Tag Archives: GCC

Triple Summit in Saudi Arabia: Drums of War?

4 Jun

Have let this blog languish this year with so much happening, and while trying to write a book.  Spend most of my tracking time on Twitter – follow me there if you like @SherifaZuhur.

The triple summits of the GCC, Arab League and OIC convened in Saudi Arabia were intended to underscore Saudi Arabia’s leadership in regional policy and its centrality to Muslim majority nations. In all three, Saudi Arabia’s King issued an urgent call to support him against Iran’s hostile actions, whether recent or more longstanding and to do so before the end of Ramadan and in Mecca, to remind all of his position as Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.   Yet, the nations in these three organizations have different ideas about Iran’s intentions, and the U.S.’s role in deepening a crisis with Iran. Iraq and the smaller Gulf nations would rather avoid enlarging any conflict with Iran.   The Arab League is divided with regarded to numerous other issues, the GCC has been paralyzed since 2017 with the blockade on Qatar, and the OIC’s purview is hardly to declare or enter into wars.

King Salman presided, but it’s unclear if the triple meetings were suggested by his Crown Prince and advisors, or were his own initiative (which seems less likely). It is the Crown Prince who has pursued the war in Yemen and a more actively hostile stance to Iran.


King Salman injected strong condemnations of Iran’s alleged recent attacks (“terrorist attacks threatening the energy supply”, i.e. the attacks off of Fujeira) and interference in Arab states (via the Houthis in Yemen, directly and indirectly in Syria), and Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs. On these counts, the Arab League called for Iran to abide by United Nations’ resolutions, but there was some dissent or statements of exception.


Iraq’s President Barham Salih diverged from the GCC’s final statement arguing against escalation, reminding all of Iraq’s shared border with Iran and that a confrontation could lead to tragedy.


Qatar’s foreign minister also rejected the statements on Iran at the Arab League and GCC meetings, saying they had been prepared prior to the meetings and Qatar had no opportunity to consult; that they contradict Doha’s foreign policy, and that he had hoped the meetings would diminish tension with Iran rather than the reverse. He was then criticized by Gargesh and al-Jubair for his response. That Qatar sent representation was a surprise although the FM attended instead of al-Thani and all we saw of any reconciliation was a handshake between Shaykh Abdullah and King Salman arranged by Kuwait’s Shaykh Al Sabah.


The Arab League also condemned the escalation at al-Aqsa mosque whereby the IDF protected Israeli settlers who gained access. But the Arab League is also divided between Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s continuing cooperation with the U.S. unveiled peace plan and the intended summit in Bahrain.

Rouhani issued a public letter complaining about the non-invitation to the OIC and said the body should focus on the Palestinian issue, which Iran will aid.  Also Iran’s foreign minister complained about the use of the meetings to mobilize the Arab states against Iran.

The call to unite against Iran was also made at the OIC, where there was condemnation of the persecution of the Rohingya and a lengthy resolution to condemn the “transfer of embassies of the United States and Guatemala to Jerusalem” and urged all members to “boycott” countries that have opened diplomatic missions in Jerusalem.

Pakistan’s PM, Imran Khan was filmed walking away from King Salman without waiting for translation of his remarks, but then met with him, and gave a speech about the OIC’s responsibility to explain Muslim issues – such as blaspheming the Prophet and the Qur’an – to the West, using an example of the Jewish communities’ successful efforts to convince the world not to speak of the Holocaust without sensitivity.   The meeting prompted the Indonesia’s FM, Marsudi to call for greater unity at the OIC and to warn that dissension threatened the OIC’s credibility (Jakarta Post).

Media outlets reported differing angles of the meetings. Some chose to emphasize deepening rifts, others discounted the importance of the meetings, whereas a CNN piece held that they heightened possible action against Iran.

Syria Update, November 12, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

12 Nov

Syria Update, November 12, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

Early death toll: 107

There was a report that the FSA reportedly gave embassies in Damascus 72 hours to leave and then a report which denied that news.

