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.


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

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

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.


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.

Comments (565)

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1. Uzair8 said:

The economic forecast is devastating.

Thumb up 12 Thumb down 10

May 4th, 2012, 12:47 pm


2. norman said:

Poor Syria, It reminds me with this,

(( Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.[1]))

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May 4th, 2012, 1:28 pm


3. Uzair8 said:

@2 Norman



Moving on. In regards to the final news story in the round-up above I hope the regime isn’t involved in the targeting of valuable ‘cultural treasures’. Desperately in need of funds and with predictions of imminent economic collapse….

Maybe I’m becoming over-cynical.


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May 4th, 2012, 1:44 pm


4. JD said:

[Moderator Note JD, I will inform Dr. Landis that the link does not work. In the mean time here is the link until Dr. Landis has the time to correct theLink in his post ]

Sc Moderator

Hi Josh,

The links to the Syrian maps at the top of your post do not work. Can you relink to them? Thanks!

Added by Joshua L – I have fixed them – thanks

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May 4th, 2012, 1:46 pm


5. norman said:


Are showing off that you thought about it before i did, Ok but i do not blame any one side!!!.

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May 4th, 2012, 1:56 pm


6. Nour said:

الشعب يريد نظام جديد

السلطة للشعب… الكرامة للوطن… الثروة للجميع

This is the official site of the election campaign of the Popular Front for Change and Liberation.


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May 4th, 2012, 2:03 pm


7. Uzair8 said:

@4 Norman.

No no. Sorry, didn’t mean to steal your thunder. I’ll give you a thumbs up for #2. 🙂

Just another opportunity to mention Humpty and his Shabeeha.

Actually Ann has also previously made reference to the rhyme a couple of times in relation to the Qatari monarch.

In the propaganda/counter-propaganda and spin/counterspin game one needs no second invitation to post/repost. Lol.

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May 4th, 2012, 2:10 pm


8. norman said:


I am worry about Syria the country, not the leaders,it is the country that it is going to be impossible to put back together, don’t you think?.

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May 4th, 2012, 2:17 pm


9. Uzair8 said:

@8 Norman

I understand your concern.

Short answer. Everyone is fixated with their goal (survival or toppling the regime depending what side your on.) They’ve gone all broke. The silent bloc can help precipitate the situation but are they brave enough? There is still hope.

It may get worse before it gets better.

Anything can happen. I’ve said for a long time that we should be prepared to be surprised. The arab spring throughout has not ceased to surprise. Unexpected twists and turns.

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May 4th, 2012, 2:41 pm


10. Aldendeshe said:

More Majlis’es, more fighters, more Ahdafuna…. Where is the cash and the winning strategy so people can believe and commit, rather than make believe and go sleep.

And for you BATTA, you asked for it, you begged for it, you got it quack.. quack.. loud and clear:

العرب والعروبة والأمّة العربية وعروبتنا وتاريخنا العربي واسسلامنا والاسلام والمسلمين وشعبنا الاسلامي وبطيخ مبسمر شو فادك سنة العلاك المصدي بدلا من احترام ومساعدة الشعب السوري والوطن السوري رفعت رايات العروبة والا سلام وقتلت السوريون ودمرة سوريا بطة كوشوك هيك انت وبعثك وعروبتك واسلامك

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May 4th, 2012, 3:17 pm


12. Antoine said:

What can be the reason that Idleb in particular is so anti-regime ?

Also, within the Provinces, one realizes that the more westards one travels ( i.e the closer to the Alawite Mountains one goes), the more intense the anti-regime feelings become. Just look at the map of Idleb , Homs, and Hama. the most westward towns, like the al-Ghab plains, Jabal Zawiyah, Houla, Telkalakh, Jisr al Shughour, have the most intense anti-regime passions. Whereas interiors Homs or interior Idleb, though anti-regime, is not so intense.

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May 4th, 2012, 4:08 pm


13. Alan said:


People Killed in Syria – Compare The Numbers

During the insurgency in Syria over the last thirteen month about 10,000 people were killed. Of these some 3,500 were soldiers or policemen on the government side.

Syria has some 23 million inhabitants plus about a million refugees from Iraq. The usual statistic measurement for the rate of homicides is the number killed per 100,000 persons per year. For Syria that number would then be 38 5 per 100,000 per year. Not counting the government agents the rate is some 25 per 100,000 per year.

