Syria: Russia fed up with mess

Makhlouf’s Facebook videos might help bolster the narrative of a Syrian system open to dissenting voices and create the image of a Syrian president opposed to corruption. The reality is more nuanced. Assad’s aim is not to eradicate any corrupt practices as such, but first and foremost to consolidate all financial resources in his hands and ensure that businesses contribute to the state budget in taxes, or contribute to Assad-linked financial entities, such as the Martyrs’ Fund.

Anton Mardasov


Tartus, Syria, Russian Navy

Both the Tartus and Latakia bases are set to be expanded to allow Russian armed forces higher levels of performance and functionality, said Yuri Shvitkin, the vice chair of the Russian state Duma defense committee.

“Tartus now has a rather limited functionality,” he told Interfax, adding that the port should become a fully-fledged navy base. In 2019, Moscow had already pledged millions of dollars to modernize the facility.

At Latakia, Shvitkin said Russia would like to separate the civilian section of the airport from the air force section to ensure better protection of its military and technology.

[May 26 2020]

James Jeffrey: In terms of getting Russia out of Syria, that has never been our goal. Russia has been there for 30 years. It has a long-term relationship with Syria. We don’t think it has been healthy for the region. We don’t think it really is even healthy for Russia. But that’s not our policy. Our policy right now is to restore the situation in 2011 before the conflict began, and that would eventually lead to all of the other military forces that have entered leaving. Ones were most interested in, of course, are the Iranians and the Iranian-commanded militias.

TEHERAN, May 17. /TASS/. Russian Ambassador to Iran Levan Dzhagaryan has refuted allegations that the Russian side is dissatisfied with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

[May 17 2020]

Special Representative for Syria Engagement and Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Ambassador James Jeffrey spoke by phone on May 14 with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin on the situation in Syria and on the importance of implementing UN Security Council Resolution 2254 to achieve a political settlement to the Syrian conflict.

rami-makhloufDirectly appealing to the president, his maternal cousin, in a 15-minute video, Rami Makhlouf claimed he had been ordered to pay up to 130bn Syrian pounds (£202m) in fines for tax fraud, a figure that he said could result in the “collapse” of his businesses.

In a video, the third he has issued bringing into the open a rift with his cousin Syrian President Bashar al Assad, Syrian tycoon Rami Makhlouf said that authorities had set a deadline for him to resign from top mobile operator Syriatel or they would revoke its licence but that he would not step down.

[May 1 2020]
He claimed his company paid 12bn Syrian pounds in tax last year and shares the profits equally with the state.
It is not known what first sparked the rift in the Assad family; however, there has been growing speculation that Russia, fed up with the protracted and expensive war in Syria, has increased pressure on the Syrian president.

Russia has been a key backer of Syrian government forces throughout the country’s civil war, but there have been a number of recent articles in Russian media criticising the Syrian president and endemic corruption in the country.

[October 22 2018 Damascus at peace ]
Damascus 11 18
This was the first summer since 2011 without the sound of fighting in Damascus. President Bashar al-Assad’s success in the war owes much to Russia, which entered the war on his side in 2015, and whose soldiers are now a common sight in government-held areas. Syria cannot afford a major rebuilding programme. Its closest allies, Russia and Iran, seem unlikely to foot the bill. Western nations will pay no cash without a political transition.

[December 03 2014 View from Baghdad: wrong al-Dulaimi ]

Saja Hamid al-Dulaimi, an Iraqi

Saja Hamid al-Dulaimi, an Iraqi

Members of the tribe known as Al-Dulaimi come originally from Anbar province in western Iraq, and held important positions in Saddam’s government, were professors and heads of departments in universities, judges and generals in the army as well as high-ranking officials in the now defunct Baath Party.

“The one detained by Lebanese authorities was Saja Abdul Hamid al-Dulaimi, sister of Omar Abdul Hamid al-Dulaimi who is detained by authorities and sentenced to death for his participation in … explosions,” ministry spokesman Brigadier General Saad Maan told Reuters.

“The wives of the terrorist al-Baghdadi are Asmaa Fawzi Mohammed al-Dulaimi and Esraa Rajab Mahel al-Qaisi, and there is no wife in the name of Saja al-Dulaimi.”

