Week’s Round Up (4 May 2012)

Maps of the Syrian Conflict: Please acknowledge either syriamap.wordpress.com or, if you have space, as Brendan O’Hanrahan & Esther Kim, or Kim & O’Hanrahan..

The Week’s Round UP -

Because the Annan Truce has been so badly observed by both sides – government and rebel- most observers have struggled to apportion blame. The Syrian government has insisted that the rebels are the primary violators. It highlights the list of bombs being set off in Syria’s major cities and attacks against security personnel. For example, On Friday, a week ago, a suicide bombing in Damascus killed nine people in the Midan quarter and wounded others. Earlier this week, attacks on a government security compound and the country’s central bank killed nine and injured 100. In Aleppo, an explosive device was detonated in the car of the headmaster of Jaber bin Hayyan school in Aleppo, causing his death. Evidently, Headmaster al-Freij was killed when the explosive device went off as he was getting on his car in front of his house in Hanano area. Sana reported that eight students at the police academy in the countryside of Aleppo were kidnapped by armed elements. On the coast of Latakia, a group of insurgents who reportedly came from Turkey in inflatable boats landed off the coast of Latakia and staged an attack on a military unit stationed north of the city about 20 miles from the Turkish border. A number of Syrian soldiers were killed and perhaps some of the insurgents before they escaped back to Turkey.

The Syrian opposition insists that the Syrian government is responsible for these killings, i.e. they are setting off the bombs in Syria’s cities and that defecting soldiers attacked their own in Latakia. In Hama, where scores of people were killed by a deadly explosion in a poor section of town, opposition spokespeople insisted that the military had fired Scud missiles into the apartment block. The Syrian government insisted that rebels were responsible for the deaths due to the accidental explosion of an opposition “bomb factory”.

Hama – Explosion kills many
The BBC’s Jim Muir: “This kind of devastation would have been hard to cause by conventional shelling”

Opposition explanations for these deaths are not convincing. The government and Syrian military have taken the gloves off and are executing opposition members in ever greater numbers. There is no need to exaggerate their role in Syria’s brutality. The truth is horrifying enough. The reality is that the insurgency is become every more skilled and competent at killing. Far from destroying the opposition, the government crackdown is only serving to drive the opposition to ever more lethal methods of gaining power.

A harrowing report by Amnesty International of the Idlib crackdown will send shivers down anyone’s spin. After the retreat from Homs, the opposition became centered in the Idlib region on the Turkish boarder. The government crackdown there over the last few months has been brutal. Syrian forces have been executing and burning the residents of Idlib, Amnesty says.

In the Sarmin area near Idlib a mother claimed that her three sons had been taken from their home early on 23 March and killed. “[The military] did not let me follow them outside; every time I tried to go out they pushed me back,” the mother said. “When I was able to go outside, after a couple of hours, I found my boys burning in the street. They had been piled on top of each other and had motorbikes piled on top of them and set on fire.”

The son of Ali Haydar, a long-time and much respected leader of the Syrian Nationalist Party who was jailed for decades, was assassinated on the road to Tartus. This is not the branch of the SSNP which had taken a place in the “Progressive Front” in the Syrian Parliament.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has blamed the regime for widespread violations of the truce — prompting Syria to fire back that his comments were “outrageous” and accuse him of bias. Ban and Annan have cited violations by both sides, but generally portrayed the regime as the main aggressor. A Tishrin editorial said Ban has avoided discussing rebel violence in favor of “outrageous” statements against the Syrian government. The editorial said the international community has applied a double standard, ignoring “crimes and terrorist acts” against Syria and thus encouraging more violence.

At least four students were reportedly killed when Syrian security forces cracked down on a student demonstration at Aleppo University. Aleppo University suspended all lectures and classes, and evacuated the dorms of all residents as army units raided the campus. Aleppo University, the second largest university in the country, has been witnessing several demonstrations daily for over a month. Killing students and closing down the dormitories for the rest of the school year is a new phase in Syria’s metastasizing conflict.

So far, the uprising had been largely kept out of the schools. There had always been small, quick demonstrations organized at the University of Aleppo, but they were contained. The regime has depicted this uprising as the work of the rural poor and unemployed — those left behind by globalization and economic reform — and most importantly to the propaganda of the regime, those most likely to become salafists and jihadists.

University students are Syria’s future. They are the youth of Syria’s middle class and elite families – the ones who are supposed to be sympathetic to the regime and leery of chaos and revolution.

The class divide in Syria is now meeting the generation gap. Young Syrians – even those from “good” families – can no longer remain silent or remain on the sidelines. They are rebelling against their parents who are ordering them to shut up and stay out of the line of fire.

There are unlikely to be any great watersheds in this revolution. Syria is slowly grinding toward civil war and the collapse of the state. Universities – just one additional state institution, even if a very important one – have now slipped over the edge. They have become part of the boiling ocean of Syrian discontent. Next fall, they will probably not open. Parents will be thinking how to get their kids enrolled in foreign schools for the next year — and probably for years to come. The killing of university students has caused thousands to protest in Aleppo, the largest the city has seen since the start of the uprising.

Ahmad Fawzi, Annan’s spokesman, told a U.N. briefing in Geneva that “there are small signs of compliance,” despite continuing violations. On Thursday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the plan might be doomed.

“If the regime’s intransigence continues, the international community is going to have to admit defeat,” he said, adding that new measures might have to be taken, including a return to the U.N. Security Council. He gave no further details.

