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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Up to 50,000 Syrians are believed to have fled into Lebanon last week




Robert Fisk: Sectarianism bites into Syria's rebels

The deathwish of fighters in Damascus terrifies many who oppose Assad




A young Syrian turned up just over a week ago at a smart office block in Beirut with a terrifying message. Without giving his name, he said he wanted to speak to another Syrian who worked in the office, a well-educated man who left his country months ago. The visitor was taken upstairs and introduced himself. "I was sent to you by the shebab," he said – shebab might be translated as "the youth" or "the guys" and it meant he worked for the armed Syrian opposition – "and we need your help.”


His story was as revealing as it was frightening. Damascus was about to be attacked. But the fighters were out of control. There were drug addicts among them. "Some of our people are on drugs," the visitor said. "They will take anyone out. We can't guarantee what some of these men will do. If they went into Malki [a mixed, middle-class area of central Damascus], we couldn't protect any of the people who live there. We are against the Salafists who are fighting – there are good Syrians, Druze and Ishmaeilis [Alawites] who are with us. But if we capture Damascus, we don't know how to run a small town, let alone a country.”

It was a true civil war story. There were bad guys among the good guys and good guys among the bad. But sectarianism is biting into the Syrian revolution. At the end of last week, one Syrian told me that "they are bayoneting people in the villages around Damascus". Women, they say, have been raped outside the city of Homs – one estimate puts the number of victims as high as 200 – and the rapists are on both sides. The Syrian in Beirut knew all this and gave his visitor the following advice.

"Organise neighbourhood committees, well-dressed men who must be clearly identified and who must protect everyone, Christians, Druze, Sunnis, Alawites, everyone.”

Five days later, the same Syrian received a phone call from an unidentified man in Damascus. "Boss, take your family out of Damascus. Give my phone number to your mum – she can call me if she has trouble on the way to the Lebanese border."
Up to 50,000 Syrians are believed to have fled into Lebanon last week. The man's mother was not among them; she could find no one to take her the 40 miles to safety.

The stories coming out of Syria now are of suspicion, chaos and death. President Bashar al-Assad's personal jet left Damascus on Wednesday night for the coastal town of Lattakia. Was Bashar fleeing his capital? No. It transpired the plane was carrying the body of his murdered brother-in-law, Assaf Shawkat, for burial near his native city of Tartous. In Lebanon, Sunni Muslims were already wildly celebrating his death. For it is Shawkat – his name actually appeared in a UN report that was later censored – who is widely believed to have planned and ordered the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, whose convoy was bombed in Beirut on 14 February 2005. Hariri, a Sunni, had fallen out with Assad over Syria's role in Lebanon. Shawkat was the hatchet-man. Now the bomber had been bombed to death himself.

Two months ago, it is said in Damascus, there was an attempt to poison Shawkat and the two other men who were assassinated with him last week, General Daoud Rajha, the Christian defence minister, and the Sunni general, Hassan Turkmani, head of Assad's "crisis cell". But the cook put 15 poison tablets into their food rather than the prescribed five – such was his enthusiasm – and the men could taste the food was bad. The cook escaped. This is the most accurate of several "poisoning" stories, but there is no reason to disbelieve it. There is nothing new in treachery in the regime. Bashar's uncle Rifaat – now residing in Mayfair – twice tried to stage a military coup against Bashar's father, Hafez.

Bashar Assad received some advice last month from a Syrian with whom he is acquainted: if he ended his strikes against civilians, the Europeans would be content to let him remain in power for at least two more years – because the west wanted direct oil pipelines from Qatar and Saudi Arabia via Jordan and Syria to the Mediterranean in order to end Russia's stranglehold on Europe's gas and oil. Assad's reply came in his last speech. "There are people with patriotic intentions," he said. "But they don't know the nature of the conflict." All the evidence suggests that it is Assad himself who has not grasped the "nature" of this conflict.