In 2010 the rate of homicide and non-negligent manslaughter in New Orleans was 49.1 per 100,000 per year. It was 40.5 in St. Louis, 34.8 in Baltimore, 34.5 in Detroit and 23.1 in Newark.

Why isn’t there any talk of no-fly zones over New Orleans, humanitarian corridors in St. Louis or military intervention in Baltimore? Couldn’t we at least get some UN observers to Detroit and an Amnesty International report on Newark?


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May 4th, 2012, 4:09 pm


14. Antoine said:

Today’s huge protests in al-Bab, reef Halab.

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May 4th, 2012, 4:12 pm


15. zoo said:

#13 Antoine

The answer is J.L post above

“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.”

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May 4th, 2012, 4:14 pm


16. Nour said:


The PFCL has an election campaign it has published and a plan on how to bring changes to the country. Namely, they are bringing pressure upon the regime to allow the majles sha3b to become more effective so that when they get in, they can begin trying to change laws and to change this constitution to a real one. In addition, they are using pressure to allow the next government, in which they hope to take part, to have real power and authority act and not be merely a under the control of the moukhabarat.

In any case, nothing can assure anyone that what the PFCL will materialize 100%. All they can do is present their program to the people and see if the people are convinced enough to give them a chance.

As for your last comment regarding the empty slogans of the Baath, I agree with it.

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May 4th, 2012, 4:15 pm


17. Alan said:

this your real life there in the west ANTOINE!you think whom to bribe,
but here god gives us a potato and we are happy with it!

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May 4th, 2012, 4:27 pm


18. bronco said:

Mass protests calls by the opposition this friday? Another call on deaf ears?

If the Syrian government appear to be weakened because of the economical situation and the demonizing media campaign, the opposition is in worse situation. The streets seem unresponsive to the calls for mass demonstrations and strikes, the armed gangs are let loose in their rampage and provocations that triggers violent retaliations and condemnations and the media is starting to criticize the terrorists acts while putting in quotes the reports coming from the LCC and the UK Observatory.
In the absence of a fresh supply of weapons, the lack of mass demonstrations or strikes, the muteness of the Friends of Syria (when is the next meeting?) and the crumbling support of the media, the hardline opposition appear more doomed than it has ever been. Which of the parties will be exhausted first and accept the compromises proposed by Annan?

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May 4th, 2012, 4:29 pm


19. zoo said:

Syrians questioning whether armed revolt works
By ZEINA KARAM | Associated Press – 2 hrs 38 mins ago
BEIRUT (AP) — The woman wearing a blood-red dress stood in the middle of a busy intersection outside Syria’s parliament holding up a red banner: “Stop the killing, we want to build a homeland for all Syrians.” Drivers tooted their horns and supporters clapped.

Rima Dali’s act of defiance last month — which landed the 33-year-old in prison for several days — was a call for the opposition to focus again on peaceful protests to bring down President Bashar Assad. It has inspired other activists who worry that their cause is going astray as more Syrians take up arms in the face of the regime’s withering crackdown.

They say armed resistance costs the opposition the moral high ground and boosts the regime line that it is battling terrorists, not a popular uprising. The spiraling violence has also taken on fearsome sectarian overtones, threatening to push the country into full-blown civil war. Al-Qaida-style suicide bombings have become increasingly common.

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May 4th, 2012, 4:42 pm


20. Antoine said:

STOPAntoine, threatening and accusing commentators is NOT acceptable, and goes against the Rules of SC. When you choose to attack commentators directly I trash your comments, and if you continue to do so you will placed on Moderation. Please check your email.

SC Moderator

To the SC Moderator :

A comment is written with the intention of it being displayed, if any moderation in necessary, I think it is decent to inform the commentator of the reasons for said moderation. Just wiping out a whole comment because it violates the rules is just not right.

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May 4th, 2012, 4:45 pm


21. bronco said:

19. Antoine

Insults and threats?

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May 4th, 2012, 4:45 pm


22. Mawal95 said:

I repeat myself:

Syria is having parliamentary elections on 7 May 2012. The following is a report about the how the election contest is going in Aleppo. The candidates of the “National Unity List” (an alliance dominated by the Baath Party) are expected to win each and every seat in the election contest, even though the names of the candidates on this List were not announced until about a week ago. In Arabic: http://www.aksalser.com/?page=view_articles&id=c9ccc3b4884e12ce2478c18fc3c7caf1&ar=124828390 .