– News Round Up –

Daily life in Syria
Produced by Gari Sullivan, Friday, 4 May 2012

For those living in Syria, Normal is impossible. Even the most mundane, everyday tasks become difficult and dangerous when your home is a war zone.

Defying a Dictator: Meet the Free Syrian Army
by Jonathan Spyer in World Affairs

In Sarmin, the FSA appears to consist almost entirely of defectors from Assad’s army, several hundred of them. The force appeared disciplined and serious. The fighters are uniformed, equipped with AK-47 rifles; I saw RPG-7s, heavy machine guns, and a mortar. They are commanded by an impressive figure, Lieutenant Bilal Khabir, a twenty-five-year-old former officer of the airborne forces of Assad’s army. He and his men are motivated, respond to commands with military precision, and appear willing to fight to the end. “Either Bashar stays or we stay,” Khabir told me. “The regime has the heavy weapons—the people are with us.”

Khabir speaks with the earnestness and sincerity of a youth counsellor—hardly a macho stereotype. Yet volunteer soldiers seem far more likely to trust a leader like Khabir over a glory-seeker (especially when they are out-manned and out-gunned), and the young officer left me with the impression that the fighters in Sarmin mean business

In Binnish, on the other hand, the FSA is a smaller force, the majority of which is made up of local men who have taken up arms rather than former members of the army. Uniforms are scarcer, and the local FSA fighters do not bear arms during the Friday demonstrations that accompany prayer services, and hence have a less imposing and visible presence in the town.

Not surprisingly, given its organic development, and consistent with similarly formed rebel groups in Libya, the FSA generally appears to be a loose collection of local militias, consisting largely of army deserters but also of Syrian civilians who have taken up arms against the regime. It is well equipped for street fighting, but does not have the weaponry or the expertise to withstand a frontal assault from Assad’s forces at this stage. It also does not appear to have an efficient or centralized command structure, though there is clearly communication on some level between different
local elements. There is a notional, Syria-wide leadership cadre based in Antakya, Turkey, and headed by former Air Force Colonel Riyad al-Asaad. But local FSA commanders readily admit that they are not under the daily command and control of this leadership. One civilian activist whom I spoke to openly dismissed the “national” leaders, noting (accurately) that they are confined to their compound by Turkish authorities and unable to keep up with, much less direct, fast-moving events on the ground in Syria. The FSA officers I spoke to also acknowledged the splits that have emerged in the ostensible leadership of the organization—with General Mustafa al-Sheikh, a recent defector from the Syrian Army, emerging as a rival potential leader to Riyad al-Asaad.

Asked what they needed to win their fight against Assad, the FSA men I spoke to—Lieutenant Khabir in Sarmin, Captain Ayham al-Kurdi in Antakya, and the fighters Mohammed and Ahmed in Binnish—all repeated a single demand: an internationally imposed zone from which they could organize and operate. A secondary, often-repeated demand was for arms and supplies—from the West, from Arab countries, or, as a few men said, “even from Israel.” When I asked if the FSA could win in the absence of outside assistance, they demurred. Kurdi and Khabir both acknowledged that, without international aid, the situation could continue “for
years” (Kurdi’s phrase). Khabir also mentioned the
possibility of a long guerrilla war, “like pesh merga,” as he put it, referring to the Kurdish guerrilla force. Kurdi added that the regime would not ultimately fall solely at the hands of the FSA, but rather as a result of a combined political struggle,…..

Idlib Province is a deeply conservative Sunni area. There is also a considerable presence of Salafi Islamist fighters in the FSA in both Binnish and Sarmin. Although these fighters appeared to be local men, not foreign jihadis, the Salafi presence, and the prominent role a number of these individuals have taken in recent fighting against Assad’s forces, should not be ignored.

In conversation with FSA fighters and activists, the sectarian issue, and the differing loyalties of the various Syrian communities, surfaced regularly. Inevitably, I heard a somewhat sanitized version of this from FSA commanders, while rank-and-file fighters and civilian activists were more likely to express openly sectarian views. Captain Ayham al-Kurdi echoed others when he observed that the fight represented a struggle primarily between Sunni Arabs and Alawi Arabs. “Ninety percent of Alawis,” he said, are with the regime. “Christians are neutral, the Druze are split, and the Sunnis who benefitted from the regime support it, while the others are opposed.” A civilian activist speaking to me in Binnish was more blunt: “This is civil war between the clans,” he said, then hurriedly reminding me that Sunnis nevertheless rejected the possibility of sectarian warfare as a matter of principle….

What I saw in Syria was a young but authentic insurgent movement, developing in a mode well established by others before it and set to fight a long and costly war of attrition against a classically ruthless foe who will do anything to stay in power. The daunting forces of Assad’s dictatorship have already shown their capability in Homs and elsewhere, but the rebel fighters I encountered displayed the will and determination to take on those forces, despite limited weaponry and weak central authority. As Lieutenant Khabir in Sarmin put it to me, “The regime is fascist and criminal. We expect what happened in Homs to happen here. But even with our simple weapons, we’re ready to fight. Our morale is high. We don’t know how to run away.”…

Louay Hussein, President of Building The Syrian State current, writes to Annan:

…..The authorities have recently been targeting famous non-violence figures. During the last few days they arrested the writer Salama Keileh and the religious figure Mouaz Al-Khatib, in addition to other recent similar arrests for peaceful figures such as the human rights activists Mazen Darwish and Mahmoud Isa; the non-violence campaigner Mohammad Ammar and many tens of young activists who campaigned for the killing to stop and for ending the Syrian blood shed.

