“Washington doesn’t care about Syria,” Landis, News Round Up (Dec. 23, 2012)

Robert Wright (Bloggingheads.tv, and Joshua Landis

In Ravaged Syria, Beach Town May Be Loyalists’ Last Resort
Published: December 22, 2012

There are no shellings or air raids to interrupt the daily calm. Families pack the cafes lining the town’s seaside corniche, usually abandoned in December to the salty winter winds. The real estate market is brisk. A small Russian naval base provides at least the impression that salvation, if needed, is near.

Many of the new residents are members of the Alawite minority, the same Shiite Muslim sect to which Mr. Assad belongs. The latest influx is fleeing from Damascus, people who have decided that summer villas, however chilly, are preferable to the looming battle for the capital.

“Going to Tartus is like going to a different country,” said a Syrian journalist who recently met residents there. “It feels totally unaffected and safe. The attitude is, ‘We are enjoying our lives while our army is fighting overseas.’ ”

Should Damascus fall to the opposition, Tartus could become the heart of an attempt to create a different country. Some expect Mr. Assad and the security elite will try to survive the collapse by establishing a rump Alawite state along the coast, with Tartus as their new capital.

There have been various signs of preparations.

This month, the governor of Tartus Province announced that experts were studying how to develop a tiny local airfield, now used mostly by crop-dusters, into a full-fledged civilian airport “to boost transportation, business, travel and tourism,” as the official Syrian news agency, SANA, reported…..

Azzam Dayoub, the head of the political office in Beirut, Lebanon, for the underground revolutionary council in Tartus, said there were at least 230,000 war refugees in the city. Others said the population of the entire province, once around 1.2 million, is now closer to two million. Most are Alawites, including countless government employees who have returned to their home province. But many are Sunnis, Christians or others close to the government who no longer felt safe elsewhere.

Mr. Dayoub said Alawites in the town have barred other minorities and members of Syria’s Sunni majority from entering their neighborhoods, and the two sides no longer frequent each other’s stores. The Sunni population has been collecting weapons to fight any future attempt to drive them out, he said…..

Privately, some Alawites dismiss the chances of having their own state. Abu Haidar, 55, the owner of a small import and export business in Tartus, said dreams were one thing, but reality was something else. “What do we have in Tartus Province that would aid us to stand alone as a state?” he asked. “We have neither the infrastructure, nor the resources. It is basically lemon and olive orchards along with a small city with simple services.”

But until the day of reckoning arrives, Tartus seems bent on blocking out the war raging over the horizon….

Air strike on Syria bakery ‘kills dozens‘ – al-Jazeera

At least 90 people queuing at a bakery in the town of Halfaya in Hama were killed in the attack, activists say.

Syria Rebels Threaten To Storm Christian Towns Of Mahrada, Sqailbiyeh

Rebels have threated to storm two predominantly Christian towns in central Syria if residents do not “evict” government troops they say are using the towns as a base to attack nearby areas.

A video released by rebels showed Rashid Abul-Fidaa, who identified himself as the commander of the Ansar Brigade for Hama province, calling on locals in Mahrada and Sqailbiyeh to rise up against President Bashar Assad’s forces or prepare for an assault.

“Assad’s gangs in the cities are shelling our villages with mortars and rockets destroying our homes, killing our children and displacing our people,” said Abdul-Fidaa, who wore an Islamic headband and was surrounded by gunmen. “You should perform your duty by evicting Assad’s gangs,” he said. “Otherwise our warriors will storm the hideouts of the Assad gangs.”…

Ethnicity and Naming: Yamin writes

The Salafi Emirate of Ras al-Ain” by independent journalist Jehad Saleh caught my attention. As a 5-8 year old child, I visited Ras al-Ayn (Ras al-Ein or Ras al-Ain) often before the Baath Party took power in Syria in 1963. My family, relatives, and friends are from Assyrian, Syriac, Armenian, Arab, and Kurd ancestry. I have always heard them saying “Ras al-Ayn”. The 1915-16 Armenian death camps were documented to be in “Ras al-Ayn”. I have never heard the ancient name of “Serekani” being used. Serekani was founded by the Assyrian and Syriac civilization thousands years ago. Now the Kurds want to spread this name which is fine but they should not claim it as a part of their history. This is annoying. It is Ras al-Ayn or the ancient Assyrian town of Serekani. It is Semite not Indo-European. The Arab Baath Party did not invent the name Ras al-Ayn.

At least 200 members of a Syrian regime force deployed to protect Damascus’ international airport have defected as clashes broke out near the presidential palace in the capital, a member of the opposition military told Al Arabiya channel yesterday.


122212image008.jpgAbu Ahmad (right, in civilian clothes)
In a December 15, 2012 article in The National, an English-language daily published in the UAE, journalist Balint Szlanko presents an interview with Sheikh Abu Ahmed, a high-ranking military commander of the jihad group Jabhat Al-Nusra in Syria. In the interview, Abu Ahmed describes his vision for a Syria ruled by Shari’a law.The following is the full text of the interview:
“The man wearing the balaclava had eyes that never stopped smiling. Reclining on a pillow in an otherwise empty room, this burly, 41-year-old commander of Jabhat Al-Nusra – the most fearsome jihadi group in Syria – exuded an almost disturbing calm, in marked contrast to the loud, chatty air that often characterises more mainstream groups of the Free Syrian Army…”
An Al-Hayat report presents information on the Al-Qaeda-affiliated jihad group Jabhat Al-Nusra (JN), which is operating in Syria, based on interviews with its operatives and with field commanders in the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The following are the main points of the report.

On December 18, 2012, Khatab, a member of the leading jihadi forum Shumoukh Al-Islam, announced that Muhib Ru’yat Al-Rahman, a prominent writer on the major jihadi forums, had died in Syria. Khatab, described as a “student at Shumoukh’s College of Media,” provided no further details about the death of Muhib, whose last post was dated from two weeks ago, a day or two prior to the shutdown of all major jihadi forums.

