Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 22, 2013

The Rise And Fall Of The "Friends Of Syria" Group

After big participations in earlier "Friends of Syria" meetings the number of countries involved in these has shrunk to less than a dozen.

The "Friends of Syria Group":

The Group of Friends of the Syrian People (sometimes: Friends of Syria Group or Friends of the Syrian People Group or Friends of Democratic Syria or simply Friends of Syria) is an international diplomatic collective of countries and bodies convening periodically on the topic of Syria outside the U.N. Security Council. The collective was created in response to a Russian and Chinese veto on a Security Council resolution condemning Syria; American president Barack Obama has stated that it was organized by the United States.

The group met for the first time on February 24 2012 in Tunisia:

Representatives of more than 70 nations have gathered for a “Friends of Syria” conference in the Tunisian capital aimed at finding ways to end bloodshed in Syria's increasingly violent uprising.
The group met for the second time on April 1 2012 in Istanbul:
Representatives of the 70-plus nations comprising the group decided to recognize the Syrian National Council, the largest opposition body, as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people and the opposition as a whole.
The group met for the third time on July 6 2012 in Paris:
Over 100 countries have sent delegations to the third meeting of "Friends of Syria" held in Paris, where foreign ministers and senior diplomats were expected to further back Syrian opposition by equipping them with communication tools to improve their organisation.
The group met for the fourth time on December 12 2012 in Marrakech:
The 114 states attending the conference as well as 15 NGOs, meanwhile, expressed their serious concern regarding the dire situation of the internally displaced people and those who seek refugee outside Syria due to the domestic violence.
The group met for the fifth time on February 28 2013 in Rome:
The new US Secretary of State John Kerry met for about an hour with opposition leader Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib before the 11-nation Friends of Syria meeting kicked off at the 16th-century Villa Madama on a hilltop above Rome.
The group met for the sixth time on April 20 2013 in Istanbul:
In a joint statement by the 11 countries attending the Friends of Syria meeting in Istanbul, extreme concern was expressed over the Syria conflict and condemnation for the brutal campaign of the Syrian regime.

From 114 down to 11 participants seems to express diminished support for the ever complaining Syrian opposition:

These 11 countries besides Turkey are the United States, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Italy, Germany and France.

A Syrian opposition figure, who asked to remain anonymous, told Al-Monitor that the main challenge in the meeting was “for a millionth time to persuade the Westerners to agree to provide arms to the opposition, but they still have reservations because of the radical elements.” One senior opposition figure also told Reuters: “The world must know if they don’t agree on our right to receive weapons this will be the last meeting the opposition attend. We will not attend any meetings after this.

Yesterday's inconclusive meeting may well have been the last occurrence of the "Friends of Syria". Meanwhile the head of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) Moaz al-Khatib resigned again.

Around Damascus the Syrian army seems to make more progress in wrestling down the Jihadist insurgency. The Free Syrian Army spoke of "tactical withdrawal" and, as usual in its forced retreats, alleged that the Syrian Army committed a "massacre". Translation: "The Syrian army beat the shit out of us."

Posted by b on April 22, 2013 at 7:51 UTC | Permalink


See the thought here, but the initial numbers were just that, numbers to win over pubic opinion and the agenda, all, UN member states, many strong armed. The remaining is the money and strategic players. One could say the current numbers just thinned out the deadwood after there use was redundant. Though Boston could now cause problems for this motley crew as some are funding what is perceived root cause, outside groups now highlighted in MSM, Russia and militants, be it by design or fate, eyes are on, and geopolitics is now a general public concern, importantly, a US one.

Posted by: kev | Apr 22 2013 10:38 utc | 1

Hurriyet: US converges with Russia on Syria

Getting rid of al-Assad used to be Ankara’s prime target, as Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has repeatedly said. It was simply a case of “saving face” for Davutoğlu to be able to say that “11 countries are able to say the same thing on Syria, for the first time,” implying the members of the “Core Group” of the Friends of the Syrian People. The Istanbul meeting did not state that al-Assad leaving power was a “must.” On the contrary, the Geneva accord was underlined, with a small but important note by Kerry that the conflict could come to an end if al-Assad wanted it to. It is interesting to recall that apart from that small note, this is what Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had said on April 16 after meeting with Davutoğlu in Istanbul.

