UN Security Council Meets; SNC Divisions; Sectarian Attacks and Kidnapping in Homs


Inside Syria: Escalating violence pushes country toward full-blown war (2:13)
Produced by Brett Gering, Reuters TV
Joshua Landis on Reuters TV

Landis Talks About Syria’s Assad Regime
Listen to the Story on All Things Considered, [4 min 44 sec]-
Audie Cornish talks with Joshua Landis, January 30, 2012

U.N. Security Council Meets: Syria’s Assad May Be Under Pressure, but He’s Not on His Way Out Yet
By Tony Karon | January 31, 2012 | Time

The Front Row, The New Yorker, Online Only
January 31, 2012, Images from Syria
Posted by Richard Brody

Ossama Mohammed

There’s an open letter by Syrian artists published today in Le Monde—the filmmakers Hala Alabdalla and Ossama Mohammed, the actress Reem Ali, and the cartoonist Ali Ferzat are among its first fifty signatories—titled “Deliver Syria So That It Regains the Right to Live and to Create!”….

Foreign Policy

Security Council debate on Syria sputters

Top news: Arab and Western states spent Tuesday calling on the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution urging Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down and delegate power to his deputy over his crackdown on an 11-month-old uprising, which has grown increasingly violent. But Russia and China, both veto-wielding Security Council members, remain unconvinced.

Vladimir Chizhov, Moscow’s envoy to the European Union, explained on Wednesday that Russia would veto the draft resolution unless it explicitly ruled out military intervention in Syria, while Li Baodong, the Chinese ambassador to the United Nations, told the Security Council that China opposed the “use of force” and “pushing for forced regime change” in Syria. “Behind all the arguments lurked the ghost of Libya,” the New York Times observes.

SNC News

Bahiya Mardini catalogs the growing differences that are dividing members of the Syrian National Council, the main opposition organization that Washington is cultivating. They are fighting over finances, which are not transparent. They are also fighting over the proper relationship with Syria’s growing militias, which seek to coordinate under the umbrella organization of the Free Syrian Army.

الخلافات تتفاقم بين أعضاء المجلس الوطني السوري

بهية مارديني,  2012 الإثنين 30 يناير

اندلعت الإتهامات بين أعضاء “المجلس الوطني” حول الأمور المالية والتنظيمية وغياب الدعم عن “الجيش السوري الحر” بالإضافة لشكوك بوجود “أزلام” بشار الأسد بينهم.

Rebels Without a Clue: Why can’t the Syrian opposition get its act together?
BY JUSTIN VELA | JANUARY 31, 2012 – Foreign Policy

Muqdad’s frustration with the Syrian National Council (SNC), the body intended to serve as the political representation of the Syrian opposition, has grown. He has diligently traveled around Turkey, arranging coverage of the Syrian uprising by major media outlets, holding meetings in Western embassies, and coordinating with activists inside the country. In the meantime, he has come to see the SNC as disorganized, disconnected from the Syrians on the ground, and out of step with the broad spectrum of Syrian society.

“We know it is impossible to be 100 percent representative of the nation or the opposition,” Muqdad told me. “[But the SNC] does not know the principles of running the opposition.” …

It’s not only Muqdad whose initial optimism regarding Syria’s organized opposition has faded. A wide range of activists and diplomats are voicing concerns with the SNC, criticizing its lack of cohesion and effectiveness. While the majority of them have not given up on the council, they paint a picture of an organization out of touch with the protesters on the ground and dominated by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.

“No one from the SNC has influence inside Syria. Most members of the SNC are jumping on a train that started from the street,” says Ammar Qurabi, a Syrian human rights activist, arguing that SNC leaders are trying to use the momentum of the demonstrations to take political power. Qurabi refuses to work with the SNC and plans to launch his own opposition group in early February

The SNC is composed of a nine-person executive committee, sitting on top of an approximately 250-person body. The organization’s leadership is primarily made up of Sunni Arabs, and though it has made an effort to include members of other sects and ethnicities, few are present on the council.

Qurabi notes that the SNC has been particularly negligent in incorporating members of Assad’s Alawite sect. “No Alawite on the executive council — that is a scandal,” he says. “Especially when we fight Assad, who says, ‘I am Alawite. I protect Alawites’?” ….

“The Free Syrian Army could leave them in the dust unless the SNC can do something for the FSA,” the diplomat worries. …

One particularly damaging stumble occurred when SNC Chairman Burhan Ghalioun signed a draft agreement with the National Coordination Committee,..

The most divisive issue surrounding the SNC, however, clearly remains the prominent role played by the Muslim Brotherhood. “The Muslim Brotherhood is the only party in town,” says the Ankara-based Western diplomat. …

Muqdad’s initial optimism about the SNC faded, he says, when he realized the extent of the Brotherhood’s dominance. While he has been in close touch with Western diplomats, he thinks that non-SNC members have been blocked from speaking publicly and that the SNC takes credit for activities that it was not involved in.