الجيش السوري الحر يقتل 124 تونسيا و ليبيا في حمص

Tunisian fighter in Syria Claims that the Syrian Free Army Killed 124 Tunisian and Libyan Fighters in Homs – Arabic (Tunisian TV)

Rigorous new sanctions against Iran’s banking, shipping and industrial sectors took effect yesterday, as part of the European Union’s effort to force Tehran to scale back its nuclear programme….they include bans on financial transactions, sales to Iran of shipping equipment and steel, and imports of Iranian natural gas, adding to earlier bans, including on the Opec producer’s oil. They reflect heightened concern over Iran’s nuclear goals and Israeli threats to attack Iranian atomic installations if diplomacy and other measures fail to deliver a solution.

The Triumph and Irrelevance of Meta-Narratives Over Syria: “Rohna Dahiyyah”
Dec 17 2012
by Bassam Haddad

….The claims put forth by myself and the myriad of other Syrian analysts, including the “instant” and “sudden” analysts who keep popping up like popcorn from the oddest places (I found two in my bathroom closet), can be right or wrong, or conditionally so. But they might be on- or off-mark for the wrong reasons to the extent that one is divorced from the local context, and divorce comes in shades, from the cold calculating “methodist,” to the uninformed sympathizer, to gatekeepers of interests far removed from the well-being of Syria and Syrians. Yet, they all participate and play with equal enthusiasm. Syria is a game now, played by states, institutions, analysts, activists, journalists, bloggers, tweeters, and artists who are often only remotely connected to the real lives of real people enduring real conditions there. We produce snapshots of reality that are divorced from the cumulative history of pain and experience that have led to that reality…..Thanks to the armed groups who have now perfected—and sometimes surpassed on individual counts—the perennial brutality of the regime, one is hard-pressed in Syria to find a cause or a foreseeable scenario to cling to. Under such conditions, daily matters reign supreme over meta-narratives that are not necessarily unimportant, but have become thoroughly irrelevant for most Syrians. Hence, that smile that many local Syrians draw on their face in the face of meta-narratives spewed by all of us on the other side—to which people click “like,” or not.

Syria ‘secures chemical weapons stockpile’ – AL-jAZEERA

Russia says government in Damascus consolidated its chemical weapons in “one or two” locations amid rebel onslaught.

To Save Syria, We Need Russia
By DIMITRI K. SIMES and PAUL J. SAUNDERS NYtimes Op-Ed Contributors
Published: December 21, 2012

Letter from Europe
In Paris, Longing for Damascus
Published: December 21, 2012

PARIS — Maha Assabalani can’t get Damascus out of her mind.

A Yemeni citizen of Iranian origin and living in Paris, Ms. Assabalani, 27, spent just two years in the Syrian capital before she had to flee on a snowy day last February, crossing the border to Lebanon, with little idea of where to go next.

Yet Damascus has marked her forever. The day before she left, she watched in horror as Syrian security forces rounded up 15 friends and colleagues at the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression. Five are still in Syrian prisons, held without charge. ….. She was released and went first to a friend’s house, before returning home at midnight to face her father. “He wasn’t happy,” she said. Not only had she lied to him about her job, but she had crossed a forbidden line. “He never wanted any of us to be in politics, and he considers activism to be politics,” she said.

The next day, she left Syria, borrowing money from friends. Her father refused to help. To this day, he will not speak to her. …

Can Turkey’s ‘Soft’ Power Work in Syria?
Huffington Post 12/20/2012
Daniel Wagner and Giorgio Cafiero

Neo-Ottomanism and Kemalism are competing ideologies that have driven Turkey’s foreign policy for many years. Neo-Ottomanism is focused on promoting ‘soft power’- ensuring Turkey is well-placed diplomatically, politically and economically to take on a larger role in the Middle East and beyond. Kemalism seeks to preserve the secular legacy of Turkey’s founder (Atatürk), and is focused on the Kurdish nationalist threat to Turkey’s territorial integrity and regional security. Foreign relations have for years been conducted with the goal of minimizing this threat and preserving the secular foundation of the modern Turkish state…..Until the onset of the Spring, Turkey’s soft power engagement with the Middle East was reasonably successful.

Since that time, it has been as powerless to shape the course of events as virtually every other nation – and its zero problems foreign policy has become a foreign policy filled with problems, from the crisis in Syria to a resurgent Kurdish movement to ongoing tension with Israel. Ultimately, Turkey is now in the same boat as the majority of Western countries, and other countries in the region – it does not know how the evolving political change in the region will ultimately turn out, whether the ultimate successor regimes are likely to be pro-Western or Turkish, or what the impact on the regional power balance will be…..21 months into the Syrian uprising, the limits of Turkey’s capacity to influence the course of events inside Syria have been demonstrated.

If the Syrian crisis leads to the establishment of a semi-autonomous Kurdish state in northern Syria, whereby the Kurdistan Workers’ Party acquires a safe haven from where it may launch attacks against Turkey’s armed forces, the ongoing turmoil in southeastern Turkey could greatly expand. If a desperate Assad wages a chemical attack in Aleppo – prompting a NATO military operation in Syria – Turkey could find itself at war with forces supported by the countries Turkey depends on for natural gas imports – Russia and Iran. Furthermore, if radical Salafist factions (including Jabhat Al-Nusra, the Ahrar Al-Sham Brigades or the Suqur Al-Sham Division) were to acquire power within Syria, new security dilemmas will arise for all states in the region.

In sum, the Syrian crisis has pushed Turkey away from its idealistic “zero problems with neighbors” approach to foreign policy and more toward a pro-democracy, moderate, Sunni Islamist foreign policy….. Turkey is betting that Assad will fall, and it wants to be first in line to influence the successor government. There’s nothing ‘soft’ about that approach to foreign policy, nor is it likely to result in zero problems going forward. It may all backfire, depending on who takes control in Damascus.

Which Islamists?: Religion and the Syrian Civil War
Adnan Zulfiqar Interviewed by Haroon Moghul,December 19, 2012

Zulfiqar recently traveled to Turkey, meeting with Syrian opposition figures, religious scholars, rebel fighters, Turkish officials and Turkish think tanks, in an effort to get a handle on what’s happening in the Syrian civil war as it approaches the two-year mark.

