري بوقف إطلاق النار وبالإصلاحات في خطة المبعوث الدولي كوفي أنان بحيث يخرج الأسد من الصورة ويتم تشكيل حكومة جديدة وإجراء الانتخابات، والسيناريو الأسوأ هو قيام حرب أهلية في سوريا». وأضاف «حتى هذه المرحلة لن يكون لنا أي جندي على الارض ولن نتصرف أحاديا في هذا الجزء من العالم».
{…}
ويتحدث المصدر عن تساؤلات عميقة في البنتاغون اذا كان الهدف هو إسقاط النظام فالتدخل العسكري يتجاوز ذلك ويعني دورا أميركيا ما في مرحلة ما بعد سقوط النظام، وبالتالي هناك الكثير من عدم اليقين حول ما قد يجري بعد التدخل العسكري وليس فقط حول جدوى التدخل. وختم المصدر، في الكونغرس، قائلا «مثلما حصل في ليبيا، نجري مشاورات وفي النهاية تأتي الادارة وتقول لنا هذا ما سنفعله ونسير بالقرار». واذ كان يلمح الى ان الادارة ستتدخل في نهاية المطاف أكد المصدر مجددا «ما أعنيه أنه في هذه الحالات الكونغرس لا يخرج بأجوبة».

رئيس لجنة القوات المسلحة النائب الجمهوري هوارد مكون قال «هناك الكثير لا نعرفه عن المعارضة. لدى سوريا أيضا دفاعات جوية قوية تحد من خياراتنا العسكرية. لهذا انا لا أوصي بالتدخل العسكري الاميركي، لا سيما في ضوء وضع ميزانيتنا الخطير، إلا اذا كان التهديد للامن القومي واضحا وقائما».

أما النائب الديموقراطي ادام سميث فرأى ان «البيئة القتالية في ليبيا كانت بسيطة نسبيا لان معظم المعارك حصلت على طول بعض الطرقات. في سوريا القتال يحصل في بيئات حضرية والتي هي أكثر تعقيدا بكثير. في ليبيا تهديد الصواريخ المحمولة المضادة للطائرات كان سهلاً نسبياً لتجنبه، وتملك سوريا واحداً من أكثر أنظمة الدفاع الجوي كثافة. ليبيا تخلت عن برامج بناء أسلحة الدمار الشامل قبل 10 سنوات، فيما سوريا لديها أسلحة كيميائية وبيولوجية مخزنة في قواعد عسكرية في أنحاء البلاد. ليبيا مجتمع قبلي، فيما سوريا برميل بارود من المجموعات الاثنية والدينية تقيم على رقاب بعضها البعض تحت حكم عائلة الاسد».
{…}

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April 19th, 2012, 11:50 pm

 

154. zoo said:

Paris’s trimmed “Friends of Syria” Photo Op

Foreign Ministers Meet in Paris to Discuss Syria

Jessica Menton | Apr 19, 2012 4:44pm EDT |

http://tv.ibtimes.com/foreign-ministers-meet-in-paris-to-discuss-syria/5084.html

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April 19th, 2012, 11:52 pm

 

155. Son of Damascus said:

Afram,

“constituencies elect their Representatives.”

I totally agree, what I am saying is that cabinet positions (positions that are usually assigned, and not elected as in Defence Minister, Foreign Affaires, Minister of Interior…) those positions to be reserved to certain sects, while positions that need the vote of the general constituencies (like Majles El Shaab, President of the Republic) cannot be reserved based on sect, sex, or creed.

Personally I would like to avoid the whole sect based system all together, however realities on the ground dictates that we cannot overlook such things.

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April 19th, 2012, 11:59 pm

 

156. jad said:

LOLOL 20 thumbs down in 30min on a forum where there are only 4 commentators, apparently al3ar3our is mad :)

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April 20th, 2012, 12:05 am

 

157. zoo said:

Have the yoyos finally made up their mind?

Israeli defense minister: Assad ouster ‘positive’
Associated Press – 7 hrs ago
http://news.yahoo.com/israeli-defense-minister-assad-ouster-positive-201102166.html

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s defense minister says the Syrian president has lost his legitimacy, and his fall would be “very positive.”

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak says the exit of Syrian President Bashar Assad would weaken Iranian influence in the region. He says anti-Israel Iranian proxies in Lebanon and Gaza would suffer if Assad is overthrown.

“The toppling of Assad will be … a major blow to Iran,” Barak told CNN. “It will be very positive event.”

Israel considers Iran its most serious threat. Iran and Syria are close allies.

Barak said Thursday the world is not doing enough to force Assad out.
(…)

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April 20th, 2012, 12:07 am

 

158. Son of Damascus said:

Dear Jad,

“On the other hand, not one of the Syrian official used any ‘sectarian’ word against any element of the Syrian society, not even once….yet, they are the ‘thugs’.”

Actually the new sham of a constitution is sectarian because it does not allow a Christian to be president of the republic. A man like the good Dr. Khoury would not be allowed to run for President.

Also the name the Syrian Arab Republic is sectarian of itself, because it alienates the Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians, and other diverse and proud sects in our country. They are as much Syrian as you and I are (I am assuming you are of Arab heritage, correct me if I am wrong).

“no Syrian is leaving the homeland, and nobody will force any Syrian to leave”

I totally agree with you when you say Syria is for all, however when you worry about what might happen after Bashar, you are missing what Bashar is doing. Over 100,000 of our own brothers and sisters have been displaced living like refugees in our neighbouring countries, the only people driving Syrians today en masse out of our country is the regime and their brutal and relentless methods.

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April 20th, 2012, 12:13 am

 

159. Halabi said:

Amen, Son of Damascus. It was never Assad’s Syria, we just had to live “as if” it were, as Lisa Wedeen explained in her excellent book [ blue diamond + Ambiguities of Domination ] .

