Tag Archives: ISIS

The Islamic State’s Threats to Voters in ’16 US Elections

7 Nov

Sherifa Zuhur

I was asked to give my comments on ‘Caliph’ al-Baghdadi’s recent audiotape and also ISIS’ statement on U.S. elections. I’ll start with the second, much easier task.

ISIS oppose elections in the U.S. and more importantly it opposes democracy in any Islamic society and the idealized Islamic state – the Caliphate.  Their latest document provides the doctrinal reasons for doing so.  While there might be political rationale for changing positions on this question (as did the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas), the Islamic State will pursue, to the bitter end, the religious justifications for arguing against a democratic, populist form of government (one which would unseat authoritarian modes of government, such as their own).

Their argument against voters participation in the U.S. election is firstly:

that both sides – GOP and Democrats – are inimical to the interests of Islam and Muslims.

Here is a translation of the document.  Walking through it provides little novelty to those familiar with the group, but there might be some surprises for those who don’t read texts.

http://heavy.com/news/2016/11/isis-islamic-state-al-hayat-media-the-murtad-vote-pdf-download-read-2016-presidential-election-hillary-clinton-donald-trump-apostasy/2/

IS  directs their argument in these initial arguments to/about Muslims by calling such elections an ‘apostate’ vote.  Thus the Gore-Bush election and that of Obama were also acts of apostasy.  They are especially bitter to former mujahid/neosalafi Safar Hawali who has spoken out against jihadism on behalf of the Saudi Arabian government (you can look him up in works on extremism in Saudi Arabia).  But also towards Muslims who voted for Bush in Florida

Similarly “murtaddin” (renouncers of Islam and thus apostates) are the MuslimBrotherhood and “sister sects” who support participation in the U.S. elections and have done so for other elections, such as in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan and Palestine.

ISIS say the only difference between Hilary Clinton and Trump is that the former is more skilled in political correctness.

ISIS is fiercely opposed to feminism (it would not acknowledge being anti-woman) and opposes Hilary as a “female feminist” & cites the well-known hadith “Never shall a people who give their leadership to a woman be successful.” (incidentally, this was a reference to the daughter of a Sassanian ruler).

#ISIS states that both Trump & HRC “committed themselves to the Jewish state” – meaning Israel, as indeed, have nearly all U.S. candidates, not only for president, but other positions.

The group condemns the outcome of elections by commenting on President Obama’s actions in the Muslim world – his invasion of Iraq & Sham, interference in Libya, his drone strikes Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia.

The Islamic State regards  HRC  as the more dangerous candidate — she is  able to lead more Muslims astray (into apostasy) by exploiting the notion of a liberal Islam or moderate Muslims.  To this they contrast Trump’s (or his advisors) definition of radical Islam as being distinct from Islam.  They write that he needs to understand that their proposals ARE Islam itself (which is ironically, the attack of right-wing analysts on all Muslims).

The group shows its intentions of not only attacking the legitimacy of elections but the rhetorical and  ‘false divisions’ of Muslims that have been created by Western (and also some Muslim) politicians, media and analysis.

If anything, this document shows that the Islamic state and all its ilk, whether al-Qa’ida offshoots or the #Jihad 3.0 variant of ISIS that may emerge in a few years, will always oppose Western-style democracy & its imposition or growth in Islamic lands.

The next doctrinally-based argument is to decry all that which is not based on Shari’ah; and all who accept  human-made legislation, judges, rulers who impose it – as tawaghit.

ISIS underscores its uncompromising view of tawhid — the single and sole authority of Allah —  in this document and aims to associate the Western or democratic vision of Islamic world with sin and apostasy.

The document goes on to condemn those who are affiliates or associates in apostasy; and who fail to act against it, as apostates.  Thereby it condemns ideal of popular legislation and voter participation as ‘ar-rida bi-kufr, kufr’;  silent consent in apostasy is apostasy.

It condemns those who ‘fight’ for the supporters of apostate democracy (which could mean the Sunni soldiers of the Iraqi Defense Forces) or any supporters of the U.S. and all those allies of Christians & Jews — a much widern net.

“Fear of deportation and abuse” is not an excuse for association with kufr  (apostasy) or Christians or Jews (This could be seen as a reference to Trump’s campaign and the urging of U.S. Muslim organizations to get out and vote against a candidate who threatens their presence in the United States.

ISIS writes that although one could argue this is coercion, the proper response to coercion is hijrah or flight (to an Islamic state) but not association with apostasy or its support.

The document makes many allusions to the early Muslims who betrayed the Muslims; and states that when angels seize sinners’ souls, they will ask didn’t they have the opportunity to emigrate (wasn’t the world sufficiently broad for them to take another alternative) instead of committing apostasy.

ISIS warns that even those with good intentions — for example to defend Muslims — who commit shirk, will be punished.

The document then states that given all of these preceding proofs, it is licit, and indeed obligatory to kill all those participating in the US apostate elections, for they are renegade apostates or Crusaders.

The language here is clearly directed at the popular electoral process:  “Say O Disbelievers, we do not worship the people”.

The Islamic State makes it clear that it is threatening threat  “Crusader” voters as well including women, who aren’t merely married and subjugated to their husband’s vote, they are voting on their own.  This may seem a bit of an obscure reference, but it pertains to the waging of violence on women.

The document concludes by asking Allah to wreak calamity on US election day like none other in American’s “pathetic history.” So does this mean that ISIS has planned violent actions?  It may have, and it would be foolish to assume that any intended by “lone wolves” might not be connected to IS Western-targeted planning departments.

In sum, this document illustrates the Islamic State’s uncompromising insistence that its Caliphate represents true Muslims – as compared to nation states & democratization even in the face of the group’s assured defeat in  Mosul and following that in Raqqa.

Egypt: Security, Terrorism, Sinai Update for Aug. 1 – 17, 2015

17 Aug

Aug. 17 Wilayet Sinai, claim to have targeted an army APC near a ‘gas station’ south of Sheikh Zuweid (Joe Gulhane, no source given to me – if provided will list)

Aug 17 Police officer dies from injuries in last Monday’s bombing #Egypt and #AjnadMisr
claims responsibility http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/138099.aspx

Aug 17 New anti-terrorism laws in #Egypt: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-33955894

Aug 17 Omar Ashour criticizes the Egyptian governments campaign in the Sinai and repression. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-33905477

Aug 16 A draft law to end penalties on journalists has been revealed. How this elides with the new penalties on contradicting government sources in the antiterrorism laws is unclear. http://en.aswatmasriya.com/news/view.aspx?id=941b70ff-f377-4d0f-ae8c-b7f296f452ce
Aug. 16 #Egypt’s Min. of Interior says it has broken up 3 #MuslimBrotherhood cells. http://linkis.com/www.kuna.net.kw/I6vaq

Aug. 16 The Egyptian military is continuing its operations near the Libyan border. https://www.facebook.com/Egy.Army.Spox/posts/705497959581189

Aug 16 Online statement attributed to a group calling itself Tahrir Brigades, claims to be defected officers, claimed Barakat assassination

Aug. 16 North #Sinai court returns to #Sinai fllwing 3 mo. relocation due to terrorist
attacks. #Egypt http://www.egyptindependent.com//news/court-returns-sinai-after-relocation-prompted-judges-killings

Aug 16 Body of Palestinian man from Rafah found near the border this morning. http://www.maannews.com/Content.aspx?ID=767069&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed

Aug 15 #Rabaa protests had low turnout – some arrests; in contrast to online activism #Egypt http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2015/08/16/rabaa-al-adaweya-anniversary-protests-weak-on-the-street-strong-online/

Aug. 15 #Russia gives #Egypt a Molniya missile corvette http://www.mfs-theothernews.com/2015/08/russia-donates-egypt-molniya-missile.html?http%3A%2F%2Fwww.mfs-theothernews.com%2Ffeeds%2Fposts%2Fdefault=

Aug. 13 Egypt confiscates assets of the chairman of Juhayna for ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. http://en.aswatmasriya.com/news/view.aspx?id=d0878294-cf7d-4f8c-8b97-14bd62e13dd9

Aug. 13/Aug 12 ISIS in Egypt (Wilayat Sinai) beheaded a Croatian captive , Tomislav Salopek http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/africa/article4525449.ece?CMP=Spklr-_-Editorial-_-TWITTER-_-thetimes-_-20150813-_-World-_-221489122&linkId=16251624
And http://www.wsj.com/articles/islamic-state-affiliate-claims-beheading-of-croatian-hostage-1439380416

Aug 12 A policeman was killed today in #Fayoum, south of Cairo, in #Egypt http://en.aswatmasriya.com/news/view.aspx?id=fc269383-bcb0-4f07-ad20-5b9220ac06bb

Aug 11 253 sentenced in abstentia to life in prison for committing violence in Beheira http://en.aswatmasriya.com/news/view.aspx?id=19878b57-f813-49b2-ad6b-8b44b4d09be1

Aug 11 Badie referred to court in a new trial http://en.aswatmasriya.com/news/view.aspx?id=9189cc36-6e6f-41cd-8dfd-16e457f40fcf

Aug. 12 #Egypt Apache war helicopter strikes vehicle in Al-Kharroubah village, S. Sheikh Zwayyed, N.Sinai killing 3 Daesh-affiliate members aboard

Aug 12 Curfew hours reduced in al-#Arish #Sinai #Egypt http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/137688.aspx

Aug 12 Alaa Selim (photojournalist) found dead in Abu Taweela village near Shaykh Zuwayd, circumstances unclear http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2015/08/12/photojournalist-found-dead-in-sheikh-zuweid/

Aug 11 New York Times Editorial (which has published numerous scathing critiques of Egypt’s government) wants the #MFO out of the #Sinai. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/11/opinion/time-to-reassess-sinai-peacekeeping-force.html?_r=0

Aug 10 Ten persons were recommended to receive death sentences, so their cases go to the Grand Mufti for his opinion http://en.aswatmasriya.com/news/view.aspx?id=04eead09-da99-4563-aeac-cd1af623cbf3

Aug 10 IED blast injures 3 persons outside a court in Heliopolis http://en.aswatmasriya.com/news/view.aspx?id=559102ff-5a26-448c-bc20-76f8e27e0ffc

Aug 9 2 killed in clashes between security forces and group of armed men in #Suez #Egypt http://en.aswatmasriya.com/news/view.aspx?id=78b452d5-080f-49c8-b2ed-f09c9a13cfe2

Aug 9 Revolutionary Punishment group claims attack in El-Sinnuris near ‪#Fayoum‬‬ earlier today. ‪#‎Egypt‬‬ https://t.co/JaEzkR4VVg

Aug 9 World’s largest container ship, the Marstel Maersk crosses the new Suez Canal http://www.thecairopost.com/news/163394/business/worlds-largest-container-ship-marstal-maersk-crosses-new-suez-canal

Aug 9 Policeman killed in al-Arish after a different officer in the same position was killed. http://sinai24.com/%D9%85%D9%82%D8%AA%D9%84-%D9%85%D8%B9%D8%A7%D9%88%D9%86-%D9%85%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%AD%D8%AB-%D8%AB%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AB-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%B4-%D8%A8%D8%B9%D8%AF-%D8%A3%D8%B4%D9%87%D8%B1-%D9%85/

Aug 9 A bomb targeted an armored vehicle in northern Sinai killing 2 security personnel, injuring 3 http://en.aswatmasriya.com/news/view.aspx?id=d0f81e14-3181-4794-8ecb-a993c888e6dc

Aug 8 18 militants were killed over the last 2 days’ shelling of Shaykh Zuweid and Rafah – reportedly by Apaches http://en.aswatmasriya.com/news/view.aspx?id=85e95039-84e4-45da-a93d-dc7ed6b1a62e

Aug 7 Fears mount for the fate of the Croation hostage seized in 22 of July – interesting detail, his driver was released. http://www.iphone.afp.com/afpv3/AFP_V3/News/JI/D4/newsmlmmd.urn.newsml.afp.com.20150806.doc.3v6i4.htm

Aug 6 Raid on a farm in Sanoris in Fayoum – five are killed. A report from Aug 9 including some controversial details http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2015/08/09/extra-judicial-execution-the-story-of-the-fayoum-five/

Aug 6
#Egypt N.#Sinai / Army Helicopter targets 35 #Hamas terrorists in a smuggling tunnel with #Gaza http://albawabhnews.com/1432179

Aug 6 The new Suez Canal (which took only one year instead of five to complete) was celebrated with an inaugural ceremony. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VS1GEtPOARY

Aug 5 ISIS affiliate (Wilayat Sinai) has threatened to kill a Croatian hostage in 48 hours. http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/08/05/us-egypt-islamic-state-hostage-idUSKCN0QA20U20150805

Aug 4 Five civilians killed when their house was shelled during clashes in northern Sinai http://en.aswatmasriya.com/news/view.aspx?id=d6701104-3dfb-4d98-81c0-c28c86df8d13

Aug 4 Unidentified gunmen killed a policeman standing guard outside a police station in Sharqiyya http://en.aswatmasriya.com/news/view.aspx?id=78fde49a-01a6-4fd0-9ae5-2384431c2176

Aug. 2 Army says it has killed 88 suspected militants in the Sinai between July 20 and July 31 http://en.aswatmasriya.com/news/view.aspx?id=45a7499f-d862-474d-b970-706b58ba3643

Aug 2 Car owned by Judge Moh. Abdullah Abbas (al-Khanka court) explodes from bomb. No injuries #Egypt http://almogaz.com/news/crime/2015/08/02/2061488

Aug 1. Egypt’s army says it has killed a leading figure in Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis http://en.aswatmasriya.com/news/view.aspx?id=abd5b813-585b-472d-868a-256af7938c8d
http://www.i24news.tv/en/news/international/middle-east/80598-150802-egypt-kills-leading-is-militant-in-sinai

“Who is (Really) Protecting Syria’s Archaeological and Historical Heritage?” Guest Article by Martin Makinson

22 Oct

Who is (Really) Protecting Syria’s Archaeological and Historical Heritage?

By Martin Makinson

 

Martin Makinson is a doctoral researcher who specializes in the archaeology of Syro-Mesopotamia. He has worked extensively on excavations in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraqi Kurdistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey and spent the last ten years in many Arab countries, including Syria, Libya and Yemen. His research focuses on “Territories, Identities and Empires: the Impact of the Assyrians on the Material Culture in Northern Syria”.