How did Salafis come to take such a dominant role?

does the Syrian opposition in general want a more democratic Syria?

With the rebel push for Damascus, is Syria about to fall? Everyone is bracing for a prolonged fight. But Assad cannot hold power without Sunni support, so a seemingly intractable situation could change if the Sunnis of Damascus begin to openly abandon him.

Some fear that if the regime falls, there will be a repeat of Afghanistan, with competing militias and warlords. I think these are uninformed predictions.

When speaking of Islamists, for example, the first question should be “which ones?” There’s a fair amount of diversity among Islamists despite some ideological similarities.

Across the Middle East, people strongly identify with Islam and in many countries this identification has been suppressed in one way or another by authoritarian regimes. Having secured their freedom, it shouldn’t be surprising that the people, in places like Egypt and Tunisia, are strongly asserting their religious identity.

Syria’s Next Problem
By Adnan A. Zulfiqar, December 22, 2012, Diplomat

Sectarian conflict might dominate coverage of Syria today, but internal Sunni dynamics will define its tomorrow. Tensions between Alawis and Sunnis won’t be settled over night, but the demographics in Syria do not suggest a prolonged conflict similar to Iraq or Lebanon.

…An impending power vacuum is inevitable so focus must shift to the competitors aiming to fill that space. The common consensus is that the opposition’s political and military factions are poised to battle for authority. In reality, this competition highlights a more fundamental confrontation: traditionalist Sunnism versus its more puritanical Salafi strain. …Al-Khatib, a Sunni traditionalist, can counter the growing appeal of Salafism. Rebel militias are dominated by an ideological spectrum of Salafi fighters, but are united by both the cause and their interpretive approach to Islam’s foundational texts. Despite Salafism never having mass appeal in Syrian society, there is potential for that to change.

….. Salafis do dominate the fighting force, but revolutions only involve a fraction of the people; elections involve many more. As Egypt has taught us, people’s support for revolution is not always an endorsement of the revolutionaries. It is also true that Salafism has never had mass appeal in Syria and, more importantly, opposition to it has been rooted less in sensational caricatures than in its religious heterodoxy. Yet, prolonged conflict changes a society. Already support for Salafis appears to be far higher than before; people may not always reward revolutionaries, but they don’t often discard them either.

… The revolution is rebranding Syrian Salafis, even the extreme ones…..The United States’ recent labeling of Jabhat al-Nusra, the most prominent Salafi militia, as a terrorist group only bolstered its mass appeal. As the conflict prolongs, the Sunni balance of power will shift resulting in serious long-term consequences. A speedy end to the conflict must be the highest priority.

…First, we should increase our support for local councils in opposition-held northern Syria. Not only is the north a vital safe haven for Syrian civilians, but its security will contribute to Syria’s future stability.

Second, we must engage in symbolic acts of public diplomacy. High profile visits to refugee camps or inviting Mu’az al-Khatib to the White House…

Finally, a forward-located embassy near the Syrian border in Jordan or Turkey would not only demonstrate serious engagement,

Adnan A. Zulfiqar is a Fellow at the Truman National Security Project.

Syria bags Pyrrhus victory on the soccer pitch
By James M. Dorsey

Supporters of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad portrayed this weekend’s winning of the West Asian soccer championship by defeating Iraq as a unifying, national achievement against all odds. Yet, Syria’s success 22 months into an increasingly brutal civil war hardly constitutes the equivalent of Iraq’s winning of the Asian Cup in 2007 at the peak of that country’s sectarian violence.

Syrians turn to black humor amid misery

The letter from a Syrian child offers Santa Claus some advice for his visit this year. He should not come in his sleigh, because “not even a fly” can now survive the fight for the skies going on between President Bashar al-Assad’s government and rebel opponents. But most important of all, Santa must not wear his traditional outfit.

Can Lebanon Survive the Syrian Crisis?
Paul Salem Paper, December 2012, Carnegie Paper

From Bartolo’s excellent new blog: Syria News – Dec 23 (Take a look)

Comments (490)

Pages: « 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 [10] Show All

451. revenire said:

Russia, China, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and many others are the true friends of Syria and will help rebuild her when the FSA apes have been cleansed.

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December 27th, 2012, 7:30 pm


452. Citizen said:

447. young boy ! Play in the virtual world such as Don Quixote and Grinder !

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December 27th, 2012, 7:30 pm


453. MarigoldRan said:

Isn’t that foreign interference in the internal affairs of Syria?

Aren’t you people the ones who argue against foreign interference?

EDIT: And now you say you welcome foreign support? I don’t get it. I thought you wanted NO foreign interference in the internal affairs of Syria.

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December 27th, 2012, 7:32 pm


454. MarigoldRan said:

Once again, you said you wanted Russia, Iran, and other FOREIGN countries to help you.

Isn’t that foreign interference in the internal affairs of Syria?

Aren’t you people the ones who argue against foreign interference?

EDIT: And now you say you welcome foreign support? I don’t get it. I thought you wanted NO foreign interference in the internal affairs of Syria.

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December 27th, 2012, 7:41 pm


455. zoo said:

Who asked them to be have a role? It’s all about the Basharphobia, not the regime…

Syrian fighters reject Assad role in interim govt

Friday 28 December 2012
Last Update 27 December 2012 11:04 pm

ISTANBUL: Syria’s opposition National Coalition said it would agree to any solution for a political transition as long as it excludes President Bashar Assad and his family.
“We will accept any political solution that does not include the Assad family nor those who harmed the Syrian people,” Coalition spokesman Walid Al-Bunni told a press conference in Istanbul.
“Our first condition for them is to leave the country,” Bunni said in remarks translated from Arabic, referring to the Assad family and the regime’s inner circle.
The opposition said Assad’s forces had killed too many people for him to play a role in any solution.
In Paris, French Foreign Ministry deputy spokesman Vincent Floreani said Assad should not have any role in Syria’s political transition as he had too much blood on his hands.

