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

Comments (634)


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201. irritated said:

#201 SNK

You are too generous. I would say less than 0.03%, it is another friday-fiasco for the SNC and the ones calling for ‘massive’ demonstrations.

They should try for the nth time a call for ‘massive strikes’

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April 20th, 2012, 12:46 pm

 

202. Syria no Kandahar said:

UN observers probably were given فول for breakfast by the Syrian Regime, that made them sleepy and decided not to watch Aaroorists jumping in their post spiritual ceremony. EU can’t ban فول from Syria, they are negotiating with Argentina to stop Syria from importing مته , they think that مته is calming down Syrians and making them less hostile which is against KSA wishes.

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April 20th, 2012, 12:55 pm

 

203. Uzair8 said:

******************************************************************************

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

Frederick Douglass

******************************************************************************

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April 20th, 2012, 12:57 pm

 

204. SYRIAN HAMSTER said:

Pleath help Batta
You know you’re doomed when email scam artist catch up with your name and theft. Here is an email I recently received. I am sharing it so that those who “love” “popular batta” can now lend him a hand. I am waiting for similar emails from Athma (wife of soon to be deposed/hanged) dictator and from Hadeel/Luna/etc…. Batta fanclub, who will be portrayed as “not so secret lovers of deposed/hanged” former dictator.


From: President Bashar al-Assad
Date: April 13, 2012 7:10:00 AM PDT
Subject: Cabinet of the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad:
Reply-To:
Cabinet of the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad:

Hello,
I anticipate that you read this mail quickly and let me know your opinion on this classified information herein.

I would like you to assist me to move my resource to your country or any safe location.
This resource is my only security to help sustain my future amid the current crisis in my country and this is the main reason why I still hold onto the presidential seat.
This is my major reason of contacting you. It is very important that this resource is moved to a safer location for investment abroad.
I want you to assist me to invest the resource in your country.

Your immediate attention to this matter will be highly appreciated.Contact me immediately with my Email Address; (presidentbashar.al_assad@myself.com)

Thanks and God bless you.

Sincerely yours,
President Bashar al-Assad

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April 20th, 2012, 12:59 pm

 

205. Mawal95 said:

Joshua Landis saw fit to link to a Reuters news report from mere anonymous sources that Syria was selling some of its gold holdings, but only selling the gold in tiny quantities. As linked to by #120 ANN, the Syrian Central Bank has issued a denial that it has sold any gold or intends to sell any. The president of Syria’s Goldsmiths’ Association, which works with the Central Bank in managing its gold holdings, also said it was a falsehood that the Syrian government was selling any of its gold. The Reuters report was a very shitty story because (1) it was false, (2) its information sources were unnamed, (3) the quantities of gold reportedly being sold were trivially small, (4) if Syria did decide to sell gold in exchange for foreign currency, bearing in mind the current price of gold is high by any reasonable reference point (US$1,653 per ounce), the decision to sell gold would be uninteresting with respect to the SYP and uninteresting respect to Syria.

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April 20th, 2012, 1:03 pm

 

206. Mawal95 said:

Joshua Landis saw fit to link to a Reuters news report from mere anonymous sources that Syria was selling some of its gold holdings, but only selling the gold in tiny quantities. As linked to by #120 ANN, the Syrian Central Bank has issued a denial that it has sold any gold, and denies that it intends to sell any. The president of Syria’s Goldsmiths’ Association, which works with the Central Bank in managing its gold holdings, also said it was a falsehood that the Syrian government was selling any of its gold. The Reuters report was very rubbishy because (1) it was false, (2) its information sources were unnamed, (3) the quantities of gold reportedly being sold were trivially small, (4) if Syria did decide to sell gold in exchange for foreign currency, bearing in mind the current price of gold is high by any reasonable reference point (US$1,653 per ounce), the decision to sell gold would be uninteresting with respect to the SYP and uninteresting respect to Syria.

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April 20th, 2012, 1:05 pm

 

207. Afram said:

205. Uzair8 said:

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

Frederick Douglass
===============
The limits of tyrants?

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April 20th, 2012, 1:08 pm

 

208. Uzair8 said:

208 Afram

That’s an old video from 2007. What happened later to the ‘Red Mosque’….

