Tremseh: Lopsided Battle with Rebels; Rebel Commanders Angry; Fares Says Assad Ordered Al-Qaida Bombings;

I will be traveling for the next month and spending time in Vermont on vacation. Syria Comment will be published only intermittently.  Best, Joshua

Details of a Battle Challenge Reports of a Syrian Massacre – New York Times

The United Nations observers still on the ground in Syria sent a team in 11 vehicles to the village of Tremseh on Saturday to investigate what had happened, …

Their initial report said the attack appeared to target “specific groups and houses, mainly of army defectors and activists,” Ms. Ghosheh said in a statement. It said a range of weapons had been used, including artillery, mortars and small arms.

The report seemed to indicate that some people had been killed at close range — it said there were pools of blood and blood spatters in several houses along with bullet cases. The team also found a burned school and damaged houses.

The picture emerging is that there was a large group of fighters from the town and the local area bivouacked in Tremseh. The Syrian Army moved in early Thursday, blocking all exits and blasting away with machine guns, tank shells and rockets fired from helicopters, laying waste to the town.

“Whenever the Syrian Army knows there are fighters concentrated in an area, they attack,” said the leader of the Observatory, who goes by the pseudonym Rami Abdul-Rahman for safety reasons. “The majority of people killed in Tremseh were either rebel fighters from the village or from surrounding villages.”…

Syrian state television paraded several captured fighters on air on Saturday who said Tremseh had been a regional center of operations for the past 20 days. The captives said that 200 to 300 fighters had gathered there to plot attacks on checkpoints and other military targets.

“We clashed for hours in Tremseh, and even the leader of the local division was killed,” said a man identified as Mohammed Satouf, who said his role had been to produce YouTube videos from the area. He said the rebel fighters used mostly small and light weapons…..

U.N. says Syria killings targeted opposition | Reuters, July 14, 2012

Abdo writes from Aleppo

Yesterday a crowd of villagers and their relatives in Aleppo occupied apartments in the Youth Housing Project in Inzarat region, north of Aleppo city. Eyewitnesses say that refugees from Izaz broke into the buildings and started occupying apartments and calling relatives in Aleppo for assistance and sharing. The Youth Housing Project in Inzarat region has 1800 apartments ready to be handed over to their owners. The governor of Aleppo reportedly gave those occupants 6 days ultimatum to evacuate the apartments. Some occupants said they will leave as soon as the situation in Izaz calms down, but others insisted they will remain.

Exclusive interview: why I defected from Bashar al-Assad’s regime, by former diplomat Nawaf Fares

….Yesterday, in a wide-ranging interview conducted by telephone from Qatar, where he has now sought refuge, Mr Fares made a series of devastating claims against the Assad regime, which he said was determined to be “victorious” whatever the cost.

* Jihadi units that Mr Fares himself had helped Damascus send to fight US troops in neighbouring Iraq were involved in the string of deadly suicide bomb attacks in Syria

* The attacks were carried on the direct orders of the Assad regime, in the hope that it could blame them on the rebel movement

* President Assad, who had a “violent streak” inherited from his father, was now living “in a world of his own”

Mr Fares spoke out as the violence in Syria continued unabated, with at least 28 people killed across the country yesterday. The town of Khirbet Ghazaleh in southern Syria was attacked by hundreds of troops backed by tanks and helicopter gunships, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Meanwhile, United Nations observers visited the village of Treimsa, in central Hama province, in which up to 200 people are feared to have died on Thursday.

It was precisely such atrocities as these that forced Mr Fares to gradually question his own allegiance to the regime, ending 35 years of loyal service in which he worked as a policeman, regional governor and political security chief, becoming entrusted with some of its most sensitive tasks.

“At the beginning of the revolution, the state tried to convince people that reforms would be enacted very soon,” he said. “We lived on that hope for a while. We gave them the benefit of the doubt, but after many months it became clear to me that the promises of reform were lies. That was when I made my decision. I was seeing the massacres perpetrated – no man would be able to live with himself, seeing what I saw and knowing what I know, to stay in the position.”

Mr Fares’s most damaging allegation is that the Syrian government itself has a hand in the nationwide wave of suicide bombings on government buildings, which have killed hundreds of people and maimed thousands more. By way of example, he cited the twin blasts outside a military intelligence building in the al-Qazzaz suburb of Damascus in May, which killed 55 people and injured another 370.

“I know for certain that not a single serving intelligence official was harmed during that explosion, as the whole office had been evacuated 15 minutes beforehand,” he said. “All the victims were passers by instead. All these major explosions have been have been perpetrated by al-Qaeda through cooperation with the security forces.”

Such allegations have been aired in general terms by the Syrian opposition before, and Mr Fares would not be drawn on what exact proof he had. He is, however, better placed than many to make such claims. One of the reasons for his rise in President Assad’s regime was that he is a senior member of the Oqaydat tribe, a highly powerful clan whose population straddles the Syrian-Iraq border. Following the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, their territory became part of the conduit used by Syria to smuggle jihadi volunteers into Iraq, with Mr Fares playing an important role.

“After the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the regime in Syria began to feel danger, and began planning to disrupt the US forces inside Iraq, so it formed an alliance with al-Qaeda,” he said. “All Arabs and other foreigners were encouraged to go to Iraq via Syria, and their movements were facilitated by the Syrian government. As a governor at the time, I was given verbal commandments that any civil servant that wanted to go would have his trip facilitated, and that his absence would not be noted. I believe the Syrian regime has blood on its hands, it should bare responsibility for many of the deaths in Iraq.”

He himself, he added, knew personally of several Syrian government “liaison officers” who still dealt with al-Qaeda. “Al-Qaeda would not carry out activities without knowledge of the regime,” he said. “The Syrian government would like to use al-Qaeda as a bargaining chip with the West – to say: ‘it is either them or us’.”

