September 29, 2011 - Syria News Blog: A Roundup of International Reportage

In the News | 29-09-2011

The Syrian Revolution 

The outbreak of armed conflict in Homs between Syrian security forces and armed members of the opposition on Monday September 26, marks the first large-scale battle between the opposition and the government since the start of the Syrian revolution over six months ago. While the opposition has not officially announced its intent to take up arms and many argue fervently against such a move, the momentum unleashed by the opposition's use of violence will be difficult to control. This development threatens to push the country into the throes of civil war whilst also fueling the government's claim that it is fighting armed groups, not unarmed civilians. Nonviolent opposition rarely succeeds in the face of security forces willing to take up arms against civilians, however, thus rendering alternatives to insurrection increasingly unacceptable to those confronting violent security crackdowns out on the streets. 
 
Protest & conflict flash points, security crackdowns  
On Sunday, tanks were reportedly deployed to the central town of Rastan in Homs province, as well as in surrounding areas. The deployments came in response to continued unrest in the area, where according to a broad number of sources, activists have increasingly taken up arms in response to violent security crackdowns. Three civilians were injured during the incursion. The same reported indicate that 12 people were killed in Qusseir, another town in Homs province that day.
 
The military incursion in Rastan continued on throughout the week, with reports of heavy gunfire and explosions heard day and night around the town. Videos suggest that protestors were still taking to the streets in the area, regardless of the crack down. 
 
International reportage on Wednesday indicated that, "At least 1,000 deserters and armed villagers have been fighting tank- and helicopter-backed forces trying to regain control" of Rastan. A number of buildings in the town had reportedly caught fire in what foreign journalists are terming the government's "first major battle with defecting soldiers" since the revolution began over six months ago.
 
Reports of casualties have not yet been issued. 
 
Protestor numbers decline, some take up arms
The numbers of protestors out on the streets rallying arguably reached its peak in July, with millions demonstrating in country-wide protests and areas such as Hama and Deir ez-Zor temporarily falling outside of government control. The month of Ramadan ushered in the unprecedented use of violence against suspected and actual civilian dissidents, with an end result of thousands more arrested and killed. By early September, the number of demonstrators taking to the streets had notably dwindled. This trend continues as the month of October approaches. 
 
Nevertheless, while fewer revolutionaries are taking to the streets, the death toll continues its rapid rise as security and military forces continue in an aggressive campaign to crush the uprising. Activists and analysts are increasingly stating that Syrian revolutionaries have not given up the fight and that while fewer are taking to the streets, more are willing to consider taking up arms to protect the revolution. 
 
This news is not surprising; history suggests that peaceful resistance only succeeds when members of the security and military forces find themselves increasingly unwilling to shoot peaceful revolutionaries. In Syria's case, those forces have instead demonstrated fierce loyalty to the current government and willingness to fight for it - irregardless of the civilian nature of the opposition. 
 
It seems the Syrian revolution is entering a new phase - likely a war of attrition led by some members of the opposition, whilst others continue to organize peaceful resistance. At present, areas central to the former component of the revolution include Homs and Idlib, where large numbers of military deserters and armed members of the opposition have reportedly taken hold of certain neighborhoods and small towns. As the revolution moves forward, these regions in particular, will test the strength and cohesiveness of the Syrian military. 
 
Middle East expert Vali Nasr of The Fletcher School explained, "The opposition to the government is gradually transforming into more of an armed resistance. The brutality of the regime has become enormous and there is increasing pressure on people to defend their families and their villages. They clearly have won a moral argument against the government, but physically it doesn't protect them." Nasr continued, "The argument for arming yourself is very strong, whether you think Assad is going to survive or fall. People are becoming increasingly unconvinced a peaceful transition is in the cards. So either the regime will survive with enormous brutality or it will fall to chaos and violence. Either way, people are taking to arms."
 
However, many activists are deeply opposed to the revolution adopting militant methods. In a statement a month ago, the Local Coordination Committees asserted that, "While we understand the motivation to take up arms or call for military intervention, we specifically reject this position. Militarization would ... erode the moral superiority that has characterized the revolution since its beginning." 
 
Free Syrian Army, defections, sectarian tensions
A group of defectors from the Syrian army have reportedly joined forces to begin organizing armed opposition to the Syrian government. At present, it is difficult for journalists to ascertain the scope of the group's organization - termed the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Group members claim they number around 10,000 - though many analysts believe the number to be smaller. Regardless, by most accounts the number of army defections has increased considerably in recent weeks. 
 