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lal_Masjid

I don’t see your point? Taleban school of thought (Deobandi) is a minority in Pakistan.

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April 20th, 2012, 1:53 pm

 

209. Uzair8 said:

Galloway confronted over Assad comments

20 April 2012

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-17783704

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April 20th, 2012, 1:58 pm

 

210. Afram said:

209. Uzair8 said:
208 Afram
That’s an old video from 2007. What happened later to the ‘Red Mosque’….
I don’t see your point?
==================
where was osama bin laden living with multi-wives?
my point pakistan is not nice either!!!

Apr 3, 2012 – Pakistani Muslim Radicals Warn Christians Not To Celebrate Easter
http://www.persecution.org

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April 20th, 2012, 2:18 pm

 

211. Uzair8 said:

Iraqi PM Maliki says Turkey is becoming ‘hostile state’

Friday, 20 April 2012

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Friday that Turkey is becoming a “hostile state” in the region, accusing its premier of interfering in internal Iraqi affairs and of sectarianism.

http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/04/20/209095.html

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April 20th, 2012, 2:23 pm

 

212. Uzair8 said:

Is it true today’s (friday) protest slogan was ‘We want our Gold back’ referring to the gold and other valuables taken by Shabeeha and co. while looting businesses and homes in rebel areas during the uprising, and now suspected of being offered for sale in Dubai?

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April 20th, 2012, 2:58 pm

 

213. Antoine said:

LOOK WHO’S TALKING…

“Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Friday that Turkey is becoming a “hostile state” in the region, accusing its premier of interfering in internal Iraqi affairs and of sectarianism”

Nuri al Maliki and sectarianism go better with each other than Besho and his lisp.

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April 20th, 2012, 3:03 pm

 

214. Tara said:

Antoine

Iraq Maliki is pethaps more sinister than Batta in my views. You would think that he should know and behave better after many years of the majority Iraqi Shiaa being crushed by a secular Saddam. Unfortunately, psychology tells us that abused individuals tend to abuse others when they have the chance. One would think the exact opposite. Sadly, it is not. It is very much counterintuitive. It seems to me that the abused should be emancipated but never allowed to come to power, otherwise they will inflict on other what have been inflicted on them. ME is full of psychological complexes. There is hardly any normal generation.

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April 20th, 2012, 3:15 pm

 

215. Antoine said:

IRRITATED,

Today’s protests were the largest in months, I don’t know what you’re talking about, 3 % ? wishful thinking ?

These were the demonstrations today in al-Bab in Reef Halab. It has a population of about 50,000. Judging by the size of the protest, it is as large as any of the pro-regime rallies in Damacus.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSdANcH_Ee4&feature=relmfu

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5leHzT1Gj0&feature=relmfu

This brave Syrian was killed by the people Irritated supports :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXsrJwS_7KA&feature=relmfu

Think about it, a rally in a town of 50,000 can get as large as a pro-regime rally in Damascus.

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April 20th, 2012, 3:20 pm

 

216. Uzair8 said:

#210

To be fair George Galloway has distanced himself from the Assad regime although his overall view on the Syrian situation is influenced by his socialist, anti-war and anti-imperialist background.

In the video clip, from last nights BBC Question Time programme, the panelist is referring to comments by GG in the past in praise of Assad/Saddam.

I don’t think the following has been posted on SC previously:

George Galloway on Syria:

Published on 5 Apr 2012 by presstvlondon

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April 20th, 2012, 3:22 pm

 

217. Antoine said:

TARA,

Do you think the Iraq scenario may be replayed in Syria when Batta falls ? Could be, if someone like Haytham Maleh took the reins. I wouldn;t be too displeased with that though, justice needs to be served.

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April 20th, 2012, 3:23 pm

 

218. Uzair8 said:

Sorry, last post.

Previous comment wouldn’t allow me to edit even with several minutes left.

The video of George Galloway was in fact posted before on SC by Mawal, if I’m correct.

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April 20th, 2012, 3:31 pm

 

219. irritated said:

#216 Antoine

“These were the demonstrations today in al-Bab in Reef Halab”

It was a procession for a funeral and it looked peaceful with balck flag and Allah u Akbar.
50,000? I would say 5,000 maximum.
In the last video, how do you know who shot the guy?

