Wikileaks, Assad and Syria Comment – The Dispute about Tlas – Assad Interview

Repercussions from the Tlass defection are still echoing. Sharmine Narwani claims his departure was not that important. Michel Kilo has recommended him as the transition leader of Syria. Others say it signifies the beginning of the end. Many opposition activists detest everything he stands for. I have tried to collect a cross-section of views on him.

The Wikileak articles are beginning to come out in greater numbers. At least one of the president’s emails discussed articles published on Syria Comment. – this one, for example, is a comment by Elie Elhadj, who wrote about Syria’s very serious water crisis on the pages of SC – here and here.This is a small bit of the original article:

“Investment in irrigation agriculture, which uses huge volumes of Syria’s finite water resources should be shifted to investing in low water using manufacturing industries based on rate of return criterion instead of political convenience or personal interest. Foreign currencies generated from exporting manufactured products, or from reducing the importation of manufactured goods, would be used to import foodstuffs. Agriculture in arid/semi arid Syria should be left to rain fed lands, with investment in modern technology to improve the yield and quality of rain fed produce. It should be remembered that irrigation schemes have left the water balance in five of Syria’s seven basins negative. In addition to the billions of dollars wasted on white elephant irrigation schemes, what a terrible loss of water that is!

This is his comment that Bashar picked up on – It came from an email that Elie sent to me and a few friends, including Camille Otrakji, who forwarded it to a friend who sent it to President Assad. The email was sent Feb 11, 2011 at 9:05 AM. President Assad was not upset by the insults to his father, as some journalists have suggested. He picked up on it because Syria was in the midst of its five year drought. He knew what a disastrous water crisis Syria faced and was trying to figure out how to reverse course – but of course – like so many of Syria’s problems, he failed to deal with it because it would have meant breaking too many eggs and potentially unraveling his regime and control.

Water resources and cotton plantation SCARY NUMBERS (from a discussion)

Email-ID 2105484
Date 2011-02-12 04:19:25

Check زراعة و ري

All of Syria’s cotton production is done on irrigated lands, not rain fed. Of Syria’s estimated 13 billion m3 of irrigation water more than 4 billion m3 is used to grow cotton. A cotton t-shirt requires about 2.7 tons of water to produce. Cotton requires four times as much water to grow as wheat.

Syria’s emphasis on irrigation has been wrong. Syria should invest in improving the yield of rain fed lands. There was a threefold increase in the productivity of water in rain fed wheat production in north-west Europe between 1800 and 1950. And a further trebling by 1990.

The Tabqa Dam is an economic disaster. The yes-men around Hafiz Asad lacked the balls to stop an ignorant military officer from wasting billions of dollars on a white elephant, made by his propagandist to be one genius of a project.

The World Bank concluded that Syria’s government will need to recognize that achieving food security with respect to wheat and other cereals in the short-term as well as the encouragement of water-intensive cotton appear to be undermining Syria’s security over the long-term by depleting available groundwater resources.

Another discusses, which was a major effort led by Camille Otrakji to get Israelis and Syrians discussing the Golan and avenues to peace. I participated in the project and pushed it on SC. Unfortunately it was seen in Damascus as a breach of security and law. He asked Syria’s head of the National Security Council to look into it. According to an article in al-Akhbar English:

A story published by The Guardian in 2010 about Syrian and Israeli bloggers interacting with each other on the website, perked his interest, and he requested that it be translated and sent to an individual named “bekhtiar.” (doc-id 2095860)

Manaf Tlass as taciturn rebel?

EXTRA: Opposition proposes top Syrian defector for president

Moscow (DPA) — Representatives of the Syrian opposition on Monday put forward Brigadier General Manaf Tlass, who defected earlier this month, to succeed President Bashar al-Assad. At a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, the opposition continued to insist that al-Assad must step down before a political dialogue can take place, according to the news agency Interfax.

Russia to suspend new arms to Syria: agencies
By Thomas Grove, MOSCOW | Mon Jul 9, 2012

(Reuters) – Russia will not deliver fighter planes or other new weapons to Syria while the situation there remains unresolved, the deputy director of a body that supervises Moscow’s arms trade was quoted as saying on Monday.

Davutoğlu says Turkey got Syria wrong in Hurriyet

” … Unfortunately, Turkey made a very serious mistake in Syria. It thought that, as in Libya the regime would collapse quickly and would be replaced with the AKP’s “brothers” the Muslim Brotherhood.

In search of peace: Annan arrives in Iran from Damascus

UN peace envoy Kofi Annan is in Iran after finishing a round of talks with Syrian authorities in Damascus. The trip reinforces Annan’s belief that Tehran is one of the key players in finding a solution to the conflict in Syria.

Annan described his talks in Damascus as constructive, saying the sides agreed to move ahead with implementing a peace plan proposed by the envoy.

“We agreed to an approach which I will share with the opposition,” he told reporters.

During his visit, Annan met with both Syrian President Bashar Assad as well as the country’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.

Damascus reiterated their commitment to Annan`s peace plan.

“In both meetings we reassured Annan of Syria’s commitment to implement the six-point plan and hope the other side is mutually committed,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi wrote on Twitter.

Meanwhile, the UN and Arab League special envoy has arrived in Iran, Syria’s main ally in the region.

On Saturday Annan said that Iran should be involved in the resolution of the crisis, because it is an “actor” in the situation whose participation is necessary.