Gen. Riad Asaad, the leader of the dissident army asserted that this marks the "beginning of armed rebellion". He continued, “You cannot remove this regime except by force and bloodshed. But our losses will not be worse than we have right now, with the killings, the torture and the dumping of bodies.”
 
According to The Washington Post, diplomatic sources maintain that while the FSA is far from posing a real threat to the current government, it does maintain a challenging presence in Jabal Zawiya along the country's border with Turkey, in the central city of Homs and in Deir ez-Zor in the east. At the same time, the FSA is reportedly expanding its operations, announcing just last week the formation of 12 new battalions in locales around the country and setting up defensive units in neighborhoods particularly rocked by security crackdowns. 
 
According to the FSA, the group is armed with antiaircraft guns, Kalashnikovs, and rocket-propelled grenades. Such pronouncements are indeed consistent with international reportage in recent months, indicating a stark increase in the volume of weapons and artillery smuggled into the country. 
 
The issue of army defections raises sectarian concerns as the majority of the Syrian army's low-ranking conscripts are Sunnis whilst the upper echelons of the military are nearly all comprised of Alawis who are and likely will remain loyal to the current government. While this "sectarian imbalance" with time would likely play in favor of the opposition, it could also result in broad scale sectarian conflict. 
 
Zainab al-Husni
On September 13, one month after she reportedly disappeared after leaving her family home to buy groceries, 18-year-old Zainab al-Husni was discovered by her mother in a morgue in Homs. Zainab had been beheaded and dismembered. Her mother had travelled to the morgue to identify her son Mohammed's body, when she found Zainab. Medics has informed her of another unclaimed body in the morgue bearing her daughter's name.
 
Zainab's brother Mohammed had been a prominent member of the opposition and it is reported that Zainab was taken into custody as a means of threatening her bother and persuading him to turn himself over to the police. This particular approach to threatening activists is increasingly employed by security forces. Mohammed was killed on September 10, when security forces opened fire on protestors in Homs. 
 
It is not yet confirmed that Zainab died whilst in police custody. If this indeed proves to be the case, hers will become one of the most disturbing of the hundreds of cases allegedly government-sanctioned torture and killing since the revolution began over six months ago. Zainab's case has rippled across international media. For more reportage, click here (CNN), here (BBC), here (Amnesty International), here (The New York Times), here (The National) and here (Iloubnan). 
 
Amnesty International: "Arrests and Death Threats Silence Syrian Activists"
A new report issued by Amnesty International on September 27, "Arrests and Death Threats Silence Syrian Activists", indicates that Syrian security forces have adopted a new approach to quelling the unrest that seems to have contributed to a significant reduction in protestor numbers. Security forces have taken to targeting protest organizers, disappearing them and all those associated with them. Those left behind are confronted with threats from security to disappear and torture friends and family members. Growing numbers of dissidents and those suspected of such activities are never seen again - or turn up days and in some cases weeks later, dead. 
 
University of Pepperdine research team polls Syrians on revolution, political crisis, future
A group of researchers from Pepperdine University conducted an in-country survey of 551 Syrian nationals over the course of the summer, to find out about their political views, sentiments about the current Syrian government and those protesting against it, as well as their overall perspective of the country's future. While the poll's methodology and results analyses have a number of issues (small sample size, gender, educational, technological and subject selection biases), it nevertheless makes for an interesting read. For a recap of the results by Foreign Policy, click here. For the full report entitled, "Survey FIndings: Syria 2011 Public Opinion Survey," click here
 
International Politics & Diplomacy
 
US Ambassador Ford - "time is not on the side of the [Syrian] government"
In an interview with Reuters on Thursday September 22, US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford asserted that the intensification of government crackdowns against members of the Syrian opposition only risked pushing the country farther down the road to full-on sectarian conflict and civil war. According to Ford, "The government violence is actually creating retaliation and creating even more violence in our analysis, and it is also increasing the risk of sectarian conflict." Most of the violence "is coming from the government and its security forces," said Ford. "That can either be shooting at peaceful protests or funeral processions or when government forces go into homes. We have had recently a number of deaths in custody, or extra-judicial killings," he continued. 
 
On the issue of the Syrian opposition and its questionable cohesiveness, Ford stated that "The other part of the protest movement is to have a genuine frame for a democratic transition. I think that this is something which different elements of the Syrian opposition are trying to organize. It probably has two elements. One element is to have some agreed principles about how a reformed Syrian state would look and how it would operate, and another element would be how would a Syrian transition be arranged." 
 