Corbulo, an officer fighting for the Roman emperor Nero (reigned AD 54-68), once said that a war is won with a pickaxe and not just with a sword. He was referring to how soldiers dug under fortifications and opened tunnels to besiege enemy cities and destroy walls. Free Syrian Army and Islamic Front rebels have for months made tunnels under the old city of Aleppo to reach the Carlton hotel facing the citadel, i.e. the main headquarters for Assad’s troops and his so-called National Defense Guard. A little more than a fortnight ago, they managed to implode this late Ottoman building from below, putting to practice this Latin maxim and causing massive damage to regime ranks. The “war of tunnels” (in Idlib, at Wadi Dayf airbase, in Aleppo) appears to be a new – but long and patient – way of scratching into a regime war machine still prevailing on the ground and in the air.

Yet Corbulo’s words can also apply to what is actually occurring as we speak: an attempt by Bashar al-Assad, courtesy of international organizations such as UNESCO and NGOs like Heritage for Peace, to pose as the defenders of archaeology, of Syria’s huge historical and architectural heritage, and, why not, of civilisation itself. Bashar’s propaganda stints often portray destructions merely as the result of fundamentalist Islamic armed hordes wantonly reducing historical monuments and sites to rubble, plundering any precious movable relics or destroying them in order to satisfy their “Wahhabi” agenda. If we are to believe the conference organizers, who screened out any undesirable coverage of an event which made security and staff at Unesco’s Paris premises quite edgy, “plans and grand designs” are under way to restore the unique remains of all periods of Syria’s history, from Neolithic to Ottoman. What the Damascus General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) announces it will restore are the buildings obliterated or looted to a large extent by the very regime they are working for and representing abroad.

After three years of devastation, in the wake of the bombing of entire ancient cities from the air or from SCUD launchers, the Assad regime sent to Paris a delegation of archaeologists and museum curators to attend a three day conference, from May 26th to 29th 2014. At UNESCO premises at Place de Fontenoy near the Eiffel tower, Assad’s civil servants discussed a budget for some of the country’s – damaged, to say the least – architectural jewels, most leveled in the last two years by MIG fighter jets and barrel bombs filled with TNT. Two and a half million dollars (minimal sums, considering the scale of the destruction) have been set aside for a three-year restoration project of medieval citadels destroyed by the conflict. These so-to-speak drops of water provided by Denmark and Belgium, are to be handed over to “experts” and to a General Directorate staff acting as firemen for a power structure which has – literally – committed arson from the very day its phosphorous bombs reduced to ashes the Middle East’s largest Ayyubid, Mamluk and Ottoman souk in Aleppo in the winter of 2012. Many archaeologists such as Paolo Matthiae, of La Sapienza University in Rome and the director of excavations at the third millennium BCE site of Ebla since 1965, are attending and lecturing. It was this very Matthiae who had rewarded Asma al-Assad with an honoris causa doctorate from his university in October 2004, during a much media-covered visit to this 55 hectare urban Bronze age centre. Other scholars and prominent archaeologists have chosen not to respond to UNESCO’s calls for a closed-doors symposium whose political agenda appears clearly under the veneer of scholarly workshops and assessments.

Four workshops were planned in a program which has been (mysteriously) removed from the conference’s website, three dealing with different aspects of heritage in Syria: movable objects (i.e. saving sites and museums from looting and plundering), built heritage (monuments and archaeological mounds), intangible heritage (preserving arts, crafts and traditions for which Syria is famous for, for instance Hama’s cotton prints, music and walnut and mother-of-pearl inlaid furniture, or the music and muwashahat and qâsida poetry that has made Aleppo famous). One of the “bright ideas” put forward by UNESCO was to print hundreds of thousands of flyers to be given to refugees in camps in Lebanon and Syria, to inform them of the value of heritage. Though a substantial number of antiquities do leave the country via Syria and Lebanon, far from being in the hands of displaced refugees, they are the loot of Lebanese, European and Turkish smugglers: a few months ago, a Byzantine mosaic kept in Raqqa (maybe in fact from Dibsi Faraj, an artwork from churches dug in the 1970s during rescue operations on the Euphrates) was destroyed by ISIL extremists because it had aroused the interest of a Turkish antiquities dealer willing to illegally purchase it.

Asma al-Assad in 2006, receiving an honoris causa doctorate from the dean of humanities of La Sapienza University in Rome

Asma al-Assad touring Ebla with Italian archaeologist Paolo Matthiae

But will conference papers discuss the systematic looting at Syria’s largest Hellenistic and Roman site at Apamea, some 50 km north of Hama above the marshy Ghâb valley? Will Dr Mamoun Abd al-Karim, the current director of antiquities, a man hailing from Malkiyeh (Derrik) east of Qamishli (close to Iraq and Turkey’s borders) discuss the hundreds of pits dug on both sides of the 1.8 km avenue of spiralled columns and shops (the longest in the Orient), these erected in the aftermath of the 115 AD earthquake, shortly after emperor Trajan’s victories in Mesopotamia against the Parthians? Small-scale illicit digging was a problem at Apamea well before the 2011 uprising. Local youth on motorcycles would drive around the site and around Seleucos I’s massive Hellenistic walls to show visitors the odd Roman coin, a pottery oil lamp or Roman Samian ware. Osman ‘Aidi, a well-known developper of the merchant-military class of the 1980s (who constructed the Sham hotel in Hama over the Keilani quarter’s slaughtered inhabitants) had disfigured many of the site’s columns by covering them with ghastly, crude, mushroom-shaped capitals of concrete. Still, what has occurred since 2012 is something quite different, a scandal on an industrial scale met only by the silence of many scholars and agencies alike. Since March 2012, officers of the Syrian army have forced local peasants to dig trenches all over the site, creating a lunar landscape similar to other plundered classical and Hellenistic cities of the Orient in conflict zones (Aï Khanoum in Bactriana/Afghanistan and Hatra in Iraq are a case in point). During a visit made by the author in August 1995, Belgian archaeologist Jean-Claude Balty had emphasized how it was difficult to preserve a marble marvel: the opus sectile designs of the 6th century AD Eastern Byzantine cathedral, near the second century AD decumanus colonnade. He was then horrified at how entire floors forming intricate geometric patters were being vandalized after exposure, partly a result of the General Directorate’s lack of organization and care in managing and protecting them from the elements. Alas, one doubts whether Dr Mamoun Abd al-Karim, a specialist of classical periods and of Roman centuriations (agricultural land divisions for taxation purposes) in the area around Homs will raise the issue of Apamea and discuss at UNESCO regime responsibilities in vandalism and looting.

To the right, Opus sectile floor in the Eastern Cathedral of Apamea. To the left, a view of the eastern apse of the same monument (from http://romeartlover.tripod.com/Apamea2.html)

Just a few hundred meters to the West, the regime had, a few months earlier, targeted the tell (mound) of Qala‘at al-Mudiq, whose latest levels were those of the Crusader border fortress of Fémie. This was a place where the Duke of Antioch Bohemund had confronted Saladin’s troops in the 1180s – an episode recalled by Saladin’s secretary, the Arab knight Usama Ibn Munqidh of Sheizar castle on the Orontes. An arched bridge, a smaller scale version of the one leading into the Aleppo citadel, was partly damaged by shells, just as two 12th century AD bastions to the west. It is also unlikely that many questions on the artillery bombing of March 2012 will be asked during the UNESCO closed door sessions.