Thus the population is choosing to vote for the National Unity List itself, not for the individuals on the list. On the basis of that voting behaviour, I predict that the Baath Party will be in control of parliament for decades of years to come. Looking at today’s landscape, I cannot imagine how it would not require many, many election cycles before an opposition would be able to make serious inroads against the Baath, barring unlikely future events where the Baath inflicted serious damage upon itself.

Many independent candidates who were not part of the National Unity List tried to get themselves on the List and when they failed they withdrew their candidacy from the contest. In Arabic:

There’s more coverage of the parliamentary election in Arabic at http://www.dp-news.com/aswatsouria/ (but the English edition of that site has essentially no coverage of the election). Unfortunately today the site http://www.AlWatan.sy is down (inoperative).

I regard the outcome of the 7 May 2012 parliamentary election as historic and fundamental. The Baath Party and the governing Establishment is having an easy, no-sweat switchover to full-fledged democracy. (The street protests and the armed rebellion do not pose a challenge to the government on the democratic power front). After the election results are in next week, I’ll be saying that the Baath has proven itself to be a very powerful competitor, even more powerful than I thought it was. In my honest assessment, I’ll be expecting the Baath to rule Syria for the rest of my lifetime with high likelihood. That’s great news for the kind of Syria that I want. Hurray!!

A list of reasons why the governing party is so strong in the elections contest is given in an earlier post by me at http://www.moonofalabama.org/2012/03/open-thread-2012-07.html#c6a00d8341c640e53ef0168e90185c0970c

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May 4th, 2012, 4:54 pm


23. Alan said:

Israel gets its 4th German-made nuke-capable submarine

Israel has taken delivery of its fourth German-made Dolphin-class submarine capable of carrying nuclear warheads with an operating range of 4,500 kilometers (2796 miles).

The INS Tannin submarine was delivered to Israeli officials in Hamburg, Germany on Thursday and is expected to undergo final tests before arriving in Israel in 2013, the Associated Press reported.

Israeli Minister of Military Affairs Ehud Barak said that the submarine will increase Tel Aviv’s capabilities and strength in the face of regional challenges.

Israel had placed order with Germany for the submarine as well as its fifth Dolphin-class sub in 2006, while, in 2012, the two sides signed a contract for a sixth such submarine. The fifth and sixth orders are due for delivery in 2014 and 2016 respectively.

Three earlier-model Dolphin submarines were delivered to Israel between 1998 and 2000.

The Germans paid for the first two and split the cost of the third with Israel. Tel Aviv paid only one-third of the cost for the fourth one.

Israel is the only possessor of nuclear weapons in the Middle East and has never allowed international inspections of its nuclear facilities nor has it joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty based on its policy of nuclear ambiguity.

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May 4th, 2012, 5:20 pm


24. Norman said:

Mawal 95,

I don’t know about you, but i have a problem voting for a list without even knowing the people they are voting for and that is why i like district where people vote for one representative for them between few who live in that district, this way they will vote for people they know and trust and each rep will feel loyalty to the people instead of the party bosses that put him on the list, When lists are being used then the character of the list including religion and ethnic background are more important than the special values of the candidates,

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May 4th, 2012, 5:23 pm


25. Juergen said:

Great, Assad has complied so far with only one point of the Annan plan. Is that not a great success story? The regime surely uses it for their shoulderclapping.

As proposed by Annan the arbitrarily detention of thousands must end immediately,but to the regime is there at all arbitrarily detention? To them they have just detained terrorists. The regime suggested that opposition people with no blood on their hands should render themselves at any police station to get registered, the regime promised that they will be released at the spot after the registration. I assume the opposition will be happy to queue up in front of the police station to get finally registred by this muhabarat regime.

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May 4th, 2012, 5:38 pm


26. Juergen said:


Do you think it is normal in an democratic country that out of 9 parties, 4 quit the race days before the election is actually held? How can you guarantee an fair, democratic voting process throughout the country, when the regime is not even holding control of all cities and regions?


Do you really believe that the regime would let genuin opposition figures enter parliament? I think they make sure the “right ones” are choosen. We have seen that more than 3000 individual candidates with no party behind them are in the race. Quite a good method to keep “democracy” under Assad ruling.