“We have no problem with [the Brotherhood] as a political party,” explains Muqdad, a Sunni Muslim who joined the opposition in 1999 and claims to have spent years living underground. “[But] they are using the wrong ways to lead.” …

The Brotherhood’s prominence has also opened old wounds with former members of the Syrian military, who had counted the Islamist movement as its primary domestic foe before the current revolt. A defected Syrian soldier in the Free Officers Movement, which is aligned with the Free Syrian Army but does not take orders from it, describes the Brotherhood as “malignant.”

“[The Free Officers Movement] has a limited relation with the SNC because they are controlled by the Muslim Brothers,” he told me.

The officer, a Sunni, said that the Brotherhood’s presence was particularly problematic in Syria due to the large number of minorities in the country. It would be difficult to convince minorities, especially the Alawites, that their rights would be guaranteed with the Muslim Brotherhood steering the political opposition, he says.

Mohammed Farouk Tayfour, the deputy secretary-general of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood, insists that his movement will cooperate fairly with other opposition groups. …

“All Syrians have the mentality that they want to be president,” Muqdad says. “Except me. I want to be on Miami Beach.”

U.S. spy chief says Syria’s Assad cannot hold power MSNBC

Thomas Pierret writes that Free Syrian Army members took a tank from loyalist forces and used it against them: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g32jed0lN3M

Sectarian attack kills 14 of same family in Syria
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
AMMAN | Thu Jan 26, 2012 9:49pm EST

(Reuters) – Militiamen loyal to President Bashar al-Assad killed 14 members of a Sunni family in the city of Homs on Thursday in one of the grizzliest sectarian attacks in the ten-month uprising raging in the Alawite-dominated country, activists and residents said….
“Alawites who had remained in Karm al-Zeitoun mysteriously left four days ago, and the rumor was that they did so on orders by the authorities. Today we know why,” said a doctor in the district who did not want to be named.

“We also have seventy people wounded. Field hospitals themselves are coming under mortar fire,” he said. Hamza, an activist in Homs said that the attack was “pure revenge” for shabbiha members being killed by army defectors loosely grouped under the Free Syrian Army.

He said Sunni families were fleeing Karm al-Zeitoun to other parts of the city, and several Sunni neighborhoods, such as Bab Sbaa, also came under fire. Tit-for-tat sectarian killings began in Homs four months ago, following armored military assaults on Sunni areas of the city by forces led by members of Assad’s minority Alawite sect.

Mass killings have included Alawites in micro-buses on the way to their villages near Homs and Sunnis stopped at a roadblock while heading to work at a factory. Women from the two sects have been abducted and killed also, activists said.

The killings have raised the prospect of the pro-democracy protest movement against Assad turning into a civil war, as his opponents take up arms and fight back against loyalist forces cracking down on demonstrators.

New Jihad Group in Syria Announces Its Establishment – MEMRI

A new jihad group, Jabhat Al-Nusra Li-Ahl Al-Sham, (“The Front for the Protection of the Syrian People”) whose goal is to topple the Syrian regime, has released a video announcing its establishment. The 16-minute video, which was produced by the group’s media company Al-Manara Al-Baida (“White Lighthouse”), was posted January 24, 2012 on the jihadi forum Shumoukh Al-Islam after a two-day promotion campaign that included large banners and a countdown to the release….

In tumultuous Syrian city, kidnapping trade booms
January 27, 2012, Daily Times, Pakistan

In Homs, members of the same minority sect to which Assad himself belongs kidnap Sunni Muslims. Those who are part of the Sunni majority, backbone of protests against 42 years of autocratic Assad family rule, go after Alawites.

So far, sectarian violence and killing are rarely the goals of the abductions. But the kidnapping trend in the city of one million people, Syria’s third largest, has taken on a logic of its own.

Some seize people for money in Homs, where the bloody turmoil paralysing the city has left thousands jobless. Others kidnap to trade hostages. And some simply feel that having captives on hand could serve as leverage later. Residents say police write reports but never take action. “There is no one to complain to. There’s no law. You either sit and wait for God’s mercy, or you kidnap too. Homs is now in the hands of hooligans. Rationality is gone,” said Jamal, 30, an Alawite driver held for five days.

Stories like his are hard to verify, as government restrictions and the ongoing violence curb media access. But human rights groups and the government itself have chronicled dozens of kidnapping cases. All of those interviewed spoke by Skype, to avoid the telephone monitoring of security services. In Homs, near-empty streets are patrolled by jittery soldiers hiding behind stacked sandbags. Residents shut themselves inside by dusk to avoid kidnappers waiting under the cover of darkness.

