February 23, 2012 - Syria News Blog: A Roundup of Key International Reportage & Commentary

In the News | 23-02-2012

UN Accuses Syria of Crimes Against Humanity as Foreign Leaders Prepare for 'Friends of Syria' Meeting in Tunisia

Today, a report released by the United Nations and submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, accuses the Syrian government of committing "gross human rights violations" tantamount to "crimes against humanity". The report, derived from 360 interviews with individuals inside Syria, also charges that security crackdowns constituted state policy from coming from “the highest levels of the armed forces and the government”. The same report, however, also charges the Free Syrian Army, an armed element of the opposition, of committing serious abuses. To that end, as violence continues to deepen across the country, Syrian officials continue to adamantly charge that they are fighting against armed terrorist groups - an allegation now partially echoed in some parts of Washington, as a number of senior American officials claim that the terrorist group Al-Qaeda is behind some of the country's violence. The same US officials did not publicly put forth related evidence. Last week, the UN General Assembly voted resoundingly in favor of a resolution condemning the violence in Syria. Tomorrow, officials from around the world will convene in Tunisia as part of a new 'Friends of Syria' group focused on addressing Syria's crisis.

News from Inside Syria

Military, security forces continue crackdown, country-wide protests continue
Violence and protests continued unabated across the country this week. The massive bombardment of Homs, still under the charge of quelling armed terrorists, surged with daily reports from local and international media highlighting high casualties and heavy destruction of the city and its surrounding neighborhoods. Yet, while Homs remains the focus of much of the international media's attention, similar security operations are underway in a number of areas across the country, Zabadani, Hama, and Idlib, among them. 
 
Around the week, protestors continued to take to the streets, even in besieged areas, and even in the country's capital, Damascus, where rallies over the weekend saw unprecedentedly high numbers of participants, and a number of fatalities.
 
The violence also took an extremely high toll on journalists reporting inside Syria this week, with a number of local and foreign journalists killed amid shelling in Homs - and one, Anthony Shadid, dead as a result of an apparent asthma attack, which could not be treated in time due to the difficulty of exiting the country safely. The spike in deaths among journalists in the country brings the level of instability across Syria to the very fore. 
 
For more reportage from both local and international sources on the events inside Syria over the last week, see the following:
 
On Homs
 
On protests and crackdowns in Damascus & elsewhere
"Golan Druse Support for Syria Regime Cracking" - San Francisco Chronicle - (Feb. 22)
 
On killings of state prosecutor, judge in Idlib
"Prosecutor, Judge Killed in Northwest Syria" - Associated Press - (Feb. 19)
 
On the journalists killed this week
"We Live in Fear of a Massacre" - The Sunday Times - (Feb. 19) (Last report of Marie Colvin)
 
Full text of draft constitution published
On February 18, the Syrian government publicly released the full text of the country's new draft constitution. The draft is very lengthy, with some 157 articles, and is too long to repost here. 
 
*To review it in full, see "Draft Constitution for the Syrian Arab Republic" - as published on SANA.
 
Unsurprisingly, the draft's content sparked considerable analysis and commentary. For more, see the following:
"The New Syrian Constitution Draft Discussed" - Syria Comment - (Feb. 15)
 
Humanitarian Aid
 
Red Cross calls for temporary ceasefire to deliver aid
On Monday, February 20, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called for a ceasefire to deliver aid to the besieged city of Homs. The ceasefire has thus far not been implemented. Source - CNN
 
Russia's Foreign Ministry, has reportedly endorsed the call for a humanitarian ceasefire. Source - Al-Jazeera 
 
The Syrian government responded on February 22 to calls to address the country's humanitarian issues, by sending messages to the ICRC, the UN, and the Human Rights Council, highlighting its efforts to prioritize the "health sector". Source - SANA
 
International Politics & Diplomacy
 
United Nations
UN General Assembly approves resolution condemning Syrian government
"In a powerful rebuke to Syria’s government, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to approve a resolution that condemned President Bashar al-Assad’s unbridled crackdown on an 11-month-old uprising and called for his resignation under an Arab League peace proposal to resolve the conflict.
 
