Posted by Joshua on Friday, February 17th, 2012
UN Vote on Syria – Foreign Policy
The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to support a non-binding resolution condemning Syria’s government. The resolution, which passed 137 to 12 with 17 abstentions, calls for the Syrian government to immediately halt attacks on civilians and urges Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to appoint a special envoy for Syria.
Following the vote, Syrian forces appear to have stepped up their bombardment on the city of Homs with what residents are calling the worst shelling since the government began its crackdown on strongholds of the uprising 13 days ago.
Interesting facts on the Syria UN general Assembly vote:
1) Israel voted for, after wanting to sponsor the resolution but was pushed aside by the original 70 sponsors
2) Iraq, Sudan, Oman – considered regime’s friends (w Lebanon & Algeria) dumped the Syrian regime & voted for
3) BRICS countries split (where originally w regime). South Africa, Brazil & India voted for.
4) we discovered that the regime may have friends in countries such as St Vincent, Fiji & Tuvalu!
High-Tech Trickery in Homs?
By Sharmine Narwani – Tue, 2012-02-14 15:15- Al-Akhbar
What was surely meant to be a clever display of media-friendly visuals to illustrate Syrian regime violence in Homs, has instead raised more questions than answers.
US State Department satellite images of the embattled city were posted on Facebook last Friday by US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, who complains: “A terrible and tragic development in Syria is the use of heavy weaponry by the Assad regime against residential neighborhoods.”
The “satellite photos,” says Ford, “have captured both the carnage and those causing it — the artillery is clearly there, it is clearly bombing entire neighborhoods…We are intent on exposing the regime’s brutal tactics for the world to see.”
But within 24 hours, the blog Moon of Alabama had taken a hammer to the ambassador’s claims. A detailed examination of satellite imagery by the bloggers revealed numerous discrepancies in Washington’s allegations. Mainly, their investigations point to the fact that Ford’s satellite images were “of guns training within military barracks or well known training areas and not in active deployment.”
Moon of Alabama posts its own satellite images, graphics and diagrams to bolster its argument – and these are well worth a look.
The US envoy’s questionable claims don’t stop at satellite images, however. In his Facebook post, Ford insists: “There is no evidence that the opposition — even those opposition members who have defected from the military — has access to or has employed such heavy weapons. “ By this, he means the “artillery” used “to pound civilian apartment buildings and homes from a distance.”
Then why is there satellite photo evidence of destruction in pro-regime Alawi areas?
Fast-forward to CNN’s very own Jonathan King, who broadcast satellite images of Homs on February 9, the day before the State Department loaded their photos on the web. King’s images of Homs are dated February 5, two days after violence erupted in the city, focusing heavily in the Baba Amr neighborhood where opposition gunmen are allegedly present:
Zooming into one highlighted area of destruction, you can see that the two photos – CNN’s and ours – are an exact match. To the north of the horizontal road is a lot marked by a large tree to its left. South of that same road, buildings are positioned at a distinct diagonal angle. This area is inside Homs’ al-Zahra neighborhood.
King’s presentation of “shelling, fires and damage” to Homs shows destruction of property consistent with the use of heavy weapons: “It’s like a ghost town – with no cars at all, there’s damage in the roads and so much damage on the top of the buildings.”
Zooming in on three different sections of the same Homs neighborhood to show before-and-after images of the destruction, King says: “Now obviously, we’re not there, but this powerful satellite imagery tends to support the accounts from activists that there’s a lot of shelling and fighting going on in the city, and a lot of fires.”
There is only one problem with his account. Most of the alleged fighting, shelling, destruction and killing reported widely in the international media took place in the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs, southwest of the city, and an anti-regime stronghold.
But all three satellite images shown by King are in al-Zahraneighborhood, a pro-regime area consisting mainly of Alawis, who belong to the same Muslim minority sect as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
That is a stunning revelation. Pro-regime civilians in Homs and other Syrian areas have complained of attacks, kidnappings and killings by armed opposition groups for months now, with little attention received by foreign media…..
Wounded Syrian Refugees Flee Dramatic Escalation
by The Associated Press, February 17, 2012
RAMTHA, Jordan (AP) — Syrian refugees fleeing to Jordan for their lives described a dramatic escalation in violence and a mounting toll of dead and wounded in the southern city of Daraa and the country’s battered central region….