Even going out in the daytime is risky now. Jamal was kidnapped at noon. “I was driving out of the market. Four men with Kalashnikovs waved me down. I sped away because I knew what would happen.” But a hidden car raced out of an alley and cut him off. “They dragged me out of my car and beat me. They took my two mobile phones, 2,500 liras ($40) in my pocket and my shoes.” Jamal was then taken to a house where he was crammed into a room with 10 other Alawites, held hostage for days on end. “It was the house of a guy people call ‘The Frowner’. He’s a creep. He runs the kidnapping scheme in that neighbourhood. It was such a farce, I stopped worrying I would die,” he said.

The kidnappers let Jamal call his family and tell them they needed to pay 150,000 lira (around $2,500) for his release and another 300,000 to get back his car. “My family is poor. They don’t have much money, so they talked to some of the Alawite thugs in our neighbourhood hoping to get some Sunnis released in exchange for me,” Jamal said.

In Syria, many caught ‘in the middle’
By Nic Robertson, CNN January 24, 2012

In places like Homs, the cradle of the uprising, the writing is on the wall for the rest of the country. Some neighborhoods have thrown out the government completely, such as in the Baba Amr district, where the Free Syrian Army has control. Communities have divided on sectarian lines. Many Christians have fled to Damascus. Garbage is piled high in the streets, electricity is cut, civilian causalities mount, and on the other side of the impromptu front-line barricades, the death toll of government soldiers creeps up as well.

A drive around Homs reveals a medieval-style siege, multiple checkpoints to move between neighborhoods, even a deep new ditch in places rings the city. But the uprising continues.

The opposition in Homs is better organized. A new council has been formed, it has a budget — money, some say, is coming from the Gulf — and runs medical and humanitarian supplies.

But the council is not the only show in town. Salafists are moving in too, Islamic radicals, many with terror tactics honed in neighboring Iraq. Reports abound of infighting both inside and outside Syria, the hard-liners already jockeying for post-al-Assad power.

If war escalates, as it surely seems it will, expect a long and bloody campaign. As the man in the middle I met on my way back to London told me: “We are afraid of the men with guns, afraid the radicals will impose their backwards views on us.”

We Intervene in Syria at Our Peril, By Ed Husain, Feb 1 2012

Western military involvement would worsen violence, not end it, and could spread the conflict beyond Syria’s borders.

Supporters of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad attend a rally in Damascus / Reuters

I was living in Syria the last time that the world was talking about President Bashar al-Assad’s imminent demise. With neighboring Iraq’s Saddam Hussein (a Ba’ath party leader, like Assad) overthrown, many of my students at the University of Damascus anticipated that soon we could remove the portraits of Assad from our classrooms. For encouraging dissent, I was monitored by the dreaded secret service, the mukhabarat. During my two-year stay in Syria, I was detained at airports and threatened with deportation if I did not stop calling for democracy. I was branded a CIA agent by regime-loyalist students who objected to my patronage of a student debate society in Damascus — an early attempt to encourage young people to think freely.

I supported the removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, but I also learned from the many mistakes that followed. Much like Iraq under Saddam, the ruling Ba’ath party in Syria controls almost every aspect of public life: business, military, media, police, education, and even religious institutions. Regime change in Syria would be bloody and protracted. I still maintain frequent contact with friends in Syria, and visited the country regularly until late 2010. When friends in Washington, DC, such as the normally measured Steven Cook present the U.S. with a false choice of intervening militarily or seeing Assad stay in office longer, as he did in a recent article on this site, I worry.

From Informed Comment

On Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, slammed al-Maliki for his anti-Sunni policies, warning in essence that if the Shiite-dominated army represses Iraq’s Sunnis, Turkey (a Sunni-majority country) would feel constrained to intervene. Turkey has already made military incursions into Iraq in hot pursuit of Kudistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerrillas who have attacked military and civilian targets in eastern Turkey.

Turkey’s embassy in Baghdad was targeted by (inaccurate) rocket fire twice last week.

Turkey’s Erdogan and Iraq’s al-Maliki are also at odds over Syria, with Erdogan calling for Bashar al-Assad to step down and al-Maliki more or less supporting the al-Assad government. (Al-Maliki is said to fear that the secular Baath Party might be overthrown by Sunni radicals who will give aid to Sunni insurgents in Iraq).

President Obama’s State of the Union Address

Obama devoted one-and-a-half paragraphs to the uprisings in the Middle East but didn’t explicitly mention America’s role in the military intervention in Libya that toppled Muammar al-Qaddafi — the centerpiece of what some have described as the Obama administration’s doctrine of “leading from behind.”

The takeaway line may have been Obama’s singling out of Syria: “In Syria, I have no doubt that the Assad regime will soon discover that the forces of change can’t be reversed, and that human dignity can’t be denied”

But Obama did not say whether his administration would take any more concrete steps to help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad see the light.