Speaking to Le Monde, the envoy stressed the role of Moscow and Teheran in dealing with the conflict in Syria, saying that there is “no alternative” to Russia’s participation in a diplomatic solution and that Iran also “cannot be ignored.”

While Annan was holding talks with Syrian authorities in Damascus, Moscow has conducted a round of negotiations with the Syrian opposition. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with a Syrian delegation led by Michel Kilo on Monday.

The opposition delegation stated that the question of removing President Bashar Assad from power is secondary, while their primary goal is the transition from violence to democracy.

Following the talks, Lavrov pointed out to the importance of the Syrian opposition having a unified platform. The foundation of this platform should be an inclusive dialogue between the authorities and the opposition, the Minister said.

Moscow has also invited another prominent opposition group, the Syrian National Council (SNC), to come to Russia for talks. The delegation is expected to visit after July 10, the Foreign Ministry said, though no exact dates were announced.

The SNC has repeatedly said that it sees a solution for Syrian crisis only in the ouster of President Assad. The majority of Western countries consider the group to be the only “official” opposition. In April, Friends of Syria recognized the SNC as the “legitimate representative” of all Syrians.

Annan and Assad agree political approach for Syria – Reuters

 Putin: West exports ‘airstrike democracy’ to cling to Arab influence

Russian President Vladimir Putin has criticized the West for clinging to its influence in the Arab world under the guise of “humanitarian operations.” He dubbed western involvement in Arab affairs as nothing more than a “rocket and bomb democracy.” At a meeting with top Russian diplomats Putin said that certain countries will do anything to retain the influence they have become accustomed to in the Arab world. He stressed that western nations often adopt a one-sided policy in Arab affairs that violates international law. RT’s Sean Thomas followed the address.

Interview with Assad, just recently conducted by the German publicist Jürgen Todenhöfer. The original English version.

Brig. Tlas Could be consensus solution
by Mohamed H.Hamdan in Damscus
Contributed to Syria Comment

The young Brigadier Tlas stopped wearing his military uniform and opted for civilian clothing months ago. He set up residence in Damascus, where he let his beard and hair grow long. Nobody expected that the aristocratic general with his boyish face and western life style could withstand Assad’s fall.

Gen. Manaf Tlas has let down his childhood friend President Bashar al-Assad. Tlas has forgotten memories which they shared, jokes they laughed at and Syria’s future they have drawn.

Michel kilo, a prominent figure in the Syrian opposition, told Russians in Moscow, ”Manaf Tlas is a good candidate to head a transitional government”. Kilo explained to the Russians that General Manaf Tlas was against “the Military- security solution of the regime.”

Syrian Activists feel worried now, some of them say Tlas’ defection is Plan B designed to protect Assad’s regime.

”Substituting Mr. Assad by Gen. Tlas with his military background and his deep relations can be Assad’s successor for the same Syria which protects the Russian and Iranian interests in the region.” Ahmed al-Khalaf, defected Lieutenant, based in Beirut, said.

Tlas relations with Mr. Assad became irreconcilable after the fierce assault on the Homs district of Bab Amr in February this year according to AFP. He was sidelined more than a year ago, after he was deemed unreliable.

Tlas’ close friends said that he did not like what he saw, and tried to do something to ease the crackdown, friends and opposition sources say. They credit him with intervening to negotiate local ceasefires.

Eyad Issa, close friend to Tlas family said “Manaf has been growing increasingly frustrated for months,” Tlas felt increasing dishonor as his hometown ‘al-Rastan’ /160 kilometers north of Damascus/ was being leveled and hundreds of his relatives fell dead or injured.

“He started to tell people he trusted that he wanted out, and that he has respect among the Free Syrian Army,” Issa said, referring to the rebel force that has attracted many officers and soldiers from Rastan.

Colonel. Adnan Ahmed, who joined Free Syrian Army (FSA), based in Turkey, has defended Brig.Tlass defection on ALJAZEERA TV. He said that al-Rastan with its 1146 officers is supporting Brig. Tlas. ”We know his intention to defect and now he did it.”

Peaceful demonstrations were silenced by the gun, prompting Rastan’s residents, many of whom served in the army and had the patronage of the Tlas family, to take up arms

Abdul-Razzak Tlas, Brig. Manaf’s cousin and a popular commander of the FSA in Homs and a former First Lieutenant in the Syrian army, is commanding the most powerful Brigades of FSA called al-Farouq Brigades which stand for 4 months in face of Syrian army artillery and bombardment in Homs district of Bab Amr.

Two weeks ago, Opposition sources have spoken of senior figures that are under suspicion of being potential defectors being held under virtual house arrest. Assad’s opponents have been trying to encourage as many of his entourage as possible to abandon him.

Munther Khaddam, well-known Assad’s opponent said ”when a cornerstone like Brig. Tlas defects the temple of Assad definitely will crack down’. ”Then a lot of secrets can be revealed”, added.

Syria’s government has lessened the impact of Tlas defection. A Syrian news website ”Syria steps” quoted a Syrian official on Thursday as saying: “His desertion means nothing, If Syrian intelligence had wanted to arrest him it would have.” But “It’s hard blow for the regime,” Abdul basset seida, the president of SNC said during Conference on Syria’s friends last week in Paris.

The French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the same and confirmed Tlas defection which meant that Assad’s inner circle “is beginning to understand that the regime is unsustainable”. Fabius added.

US secretary of State Mrs. Hilary Clinton said Tlas defection suggests Assad’s insiders, Army are voting with their feet.”

