The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the potential for ongoing political and civil unrest in Syria. We urge U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to Syria at this time. U.S. citizens currently in Syria should consider departing. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Alert for Syria issued on March 24, 2011, updating warnings to U.S. citizens and noting specific security concerns within Syria.
U.S. citizens currently in Syria are advised against all travel to the coastal city of Lattakia as well as the southern city of Dera’a and the surrounding towns and villages. Demonstrations in those areas have been violently suppressed by Syrian security forces and there are reports of curtailed telecommunications, ongoing disturbances and live gunfire in various neighborhoods in the region.
Demonstrations in other major population centers, including Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Hama, have degenerated on several occasions into violent clashes between security forces and protesters, resulting in deaths, injuries, and property damage. We remind U.S. citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence.
U.S. citizens are urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations. Demonstrations have regularly taken place on Fridays following afternoon or evening prayers. Areas where people congregate after Friday prayers should be avoided.
Syrian government constraints on observers have made it difficult to adequately assess current risks or the potential for continuing violence.
Syrian efforts to attribute the current civil unrest to external influences may lead to an increase in anti-foreigner sentiment. Detained U.S. citizens may find themselves subject to allegations of incitement or espionage. Contrary to the terms of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, of which Syria is a signatory, Syrian authorities generally do not notify the U.S. Embassy of the arrest of a U.S. citizen until days or weeks after the arrest. Moreover, in the past, security officials have not responded to Embassy requests for consular access, especially in the case of persons detained for "security" reasons.
Travelers should heed directions given by Syrian police and/or security officials and should always carry a copy of their passport as proof of citizenship and identity. Taking photographs of demonstrations, public gatherings or anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in questioning, detention, and/or confiscation of the images. Additionally, U.S.
citizens should be aware that exhibiting disrespect towards political symbols or conversations on the topics of politics, religion, and other social issues could lead to arrest.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the potential for ongoing political and civil unrest in Syria. We urge U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to Syria at this time. U.S. citizens currently in Syria should consider departing. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Alert for Syria issued on March 24, 2011, updating warnings to U.S. citizens and noting specific security concerns within Syria.
The Washington Post published an article by Janine Zacharia under the title "Israel, long critical of Assad, may prefer he stay after all." The article included a "map of alleged Hezbollah installations provided to The Washington Post this week by Israeli military officials identifies more than 550 underground bunkers, 300 surveillance sites and 100 other facilities."
The same article reported: As one member of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s cabinet put it, “We know Assad. We knew his father. Of course, we’d love to have a democratic Syria as our neighbor. But do I think that’s going to happen? No.”
Israelis are coming to the rescue of the embattled Syrian autocrat Bashar Assad who is facing a growing uprising at home. To help him out, the Israeli are trying to trump up the "resistance" narrative that Assad has been referring to as part of his cover up to brutally oppress Syrians demonstrating in the streets for freedom.
Lebanon's Assafir daily, an Assad supporter, got the Israeli clue and translated only this following sentence from Zacharia's Post article: "Our [Israeli] interest is to show the world that the Hezbollah organization has turned these villages into fighting zones," the senior Israeli commander said.
In its lead story, Assafir planned to show that Israel was preparing for war on Lebanon, and therefore Assad was needed to help support Hezbollah in the coming war. Needless to say, Assafir ignored the part where an Israeli minister (most probably Defense Minister Ehud Barak, an openly staunch supporter of Assad) praises the Assad regime. Assafir and the Israeli military officials who passed on the map to The Washington Post are on the same page: They both want Assad to stay.
The Israeli defense establishment, with Barak at its helm, has long been known for its affection toward Assad. It is going out of its way to help him stay. Passing a map on to the Washington Post was part of the Israeli effort in defense of Assad.
-- News from Washington
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
The Libyan Embassy in Washington with the rebels flag on it
As the crisis in Libya continues the US has taken great care to keep all options open. Enthusiasm for another war is not high in the states, and Barack Obama is taking care not too get bogged down in another unpopular war. So far, the president has successfully walked a fine line.
To most Americans, Libya offers all the requirements for their country’s intervention. A tyrant was about to sweep clean the areas of his opponents and brutally punish them en masse, thus giving a humanitarian context for the war. The international community, including the Arab League and the United Nations, decided to put an end to the advances of Muammar Qadhafi’s forces through military means, making the war multilateral. A considerable number of Libyans, perhaps a majority, support foreign intervention against their dictator. They even offer their young men to do the leg work and go after Qadhafi while America and its allies pound him from altitudes of 30,000 feet.
Despite all the right reasons and the inviting Libyan and international contexts, many Americans have expressed weariness over their country’s participation in the multilateral campaign. With two wars that have not yet come to a close in Iraq and Afghanistan, and with a war bill growing by the day, a third front in Libya—despite meeting American requirements for intervention—does not resonate well with many Americans.
Members of Congress have captured the popular mood and voiced criticism against president Obama, not for his justified intervention, but presumably for his failure to notify Congress. “For now,” according to Matthew Waxman, an Adjunct Senior Fellow for Law and Foreign Policy at the Council for Foreign Relations, “the president's actions stand on pretty solid legal ground. If they extend over months, however, that ground will weaken, so the President has great incentive to win congressional support—and quickly.”
So far, the Libya war seems to be going in the rebels’ favor, which means that Obama is covered, both in Congress and in the eyes of most Americans. But should Qadhafi manage to hold his lines at any point and force a stalemate, Obama’s position might become precarious. To avoid such an outcome, Max Boot, also from the Council for Foreign Relations, told reporters: “[W]e already have the airpower in place. All we really need to do is to send some Special Forces teams to work with the rebels, to act as forward air controllers to coordinate their actions with those of the NATO air forces flying overhead. And I think that would be a very potent one-two punch.”
If Obama and the world can force a quick outcome in Libya, with or without US Special Forces, Americans might be willing to give their president the benefit of the doubt. Success in Libya might also restore American confidence in the worthiness of future intervention around the world.
However, if Obama and the coalition fail to hand Qadhafi a quick blow and the war drags on, the coalition might crack and America might be the first to jump off the multilateral boat. After all, the US president has already highlighted the noncommittal nature of his country to the multilateral campaign. “It will be a matter of days,” Obama said, perhaps to keep his exit options on the table.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Saturday, March 26, 2011
It was slow in coming, but the Arab revolutionary wave of 2011 has reached Syria. Its arrival has forced a reassessment of the Bashar al-Assad regime’s domestic legitimacy and prospects for survival. Over the past few months, many commentators have maintained that the regime would remain sheltered from regional turmoil. As the prominent Syrian dissident Suhair Atassi lamented, her country is “a kingdom of silence” dominated by fear.
Now, the story line has changed dramatically. Events in the southern city of Deraa have challenged the conventional wisdom about Syria’s stability. Protests began on March 18, after security forces detained 15 children for spraying anti-regime graffiti on walls there. Seeking to nip any ideas of revolution in the bud, Assad’s security forces attacked the protesters, killing four.
The next day, thousands took to the streets, torching the ruling Baath Party headquarters, several other government buildings, and the local branch of the country’s main cell phone company, Syriatel, which is owned by Assad’s cousin, Rami Makhlouf, whom the protesters singled out by name, calling him a “thief.” They also defaced many of the ubiquitous posters of Assad that the regime, Soviet-style, hangs in public places, and tore down a statue of Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father.
The regime’s heavy-handed crackdown on the children lit the fuse on the Syrian people’s political and economic grievances. They initially demanded an end to the emergency laws first enacted 48 years ago when the Baath Party seized power in Syria. But by March 19, they were calling for “revolution.” The old regime-sanctioned chants of “God, Syria, and Bashar only” had been replaced with “God, Syria, and freedom only.”
The regime attempted to calm the situation by sending to Deraa a delegation headed by Faisal al-Miqdad, the deputy foreign minister, to offer condolences and promise an investigation into the deaths of the four protesters. It also pledged to release the original 15 detainees. But the delegation was not well received, and the riots continued and spread to some neighboring towns.
By March 22, the regime judged the situation in Deraa to have gotten out of hand and dispatched several tanks and helicopters to seal off the city. Although they were initially repelled, the security forces subsequently made a final push against the protesters at dawn on March 23, resulting in what dissidents have called a “massacre.” According to human rights activists and witnesses, more than 100 people were killed. Rumor has it that the push was undertaken by the Republican Guard -- a force tasked with protecting the Assad regime commanded by Bashar’s brother, Maher.
