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.

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101. Tara said:


After the brilliant argument iterated by Mawal 95, you should stop wondering. From now on, wonder no more…and Amir if you can ever prove to someone who denies the sky is blue that the sky is indeed blue, please let me know how you did it.

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May 5th, 2012, 5:20 pm


102. Alan said:

Putin meets Obama’s top national security aide
Russia’s President-Elect Vladimir Putin met on Friday with top US national security advisor Thomas Donilon, who is currently in Moscow on a two-day visit.

Donilon also met other senior Russian officials to discuss divisive issues like Syria, Iran and a US missile defense system in Europe. The parties also discussed the next steps in the relations between the two countries, including cooperation on security and economic issues.

Vladimir Putin asked Thomas Donilon to convey his greetings to President Obama and said he looked forward to developing a constructive top-level partnership with the US.


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May 5th, 2012, 5:33 pm


103. Tara said:

For the commenter who asked about Friday protest, enjoy!


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May 5th, 2012, 5:34 pm


104. Alan said:

Charlie Rose – Tom Donilon on Israel’s position on Iran

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May 5th, 2012, 5:36 pm


105. Tara said:


U.N. monitors find tanks, resentful residents in Syria town
By Mariam Karouny | Reuters – 4 hrs ago

DOUMA, Syria (Reuters) – United Nations ceasefire monitors, in the Syrian town of Douma on Saturday, saw that the army had not withdrawn tanks in line with a truce agreement and were confronted by residents who complained that the U.N. observers were just “watching us die”.
A Reuters team that accompanied a two-car U.N. convoy saw checkpoints on every street corner and a heavy army presence in Douma, at one time known as a stronghold for the armed opposition but now back under government control.

“Assad’s army is traitorous,” it said in Arabic, adding in English: “We will not be put down.”
There was pro-government graffiti too. “If you are not one of Assad’s soldiers, they you don’t deserve life,” a scribble on one wall read.

A tank was hidden under a large sheet. The monitors took pictures, spoke to an officer in charge and moved on.
Further into the town, another large checkpoint had been established inside what had been a fire station, with a tank parked outside. Trenches had been dug and piles of sandbags with a corrugated iron roof sheltered the troops. Posters of Assad were everywhere.
An officer told the lead monitor, Moroccan Colonel Ahmed Himmiche, that the tank, whose canon was clearly visible, was in fact an armored personnel carrier, a more lightly armed vehicle.
“It carries soldiers and wounded,” he said. “If you want, I can take it out of Douma right now,” he said.
“No, no, it’s fine,” Himmiche replied.

Read more..

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May 5th, 2012, 5:41 pm


106. Observer said:

Atwan laments the fragmentation of the Arab world. Read Alquds today or go to Norman’s link above.
to all those who think that there is such an oxymoron as a benign or enlightened dictator I urge you very strongly to read
Why Nations Fail.
Read about Sierra Lenone and about Liberia and about Colombia and about Russia under Stalin or Nicholas the first or Austria under Franz Joseph or about Argentina under Menem or about Somalia and you will realize that it is dictatorship and an extractive prohibitive political and economic system that is the root cause of the fragmentation of any society and any state.

Not only did 40 years of oppression result in economic stagnation but it institutionalized corruption and educational backwardness. The one redeemer for the regime being security has also been completely lost. People are having to create fake law suits against their lands to prevent forgers from acquiring the title and selling the land or expropriating it. This is the degree of state collapse that we are witnessing in this country.

One example of this is plain for all to see when one looks at the official exchange against that published by local banks and as one visits the site of Cham Press and realizes that it takes them now two to three days to post a new page and now with one third of the previous ads present.

One other example is the amnesty that the President quietly pronounced for draft dodgers corroborating my sources of only about 15% of recruits showing up.

Another is the story of the price of gold on Cham Press a bizarre story but for the fact that there has been a rise in the price and it did decline when the regime sold Gold at 15% below market to raise hard currency.

My reading and after visiting various places in the ME lately is that the revolt is now in chronic long term mode of operation. That smuggling of weapons is increasing, that a shadow black market is in full swing, that criminality is on the rise, that the ability of the regime to even control its own troops is gone.