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey, Syria’s NATO-member neighbor, agreed: “Every day, generals, colonels, officers are coming, and we have, I think, around 20 generals and maybe 100 high-ranking officers, colonels,” he told France 24 television.

Brigade 105 now according to well-informed source said Brigade 105 has been mixed with Maher al-Assad’s Brigade (Brigade 4) and Brigade 14 for special missions) after defecting 1200 soldier whom run away after their brig has defected between them about 43 high ranked officers – general and colonels

Syrian opposition with its armed wing FSA still looks to hear from the young general. What Kilo has recommended to Russian seems to be the waiting speech they are looking for.

”Brig. Tlas is consensus solution where all parties should agree on,” al-Khalaf said.

A Word on the Tlass Departure – by Maysaloon

Firstly I don’t think the Tlass family are members of any “aristocracy”. ….So why is he now being pushed as a potential successor to Assad?….

This is a particularly devastating and humiliating option for many Syrians… Tlass might be the least worst option, but this still isn’t good enough for a country that has given over fifteen thousand lives for its freedom, and tens of thousands of refugees and prisoners. I doubt that all these people died to replace an Alawite dictator with a Sunni one, but I’m confident about one thing, and that is that Syria’s freshly grown grass roots will now, and should remain, the final line of defence for the Syrian people’s liberties and fight against oppression. It is now more vital than ever that these grass roots groups and coordination committees dig in and consolidate. The hard work really begins once Assad goes.

Manaf Tlass: “Nobody stopped him from leaving and nobody worked on him to stay.”
Syrian General Manaf Tlass: Neither Here Nor There
By Sharmine Narwani – Sun, 2012-07-08 23:47- The Sandbox

Since the news of his departure broke a few days ago, Tlass has stayed quiet. It is unlikely that he has “defected” – that would suggest he is joining the opposition, and it is doubtful that any but the most opportunistic of them would embrace a figure so closely associated with the Assad history in Syria.

But here’s a tidbit that hasn’t made the rounds yet in this well-hyped story: until very recently, Tlass was telling members of Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle that he wanted the post of Minister of Defense.
“He believed he could help push forth a reform agenda, as he had envisioned with his old friend Bassel (al-Assad),” says an acquaintance of Tlass’.

A well-informed source close to the Syrian government tells me that Tlass had tested those waters last Spring before Assad announced a new cabinet in April 2011, from which he was excluded. In the early months of unrest in Syria, he had attempted to stem the crisis by mediating between the government and its opponents in various towns and cities, but had by most accounts not succeeded. Part of the problem appears to be that the Assad establishment did not put its weight behind his efforts after they faltered, choosing to pursue another strategy altogether. By August, as armed clashes and crackdowns escalated, Tlass was effectively sidelined by a regime that refused to entrust in his vision and was mistrustful of his family’s opposition credentials. He then simply stopped working, cut-off many of his ties with close friends and reigned in his legendary social life.

How does one just not go to work one day? A source explains that “Tlass’ military uniform was only 10% of his life anyway. The rest of his time was spent on running around, his social life, some business dealings. He was a privileged son of an important regime figure – that was his life and he had a sense of entitlement as did many others like him.”

But still Tlass apparently did not count himself out – he tried again for the top defense post in the lead-up to the last cabinet reshuffle, and was passed over a second time when Assad announced the new line-up on June 23.

The headlines this week that claim the “defection” of a major Syrian Army commander and a member of Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle lack a great deal of the nuance unique to Manaf Tlass’ case….

Tlass apparently felt snubbed by the president for not being promoted to Major General from his current status as Brigadier General, but importantly, is viewed within the army as a token regime appointment rather than a commander capable of leading his forces.

Is Tlass’ departure significant? Certainly, it has been useful for some perception-creating headlines. But he was neither a pivotal figure within the Syrian Army nor the political establishment. His importance was rather in relation to his father’s standing within the elder Assad’s coterie, and as a member of a leading Sunni family long associated with the regime.

The fact is, after almost a year of inactivity and relative isolation, Manaf was in political no-man’s land in Syria. Scorned by people in Rastan for his continued allegiance to Assad, and marginalized by the regime in both the political and military spheres, Tlass had nothing to gain or lose by sitting tight.

“I don’t blame him. He had to make a choice,” says a Syrian who knows Tlass. “Nobody stopped him from leaving and nobody worked on him to stay,” says another, who knows the elder Tlass well.

So he went to France. End of story. But that won’t stop the spin.

The final chapter in Syria is being written today – al-Arabiya
By Jihad el-Khazen, Monday, 09 July 2012

What is left for the Syrian regime after Brigadier General Manaf Tlas, commander of Brigade 105 of the Republican Guard, has defected?

There was a time when Manaf was being groomed to become the defence minister, like his father Lt. General Mustafa Tlas before him. Manaf had become eligible owing to his rank in the Republican Guard and the ruling party, and I believe the delay was only because of his young age.

Mustafa Tlas was one of the main pillars of the regime, perhaps even its backbone…..

Today in Syria, the final chapter of a popular uprising is being written, and I insist that the regime could have avoided it, had it not chosen the military-based solution and its stubborn insistence upon it, even when it failed month after month, making the problem worse.

Yet the solution will not come from a meeting in Cairo, Geneva or Paris, but from the heart of Syria itself.

The heart of the Arab needs an urgent heart surgery, but this will only succeed if it is to be performed by Syrians themselves.