Mr Fares, who has six grown-up children, said he made his decision to quit five months ago, after a particularly bloody Friday, which has become the regular day for opposition protests. “The number of killings was unusually high that day, especially in my area, and that was the final straw – there was no hope any more,” he said.

Mindful that such a display of disloyalty could lead to reprisals against his family, he slowly began getting his relatives out of the country. He himself was then smuggled out of Baghdad last week by the Syrian opposition. He declines to give details of the operation, but says he made a point of continuing his normal duties up to the last minute so as not to alert the authorities, who he suspected would have been monitoring his phone calls as a diplomat anyway.

Since his defection, he regretted, many cousins within his extended family had been questioned by Syrian intelligence, with some forced into hiding. However, any doubts he had harboured prior to jumping ship had gone after a final visit he made a month ago to his home city of Deir al-Zour, near the Iraqi-Syrian border.

“There was tremendous destruction there and thousands of people had been killed, many of them from my tribe,” he said. “Life in the city was almost non-existent. What I saw there broke my heart, it was tragic and unbelievable, and if people there have not joined the uprising already, they will now. The majority of the tribe, I think, are already on the side of revolution.”

Indeed, the last time he had spoken to President Assad, in a face-to-face meeting six months ago, the Syrian leader had asked him to use his influence in Deir al-Zour, promising him promotion if he did.

“He was saying that we should insist that this is a conspiracy from the West aimed at Syria,” Mr Fares said. “I spoke with the local sheikhs and leaders, but the people’s response was that you cannot trust Assad.

“I think he does believe it is a conspiracy against him, but he is now living in a world of his own.”

However, on the question of whether Mr Assad was directing the violence personally, Mr Fares was equivocal. On the one hand, he claimed the Syrian leader was being “led” by powerful members within his own family, and also his Russian backers. On the other, he pointed out that President Assad’s late father, Hafez, had been equally ruthless during his rule, which included the massacre of more than 10,000 people during a Muslim Brotherhood uprising in the city of Hama in 1982.

“Bashar doesn’t strike you as being extremely intelligent, he seems to be someone who is led rather than who leads. But nobody has the ability to carry out these decisions except him, and he definitely has the genes of his father, who was a criminal by all accounts. This is what he grew up with, this is the hallmark of the family.”

Like President Assad, Mr Fares now faces an uncertain future. To the regime, which formally sacked him from his job last week, he is now a traitor and a marked man. To the opposition, meanwhile, he is a boost to morale but not necessarily someone who can be entirely trusted.

In his message announcing his defection last week, he urged other diplomats to follow in his wake. Yet his own familiarity with the workings of Syria’s police state means he knows that they will most likely keep their plans to themselves. “These things are extremely sensitive so I don’t know of others planning to defect. Sometimes you are frightened someone will hear if you think it yourself.”

Firas Tlass: 45 officers of Tlass family defect from regime

Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat during a telephone interview from Paris, Syrian business tycoon Firas Tlass strongly denied reports that the al-Farouq Brigade commander had been killed. He also revealed that he is personally providing humanitarian relief and assistance to the brigade, but stressed that he is not arming the FSA. The Syrian businessman also refused to discuss his younger brother’s defection from the al-Assad regime, saying that he is waiting for the dust to settle following this shocking news.


As for the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Tlass said that al-Assad remains part of the solution, despite the fact that he is the major reason behind the crisis. He said that the best solution for Syria would be for Bashar al-Assad to hand over power to a national council, adding this can be viewed as a mixture of the Yemeni and Egyptian solutions.

However the Syrian tycoon told Asharq Al-Awsat this the most likely solution would see the “rise of a strong internal current that unites an important part of the revolutionary trend, and which possess a strong and clear political program to govern the next stage” adding “this current would impose itself on the scene and would be capable of negotiating with the regime.” He nominated his cousin Abdul Razzaq Tlass as a figure who can represent the Syrian revolution.

Fresh From Syria, Rebel Commanders Unite in Frustration
By C. J. CHIVERS, July 13, 2012, New York Times

ANTAKYA, Turkey — Abu Moayed, a commander in an armed Syrian opposition brigade, stood and waved his arms emphatically at the fellow rebel commanders who filled the sweltering room.

His fighters, he said, needed money and weapons. But they were not getting the support promised from the donors and opposition leaders outside Syria.

“We are borrowing money to feed our wounded!” Abu Moayed shouted. “There is no distribution of the weapons,” he added. “All of our weapons, we are paying for them ourselves.”

The meeting of the rebel commanders, held after Friday Prayer in this Turkish city near Syria’s northern border, said much about the priorities of the Syrian opposition fighting groups at this stage of the conflict, now 17 months old. There was limited discussion of the mass killings in the village of Tremseh the day before — even though the commanders had heard about it and at least one had lost relatives. There was no talk about United Nations cease-fire monitors, the peace envoy Kofi Annan, or endless Security Council debates to halt the conflict. These commanders were focused on the basics of waging war against President Bashar al-Assad.

Abu Moayed, from Idlib, was one of dozens of commanders who converged on the meeting, called by the Idlib Revolutionary Command Council. Held high above the street in a pair of large rooms in an apartment building, the gathering framed both a degree of expanding coordination among anti-Assad fighting groups inside Syria and their frustrations with the opposition’s political leadership outside.

One complaint throughout was that the Syrian National Council, the coalition of exile opposition groups based in Istanbul, was disconnected from the battles fought on the ground. Another was contained in the field commanders’ suspicion that unnamed members of the Syrian political opposition in Turkey were either diverting funds or playing favorites in funneling weapons and money across the border.

“Yesterday we were supposed to receive mortars and cartridges,” said another commander, Issam Afara, addressing his peers. “But we didn’t receive them. I called and demanded: Where are they? Where?”