A deal was hammered out between Syrian opposition groups on the following points:

They agreed: To form a National Coalition of the Forces of the Syrian Revolution and Opposition open to all factions.
To work for the fall of the Bashar al-Assad government and all of its entities, and to destroy its security organizations and prosecute those who engaged in crimes against Syrians.
To not take part in dialogue or negotiations with the regime.
That the statutes of the coalition (discussed) determined the composition of representation.
To support revolutionary military councils to be unified under a supreme military council – has a judicial and other commissions.
To form a provisional government & call for a general congress once the Assad government falls.
The Arab League approved the new opposition group as did the GCC states (see below). http://english.alarwww.abiya.net/articles/2012/11/12/249215.html

Aleppo province: Clashes occurred in Bustan al-Qasr. The Syrian military shelled al-Zahra. The Syrian military shelled the neighborhoods of al-Sakhour, al-Sukari and al-Sha`ar. A sniper killed 2 in the neighborhood of Maysaloun. Violent clashes near the Air Intelligence Branch between al-Nusra Front and other opposition groups and the Syrian military.

The Syrian military shelled the town of Kafrhama. Clashes took place between the Syrian military and the opposition at the edge of the 46th battalion. Mortar shells fell on the Kafrhamra town.

Damascus province: Heavy shelling by rockets on the Yarmouk camp. 7 were killed there (1 had been previously wounded) – the area between the camp and Tadamon has been heavily shelled by the Syrian military and civilians are fleeing.

A bomb exploded on (or under) a bus in the town of Mu`adamiyya and a civilian was killed at a checkpoint in that town. Two opposition fighters were killed in Aqraba and 3 civilians killed in shelling on the town of Saqba. Two men were killed in Harasta, one by a sniper and the other in clashes.

The Syrian military resumed shelling on Zamalka and Mu`adamiyya, and shelled Irbeen, Harasta, Shifuniya and Yalda.

Clashes took place in Irbeen.

The Syrian military shelled the town of Hamouriyya causing several casualties. The Syrian military shelled the towns of Thiyabiyya and Sayyida Zeinab. The bodies of 4 men were found in al-Thiyabiyya.

Dara`a province: The Syrian military heavily shelled Basr al-Harir and al-Harak today. The Syrian military shelled the town of Othman.

Deir az-Zor province: Shelling resumed by the Syrian military on the neighborhoods of al-A’rdi and al-Sheikh Yasin in the city of Deir az-Zur. An opposition commander was killed in clashes in the city today. Two car bombs went off on the al-Bukamal bridge. Shelling resumed on al-Boukamal.

The opposition damaged a Syrian military helicopter today near the al-Hamdan military airport near al-Boukamal. It landed in the Hawi al-Ghabra area and it was reported that its crew escaped, and another Syrian helicopter destroyed the aircraft so the opposition could not seize it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6Rga50vZco&feature=youtu.be

Hassake province: The Syrian military shelled the town of Ra’s al-`Ain, killing 16, injuring at least 40. Targets in this town had been taken by the opposition on Thursday. The Syrian military shelled the town of Seri, killing 7.

Kurdish Popular Protection units of the Democratic Union Party took control of al-Malkiya and Syrian security forces retreated.

Clashes took place near a Syrian military checkpoint (which is normally heavily staffed with 75 Syrian troops) in Asfar Najar. The opposition has surrounded the checkpoint, and a Syrian regime helicopter has been bombarding the area to.

Homs province: The Syrian military shelled the neighborhood of al-Khaldiyya. The Syrian military shelled al-Rastan killing a man and a child. The Syrian military shelled the neighborhood of Deir Ba`lba and clashes took place there. The Syrian regime shelled the village of A’qrab in the al-Hula area and the village of Jousiyya on the outskirts of al-Qseir.

Latakia province: The Syrian military heavily shelled Jabal Akrad.

Quneitra province: Clashes in the village of Bi’ir Ajam resulted in the deaths of 3 opposition fighters.

al-Raqqa province: The Syrian military shelled by air the town of Dabsi A’fnan. Heavy clashes are taking place in the town between fighters of the al-Nusra front and other opposition groups and the Syrian military.