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April 20th, 2012, 3:49 pm

 

220. ann said:

Syria Fatigue

Syria is fading from world press

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April 20th, 2012, 3:54 pm

 

221. Antoine said:

221. IRRITATED said:

“It was a procession for a funeral and it looked peaceful with balck flag and Allah u Akbar.
50,000? I would say 5,000 maximum”

Did you even read it properly ? I said the population of the town is close to 50,000 ; which means almost 10 % of the population was in the rally, now you have to consider that most of the participants were young adult males, they all have wives, children, old parents, sisters, that will add up to pretty much 80 % of the town being anti-regime.

The regime is clearly losing support, I challenged MAWAL 95 to show me pro-regime rally videos from 4 Christian majority towns – Kafr Buhum, Salamiyah in Hama , Qaryatayn in Homs ; and Bloudan in Rif Dimsashq, he failed to do so.

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April 20th, 2012, 3:57 pm

 

222. Tara said:

Antoine

I am for justice to be served. I don’t think it is in me to forgive and volunteer the blood of children, mothers, and the innocents. I was happy that Saddam faced his fate. I am however against collective punishment or punishment for moral support. I hope indiscriminate chaotic killing, Iraqi -style does not happen in Syria after regime change. Am I sure it won’t happen. I am not sure. Not after I saw what Shabeehas were capable of doing. People can easily become very very ugly. It will all depend on how the regime change is going to happen. The more violence inflicted on us, the more likely a violent outcome will ensue. This is in my view the historical error the regime supporters are committing. Assad is going to vanish eventually. By not helping with the process, they are accepting the risk of possible retaliation.

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April 20th, 2012, 3:58 pm

 

223. ann said:

Russia submits UN draft resolution on monitoring mission in Syria

Russia submitted a draft resolution to the Security Council on Friday “stipulating the formation of a UN monitoring mission for the initial period of three months with 300 members,” Tass news agency reports, citing Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich. The draft further calls on the complete implementation of Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan, which aims to stop the violence in the country and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians.

[...]

http://rt.com/news/line/2012-04-20/#id29893

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April 20th, 2012, 4:02 pm

 

224. ann said:

Looks like little Napoleon Sarkozy will be out of office before Assad 8)

Francois Hollande favors military action in Syria under UN mandate – 2012-04-21

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2012-04/21/c_131541393.htm

PARIS, April 20 (Xinhua) — French socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande Friday said he was favorable to France’s participation in demanding a military intervention in Syria under UN mandate.

“If it is done in the framework of the UN … we will participate in this intervention,” said the 57-year-old socialist candidate who is leading in polls for the upcoming presidential election on radio Europe1.

[...]

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April 20th, 2012, 4:10 pm

 

225. Uzair8 said:

Just read a blog article on AJE. Probably nothing you weren’t aware of already.

Blush is off Syria’s ‘Rose of the Desert’
Thu, 2012-04-19

http://blogs.aljazeera.com/middle-east/2012/04/19/blush-syrias-rose-desert

Check out this comment by ‘Maweei’ from the comment section at the end of the article:

“from rose in the desert she will be a rose in a cell.Roses dont grow well with out sunlight.but you and your husband have taken the sun away from a lot of people.”

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April 20th, 2012, 4:32 pm

 

226. jad said:

Haytham Manna talking about the enemies of Syria meeting and the call for intervention by the armed groups:
قناة فرنسا 24: الدكتور هيثم مناع
http://youtu.be/uRf-o-z1Bzw

About Annan plan:
قناة العالم: الدكتور هيثم مناع

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April 20th, 2012, 4:34 pm

 
 

228. Syria no Kandahar said:

Abo Hamza was sent to hell yesterday by the great Syrian Army,congratulation to all free syrians:

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April 20th, 2012, 4:45 pm

 

229. Akbar Palace said:

Asthma’s Humanitarian efforts for the Palestinians is commendable:

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April 20th, 2012, 4:46 pm

 

230. Antoine said:

229. JAD said:

“5000? You are very generous, they are no more than a 1000 with Alqaeda flags leading them.”

I just said that it was a very large rally as far as the eye could see, and could stand up to any of the recent pro-regime rallies in Damascus.