Around60 people have been killed in the restive city of Homs in the past two days ina brutal siege by Syrian security forces and shabbiha, militiamen, according to activists and residents. Residents claim the killings were along sectarian divides, referring to the situation as “racial cleansing.”Reports could not be confirmed, but video showed the bodies of women and children. Meanwhile the Free Syria Army has released a video of seven captured men alleged to be Iranian — five of whom are purported to be members of the Revolutionary Guards — heightening suspicions over Iranian and Hezbollah military support for Syrian regime forces. Also, the United Nations Security Council will hold a meeting today “behind closed doors” on are solution drafted by Morocco on Syria. The resolution would reflect the Arab League proposal calling for President Bashar al-Assad to yield power to his deputy and develop a transitional unity government that would hold elections within two months. Russia and China vetoed a draft resolution in October that would have condemned the regime violence in Syria.Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said this draft is also “unacceptable“maintaining that the document must rule out the use of force. Russia is believed to likely take issue with another point concerning the prevention of arms transfers. Representatives from the Arab League will meet with the Security Council on Saturday to gain support for its proposals on Syria as the group’s observer mission as been subject to great criticism.

Headlines

  • A suicide car bomber killed at least 31 people and injured 60 in Iraq at a funeral procession in a Shiite neighborhood in sectarian violence that has seen casualties double those of last January.

The Eclipse of Bashar al-Assad, January 27, 2012,by Hilal Khashan

President Obama’s State of the Union Address

Obama devoted one-and-a-half paragraphs to the uprisings in the Middle East but didn’t explicitly mention America’s role in the military intervention in Libya that toppled Muammar al-Qaddafi — the centerpiece of what some have described as the Obama administration’s doctrine of “leading from behind.”

The takeaway line may have been Obama’s singling out of Syria: “In Syria, I have no doubt that the Assad regime will soon discover that the forces of change can’t be reversed, and that human dignity can’t be denied”

But Obama did not say whether his administration would take any more concrete steps to help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad see the light.

From Informed Comment

On Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, slammed al-Maliki for his anti-Sunni policies, warning in essence that if the Shiite-dominated army represses Iraq’s Sunnis, Turkey (a Sunni-majority country) would feel constrained to intervene. Turkey has already made military incursions into Iraq in hot pursuit of Kudistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerrillas who have attacked military and civilian targets in eastern Turkey.

Turkey’s embassy in Baghdad was targeted by (inaccurate) rocket fire twice last week.

Turkey’s Erdogan and Iraq’s al-Maliki are also at odds over Syria, with Erdogan calling for Bashar al-Assad to step down and al-Maliki more or less supporting the al-Assad government. (Al-Maliki is said to fear that the secular Baath Party might be overthrown by Sunni radicals who will give aid to Sunni insurgents in Iraq).

Turkey: Intervention in Syria: What Next? — Ruşen Çakır:

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s interview on Al Arabiya channel can be defined as a milestone in Ankara’s Syria politics. Of course, I’m referring to Davutoğlu’s open pronouncement of the possibility of Turkey’s intervention in Syria. Let’s remember the foreign minister’s words first.

“If the regime continues to kill protesters, then this goes beyond being a matter for Turkey but will become an international issue. Then, that case calls for United Nations intervention. Turkey, in the 1980s, called the United Nations to intervene to protect the Kurds from Saddam’s atrocities after the Halabja massacre. If the Arab League initiative fails and murders continue, Turkey will not hesitate to support the U.N. decision that anticipates an intervention in Syria.”

Let’s not be unfair to him. Davutoğlu is talking about an intervention in the case of a situation where several conditions must mature. In other words, the Baath regime will continue to massacre its own people and other initiatives will fail to prevent this. The U.N. will decide on a resolution and Turkey will intervene. (Indeed, here, we need to pay attention to the stress in the sentence “Turkey will not hesitate.”) When the course of events of today is reviewed, we can see that the probability of this scenario of coming true is high.

…..Frankly, Ankara has openly taken a stance against the Bashar al-Assad regime for some time, which personally does not bother me and I think this was way over due. It was more bothersome that close relations with the al-Assad family were established, ….But a significant portion of today’s Syrian opposition segments were nothing more than “Baath lovers” in line with the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government’s approach.

Possible outcomes

It’s obvious that an international intervention, in which Turkey will participate, will create extremely dangerous results and our country will be negatively affected by those. First of all, we face the risk of a sectarian conflict. As Davutoğlu emphasized in the same interview, the Syrian people took to the streets as an extension of the Arab Spring for a more democratic administration to replace the oppressive Baath regime, but in time, the reaction also became directed at not only the political power, but also the Nusayri (Alawite) minority that supported it.

Even though there are more differences than similarities between the Nusayris and the Shiites, this risk should not be completely disregarded given that, together with the effect of the strategic partnership between Tehran and Damascus, Sunni-Nusayri tension in Syria could spread to the entire region as a Sunni-Shiite conflict. There will, necessarily, be reverberations of this bitter development in Turkey.

In the event that an international intervention in Syria (one that could last long) triggers a civil war, the stance to be adopted by the Kurds in this country directly interests Ankara. There are serious claims that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has recently re-established very strong relations with the Baath regime and that al-Assad may use this organization as a tool to blackmail Ankara.