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May 4th, 2012, 5:41 pm


27. Tara said:


UN mission chief says Syrian army must cease fire first
May 4, 2012    
UN Observer Mission in Syria chief Robert Mood (C-R) on Thursday called on regime forces to make the first move to ensure a ceasefire in the strife stricken country. (AFP/Joseph Eid)
The head of the UN mission in Syria said on Thursday that government forces must make the first move to end nearly 14-months of bloodshed after a watchdog said a security force raid on a university campus left four students dead.

Major General Robert Mood, the veteran Norwegian peacekeeper in charge of the hard-won military observer mission overseeing a troubled UN-backed ceasefire, made the call during a visit to Syria’s third-largest city Homs, which has seen some of the deadliest fighting of the conflict.

“If you have two individuals using on each other all their weapons, who is going to be the first one to move the finger? Who is going to be the first one to make the move?” Mood asked.

“My approach to that is that the strongest party needs to make the first move,” he told reporters.

“I was referring to the Syrian government and the Syrian army. They have the strength, they have the position and they also have the potential generosity to make the first step in a good direction.”

“The city of Aleppo hasn’t joined the anti-regime revolt thus far but the seriousness of these events will push residents to mobilize in solidarity with the students,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP…”The university suspended classes because neither the management nor the security forces seem able to control the situation.”
The Norwegian insisted that the UN observers, who started deploying in Syria last month, had not had their movements restricted by the Syrian authorities.

“Whether we have experienced any hampering in our freedom of movement, my answer is no. We have made our plans and we have moved where we wanted to move,” he said.

“The starting point is that we have received very explicit and clear commitments from both sides that they want to move in the direction of less violence. But there is a lot of suspicion,” he added.

“[Regarding] the situation on the ground … in the specific locations we have seen more commitments on the ground by the action of the government forces. So we have seen positive signs on the ground.

“Since I arrived on the ground we have seen less shelling with artillery, less mortar fire.”


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May 4th, 2012, 5:52 pm


28. Juergen said:

War times are happy times for some I guess…

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May 4th, 2012, 5:55 pm


29. Antoine said:

Antoine You can express your disagreement, however badgering and attacking other commentators is not permitted here. This is not my interpretation of the rules but the actual rules of the site:

“The purpose of the comment section is to promote informed debate, share pertinent information and news items, and encourage constructive criticism and analysis. Although we hope to avoid any censorship, experience has taught us that it is sometimes necessary. The comment section is monitored. Messages containing any of the following elements will not be tolerated:

Personal attacks against other contributors;
Racist, sexist, obscene, or otherwise discriminatory or hateful language;
Provocations designed to derail discussions away from substantive debate into dead-end arguments;
Links to commercial sites or posting of commercial messages;
Threats of death or violence.”


SC Moderator

SC Moderator,

I would like to express my disagreement with your interpretation and execution of the moderation policy. I protest.

Thats all. I just wanted to express my feelings. Hope I am allowed to do so.

Also I do not communicate with any commenter on this list, including SC Moderator, via Email.

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May 4th, 2012, 5:58 pm


30. Tara said:

How come we never heard a word from Aljazeera haters?  I thought Aljazeera is manipulated by Qatar to advance Sunni Islam and to spread hatred.  What has happened, regime supporters?  Is Aljazeera working for Iran now?  Do you now admit irrational judgement?  I bet you knew all along but it is s cultural of lie, lie, and then lie some more.  The sad thing js that you only convinced yourself..  


The British entertainment listings magazine, Radio Times, has unexpectedly become caught up in Bahrain’s politics. Its website published an online poll, asking readers which current affairs documentary should win this year’s Bafta awards.

The four nominees include one from al-Jazeera English, Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark, which is critical of the regime. Supporters of the regime had other ideas about which programme should win, and urged readers to vote for a Channel 4 documentary about Sri Lanka instead.

For several days, thousands of Arabic language tweets – at peak hours several tweets a second – have been pouring out of Bahrain and the Gulf in a steady stream, many of them filled with religious epithets and hate speech.

Around half of them call on Arabs to “vote for Sri Lanka [the subject of a fellow nominee in our category] and prevent Shi’a infidels from defaming Bahrain,” to “vote 100 times, we have to break the heads of the traitorous bastards and of Al Jazeera the agent,” and “complete this vote for Sri Lanka so Al Jazeera loses and we give her a lesson she’ll never forget.”