"The 137-12 vote, with 17 abstentions, is a nonbinding action with no power of enforcement at the world body, but it represented a significant humiliation for Mr. Assad, whose government had sought to block the vote and severely criticized the sponsors, which included Syria’s brethren in the Arab League.
 
"Bashar Jaafari, Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, denounced the resolution as a politically motivated scheme to intervene in Syria by the Western powers and others who “would like to settle accounts with Syria.”
 
"A handful of the other countries that opposed the resolution, notably Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela and North Korea, condemned it as an unwarranted interference in Syria’s internal politics. But the wide range of countries that voted for approval for the resolution, which had more than 70 co-sponsors, signified the deep anger and frustration at the United Nations over its inability to halt a conflict that has left thousands of Syrians dead." Source - The New York Times
 
More:
 
UN human rights panel charges orders to kill come from top officials, accuses Damascus of crimes against humanity
"Syrian forces have shot dead unarmed women and children, shelled residential areas and tortured wounded protesters in hospital under orders from the “highest level” of army and government officials, the United Nations said on Thursday [February 23]. 
 
"Independent U.N. investigators called for perpetrators of such crimes against humanity to face prosecution and said they had drawn up a confidential list of names of commanding officers and officials alleged to be responsible.
 
"'The commission received credible and consistent evidence identifying high- and mid-ranking members of the armed forces who ordered their subordinates to shoot at unarmed protestors, kill soldiers who refused to obey such orders, arrest persons without cause, mistreat detained persons and attack civilian neighborhoods with indiscriminate tanks and machine-gun fire,' a panel of U.N. human rights experts, headed by Brazilian Paulo Pinheiro, said in a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council."
 
"The UN experts indicated that the list goes as high as President Bashar Assad.
 
"'The commission has deposited with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights a sealed envelope containing the names of these people, which might assist future credible investigations by competent authorities.'" Source - Al-Arabiya
 
The UN's new report, "based on over 360 interviews with victims and witnesses and inspection of satellite imagery concluded…that 'gross human rights violations' had been ordered as state policy in Syria’s 11-month-old crackdown at 'the highest levels of the armed forces and the government”'and amounted to crimes against humanity.
 
"While the 72-page document also said that the insurgent Free Syrian Army, made up of defectors from forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, had committed abuses, these were 'not comparable in scale and organization to those carried out by the state,' it said.
 
"The report, handed to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, was compiled by a panel of three investigators who said that they had not been allowed to enter Syria to conduct their inquiries at first hand but had relied on a total of 369 interviews with victims, witnesses, defectors and other people with “inside knowledge” of the situation. They had also examined photographs, video recordings and satellite imagery to corroborate some witness accounts.
 
"The report was published as Syrian security forces continued their shelling of besieged areas of the central city of Homs for a 20th successive day on Thursday, despite a growing outcry and international calls for the creation of humanitarian corridors to reach the sick, the wounded and the frail." Source - The New York Times
 
United States
Facebook Diplomacy
"A Message from Ambassador Ford on the Arrests of Human Rights Activists" - Facebook - Excerpt: "Despite the signature by Syrian Vice Foreign Minister on the Arab League Protocol last November that it would stop its arrest campaign and release political prisoners, Mazen Darwish, blogger Razan Ghazzawi, and twelve others were just arrested...If the Syrian government wants to be credible in calling for a dialogue, it should implement all the measures in the Arab League protocol that it said it would respect, and its friends should urge the Syrian government to do so. If it wants a real dialogue, it could show its credibility by respecting basic human rights."  
 