From the Comment Section: “Shabih” writes:

What really pisses me off is that way you write about this “Sunni” [Tlas] being in favor of negotiation and dialogue while the “Alawite leadership” was in favor of killing and heavy-handedness. You write this while ignoring that many in your audience know that the “Alawite leadership” you speak of has been following the strategy of “negotiation, flexibility, and compromise” all over Syria. How many times have we heard of the rebels and army agreeing to pull back in cities? How many times have we heard about Bashar al-Asad holding personal dialogue with various delegations from cities and villages from all parts of Syria and beyond?…

The whole point is to paint a picture of Sunni vs Alawite. This whole crisis started because Sunnis wanted freedom and Alawites would prefer to kill them. That is the narrative you want to peddle while carrying the title of Syria expert…. I really can’t stand reading your material anymore. I might as well be reading WINEP’s propaganda.

Deputy PM Says Gas Shortages Structural – Syria Report

There is no structural solution to the domestic gas shortages facing the country as long as sanctions are in place, Qadri Jamil, the new deputy Prime Minister in charge of domestic trade and consumer production said, blaming “sons of b…” for the hike in prices.

Power Cuts Rise as Temperatures Increase – Syria Report

The Ministry of Electricity is raising the daily number of hours of power cuts across Syria as rising temperatures lead to an increase in demand for electricity.

Starting July 2, the Public Establishment for the Distribution and Exploitation of Electrical Energy has increased power outages in Damascus to 3 hours per day from 2 hours previously.

In Aleppo, the country’s second largest city, power cuts are being increased from 3 to 4 hours a day, while in the rest of the country, power cuts are increasing to 5 hours a day. In each case the cuts are broken into two periods, one in the morning and another in the afternoon or evening…..

“No sect’s please; we’re Syrian” – Open Democracy – Syrian opposition activist, Rita, who must remain anonymous for her own safety, tells of a particularly harrowing encounter she had with the Syrian shabiha and how she managed to survive.

Nikolaos van Dam on Aljazeera “Inside Syria” with former General Akil Hashimi and Yasser Tabbara (SNC).

Nikolaos van Dam, How to Solve or Not to Solve the Syrian Crisis?, Orient, III-2012, pp. 31-37

Fear of Iran and Syrian Bloodletting, July 09, 2012
By Meir Javedanfar

Meir Javendanfar looks at how Western sanctions on Iran are enabling violence in Syria to continue.

Egypt: Morsi Moves to Restore Islamist Parliament – By: Steve Hendrix and Ernesto Loñdono | The Washington Post

Election Results in Libya Break an Islamist Wave – By: David D. Kirkpatrick | The New York Times
The post-Arab Spring rise of Islamist leaders appeared to bypass Libya, where a coalition led by a Western-educated political scientist led the early vote count.
By: Susan Crabtree | The Washington Times
A dramatic uptick in violence and political instability in Iraq have raised fears that Baghdad once again is tilting toward civil war. A half-year after the U.S. military left Iraq, the war-weary country is beset by violence as insurgents take advantage of the power struggles between the country’s ethnic and sectarian factions.

Comments (187)

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151. Ghufran said:

75 billion new Lira printed in Russia are in Syria now.

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July 11th, 2012, 9:05 am


152. Tara said:

When is Syria going to print it’s own money?

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July 11th, 2012, 9:08 am


153. Syrialover said:

# 147. Karabennemsi

I’m happy to believe what you say.

But I’m not focussed on the writer – more the topic, which needs to be thought about and discussed as much as possible.

Not just by opposition figures, but all Syrians.

Syria’s potential for recovery and internal reconciliation also matters to the rest of the world.

The conclusion of that article is general and speculative, but it’s a vision to hold on to.

Do you think it’s impossible?

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July 11th, 2012, 9:15 am


154. Observer said:

Here are my questions for today

1. Is Annan trying to save Fredo? or is he trying to save Annan’s place in history? He already is known for the Rwanda genocide do nothing UN secretary general. Is he playing a counter weight to the Friends of Syria meeting and going to Iran and Russia to help him or to help Fredo? I am not sure I see any prospect for his mission to be resurrected from the dead. Today Russia has essentially put forth a three month extension for the regime to survive while it sends ships with marines for what? Evacuate Russians? Secure Tartous? Help the creation of an Alawi state?

2. Is Fredo’s agreement to ease the situation step by step starting with the hot spots an attempt to buy time, to regroup to get fuel from Chavez weapons from Iran and printed banknotes from Russia?

By the way the so called independent regime in Syria my foot cannot even manufacture sewing needles or print its own money let alone make any independent decisions it can only play regional politics games and pretend at independence.

3. I saw several YouTube reports on how bad the army is fairing in the North. Could it be that he is running out of options and this latest Annan tour is to save him?

4. Russia recently lost its influence in Tajikstan to China and the US, could it be that it fears losing all of the southern rim of states that are muslim to a grand alliance of Sunni dominated states? It is afraid of a Sunni Shia civil war or so it claims which means that it is afraid of a rise of Sunni power for over the course of its history Russia killed more muslims than any other colonial power starting with Catherine the Great. So does it think that it can prevent that by clinging to the regime in Syria? I believe the opposite is true, by sticking with Fredo’s regime it will exacerbate the divide and will bring more strife and will lose Syria and the rest of the Sunni world.

5. ZOO posts on the possibility of an Alawi state. Is this the same ZOO that abhored my proposal for a federated ME and a ME economic union with autonomy to the regions? Is he now advocating an Alawi state and touting its ability to be economically viable? Especially if it has the coast under its control? Something that is not yet that sure by the way that they can have Latakia and Banias and Tartous and be adjacent to the ALevi of Turkey.

