Paris Match: Mr. President, three years into this war, and considering how things have turned out, do you regret that you haven’t managed things differently at the beginning, with the appearance of the first signs of the revolution in March 2011? Do you feel that you are responsible for what happened?
Bashar el Assad: Even in the first days of the events, there were martyrs from the army and the police; so, since the first days of this crisis we have been facing terrorism. It is true that there were demonstrations, but they were not large in number. In such a case, there is no choice but to defend your people against terrorists. There’s no other choice. We cannot say that we regret fighting terrorism since the early days of this crisis. However, this doesn’t mean that there weren’t mistakes made in practice. There are always mistakes. Let’s be honest: had Qatar not paid money to those terrorists at that time, and had Turkey not supported them logistically, and had not the West supported them politically, things would have been different. If we in Syria had problems and mistakes before the crisis, which is normal, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the events had internal causes.
Paris Match: Your army is blamed for its excessive use of force during this war. Why are civilians shelled?
Bashar el Assad : When a terrorist attacks you with weapons, how do you defend yourself and your people, with dialogue?! The army uses weapons when the other side uses them. For us in Syria, it is impossible to have our objective as shelling civilians. There’s no reason to shell civilians. If we are killing civilians, in other words killing our people, fighting terrorists at the same time, and fighting the states which stand against us and which support terrorists, like the Gulf countries, Turkey, and the West, how could we stand for four years? If we haven’t been defending the people, we wouldn’t have been able to stand all this pressure. Consequently, saying that we are shelling civilians doesn’t make any sense.
More here >> Paris Match
The sudden reversion of Washington to a ‘war on terror’ pretext for intervention in Syria has confused western audiences. For three years they watched ‘humanitarian intervention’ stories, which poured contempt on the Syrian President’s assertion that he was fighting foreign backed terrorists. Now the US claims to be leading the fight against those same terrorists.
Why Syrians support Bashar al Assad
By Tim Anderson
But what do Syrians think, and why do they continue to support a man the western powers have claimed is constantly attacking and terrorising ‘his own people’? To understand this we must consider the huge gap between the western caricature of Bashar al Assad the ‘brutal dictator’ and the popular and urbane figure within Syria.
If we believed most western media reports we would think President Assad has launched repeated and indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas, including the gassing of children. We might also think he heads an ‘Alawi regime’, where a 12% minority represses a Sunni Muslim majority, crushing a popular ‘revolution’ which, only recently, has been ‘hijacked’ by extremists.
The central problem with these portrayals is Bashar’s great popularity at home. The fact that there is popular dissatisfaction with corruption and cronyism, and that an authoritarian state maintains a type of personality cult, does not negate the man’s genuine popularity. His strong win in Syria’s first multi-candidate elections in June dismayed his regional enemies, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey; but it did not stop their aggression.
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LONDON — LAST week, President Obama virtually declared war on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. But it is hard to reconcile the seemingly urgent need to confront the threat posed by this organization with the chosen means of doing so.
By opting to support the “moderate” Syrian opposition and running the risk of an open confrontation with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the West appears to be primarily appeasing Arab Persian Gulf allies that have turned the overthrow of Mr. Assad into a policy fetish that runs against any rational calculation of how to defeat Islamist terrorism.
The persistent belief in Western policy circles that there is a “moderate opposition” in Syria — reiterated at the close of a NATO summit meeting in Wales on Sept. 5 — warrants serious scrutiny. The very notion of a “vetted” opposition has an absurd ring to it. It assumes that moderation is an identifiable, fixed element that can be sorted out from other, tainted characteristics. It further presumes that the vetting process will not stain those being vetted. It takes as a given that Western-backed opposition will prevail and in turn provide the basis for a happier and better Syria.
There is little to support any of these beliefs. The most effective forces on the ground today — and for the foreseeable future — are decidedly nonmoderate. This is not primarily because the West has let down the Syrian opposition, but because the conflict now sweeping through the Levant is grounded in elements that have little to do with the presumed struggle between moderation and extremism.