There is a reason for this. Kerry did not give the name of any organizations, deciding rather to stick with the term “extremism,” but this reason is al-Nusra. Following the declaration by its leader Mohammad al-Golani last week that al-Nusra is actually operating as al-Qaeda in Syria, it is difficult to accept them as simple freedom fighters. This has changed many parameters in the Syria equation, including the Turkish stance. Kerry said in his press conference that “extremism in Syria” is a threat to region, a threat to Turkey, and a threat to Israel.

The new equation represents an opportunity for Turkey to fine tune its Syria policy, which has been much criticized by the Turkish opposition.
Russia’s position, which has been warning about the “extremists” from day one, was strengthened with the Friends of the Syrian People’s Istanbul meeting. It is even possible to say that the U.S. position has converged somewhat with Russia’s, regarding the Geneva accord.

Posted by: b | Apr 22 2013 13:31 utc | 2

You sound right about your assessment of the FSA in the last paragraph, they can't really use traditional guerilla insurgency tactics as they don't have support of the population so have resort to more orthodox techniques and as such the Syrian Army wins most of the time.

As for the Friends of Syria, since its nothing more than platform for denouncing Assad and thats not new anymore the media hardly report on it

Posted by: heath | Apr 22 2013 13:31 utc | 3

Yep b, think heath has it about right. Your last paragraph nails it, at least I hope so. Without popular support, an insurgency, over the long haul, is doomed. That fact, coupled with Russia's continued support with Assad, makes the West's job of moving Assad aside very difficult. I, for one, believe any opposition to the goals of empire, is a good thing.

Posted by: ben | Apr 22 2013 14:16 utc | 4

What keeps puzzling me is the lack of forcefulness and open support Russia and especially China have shown on Syria and the Middle East in general. The Empire decides to take down a government somewhere in the world not to its liking and its Western lackeys immediately jump on the bandwagon with political, financial and material support, even when their own economies are in the dumps and their people are not happy campers. They don't even try to hide their intentions any more as they used to in days gone by.
In contrast. Russia and China voice protests in the UN Security council(Western puppet)and with general statements in the press of not supporting these shenanigans and sit idle by.
I often wonder how much of their soul Russia and China had to sell in the past in order for the Western powers to allow them to join their clubs (WTO,IMF,G20 etc etc). Did they promise to play nice ??

Posted by: curious | Apr 22 2013 14:47 utc | 5

curious @ 5: "I often wonder how much of their soul Russia and China had to sell in the past in order for the Western powers to allow them to join their clubs (WTO,IMF,G20 etc etc). Did they promise to play nice ??"

This mirrors my concerns also. Guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Posted by: ben | Apr 22 2013 15:07 utc | 6

picky- head of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) Moaz al-Khatib

Syrian National Council should be Syrian National Coalition
--National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces --NCSROF or NCR

The old Syrian National Council is a part of this 'new-look' organization which was formed last Fall.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 22 2013 15:15 utc | 7

The more I read about the opthomologyst in Damascus, the more I can respect him. The dude is a hero, any Syrian who prior to this didn't like, appreciate, think about or even respect the esteemed Dr. prior to this conflict must have changed their view in some extreme way. Odummy just keeps garnering my contempt, what a pathetic joke he has become, what fools we were. If you voted for him, like I did during those heady days almost 6 years ago, what a tool or are we the tools. Bloody Odummy's nose Bashar, for me?

