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Sat Dec 22, 2012, 03:48 PM


Syria Rebels Threaten To Storm Christian Towns Of Mahrada, Sqailbiyeh

Source: AP

BEIRUT -- Rebels have threated to storm two predominantly Christian towns in central Syria if residents do not "evict" government troops they say are using the towns as a base to attack nearby areas.

A video released by rebels showed Rashid Abul-Fidaa, who identified himself as the commander of the Ansar Brigade for Hama province, calling on locals in Mahrada and Sqailbiyeh to rise up against President Bashar Assad's forces or prepare for an assault.

"Assad's gangs in the cities are shelling our villages with mortars and rockets destroying our homes, killing our children and displacing our people," said Abdul-Fidaa, who wore an Islamic headband and was surrounded by gunmen. "You should perform your duty by evicting Assad's gangs," he said. "Otherwise our warriors will storm the hideouts of the Assad gangs."

Abdul-Fidaa accused regime forces of taking positions in the two towns in order to "incite sectarian strife" between Christians and the predominantly Sunni opposition. Assad belongs to the Alawite minority sect, an off-shoot of Shiite Islam.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/22/syria-rebels-storm-christian-towns_n_2352105.html

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Reply Syria Rebels Threaten To Storm Christian Towns Of Mahrada, Sqailbiyeh (Original post)
UnrepentantLiberal Dec 2012 OP
leveymg Dec 2012 #1
pinto Dec 2012 #2
humblebum Dec 2012 #3
Ikonoklast Dec 2012 #4
humblebum Dec 2012 #5
Ikonoklast Dec 2012 #7
humblebum Dec 2012 #9
Alamuti Lotus Dec 2012 #8
pampango Dec 2012 #11
leveymg Dec 2012 #13
Alamuti Lotus Dec 2012 #14
leveymg Dec 2012 #15
UnrepentantLiberal Dec 2012 #6
David__77 Dec 2012 #10
UnrepentantLiberal Dec 2012 #12

Response to UnrepentantLiberal (Original post)

Sat Dec 22, 2012, 04:06 PM

1. "You're either with us or against us."

These are our Friends in Syria at work.

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Response to UnrepentantLiberal (Original post)

Sat Dec 22, 2012, 04:06 PM

2. What a convoluted situation. I know some Syrian Orthodox ex-pats here.

They have very little positive comment on the Assad regime. Far from it. Yet, historically the Alawites have been seen as a safety buffer for their communities, fwiw. My friends say that all who have the means to leave have been leaving for a long time.

(ed for grammar)

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Response to UnrepentantLiberal (Original post)

Sat Dec 22, 2012, 04:22 PM

3. It doesn't take too much imagination to see where this is headed. Another Islamist state.nt


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Response to humblebum (Reply #3)

Sat Dec 22, 2012, 05:08 PM

4. It will be up to them to decide what form their government should take.

Why should it be any other way?

Self-determination takes many different forms. We have no problem in dealing with Saudi Arabia, a kingdom that is also an Islamic state.

Officially so.

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Response to Ikonoklast (Reply #4)

Sat Dec 22, 2012, 05:31 PM

5. Did I ever suggest that it was not up to them to decide. And I did not say an "Islamic" state.


I said "Islamist" - huge difference. Al Qaeda has allied itself with the rebels. Not exactly noted for fostering democracy.

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Response to humblebum (Reply #5)

Sat Dec 22, 2012, 06:00 PM

7. And as I noted, Saudi Arabia is officially an Islamic state.

Huge difference, indeed.

We seem to have no problem in dealing with them despite the fact that Islam is their chosen state religion.

Even though they will imprison you for trying to distribute a KJV.

And is the farthest thing from a democracy as can be, they're ruled by a freakin' KING.

So, which is worse?

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Response to Ikonoklast (Reply #7)

Sat Dec 22, 2012, 06:20 PM

9. I would venture to say that many are expecting a Mustafa Kamal to emerge, but


the recent developments in Arab Spring (now Arab Winter) countries points to much uncertainty for the entire Islamic world.

So, which is worse? Which is going to encourage radical Islamic Jihad around the world?

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Response to Ikonoklast (Reply #4)

Sat Dec 22, 2012, 06:09 PM

8. It mostly is *not* up to the Syrian people to decide...


...it has already largely been decided by powerful foreign forces--such as the wahhabi dictators in Saudi Arabia and Qatar (which I have a big problem that "we" deal with), aided by the US-backed military in Turkey.