Since late this spring, the war in parts of Syria has entered a bloody stalemate punctuated by days of intense violence, like the mass killing on Thursday in Tremseh, the Sunni village in western Syria where by some opposition groups’ estimates more than 200 people were killed by Syrian armed forces and pro-Assad militia members using tanks, artillery and helicopters.

International outrage over those killings, which the Syrian government said were carried out by rebels, has injected new urgency into diplomatic efforts to settle the Syria conflict at the Security Council. There, diplomats were negotiating privately on Friday over a new resolution to force the antagonists to honor a cease-fire and peace plan engineered by Mr. Annan, the special envoy from the United Nations and the Arab League. A vote on that resolution is likely next Wednesday.

The diplomacy seemed a world away, and possibly too late, when viewed through the prism of the anti-Assad fighters, who have driven much of the Syrian military forces from certain rural zones in the northern mountains, carving out small but mostly stable areas now under their de facto control, though these areas still face shelling and attack from the air by Mr. Assad’s military.

As they have realized tactical success, the anti-Assad fighting groups, once underground, now face a problem common to armed uprisings.

At least 80 different fighting groups operate in Idlib alone, the fighters said, most of which began as small personal networks or groups of army defectors, and have since grown.

The groups sometimes share names and often operate in the same areas. And as they have added members and sought more weapons and external support, some of them have found themselves competing for resources and frustrated with Syrians who claim leadership positions in the opposition and do not fight, but disburse funds that many fighting groups say they do not receive.

Mr. Afara, for example, said money funneled through the Muslim Brotherhood was not shared with fighting groups seen as secular, which angered fighters who had turned back the Assad military at great cost, and now are told they do not match a foreign donor’s ideal.

“We tell them, ‘We are not brothers?’ ” said Mr. Afara, who leads a unit in a larger group called the Idlib Martyrs’ Brigade. “How? We are Muslims, and we want a full popular revolution, with Muslims and Christians and Druze.”

Another commander, Abdul Ghafour, echoed the fighters’ anger. “Don’t think we are blind, as we have 600 martyrs,” he said, referring to those who have died. The Syrian National Council, he said, “does not represent us. The revolution is the people who are here, who fought from slavery.”

Mr. Ghafour said soliciting funds or weapons risked becoming as frustrating as dealing with private aid groups and nongovernment organizations, which sometimes offer assistance in exchange for sharing their point of view. “The whole revolution could be transferred into an N.G.O. project,” he said. “This is what I object to.”

A spokesman for the Syrian National Council, Mohamed Sarmeeni, disputed the complaints of financial favoritism from the commanders. “There is no discrimination,” the spokesman said in a telephone interview from Istanbul. The council, Mr. Sarmeeni said, had also started to devote more attention to financing the opposition fighters and “we are about to pay salaries for all officers.”

Small-arms prices have climbed sharply during the war, with machine guns costing several thousand dollars each, and assault rifles costing as much as $2,000 each when new, the commanders said.

To underwrite their weapons purchases to date, the fighters and commanders present said, they raised money themselves. Sometimes they gathered donations from their villages and neighborhoods. Other times, they said, they sold their cars and their land. One young commander, who called himself Captain Bilal and had a partly healed bullet wound to his lower right leg, said he needed weapons so badly a few months ago that he asked his fiancée to return the jewelry he had given her.

“She said ‘No,’ ” he said. “So I broke up with her and took it back and bought the weapons I needed.”

The weapons, the commanders said, were obtained through corrupt Syrian officials or through what they called a “Turkish and Russian mafia” in Turkey.

At times the meeting of the commanders descended into shouting. At one point, several commanders vented their fury at a commander who said he had in fact been given arms. But as the hours passed, the mood calmed, and the commanders said they intended to work together and called for the meeting to make things better.

One commander, who uses the name Abu Hamza, said though it did not look “correct” to see commanders argue so intensely, it was ordinary to a revolution as its ranks and prospects grow. The meeting, he said, showed a willingness by many groups to become more coordinated and for the rank and file, which is suffering and risking the most, to gain a greater voice in the politics of the war.

Abu Moayed agreed, as the meeting gave way to a shared meal. “We want to be like one hand,” he said, “one front.”

Terrified villagers tell of the horror of Tremseh
Chilling evidence of Syria’s worst atrocity as bodies are packed into mass graves
Loveday Morris, Beirut, 14 July 2012

….According to activists, the attack began at dawn on Thursday, when a convoy of 25 military trucks carrying troops, accompanied by three armoured vehicles and flatbeds with heavy artillery, were spotted trundling through the nearby town of Murhada, taking the road west towards the village. Tremseh was surrounded, its electricity cut off and mobile networks jammed to be sure residents had no way of broadcasting news of the massacre that was about to take place.

The army has been engaged in a fierce offensive in the Hama countryside for weeks and many villagers are said to have fled to Tremseh, a Sunni community staunchly against the regime. Colonel Qassim Saadeddine, of the Joint Command of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), said those families included those of FSA fighters – perhaps one of the reasons the village was targeted so brutally. Others said around 30 defected soldiers lived in the village

When the shelling began, activists say it was precise. The home of the village’s only two doctors were targeted, as were those of defected soldiers. Helicopters picked off those trying to flee. “Some of the wounded gathered in the school, but then that was attacked too,” said local activist Manhal.

A team of observers stationed about five kilometres away confirmed the use of heavy weaponry and helicopters in the area by regime troops. After the initial assault, pro-government militias, known as Shabiha, backed by the army, were said to have moved in, terrorising residents as they detained some men and executed others with knives or at gunpoint.

Around 35 FSA fighters tried to fend them off, according to Col Saadeddine, but, outnumbered and outgunned, soon stood down. Abu Adnan, another activist in the area, said the FSA attacked a checkpoint in an attempt to allow civilians an escape route, but failed. “It’s unimaginable what’s happened there,” said one Hama resident whose sister fled from the village with her three children.