US Ambassador Ford interviewed by Asharq Al-Awsat 
On February 19, Asharq Al-Awsat, ran an interview with US Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford. 
Excerpt: "I [Ford] think everybody in the international community should be aware that the developments in Syria are moving in a bad direction; the level of violence now is far greater than it was in May, 2011, or even September, 2011. There are extremist elements on the scene; we have seen car bombs exploding in the middle of Damascus, and it is most likely that Islamist extremists are behind this. Whilst the death toll amongst the Syrian government forces is increasing, and it is believed that this now stands at between 20 and 25 a day. The death toll amongst the civilians is far greater than at any time before; it began with around 10 per day, however this has now reached 70 civilians being killed per day. This is appalling. There are Alawite families who are leaving Damascus for the coastal areas out of fear for what might happen, whilst Christian families are afraid for their future, and so the situation is very bad. This is something that will have an impact on Lebanon and Turkey, in addition to Jordan and Iraq. The Syrian crisis is a threat to regional security, and that is why we were so frustrated by the UN Security Council's failure." To read the interview in full, click here.
 
US senators call for arming of Syrian opposition
"With the Syrian government continuing its deadly crackdown on its citizens, two senior American senators who were on their way to the Middle East spoke out strongly on Sunday [February 19] in favor of arming the Syrian opposition forces. The two Republican senators, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, laid out a series of diplomatic, humanitarian and military aid proposals that would put the United States squarely behind the effort to topple President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. The senators, both of whom are on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that rebel fighters deserved to be armed and that helping them take on the Syrian government would aid Washington's effort to weaken Iran." Source - The New York Times
 
US military chief skeptical about arming Syrian opposition - but White House later softens stance
"The United States is not interested in providing weapons to opposition forces in Syria until it has a better picture of what those forces are, the top U.S. military officer said in an interview aired Sunday [February 19]. 'I think it's premature to take a decision to arm the opposition movement in Syria, because I would challenge anyone to clearly identify for me the opposition movement in Syria at this point,' Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff" told CNN. Source - CNN
 
Two days later, the White House and US State Department made statements that suggested a softening of Washington's stance on the issue. "From our perspective, we don't believe that it makes sense to contribute now to the further militarization of Syria," she told reporters. "What we don't want to see is the spiral of violence increase. That said, if we can't get Assad to yield to the pressure that we are all bringing to bear, we may have to consider additional measures," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. Source - Associated Press
 
Tunisia 
Syrian National Council initially not invited to 'Friends of Syria' conference in Tunisia
"The Syrian National Council, the largest opposition group in the strife-ridden country, will not be officially represented at a 'friends of Syria' conference next week, host Tunisia said on Friday," February 17. The Arab League, the European Union, along with the United States, Russia, and China were all invited to attend the conference. Source - Ahram
 
Early this week, however, the decision to exclude the SNC was rescinded. "Syrian opposition groups will take part in an international conference on the crisis in Syria on Friday, Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem said, warning against an 'Iraqi scenario'. Source - Your Middle East  The meeting Syria meeting will begin tomorrow in Tunisia.
 
Egypt
Egypt recalls its ambassador to Syria
"Egypt recalled its ambassador to Damascus on Sunday [February 19], state media reported, the latest move by an Arab state to isolate President Bashar al-Assad and pressure him to halt a violent crackdown on protesters. The Foreign Ministry also said the Syrian government had decided to recall its ambassador to Cairo." Source - Reuters
 
China, Russia & Iran
China sends envoy to Damascus to help broker peace
On February 17, China's Deputy Foreign Minister Zhai Jun arrived in Damascus to hold talks with Syrian officials on an approach to bringing peace to the country. "Mr Zhai met his Syrian counterpart, Faisal Mekdad, in the capital, Damascus - the outcome of their meeting was not immediately announced. He also met members of the opposition during his visit. Beijing said it was hoping for 'a peaceful and proper resolution of the Syrian situation, and that the Chinese side will play a constructive role in the mediation'." Source - BBC
 
Russia joined Iran, China in declaring continued support for Syrian government
China, Russia and Iran all made declarations of support for the Syrian government on Tuesday [February 21], reaffirming their alliances in the face of broad, intense international lobbying for unity against President Bashar al-Assad as his nearly yearlong crackdown on domestic opponents has sharpened against restive areas." Source - The New York Times
 
Energy
 
Venezuela 
Venezuela ships fuel to Syria
"The government of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez is emerging as a rare supplier of diesel to Syria, potentially undermining Western sanctions and helping the Syrian government fuel its military in the middle of a bloody crackdown on civilian protests. A cargo of diesel, which can be used to fuel army tanks or as heating fuel" appears likely to have arrived in Syrian ports last week. Source - Reuters
 