I picked these 2 anti-regime rally videos for you JAD, I know you will enjoy, hehehe,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9Pel8NFZ10&feature=relmfu

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April 20th, 2012, 4:47 pm

 

231. Syria no Kandahar said:

Qamishli 300000 people city…,200 to 300 demonstrators less than 1 per thousand …in 100
Years this will be up to 1%
Same part time paid dancers:

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April 20th, 2012, 4:56 pm

 

232. Alan said:

Turkey: The odd man in
By Peter Lee
http://atimes.com/atimes/China/ND21Ad02.html

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April 20th, 2012, 5:03 pm

 

233. jad said:

How War Reporting in Syria Makes a Larger Conflict Inevitable
Posted By Russ Baker

We get major-media reports from Syria with increasing frequency. What’s wrong with these reports are that they are generally devoid of power analysis.

This recent New York Times article [2], for example, headlined “Neighbors Said to Be at Violent Odds in Syrian Crackdown,” is based almost solely on accounts of refugees interviewed in Lebanon. Here’s the lead paragraph:

Sunni Muslims who have fled Syria described a government crackdown that is more pervasive and more sectarian than previously understood, with civilians affiliated with President Bashar al-Assad’s minority religious sect shooting at their onetime neighbors as the military presses what many Sunnis see as a campaign to force them to flee their homes and villages in some sections of the country.

In other words, ethnic cleansing, perhaps a precursor to the kinds of large-scale horrors we saw in Rwanda and Yugoslavia. The inevitable conclusion is that any decent person would support international efforts to stop this. Based on past history, in Libya, in Iraq, and elsewhere, that would evolve quickly into military intervention. In fact, on Sunday, the pace quickened. In a meeting Sunday [3] in Istanbul, the US and allies began actively moving toward direct intervention. Arab nations agreed to pay $100 million to rebels and the Obama administration to send them communications equipment.

[ ... ]

http://whowhatwhy.com/2012/04/02/how-war-reporting-in-syria-makes-a-larger-conflict-inevitable/

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April 20th, 2012, 5:05 pm

 

234. irritated said:

#244 Antoine

“The regime is clearly losing support,”

I think it is the other way around. Many protesters are changing sides after the mess of the FSA, the wild attacks on public properties and on the army, and the dead end the opposition brought the country to. No more dreaming of NATO, Turkey or Chapter 7 at the UNSC.

Of course in some village and towns the hardliners are still trying to motivate people but it is on a down slope as protesters realize that peaceful demonstrations don’t make headlines unless they are really huge like in Egypt and Bahrain these last days.

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April 20th, 2012, 5:11 pm

 

235. Antoine said:

SNK,

Qamishly 150,000 not 300,000 ; and negative influence of PKK plus huge presence of Syrian Assadi Army because its border town.

the great thing is that the Assyrian Church of the East which has strong presence in Qamishly, openly supported the Syrian Uprisisng as early as 2011, plus Assyrian Democratic Organziation (ADO) fully behind Uprising.

Mas’oud Barzani should liberate Qamishly.

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April 20th, 2012, 5:12 pm

 

236. Antoine said:

236. IRRITATED said:

“…..bla bla bla”

Prove your claims, show me any town or village where former anti-regime people will say live on camera that they are “changing sides” (lol). I have furnished visual evidence, so should you ( and not in Damascus, Aleppo,Sweida2 or the coastal area).

Btw what protests are you talking about in Egypt ? There isn’t a single headline of that in the Guardian or the Telegraph. Take an aspirin and stop hallucinating.

And about Bahrain, crowd of 50,000 dispersed by just 5 teargas shells, nuff said.

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April 20th, 2012, 5:17 pm

 

237. Antoine said:

Huh ??? Chew on this “irritated” :

Kafranbel, Reef Idleb , a large village where hardliners are “still trying to motivate the people”.

Kafranbel never ceases to amaze me.

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April 20th, 2012, 5:20 pm

 

238. Juergen said:

Ann

Huh ??? dont worry Xinhua and Press TV, RT, Al Dunya will keep you in work.

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April 20th, 2012, 5:21 pm

 

239. Antoine said:

Ariha, Reef Idleb – another city where “hardliners are still trying to motivate the people”

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April 20th, 2012, 5:27 pm

 

240. Antoine said:

Al Waaer, Homs City, near Baba Amro

Hardliners trying to motivate the people :

Lets see if you can count the numbers in this video, Huh ??? Mr. JAD.