Tartous province: An explosion shook the city of Banyas.

Abductions: The Syrian government continues to deny holding American journalist Austin Tice. http://edition.cnn.com/2012/11/12/world/meast/syria-missing-journalist/index.html

International: The GCC states – Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait have decided to recognize the new National Coalition of the Syrian opposition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in a statement today by the GCC Council.

Talks were held in Cairo by Arab foreign ministers on Syria to determine support for the new Syrian opposition entity and the League agreed to support the Coalition. http://english.alarwww.abiya.net/articles/2012/11/12/249215.html
Ahead of this meeting with Lakhdar Brahimi and Nasser al-Qudwa, Brahimi met with Nabil al-Araby who heads the Arab League. The new national Coalition of the Syrian opposition’s leaders is headed by Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib with Riad al-Saif and Suhair al-Atassi as deputies.
The Syrian air force struck Jilan Bnar, a Turkish border town, injuring 6.

Israel fired at Syria after a shell hit near an army post the Israeli-held Golan Heights.

The International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent made an appeal today for donors to give 32.3 million Swiss francs to provide aid to the more than 170,000 Syrian refugees now in Turkey.

Syria: A Brief Chronology

1918 October. Troops led by Amir Faisal, the son of Sharif Hussein of Mecca capture Damascus ending Ottoman rule.

1920 March. Faisal is proclaimed the King of Syria.

1920 July. The San Remo conference creates the mandate system placing Syria under the mandate of France. French forces occupy Damascus.

1925-1926. Nationalist uprising known as the Syrian revolution escalates. French forces bombard Damascus, Suwaida and other locations. The rebels led by Sultan al-Atrash go into exile. (Faisal becomes the ruler of Iraq)

1928. A constituent assembly drafts Syria’s constitution.

1936. A treaty between France and Syria is negotiated in which France grants independence but retains military presence and economic management. It is never fully enacted.

1940. After France falls to the Germans, the Vichy government controls Syria.

1941. The Free French and UK forces invade Syria and Lebanon, oust the Vichy government and occupy Syria (and Lebanon).

1946. The French withdraw from Syria.

1947. Michel Aflaq and Salah al-Din Bitar form the Arab Socialist Ba`ath Party.

1949. Three military coups take place, in the third one, Adib Shishakli assumes power.

1958-1961 Syria and Egypt join in the United Arab Republic under President Gamal abd al-Nasser. A group of Syrian army officers overthrow the UAR in 1961.

1963. A military coup results in a Baathist cabinet and the presidency of Amin al-Hafiz.

1966 Salah Jadid leads a coup against the civilian Baathist government and takes office. Hafez al-Assad is defense minister.

1970. November. Hafez al-Assad overthrows Nur al-Din al-Atasi and puts Salah Jadid in prison.

1971. Hafez al-Assad is elected President in a referendum.

1973. Hafez al-Assad does away with the Constiutitional requirement that Syria’s president be a Muslim. Riots result which were suppressed by the army.

1973. In the October war with Israel, Syria fails to recapture the Golan Heights.

1976. June. Syria intervenes in the Lebanese civil war.

1979 – 1980. A network of Muslim organizations begin an uprising against the government, attack the military and are attacked by the army.

1980. Syria backs Iran in the Iran-Iraq war.

1982. Islamist uprising in the city of Hama is put down brutally, as many as 30,000 civilians are killed.

1982. Israel invades Lebanon and forces the withdrawal of Syrian forces from some areas.

1987. Syria redeploys troops to Lebanon.

1989 December. Committees for the Defense of Democracy, Freedom and Human Rights (CDDFHR) formed in Syria, an underground human rights organization with a newsletter, Sawt al-Dimukratiyya.