Security & Regional Stability
 
Al-Qaeda 
US Director of National Intelligence charges Al Qaeda in Iraq involved in Syria uprising
"Al Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate appears to have infiltrated Syrian opposition groups and was likely responsible for recent suicide bombings in Damascus and the industrial capital of Aleppo, senior US intelligence officials told Congress Thursday. 'We believe that Al Qaeda in Iraq is extending its reach into Syria,' Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee." Importantly, no firm evidence in support of his assertion was put forward, nor has any since surfaced. Source - Christian Science Monitor/McClatchy 
 
Lebanon
Sectarian tensions spike in neighboring Lebanon
"Syria's struggle is reopening sectarian fault lines in places like Tripoli, a city in northern Lebanon where tensions have long simmered. The area's minority Alawite residents belong to the same Muslim offshoot sect as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and have long supported the family regime. Meanwhile, Sunni residents in recent months have provided shelter, hospitals and a base for arms trade to Syrian rebels, all sides acknowledge." Source - Wall Street Journal
 
Iraq
Iraqi refugees in Syria fleeing violence, return home
"Syria is home to an estimated one million Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers, by far the largest such contingent in the region. Most fled the upheaval and sectarian strife ushered in after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein's regime. Many of these Iraqis now face a new dilemma: risk being caught in a conflict that increasingly resembles the one they escaped, or come home to a still-unstable Iraq. Returning Iraqis say Syria's conflict is increasingly organizing itself along sectarian lines—largely between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, whose Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shia Islam, and the opposition, drawn largely from the country's Sunni majority." Source - Wall Street Journal
 
Iran
Iranian warships reportedly dock in Syrian port, government warns US over Syria
"Two Iranian warships docked in a Syrian port on Monday [February 20] as a senior Iranian lawmaker denounced the possibility that the Americans might arm the Syrian opposition, adding to the international tensions over the nearly year-long crackdown by the government of President Bashar al-Assad." Source - The New York Times
 
According to a report issued the following day, the two ships allegedly left Syria on February 21. Source - The New York Times
 
Technology
 
Spying
Syrian government reportedly using computer viruses to impede online organizing
"In Syria's cyberwar, the regime's supporters have deployed a new weapon against opposition activists -- computer viruses that spy on them, according to an IT specialist from a Syrian opposition group and a former international aid worker whose computer was infected. A U.S.-based antivirus software maker, which analyzed one of the viruses at CNN's request, said that it was recently written for a specific cyberespionage campaign and that it passes information it robs from computers to a server at a government-owned telecommunications company in Syria." Source - CNN
 
The Syrian government has also "allowed Syrians to keep accessing Facebook and YouTube. It may sound munificent, but it allows the regime to read dissidents' messages and track their movements….The government also keeps a close eye on cyber dissidents, arresting 12 online activists last week." Source - New Scientist
 
Video streaming blackout
"The Syrian government has blocked a premiere live stream website a day after one of its users broadcast images of a bombing believed to have been carried out by President Bashar al-Assad's forces. Bambuser‚ a mobile live stream service based in Sweden, has been in close contact with activists on the ground in Syria for over eight months. The dissidents use the service to broadcast streaming video of conditions in their country in real time. With foreign media blocked, online citizen journalism has become a crucial medium for telling stories from within Syria's borders. Bambuser's executive chairman, Hans Eriksson, says approximately 90-95% of the live video coming out of Syria is streamed through Bambuser." Source - The Guardian
 
Political Analysis
 
On international intervention - merits, drawbacks, likelihood. & historical parallels
"Pressure Not War: A Pragmatic and Principled Policy Towards Syria" - Center for a New American Security - By Marc Lynch. Excerpt: "If Syria is to have any chance of reaching political transition, the United States and the international community must respond to the increasing violence there through an enhanced diplomatic strategy rather than military intervention…while the United States has a responsibility to respond to the growing violence in Syria, it should not respond with military force, which is unlikely to improve conditions in Syria and has the potential to make them far worse. US policy should instead focus on engaging in a sustained and targeted campaign of pressure against the Asad regime with the end goal of bringing key components of the ruling coalition to the negotiating table to devise a post-Asad political path forward."
 