“When she arrived for the first few hours she was so afraid and traumatised,” he said. “Her children still can barely speak and her husband was arrested by soldiers during the attack.

The stories she reported back were brutal. Yesterday morning, when she visited a neighbour’s house destroyed by fire, the air was thick with the smell of burning flesh and inside were two charred corpses. She believes they were locked in and burnt alive.

A local doctor Munsef al-Naji who was found treating two wounded men was dragged outside and shot in the head. “The villagers are still worried that the Shabiha will return,” the woman’s brother continued. “At the moment we are still desperately trying to get people out. The situation is dire.”

Syria cooperating, but lack of money hurting humantarian aid – CNN
By Jill Dougherty

Facing a “serious escalation” of violence in Syria, the chief United Nations organization that coordinates emergency aid is warning that more Syrian civilians will die if contributing nations do not follow through and fund its relief operation.

“We have used the terminology ‘appalling,’ ‘desperate’ and ‘deplorable,’ says John Ging, operations director and chair of the Syria Humanitarian Forum for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

“We have run out of language to describe how it is for the civilian population. It is physical and it is psychological.”

Humanitarian agencies such as the World Food Program, the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organization, Ging says, have launched a major operation in Syria but are facing “an incredibly complex and dangerous situation to develop networks to be able to deliver to the areas that have been affected by the conflict.”

The main challenge remains lack of security, which prevents the agencies from reaching all the people in Syria who need food, medicine and blankets.

But there has been progress, he says. In April food assistance was reaching 200,000 people; through June this increased to 500,000 people and into July they expect delivery to 850,000.

A senior U.N. humanitarian officer who briefed reporters Friday on the situation in Syria said there has been a “breakthrough” in dealing with the Syrian government. “Bureaucratic delay and obstructions, the officer said, “have been largely removed.”

The Syrian government is following through on what it has agreed to do, but some difficulties still remain.

One of the biggest obstacles right now, OCHA’s John Ging says in a statement, is lack of international funding. OCHA’s appeals are only 20% funded at the moment, he says, and “that means they are 80% short.”

Al-Qaeda tries to carve out a war for itself in Syria
By Ruth Sherlock, Idlib Province,  12 Jul 2012, Telegraph

Al-Qaeda has infiltrated into Syria and is working to establish footholds in the war-torn northern provinces.

Whilst the militant Islamic organisation’s influence remains small, home-grown jihadist groups that are linked with, or sympathetic to the ideals of movement are growing.

The Daily Telegraph has seen al-Qaeda’s flag flying openly in some areas of Idlib and Aleppo provinces that straddle the borders with Turkey and Iraq and fighters in the rebel Free Syrian Army have told how representatives of the militant group have tried in past months to win control of towns and villages.

“An al Qaeda group led by a man who called himself Abu Saddiq took control in Der Tezzeh,” said one FSA rebel speaking on condition of anonymity. “I was a member of the Revolution Council there. Suddenly there was a new way of thinking. Abu Saddiq was installed as the ‘Emir’, or ‘Prince’ of the area for three months. I was told to put my hand on the Koran and to obey him.

“He wanted to build a religious country. He did not want democracy but a religious leader in power. He wanted to use suicide bombers as a way of fighting government troops in the area.”

Opposition activists have also told of a similar events inside Idlib, a city that continues to see fierce fighting between government soldiers and rebel groups.
“Al Qaeda tried to set up an Emir there and ran bombing operations against the Syrian military. The members were all Syrian,” said a medic working with the opposition.

In both cases local activists and rebel fighters reported that the groups had failed to win hearts and minds. “The local people didn’t like their way of thinking. They did not like their methods,” said the opposition doctor. “Now he has a small group of only around 25 people with him and they have moved to live in the surrounding mountains {…}

“We killed thirteen men,” said a fighter proudly. At a headquarters in Saraqeb bearded men sat squatting on the floor counting piles of bullets. One man in his early twenties proudly revealed a powerful home made bomb; nuts and bolts embedded in a powerful and deadly wedge of TNT.

“Our brothers, mujahideen from Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us how to make these,” he said. “Tell Nato we can make them some if they need.”

Comments (944)

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852. annie said:

Syrian Activist in Hiding: “We’re Not Looking for Intervention, We’re Looking for Support”

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July 20th, 2012, 1:30 am


853. Juergen said:

Der Spiegel posted this morning that the US administration is weighting the option to halt all weapon sales with Russia in the light of the Putin regimes constant support for Assad. A bill in favor of a sanction against russias biggest supplier of weapons to Syria Rosoboronexport has already passed the parliament, and its due to pass also the senate.

Robert Fisk: Syria rebels will not claim their greatest prize
The appalling scenes in Syria begin to reflect the barbarism of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia

They have gone for the jugular now. The brother-in-law of the President, the Defence Minister, a massive bomb close to – or in – the headquarters of the military apparatus run by the President’s own brother. Assassinations take time to plan, but this was on an epic scale, to match the bloodbath across Syria.

Bashar al-Assad’s own sister, Bushra, one of the pillars of the Baath party, loses her husband in a massive explosion in the very centre of Damascus. No wonder the Russians talk about the “decisive battle”.

It won’t be a replay of Stalingrad, but the tentacles of the rebellion have now moved towards the heart. And, of course, there are massacres to come. Why else would thousands of Syria’s citizens flee to the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp yesterday, to seek protection from the most betrayed citizens of the Arab world?

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July 20th, 2012, 1:46 am


854. SYR.EXPAT said:

From the article linked to by (853. JUERGEN):

“At the time, a Syrian friend of mine looked at it bleakly. The torture goes on below ground, he said. “You don’t even want to know what happens there.” But whoever emerged from there would be happy to kill his tormentors, let alone the chief torturers.”