The one bright spot in the so-called (and falsely so) "revolutionaries" was that the initial opposition was covertly and overtly run by the Muslim Brotherhood--which has so effectively discredited itself as a movement in its misrule of Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt that it has almost permanently spent itself as a force (80 years of preparation spent in 18 months!). However, the Qatari-backed Ikhwanis (despite foreign recognition by the NATO countries and the Gulf dictators) are losing traction on the ground to the salafi jihadis backed by the Saudis and Lebanese "March 14" factions. The so-called Free Syrian Army and its exile umbrella groups with recognition by the NATO countries are declining, the more prominent armed factions at the moment are the Free Sunni Army, Asbat al-Ansar, Fat'h al-Islam, Jabhat an-Nusra, etc. Their leaders and fighters work and call for the "cleansing" of the Nusayris, Christians, Jaafaris, etc from the areas they conquer. Early on they pioneered "peaceful protest" slogans such as "Christians to Beirut, Alawites to the grave"--they have since advanced this idea to its more logical and horrifyingly rational conclusions. That is overlooked or appreciated by the major powers--with a couple erstwhile unprincipled exceptions, like Russia, but with the enthusiastic support by the NATO countries and Gulf dictators.

Do you actually think that "self-determination" is actually even remotely in the cards?

The lengths that these forces and the Obama government are willing to go just in order to hurt the Iran-friendly powers is astounding and disturbing.

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Response to Alamuti Lotus (Reply #8)

Sat Dec 22, 2012, 08:25 PM

11. UN: Vast majority of abuses are committed by government forces.

The opposition is indeed a mixed bag but the Assad government is a true dictatorship that will do anything to retain power.

The latest update of the report issued by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria once again sheds a harsh light on the tragedy being suffered by the Syrian people in the face of a regime that is prepared to use all forms of violence just to ensure its survival.

The commission confirms massive violations of human rights and all rules of international humanitarian law, largely attributable to the Damascus regime’s forces. The commission of inquiry has also documented serious violations committed by the armed opposition groups but they bear no comparison to the scale of those committed by the government forces.

The report denounces the government’s use of heavy weapons against the opposition groups and the civilian populations in indiscriminate attacks involving a disproportionate level of violence. The government forces continue to directly target the civilian populations through their ground operations and their aerial bombings, in complete violation of the law of armed conflict.


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Response to pampango (Reply #11)

Sat Dec 22, 2012, 10:18 PM

13. That's the French Gov't spin on the report. Here's the actual summary, which blames both sides, and

points out the increasingly sectarian nature of the civil war and the growing role of foreign fighters in human rights abuses. The French summary grossly distorts the contents of the UN report which provides a more balanced view of two sides that both commit widespread human rights violations.

Media centre

Syria Commission of Inquiry releases new update

Arabic - French

GENEVA (20 December 2012) – The independent international Commission of Inquiry on Syria on Thursday released its latest periodic update, covering the period 28 September to 16 December 2012.

The new 10-page update – the latest in a series of reports and updates produced by the Commission since it began its work in August 2011 -- paints a bleak picture of the devastating conflict and continuing international human rights and humanitarian law violations taking place in Syria.

It describes the unrelenting violence resulting in many thousands of dead and wounded, and also focuses on arbitrary detention and disappearances, huge displacement and the massive physical destruction in Syria. It describes how World Heritage sites have been damaged or destroyed, as well as entire neighbourhoods of several of the country’s biggest cities. Civilians continue to bear the brunt as the front lines between Government forces and the armed opposition have moved deeper into urban areas.

The Commission, which comprises Mr. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro (Chair), Ms. Karen AbuZayd, Ms. Carla del Ponte and Mr. Vitit Muntarbhorn, has been mandated by the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate and record all violations of international human rights law. The Commission has also been tasked with investigating allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and its mandate was recently expanded to include “investigations of all massacres.”

Although the Syrian Government has still not allowed the Commission to undertake investigations inside Syria, the Commissioners and their staff have interviewed a total of just under 1,200 witnesses and victims, including some 100 during the period covered by the latest update.

The update describes the increasingly sectarian nature of the conflict, with Government forces and supporting militias attacking Sunni civilians, and reports of anti-Government armed groups attacking Alawites and other pro-Government minority communities, including Catholics, Armenian Orthodox and Druze. Some minority communities, including Christians, Kurds and Turkmen, have also been caught up in the conflict, and in some cases forced to take up arms for their own defence or to take sides.

The presence of foreign fighters, some with links to extremist groups, and the radicalisation of some of the Syrian anti-Government fighters is highlighted.

The numbers of refugees and internally displaced people are already huge, and expected to swell further in the coming months if current trends continue. The onset of winter poses particular risk both to the displaced and to those living in dire conditions in Syria’s many devastated cities, towns, and villages.


The full 10-page update can be viewed at: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/SY/ColSyriaDecember2012.pdf

The Commission of Inquiry will present its fourth report to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2013.