1991. Syria participates in the Madrid peace conference, but is shocked by the secret Oslo peace agreements.

1994. Basil al-Assad, the president’s son dies in a car accident.

1998. Rifaat al-Assad, the vice president and president’s brother is relieved of his position.

2000. Hafez al-Assad dies and is succeeded by his son Bashar al-Assad despite the fact that Syria is a republic.

2000-1 In the Damascus Spring, intellectuals, artists and writers began meeting and discussing politics in groups like the Kawakibi Forum, the Atassi Forum and the National Dialogue Forum which called for an end to emergency laws and restoration of political freedoms.

2002 Bashar al-Assad and his team, especially Hasan Khalil, the head of military intelligence began a crackdown on the dialogue groups, closing them and arresting their members, incarcerating, torturing and killing them.

2002 The United States alleges that Syria is developing chemical and possibly nuclear weapons.

2003 The CDDFHR held its first public meeting in Cairo. It later opened 9 offices outside of Syria, in the Middle East and Europe.

2003 Israel carries out a air strike on a Palestinian militant camp near Damascus.

2004 March. Clashes take place between Kurds, Arabs and regime forces in the northeast of Syria.

2004 September. The U.N. Security Council calls for all foreign forces to leave Lebanon, a resolution directed at Syria.

2005 Former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri is assassinated. In April, Syria finally withdraws its forces from Lebanon.

2006 Iraq and Syria restore relations.

2007 Syrian dissidents Kamal Labwani and Michel Kilo are sentenced to lengthy terms in Jail and Anwar al-Bunni, a human rights lawyer is sent to jail.

2007 September. Israel carries out an air strike on an area in northern Syria where a nuclear facility had been under construction.

2008 July. Bashar al-Assad meets with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and re-establishes relations with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

2009 The IAEA says it has found undeclared man-made uranium at a reactor in Damascus.

2010 The U.S. reinstates sanctions against Syria because of its support for terrorist groups and provision of SCUD missiles to Hizbullah.

2011 March Peaceful protests begin in Syria to demand political freedom and the release of political prisoners.

2011 May. The Syrian government begins a military crackdown on the protests targeting Homs, Banyas, Dara`a and areas of Damascus.

2011 October. The Syrian National Council brings together dissidents from outside and inside of Syria. Russia and China veto a U.N resolution condemning Syria.

2011 November. The Arab League votes to suspend Syria due to the governments attacks on its own civilians.

2012 May. Government forces and militia members massacre more than 100 in Houla.

2012 July. The Free Syrian Army increases military actions and seizes parts of Aleppo and Damascus. The Syrian military struggle to retake these areas.

2012 August 15 The Organisation of the Islamic Conference suspends Syria due to its attacks on its citizens.

2012 August. The Syrian military and militia members massacre more than 500 people in the town of Daraya over two and a half days.

2012 September 2. The Syrian military begin a campaign to retake opposition-dominated neighborhoods of Aleppo, promising victory within 10 days (but well into October they were still battling in the same areas.) September 5: 45 people were summarily executed by the Syrian regime in al-Akramiyya in Aleppo. September 21: 90 soldiers defected from the infantry academy in Aleppo. A trial of five persons began in Syria of persons who kidnapped a defected Syrian officer, Hussein Harmoush who had handed him back to the Syrian government.

2012 October. Massive shelling of Syrian cities and villages continues. Hizbullah operatives are returned dead to Lebanon after battling in Syria on behalf of the Assad regime. Syria fires into Turkish territory killing five civilians and continues to fire into Syria from the 3rd of Oct until the end of the month. This initially caused NATO to issue a statement of readiness to defend Turkey.

2012 November: With support from the GCC states and the United States, a new Syrian opposition coalition was created called the National Coalition of the Forces of the Syrian Revolution and Opposition. Elections had been held by the Syrian National Council, but claims were made that the new entity was more broadly representative and the new coalition plans to create a transitional government and work toward the downfall of Bashar al-Assad and his institutions.

Syria Update, September 3, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

3 Sep

Syria Update, September 3, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

The current death toll: 235 (al-Arabiyya)
According to the SOHR: more than 140 including 84 unarmed civilians (of these 13 children) 24 opposition fighters, 2 defected soldiers and 34 Syrian military troops.