There is a dilemma as it is dawning on the regime hard liners that the hard tack is not working and they are completely puzzled as why it is not working for they have no imagination of anything else and cannot comprehend that it is not working. It is like “duh what do I do now?”

Not only Syria as we know it is spiraling down the drain but we will witness a collapse of the regime institutions one after the other. As for the eternal BS that Atwan keeps frothing about the “foreigner” being behind all that is bad happening to us I say it is perhaps 5% true and 95% false as we are responsible for 95% of what is happening to us.

After all Arab countries started by denouncing Sykes Picot then by clinging to the territorial integrity of the State be it Mirage Iraq or Rump Syria or Humpty Dumpty Sudan or Feudal KSA or Family Flags UAE or Joke of the Levant Lebanon then by declaring Arab revolts to be CIA manufactured to break up the region further then by pointing to a Sunni Shia Civil War conspiracy. All of this BS is just that BS.

After all, if a people are united no power on earth can stop that: Vietnam, Switzerland, Scandinavia, Germany, and eventually Korea are prime examples of the BS of conspiracies and outside intervention that is a lame excuse for all our ills.

IT IS DICTATORSHIP AND GRAFT AND CORRUPTION AND NEPOTISM that is the primary root cause of 95% of our ills.

There is no guarantee that a new regime will be better unless it has a broad swath of the people behind an elected government with separation of powers, the rule of law, and free information to guarantee against a vicious cycle of oligarchy.

Please do not mention the outside opposition in your arguments, only the internal one counts now. Not even the regime counts.

The germs are winning and the rats salute them

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May 5th, 2012, 5:44 pm


107. omen said:

The regime has depicted this uprising as the work of the rural poor and unemployed — those left behind by globalization and economic reform —

the arab spring, the tidal wave of protests sweeping the region – they’re an expression against the imperialism of economic globalization.

dictators surrendering the country’s economic sovereignty to the wto & the imf – doesn’t benefit the masses and isn’t “reform.”

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May 5th, 2012, 6:20 pm


108. omen said:

can somebody tell me who this pundit is?


video describes how bashar embarked upon a neoliberal economic program (re: privatization, crony capitalism.)

appears via.

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May 5th, 2012, 7:04 pm


109. Tara said:

What is the real nature of the Syrian identity?  Mine, as a prototype Sunni from a deeply rooted Damascene family is pretty secular.  A reflection of the society or an exception?     

Ultimately, the battle for Syria’s future boils down to identity, whether Syrian society is by nature religious or secular, and how either identity might be represented by whatever replaces the stifling Baath Party.

Trying to Mold a Post-Assad Syria From Abroad
Published: May 5, 2012

A broad spectrum of political organizations outside the country are jockeying for position, anticipating a new, democratic government in Syria for the first time since a 1963 military coup established the supremacy of the Baath Party and emasculated the rest.

The jockeying has alienated many Syrians, particularly those inside, who complain that members of the fractious opposition exile group, the Syrian National Council, are fixated more on grabbing appointments that they can leverage into domestic influence later than on forging the unity needed to defeat the government. The wrestling continues nonetheless. It remains unclear which group, if any, will emerge the dominant player.

Given the triumphant sweep of Islamist parties across North Africa, Syria’s Islamist leaders itch with anticipation that this is their moment, too. The Muslim Brotherhood is the dominant actor, but two other Islamist organizations, the National Action Group and Mr. Rashid’s Syria National Movement, are vying for influence. All are based abroad.

The Syrian branch of the Brotherhood faces obstacles that its counterpart in Egypt, for one, ?never encountered.

“We don’t have an organization, but we have a constituency,” said Ali Sadreddin al-Bayanouni, the head of the Syrian Brotherhood from 1996 to 2010.

Its impact may be further diluted by internal divisions. Rivalry within the Muslim Brotherhood has long pitted its more tolerant Aleppo branch against the more conservative Hama branch. Exile widened those differences because many Aleppans went to the West, while the Hamawis moved to the Persian Gulf.