As a result, it is good and it is correct to side with the people against the Syrian regime, but it is not wise to side with military intervention.

Ruşen Çakır is a columnist for daily Vatan in which this piece appeared on Jan 23. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

Syrians won’t go along with Obama’s wishes, RT, 25 January,

President Obama’s promise to bring “strong and stable democracy” to Syria alarms its population, which sees the shining examples of Iraq and Libya and realizes what fate awaits it, says Dr. Ali Muhammad, editor-in-chief of the website Syria Tribune… “Every Syrian knows that the country will never go back to what it was one year ago, but at the same time the change will be decided by the Syrian people, not by the US or anybody else,”argues Dr. Ali Muhammad…..

Hind Aboud Kabawat: The Assad delusion, 2012-01-30
National Post, By Hind Aboud Kabawat

…Ten months later, I have come to rue those words; but they do, however, capture the ambiguity that many Syrian liberals (like myself) felt about the best way to modernize Syrian society and democratize the Syrian state. We wanted political change, absolutely, but we also coveted stability. And even as the barricades went up on the streets of Cairo and Sana, Tripoli and Tunis, we believed that Damascus and Aleppo, Homs and Hama would be spared such chaos. How wrong we were….

DIPLOMACY TO REMOVE ASSAD GAINS MOMENTUM, By David Pollock and Andrew J. Tabler
WINEP – January 25, 2012

President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday evening had much to say about the economy, but relatively little about foreign policy. Yet one line from that brief section stands out: “And in Syria, I have no doubt that the Assad regime will soon discover that the forces of change can’t be reversed, and that human dignity can’t be denied.”

This sentence, which puts the United Stated firmly behind the demise of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, is all the more striking because it followed so closely upon the president’s description of Qadhafi as “gone.” Beyond the mere fact of singling out Syria’s government for such dishonorable mention, Obama’s statement used two very specific words that loom large in a context where every word reflected deliberate decision. First was his use of “soon,” indicating an assessment that Assad does not have much time left in power. Second was “regime,” indicating an official U.S. expectation that not just Assad personally but his whole ruling clique must also go.

Equally significant were the president’s next lines, which suggest that Washington is planning diplomatic rather than direct physical intervention in the Syrian crisis. Affirming that “we have a huge stake in the outcome” of “this incredible transformation” in the Arab region, President Obama nonetheless acknowledged that “its end remains uncertain” and that “it is ultimately up to the people of the region to decide their own fate.” Even so, he asserted that the United States will “stand against violence and intimidation” and “support policies that lead to strong and stable democracies.”

And, in fact, U.S. and international diplomacy aimed at removing Assad is quickly gaining momentum. An Arab League ministerial meeting on January 22 found that the Syrian government’s “partial progress” was “not enough” and urged the establishment within two months of a “national unity government” based on a “serious political dialogue” with the opposition — all under the authority of a vice president, rather than President Assad. Not surprisingly, the Assad regime rejected this plan, arguing that it went beyond the Arab League’s authority, violated Syrian sovereignty, and represented “a conspiratorial scheme hatched against Syria” for foreign intervention “led by the Qatari government.”

At the same time, the League’s report mandates an immediate referral of its plan to the UN Security Council. Qatar’s prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, Hamad bin Jassim, and Arab League secretary Nabil al-Araby are delegated with this task. In anticipation of this maneuver, intense behind-the-scenes Security Council consultations are now underway.

Over the last few days, Western countries led by France have drafted a Security Council resolution, with senior U.S. diplomats involved in these discussions in both Paris and New York. The draft demands that Syria cooperate fully with the UN high commissioner for human rights and the special Commission of Inquiry of the UN Human Rights Council, and allow “full access for humanitarian relief.” It requests the UN secretary-general to support the appointment of a new Arab League special envoy to Syria, which media reports speculate could be Egypt’s Mohammed ElBaradei, to supplement the largely ineffective Arab League monitoring mission in that strife-torn country. And, should the Assad regime fail to comply, the draft “encourages all States” to adopt political and economic sanctions similar to those outlined by the Arab League last November, including cutting ties with Syria’s central bank.

Significantly, the absence of mandatory sanctions from this draft resolution is calculated to help secure the necessary Russian support (or at least abstention) in the Security Council….

For all of the media bias, the blood of Syrians tells the story – The National,
Faisal Al Yafai, Jan 24, 2012

The clouds of conspiracy are gathering over Syria. With more than half of Syrians supporting President Bashar Al Assad, there has been a concerted effort by the western media to minimise his domestic support while maximising criticism of his failings. In particular, the effectiveness of the observer mission is questioned, to speed the day when the United Nations authorises Nato intervention and ushers into power a more pro-western Syrian government.