Posted by: Fernando | Apr 22 2013 15:39 utc | 8

@2 US converges with Russia on Syria

I don't see any evidence of that. The US is providing more aid now through anti-Syria military channels. Accepting Assad is politically impossible for Obama/Kerry.
1. The US doubled its aid.
2. This aid will go to the Supreme Military Command and General Idris, which have been non-entities until this meeting in Istanbul.
3. Kerry's statement: (excerpts)

possibilities of a peace and a transition. . .President Obama has been absolutely clear: The United States is committed to a democratic, unified post-Assad Syria. . .Our first choice is to do what the international community framed as a top possibility last year, which is a mutually-consented-to transitional government that then frames the process for an elected transition for the new leadership of Syria.

The US (wrongly) aims to get rid of Assad -- make him see a new 'calculation' they say -- while retaining the Syria government bureaucracy under new political leadership. Crazy. Won't work.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 22 2013 15:41 utc | 9

"What keeps puzzling me is the lack of forcefulness and open support Russia and especially China have shown on Syria and the Middle East in general..."

They see US policy in the area as being self defeating. This suits them fine and saves them considerable expense.
The US is continuously over extending itself, in some part because the arms manufacturers need growing markets and they own Congress. In the meantime something in the order of a third of the population of the US lives in poverty or close enough to it that, as the depression deepens, they soon will be.

What is new is that the ruling class no longer has any fear of the masses, it is convinced that it has mixed a cocktail of drugs, ignorance, propaganda and fear that, together with surveillance and police terror, makes it impossible for the 99% to take on their tyrants. In the past all polities, however dictatorial or despotic, understood that you can only push the people so far. Now the idiots running the show, for whose stupidity we should all be grateful, are intent on testing that oft proven theory. Thus it is that, in the midst of deep cuts in the living standards of the poorest, there is plenty to spend on Thatcher's funeral, shutting down Boston for a reality cop show...
Russia and China are rubbing their hands in anticipation of this summer's Watts riots or whatever the spark will be that sets the tinder alight. As to Kerry's $123 million in additional aid to Syrian al qaida, (which probably came out of the Medicaid budget or the Social Security trust fund) that simply hastens the day.

Posted by: bevin | Apr 22 2013 15:57 utc | 10

Yes, just as Russia & China haven't interfered in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, also on Iran sanctions which are really hurting Europe, they recognize the futility and self-destructiveness of the US policy, as well as its huge financial cost.

You can see it on Lavrov's face, at least I do (or think I do), -- go ahead, suckers, beat your heads against a wall.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 22 2013 16:06 utc | 11

There is an excellent article by Michael Brenner at Counterpunch today it concludes thus:
"..Finally, the time is long overdue for a systematic critical review of the GWOT in all its aspects. The United States no longer is killing people in Afghanistan and Pakistan in a hunt for al-Qaeda terrorists. We are killing them to prevent the Taliban and affiliates from challenging the ramshackle regime we have installed in Kabul and the pliable one we aim to install in Islamabad. In short, we created a monster that itself now a greater problem than the boundless ‘enemy’ it supposedly is fighting.

"It comes down to what you’re trying to do and matching personnel to mission. If we aim to crush Islamic fundamentalism around the world; if we aim to root out terrorism around the world; if we aim to police the Congo jungles; if we aim to search out and destroy drug dealers around the world because American society produces drug addicts in droves; if we aim to tell everyone everywhere how to conduct their domestic affairs – then we need a magnitude and range of personnel far beyond anything we now have. Of course, constituting it will wreak the American economy – and we will fail ultimately on every front anyway."

Posted by: bevin | Apr 22 2013 16:07 utc | 12

"Of course, constituting it will wreak the American economy..."

And wreck havoc, too. But they seem determined to do it. The limits of American policy are exactly the same as those on a political-action-thriller blockbuster movie. And they save the entire world, all the time. So why shouldn't we? After all, we make the best movies.

Posted by: Mooser | Apr 22 2013 17:01 utc | 13

Link to the Brenner piece: An Ongoing Liability - The CIA’s Dirty Wars

Posted by: b | Apr 22 2013 17:09 utc | 14

"And wreck havoc, too"

Havoc's doing just fine, last time I checked

Posted by: yah . . .But | Apr 22 2013 17:17 utc | 15

HA!!!! The EU's now eased sanctions on Syrian oil so that the nusra/fsa gang can export oil to Europe..If this is not stealing, I don't know what is..I'd good lukc with that!!!

