Posted by Joshua on Friday, February 10th, 2012
Syria Crisis: Why Homs is the Center of Revolt, February 8, 2012
⋅ The Syrian city of Homs has been the center of the rebellion against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Marco Werman talks with Syria expert Joshua Landis about why Homs has played such a pivotal role in this conflict.
Audio: Play | Download
Thomas Friedman: “In most of the Arab states awakening today, the borders came first, drawn by foreign powers, and now the people trapped within them are trying to find a shared set of ideas to live by and trust each other with as equal citizens.”
Two explosions in Aleppo near military installation. Twenty-five people were killed and 175 people were wounded in two blasts targeting security bases in Syria’s northern city of Aleppo on Friday, state television quoted the Health Ministry as saying.
Syrian Activist Asks Burhan Ghalioun to resign for not demanding the arming of the Syrian opposition – an indication of the growing pressure within opposition ranks to arm.
Mohammad Al Abdallah, a friend, Syrian political refugee living in Washington, and frequent commentator on Syria on al-Jazeera, writes on his Facebook:
أعلم أن الوقت غير مناسب لهذا الكلام، لكني إن لم أتكلم سأنفجر:
د. برهان غليون، يا رئيس المجلس الموقر… أرجوك افتح موبايلك… مدينتك حمص تذبح ونحن والإعلام نريد التحدث إليك. والله رائع أنك طلعت قد المسؤولية تمام!!
أنت مسؤول عما يحصل ثلاث مرات: مرة بصفتك سوري، ومرة بصفتك حمصي، ومرة بصفتك رئيس المجلس.
رأيي أن تستقيل وتدع من هو أهل للقيادة أن يقوم بها. حتى لو كانت رغبة قطر أن تبقى في رئاسة المجلس، أرجوك احفظ ما تبقى من ماء وجهك واستقيل.
صاير فيك: لا برحمك ولا بخلي رحمة ربك تنزل عليك!
آسف إنك اضطريتني أن أكتب هذا البوست، لكن نحن شعب لا يقبل الابتزاز عزيزي
The ‘Arm the FSA’ Bandwagon
By Marc Lynch – Foreign Policy – Thursday, February 9, 2012
people need to think far more carefully about the implications of funneling weapons to the Free Syrian Army before leaping into such a policy. Here are some of the questions that need to be asked.
First, who exactly would be armed? … The Syrian opposition remains fragmented, disorganized, and highly localized. ..
The provision of arms probably won’t be intended to create a protracted, militarized stalemate — but that does seem the most likely outcome. …
Providing arms to a relatively weak opposition will not necessarily close the military gap, then — it might simply push the same gap up to a higher level of militarized conflict. ….
what will we do when the provision of weapons fails to solve the conflict?… Intervene?
what if Assad does fall?… This is not a pretty picture.
Arming the Syrian opposition is not a cheap and effective substitute for military intervention, and it is not a generally harmless way to “do something.” It does not guarantee either the protection of the Syrian people or the end of the Assad regime. It is more likely to produce a protracted stalemate, increased violence, more regional and international meddling, and eventual calls for direct military intervention. It’s probably going to happen whether or not the United States plays a role, though — but at least we should know what we’re getting into.
Syria’s Splintered Opposition: Who Is Running the War Against the Regime?
By Rania Abouzeid Monday, Feb. 06, 2012 – Time
…..It’s unclear how big this rebel force is. Colonel Riad al-As’aad, the head of the FSA, has boasted of as many as 40,000 men — a claim impossible to verify and probably part of a psychological campaign to encourage further defections. General Mustafa al-Sheikh, the highest-ranking breakaway to date, has gone further, telling a British newspaper that President Assad’s army is just weeks away from collapsing. Few would concur.
Perhaps that is because Sheikh and As’aad are rivals. On Sunday, the general announced the formation of the High Syrian Council for the Liberation of Syria, a move that is likely to cement a split within the armed opposition, given that the FSA’s deputy commander Colonel Malik Kurdi told TIME Sheikh’s move was nothing short of “a knife in the back of the revolution.”