None of this has stopped the group from trying to build a cohesive network. Mr. Bayanouni, the former leader, estimated the Brotherhood sent between $1 million to $2 million monthly into Syria for humanitarian needs.

Abu Anas, a 45-year-old mosque imam in a small village between Hama and Homs, said senior Brotherhood figures called from abroad to ask him to resurrect a network that his father once led.

“They want me to rebuild the Muslim Brotherhood’s group through a charity network by helping poor families, jailed activists and by paying for medical aid,” he said, estimating that the organization spent millions of dollars in his region alone in the last year, adding: “If we could present good services and policies to all Syrians, we will be elected.”

A lot more….

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May 5th, 2012, 7:11 pm


110. Tara said:

Do any one know where is Fouad Ajami from originally? Aside than I like his name, I don’t really know anything about his background.

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May 5th, 2012, 7:20 pm


111. omen said:

tara, according to wiki:

Fouad A. Ajami (Arabic: فؤاد عجمي‎; born September 9, 1945, in Arnoun, Lebanon), is a MacArthur Fellowship winning, Lebanese-born American university professor and writer on Middle Eastern issues. He is currently a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

Ajami was an outspoken supporter of the Iraq War, about the nobility of which he believes there “can be no doubt”.[1]

Ajami was born in Arnoun, a rocky hamlet in the south of Lebanon. His Shiite family had come to Arnoun from Tabriz, Iran in the 1850s.[2] In Arabic, the word “Ajami” means “non-Arab”; or “non arabic speaker”;[3] consequently someone who does not speak Arabic.

Ajami arrived in the United States in the fall of 1963, just before he turned 18. He did some of his undergraduate work at Eastern Oregon College (now Eastern Oregon University) in La Grande, Oregon. He did his graduate work at the University of Washington, where he wrote his thesis on international relations and world government, and earned a PhD.[4]

he was wrong about iraq. but look at this, he’s shia who supports the revolution. yay!

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May 5th, 2012, 7:29 pm


112. omen said:

70. Mawal95 said:

#63…in Tel Aviv (he ain’t no amir) says he’s “still wondering” and “still couldn’t find an answer” why anyone in Syria supports a government that is committing crimes. He hasn’t being paying attention to what government supporters say, then. It is very clear among government supporters that we deny that the government’s security forces commit crimes. The government’s policies are very clear, they’ve been repeated countless times on this board and elsewhere, and I need not repeat them again. The policies are complied with. The reports of crimes or use of disproportionate force by the security forces are lies. If you’re “still wondering” why we believe they’re lies, you’ve failed to appreciate that the reports are unverified, and unverifiable, and consist of testimonies from flakey dissidents whose credibility, for us who support the government, is zero. Plus fake videos. As I have before, I once again I challenge you to provide video evidence of crimes being committed by security forces. In the absence of those videos, you shouldn’t be “still wondering” why we believe the government, and why we support the government. 10:59 am

the destruction of homs and other cities, was that all hollywood special effects too? was that the fault of fsa, armed with rust ak-47s?

bashar himself admits the military has acted improperly and has made mistakes:

Al-Assad said those members of the armed forces who “went too far” had been disciplined.

how dare you contradict dear leader, mawal!

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May 5th, 2012, 8:31 pm


113. irritated said:


“There is no guarantee that a new regime will be better unless it has a broad swath of the people behind an elected government with separation of powers, the rule of law, and free information to guarantee against a vicious cycle of oligarchy. ”

In view of what is going on in other ‘liberated’ Arab countries and the sample of opposition ‘leaders’ we have seen, you are hoping for the next century in Disneyland

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May 5th, 2012, 9:01 pm


114. irritated said:

#112 Omen

“bashar himself admits the military has acted improperly and has made mistakes:”

While the opposition applaudes with no regrets the horrors that some of their elements have perpetrated on soldiers and civilians.

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May 5th, 2012, 9:04 pm


115. Tara said:


Thanks for your answer. Has he expressed an opinion in regard to Nasrallah and HA’s support of the butcher of Damascus?

