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26 November 2012


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I remember, though can't currently find the source, to have read about early involvement of the Kagan/Nuland outfit in training "citizen journalists" in Syria. They seem to be more an actor in the propaganda war than a neutral observing entity. The Israel lobby will certainly know why its pays Jeffrey White.

Three week ago the insurgents announced an imminent all out attack on Damascus. But that got stuck in the outer suburbs. I am not aware that they still hold parts of Aleppo city.

The current round of fighting seems to be over outlying military bases with an emphasis on getting into and destroy air defense sites. Someone gave the order to take those down.

Who did so for what purpose?


The CSM is reporting that the FSA is using "...religious scholars to FSA units throughout Aleppo to offer courses about appropriate conduct and values."

Just whose 'religous scholars' and who is paying them? Which government did they support before? Why are they changing sides now, or are they from outside Syria?



Where does the Israeli government come down on regime change in Syria? For it or against it? I'd guess ambivalence

William R. Cumming

What is happening in Syria to combatants taken prisoner by either side or faction?



What up with White on this? Does this indicate that he now has drunk from the WINEP kool-aid bowl? And if he has, doesn't he realize the damage he is causing himself in the process. WINEP is poison, any way one shapes it.


From the outset this war was as much about propaganda as about capturing territory. The rebels started smuggling video cameras as soon as they started smuggling weapons from Lebanon. And Arab and Western media were predisposed to gobble up whatever was fed them by the rebels at face value, no questions asked.

Of course, if you try to report events in a way not consistent with the established narrative, you risk your life--something Alan Rusbridger, editor in chief of The Guardian, recently complained about.


I just listened to a piece on NPR that talked about the recent military gains by the FSA, namely the taking of the helicopter base 15 miles outside of Damascus, and the major base outside of Aleppo that had been used for shelling the rebel positions. From that piece, the reporter (Debra Amos) says that most analysts now consider the initiative to be with the FSA, and that there are more defections from the Syrian Army.

My question is what is the Syrian government's center of gravity? The FSA clearly thinks that it should avoid taking the major population centers, instead concentrating on reducing the Syrian Army's capabilities and slowly denying the Syrian AF the facilities to operate from.

Charles I

And some new claims, Anonymous, including a dam that do not answer your question;


The military installations rebels have captured in the last 10 days include a major facility in the northern province of Aleppo and several bases around the capital Damascus.

On Monday activists said rebels took control of the Tishreen dam on the Euphrates river, east of the city of Aleppo. Internet video footage showed gunmen inside what appeared to be the control room, undamaged following the rebel capture.

Other footage showed rebels opening up ammunition boxes, including one marked RPG (rocket-propelled grenades), which they said were seized from Assad’s forces holding the dam.

On Sunday rebels said they had captured a helicopter base east of Damascus, their latest gain in a battle that is drawing nearer to Assad’s seat of power in the capital.

The Marj al-Sultan base, 15 kilometres from Damascus, is the second military facility on the outskirts of the city reported to fall to Assad’s opponents this month. Activists said rebels destroyed two helicopters and taken 15 prisoners.

“We are coming for you Bashar!” a rebel shouted in an internet video of what activists said was Marj al-Sultan. Restrictions on non-state media meant it could not be verified.

The rebels have been tightening their hold on farmland and urban centres to the east and northeast of Damascus while a major battle has been under way for a week in the suburb of Daraya near the main highway south.

“We are seeing the starting signs of a rebel siege of Damascus,” opposition campaigner Fawaz Tello said from Berlin. “Marj al-Sultan is very near to the Damascus Airport road and to the airport itself. The rebels appear to be heading toward cutting this as well as the main northern artery to Aleppo.”


The BEEB is a little more judicious than the rebs them selves



At least we now know where the FSA's center of gravity is: its new leader Khatib is a former lobbyist for Shell Oil and worked for years for a company partly owned by Shell.

As for the rebels on the ground, their center of gravity is in the rural areas devastated by drought and globalization and in urban suburbs flooded with Iraqi Sunni refugees, industrial workers displaced by globalization, and rural emigrants.

I personally witnessed the effects of globalization in the old city of Aleppo. It closes at sunset and then is restocked. "Made in China" was stamped on all the boxes I saw being brought in. In addition, a huge Monoprix was about to open its doors in the Christian quarter, threatening the livelihood of lots of small merchants nearby.