To be presented during these three days were restoration plans of two quasi-intact citadels in the Jebel al-Ansariyeh mountains: Qala‘at al-Husn and further north, Saladin’s castle (in fact Qala‘at Sahyun, derived from the French Saône family responsible for its upkeep before Sultan Salah ad-Dine seized it in 1188). In mid-June 2012, the Sunni enclave of al-Haffeh, above Lattakia, suffered from massive regime bombardment when the Free Syrian Army held it for a few days. Saladin’s castle, 6 km uphill, was also hit. Described by Lawrence of Arabia as one of the most beautiful fortresses of the Orient, illustrated in his doctoral dissertation, it is in fact a city bordered to the north by a 30-metre deep moat dug into the limestone around a drawbridge pinnacle, and to the south by a lower town with unexcavated houses lost in a maze of thick bush and thorns. In between, what was standing was a citadel whose foundations go back to Byzantine Emperor John Tzimikès, who when a general reconquered the coastal Levant in AD 982, seizing it from the Shia Hamdanid dynasty ruling in Aleppo. There is precious little information on the current state of a Crusader keep three storeys high where the Southern French Puylaurens noble family resided in the mid-12th century, nor is anything known of the fate of the hammam (the baths) built by Mamluk sultan Baibars and excavated by a French-Syrian expedition funded by the Agha Khan.

Some of the intact Crusader towers at Saladin’s castle

(author’s photograph, 2010)

As for Qala‘at al-Husn, the Krak des Chevaliers guarded by the Hospitalliers religious order before it surrendered to the same sultan Rukn ad-Dîn Baibars in 1271, it has suffered even more extensive destruction. “Baibar’s tower”, a 13th century AD underground hammam inside the keep, an assembly hall for knights with a famous warning inscription in Latin against “pride”, and the chapel – some of the earliest examples of Gothic architecture in the Levant – were targeted on July 13th, 2013, by MIG fighter jets. These disloged with heavy ordnance FSA insurgents who were using this strategic vantage point overlooking the Homs corridor, the Buqeia of the Crusades.

 

Regime aerial bombing of the Baibars tower of the Krak des Chevaliers

 

Pictures showing regime artillery bombing of the entrance to the Apamea Qala‘at al-Mudiq medieval citadel in March 2012, and its aftermath (published online by APSA)

 

A view of Sergilla in the Jebel Zawiya in 2010 (photograph by the author). Since 2012, hundreds of internally displaced families from the region have taken shelter in this almost entirely preserved Byzantine village.

It is unclear whether Unesco, as well as discussing heritage awareness with refugees, plans to resettle the locals who have sheltered in the Late Roman and Byzantine 4th-5th century AD tombs, cisterns and houses of Sergilla, Baoude, Al-Bara, Ruwaiha and other Jebel Zawiyeh “Dead Cities”. Will the issue of why they have taken refuge there in the first place – because of Assad’s incessant bombing of civilians, bakeries, infrastructure, clinics in Maaret an-Nu‘man, Saraqeb, in the Ghâb Orontes valley and al-Bara – be addressed by this UN institution? The safeguarding of heritage is nothing more than one aspect of a huge list of grievances, at the top of which is the very survival and safety of a population driven home by a state terror campaign from the air.

What do the Roman temple, church and monastery of Deir Cheroubim at 1800 metres above sea level look like now, since the army has used it as a strategic stronghold for tanks and artillery? In early 2013, this mountaintop, a holy Christian site above Saidnaya, some 48 km north of Damascus in the Anti-Lebanon mountains, was used as a military base for Assad’s loyalist forces. Even worse, it became a target of fighting between Islamic Front fighters and the regime’s army during the Qalamoun battle in November 2013, when anti-Assad forces were disloged by Hezbollah militiamen and army troops from the nearby towns of Rankous, Deir ‘Atiyeh and Yabroud. The entire two-million-dollar UNESCO budget would not even be enough to restore this site 150 metres in diametre, which, though not the focus of Western tourism before 2011, was a popular destination for Syrians on a summer day out from Damascus. Deir Cheroubim is one of these Roman mountain cult sites dotting all slopes of the Anti-Lebanon mountains around sacred Mount Hermon (the Senir of the Bible and Phoenicians). Another example similar to Cheroubim is for instance Burqush, a place that became inaccessible to tourists after the 2006 war in Lebanon and was threatened even before the conflict. A huge platform with a temple and Byzantine basilica, the site was already under threat from army camps nearby in this most sensitive of areas near the Lebanese and Israeli-occupied Golan Heights borders. Both sites, on mountaintops with breathtaking views over the Damascus region, are part of a unique territory, elements of a sacred mountain dedicated in Aramaean times to the Storm God Hadad and in the Roman period to Zeus and Helios the sun deity (in Hebbariyeh and Deir ‘Ashayer in Lebanon, similar Roman cult-places survive as well-preserved monuments).

And then there are the mounds, the tells. Thousands of them from the Jazira near Qamishli to the Hawran, from Abou Kemal by Iraq to Syria’s earliest village at Tell Qaramel north of Aleppo. Those of many cities layered like Black Forest cakes. Those where battles of momentous importance for the history of the Near East were fought. Those whose layers go back to the pre-pottery Neolithic period (PPNA), c. 9000 BCE. Those where wars were won and then celebrated on reliefs at Abou Simbel and in the Theban Ramesseum in Egypt, or on clay tablets and treaties in cuneiform Akkadian from Hattuša, the Hittite imperial capital in modern Turkey. The battle for Qussayr must have greatly affected Tell Nabi Mend, where since 2012 fighting had been heavy. This artificial small mountain of mud brick and stone overlooking the Orontes, a few miles north of the Lebanese border, is of course where the clash of two empires took place, the disputed territory of one of antiquity’s most famous battles. In fact Qadesh-on-the-Orontes was where Ramesses II claimed to have saved the day and charged Muwatalli’s army on a chariot or where he ran for his life, according to which propaganda – Hittite or Egyptian – one is to believe. Qadesh was where, c. 1286 BCE, the Egyptian army was lured into a trap by spies acting as captured prisoners. These pretended to confess under duress information of paramount strategic importance. The irony is that this Ramesside propaganda echoes that of Assad’s claims to victory at nearby Qussayr, a town reduced to rubble in May 2013. Qussayr is a battle which was won thanks to Hezbollah mercenaries, with massive losses among Syrian army troops. It seems that Nabi Mend, a site excavated in the 1980s by a British team of archaeologists and now an army encampment, was severely damaged by tanks and trenches.

One could also mention Tell Sheikh Hamed at the other end of Syria, the Middle (1300-1100 BCE) and Late (900-610 BCE) Assyrian city of Dur-Katlimmu, an upper mound and a giant lower city of immense size; in fact this was the largest 7th and 6th century BCE metropolis in Syria. It was resettled in one go by the Assyrian governor Nergal-Eresh, and rebuilt over an artifical canal dug by deportees (the Nahr Dawrin, a 200 km long waterwork feeding from the Habur upstream near Hassake). Since 1979 a “Red Palace” of Nabuchadnezzar’s Babylonian empire, a 500-tablet cuneiform archive of the same age discovered in 1998, a Late Bronze Age palace with similar tablets belonging to Assur’s king Tukulti-Ninurta I (1241-1207 BCE), are but a fraction of the immensely important discoveries made there by Berlin’s Free University Professor Harmut Kuhne and Assyriologists Wolfgang Röllig, Karen Radner and Eva Cançik-Kirschbaum. The site, 40 km west of the Wadi ‘Ajij, a gateway into Iraq and a no-man’s land, is a strategic crossroad. It therefore became a battle ground between FSA brigades and the Syrian army in mid-2012. Now the region is inaccessible and under the control of the most extreme, fanatic and violent of fundamentalist militias, ISIL – known to Syrians as Da‘esh. Their black flags of darkness now loom like stagnant clouds over the Deir ez-Zor, Raqqa and Hassake governorates, and little information on heritage or anything else trickles to the outside.