Most Syrians no longer accept this humiliation and have rejected the criminals in power. The country has changed dramatically and just can’t be governed through fear anymore. This is what the pro-Assad side doesn’t get and never will.

The families you mentioned have suffered an injustice and I hope they return and help rebuild the country. Those with the capital and knowledge must return in order to honor our brethren in Taftanaz, Jassem, Hilfaya and all the other towns and villages that have sacrificed so much for freedom.

Of course Assad could win. Then his supporters would be in eternal bliss, killing, detaining and exiling anyone who disagrees with them while chanting their sick pledge:

شبيحة للابد لاجل عيونك يا أسد

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April 20th, 2012, 12:30 am

 

160. Son of Damascus said:

Jad,

Lol, you might have a shot at Majed’s unbelievable record when he got all those thumbs down.

http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/?p=14166&cp=all#comment-304027

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April 20th, 2012, 12:31 am

 

161. jad said:

Dear Son of Damascus,

Will remind you of that comment when things go south, don’t rush, I promise you that things are going from bad to worse, just wait and see how the fantasy Syria we are dreaming of will shatter infront of our eyes, ‘patience is a virtue’.

“A man like the good Dr. Khoury would not be allowed to run for President.” Thank God! (Sorry Haytham :))

“Syrian Arab Republic” You really think that I care much for the ‘Arabism’ fantasy? I don’t.

Let whoever wants to become a president win the election and I’m fine with him/her.

“the only people driving Syrians today en masse out of our country is the regime and their brutal and relentless methods.”

What about the ‘angels’ factor, aren’t they doing anything wrong, aren’t they using people’s houses to shoot and throwing people out of their houses?

In anyway, my message was clear enough, if anybody wants to distort it for political reason that is their choice but definitely not mine.

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April 20th, 2012, 12:33 am

 

162. Syrian Nationalist Party said:

154. jad said:

أولويات ما بعد بقاء الأسد
ابراهيم الأمين
{…}
المعارضات السورية للنظام ليست في وضع يؤهلها لوضع برنامج عمل مشترك. القيادة السياسية والمالية والأمنية المتروكة لأطراف خارجية، تعكس الأزمة البنيوية التي لا فكاك للمعارضة منها إلا بموقف عملاني رافض للتعاون مع جهات عربية وغربية لا تريد سوريا قوية.
——————————————————————–

SNP can and will deliver a resolution to Syria without reliance on what you stated above. But first will explore the possibility, and give time allowance for a process, in the hope of reaching a wide ranging agreement with many concerned parties. Mainly to understand what are the various interests they have in a new Syria and they understand and feel secure about, what to expect is coming in a new Syria. This shall alleviate the need to use belligerence to implement various plans and policies and use the regions and international concerns as assets and partners rather than marked for conflict. But should these various interests persist in carrying out dead end solutions and or malignant plans in Syria. SNP will go it alone and deal with any of Syria’s adversaries alone as well.

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April 20th, 2012, 12:37 am

 

163. jad said:

LOLOL I wish I can beat that record high one day! 53!!! WOW

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April 20th, 2012, 12:37 am

 

164. Afram said:

@158. Son of Damascus

100 seat parliament
MB 15 seats
Women 15..
sunni secularists 35 seats
Alawis 13
christians 6..
kurds 6..
druze 5..
turkmans+sharkas 5…
all approx figures
to win you need two thirds+1=67 seats
sunni secularist:35+Alawi 13+women15+kurds 6=69/government formed
politics is dealing and wheeling..in secular democracy no need to worry about abuse of power..coz The constructive vote of no confidence would ruin any prime minister political career>
don,t get me wrong,you and I are on the same page

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April 20th, 2012, 12:46 am

 

165. jad said:

SNP

How can you achieve such progress in a volatile and bloody war-zone conditions like in Syria today?

Any development of any kind, be it political, economical, social and environmental needs peace to start and stability to flourish, so any initiative regardless how ‘great’ or ‘promising’ it is, (Like Afram’s plan, ONLY 15 to women? Aren’t you generous my friend?) wont work until all conflict sides sit together on one table and talk, without that nothing will work, unless we want to destroy the country, the state and the society as the Americans and Europeans did to Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

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April 20th, 2012, 12:51 am

 

166. jad said:

Zoo,

The Yoyos already said that more than 8 times already…saying that for the 10th time won’t change a thing.

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April 20th, 2012, 12:55 am

 

167. Aldendeshe said:

No one will sit with this sectarian regime. No fool will. They are out and done, the confrence was regarding various oppositions and regional, international countries. The dictator puppet and his regime finished, they can talk to the hand.

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April 20th, 2012, 12:59 am

 

168. Son of Damascus said:

Halabi,

“Of course Assad could win.”

He won’t, past generations were willing to be subdued by fear, this generation has proven to be much more resilient, and will never bow down to this criminal regime.

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April 20th, 2012, 1:03 am

 

169. Halabi said:

A glimpse of our ugly future. It would be nice to have a government that would stop these crimes, but they are too busy making sure a few woman don’t hold a silent protest in the capital…

“Syrian Sunnis and Shiites caught up in kidnapping tit-for-tat

IDLIB, Syria — In a rickety office building once used by agricultural engineers in the village of Hazano, rebels with the Missiles of Justice militia waited to hear word of negotiations about a hostage swap that night.

Sitting at an old metal desk, a Sunni Muslim rebel named Mustafa manned a phone, waiting for new reports of kidnappings. He had started a list of missing Sunnis in a notebook, including a young man in a white Mazda and a pharmacist.

The list didn’t include the names of the Shiite Muslim hostages the rebels were holding in a building somewhere in the village.”

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/la-fg-syria-sectarian-20120420,0,2054810,full.story

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April 20th, 2012, 1:13 am

 

170. Son of Damascus said:

Dear Jad,

“I promise you that things are going from bad to worse, just wait and see how the fantasy Syria we are dreaming of will shatter infront of our eyes, ‘patience is a virtue’.”