We urge you to intervene with the Syrian authorities to release immediately and unconditionally, all these detainees in addition to the thousands of other peaceful detainees. Otherwise, time will pass and the political process that you are trying to build will find no partner outside the prisons, nor any party would have any faith in the authority or even the possibility of a peaceful solution.

Econmy

Syrian economy spirals downward as deposits, loans plunge
By Donna Abu Nasr, Tamara Walid, May 04, 2012, Bloomberg

Syria’s economy is collapsing. Deposits fell by an average of 35 percent in 2011 at Bank of Syria and Overseas SA, Bank Audi Syria and Banque Bemo Saudi Fransi, according to April filings to the Damascus Securities Exchange.

Lending plunged 22 percent last year, the filings by the three banks show, compared with a 6.9 percent increase in Egypt and a 3.9 percent gain in the United Arab Emirates. The central bank’s foreign reserves may drop to $10 billion this year, half the 2010 peak, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The 14-month long uprising that has claimed more than 9,000 lives is taking an increasing toll on the economy and the business class, mostly drawn from the majority Sunni Muslim community. Their support for President Bashar Assad – who stems from the minority Alawite sect – may buckle as the economy, which is forecast to contract 5.9 percent in 2012 by the EIU, spirals downward.

If “the government cannot come up with a consistent policy to stop this economic deterioration, at some point in time Syrian businesses are going to realize that backing Bashar Assad himself is too costly,” Ayesha Sabavala, an EIU economist on Syria, said in a telephone interview.

Syria’s pound weakened to about 68 per U.S. dollar, from 47 per dollar before the uprising started in March 2011, according to data on the Syrian central bank’s website. Unofficial money exchangers on the Lebanese side of the border sell the pound at about 72 per dollar.

Syria’s economy shrank 3.4 percent in 2011 because of the unrest, the EIU’s estimates show. Inflation may accelerate to 14.7 percent in 2012 from 4.8 percent in 2011, it said.

One of the country’s main exports has slumped since the European Union’s decision to stop importing Syrian crude oil last year. That has cost it $3 billion in revenue, Oil Minister Sufian Alao told the official Syrian Arab News Agency on April 30. State media regularly report “terrorist” attacks on the country’s oil pipelines, most recently in Deir Ezzor province this week.

Syria produced about 380,000 barrels a day before the move to impose sanctions, of which 150,000 barrels were exported, Alao said.

“The economy is a downward spiral and is trapped,” said Jarmo Kotilaine, chief economist at National Commercial Bank, Saudi Arabia’s biggest bank by assets. “This spiral can continue, and if it does, everyone including the government and individuals will revert to a more simple way of doing business. It’s not the ideal scenario.”…

Protracting crisis worsens poverty in Syria
2012-04-29

DAMASCUS, April 28 (Xinhua) — Life turns increasingly unaffordable for a large segment of the Syrian society as the spinning-out crisis in the country beats hard on the less well-off and spirals the percentage of the poor.

A recent report issued by the Labor Union in Syria reveals that the proportion of the poor has amounted to 41 percent of the 23 million Syrian population. It says that the Tenth Five-Year Plan was ambitious to create 625,000 new jobs in the first two years, but it actually provided 277,000, or only 44 percent.

Workers in both public and private sectors and retirees complain about their salaries which have been eroded in light of the skyrocketing prices of almost all commodities, as well as about the failure of the government to control the markets.

The daunting pressures on all businesses in Syria have forced many employers to sack workers, raising thus the number of the jobless.

The report says special attention should be paid to the workshops and crafts and to motivate them to shift from the shadow economy to formal and legal economy, and also emphasizes the need to restrict the activities of investment and holding companies in the high-cost projects, and to increase the state’s support for the poor and develop a consistent policy of wages compatible with the cost of living.

As observers fear that the rising poverty caused by prolonged uncertainties would foment popular wrath, the report calls for the need to reduce unemployment, especially among young people, by increasing government investment in public sector with the cooperation of the private sector to provide new job opportunities.

Prominent Syrian economic expert Aref Dalileh recently told media that the economic problems in Syria have stemmed from the decades-long political system, while the economic factor in turn constitutes the main reason for the current events in Syria today.

According to Dalileh, the roots of the economic problems lie in the way the government manages the national economy and the economic surplus, especially its failure to use the surplus in development.

The Syrian unrest that erupted over a year ago and the ensuing U.S., EU and Arab sanctions have tightened the squeeze around the already slow-moving economy that has been striving to shift from the socialist style to open market, hitting hard all businesses in the country ranging from tourism, oil to banking sectors, and after all, people’s daily life.

As the EU said lately that it is mulling new package of sanctions on Syria, Amru Eiz-eldin, a 35-year-old worker, told Xinhua that “It’s not a secret that prices have gone up tremendously and that people’s purchasing power has decreased. We’ re all feeling it.”

“Some people are no longer eating meat,” he said.

Der Spiegel: Losing Hope In Syria’s Devastated Countryside, 2012-05-01

The world is still hoping that the efforts of United Nations envoy Kofi Annan will succeed in Syria, but regime forces have inflicted such brutal destruction in the country’s northwest Idlib province that no one there believes peace is possible …

Regime Change in Syria: We Should Learn the Lessons of Iraq
Huffington Post – Steven Strauss

Obama’s critics cite our success in Libya as a model for intervening in Syria. … America’s worst case scenario in Syria would be a civil war, resulting in a failed state. That failed Syrian state could become a regional base for terrorism, whereby chemical weapon stockpiles fall into the hands of Hezbollah, Hamas, al Qaeda or other terrorist groups. The Assad regime is evil; the successor regime could be even worse. As the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff emphasized, we know almost nothing about the Syrian rebels.

