Syria 2011-2012

Written by  //  December 20, 2012  //  Geopolitics, Middle East & Arab World, Syria  //  2 Comments

Syria on
Stratfor: Syria – small but strategic
The U.S. has left Iraq, and Iran is ready to fill the resultant power vacuum and raise its stature in the region. Syria is the current battleground for this wider struggle. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United States want to add Syria to the coalition of states counterbalancing Iran. Iran, on the other hand, needs to keep Syria as a strong ally in the Levant as a check on Israel. Then there are the Russians, whose relationship with the Syrians grants them access to the Mediterranean Sea and gives them leverage on the West. (20 July 2012)
Gwynne Dyer: The real reason why Russia and China back Assad
(Japan Times) Both Putin and the Chinese leadership are appalled by the growing influence of the “responsibility to protect” principle at the United Nations, which breaches the previously sacred doctrine of the absolute sovereignty of member states. “R2P” says that foreign intervention can be justifiable (with a U.N. Security Council resolution, of course) to stop huge human rights abuses committed by member governments.
The Russian and Chinese vetoes on the Security Council give them complete protection from foreign military intervention, but they still worry about it. (20 June 2012)
Asharq Al-Awsat: The al-Assad’s Syria: A history of violence
PBS Frontline: Syria undercover
BBC: Inside Homs, besieged centre of Syrian resistance
BBC: Syria protests: The forgotten decades of dissent
The Guardian: Syria news and archives
Alawite State — As the Syrian Civil War progresses, the repressions by President Assad and the military, which is largely dominated in the higher levels by Alawites, has led to increasing numbers of civilian deaths amongst the largely Sunni population. Reprisals have been feared against the community, leading to speculation of a re-creation of the Alawite State as a safe haven for Assad and the leaders should Damascus finally fall. The breakup of Syria and the re-creation of an Alawite State is however seen critically by most political analysts.[9][10][11][12] King Abdullah II of Jordan has called this scenario the “worst case” for the conflict, fearing a domino effect of defragmentation of the country along sectarian lines with consequences to the wider region.[13]