The result has been an unprecedented voting frenzy. This morning, al-Jazeera is marginally ahead with 373,000 votes, while Channel 4 has 338,000. The other two nominated programmes have have a mere 1,300 votes each.

Online voting will make no difference to the eventual result, since the winner will be decided by a panel of judges.


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May 4th, 2012, 6:01 pm


31. Antoine said:

SC Moderator : Another one of my comments has been arbitrarily arrested.

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May 4th, 2012, 6:23 pm


32. Mawal95 said:

I said on this board way back on 28 June 2011:

“I wouldn’t be surprised if elections in Syria settle down to a situation similar to what’s in Russia, Singapore, and various other countries, where there is one Establishment party, the ruling party, which wins every election by a wide margin, plus fringe parties that can only play the role of occasional critics.” http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/?p=10504&cp=all#comment-258807

It is now clear to me that this is, in fact, how the Syrian political landscape is going to be. And Singapore is a better precedent for it than Russia is. From Wikipedia on Singapore:

The politics of Singapore takes the form of a parliamentary representative democratic republic whereby the President of Singapore is the head of state, the Prime Minister of Singapore is the head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the cabinet. Singaporean politics have been dominated by the People’s Action Party (PAP) since the 1959 general election when Lee Kuan Yew became Singapore’s first prime minister. The PAP has been in government and won every General Election since then. The current prime minister is Lee Hsien Loong who is the son of Lee Kuan Yew. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics_of_Singapore

Another re-iteration from me, this from a post last week or the week before:

As part of the reforms last year a good and liberal law was enacted for establishing new political parties, and by the time of the start of the campaign for the 7 May 2012 parliamentary elections nine new political parties had been established under the new law. It looks today that none of those parties will win any seats in the parliament. None of them were able to attract any interest from the Syrian public on policies’ issues. Here are the names of the nine new parties: The Solidarity Party, The Syrian Democratic Party, The People’s (Al-Ansar) Party, The Democratic Vanguard Party, The Democratic Arab Solidarity Party, The National Development Party, The Syrian National Youth Party, The National Youth for Justice and Development Party, and the Syrian Homeland Party. Most of the Syrian public doesn’t even know the mere names of any of those parties, much less what the parties’ political policies might be. The population is very much in the mood to vote for the Baath Party, vote for National Unity, and vote against factionalism. They are not attracted to the proposition of even listening to what alternative parties might have on offer. And I believe it is the truth that the nine new parties have actually nothing distinctive on offer policywise — though I haven’t bothered to listen to any of them myself either. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe they merely aspire to replace Assad’s personnel with their own personnel, and continue the same policies.

Juergen #26 asks: “Do you think it is normal in an democratic country that out of 9 parties, 4 quit the race days before the election is actually held?” They quit because they saw their vote was going to be abysmal for them. Is it normal in a democratic country that one party should dominate the election contest so powerfully? It is not common, but it is not unhealthy or undesirable. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it.

Juergen #26 asks: “How can you guarantee a fair, democratic voting process throughout the country, when the regime is not even holding control of all cities and regions?” The forces of law and order are in control of all towns and neighborhoods except for a few small pockets. The names of those few pockets are notorious and are all known to the regular visitors to this board. One is the Khalidiya neighborhood in Homs City. At the moment almost nobody is actually living in Khalidiya except the rebels. On election day next Monday there will be 190 polling stations operating in Homs City and a further 437 polling stations in the rest of Homs Province, as reported at http://www.dp-news.com/aswatsouria/detail.aspx?articleid=119321 .

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May 4th, 2012, 7:00 pm


33. Nour said:


How do they know that each and every member on the National Unity List is going to win? Or that the population wants to vote for the list? Last I checked no polls were conducted. Unless they have the elections predetermined, which makes them a sham to begin with. It looks to me like they want to discourage people who do not want to vote for the Baath from voting by claiming that no one else has a shot.

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May 4th, 2012, 8:19 pm


34. omen said:

another country where corrupt rulers are being dishonest in trying to claim unrest is sectarian:

despite hints from the Saudis that Iran has been responsible for the unrest in Shargiyya, a U.S. diplomatic cable on the political loyalties of the country’s Shi’a population suggests that Iranian efforts to enlist support against the Saudi government have proven largely unsuccessful. In short, all signs suggest that Saudi Arabia’s Shi’a are looking for greater inclusion, not separation.


this recent spate of protest activity does not threaten, or aim to threaten, the integrity or security of the Saudi state. Despite predictions about the impending collapse of the monarchy, Saudi policies have effectively limited the scope and impact of the protests. Nevertheless, these demonstrations should not be viewed as irrelevant, but rather as part of a larger non-sectarian trend in favor of social and political reform in the Kingdom.

should be a rule of thumb: regimes claiming unrest is sectarian – seeks to deflect responsibility and blame for their own actions.