I fully agree, and one of the main reasons that is happening is because of the looking the other way mentality which is enabling the regime and the fundamentalists to hijack our country.

The sooner this regime falls, the better chance we have at preserving whatever of the State there is left and rebuild upon that, help combat not only Assadism and its sick mentality but as well the bigot terrorist fundamentalist mentality a la 3ar3our.

Both of them are venomous poison that should have no place in our society or country, but blood letting won’t solve the problem (whether FSA or Assadi Army) our voice and courage to say NO MORE is the best anti venom we can use against such poison.

The only reason history repeats itself is because we did not pay attention the first time around, lets pay attention and not let history repeat itself.

““Syrian Arab Republic” You really think that I care much for the ‘Arabism’ fantasy? I don’t.”

I know you don’t, but I pointed it out because it is sectarian and is something the regime believes in. The only ism I care about is Syrianism.

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April 20th, 2012, 1:23 am

 

171. jad said:

This is smart and considered decision from the UN observer, I guess many will be mad at this news:

The UN observer won’t do any visit anywhere in Syria on Fridays:

فريق المراقبين الدوليين في سورية لن يخرج من مكتبه يوم الجمعة

قال رئيس فريق المراقبين في سورية العقيد المغربي أحمد حميش إن اعضاء فريقه ” لن يخرجوا في جولات يوم الجمعة ، كي لا يستغل وجود سياراتنا في تصعيد المواقف “.
{…}
http://www.aksalser.com/?page=view_news&id=8762d5136531b623fa8708d4b77406cc&ar=41082367

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April 20th, 2012, 1:28 am

 

172. jad said:

Son of Damascus,

“I pointed it out because it is sectarian and is something the regime believes in.”
Apparently not only the regime even the oppositions believe in that too, and it was the main reason why the Kurds left snc.

“The only ism I care about is Syrianism.”
It’s the same ‘Ism’ I care about too, unfortunately it is the only ‘Ism’ the enemy of Syria are after.

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April 20th, 2012, 1:35 am

 

173. Son of Damascus said:

Afram,

I know we are arguing semantics that I honestly wish would be the reality rather than this nightmare we are seeing.

I just believe that if you assign parliament into sect based percentages that would be a quick fix that in the long run hurt more than it helped. i.e. Lebanon

Personally I would prefer parliament to be based on just votes for political vision rather than religious or sect based vision. This is of course not to say that a religious or sect based group can’t run for parliament it just should not be pre defined. What if 5 years from know no one wanted to vote MB?

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April 20th, 2012, 1:41 am

 

174. annie said:

Sorry for this long quote from Anand Gopal who has just returned from Syria on Tuesday, where he interviewed survivors of last week’s bloody battle for the town of Taftanaz in northern Syria. Reports say government forces continue to attack rebel strongholds in Homs, in Hama, other cities, in violation of a U.N.-backed ceasefire that took effect last week.

On Wednesday, U.S. Foreign Secretary—U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at a meeting of NATO ministers in Brussels, saying the situation in Syria has become even more urgent after last week’s shelling of a refugee camp at the Turkish border. Clinton said additional measures would follow if President Bashar al-Assad does not stick to the ceasefire negotiated by ex-U.N Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: We are at a crucial turning point: either we succeed in pushing forward with Kofi Annan’s plan in accordance with the Security Council direction, with the help of monitors, steadily broadening and deepening a zone of non-conflict and peace, or we see Assad squandering his last chance before additional measures have to be considered. Now, we will continue to increase the pressure on Assad.

JUAN GONZALEZ: On Wednesday, Syrian security forces opened fire on anti-regime demonstrators surrounding the cars of a U.N. team in a suburb of Damascus. Hundreds of residents had mobbed the observers’ vehicles chanting against the government and in support of the Free Syrian Army insurgent group. The gunshots wounded at least eight demonstrators and prompted the panicked crowd to flee, according to activists and videos shot at the event. Earlier, representatives of the United Nations and the Syrian government moved toward reaching an agreement that would allow a full contingent of 250 observers to deploy in Syria to monitor a fragile ceasefire. Anand Gopal, talk about this and the latest developments in Syria.

ANAND GOPAL: Well, I was in Syria before the ceasefire and after. And initially, there was a decrease in violence. But what you saw after a few days is Assad’s regime firing at protesters, shelling neighborhoods, without provocation and indiscriminately, to the point where the ceasefire is almost meaningless now.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to play a clip for you. This is the Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s recent comments on Syria. He appeared on Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, new program on RT called The World Tomorrow.

HASSAN NASRALLAH: [translated] From the beginning of the events in Syria, we’ve had constant contact with the Syrian leadership, and we’ve spoken as friends, giving each other advice about the importance of carrying out reforms. Right from the beginning, I personally found that President Assad was very willing to carry out radical and important reforms. And this used to reassure us regarding the positions that we took. At more than one occasion, publicly, I used to give speeches and say this, and say this exactly. And in my meetings with various Lebanese and Arab and other political leaders, I used to tell them the same thing, that I am confident that President Assad wants reform, and he will carry out reforms, realistic, genuine reforms. But the opposition has to agree to dialog.

I’ll say more than this. This is the first time I say this. We contacted even elements of the opposition to encourage them and to facilitate the process of dialog with the regime. But these parties rejected dialog. And right from the beginning, we’ve had a regime that is willing to undergo reforms and prepared for dialog. On the other side, you have an opposition which is not prepared for dialog, and it’s not prepared to accept any—the reforms. All it wants is to bring down the regime.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Hassan Nasrallah on Julian Assange’s new program.

ANAND GOPAL: Yeah, that’s a—

AMY GOODMAN: Anand Gopal?