Posted by: Zico | Apr 22 2013 17:52 utc | 16

The Russian and Chinese did nothing?

Well, for one, they did. They said "No" again and again and very clearly and they led the attention to the relevant point, the security council being in charge and not unilaterally the usa (no matter with how many whores and puppets shouting along).

Secondly, why should they do a lot more? Letting the usa run obviously against internation law - once again - and watching them coming closer and closer toward failure wasn't that bad a start.

Third, maybe they did - but not with lots of noise à la americaine.

The scenario was good for them. The usa openly supporting Al Qaeda and other terrorist organisations who went berserk and killed and maimed thousands of civilians in broad daylight.
All the Russians and Chinese had to do (other than vetoing the usa) was to help the elected Syrian governments in discrete ways (like in "sending commando units as trainers"). Furthermore it seems quite probable that Putin had a friendly but very tough word with those turkish whores (like in "If this escalates turkey will be in the way of our Russian forces. Both usa and eu always treated turkey like a dog so you shouldn't be too sure of them helping you. Chances they risk war with Russia to help turkey are less than slim").

Last but not least for one reason or another (like S-300) the usa led crime gang refrained from air blockade or other open military engagement (which with the usa always starts with their (formerly existent) "air superiority").

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Apr 22 2013 18:21 utc | 17


Just because Assad is doing a decent job against DC, don't forget he is a loathsome little tick who was actually torturing people on behalf of the Americans as well as locals which is why Syrians were demonstrating to get rid of him before the US jumped in.

Posted by: heath | Apr 22 2013 18:55 utc | 18

"which is why Syrians were demonstrating to get rid of him before the US jumped in."

Yeah - in topsy-turvy world.

Actually, here on Earth, the US jumped in, with large amounts of free cash for anyone willing to take it, long before the Syrians were demonstrating

Posted by: yah . . .But | Apr 22 2013 19:07 utc | 19

HRC, who has Presidential ambitions in 2016, was given rein by Obama to shape the Middle East agenda, continuing State's trajectory under the Bush Administration -- especially where the interests of the neocons dovetailed nicely with those of major Democratic donors. Aside from Obama's restriction of no direct funding of AQ, HRC was given free reign, which included State's extension of "Democracy Promotion" activities through "NGOs" like NED and color revolutions in the Arab Spring. Within weeks of finally getting an American ambassador back in Syria, Ford had traveled throughout Syria and met with many leaders of opposition groups. Not too long afterwards, the small scattered protests demanding reform were taken over by violent insurrectionists demanding Assad's ouster. Where the State department urged demonstrators in most other Arab countries to remain nonviolent, HRC immediately escalated her rhetoric against Assad and within months (once Libya looked like it had peaked), was demanding regime change in Syria. (All of which was loved by big Democratic donors and congressional hawks; Obama did not say or do anything to contradict HRC which would have impeded Democratic fundraising pre-election).

State's pressure on nations to join the Friends of Syria peaked as HRC was leaving office. If Kerry is not putting on as much pressure or offering as many bribes, he can always point to the sequester as an excuse for penny-pinching. Al Nusrah's self-disclosure of AQ alliance would make the use of carrots and sticks from Kerry to show up for an FOS meeting even more challenging.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Apr 22 2013 20:09 utc | 20

Here's an interesting development... Saudi Arabia invites Hezbollah officials to Riyadh...

Mehr News quoted Lebanese daily Elnashra reporting that , Ali Saeed Asiri, Saudi ambassador in Beirut, who is holding many meeting and activities with Lebanese officials and extensive consultations in the country to form a new government, said that “If Hezbollah officials want [travel to Saudi], Saudi Arabian doors are open for an official meeting.”

The appointment of Tamam Salam as the official to form Lebanese cabinet was planned and carried out in partnership with the Saudis, who are actively trying to take the role of interventionist in the Lebanese cabinet organizational structure.