All the Commission of Inquiry’s reports and updates since August 2011 can be viewed at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/SYIndex.aspx

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Response to pampango (Reply #11)

Sat Dec 22, 2012, 10:41 PM

14. there are some ommissions in that highly biased review


The French gov't may not have much of a problem with the kidnappings, beheadings, carbombings, attacks on civilian aviation, sectarian massacres, and other daily activities of the largely Salafi-jihadi opposition, but I do. The recent events at Aqrab` (kidnapping and execution of large number of Alawite civilians, false stories under torture put out for the sympathetic press to lap up and repeat verbatim) places an exclamation point on precisely what the opposition is up to these days.

Of course, the French gov't does not have much of a problem with this, because they're looking to do business with these forces after the presumed fall of the present government. They've made their bed and now need to lie constantly in the hope that nobody notices the blood stains on that bed.

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Response to Alamuti Lotus (Reply #14)

Sun Dec 23, 2012, 10:00 AM

15. US and France source of reports that gave the world a lasting, one-sided impression of the Syrian

Last edited Mon Dec 24, 2012, 07:30 PM - Edit history (17)

civil war, as told through the eyes of opposition propagandists we had trained.

Media coverage of Syria has been a triumph of perception management that has only recently just started to be balanced by more accurate on-the-ground reporting of atrocities and gross human rights violations by both sides. Nonetheless, the false initial impression of the conflict as rooted in unprovoked military attacks on "unarmed demonstrators" and helpless regime opponents still persists and is widely held to this day. Those who continue to believe that the U.S had little or no role in the Syrian uprising, in particular, should continue reading here, as they have been misinformed or disinformed.

Misinformation about the origins and nature of the Syrian civil war took hold for a number of reasons. Some of it long preceded the Arab Spring, and has to do with Syria's history as a Soviet client state and its repeated conflicts with Israel. But, the tilted framing of the Syria civil war was particularly effective because a large portion of American news coverage of the insurrection has consisted in little more than unverifiable press statements about casualties handed out by exile groups such as the oft-cited Syrian "Observatory for Human Rights" in London. But that organization, like most of the exile media is part of a large, well-funded and western trained perception management network. The news feed is choreographed by the same western-supported opposition groups that sparked the insurrection. What we see and think we know about Syria is largely feedback from the propagandists we, ourselves, have been training for years to bring down the Assad regime.

Much of what western audiences think they know about Syria is rooted to the sole sourcing and bias in Syria reporting originating in opposition media. That is not an accident or oversight. It occurred because the US, UK, French and Sunni Arab governments invested hundreds of millions in supporting, training and equipping these same Syrian exile groups and building their propaganda apparatus. The US-funded components of that project in recent years was funneled through the U.S. State Department Bureau of Human Rights and Labor (DRL) and the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), programs that had a heavy media training component. See, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/world/wikileaks-syria/cable1.html Those programs built upon years of covert propaganda and psychological operations designed to undermine the Syrian regime, propaganda originally directed at foreign audiences, by law not intended to influence U.S. audiences.

A few major U.S. newspapers provided some coverage of this and context to the images and reports coming out of Syria. In mid-April last year, as horrifying and confused images of mass demonstrations and regime crackdown was first reaching American television screens and Internet sites, the Washington Post carried an interesting story, "Wikileaks: U.S. secretly backed Syrian opposition," http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-502223_162-20054781.html

The State Department has secretly financed Syrian political opposition groups and related projects, including a satellite TV channel that beams anti-government programming into the country, according to previously undisclosed diplomatic cables.

The London-based satellite channel, Barada TV, began broadcasting in April 2009 but has ramped up operations to cover the mass protests in Syria as part of a long-standing campaign to overthrow the country's autocratic leader, Bashar al-Assad. Human rights groups say scores of people have been killed by Assad's security forces since the demonstrations began March 18; Syria has blamed the violence on "armed gangs."

Barada TV is closely affiliated with the Movement for Justice and Development, a London-based network of Syrian exiles. Classified U.S. diplomatic cables show that the State Department has funneled as much as $6 million to the group since 2006 to operate the satellite channel and finance other activities inside Syria.

< . . .>

(C)ables, provided by the anti-secrecy Web site WikiLeaks, show that U.S. Embassy officials in Damascus became worried in 2009 when they learned that Syrian intelligence agents were raising questions about U.S. programs. Some embassy officials suggested that the State Department reconsider its involvement, arguing that it could put the Obama administration's rapprochement with Damascus at risk.

Syrian authorities "would undoubtedly view any U.S. funds going to illegal political groups as tantamount to supporting regime change," read an April 2009 cable signed by the top-ranking U.S. diplomat in Damascus at the time. "A reassessment of current U.S.-sponsored programming that supports anti-(government) factions, both inside and outside Syria, may prove productive," the cable said.
It is unclear whether the State Department is still funding Syrian opposition groups, but the cables indicate money was set aside at least through September 2010. While some of that money has also supported programs and dissidents inside Syria ...