I still maintain that if the Alawi want their state, please let them have it and get them out of our hair and let them have their leaders and their way of life preserved and free of any fear of oppression or exclusion or revenge and let them have all of the alliances that they wish to have and the Russian and Iranian bases and guards and navy.

Now ZOO what do YOU think? do you want this Alawi state? If so why not a Kurdish state? Why not a Christian state and a Turkmen State and an Assyrian state and a Druze state and a Jewish state and a Sunni state and a Shia state and a Turkish state and an Armenian state. I believe that as the ideological struggle between democracy and totalitarianism is over and between the West and the Soviet union is over we are witnessing the rise of the identity conflict where tensions and differences and debates are now centered on this identity crisis the best exanple of which is the killing spree in Oslo by a right wing pro identity militant and the rise of anti immigrant sentiment across the globe. I think this trend will bring huge strife but alas it is the failing of humanity again. In the meantime let us quietly and peacefully separate with minimal damage for this forced marriage is no longer working

Cheers the germs are spreading

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July 11th, 2012, 9:44 am


155. ghufran said:

4 Turks were caught stealing Syrian antiques in Qalaat Almadeeq. is there a shortage of Syrian thieves to import Turkish ones?

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July 11th, 2012, 10:48 am


158. jna said:

White House Outraged at UN Call to Include Iran in Syria Talks
Iran Would Ruin Demands for Assad’s Ouster
by Jason Ditz, July 10, 2012

“[…]Iran has indicated that they are open to a settlement that would lead to Assad’s ouster, yesterday calling for a deal to end the fighting and move toward an election by 2014 that would “let the Syrian people decide.” Since the only Arab Spring election the US has been genuinely happy about was the single-candidate vote to install Yemen’s new military ruler, they are understandably that an election might not install the right (pro-US) regime.”

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July 11th, 2012, 11:42 am


159. Amir in Tel Aviv said:


Is there a place for a Jewish autonomy in your federal ME, and the ME economic union? I’m asking you this for the 3rd time.

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July 11th, 2012, 11:49 am


160. majedkhaldoun said:

Alawi state is not viable
Syria post assad will fight so the coast stay with Syria.
they will have no oil or gas.
they have to leave Syria and all move there.
they have many christians there and some Sunni.
they have backward country they will have bad economy.
the money they stole have to return to Syria.
they will lose their influence on HA, and will be isolated.
Their army will be less than 150,000, facing 400,000 syrian army.
This state will not be recognized by Arab States.

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July 11th, 2012, 11:58 am


161. Uzair8 said:

So Mr Annan want to focus on the most violent areas?

I’ll help him out. Mr Annan should just follow the 4th Brigade and the Shabeeha around.

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July 11th, 2012, 11:59 am


162. Observer said:

Sure there is for Jewish autonomy; heck I want autonomy for my neighborhood.

Now it has to be linked to complete freedom of movement of goods and people and ideas and merchandise and coordinated taxation system and representation system at the federal level and at the local level.

NO EXCLUSION is the key to the federated ME>

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July 11th, 2012, 12:01 pm


163. Amir in Tel Aviv said:


Sounds good. Will each autonomy be allowed to have an independent immigration policy?

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July 11th, 2012, 12:11 pm


164. Uzair8 said:

Socialist Worker UK. A good read to help brush away the cobwebs of propaganda.

Stand with the Syrian revolt

Tue 10 Jul 2012

Adi Atassi is an opposition activist from Homs, Syria. His home was burnt and his family made refugees. He spoke to Socialist Worker about Syria’s revolt

Our revolution is first of all the rejection of decades of one party rule, where we could only have one ideology, one way of thinking and where we were isolated from any real political debate.


The immediate inspiration came from the Tunisian revolution—but Syrian society has been boiling for years.

Read more:

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July 11th, 2012, 12:13 pm


165. aldendeshe said:

So OBSERVER which faction or splinter of the Syrian Nationalist parties are you a member?

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July 11th, 2012, 12:15 pm


166. Uzair8 said:

An update by Sh. Yaqoubi. I’ll wait for the english translation but share the arabic link for others. The google translation isn’t upto much. The title below is taken from google translation.

Confusion between revolutionary action and politics
Comment Sheikh Muhammad Abul Huda Al Yacoubi

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July 11th, 2012, 12:23 pm


167. Antoine said:

Interrogogation of Brigadier General Muneer al Shlaibeh –

( Its so funny to see him helpless like a child )

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July 11th, 2012, 12:34 pm


168. Uzair8 said:

An update on AJE blog one minute ago. Detainees to be released by the regime. In the image the individual on the left at the front with what appears to be ‘resolution’ on his t-shirt. A little risky? Some dumb Shabeeha may at a glance think it reads ‘revolution’ and make a scene.

Actually an idea for a caption. A dumb Shabeeha does make a scene resulting in the double :facepalm: by the 2 detainees.

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July 11th, 2012, 12:50 pm


169. Observer said:

According to the universal declaration of human rights people are allowed to move and emigrate and choose their place of living without hindrance. Immigration policy for the federated ME will be in the hands of the federal authorities just as it is in the US and EU.

Once a person enter the federation they can live wherever they want.

I am a member of Abu Rumaneh Malki Souk Sarouja National Syrian Party in Damascus and would join Baba Amr Rastan Talbisa as well if allowed to.

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July 11th, 2012, 12:57 pm


170. Uzair8 said:

Mr Annan, with all these meetings with unsavoury folk you may be showing signs of Stockholm Syndrome.