"The Syrian Impasse" - Immanuel Wallerstein - (Blog) Wallerstein addresses the following questions: "…how is it that he [President Assad] ignores all this advice and proceeds to continue to use maximum force to continue political control of Syria? Why is there no outside intervention to force his removal from office?" Wallerstein argues that those denouncing the Syrian government at present, do not actually want to see a change in government. Saudi Arabia, Israel, the US, France, Turkey, and Qatar, are discussed.
 
"The Dilemma over Syria" - Informed Comment - Juan Cole argues against foreign governments arming the Syrian opposition, noting that "once you flood a country with small and medium arms, it destabilizes it for decades" - using Pakistan, Lebanon, Algeria, and Iraq, as examples of the troubles associated with such a move. At the same time, Cole analyzes the likelihood of international intervention in Syria and highlights the principal impediments to such action: Russia and China's veto power on the UN Security Council.
 
"Syria Intervention Drive Mirrors Bosnia's History" - The Chicago Tribune - By Douglas Hamilton. "Cold-blooded sniper killings, indiscriminate shelling, surgery by flashlight, death, fear and hunger in a darkened city under the ruthless hammer of a superior force. In its random cruelty, the conflict in Syria starts to resemble the war in Bosnia 20 years ago…"
 
"Debating US Options in Syria" - Council on Foreign Relations - Contributions on possible US intervention in Syria from Elliott Abrams, Robert M. Danin, Ed Husain, and Micah Zenko.
 
On arming the opposition
"Conservatives Call for Obama to Intervene in Syria" - Foreign Policy - By Josh Rogin."Fifty-six leading conservative foreign-policy experts wrote an open letter Friday [February 17] to US President Barack Obama calling on him to directly aid the Syrian opposition and protect the lives of Syrian civilians. 'For eleven months now, the Syrian people have been dying on a daily basis at the hands of their government as they seek to topple the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad.  As the recent events in the city of Homs-in which hundreds of Syrians have been killed in a matter of days-have shown, Assad will stop at nothing to maintain his grip on power,' wrote the experts. 'Unless the United States takes the lead and acts, either individually or in concert with like-minded nations, thousands of additional Syrian civilians will likely die, and the emerging civil war in Syria will likely ignite wider instability in the Middle East.'" 
 
On Al-Qaeda's alleged involvement in the violence
"Signs Beyond Western Eyes: Unpacking The Announcement of the al-Bara ibn Malik Martyrs Brigade" - Al-Wasat - (Blog) Excerpt: "This past Thursday, on February 16, a group of around twenty individuals claiming to be part of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), released a video message to YouTube announcing the formation of a new battalion named the al-Bara’ ibn Malik Martyrs Brigade. It should be noted that during the Iraq war, al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) also named one of their battalions the al-Bara’ ibn Malik Martyrs Brigade. There is no definitive proof that the new battalion established by the FSA is connected with the old al-Qa’ida in Iraq networks. That said, one should be cognizant of the expansive facilitation networks there were for foreign fighters attempting to join the Iraq jihad in Syria."
 
"Syria's Rebels Are Not an al-Qaeda Army" - The Telegraph - By Richard Spencer. Excerpt: "I have just returned from spending some time with the rebel "army" in Syria, and if reports from around the world are to be believed I should be a fully-fledged jihadi warrior by now."
 
"Syria's Crisis is Leading Us to Unlikely Bedfellows" - The Telegraph - By Peter Oborne. "When two car bombings killed nearly 50 people in the heart of the Syrian capital of Damascus just before Christmas, we in the West were quick to challenge claims made on state TV that the atrocities had been carried out by al-Qaeda. We were inclined to award more credibility to the Syrian rebels, who denied that the terror group was involved at all, and insisted that the attacks had been cynically staged by the government, perhaps as a bid for international sympathy. However, all doubt ended last week when James Clapper, director of US national intelligence, informed the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Damascus bombings, had all the earmarks of an al-Qaeda attack. Mr Clapper added that we believe al-Qaeda in Iraq is extending its reach into Syria. So, it's official. Al-Qaeda is acknowledged as an ally of Britain and America in our desire to overturn the Syrian government."
 