Aleppo province: In the city of Aleppo, the SAA shelled the al-Meyser neighborhood in the morning killing 10 civilians and fired on the al-Sukkari neighborhood killing 1. The SAA has shelled Hass, Kafrouma, Khan Shaikhoun, al-Rami, and Salqin (where 1 was killed). Clashes also took place at Salqin and Khan Shaikhoun. The SAA bombarded the city of al-Bab and killed 19 civilians including 6 women and 2 children in a single attack. The death toll in al-Bab has risen now to 34.

SAA reinforcements have arrived in Aleppo where an anonymous general has promised that the regime will oust the opposition within 10 days. http://www.deccanherald.com/content/267290/syria-army-readies-assault-aleppo.html

Damascus province: In Douma, 1 person was killed. In Hezze, the SAA shot and killed 3 civliians. The SAA shelled the towns of al-Maliha and Zabadani. The SAA fired on the al-Hajar al-Aswad neighborhood killing 2. The shabiha (pro-Assad militia) reportedly killed 16 young men in the al-Qabun neighborhood. The bodies of 6 civilians who had been executed were found there today. Clashes broke out between the SAA and the FSA in Sayyida Zeinab in Damascus.
In Rif Dimashq: 1 dead civilian was discovered in the town of Dumair and the bodies of 3 civilians who had been executed were found in the town of Arba`een. A car bombing took place near al-Wehde square in Jaramana, a Christian and Druze neighborhood of Damascus killing 5 civilians including a woman, Lusaper Hagupian.

Dara`a province: The SAA violently shelled the town of Nai`ma.
A soldier who had defected from the SAA was killed at a checkpoint in the city of Dar`a. The SAA killed 8 civilians on the Tafas-Dara`a highway. The SAA shelled Khirbet Ghazaleh and Inkhil.

Deir az-Zur province: The SAA was shelling the al-Ba’ajeen, the Jbeila and al-Masakin al-Sha`biyya neighborhoods today destroying homes and causing injuries. A pro-government sniper in neighborhood of Kanamat in Deir az-Zur killed 2 civilians. The SAA shelled the city of al-Bukamal killing 1 today.

Hama province: The SAA carried out house-to-house raids and arrests in the city of Hama in the al-Hawarna neighborhood. There is a heavy SAA presence in al-Feraya and at al-Jumruk square.

Homs province: The SAA has been bombarding the neighborhoods of Homs and Bab Hood in the city of Homs killing 2 civilians, one a child. The SAA is shelling the town of Talbisa.

Idlib province: The SAA is bombarding Jarjanaz killed 2. The SAA is shelling the city of Ma`arat al-Nu`man by helicopter. Clashes took place in Harem killing 1. The SAA shelled the village of Ma’eterm killing 6 and two bodies were found near the town of Saraqeb. Shelling on Taftanaz killed 1 civilian and another civilian has died from his wounds after being shot by regime forces in the area of Abu az-Zuhur.

Latakia province: Clashes between the SAA and the opposition in the al-Akrad and al-Turkman mountains resulted in 11 opposition deaths. The opposition seized the al-Qasab observatory – there were clashes there and at the Nabata observatory, and in the villages of Dureen and Starba.

Syria’s Minister of Information Omran al-Zoebi said there will be no dialogue with the opposition until the Syria army defeats the opposition. Muhiedinne Lathkani, who opposes the Assad government, speaking from London said that the key to dialogue would be Assad’s departure and the dismantling of Syria’s security agencies. (AP, AJ) al-Zoebi also insulted President Morsi of Egypt saying that Morsi was spilling Syrian blood and that the only thing distinguishing him from Hosni Mubarak was his beard.

International: A Turkish man, Aydan Tufan Tekin, captured last month by the al-Meqdad clan in Lebanon as a retaliation for the capture of Hassan Meqdad by Syrian opposition fighters. In a television interview Tekin asked Turkey to work harder to release Meqdad so he could be released. He appeared ill and frail. The al-Meqdad clan still holds 4 Syrians they have also kidnapped.