One of Assad's big mistakes (and Ben Ali's for that matter) was opening the economy leaving little but tourism to earn foreign exchange.


Just scanning the headlines about Syria in the L A Times gives the impression that the Syrian Rebels are being victorious. If help was given the Rebels could throw out the bad man with ease.

The Rebels are winning the propaganda war.

Clifford Kiracofe

In Tunisia several years ago, a leading businesswoman told me of her concerns about the opening undertaken by the (US trained) technocrats. I had met a number of the technocrats and officials at the cabinet level.

The woman told me frankly that if Tunisia was not careful it would become part of a "new Roman empire" controlled by Europe. A colony again as it were. I had not heard such a point of view there before. This was an interesting insight I thought coming as it did from wealthy business quarters.

The Tunisian economy logically was based on tourism given its setting and natural attractions such as the beaches, and on its traditional agricultural production of fruits and olives/oil and so on. They had developed some light manufacturing to service the European auto industry spare parts market, for example. When I was there, however, this light industry position was threatened by lower cost production in Romania, Bulgaria, and the like in eastern Europe which was coming along.

Other businesspersons I met were hopeful of opportunities in neighboring Libya and down into Mauritania and so on in the region. Arab Spring it appears has swept some of this away in the revolutionary tide.

I visited a tiny rural school during another trip to the country. After meeting the teachers and children I was shown a little closet like space next to the classroom. Proudly, the principal announced that this was their computer room. I noted the computer said "Great Wall" on it. The principal said with a smile that the Ambassador from China had personally given it to the little school amongst the olive groves...

Babak Makkinejad

She was right; had you travelled more you would have noted that Tunisia is a creole civilization.

Clifford Kiracofe

Yes. I was able to visit Carthage, some Roman ruins, and so on on different visits. I would have liked to have had more time.One female tour guide was quick to point out the Phoenician tie and the story of Queen Dido. The people I met seemed to have a nuanced layered Mediterranean identity rather than a so-called "Arab" orientation. More Euro-Med and modern in outlook. Now they are beset with the medieval Muslim revivalists and the Salafis and all the rest. Too bad as it was a nice country with possibilities.

Babak Makkinejad

There is no such Mediterranean identity and proclaimation of it by Arabs in North Africa indicates how low the coinage of Arab and Islam have fallen.

That is, Arab or Muslim are thought not as prideful identities but rather shabby orientations to be discarded in favor of a fake and essentially Eurocentric idenity which only Arabs could take seriously while an authentic European would look at with bemused contempt.

These are signs of internal weakness, in my opinion, for a group of peole caught between an attractive but alien culture and authentic but rigid nativism.

Clifford Kiracofe

I do not understand your point.

The Euro Med project has been ongoing with ups and downs:

The Med has been a cultural crossroads for a few thousand years. In North Africa, of course, many cultures have interacted over the centuries. Berbers were in the area before the Arabs swept in. Various peoples have left their marks.

What is the identity you think Tunisians should have?

Babak Makkinejad

This Mediterranean identity does not exits; not in Barcelona, not in Corsica, not in Napoli, not in Marseille, not in Cadiz, and certainly no where among Southern states of the Mediterranean Sea.

Just what does a Muslim resident of Alexandria has in common with a Christian resident of Marseille?

The Euro-Med project is, in my opinion, an effort by Christian European states to give something to the littoral Arab states of the Mediterranean Sea and keep to keep them out of Europe.

Which makes sense since the cultures are not compatible.

That an area of the world has been a cross-road of cultures does not mean much as, at any given histiorical period, one culture has been the dominant one. In case of Europe, it has been an amalgamation of Germanic Tribal Culture, the Legacy of Rome, and Christianity. In case of Arabs (and Muslims) it has been Islam.

There is no common culture, a common maritime and climatic environment does not a common culture make - just look at India and Pakistan, US Southewest, Serbia/Croatia/Bosnia, and India/Bengal.

It is not my place to tell Tunisians or anyone else what culture to have. I can, however, opine that they, like the Turks, have no place in Europe and in the wider Western World. For them, it is an impossibility to be anything but Arab and Muslim no matter how much their intellectuals write in flawless French or sing about Dido and Aneas.