20 December
Al Qaeda grows powerful in Syria as endgame nears
(Reuters) – Having seen its star wane in Iraq, al Qaeda has staged a comeback in neighbouring Syria, posing a dilemma for the opposition fighting to remove President Bashar al-Assad and making the West balk at military backing for the revolt.
U.N. warns of foreign influx into sectarian Syria war
(Reuters) – Fighters from around the world have filtered into Syria to join a civil war that has split along sectarian lines, increasingly pitting the ruling Alawite community against the majority Sunni Muslims, U.N. human rights investigators said on Thursday.
The deepened sectarian divisions in Syria may diminish prospects for any post-conflict reconciliation even if President Bashar al-Assad is toppled. And the influx of foreign fighters raises the risk of the war spilling into neighboring countries, riven by the same sectarian fault lines that cut through Syria.
Cleo Paskal: Expert — West Helping Wahabbi Winter Spread to Syria
17 December
‘No winner’ in Syrian conflict, says VP
(Al Jazeeera) Farouq al-Sharaa, the Syrian vice-president, has said that neither the government nor the rebels seeking the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad can win the country’s 21-month conflict.
Sharaa has rarely been seen since the Syrian revolt erupted in March 2011 and is not part of the president’s inner circle directing the fight against the rebels. He is, however, the most prominent figure to say in public that Assad will not be able to win the conflict.
In another significant indicator that Assad is losing ground:
Syrian Alawites abandon homes
Shia community, long linked to al-Assad regime, flees as opposition fighters push into its territory.
16 December
Patrick Cockburn: Syria — The descent into Holy War
The world decided to back the rebels last week, but this is no fight between goodies and baddies
there is compelling evidence that the movement has slid towards sectarian Islamic fundamentalism intent on waging holy war.
(The Independent) In the past week, 130 countries have recognised the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people. But, at the same time, the US has denounced the al-Nusra Front, the most effective fighting force of the rebels, as being terrorists and an al-Qa’ida affiliate. Paradoxically, the US makes almost exactly same allegations of terrorism against al-Nusra as does the Syrian government. Even more bizarrely, though so many states now recognise the National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, it is unclear if the rebels inside Syria do so. Angry crowds in rebel-held areas of northern Syria on Friday chanted “we are all al-Nusra” as they demonstrated against the US decision.
12 December
“Friends of Syria” group recognizes opposition coalition
(Reuters) – Western and Arab nations sympathetic to Syria’s uprising against President Bashar al-Assad gave full political recognition on Wednesday to the opposition, reflecting a hardening consensus that the 20-month-old uprising might be nearing a tipping point.
At the same meeting, the leader of Syria’s opposition coalition called on the Alawite minority to launch a campaign of civil disobedience against Assad, an Alawite who faces a mainly Sunni Muslim uprising against his rule.
The gathering brings together many Western and Arab nations opposed to Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for 42 years. But it excludes Russia, China and Iran, which have backed Assad or blocked efforts to tighten international pressure on him.
11 December
Foreign Policy reports that Syrians no longer preparing chemical weapons
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters on Tuesday that the Syrian government no longer appears to be preparing chemical weapons for use against the rebels. “At this point the intelligence has really kind of leveled off,” he said. “We haven’t seen anything new indicating any aggressive steps to move forward in that way.” Reports last week indicated that forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad may have been loading sarin gas onto bombs.
4 December
Jennifer Welsh — The ‘Wicked Problem’ in Syria
Why there aren’t any good options for those on the outside
( The secretary general claims that building a free and democratic Syria “will require political dialogue and negotiations.” But there is scant evidence that the prerequisites are in place. The closest we have ever come to real negotiations, it seems, was during Kofi Annan’s tenure as peace envoy, in the late spring and summer of 2012. With the UN Security Council and the government of Syria indicating support for Annan’s ‘six-point peace plan’, and the opposition indicating tacit agreement as well, there was a brief moment of hope.
But, according to those close to the mediation process, the moment evaporated due to a failure of the Syrian National Council to coalesce and exercise leadership, and of Assad and his entourage to articulate a real political strategy for transition. In addition, the massacre at Houla in late May 2012 dampened the hope and halted the momentum, making it next to impossible for Annan to initiate talks. Indeed, some believe it was staged precisely to quash any hint of negotiations.
Obama warns Syria over chemical weapons
US president says there will be “consequences” if President Assad uses chemical weapons on his own people.
(Al Jazeera) Earlier in the day, a senior White House spokesman said that the US and its allied intelligence had monitored Syrian movement of chemical weapons components in recent days.
19 November
Dr Charles CoganSyria: Would Putin Pull a ‘Pristina’?
(HuffPost) The French government of François Hollande is inviting other European Union countries, and even hopefully the EU as a whole, to join it in recognizing the new [amalgamated opposition] group as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
It will take more than France to turn the tide in Syria. It will take Britain and others in the West, including the United States, as well as the Arab League (although the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have already recognized the new Syrian opposition movement, as has Turkey).
But one must not underestimate the contrarian force represented by the Russia of Vladimir Putin. He may or may not be concerned by being on the wrong side of the Sunni-dominated Arab Spring, but he certainly hasn’t shown it thus far.
13 November
Syrian violence threatens refugee crisis, entangles Turkey, Israel
The Syrian civil war threatens to engage Turkey and Israel. Today, Syria bombed a rebel village on the border with Turkey, where Turkey has deployed military forces. In the Golan Heights, Israel destroyed a Syrian artillery unit after days of cross-border mortar fire. Meanwhile, Syrian refugees are triggering a growing humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (11/13)
8 November
Assad vows to ‘live and die’ in Syria
Syrian president rejects calls for him to seek exile, warning that foreign intervention will have global consequences.
(Al Jazeera) On Tuesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron floated the idea of granting Assad safe passage from the country, saying it “could be arranged,” although he wanted the Syrian leader to face international justice.
Assad also warned against foreign intervention in the country’s escalating conflict, saying such a move would have global consequences and shake regional stability.
2 November
West backs Qatari plan to unify Syrian opposition
Britain and US behind drive to create council to represent Syrian rebels, but Russia and main exile opposition group oppose it
(The Guardian) The plan, to be launched in Doha, Qatar, on Thursday, will bring the external opposition together with the revolutionary councils leading the insurrection inside Syria, behind a common programme for a democratic transition. The Syrian National Initiative (SNI) will create a council of about 50 members chaired by Riad Seif, a Sunni businessman who left Syria in June after being imprisoned by the regime.
The Doha initiative has been organised by the Qatari government and has drawn support from the US, Britain and France.
30 October
Syria on a cliff edge between Assad and Al Qaeda
(Debka) The ambassador [Chris Stevens] played a key role in US undercover operations to neutralize Libya and the region against destabilizing jihadists.
As an indirect consequence of the crisis around his death, the supply of SA-7 missiles from Libya to the Syrian rebels has dried up.
After looking around him, Assad felt he could safely put into practice his plot for the assassination of the Lebanese security chief Brig. Gen. Wassam in Beirut on Friday, Oct. 19.
By a single stroke, the Syrian knocked over the mainstay of US-Saudi intelligence operations in Syria. But, as a vital hub for the American war on al Qaeda in the region, the Lebanese security chief’s importance far transcended a single conflict. His death was a major blow for US intelligence.
So the two murders eliminated two linchpins of the US undercover war on al Qaeda in the region and left a free field for Assad and the jihadists to fight it out between them for supremacy.
19 October
Beirut car bomb kills leading Syrian foe
(Reuters) – Senior Lebanese intelligence official Wissam al-Hassan, who led the investigation that implicated Syria and Hezbollah in the assassination of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, was killed by a huge car bomb in Beirut on Friday.
Hassan was also the brains behind uncovering a bomb plot that led to the arrest and indictment in August of former Lebanese minister Michel Samaha, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al- Assad, in a setback for Damascus and its Lebanese allies including Hezbollah.
Saad al-Hariri, the son of Hariri, accused Assad of killing the top intelligence official.
The bomb, which exploded in a busy street during rush hour, killed seven other people and wounded about 80, officials said. The attack prompted Sunni Muslims to take to the streets in areas across the country, burning tires in protest.
The attack brought the war in neighboring Syria to the Lebanese capital, confirming fears that the conflict would spill over its borders. Lebanon’s religious communities are divided between those supporting Assad and those backing the rebels trying to overthrow him. Hassan, a Sunni Muslim from northern Lebanon, was a leading opponent of Assad within the Lebanese intelligence services.
4 October
As Conflict Spreads, Syrian Opposition Prepares for the Future
(IPS) – As the uprising in Syria becomes violently entangled with its neighbours, the expatriate opposition leadership is already formulating plans for a political transition following the fall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
On Thursday, the United States Institute of Peace hosted an event entitled “Syria After Assad: Managing the Challenges of Transition”, at which panellists from USIP’s The Day After Project presented their transitional framework for a post-Assad Syria.
The panellists insisted that The Day After Project: Supporting a Democratic Transition in Syria is an “evolving, growing document” that is meant to provide guiding principles instead of concrete policy recommendations. The report covers a wide range of transitional issues including the rule of law, transitional justice, security sector reform, Constitutional design, economic and social reconstruction, and electoral reform.
The Day After Project is comprised of 45 members of the Syrian opposition, …  but only a few of the opposition leaders in Syria itself.
In an attempt to foster consensus across varied political perspectives and avoid policy decisions that fall within the jurisdiction of future governments, the report avoids specific policy prescriptions. Instead, it recommends objectives such as “judicial independence”, “respect for the…diversity of Syrian society”, and “measures to facilitate macroeconomic stability”  without addressing the formal structures or ideologies underpinning these principles.
Nevertheless, the authors of the report have incorporated a number of lessons from recent political transitions in the region. They stressed the importance of civilian authority over the army and the necessity of maintaining existing government structures without engaging in a process of “de-Baathifcation”, a lesson learned from neighbouring Iraq.
2 October
Syria’s Kurds prepare for life after Assad
About 1.7m Kurds have been quietly opening police stations, courts and local councils they hope will form the foundations of an autonomous region
(Financial Times) As the uprising has evolved, however, the Kurds – largely concentrated in the country’s north-east, which holds a significant portion of Syria’s limited but vital oil reserves – have been quietly preparing for a post-Assad future, opening police stations, courts and local councils that they hope will form the foundations of an autonomous region.
The proliferation of newly hung Kurdish flags and signs in the mother tongue in al-Hassaka province give the impression of liberation after years of rule under the Ba’ath party, which expropriated land in Kurdish areas, suppressed expressions of Kurdish identity and arrested thousands of Kurdish activists, especially after riots shook the Kurdish areas in 2004.
25 September
(FP Morning round-up) … fear that the violence in Syria will spill over into Iraq prompted Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to deploy guards to the western border in order to prevent adult men from crossing in from Syria. For months, Iraqi militants appeared to be travelling in the other direction to join the forces opposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but now Iraqi officials are concerned that the porous border could become the staging ground for a two-front Sunni insurgency.
23 September
Syria: the foreign fighters joining the war against Bashar al-Assad
Jihadi veterans of Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan join callow foreign idealists on frontline of Aleppo
(The Guardian) … The disparate levels of fighting ability among the men was immediately clear. The Chechens were older, taller, stronger and wore hiking boots and combat trousers. They carried their weapons with confidence and distanced themselves from the rest, moving around in a tight-knit unit-within-a-unit. One of the Turks was a former soldier who wore western-style webbing and equipment, while the three Tajiks and the Pakistani were evidently poor.  …
Inside the school was a Jordanian who often roamed the frontline with his Belgian gun, for which he had only 11 bullets. He was a secular and clean-shaven former officer in the Jordanian army who lived in eastern Europe running an import-export business. He had come to Aleppo without telling his wife and children where he was going.
10 September
Peter Fragiskatos on Syrian Kurds — Bashar al-Assad’s other problem
Recently, Kurdish groups have been able to gain basic freedoms denied to their people since 1946.
But can they last?
Syrian Kurds have become emboldened by the gains made by their brethren in Iraq, who have capitalized on the ouster of Saddam Hussein and now enjoy de-facto independence. Persisting demands for basic cultural rights — let alone autonomy — are resented by the Arab elements of the opposition and have caused serious rifts to develop. Given the previous history between the two groups, it would not take much for tensions to ignite on a wider level. And if that happens, the legacy of the past could push Syria’s civil war into new and even more devastating directions.
(National Post) In July, the Assad regime, anxious to put down challenges from rebels in Aleppo and other areas, pulled its troops out of many (but not all) of the Kurdish-inhabited regions of the north. Since then, Kurdish groups have been able to gain basic freedoms denied to their people since Syria became independent in 1946. For example, language instruction is now taking place and cultural centres have opened. Syrian flags have even been replaced with Kurdish ones. Kurdish activists are vowing to push for autonomy, along the lines of what Quebec enjoys in Canada, when the war comes to an end.
Estimated to number around 1.5 million, the Kurds make up 10% of the total population in Syria. While most are Muslims, they are distinguished from the Arabs (who represent the largest ethnic group) not only because they speak Kurmanji — the main language used by Syrian Kurds — but by a particular historical experience defined by oppression and exclusion and carried out by a state intent on protecting the position of the Arab majority.
Syrian Kurds Find the Language of Freedom
(IPS) The colonial borders drawn in secret between Britain and France in 1916 over the Baghdad railway line divided the local Kurdish families into Turkey and Syria. The subsequent Treaty of Sevres (1920) considered the creation of an independent Kurdish state but the agreement was never fulfilled.
Since the Internet arrived, Damascus has enforced a severe veto over the main social networks and all sorts of websites the regime considers potentially dangerous. Such blockade has been worsened by the erratic Syrian telephone communications since the beginning of the war.