Conveniently you have a swedish wife to look after you.

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July 11th, 2012, 1:01 pm


171. Tara said:

The video linked by Antoin is disturbing. The audio is not clear so I could not understand all of what was said, yet his body language and facial expression clearly demonstrate how frightened he is. He could be a criminal and a mass murdere yet we should practice what we preach. I am against degradation of all human beings regardless of their evil history. It is disturbing. I hope Syrians will not lose their moral values in the interim.

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July 11th, 2012, 1:03 pm


172. Antoine said:

C’mon Tara, I almost wished I was there when they were administering the falaqa on him.

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July 11th, 2012, 1:09 pm


173. Uzair8 said:

You may have seen the videos of captured regime men with half their moustache shaved off. This is unnecessary. The opposition is better than the regime. Should stop this.

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July 11th, 2012, 1:12 pm


174. omen said:


srebrenica massacre
funerals for recently identified victims

17 years after srebrenica massacre the funerals for more than 5oo victims are being held in a bosnia town. tens of thousands of mourners are attending the mass funeral. 8,ooo muslim men and boys were killed by serb forces in 1995 in what is said to be the worst massacre in europe since world war 2. their remains were exhumed from mass graves and recently identified by their dna.

hasan nuhanovic survived the srebrenica massacre. at the time he was working as an un translator with the dutch battalion. despite his pleas, he had to watch as his parents and younger brother were handed over to bosnian serbs. they were later killed. he told al jazeera it has not been easy to find the dead:

they are scattered all over eastern bosnia because the bosnian-serb leadership, their army, their police force, they tried to hide traces of their crime. that’s terrible. i mean they first killed people, buried them in primary graves, then move them to secondary graves, then moved them to tertiary graves. they tried to hide the evidence of these crimes. that’s why we have these funerals every year. because, you know, that’s how many years it takes to identify them.

this happened because the united nations allowed it, and, in one way, assisted the bosnian serbs to commit this terrible atrocity. it was actually kofi annan himself who was in charge of the un department for peacekeeping operations. he was in new york when this genocide was being perpetuated. and i can see now that he is in syria negotiating and i really hope kofi annan is going to do a better job in syria than what he did here in srebrenica … bosnia because he actually did nothing to prevent the massacre as a very, you know, high ranking official of united nations 17 years ago.

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July 11th, 2012, 2:18 pm


175. Tara said:


No Antoin. This is not us.

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July 11th, 2012, 2:39 pm


176. omen said:

zaid benjamin:

The White House says there are several defections form the close circle around President

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July 11th, 2012, 2:58 pm


177. Syrialover said:

I agree with Tara and Uzair8. And it is also not a wise tactic if they want to attract more army defectors.

But it is hard to get human beings to restrain themselves in battle. And that Brig General was one who earned his role and reputation by being particularly non-human, murdering helpless captives in peacetime.

From the Syrian Revolution Digest:

“Members of the FSA manage to capture one of Assad’s security chiefs Brig. Gen. Munir Shlaibeh, an Alawite from the town of Jableh. He was responsible for running an anti-terrorism unit based in the Midan District in Damascus, and is known for involvement in the Seydnaya Prison Massacre in July of 2008. He says “there are no terrorists” and asserts that his unit did not kill anyone. He was obviously physically abused. He keeps shuffling around, which might suggest that he was beaten on the soles of his feet. He was forced to chant “Curse your soul Hafiz.” He was asked if he planned to defect and join the FSA, he replied “they will execute my children.” He insists though that “President Bashar has no knowledge of what’s happening.” He says he thinks the Salafi Sheikh Adnan Arour, popular among Islamist protesters, to be a “moderate” cleric and says that he wishes the FSA will treat him fairly. This is a leaked video showing the aftermath of the Seydnaya Massacre, we can see Brig. Gen. Shlaibeh appearing in civvies, as is the habit of security chiefs, at the end of the clip (1:16)

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July 11th, 2012, 3:20 pm


178. Bruno said:

I was right this commenting has a few members that are connected through a clear PSYOPS Operation.

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July 12th, 2012, 4:26 am


179. Amjad said:

#178, it really doesn’t take much of a PSYOPS operation to confuse a guy who can’t even tell a parody when he’s shown one. If I made a Rick Roll video you’d accuse Rick Astley of being part of a PSYOPS outfit.

(I’m betting the so called Westerner has to look up the phrase Rick Roll)

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July 12th, 2012, 4:45 am


180. Bruno said:

(I’m betting the so called Westerner has to look up the phrase Rick Roll)

I pretty much well know what that phrase means and stands for, nice try of accusing me by stating that i am stupid is it now?

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July 12th, 2012, 4:58 am


181. Bruno said:

Why should the protest Signs be in Clear English?
Again if this was and is a Real uprising why with the English Signs?

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July 12th, 2012, 5:22 am


182. Amjad said:

“nice try of accusing me by stating that i am stupid is it now?”

I think people have pretty much established your level of intelligence by the fact that you can’t even tell a parody video when you see one, and your lack of maturity by your constant whining about the voting on this forum. I bet the number of thumbs down you get keeps up at night, more so than the number of murders committed by your batta.

“Why should the protest Signs be in Clear English?”

Tell me oh ye sudden Syria expert, were the signs in Lebanon in English or not? They were in French too. And the signs in Egypt and Tunisia? The Syrian activists superbly get their word out in whatever language. I’ve seen signs on Russian as well.