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April 20th, 2012, 5:33 pm

 

241. Antoine said:

I’m sure many people know this story – that back in early January, during the A.L. mission, one A.L. official – an Iraqi diplomat – was quoted as saying that Syrian sources have told him that Bashar al Assad and his mukhabarat have the names and addresses of 3,000 young men who are leading and organizing the protests around the country, and that it will take until the end of February for him to arrest them all, and that by the end of February, most of the anti-regime protests will have ended.

Well, February has ended and so has March, April has 9 more days to go, what about your predictions Mr. Diplomat ?

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April 20th, 2012, 5:38 pm

 

242. jad said:

Kafrhabel
800 protester

Ari7a
300 protester

Waer
400 protester

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April 20th, 2012, 5:40 pm

 

243. Tara said:

Not exactly an award-winning colorful photography.    

http://lightbox.time.com/2012/04/12/victims-of-assad/#20

I wish I can get to the real base for why a very decent individual may browse these photos and feel general contempt to these people whereas, the same decent individual may browse some other pictures of women and children and feel exactly the opposite. I know exactly how some feel. I sense it between the lines. Is it the way they dressed or what they represent?

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April 20th, 2012, 5:42 pm

 

244. anwar said:

I heard the gov’t is infiltrating the opposition with bearded thugs set to portray them as terrorists…
they are really using every trick in the book

It is all the lost for them we are way past the point of no return. Morale in Damascus is very low with high unemployment & prices.

Who is Assad really ruling right now aside from his Shabiha and a bunch of paid off clowns?? You think the Christians are loyal to the regime ?? lol…

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April 20th, 2012, 5:49 pm

 

245. Tara said:

Ban is not impressed with the regime’s rhetoric of accepting Annan’s plan.  How long time has to pass with the status quo until it is officially declared a failure? 3 month?

http://www.smh.com.au/world/un-chief-attacks-syrian-failure-on-peace-20120420-1xcfm.html

BEIRUT: The United Nations Secretary-General has given a dark appraisal of the Syria conflict, accusing its government of failing to carry out nearly every aspect of the peace plan that took effect a week ago, obstructing work by an advance team of ceasefire monitors and doing nothing to alleviate an intensifying humanitarian crisis.

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April 20th, 2012, 5:51 pm

 

246. Tara said:

From the “weak” FOS dinner yesterday.

http://translations.state.gov/st/english/texttrans/2012/04/201204194281.html#axzz1sTZcmjGD

Paris, France

SECRETARY CLINTON:  Well, Alain, thank you for convening us and hosting us.  I think we are all here out of a sense of great frustration and outrage over what we see occurring in Syria.  We also are hopeful that, despite the evidence thus far, the mission of Kofi Annan can begin to take root, starting with monitors being sent, but remembering that it’s a six-point plan and that it’s not a menu of options. It has to be a complete acceptance by the Syrian government of all six points.

Let me just make a few comments.  First, we continue to support the monitoring mission, even though we are aware that the increased violence could jeopardize the deployment of the monitors and put their lives at risk.  So we’re in a dilemma.  We think it’s important to get independent sources of observation and reporting on the ground, but we do not want to create a situation where those who are sent in to do this mission themselves are subjected to violence.  So we need to continue to work and move toward a Security Council authorization so that we have the authority to proceed when the times are right.

Secondly, I think we have to do more to take tougher actions against the Assad regime.  We need to start moving very vigorously in the Security Council for a Chapter 7 sanctions resolution, including travel, financial sanctions, an arms embargo, and the pressure that that will give us on the regime to push for compliance with Kofi Annan’s six-point plan.

Now, I’m well aware that at this point such an effort is still likely to be vetoed, but we need to look for a way to keep pressing forward.  I met at length with Sergey Lavrov earlier today in Brussels.  He was, as usual, very intent upon laying responsibility on all sides, and in particular on the opposition, but he also has recognized that we are not in a static situation but a deteriorating one.