Most Syrian Kurds, however, benefit from almost barrier-free Internet access thanks to the Turkish network across the border that can be easily accessed. Albeit unintentionally, that would be the Turkish government’s contribution to a cohesion of the Kurdish people amid their cultural revolution.
29 August
Robert Fisk: Inside Daraya – how a failed prisoner swap turned into a massacre
Exclusive: The first Western journalist to enter the town that felt Assad’s fury hears witness accounts of Syria’s bloodiest episode
24 August
New UN Syria envoy underscores difficulty of task
Lakhdar Brahimi said he was “honored, flattered, humbled and scared” to become United Nations-Arab League envoy to Syria. The longtime diplomat from Algeria emphasized Friday that the Syrian people will be “our first masters” and that he would “consider their interests above and before everything else.” The Washington Post/The Associated Press (8/24), Reuters (8/24)
Syrian Crisis Brings a Blessing for Kurds
(IPS) Spread across Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, stateless Kurds number about 40 million. About half live on Turkish soil. Between two and four million Kurds live in north-east Syria. Syria was carved out of the Turkish Ottoman Empire less than a century ago.
After a wave of protests in late July, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad loosened his grip on Syria’s Kurdish region. Local Kurdish leaders now claim control over half their territory, including the border posts with Iraq’s Kurdish Autonomous Region. … There are no reliable figures yet on the number of Kurds returning to Syria. Some said they were returning for only a short while because of the new relative stability of this region where the Kurds now seem in charge. …
The coming of the Ba’ath party to power in 1963 led to an Arabisation policy that worked against the Kurds in Syria, the country’s second biggest ethnic group.
Kurdish language was prohibited, and many Kurds were even denied Syrian citizenship. Some Kurds were deported, and Arab settlements established in Kurdish areas.
Today the Kurdish colours – green, red and yellow – are sprayed over walls and murals. The Kurdish flag flies at the entrance of Girke Lege, 35 kilometres from the Iraqi border and 15 km from the Turkish one, suggesting that the situation has changed substantially in the past months.
22 August
Robert Fisk: ‘Rebel army? They’re a gang of foreigners’
Our writer hears the Syrian forces’ justification for a battle that is tearing apart one of the world’s oldest cities
(The Independent) … the thought cannot escape us that the prime purpose of men like Sergeant Dawoud – and all his fellow soldiers here – was not, surely, to liberate Aleppo but to liberate the occupied Golan Heights, right next to the land which the “jihadis” apparently thought they were “liberating” yesterday – until they discovered that Aleppo was not Jerusalem [emphasis added]
6 August
Syria’s “Liberated” Future: Ethnic-Religious Cleansing and Genocide
(Veracity Voice) It took over a year but suddenly the Syrian war isn’t so black and white, good guys versus bad guy. The Syrian government is by no means to be glorified, but the utter devastation that is being brought to the country was done so on a false premise, by foreign backers — Saudi Arabia and the U.S. — who wanted nothing except to see the country annihilated so that Iran would be isolated and easier to topple. To sell this bloodbath as an advance of democracy — as U.S. politicians and media have done — is beyond hypocritical; it falls under the category reserved for those who are labeled war criminals.
3 August
Recovering from the Asma attack
(Now Lebanon) Remember that disgraceful moment when Vogue published a sycophantic portrait of Asma al-Assad in early 2011, just before her husband began murdering his own people? Now the author, Joan Juliet Buck, has penned a piece for Newsweek explaining she wrote it. The title is not promising: “Mrs. Assad Duped Me.” … Buck does an abysmal job of explaining why someone well versed in the crimes of Assad’s rule could have written such a flattering article anyway, at the behest of a PR company no less. In fact she doesn’t really try. The article is inferior revisionism, an effort to recast her Syria trip and her own allegedly negative reactions to it, in the light of subsequent events, while placing the blame on Asma al-Assad for putting up a phony façade of compassion.
30 July
The fascinating story of the infamous Vogue profile of Asma al-Assad
Tina Brown: Syria’s First Lady of Hell
Joan Juliet Buck: Mrs. Assad Duped Me — Just before the Arab Spring, Vogue writer Joan Juliet Buck did an infamous interview with Syria’s first lady. For the first time, she tells the story behind the debacle.
24 July
Dr. Charles G. Cogan: “Chess Is the Way We Establish Mastery Over the West”
(HuffPost) These words, uttered by a Soviet General during the Cold War, serve to remind us, in our frustration over the veto on Syria in the United Nations last week, that the Russians are really pretty good at checkmating us. They have so far effectively blocked any action that would remove the Alawite minority dictatorship and usher into power a new, democratic regime in Damascus.
Consequences of the Fall of the Syrian Regime
(Stratfor) We have entered the endgame in Syria. That doesn’t mean that we have reached the end by any means, but it does mean that the precondition has been met for the fall of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. We have argued that so long as the military and security apparatus remain intact and effective, the regime could endure. Although they continue to function, neither appears intact any longer; their control of key areas such as Damascus and Aleppo is in doubt, and the reliability of their personnel, given defections, is no longer certain. We had thought that there was a reasonable chance of the al Assad regime surviving completely. That is no longer the case. At a certain point — in our view, after the defection of a Syrian pilot June 21 and then the defection of the Tlass clan — key members of the regime began to recalculate the probability of survival and their interests. The regime has not unraveled, but it is unraveling.
23 June
Robert Fisk: If Alawites are turning against Assad then his fate is sealed
The Long View: There seems to be a Baathist pattern of destroying Sunni villages on the edge of the Alawite heartland
(The Independent) While the drama of last week’s assault on Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Damascus stunned the Arab world, the sudden outbreak of violence in Aleppo this weekend was in one way far more important. For Aleppo is the richest city in Syria – infinitely more so than Damascus – and if the revolution has now touched this centre of wealth, then the tacit agreement between the Alawite-controlled government and the Sunni middle classes must truly be cracking.
As the birthplace of agriculture – the Euphrates is only 70 miles to the east – Aleppo is also the headquarters of the International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (Icarda), one of the finest institutions of its kind in the world. It increases food production in Asia and Africa in an area containing a billion people, 50 per cent of whom earn their living from agriculture. Donors include Britain, Canada, the US, Germany, Holland, the World Bank – you name it. And its 500 employees are still operating in Aleppo. See also Sectarianism bites into Syria’s rebels – The deathwish of fighters in Damascus terrifies many who oppose Assad
21 July
Jennifer Welsh: The Council Fiddles While Damascus Burns
( There is plenty of blame to spread around. But this past week also shows how difficult it is to exercise collective responsibility. Soon, however, the imperative to do so may get even stronger. As a western government official noted in the Financial Times yesterday, if Assad’s counter-offensive fails and a sectarian conflict ensues, we may – for the first time – witness the collapse of a regime with significant stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. Can the West, Russia, and China put differences aside to ensure those stockpiles remain secure?
Fate of UN Syria mission to be decided as endgame seems imminent
The mandate for the United Nations monitoring mission in Syria is set to expire today, a day after Russia and China vetoed a Security Council resolution that would have extended the UN presence and made possible sanctions against the regime of Bashar Assad. Rebels seized border crossings with Turkey and Iraq as world powers scrambled to prevent violence from spilling over into neighboring countries.
18 July
Jennifer Welsh:
Western Diplomacy Meets Russian Intransigence
( The overwhelming interest here is to end the violence and further militarization of the conflict. Furthermore, for western states, there is a broader interest in ensuring that we don’t force Russia and China together into a hostile authoritarian coalition. History tells us that Russia and China do co-operate, when it serves their purposes. But that co-operation is not pre-ordained – genuine differences and areas of competition remain between them. Let’s be sure our diplomacy doesn’t unwittingly make their like-mindedness on this issue a permanent union.
Vote on Syria sanctions, mission vetoed at Security Council
Meanwhile, reports emerged of Syrian troops planning an offensive amid no public appearances by Assad since a Wednesday bombing that killed multiple senior officials.CNN (7/19), BBC (7/19), Google/The Associated Press (7/18), Reuters (7/19), The Christian Science Monitor (7/18)
17 July
Syria Is Now a ‘Civil War.’ Does That Matter?
(HuffPost) After a year and a half of escalating violence and thousands killed, the International Red Cross has finally gotten around to labeling Syria a “civil war.”   … does this distinction, from either a legal or policy perspective, really matter? From a legal perspective, the actors in the conflict are now subject to what’s called “international humanitarian law,” which means that the Geneva Conventions — that is, the laws that regulate actors’ conduct of jus in bello — apply (for a nice roundup of the legal implications, see  blog post). It doesn’t necessarily mean that prisoners will get comfier digs, civilians will no longer be unlawfully targeted, or that Assad will be prosecuted as a war criminal in The Hague. But it does provide greater legal ammo to human rights defenders who want him charged pronto.
Syria’s top defector says Assad not afraid to use chemical weapons
Syria is believed to have the Arab world’s largest stockpile of chemical weapons. An ex-official warned that Assad would use them if backed into a corner.
26 June
Syria puts double whammy on Turkey
By M K Bhadrakumar
(Asia Times) The shooting down of a Turkish fighter aircraft by Syria on Friday has become a classic case of coercive diplomacy.
According to Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), air-defense forces shot down the plane 1 kilometer off the coast from the Syrian port city of Latakia. A Turkish search-and-rescue aircraft rushed to the area of the crash but came under Syrian fire and had to pull out.
The Russian naval base at Tartus is only 90 kilometers by road from Latakia. The incident took place on a day that Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem was on a visit to Russia. … The shooting down of the Turkish jet also coincides with a hardening of the Russian position on Syria.
Susan Rice urges improved Security Council response on Syria
Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that the world body’s Security Council needs to “stand up” in Syria, particularly for civilians suffering from violence there. UN envoy Kofi Annan has suggested the participation of Iran in multinational talks to end the crisis in Syria, where suspended UN observer mission appears likely to be downsized.The Telegraph (London) (6/26), Salon/The Associated Press (6/25), Bay blog (6/22), Reuters (6/25)
24 June
NATO to meet after Turkey accuses Syria over downed jet
(AFP) NATO said it will hold an emergency meeting after Ankara on Sunday accused Syria of downing a Turkish jet in international airspace, raising fears that tensions could soar in the tinderbox region. (BBC) Turkey seeks diplomacy not war
22 June
High-level Syrian military officers prepare to defect
(Foreign Policy) The Daily Telegraph reports that senior military officers from Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s regime are preparing to join the opposition. U.S. officials told the newspaper that these figures have started to communicate with opposition forces and Western governments as they make contingency plans for the fall of the regime. The military officers have also started to move their money into Lebanese and Chinese banks. This report comes a day after a Syrian pilot, flying a MiG-21 fighter jet, defected to Jordan
15 June
Inside Syria’s shabiha death squads
(Toronto Star) Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center, said President Assad, who took power in 2000, had presided over “a state that has become a kind of mafia extortion network” in which militias and the businessmen who pay them have grown beyond his control.
13 June
Exclusive: Arab states arm rebels as UN talks of Syrian civil war
Saudi Arabia and Qatar ‘supplying weapons’ to anti-Assad forces, while fears mount for civilians
(The Independent) Rebel fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have received weapons from the two Gulf countries, which were transported into Syria via Turkey with the implicit support of the country’s intelligence agency, MIT, according to a Western diplomat in Ankara.
UN report accuses Syria of abuses against children
The United Nations has accused Syrian government forces and allied militias of using children, some as young as 9, as human shields, in addition to subjecting them to arbitrary arrest, murder, torture and sexual assault. The UN’s annual report on children and armed conflict, which identifies 32 “persistent perpetrators” and 20 other countries as abusers of children — more than twice as many as in 2010. “Rarely have I seen such brutality against children as in Syria,” said Radhika Coomaraswamy, a special representative for the world body.The Globe and Mail (Toronto)/The Associated Press (6/12), Deutsche Welle (Germany) (6/12)
Annan: Syria is headed toward “all-out civil war”
Responsibility for the flailing United Nations-brokered peace plan in Syria lies primarily with the regime of President Bashar Assad, said envoy Kofi Annan. UN monitors reportedly were being shot at with heavy weapons and armor-piercing ammunition, most recently as they attempted to verify an alleged massacre of 78 people, mostly women and children, by a pro-Assad militia in the village of Qubair. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the regime had lost not only its legitimacy, but “its fundamental humanity.”
Syria’s latest massacre leaves Annan’s peace plan in tatters
(The Guardian) UN faces urgent task to prevent further bloodshed in Syria, while Russia and China remain opposed to external intervention
… The key … is Russia. If the Syrian crisis can be resolved politically, it will involve negotiations on Assad’s departure – a solution modelled on the way Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh was cajoled, with copper-bottomed guarantees, into surrendering power, albeit leaving much of the regime intact.
6 June
Dr. Charles G. Cogan: Take It From Talleyrand — ‘It Is Urgent to Wait’
(HuffPost) One of the bons mots attributed to Talleyrand’s was the phrase, “Il est urgent d’attendre” (“It is urgent to wait”). Perhaps that is what the West should do in Syria, while continuing its remonstrances against the Assad regime in the UN and elsewhere. The Arab Spring, the case of Bahrain apart, represents in part a resurgence of the Sunni world, and perhaps this will emerge finally in Syria, with time.
Syria’s Assad appoints new prime minister
(Foreign Policy) On Wednesday, Syria’s state-run media reported that President Bashar al-Assad had appointed his agriculture minister, Riyad Farid Hijab, as prime minister and tasked him with forming a “new government” without elaborating on what the government reshuffle would entail. The move came shortly after Syria expelled Western diplomats from the country but agreed to grant international aid agencies greater access in the country.
29 May
French President Says Armed Intervention In Syria ‘Not Excluded’
(Radio Free Europe) French President Francois Hollande has said the use of armed force could be possible in Syria if it is backed by the United Nations Security Council.
Hollande was speaking to France 2 television on May 29 following the massacre of 108 people — most of them children and women — in the Syrian village of Houla last week.
“[An armed intervention] is not excluded on the condition that it is carried out with respect to international law, meaning after deliberation by the United Nations Security Council,” Hollande said.
11 May
Suicide bombings in Syria: Cease-fire in shambles, Al Qaeda role is feared
The suicide bombings’ heavy toll in Damascus, far from creating international resolve, reveal a deepening split among world powers. Meanwhile signs of Al Qaeda involvement are mounting.
7 May
Syria edges closer to civil war