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The following is an interview of Osama bin Laden’s personal guard, Nabil Na’eem Abul Fattah. Na’eem tells Lebanon’s Asian News Agency in an interview that not only is the leader of Al-Qaeda, his former colleague Ayman Al-Zawahiri, a US double agent working on behalf of the interests of Washington, but that the leader of Jabhat Al-Nusra is a US agent fighting inside Syria.
The attack took place shortly after the first stirrings of trouble in the southern Syrian city of Daraa in March 2011. Several old Russian-made military trucks packed with Syrian security forces rolled onto a hard slope on a valley road between Daraa al-Mahata and Daraa al-Balad. Unbeknownst to the passengers, the sloping road was slick with oil poured by gunmen waiting to ambush the troops.
Brakes were pumped as the trucks slid into each other, but the shooting started even before the vehicles managed to roll to a stop. According to several different opposition sources, up to 60 Syrian security forces were killed that day in a massacre that has been hidden by both the Syrian government and residents of Daraa.
Explains one Daraa native: “At that time, the government didn’t want to show they are weak and the opposition didn’t want…
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Just a reminder of something a lot of us said from the beginning.
I post this now because the same script seems to have been used in Ukraine. In both cases the “peaceful protesters” were armed and used their weapons first.
Full translation of Father Frans’s January 2012 report from Homs.
Report from Father van der Lugt on the Situation in Homs
We owe it to the citizens of Syria to be nuanced. Otherwise, their struggle is lost.
There are many people here that sincerely believe that we can go further with this [i.e. the current Syrian] government, that it is capable of implementing reforms (see the president’s latest speech) and that it is perhaps more democratic than possible replacements.
Most of the citizens of Syria do not support the opposition. Even a country like Qatar has stated this following an opinion survey. Therefore, you also cannot say that this is a popular uprising. The majority of people are not part of the rebellion and certainly not part of the armed rebellion. What is occurring is, above all, a struggle between the army and armed Sunni groups that aim to overturn the Alawite regime and take power.
From the start the protest movements were not purely peaceful. From the start I saw armed demonstrators marching along in the protests, who began to shoot at the police first. Very often the violence of the security forces has been a reaction to the brutal violence of the armed rebels.
International mass media paint the situation in Syria as a never-ending Sunni-Shia feud and hatred towards President Assad. But somehow they keep silent on how thousands of Sunnis have found friends in the Shia-dominated Lebanese regions.
Instead, they say Sunni support for Syrian government is a result of Assad propaganda.
The Sunni refugees from Syria prove the international media wrong. Their experience shows that the Shia treat Sunnis as friends, while foreign militants stoke religious hatred and bring along nothing but devastation.
None of the refugees I talked to was a civil servant. All these people’s homes and lives were destroyed by the war.
Some had initially sympathized with the revolution, but as things went on, they changed their minds. Propaganda tells them to despise the Syrian government and the Shia, and to welcome the rebels, their liberators. But these people see the Syrian army as liberators and they are thankful to the Shia.
“Of course our relations with the Shia are good – how else can it be given that we have fled to join them?”
Nine months ago Khadijah Zahra, 35, fled from Bustan al-Qasr, an Aleppo suburb, with four kids. Her husband was waiting for her in Lebanon, in the north of Bekaa village, a Shia territory.
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by REEM HADDAD
There is a stench to poverty and it still lingers in the corners of the houses of Alawites in Syria. Forty years have gone by , yet it is still there – never forsaking them.
Not much is known about the history of the Alawites not because there isn’t much but because so few have documented the lives and tragedies of these people. You can find it if you search well in certain books, but you are more likely to come across it in a more honest way in the eyes of the older generation. It is all there- hardship, denial, deprivation and yes fear too.