"I don't think that the Syrian government today, September 22, is close to collapse. I think time is against the regime because the economy is going into a more difficult situation, the protest movement is continuing and little by little groups that used to support the government are beginning to change," Ford said. 
 
Ford sees the Syrian army as strong and cohesive, but believes that "time is not on the side of the government" due to increasing reports in September of army desertions. 
 
Turkey seizes Syrian ship, announces arms embargo
On September 23, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey had seized a Syrian-flagged ship in Marmara. No further details on the location of the ship or its contents were disclosed. 
 
In response to the move, Erdogan stated that, "We have already made a decision to stop and prevent any vehicle carrying any type of weapon to Syria. We told them our decision as well as shared it with neighboring countries. As you recall, we had previously made an interception to a ship in Marmara. If there are planes carrying weapons, or such shipments by land, then we would stop and confiscate them as in the past." 
 
Earlier in the week, Turkish authorities has announced that Ankara was officially suspending its talks with Damascus and that it was considering imposing sanctions agains the Syrian government. 
 
EU imposes more sanctions against Syria
On Friday September 23, the European Union imposed another round of sanctions against the Syrian government, this time targeting foreign investment in the country's oil industry. The sanctions prohibit European investment in Syrian ventures  “engaged in exploration, production and refining crude oil, both in their country and abroad”. The sanctions were imposed due to "the continuing brutal campaign" against Syrian civilians and members of the opposition. 
 
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan on Syrian government - "You can never remain in power through cruelty" 
 
On his relationship with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Erdogan stated that, "If you're going to act against the fundamental rights, liberties and the law, you will lose your position in my heart as my brother and my friend," Erdogan said. "I was very patient. Patience, patience, patience. And then I cracked." 
 
French Ambassador Chevallier attacked in Damascus 
On Saturday September 24, the French Ambassador to Syria Eric Chevallier was attacked by pro-government crowds in Damascus's old city. The ambassador had reportedly just met with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignace IV when he was attacked by young people throwing eggs and stones. The ambassador was not seriously injured. 
 
UK Ambassador to Syria blogs - "The Truth Is What Big Brother Says It Is" 
On September 26, Ambassador to Syria Simon Collis started a blog on the Syrian revolution. His first entry was notably 'undiplomatic', adopting an approach to creative diplomacy similar to US Ambassador Ford, and overtly criticizing the Syrian government and its 'sham' reforms.  An abbreviated version of the post is as follows: 
 
"I’ve been British Ambassador in Syria for the last four years. Last weekend I decided to start this blog after Syria passed a terrible milestone…
 
"The Syrian regime doesn’t want you to know that its security forces and the gangs that support them are killing, arresting and abusing mostly peaceful protesters: The UN says over 2,700 people have died in the last six months, some of them under torture in prison. It doesn’t want you to know that it is preventing many from meeting peacefully to discuss reform. It wants you to hear only one version of the truth – its own. And to see only one way out – the return to authoritarian rule where fear surpasses a desire for freedom…
 
"I suppose we all learn early in life that there’s quite a difference between saying something and doing it.  Like pretty much all of its reform programme to date, the regime’s answer to its critics was to announce that there would be a new media law; and that a committee had been set up to draft it. But you don’t need a new law to decide to let journalists in. You don’t need a new media law to prevent the big brother mentality that prevails here. You just need to decide to stop restricting media freedoms, and then to act on your decision…
 
"I’ve got a feeling that this gap between reality and promise will sadly continue. President Assad has announced a big reform programme, several times... But when you read the fine print, what you tend to find is that every path that’s signposted towards increased freedom and openness actually winds back to a chokepoint... 
 
"Even so, brave individuals continue to find ways through to get out video clips that show Syrian security forces firing into crowds of unarmed protesters, or abusing detainees ...Regime attempts to dismiss most of this as the fabrications of a foreign conspiracy are absurd.
 
"But without context, it can be hard to make sense of jumpy grainy images. And tragically, repetition dulls the senses. Unless we have some information about what’s happening and why, we risk forgetting that another day, another death is real...
 
"That’s where I hope to come into the picture. As far as I’m concerned this blog will be worth it if it helps to get a discussion going – on this page, with your friends, or even just inside your head – about what’s happening, why it’s happening, and why it matters…" 
 
For the full post, click here.
 