ANAND GOPAL: That’s a bit disingenuous. I mean, of course the opposition does not want to negotiate with the regime, just as the Egyptian people didn’t want to negotiate with Mubarak. What the people of Syria are faced with right now is slaughter, and there’s no chance for negotiation. I mean, it’s either being killed or somehow overthrowing the regime. And I went from village to village and town to town in northern Syria and saw this for myself, where towns were completely flattened and people were massacred in a number of places. The issue of negotiations is a nonstarter.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And you also interviewed some of the insurgents and the rebel army. Your sense of their cohesiveness and their ability to maintain that struggle against the government?

ANAND GOPAL: Well, on the ground, the revolutionaries have actually set up pretty robust alternative governments. I mean, they’ve overthrown Assad. They’ve set up these systems of participatory government councils, where people are elected and they have the right to instant recall. I mean, it’s really something that I’ve never seen. And I was in Egypt, I was in Libya. I’ve never anything like it. And even after the Syrian army offensive over the last three weeks, which went in and flattened a whole bunch of towns and villages, they’re still intact, and they’re still running the show in a lot of these towns.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about how you got in, what you expected to see, and then what you saw.

ANAND GOPAL: Well, I had a lot of questions about the nature of the insurgency in Syria. And, you know, of course, the U.S. and the West are supporting, at least in word supporting, the insurgency. So I was coming at it with a very skeptical and critical mind. We went over the border, basically crawling under a barbed-wire fence and hiking over mountains for a long period. But when I got into Syria, what I found was completely different from what I expected, in that in every town and village, it was essentially the entire population was mobilized in support of the revolution. I mean, you had from little children to old people. Really, I’ve never seen anything like that before. And it showed to me the extent to which the revolution had a—has a mass, democratic popular base, and Assad doesn’t.

AMY GOODMAN: And the effect of Kofi Annan, the special envoy for the Arab League and the United Nations, what he had proposed?

ANAND GOPAL: Well, he had proposed a ceasefire, which, as we mentioned, has really not been in practice. I mean, the regime is shelling towns indiscriminately.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think? What are people calling for right now in Syria?

ANAND GOPAL: Well, people are—people are beyond calling for the overthrow of the regime. I mean, they’re in a desperate situation, so of course they’re calling for any kind of assistance they can get. And I understand and empathize, to an extent, with that. But some of the things they’re calling for, such as arming the revolutionaries would—I think would only spur Iran and Russia to arm the government, and perhaps lead to a pretty bloody proxy war. And we’ve been down that road before in Central America and in South Asia, so I think we have to be really cautious about that.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Anand Gopal, we want to thank you very much for being with us, journalist who covers Afghanistan, Egypt; writing a book, actually, about the Afghanistan war; has just returned from Syria after a week there.

source : http://www.democracynow.org/2012/4/19/back_from_syria_journalist_anand_gopal

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April 20th, 2012, 2:56 am

 

175. Halabi said:

This is an example of the regime charging sectarian tensions in Homs. Buthaina Shaaban talked about sectarianism from the first days of the protests in Daraa, and Bashar mentioned fitna more than Syria in his first speech, mostly to avoid his lisp.

“Homs is Syria’s third largest city, and the country’s most religiously diverse. Intermarriage was common for all but the most conservative, and it was considered gauche to discuss sect. In the months leading up to the revolution, Ali and Mohammad, who were both engaged to be married, spoke endlessly about saving up enough money to have a joint wedding. “We dreamed that our children would play together, and that they too would be best friends,” says Ali.

But as pressure mounted against the regime, Assad resurrected old sectarian tensions in order to bolster support from the country’s religious minorities. “The regime was trying to create fear among the Alawites and the Christians,” says Ali. “He [Assad] said to us, if the Islamists take over, they will kick you out of Syria.” Many of Ali’s Alawite friends, who hold government jobs, were offered extracurricular stipends—as much as $500 a month— to fan those fears through a graffiti campaign. “The Christians to Beirut, the Alawites to the grave” was one of the more common ones. Another friend was told to shout sectarian slogans at anti-government rallies. Ali says he doesn’t blame his friends for participating in the propaganda campaign. “They are poor, and were terrified that they would loose their jobs if they didn’t do it.”

But what was once propagandistic myth making on the part of the regime now seems to be coming true. In May, the government started handing out weapons to Alawite citizens. Nominally it was for self-defense, but if folks wanted to take the law into their own hands, well, that wasn’t discouraged either. Ali, who never publicly discussed his change of heart, took his government-issued AK-47 and gas mask and gave them to Mohammad’s younger brother, who had just defected from the army in order to join the rebels.

The Free Syrian Army, as the defected soldiers call themselves, say that they only defend protesters, but enough videos of FSA attacks on government soldiers and armed Alawites has emerged to make it clear that the opposition can be equally brutal, if given the opportunity. One of Ali’s Alawite friends was caught by the FSA shouting sectarian slogans at an anti-government rally. He was beaten until he confessed that he had been sent by the regime. He was allowed to go free, but the damage was done.”

http://globalspin.blogs.time.com/2012/03/01/eyewitness-from-homs-an-alawite-refugee-warns-of-sectarian-war-in-syria/#ixzz1sYtkZzc4

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April 20th, 2012, 3:17 am

 

176. Alan said:

Greenwald: Assange show – Kremlin propaganda? Look who’s talking!

http://rt.com/news/assange-greenwald-show-kremlin-487/

Assange’s The World Tomorrow has created a storm in the media that has taken no time at all to accuse the Kremlin of pulling strings. But in their anti-propaganda crusade some media are blind to their own practices, notes journalist Glen Greenwald.

The founder of the WikiLeaks whistleblowing website had no illusions how his talk show would be perceived, especially with RT as the initial broadcaster. “A traitor” and “a Kremlin patsy” is what Julian Assange knew he would hear from his opponents.