Next, we have to keep Assad off balance by leaving options on the table.  And Turkey already has discussed with NATO during our ministerial over the last two days the burden of Syrian refugees on Turkey, the outrageous shelling across the border from Syria into Turkey a week ago, and that Turkey is considering formally invoking Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which triggers consultations in NATO whenever the territorial integrity, political independence, or security of any of the parties is threatened.

I also believe we have to increase our support for the opposition.  I can only speak for the United States.  I know that others are pursuing different types of support.  But we are expanding our communications, logistics, and other support for the Syrian opposition.  And in cooperation with Turkey, we are considering establishing an assistance hub that will try to co-locate Syrian activists and help them coordinate the collection and distribution of assistance to opposition groups inside Syria.  And we do have continuing dialogue among our high-level officials with the Syrian National Council.

Next, I want to thank you, Alain, and your team for hosting the Sanctions Working Group in Paris here two days ago.  About 50 countries attended.  They agreed to expand the coalition of countries imposing financial sanctions, expand the scope of the sanctions, and improve the effectiveness of the existing measures by reaching out to the private sector.  The next meeting will be co-chaired by the United States and hosted in Washington, likely in mid May.

We also need to strengthen our humanitarian assistance.  We’ve done more over the last month than we had before, but it is still not adequate.  And we have to stay in very close touch with Turkey and Jordan about their humanitarian needs because they’re bearing the burden of caring for the refugees, and the rest of us need to help them.  I think it’s also important to hear from both Turkey and Jordan about how they see the situation.  I was very pleased that Ahmet was able to brief the G-8 ministers at the meeting I hosted last week and then brief the NATO ministers at our dinner last night.

And finally, we are working to establish an accountability clearinghouse in order to keep track of all of the terrible stories of abuses and crimes against humanity that are coming out of Syria.  We think collecting that information can be a useful means of not only keeping track for future purposes but also sending a message to those in the regime and those in the military that they are being watched and a record is being kept.

So I think, Alain, this is a timely moment, because the Security Council is meeting as we speak.  And we should, I hope, come to some resolution about what further action we wish out of the Security Council, despite even the fact that the first time around it might not be successful.  But we should be, as we say, laying down markers about what is expected.

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April 20th, 2012, 6:01 pm

 

247. Mawal95 said:

Today’s Friday protests were branded by the protesters جمعة سننتصر ويهزم الاسد . If you search for that Arabic text at Youtube, Youtube will give you a list of protest videos from around Syria today and you can observe turnout size. Here the list: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_type=videos&search_query=%D8%AC%D9%85%D8%B9%D8%A9+%D8%B3%D9%86%D9%86%D8%AA%D8%B5%D8%B1+%D9%88%D9%8A%D9%87%D8%B2%D9%85+%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AF&search_sort=video_date_uploaded&uni=3

Another way to see turnout size is to go to http://www.onsyria.com/?cat=39&parent=1&page=1 which in case you don’t know is an anti-regime site which compiles protest videos from around Syria and organizes them by Syrian province and by date.

There were no large crowds anywhere. In many locations, today’s turnout was a pale shadow, a huge decimation, of what it was last year.

In the video linked to by Antoine above, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5leHzT1Gj0 , the anti-regime demonstration in Al-Bab City in Aleppo province today was easily the largest demonstration in Al-Bab this past year. It is noteworthy that throughout year 2011 there were either no demonstrations on Fridays in Al-Bab City at all or else the turnout was truly miniscule, just a couple of dozen people showing up. It is to be noted as well that Al-Bab has so far not experienced any violence perpetrated by protesters (to my knowledge anyway). I have said on this board approximately a dozen times before that whenever a neighborhood has serious violence committed by protesters, it decimates subsequent turnout at anti-regime protests in that neighborhood. I suppose the same may eventually happen in Al-Bab because it has happened before in so many other localities.

Among the extreme examples of that phenomenon is Idlib City, which is the second-largest city in Idlib province. Last summer Idlib City had only small demonstrations. A number of other towns in Idlib province had larger turnout size than Idlib City last summer. But the turnout size grew in Idib City later in the year, and the protests were peaceful and civil, and by December Idlib City’s Friday demonstrations definitely had the biggest crowds in all of Syria. Bigger than anything in Homs, Hama, or outer Damascus. Then the protest movement in Idlib City was taken over by armed rebels. Now today, Friday, there was essentially no demonstration in Idlib City at all, judging from what I can see at Youtube this evening, and that’s been true for many many weeks now on Fridays in Idlib City.