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the world was “in a race against time to prevent full-scale civil war” in Syria, while the International Committee of the Red Cross said aspects of the 14-month uprising already qualified as localized civil wars. Parliamentary elections Monday were boycotted by opponents of the regime of President Bashar Assad
Democracy suffers in NATO-backed Syrian fighting
By M.D. Nalapat
Today, more than 14 million voters in Syria will have the chance to select among several thousand candidates for 250 parliamentary seats.
Cities across the country are plastered with posters of the candidates, with many adopting an Obama-esque “Change we can believe in” slogan.
However, the armed groups that have been backed by the NATO powers for the past 15 months have rejected the polls, and are showing their hostility by targeting candidates for assassination, usually by the use of explosives.
Since the armed uprising began, several thousand members of the security forces and their family members have been killed by the insurgents, who themselves have lost thousands of their own.
However, those relying on Western media are told that every such death has been caused by the security forces, ignoring the deadly violence that is being unleashed in the country by groups of armed mobs.
19 April
Alawites for Assad
Why the Syrian Sect Backs the Regime
(Foreign Affairs) A sect of Shia Islam, the Alawites comprise roughly 13 percent of the population and form the bulk of Syria’s key military units, intelligence services, and ultra-loyalist militias, called shabiha (“ghosts” in Arabic). As the uprising in Syria drags on, there are signs that some Alawites are beginning to move away from the regime. But most continue to fight for Assad — largely out of fear that the Sunni community will seek revenge for past and present atrocities not only against him but also against Alawites as a group. This sense of vulnerability feeding Alawite loyalty is rooted in the sect’s history.
28 March
Why the Violence Will Go On