This did not take too long to crystallize in a review by The New York Times’ Alessandra Stanley, who lashed out at Assange and his choice of broadcaster.

“The show is unlikely to win high ratings or change many minds, but it may serve Mr. Assange’s other agenda: damage control,” writes Stanley, adding that there was something almost “atavistic” about the outlet the whistleblower picked.

“Russia Today is an English-language news network created by the Russian leader Vladimir V. Putin in 2005 to promote the Kremlin line abroad… Basically, it’s an improbable platform for a man who poses as a radical left-wing whistleblower and free-speech frondeur battling the superpowers that be,” reads the NYT article.

[ … ]

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April 20th, 2012, 4:36 am

 

177. Tara said:

Factbox: Main points of Syria-U.N. deal on monitors
Reuters – 1 hr 0 mins ago

(Reuters) – Syria and the United Nations signed a preliminary agreement this week governing the responsibilities of the Syrian government and armed opposition groups for keeping a ceasefire that U.N. monitors will oversee, after 13 months of bloodshed.
Here is a summary of the main points of the agreement:

RESPONSIBILITIES OF SYRIAN GOVERNMENT

– “Cease armed violence in all its forms; complete the pullback of all Syrian army military concentrations and their heavy weapons from inside and around population centers and return them to their barracks or their places of temporary deployment”; implement other elements of the agreement with international mediator Kofi Annan.

– Syrian government will ensure “maintenance of security and law and order through the use of its police and law enforcement agencies in a manner consistent with international humanitarian and human rights law.”

– It will also ensure the safety of all U.N. staff “without prejudice to the freedom of movement for all personnel”, and “full and unimpeded access of humanitarian personnel to all populations in need of assistance”.

– No agreement was reached on the U.N. use of planes or helicopters. This “may be discussed and agreed at a later date”.

– Syrian government will allow “unhindered access of U.N. personnel to any facility, location, individual or group considered of interest”.

– Syria’s armed forces may “continue to maintain the security of strategic assets and installations, eg ports, airports, highways, refineries etc”

RESPONSIBILITIES OF ARMED GROUPS

The following responsibilities are “to be confirmed by (Annan) with and in respect of the armed opposition groups and relevant elements”:

– “A complete halt to the fighting and a sustained cessation of armed violence in all its forms.
– Freedom of movement for U.N. staff, no threat to their security, and full access for humanitarian personnel to all populations in need of assistance.

– Armed opposition groups must “cease all acts of aggression against Syrian army formations, bases, convoys and infrastructure … (and) against government agencies, buildings, infrastructure as well as private and public properties and not hinder the resumption of public services”.

– They must also “commit to stop all illegal activities according to Syrian law, including assassinations, kidnapping or vandalism; and to return all public and private property, stolen through violence, to their rightful owners”.

– They must “refrain from training, re-arming, regrouping or re-organizing military formations … cease public and private display of weapons … commit, in accordance with Syrian law, not to conduct or initiate activities such as establishing checkpoints, conducting patrols or policing activities (and) allow the safe return of all affected people to their places of residence”.

DEFINITIONS

– HEAVY WEAPONS: All weapons with a caliber above 14.5 millimeters, including artillery pieces, tanks, mortars, rocket propelled grenades, anti-tank weapons and anti-aircraft weapons systems. Armored personnel carriers are not considered heavy weapons if mounted weapons above 7.62 mm caliber are disabled.

– PULL BACK FROM POPULATION CENTRES: This means the movement of army concentrations to their barracks or temporary locations at least 2 to 3 km outside the perimeter of the population centers (cities, towns or villages). This does not apply to barracks which already exist within cities and towns.

http://news.yahoo.com/factbox-main-points-syria-u-n-deal-monitors-101123415.html

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April 20th, 2012, 7:38 am

 

178. zoo said:

Unless Turkey moves to to the middle ground, it will miss its political role in the region

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkeys-importance-for-the-middle-east-.aspx?pageID=449&nID=18845&NewsCatID=416

Looking at the general picture it is not hard to conclude that Turkey is being left out of important diplomatic and political processes underway in the Middle East. Many attribute this to the fact that Ankara has started taking sides in regional disputes, particularly along the Sunni – Shiite fault line.

This contrasts with the impartial position Turkey held a few years ago as far as regional disputes were concerned. That impartiality was also favored by the international community, given that it placed Ankara in a unique position to play an important role as a regional mediator.

Today there is little ground left for Turkey to be a major mediator in the disputes of the region, whether these concern the Arab – Israeli dispute, or disputes between Arabs. As can be seen from the Syrian case, Turkey is now a country that is simply trying to ward of the negative fallout to itself from regional disputes, and one that is seeking assistance from NATO and the UN for this.

But for Turkey to be able to enhance its capacity as a democratic role model for the region, it is clear that Ankara will have to move to the middle ground again in terms of regional disputes, and not be party to them, if it wants to have increased credibility.

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April 20th, 2012, 8:59 am

 

179. bronco said:

#177 Annie

Interesting debate. Have you read somewhere else about these “robust alternative governments” in several ‘towns”. Which towns is he talking about? Is he talking about the LCCs?

“ANAND GOPAL: Well, on the ground, the revolutionaries have actually set up pretty robust alternative governments. I mean, they’ve overthrown Assad.
They’ve set up these systems of participatory government councils, where people are elected and they have the right to instant recall. I mean, it’s really something that I’ve never seen.”

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April 20th, 2012, 9:08 am

 

180. mjabali said:

Syria No Kandahar thanks for the link to the interview with the Salafi sheikh Duqmaq.

This man speaks frankly and my favorite sentence was when he said that the Alawis are more atheist that the secular ones.

Here is a translation for some of this man’s key ideas…

ظالما فحسب بل لأنه أيضا نظام علماني ملحد

Here Duqmaq is saying that al-Assad regime is “not only unjust but it is a secular atheist system.”