Two of his relatives, however, do apparently understand it. Mohamed Makhlouf, the president's uncle on his mother's side, and his son Rami, Assad's first cousin, have been seeking a deal with the French government to allow them to live in exile in Paris if the regime collapses. The Makhloufs have been at the centre of the government's corruption in Syria and they are one of the reasons for the revolt and its 17,000 fatalities. For despite the dictatorship and its secret police apparatus, corruption was the glue that held the regime together.

Northern Syria, for example, has always been a vast smuggling zone, a place where every man in almost every family owned a rifle – this was one reason why the Assads always appointed tough former military men as provincial governors in the Aleppo region – and goods flowed from Turkey through Syria to Jordan and the Gulf. But once Syria's economy began to slide, the mutual corruption of state and banditry, and between a minority Alawite-led regime and its favourites in the Christian and majority Sunni communities, meant that the glue began to melt.

If this initially took the form of unarmed demonstrations across the country – provoked by the torture and murder of a 13-year-old boy by secret policemen in Deraa in March last year – armed men did appear rapidly on the streets of some towns. There is video footage of gunmen on the streets of Deraa that same month and al-Jazeera footage of armed men fighting Syrian troops just across the northern border of Lebanon in April 2011. Mysteriously, al-Jazeera chose not to broadcast it.
Now, of course, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, where al-Jazeera is based, make no secret of the funds and weapons they are running into Turkey and Lebanon for the resistance – without apparently caring very much who the "resisters" are. The Lebanese army managed to stop one out of five shiploads of guns, but the others, carried on Sierra Leone-registered vessels, were able to unload.

One of the two organisations that claimed responsibility for last week's Damascus bombing, Liwa Islam – the Islam Brigade – raises again the Salafist element in Syria's armed opposition. One newly arrived refugee from Syria told me last week that they have forbidden alcohol and openly say they intend to die fighting in Damascus. Given the savage response of the Syrian regime, they may get their last wish.

54 comments:

  1. But once Syria's economy began to slide, the mutual corruption of state and banditry, and between a minority Alawite-led regime and its favourites in the Christian and majority Sunni communities, meant that the glue began to melt.

    Another EX-Oil Exporter bites the dust.

    ReplyDelete
  2. If you notice on the second video, those troops are going back into an upper middle class area, the targets of much of the rebels. This is the class that is on the move to flee Syria. Whenever this happens a critical tipping point of flight capital and professionals is reached and then all holy hell breaks open as the real thuggery begins. There is nothing we can afford do to stop it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Police are investigating two separate shootings that left a 32-year-old man critically wounded in West Philadelphia, and an 11-year-old boy hospitalized in stable condition after he was shot in North Philadelphia.

    Shots were fired on Parkside Avenue near 52nd Street around 9:45 p.m., police said.

    A man was wounded once in the lower side of his back and was taken by medics to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

    Shortly after that incident, an 11-year-old boy suffered a graze wound to his right leg when he was shot on 11th Street near Norris, near the eastern edge of Temple University's campus in North Philadelphia at 10:03 p.m., police said.

    He was taken to St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children and was listed in stable condition.

    Cops were unsure of the motives behind the shootings, and detailed descriptions of the suspects were not immediately available.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The non-issue dejour



    Mitt Romney’s refusal to release more than one year of his tax records – and the political price he is paying for that decision – has opened the door to all sorts of theories about what might lie inside.


    Romney should ignore this. It will not cost him 100 votes.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Don't think so, Deuce. I think that issue has big-time legs. It will, quite likely, cost him the election. Obama's picked up about two points since he started hammering on the tax returns, and the offshore accounts.

    People may not understand a lot about "carried interest," but they understand Swiss Bank Accounts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mitt should release the specific part of his tax returns called "donations to charity"

      Mitt has donated millions, Obama and Biden? They have tossed sweat soaked scarves to the masses...