(CIC) While [Kofi Annan’s] efforts are impressive and his past performance has been remarkable, we cannot hold out much hope that this ceasefire will stick. I am not an expert on Syria, but everything I know about the international relations of civil wars screams at me that this civil war will go on.
For one thing, it is a civil war by conventional definitions. All it takes to have a civil war is two sides with the ability and will to harm each other. In the past, Syrian violence fell short of this definition because the violence was all one-sided. Not anymore.
28 March
Syria: The evil results of doing good
The Annan Plan is ‘worse than feckless’, because it buys the Assad regime time and precludes more effective options.
(Al Jazeera) does anyone honestly think that the Syrian regime, committed as it is to a programme of violent intimidation and collective punishment, will provide “full humanitarian access”, or a daily “humanitarian pause” for those whom it suspects of aiding its adversaries? What are the chances that the tender Mr Assad will release detainees who may promptly rejoin the struggle against him, or that he will permit foreign journalists to freely document his atrocities? Who would want to bet his life, or the lives of those dear to him, that Bashar and his generals will honour a ceasefire, or engage in good faith in a “political dialogue” with those who are challenging their power?
Pursuing such “solutions” is worse than feckless, for it forestalls other, potentially effective actions. By permitting the Syrian regime added time, it is morally equivalent to aiding and abetting Bashar al-Assad.
Applying R2P in Syria
The United Nations-endorsed Responsibility To Protect initiative has applications to the ongoing violence in Syria, writes former U.S. diplomat Bennett Ramberg. He advises five steps to implementing a R2P strategy covering Syria, including a media campaign aimed at encouraging defections, a renewed Arab League call for Bashar Assad’s resignation and a diplomatic push to persuade Russia and China to withdraw their objections to Security Council resolutions condemning the Syrian government. The Daily Star (Lebanon)(3/19)
Syria is wracked by bombs amid UN humanitarian visit
Representatives from the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation were to participate in a humanitarian mission to Syria as car bombs killed dozens and injured more than a 100 over the weekend in Aleppo and Damascus. In a letter, the government told UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan that opposition must lay down their arms and that neighboring countries control the flow of arms past their borders. Additionally, fighting was reported in a wealthy enclave of Damascus — some of the first fighting to reach the capital since the uprising began. Mail & Guardian Online (South Africa)/Agence France-Presse (3/18)
1 March
(BBC) Fleeing Homs with tales of slaughter
Paul Conroy: Homs is comparable to Srebrenica or Rwanda
The British photo journalist wounded in the Syrian city of Homs, Paul Conroy … fears the slaughter there may be comparable to past murderous events in Srebrenica or Rwanda. He also warned that there would be “no more witnesses” from Homs, since its population was being “systematically slaughtered”. [He] was injured last week in an attack in the city which killed two journalists, including his colleague Marie Colvin – to whom he paid tribute.
Final dispatch from Homs, the battered city Marie Colvin was the only British journalist reporting from inside the besieged Syrian enclave of Baba Amr. This is her final report
A Tribute to Marie Colvin
Posted by John Cassidy
(The New Yorker) We all have to die sometime. Marie died doing what she loved, what made her feel most alive, what turns journalism from a job into something bigger and more noble: a mission. It’s perhaps not much of a consolation to her many friends and her family, but it’s what happened.
20 February
Kyle Matthews: Does the lesson from Syria imply it is better to save no one?
(Globe & Mail) Western countries have pretty much stood on the sidelines of the Syrian crisis. On one side, we have witnessed Russia and China using their veto power a total of three times within the UN Security Council to protect Assad’s regime, while Iran continues to provide direct military aid to Damascus. On the other side, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey have shipped arms and facilitated the movement of jihadists into Syria with the hopes of toppling the government.
With more than 60,000 civilian deaths and millions displaced so far, it is understandable that so many remain skeptical that anything can actually be done to halt atrocities and protect civilians. It would be a mistake to lose sight of the progress that has been made.
Hugo Dixon (Editor, Reuters Breakingviews, Thomson Reuters) argues that, despite the intense provocation by the Assad regime, a nonviolent struggle is preferable to militarisation and civil war.
Damascene reversion
Non-violent struggle has roughly twice the chance of bringing down dictators as armed struggle, according to a study of 20th and early 21st Century conflicts, Why Civil Resistance Works, by Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan. Among the many reasons for this, those close to the regime feel less threatened by non-violent tactics and so are more likely to shift their allegiance while it is easier to involve millions of people in Gandhian style civil disobedience than in military operations.
Out-muscling a dictator, of course, also works sometimes. Chenoweth and Stephan found that this was particularly so when foreign powers helped. The problem is that armed struggle results in more carnage than non-violent struggle and reduces the chances that what follows the dictator will be a peaceful democracy. Involving foreign powers, meanwhile, means the revolution has to dance to their agendas.