“We were surprised by this,” Kurdi said by phone from Turkey. “General Sheikh defected and did not join us. He announced this council — it’s his business. We have nothing to do with it. We don’t know anything about it or its aims, but we question its formation at this point. We think it’s an attempt to split the armed opposition.”
It is debatable whether the FSA’s leadership in Turkey serves anything more than a p.r. function — a source for media and Western diplomats — without real command of FSA fighters on the ground. Now a separate and rival authority under General Sheikh is likely to confuse things in an already disunited opposition front, even as Assad escalates his attacks and takes an ever higher daily death toll.
Bassma Kodmani, spokeswoman for the Syrian National Council (SNC), the de facto political opposition group, says the SNC was also wary of Sheikh’s announcement. “It’s not something that we fully know what were the issues behind it,” Kodmani tells TIME. “We realize there are some tensions related to the timing of the event. We are working to ensure that the military command will remain united.”
The Arab League said it intends to resume its observer mission in Syria but requested U.N.assistance. U.S. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the United States has been debating humanitarian assistance for some time, but noted that all options are open stating, “We definitely don’t want to militarize the situation. If it’s avoidable we are going to avoid it. But increasingly it looks like it may not be avoidable.” According to U.S. military officials, the Pentagon’s Central Command has begun a review of U.S. military capabilities.Others are discussing arming the opposition Free Syria Army. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is traveling to the U.S. for talks on Syria and said he would like to hold an international meeting to coordinate efforts for humanitarian aid and agree on a strategy to end violence.
Thomas Friedman’s argument for a US role in Syria: “Iraq shows that it is not impossible… to find a shared set of ideas to live by and trust each other with as equal citizens….”
“Iraq also shows how hard it is to do that — the Sunni-Shiite divide still cuts very deep — but …”…”We often forget how unusual America is as a self-governing, pluralistic society. We elected a black man whose grandfather was a Muslim as president at a time of deep economic crisis, and now we’re considering replacing him with a Mormon. Who in the world does that? Not many, especially in the Middle East. Yet, clearly, many people there now deeply long to be citizens — not all, but many. If that region has any hope of a stable future, we need to bet on them.”
As Damascus braces for what some fear might prove a reckoning, residents lament a life that has become at times unbearable.
A 34-year-old teacher from the Alawite sect said her life had changed in ways she never imagined. Six months ago, she started covering her head like Sunni Muslim women, hoping not to stand out. Her husband, an officer in the Syrian Army, rarely leaves his base to come home. She said she and their two sons had not seen him in months.
A few weeks ago, her landlord, a Sunni, asked her to leave the house because his newly married son wanted to move in. “Sunnis have begun to feel empowered,” the teacher said. “A year ago, no one would have expected this to happen.” She had already made plans to return to her village.
The teacher said that most Alawites in the Damascus neighborhoods of al-Hajar al-Aswad and Qadam had left or were planning to go to their native villages. So are families in towns on the outskirts of the capital, including Douma, Saqba and Arbeen, where heavy and persistent clashes have occurred between state security forces and rebels for the past two weeks.
“Who lost a son or a brother wants revenge, and he will take vengeance from Alawites before anyone else because most Alawites are commanders of security forces,” the teacher said. “I am sorry to say this, but I think the Assad regime is using us in the crackdown, and when it will falls, they will run away, and we will pay the heavy price.”
Anthony Shadid on Libya: ….there are 250 separate militias in the coastal city of Misurata, the scene of perhaps the fiercest battle of the revolution. In recent months those militias have become the most loathed in the country.
“This is destruction!” complained Nouri Ftais, a 51-year-old commander, who offered a rare, unheeded voice of reason. “We’re destroying Libya with our bare hands.”.. The country that witnessed the Arab world’s most sweeping revolution is foundering. So is its capital, where a semblance of normality has returned after the chaotic days of the fall of Tripoli last August. But no one would consider a city ordinary where militiamen tortured to death an urbane former diplomat two weeks ago, where hundreds of refugees deemed loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi waited hopelessly in a camp and where a government official acknowledged that “freedom is a problem.” Much about the scene on Wednesday was lamentable, perhaps because the discord was so commonplace.