"It's a matter of self-defense" - US Department of State spokesman Mark Toner on Syrian opposition taking up arms
Mark C. Toner, deputy spokesman for the US Department of State issued a number of significant statements on the Syria issue during a daily press briefing in Washington on Monday September 26. Asked to give a general update in the situation in Syria, Toner stated that, "In general terms, we’ve seen continued oppression by the Syrian government, including credible reports that Syrian intelligence services are imprisoning and torturing and killing relatives of dissidents inside Syria as a means of forcing activists to give themselves up. We’ve seen increased violence over the weekend in other parts of Syria, and we just reiterate our call for the Syrian government to stop the violence."
 
On the issue of army defections and reports of the opposition shifting toward armed resistance, Toner said "I think it’s not surprising, given the level of violence over the past months, that we’re now seeing …members of the opposition begin to turn violent, or, rather, begin to use violence against the military as an act of self-preservation. I would say that the opposition’s shown extraordinary restraint in the face of the regime’s brutality and demanding their rights through peaceful unarmed demonstrations." Toner continued, "It goes without saying that the longer the regime continues to repress, kill, and jail these peaceful activists, the more likely that this peaceful movement’s going to become violent. And we would – the onus for this remains on the Syrian government and the Syrian regime that continues to use violence against innocent civilians."
 
On whether or not the US should encourage a shift toward militance by the opposition, Toner replied "It’s not really for us, frankly, to urge the opposition to do anything. They are – clearly, it’s a matter of self-defense. Again…what we’ve seen so far in the struggle, this largely nonviolent struggle, is extraordinary restraint on the part of the opposition."
 
Pressed farther on whether or not the US condones the opposition's use of violence against Syrian military and security forces, Toner replied "…the government’s continued use of violence against innocent civilians, I think, is engendering the opposition to use violence back at the Syrian authorities." He continued, "I just think that it is a dynamic that has been borne of this ongoing repression and violence against them. It’s a matter of self-defense."
 
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov criticizes international response to Syrian revolution 
On Tuesday September 27 in an address to the UN General Assembly, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denounced growing claims that Russia and its allies in BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) bloc, are implementing an obstructionist policy to counter UN efforts to move forward with a stronger response to Syria's political and humanitarian crisis. 
 
"BRICS does not aim at confrontation with anyone," Lavrov told the Assembly. "Its goal is to enhance productive multilateral collaboration to address the urgent problems of the contemporary world,"
 he continued. 
 
 
Economic Development 
 
Syria imposes import ban against foreign manufactured goods
On Thursday September 22, the Syrian government imposed a ban against imports of nearly all foreign goods with a tariff of more than five percent - except for grains and raw materials. The move is reportedly aimed at preserving the country's foreign currency reserves as the country falls under deepening pressure from international sanctions. At the start of the year, foreign currency reserves stood at an estimated USD 18 billion. 
 
Items now banned from importation include cars and electrical goods as well as luxury items. There are some 51 exceptions to the ban, most of which include medical supplies and certain types of food. For more information, click here.  
 
The move has reportedly already sent shock waves through the country's economy, with most anticipating a worsening of both inflationary pressures and investor confidence. Prices of affected items have already skyrocketed - in some cases increasing by 40 percent. At the same time, many expect illicit trade to flourish as a consequence of the decision. Further, while the government maintains that such a move is also intended to benefit local industries, as the move is also termed a temporary one, it is unlikely that Syrian manufactures and businesses will invest in expanding their operations when the ban could be lifted at any moment. 
 
Energy
 
Syria forced to cut oil production following EU ban 
On September 26, international media reported that the Syrian government had officially requested that foreign oil companies operating in the country cut back on oil production. The government has been unable to find buyers for its oil outside of the European Union - which previously purchased some 95 percent of the country's oil exports. Though the government is attempting to attract buyers by offering oil at discounted rates, it has yet to find any buyers. There is now a considerable backlog in the country's supplies with storage facilities now filling up. Foreign producers have been asked to scale back production by as much as 40 percent. Some fear that the current drop in production will last long after producers find buyers for their product. 
 
The sanctions have had a broader impact that expected by EU officials, as banks are now increasingly resistant to opening letters of credits with Syrian ventures - even if the products will not be shipped to the EU. At the same time, tankers are wary of sending vessels to Syrian ports given the country's security crisis. 
 
For more related articles, click here (Reuters) and here (The New York Times). 
 