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July 20th, 2012, 2:07 am


855. SANDRO LOEWE said:

Rokn ed Din under Syrian Free Army. Great syrian people. The brave revolutionary attitude of the syrian people was there thought to liberate the Golan Heights but at the end it has liberated Syria from their own represors.

Popular forces are out of control now. Israel today will have to redirect their politics. Everything was too easy and predictable for Israel in the times of Mubarak, Gadafi and Assad.

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July 20th, 2012, 2:42 am


856. ann said:

Release my post please!

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July 20th, 2012, 2:57 am


857. ann said:

News Analysis: U.S. unlikely to involve in Syria despite Republican push: analyst – 2012-07-20

WASHINGTON, July 19 (Xinhua) — The United States and its NATO allies are unlikely to insert themselves directly into Syria’s ongoing chaos, despite a renewed Republican Party’s push Thursday toward more overt U.S. action, U.S. analysts said.

That is because Syria’s army is one of the most formidable and well-armed in the Arab world, maintaining a constant state of readiness for what it sees as a possible war with Israel, said Wayne White, a scholar at the Middle East Institute.

In stark contrast to NATO’s operation in Libya — a country that under deposed ruler Muammar Gaddafi had one of the Arab world’s most ill-equipped and incompetent armies — NATO would be unable to undertake an operation against Syria, he said.

“That’s beyond the capability of NATO,” said White, also a former deputy head of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research’s Office of Analysis for the Near East and South Asia under the U.S. State Department.

Geography would be another major obstacle, as Syria is further inland than Libya, which has a broad coastline across from European bases, he said. The country’s position on the map would put NATO aircraft in jeopardy, as pilots could not retreat to a nearby aircraft carrier when hit.

The White House also reiterated Wednesday that the U.S. military will not involve itself in the mounting violence.

Still, that did not stop Republicans from pushing for more intervention. “I don’t think we’re doing enough,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham Thursday on Fox news.

“And it’s in our national security interest to take (Syrian President Bashar) Assad out sooner rather than later because Iran is watching what we’re doing. … I don’t want to be covert at all,” said Graham, who serves on the Senate’s Armed Services Committee.


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July 20th, 2012, 3:02 am


858. Expatriate said:

Aljazeera, Alarabiya play as Hollywood soundstage in Syria: Webster Tarpley
A bomb explosion at the National Security headquarters in the capital Damascus claims the life of Syrian defense minister General Daoud Rajha and brother-in-law of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, General Assef Shawkat, as well as a senior security official. The blast also injured the interior minister: That is the latest in Syria’s situation as violence plagues the capital.

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July 20th, 2012, 3:03 am


859. SANDRO LOEWE said:

Confirmed: Sharif Shahade, the main shabbih in main TV talks has been detained by FSA while trying to flee to Jordan with his family.

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July 20th, 2012, 3:18 am


860. Juergen said:

Isnt there the saying that the rats are the first to flee the sinking ship?

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July 20th, 2012, 3:27 am


861. ann said:

Syrian rebels seize multiple border checkpoints – reports – 20 July, 2012

After the Free Syrian Army took control of the post, they detained a Syrian army lieutenant colonel, cut off his arms and then “executed 22 Syrian soldiers in front of the eyes of Iraqi soldiers,” AFP cited Iraq’s Deputy Interior Minister Adnan al-Assadi as saying.


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July 20th, 2012, 3:30 am


862. ann said:

Hague: ‘UK will not provide lethal support to Syrian opposition’ – 20 Jul 2012

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July 20th, 2012, 3:39 am


864. SYR.EXPAT said:

“Confirmed: Sharif Shahade, the main shabbih in main TV talks has been detained by FSA while trying to flee to Jordan with his family.”

Confirmed NOT. This is an old rumor spread by someone several months ago.

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July 20th, 2012, 3:46 am


865. ann said:

Syrian Troops Clash with Armed Rebels in Qaboun District of Capital – 20 July 2012

Syria’s state-media said government troops have inflicted hefty losses to armed groups in the Damascus neighbourhood of Qaboun on Thursday.

Unspecified large number of armed men were killed in the military crackdown, said SANA news agency, adding that the armed men started to burn the bodies of foreign fighters, so their bodies would not be identified, xinua reported.

Meanwhile, pro-government media reports said the Syrian troops have completely regained control of the Midan neighbourhood, which has been a stage of armed conflict between government troops and armed rebels over the past four days.

The capital’s clashes mark the death-match between the two sides, trying to eliminate one another once and for all.


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July 20th, 2012, 3:52 am


866. ann said:

Syria Roulette – Russia and China again veto Security Council resolution that effectively authorized war – By Stephen Lendman – 7/20/12

Washington’s dirty hands are all over Wednesday’s attack. Death squad diplomacy is prioritized. Hillary Clinton warned about a price to be paid.

Unexplained was that it’s far beyond murdering officials. Turning Syria into a charnel house is planned. Daily death squad killings increase body counts. Western and perhaps Qatari special forces as well as intelligence operatives direct them.

Satellite and other communications aid them. Taking the battle to Damascus streets ups the stakes. Scurrilous propaganda conveys the impression that the Assad’s government is collapsing. Insurgent attacks alone can’t defeat him.

Only body counts increase. Civilians and security forces suffer most.

All sorts of spurious reports circulate. Fake videos are used. Al Jazeera uses footage produced on a Qatar sound stage. Isolated images distort the larger picture. Disreputable sources are cited.

“””Al Jazeera claimed “the latest developments” reflect a ” turning point” in the conflict. “The prestige of the regime has been shattered. Losing control of Damascus (means) the regime is slowly losing its grip over the country.””””