General Assembly is poised for Syria vote
The UN General Assembly is poised on Thursday to debate and vote on an Arab-sponsored resolution intended to help stem the bloodshed in Syria as government forces expanded a tank offensive to the city of Hama, and security forces raided homes and made arrests in a neighborhood of Damascus. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the UN should weigh the designation of “humanitarian corridors” to allow aid agencies to reach people trapped by the increasing violence. Reuters (2/15), Al-Jazeera (2/15)
Islamists against Assad —
Foreign Extremists a Danger to Syria’s Revolution
(Spiegel) Al-Qaida’s leader is calling on Muslims to join in Syria’s revolution and to fight the Assad regime. But jihadists from neighboring countries may already have joined the ranks of the opposition Free Syrian Army. Their presence could be the death blow to the revolution.
… should the suspicions be confirmed that the Syrian uprising has been infiltrated by unknown, uncontrollable extremists, the willingness of the world to help would surely dramatically decrease. The volunteers from other countries could therefore unwittingly deal a death blow to the Syrian revolution.
Russia softens over Syria as UN decries violence

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Monday told the 193-nation General Assembly that Syria has launched “an indiscriminate attack on civilian areas” in the city of Homs, adding pressure on Russia, which for the first time since the onset of violence in March indicated it was ready to consider international intervention. Some Arab leaders hinted that they might arm opponents to President Bashar al-Assad unless he stops the crackdown on anti-government protests. The Globe and Mail (Toronto) (2/14), Reuters> (2/14)
11 February
Syria draft resolution heads to UN General Assembly
(BBC) Saudi Arabia is circulating a draft resolution calling for an end to violence by all sides and for President Bashar al-Assad to step aside.
It is similar to one which Russia and China vetoed in the Security Council.
8 February
Syria: Three-Level Chess Game
By Charles Cogan
(HuffPost) … what we seem to have is a three-level chess game in Syria: internal (the Sunnis, an overwhelming majority, against the Alawites, now in a Gotterdammerung struggle to maintain themselves; regional (the Iranians and their allies against the Saudis and their allies); and worldwide (the Russians and Chinese, who as autocratic powers do not support internal uprisings, versus the West).
6 February
Syria’s crisis — The UN stands divided
(The Economist) … Russia’s alliance with Syria is longstanding. It has sold Mr Assad and his predecessors arms for decades. Its refusal to back the UN resolution reflects its fears that Saudi Arabia and Qatar, backed by Europe and America, are pushing for regime change in Damascus which would erode Russia’s influence in the region.
Syria steps up bombardment after council vetoes
The vetoes by Russia and China on Saturday of a UN Security Council resolution aimed at ending the violence in Syria appear to have emboldened the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, whose forces used helicopters and rockets to shell the cities of Homs, Idlib and Zabadani. Western and Arab diplomats used words like “disgusted” and “appalled” to characterize the vetoes. BBC (2/5), Bloomberg Businessweek (2/6)
UN victory may push Syria’s Assad into unwinnable war
(Reuters) – Syria’s victory in dodging a U.N. resolution it deemed a license for regime change may only escalate its internal conflict into a full-fledged civil war that many analysts believe President Bashar al-Assad cannot ultimately win.
Veto of UN resolution on Syria stirs outrage
(Gulf Times) Outrage grew yesterday after Russia and China blocked a UN Security Council resolution condemning Syria for its crackdown on protests, with the opposition saying it handed the regime a “licence to kill”.
30 January
Drones for Human Rights
(NYT Op-ed) DRONES are not just for firing missiles in Pakistan. In Iraq, the State Department is using them to watch for threats to Americans. It’s time we used the revolution in military affairs to serve human rights advocacy.
With drones, we could take clear pictures and videos of human rights abuses, and we could start with Syria.
The need there is even more urgent now, because the Arab League’s observers suspended operations last week.
28 January
‘Call to arms’ as Syria violence escalates
(Al Jazeera) European and Arab nations have pressed for UN Security Council backing for an Arab League plan calling on Syria’s president to stand down, but Russia said their proposed resolution crossed its “red lines”.
26 January
Why We Have a Responsibility to Protect Syria
Even though the military challenges might make it unfeasible, we should acknowledge the moral and historical cases for intervening
(The Atlantic) … there are a number of reasons why intervention, today, would be premature (Michael Weiss runs through some of them in his excellent article in Foreign Affairs). But it may not be premature in a month or in two. The international community must begin considering a variety of military options — the establishment of “safe zones” seems the most plausible — and determine which enjoys the highest likelihood of causing more good than harm. This is now — after nearly a year of waiting and hoping — the right thing to do. It is also the responsible thing to do.
24 January
Will the West interfere in Syria?
(Al Jazeera) As Gulf states pull their observers from Syria, we ask what it will mean if this crisis is internationalised.
Arab League turns to U.N. as Gulf observers quit Syria
(Reuters) –
Gulf Arab states withdrew their observers from Syria on Tuesday after it rejected an Arab League plan for President Bashar al-Assad to surrender power, prompting the group’s chief to call for U.N. help in ending Syria’s bloody upheaval.
19 January
How Libya’s Success Became Syria’s Failure
(UN Dispatch) At a forum marking the 10th anniversary of the Responsibility to Protect yesterday, Ban Ki Moon called the unfolding human tragedy in Syria “the next test of our common humanity.”
But if nothing changes, it looks like we’ll fail this test. Why? The reason has less to do with Syria than with the diplomatic fallout from the NATO-led Libya intervention. Most non-western countries on the Security Council are still smarting over how NATO carried out the Libya military campaign. Russia and China, which are traditionally wary of this kind of intervention, took a big risk and withheld their veto to Resolution 1973 which authorized the use of force in Libya. They did so because they believed that the resolution very narrowly circumscribed the kind of force that NATO would use. They expected civilian protection. What NATO became was the de facto air force of Libyan rebels
16 January
UN to train Syria Arab League monitors
(BBC) The United Nations is to begin training Arab League observers monitoring the uprising in Syria.
The training will begin in Cairo after Arab League foreign ministers meet this weekend to discuss the progress of the mission so far, a UN spokesperson said.
11 January
Syria’s Al Assad Digs In Against Opponents
(Stratfor) Should al Assad’s regime survive, the biggest regional winner will be Iran. Syria’s already close alliance with Tehran will be strengthened should the regime persevere.
Arab League retrenches Syria monitoring, shelves UN help