In Libya, the Qaddafi regime openly threatened genocide against the opposition. While this remains a risk in Syria, currently violence is at a murderous (but not genocidal) level. Over the last year, approximately 9,000 to 11,000 people died in Syria as a result of the Assad regime’s brutality. The death of even one person is a tragedy, and the Assad regime has murdered many times over.

However, to put this in context: people are being killed at the rate of about 40-50 deaths per 100,000 Syrians, per year. This is equivalent to the murder rate in New Orleans or Detroit. Perhaps we should intervene in New Orleans before tackling Syria.

The Politics of Sectarian Insecurity: Alawite ‘Asabiyya and the Rise and Decline of the Asad Dynasty – Leon T. Goldsmith began his study in 2008; this is his PhD dissertation

ProjectSyndicate: The Anarchy Factor in Syria
2012-05-02

The failure of the Obama administration, its Western allies, and several Middle East regional powers to take bolder action to stop the carnage in Syria is often explained by their fear of anarchy. In fact, anarchy is setting in now: it is preceding …

INTERVIEW: Opposition says al-Assad’s regime is a “stinking corpse”
By Jackline Zaher, DPA 2012-05-01

Cairo (DPA) — The leader of Syria’s main opposition group believes the country’s regime is finished and says its citizens are already preparing for a post-Bashar al-Assad era. The president’s regime is “no longer a regime, just an organization of military, security and militia forces that are killing the people,” Burhan Ghalioun, head of the Syrian National Council (SNC), told dpa by phone. “As far as we are concerned it is finished, the only question that remains is how we can bury this stinking corpse,” he said. Ghalioun nevertheless expects al-Assad’s government to remain in place until its security forces becomes powerless. “As a regime it has collapsed on every level, politically, economically and culturally, and it no longer enjoys any relations with the Arab world or internationally,” the Paris-based professor said.

He also said that after the fall of al-Assad, “there will be no basis for continued preferential relations with Iran; and Hezbollah will have to change its approach and deal with the new Syria if the regime changes.”

Al-Assad’s government has been Iran’s military and strategic ally in the region, and both countries provide support to Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and the Islamist group Hamas, based in the Gaza Strip. Ghalioun also rejected reports that the SNC or any revolutionary group in Syria might strike a deal over the future of the strategic Golan Heights in return for Western or Israeli support in bringing down the al-Assad regime. “The Golan is and will remain Syrian territory, and is recognized as such by all the world. Syria’s democratic revolution will be in a better position to regain the Golan.”

“It is the regime, not the opposition, that has collaborated with Israel and allowed it to stay in the Golan,” Ghalioun argued.

Son of former Syrian PM wants to form government in exile
Father imprisoned by Baath party when it came to power in 1963

April 26, 2012,

PARIS (AP) — The son of a former Syrian prime minister says he wants to form a government in exile aimed at bolstering Syrian rebels and encouraging international military intervention.

Nofal al-Dawalibi’s attempt at forming a government of those who oppose Syrian President Bashar Assad only highlights divisions among those trying to oust his regime from outside the country. Al-Dawalibi said Thursday the opposition Syrian National Council, which has enjoyed support from several countries, has failed to accomplish anything and is an “artificial” body.

French diplomats say anti-regime activists in Syria appear to operate on their own and don’t take orders from opposition groups abroad. Al-Dawalibi’s father, Maarouf, was elected prime minister in 1961, but was later jailed and fled to Saudi Arabia in 1963. [ ... ]

Syria faces neo-mujahideen struggle
By Victor Kotsev

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may have won a battle earlier this year (as the retreat of the Free Syrian Army from the ruined city of Homs testifies), but he is nowhere near winning the war. The uprising is quickly turning into a full-scale insurgency – a foreign-sponsored insurgency, to be more precise, which some analysts term a “neo-mujahideen strategy”.

2012-04-28, Thomas Friedman

If the Annan plan fails, then the West, the United Nations and the Arab League need to move swiftly to set up a no-fly zone or humanitarian corridor — on the Turkish-Syrian border — that can provide a safe haven for civilians being pummeled by the regime and send a message to the exhausted Syrian Army and residual supporters of Assad that it is time for them to decapitate this regime and save themselves and the Syrian state. The quicker Assad falls, the less sectarian blood that is shed and the more of the Syrian state that survives, the less difficult a difficult rebuilding will be….

It’s like a kid who was beaten and left uneducated by his parents for 50 years and one day the kid finally decides to fight back, he added. “Morally, you have to support his right to revolt, but this guy is very traumatized.” So let’s help in an intelligent, humane way, but with no illusions that this transition will be easy or a happy ending assured.

CLINTON SAYS TURKEY MULLS REQUEST FOR NATO SUPPPORT

Ghalioun’s statement that there is “No Syrian Kurdistan” Stirs Controversy.