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December 27th, 2012, 7:43 pm


456. zoo said:

The ‘desperate’ coalition said it is ready to accept any political solution without Bashar and are coming with “serious” and “creative’ ideas to encourage high level defections.

Why defecting if the regime is to stay in place?

SNC to support, coordinate political defections
December 28, 2012 12:37 AM
The Daily Star
Syrian dissident Riad Seif attends a meeting of the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, formed after the Syrian National Council (SNC) agreed to the new group, in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)
Syrian dissident Riad Seif attends a meeting of the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, formed after the Syrian National Council (SNC) agreed to the new group, in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)
A+ A-

BEIRUT: The just internationally recognized opposition Syrian National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces announced the formation of a new body Thursday aimed at coordinating efforts of political defectors from Syria.

Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2012/Dec-28/200120-snc-to-support-coordinate-political-defections.ashx#ixzz2GIr2yPeI
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)

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December 27th, 2012, 7:49 pm


457. zoo said:

“The rape of Syria””
The Top Geopolitical Tragedy of This Year: The Syrian Bloodbath

In all likelihood, it will be next year’s tragedy as well.
December 27, 2012 |
By Pepe Escobar

The top geopolitical tragedy in 2012 is bound to remain the top geopolitical tragedy in 2013: the rape of Syria.


The Salafis and Salafi-jihadis of the al-Nusrah Front – 7th century fanatics, beheading enthusiasts and car-bombing operatives who do the bulk of the fighting – were not invited. After all, the al-Nusrah Front has been branded a “terrorist organization” by Washington.

Now check the reaction of a Muslim Brotherhood (MB) bigwig, Hama-born deputy comptroller general Mohammed Farouk Tayfour; he said the decision was “too hasty”. And check the reaction of the new Syrian opposition leader, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, at a “Friends of Syria” meeting in Morocco; the decision must be “reexamined”. Virtually all “rebel” outfits publicly declared their undying love for the hardcore al-Nusrah. 

So with the al-Nusrah fanatics probably disguising their Islamically correct beards under a prosaic hoodie, expect plenty more “rebel” advances on Damascus – despite two major beatings (last July and then this month), courtesy of Syrian government counter-offensives. After all, that lavish training by US, British and Jordanian Special Forces has got to yield some results, not to mention the loads of extra lethal weapons provided by those paragons of democracy in the Persian Gulf. By the way, the al-Nusrah Front controls sections of devastated Aleppo.

Sectarian hatred rules 
Then there’s the Orwellian, brand new National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces – a Washington-Doha co-production. Meet the new boss, same as the old (lousy) boss, which was the Syrian National Council (SNC). It’s just rhetoric; the only thing that matters for the “National Coalition” is to get more lethal weapons. And they love al-Nusrah, even if Washington doesn’t. 

Qatar unloaded tons of weapons “like candy” (according to a US arms dealer) in “liberated” Libya. Only after the Benghazi blowback did the Pentagon and the State Department wake up to the fact that weaponizing the Syrian rebels may be, well, the road to more blowback. Translation: Qatar will keep unloading tons of weapons in Syria. The US will keep “leading from behind”. 


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December 27th, 2012, 7:59 pm


458. MarigoldRan said:

Right. And I guess the random artillery shelling and bombing of Sunni villages by Alawite-piloted jets had nothing to do with the sectarian hatred in the country. After all, the regime was fighting ‘terrorists’, right?


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December 27th, 2012, 8:07 pm


459. majedkhaldoun said:

In the last two days 13 plane has been destroyed, In Menneg airport there is 25 aeroplane, Assad so far lost 145 plane.

اسقاط طآئرة سوخوي في مورك حمآه لواء المتحابين بالله – اليوم
اسقاط طائرة ميغ قرب جبل زين العابدين حماة – اليوم
اسقاط طائرة مروحية في دير بعلبة حمص – اليوم
… الجيش الحر يدمر 3 مروحيات ودبابه على ارض مطار كوريس العسكري في حلب

اسقاط ميغ فوق جبل بلعاس شرقي حماة – أمس
اسقاط ميغ فوق مورك غربي حماة لواء المتحابين بالله – أمس
اسقاط طائرة حربية بكفرزيتا حماة – أمس
اسقاط مروحية فوق مطار المزة العسكري دمشق – أمس

ثلاث طائرات دمروا و هم في أرض مطار منغ العسكري صباح أمس ..See More

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December 27th, 2012, 8:19 pm


460. William Scott Scherk said:

Longtime Syria Comment contributor, editor and moderator Camille Alexandre Otrakji has published some results of a new initiative: “The Syrian Dialogue Project” (first link to the Arabic, English here). Here are a few paragraphs from the Creative Syria ‘dialogue’ site, which is large:

The Syrian Dialogue project is an initiative by a group of Syrians from inside and outside Syria that aims to provide a platform for sharing and debating the views of “the silent majority” in Syria

Most of the politically active Syrians speak or act on behalf of two extreme sides of the Syrian crisis, driven by their emotional systems where fear, ambitions or anger determine personal or collective group choices and actions. The center, on the other hand, is generally more flexible, prudent, realistic and pragmatic. It is also, we believe, probably the largest segment of the Syrian people. Therefore it is crucial that this group of Syrians is empowered with a platform to help it participate in the shaping of the narrative of the crisis and in helping present moderate proposals for ending the complex crisis.

In phase one of the project, we follow a complex methodology to try to answer a basic, yet unanswered, question:

What’s on the minds of the Syrian people? What are their worries? What are there aspirations? and what are their priorities

To answer the above question we invited ten Syrians who actively called for cautious, evolutionary reforms (Group1) and ten other Syrians who are opposed to the current system of government and are in favor of faster and more far reaching changes to take place (Group2) . Members of each group answered the question from their different perspectives. Members of a third, center, group then tried to produce a list of answers to the question by voting on each of the 74 answers provided by the two other groups, then sorting those answers according to the highest votes. All answers were edited and combined in a comprehensive top 20 list that the center team is proposing as the project’s answer to the important question: “what is on the mind of the Syrian people today?”