How they came to live on the harshest of mountains in Syria where only beasts lived is a question with more than one answer. Different sources tell different tales – but it amounts to the same. Massacre after massacre, each time by a different foe, but mainly by the Ottomans, resulted in the Alawites fleeing the cities where they used to live and seeking sanctuary in the cold mountains. It was very much a policy of displace and then replace. The Alawites were displaced from their urban dwellings and quickly replaced by other inhabitants. The end result was that they lived in almost complete isolation, mixing with their Christian neighbours and embracing many Christian traditions and festivals in the hope of avoiding recognition.
Guest post by @_sarina_s
People mention the suffering of the every religious group or sect in Syria being the Christians, Druze, Kurds etc, except for the Alawites.
For Christians, lets not forget the people of Hamydieh in Homs city. It now looks similar to a destruction zone.
They were expelled from various towns & villages around Homs. Many found refuge in Safita & Tartous while others fled the country. There are also Christians missing (kidnapped) or have been murdered. As I said many go to safer areas inside Syria.
But lets also not forget the massacres in, Homs- Aqrab, Karam Al Zeitoun, and there are more in Homs. People went missing in Homs in Feb 2012, they actually got abducted by the FSA just for being Alawites. Many Alawites walk around with hand grenades now, just in case they get caught.
The Alawites are suffering just as other minorities. Them, their homes or belongings are being targeted by FSA. But you never read anything about that.
Many in the media don’t report or mention the Alawites or simply demonize them because ” this is the sect of President Assad”
They write about all minorities but don’t acknowledge the Alawites. But they also have lost a lot in this crisis.
You’ll find majority of Alawites are much poorer than others in Syria, but they just want existence, nothing else.
Even the Alawites in Lebanon-Jabal Mohsen are some of the poorest people there. Existence that’s all they ask for.
Everyone who is suffering in this crisis should be remembered, Christians, Druze, Alawites, moderate Sunnis etc. They are all suffering from Islamic extremism just like Jews in Tunisia & Coptic Egyptians.
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Since the onset of the Syrian crisis, Martin Chulov of the Guardian has continuously been one of the most prominent “journalists” whose coverage, to put kindly, has been skewed beyond any recognition of objective journalism. His narratives have systematically relied on sectarian overtones and cherry picked “activist” quotes from such bastions of objectivity as the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Chulov has gone to great to lengths to portray the conflict in simplistic and sectarian terms: “Assad the Alawite, versus the Sunni majority.”
The large part of Syrian society that ardently support their president has gone largely unmentioned in his coverage. The larger still part of Syrian society that simply want the war to end, and the militants to leave their towns and villages so they can attempt to rebuild their lives have been callously brushed aside by war-profiteers such as Chulov; who willingly ignore the much larger sections…
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Today june 29th, 2013 the obvious happend. After the victory at Al-Qusayr the next logical step for the Syrian Army (SAA) was the city of Homs. But the SAA started sending lots of fighters to Aleppo and also started shelling the city from the ground and from the air.
Even some rebel websites warned that this was only to undermine the rebels in Homs, who had been complaining for weeks about not getting any new arms/munitions. Rebels send all their reserves to Aleppo.
So today the Battle for Homs began with intense shelling and troops moving in. At this time there is not much information about the situation in the city because all comunication is cut off.
Here some video’s of the start of the operation.
Shops are closed in rebel occupied areas:
More shelling of rebel positions:
Begging for arms 🙂
Here a situation map from this evening (based on rebel data)
Bless the Syrian Army.
UPDATE: 30th june, 2013 Rebels inside Homs complaining about the lack of food and ammo. Army reinforcements pouring in. This won’t take long.
Khalid is too frightened of travelling the 100 miles from Homs to Damascus to ask officials if they know what happened to his three sons, who disappeared 16 months ago as government troops over-ran the rebel stronghold of Baba Amr. He has not heard anything from them since and does not know if they are alive or dead, though he has repeatedly asked the authorities in Homs, Syria’s third-largest city, about them.