The leader of Syria’s main opposition group, the Syrian National Council Abd al-Basset Sida pleaded for a humanitarian intervention and weapons to defend civilians after he met with Spain’s Foreign Minister, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo today.

The UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi said in an interview with the BBC that his mission is nearly impossible. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Latest-News-Wires/2012/0903/New-UN-Syria-envoy-Diplomatic-solution-nearly-impossible-video

The Russian foreign ministry reacted to an opposition statement in al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper that civilian airports in Syria will be targeted by the Syrian opposition from Tuesday on because they are being used for military purposes. Russia’s foreign ministry claimed this made the opposition no different from al-Qaeda.

The Gulf Cooperation Council members speaking from Sunday’s meeting in Jeddah urged the international community to protect civilians in Syria. After the meeting, the GCC condemned the ongoing massacres that the regime is committing against civilians and called for Iran to stop interfering in GCC internal affairs and not to use force and cited an NAM interpreter’s replacement of the word “Syria” with “Bahrain” in Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi’s speech (Bahrain had already requested an apology from the Iranian government for this).

Refugees: 5,228 Philippine nationals now in Syria have registered to be repatriated to their country but bureaucratic procedures have been delaying their return, as all need exit visas.

Basic Facts about Syria:

Population: 22,530,746 Ethnicities: Arab 90.3%, Kurds, Armenians, and other 9.7% Religious Groups: Sunni Muslim (74%, other Muslim (includes Alawite, Isma`iliyya, Druze) 16%, Christian 10%, Jewish (very small numbers).

Human Rights Situation in Syria: http://www.hrw.org/world-report-2012/world-report-2012-syria

GDP Growth Rate: -2% (2011) GDP: $64.7 billion GDP Growth Rate: -2% (2011)
Unemployment: 8.3% Youth Unemployment (ages 15-24): 19.1% (female unemployment in that age category is 49.1%

Internet Users: 4.469 million (2009)Exchange Rate: 46.456 Syrian pounds per US dollar
Military Expenditures: 5.9% of GDP (2005)

Population Growth Rate: -0797.% (since the conflict)

Population Age Structure: 0-14 years: 35.2%; 15-64 years: 61%; 65 years and over: 3.8%
Literacy: male 86% female 73.6%
Urban Population: 56% of total (2010)

Syrian Arab Army (prior to the conflict) 220,000 regular and 280,000 reserves. Of the 200,000 career soldiers, 140,000 are Alawi.

Syria’s Golan Heights is occupied by Israel and 1,000 members of a U.N. Disengagement Observer Force patrol a buffer zone.

A few of Syria’s historical and archaeological treasures are: the remains of Palmyra (Tadmur), and the citadel of Ibn Maan, the early Bronze Age site of Ebla, the Citadel of Aleppo constructed by Salah al-Din al-Ayubi and the khans, madaris, suqs and Great Mosque of Aleppo, the theater and ruined town at Bosra (also site of the Mabrak an-Nabi where the Prophet Muhammad’s camel kneeled) the Canaanite city of Ugarit at Ras Shamra, Douro-Europas, the Greek colony on the Euphrates near Salhiye, Tal Faras and Tal Muhammad Diab in Hassake, Tal Brak, the Bronze Age Atchana, Ain Dara, sites at Qanawat, Shahba, and Suwaida, the Ummayad mosque, the citadel, suqs and other sites in the Old City in Damascus such as the Street called Straight, the Azm palace and the Tekiyye mosque complex in Damascus the chapel of St. Sergius in Ma`lula, the Hijaz railway station, the Crusader castle, Krak de Chevaliers, Salah al-Din’s castle built on the Saone fortress, Jaabar Castle, the Great Mosque an-Nuri, the mosque of Khalid ibn al-Walid and many churches and older buildings in Homs, and the citadel, Roman era water-wheels and khans of Hama.