حرب ضروس بين الفرس والسنة على أرض الشام

Here Duqmaq said that what is going on is a “grueling war between the Persians and the Sunnis on the Sham land (Sham is a rubbery term to either denote to Damascus or a collection of States Syria, Lebanon…etc)

وأعلن دقماق تأييده فتوى ابن تيمية الشهيرة التي تكفّر العلويين، ووصفها بأنها “فتوى نفيسة والحاجة لهذه الفتوى في هذه الأيام لا يخفى، فالنظام السوري جمع الإلحاد إلى جانب الطائفية والظلم، وليس مشكلة النظام السوري مجرد كونه قائما على العلمانية، بل أضف إلى ذلك النصيرية التي هي اشد إلحادا من العلمانية

Here Duqmaq is praising the decree of Ibn Taymiyah that makes the Alawis infidels. He said that this decree is “very valuable and the need for this decree these days can not be hidden because the Assad regime added atheism to sectarianism and unjustness. The problem of the Syrian regime is not it is based on secularism, but add to that Nusairisim that is more atheist than secularism.

وصف دقماق تنظيم القاعدة بأنه “لم يعد تنظيماً هرمياً بمعنى رئيس ومرؤوس وما شابه، بل هو فكر عقائدي ومنهج عملي فكل من إقتنع بهذا الفكر أصبح قاعدة

In this paragraph Duqmaq describes al-Qaida Organaization that it “not anymore a pyramid structured organization in terms of a boss and those bossed and the like, but it is an ideological thinking and a practical path so whoever is convinced with this thinking became al-Qaida…

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April 20th, 2012, 9:14 am

 

181. bronco said:

#180 Tara

As long as the opposition and the armed rebels do not accept officially and unconditionally this plan, violence will persist unabated. The Syrian government, that committed officially to the plan with the UN, can always say they are acting in self-defense.

This is why, despite the violence these days, the blame on the Syrian government is subdued while Annan is trying to get that hard to get commitment from the angry and disappointed opposition that consider the Plan as the consecration of its failure to topple the regime.

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April 20th, 2012, 9:17 am

 

182. Tara said:

Bronco

Is that true? My understanding is that both the SNC and Colonel Ryad al Asaad officially accepted Annan’ plan. Not only them but also, the AL and Turkey both endorsed it.

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April 20th, 2012, 9:45 am

 

183. Alan said:

Surprising Bazar!

China offered Syria of 100 billion dollars for Infrastructure! Russia offers membership in the Customs union! the friendly countries of Latin America offer possible supports! Gold is a basis of bases! what sense gold to change for toilet paper! it is possible to understand only that news about sale of gold enters into unsuccessful war of nerves! I can assure Americans that this toilet paper will be not necessary as world currency soon!!!

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April 20th, 2012, 9:57 am

 

184. annie said:

French anyone ?

“Les Assad n’ont absolument pas peur de l’indécence de leur accusation. C’est vraiment l’hôpital qui se moque de la charité! Ce clan qui a porté au pouvoir une partie des alaouites accuse les manifestants d’être sectaires…Pourtant, quoi de plus naturel que la majorité des manifestants soient sunnites, à l’image de la population syrienne? Au moins les manifestants sont plus représentatifs de la société que le clan qui les dirige. Le présent article n’entend pas revenir sur la prétention du régime de défendre les minorités. Cette posture n’a pas plus de valeur que celle de résistant à l’impérialisme américain et à la résistance israélienne (lien).”

http://syrianfacts.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/le-piege-de-la-lecture-confessionnelle-repression-et-cooptation-comme-clefs-de-comprehension-de-la-crise-syrienne/

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April 20th, 2012, 10:14 am

 

185. bronco said:

#185 Tara

The opposition has not only refused the sign officially the Peace plan, but they are trying to disrupt it, thus justifying the retaliation from the Syrian army. They reluctantly made some vague and contradictory declarations of conditional acceptance so as not to appear singled out.

Syrian opposition trying to disrupt Annan’s peace plan
Apr 18, 2012 21:26 Moscow Time
http://english.ruvr.ru/2012_04_18/72190177/

The Syrian opposition is attempting to disrupt Kofi Anna’s peace plan and trigger violence. Reportedly, militants of the Free Syrian Army are using refugee camps in Turkey to make preparations for launching attacks on checkpoints. The Foreign Ministers of Russia and Morocco, Sergei Lavrov and Saadeddin al-Othmani discussed the situation in Syria at their meeting.

The Russian Foreign Minister said there are some people who are interested in seeing Annan’s plan end in a fiasco. In this case, other options, especially force, can be used.

“I have personally seen how my colleagues were disappointed when they got to know that the Syrian government had agreed with the Annan plan. Lately, mass media, especially the Western European and the Turkish press have provided a growing amount of evidence that the armed opposition had tried to provoke and trigger violence so as to break the ceasefire and find a pretext to “bury” the Annan plan. We were told that the Turkish newspapers had evidence that the Free Syrian Army militants misuse the status of refugee camps in Turkey. They are training to carry out attacks on Syrian checkpoints. This proves what they want to achieve now that the ceasefire is in force,” Sergei Lavrov said.
(…)

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April 20th, 2012, 10:21 am

 

186. Jad said:

Bronco

The armed terrorist group backed by the oppositions’ puppets and directed by US, France and Turkey are responsible for most of the violence happening from the last week.

They don’t want to accept Annan’s plan because it will show their real size.

Today, until now, the news is saying that 22 Syrian killed, 16 of them are from the army and security forces and 5 terrorists and 1 innocent who was killed by a bomb put by the terrorists.

Lavrov and his assistant blamed the opposition for escalating the violence, while the colonial powers are threatening with the military intervention and to invade Syria.

I would like to see some of the 3ra3eer serving their old European masters and who are obviously supporting terrorism and sectarianism practicing democracy under the NATO occupation of Syria, how proud are they going to be with their achievement?