But Riyadh has concluded that in this context, it cannot get any result without Hezbollah as one of the most important political players in the country.

Posted by: CTuttle | Apr 22 2013 22:29 utc | 21

More Syria related news today, about the slaughter of civilians in a suburb of Damscus, Jdeidet al-Fadel. According to AP:

On the ground in Syria, opposition groups are saying that days of fighting in a Damascus suburb have caused a staggering number of deaths in what amounts to a massacre at the hands of the army.

A handful of opposition groups said the army shelled Jdeidet al-Fadel to force rebel forces to retreat. After the fighters fled, Syrian troops entered the town and indiscriminately executed dozens of civilians, the groups said.

Syrian state news acknowledged that the army had been fighting in the town but gave no death toll. It said the army had saved the town from what it described as criminal terrorist groups, killing and wounding an undisclosed number of them.

A government official in Damascus told The Associated Press that rebels were behind the "massacre," saying they sought to blame government forces who entered the area after the killings.

"The army discovered the massacre after entering the area," the official said on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. The corpses were already decomposed, he said.

Jdeidet al-Fadel is inhabited mostly by Syrians who fled the Golan Heights after the area was occupied by Israel in 1967.

The Druze community in the Golan Heights, who keep in close contact with their relatives, for the most part, support the Assad administration. According to Franklin Lamb at Counterpunch:

A small group gathers inside of the sweets shop. Food in Majdal al-Shams is exquisite. The outspokenness of the local people is simply remarkable.

And what we hear from the local people is exactly the opposite from what is served to us by the official Israeli propaganda:

“We want to go back to Syria. Rebels are terrorists. Assad is on the West’s way to Iran; the West and Israel want to push him aside and have their path cleared towards Teheran. We all know that Qatar is paying for the ‘rebels’. If Russia and China do not give in to the West, Assad will never fall.”

Before we parted the previous day, the guard at the road to Lebanon clarified: “We are all connected with Syria here. We watch Syrian television; we are following the events. Most of the local people here identify themselves with Assad. We like Assad here. But in the West and in Israel, they simply hate intelligent Arab leaders. They like and support those idiots in Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia!”

Now, who would have motivation to slaughter Golan Druze refugees and leave their bodies to decompose (when devout Muslims should be buried immediately) -- secular government troops or Sunni fundamentalist insurgents who consider Druze heretics?

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Apr 22 2013 22:58 utc | 22

The old Syrian rebellion is getting tired. They stay at home looking after their villages. The only ones who lead attacks now are al-Qa'ida, many of whom are foreigners.

The Syrian army is also tired. Those who are ready to fight are difficult to find. They've succeeded in the latest offensive, perhaps opening the road to Aleppo. Difficult to keep it open as long as the rebels want to close it.

Posted by: alexno | Apr 22 2013 23:32 utc | 23

yeah....but 19

Initially it was locals protesting local problems (march 2011)

the al Nusra people was officially formed in jan 12 although there were syrian al aquida in iraq people sent back to Syria in march, discussions started in oct 2011.
back in DC this NY times article suggest nothing much of consequence happened until july.
my point was there were plenty of people with a beef with Assad regime even without the west or anyone else returning home

Posted by: heath | Apr 22 2013 23:39 utc | 24

On the initial thread, The Rise And Fall Of The "Friends Of Syria" Group, and the recognition that the real action is taking place on the ground and not in the exotic locales where the FOS meet, and Syria is doing quite well -- that's all correct. (I got side-tracked on the Hurriyet article earlier.)

After nearly two years we still have uncoordinated, rag-tag partisan groups with fortune-hunters now from 26 different countries, sparked by some extremely violent terrorists, trying desperately to defeat a well-armed Syria military backed by a coherent, well-functioning government.