The means that the regime has used to destroy entire settlements, its disregard both for human life and for the houses and churches and residences and palaces built by tens of generations –those mentioned above in this article are but a minute fraction – should make organizations think twice before inviting Syria’s civil servants and officials to international conferences on heritage and restoration. Museum officials from the Damascus General Directorate, whose denunciations have been selective to say the least and who have indirectly or even straightforwardly lent credit to Assad’s narrative, will never voice any opposition to his relentless bombing campaigns. And they will even less be capable of doing something about looting and destructions affecting sites in areas which have expelled the Syrian dictator’s henchmen.

Those who have extensively documented the damage done to remains, those who have exposed crimes against heritage and barbaric, criminal behaviour towards a resource to be shared by all Syrians and which forms an essential ingredient for future peace and national cohesion, are all from civil society. At great risk for their own lives, they have forwarded countless snippets of information on what has actually occurred to the locations archaeologists had surveyed and cleared for decades. A network of dedicated students, of conscientious volunteers in Aleppo, in the Jazira, in the Hawran, in the Wadi Nessara, in the Orontes and Euphrates valleys and elsewhere, has been documenting the last three years of damage. It is archaeology students at Aleppo University who saved an Ayyubid 12th century wooden minbar (a prayer platform) from being obliterated to splinters by shells from the frontline. They are the ones who collected the hewn basalt and limestone stones of the 11th century Aleppo mosque minaret, which collapsed from tank shell bombing when this religious space was on the frontline. Their information and their actions are the infinitely precious pieces of a huge jigsaw puzzle to be assembled when ISIL and the regime, who feed on each other’s actions, hopefully recede into oblivion. These students and youth have witnessed the extent of the tragedy affecting Doura Europos over the Euphrates, a city in the steppe where Palmyrenes, Parthians, Romans, Jews, Mesopotamians and Greeks mingled and where at least six languages were spoken before it fell in AD 256 to the Sassanian Persians. Now Doura, the city of the painted synagogue showing Moses crossing the Red Sea, of the palaces of the strategos and Dux Ripae Greek and Roman generals, of the temples of so many local and Greek gods (Zeus Megistos, Zeus hypsistos, the Gaddê, Nabû god of wisdom and writing…) lies in probably what is now the world’s most unsafe area.

The fortification walls of Doura Europos in the spring, looking northeast toward the Euphrates river valley (author’s photograph, 2009)

These brave – one could say foolhardy – Syrians, armed and funded with nothing but good will and passion, were instrumental in the creation of independent NGOs working on a shoestring such as APSA (Association for the Saveguarding of Syrian Heritage) and Ila Souria, a think-tank of architects, historians, lawyers and intellectuals regularly discussing reconstruction. Nevertheless, it is under the pressure of regime officials and their representative at Unesco, Lamia Shakkur, that they were banned from publically exposing the results of their work at UNESCO. Because of what they see as discrimination motivated by a regime whose authority they do not acknowledge, APSA and Ila Souria decided to boycott the event.

The Second century AD Roman temple, reconstructed as a church, within the Deir Cheroubim monastery compound near Saidnaya (author’s photograph).

This is not to say that the regime is the only party responsible for the damage to Syria’s monuments, cities and mounds. Assad’s forces barbarity is paralleled by the local equivalent of the Taliban. Countless examples of ISIL/Da‘esh’s gratuitous and hysterical violence against any remain from pre-Islamic times abound. One of the latest took place at Tell ‘Ajaja, the ancient city of Šadikanni and one of the Middle East’s earliest excavations, a place where in 1849 Sir Henry Austin Layard found a lamassu, a human-headed bull that guarded Assyrian palaces. Illicit looting has taken place since the Syrian conflict’s onset at this 15 hectare site some 25 km upstream from Tell Sheikh Hamed. Assyrian statues and relics found there were seized by Da‘esh Jihadis and reduced to dust, a crime recalling the terrible obliteration of the Bamiyan Buddhas in March 2001. The fate of the Deir ez-Zor Museum, which houses a huge fraction of the Mari archive, all the third and fourth millennium BCE finds from the Jazira and those of Roman and Parthian Dura Europos, is unknown. Yet the worse is to be expected in a city to a great extent controlled by this Jihadi movement and whose late Ottoman souks were the scene of heavy fighting in 2013. In the terrorized city of Raqqa, the city ISIL ruthlessly rules since 2013, a unique sculpture preserved in a public garden was smashed to pieces by these fundamentalist extremists. It was a lion inscribed in three languages (hieroglyphic Luwian, Assyrian cuneiform and in the Aramaic akphabet). It had been taken there decades ago from Arslan Tash, an acient city lying 90 kms north on the Turkish border, where a French team had excavated in the 1930s, discovering an Assyrian “palace” (in fact probably a huge temple). This lion carved by the turtânu (general in command) Shamshi-Ilu, ruling the West as a vice-roy for the Assyrian king, was incidentally a proof of the ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity of northern Syria in the 9th and 8th century BCE.

The destruction of century-old Sufi shrines, and of the graves of Shia mujtahids (Islamic law scholars) and saints are also part of Daesh-ISIL’s agenda, and indirectly serve that of the Assad regime. The extremist movement led by al-Baghdadi has thus done what the Syrian dictator had dreamt of for months since 2011: plunging the country into a sectarian abyss, which would drive thousands of Iraqi and Lebanese Shias to flock to Assad under the guise of protecting “Sayyida Zaynab”’s shrine. Such crimes against both history and the country’s social and religious fabric should be denounced as much as those of the regime, which feeds and thrives on the medieval behaviour of jihadi militias.

The NGOs APSA and Ila Souria have been very clear in their condemnation of all crimes against heritage and Syria’s historical and social fabric. They have been also frank about their refusal be part of a conference where, as they have pointed out on their Facebook page, they would “merely … be the audience, as result of pressure exerted by representatives of the Damascus regime, something which was communicated to us by the organizers themselves [UNESCO]”. In fact, at the three-day symposium, “none of the experts or representatives of associations working in the regions of Syria not under regime control are to express themselves in this conference, while representatives of the Ministry of Culture and of the General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums in Damascus will be present and giving lectures at all sessions”. Their refusal to attend was also a way of protesting against focus on experts who “have carried out no concrete action inside Syria” and against “criteria used for choosing participants, which are unclear, and have never been made explicit and transparent”. Strasbourg university Assistant Professor Philippe Quenet, who has lived and worked extensively in the field in Syria and Mesopotamia for many years and who is one of the founders of both Patrimoine Syrien en Danger and APSA, added that “to refuse to go to a conference where it would be unable to speak out to the audience was a question of dignity”, but this did not imply “absence of cooperation with parties really interested in working on the ground and promoting concrete actions to save Syria’s heritage.” In fact, strategies for cooperation on this matter were to be presented by these civil society NGOs at the next ICAANE conference on Near Eastern archaeology, in a workshop on Syria is on June 10th.