Further Reading and Viewing
 
"Syria: The Revolution Will Be Weaponised" - Al Jazeera - Among the most significant reads on the Syrian revolution thus far, journalist Nir Rosen details the revolution's slow slide into insurrection. This is the first of two articles on this subject posted by Rosen in the last week. Some excerpts:  
 
"As I spent more time in Syria, I could see a clear theme developing in the discourse of the opposition: A call for an organised armed response to the government crackdown, mainly from the opposition within Syria. Demonstrators had hoped the holy month of Ramadan would be the turning point in their revolution, but as it came to an end - six months into the Syrian uprising - many realised the regime was too powerful to be overthrown peacefully...
 
"The diverse ethnic makeup of Syria makes for a complicated map of allegiances within the country. Christians, by and large, support the regime out of fear of the unknown realities of a post-Assad Syria, while the Druze are sitting in the wings, waiting to see which side will emerge victorious. The Kurds, however, secretly hope for the regime to collapse…
 
"Such is the segregation, that those who support the opposition know little about those who support the regime, and vice versa. They watch and believe different news media, they attend funerals for different "martyrs", (dead security forces or dead opposition supporters), and they believe the worst rumours about each other and are increasingly divided by an unbridgeable gap...
 
"The overwhelming majority of the opposition is peaceful and unarmed. For some it is a question of principal or strategy; for many it is simply because they do not have access to weapons that would be useful against the powerful Syrian security forces. There are various different armed opposition actors in Syria. Together they have killed around 700 hundred members of the Syrian security forces in various clashes and ambushes…
 
"There are also local self-defence militias and armed civilians throughout various villages and slums. Though many are socially and religiously conservative, they do not appear to consider themselves mujahedin or otherwise fit the stereotype of Islamic extremists. Accordingly, individuals have told me that Islam does provide them with inspiration and strength but they do not fight for Islam and their goals are generally secular." 
 
"Armed Defenders of Syria's Revolution" - Al Jazeera - The second installment of Nir Rosen's reportage on the arming of the Syrian revolution. This article details known clashes between security and military forces and defectors. As Rosen writes, "For the most part, unarmed opposition activists seeking the overthrow of the regime have used demonstrations as their guerrilla tactic. The regime has succeeded in containing or suppressing the opposition, limiting the times and places they can demonstrate. The opposition has failed to expand its constituency outside the Sunni majority or even to win over the Sunni bourgeois of Damascus and Aleppo. Sectarian hatred grows on both sides, leading to early signs of communal violence. At the same time, a more professional and organised armed opposition movement has emerged." Among such groups, is the Khalid bin al Walid Brigade in Homs - a group of several hundred defected soldiers who have taken up the defense of the areas protestors. 
 
On the scale and methods of the attacks waged by armed elements of the opposition, Rosen writes: "The effectiveness of such small scale hit-and-run attacks is not clear. Opposition members feel they have been pushed to violence by a brutal regime that shows itself incapable of or unwilling to fulfill its promises of reform. However, this level of opposition violence cannot overthrow the regime." He continues, "It does allow the regime to justify its narrative of fighting armed groups. In addition, it allows foreign backers of the regime, such as Russia, to justify their intransigent support for it. Insiders in the Russian foreign ministry maintain that Syria is in a civil war, with two sides fighting, and not just a government killing unarmed demonstrators. Instead the Russians maintain that both sides provoke each other and respond with violence."
 
"Syria: New Report Indicates Over 5,000 Deaths Since March" - Spero News - An article detailing the reasons for the sudden near doubling of the revolution's death toll. While some 3,004 names have been triple-checked by researchers and activists, another 2,356 names had been registered as dead, but had not been officially verified. The article details the complexity of tracking such statistics in Syria as well as allegations of the government's 'shoot to kill' policy -  which are supported by the reality that 60 percent of those civilians verified as killed, suffered from gunshot wounds in the upper portions of their bodies - including the chest, neck and head. The article also discusses the killing of Syrian children - 148 of whom, according to rights group Avaaz, have been killed since the revolution began. According to the same group, 16 of those children were tortured to death whilst in police custody. 
 
"BBC Syria -  Inside the Secret Revolution Panorama" - BBC - A well-done documentary on the start of the Syrian revolution in Daraa. Just under 30 minutes long. 
 