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May 5th, 2012, 9:06 pm


116. zoo said:

قدري جميل لدام برس : نحن مع تشكيل حكومة وحدة وطنية وشعارنا : السلطة للشعب والكرامة للمواطن والثروة للجميع
المعارض الوطني جميل : نعد الناخبين خلال خمس سنوات بحل مشكلات الفقر ولابد من البدء بمعاقبة ومحاسبة رؤوس الفساد



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May 5th, 2012, 9:22 pm


117. zoo said:

Annan will brief the United Nations Security Council on the Syria situation next Tuesday

UPDATE 2-Annan plan for Syria “on track”, spokesman says
Fri May 4, 2012 6:15am EDT

May 4 (Reuters) – A peace plan for Syria brokered by international mediator Kofi Annan is on track despite reports of violations of the ceasefire, Annan’s spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said on Friday.

Annan will brief the United Nations Security Council on the Syria situation next Tuesday by video link from Geneva, he said.

“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,” Fawzi said.

“I agree with you that there are no big signs of compliance on the ground. There are small signs of compliance.”

Annan’s six-point plan includes a ceasefire, deployment of observers and free access for journalists and humanitarian aid.

About 50 observers and civilian staff have been deployed in Syria, but violence has continued since an April 12 truce.

“Some heavy weapons have been withdrawn, some heavy weapons remain. Some violence has receded, some violence remains,” Fawzi said. “I’m not saying that is satisfactory”.

“There are signs on the ground of movement, albeit its slow and small. There are also signs behind the scenes you don’t see because this mediation effort by definition is conducted below the radar,” he said.

“However… even on days we feel there is satisfactory progress albeit it is in inches, not in feet or miles, in those days as well we are horrified by the extent of violence that we see on the ground.”

The United States said on Tuesday that a new international approach may be needed if Annan’s U.N.-backed plan fails, accusing President Bashar al-Assad of making “no effort” to implement it so far.

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May 5th, 2012, 9:29 pm


118. Tara said:

If Iran had not supported the Syrian Baath regime

For years now, Iran has been supporting the Syrian Baath regime — the ideological cousin of the Iraqi Baath regime against whom Iran carried out the longest war of the century. Syria has become one of the few friends Iran has left, after it was blatantly sanctioned by the West, the U.S and other states in the region after the Islamic revolution. In fact, Iran often preferred to promote this relationship as having exaggeratedly more geopolitical value than it really had. Not unlike the existence of a resistance movement in the very unique political, social and geopolitical structure of Lebanon. In other words, the political thread of Iran-Syria-Lebanon is based on as many exaggerations and speculations as the “Iranian Threat” that is inflated by the West, the U.S and Israel. 

What kind of political picture would emerge had Iran not provided support to the Syrian Baath regime?  

6. Withdrawal of Iran’s support from the al-Assad rule would have seriously contributed to the normalization in Iraq. It would have created important opportunities toward the reconciliation of ethnic and sectarian factions. 

7. Adherence to a foreign policy that did not stand in front of the change in Syria would have turned Iran into an important contributor of change in the region. An Iran that defended change in the region would have help actualize democratization in the region – more importantly within its own territory – without having given losses to conspiracies and external scare tactics. 

8. The absence of support from Iran to a sectarian family-gang administration would have softened the sectarian tensions antagonizing our region. The path would have been cleared for an entirely different discourse on the Middle East. Most Western geopolitical readings and calculations would have been rendered meaningless. 

9. Had Iran been able to stand against the massacres committed by the Syrian Baath regime, its Islamic revolution and its struggle against the Iranian Shah (and the order represented by the Shah), would have become important historical events that are mirrored by the Arab uprisings today. 

10. Had Iran been able to distance itself from the al-Assad regime, it would have paved the way for reevaluating not only the (collapse of the) Camp David Order, but also of the post World War I order.



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May 5th, 2012, 9:35 pm


119. zoo said:

Explosion hits suburb of Syrian capital overnight, casualties reported
• A booby-trapped car went off in Daf al-Shouk Saturday, leaving two people killed and five injured.
• The overnight blast is the latest in a string of other explosions that rocked Damascus and Aleppo.
• Damascus and Aleppo have witnessed many suicide bombings recently.