More on the Constitution
Shabbi7 Corrects my error
…The People’s Assembly has long had a requirement of at least 50% laborers and peasants. …A simple Google search further proves my claim. Here is an English translation of the current Syrian constitution, adopted March 13, 1973: http://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/sy00000_.html
Part 1 Legislative Power
Article 53 [Membership]
The law defines the electoral districts and the number of the members of the People’s Assembly, provided that at least half their number are workers and peasants. The law defines the terms: worker and peasant.
In conclusion, this article was not “added” to the proposed constitution, but rather maintained from the current constitution, and therefore, could not have been, as you hastily claimed, “added in a deal with the Baath Party leadership in order to get article 8 removed.”
What bothers me the most is that, through your claim, you implied that this is a malicious article, when in fact, laborers and peasants are the ones who built up the Syria we love with their blood, sweat, and tears.
from Friend 1
The interior minister will have to approve new parties. Moreover, the budget of any new part is SYP 2 Million. This is $27k. Is this party going to take on a sitting President with unlimited funding? This constitution gets a resounding thumbs down from me. Bashar looked in the mirror and designed a constitution to ensure it fits every inch of his frame. He basically “fassal” the dustour at the tailor.
In 1973, people were asleep and the constitution passed unopposed. For 40 years, the president was not accountable. The party ran amok. No separation of powers. security services above the law with no recourse to the law.
The Majlis al shaab (parliament) is the new baath party. This is a hybrid of article 8. Please read the details and go through the math. As for dropping socialism, supporting the public sector is part of the constitution now and so are progressive taxes. Is this not socialism but in name?
In all honesty, i prefer the 1973 constitution. It was less “istikhfaf bil aqqoul”. It at least told it as it is. This constitution assumes that the people are too stupid to understand that they have no chance of beating bashar who WILL BE the president till 2028 when he is 63. Any constitution that is so heavily designed to make the president win is a silly piece of paper. He chooses the judges that are supposed to judge him (they are there only for 4 years anyway). He can pass laws when the majlis is not in session. He appoints the prime minister and fires him at will. His security services do not answer to the law. This constitution will pass by about 80-90%. Syrian referendums always do.
“Syrian army has chemical and biological warfare capabilities … a very significant integrated air defense system … a credible military … there is also huge regional implications …. big players and actors who have vested interest there …. Those who would like to foment a Sunni Shia standoff are all weighing in in Syria … it is the last remaining piece of the puzzle … this is the most important moment for the region and all the players are weighing in”
Guardian – Ian Black: “France’s humanitarian plan would require a military intervention of the kind for which there appears to be little appetite”….
British officials insisted on Wednesday that it would be impossible to set up a safe zone or corridor without military intervention. That in turn would require a resolution under chapter seven of the UN charter, for which, unlike in Libya last year, there was neither western appetite nor Russian and Chinese acquiescence.
Juppé is to meet his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, on Thursday. Lavrov said after meeting the Dutch foreign minister, Uri Rosenthal, on Wednesday that Russia would not support any UN resolution “that could legitimise regime change”.
David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy are to discuss the Syrian crisis in Paris on Friday. Humanitarian aid will be on the agenda, diplomats said, but there are no plans to discuss establishing humanitarian corridors or safe zones on any of the country’s borders. Another highly sensitive question is that of possible assistance to the rebels of the Free Syrian Army.
On the diplomatic front, the next big event is the founding meeting of a new Friends of Syria group in Tunisia on 24 February, with efforts focusing on persuading the divided Syrian opposition to present a more united front and send out clearer messages about the post-Assad future.
Britain to send £3m of aid
Published on Friday 17 February 2012 15:54
DAVID Cameron today announced aid worth £3 million for those suffering from the violent crackdown on protests against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
The Prime Minister said that the money will provide vitally needed medical supplies and food for more than 20,000 people affected by fighting in the city of Homs and elsewhere in the country.
Speaking at a UK-France summit in France, the Prime Minister said that the situation in Syria was “appalling” and that he did not believe the international community was doing everything it could to stop President Assad’s “butchery” of his people.
But he cautioned that the position was not the same as in Libya, where the world came together last year behind a United Nations resolution authorising military action to defend civilians.
Flanked by President Nicolas Sarkozy at a press conference in the Elysee Palace, Mr Cameron said the world had to act “as decisively as it can” against the Syrian regime without a UN resolution.