The European Union is making contingency plans in case it needs to evacuate EU citizens from Syria and is mulling a ban on flights into and out of the country, senior officials said yesterday. The suspension of commercial flights is among a raft of …
THE CASE FOR ORGANIZING A MILITARY FORCE FROM THE MUSLIM WORLD TO INTERVENE IN SYRIA
Soner Cagaptay, New Republic, February 9, 2012
The ongoing crisis in Syria is that rare international issue that should unite both humanitarians and foreign policy realists. Intervening to terminate the Assad regime is the only way to end the Middle East’s bloodiest humanitarian tragedy in decades. It’s also the most effective way to get rid of the most anti-American regime in the Levant, a strategic area for U.S. interests. That’s not to say that intervention will be simple. Ill-conceived action could escalate the conflict. That’s why the intervention in Syria needs to be velveteen in nature, soft to the touch and woven patiently over time.
The U.S.-led intervention in Bosnia in the 1990s is instructive. During the Bosnian War, the United Nations Security Council designated areas liberated by Bosnian civilian-defense units as “safe havens.” The Bosnian defense units faced the risk of being outgunned by the superior Yugoslav National Army (J.N.A.) and Serb paramilitaries, so the U.N. then mandated peacekeepers to protect these areas. There was one problem though: In 1995, J.N.A. forces overran the “safe haven” of Srebrenica, and peacekeepers with a limited U.N. mandate could only watch as thousands of Bosnians were executed.
As in Bosnia, forces composed of civilian-defense units are liberating areas of Syria while continuing to be outgunned by the superior Syrian Army. The good news offered by the Bosnian precedent: Give the Syrians well-protected safe havens, and they will likely finish off Assad. But Bosnia also offers another lesson — don’t send in peacekeepers with a limited U.N. mandate. They can’t stop the conflict. Intervention needs to be soft in nature and smart, involving not ground troops, but air power to protect the designated safe havens.
Still, a question looms: With little American appetite for overseas warfare, whose air force would protect the safe havens? In fact, Washington’s reluctance to lead an operation may prove a blessing, leaving space for Turkey to take the reins….Ankara views taking part in any U.S.-led intervention in a Muslim country to be against Turkey’s new role in the Middle East.
But Turkey would support an air-based intervention to protect U.N. designated safe havens — as long as the mission is led by a “regional force,” composed of both Turkish and Arab militaries.
The Iraqi government recently sent 33 locals to be part of the Arab League’s monitoring mission in Syria. But just like the mission itself, the Iraqi participants have been considered controversial – and even biased toward Syria’s leaders. by Khaled Waleed in Baghdad (02.02.2012) more
Over the past weeks, the warm relationship between Iraq and Turkey has soured, with the two PMs in a war of words about Baghdad’s political crisis. However the real reasons may have more to do with Syria. And Iran. by Hoshnag Ose in Brussels (09.02.2012) more
Extremist militia, al-Qaeda in Iraq, is moving headquarters and has a new plan to increase sectarian conflict. A source familiar with the group says they will recruit members and gain locals’ confidence while sowing seeds of deadly dissent. by Khaled Waleed in Baghdad (09.02.2012) more
Over a million Iraqis live in Syria and if the situation there worsens, they may start returning home. Iraq’s Minister of Displacement and Migration tells NIQASH how he plans to deal with them, and other Iraqi refugees and deportees from the EU. by Khaled Waleed in Baghdad (09.02.2012) more
A cousin of Syria’s President Bashar Assad has won a legal bid to unfreeze euro3 million ($4 million) held in bank accounts in Switzerland.
Switzerland’s top criminal court has ruled in favor of Hafez Makhlouf’s appeal against the Swiss government’s decision to block the accounts.