Despite the bloody crackdown, the protesters continued to come out in the thousands, expressing their resolve to push ahead. In particular, the regime was clearly concerned about plans for a major rally on March 25 after Friday prayers, and about the prospect of it spreading beyond Deraa. In a desperate attempt to head it off, Assad’s spokesperson, Bouthaina Shaaban, made public statements promising that the regime would “study” lifting the emergency laws. By all indications, however, her statement only increased the protesters’ determination to press on. To the protesters, such gestures may simply be too little, too late.
According to many observers, Assad was supposed to be immune to this kind of popular movement. His anti-American policies and enmity toward Israel were thought to boost his legitimacy in the eyes of his people. Compared the advanced age of Egypt’s former president, 82-year-old Hosni Mubarak, and Tunisia’s ex-president, 74-year-old Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Assad’s relative youth at 45 was also thought to be an asset. One Syria specialist, Joshua Landis, noted that unlike the aging Mubarak, the young Assad was “popular among young people” who “tend to blame [corruption] on . . . the ‘old guard.’” An unfortunately timed puff piece on Asma al-Assad, the president’s glamorous wife, in the current issue of Vogue, spoke of the “first lady’s central mission . . . to change the mind-set of six million Syrians under eighteen [and] encourage them to engage in what she calls ‘active citizenship.’” It gave plausibility to the claim that the Assads are a fresh breeze blowing through a decrepit house.
Ironically, the basis for such arguments was Assad’s own public relations strategy. When Assad inherited power from his father in 2000, he adopted the “old versus new guard” theme to cultivate his image as a reformer and bolster his legitimacy at home and abroad. For a brief period, he allowed dissidents to criticize corruption openly. But this so-called Damascus Spring was a cynical mirage. In the past decade, Syria has not seen a single meaningful act of reform.
The truth is that Assad could not have pursued such reform even if he had wanted to, as this would have meant taking on the corruption of his immediate family. Assad’s cousin, the billionaire Makhlouf, is widely considered to be the second-most powerful man in the country, even though he holds no official title. He is essentially the economic arm of the regime, using his business empire to co-opt the Sunni merchant class. (Makhlouf, Assad, and most of the ruling elite and high-ranking officers are Alawites, a minority sect.) When the people of Deraa set fire to the Syriatel office, they were not targeting the old guard; they were targeting the very heart of the current regime, or, as one Syrian activist in Deraa told Reuters, the very symbols of oppression and corruption.
The idea that Assad’s anti-Western ideology is popular enough to shield him from public discontent comes from him as well: in an interview with The Wall Street Journal in late January, he explained that the Mubarak regime was unpopular due to its alliance with the United States and its peace treaty with Israel. By contrast, he suggested, the Syrian regime was ideologically united with the people. As Assad put it, Syrians “do not go into an uprising,” because “it is not only about [their] needs and not only about the reform. It is about the ideology.” Assad’s foreign policy and ideology of “resistance” may indeed be popular in Syria. But the protests are driven by concerns over domestic issues. The idea that ideology and foreign policy trump concerns about lack of freedom, economic opportunity, and political participation has proved wrong.
Other commentators who dismissed the likelihood of the Assad regime falling pointed to solidarity among the Alawite elite. Unlike the Egyptian army, which functioned independently of Mubarak and broke with him at a key moment, the Syrian brass, as part of a small religious minority, views its fate and safety as inextricably linked to Assad’s and therefore will not fail to crack down on protests.
Still, that threat has not deterred all the protesters. And on March 22, the sectarian dimension of the conflict became explicit: the Deraa demonstrators broke a long-standing taboo, chanting, “No to Iran, no to Hezbollah, we want a God-fearing Muslim” -- by which they meant, “We want a Sunni Muslim running the country.” In a show of solidarity with the regime, Alawites replaced their own headshots on Facebook with pictures of Bashar.
It has been suggested that the best way for Assad to deal with sectarian tensions would be to reform and democratize. But to democratize is to take the Alawite hand off the tiller. And, the bankrupt regime’s latest concession to quell the unrest -- the announcement of a salary increase for state employees -- suggests that even Assad’s supposed economic rationalization is over. With its sources of legitimacy badly undermined, brute force is the only tool left to secure the regime’s rule.
On March 24, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates urged that Syria follow Egypt’s example. However, as the protests spread throughout the rest of Syria, Assad will surely follow another example: Hafez al-Assad who set the precedent, in 1982, when he pulverized Hama, a Muslim Brotherhood rebellion city, killing nearly 20,000 to secure his rule. That legacy has kept the Syrians fearfully silent -- until now.
The regime’s concern about the Friday protests was justified. Today, demonstrations have erupted everywhere, including in major cities, such as Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, Latakia, and Qamishli. Chants of “Down with Bashar’s regime” have been heard regularly. The regime’s response continues to be violent repression coupled with attempts at political maneuvering. It is hard to predict where the demonstrations will go after today. If unrest takes hold in the northeast (among the Kurds) and northwest (in large Sunni areas), it will be a sign that the Assad regime’s grasp on power is weakening. The people of Deraa have shown that the population’s barrier of fear can be broken. That is something that Assad cannot allow to persist and take root. Whether he manages to reinstill it will prove decisive for his family’s rule.
TONY BADRAN is a Research Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Friday, March 25, 2011
This amateur video shows thousands of Syrians marching in the streets of Damascus, today March 25, 2011, to protest decades of the autocratic and repressive rule of the Assad dynasty (Hafez 1971-2000, Bashar 2000-present).
The demonstrators shout several slogans, including "peacefully, peacefully we want freedom peacefully." They also shout slogans in support of those whom the regime killed in Daraa over the past few days. Speakers announce that they want to "tell the world" that they have no arms (Syrian TV claimed arms and money were found on demonstrators in Daraa, proving they were an organized criminal gang). Speakers also thank the satellite TVs that have been covering their peaceful protests to topple their dictator Bashar Assad.
-- News from washington
Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr (C) welcomes former Iraqi premier Iyad Allawi (L) in the holy Shi'ite city of Najaf, south of Baghdad, on 3 March 2011, a day after Allawi said he will not chair a supervisory body that he was to head as part of a power-sharing deal.
By Hussain Abdul-Hussain
With violence substantially down, budget surpluses considerably up, and the country going to the polls to elect its officers half a dozen times since 2003, Iraq’s street protests seem out of place. Iraq’s problem might be that the country’s politicians do not know how to eradicate state inefficiencies or fight corruption, which means that even if Iraqis elect new public officers with good intentions who plan to improve the situation, the country might still suffer from inadequate government.
“It seems that our country has survived the problem of violence,” according to Sarmad Altaee, editor in chief of one of the few secular and politically independent dailies in Iraq. “It also seems that we now live in prosperity with budget surpluses everywhere,” Altaee wrote in his editorial in Alaalem newspaper. “We survived disagreements between sects as all blocs joined the cabinet, but one “simple” problem remains: Prerogatives overlap. This has obstructed building and progress,” he argued. Altaee told The Majalla that Iraqi politicians have reached a stalemate over how to lead the country forward. “You ask yourself, how do other countries do it then? How do they build and develop?” he said.
Altaee’s assessment of the drop in violence and increase in prosperity sounds correct. Numbers show that despite a surge in bombings targeting civilians in January, casualties remained at around 250, equal to that in October and slightly higher than in November and December, the lowest on record since the outbreak of the war in March 2003.
Evidence also substantiates Altaee’s claims that his country’s finances have been improving. Washington has performed miracles in convincing Paris Club nations to forgive big chunks of Iraq’s debt. According to the Central Bank of Iraq, the country’s debt today stands at around $60 billion, or 72 percent of GDP, which—given that Iraq is the world’s second largest oil reservoir—sounds manageable. Even better, only $45 billion of this debt is external, and is held mainly by Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, all of which have promised to negotiate lesser payback payments.
Last month, Iraqi parliament approved its 2011 budget of $82.6 billion, based on the calculation that Iraq will produce 2.2 million barrels of oil daily, at an average price of $72 per barrel. But given the regional turbulence, oil exports have already shot high, indicating that Iraq’s 2011 budget will witness a handsome surplus.
With violence substantially down and surpluses considerably up, and with the country going to the polls to elect its officers half a dozen times since 2003, Iraq’s popular protests seem out of place.
Altaee offered a few answers. He said that his newspaper interviewed two officials—Mayor of Baghdad Salah Abdul-Razzaq and Acting Mayor of Basra Nizar Rabih, who replaced Shaltagh Abboud after the latter resigned under pressure from street protests. The two men are viewed as protégés of Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. Both men said that holding early mayoral elections (the last took place in late 2008) will not end street anger because their successors will not be able to do more than what is being done right now. The problem, the mayors told Altaee’s newspaper, was the “overlap in prerogatives between the federal government and governorate councils.”