Washington’s longstanding plans involve destroying, not liberating, Syria. Claimed end game operations in Damascus is propaganda. Media scoundrels repeat it. At issue is winning the information war, intensifying death squad attacks, and sustaining conflict on the ground.

After defecting, Syria’s former Iraq ambassador, Nawaf Fares, made spurious accusations. He’s in the tank for Washington.

He claimed Syrian officials told him to enlist “Jihadi units” to fight US forces in Iraq. Most recently he suggests Assad used chemical weapons in Homs.

He admits he can’t confirm it, but believes Assad will use them if threatened.


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July 20th, 2012, 4:19 am


867. ann said:

Two previous articles exposed the ICRC’s imperial agenda

Two previous articles exposed the ICRC’s imperial agenda. It’s a predatory NGO profiteer. It’s closely linked to Western political and intelligence interests. It falsely called Syrian violence a civil war “subject to the rules of international humanitarian law.”

There’s nothing civil about Washington’s war on Syria. It rages. The laws of war apply. ICRC’s statement changed nothing.

Nonetheless, media scoundrels jumped on ICRC’s declaration. The Wall Street Journal headlined an editorial “The Syrian Civil War.”

Allegations of Syrian war crimes were raised. Syrians now suffer the consequences it said. The region’s stability is at risk. Washington, other Western, and regional nations have options. The longer they wait, “the harder it becomes to shape the outcome in Syria.”

Other media scoundrels hype the same theme. Doing so doesn’t resolve conflict. It furthers it. Washington planned it that way.

It won’t quit until Syria is ravaged and destroyed. “Liberation” following “humanitarian intervention” will be claimed. That’s been the scheme since the get-go.


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July 20th, 2012, 4:24 am


868. Juergen said:

back from the holidays?

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July 20th, 2012, 4:34 am


869. ann said:

The Syrian Army Strikes Back: Eyewitness to Assad’s Retaliation on a Rebel Town – July 19, 2012

The armed men outside the hospital were angry, hyped up, ready to head back and fight. But in other parts of the town, some civilians, as well as fighters, were questioning if the attack on the checkpoint was worth it, especially given that little ammunition and weaponry was retrieved from the site. “It was too high a price,” said one woman. “Too much blood.”

“It was a failed operation,” one fighter said of the attempt to take the checkpoint.

The mortars and whistling rockets continued well into the night. At 12.04 a.m., one of the town’s mosques broadcast a message. This time, it wasn’t directed at the loyalist troops surrounding the city, urging them to defect. It was for the townsfolk. “People of Saraqeb, there is a wounded 12-year-old boy in the hospital. We don’t know whose son he is.”


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July 20th, 2012, 4:46 am


870. Expatriate said:

Syria forces recapture key areas across the country from rebels

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July 20th, 2012, 4:55 am


871. Albo said:

Comments about a viable future Alawi state, I noticed the notion went mainstream in discussions and in the medias a few months ago

“D’où le scénario d’un repli du clan Assad sur son bastion alaouite?

C’est l’ultime recours en cas de perte du pouvoir ou de guerre civile à outrance. La minorité alaouite peut défendre un réduit le long de la côte. La population lui est acquise. L’armée alaouite défendrait alors son territoire, et non pas comme aujourd’hui un régime corrompu. Actuellement, il y a un regain de religiosité chez les alaouites. Ce n’est pas innocent. Certains d’entre eux accusent même la famille Assad d’avoir cassé le sentiment identitaire alaouite. Un institut culturel alaouite est en train d’être monté à Tartous, témoignant de cette montée en puissance d’un mouvement identitaire. Les Assad pourront en jouer s’il le faut.

Est-ce viable?

Économiquement, un réduit alaouite peut survivre. La région est riche d’un point de vue agricole. Elle dispose d’un aéroport à Lattaquieh, d’un port à Tartous et d’un terminal pétrolier à Banyas. Tout a été constitué depuis l’accession au pouvoir de Hafez el-Assad pour pouvoir transformer cette région en réduit alaouite, au cas où. Elle jouit de défenses importantes, avec des bases militaires dans la montagne entre Dreikish et Tartous. Chassés de Damas, les Assad pourraient donc constituer leur mini-État. Ils auraient le soutien de l’Iran, de la Russie qui conserverait la base militaire de Tartous. Et pourquoi pas d’Israël, qui pourrait voir d’un bon œil son voisin imploser et être remplacé par un État communautaire.”

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July 20th, 2012, 4:57 am


872. Expatriate said:

‘It’s all about Iran! Don’t be duped by US & UK, “the great humanitarians” – remember Iraq’
Russia and China have vetoed the latest Western-backed draft resolution on Syria at the UN Security Council. RT exclusively talks to one of the men who raised his hand in that ‘NO’ vote – Moscow’s envoy to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin.

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July 20th, 2012, 4:59 am


873. Expatriate said:

AClick To Kill: Online training for wannabe ‘rebels’
As the conflict in Syria intensifies, it seems that the violence has filtered into all aspects of life including the Internet. One example of that is a spate of new videos linked to the unrest, offering training on how to use Kalashnikov assault rifles. As RT’s Sara Firth reports, many are wondering who put them up, and why they haven’t been taken down.

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July 20th, 2012, 5:03 am


874. Albo said:

It’s easier to be a rebel, destroy things kill or get killed…than it is to repair and rebuild your country. Much easier.

I can bet what you want that after a short period of rebel administration, foreigners would be invited or would “invite” themselves so as to restore order (I’m thinking of Turkey).
In order, you know, not to take the Somalia route.

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July 20th, 2012, 5:11 am


875. Syrialover said:

#868. Juergen

Unfortunately, that means the end of SC’s holiday from tedious floods of cut-paste.