Analysts said the bloody attacks came to overshadow the forthcoming parliamentarian elections that will start on May 7. Some 7,195 candidates, including 710 women, would run for the first legislative chapter of the 250-seat parliament.


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May 5th, 2012, 9:41 pm


120. bronco said:

#116 Tara

“If Iran had not supported the Syrian Baath regime”

And if Qatar, Turkey and France had not supported and financed the opposition…

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May 5th, 2012, 9:44 pm


121. Tara said:

Erdoğan to visit Syrian refugees

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will visit Syrian refugees sheltering at a container city in the southeastern province of Kilis. Erdoğan will attend his Justice & Development Party’s (AKP’s) congress in Gaziantep city, and then proceed to Kilis on May 6, the Prime Ministry said. Erdoğan planned to visit Syrian refugees in Hatay in October, but had to postpone the trip due to his mother’s death. 9,627 Syrians are taking refuge in Kilis. The Turkish Prime Ministry’s Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate said yesterday there were 23,011 Syrians staying in Turkey after fleeing violence in Syria.


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May 5th, 2012, 9:45 pm


122. Tara said:


I am mad at you ..

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May 5th, 2012, 9:50 pm


123. Syrialover said:

Observer, your posts are always worth reading and circulating.Thanks.

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May 5th, 2012, 9:57 pm


124. omen said:

tara, here is an oped he wrote in 2006, re hezbollah:


a more current one from april 2012:


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May 5th, 2012, 10:15 pm


125. Juergen said:

one video that one will remember always


here is a nice Bach song in arabic style…

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May 5th, 2012, 10:25 pm


126. omen said:

114. irritated said:
While the opposition applaudes with no regrets the horrors that some of their elements have perpetrated on soldiers and civilians.

i don’t understand you, irritated. do you think the only good opposition is one who has both hands tied behind their backs? unarmed and impotent? regime soldiers killed in the line of duty to a madman, well, that is the consequence of war. they need to defect if they don’t support murdering civilians in cold blood.

secondly, bashar released criminals from prisons. not activists or prisoners of conscience but murderers, thieves and rapists. i don’t count such people as “the opposition.”

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May 5th, 2012, 10:34 pm


127. Tara said:


Bach The Arabian Passion, excellent!

Resisting a desire to link love song by Fairouz as no one here seems to appreciate art.

Thanks again. That was interesting.

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May 5th, 2012, 10:43 pm


128. omen said:

syrialover, so true. i was hesitant to contradict earlier but even more important than identity is the form of economy syria will follow after the regime has fallen.

for example, argentina is finally recovering economically after rejecting neoliberal policies.

what kind of economic philosophy does the muslim brotherhood endorse?


you’re welcome, tara.

what piqued your interest in ajami? did he show up in an interview somewhere?

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May 5th, 2012, 11:09 pm


129. omen said:

what happened to syrialover’s post about arab youth and unemployment? it was just here!

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May 5th, 2012, 11:27 pm


130. Syrialover said:

[Moderator Note Updated: Comment was flagged into spam. The Financial Times does not allow reposting of its articles to the web. My sincere apologies to SyriaLover for editing out his comment, I made a mistake while taking out the FT portion.]

Arab Youth looks to economy

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May 5th, 2012, 11:41 pm


131. Syrialover said:

Moderator, please, a less blunt instrument!

A large proportion of the words you have tossed out in #130 were my own comments, followed by a short excerpt from the article. It would be reasonable for you to re-post what I wrote plus the link.

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May 5th, 2012, 11:50 pm


132. omen said:

sl’s – 11:41


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May 5th, 2012, 11:55 pm


133. zoo said:

Trying to Mold a Post-Assad Syria From Abroad
Published: May 5, 2012
The Muslim Brotherhood monopolizes everything — the money, the weapons, the S.N.C.,” said Kamal Lebwany, a dissident physician released last November from nearly a decade in jail in Syria. He quit the Syrian National Council in February, labeling it a stalking-horse for Islamic rule. “The S.N.C. has a liberal peel covering a totalitarian, nondemocratic core,” he said, adding that long exile meant the Islamists were out of touch.