The US's frequently-stated expectation in supporting these disparate fighters with weapons (which the US doesn't acknowledge) and other war materiel is that President Assad will make a calculation that he's no longer wanted in Damascus (seriously, that's the policy), and so then Assad will step aside, whereupon the new Syria "prime minister" selected by the U.S., Ghassan Hitto, a pleasant fellow, an IT executive from Texas, would take over the Syria government, retaining all the bureaucrats who 'don't have blood on their hands,' somehow coping with the radical al-Qaeda jihadis who are Syria's primary military opponent, the Syria military of course not supporting the newly-arrived Texan, and nevertheless there will be a bright new tomorrow for all Syrians.

That's the bogus scenario that the US expects people to believe. It is bogus. It's the reason why the Coalition chief Al-Khatib resigned, again. He's not stupid. But it's US policy.

“Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 22 2013 23:43 utc | 25

@25 Hitto's newly installed democratic government will renounce Syria's claim to the Golan, cut ties with Hizbullah and the bombing of Iran will begin.

Posted by: dh | Apr 22 2013 23:54 utc | 26

Looks like the Syrian's have been making major gains across the board, & they are now getting close to a postion to impact the weapon flows in a major way:

Syrian Army Surrounds Strategic Town of Qusayr
...Qusayr has played a key role in the conflict due to its proximity to the Lebanese border, where weapons, supplies, and fighters are smuggled through the rugged hills near the Lebanese town of Ersal...

As to the Syrian army getting tired, the Saker makes a good point that most of the Syrian army isn't even in the fight - approx. 80% is still essentially on standby to repel a foreign invasion, so they can swap out tiring troops while training up the replacements on the tactics needed:

"look at the "defections indicator": sure, at the beginning there was some defections, from individual soldiers to generals. This appears to have stopped by now.

Or this: the bulk of the Syrian military is not involved in the civil war at all. In fact, Assad has not even declared a full mobilization. Two years ago, the Russians explained this absence of mobilization by the fact that the country was in too much chaos and too split regionally to make such a mobilization possible. Nowadays they say that Assad simply has no need for such a mobilization..."

Posted by: KenM | Apr 23 2013 0:22 utc | 27

According to an article by Robert Fisk last week, the army may be angry, stoic or blunt, but even if they are tired, they are determined -- they are the backbone and future of Syria. The big defections appear to have been early in the insurgency. The army has stabilized and is a stabilizing force (the mukhabarat is a different story).

Last week, when AQI announced its integration with Al Nusrah Front, it claimed that it had been sending teams into Syria from the beginning of the Arab Spring. Even if those teams did give themselves names like Al Nusrah Front initially, they were active in Syria early on.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Apr 23 2013 0:28 utc | 28

my point was there were plenty of people with a beef with Assad regime even without the west or anyone else returning home

I'm sure you are right, but that's true of any government. Take a look at all the ethnic, racial and cultural divisions inside the United States and imagine what a hypothetical country, several times more powerful and wealthy could do if it wanted to kick up a @#$% storm.

Or if you're English, imagine arming the Scots. Italian? Arming the semi-Austrian northerners. Spanish? Basque, Catalan, etc...too many possibilities for a powerful and determined divide-and-conquer empire to pass up.

Posted by: Lysander | Apr 23 2013 1:40 utc | 29

Rusty I was thinking that about having to watch out for the secret police of both sides. Not a good situation.

Posted by: heath | Apr 23 2013 2:07 utc | 30

Some parties are trying to pressure the US into doing something military, though it seems obvious the Obama administration does not want to just now.

Israel confirms the Syria regime used chemical weapons against civilians
At INSS conference, head of the Research Division at Military Intelligence says that Israel believes Assad used sarin gas against Syria citizens.

That is the Obama red line right?
Suddenly everybody arrests Al Queida at home, Canada, Spain, Turkey .... the Bostom marathon bombing blown up into a huge media scare shutting down a large part of the town ...
So back to the war on terror or where to?

Posted by: somebody | Apr 23 2013 11:04 utc | 31

The writing is on the wall. Syria will turn out no different than Libya, and probably far worse.

Car bomb targets French Embassy in Libyan capital

Posted by: guest | Apr 23 2013 12:33 utc | 32

So, Syria is a proxy war.