As fighting broke out across Syria in the Spring, the focus of this propaganda machine was simply turned toward western audiences, regardless of its avowed original purposes and prohibitions as material supposedly quarantined for broadcast and influence operations abroad.

Support, training and control over Syrian opposition groups has its origins in the Cold War, but got a major boost in 2006 after the Bush Administration broke off its engagement with the Assad regime, and redoubled US funded and international efforts to undermine and overthrow the Damascus regime. According to The UK Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/12/syrian-opposition-doing-the-talking

When large-scale international military action is being called for, it seems only reasonable to ask: who exactly is calling for it? We can say, simply, "an official SNC spokesperson," or we can look a little closer.

This year was (Syrian opposition leader Bassma) Kodmani's second Bilderberg. At the 2008 conference, Kodmani was listed as French; by 2012, her Frenchness had fallen away and she was listed simply as "international" – her homeland had become the world of international relations.

Back a few years, in 2005, Kodmani was working for the Ford Foundation in Cairo, where she was director of their governance and international co-operation programme. The Ford Foundation is a vast organisation, headquartered in New York, and Kodmani was already fairly senior. But she was about to jump up a league. Around this time, in February 2005, US-Syrian relations collapsed, and President Bush recalled his ambassador from Damascus. A lot of opposition projects date from this period. "The US money for Syrian opposition figures began flowing under President George W Bush after he effectively froze political ties with Damascus in 2005," says the Washington Post.

In September 2005, Kodmani was made the executive director of the Arab Reform Initiative (ARI) – a research programme initiated by the powerful US lobby group, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). The CFR is an elite US foreign policy thinktank, and the Arab Reform Initiative is described on its website as a "CFR Project" . More specifically, the ARI was initiated by a group within the CFR called the "US/Middle East Project" – a body of senior diplomats, intelligence officers and financiers, the stated aim of which is to undertake regional "policy analysis" in order "to prevent conflict and promote stability". The US/Middle East Project pursues these goals under the guidance of an international board chaired by General (Ret.) Brent Scowcroft.

For months, all we saw in the U.S. media from Syria was a direct feed from opposition spokesmen based in Paris and London reported via the Gulf Arab media. Almost all the details cited and images were based in statements and video produced by these exile groups who omitted mention and reference to the violence and atrocities committed by the opposition, conflating all casualties in the conflict as having been caused by the regime. That was never the case, going back to the first killings of police by armed mobs and snipers in the southern city of Dara'a in early April 2011 that sparked the civil war. Contrary to the prevailing impression, the number of regime mortalities, 19 dead policemen and a paramedic, in the crucial first battles in Dara'a exceeded the number of supposedly unarmed anti-regime protestors. See, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/09/world/middleeast/09syria.html?_r=0; also, see, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Syrian_civil_war_%28January%E2%80%93April_2011%29

American audiences were particularly receptive to inaccurate, one-sided view because many in the US wanted to believe the rhetoric about "humanitarian intervention" and an "Arab Spring" that was the short-lived vogue in Washington. Now, a more sober realistic view has begun to settle in, and we are beginning to realize that regime change has long-term costs that can be extremely high.

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Response to humblebum (Reply #3)

Sat Dec 22, 2012, 05:46 PM

6. It will not be surprising if this leads to ethnic and religious warfare


when the Assad regime is toppled.

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Response to UnrepentantLiberal (Original post)

Sat Dec 22, 2012, 07:27 PM

10. Syrian Christendom is being extinguished with US support.

Just as happened in Iraq. Why is the US support - quite openly - a theocratic insurgency against one of the more liberal societies? Why did it do so in Afghanistan? Well, that was due to block-headed anticommunism. This case of Syria makes even less sense.

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Response to David__77 (Reply #10)

Sat Dec 22, 2012, 10:11 PM

12. Syrian Christians Face Bleak Christmas


By James Brooke
Voice of America
Dec 22, 2012

Christmas trees and lights decorate this city on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean. As Christmas approaches, however, Syria's 2 million Christians are not celebrating. They are worrying. If an Islamist government replaces the secular government of Bashar al-Assad, they wonder what the future will be for Syria's religious minorities.

Daniel, an Armenian Orthodox, escaped from Syria three months ago with his wife and five children. "I had to come here. Because we as a Christian sect are targeted. Salafis and Muslim Brotherhood, and al-Qaida people, came and displaced us," he said.

Tolerance fades

Before the civil war, he said, Syria was a secular nation of religious tolerance. ”At the garage where I worked, there were Armenians, Christians, Muslims,” Daniel, a 48-year-old car mechanic, said. ”We ate together, I would go eat at their place. We would not ask if someone was Muslim or Christian.”

After Egypt, Syria has the second largest population of Christians in the Arab world - about 2 million people.

More: http://www.voanews.com/content/syrian_christians_face_bleak_christmas/1570239.html

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