The population of Al-Bab city in Aleppo province was 112,000 in year 2004 according to the government’s Central Bureau of Statistics at http://www.cbssyr.org/General%20census/census%202004/pop-man.pdf (and someone estimated a year 2010 city population of 145,000 according to http://www.world-gazetteer.com/wg.php?x=&men=gcis&lng=en&des=wg&geo=-202&srt=pnan&col=adhoq&msz=1500&va=&pt=a ).

The population of Manbij city (مرآز منبج) in Aleppo province was 205,000 in year 2004 according to the above publication by the Syrian Central Bureau of Statistics. The Friday protest today in Manbij today was attended by only about three dozen people and the majority of those people were younger than 18 years of age. For today’s protest in Manbij see http://www.youtube.com/results?search_type=videos&search_query=%D9%85%D9%86%D8%A8%D8%AC&search_sort=video_date_uploaded&uni=3 . Last week’s protest in Manjib was of a similar tiny size: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OE0gg6utjtM .

In light of (1) the tiny turnout in the demographically similar Manbij city (located about 40 kilometers from Al-Bab city) and (2) the smaller turnout in Al-Bab city up until now, I must suspect — and I can be wrong — that some of today’s protesters in Al-Bab city were brought in by bus from elsewhere. Here’s an illustration of bussing. The following video is from Manbij city on 12 Dec 2011. It is the largest anti-regime demonstration I’ve ever seen in Manbij. It is substantially bigger than anything in Manbij on a typical Friday, either before December or after. I think or suppose that the crowd on 23 Dec 2011 had been bused in, because of the buses I see in these two videos of their protest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEVaI3iZIEU , http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlJmNJyg8rA

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April 20th, 2012, 6:05 pm

 

248. Antoine said:

No way the populations of al-Bab and Manbij can be in 6 figures. No way. Check out Google Maps and see the satellite image of these towns, they are tiny. no way more than 50,000 can ever fit in these towns.

Btw what about the large turnout in Kafranbel, Ariha, Marrat Misreen, Marrat al Nauman, in Edleb ; and al-Waaer in Homs City ?

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April 20th, 2012, 6:18 pm

 

249. Tara said:

New definition of women’s right? 

Iranian Actress Breaks Taboos, Sparks Scandal By Posing Topless
By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL

http://www.payvand.com/news/12/jan/1203.html?utm_source=Payvand.com+List&utm_campaign=f99433dcf4-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email

An Iranian actress living in Paris has been praised for her courage and criticized for her indecency after posing topless for a French magazine and posting the photo on her Facebook page. Golshifteh Farahani, who moved to France last year, says Iranian authorities have told her not to return home.

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April 20th, 2012, 6:19 pm

 

250. jad said:

“I heard the gov’t is infiltrating the opposition with bearded thugs set to portray them as terrorists…”

No need, the armed opposition are filled with those and they pay them ‘salaries’ from ksa and qatar.
ويكيليكس: كلينتون تعترف بأن السعودية مصدر تمويل الارهاب بالعالم
http://arabi-press.com/?page=article&id=32825

They import those alqaeda Jihadists from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi, Libya and recently from Tunisia. Just today three Tunisians Alqaeda Jihadists were killed in Syria.

الله أكبر ، إستشهاد إخوة من تونس في بلاد الشام
الله اكبر الله اكبر
افاقت بن قردان على خبر استشهاد ثلاثة من خيرة شباب الجهة الذين باعوا انفسهم للجهاد في سبيل الله من اجل نصرة هذا الدين و هم:
بولبابة بوكلش
وليد هلال
محمد الجراي
التحقوا بركب المجاهدين في سوريا ملبين صرخات الثكالى و انين الايتام …فهنيئا يا بن قردان ففي كل الحروب كنت السباقة بالدفع بابنائك فستبقين شامخة باذن الله
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=328509473882501&set=a.311264412273674.71937.311261682273947&type=1
—————–

#254
Large turnout? Where?
Kafrhabel 800, Ari7a 300 and Waer 400.

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April 20th, 2012, 6:27 pm

 

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