What about the Syrian ppl?

Refugees (1.3 milion) internally displaced (4 m.), living in dire straits, meaning hunger (2.3 m.) and living without clean water, proper and safe rooms, etc. (6 m.) Rough nos and underestimated.

Med care is gone, except for the connected and rich.

Schooling is school clubs run by UNICEF which has insufficient funding, it needs 20 million which no one wants to give. And these are ‘school clubs’ - not schooling that proceeds to a future, moreover the children are not safe there.

Sure there are pockets, places that still seem to function ‘normally’ and rebel areas that have started up new schools.


Part of Assad’s problems come from his catastrophic management, cutting subsidies (gas for agri) and lowering, scotching, investment for irrigation/other infrastructure, and the climate itself - drought /no future drove farmers off the land to the cities and created massive and ignored migration, which lead to poverty and crime, hate. Price rose massively for others...hold ups were of food trucks (at the start).. Meanwhile Assad subsidized imports of luxury goods!

The UN - FAO says (2013) that Syria’s output of crops have been halved or more. In about two years... imho set to sink rapidly further, who can grow anything in such conditions? With no or ‘black market’ gas, power cuts, water delivery destroyed, no spare parts, how to deliver, sell?

So, like Iraq, they will have to import all or most of their food?

Commerce. War zone for profiteers. In Syria Now - Glorious Free Trade.

No tax, no paperwork, no traditional bribes.

High premium articles: cars, fuel aways, arms, meds, drugs... food at extortionate prices to the poor.. and general stripping of assets all along the line, destruction of factories, etc.

The friends of Syria are vultures.

Posted by: Noirette | Apr 23 2013 13:52 utc | 33

recent news report:

Foreign ministers attending the Friends of the Syrian People core group meeting April 20 in Istanbul called on Syria’s government to sit down at the negotiation table to reach a solution based on the terms of the Geneva communiqué.

Geneva communiqué? What's that?
The sequence of recent UN legal events regarding Syria.

The UNSC Resolutions 2042 and 2043 adopted in April, 2012 called for a cessation of violence and established a a United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) to observe it. The UNSC has not called for a transition government (Assad's removal). That came from an "Action Group for Syria Final Communiqué" which was "chaired by the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and
the League of Arab States for Syria" (Kofi Annan) on June 30, 2012.

The communiqué first stated "Action Group members are committed to the sovereignty, independence, national unity and territorial integrity of Syria" [!!] and then stated a transition plan.

To secure these common objectives, the Action Group members (i) identified steps and measures by the parties to secure full implementation of the six-point plan and Security Council resolutions 2042 and 2043, including an immediate cessation of violence in all its forms; (ii) agreed on guidelines and principles for a political transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people; and (iii) agreed on actions they would take to implement the above in support of the Joint Special Envoy’s efforts to facilitate a Syrian-led political process. They are convinced that this can encourage and support progress on the ground and will help to facilitate and support a Syrian-led transition.

So while Assad's removal is not required by the UN, and Lavrov keeps pointing this out, it is required by the US coalition with the connivance of Kofi Annan just prior to Annan's leaving UN employment as UN–Arab League Joint Special Representative for Syria.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 23 2013 18:25 utc | 34

Re: somebody @ 31 -- about all the Al Qaeda news

I gathered from NPR news item about the Canadian terrist arrests that these alledged perps-to-be had been kept without notice for a month or so. Kind of held in reserve?

Now, the Boston bombing gives the Canadians an opportunity to ride a wave of fear to announce these guys' purported plot?


And, too, in Spain? Similar to the Boston bombers, the news report said, because both had been radicalized by reading things on the web. Uh huh.

Msg says I waited too long to post this, but I'd just typed it. Hhhmmm.

Posted by: jawbone | Apr 23 2013 20:17 utc | 35

35) It obviously makes no sense whatsoever

Tamerlan is framed as the schizoid one - he obviously was not and it obviously was not a lonely conversion.

Talking about that youtube channel with a part called "terrorism" - would you call it that if you sympathized?