If you are from Brooklyn, you might like to learn something from Oxbridge crowd and incorporate those things into your own life; but you still remain a man from Brooklyn.

In a similar vein, I agree with Cardinal Bifi who did not believe that Turkey belonged in Europe.

Euro-Med is an artificial construct that has no basis in flesh and blood life of actual human beings.

Clifford Kiracofe

Are Sephardic Jews in the traditional community in Tunisia "Arab and Muslim"?

Are Berbers in North Africa "Arab"?

To help me understand your perspective, how do you define "Arab" and "Muslim"?

Would you argue that Christians and Jews be excluded from "Arab" and "Islamic" countries?

What about Syria in this context? What should the Syrian identity be? How do your concepts of culture apply to the present situation in Syria, the main subject of this thread?


"The Euro-Med project is, in my opinion, an effort by Christian European states to give something to the littoral Arab states of the Mediterranean Sea and keep to keep them out of Europe."

IMO it is best understood as a proactive immigration prevention program.

Babak Makkinejad

Yes, the Arabs Jews were Arab, just like the Iranian Jews in Beverly Hills with their separate Persian-speaking Temple.

Arab is anyone who speaks Arabic as their mother tongue.

Muslim is whomever bear witness to God and the Prophet.

I would not argue that Christains, Jews, and others be excluded from Muslim polities; that has not been the historical experience of Islamic states.

In Bengal, Pakistan, Mughal India, Ottoman Empire, Egypt, North Africa, Iran, the Levant, and Palestine have been historical communities of non-Muslims that lived for centuries within an Islamic Millieu.

It was the peneteration and adoption of European ideas regarding Nation & State that caused much disruption; first in Ottoman Empire and then among Arabs.

I cannot answer your question about Syria, Leabnese, or Iraq because there is no answer. There is no identity - Syrian, Iraqi, or Lebanese beyond the idea of citizenship in the Syrian, Lebanese, or Iraqi state - as defined by its territorial extent and its structure.

Same may be applied to Central Asian states or to Pakistan.

The effort spent on the creation of a common "nationality" (Syrian/Iraqi/Lebanese) is as futile as those of the Soviet Man or that of Yugoslav Man.

These states, in my opinion, can best be governed on a confessional basis - an improved version of Lebanon's system.

The closest Muslim state to a "Nation-State" model of Europe are, in my opinion, is the dictatorial Azeri Republic. LEt us see how long that will last while its leaders suporess all non-Azeris; such as Taleshis.


It's almost game over for the Syrian Air Force if the rebels got a good supply of SA-16s or SA-18s. And what happens when these missiles end up in Gaza, Lebanon, or Afghanistan?



This looks pretty bad. If the Islamist factions have got their hands on SA-24s, we're all in the deep world of hurt.




They may have captured SA-24 from the government and the numbers may be limited. pl

Clifford Kiracofe

Some data on Washington's terrorist ally al-Nusra:

"QALAT AL MUDIQ, Syria — When the group Jabhat al Nusra first claimed responsibility for car and suicide bombings in Damascus that killed dozens last January, many of Syria’s revolutionaries claimed that the organization was a creation of the Syrian government, designed to discredit those who opposed the regime of President Bashar Assad and to hide the regime’s own brutal tactics.

Nearly a year later, however, Jabhat al Nusra, which U.S. officials believe has links to al Qaida, has become essential to the frontline operations of the rebels fighting to topple Assad...."

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/12/02/176123/al-qaida-linked-group-syria-rebels.html#storylink=cpy

..."His accounts of the operations conducted by his wing of the Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra provide an exclusive and terrifying glimpse inside the most extreme wing of the Syrian rebellion – one which many members of the more secular Free Syrian Army loathe, and which may prove to be the West's worst nightmare.

They also give an insight into the further conflict to which Syria may descend, if or when the Assad regime finally falls.

The group, which has parallels with al-Qaeda, is the largest and most hardline of a score of jihadist organisations whose brutal methods – including beheadings – have shifted the dynamics of what had previously been a mostly moderate Sunni opposition."...


Its reassuring to know Washington's politicians have a warm and fuzzy fealing for those promoting democracy in Syria. Perhaps the Israelists at the State Department could write a speech for Hillary extolling the virtues of the democratic al-Nusra group.

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