Al-Qamishli: Further demonstrations in the Kurdish regions: Kurdwatch Newsletter

KURDWATCH, April 27, 2012—Despite the existing ceasefire, nationwide protests on April 20, 2012 again resulted in numerous dead and injured. Throughout the country, demonstrators demanded the fall of the regime. Whereas in the previous week, all Kurdish demonstrators took to the streets under a unified, all-Syrian slogan, this week there were once again two slogans. The majority demonstrated under the nationwide slogan »We will win, Assad will lose«. Other demonstrators took to the streets under the slogan »Here is Kurdistan«. This slogan was in protest of the Syrian National Council chairman’s remarks that there is no »Syrian-Kurdistan« [further information on the remarks].

Erbil: Chairman of the Syrian National Council comments on the Kurdish question

KURDWATCH, April 23, 2012—In an interview on April 16, 2012 with the Iraqi-Kurdish magazine Rûdaw, Burhan Ghaliun, Chairman of the Syrian National Council, commented on the Kurdish question. He explained that in Syria there are areas that are predominantly settled by Kurds, but there is no »Syrian Kurdistan«—neither geographically nor politically. To speak of Syrian Kurdistan is to apply the Iraqi model to Syria. He further explained that if the Syrian Kurds continue to cling to a federalist model, this will lead to misunderstandings with other groups who will interpret these demands as a desire for secession. At the same time, he emphasized that in past decades, the Kurds have been discriminated against and marginalized, and that the Syrian parties and political movements recognize Kurdish national identity. »I say the Syrian state and the political rulers must provide the conditions for protecting this identity. The right to education in Kurdish and developing Kurdish culture and literature, as the second culture in Syria, must be provided.« He further stated that the Syrian National Council stands for a decentralized system, in which provincial and city councils will receive a broad-range of authority. In reaction to Ghaliun’s comments, numerous dissident demonstrations took place in the Kurdish regions on April 20, 2012 under the slogan »Here is Kurdistan!«. Ghaliun had already drawn criticism in 2011, when he compared the Syrian Kurds to immigrants in France—he subsequently retracted this statement.

 Two different Syrian Opposition organizations expressed their own formulations of the Kurdish question in Syria – they are  the General Assembly of the Syrian Democratic Platform which met in Cairo from April 13 to April 16, 2012, and the National Union of the Forces for Democratic Change which met in Paris on April 14.

CIA Asset Gloria Steinem’s “Women Under Siege” Joins Syrian Propaganda Campaign
admin Apr 27, 2012 The International Campaign to Destabilize Syria

How Russia, Iran keep fuel flowing to Syria
By Jessica Donati and Julia Payne, Thu Apr 26, 2012

(Reuters) – Russia and Iran are helping Syria import fuel which it needs for heavy vehicles including army tanks, allowing Damascus to avoid the full impact of tightening Western sanctions imposed over its violent suppression of dissent.

Nikolaos van Dam [nikolaosvandam@gmail.com] Recommends books on Syria - He adds: I had also strongly recommended Lisa Wedeen’s book and the new book of Carsten Wieland, but due to lack of space they are now olny mentioned in the footnote (which is better than not to be mentioned at all).

Time for a rethink of U.S. policy towards Syria
Posted By Geoffrey Aronson Thursday, April 26, 2012 – 6:01 PM Share

Simply opposing Assad is not a policy, but that is what the current U.S. policy risks. By demonizing the regime, Washington has walked away from the table. This decision left the U.S. ill-placed to tease out disaffected members of the regime in the hopes of mounting an insider’s coup, the best hope for a less violent transition. That power now rests in the hands of Moscow and Teheran, who may yet decide that a change in the regime is the best means of preserving their interests. Efforts by Syria’s Arab antagonists to undermine the ruling family have come to naught. This vacuum has left the diplomatic field to Kofi Annan, Tehran, Beijing, and Moscow, who appear united in an effort to craft a diplomatic solution with the regime — repudiating Washington’s preferences both tactically and strategically.

Washington’s ambivalence about the Annan mission is a product of the squeeze Moscow, Beijing, Baghdad, and Teheran are putting on U.S. policy. “Walking back” American support for regime change and the concomitant opposition to everything short of this goal, is not easy, but some former U.S. diplomats and even others currently wearing pinstripes believe it can be done. Our lukewarm support for Annan reflects the first, tentative baby steps in this direction

The Obama administration, however, cannot bring itself to support a solution with the regime and its allies. It is has proven easier to embrace a number of more vague and often incompatible policy options: to snipe at the Annan mission from the sidelines, to debate tactical questions relating to humanitarian relief, or to engage in internal debates about the ease with which, for example, Syrian air defenses might be taken out

Lacking a strategic compass, Washington finds itself not leading from behind but being dragged from behind in support of the policies and agendas of others — including in the Gulf and among the Syrian National Council — that promise at best to continue bleeding the regime, its opponents, and the long-suffering Syrian people, and that threaten the institutional and even the territorial integrity of the Syrian state.

These are the stakes of the game now being played by diplomats in drawing rooms and rebels in the alleys of Daraa and Homs. The Assad regime and the ruling state institutions are heinous, but there is still room for Washington to champion an engagement that aims at moving the Syrian government and the Syrian public to a wary, uneasy accommodation.

Syria In Vogue But On The Outer
Posted by Prof. Brian Stoddart on April 27, 2012

Syrian Psychosis
– www.weeklystandard.com
Yesterday the Washington Post inexplicably published a piece about the Vogue profile of Syrian first lady Asma al-Assad—a profile published in March 2011.