More from the press release of December 23:

The two teams worked to express the hopes and fears of the Syrian people, and propose outlines for a more comprehensive dialogue aimed at finding a solution that preserves national coexistence and creates opportunities for a better political future. The outcome of this dialogue is not intended to be a final solution or an answer to all issues that ail Syria, but rather as a contribution to a desired, more comprehensive, national dialogue, and a project that casts light at all issues that participants deem essential. Participants have put the outcome of their dialogue at the disposal of all politicians, analysts, and stakeholders in the Syrian crisis, as well as the Syrian people itself.

The primary outcome of this dialogue pointed out that the majority of moderate opinions stopped existing in the raging media, and that many Syrians don’t feel represented on the ground, mainly because they do not believe that the anger caused by tyranny or the hope to build a more vital and diverse political life should mean this radical division between the two sides that are dominating the Syrian political scene today.

A majority of participants expressed their belief that after about two years of conflict, survival has become the number one concern for Syrians. This was the result of widespread violence and the collapse of security and economy.

Issues such as national identity and Syria long-term regional policy objectives were also prominent, despite not being tackled in the media. This shows a serious defect in the process of building public opinion. Opinions expressed during the dialogue voiced a serious concern that Syria could witness a sectarian-based division of power, which will move the political life from tyranny to a pre-state model of sectarian and ethnic loyalty. Participants insisted on citizenship, and rejected all sectarian or ethnic division of power. They also affirmed the importance of preserving human dignity and rights.

Participants expressed a tendency to discuss issues not yet discussed in depth, such as the role of the army in the post-conflict Syria, the future role of President Bashar Al Assad, and even protecting the environment. The participants linked important issues such as personal safety to deeper issues, such as national conciliation and the need to debate radically different economic policy alternatives for Syria, as well as building a legal framework for a democratic and diverse state.

This project is open for everyone to participate, as it aims at creating a common ground where all Syrians interested in a solution to the crisis can meet.

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December 27th, 2012, 8:22 pm


461. Tara said:

The US should provide the FSA with reconnaissance info about the private airport where a private jet is on call to carry the thug family out when the time comes.. The plane is loaded with cash for immediate use . The airport
is said to be in Yaafour area.

Where is Ali? He may be able to fill us in.

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December 27th, 2012, 8:27 pm


463. MarigoldRan said:

@ William

All this talk is nice, but there’s a war to fight. The regime needs to be punished and Assad needs to go before any negotiations. They have too much blood on their hands for the opposition to even BEGIN negotiations.

Otherwise, it’ll just result in another civil war 30 years from now. This is NOT the first time the regime has done something like this. It is the SECOND time. The regime and their supporters obviously cannot coexist with the majority of Syrians and so the regime must be destroyed for any hope of lasting peace.

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December 27th, 2012, 8:45 pm


464. Tara said:

Syria’s War Leaves Its Scars On The Children
December 26, 201212:54 PM

Khamis recalls a boy who enrolled within days of fleeing the northern city of Aleppo after a bomb exploded in front of his house.

“He can’t speak any word for three days,” she says.

And so the teachers encouraged the silent boy to draw.

“He draws only windows –- closed windows –- and then he opened the window. Why? We don’t know. We asked him, ‘What do you mean by the open window?’ He can’t speak,” Khamis says.

Rahaf Tinowi, who is only 20, works as the school councilor. She says the children have been damaged by the war.

They often dream about killing Syria’s president, Bashar Assad, she says.

“Not all the families, but a lot of them, are always teaching the children, ‘We have to kill them, to kill, kill, kill, all the family of Bashar,’ ” she says. “So that’s our job. We have to change these views.”

And it is a very hard job to change those views, she says quietly, after all that these children have witnessed.

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December 27th, 2012, 8:54 pm


465. revenire said:

Tara you left parts of the story out: teachers who were part of Aleppo’s professional class that were driven out by fighting the FSA brought to the city. The FSA terrorist apes were very angry Aleppo didn’t join the “revolution” and now it has but not as the FSA wanted.

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December 27th, 2012, 10:05 pm


466. MarigoldRan said:

Mmmm. Revenire, you’re in no position to criticize anyone about leaving “parts of the story” out.

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December 27th, 2012, 10:09 pm


467. William Scott Scherk said:

حرب الإباحية for the absent ANN, from her friends. Another ‘terrorist’ group mutilating two bloody dead bodies of the enemy in Aleppo. In this case, the ear-lopping gusto of the youth is remarkable. They are, sadly, the party of ZOO, the Assadists:

ANN, you may also enjoy this video of presumed Shabiha disembowelling and burning the body of a presumed ‘terrorist’ — including sloshes of fuel and maniacal laughter. Funny how these atrocities pile up while you get fitted for your new hood.

While we watch the rustlings of the curtain behind which the mute Syrian government sits and scuffles, it reminded me that we haven’t lately looked at the Geneva ‘accords’ [PDF] that Brahimi has presented at the Palace.

First, though, from the state information factory, parse these SANA stories:

President al-Assad Issues Decree Naming Winners to Fill Vacant Seats at the People’s Assembly
— keeping to the usual high standards, SANA gamely reports that the President named the ‘Winners’, but oh well, was not able to actually provide those names …

Source at al-Baath Party : Reports on Regional Leadership Meeting to Discuss Brahimi Initiative Baseless
— hard to believe, but the Baath regional command will not meet to discuss the initiative.

Brahimi: Geneva Agreement Includes Enough Ideas to Resolve Crisis in Syria, No Need to Add Any New Points
— no new points, hmmm?