That, at least, is the analysis of the situation that has been best articulated by Jonathan Steele in the Guardian and Aisling Byrne of the Beirut-based Conflicts Forum website. It is not wrong. But it is not right, either. Very few of the separate claims of this theory are inaccurate, but the way they are strung together misses the nature of what is happening in the Levant….

‘Why we have a responsibility to protect Syria’ (Shadi Hamid, The Atlantic)

“There are a number of reasons why intervention,today, would be premature…But it may not be premature in a month or in two. The international community must begin considering a variety of military options — the establishment of “safe zones” seems the most plausible — and determine which enjoys the highest likelihood of causing more good than harm. This is now — after nearly a year of waiting and hoping — the right thing to do. It is also the responsible thing to do.”

Syria: Arab League roadmap is ‘attack on national sovereignty’

“Syria rejects the decisions taken which are outside an Arab working plan, and considers them an attack on its national sovereignty and a flagrant interference in internal affairs,” state TV quoted an official as saying.

Grave abuses by both sides – that was the conclusion of the report by the League of Arab States (LAS) monitors. The League’s foreign ministers called on President Bashar al-Assad to delegate power to his vice president and form a national unity government with the opposition.

The Syrian official reacting to the Arab League’s call said the regional body should instead “assume its responsibilities for stopping the financing and arming of terrorists,” the television channel reported.

“Unanswered Questions About Syria Intervention”, by Jeremy Pressman

This is a must read.

Over the Horizon: Syria, Iran and the Enduring Allure of Airpower
By Robert Farley | 25 Jan 2012

Who shall we bomb next? Pundits and commentators have begun to fall over themselves declaring the necessity of launching military campaigns against Syria and Iran — the former to prevent a humanitarian disaster and the latter to forestall the development of a nuclear weapon. The catalyst for this enthusiasm is the success of NATO’s aerial campaign in Libya, a war that apparently vindicated the long-standing promise of advanced, precision-guided airpower to cheaply and easily solve inconvenient political problems. Unfortunately, the rediscovered enthusiasm for intervention demonstrates only that the foreign policy punditocracy is committed to serially mislearning the lessons of airpower in war…..
Steven Cook argues that the United States and NATO ought to start seriously discussing intervention in Syria. If not and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is left to massacre his political opponents, he wonders, what message will it send to the international community about the right to protect? Anne-Marie Slaughter reluctantly concurs, suggesting that Western military power could ensure the security of safe harbors and corridors for Syrian civilians. …

Pro-Israel Hawk Celebrates ‘Liberals’ Joining the Topple Assad Argument - (h-t The Passionate Attachment)

Feigning concern for the Syrian people, Max Boot is “glad to see some distinguished friends and colleagues joining the argument that the U.S. needs to do more to bring down Assad.” In a Commentary piece, Boot recommends three articles from the “liberal” end of the regime change spectrum:

First Robert Danin, formerly of the NSC, now at the Council on Foreign Relations, argues that the U.S. can take more non-military action against Assad—viz., recall the U.S. ambassador, threaten to close the U.S. embassy, create an international contact group to handle Syria, provide more support to the opposition, keep Syria on the UN agenda and indict Assad for war crimes. Those all sound like sensible steps to me, although I’m skeptical they will be enough to make the difference.

Another Council colleague, Steve Cook, argues for going further. He believes “it’s time to think seriously about intervening in Syria,” by which he means military intervention along the lines of the Libya model—and acting even without UN authorization.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, former director of policy planning at Hillary Clinton’s State Department, more or less endorses that argument by citing R2P—the doctrine that the international community has a “responsibility to protect” civilians who are being slaughtered by their own governments. She adds, however, that any intervention would have to meet certain conditions: it would have to be requested by the Syrian opposition, endorsed by the Arab League, limited to protecting civilians (not regime change as in Libya), supported by most members of the UN Security Council (even if Russia will never go along), and with Arab and Turkish troops in the lead. All those conditions save the third one make sense to me: if we’re going to act, the best way to alleviate civilian suffering is by removing its cause—the Assad regime.

All three articles are thought-provoking and worth reading. I am heartened to see more interest in helping to topple Assad. But so far little of that interest has come from the Obama White House. Perhaps that will change with more liberal voices, such as these, joining the argument.

Former CIA unit chief Michael Scheuer discusses Syria and the Arab spring (h-t Camille Otrakji’s Syria Page)
Monday, January 16th, 2012

Michael Scheuer confirms the United States’ involvement in attempts to overthrow the Syrian regime. He explains Washington’s dilemma in dealing with the Arab Spring and how Washington’s “mindless pursuit of secular democracy” in fact created anarchy and empowered extremist Islamists.