The Islamization of the Uprising and the Loss of Syria
by Randa Kassis

The Islamists in Syria are increasingly swooping down on the popular movement, suggesting that they are the strongest and the most widespread among the Syrian groups through their dependence on the religious and conservative bases of certain communities. Their presence is due first to the sense among the Syrian street participating in the uprising that the international community had abandoned them and that they have been left prey to the brutality of the Syrian regime. Second, this is due to the Islamists’ exploitation of the Syrian psyche in order to slowly penetrate the Syrian street in an organized fashion. In addition, the Islamists’ control over the distribution of supplies and humanitarian assistance significantly contributed to their extensive appearance in the squares and streets, resulting in the appearance of gaining a monopoly over this uprising. The Islamists have taken advantage of the divide between the communities previously supported by the ruling regime and those they call the majority group, thus upholding sectarian discrimination and fueling feelings of aggression and repulsion between the groups in order to gain a wider segment of the Syrian society. They also capitalize on the principle of “the strongest majority,” which gives that majority the right to direct society according to its desires and standards. Here, we are entitled to review what they consider the majority and the minority, who comprise, according to their view, singular, collective blocks.

How Many Syrians Will Die?
2012-04-28, By Jennifer Rubin

April 28 (Washington Post) — Paul Wolfowitz writes:

“American policy on Syria today seems paralyzed by the understandable fear of getting into another war like those in Afghanistan or Iraq. But no one, least of all the Syrian people, wants to see an American invasion and occupation of Syria.” In essence President Obama has set up one of those false choices to justify doing nothing effective to oust Bashar al-Assad:….

Perhaps one day an American president will go to the Holocaust museum and ask his fellow citizens, ” How could we allow mass atrocities in Syria?” The answer: Obama wanted a second term.

Al Jazeera, “Searching for a ‘plan B’ in Syria”, Jonathan Paris, Sami Hermez, and Farah Atassi, a Syrian political activist. The introductions are 3:20 minutes into the program.

Assad intensifies cyberwar against Qatar
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad©AFP

The Qatari prime minister’s daughter is arrested in London. Qatar’s army chief stages a coup against the emir. Hamad bin Jassim, the prime minister, is sacked. None of these stories is true, but for a while Syria’s embattled regime tried to make them credible partly thanks to a group of loyal hackers. Late on Monday, the so-called Syrian Electronic Army, the cyber activists who spam Facebook and Twitter with pro-government messages, hacked into the Twitter account of Saudi Arabia’s al-Arabiya news channel and planted the report of Mr bin Jassim’s removal. As al-Arabiya rushed to report that its social networks were infiltrated, the hackers posted news about an explosion at a Qatari natural gasfield.

The cyberwar against Qatar is part of escalating efforts by Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president, to paint the revolt against him as a geopolitical struggle by wealthy Gulf monarchies bent on Syria’s destruction, rather than a brutal attempt to put down a popular uprising . To a certain extent the regional battle is real: Qatar and Saudi Arabia, long-time rivals in the region, have been remarkably unified over Syria, and have taken the harshest line against Mr Assad. The removal of the Syrian strongman, Iran’s main ally in the Arab world, would alter the balance of power in the Middle East in the Sunni Gulf monarchies’ favour.

US News: Syria’s cultural treasures latest uprising victim
2012-05-01 By ZEINA KARAM, Associated Press BEIRUT (AP) —

On its towering hilltop perch, the Krak des Chevaliers, one of the world’s best preserved Crusader castles, held off a siege by the Muslim warrior Saladin nearly 900 years ago. It was lauded by …Besides the break-in at Krak des Chevaliers in March, gunmen have also targeted a museum in the city of Hama, making off with antiques and a priceless gold statue dating back to the Aramaic era, said Jammous, of the government’s museum agency….Government assaults on opposition stronghold cities and neighborhoods — often with shelling and heavy machine-gun fire — have also caused extensive damage.

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551. omen said:

509. Antoine said:
Why a province like Daraa, inhabited by politically conservative fellahin and bedouin Sunnis, always been suspicious of radical political movements like MB and Islamists, been reliable centre for quiet political and intellectual backwardness since 1960s – produced senior Baathist officials like Ahmad al-Khatib, Farouk al-Sharaa, Rustom Ghazaleh, among others, suddenly have a anti-regime tendency ? You are probably right that anti-regime tensions were simmering for a long time in Daraa, but what was the cause of this ? Why did they become disenchanted by the regime ? Logically, these tendencies should have started in Northern Syria or maybe even Latakia City. 2:22 am

this points to poverty.

The estimate of the number of Syrians living below the poverty line is anywhere from 33% to 40%, with those in “extreme poverty”, defined as being unable to even meet their most basic needs, standing at around 13%. Unemployment has skyrocketed to 20%, and is much higher among the youth. It is precisely because of this programme of privatisation, cuts to subsidies and cuts to social services that led the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to express themselves as being quite satisfied with the Assad dictatorship. The anger at these gaping inequalities is a significant factor that fuelled the revolution that erupted in 2011.

the region also suffered a severe drought:
this, from thinkprogress re climate change and social unrest:

From 2006-2011, up to 60% of Syria’s land experienced, in the terms of one expert, “the worst long-term drought and most severe set of crop failures since agricultural civilizations began in the Fertile Crescent many millennia ago.”

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May 10th, 2012, 4:59 pm

 

552. Antoine said:

ALDENDESHE,

Who do you mean by “we” getting the picture ?

SNP ?

They should have gotten the picture after the first 4 blasts. Did they never heard of so-called “massacres” in Algerian villages in the 1990s ?