On revolution dynamics, results - including culture, creativity
"Notes on the Syrian Uprising (Part 1)" - Jadaliyya - Another well-written and provocative contribution from Omar Dahi, this time covering the accomplishments of the Syrian uprising. Excerpt: "The cognitive horizon of all Syrians is now shaped by the uprisings‚ everyone is thinking, talking, and reacting to the revolution, including the regime despite the increased polarization and demonization of pro and anti-regime sides. However, the cultural hegemony of the uprising is true at the level of art, theater, media, jokes, and satire, even if regime continues to give the illusion that it dictates the course of events and holds all the cards. The deafening sound of regime violence is drowning out these exhilarating developments and the countless debates and discussions taking place daily in cafes and a social media about all sorts of possible directions of every aspect of Syrian society. At a broader level, the revolt has delegitimized the regime's institutions, all of which are interconnected (presidency, army, security apparatus). This is important to keep in mind when thinking about where the Syrian revolt is at in comparison with that in Egypt and Tunisia‚ it seems to be far behind, but in fact there is more to the story, and they may be at more similar stages than it first appears." 
 
"Conversations" - Off the Wall - (Blog) - A lengthy and well-written post covering a number of key issues - Syria's new draft constitution, the SNC and the FSA and concerns about from which the country's future political figures might come, and charges of official provocation of sectarian conflict. The post is largely based on conversations between the blog's author and his Syrian friends.
 
"The Real Me and the Hypothetical Syrian Revolution - Part 1" - Jadaliyya - By Amal Hanano. Excerpt: "The Syrian revolution undeniably belongs to the street. It's rooted in the public realm where masses of physical bodies occupy the squares and real voices fill the air with defiance against the brutality of a relentless regime. The virtual realm of the revolution is a strong, second line of defense. Communities of online activists in Syria tirelessly spread the voices and events from the street as far and wide as possible, while the activists outside Syria continue the ripple effect, transferring what is happening inside Syria across the world."
 
"Irony, Satire, and Humor in the Battle for Syria" - Muftah - (Blog) - Excerpt: "During the Syrian revolution, perhaps the most striking examples of irony and dark humor have emerged from Homs, a city that has seen the worst violence so far. In the past days, Homs experienced heavy bombings and shelling in what is believed to be an attempted crack down against a vibrant center of street protests and rebellion. The virtual alleys of the Internet reflect Homsi creativity, documenting the protesters` chants and the dances performed during demonstrations across the city's streets. A satirical Facebook page pretends to offer washing and lubrication services to the tanks used to crack down against protesters in the city."
 
"Syrians Unleash the Power of Creative Dissent" - Wall Street Journal - David Feith covers the creativity unleashed by the uprising. Excerpt: "They [Syrian revolutionaries] dyed the public fountains of Damascus and Hama blood red. They scribbled anti-regime slogans on hundreds of ping-pong balls and rolled them down into the Damascene streets from a tall hill. They created phantom demonstrations by recording rallies in one city and broadcasting them from loudspeakers hidden atop buildings in another. And so they forced Assad's goons to spend time frantically draining fountains, sweeping ping-pong balls from sidewalks, and chasing imaginary street protesters."
 
On the Syrian National Council and the Free Syrian Army 
"Revolution in Danger: A Critical Appraisal of the Syrian National Council with Recommendations for Reform" - Henry Jackson Society - By Hamza Fakher and Michael Weiss.  Excerpt: "The Syrian National Council (SNC) has emerged as the leading political force in the effort to unseat the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It has the widest degree of representation of any of the existing political opposition forces and has received the most widespread international recognition. Yet from the outset it has been plagued by divisions, infighting, manipulation by various factions, and significant errors of judgment. To date the SNC almost certainly remains an indispensable aspect of the Syrian uprising, and by far the most likely (and indeed the only plausible) structure around which a political alternative can begin to coalesce. However, unless the serious flaws within the SNC are addressed quickly and effectively, it may fail to live up to this potential and, in turn, could deal a fatal blow to the uprising itself."
 