      Delete
  6. No, Romney has lost points because he lets Obama use him as a sparring partner. Romney better learn the strategy of a counter puncher. Obama is predictable and for a boxer, they make the best opponents. The same in politics.The easiest punches to counter are the ones you know are coming and in Obama’s case (better yet), tele-prompted. Romney needs to learn how to set him up, trap him and then punish the living shit out of him with counters. He needs to sting his skinny ass and get him flustered. The difference between a champ and a chump.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Last week, Obama through a cross hook that missed with his comment about the creators of wealth owing the creation to the government. Obama tripped on his shoe laces and was completely off balance. Romney should be hammering Obama mercilessly instead of returning to his corner for a rubdown.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Romney's only chance is a quickening deterioration of the Economy. It's a not insignificant possibility.

    ReplyDelete
  9. WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — All evidence points to another slowdown in the U.S. economy and the government is expected to make it official on Friday.

    The key economic report of the week, gross domestic product, is likely to show growth fizzled in the second quarter. The U.S. probably grew at a tepid 1.3%, down from 1.9% in the first quarter and 3.0% in the last three months of 2011, Economists surveyed by MarketWatch estimate.

    That’s bad news for millions of Americans who still cannot find work several years after the last recession officially ended. Such a slow growth rate reflects an economy incapable of adding jobs fast enough to dramatically lower the nation’s 8.2% unemployment rate.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, slowing GDP is a bad thing, but this is the important metric - at least for the 99%:

      Median Household Income

      Delete
  10. You said once, Rufus, that even I could beat Obama. I returned the compliment and said even you could beat Obama.

    Now that you are a partisan you are singing a different tune.

    Let not your heart be troubled. Romney is going to win big time.

    He's pissed everyone except the illegal aliens off, especially the white working class.

    b

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He, being Obama, of course.

      Delete
    2. Yup, Obama.

      Here is one of dozens of articles around these days as to why Obama is going to lose --

      http://news.yahoo.com/us-poverty-track-rise-highest-since-1960s-112946547--finance.html?_esi=1

      People aren't going to vote for poverty. And Bush is four years gone, and Romney looks to be a success to folks in making things work.


      b

      Delete
  11. and this, all indications that you may be right:

    LOS ANGELES (MarketWatch) -- The International Monetary Fund is expected to cut off further rescue aid to troubled Greece, reports said Sunday. The move is likely to lead to debt-saddled Greece's insolvency in September. Reports say Greece will not be able to meet debt-reduction targets by 2020, meanign the country will need $60.8 billion in additional aid. But other European nations are unwilling to keep funding the nation, reports said.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thank you for voting!
    Tells crowd that there are "para-legals if they feel weak from the heat." 1.37% (54 votes)

    “I’ve cut taxes every year that I’ve been President by $3,600 for the typical middle-class family.” 2.41% (95 votes)

    (((((((((((("If you’ve got a business. you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen." 93.57% (3,681 votes) )))))))))))))

    Flubs Kiss-Cam at sporting event, arranges for re-do for the press 1.65% (65 votes)

    "That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam." 0.99% (39 votes)


    Total Votes: 3,934

    Obamateurism of the Week Poll


    That quote will be remembered by history.

    b

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That your own family, boob, can credit the Federal land grant to your forebears for all of it's current wealth, well, it vindicates Mr Obama's statement about no one "building it" on their own.

      The boys at Little Big Top, Omaha Beach and Hue City had a lot to do with the success of every business in the United States.

      But then again, you never served nor sacrificed for the "greater good".
      So you discount what others have done for you and yours.

      Delete
    2. Go fuck off you disgusting moron.

      And by the way, you know nothing of Ernest Hemingway. Unsurprisingly, for if a fool looks into a series of creative books, one can't expect a genius to look back out.

      Delete
    3. well said bob....

      Remember those that claim to have served by no means have served. Lying about "serving" is now legal.

      Delete
  13. Obama will be remembered for the Affordable Care Act. As Joe B. said, "it is a f'n big deal."

    ReplyDelete
  14. It's almost impossible to draw up a winning electoral scenario for Romney w/o a win in Ohio, and Ohio manufactures Cars and Windmills, and produces Ethanol.