All blasts occurred when some international presence was in the city, all occurred near hardcore Mukahabart units so as to give a plausible motive, but none managed to do any damage to them, in fact some hurt the pro-revolution population more than they hurt regimists, most importantly, noone heard about this “al-Nusra” Front before.

Plus the fact that all the strikes were concentrated in Damascus and Aleppo, whereas there are lots more “attractive” targets in other cities for potential suicidal Jihadists, or people trying to stir more trouble and drag Syria down.

Even suicidal Jihaidists aren’t so foolish and amateurish like whoever-they-are have been for past 6 months. Basically whoever-they-are trying to insult everyone’s intelligence and playing on established and entrenched fears of major international actors, nothing else.

One thing for sure, whoever-it-is , is no friend of revolutionists in Homs, Hama, Idleb, Daraa. They may be, or may not be, friend of the regime, but certainly no friend of any freedom-loving Syrian.

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May 10th, 2012, 5:22 pm

 

553. zoo said:

#540 Omen

That’s the quote from the same declaration:

“The United States remains focused on increasing the pressure on the Asad regime and on Asad himself to step down.”

I guess it meant the same.

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May 10th, 2012, 6:29 pm

 

554. zoo said:

Turkey satisfied of the “agony’ of the Annan plan not aware that its ghost may haunt Turkey sooneer than it thinks.

Blasts ravage Annan plan, over 55 killed
http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/blasts-ravage-annan-plan-over-55-killed.aspx?pageID=238&nID=20486&NewsCatID=352

DAMASCUS
The UN-backed Annan peace plan is left in shreds, with two suicide car bombs claiming over 55 lives and wounding hundreds in Damascus.
..
The blasts further shredded the ceasefire declared by international mediator Kofi Annan on April 12, which had already struggled to halt bloodshed pitting al-Assad’s security forces against peaceful demonstrators and an array of armed insurgents.
more…

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May 10th, 2012, 6:36 pm

 

555. zoo said:

Wahhabis: Arab spring results from the sins of the public… in sports

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/saudi-imams-warn-not-to-mix-sports-and-protests.aspx?pageID=238&nID=20429&NewsCatID=364

Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh warns that the protests in Arab Spring countries are the results of sins of the public. Such sins include the mixing of the sexes at sports events according to another prominent imam as Saudi Arabia feels the pressure to include female athletes in its team for London Games

Saudi and ultra-conservative imams have warned in separate statements against the mixing of sports, politics and protests against autocratic regimes, which, according to some, results from of the mingling of the sexes in sports.

The warnings come against the backdrop of Saudi efforts to shield the Gulf from the wave of popular uprisings sweeping the Middle East and North Africa, renewed focus on the role of militant football fans opposing military rule in Egypt, and pressure on the kingdom to allow women to compete for the first time in an international tournament at the London Olympics.
more..

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May 10th, 2012, 6:42 pm

 

556. zoo said:

Turkey’s odd friends: “neo-ottoman chasing illusion of grandeur”

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/tell-me-who-your-friends-are.aspx?pageID=449&nID=20481&NewsCatID=398
..
Over the past years the Turks have tried, sometimes successfully, to make bizarre friends in the former Ottoman lands: the eccentric Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran; internationally-renowned peace and charity organizations Hamas and Hezbollah; the dictator in Damascus who they had mistaken for the Syrian Voltaire for about eight years; and Omar al-Bashir, Sudanese President, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and the man wanted by the International Criminal Court on counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

One recent “favorite” friend is Iraq’s vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, for whom a litany of accusations from running death squads to committing terrorism and an arrest warrant wait in Baghdad. Mr. al-Hashemi has been on a nice little “vacanze Turchese” since last month, enjoying springtime in Istanbul under the blessing of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Apparently, that is the Istanbul front in the Sunni-Shia (Saudi/Turkish/Qatari-Iranian) proxy war.

In the end, Turkey has become a country that disrespects an arrest warrant from Interpol, to which it has appealed hundreds of times for similar requests in the past few years. And we are talking about “principles” in foreign policy? That’s so nice!

Baghdad (or Tehran, or Damascus) could soon be the safest haven(s) to which Turkish (and Kurdish) criminals and terrorists can flee for refuge. After Mr. Bozdağ’s statement, Iraq has officially become a funfair for the PKK. It will be utterly amusing when, next time, the Turkish authorities request the extradition of “PKK terrorists” from Baghdad. And that’s not nice.

Turkey’s overt protection for Mr. al-Hashemi, against international law, is just another example of how ambitious the neo-Ottomans can be in chasing their illusions of grandeur.

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May 10th, 2012, 6:50 pm

 

557. zoo said:

Libyan revolution Season II episode 2 : Payday for the Dead

Libyan finance minister to resign because of ‘wastage’
http://rt.com/news/line/2012-05-11/#id30759

­Libyan finance minister Hassan Ziglam said in an interview with Reuters that he will resign because of his inability to work in circumstances where there was a “wastage of public money.” He said the wastage was brought on by a lack of fear of God. Ziglam also pointed to the fact that he decided to stop paying compensation to militiamen who fought against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces last month because the lists of those due to receive the benefits were inaccurate and inconsistent. A spokesman for the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) had noted at that time that the scheme was riddled with corruption and that the list included deceased people and those who never fought Gaddafi’s troops.

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May 10th, 2012, 6:56 pm

 

558. zoo said:

Contrary to speculations of its demise, is the Peace Plan getting a boost from the bombing?