Some experts say that Washington is selling the Syrian Brotherhood short as well. “Even a cursory analysis should lead them to the realization that the Syrian Brotherhood is the most closely aligned with their objectives in the region,” said Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. “It is as anti-Iran and anti-Hezbollah as you can get for an Islamist movement.”

Ultimately, the battle for Syria’s future boils down to identity, whether Syrian society is by nature religious or secular, and how either identity might be represented by whatever replaces the stifling Baath Party. Will Syria’s diversity tear it apart, or can a pluralistic, democratic nation that respects equal rights emerge from its jumble of rival religious sects, ethnic groups and age-old tribes?

“It is plausible that the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood will come to the fore,” said Cengiz Candar, an eminent Turkish analyst of Arab affairs. “But it is too early to deduce anything significant. They are in an incubation period. Who knows who will be around eventually?”

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May 6th, 2012, 12:14 am


134. zoo said:

Bahrain “brutal crackdown” continues in the indifference of the UN and Human Rights organizations


Bahraini authorities have arrested Nabeel Rajab, rights activist and foremost critic of the Al Khalifa regime, as they continue their brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters. It comes after he was interviewed on Julian Assange’s “The World Tomorrow.”

Nabeel Rajab, the president of the BahrainCenter for Human Rights was detained at Bahrain’s international airport on his return from Lebanon. The authorities have not commented on the reasons behind the arrest.

Julian Assange, whose talk-show featuring Rajab will be broadcast on RT on May 8, believes the activist was arrested because of the program.

They [the US] want Bahrain stable as the Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain. They want Bahrain to be very quiet and stable,” he said.

All the more outrageous then, Rajab says, that the US is assuring everyone that the situation in Bahrain is improving.

“America’s representative in the Human Rights Council is saying ‘We will not talk about Bahrain this session because Bahrain is improving itself and it is doing better’ when people are dying on a daily basis.”

To say the least, the events in Bahrain have received way less coverage than other Arab protests.

“Unfortunately, because of the double standards of many countries and because of the double standards of many state channels like Al-Jazeera, like Al-Arabiya, like other European channels, they don’t highlight this – but this is the reality,” Rajab told Assange.

The interview next tuesday on Assange website

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May 6th, 2012, 12:18 am


135. omen said:

Some experts say that Washington is selling the Syrian Brotherhood short as well. “Even a cursory analysis should lead them to the realization that the Syrian Brotherhood is the most closely aligned with their objectives in the region,” said Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. “It is as anti-Iran and anti-Hezbollah as you can get for an Islamist movement.”

run across a puzzling op-ed. it argued the very reason snc or syrian opposition hasn’t gained traction in washington is because, contrary to conventional wisdom, the u.s. wants people who do have ties to hezbollah and iran who would then be able to apply leverage.

i’ll post it if i find it again.


zoo, anything is better than this regime.

if the people are able to unseat bashar, they will be able to correct anything else following him.

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May 6th, 2012, 1:35 am


136. abbas said:

Is JAD on strike or he is in the dog house

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May 6th, 2012, 2:36 am


138. Ghufran said:

كلما قتل سوري بدون ذنب فقد الوطن ابتسامه و ربح العار معركة جديده
ما اكثر شقائق النعمان في سوريا اليوم
السادس من ايار هذا العام بلون جديد
لا يحتاج السوريون الان للعثمانيين لصناعة الشهداء
تصنع سوريا شهداءها بيديها
القاتل سوري و المقتول سوري

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May 6th, 2012, 2:50 am


139. Ghufran said:

عندما يذهب الشهداء الى النوم أصحو
وأحرسهم من هواة الرِّثاء
أقول لهم
تُصبحون على وطن
من سحابٍ ومن شجرٍ
من سراب وماء
أهنئُهُم بالسلامةِ من حادثِ المُستحيل
ومن قيمة المذبح الفائضة
وأسرقُ وقتَا لكي يسرقوني من الوقتِ
هل كُلُنا شهداء؟
يا أصدقائي اتركوا حائطاَ واحداً
لحبال الغسيل
اتركوا ليلةًَ للغناء
اُعلِّق أسماءكم أين شئتم فناموا قليلاً
وناموا على سلم الكرمة الحامضة
لأحرس أحلامكم من خناجر حُراسكم
وانقلاب الكتاب على الأنبياء
وكونوا نشيد الذي لا نشيد له
عندما تذهبون إلى النوم هذا المساء
أقول لكم
تصبحون على وطنٍ
حمّلوه على فرس راكضه
يا أصدقائي لن تصبحوا مثلنا
حبل مشنقةٍ غامضه