Maan said Saja Dulaimi had fled to Syria where she was detained by authorities. She was part of a group of female detainees freed in exchange for the release of a group of nuns captured by Islamist insurgents in Syria, he said

[December 2]
Lebanese security officials had reported earlier that al-Baghdadi’s wife and one son had been arrested more than a week ago while trying to enter Lebanon from Syria. But U.S. officials said that the child was a girl and that it remained unclear whether her mother was al-Baghdadi’s legal wife, common-law wife or former wife. [earlier]Saja Hamid al-Dulaimi, an Iraqi, a wife and her daughter of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was detained by Lebanese army as they crossed from Syria nine days ago. U.S. officials said they were looking into the reports from Lebanon. One official said that if one of Baghdadi’s wives or children were detained, the U.S. believes it could positively identify them, though the official would not say how. Details of her existence first emerged earlier this year following the release of 13 nuns who had been kidnapped by anti-government rebels from a Christian town in Syria.
The nuns were freed as part of a prisoner swap involving women who had been arrested by Syrian security forces. Media reports earlier this year claimed that one of those then released was Saja Hamid al-Dulaimi, who had reportedly been detained along with three of her children during an operation near the Syrian capital, Damascus.

[August 10 2013 Attack on Assad fails near Enas bin Malik mosque[
Assad was travelling to a mosque in the Damascus suburb of Malki, where he has an office and a residence, when the attack took place in the early morning. Residents confirmed to the Guardian that at least three mortars, or small rockets, landed as his convoy arrived at the Enas bin Malik mosque for prayers to mark the beginning of the three-day Islamic festival of Eid al-Fitr.

It is not clear whether the motorcade was hit. Syria’s information minister, Omran al-Zoubi, later denied any attack had taken place and said Assad was safe and well.

[June 4]

Participants compete in a game of ultimate frisbee during the 39th Air Base Wing Sports Day May 24, 2013, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Sports day was an event that brought Airmen together through sports and recreation. Airmen from several squadrons competed in friendly game.

the only hope for an acceptable political settlement in Syria lies in an intervention that would decisively shift the balance of Syria’s war — through arms supplies to the rebels and airstrikes to eliminate the regime’s air power. [WAPO May 30]

The apparent ease with which Israel struck missile sites and, by Syrian accounts, a major military research center near Damascus in recent days has stoked debate in Washington about whether American-led airstrikes are the logical next step to cripple President Bashar al-Assad’s ability to counter the rebel forces or use chemical weapons.
That option was already being debated in secret by the United States, Britain and France in the days leading to the Israeli strikes, according to American and foreign officials involved in the discussions.

David Sanger[May 6]

Russia has sent a dozen or more warships to patrol waters near its naval base in Syria, a buildup that U.S. and European officials see as a newly aggressive stance meant partly to warn the West and Israel not to intervene in Syria’s bloody civil war.

Russia’s expanded presence in the eastern Mediterranean, which began attracting U.S. officials’ notice three months ago, represents one of its largest sustained naval deployments since the Cold War. While Western officials say they don’t fear an impending conflict with Russia’s aged fleet, the presence adds a new source of potential danger for miscalculation in an increasingly combustible region.

“It is a show of force. It’s muscle flexing,” a senior U.S. defense official said of the Russian deployments. “It is about demonstrating their commitment to their interests.” [WSJ may 16]

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her delegation said they had frank words with President Bashar al-Assad, April 5, 2007

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her delegation said they had frank words with President Bashar al-Assad, April 5, 2007

Winning is living another day, and if you bring it down to that, (Assad) is. Civil wars since 1945 have lasted an average 10 years.
Some analysts are starting to draw parallels with the civil war in Lebanon, which dragged on from 1975-1990. After the amnesty in Lebanon, former militia warlords, now cemented as sectarian leaders, were able to place their supporters at all levels of national institutions. Insertion and amnesty gave peacetime legitimacy to militia fighters. Along with the persistence of ‘gun culture’ and predatory behaviour in society, militia fighters were able to pervade the administration, instead of becoming ‘civilianised’.