Here’s the “Enough Ideas” deal that was put on the table at the grim-faced palace photo shoot we saw featured at SANA:

A cessation of armed violence must be sustained with immediate, credible and visible actions by the Government of Syria to implement the other items of the six-point plan including:

o Intensification of the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons, including especially vulnerable categories of persons, and persons involved in peaceful political activities; provision without delay through appropriate channels of a list of all places in which such persons are being detained; the immediate organization of access to such locations; and the provision through appropriate channels of prompt responses to all written requests for information, access or release regarding such persons;

o Ensuring freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists and a non-discriminatory visa policy for them;

o Respecting freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully as legally guaranteed.

o In all circumstances, all parties must show full respect for UNSMIS’ safety and security and fully cooperate with and facilitate the Mission in all respects.

o In all circumstances, the Government must allow immediate and full humanitarian access to humanitarian organizations to all areas affected by the fighting. The Government and all parties must enable the evacuation of the wounded, and all civilians who wish to leave to do so. All parties must fully adhere to their obligations under international law, including in relation to the protection of civilians.

Clear Steps in the Transition

The establishment of a transitional governing body which can establish a neutral environment in which the transition can take place. That means that the transitional governing body would exercise full executive powers. It could include members of the present government and the opposition and other groups and shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent.

It is for the Syrian people to determine the future of the country. All groups and segments of society in Syria must be enabled to participate in a National Dialogue process. That process must not only be inclusive, it must also be meaningful—that is to say, its key outcomes must be implemented.

• On this basis, there can be a review of the constitutional order and the legal system. The result of constitutional drafting would be subject to popular approval.

• Once the new constitutional order is established, it is necessary to prepare for and conduct free and fair multi-party elections for the new institutions and offices that have been established.

Of course, looming behind this is the agreement of the Syrian government with the six points of the plan that undergirds the Geneva document. There are many issues that the Syrian government has not responded to coherently …

[6 point] proposal which calls on the Syrian authorities to:

(1) commit to work with the Envoy in an inclusive Syrian-led political process to address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people, and, to this end, commit to appoint an empowered interlocutor when invited to do so by the Envoy.

(2) commit to stop the fighting and achieve urgently an effective United Nations-supervised cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties to protect civilians and stabilize the country.

To this end, the Syrian government should immediately cease troop movements towards, and end the use of heavy weapons in, population centers, and begin pullback of military concentrations in and around population centers.

As these actions are being taken on the ground, the Syrian government should work with the Envoy to bring about a sustained cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties with an effective United Nations supervision mechanism.

Similar commitments would be sought by the Envoy from the opposition and all relevant elements to stop the fighting and work with him to bring about a sustained cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties with an effective United Nations supervision mechanism;

(3) ensure timely provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting, and to this end, as immediate steps, to accept and implement a daily two hour humanitarian pause and to coordinate exact time and modalities of the daily pause through an efficient mechanism, including at local level;

(4) intensify the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons, including especially vulnerable categories of persons, and persons involved in peaceful political activities, provide without delay through appropriate channels a list of all places in which such persons are being detained, immediately begin organizing access to such locations and through appropriate channels respond promptly to all written requests for information, access or release regarding such persons;

(5) ensure freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists and a non-discriminatory visa policy for them;

(6) respect freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully as legally guaranteed.

Now we know why everyone looked so grim and hopeless in the photos. None of this is something whomever runs Syria is prepared to answer in detail, not with a counter-offer, not with an official statement. We shall look vainly for the Syrian government to actually speak the words “transitional government with full powers.”

Here is the most recent words from the envoy himself, in case the grim-faced Baathists are in doubt of what is on the table:

The UN-Arab league envoy will be in Moscow this Saturday for talks, and said he plans to hold additional meetings with United States and Russian officials after two earlier rounds of talks with top officials of those countries earlier this month.

“These two countries have influence and a global responsibility, which qualifies them to help in searching for solutions that we look forward to in Syria,” Mr. Brahimi said.

[ … ]

In calling for a transition government, the Joint Special Representative signalled that there could be no compromise over its level of powers.

“What must be established is a government with full executive powers…” he said. “All the powers of government should be with this government.”

While he also said that the transitional period should not be allowed to lead to the collapse of the state or its institutions, he left open the possibility that the eventual elections could be for a reformed leadership structure.

“These elections will be presidential if it is agreed that the system will remain presidential, as is currently the case, or parliamentary elections if there is agreement that the system in Syria is to be changed to a parliamentary system,” Mr. Brahimi said.

The envoy said peacekeepers were needed to provide “strong observation” of a peace deal, but insisted that such a deployment would not constitute an international occupation of the country.

“These are not foreign forces; they only come with the agreement of the parties,” he said. “When we reach a stage of speaking about peacekeeping forces, it means that there is an agreement, and, thankfully, the parties have agreed that they need these forces.

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December 27th, 2012, 10:40 pm


468. MarigoldRan said:

Considering the amount of support the regime receives from foreign sources like Iran and Russia, you’d think the regime would be more grateful.

And yet in their propaganda and on TV, they continue to trumpet “no foreign interference in Syria’s future!” Either the regime are ungrateful wretches, or they don’t consider Russians and Iranians to be foreigners in Syria.

Which is rather odd, because most people would consider Russians and Iranians to be foreigners if they were in any country other than Russia or Iran.

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December 27th, 2012, 10:55 pm


469. revenire said:

William calm down big fella – we’re on the Internet not at the UN.

The government of Syria will decide on the best course of action and when they do you will be informed via SANA or another such reliable news source.

It sounds to me like you could be a nice chap if you just stopped hanging out with those guys with the funny beards who like to decapitate people.

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December 27th, 2012, 10:59 pm


470. MarigoldRan said:

Ah, the troll speaks.

Your last comment was not worded well. You’re trying too hard.

Don’t say “reliable news source,” because when you say that, you’re implying to everyone that it’s NOT a reliable news source, but you’re trying to pretend otherwise.

One of the best ways to catch trolls is that trolls try too hard.

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December 27th, 2012, 11:02 pm


471. MarigoldRan said:


Also, regime supporters, the authentic ones, are UNABLE to learn from their mistakes. They tend to spew the same nonsense over and over again, mindlessly. It’s a product of their dictatorial system.

You on the other hand adjust your statements based on effect. This shows that you ARE able to adjust to circumstances. Which means that you can’t be an authentic regime supporter.