Altaee commented: “It is ironic that these two mayors, who are Maliki’s protégés, complain.” He added: “On the contrary, they should be able to get things done since the federal government is under the control of their boss. Imagine how it would have been had it been someone from Maliki’s rivals in power, then the mayors would have really stood no chance at all when communicating with Baghdad.”
The story of “overlap in prerogatives” is classic in bureaucracies. Various departments of any state often jockey for control as bureaucrats try to defend their turfs and extend control over those of others. But overlap or not, Iraqis have become impatient with the performance of their elected officers, especially given their inability to dispense budget surpluses due to administrative pitfalls and inadequacies. Iraqi impatience, coupled with anti-establishment fervor running amok across the region, has forced the Iraqi federal government, mayors and politicians to show interest in improving the state.
Iraq’s problem, however, might be that the country’s politicians do not know how to eradicate state inefficiencies or fight corruption. Moqtada’ Al-Sadr, the young cleric who turned from militia leader into a political heavyweight, circulated a survey. The introduction line read: “In line with our belief in the opinion of our beloved Iraqi people, and the importance on consulting it on important issues, we pose the following questions that we hope you answer accurately and without external influence or emotions, but only by using the brains.”
The first question asked about the status of “services” such as electricity, water and “others,” and provided four answer boxes: Good, bad, less than that, other than that. The second question went like this: “Do you want the government to improve these services.” The third said: “If the government does not respond in six months, will you protest peacefully and without abusing public property?”
For someone who commands a bloc of 40 MPs in a 325-seat parliament, whose protégés include a vice president, a deputy speaker and a few ministers, the survey that bears his signature shows a worrying level of incompetence. The first question lumped all state services into one. The second question annulled the first because it was based on the assumption that the majority will describe services as “bad,” and would therefore want to invite their government to “improve” them. The third question set an imaginary deadline of six months before Iraqis could protest in a style that the questionnaire tries to outline.
Al-Sadr’s survey is only a sample that shows that most Iraqi politicians, even the heavyweights amongst them, have little or no idea of how to conduct a survey, let alone run a state. Perhaps it is Al-Sadr who should consider “using the brains” only before sending his team to survey Iraqi opinion.
“Reform is something that Iraqi politicians, who seek external influence, will never be able to implement,” Altaee said. “It seems that reform needs the hammer of a population that has become sick of waiting,” he concluded.
Hussain Abdul-Hussain – Contributing editor.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
THE WASHINGTON POST Editorial - IN FEBRUARY 1982, the Syrian dictatorship headed by Hafez al-Assad responded to an uprising in the city of Hama with extraordinary violence. The town was indiscriminately bombarded by tanks and artillery; security forces then swept through the rubble and massacred the survivors. Estimates of the final death toll ranged from 10,000 to 40,000 or more. Hama became a symbol in the Arab world of what its authoritarian regimes were prepared to do to keep themselves in power.
Now the Arab uprising of 2011 has reached Syria, and Assad’s son, Bashar, is trying to apply his father’s solution. Early Wednesday, security forces stormed a mosque in the city of Daraa , where there had been five days of protest marches, and opened fire with live ammunition. According to Western news reports, the assault on the surrounding neighborhood continued through the day; an Associated Press reporter heard automatic weapons fire. At least 15 people were killed, including a prominent local doctor who was trying to provide medical aid. That brings to at least 21 the number of civilians murdered by Mr. Assad’s forces in Daraa since Friday.
The question now, for Syria and for the world, is whether the Hama approach still works. In some Arab countries, including Tunisia and Egypt, attempts to suppress protests with violence backfired and caused opposition movements to swell. In Libya, whose dictator, Moammar Gaddafi, rivals Assad for cruelty and sponsorship of terrorism, the jury is out; much will depend on whether an international coalition is successful in protecting the population from Mr. Gaddafi’s forces.
There are signs that Mr. Assad’s brutality is also producing a backlash. In Daraa, angry crowds numbering in the tens of thousands responded to the first shootings on Friday by burning down the ruling party headquarters and other buildings linked to the regime. On Monday, after another shooting death, the protests spread to at least two other towns.
After Wednesday’s massacre, Syrians are likely to feel still angrier — but they also will be watching the response of the outside world. That’s why it is essential that the United States and Syria’s partners in Europe act quickly to punish Mr. Assad’s behavior. Verbal condemnations will not be enough: The Obama administration should demand an international investigation of the killings in Daraa and join allies in insisting that those responsible be brought to justice. It should also look for ways to tighten U.S. sanctions on Damascus, including freezes on the assets of those involved in the repression as well as private companies linked to the regime.
For the past two years, the administration has pursued the futile strategy of trying to detach Mr. Assad from his alliances with Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah through diplomatic stroking and promises of improved relations. It recently dispatched an ambassador to Damascus through a recess appointment to avoid congressional objections. Now it is time to recognize that Syria’s ruler is an unredeemable thug — and that the incipient domestic uprising offers a potentially precious opportunity. The United States should side strongly with the people of Daraa and do everything possible to ensure that this time, Hama methods don’t work.
Joshua Landis at the residence of Syrian Ambassador to the US Imad Mustafa. The picture was posted on Mustafa's blog and later removed.
By Ahed Al Hendi
Since my arrival to the United States, escaping the tyranny of Bashar Assad in my country, Syria, no one beats Joshua Landis in making me feel sick. I’ve tried sometimes to reason with him. But he believes, since he knows a bit of Arabic, that he knows it all about Syria, its people and its autocratic government.
Mr. Landis, an American academic who has excellent ties with the Syrian Embassy in Washington DC, came up with an article on his Syria Comment blog claiming that the protests in Daraa, and the subsequent regime crimes, are merely clashes driven by sectarian tensions. Landis also claimed that the Daraa population is impoverished, most of it consisting of radicalized Islamists.
I am not sure about the source of Landis’s information on the Islamist dominance in Daraa. What I know, as a Christian Syrian who has lot of relatives in Daraa where they have been living with their Muslims neighbors for centuries, Daraa is the town of tolerance and coexistence.
Muslims and Christians in Daraa share great ties and common tradition. As residents of the southern Horan area, the people of Daraa endorse Horani customs and were known for their close nit relations, perhaps the closes in the whole of Syria.
Landis tries to make a point on sectarianism judging from a video on the internet showing people shouting slogans against Iran and Hezbollah, and demanding “a Muslim who fears Allah” (and not believe in Allah as he claimed).
Mr. Landis tries to prove that the people of Daraa were targeting the Alawite community, to which Bashar Assad and his ruling crew belong, by offending the Shiites (Hezbollah and Iran), who are supposed to be the patron wing of Islam under which the Alawites fall (another false claim since the Alawites, also known as the Nuseiris, are an esoteric sect of Islam that believes in reincarnation among other secret teachings).
What happened in Daraa that provoked what Landis watched over the internet came after a rumor started circulating in town to the effect that there were militant s from Hizbullah, with Iranian weapons, shooting at protesters. While it is true that it is hard to believe that Hezbollahis were fighting in Daraa, at least since the Syrian regime does not need more brutal operatives than the ones its has, it seems that Mr. Landis picked this video to justify the regime’s crimes.
Landis claimed that the regime became paranoid when hearing the chanting about Hezbollah and Iran, because it reminded it of the 1980s when the regime crushed the whole Syrian democratic community under the pretext of confronting the Muslim brotherhood. It seems this time the same excuse is coming from Mr Landis before we hear it from the regime itself.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
WASHINGTON - The United States finally issued a statement denouncing the Syrian regime's massacres against its own people in the town of Daraa. Even though reports put the number of dead so far at more than 100, the Department of State denounced, in a statement, violence, and included its usual call to "exercise restraint and refrain from violence."
Nothing yet beats White House Jay Carney's call on both sides to refrain from violence in Bahrain.
Below is the full statement from the Department of State:
STATEMENT BY MARK TONER, ACTING DEPUTY SPOKESMAN
Violence in Syria
The United States is deeply troubled by violence and civilian deaths in Dara’a at the hands of security forces. We are concerned by the Syrian Government’s use of violence, intimidation and arbitrary arrests in Dara’a to hinder the ability of its people to freely exercise their universal rights. We condemn these actions and extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who have been injured or lost their lives. We call on the Syrian Government to exercise restraint and refrain from violence against peaceful protestors.
While the regime of Bashar Assad kills Syrians across Syria, these people have tried to justify the Assad crimes by using "political analysis." These people are unethical. When history is written, it should note that the people below have Syrian blood on their hands.