Oh right, this is the guy who chauvinistically said that Syrians can’t possibly have good command of English. Walak ana eb3almak wab 3alim eli 3alamak 🙂

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July 12th, 2012, 6:13 am


183. zoo said:


5. ZOO posts on the possibility of an Alawi state. Is this the same ZOO that abhored my proposal for a federated ME and a ME economic union with autonomy to the regions?

I am not advocating anything, I am reporting what the media says, that’s all.
Don’t read in my posting them any adherence to your theory of splitting the country in religious and ethnic entities

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July 12th, 2012, 9:48 am


184. William Scott Scherk said:

I wonder if Oxford University’s Middle East analyst Sharmine Narwani will return to the issue of defections and/or departures from Syria. From her privileged vantage, and according to the spin from her nebulous sources, there is only one take-home message, one correct line to take in regard to Manaf Tlass:

[H]e went to France. End of story.

Ms Narwani’s appearances in the New York Times are always intriguing. She is accorded a level of attention that is — I believe — in proportion to her presumed access to official or ‘insider’ regime interests and points of view. On the “Room for Debate” pages, she has contributed short opinion pieces alongside such as Radwan Ziadeh, Rime Allaf, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Ed Husain and Andrew Tabler (among others).

The allegiances of these named others are clear, as should be the connection of Narwani to establishment talking points. In some senses of the word, each of the named others has taken part in campaigns of propaganda, depending on individual media clout and officialized information campaigns — whether in support of ‘democracy promotion’ abroad (abroad from the USA) or in support of armed intervention on the side of the Free Syria Army.

Rime Allaf, for example, is associated with Chatham House, Tabler with WINEP, Ziadeh with the SNC, Slaughter with State and official policy incubators, Husain with the Council on Foreign Relations. All may not have served as fulltime or frontline propagandists or even in the same class of persuasive attempts, but all are familiar with its features, and some have been its personal victims (Husain, if you accept his life-arc).

So, the others, those named, those with a firm and persistent point of view, aligned with weighty instititutions, all with long track records as expositors. And then, Narwani …

Narwani is associated with Oxford, according to the New York Times tagline that accompanies her essays. This, I think, can connote many things, of scholars whacking away in the Bodleian, pursuing serious work, of thick compendia and massive footnoted tomes. Is Narwani clear of the taint of propaganda herself because of her illustrious institution? Is there a more serious affiliation but that of the ancient English centre of learning?

If the named others are shills for USA imperial interests above all (which is debatable but enunciated here at SC), is Narwani by any measure a token shill for Assadism? Is she a propagandist by her own measure?


Propaganda, which abounds here on Syria Comment, did not always have a completely negative connotation, of course. To use all arms of public relations and media to highlight policy and urge civil action in light of events — this is often the main job of government, especially in campaign seasons. And many arms of governance often crank up propaganda campaigns today – Vote! Run for Breast Cancer! Support Oil Sands! Avoid Saturated Fats! (an immunization drive is a form of propaganda that has what might seem reasonable if not entirely positive goals).

Similarly any mobilization campaigns for military service must rely on the old-school style ‘positive’ propaganda, in recruiting. Drives and campaigns to join forces almost always use emotive, selective, well-tried persuasion techniques.

If in the hands of a glorious national reconstruction (“Join the New Syrian Forces”) or continuance (“Defend the Homeland against Enemies”) or rebellious defectors and Islamic terrorists (“Free Syrian Army Protects You”) it is still the same work done, the same buttons pushed, the same psychological/advertising/promotion techniques honed to a sharper or duller edge.

So, I agree 100% with any Sharmine Narwani statement that says in effect, Syrian discourse is afloat on propaganda, awash in extreme and sometimes dishonest persuasion techniques.

I thus agree with anyone who stands up and says Beware Propaganda and who urges healthy skepticism — whether in regard to a flurry of rumour and speculation in re Tlass, or in regard to rumour and speculation in general.

So, when Sharmine calls “total propaganda” any attempt to describe General Tlass’s departure from Syria as a defection,’ I think we should pay attention.

If she is right, then there are few knock-on effects from the departure, neither inside the Syrian regime itself nor in the larger circles.


Before we examine the claim of pure propaganda, we can further examine the context and content of her opinion (or her reporting).

For the sake of this discussion, we can accept that she is, perhaps by virtue of her placement with the others of greater reknown, now considered a source in her own right, as in the NYT analysis by Bilefsky and de la Baume.

Now, if Sharmine is not invited as a neutral or independent analyst — as I argue above — but as a likely conduit from official sources and official party lines within Syria (this is how she has presented herself, as having special access to insiders whose identities must be protected). I further argue that she is invited according to her presumed constituents, not according to the weight or value of her own intellectual output.

Just as Ziadeh is invited as a person attached to the SNC — indeed attached to its most militant wing (not for his work as historian) Slaughter is invited as former (2010) official policy maker (not by virtue of academic appointment at Princeton). Ziadeh was publishing his historical works on behalf of Syrian detainees when Narwani was a non-entity.

Narwani’s expertise in writing or analysis is thus necessarily smaller than the others in the Comment exchanges, judged by CV and work history. With the exception of Al-Akhbar (Sandbox blog), she has never independently published in anything but opinion spaces. No books, no published thesis, no published testimony, no interviews.

So, ultimately, I think it is fair to view Narwani as simply a useful interlocutor, reflecting views from the regimist side(s), not as neutral scholar. It is also fair to consider her a rather mysterious personage compared to the others noted above. Each of the others is known in terms of personal details, citizenship, working life. Narwani, not so much.