The Arab League said Sunday that it would nearly double the number of monitors in Syria, from 165 to 300, to better try to hold President Bashar Al-Assad to his pledge to stop the campaign of violence against anti-government protesters. The regional Arab body said it would not ask for assistance from the United Nations before its next scheduled meeting on Jan. 19. Reuters (1/8), The Wall Street Journal (1/9)
Arab ministers want UN to train Syria monitors
‘We want to do more,’ says Qatari prime minister
(CBC) Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo have decided to ask the UN to help train monitors who are on a surveillance mission in Syria while renewing calls for the Syrian government to immediately stop its violent crackdown on dissidents.
4 January
Arab League’s Syria mission sputters
The Arab League, which has already faced criticism for appointing a close associate of Sudanese President and war-crimes suspect Omar al-Bashir to lead its Syrian mission, has now announced that it will send 50 more monitors to Syria to beef up its effort to stem a 10-month crackdown on protesters.
Arab League, dissidents disagree on progress in Syria

(LATimes) The league says Assad’s government has taken steps to comply with a regional initiative to stop the killing, but opposition activists, citing dozens more deaths, are incredulous over those remarks.
1 January
Is the Arab League mission doomed to fail?
(Al Jazeera) Despite the presence of the Arab League observers in Syria the government crackdown on protesters continues.