32- The New York Times
I never though I'd be lecturing the New York Times on issues of journalism stadards and professional practice, but here's a thought that America's most prominent newspaper might find useful: Next time Buthaina Shaaban contacts NYT reporter in Beirut Anthony Shadid, through Michel Samaha, and invites him to visit Syria only to interview her so that she can put out regime propaganda, the New York Times better insist that it would only send its reporter if it is given full access to both the regime's Buthaina Shaaban and the Syrian cities that are reportedly under siege. Any other arrangement means that the Times gave the Syrian regime a front page story, and kept the Syrian people who are being repressed unheard. This is not objective reporting. Shadid has been an apologetic for the Syrian regime for a while. His entry will be posted here soon.
* * *
1- Michel Aoun, Lebanese lawmaker
Says "we cannot describe the regime in Syria as tyrannical because tyranny is when you kill collectively, but when you call people in rally, when there is unrest, repression is limited."
2- Joshua Landis, American Academic
Argues that the Assad crimes are mere inter-sectarian violence:
3- The Government of Turkey
While Turkey styles itself as the defender of the oppressed Muslims around the world, its behavior on Syria shows that Recep Tayib Erdogan and his crew are hypocrites. To Israel they send Flotillas to break the siege on Gaza and raise hell. On Syria, they suddenly fear sectarian tension and say they advised Assad to reform. Turkey is also supporting Libya's beast Moammar Gadhafi by obstructing an agreement inside NATO to take command of military operations against Libya. From an Arab peoples' perspective, Turkey is by far the best friend of all Arab dictators. Perhaps Arabs now need a World War III to rid themselves of the oppression of the Turks.
4- Reinoud Leenders, Academic at UK's SOAS
He worked as Beirut Bureau Chief for the International Crisis Group (ICG), the most apologetic Western group of Assad. ICG's Middle East's Chief is Robert Malley, one of Assad's best friends. In a panel at Stimson Center after the breakout of clashes in Daraa, Leenders said that Assad still enjoyed legitimacy because of his stance in support of Hezbollah and Hamas and standing up to Israel (yeah right!) Leenders argument on Assad's legitimacy was the same that Assad made in his interview with The Wall Street Journal.
5- Jean Aziz, Lebanese mercenary for the Syrian regime
He wrote an article in Al-Akhbar daily, which interestingly enough endorses revolutions across the Middle East except in Iran and Syria, comparing the rebellion in Daraa, Syria to Hafez Assad's surgery in the 1980s during which he removed his appendix. Aziz is too unethical to make it to any list. But for his special ties with his boss, Assad's advisor Buthaina Shaaban, we include this pro-Michel Aoun operative on the list.
6- As'ad AbuKhalil, Blogger Angry Arab
This guy is angry over everything but Syria. Check out his most recent gem. Syrians demonstrate against their regime in Dubai, so he attacks Dubai for not allowing a demonstration for Bahrain. Good logic. AbuKhalil posts dozens of articles, but mentions the Daraa massacre (the number is more than 100 in mainstream media now) only in passing. I was reading this post of his complaining of Al-Jazeera's coverage. I thought like -- most other Arabs (since he claims to be Arab too) -- that he was angry at Al-Jazeera for not giving Syria enough coverage. Instead, I read this: "It seems that Aljazeera now operates according to the Western standards by which Israeli victims are more precious than Palestinian victims." He wrote this on March 23, the day Syrian regime operatives were shooting dozens of Syrians in Daraa streets (so I guess AbuKhalil's rule is that Palestinian victims are more precious than Syrian victims). Alas, like many others, AbuKhalil is no angry Arab. He is a mere populist Arab, and one that is not very smart.
7- Yaakov Katz, The Jeruslaem Post
In his article For all his faults, Assad is the devil we know, while Syrians were falling dead by the scores, this was what came to Katz's mind: "A new regime, led by a new actor, would likely be unpredictable and when considering the large arsenal of long-range Scud missiles Syria has stockpiled over the years and the accompanying chemical warheads, Israel needs to be considered." Yes, Syria's Scud missiles! The Syrians are dying for their freedom, and all what Katz cares for is for Assad to stay to make sure Scud missiles are safe, while at the same time Assad ships loads of missiles from Iran to Hezbollah, that in turn throws them at Israel. Yaakov Katz not only has Syrian blood on his hand, he is not even intelligent enough to write a coherent analysis.
8- Assafir Newspaper, Lebanon
Lebanon's Assafir newspaper calls itself "the voice of the voiceless." For years, the newspaper's editor Talal Salman enjoyed funds from Libya's Moammar Gadhafi. He later blackmailed late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri for a few years. Today, Assafir receives funds mainly from Hezbollah. For all of its bravado in supporting ongoing Arab revolutions, Assafir has been reluctant in covering the March 15 Syrian revolution. On March 24, its report on the regime's crimes in Daraa came from Ziad Haidar, an operative of the Assad regime. Haidar's report copied most of Syrian official SANA report about the activity of a "criminal gang" in Dawra. On March 25, 2011, the day almost every newspaper around the world reported on the massacre of the Assad regime that led to the murder of more than 100 Syrians in Daraa, Assafir published only "Decisions of the Baath Party" that the regime's Buthaina Shaaban voiced a day earlier. Oh also on March 25, when Assafir ignored the murder of more than 100 Syrians, it cheered for "the missile ability of the resistance" in Gaza, whose missiles hit close to Tel Aviv.
9- Amr Moussa, Arab League
Amr Moussa objects to the Arab loss of life only when Arabs are killed by Westerners. When Bashar Assad kills his people, Moussa is nowhere to be seen or heard.
Amr Moussa resigned his position as Secretary General of the Arab League, not because he is as democratic as he claims and wants to see someone succeed him, but because he wants to run for Egypt's president. Moussa is the worst kind of Arab politicians. He served as Egypt's Foreign Minister and is as corrupt as the Mubarak establishment. He hand links with Saddam Hussein and was probably on his payroll. He recently spoke against the Western strikes on Gadhafi's targets even though people in Benghazi were celebrating these strikes, that have changed the tide of war in Libya in favor of the rebels. Amr Moussa has Syrian blood on his hands. The Egyptians should not elect him, and should rather force him to retire.
10- Dina Ezzat, Ahram Online Writer
Dina Ezzat is defending the Assad regime despite all the crimes this regime has committed since March 15 against Syrians. In an article on Ahram online, she quoted Arab League sources that Syria was a "different" Arab country because it lives under three decades of Israeli occupation (even though like with Mubarak, some Israeli writers are expressing concern over the downfall of Assad who is keeping the Golan quite since 1974). Ezzat even suggested that either Israel or Iraqi forces were behind the unrest in Syria. This Ezzat apologetic line to the Syrian regime is old style Arab reporting. Shame on you Dina Ezzat!
11- Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State
When Egyptians blamed Clinton and the US for supporting Mubarak for 30 years, she stuttered and said Washington was trying to influence him to reform (yeah right, by cutting US budget to democracy activists). On Syria, after couple of hundred people have been killed by the Assad regime, this is what Clinton had to say about Assad and the ongoing Syria Revolution: "There is a different leader in Syria now, many of the members of Congress (read John Kerry, Wanna be US Secretary of State) of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he's a reformer." Hillary Clinton is now making of America a partner with Bashar Assad and his regime in killing Syrians. Shame on you Hillary Clinton!
12- Ibrahim Al-Amin, Hezbollah Propagandist at Al-Akhbar newspaper
UPDATE: Ibrahim Al-Amin has always presented himself as Mr. Logic. Now check out his latest reasoning. He argues, in an article, that over the past seven weeks, it has been proven that the Syrian demonstrators do not amount to a clear Syrian majority. Therefore, Assad should stay. See, Al-Amin makes it sound as if Syrians can freely protest without risking being killed or arrested. Since the protesting Syrians are not a majority, then Assad still commands the support of his people. Yes, and Assad was elected by more than 90 percent of Syria's vote! How dumb does Ibrahim Al-Amin think his readers are?
Ibrahim Al-Amin claims to know all the details of the American and Israeli conspiracies in the region, especially Lebanon. His newspaper publishes wikileaks documents and often claims to quote US officials talking in private about Lebanon. With all his knowledge about the United States policies in Lebanon and Syria, Al-Amin wrote a long article in his Hezbollah propaganda paper, but somehow missed Clinton's statement defending Assad above. "There is a different leader in Syria now, many of the members of Congress (read John Kerry, Wanna be US Secretary of State) of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he's a reformer." Al-Amin also never seemed to have read the articles in the Israeli press expressing fear over a possible Assad downfall and calling Assad the "devil we know." After ignoring all the US and Israeli praise of Assad, Al-Amin came up with the theory that those who want to see the demise of the Assad regime want it to happen because of Assad's support of "resistance" in the region. He certainly deserves to be placed on Syria's Wall of Shame for trying to twist facts and make Assad look like an Arab hero.