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, whose government was last year described as close to collapse by groups ranging from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to the armed opposition, may remain in power for years to come.
“The regime is still in place, strong and not going anywhere,” Julien Barnes-Dacey, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said in an interview. Widespread predictions of his demise reflected an “unwillingness to assess the regime’s strength, wishful thinking, a desire for a swift end, and a failure to recognize this is a civil war.”

[May 14]

30 MANPADS now in Syria, and number is growing

30 MANPADS now in Syria, and number is growing

According to American officials and nongovernmental groups that work in the region, the overwhelming majority of the rebels are fighting for an Islamic republic. Al Nusra, like the other Al Qaeda affiliates, wants to do away with the Syrian state altogether and reëstablish the Islamic caliphate. “The Islamists are the majority,’’ Elizabeth O’Bagy, an analyst for the Institute for the Study of War who has travelled to rebel-held areas several times, said. The small number of non-Islamists among the rebels are often socialists, she told me, and are referred to by their peers with an English word: “hippies.”
In April, Dempsey reversed his position on giving weapons to the rebels, telling the Senate Armed Services Committee that he was no longer sure the United States “could clearly identify the right people” to arm. “It is actually more confusing on the opposition side today than it was six months ago,’’ he said. The rise of Al Nusra has made it seem increasingly possible that what comes after Assad will be a regime led by hard-line Islamists or, perhaps more likely, a bloody fight for power among various rebel groups. C.I.A. operatives have begun helping more moderate rebels conduct operations against Al Nusra, according to an expert on the region. In May, the senior American official who is involved in Syria policy met me at his office in Washington. When I asked him to predict Syria’s future, he got up from his desk and walked over to a large map of the country which was tacked to his wall. “You could have a situation where the more secular rebel groups could well be fighting the more Islamist-oriented groups,” he said. “We are already getting that in places like Deir ez-Zor, in the east. In Aleppo, they fight each other.” Pointing to an area near the Turkish border, he said, “We see fighting between Kurdish and Arab militias up in the north.” Elsewhere, there were Druze militias, members of a small religious community most often associated with Lebanon. “They have had some clashes with the Free Syrian Army. And here is my favorite. Christians are now setting up their own militia.
“What does that sound like? Lebanon. But it’s Lebanon on steroids.” He walked back to his desk and sat down. “The Syria I have just drawn for you—I call it the Sinkhole,’’ he said. “I think there is an appreciation, even at the highest levels, of how this is getting steadily worse. This is the discomfort you see with the President, and it’s not just the President. It’s everybody.

Supporters of the regime and Hezbollah point out that the rebellion tolerates Sunni fundamentalist extremists whereas Assad and Hezbollah rely on a time-tested alliance of minorities, including Alawites, Christians, Druze, and Shiite Muslims. The propaganda of both sides has sharpened a narrative of the Syrian conflict as a struggle between Sunni extremists and old-style authoritarians, who at least protect the minorities they exploit. Deadly identity politics have taken root, and people on both sides of the conflict see it more and more as a matter of survival.
[April 30 2013]

Syria's NDF being formed for the endgame

Syria’s NDF being formed for the endgame

BEIRUT: U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly renewed April 30, 2013 04:59 PM her government’s call for the release of the two bishops recently kidnapped by gunmen in Syria, following a meeting with Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East John X.

Vatican Radio reports Shortly after confirming in some greek-orthodox priests living in Turkey their reunion in Syrian territory, the two bishops have become untraceable. While rumors continue to circulate rumors and uncontrolled and from time to time denied the imminent release of the two abducted bishops – the last one was dated on the morning of April 26 on several news sites Arabs – the identity of the kidnappers remains obscure. In the area between Aleppo and the Turkish border move factions and heterogeneous groups, often at war with each other. Meanwhile, from Jeddah, the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has condemned the kidnapping of the two bishops. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General of Pan-Islamic body, called for their release, “immediate and unconditional”, insisting that their seizure “contradicts the principles of authentic Islam, and the high status reserved to the Christian clergy in Islam.”

[April 23]
Two bishops who were abducted by gunmen in a rebel-held area of northern Syria have been released,. Christians made up about 10% of the mainly Sunni Muslim country’s population before the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began just over two years ago.

President Assad’s government has hoped to retain their loyalty, based on a shared fear of what might happen if Sunni Muslims take over the country.