Asma al-Assad visiting a trench on the 2450 BCE acropolis of Tell Mardikh/Ebla, near Palace G, close to were 17,000 cuneiform tablets were found in 1974

 

“A Political Economy Lens on the Syrian Revolution’s Shifting Landscape” By Dr. Sherifa Zuhur

6 Oct

“A Political Economy Lens on the Syrian Revolution’s Shifting Landscape.”

 

Dr. Sherifa Zuhur, IMEISS

 

(Oral version. Not for citation or circulation without notification to the author sherifazuhur@gmail.com)

 

Presented to the Workshop “Businessmen in Arms: How the Military and Other Armed Groups Profit in the MENA.” Bonn International Center for Conversion, Bonn Germany, October 1, 2014.

 

Syrians of all sects and income levels are waging a revolution after decades of praetorian/security services, authoritarian rule.  Secondarily, Syria now features a regional and international struggle between Assad’s government and his allies – primarily Russia, Iran, which considers Syria, it’s 35th province, and the revolutionaries and their allies (which have included the U.S., U.K., U.A.E., Egypt, Italy, Turkey, France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and others). On a third level, this conflict represents a new jihadist front as a spillover from Iraq and also into Lebanon. This is the target of the recently announced international coalition.

 

My paper partially concerned the military balance of the conflict and what it portends.   While reliant on estimates, troop or personnel numbers, weaponry and capabilities may provide a window onto the longevity of a conflict. The American revolutionary war took 8 years (1775 -1783), Fidel Castro ousted Batista of Cuba after seven years. The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt were swiftly enacted –– in 27 days in Tunisia and 17 days in Egypt — because their militaries assented to regime change and both were incomplete revolutions. In Libya, where international intervention took place, the ‘war stage’ was about eight months, but then entered a different stage of militia warfare with the re-establishment of some local services. The uncertain tenure of a revolutionary phase may be punctuated or followed by incidents which appear to be game-changers (the Bay of Pigs for Cuba, for example) but that are interpreted quite differently in hindsight.

The staying power of warring groups is also beginning to rely on “‘markets of violence’ as defined by Georg Elwert: “areas dominated by civil wars, warlords or robbery in which a self-perpetuating system (italics are mine) emerges and links nonviolent commodity markets with the violent acquisition of goods.” (proper endnotes appear in the full written version of this paper).

However the problems of applying this latter formula to the Syrian revolution are that a) the situation does not equate to civil war (the claim has been made to argue for the rights of combatants under the Geneva convention, etc.) b) Many of the economic activities fitting into the markets of violence existed before this conflict. A * is used to indicate a pre-existing market of this nature in the list below.

Syria possessed a shadow, or black market economy for years, possibly 25% of its income & this has expanded during the revolution, and c) The most important economic aspect of the conflict is probably the transfer of funds by external sponsors which more directly influence the military balance d) because the profits obtained through the markets of violence are uncertain figures which accrue to loyalists, rebels, and also to criminals or other non-combatants, it is difficult to calculate their effects.

 

Rebels, loyalists and criminals now raise cash from

 

  1. Most have been of Syrian citizens held for smaller ransom, from $2000 to $20000; in some cases, Qatar’s government has paid hefty ransoms (for the nuns of Maaloula and Fijian UN peacemakers)  foreign journalists were held for huge ransoms or beheaded as we saw by ISIS which serve as a recruitment device for the group & a means of declaring war on the US & the UK.. http://m.aljazeera.com/story/201310141237791322
  2. Drug smuggling.* – this involves hashish, much of it smuggled from Lebanon where the govt. has been unable to raid producers as in years past; heroin, cocaine and Captagon which is an amphetamine using fenytillin (made in Syria but also in S.eastern Europe and Turkey & used by fighters on both sides & smuggled out for profit – often to the Gulf http://www.thenational.ae/uae/health/drug-lords-cash-in-on-syrias-collapse

 

  1. Arms smuggling* to the fighters. These rings have been operated by tribes in border areas and long predate the conflict. There are naturally new actors and methods of arms acquisition, again coming in over the borders.

 

  1. Human trafficking. Version I – smuggling out of refugees. These pay a fee to get to the border. In other instances, they pay to be smuggled from second points to southern or northern Europe.

 

  1. Antiquities smuggling* In some cases, from UNESCO sites designated as being in danger. These transfer to Lebanon and elsewhere, but the routes and agents began their careers, in some cases, during the civil war in Lebanon.

 

  1. Human trafficking. Version II – Prostitution and the sale of women as temporary wives. The trade in women and girls burgeoned in some areas like Damascus, with the influx of Iraqi refugees, and that was fairly well-documented, while the reports include activities of marriage brokers and impact Syrians inside and outside of Syria.

 

  1. Oil, diesel , and gas.  Syria’s official oil exports have ceased with a loss of 20 billion dollars. ISIS, Nusra and other groups are benefitting, but so are the tribes who hold rights to the oil wells in some areas. They sell to the armed groups and the armed groups sell some oil to the Assad govt. The Kurdish YPG controlled fields had won them from Nusra, setting up a new refining company the Distributing al-Jazeera’s Fuel (KSC).

 

ISIS is smuggling out diesel fuel & the revenues benefit Turkish border areas, not only ISIS.   Nusra has been selling gas as well.

 

  1. h)   Criminal networks’ use of children in the sales of contraband or smuggled   goods, as for instance children working to sell smuggled cigarettes in Turkey. http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/syrian-children-exploited-in-sale-of-smuggled-cigarettes-in-turkey.aspx?PageID=238&NID=64162&NewsCatID=341

 

 

Much of my paper dealt with the factionalizing effect of payments made by governments and individuals to the rebels.  This effort to map the changes, especially on the rebel side was complicated by the efforts made by researchers to either inflate the efficacy of the leadership of the Free Syrian Army, the overstatements regarding the salafi-jihadist groups in the country, or efforts by other research institutes to promote the likelihood of a stalemate or worthiness of Assad’s tenure, and not least, by the war of words in social media over the issue.

 

This data led to the following conclusions:

 

  1. Markets of violence behave differently in revolutionary situations than in long-lasting endemic smaller scale conflicts

 

  1. The Syria revolution (like some other revolutions) has united and divided both its backers and opponents.

 

  1. It cannot be resolved through economic means. Violence is being waged to create or prevent a systemic change. The aim for political transformation is the dog wagging the tail of economic activities to sustain the conflict and not the reverse.

 

I made an effort in the paper to examine various assertions and claims that the conflict has been provoked through economic transformation. Certain commentators hold that transitions from state socialism to neoliberalism were the reason for Arab Spring revolutions. However, state socialism was never complete and nor tenable in Syria; there was no society-wide transition to a flourishing neoliberalism despite the infitah there. Rather, the efforts to separate economic from political liberalization accompanied a process where benefits accrued mostly to a small circle of businessmen and leading families who supported Bashar al-Assad’s “New Syria.”

 

Instead, the regime’s brutal response to nonviolent demonstrations in 2011 was the main trigger to revolution. Bouthaina Shaaban (a key advisor both to Hafez al-Assad and then, Bashar al-Assad ) suggested that financial aid be given to the rural areas, which had experienced great privations, but not revolted under the Assads for years. The protesters, who were not professional activists, were so angered by the governments’ actions and so exhausted by its political suppression, that they mocked her proposition, calling for an end to political ‘slavery.’