13- Cal Perry, Al-Jazeera English Correspondent in Damascus
Cal Perry has been a Hezbollah apologist for a long time. Before joining Al-Jazeera English, he produced TV reports from Beirut for CNN showing his friend Nicholas Noe sponsoring trips for young Western students to meet with Hamas and Hezbollah officials. Cal is the son of Mark Perry, Washington-based author of Talking to Terrorists and a strong advocate (like his son and Noe) of the West droping their current current allies in the Middle East and starting new alliances, instead, with the Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran. Why do we put Cal Perry on Syria's Wall of Shame? The reason is because Perry is reporting Syrian regime propaganda from Damascus. He produced a report that will air tonight (Monday, March 28) on Al-Jazeera English presumably showing that Syrian police in Daraa were shot in their heads, proving that there were actually trained shooters among the Daraa demonstrators. On his twitter page, he writes that the world should expect major pro-Assad rallies in Syria tomorrow (but has nothing to say about any possible regime coercion, or why the outsider saboteurs only choose to join anti-Assad rallies but never pro-Assad demonstrations). When the Syrians will be free from their tyrant, Perry will be remembered as the friend and supporter of their oppressor Bashar Assad and his gang.
14 - Ghassan Saoud, Al-Akhbar newspaper
If you read Ghassan Saoud in Al-Akhbar on Tuesday March 29, you would think that the person who stands behind all the protests in Syria is none other than Bashar Assad himself. Saoud argues that now that the Syrian people has taken to the streets en masse (and thankfully not accusing them of being foreign saboteurs), Assad is now finally able to run the reform program that he has been planning to run since he became president in 2000, but could not due to a cast of corrupt network around him. What Saoud does not explain, however, is that if Bashar Assad has been unable to implement his reforms for the past 11 years, how can such a weak president implement any reforms.
Assad apologists like Saoud try to defend Assad by blaming his autocracy and corruption on his team. Saoud and his ilk do not notice, however, that by doing so they depict Assad as a weak president casting doubt on his ability to reform. Either Assad is strong enough, in charge of Syria and responsible for the corruption and the crimes committed since March 15, which means now he should step down, or Assad has been so weak since 2000 that he now needs to step down so that someone who is stronger can replace him to lead reform. Saoud, the apologist, does not care. Anything to spare Assad the popular rage!
15- Daoud Rammal, Assafir newspaper
In his column, Rammal argues that Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri leads, arms and funds a radical Sunni network that he is now employing to stir unrest in Syria. Coincidentally, this same Hariri network stands behind embarrassing his own government by kidnapping seven Estonian nationals and detonating a bomb in the Eastern Lebanon town of Zahle. Before you start trying to understand this silly conspiracy scheme, you should understand that these talking points, used by the Syrian regime and its proteges in Lebanon, are not new at all. Since 2005, Buthaina Shabban's assistant in Lebanon, Michel Samaha, has instructed the pro-Syrian Lebanese media to circulate stories reporting, always without evidence, that Hariri commands a radical Sunni network, and that Hezbollah's (Shiite) arms and the Syrian regime are needed to counter Hariri's Sunni radicalism. Samaha even planted these invented schemes in The New Yorker, through Seymour Hersh, whose article was repeatedly cited by pro-Syrian Lebanese politicians. Today, Smaha apparently found it useful to revive this fabricated story of the Hariri-Sunni sabotage network being active in Syria since March 15 to echo stories from his master, Buthaina Shaaban, who promised to produce "evidence" that the popular uprising in Syria was in fact an act of terrorism by the Hariri network. Rammal's story in Assafir is a mere Syrian intelligence memorandum circulated to pro-Syrian writers in Lebanon. Shame on Assafir and Rammal.
UPDATE To Rammal: Kidnappers of the Estonians and the bombers of the Zahle Church turned out to be a ring of two Syrians and three Lebanese, led by Syrian Darwish Khanjar, according to AFP and other news reports. Looks more like Syrian intelligence is behind the Lebanon sabotage than a Hariri network. Surprise!
16- Leila Fadel, The Washington Post
In her article in the Post on Thursday, March 30, Fadel went out of her way to prove that the Assad regime should stay, because its demise might result in a sectarian conflict with unpredictable results, meaning she is asking the world to choose between Assad's stability -- even after more than 100 Syrians were killed last week -- and possible post-Assad instability (familiar argument?).
Throughout her coverage of Iraqi elections, Fadel's reports where always biased in favor of Ayad Allawi. But this is history now. on Syria, Fadel is now coming to the rescue of Assad (which suggests that she is simply a pro-Baath reporter). But regardless of her political preferences, Fadel has always quoted "experts" who are mostly close to Syria, Iran and Hezbollah. In her Thursday article on Syria, she quoted three pro-regime people, and one opposition (talk about balanced reporting). Why does the Post assign Fadel (reporting from Cairo) to write about Syria? Presumably because foreign journalists are not getting Syrian visas, but with Fadel's bias,she would certainly receive an instant stamp.
At any rate, while reporting from Cairo, Fadel quotes Assad regime apologist Joshua Landis, from Oklahoma (see number 2 on this list). She then quotes a Christian resident (this gets so silly as the Christian resident who wants the Assad regime to stay does not give his name, why exactly staying anonymous and fearing whose retribution?)Finally, Fadel quotes Syrian opposition figure Yassin Hajj Saleh (most probably using his words out of context) who tries to argue that the Assad regime uses sectarianism as a scare tactic. But wait, she rebuttals Saleh with Ghimar Deeb, a lawyer in Damascus (who telling by the fact that he gave his name suggests he must be some regime crony). Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Assad supporter at the Washington Post Leila Fadel.
17 - New TV, Lebanon
This TV is unprofessional with clear pro-Syrian bias. But this report it aired on Friday April 1, 2011 shows that pro-Syrian Lebanese media people have sunk to new lows.
18 - John Kerry, US Senator
Senator John Kerry succeeded former Senator Arlen Specter in being Bashar Assad's boy in Washington. For over four years, Kerry has been visiting Damascus on a regular basis and praising Assad, arguing that Assad was a man of peace and that under Assad, peace between Syria and Israel was possible. Expert Lee Smith had the following to say about Kerry: "Maybe it’s because Sen. John Kerry is a likely replacement for Clinton as secretary of State that he veered in the other direction and criticized Assad last week. Or maybe it’s just because he’s finally come to realize that he’s been made to look like a fool over the last few years by hawking a pro-Syria line. Even as recently as March 16, Kerry praised the Syrian president for the generosity he personally extended to the former Democratic presidential candidate during his half-dozen visits to Damascus over the last half-decade. And at the State Department, there’s Syria hand Fred Hof who, according to former Washington policymakers, doesn’t like hearing ill spoken of this murderous regime lest it shatter his dreams for an Israeli-Syrian peace deal—and his pet project, a 'peace park' in the Golan Heights."
To be fair, Kerry tried to distance himself from Assad by the end of March, seeing a surge in the number of Syrians killed by Assad's security forces. Kerry talked to the Washington Post's Jackson Diehl, who reported the following: Now Kerry, like people across Syria, is waiting to hear a speech that Assad’s aides have promised he will deliver outlining a political liberalization in response to demonstrations across the country. “It’s a significant test,” Kerry said. “It’s a seminal moment.” The senator has heard promises of reform from the regime in the past. “I’ve always said, ‘put it to the test, don’t take it at face value,’ Kerry said. “You have to find out what people are prepared to do.”
According to Diehl: Kerry indicated that he thinks Assad could still redeem himself with his people and with the United States. ”If he responds, if he moves to lift the emergency law, to provide a schedule for a precise set of reforms and a precise set of actions....we might begin to question whether something different is happening,” Kerry said.
Diehl concluded: In the meantime, the senator said he doesn’t favor aggressive action by the United States to bring the violence in Syria before the UN Security Council or seek sanctions, as was done when Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi began attacking his people last month. “I think it’s premature,” Kerry said. “You have to see what develops in the next hours. It could reach that point. I don’t think that with this fact pattern that is the choice to make.”
So now that Assad's speech is over, and now that Assad has failed his "test" of reform, what is John Kerry waiting for? Why is he silent while the Syrians are being killed by the Assad thugs everyday?
John Kerry is a friend of Assad, and he unfortunately seems to be an enemy of the Syrian people.
19- Foreign Policy, Magazine
For giving Alastair Crooke the space to spew pro-Assad propaganda.