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April 20th, 2012, 10:30 am

 

187. Afram said:

Hi mjabali.
Duqmaq is representing the Anolog islamists thinkers/one way state of mind.always negative=loser

you and I plus the majority are Digital thinkers/processes two states:positive and non-positive.so we can methodologically differentiate good from evil=agreeable to reason

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April 20th, 2012, 10:31 am

 

188. Jad said:

Some of the injured armed militia men in Turkey complaining that they are not getting the money they’ve been promised and not being treated in private hospitals:

معارضة مجلس اسطنبول ينامون على الريش ورجالهم يموتون

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April 20th, 2012, 11:01 am

 

189. Tara said:

Bronco

You are quoting a Russian source. My understanding is that there was an official acceptance of cease fire by the FSA and the SNC noting that the regime will not not comply despite its rhetoric of accepting the plan.

And that is exactly what happened.

The regime continued with violence, business as usual. The international community has been indeed keeping a low profile in regard to this “pseudo ceasefire” because the other alternative is… an all out war? Human corridors and safe havens, which no one yet ready to commit just 8 days after the deadline of Annan’s plan. The regime is playing with fire however. This is its last chance of political maneuvering and it is taking a tremendous risk of a violent end once the international community is fed up with the status quo.

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April 20th, 2012, 11:09 am

 

190. mjabali said:

Good morning Afram

These type of people I would not call thinkers. Their line always fought against “Reason.” The word عقلانية is their enemy. Ibn Taymiyah was a reactionary and wanted to stop people from studying philosophy, math and art and so forth.

Ibn Taymiyah’s logic is against science. He was not for progress or plural societies for sure

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April 20th, 2012, 11:16 am

 

191. Ghufran said:

Bahraini regime is facing a major challenge over Formula 1 event, the regime can not win this one even if the race goes on. For years, the only response the royal family gave to demands of political reform is more marginalization of their Shia citizens and more neutralization of non Bahraini citizens in at attempt to change the demographic composition of that tiny kingdom.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/19/bahrain-braces-f1-unrest

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April 20th, 2012, 11:26 am

 

192. bronco said:

#192 Tara

Not a single media has reported that the opposition has officially and unconditionally accepted the Annan peace plan. There were all vague declarations with lots of ‘but’ while the Syrian government has signed and committed unconditionnally to the plan. Yet, unless the other party commits too, the plan will encounter many difficulties.

Just days after Annan’s plan started, this is the opposition counter-Annan six point plan:

http://www.foxnews.com/world/interactive/2012/04/11/syrian-opposition-six-point-plan/

“Ammar Abdulhamid, who fled Syria in 2005 and has since lived in the United States, told Fox News that members of the main opposition groups, representing all political and religious backgrounds, helped draw up the new six-point plan. He added that he hoped the plan would achieve the goal of stopping the Assad regime’s violence and bringing about the Syrian leader’s ouster.

The plan calls for arming local resistance forces, establishing a safe haven for civilians and providing international aerial support for resistance fighters. It also calls for stepped-up diplomatic pressure on the Assad regime and its supporters, with specific steps taken to encourage defections by top government officials. These steps would include offers of amnesties, with specific start and end dates.

Finally, the plan calls for identifying countries willing to provide future peacekeepers who could be instantly dispatched to liberated territories to ensure stabilization and support ongoing efforts by opposition groups in regard to transition planning.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/04/11/exclusive-syrian-opposition-group-says-annan-plan-doomed-offer-alternative/#ixzz1sayZtOcs

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April 20th, 2012, 11:42 am

 

193. zoo said:

Why the West is Supporting an Anti-Western Solution in Syria

By Yossef Bodansky | Fri, 20 April 2012 12:21 |

http://oilprice.com/Geopolitics/Middle-East/Intelligence-Report-Why-the-West-is-Supporting-an-Anti-Western-Solution-in-Syri.html

A Jihadist, Anti-Western Agenda is Being Forced on Syria

The international community has been blindly following a jihadist-driven agenda for Syria; a solution the majority of Syrians reject, but which Turkey and Qatar have been driving. It begs the question: why are analysts in Washington — or Paris or London — not digging more deeply into what is really happening, given that the solution they have endorsed is so profoundly anti-Western?

At the core is the confrontation between resurgent Sunni Arab Islam- ism and the region’s aspirant non- Arab Islamist hegemonic powers: Mahdivist Iran and neo-Ottoman Turkey.

The Fertile Crescent of Minorities — from east to west counter-clockwise: Ahwazi Arabs, Kurds, ‘Alawites, Druze, Maronites, Jews and Circassians — serves as the buffer, preventing a cataclysmic eruption.

Only a viable Fertile Crescent of Minorities — of which the ‘Alawites and Druze of Syria are presently the most beleaguered elements — can thus prevent the simmering Arab Middle East from conjoining with the Islamist ascent of Turkey and Iran and jointly creating an explosive critical mass.

Hence, the main challenge in resolving the Syria crisis is preventing the replacement of an ‘Alawite-Druze dominated Government by an Islamist- jihadist one. No less important is the imperative to restore and preserve a viable Syrian state via meaningful political reforms, as well as economic recovery and modernization of the entire region.

If a moderate, stable outcome was desired, then negotiations between the Syrian Liberation Army and the Assad Administration would need to be launched on the establishment of a nationalist government in Damascus, with emphasis on regionalization and diffusion of power which would ensure the rights of the Sunni Arab tribes, extended families and urban élite, as well as the nation’s minorities. The transformation of power through negotiations would ensure that all pertinent international agreements to which Syria was beholden would remain valid.

(..)