    I think this period will be considered by Historians as " the time the Republicans lost their collective minds."

    ReplyDelete
  15. The only good news for Romney is he's running against Obama. The Good news for Obama is "he's running against Romney."

    ReplyDelete
  16. Median Household Income Peaked in 1999. Nineteen Ninety-Nine!

    The Median Household makes seven percent (adjusted for inflation) LESS than it did 13 years ago.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Add in higher fuel costs, and the median family is easily down by over 10%.

      Delete
  17. In an era of banksters and wall streeters raking in hundreds of millions while the rest slide backwards you bet Romney's money history matters!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Was listening to a reporter for a financial paper the other day, concerning Mr Romney and his taxes.

    Beyond the foreign accounts and carried interest and the 23 years of returns that Mitt made available to Mr McCain.
    Seems likely, the reporter opined, that Mitt lost a considerable amount of money in '08 and carried some of that loss into '09. The sources the reported interviewed said that based upon the "norm" for private equity investors Mr Romney could easily have paid "0" in Federal income taxes in '09.

    Given his lifestyle and desire to be President this would not play well in Peoria.

    This legal tax avoidance will become the perception of reality if he does not release the returns for '08 and '09.
    If he does release the returns and he did not pay more than 14% of his income in Federal tax, this will become a policy issue of great import. Especially as Mr Romney wants to lower the tax burden on his wealthy peers.

    That he took a $77,000 write off for his wife's horse hobby, in '10, just the tip of the tax avoidance iceberg.

    ReplyDelete
  19. The Caymans have no income tax. A profit made by Mitt's Cayman-based company might easily show up on Romney's tax return as untaxed. All this would not set well with John Q.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. .

      How much is stashed away in foreign accounts?

      This Study Says A Lot.

      .

      Delete
    2. .

      The sheer size of the cash pile sitting out of reach of tax authorities is so great that it suggests standard measures of inequality radically underestimate the true gap between rich and poor. According to Henry's calculations, £6.3tn of assets is owned by only 92,000 people, or 0.001% of the world's population – a tiny class of the mega-rich who have more in common with each other than those at the bottom of the income scale in their own societies.

      "These estimates reveal a staggering failure: inequality is much, much worse than official statistics show, but politicians are still relying on trickle-down to transfer wealth to poorer people," said John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network. "People on the street have no illusions about how unfair the situation has become."


      .

      Delete
    3. .

      The GOP answer is simple. As is their thought process.

      "If you don't want the rich to hide assets to avoid paying taxes, just don't ask them to pay taxes. Problem solved."

      Genius.

      .

      Delete
  20. For decades the Syrians have supported Palestinian terror groups from Damascus, they have supported Hezbollah and it's terror against the Lebanese, they (as a people and government) have murder and helped to murder and wound thousands of AMericans in Iraq. They have helped and support the Iranians in their murderous ways...

    What is happening to Syria now could not have happened to a more deserving culture, nation or people.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What happens in Syria, stays in Syria.

      Not a matter of great concern for the United States.

      That the Muslim Brotherhood will gain another Nation State and the WMD that Mr Assad had accumulated ...

      Not a mater of great concern to the United States, or we'd not be saying that Mr Assad ...
      ... "Has to Go".

      Delete
    2. Syria has murdered Americans across the globe. What happens in Syria has global reach..

      Just ask William Buckley, oh that's right he's dead... Or the Marine barracks, oh that's right that was blown apart...

      I do not advocate any America active action in Syria however the fact is the Syrians are shits and the shit cloud that is raining on them is well deserved

      Delete
  21. 50,000 US troops were killed in Vietnam.
    Those deaths are not proof that what happens in Vietnam was of significance to US interests nor does it prove that the Vietnamese have "global reach".

    The forty years since US withdrawal from Vietnam does prove that the US had little National interest in who ruled Vietnam.