The 40-year-old army colonel was added to a Swiss government sanctions list in September in response to Syria’s brutal crackdown on opposition protesters.
The Swiss court last month agreed with Makhlouf’s argument that the money was designated for a property purchase in Syria made in April 2011, five months before the funds were frozen.
The verdict was first reported Thursday by Swiss news website 20min.ch and is available online.
DISCOURSES OF A REVOLUTION: FRAMING THE SYRIAN UPRISING
Emma Lundgren-Jörum ORTADOĞU ETÜTLERİ, Cilt 3 Sayı 2 Ocak 2012
This article compares how the Syrian uprising was framed by the Syrian regime as well as some of the major oppositional organizations between March and November 2011. As expected in conflict the versions told differ. The regime stresses that Syria is the victim of a foreign conspiracy where armed terrorists are killing civilians and security personnel alike. The opposition, on the other hand, argues that the uprising is a domestic affair, initiated by ordinary people. The article further seeks to give an overview of the regime’s and the opposition’s views of the post-uprising Syria and their respective ideas of the best way to get there. The article argues that the Syrian opposition has, by and large, maintained a unified position. The major division is not, as could perhaps be expected, between the internal and the external opposition but between the “older” internal opposition and the rest. The article also argues that minority questions are not substantially dealt with by either the opposition or the regime. Both sides focus on the Kurds but effectively avoid other minorities.
Emma Lundgren-Jörum –
Aleppo, Syria, Long Loyal to the Government, Appears to Waver
Los Angeles Times
The nation’s second-largest city looks increasingly divided over the uprising. Major unrest there would be a significant blow to President Bashar Assad…. More and more, however, it appears those who have not yet taken a side are less sure what to think.
“We talk to those supporting the revolutionaries and what they are saying sounds right, and we talk to those who support the regime and what they are saying sounds right,” said a college English major in her early 20s. “We don’t know what’s actually right.”
“The Ant-Assad Axis of Resistance.”
By Nick Heras in the Lebanese news agency Siyese
….Who will be the guiding civilian authority in Syria? What will be done to incorporate disaffected (i.e. Alawite) communities in the country? What military and police authority will keep the peace int he country? How will the Syrian economy be revitalized and improved? What is to be done with the Kurds of Syria (10% or more of the Syrian population) who have long-running ambitions of having at least the autonomy of their Iraqi Kurdish neighbors? These questions are just as essential to any post-Assad future as the matter of President Bashar Al-Assad stepping down from power. As of the moment, they remain unanswered by the Axis of Insistence.
A key factor in the Arab Spring is demographics, as a glance at the population pyramids below suggests.
A common denominator of the five is an aging ruling party unable to control a population bulge of young adults afflicted by high unemployment, food inflation, corruption, an absence of political freedoms and generally poor living conditions.
IMF Won’t Substantiate “Arab Spring” Spending, Downplays Military Spending
UNITED NATIONS, February 9 — While the International Monetary Fund bragged about committing $35 billion to the “Arab Spring,” now it has been questioned by area finance ministry officials and, although the IMF dodged the question, by the Press how many much has been disbursed.
MOSCOW, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had a telephone conversation with his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy Wednesday, calling on members of the U.N. Security Council to avoid hasty unilateral actions on Syria, the Kremlin said on Thursday.
In the phone conversation initiated by Paris, the Russian leader stressed that the international community’s position on Syria should be objective and balanced.
“In context of continuing the difficult work, including by the U.N. Security Council, to regulate the Syrian crisis, Medvedev called on Russia’s partners to avoid any hasty unilateral steps,” the Kremlin press service said.
Medvedev informed the French president about Russian efforts to stop any violence in Syria as soon as possible through comprehensive dialogues between the confronting parties and facilitating democratic reforms in that country.
He also briefed Sarkozy on the results of the talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad held on Tuesday in Damascus.
“Moscow said it was ready to continue mediatory efforts but considered any bloodshed unacceptable,” the Kremlin said.