20- Alastair Crooke, Hezbollah Propagandist
He formerly worked for MI6 and is now the Director of the Beirut-based Conflicts Forum. Through Lebanese links, he published in the past at the Center for Strategic International Studies arguing that Washington should drop its current allies in the Middle East, and instead link up with a new emerging alliance that includes Syria, Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon. In Foreign Policy, he unashamedly authored a piece that tried, unsuccessfully, to improve Assad's image. Crooke argued that Assad had not only not given orders to open fire at demonstrators, but had forbidden it. So Assad is not guilty. If this is true, Assad would be guilty of being a president who does not actually run Syria, and therefore he should step down on this count.
Notwithstanding Crooke's less than average arguments, he presents "evidence" that demonstrations in Syria were actually a conspiracy stirred by the United States and its allies like Saudi Arabia. His evidence: An article posted on the regime-owned Champress. Convinced? Well, this Crooke guy is the same guy who years ago, told Seymour Hersh, of the New Yorker, that he "was told" that radical militants in a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon, who battled the Lebanese army for months, were offered arms and funds by Lebanon's Fouad Siniora government. Hersh published Crooke's "evidence" in the New Yorker, and the Hezbollah and Syria propaganda repeatedly used it as concrete "evidence." Talk about media laundering...
Now Crooke is back to defend Assad, at the expense of Syrians who are being shot dead in the streets. Shame on Crooke. He has Syrian and Lebanese blood on his hands.
21- Rashad Salameh, Former VP of Lebanese Phalange Party
The pro-Assad Lebanese are so pitiful that they are behind the curve when it comes to debating domestic Syrian politics. For over a week now, Syrian TV has been hosting Syrian guests who argue in support of "reform," but say that any reform should not be a ticket to violence. Rashad Salameh, however, has not received his new talking points memorandum from Damascus (through Michel Samaha), so he went on Syrian TV and praised the Assad regime like there is no tomorrow. He also dismissed whatever is going on in Syria as a mere Zionist and American conspiracy. In the video, also note how the anchor of the Syrian state TV argues that America is the source of all evil in the Middle East (while Assad, day after day, announces that he seeks peace with Israel and better relations with the United States).
22- Michel Samaha, Assad's Representative in Lebanon
Courtesy of NOW Lebanon: Samaha, who has been running Assad’s media campaign in Paris and the US, was successful as long as the West was still ready to be open to the Syrian regime. However, there comes a time when these people will have to withdraw to a corner in the Lebanese political scene, as their services won’t be needed anymore.
Their role has been to deliver messages and threats, and in Samaha’s case, create mediation channels between Assad and Christian leaders in Lebanon, and between him and the former head of General Security, Jamil Sayyed. Even Assad advisor Buthaina Shaaban might not be enough to safeguard Samaha’s position.
Editor's note: Samaha is the handler of a host of Syrian puppets in Lebanon and journalists around the world. Alastair Crooke (who recently published in Marc Lynch's Foreign Policy Magazine) is one (Samaha's daughter works at Crooke's "forum" in Beirut). Rashad Salameh (see number 21) is another. Michel Aoun (see number 1) is also under Samaha's supervision. New Yorker's Sey Hersh and Der Spiegel's Eric Follath also have Samaha as their handler on behalf of Assad.
23 - Al-Jazeera Channel
Courtesy of Michael Young, The Daily Star:The hypocrisy of Al-Jazeera, the most popular Arab satellite station, is especially worthy of mention. In Egypt, Libya or Yemen, for instance, the station devotes, or has devoted, long segments allowing viewers to call in and express disapproval of their leaders alongside their high hopes for the success of the revolution. In Syria, nothing.
The reality is that the political allegiances and the self-image of Al-Jazeera make this thorny. Syria is part of the “resistance axis,” and the downfall of its regime would only harm Hezbollah and Hamas. The same lack of enthusiasm characterized the station’s coverage of Lebanon’s Independence Intifada against Syria in 2005. It is easy to undermine Ali Abdullah Saleh, Moammar Gadhafi, and Hosni Mubarak, each of whom in his own way is or was a renegade to the Arabs. But to go after Bashar Assad means reversing years of Al-Jazeera coverage sympathetic to the Syrian leader. Rather conveniently, refusing to do so dovetails with the consensus in the Arab political leadership.
So the Syrians find themselves largely abandoned today, their struggle not enjoying the customary Al-Jazeera treatment – high in emotion and electric in the slogans of mobilization. The televised Arab narrative of liberty has not quite avoided Syria, but nor has it integrated the Syrians’ cause. As the Arab stations weigh what to do next, they may still hope that the Syrian story will disappear soon, and their duplicity with it. Shame on them.
24 - Bassma Kodmani, Arab Reform Initiative
She wrote this lousy piece in which she tried to defend Bashar Assad by not blaming him for the murders in Daraa and elsewhere. She wrote: "It has become apparent from the events of Deraa that the mechanism upon which the political regime depends for regulating society, in order to maintain stability via the security apparatus, has unlimited powers. Therefore this same apparatus is responsible for the current destabilisation and the rage of the people of Deraa." Who employs this security apparatus? Who pays them? Who orders them? Who is responsible for their work? Either Assad is in charge of these security people, and therefore bears responsibility for the crimes in Daraa, Latakia, Homs, Banyas and elsewhere and should be brought to justice, or Assad is not in charge and should step down.
Kodmani also perceives of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon as a mere "tool" that can be used " to cause embarrassment to some Syrian officials," again not to Assad himself as if these officials are autonomous and the tribunal as a mere tool that can be used here and there. Shame on Kodmani.
25- Patrick Seale, Assad Propagandist
Patrick Seale is a gun for hire. He praises people in biographies he writes about them (either for good relations or for money). In the past, he praised Hafez Assad. Today, he's one of Bashar Assad's most ardent apologists. The problem is that Seale does not even present smart arguments. He merely reiterates talking points, and even those, he often gets them mixed up. In his last article in The Guardian, he wrote: "The last few days have seen a renewed surge of demonstrations that, with their swelling numbers, fury and anti-regime slogans, are beginning to seem like an insurrection. The regime has replied with live fire, curfews, massive arrests and cordons thrown around towns and villages."
What do demonstrations that "seem like an insurrection" mean? The Syrian protests can either be peaceful rallies, or violent guerrilla wars. But Seale wants to justify a wholesale Assad massacre beforehand, so he maliciously tries to blur the line. He writes that the regime "replied" in "the last few days," whereas the regime has been killing Syrians since mid March.
To complete his lame conspiracy theory, Seale adds Lebanon to the mix: "Nor is the crisis likely to reduce Syria's influence in Lebanon. No Syrian regime of any colour can tolerate a hostile government in Beirut. Its security – especially vis-a-vis Israel – is intimately tied to that of its Lebanese neighbour. The wave of protest engulfing the Arab world has pushed the Arab-Israeli conflict into second place. But that can only be temporary. Until it is resolved, the region will know no stability and little peace."
Says who the Assad regime will be replaced by another "regime?" If Assad falls, the world and the Syrians will expect nothing less than an elected government, not a "regime." Also, in their "joint fight" against Israel, Syria has been the weaker party when compared to Lebanon. Imad Mughniyah was assassinated in Damascus. Hassan Nasrallah is safe in Beirut. When talking about "security – especially vis-a-vis Israel," it is Hezbollah that might want to see a regime change in Damascus to protect its flank. But anyway, the talk is not about Lebanon or Israel, it is about the Assad regime killing its citizens and trying to hide its crimes behind regional affairs and imagined terrorist schemes.
Patrick Seale, once a mercenary, always a mercenary. Now, he also has Syrian blood on his hands. Shame on you Seale!
26- Elias Murr, Lebanon's Flip-Flopper
There is nothing worse for the Syrian revolution than Israelis and Lebanese cheering for the Assad regime to stay, which they believe is in their best interests.
In this article, Murr argues that Assad staying is the best strategic option for Lebanon, especially that his regime has promised change. Like the Israelis, Murr believes that betting on post-Assad unknown in Syria is not the best bet for the Lebanese. As for the Syrians who are fighting for their freedom and who might want to see democracy, Murr simply does not care. For a person who has been in power for more than two decades now, Murr perfectly understands Assad. Change? What change? All of the Middle East's politicians, whether Lebanese ministers or Syrian presidents, should remain in power until forever. And to think that this Murr was part of Lebanon's "pro-democracy" movement? How can someone like Murrm who apparently knows nothing about democracy, lead Lebanon's democratic movement? How could Washington receive him with 21 howitzer shots (or some military ceremony) and discuss with him ways to help the Lebanese Armed Forces protect the Lebanese state and democracy?
At any rate, if Murr does not want democracy in Lebanon, he should zip it on Syria. The future of Syria belongs to the Syrians.