[ Link Added:http://r9naldo.net/vb/showthread.php?t=33285%5D

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May 6th, 2012, 3:08 am


140. Atheist Syrian Salafist Against Dictatorships said:

Juergen @125

Thanks for the interesting links. First time for me to hear Bach played in this style. Cool!

BTW, It reminded me of a section in a documentary in which Arabic and Western music are discussed (around 7’20”; also the lady singer towards the end does an awesome rendition of Um Kulthum, too)


But also this is an interesting story about Jewish Arab musicians who migrated to Israel. I recommend it highly. I don’t know if you can notice the difference, but even their way of pronouncing Hebrew is different and (to my ears) beautiful, the way it should sound as a Semitic language complete with the ‘7’ and ‘3’ sounds instead of the invented modern Israeli Hebrew pronunciation where all those wonderful and strange fricatives are changed into one ugly and grating and hard ‘kh’. (BTW, it really gets on my nerves how Western journalists and announcers automatically adopt the Israeli pronunciation of Arabic words and names: Ma7moud Abbas is pronounced Makhmoud!), cf.

It is possible that many Jews from Arab countries turned into hardcore haters of all Arabs after moving to Israel but I can’t help feeling a certain warmth towards the musicians in the video, and also sorrow at their having left their original countries all over the ME. When I was still a boy of 13 or 14 in Syria I was one of a small group of children who took Classical guitar lessons from my uncle. One of the boys was Jewish, a couple of years older than me. I wonder what happened to him and where he might be now. Not in Israel, I hope.

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May 6th, 2012, 3:28 am


141. omen said:

Bombs hit pro-govt businesses in Syria


voiced my objections to a reporter who recently snuck into syria. he argued against arming the rebels. he responded:

Anand Gopal: yes true, but concerned they can’t beat regime militarily either way. Aleppo-Damascus business class needs to break with Assad

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May 6th, 2012, 3:36 am


142. omen said:

SlaughterAM: Sanctions biting on Syria; govt bartering for wheat and oil

reduced to bartering…sounds like a regime hanging on by its fingernails.

i hear tunis offered bashar asylum.

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May 6th, 2012, 4:03 am


143. Alan said:

Problems of application of the international sanctions are specific, difficult enough and many-sided. Progressive development and codification of norms and responsibility principles in international law demands the analysis and a coordination of many questions, each of which should be considered and considered correctly and full to reflect change in this area of international law which have occurred in the last time.
Correct reflection of these changes is law of modern international law development.
Necessity of problems special research of codification and progressive development of norms and principles of international legal sanctions is dictated by the increased role of international law as a legal basis of the international relations, increase of its efficiency in business of a consolidation of peace and safety in the decision of the major problems of a civilization.
At the present stage of existence of the independent sovereign states the international relations are shown as international legal, based on legally fixed principles and norms of behavior of the states. International law functions consist in standard fastening of the rights about duties of the states arising in the course of their dialogue. The international law should be considered as a superlinear category not over one international economic relations, and over the international relations in a broad sense, covering all set of relations between the states and the people. Scientifically well-founded use of international legal norms and principles gives the chance not only to influence actively the international relations, but also appreciably to direct their course.
Into an international law problem enters not only an establishment of rules of behavior of the states in this or that area of their international activity, but also development of norms and the principles guaranteeing observance of these rules. One of the major and tested international legal tools in this business is the principle of the international responsibility of the states and other subjects of international law for infringement of their international obligations, and also for harmful consequences at lawful activity in separate spheres of interstate cooperation.
Progressive development of norms and principles of application of sanctions can serve
Development of international law represents integrally interconnected process of establishment and modernization as rules of behavior of the states, and norms and the principles providing their observance, including application of the international economic sanctions. However now this unity it is not observed. In development of norms and principles of the international sanctions in international law the gap was formed. Norms and principles of international legal responsibility of the states not cod-numbered though such need ripened for a long time. To fill this gap – an essential problem of modern international law. It is possible to tell without exaggeration that codification and progressive development of norms and principles of application of sanctions can serve as an important condition in further progressive development of international law as a whole.
To the states it is not indifferent, in what direction, by what criteria and in what volume will be cod-numbered and the norm and principles of application of the international sanctions are progressively developed. On the correct solution of these questions depends, these norms and principles will render what influence on destinies of the world, on the solution of problems of interstate cooperation, on further progress of mankind.