The position of “Building The Syrian State” current on forming “The Friends of Syria” group
We see that any new split in international community in regards to Syria is not going to be in the interest of the Syrian people in general, nor the interest of the protesters and the opposition. Therefore creating new confrontational axis in the international positions will be very damaging to the political struggle in Syria.
We can therefore say that the increased polarization and disagreement in some of the Arabic and international positions in their position towards the Syrian regime will increase the acute division in the Syrian society, and will further escalate the conflict, and push the country into social conflicts that may reach bloody levels that are difficult to control
Finding a solution to the crisis in Syria requires from our point of view an international consensus that can deliver the equation of the solution that the parties to this conflict inside Syria failed to achieve. Such consensus would help dividing the roles so that certain countries would add pressure on the regime (Russia and its allies) while other countries would add pressure on the opposition (European countries and some non-European ones). Without this consensus it will be difficult to achieve a viable political process that all parties agree to.
Within this context, we believe that the idea of forming an international group called “Friends of Syria” will not serve the idea of international consensus. On the contrary, as we believe it will further increase the international division.
Why Israel Should Intervene in Syria – Huffington Post
…The vast majority of Arabs will judge Israel by its actions, not merely the rhetoric of political entrepreneurs. It is time for Israel to show that its warplanes can do something other than cause Arab suffering — they can relieve it.
One more Jadaliyya Article to read.
Sowing the Seeds of Dissent: Economic Grievances and Syrian Social Contracts Unraveling (Suzanne Saleebi)
Both Hafez’s and Bashar’s emphasis on the cultivation of “strategic crops” such as wheat and cotton are prime examples of the ways through which the State sought to ensure control and legitimacy. Jessica Barnes stresses the large increase in land area cultivated with cotton during the 1990s, making the crop Syria’s second largest export, only after oil. Excessive usage of irrigation methods on such non-food industrial crops increased the salinity of farmland and thus exacerbated today’s water scarcity crisis in rural areas. At the same time, the regime’s emphasis upon food self-sufficiency as a matter of national security has resulted in an increased usage of irrigation methods for wheat, particularly in the face of decreased rainfall.
An Alawi opposition member explains why so many minorities support the regime
copied from Zenobia post on Off the Wall
Let me share with you something else, many alawite ( including two of my immediate cousins) did participate in Tartous first demonstration, but that was it for them , they are watching Al Dounia now 24/7.
Let me also remind you that most secular parties including Syrian Communist Party and the Syrian National Social Party that have very strong penetrations in the Syrian coast, and their members were subject to extreme violent acts by Assad the father. Why did they disappear?? Worse yet why are they lining up with the regime now?
Let me tell you my friend my personal explanation: Very soon after the uprising started in Darra and when it took everybody by surprise, a feeling of joy touched the heart of every Syrian that change is finally coming, and the face of Syria will change to the better and for good.
But it was only a matter of weeks when the demonstrations were completely controlled by extremist mosque clerks and their followers. I do not care if you agree with me or not but I was there and I was watching very suspiciously what was going on like many others. The regime and during forty years of oppression to any possible secular educated opposition left the field completely open to the only well organized structure which is the mosque and religious institutes.
Their presence was overwhelming. I had many friends from the opposition and we had lengthy discussions about the possible consequences of such leadership but everyone was overexcited with the idea of rebellion and they found it more comfortable to ignore this fact altogether and to keep living in their imaginary dream about the coming bright future…. (read it all)
“This is the only way for Syria to end this crisis. The Syrian government and Syrian opposition must listen to the people’s demands,” he said, noting “The situation in Syria has not worsened; the majority of the Syrian people strongly support the Syrian government. ”
“The government of Syria is deeply committed to a political solution. Neither the United States, nor Saudi Arabia and Qatar can dictate to the Syrian people what they want. Even the Syrian government is not trying to tell the Syrian people to do what it wants. The Syrian people will decide what they want for Syria through a referendum on the constitution, and the ballot box in the forthcoming elections”
“We have completed drafting a new constitution; it will be one of the most democratic constitutions in the world,” he said, stressing “this can only take place through free elections, only when the Syrian people say their word, then we can move forward, not by listening to opposition groups who carry western passports.”
“The direction of the Syrian government is to conduct free elections, allow total freedom of press, total freedom of political parties, and give women their total rights,” he said, challenging “Saudi Arabia and Qatar to go in this direction.”
“We challenge the United States of America to pressure her allies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to do the same. We challenge the United States of America as well to pressure Israel to give the Palestinians their human rights. This is the real problem Syria is facing,” he said.