    Same is true of Syria, Syrians and the daily comings and goings in the old Ottoman Empire.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For Whom the Bell Tolls...Sun Jul 22, 05:34:00 PM EDT

      I love the way the Rat changes the subject...

      Delete
    2. The subject was US National Interests.

      Then a remark was made on how the death of a single US citizen made Syria a threat to US interests with "Global Reach".

      That was rebutted using the Vietnam example and historical reality.

      Delete
    3. Don't count the bodies, just supply the welfare to those that live off the government doleSun Jul 22, 07:26:00 PM EDT

      Ever the misdirecting rodent...

      Delete
  22. .

    ...Lawyers acting for prisoners given mandatory life without parole sentences for murders they committed aged 13 to 17 are vowing to challenge the governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad, over his open defiance of a recent US supreme court ruling that bans such penalties.

    Branstad, a Republican, wielded his executive powers last week to ensure, in effect, that none of the 38 juvenile murderers in Iowa who were sentenced to die in captivity will ever become free. The governor commuted their sentences, as he is required to under the supreme court judgement issued in June that prohibits mandatory life without parole sentences for offenders convicted of murders they committed under the age of 18.

    But Branstad went on openly to confound the ruling of the highest court in the nation by imposing an alternative 60-year sentence on all of Iowa's 38 prisoners in that position. Taking their median age at the time of offences to be 15, that would mean that the first time these individuals could even apply for parole would be at the age of 75...


    .

    ReplyDelete
  23. I served, but you did not, so shut the fuck upSun Jul 22, 05:36:00 PM EDT

    The Supreme Court has deemed it legal to lie able being a "war hero"....

    We see the effects of that 1st amendment right on display at the EB

    ReplyDelete
  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dang, you're right.

      Was trying to get the one of the horse's ass, with the tail up, pointing at you.

      But my daughter just left.

      Delete
    2. Now I am going to try the 'delete' button, to the joy of you all.


      Here goes....

      Delete
    3. Pass!

      I'm in business.

      The two hours previous to that picture of the horse being taken were spent wetting, soaping, washing and combing the beast. First thing he does, let out to the pasture, is roll and roll on the ground. That is why he looks so dirty.

      Did you know you can clone gelded horses and then breed the clone?

      But, you can't breed a mule.

      Want to see the world famous Idaho cloned mule, Idaho Gem? That did well in mule racing?

      Check this out -

      https://www.google.com/search?q=picture+of+Idaho+Gem&hl=en&client=firefox-a&hs=YVm&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&prmd=imvns&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=RJIMUPW5F-ji2AXd1qXxDw&ved=0CFsQsAQ&biw=785&bih=457

      Delete
    4. Maybe try this -

      http://www.google.com/imgres?hl=en&client=firefox-a&hs=NZm&sa=X&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&biw=785&bih=457&tbm=isch&prmd=imvns&tbnid=UidZf2kQ9x-UVM:&imgrefurl=http://www.ruggedelegantliving.com/journal/categories/lifeSciences/&docid=OW8jE2G879CVEM&imgurl=http://www.ruggedelegantliving.com/journal/images/2003/05/30/idaho.mule.jpg&w=410&h=308&ei=MZMMUIO2H-7-2QWzsKjuDw&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=97&vpy=132&dur=828&hovh=195&hovw=259&tx=150&ty=90&sig=116121915094533998513&page=1&tbnh=124&tbnw=173&start=0&ndsp=8&ved=1t:429,r:0,s:0,i:76

      If that doesn't work, the heck with it.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idaho_Gem

      from wiki but no pici

      Delete
    5. .

      No need for a picture of a horses's ass. We have you.

      .

      Delete
    6. In civility thou seem'st so empty. A gratuitous, hurtful comment, worthy only of an unnatural beast, worthy only of a cloned mule, of a heartless, stubborn beast. The worm of conscience with never begin to begnaw thy shallow soul.

      Delete
  25. Replies
    1. The crapper is back, and the Bar will go to the shits again.

      Delete
  26. And it being a slow news day, I hear the casino calling...

    ReplyDelete