Khalid, a thick-set man of 60 with grizzled white hair – who used to be a construction worker until he injured his back – says he dare not make the journey to Damascus because “as soon as the soldiers at the checkpoints on the road see I come from a place like Baba Amr, with a reputation for supporting the rebels, they are likely to arrest me”. He explains that he cannot risk being detained because he has a wife and four daughters who rely on him. He is the last man left in his family since his sons went missing.
Syria, once a land of pluralistic coexistence in the Arab world, is now irreparably fractured between competing factions. There isn’t a single group that can claim to speak for even a modest majority of Syrians. Syria itself has become a catchment for foreign jihadists whose ambition goes far beyond toppling the secular dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad.
In Damascus alone I met fighters from more than half a dozen countries, some from places as far as Afghanistan, dreaming of transforming Syria into a theocratic state. Secular opponents of Assad, always a minority, have from the beginning found themselves in the impossible position of having to counteract the foreign fighters in Syria while also preserving themselves from the state’s overwhelming power. Unable to win at home and neglected by the world, their own ideological complexion gradually altered, and many embraced the foreign jihadists in their midst. What could have turned into an Egyptian-style mass uprising dissolved instead into a series of local insurgencies in which religious minorities, particularly Christians, became targets of fighters sympathetic to or affiliated with Al-Qaida. Ancient communities were cleansed from their homes in the province of Homs. Churches were bombed. Dissenters, in a phenomenon alien to Syria, were beheaded. And women, who had traditionally enjoyed greater freedoms in Syria than in most other parts of the Arab world, were forced into the veil.
Al-Queda is run by the CIA. The allegation is made by the former al-Qaeda member Sheikh Nabil Naiim, who has spoken out on a video, claiming that the principal force fighting against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, the one with strong links to al-Qaeda, is led by a CIA operative, Mohammed al-Jawlani.
Interview with EX-AL QAEDA Member Nabil Naim(ENG SUB) : The Syrian Lie – Al Nusra’s Fake War
By Sharmine Narwani
I met Al Ikhbariya journalist Yara Abbas for the first and only time in August 2012. I was organizing my trip into Aleppo and was looking to talk to someone on the ground about safety issues. An acquaintance of Yara’s who worked at my hotel told me he knew a journalist on the front lines of the conflict in Aleppo, and gave me her number. When Yara and I finally spoke, she was on her way back to Damascus and warned me down the phone line about the road between Aleppo and its airport, at the time subject to random checkpoints set up by armed rebels.
The connection wasn’t great. “Look – I reach Damascus tonight. Why don’t we meet tomorrow and talk in person,” she kindly suggested via mobile.
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‘The ABC Murders’ comes to my mind every time I think of Libya and Syria and the ‘Arab Spring.’ When do you notice an individual ‘regime change’ least? Answer: When it is in a series of ‘regime changes’.
“When do you notice a pin least? When it is in a pin cushion! When do you notice an individual murder least? When it is one of a series of related murders”.
So declares the great Belgian detective Hercule Poirot as he unveils the murderer in Agatha Christie’s classic mystery ‘The ABC Murders’.
The plot, for those who have never read the book, involves a serial killer who seems to be fascinated by the letters of the alphabet. A Mrs Ascher is found murdered in Andover. Betty Barnard is murdered in Bexhill. Sir Carmichael Clarke is murdered in Churston. Beside each corpse lies a copy of the ‘ABC Railway Guide’. It seems that the police are dealing with a madman who is murdering his way through the alphabet. But in fact, the murderer had sought to disguise one of his murders – one in which he gained substantial financial benefit – to make it look as if it was part of a series of murders.