Syria and China are friendly countries, the ambassador said, as the Chinese people are deeply concerned about the situation in Syria. “I would like to avail myself of this opportunity to thank the Chinese people for their concern; however, there is no reason to be worried. Concerning the situation in Syria, it is completely different from the way it is presented in the Western media. ”
“The two major cities in Syria, Damascus and Aleppo, which house almost half of the Syria population, lead a very normal life. People go to their work, universities, theaters, music concerts, restaurants and cafes; the same applies to other major Syria cities,” he noted, “However, in one Syrian city, namely Homs, armed terrorist groups are committing atrocious acts of violence. They follow an extreme Islamist ideology, and they are determined to fight against the secular government of Syria.”
On western media’s failure to paint a correct picutre of Syria, he said, “If you listen to the Western media, you will hear that the government forces are killing pro democracy activists.” But he added, “after the arrival of the Arab League observers, they visited every Syrian city, and wrote their reports. The observers are all experts, and do not carry a Syrian nationality. They confirmed that the opposition groups, not the government, perpetrate most of the violence. This is written in their final report and it is published. This is the true situation in Syria as described by a third party witness. Western media never reported the findings of the Arab League observers.”
Nasrallah: Our Enemy Knows How We Avenge Mughniyeh
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah said his party was not involved in recent bombings that took place in India, Georgia, and Thailand earlier this month, while reiterating the party’s intention to avenge the killing of its leader Imad Mughniyeh four years ago.
“It is insulting for Hezbollah to avenge its great leader by killing ordinary Israelis, as fr those who are our target, they know who they are and they are taking measures and I tell them to remain doing so for we shall avenge Imad Mughniyeh in an honorable way,” Nasrallah said.
Nasrallah was speaking during a In a televised speech Thursday evening to commemorate the martyrdom of three of the party’s top leaders, Ragheb Harb, Imad Mughniyeh, and Abbas al-Mousawi, on the hands of Israel. Nasrallah reiterated the continued arming of the resistance and repeated his call to pull out from public use personally owned arms. Commenting on the Arab revolutions, Nasrallah criticized what he termed as “the interference of [Lebanon's] March 14 and their sending of weapons and bolstering of fighting among the Syrian people,” reminding the rival political group of their objection to Hezbollah’s support of Bahraini protestors and material aid to resistance in Palestine via Egypt.
Nasrallah cautioned against discord in Egypt and pointed fingers at the US and Israel for fomenting it, saying that Israeli officials are living in a state of anxiety due to its dwindling power. He also lamented that “Arab peoples and governments are not occupied with Palestine” while Palestinians, including prisoners on hunger strike, and Bahrainis, are left to its own devices.
In relation to Syria, Nasrallah said the regime has its shortcomings as acknowledged he says by its leadership but that “it has stood in the face of the US-Israeli project and supported resistance.” While the regime did not open up a front in Golan, none of its detractors, Nasrallah argued, has opened such a front or supported the resistance.
Nasrallah criticized the total refusal to engage with dialogue with the Syrian regime and opt for a political solution in Syria by the same people who call for negotiations with Israel and have engaged with it for decades. He leveled similar criticism against those who bar the supply of weapons to Israel while sending weapons to Syria so the “Syrians fight each other.”
Nasrallah wondered why there is “a Western-Israeli-Arab insistence to fight in Syria and topple the regime” suggesting it is cause for political reflection.
Syrian Circassians Continue Efforts to Discuss Repatriation to the North Caucasus
On January 31, representatives of the 100,000 member Syrian Circassian community held a press conference in Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria. Three of the visiting Syrians said their goal was to discuss with the government the possible repatriation of Circassians from conflict-ridden Syria to the North Caucasus. The visitors preferred to remain anonymous since they were retired high-ranking government officials in Syria. The head of Kabardino-Balkaria, Arsen Kanokov, received them and promised assistance, though he did not offer any details on their visit. According to the delegation from Syria, the future of the country is becoming increasingly uncertain and people’s lives are habitually endangered. According to their count, over 1,000 of the estimated 100,000 Circassians living in Syria are willing to relocate, although the exact figures are hard to determine because of the mounting chaos in the country. “We came here on behalf of those who want to return [to the North Caucasus] to ask for help,” the delegation said. “We want to settle here” (http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/200277/, February 1).