"Syria Opposition's SNC Seeks Backers but Lacks Leaders" - Daily Star - An in-depth report by Erika Solomon and Ayman Samir on the Syrian National Council, highlighting its failed leadership and internal discord - particularly over the issue of international intervention.
 
"Syria: Opposition Calls on UN to Protect Homs" - The Telegraph - "The opposition Syrian National Council on Tuesday [February 21] urged the UN Security Council and Arab states to take measures to end the "barbaric" attack by Syrian regime forces on the city of Homs."
 
"The Lebanonization of the Syrian Opposition" - Now Lebanon - By Hanin Ghaddar. Excerpt: "Today, we sense bitterness from Syrian activists whenever the SNC is mentioned. These activists‚ mainly those who are active on the ground, whether through the Local Coordination Committees or the Free Syrian Army‚ feel that the SNC is becoming a body that is obsessed with power rather than helping people inside Syria. That is why, they believe, this council hasn't received the international recognition it has been promised."
 
"Inside Free Syria: Poorly Armed, Lacking in Allies, And Against All Odds, An Insurgency Seeks to Topple the Assad Dictatorship" - Weekly Standard - By Jonathan Spyer. Excerpt: "In terms of their capabilities, the Free Syrian Army remains something of a fiction. What exists on the ground is a conglomeration of locally organized militias, lacking any coherent central direction or chain of command, and with no real strategy for victory beyond the buffer zone constantly referred to.For the people and the fighters of Idleb, the fight goes on. They know that once Assad is finished with Homs and Hama, and once he thinks he can get away with it, he will turn his attention back to the north. Then it will be their turn, and the dictator will exact a bloody and terrible revenge for their effrontery. What could prevent this is an effective coalition to counter the anti-Western one (Iran, Hezbollah, Russia) that currently underwrites the dictator." 
 
On torture
"Inside the Torture Chamber of Assad's Squads" - The Independent - Charlotte McDonald-Gibson reports from Damascus. Based in part on an interview with an formerly imprisoned activist.
 
On the motives, methods of the Syrian government, military
"How Syria's Assad Plans to Survive" - Christian Science Monitor - Nicholas Blanford covers the approach of the current Syrian government to quelling the unrest, asserting that: "Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's unrelenting military offensive against rebel-held areas suggests that his regime is basing its survival on repression rather than reform, despite his promise of a referendum next week on a new constitution that could reshape domestic politics".
 
On the foreign governments backing Damascus
"How Syria Is Splitting Russia and China From the Developing World" - The Atlantic - Excerpt: "The Security Council's recent failure to condemn Bashar al-Assad's brutal crackdown in Syria after months of attacks against unarmed civilians would suggest the case is hopeless. Russia and China vetoed a resolution proposing a process for a negotiated transition to democracy despite full backing from the usually anti-interventionist Arab League. The stalemate raises perennial questions about the international community's ability to respond to crises, the legitimacy of the veto power and the doctrine of responsibility to protect that underpinned intervention in Libya. The Syria vote, however, may have strengthened what appears to be an increasingly common view among the world's emerging democracies: dictators determined to stay in power at any cost are no longer tolerable."
 
"Can You Judge a Nation by the Company it Keeps? Syria's Thuggish Coalition Shows How Evil This Regime Is" - The Telegraph - By Michael Weiss. Excerpt: "Now here's a nice coalition of the willing for you: Belarus, Bolivia, China, Cuba, North Korea, Ecuador, Iran, Nicaragua, Russia, Venezuela, Zimbabwe. Those are the countries that voted no on a UN General Assembly resolution, modeled on the Arab League initiative, which called on Bashar al-Assad to resign and the Syrian army to remove all its tanks and heavy artillery from residential streets. So at least we're now clear as to which parties intend to lead the way toward a global re-normalisation of relations with Damascus: three zombified Stalinist regimes, a corporatist mafia state run by a botoxed and whale-harpooning KGB agent, an Islamic dictatorship looking to build a nuclear bomb, a kleptocratic African despot, and a moon-faced caudillo who blames his prostate cancer on the CIA."
 