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May 4th, 2012, 8:47 pm


35. bronco said:


Thanks for your highlights on the election that the western medias are ignoring as they have ignored all the ‘reforms’, however incomplete and primitive, the Syrian government has implemented.

Syria is going ahead with an embryo of democracy but if the political opposition shows the same disunity, lack of pragmatism and misunderstanding of Syria’s position in the middle east that it has shown after 13 months of upheaval in the country, there is no doubt that the Baath party will win for decades to come.

Instead of begging in front of the closed doors of the international community with the hope that it will rescue their ‘regime change revolution’, the opposition could have united on political ground to present a reasonably strong front in the elections.
They were ill advised by France, Qatar, Turkey and the other “Friends” that these elections will never take place because they would make sure the regime falls before. They ignored Russia and China repeated calls for a more pragmatic approach
Their persistent refusal of a dialog with the regime has simply sidelined them like the Sunnis in Iraq at the first election. Their only resort is now continuous terrorist strikes with the fading hope of a international military intervention. Unfortunately that strategy is facing stiff reaction from the West as the West has lost hopes in the coherence of the opposition and sees how it has let itself heavily infiltrated by the Islamists and through them Al Qaeeda looming at Israel borders.

However mediocre and controversial this election is, it is a still a sign that there is a move toward a democracy with a ruling party and recognized opposition parties. The ball is now in the camp of these elusive opposition parties who must convince the people , like the UN observers are trying to, that the fight in the streets is over now and that it has become a political fight within a democratic framework watched by Russia, the UN and the BRICS.
Looking at the ‘democratic’ trial and errors in Libya and the increasing violence in Egypt’s transition in Cairo with a lot of question marks, Syria seems to have started its move to democracy, in as imperfect circumstances

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May 4th, 2012, 8:48 pm


36. bronco said:

#30 Tara

This is like a football match for the Gulf monarchies in the Arab spring countries

KSA favors a Salafi presidential candidate
Qatar and Turkey favors a Moslem Brotherhood candidate

Qatar lost its MB candidate in Egypt, while Saudi Arabia has lost its Salafi candidate in Tunisia. Qatar’s Al Jazeera is now lashing at Saudi Arabia using Bahrain.

The game continues

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May 4th, 2012, 9:04 pm


37. omen said:

bronco – dialogue? what is the proper response to “bashar or we burn down the country”?

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May 4th, 2012, 9:05 pm


38. zoo said:

Sounds familiar?

Protesters said that the assailants were hired thugs or plainclothes police and troops, similar to past attacks. They also said the military allowed Wednesday’s attack to take place, noting troops nearby did nothing to stop fighting for hours.

But residents and activists said some of the protesters were armed and provoked the situation.

Alaa Abdel-Fatah, a prominent democracy activist, claimed in several tweets that protesters had weapons.

“The revolutionaries also fired live ammunition in the middle of residential streets,” he tweeted on Wednesday. “We have battled with the wrong people, and we have threatened innocent souls secure in their houses.”

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May 4th, 2012, 9:10 pm


39. bronco said:


“proper response to “bashar or we burn down the country”?”

Strong political parties and elections, certainly not terrorist acts on the Syrian army.

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May 4th, 2012, 9:13 pm


40. omen said:

what?? Qatar’s Al Jazeera is now lashing at Saudi Arabia using Bahrain.

for months now, basharists claimed bias arguing that aljazeera was too focused on syria while ignoring bahrain.

now you’ve switched it around again.

also, from the piece i cited above:

[ksa] has also employed an efficient censorship system to prevent inflammatory material about events in the east from reaching the rest of the country. For example, Revolution2East, a YouTube channel showing videos of protests in Shargiyya, is inaccessible from within Saudi Arabia. Likewise, the provocative Lebanese English newspaper al-Akhbar, which has published articles on the Qatif protests with titles such as “Saudi Regime Continues to Intimidate Intellectuals” and “Saudi Arabia: Renewing Repression Under the Mantra of Security,” is also unavailable online. Gulf news channels like al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya do not report on the protests.

if aljazeera harbors an agenda against the saudis, why isnt its coverage more critical of the kingdom?