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April 20th, 2012, 11:59 am

 

194. Afram said:

@193. mjabali Good morning

I meant Islamic thinkers according to Fiqh: فقه الاسلامي
agree with you that Ibn Rushd’s (Averroes )philosophy has been replaced with Ibn Taymiyah Fiqh, so sad.

mjabali/here is a sample from burhans E.lEAKS

طيفور يطالب غليون بإعفاء قضماني من مهمتها

بسمة قضماني، الناطقة باسم «المجلس الوطني السوري»، هي أكثر أعضاء المجلس إثارة للجدل، منذ أن ظهرت تسجيلات مقابلتها مع قناة تلفزيون فرنسية، إلى جانب إسرائيليين، وعبرت فيها عن رأيها بأن الدولة العبرية ضرورة في الشرق الأوسط. ويوم 26 شباط 2012، أرسل نائب رئيس المجلس، محمد فاروق طيفور (نائب المراقب العام للإخوان المسلمين في سوريا)، رسالة إلى برهان غليون يطلب منه فيها إعفاء قضماني من موقعها كناطقة باسم المجلس. وهذه الرسالة لم تأت بعد انتشار تسجيلات مقابلة قضماني والإسرائيليين، بل بعد إعلانها قبولها بمغادرة الرئيس السوري وعائلته سوريا، ولو من دون محاكمة.

وفي ما يأتي، نص الرسالة:

الدكتور برهان أرجو التكرم بإيقاف الدكتورة بسمة على أن تكون ناطقة باسم المجلس لكثير من الأخطاء المرتكبة في الفترة الأخيرة إضافة إلى الأشرطة التي انتشرت عن مواقفها من إسرائيل، وأن تتوقف عن التصريح المؤذي للمجلس.

شكراً لكم مع تحياتي.

محمد فاروق طيفور

Islamists hate women more than Israel

Basma qadamani Persona non grata
Tayfur, demanded from burhan to have her dismissed for being controversial member, his excuse is Basma featured with the French television channel, alongside Israelis!? ok, fire her, but Tayfur failed to say to burhan–replace Basma by another female!!

islamists figh is:

institutionalized discrimination against women.

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April 20th, 2012, 12:09 pm

 

195. zoo said:

Ignoring Annan Peace plan, rebels violence getting closer to Israel.

At least 18 Syrian troops killed in new attacks: media
AFP – 1 hr 15 mins ago
http://news.yahoo.com/least-18-syrian-troops-killed-attacks-media-145414445.html

A powerful blast killed 10 security force personnel in the southern Syrian region of Quneitra on Friday, state television reported, blaming the explosion on “terrorists.”

“An armed terrorist group detonated a 100-kilogramme (220-pound) bomb in Sahm al-Jolan in the region of Quneitra, killing 10 members of the security forces,” the channel said.

The state run SANA news agency said the bomb was detonated by remote control and targeted a bus transporting government troops.

Quneitra is near the demarcation line with Israel, in the disputed Golan Heights.

A similar bomb attack in the town of Karak, in southern Daraa province, killed five soldiers, SANA said, also blaming “armed terrorist groups.”

Three soldiers and three civilians were killed in separate incidents elsewhere, according to state media.
(..)

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April 20th, 2012, 12:12 pm

 

196. irritated said:

#197 Afram

One commenter wrote that Basma Qodmani is Ghaliun’s sister in law. That may explain why she is still at her post.

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April 20th, 2012, 12:16 pm

 

197. zoo said:

No Friday Patrols by U.N. Observers in Syria: a severe blow to the activists

By ROBERT MACKEY
http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/20/no-friday-patrols-by-u-n-observers-in-syria/

The Moroccan colonel leading a small team of United Nations military observers in Syria dealt a severe blow to the hopes of opposition activists late Thursday when he announced that his monitors planned to avoid working on Fridays, the traditional day of mass protests in the country.

Despite the fact that the cease-fire agreement brokered by the United Nations commits Syria’s government to allowing peaceful protests, the colonel, Ahmed Himmiche, told reporters in Damascus: “We don’t want to be used as a tool for escalating the situation. So we will avoid going out on patrol on Fridays.”
(..)

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April 20th, 2012, 12:24 pm

 

198. Valerya said:

http://english.ruvr.ru/2012_04_20/72394084/

Blast kills 10 security forces in Syria: state TV

A powerful blast killed 10 security force personnel in the southern Syrian region of Quneitra on Friday, state television reported, blaming the explosion on “terrorists”.

“An armed terrorist group exploded a 100-kilogramme (220-pound) bomb in Sahm al-Jolan in the region of Quneitra, killing 10 members of the security forces,” the television said.

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April 20th, 2012, 12:26 pm

 

199. Syria no Kandahar said:

Today less than 3% (using Qatar barmeel alzift Khoarzmi number) were in the streets, >97% were in their homes afraid from the Shabiha.

Let us destroy Syria to keep the 3% demonstrating.

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April 20th, 2012, 12:38 pm

 

200. zoo said:

After Syria, Iran is expanding ist car industry in Iraq

Iranian carmaker Saipa to launch assembly line in Iraq
http://www.payvand.com/news/12/apr/1207.html

Iranian carmaker Saipa will establish a car assembly line in Iraq with the nominal capacity to roll out 40,000 cars per year.

After commissioning a production site in Syria, Saipa is now planning to launch an assembly line in Iraq, which has the capacity to boost output to 120,000 cars per year through increasing working shifts, Fars news agency reported.

Iranian car manufacturers produced over 1.498 million units of different kind in the first eleven months of the past calendar year, which ended on March 19, Mehr news agency reported.

Iran has developed its domestic car industry for five decades and produced 1.6 million vehicles last year, about half of them made by Iran Khodro, which aims to export around 10 percent of its production this year, Reuters reported.

Even with sanctions, which have scared off some suppliers from exporting to Iran, Iran Khodro says sales rose 18 percent in 2010 and plans a 13 percent output increase this year to 860,000 vehicles
(…)

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April 20th, 2012, 12:42 pm

 

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