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December 27th, 2012, 11:09 pm


472. revenire said:

SANA is certainly more reliable than the Saudi new organ, or the Qatari one, or the BBC, or CNN etc. When I wake in the morning i get coffee and enjoy reading news at SANA. Try it with a coffee and some bakery and you will see what I mean.

I support Assad. I supported his father. Hafez did a good job in Hama but perhaps was not as thorough as he could have been – if you catch my meaning friend.

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December 27th, 2012, 11:10 pm


473. MarigoldRan said:

Edited: Hahahhahahaha.

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December 27th, 2012, 11:13 pm


474. Visitor said:

Iraq on the way of the Syrian Revolution,


Wasn’t the first Friday of the Syrian Revolution also called يوم العزة?

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December 27th, 2012, 11:45 pm


475. Hopeful said:

429 Ghufran

Ghufran, I always find your writings on this board to be intelligent and informative. I do not agree with many who criticized you of being a closet regime supporter. I think you care deeply about Syria and, like many of us, want an outcome that saves it from the hell it finds itself in right now. I do agree though that you have a more pressemistic outlook than many here. Perhaps you’ve lived longer than us and have witnessed more.

I do not like the neocons either, but that does not mean to dismiss all their ideas and thoughts. I am a believer that the top two problems in Arab countries are NOT Israel and western imperialism, but 1) lack of democracy and 2) religious radicalism. And by “religious radicalism” I do not just mean the violent Alqaeda types. Our societies are dominated by extreme religious thoughts and ideologies, and all this talk about religious “tolerance” is nonsense. Egypt has just started down the democracy path, and now it’s society has to deal with the religion issue. It will take time.

I am also terrified of the thought of Islamists taking over Syria, but I do blame the current regime for how we ended up here. It is corrupt and utterly incompetent. I also believe that no solution is possible if the regime stays in power. That does not mean that a solution IS possible if it leaves, but at least there will be hope of one. I have many Christian and Alawii friends in Syria and I am very worried about their well-being, but I believe that the regime is doing them more harm than good.

What Syrians need now is a little hope. Any political breakthrough will give them that. Any more military wins will only bring hope to some, and more desperation to others.

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December 28th, 2012, 12:21 am


476. Juergen said:

Great article:

Taking Syria back from the extremists

“The U.S. commitment to aiding the Syrian opposition against the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad has been one of many words and few deeds. ”


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December 28th, 2012, 2:15 am


477. Juergen said:

Manila port operator pulls out of Syria

“TICT was left with no choice but to issue the notice of termination when Syria plunged into a state of full-fledged civil war, which exposed everyone—combatants and civilians alike—to increasing threat of death and destruction on a daily basis,” ICTSI told the local bourse.”


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December 28th, 2012, 3:09 am


479. Visitor said:

Here’s an account of an encounter I had recently with another Alepine who introduced himself to me as Abu el-Meesh, or as many Arabphones would immediately recognize as the term of endearment for Michel.

Abu el-Meesh is a Syriac, who would like his community which he thinks is caught between a rock and a hard place, to maintain neutrality in this war that he sees as a cause of destruction to his beloved Aleppo and he doesn’t hide his bitterness about and lays the blame mostly on revolutioaries. He does distinguish between so-called extremists and mainstream FSA, but at the end of the end of the day they are all the same for him.

Abu el-Meesh opened up to me when he knew that I have relatives in Aleppo that he recognized.  He mentioned that the Armenian community is leaving Aeppo in droves, a sad event we both expressed sorrow to its occurence.  It is not clear at this point in time whether this exodus will become permanent or if it may reverse sometime in the future.  We both surmised that it will all depend upon the length of time the events will take, as we both concurred that the Armenians are an industrialist community with skilled tradespeople who contributed tremendously to the city of Aleppo and beyond.  It was clear from his revelation, that the Armenians are leaving strictly because of economic reasons.

Abu el-Meesh recognizes that a change in Syria is a certainty and an absolute necessity.  However, when I tried to coax him into admitting that the next logical move for his community would be to come out in the open in support of the revolution in order to guarantee a role in the outcome, his answer revealed a typical mercantile and machiavellian attitude characteristic of Syrian bourgoisie.  According to him whoever takes his mom wil become his uncle: اللي بياخد امي بصير عمي.

This is his attitude despite his bitter feelings about so-called extremists and the possibility of ending up with the often talked about Islamic Emirate, imposed by so-called Islamistz, who he said are robbing him of a country that bears the name of his community.  El-Meesh did however make a clear dstinction between Abu Dhar Al-Ghafari and the present day Islamists indicating that the difference between the two is like night and day.  He would have no problem with Abu Dhar’s type of an Islamic Emirate.

El-Meesh also exhibited a tendency to be apologetic towards the regime denying many of the atrocities that we talk about here such as the use of air force to bomb civilian targets, and even the well documented bakery line-up war crimes similar to the one we recently witnessed in 7Hilfaya.  I did swallow his apologetic behaviour for the sake of further revelation, and also due to the fact that he feels sandwiched between a rock and a hard place.

Al-Meesh does reognize that the last 50 years were the worst for Syria in general and for his community in particular.  He also doesn’t buy the rubbish that Assadistan is a protector of minorities in Syria.  In fact, he recognizes that Christians in Syria lost in the last 50 years in ways they never lost throughout their history.  However, there is no way you can convince him or perhaps anyone from within his community of the benefits of taking a stand out in the open with the revolution.  The overriding principle is as he concisely put it: اللي بياخد امي بصير عمي.

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December 28th, 2012, 3:50 am


480. MarigoldRan said:

But the Aleppines have always been like this. What do you expect?

In the end, the revolution came from the countryside. Even many of the original protesters in the cities were originally from the countryside, looking for work in the cities.

Now one of the greatest source of manpower for the FSA are from the refugee camps. Aleppines like him are not necessary for the revolution. They never cared for the poor, so why should the poor care for them?

EDIT: This war is not just of sect. It is also of poor vs rich.

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December 28th, 2012, 3:58 am


481. Juergen said:

Zine el-Abidine and Leilas possessions on auction in Tunis

So soon we will see the big Asmaa shoe sale or shall we bet on an copy of the Marcos shoe museum in Damascus?