28 December
Human rights advocates raise alarm about Syria’s crackdown
Syrian and international human rights advocates are expressing concern Arab League observers visiting the country are failing to receive or report an accurate picture of the situation, and that Syrian authorities are hiding detainees. A months-long deadly crackdown on pro-reform protesters that has killed thousands prompted the observer visit. Los Angeles Times/World Now blog (12/28), The Guardian (London) (12/28), The Wall Street Journal/The Associated Press (12/28)
Syrians plead with observers as police tear gas tens of thousands in hotbed Homs
(AFP via National Post) Syrian police used tear gas to disperse some 70,000 people who took to the streets of Homs on Tuesday … The protests come as Arab League observers visited the flashpoint central city to monitor a deal to end a nine-month crackdown on anti-regime protests.
30 November
Syria’s Christians Side with Assad Out of Fear
(Spiegel) Many of Syria’s 2.5 million Christians are supporting President Bashar Assad amidst ongoing protests in the country. They prefer a brutal dictator who guarantees the rights of religious minorities to the uncertain future that Assad’s departure would bring. The president is exploiting their fears of Islamists for his own ends. … when Syrian dictator Bashar Assad summoned his country’s Christian leaders to the presidential palace … The message they received from their head of state was short and simple: Either support me, or your churches will burn.
24 November
Arabs give Syria an ultimatum
(RCI) An Arab League committee on Thursday gave Syria 24 hours to agree to allow an observer mission into the country, or it could face sanctions that include stopping financial dealings and freezing assets. The bloodshed in the country continued, with activists reporting at least 15 people killed, including civilians and security forces. Thursday’s threat was a humiliating blow to Damascus, a founding member of the Arab League. It comes as international pressure mounts on President Bashar al-Assad to stop the brutal crackdown on an uprising against his regime. The U.N. says has at least 3,500 have been killed since mid-March.
Pressure is increasing on Damascus
Syrian authorities signaled willingness Thursday to agree to an Arab League plan to send observers into Syria, while French and Turkish officials called for action against the Syrian government. Syrian opposition groups have indicated they may seek help from the United Nations to create buffer zones for the protection of civilian populations if Bashar Al-Assad’s government does not end a deadly crackdown. The Washington Post/The Associated Press (11/18)
Syria seeks meeting as suspension from Arab League looms
The regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League after the 22-member organization voted to suspend the country’s membership by Wednesday if it does not comply with a peace plan to end the violence against anti-government demonstrators that has killed more than 3,500 since spring. Turkish, Qatari, Saudi and French diplomatic outposts were attacked after the vote Saturday, only the second of its kind in the history of the regional Arab League, with some members threatening to push for economic and political sanctions. The Guardian (London) (11/13), Los Angeles Times/World Now blog (11/13), The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (11/13), Al Jazeera
12 November
… the Qatari foreign minister Hamad bin Jassim, reading out of the decision, warned Assad that further non-compliance would result in “more steps to protect the citizens of Syria” by the Arab League – a broad hint at military intervention to aid the beleaguered opposition.
Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan are already arming Syrian opposition groups and Turkey is hosting their command and training facilities. The scenario is beginning to resemble the Libyan format. There too, Qatari, Jordanian and Turkish military elements took part in the NATO operation to overthrow Muammar Qaddafi. And Bashar Assad may be nearing the end of his tether. Read more on DEBKA
Arab League sanctions for Syria
(BBC) The Arab League has voted to suspend Syria from its meetings and impose sanctions against Damascus over its failure to end a government crackdown on protesters.
It asked member states to withdraw their ambassadors, and urged Damascus to end violence against protesters.
The vote came after Syria ignored an Arab League proposal envisaging the start of dialogue with the opposition.
10 November
Bashar al-Assad urged to take up offer of asylum in Arab world
(The Telegraph) Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, has been urged to spare himself the grizzly fate of Col Muammar Gaddafi in Libya by taking up an offer of asylum elsewhere in the Arab world.
8 November
Syria’s fragmented opposition
As anti-government forces try to develop a united voice, Al Jazeera looks at the disparate groups within.
Egg attack disrupts Syrian opposition talks
Leading opposition figures pelted with eggs by protesters as they arrive for talks with Arab League in Cairo.
Al Jazeera’s correspondent, Jane Arraf, said Wednesday’s incident was an indication of how divided the Syrian opposition is.
She said: “The protesters, many of which are Syrian exiles, are saying that these people meeting at the Arab League are agents of the Syrian government, calling them traitors.”
Arraf added that the protesters were “the ones who want action, military action, targeted sanctions, a no-fly zone, the removal of Bashar al-Assad [the Syrian president], and this is not what these opposition members are asking for.”
2 November
Syria Agrees to Arab League Plan
(IPS/Al Jazeera) – The Syrian government has accepted several measures suggested by the Arab League aimed at halting the violence in the country, including the removal of tanks and armoured vehicles from the streets.
The breakthrough was announced at an emergency meeting in Cairo on Wednesday, where the regional body gathered to discuss plans to ease the violence and end the unrest in Syria.
25 October
Syria ‘using hospitals for torture’ – Amnesty
(BBC) Patients in government-run hospitals in Syria are being tortured in an attempt to suppress dissent, an Amnesty International report alleges.
18 October
Syrian National Council Seeks Legitimacy At Home and Abroad
(IPS) – As the death toll from more than six months of popular unrest climbs past the 3,000 mark, the opposition to the government of President Bashar al-Assad is intensifying efforts to present a unified face to both the outside world and the Syrian people.
On Monday, clashes in the city of Homs reportedly took the lives of several dozen people, including soldiers and members of the regime’s security forces who have been responsible for most of violence since the uprising first broke out in Dera’a seven months ago.
Meanwhile, the Syrian National Council, the governing apparatus of the Syrian opposition, has been developing more sophisticated governance structures and communication strategies in order to boost its legitimacy as a sole representative of the Syrian people.
11 October
U.S. Arms Bahrain While Decrying Russian Weapons in Syria
(IPS) – Peeved at Russia’s Security Council veto derailing a Western- sponsored resolution against Syria last week, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice implicitly accused the Russians of protecting the beleaguered government of President Bashar al-Assad primarily to safeguard their lucrative arms market in the Middle Eastern country.
5 October
China and Russia veto UN resolution condemning Syria
(BBC) China and Russia have vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning Syria over its crackdown on anti-government protesters.
The US envoy to the UN Susan Rice, who walked out after the vote, said opposition to the resolution was a “cheap ruse by those who would rather sell arms to the Syrian regime than stand with the Syrian people”
4 October
Turkey imposes sanctions on Syria in protest over deaths
Turkish prime minister condemns the Bashar al-Assad regime and vows not to remain a bystander
(The Guardian) Erdogan, who has taken a regional lead in condemning Turkey’s restive southern neighbour, compared the actions of Assad to those of his father, Hafez al-Assad, who ordered the Hama massacre in 1982 after an anti-regime rebellion.
1 September
Interview: Will Syria Follow Libya?
Interviewee: Edward C. Luck, Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General
(Council on Foreign Relations) Syrian leaders have avoided the inflammatory rhetoric that inspired international condemnation of Libya, NATO’s involvement, and the eventual collapse of Muammar al-Qaddafi’s government. But the UN’s Edward Luck, a special adviser for carrying out the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine, believes that pressure is nevertheless mounting on Syria. “Many countries in the region are hardening their attitude and putting more pressure on the Syrian government to act,” says Luck. “And we hope that will convince them to change course.”
14 August
Syria Crackdown Using Gunboats To Crush Uprising
(HuffPost) Syria used gunboats for the first time Sunday to crush the uprising against Bashar Assad’s regime, hammering parts of the Mediterranean coastal city of Latakia after thousands marched there over the weekend to demand the president’s ouster. At least 25 people were killed, according to activists.
The coordinated attacks by gunboats and ground troops were the latest wave of a brutal offensive against anti-government protests launched at the beginning of the month. The assault showed Assad has no intention of scaling back the campaign even though it has brought international outrage and new U.S. and European sanctions.
1 August
Syria: Under the hammer
After four months of protest Assad has lost even the bare minimum, the sullen acquiescence of his people, to govern
21 June
Syria, Libya and Middle East unrest
(The Guardian) Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad is looking increasingly isolated today after what is widely-seen as defiant but poorly-judged speech. He offered some concessions but his description of protesters as “saboteurs” sparked spontaneous demonstrations at home and condemnation abroad. President Assad offers concessions but fails to stop Syrian demonstrators
13 June
Syria: hundreds flee scorched earth tactics of Assad regime
(The Telegraph) Hundreds of men and boys took to the Syrian hills around the beleaguered town of Jisr al-Shughour, fleeing the scorched earth tactics of the Assad regime’s tanks and militias
31 May
Tortured and killed: Hamza al-Khateeb, age 13
The mutilation and death in custody of a 13-year-old child has sparked further furious protests in Syrian city of Daraa.
(Al Jazeera) The child had spent nearly a month in the custody of Syrian security, and when they finally returned his corpse it bore the scars of brutal torture: Lacerations, bruises and burns to his feet, elbows, face and knees, consistent with the use of electric shock devices and of being whipped with cable, both techniques of torture documented by Human Rights Watch as being used in Syrian prisons during the bloody three-month crackdown on protestors.
19 April
Syrian regime may be about to face its most dangerous moment yet
Bashar al-Assad’s decision to ditch Syria’s notorious emergency law is his biggest concession to protesters so far
9 April
Syria’s biggest day of unrest yet sees at least 20 people killed
Protests move closer to the centre of Damascus as Bashar al-Assad’s concessions fail to quell calls for reform

2 Comments on "Syria 2011-2012"

  1. A European friend of Wednesday Night July 26, 2012 at 5:52 pm ·

    Two of our UN military observers returned home from Syria yesterday. According to their report, the government is overwhelming militarily and will prevail. The opposition is badly splintered and running short of supplies. Both sides are guilty of monstrous atrocities and war crimes.
    In my opinion these observers being professional soldiers gave typically too much weight to the military side of the conflict. They were surprisingly ignorant of the various political, religious and sectarian aspects of the conflict. The military was overwhelmingly strong also in Libya, Tunis and Egypt. Only in Bahrain did it prevail, much due to the presence of USN. I think that the rebels might succeed, but the picture given in the Western media seems to be somewhat tilted.
    I also feel that the presence of UN observers or troops in places where they are powerless, can be detrimental to the reputation of the entire UN. (Rwanda, Congo and others). Unfortunately I must say, I was not impressed by their observations and/or conclusions.
    Professional soldiers have their limitations and should be taught to know that too. I was aghast to realise that neither one of our officers knew Arabic or even French, both spoken in Syria.
    The briefing was not very informative, neither reliable. A bit depressing, I must say. TB

  2. Diana Thebaud Nicholson September 13, 2012 at 1:47 am ·

    Re Kurds
    I have had similar ideas about the Kurds. However, I disagree with your notion of “no great mineral or other assets”. In Iraq they sit on one of the major oil fields in the North.
    Kurdistan is the only solution. It will then quickly devolve to a civil war between PKK, Barzani tribe and others. But they will be free.
    I find this interesting. The plight of the Kurds has always intrigued me – and [when I was younger] I thought the solution was simple – give them the nation they desire. It would be totally landlocked with its borders alongside the various states where they now reside. But they would then be free to pursue their own policies and would no longer be a rebellious quasi terrorist (as in SE Turkey) presence. The states granting them independence would have lost nothing except disputed territory with no great mineral or other assets. And they could tax Kurdish exports too! TB

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