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May 6th, 2012, 6:57 am


144. Alan said:

140. OMEN
barter use in an exchange is the tool of economy and in Syria too! it isn’t anything new in present.
China and Russia but on the countries BRIKS is observed such tool in address avoidance on US dollars

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May 6th, 2012, 7:16 am


145. b said:

92. Tara said:

Mr. b

Interesting link. Thank you, What are your thoughts in regard to Sharmine’ writings and any professional relationship to her if I may ask?

I do not know Sharmine and have no relation to her. She writes what she writes and I have nothing to say about that.

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May 6th, 2012, 7:47 am


146. Observer said:

So irritated thinks that only Fredo is a true and current leader. That there are no leaders and no new society coming forth
I have posted this a very long time ago: the people have proven time and again that they can lead; they can eck out a living in the most difficult of times; and they can start a revolution that is now more coherent in its demands then the entire 40 years of stupid propaganda of this diabolical regime.

This is the unfortunate state of affairs that someone like irritated cannot think or imagine a free society under the rule of law and with peaceful exchange of political power and roles. This is how corrupting the regime has been that he cannot even imagine liberty and fairness and justice.

That is why I repeat that the last 50 years of this diabolical regime has corrupted the minds and the souls of people to such an extent that they are now most racist against their own people.

Russia is having a hard time in creating this image of a responsible world power. It is threatening missile strikes and it is threatening against smuggling weapons into Syria.

Well I see Russian children adopted here by families as part of my charity work and I can tell you that Russia’s society and health care system is dismal.

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May 6th, 2012, 8:02 am


147. Hans said:

Hans, Please do not use the type of language crossed out.

SC Moderator

Putin is reining, Obama and Sarkozy, are fighting for their elections and both have possibility of not surviving another term.
The Israeli Lobby is the only savior for this two.
ai think Syria would be better off without both of them in power.
Syria is not Libya, Egypt or Yemen.
Syria is like Lebanon. it will pay the price as multiethic civil war for years.
I was told that most of the fight in the Middle east after 9/11 is between Shiaa and Sunni which explain the policy of the Israelis, to keep the Arab busy killing each other.
it works very well for everyone and it doesn’t cost the west and the Israelis much.
Syria going into Civil war means the end of civilization for years or decades to come.
I know many here don’t agree with my statement but that’s why Syria will live in dark age for decades.

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May 6th, 2012, 8:42 am


148. zoo said:

#135 Omen

“anything is better than this regime.”

I disagree, Iran is a good example.

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May 6th, 2012, 9:34 am


149. Tara said:


Look at #109 and #133. I like that.

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May 6th, 2012, 9:44 am


150. irritated said:


The first real revolution in an Islamic country in the region has been in Iran. 40 years later, is its a “blooming” democracy and “are there many leaders coming forth, Ahmadinejad etc…?

You expect Syria, a poorer Islamic country, with its complex ethnical and religious tapestry with a violent past of colonization and aggressive and arrogant neighbors to become the first success of a moslem or secular democracy in the Arab world?
It could have happened gradually and still can if it is introduced gradually, but with the violence of the ‘instant regime change’ and the ones you call for to divide the country, it will take more than 5 decades to recover just from the destruction and a few more to build ‘some kind’ of a democracy. Lebanon went through similar chaos almost 40 years ago and has not yet recovered, and it was already “sort” of imperfect democracy.

Its your right to be bitter for the past and idealistic for the future. I look around and I am just realistic.

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May 6th, 2012, 9:50 am


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