But some Christians have chosen to join the opposition – including George Sabra, the newly appointed leader of the opposition coalition.

[April 22]
Two Aleppian bishops were kidnapped by Syrian rebels in the outskirts of the city April 21, Yaziji, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo and Iskandaroun and Yuhanna Ibrahim, the Syrian-Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo.
Sunday, 24 March 2013, Chaldean Catholic Bishop Antoine Audo repeatedly referred to the war as a “confessional conflict” between the minority Alawite Shiites and the country’s Sunni Muslim majority. He insisted Christians have not been targeted as Christians, except in some kidnapping cases, because Christians are thought to have more money.

How to back the Syrian rebels enough to induce the stubborn regime to negotiate a controlled transition, but not enough to trigger an abrupt regime collapse which might allow the radicals to take over.
Assad’s National Defence Forces started out as popular committees patrolling their neighborhoods. Then they became armed groups. And in late 2012, they were legitimized under the name National Defence Forces (NDF). Army officers belonging mainly to the minority Alawite sect, to which Assad himself belongs, sit uncomfortably in charge of a conscript army of men who are mostly from Syria’s majority Sunni Muslims. Officers wary of their own recruits say they can create a more reliable force out of irregular loyalist militias spread across the country.Most NDF fighters are Alawites, but many Christians and Druze have joined as well.
it is not hard to imagine the emergence of an informal – possibly even formal – union between Sunni parts of western Iraq and a Sunni-dominated Syria, as the region slides into a kind of sectarian and ethnic balkanisation whose fault-lines are already visible.
The survival of the Assad regime [without Assad and his family], or its transition into something retaining many of its pluralistic traits and structures, is the only serious obstacle to that process.

[April 16]

Syrian Army gradually losing control

Syrian Army gradually losing control

Two years into the uprising against Assad, government forces are fighting hard to maintain control of cities. Many rural areas and provincial towns have fallen to the rebels. Aleppo, formerly a business hub, is locked in a stalemate between the rival forces.

.   Fahd Jassem al-Freij, minister of defense.

. Fahd Jassem al-Freij, minister of defense.

Dawoud Rajha was assassinated in 18 July 2012 Damascus bombing at the Syrian National Security Building at Rawda Square, Damascus. Fahd Jassem al-Freij was named by President Assad as Rajiha’s successor as minister of defense.

[May 29 2011]

Defense Minister Ali Habib Mahmoud

Syrian Defense Minister Ali Habib Mahmoud

In addition to Bashar al-Assad, the Treasury Department froze U.S. assets of Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Shara, Prime Minster Adel Safar, Defense Minister Ali Habib Mahmoud, military intelligence chief Abdul Fatah Qudsiya, Interior Minister Muhammad Ibrahim al-Shaar, and Muhammad Dib Zaitoun, head of the country’s political security directorate.

Ali Habib Mahmud (Arabic: علي حبيب محمود‎) is the current defense minister of the Syrian Arab Republic, serving since June 2009.

Any divisions within the Syrian military are likely to be along sectarian lines, with Sunnis siding with the dissenters and Alawites siding with the regime, though the Alawite community is not homogenous and could possibly witness cracks within its members as well. Although many high-ranking military officers are Alawite, the majority of their divisions are not
Should the soldiers in those divisions begin to mutiny, they could compel their commanders to rebel against Assad.
Apart from the Republican Guard and the Fourth Armored Division, the army has not been involved in the crackdown,. more read

About huecri

Publishing on the Web is a fairly iterative process. ...NYT The problem is that everyone has a different heroic truth-teller, because we’re all preoccupied by different bullshit. William Davies, Guardian ...Not too long ago, reporters were the guardians of scarce facts delivered at an appointed time to a passive audience. Today we are the managers of an overabundance of information and content, discovered, verified and delivered in partnership with active communities. summer 2012 issue of Nieman Reports from Harvard, --- THE FIX by Chris Cillizza, WAPO blogger, quoting Matt Drudge: “We have entered an era vibrating with the din of small voices,” he said in the speech. “Every citizen can be a reporter.” Later, he added: “The Net gives as much voice to a 13 year old computer geek like me as to a CEO or Speaker of the House. "
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