On Israel
"Q&A: Israel's Ex-spy Chief Sees Opportunity in Syria Crisis" - Los Angeles Times - "Israel's Efraim Halevy believes a collapse of the Assad regime in Syria could deal a blow to ally Iran's regional ambitions and nuclear program."
 
"Israel Watches Syria, Hopefully, but Warily" - The New York Times - By Ethan Bronner. Excerpt: "As Israelis watch the bloody confrontation between the Syrian people and the government of President Bashar al-Assad, they are torn by two sentiments: The downfall of Mr. Assad would deal a major blow to Iran and so would be welcome. But without a central authority, Syria could descend into being a land of chaos and terrorist bases on Israel’s northeast border."
 
Economic Analysis
 
Economic roots of the unrest
"Sowing the Seeds of Dissent: Economic Grievances and the Syrian Social Contract's Unraveling" - Jadaliyya - Suzanne Saleeby covers the economic roots of the Syrian uprising. Excerpt: "As a result of four years of severe drought, farmers and herders have seen their livelihoods destroyed and their lifestyles transformed, becoming disillusioned with government promises of plentitude in rural areas. In the disjuncture between paternalistic promises of resource redistribution favoring Syria‚Äôs peasantry and corporatist pacts binding regime interests to corrupt private endeavors, one may begin to detect the seeds of Syrian political unrest." 
 
Banking crisis
"Syria's Banks Face Struggle to Survive as Turmoil Spreads" - Reuters - By Suleiman Al-Khalidi. "Unrest in Syria is causing chaos at the country's banks, which posted bumper profits last year as a plunge in Syria's currency boosted foreign exchange gains, but will struggle this year in the face of rapidly declining deposits and rising bad loans."
 
Legal Analysis
 
"International Human Rights Agreements in Syria’s Future" - Strategic Research and Communications Centre - By Muhannad Al-Hassani and Dr. Nael Georges. Excerpt: "The popular uprising witnessed by the Arab world at large and by Syria in particular will come to have the greatest effect on political and legal affairs in this region. The outbreak of the Syrian revolution, ongoing since March 2011, has had a pivotal role in the raising of voices calling for change and reform which has now become an imperative necessity, and without which the realisation and restoration of political stability in the country is impossible. In our capacity as an active party among the institutions of civil society, we consider it appropriate to put forward a critical and analytical study highlighting the necessity and importance of reforming Syria’s penal system and bringing it into compliance with international law on human rights, which upholds respect for the basic rights of citizens and is seen as fundamental to achieving development and growth in society."
 
Photography
 
"Homemade Revolution" - Alessio Romenzi - By Alessio Romenzi in Syria.
 
"Real Homs - Syria" - Facebook - Photographs by Mulham al-Jundi.
 
Human Interest, Humanitarian Concerns
 
"Underground Medical Expertise Refined in Syrian Crucible" - CNN - Ivan Watson and Kareem Khadder cover underground medical training in the country's besieged city Homs. 
 
"When Revolution Reaches Your Neighbourhood" - Dima's Leaves - (Blog) - Dima Khatib writes about the arrival of the protest movement in her home neighborhood of Mezze, Damascus. 
 
"For Syrian Children, a Picture Tells a Thousand Words" - Reuters - Jonathon Burch covers the life of a young Syrian refugee now living in Turkey.
 
"Q&A: Nir Rosen on Daily Life in Syria" - Al-Jazeera - "Journalist [Nir Rosen] who recently spent time traveling the country describes what life is like for the people he met."
 
References made to articles, individuals, organizations or government bodies in this blog do not necessarily reflect or imply an endorsement by The Syria Report. The Syria News Blog is a news service offered by The Syria Report only for the purpose of recapping foreign reportage on matters pertaining to Syria.
Written by: Evelyn Aissa
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