In the end, what is most disappointing about Narwani’s own soft propaganda effort is that she tends to evade the very strictures she rhetorically imposes on others. She rails against “Western” journalists (without naming or often quoting them) but is herself a citizen of the West She rails against unverified and nameless sources and claims, yet uses vague and nameless sources herself with great abandon. Her essays purport to represent a useful corrective to base and witless exaggerations of the ‘enemy’ media, yet fall into the exact same pattern of unattributed gossip and speculation that she rightly decries elsewhere.

To point to the defects of her reporting is not to do away with her perceptions and opinions entirely, nor to dismiss that which she says she was told (by self-interested sources behind the veil). But we should be careful to understand that she too can be manipulated by ‘sources’ … and be manipulated by the very interests she is in thrall to, as the named others are in thrall to and manipulated by in turn …

For example, what are the sources named by Sharmine Narwani in her Al-Akhbar sand box article cited by the NYT — how honest and credible are these faceless folks’ assertions? What happens when you ask these and follow-up questions to credible interlocutors? Will we get an update next week?

— to be continued —

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July 14th, 2012, 5:42 pm


185. omen said:

good to see you back, wss.

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July 14th, 2012, 5:44 pm


186. William Scott Scherk said:

Omen, I feel a special responsibility when writing at Syria Comment. When I was outed as Moderator, I lost my anonymous voice as a discussion monitor and enabler. In those months as Mod I put out very little as William, and tried hardest to train my replacement, the marvelous Moderator who just stepped down.

I watch SC now for signs of something, for signs of hope perhaps. I do not find much hope in snide, overheated one-upmanship of the comments lately, nor in the awful slide into sectarian invective and even toleration of communal reprisals (eg, I am appalled at Antoine). The direst weeks of Syria’s modern history seem to be rolling by, its worst daily death tolls, its fiercest divisions and its emotions most extreme and vengeful.

What hope is there in Jad? What hope is there is Syria Lover? What hope does Observer represent? What hope do all these passionate believers have in each other. moreover, for tomorrow, when the shelling ends and the reprisals stop, and the movement to civil peace begins. What could they possibly represent to each other on the same ground, on the same public square, in a free Syria? Enemies, objects of hate and derision?

There is hope in Syria, I believe. But that hope comes from what I identify as Syrian myths, of the most ancient myths that all Syrians may mutely agree upon. That mythos is fragile indeed today, and daily mocked by those who long for total victory (of one side), demeaned by the persistence of words that demonize and dehumanize the Other.

It is disgusting and disquieting to read calls here that seem to support FSA brutality if not war crimes, or admiringly countenance field executions of suspected Shabeeha. That this grinning at atrocity merely joins preceding sick jokes as grinning at ‘cleansing’ of civilian areas, two horrors do not subtract each other, they only deepen the moral sinkholes.

If I yet wait again months or years to post to Syria Comment, I hope now that some enduring shared explanation or myth will have united its suffering communities, that Dr Ali Haider’s or some other attempts at reconciliation succeed (even under the Baathi Umbrella) to move the post-conflict agenda forward despite huge obstacles, despite war. From somewhere perhaps will emerge a Syrian genius for conciliation, and for hope of knitting Syria together again. I look ahead six months, I read Bruno here today, I read Antoine, and I sense no such genius in the offing.

I was often struck as Mod by an almost subterranean wide structural agreement among the commentariat on the best, most hoped-for post-conflict landscape for their country, a rule of law, of clean institutions of justice, of robust parliamentary life assisted by a raucous free media, of internal dialogue, assemblies, meetings, marches, rebuilding, symbolic turnings of the page to a new era. Over time, every commentator of standing has put forward that same end-point of civil democratic Syria. Off the Wall, for example, in his heartfelt world-of-worlds depicted a Syria not too much different from that of Norman’s perfect land.

Every last voice of us here will have at least sketched out the same general outlines of a New Free Syria … from SNK/ZOO/Bronco to Allan/Irritated/Alex, but few drew the route in enough detail to convince opponents that this was How to Get There from Here.

I sometimes wonder why the opposition is accused of having not provided credible roadmaps to that new era (in more painstaking detail than the ignored documents as from the fisticuffs in Cairo), but the regime side of the virtual parliament seems to offer no programme but More Of The Same.

I suggest Syrians at home and abroad stand together on the six points of the Annan plan — in my eyes the principles and actions it demands of all parties show the last possible exit before the abyss. If the regimists cannot make a ceasefire hold on the government side and the anti-regimists cannot make a ceasefire hold on the opposite side, there is only more death on the menu for tomorrow and the foreseeable future, and we are only spectators driven half-mad by horror beyond our control.

If only Syrians can come together to share truths and heal the wounds of war, if and when they choose, Omen, what point do utterly Western observers like me (and you) do to facilitate this? It is what puzzles me still and keeps me from saying much here even though I read SC closely. I wish the Syrians as represented here could chisel out truths together — and if not here in virtual parliament somewhere, stand down from the barricades, honestly debate the details of the new era if not the many routes to its full fruition.

This is not presently an area of much discussion. I note in passing the brilliant thesis on the Alawis linked above. Better to read that but perhaps not enter the bullring in comments. Here, for too many, songs of war have generated an aggression, an obedience to the worst kind of incitement.

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July 14th, 2012, 6:55 pm


187. Homepage said:

… [Trackback]…

[…] Read More here: […]…

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August 11th, 2012, 3:29 am


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