The US and its closest allies saw the wave of pro-democracy protests sweeping the Middle East in early 2011 as a great opportunity to bring down governments which were annoyingly independent and which did not suit their geopolitical interests. The fall of Ben Ali in Tunisia didn’t concern them unduly- they knew that the new government would be Islamist-led and wouldn’t radically change Tunisia’s foreign policy or economic policy. The same with Egypt: Hosni Mubarak was well past his sell-by date and the likely Muslim Brotherhood-led government which would take over could be guaranteed to be similarly obedient to Washington. Yes, the rhetoric on certain issues, like Palestine, would be different, but Cairo would still be heavily dependent on US aid and so policy wouldn’t change too much at all. The US and its allies could therefore pose as the ‘good guys’ in welcoming the ‘revolutions’ against western-backed leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, knowing that their strategic interests would not be seriously threatened.
Syrian first lady Asmaa Bashar Al Assad held a reception on the occasion of Mother’s Day, 21st March 2013, to show the gratitude of all Syrians to over 5,000 Syrian mothers whom each of them sent all of her sons to defend the country in the face of an unprecedented NATO and stooges alliance with all evil forces on the planet including Al Qaeda terrorists to destroy Syria, the mother of all mothers.
Bashar al-Assad has recently been demonized by the mainstream and so-called alternative media who claim that he is a brutal dictator. Actually Bashar is a reformer who has done much to further the causes of democracy and freedom. It is the opposition and their foreign supporters who represent the most repressive elements of the former ruling party in Syria. To fully understand this its is helpful to look at the historical context of the current crisis. The so-called “spontaneous popular uprising” started in Daraa on March 15th, 2011. The court house, police stations, governor’s house, and other public buildings were looted and torched by the “peaceful protestors” in the first week of the crisis. The people in Homs then began to protest in solidarity with Daraa, but this was uncharacteristic of peaceful Homs and many Syrians knew that it was a fake revolution.
About 110 unarmed police officers were murdered in Daraa and Homs, sparking anger against the “revolutionaries.” There was an incident in the city Baniyas where an Alawite truck driver was attacked by an armed mob, skinned, and paraded through the city. This disgusted almost all Syrians and since then not a single major city actually rebelled against the government. The foreign backed “revolutionaries” would attack a neighborhood, police station, or army base, from across the borders of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq. Then they would claim that the city was in rebellion.But the Syrians, seeing the same lies in all the western and Arab news stations, and the exiled rotten officials adopting the ‘revolution’, mostly took an anti-revolution stance. That is why whenever the rebels would infest a town or city you would immediately hear of a massacre to punish the residents for not supporting them. Of course the mainstream media would claim that it was Assad forces punishing the town that dared to oppose him!Assad took advantage of the revolution to introduce his packages of reforms, putting aside those in the old guards who opposed them. Many of the old guard then joined the opposition abroad.
The opposition demanded the removal of article 8 from the Syrian constitution making the Baath Party head of the government. Instead of just deleting it Bashar Assad had the constitution re-written buy a specialized committee of Syrian experts from all parties in Syria and with input from all Syrians. A referendum was held and the new constitution was approved with almost 90% of a voter turnout of 60%. Assad then enacted a Media Law that would allow more freedom of expression and the establishment of new independent media outlets. Assad eased requirements on the formation of political parties, excluding sectarian based parties. We now have at least nine new political parties.
Municipal elections were held in December 2011. Many of those who won seats were assassinated or threatened throughout the country by the same revolutionaries who claimed to want democracy. Parliamentary elections were held in May 2012 with no eligibility restraints on the candidates. Many new members of parliament have also been assassinated by the FSA including the wife and three daughters of parliament elect trustee Abdulla Mishleb in the infamous Houla massacre.
Historical Context: Syria in the 1980s
Recent events can be better understood in the context of Syrian history. Bashar al-Assad is the son of late president Hafez al-Assad. Hafez was described by western mainstream media as a tyrant and oppressor but he was not nearly as bad as any other leader in his time like Thatcher, Reagan, or any of the region’s rulers including Turkey’s military rule.