Posted by: somebody | Apr 23 2013 20:48 utc | 36

The arrests in Canada coincided with debate over a vote that would revive parts of the anti-terrorism act, which is supported by the Conservative government.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 23 2013 23:23 utc | 37

Interesting contrast between accounts on Al Akhbar and Syria Comment about Jordan camps, Syrians south of Damascus (around Deraa), Syrian Army actions and the role of "army defectors." Syria Comment presents a picture of the Syria Army assaulting and demolishing towns south of Damascus, slaughtering countless civilians and causing others to flee -- all on the pretense of attacking a few "army defectors" who have taken refuge in the towns. (Why won't Assad just leave those conscientious objectors alone?)

One such recent location was the locale of Ghabagheb and nearby al-Sanamayn, attacked on the 10th of April. The day of the attack, a friend from Ghabagheb wrote saying: “The regime attacked my town today, they used tanks, cannons, missiles, nine people were killed one of them is a friend of mine (Ebraheem Alhorany) I have never seen him without a smile on his face… a house about 150m from ours was completely destroyed.” In his conversation with me, he said that the regime attacked the town “for no reason.” I’m certain it felt that way for everyone in the town, but emerging reports claimed that the army’s motivation was to go after defectors who had taken refuge in the area. Of course, the communities were collectively punished with the usual brutality leaving women and children dead, houses destroyed, and numbers of men rounded up and executed. Ghabagheb and al-Sanamayn are located in the Dera’a muhafiza on the main highway, but are so far north within it that they are actually closer to Damascus than to the city of Dera’a. Areas within the muhafiza that previously avoided direct conflict (including parts of the north) are seeing intensified action after earlier rebel gains in the southern part of the muhafiza.

Al Akhbar gives further details about what the State Deparment has been describing as "Secular" rebels that it is providing with aid and assistance in Jordan -- "secular" rebels who include army defectors and Muslim Brotherhood members.

By the end of 2012, only a few hundred Jordanian Salafis had crossed the border to fight in Syria. The government mostly turned a blind eye, but its policy of cracking down on jihadi Salafi activists remained in place, as evidenced by firefights along the border.

However, by the beginning of 2013, Damascus began to notice a new development, whereby Syrian army defectors and Syrian Muslim Brotherhood members were being trained in Jordanian camps and sent across the border with official consent.

This prompted Damascus to dispatch Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal al-Miqdad to Amman in January. Jordanian officials denied any such operations, insisting that their country’s policy of neutrality still stood.

A Syrian source who refused to be named said that Jordan has opened several camps for the Syrian opposition that are capable of training up to 5,000 fighters at once. Then, new waves of fighters crossed the border into Syria in February and March, bringing with them large amounts of medium-sized weapons, such as armor-piercing shoulder-fired rockets, which can also be used against planes.

In mid-March, Damascus secretly sent former head of intelligence Ali Mamlouk to Amman to brief his counterparts on border developments. Again, the Jordanian response was complete denial.

A Syrian source who refused to be named said that Jordan has opened several camps for the Syrian opposition that are capable of training up to 5,000 fighters at once. So far, 3,000 have completed their training, of which 1,560 have crossed the border into Daraa.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Apr 24 2013 0:04 utc | 38

@RP #38

I assume you're presenting these reports as blatant propaganda. Why don't you identify it as such? And I don't get the "contrast" between battle activities on the one hand, and diplomatic activities opn the other.

At Syria Comment, where you're referring to a diary "by Matthew Barber and the Syria Video team." That would be Matthew Barber, Portland State alumnus and student of the Middle East, was living in Syria at the beginning of the recent and continuing uprising. He had been in Syria for a year prior to the uprising.

Barber has a bunch of stuff from "Sham News Network" actually Shaam, but the slip us understandable. A recent news article mentioned Ugarit, Shaam, and Syrian News Network. All suspect sources.

The comes Al Akhbar, Saudi propaganda. What's the point?

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 24 2013 3:20 utc | 39

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