27- Walid Jumblatt, Mr. No Principles
Over the past few centuries, Lebanon's Druze religion/tribe has followed the Jumblatt leadership in times of war and distress. One of Jumblatt's many tasks has been to "preserve the Druze existence" (whatever that means). So Walid Jumblatt been a warlord at times, and a coward at most other times (he dismissed the case against his father's assassins, believed to be ordered by the Hafez Assad regime). This warlord-coward dichotomy has pushed Jumblatt to swing between opposite political stances, always at the expense of principles. So after behaving like an inspiring hero starting 2005 during the outbreak of the Independence Intifada (please no Cedar Revolution because Intifada 05 was the slogan on the big red banners Lebanese demonstrators held at the time), Jumblatt reversed course starting 2009. He surrendered his position to Hezbollah and begged Bashar Assad for mercy.
But while defeated generals either commit suicide or lock themselves at home, the principle-less Jumblatt turned into an outspoken critique of his former Independence Intifada comrades. Since the outbreak of the Syrian Revolution on March 15, Jumblatt has repeatedly expressed his unwavering support to Assad and his dictatorial regime.
Jumblatt believes that, as a Druze leader, Assad expects him (as part of the Jumblatt surrender deal) to urge his fellow Druze of Syria to stay out of the Syrian revolution. But the Syrian Druze have shown courage. Against all odds, Muntaha Al-Atrash, the daughter of Sultan Pasha Al-Atrash the hero of the 1920s Syrian revolution against the French, has been one of the most outspoken figures against Bashar Assad and his regime. Her nephew, Hassan Al-Atrash, joined demonstrations on Sunday April 17 and was severely beaten by Assad's thugs.
In his last statement in support of Bashar Assad, Jumblatt proved to be irrelevant.
28- Craig Whitlock, The Washington Post Writer
Craig Whitlock wants to emulate the Post's Bob Woodward (who breaks stories like Watergate), so he might have seen an opportunity in Wikileaks. Even though there has been no chemistry between Wikileaks's founder Jacque Assange and the Post, in that the newspaper likened him to former Iraqi Media Minister Mohamed Sahhaf while Assange kept the paper out of his document-dumping destinations, it seems that Whitlock has recently succeeded in mending ties between the paper and Wikileaks.
The problem is that the information Wikileaks offer is sometimes outdated, and at other times does not prove the point the matches the provocative title. Using six documents, Whitlock tried to prove – amidst an ongoing Syrian revolution – that America was secretly backing the Syrian opposition against Bashar Assad. Between 2005 and 2010, Washington funneled $12 million (yes, twelve, that probably won't buy you an apartment in downtown Damascus) to Democracy promotion programs (the likes of MEPI, IRI, NDI that run similar programs around the world). But Whitlock wanted to make it intriguing. While the documents show that part of the money went to a certain London-based opposition TV, Barada TV, and showed that the opposition group Damascus Declaration refused to accept any American assistance Whitlock made it sound as if Washington was using the Syrian opposition as a tool to depose Assad. While Syrians are being shot in the streets, Whitlock is looking for hot stories. When he doesn't find one, he invents one. Shame on Whitlock!
29- May Akl, Anti-Democracy Activist
In an article in Foreign Policy, the Press Secretary of Lebanese lawmaker Michel Aoun (number one on this list), tried to argue that Syria was "different" and therefore democracy-proof compared to Tunisia or Egypt. Akl called on the United States to "try to understand the subtleties of situations in different contexts," given of course that Akl understands these subtleties.
In Syria, this is what is happening, according to Akl. "Turmoil in Syria" broke out a few days after April 1 (not since March 15 as is actually the case), mainly encouraged by the Syrian Muslim brotherhood, whose boss Riad Shaqfeh called for more protests in a press conference in Ankara. Further proof that the "turmoil" in Syria is Islamist can be found in the anti-Assad statements from the Qatar-based Egyptian cleric Youssef Qaradawi. These statements, coupled with Damascus locking international media out of Syria (which Akl did not mention), are proof that the Syrian "turmoil" is Islamist. When the "turmoil" failed to topple Assad, Akl said, the Islamists reverted to ambushing "a Syrian army patrol in the coastal town of Banias," which to Akl "is proof that a Jihad-like approach is a force behind the movement." So Akl's proof is based exclusively on reports from Syria's state-owned media.
Despite the Islamist calls and the ambushes, the Assad regime will not fall, according to Akl, because "most Syrians simply think that there is no better alternative to the current regime." Another factor, Akl wrote, "is that the Syrian people are generally proud of, and have high hopes for, their president." When reading "most Syrians" and the "Syrian people," once cannot but wonder who died and made Akl Syria's King. Where are the independent survey's to prove Akl's allegations, and how does Foreign Policy run such an unsubstantiated article?
Now that Akl has "objectively" established that the Syrian "turmoil" is Islamist, and that the majority of Syrians want their regime to stay, the question becomes whether the world "want(s) to see Syria fall into the hands of the Brotherhood." After all, "democracy and people power can actually be used as a cover for extreme groups to access power," Akl argued. So now, even democracy is not good enough for this Lebanese writer and therefore, the world better stick with Assad, the Syrian autocrat.
Defending Assad is one thing. Arguing against democracy is another. Such an article could have been a blow for the Syrian Revolution and democracy at large, had it come from someone known for their smart arguments. But coming from Akl, misinformation and fallacies are expected.
30- Barack Obama, United States President
While the toll of Syrian deaths stood at more than 88 on Good Friday (April 22, 2011), this is what Barack Obama had to say in a statement: "We call on President Assad to change course now, and heed the calls of his own people." That's it. Heed the calls of his own people. No "now means yesterday" that Egypt's Hosni Mubarak got to step down. No US calls, like on Ali Abdullah Saleh, to supervise transition of power. No US or NATO jets to protect Syrian civilians like the jets that were scrambled to defend Libyan civilians.
Even worse, from an American perspective, Mubarak and Saleh were Washington's allies. Assad, for his part, facilitated the killing of American troops in Iraq and passed on arms to Hezbollah. Thus, America's friends got the boot while Assad got the "please behave" routine.
Personally, I always knew (and wrote) that Barack Obama is America's worst president when it comes to foreign policy. Just look at the half war he signed on in Libya that has cost America more than half a trillion, but without any clear goal.
Barack Obama can be a novice all he wants on foreign policy, but when 88 Syrians are dead on a single day, he should either remain silent or ask Assad to step down. "Heed the calls of the people" is the worst sentence any US president could print in a statement in such circumstances. For not siding with Syria's dead and still making nice with Assad, shame on you Mr. President!
31- Liz Sly, The Washington Post
Liz Sly may think she is smart. Change in Tunisia and Egypt is possible, but in Syria, it wreaks havoc on the region. So this Bashar Assad apologist implicitly suggests in an article in The Washington Post that maybe the world should keep Assad to avoid a "doomsday scenario."
How did Sly arrive at this conclusion? Check out her expert lineup for the story and you will realize why her story was a one-sided piece. Hilal Khashan, a professor at the American University of Beirut (AUB) who, sometime in the past, used to publish with Daniel Pipes but now seems to have changed course. The second expert she quoted is Rami Khoury, Chair of the Issam Fares Center at AUB. For those who don't follow on Lebanese politics, Fares served as deputy prime minister in the Lebanese cabinet only when Syrian forces used to occupy Lebanon until 2005. Not only Fares is a Syrian puppet in Lebanon, his son Nijad runs the Washington-based American Task Force for Lebanon (ATFL), a tool at the disposal of Syrian Ambassador to the US Imad Mustafa.
The third expert is Joshua Landis, who is quoted in every article on Syria in the Post, every day. Married to a Syrian Alawite (from the minority sect of Assad), Landis is a protégé of Imad Mustafa. This wall has already shamed him.
Liz Sly either thinks she is smart by producing a presumably "out of the box" article arguing for Assad to stay or she was manipulated by the experts on Syria to believe Assad is actually good and should stay. Either way, while Syrians are being killed by the scores, daily, and hundreds of them are being arrested, beaten and tortured, Sly wants Assad to remain in power to save the region chaos, a scare tactic that Mubarak used and that Bashar is trying also to exploit that has no connection to reality whatsoever.
While at it, Sly might want to answer this question: Since Assad is Mr. Middle East Stability, how come a civil war broke out in Iraq, a devastating war between Syrian-armed Hezbollah and Israel took place, and dozen other conflicts erupted on Assad's watch? What regional stability are we talking about at a time after more than an Assad decade in power, the region looks all but stable. Think Ms. Sly, think!
NEW YORK - The Secretary-General condemns the violence against peaceful demonstrators in the southern Syrian city of Deraa, which resulted in several killed and many more injured today and yesterday.