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July 20th, 2012, 5:13 am


876. Juergen said:

sorry to hit your nerves. You sound like you made holidays in my country with 4 weeks of rain.

what is a progandipast?

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July 20th, 2012, 5:30 am


877. Syrialover said:

874. Albo

And we’re seeing it’s easy to fire on unarmed protesters, sponsor massacres and casually demolish schools, shops, neighbourhoods and infrastructure if you’ve got tanks and heavy artillery and your motto is “Assad or burn the country”.

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July 20th, 2012, 5:32 am


878. ann said:


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July 20th, 2012, 5:37 am


879. ann said:

877. Juergen said:

You sound like you made holidays in my country with 4 weeks of rain.

I never set a foot in israel

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July 20th, 2012, 5:41 am


880. Albo said:

Syrialover, if indeed you love Syria you shouldn’t approve of what is happening the way it’s happening. It’s one thing to want political change, another to destroy your country to reach that goal. It’s like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Because, yes I hear you about innocents being killed, but can you guarantee that all the cops and soldiers killed in ambushes when armed rebels appeared, that they all deserved their fate from your POV? Are you blind and not seeing that much of your rebels have been thuggish rather than chivalrous, eg populations displaced, innocents executed and hostages taken?

If only those from the opposition had some competent, honest and charismatic leaders. We only see obscure schemers behind the scene and figureheads they set up and manipulate. That doesn’t bode well for the future.

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July 20th, 2012, 5:45 am


881. Juergen said:


I live in Germany. I believe Israel can manage that you spare a visit to it.

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July 20th, 2012, 5:49 am


882. Bruno said:

A lots of disinformation going on about by the rebel supporters on twitter and social media.

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July 20th, 2012, 5:59 am


883. Mina said:

Some I know just received an email from Damascus: many areas are normal, the army has managed to seal the city yesterday, more than 200 rebels surrendered.

Talking about “liberated Rukn al Din”, when you know the size of the area, is as much a joke as the so-called “massive demonstrations” of Aleppo’s Salah al-Din Neighborhood. What happened to Aleppo’s announced massive demonstrations? They decided to make a break for holidays?

Tara: Allah yunawwir ‘alayk: a revolution is an internal matter, and not to be discussed by raving TV Salafi sheikhs in the Gulf or blood thirsty wannabees in 5-star hotels and at the UN.

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July 20th, 2012, 6:00 am


884. ann said:

Syrian forces fought on Friday to take back border posts seized by rebels and announced they had cleared fighters from a central part of the capital – Jul 20, 2012

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July 20th, 2012, 6:00 am


885. ann said:

Russia gives green light to Pakistani UN-Syria draft – 20 July, 2012

“We will support it because we helped draft it together with our Pakistani colleagues,” Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told reporters on Friday.

“Definitely, this is a very good Pakistani text and we are going to support it,” Churkin told reporters.


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July 20th, 2012, 6:08 am


886. Amir in Tel Aviv said:


Acute mnhebacks are very nervous these days, and they are on edge. I feel sorry for them, really.

Ann in Israel? No thanks. We seek quality tourism. Not trashy.

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July 20th, 2012, 6:13 am


887. ann said:

Syrian Catholic leaders call for united efforts by world community – Jul 20, 2012

Some Christian leaders in Syria have questioned the pro-democracy efforts to oust Assad, pointing out how religious liberty and the Christian communities have been protected under his leadership.

“The future is difficult to foresee,” the archbishop said. “Until now, there has been a good level of freedom of religion in Syria and good relations between Christians and Muslims. It could be difficult if that changed.”

Also July 17, Melkite Patriarch Gregoire III Laham of Damascus issued a statement saying that, thanks to their experience of peaceful coexistence, Syrians should be able “to resolve this dangerous crisis, helping one another through love and forgiveness.”

“The greatest dangers in Syria today are anarchy, the lack of security and the massive influx of weapons from many places,” he said in the statement sent to Fides, the Vatican’s missionary news agency.

The patriarch said there was “interference from foreign elements — Arab and Western — who bring weapons, money and one-sided information” into the country, inflaming passions on all sides and “weakening the voice of moderation.”

The Melkite leader claimed a campaign was being waged against Christian church leaders in the country, painting them as siding with the government.

“The church always has refused sectarianism, avoided taking sides and highlighted ethical and Gospel values,” he said.

“All the Catholic churches in Syria have raised their voices asking for reforms, freedom, democracy, an end to corruption, support for development and freedom of speech,” he said. “Today we ask for an end to the cycle of killing and destruction, especially against civilians of all faiths who are in difficulty and are the real victims.”


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July 20th, 2012, 6:30 am


888. ann said:

Syrian Army regains control of al-Maidan neighbourhood in Damascus – Jul 20, 2012

The militants of the so-called Free Syrian Army, FSA, captured al-Maidan and several other city districts several days ago. According to FSA officials, they have launched a full-scale assault on the capital.

The Syrian authorities do not deny the fact that individual militant units penetrate the city and mount attacks, but insist that the government troops are about to wipe them out. The authorities claim that the situation in Damascus is generally quiet.


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July 20th, 2012, 6:37 am


889. ann said:

Ann, this discourse is not acceptable. This is a warning. SC Moderator

868. Juergen said:

back from the holidays?

Are you stalking me you ltilte patihetc progandipast

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July 20th, 2012, 6:48 am


890. Tara said:

In Hell already or traveling to it?  

Syrian intelligence chief dead

Hisham Bekhtyar died of wounds suffered in the bombing this week that killed three other senior officials in Assad’s regime
Friday 20 July 2012 06.03 EDT

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July 20th, 2012, 7:08 am


891. Syrialover said:

Don’t worry everybody, Russians stand ready to race after the chemical weapons, journalist Robert Fisk has heard.