سيريا بوليتيك ينشر السيرة الذاتية “الجبهوية” لعضو مجلس الشعب “المنشقعماد عبدالكريم غليون” - Syria Politic publishes the biography of the member of parliament who defected

Not short, tight or shiny: new dress code could see women forced into veils – Niqash

New guidelines on how the Iraqi government’s female employees should dress have caused a furore. The conservative Ministry of Women’s affairs says it is protecting female dignity while women’s rights advocates say it’s an attack on personal freedoms. by Kholoud Ramzi in Baghdad (26.01.2012)more

Watching Syria Sadly by Professor Brian Stoddard

EU tightens sanctions on Syria
English.news.cn 2012-01-23

BRUSSELS, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) — Foreign Ministers of the European Union (EU) on Monday decided to tighten restrictive measures against Syria.

The foreign affairs council of the EU added 22 persons responsible for “human rights violations” and eight entities “financially supporting the regime” to the list of those subject to an asset freeze and a ban from entering the EU.

This brings the total number of entities targeted by an asset freeze to 38 and the number of people subject to an asset freeze and a visa ban to 108.

In response to the violence in Syria, the EU has gradually imposed a comprehensive set of restrictive measures on Syria, including an arms embargo, a ban on the import of Syrian crude oil and on new investment in the Syrian petrol sector.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton said: “Today’s decision will put further pressure on those who are responsible for the unacceptable violence and repression in Syria.”

“The message from the European Union is clear: the crackdown must stop immediately. We will continue to do all we can to help the Syrian people achieve their legitimate political rights,” said Ashton.

Against Syrian anger, Assad’s sect feels fear
By Mariam Karouny, DAMASCUS | Wed Feb 1, 2012

Comments (616)


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601. irritated said:

581. Antoine said:

“Hezbollah is a terrorist State within a State and they should be disarmed and kicked out of Lebanon.”

Great idea! I guess that’s how the FSA should be treated too. Disarmed and kicked out of Syria.
You have very creative solution to propose, go on…

“After 1979 a whole culture was wiped out from Iran.”

You mean that you regret the culture of the Shah of Iran, the puppet of the USA and totally corrupted society?
Good for you..,

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February 5th, 2012, 3:53 pm

 

602. Norman said:

It is interesting how Iranians who hate their government in the US go out to prevent a war on Iran while Syrians and Arabs in the US go out to push for an invasion of their country, The re must be something wrong with our genes,

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February 5th, 2012, 3:58 pm

 

603. abraham said:

Show of hands, please: who here still doesn’t understand that the CIA is basically orchestrating the “uprising” in Syria?

Come on, now, be honest. Get them way up there. Let’s see who hasn’t been doing their own thinking for themselves.

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February 5th, 2012, 3:59 pm

 

604. Antoine said:

NORMAN, the Iranian Government does not use mortars, artillery and snipers against their own people so indiscriminately. C’mon man, for the past 11 months the country has been in an upheaval and killings every day, this tyoe of situation has no precedent in known history.

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February 5th, 2012, 4:08 pm

 

605. Antoine said:

NORMAN you heroes may succeed in killing 500,000 Syrians but ultimately you will lose.

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February 5th, 2012, 4:13 pm

 

606. bronco said:

#594 Norman

The Iranians know what a war is , they had one for 8 years with hundred of thousands dead and cities totally destroyed. Some Syrians are so full of hatred and revenge that they think a war will only affect their enemies. If a war happens, they will understand why the Iranians who hate their government prefer to cope with it than to enter into another devastating war.

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February 5th, 2012, 4:15 pm

 

607. irritated said:

Antoine

“you will lose”

Who will lose? lose what?

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February 5th, 2012, 4:17 pm

 

608. irritated said:

Antoine

this tyoe of situation has no precedent in known history.”

Of course, no time in modern history, a ‘supposed’ revolution was started by a divided and incoherent opposition begging for outside help to cover up their failure to unite after 11 months.

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February 5th, 2012, 4:20 pm

 

609. zoo said:

The Opposition criticized for condoning violence are coming back to peaceful methods: Another call for strike, Sunday and Monday..

Opposition group calls for strike as Syrian violence grows
By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 4:01 PM EST, Sun February 5, 2012

The Arab League said Sunday it would continue to work with the Syrian government and opposition to stop the killing despite the Security Council vote, and it urged the government to \”heed the people\’s demands.\”

The Local Coordination Committees announced plans for a two-day civil strike starting Sunday as a way to mount more pressure on President Bashar al-Assad\’s government.
…..

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February 5th, 2012, 4:29 pm

 

610. zoo said:

Not so peaceful attacks on Syrian Embassies triggered by violence news (not independently confirmed) broadcasted on Al Jazeera and other satellites.

Seven Syrian embassies attacked by anti-Assad protesters

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Latest-News-Wires/2012/0205/Seven-Syrian-embassies-attacked-by-anti-Assad-protesters

From London to Australia, mobs attacked Syrian embassies to protest the reported killing of civilians in Homs by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.


Australian police said the mob smashed into the embassy in a diplomatic precinct of Canberra, the capital, on Saturday night, causing extensive damage to the ground floor of the two-story building.