The dictator and his Lamborghini

Fast cars, fancy houses, expensive jewelry: The Ben Ali clan in Tunisia it can go well for decades – at the expense of the population. Now, the transitional government auctioned the riches. It is the biggest auction, which existed in Tunisia ever. Unimaginable to see what comes to light and under the hammer.


here is the site of the auction


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December 28th, 2012, 4:19 am


482. Visitor said:

MGR @477,

The comment is not meant to label the Aleppines in general. It is meant is to reveal that the lov-u-gang claim to regime support from among minority communities is nothing but crap, rubbish, bull, and delusional.

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December 28th, 2012, 5:56 am


483. Citizen said:

U.S. destroyer sent to the coast of Syria
The ship is able to track and shoot down ballistic missiles ( and also go to the bottom and rest there In case of aggression ) !

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December 28th, 2012, 7:14 am


484. zoo said:

473. Juergen said:

“Great article: “Taking Syria back from the extremists”

I am surprised you find this article great. It is highly critical of the opposition intimate relation with extremists.
The only solution it proposes is to have the US help the ‘good’ rebels in administering the ‘liberated’ areas as as to make the ‘bad’ rebels less attractive to the desperate young rebels.

This is a very far fetched solution and infantile ( like most of the USA ‘solutions’ in the region).

The ‘good’ rebels are weak and divided and badly need the ‘bad’ ones to achieve military victories, without which despair will destroy them.

The FSA should have avoided the ‘bad’ rebels at start, now it is far too late. They are intrinsincally ‘married’. The eventual fall of the ‘bad’ rebels will be the fall of the whole FSA and they know it.

The only solution that could have save the ‘good’ rebels was a no-fly zone and it did not happen because of the cowardice and the absence of commitment from the international community.

Unless a political solution is found, the fate of the FSA and the northern region is just a matter of time before it collapses, despite the ‘humanitarian’ aid that the Kuwaiti are initiating by end january for a conference on ‘donors’.

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December 28th, 2012, 9:27 am


485. Juergen said:

Russia ‘ready for Syria opposition talks’


“We are consistently working with the regime and all the opposition groups without exception,” Mr Lavrov said.

“We are telling them the same thing: ‘You have to think of your people, of your country. You should agree on a ceasefire. Sit down at the negotiating table.'”


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December 28th, 2012, 9:33 am


486. zoo said:

Al Khatib, acting like the leader representing “All Syrians” is flexing his muscles with Russia.

Syria opposition leader rejects Moscow invitation to talks

Friday December 28 2012

SYRIA’S opposition leader has rejected an invitation from Russia for peace talks, dealing another blow to international hopes that diplomacy can be resurrected to end a 21-month civil war.

Russia, President Bashar al-Assad’s main international protector, said on Friday it had sent an invitation for a visit to Moaz Alkhatib, whose six-week-old National Coalition opposition group has been recognised by most Western and Arab states as the legitimate voice of the Syrian people.

But in an interview on Al Jazeera television, Alkhatib said he had already ruled out such a trip and wanted an apology from Moscow for its support for Assad.

“We have clearly said we will not go to Moscow. We could meet in an Arab country if there was a clear agenda,” he said.

“Now we also want an apology from (Russian Foreign Minister Sergei) Lavrov because all this time he said that the people will decide their destiny, without foreign intervention. Russia is intervening and meanwhile all these massacres of the Syrian people have happened, treated as if they were a picnic.”

“If we don’t represent the Syrian people, why do they invite us?” Alkhatib said. “And if we do represent the Syrian people why doesn’t Russia respond and issue a clear condemnation of the barbarity of the regime and make a clear call for Assad to step down? This is the basic condition for any negotiations.”

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December 28th, 2012, 9:52 am


487. zoo said:

A Turkish-Islamist inspired Syrian batallion is born: It was overdue, money will flow….

Syrian rebels name batallion after former Turkish (Islamist) PM Erbakan


A group of Syrian dissidents have declared themselves as students of Turkey’s first Islamist prime minister, the late Necmettin Erbakan, while publishing a video online calling for jihad, daily Hürriyet has reported.

The dissidents read passages of the Quran and called on other Syrians to join the holy fight.

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December 28th, 2012, 9:56 am


488. zoo said:

When one read the news, one wonders what is making Lakhdar Ibrahimi still hopeful? Who is behind him?

As Syria suffering spirals, envoy hopes for political transition
By Joe Sterling, Saad Abedine and Holly Yan, CNN

December 28, 2012 — Updated 1043 GMT (1843 HKT)


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December 28th, 2012, 10:00 am


489. zoo said:

Seismic events will shape the Middle East

December 27, 2012 8:26 pm
By David Gardner


It was the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, a rash roll of the regional dice, that reignited the historic battle between Sunni and Shia Islam. Syria and, potentially, Lebanon are currently the main frontline of this corrosive contest.
Conversely, the west’s decision to stand back from Sunni majority Syria’s attempt to break free from the Assad regime in effect leaves the provision of aid and arms to the rebels to the Gulf monarchies, led by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. In Libya, the US chose to “lead from behind”. In Syria, America and its European allies have chosen to subcontract to the Sunni supremacists of the Gulf. That has consequences. It has turned Syria into a magnet for jihadi extremists and enhanced the influence of local Islamist radicals beyond what Syria’s plural mosaic society would normally engender.

Something similar happened while the west dithered over Bosnia, creating an opening for veterans of the western-backed jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The consequences then were limited. The Wahhabis, as the Bosniaks called them, moved on to Chechnya. This time the jihadis are unlikely to give up a strategic position in the Levant, especially after they squandered the opportunity given them by the US-led occupation of Iraq, where they alienated the Sunni tribes and launched a self-defeating campaign of terror against the Shia majority.

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December 28th, 2012, 10:07 am


490. Hopeful said:

How did the Syrians lose their humanity?


It is difficult to have any hope after seeing such callous cruelty!

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December 28th, 2012, 10:10 am


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