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May 4th, 2012, 9:17 pm


41. omen said:

37. proper response to “bashar or we burn down the country”?

39. bronco said: Strong political parties and elections, certainly not terrorist acts on the Syrian army.

a ruthless tyrant who tries to extort loyalty by threatening death? this is not a person one can count upon to play by the rules.

that’s like arguing we should be patient and hitler should be given a chance to enact reforms.

the only chance for honest elections is for the regime to be removed.

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May 4th, 2012, 9:43 pm


42. Syrialover said:

(Relating to concerns expressed by Jad in previous thread)

Here’s a useful guide for those worrying about protecting their privacy and anonymity online:

How to muddy your tracks on the internet – http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/03/technology/personaltech/how-to-muddy-your-tracks-on-the-internet.html?src=me&ref=general

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May 4th, 2012, 10:24 pm


43. Syrialover said:

The slogan “Bashar or we burn down the country” is becoming redundant.

It’s clearly now “Bashar AND we burn down the country”.

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May 4th, 2012, 10:27 pm


44. jna said:

Regime has made a mistake by not postponing the parliamentary elections until several months after hundreds of UN peacekeepers are in place in Syria. There needs to be a period of time for the peacekeepers to persuade the sides to negotiate the details of election procedures, including international monitors, and give the opposition a realistic opportunity to field a slate of election candidates. This is a compromise the regime should have made.

The opposition and their international supporters have failed, for whatever reason, to focus on this failure by the regime, and to publicize conditions and demands for fair elections.

Now there will be a muddy situation where the election is considered irrelevant and illegitimate, but negating the election result with a new election will just look flakey and weak.

In my opinion Russia has mostly tried to play a constructive role towards a Syrian transition, but has dropped the ball in not persuading Assad to postpone the election.

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May 4th, 2012, 10:52 pm


45. Tara said:

Annan plan on track?  According to Fufu, we should expect comp liane by 2020?   


The peace plan brokered by international mediator Kofi Annan is on track despite numerous reports of violations of the ceasefire, the former UN secretary-general’s spokesman said today. Ahmad Fawzi suggested more patience was needed. He is quoted by Reuters as saying:

I would say that the Annan plan is on track and a crisis that has been going on for over a year is not going to be resolved in a day or a week. There are signs on the ground of movement (towards compliance with the plan), albeit slow and small.
Read no more…

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May 4th, 2012, 10:59 pm


46. irritated said:

#43 SL

Another variation : No Bashar and we burn down your country anyway

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May 4th, 2012, 11:03 pm


47. bronco said:

@40 Omen

Have you read post 30 about the Al Jazeera documentary “Shouting in the Dark?

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May 4th, 2012, 11:09 pm


48. bronco said:

@45 Tara
It’s progressing, annoying isn’t? yet I think 2014 is a more plausible date

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May 4th, 2012, 11:11 pm


49. zoo said:

What was the deal? Kick the Moslem Brotherhood out?

Saudi Arabia to re-open diplomatic mission in Egypt

RIYADH, May 4 (Xinhua) — Saudi Arabia’s king has ordered the Gulf country’s diplomatic mission to re-open in Egypt after its shutdown almost a week ago due to protests against the kingdom’s arrest of an Egyptian lawyer, the official SPA press agency reported on Friday.

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May 4th, 2012, 11:15 pm


50. zoo said:

Another outburst: “You cannot fool Tayyip Erdogan”.

S&P biased: Turkey
Published: May 4, 2012 01:03 Updated: May 4, 2012 01:03

ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced Standard and Poor’s rating agency yesterday, saying its downgrading of Turkey’s outlook was clouded by an “ideological approach.”

Erdogan told a televised meeting in Istanbul: “This is entirely an ideological approach. You cannot fool anybody, you cannot fool Tayyip Erdogan.”

He condemned the outlook revision as “very odd” and hit back at what he implied was discrimination by S&P, which had improved the outlook of crisis-hit neighboring Greece, while lowering the perspective for Turkey.

The Turkish premier also threatened not to recognize the Standard and Poor’s as a credible ratings agency. On Tuesday, Standard and Poor’s revised the outlook on Turkey’s long-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings to stable, from positive.

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May 4th, 2012, 11:26 pm


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