UN Security Council condemns Syria terrorist attacks

The UN Security Council issued a statement condemning the latest terrorist attacks in Damascus, Syria. The 15-member body said all acts of terrorism were unjustifiable regardless of their motivation. The Security Council also called on all parties in Syria to immediately and comprehensibly implement the six-point peace plan proposed by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

http://rt.com/news/line/2012-05-11/#id30759

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May 10th, 2012, 7:01 pm

 

559. irritated said:

542. DAWOUD said:

“I strongly agree that the Syrian conflict has entered the Lebanese phase. ”

All we need now is the Syria army to save it, as it did in Lebanon

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May 10th, 2012, 7:22 pm

 

560. omen said:

12. Antoine said:
What can be the reason that Idleb in particular is so anti-regime ?

425. Antoine said:
I have always wondered, why Uprising first erupted in Daraa, of all places

antoine, do you have a theory? you are making me feel like i’m missing something.

~

336. Aldendeshe

i think your first answer was correct. the next government replacing bashar will need to continue trade. thus, it will need to work towards repairing ties with iran and fostering a relationship.

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May 10th, 2012, 7:24 pm

 

561. Tara said:

@555

I envy those Saudi Sheiks. They have nothing to worry about in their lives and have lots of time in their hands. From one obscure Fatwa to another obscure Fatwa. Do they make money out of putting a Fatwa together? The best solution for them may be volunteering somewhere in the public service arena. They can meet new people and keep busy.

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May 10th, 2012, 7:47 pm

 

562. Observer said:

He hit and cried and he ran ahead and complained. This is the old saying from Damascus in my evaluation of the report by J’amuse Jaffaari at the UN today.

This bombing today reminds me of the huge blast that killed Hariri. The huge crater the burned cars the peeled off building structure.

If the reforms as touted by the regime are the way forward then let us have the minister of the interior come before the majlis and explain the operation, the failure to detect them, the diverting of the traffic into that area for the construction project as explained by pro regime Haj Ali this morning, and why the construction could not be done with some traffic and how long did the project last and why has it been more than a year that a road has not been finished.

Also, if it the case and Syria is asking for the UNSC to intervene to combat terror I believe then that they should work hand in hand with British US and Saudi intelligence as the recent cooperation among the three services has foiled the plot to use a new underwear device to blow up an airliner. They should also allow for the drones to target those militants as the internal security services are not capable of doing it and current allies of Syria do not have drones capable of delivering hellfire missiles into the bedrooms of those militants as we are seeing in Yemen.

I challenge any of the pro regime commentators to argue against the above points.

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May 10th, 2012, 9:05 pm

 

563. Observer said:

The post today confirms what I heard from reliable sources while on a visit to the ME recently.

Whole sections of the north are no longer under the control of the armed forces and this despite the destruction en masse of about three hundred villages between Idlib and the Turkish border. ( I am not going to assign blame about the destruction it is besides the point ).

Some sections around Damascus are no go to the troops and hence the use of bombings and destruction en masse to subdue the population.

On a different note, like the SNC, Mr, Manaa has no credibility in the interior of the country.

His points of fighting the regime without fighting the state are mute and caduque by the very fact that the mafia has mobilized the state to its exclusive use. So it is not only the MB that have been excluded for such a long time from even being considered as citizens but whole swaths of the population that feel totally disenfranchised and marginalized and without recourse to any redress or hope of a better life.

His point of regionalization of the conflict is to be placed directly at the foot of the regime who from the outset characterized the uprising as one fomented and aiming and working towards destroying Syria’s role in its resistance.

His point about initiating a dialogue about a civil society and about a Syrian identity that is above and beyond the particularities of the various components of this society is also caduque and mute as the regime has worked from the outset at dividing the people according to their particularities and differences while at the same time weakening the role of the state in solving people’s problems, hence a return to the sect clan family locality ethnicity as the way to advance one’s lot. Therefore dialogue with the initiator of destruction is going to be only about how to leave Syria so it can be rebuilt.

One question I have to Mr. Manaa. Is he willing to go to Damascus today and dialogue with Fredo’s brother? If he is willing to do that and gets something concrete he has my support.

The security house of cards is crumbling.

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May 10th, 2012, 9:19 pm

 

564. omen said:

86. Juergen said:

sometimes the actors dont follow the script, or are they just saying their opinion? Cant be, its syrian tv…

The Moderator: Madame good day! What is the situation in Aleppo?
The lady: Thanks be to Allah! Everything is in order. Life here is good.

The Moderator: Madame, The opposition has set up a military advice to the armed opposition groups (the FSA). What do you think?
The lady: That’s very nice and … The moderator interrupts.

The moderator : Yes. I want to ask you about the Constitution. The opposition wants (the presenter stutters) the arming of the armed men in this country.

The lady: That’s not nice. We stand by our Constitution. It’s nice when we solve our own problems. We are “your” good people.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEEI_Nhsyf0&feature=share 2:36 pm

~

she was being subversive while playing the innocent?

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May 11th, 2012, 2:19 am

 

565. omen said:

So far, the uprising had been largely kept out of the schools. There had always been small, quick demonstrations organized at the University of Aleppo, but they were contained.
[...]
University students are Syria’s future. They are the youth of Syria’s middle class and elite families – the ones who are supposed to be sympathetic to the regime and leery of chaos and revolution.

a university where students are disinterested in social justice? isn’t that unusual?

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May 13th, 2012, 11:30 am

 

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