 

  1. Syria’s military was quite large for a country of its size, deliberately so with an aim to counter Israel, but it lacked a large-scale Military Inc. or milbus (the term used by Ayesha Siddiqa for Pakistan) sector as was described by other presenters in this workshop for Egypt or Jordan. Syria, however has possessed a medium-scale set of military/industrial/research endeavors and so, an exception to the first statement was Syria’s SCUD missiles production which was jointly accomplished with Iran and North Korea. Otherwise, Syria was reliant on weapons procurement from other countries and aid and training from the USSR, causing its military to adopt a centralized, authoritarian, low-risk style of warfare as Tony Cordesman has pointed out — ill-suited to confronting guerilla tactics. Syria has a significant chemical and biological weapons program, also developed with Israel in mind. At the outset of the revolution, Assad had approximately 295,000 troops plus 314,000 reserves and its military intelligence, known as the mukhabarrat and the forces of the General. Security Directorate, and Political Security Directorate which captures, interrogates and tortures rebels (paramilitaries also now operate checkpoints).

 

The revolution fractured Assad’s conventional forces. Defections began in July of 2011, resulting in he new Free Syrian Army umbrella (of numerous battalions and groups) which had then merged with the Free Officers Movement.  Defections continued until 100,000 had left, and travel restrictions on males were imposed. Family members left behind were often arrested, tortured or faced property destruction, meaning that the loyalty of many who remained was also at question. Distrust of Sunni rank and file and reserves reduced the deployable size of Assad’s army troops. He has relied on his air force (and these are mostly Sunni, so the sectarian argument is not an overarching explanation, the Republican Guard, 4th division and Special Forces, but also on paramilitaries.

 

Syria’s shabiha, militias which operate like gangs or mafias, predate this conflict, and obtain funds from businessmen and the government as well as through smuggling – in the past, they dealt in cigarettes and other controlled products from food to batteries, or smuggled hashish, and antiquities. They have been accused of some of the worst atrocities in the fighting, as for example in the Houla massacres (25 May 2012) and reportedly are paid about $500 a month. National Defense Forces were also established; these are civilian militias who obtain their salaries from the Assad government. Altogether these Syrian militias were estimated at 60,000.  The foreign fighters bolstering the loyalists consist of Hizbullah of Lebanon, (5,000 est.) at least 14 Iraqi Shi`a groups, and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps advisors and a Syrian militia trained and operated by IRGC and Hizbullah operatives. These are waging jihad at least as fervently as the Sunni salafi-jihadists on the other side, with sectarian as well as political aims. This must be viewed alongside the immense amounts of credit have been extended by Iran to Syria and cash and weapons were provided both by Iran and Russia,

 

  1. The rebels are nonviolent revolutionary activists and about 1,500 armed groups. Dividing them into “secular” and salafi-jihadist is imprecise. Syria, like so many countries in the region underwent an Islamic revival in the ‘90s. Analysts have also suggested a differentiation between salafi-jihadists with nationalist goals and those with global aims.

 

The rebel forces have taken much of the country & that is due to the fact that

 

  • the nonviolent revolutionaries are still viewed as “worthy resistance” – in Charles Tilly’s language . Their goal is a free, democratic, nonsectarian Syria with a civilian government and rule of law. They have received training and funding from outside of Syria for example, in the use of video-making and branding, democracy education, and governance.
  • political and financial support by foreign governments of the formal political opposition structure – the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.
  • Religious (and thus ideological) and financial support by governmental and private donors to the salafist fighting groups and the Free Syrian Army.

 

The middle section of my paper concerns the largest fighting groups – the umbrella group of Free Syrian Army which includes non-salafi and more or less extreme salafi groups; the Jabhat Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham; Older and newer Islamist coalitions like the Harakat Ahrar al-Sham – 13 of its leaders were recently assassinated – and newer ones like the Islamic Front and the Hazzm movement, and some of the Kurdish fighting movements and brief mention of the activities of the nonviolent movement’s organizations.

 

Funding is important to these groups in two ways 1) fighters require provisioning and stipends 2) those with more heavy weaponry could respond more effectively

 

The expansion of global jihad meant the salafi-jihadists very successfully used social media to fundraise & in turn, demonstrated the use of those funds to donors. And this could all be done on an individual basis, and is thus extremely difficult to track or interrupt.

 

  1. Since the summer of 2012, the FSA or ‘moderate’ elements of the revolution and confronted various problems

 

  1. chaotic infighting in the revolution, which was supposed to be managed – by a new structure. The Supreme Military Command set up in Dec. 2012

 

  1. continuing difficulties in obtaining heavy weaponry.

 

The US provided $26 million by 2013 and a total of $80 million in nonlethal assistance was promised, but not provided. As President Obama turned the question over to Congress to argue over sending weapons to the rebels, when he must have known they would balk, many experts thought he and his advisors wanted the FSA to be strong enough to prevent Assad from victory, but not able to prevail, thus requiring a political solution. A CIA program in Jordan was funded[i] but only for 1 ,000 to 3,000 troops; this is the program to be upgraded into a training for trainers effort to provide a force to fight ISIS and towards which some $4 billion is being reportedly allocated.

 

  1. Assad’s forces with Hizbullah and other militias managed, albeit with great difficulty – to recapture some areas (only three) – and the FSA’s battalions regrouped in various new alliances.

 

  1. The lessening of international pressure on Assad; the United Nations/Arab League special representative Lakhdar Brahimi declared his own mission a failure ; Obama’s brief threat against Syria for using sarin in attacks on August 25, 2013 was withdrawn as Russia negotiated that Syria to turn over its chemical weapons; and the meetings in Geneva last winter (’14) failed to produce any outcome.

 

  1. FSA leaders were involved in a sex scandal, gruesome videos and accused of war crimes even as thousands of photographs of Assad’s war crimes were obtained and shared in testimony to Congress by the mysterious Caesar, a Syrian defector .

 

  1. ISIS and Jabhat Nusra gained the most territory, while they together had had only about 10,000 troops last year, ISIS is now estimated by the CIA as being perhaps 30,000 (15,000) in Syria and 50,000 by Bill Roggio.  In January of 2014, a sub-war between ISIS and Jabhat Nusra, was launched, which did not result in ISIS’ defeat.

 

Reactions to the US-coalition launched war on ISIS and Nusra were being protested by rebels all over the country. Assad is presumably happy with the attacks on his foes, but unsure of the West’s next move.

 

Assad’s military’s dilemma, in Clausewitzian terms, is the diffusion of the conflicts’ center of gravity throughout the country, and his inability to extinguish the popular will for revolution.   The direct economic funding of the conflict is as crucial to his effort as it is to that of the revolutionaries. Whether the markets of violence, are or are not a determining factor, and merely a subsidiary aspect of the conflict remains to be seen.

 

[i] Yezid Sayigh. “Is Armed Rebellion on the Wane in Syria?” Carnegie Middle East Center, April 24, 21014. http://carnegie-mec.org/2014/04/24/is-armed-rebellion-in-syria-on-wane/h8z6#

 

Thoughts on the Proportion of Foreign Fighters in Syria

14 Sep

“Thoughts on the Proportion of Foreign Fighters in Syria “

 

Sherifa Zuhur   (please do not cite without permission, this is based on a chapter in an academic book on ‘markets of violence’ in the Syrian revolution.)