There should be a transparent investigation into the killings, and those responsible must be held accountable.
The Secretary-General reiterates his call on the Syrian authorities to refrain from violence and to abide by their international commitments regarding human rights, including the right to peaceful assembly. He reminds the Syrian Government of its obligation to protect civilians, and of its responsibility to address the legitimate aspirations of its people through a purposeful dialogue and reforms.
-- News from Washington
March, 23, 2011
In the wee hours of the morning, Syria time, security forces of the Bashar Assad regime killed at least six and injured many more in an operation that targeted protesters at the Omari Mosque in Deraa, a town to the south of Damascus that has been restless for over a week.
Why is Assad so nervous and using excessive force? The answer is simply because Assad calculates that his regime cannot handle an extended ongoing protest. The Assad regime is doing its best to finish this before Friday, the day when crowded prayers at mosques can turn into massive rallies.
If Assad succeeds in ending this before Friday, then maybe he can kill the whole March 15 Revolution that is currently growing and challenging his rule. However, if protesters defy Assad's brutality and stand their grounds, then Assad better start the count down to the end of the rule of the Assad dynasty, which started in 1971.
Finally, one cannot but notice that immoral double-standards employed by some countries. Turkey, for instance, which theatrically played the role of the champion of all Muslims when it sent Flotilla to break Israeli siege on Gaza, is nearly silent on the massacre on Syria. Qatar's Al-Jazeera, a virtual partner in the revolutions of Egypt, Yemen and Libya, is almost silent on the Syria blood bath.
-- News from Washington
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Until a week ago, most observers believed that Syria was immune to popular anger sweeping across the Middle East. But unfolding events in the country have proved both pundits and Assad wrong. With protests snowballing throughout Syria, the coming days will show whether Assad will be able to dodge a bullet, or whether the winds of change will reach Syria.
Unrest broke out in Syria on Tuesday, 15 March after an unknown group of Syrian activists had called for rallies on Facebook. At first, the regime did what it knows best: It unleashed an excessively brutal force against the few civilians who showed up to protest in Damascus. Security personnel in plainclothes outnumbered the 50 Syrians demonstrating at Suq Al-Hamidiyeh and Marjeh Square by more than three to one, assaulted them and arrested 25 of them.
Syrian state media reported that a delegation of relatives of political prisoners had showed up to the Interior Ministry to hand the minister a petition demanding the release of their loved ones. But the day after saw even more protests as Syrians took to the streets of Hims, Deir El-Zour and Banyas. Daraa, a town of 70 thousand Syrians to the south of Damascus, was the scene of unprecedented clashes when thousands of demonstrators forced security personnel out of the city. For their part, regime operatives shot dead a few protesters, further inflaming the situation.
The days that followed witnessed a growing anti-regime movement, mainly in Daraa. Feeling the heat, the Assad regime sent its elite forces—with their tanks and helicopters—to encircle the rebelling city. More funerals meant more confrontations and the situation was getting out of hand until Assad decided to contact families of the victims to express remorse, promise to punish the perpetrators and sent his senior officials to help defuse the tension.
A week after 15 March, Syrian security had shut off Daraa, but avoided clashes with its residents, apparently in an attempt to bring the confrontation to an end. But meanwhile, hundreds of Syrians across Syrian cities were protesting and shouting anti-regime slogans.
Observers are so far divided over the outcome of the Syrian clashes. Some argue that if Aleppo, the largest city with Sunni majority and loose regime control, erupts, the situation might take a drastic turn and Assad might find himself on the edge. Until now, Aleppo has not showed any signs of unrest.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Without any evidence of civilian casualties, former chairman of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, denounced the ongoing Western military operation in Libya accusing it of killing civilians.
He told Egyptian TV: “What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians."
Why has Amr Moussa turned against a military operation that the Arab League had called for?
Moussa, who is running for president of Egypt, probably reasoned that by denouncing the military operation in Libya, he would bolster his pan-Arab credentials and show himself as independent from the West, an unethical act of politicking.
-- News from Washington
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Syrians protesting the regime of Bashar Assad in front of the White House
This has been beyond the wildest of dreams, but the regime of Syria’s Bashar Assad will probably fall.
Compared to other Arab autocrats, the Assad regime has been arguably the most repressive. Because of its exceptionally inflexible nature, the Assad regime has no room to entertain any compromise with opponents or allow reform. And because of its inflexibility too, the Assad regime employs an all-or-none strategy. It either wins all, or gets broken.
Assad’s inflexible nature is rooted in its design, based on a small network of military officers and business tycoons brought together by kinship and common interests.
The regime is based on Assad’s esoteric sect of Islam, the Alawites that form 10 percent of Syria’s 23 million people. Originally impoverished residents of the rural northwest, young Alawite men joined the army, and used it as their vehicle for upward social and political mobility.
Bashar Assad’s father and predecessor, Hafez, was an army officer who ruled Syria until 2000. Since his 1971 coup, Assad and the Alawite minority ruled over a population with 75 percent of Sunni Muslims. Unlike the Alawites, the Sunnis have mostly been city dwellers with several notable families.
For the Alawite minority to be able to rule over a much bigger Sunni majority, Assad had first to maintain a compact ruling elite – mainly through state corruption at the expense of greater Syrian economic health – and, second, to use exceptionally brutal force to quickly end any challenge to his regime.
The Assad regime depends on a few elite combat battalions commanded by Alawite officers and usually stationed around Damascus. These forces can smash revolts, like in 1982 when Assad used these forces to kill thousands of rebels in Hama.
After smashing enemies, whether organized militant groups like Hama’s 1982 Muslim Brotherhood, or individual human rights activists who are thrown in prison for minor offenses, the Assads have made sure to show no room for mercy whatsoever. The reason behind Assad’s usage of excessive force is its awareness that a minority cannot handle long wars of attrition, especially if these take place in several cities simultaneously and therefore stretch the elite forces thin.
Add to Assad’s short fuse the fact that, in this age and time, repeating the Hama massacre is nearly impossible. Less than 10 people have died so far since March 15 in clashes in a few Syrian cities, and Syria has become headline news forcing Assad to show remorse by offering condolences to the families of the victims and deploying his senior officials to the angry areas in an apparently unsuccessful bid to diffuse tension.
So despite his powerful elite force, Assad cannot handle more than one city erupting at the same time.
Also, if popular rallies snowball, Assad's hands will be tied. When 30 people demonstrate in some square in Damascus, the Assad regime usually outnumbers them by sending close to 100 operatives who physically assault them and drag them to prison. This tactic is rendered ineffective when thousands of Syrians take to the streets, like in the case of the town of Daraa since Tuesday.
While many observers have so far discounted the possibility of a collapse of the Assad regime, one can argue that 2011 has so far gone against pundit predictions. Only in December, all these Arab uprisings were beyond the wildest of dreams of any and all analysts and experts on the Middle East.
Another indicator of Assad’s weakness is his nervousness. Since the outbreak of the uprisings in Tunisia in January, Assad has reverted to his classic act of reaching out to the United States, promising peace with Israel and good regional behavior.
In the past, flirting with Israel served Assad well. In the words of Washington’s veterans Eliot Abrams and Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman, Israel opened the door for Syria to get out of the international isolation it faced after the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, in February 2005, and the consequent withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon in April.
Even though Assad’s American friends, such as Senator John Kerry (D-MA), have rushed to Damascus promising to broker peace with Israel, it seems that neither the United States nor Israel can come to Assad’s rescue this time if the Syrians decide to take to the streets en masse.
Finally, Assad will certainly not go down without a fight. He will use his elite forces and probably fall back, with his clique, to their ancestral villages in northwestern Syria. Any Assad retreat will be the first step toward the eventual demise of his regime.
Syria’s March 15 Uprising should be expected to snowball. It will gain momentum especially if the northern city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest with a predominantly Sunni population and little Alawite control, erupts. If it does, expect another Bengazi-style capital of the rebels with the exception that the Syrian population is not armed to wage a war against Assad. But if it ever does, Assad’s forces might be so outnumbered that they might crack sooner than expected.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
(CBS/AP) The U.S. has launched cruise missiles against Libyan air defenses as part of the international military effort against Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.
CBS News national security correspondent David Martin confirms that the Pentagon launched 50-100 cruise missiles around 2 p.m. ET Saturday, following the French fighter jets' sorties over Benghazi.
A senior military official has told CBS News that the U.S. will be on the "leading edge" of coalition efforts to enforce the U.N. resolution.
The operation has two goals: prevent further attacks on civilians by Qaddafi's forces, and develop the ability to establish a no-fly zone by going after Qaddafi's integrated air defenses.