"Fearing Change, Syria’s Christians Back Assad" - The New York Times - Syrian Christians, about ten percent of the country's population, are increasingly criticized for continuing to back the current government. While some have been active members of the opposition and indeed two key opposition figures, Michel Kilo and Fayez Saram are both Christians, fears of the unknown and the possibility of repression under a new government keep many from throwing their full weight behind the opposition. Such concerns are shared across the region: "The plight of Christians in Syria has resonated among religious minorities across the Middle East, many of whom see themselves as facing a shared destiny. In Iraq, the number of Christians had dwindled to insignificance since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, driven away by bloodshed and chauvinism. Christians in Egypt worry about the ascent of Islamists. Christians in Lebanon, representing the largest minority by share in the Arab world, worry about their own future, in a country where they emerged as the distinct losers of a 15-year civil war." Yet, as the author writes, "The formula often offered of the Syrian divide — religious minorities on Mr. Assad’s side, the Sunni Muslim majority aligned against him — never captured the nuance of a struggle that may define Syria for generations…But while the promise of the Arab revolts is a new order, shorn of repression and inequality, worries linger that Islamists, the single most organized force in the region, will gain greater influence and that societies will become more conservative and perhaps intolerant."
 
"The 'Fake' Cities of Syria's Unrest" - The Atlantic - An article on allegations by Addounia TV that Al Jazeera's video and film footage of the unrest in Syria is actually staged in replicas of Syrian cities. According  to Addounia (which is owned by Mohamed Hamsho, brother-in-law of Maher al-Assad, commander of Syria's Republican Guard and the brother of President Assad), the news is staged by actors with help from French and American directors. As author Nate Berg sardonically notes: "…if such a monumental building project were to take place, a pretty surreal alternate reality could be created. Maybe the Syrian government could even follow its own line of reasoning and build some fake cities to counter the fake cities … they could film a smoothly-functioning government that respects the will of its people. In Syria right now, a film set in a fake city might be the only place to find such a thing." To view a YouTube video of Addounia's original broadcast titled "Addounia TV hitting the crack pipe, 9 Sept. 2011" by its uploader, click here
 
"Robert Ford: Families of Syrian-American Protesters Being Tortured by Regime" - Foreign Policy - US Ambassador Ford confirmed to sources at Foreign Policy that a number of Syrian-Americans who have spoken out against the current Syria government have seen their family members back in Syria subsequently arrested, beaten and in some cases, tortured. 
 
"A Week in Syria" - The Year of Change (Blogspot) - A short but good post by blogger Arabista about her recent trip to Damascus and the contrast between seemingly ordinary life in central Damascus and the military incursion underway in Harasta. 
 
"Harvard Website Hacked by Syria Protesters" - BBC - On Monday September 26, the official website of Harvard University was hacked by supporters of the Syrian government. The article details the attack - and the growing number of related events in recent months.
 
"Analysis: Iraqi Shi'ites Fear Fallout of Syria Turbulence" - Reuters - Rania El Gamal explores concerns among Iraqi Shi'ites of the fallout from the collapse of the current Syrian government. Principal among them, are fears of a reigniting of sectarian conflict as fighting in Syria inevitably pours into neighboring Iraq. Proxy wars between Iran and Saudi Arabia are also of particular concern. A good backgrounder for those looking to better understand sectarian dynamics in the region. 
 
"Syria Faces A New Economic Reality" - Syria Comment - Ehsani offers up an assessment of Syria's deepening economic woes on all fronts - including the current and future impact of the new import ban businesses, consumers and the government's ability to collect taxes, inflation, fixed exchange rates, and an uncompetitive manufacturing industry. (Relatedly, for more on how the country's economic crisis is effecting neighboring Lebanon, click here.) 
 
"Razan Zeitouneh, la frondeuse de Damas" - Madame Le Figaro - An interview (in French) with Razan Zeitouneh, a 34-year-old human rights lawyer who has been in hiding since the Syrian government accused her of working as a foreign spy. Both her brother and husband have been arrested. 
 
"Averting a Civil War in Syria" - The Washington Post - The Washington Post Editorial Board issues its latest advice for US policymakers on how to respond to the worsening crisis in Syria. Acknowledging the existence of an armed Syrian opposition, the Board notes that the US should not support the use of violence in Syria by any side, and that while the US government has ruled out the possibility of intervention, it can still "drop its back-seat approach and lead a more aggressive effort to raise the pressure on Mr. Assad." The Board continues, "The [US] administration can press Russia, China and the Arab League to endorse tougher sanctions, and urge Turkey to break with the regime and provide protection for refugees. It would be far easier for the United States to act energetically now than to deal with the crisis that a real civil war would create." 
Written by: Evelyn Aissa
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