Syrian Charge d’Affaires Jawdat Ali told the Associated Press that 50 men smashed through the front door, destroyed furniture and stole computers. He said the damage bill had yet to be calculated.
….

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February 5th, 2012, 4:37 pm

 

611. Tara said:

Bronco

Were the Iranians ever exposed to their children tortured, their genitals cut off, and their nails pulled? Were the Iranian ever exposed to fathers being sodomised and raped in front of their teenage children? Did the Iranian women dig their own children’s graves because their men banned from cemeteries? Did the Iranian government targeted 4 years old girls? Did any family in Iran after the revolution stayed in power for 40 years? Has the
Iranian regime forced people to worship ayatollah rohallah…? Have you ever heard an Iranian being forced to kiss the shoes of a … ?

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February 5th, 2012, 4:45 pm

 

612. jna said:

596. Antoinesaid:
NORMAN you heroes may succeed in killing 500,000 Syrians but ultimately you will lose.

Antoine, but wouldn’t it be 1000% better to stop the killing now, hold internationally monitored elections and spare 495,000 Syrians their lives. We know Assad will be deposed one way or another at some point. The issue is when and how, and what happens to the Syrian people between now and then.

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February 5th, 2012, 6:28 pm

 

613. Norman said:

JNA,

That would be smart, we do not have smart people in Syria.

and this way we don’t destroy Syria, how dare you suggest that.

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February 5th, 2012, 6:34 pm

 

614. bronco said:

#602 Tara

You obviousky know very little of what Iranians went through during the war Iraq staged against Iran.
Irak was supported, armed and funded by the western countries and ALL Arab countries (except Syria) for 8 years.
Just the use of the mustard gas has thousands of people still suffering and dying slowly after 20 years. These poisonous gas were provided to Irak by European companies some were said to be German. Hundred of thousand of orphans, widows, children and adults crippled for life.
Almost a million died during this war and some cities like Khoramshar and Abadan were almost totally destroyed with hundred thousands displaced.
The western media avoid talking about these horrors the same way NATO now refuses to talk about the human casualties and abuses of the war in Libya. They bear a large responsibility, who will judge them for war crimes?
The Iranians do not constantly expose the injustice done to them by the western countries, the rapes, the tortures, and they don’t call for vengeance and retaliation. They’ve learn to be strong, self-sufficient and not to trust western countries anymore.

Civil war in Lebanon had very similar horrors as Syria is living now, rapes, tortures etc… When the factions could not accept to compromise it became so violent that Beirut was destroyed and it became a full scale war with thousands of death for 15 years. Who won? and who has been judged and convincted? nobody.

Wars are to avoid at any costs. Ghandi and Mandela are examples of popular revolution that tried to avoid blood, even if they were attacked. It took years but they finally succeeded without external help.

The Syrian revolution turned to a disaster because the opposition had overestimated its capability to rally the majority of Syrians.
When they realized it failed, they resorted to violent retaliation and created a spiral of crimes by unleashing the worst in the human being, revenge, cruelty, sectarianism, hatred.
Then they started to ask foreign countries, traditionally enemies of the Arabs and Syria to rescue them. When this also failed, they ask the most authoritarians regime in the area, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to use their power to bring in an UN intervention like Libya.
This failed too, now the country is in blood and the blame falls on the Syrian government.
Sorry, the opposition share the blame and increasingly so.
Now they call for a NATO war.. no thanks. I’ll tell them, stop the rantings, go home, prepare an intelligent strategy with intelligent people to bring in all the Syrians on your side, and when you are ready, then you can make a proposal to the Syrians.
Otherwise just admit you failed and try to find a compromise.
War should be out of the question.

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February 5th, 2012, 7:01 pm

 

615. Tara said:

Bronco,

Can you generalize above logic to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?  Can you preach the Palestinians during Gaza war about Mandell and Ghandi?  Why not endorsing HA to drop it’s weapons and sit down with other Lebanese and with the Israeli?

Sorry to use a graphic example but you must realize that asking the opposition to sit down and negotiate while Bashar is in power, is not different than asking a parent of a molested, murdered child to sleep with the enemy.  It is just UNDOABLE.  All parties MUST understand that.  Bashar must go.  It is above and beyond our capability of humans to negotiate while he is in power.   Desecration of the sanctity of human life occurred under his watch and he carries full accountability.  He leaves then we sit and negotiate.   

And by the way I am not sure that the atrocities Iranian exposed to from warring with foreign countries are comparable to the atrocities Syrian exposed to by their own.  Ours are much much bitter!
    

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February 5th, 2012, 8:32 pm

 

616. Antoine said:

603. JNA said :

“Antoine, but wouldn’t it be 1000% better to stop the killing now, hold internationally monitored elections and spare 495,000 Syrians their lives. We know Assad will be deposed one way or another at some point. The issue is when and how, and what happens to the Syrian people between now and then.”

Would the Syrian President allow internationally monitored elections ?

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February 6th, 2012, 3:32 am

 

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