TV INTERVIEWER: What do you think in this transitional period if it happens are the chances that Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile will be used by the Assad regime as a last-ditch attempt to hold on to power or will fall into the wrong hands?

ROBERT FISK: Fall into the wrong hands. I think the latter is what the West is worried about.

A Lebanese friend of mine who regularly goes to Moscow and talks regularly to Russian officials told me – and I didn’t believe it before – the Russians are seriously worried that this would happen, that it would fall into the wrong hands. Remember, the Russian fear over Syria is that there’ll be another Chechnya and they do not want a mimicking Islamic republic south of Chechnya where their own Islamic irredentists of course in a lot of trouble.

I’m told there are many, many hundreds of Russian marines in the town of Tartus where the Russian naval base is, the same city in which Bashar has gone to bury his brother-in-law today. And these troops were put in there on a three-man – three naval vessels that came in two and a half weeks ago and their specific job is to race across Syria and take the chemical weapons if they appear to be about to fall into the hands of rebels against the Government.
But whether they could do that or not – they won’t be very popular remember if they did that – I have no idea.

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July 20th, 2012, 7:32 am


892. Mina said:


Ann has been called a propagandist all the time and Jürgen comment is a clear allusion to his believing that she is paid to post and was on holidays and therefore not posting for a few days. I appreciate her round-up of Chinese and Russian media, even when they report things annoying for the regime, and I do not see why she should be treated like this, while many other people in this comment section could also be suspected of doing some psyop propaganda.

By the way, comment 886 calling Ann “trash” is unacceptable either.

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July 20th, 2012, 7:34 am


893. zoo said:

One more rebels “tactical” retreat from Midan… and the UK wants the UNMIS back through a mini resolution.

State television said Syrian forces had cleared the central district of Midan of “mercenaries and terrorists”. Opposition activists and rebels sources confirmed on Friday that they had withdrawn after coming under heavy bombardment.

“It is a tactical withdrawal. We are still in Damascus,” Abu Omar, a rebel commander, said by telephone.
To replace the vetoed text, Britain proposed a four-paragraph resolution that would at least extend the expiring mandate of the monitors for 30 days. Russia’s ambassador said he would ask Moscow to consider it.

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July 20th, 2012, 7:59 am


894. Observer said:

Slow grinding down of the regime that will be relentless.
Juan Cole in his comment today points out to the fact that Iraq refused to follow the sanctions on Syria and that 70% of goods are coming through Iraq. The loss of border crossings is a logistical nightmare.

My family that just left Damascus tell me that the sound of explosions was continuous day and night and that whole units defected.

France 24 has an interview with the Russian ambassador saying that Fredo is willing to resign in a “civilized” manner. As if he knew what the word civilized means, he and his clique and family have just started walking on two legs.

Cheers total microbial resistance has emerged

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July 20th, 2012, 8:02 am


895. bronco said:

SC Moderator cc Mina

Resorting to insults, personal accusations and disparaging remarks when a commenter runs out of argument show a very low level of maturity, not very promising for the future of Syria.
Everyone’s contribution to the debate, while respecting the rules, is welcome.
If some can’t control their anger and frustration, they should be warned and after a few warning without results, expelled.

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July 20th, 2012, 8:04 am


896. irritated said:

Amir in Tel

Trashy tourism for Israel?

Turkey also does not welcome trashy tourism: Israelis go to Bulgaria instead.. or sorry not any more. Next spot will be Sudan or Azerbadjian.

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July 20th, 2012, 8:14 am


897. Juergen said:

DER SPIEGEL just wrote some interessting facts:

Russia suspended its shipment of attack helicopters to the regime due to the increase of instability

According to the UNHCR Iraq has sent two planes to evacuate Iraqi citizens willing to leave Syria, in the past days 80 buses have already left Syria with Iraqui citizens

UK is willing to arm rebels directly if international initiatives prooves further to be unsuccessful

The syrian regime has called upon Midan citizens to return to their homes, the area has been “secured”.

UNHCR has reported more than 30.000 Syrians have fled to neighboring Lebabnon within the last 48 hours , AJ reporter Zeina Khodr stated that most cars who enter Lebanon from Syria seem to be owned by the high middle class families.

Maher al Assad was seen at funerals today, Al Manar reports, Bashar Al Assad was not seen giving condolences.

UNHCR reports that bank run out of money, because families who flee the country take their deposits. An other reason given by the UN is that rents went up. A decent place to sleep could cost as much as 100 Dollar a night.

Der Spiegel also confirmed that Hisham Bekhtyar has died.

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July 20th, 2012, 8:17 am


898. irritated said:


I believe Israel can manage that you spare a visit to it.

Who wants to visit an apartheid country except the guilt-striken Europeans or the Jewish diaspora?

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July 20th, 2012, 8:20 am


899. Stick to the Truth said:

# 892 MINA

Ann has been called a propagandist all the time and Jürgen comment is a clear allusion to his believing that she is paid to post and was on holidays and therefore not posting for a few days.

Don’t let the Cyber-Mercenaries get you upset.

I wonder why a Non-Syrian get himself so deeply involved of Syrian Affairs.

Since the corruption affair around the Ex-President Christian Wulff we know that politic and press in Germany are bribable EVEN FOR PEANUTS.
Despite this, many Germans still believe democracy was born in Germany and they tend to forget that they were bombed into democray.

Sorry, but some of them need permanently be reminded of this fact.

PS: another interestig stories about political correctness in Germany are the disgusting trips of Guido Westerwelle with his boyfriend on the cost of the taxpayers.

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July 20th, 2012, 8:23 am


900. Tara said:

Ann, Dear

“release my posts”

I read your order to the moderator and I find that offensive. Ann, kindness, politeness,, respect and even softness does not kill a woman (or a man for that matter). May I invite you to use the word “please” next time. You may get a better result.

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July 20th, 2012, 8:29 am


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