 

sherifazuhur@gmail.com

 

A plethora of media and ‘expert’ sources claim that ISIS’ numbers “may have” tripled – with the CIA’s estimate at 20,000 to 31,500 in Iraq and according to some, 50,000 (an exaggerated figure) in Syria.[1]   Last year, some sources claimed Jabhat Nusra and ISIS were no more than 7,000 to 10,000[2] (together), with only 5,000 “official” Nusra members (BBC), Nusra’s leaders claimed they have 15,000 or 20,000 troops. ISIS’ approximate size in 2013 was calculated at 5,000 to 6,000 fighters.[3]

 

Reasons given for the increase are a) an increase in foreign fighters, despite the fact that international authorities were alerted last year to the danger of foreign fighters returning to their own home countries and began serious review of travelers; or b) other fighters joining ISIS or tribes joining ISIS (a trend seen in Iraq, but not particularly in Syria although some tribes are participating).

 

Western media are using a figure of 12,000 (or 11,000) foreign fighters as of late summer 2014 in Syria – which means that the overall figure of 100,000 rebel fighters must have increased (despite a fairly high casualty rate). On Sept. 8, a figure was given of 3,000 fighters from Tunisia participating in the Syrian revolution  by Peter Neumann at ICSR at King’s College.[4]  Contrast this with a U.S. Congressional report said that U.S. intelligence had estimated 7,500 foreign fighters were in Syria as of February 2014.[5] Are nearly half the fighters, Tunisian? No. Then, how accurate are these assessments? And are we concerned about them as a determinant of the salafi-jihadists’ rapid growth?  Or as predictors of a campaign against salafi-jihadists (yes) and the probability of rebels overcoming Assad’s forces (yes) or at least holding their own?

 

Can we properly assess the size of salafi-jihadists’ forces as a whole (given that some include ‘nationalist salafis’ like Ahrar al-Sham, and some do not, and with claims that the Jaysh al-Islam, for example is at 50,000 alone). The ICSR had also claimed (in 2013) that foreign jihadists are only 10% of the opposition. Once again, the size of the revolution (‘insurgency’) is debated: the U.S. estimates 75,000 to as high as 115,000.[6]

Is the danger of blowback from foreign fighters being exaggerated, given that their primary goals are in Syria?  The al-Qa’ida movements have already given us a great deal of information about the reasons that foreign nationals join a global jihad movement in a particular local battle.

Let’s review some of the other information from last year:  Syria was already seen as a jihadist magnet more powerful than Afghanistan or Yemen, a year ago.[7] Analysts claimed, then that 40% to 80% of groups like Nusra and ISIS are foreign fighters, although identifications of slain fighters do not support such claims.[8]   Officials thought that perhaps 700 or 800 salafi-jihadists had traveled to Syria from Jordan and about 100 were killed there.[9] Numbers of Tunisian (600), Saudi Arabian[10], Libyan, and Iraqi fighters are significant. An estimated 100 Chechen fighters were in Syria.[11] The FBI has identified 100 American Muslims fighting in Syria, France had identified 150 French jihadists, and the Spanish government arrested Wahhabists in Ceuta who sent 50 fighters to Syria.[12] British authorities estimated that 200 UK nationals are fighting in Syria, but have only positively identified twenty;[13] and twenty Dutch fighters, mostly of Moroccan descent, were in Syria (with six killed) led by Abu Fida’a;[14] Swedish Security Services estimated 30 Swedes traveled to Syria to fight, and a senior security official claimed 80 Australians are fighting in Syria, perhaps 20 with Jabhat al-Nusra.[15] At least 40 Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) fighters have fought in Syria[16]; out of perhaps 100 Pakistani fighters in Syria. The TTP leaders run a network with Lashkar e-Jhangvi bringing militants to Syria,[17] who likely fought with Hafiz Gul Bahadur group members in the Katibat Muhajirun in Latakia under Abu Jafar al-Libi. An ISIS video from July 2013 showed 10 to 20 TTP fighters in Syria,[18] and 30 slain Pakistani fighters’ bodies were returned to Pakistan in September.[19] Anywhere from “several” to 50 Indonesians are thought to be in Syria.[20] The Katibat Taliban (KaT) who fight the Kurdish-Syrian PYD were reportedly paid an initial sum equal to $1000.[21] (I am looking at the economic aspects of the fighting elsewhere, in a book on the political economy of conflicts in Arab tates).

 

Although many of governments put measures in place to apprehend those traveling to Syria, jihadists have succeeded in traveling like a Saudi engineer, who left his job to join the jihad,[22] al-Sharikh (Sanafi al-Nasr), a cousin of Osama bin Ladin, who formerly fought in Chechnya and Afghanistan, and Abu `Awan al-Shamani who set off a Nusra suicide bomb at the French hospital in Aleppo.[23] Saudi Arabia has arrested jihadists on their return from Syria; 1,200 had traveled to Syria by 2013 [24] and now estimates are at anywhere from 1,500 to 2,500.

The Tunisian Minister of Interior offered the number of 2,400 fighters in June of 2014, without specifying any sources. [25]  Unclear numbers of Libyans are fighting in Syria, having undergone training in Libya.

Some claim 600 foreign fighters were killed in Syria in the first half of 2013. That is a fairly small proportion of rebels killed as a whole. However, the website Syrian Martyrs had only documented 326 foreign fighters deaths by June of 2014 (and this source documents deaths even when identification by name is not made).

 

Lest we forget, there are at least 10,000 foreign Shi`i fighters in Syria as well – and again these are estimated numbers. And we might remember that the Hizbullah and other Shi`i fighters are also hostile to a democratic way of life, have slaughtered Syrian civilians, and yet, they are not the subject of the current frenzy of concern over foreign fighters.

 

With the dramatic beheadings of U.S. journalists and a U.K. aid worker in Syria, it is difficult not to exaggerate the overall threat to the West, and recall that the context of these fighting groups and others, as well as a non-violent revolutionary movement is the effort to bring down the government of Bashar al-Assad.    From this brief review, we may deduce that if the higher numbers of foreign fighters are correct, the size of the revolutionary forces is higher than estimated (or at the high end of current estimates).

 

 

[1]New York Post, September 12, 2014 . http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/isis-muster-20-000-31-500-fighters-triple-previous-estimates-cia-article-1.1937563

 

[2] Noman Benotman and Roisin Blake. “Jabhat al-Nusra lil-Ahl al-Sham min Mujahedin al-Sham fi Sahat al-Jihad.” Strategic Briefing. Qulliam Foundation, n.d. http://www.quilliamfoundation.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/publications/free/jabhat-al-nusra-a-strategic-briefing.pdf Estimates 5,000. An estimate of 6,000 to 7,000 is given by Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. “”The Al Nusra Front.” September, 23, 2013, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/Data/articles/Art_20573/E_076_13_1861409435.pdf

The group was established in 2012, claimed to double with new recruits including jihadists returning from Iraq, or traveling from overseas.

 

[3] “Al Qaeda’s Syrian Strategy.” Foreign Policy, October, 10, 2013.

 

[4] ABC News, September 8, 2014. http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/expert-12000-foreign-fighters-syria-25364064

 

[5] Remarks by James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, to the Senate Armed Services Committee, February 11, 2014.

 

[6] Congressional Research Service. “Armed Conflict in Syria.” June 27, 2014, 3.

 

[7] Kristina Wong, “Foreign Fighters Surpass Afghan-Soviet War, Storm Syria in Record Numbers,” Washington Times, October 20, 2013.

 

[8] These can be obtained on a daily basis, when they are identified (identification is not always possible) via the Local Coordination Committees in Syria of the SOHR.

 

[9] Interview with Mohammed al-Shalabi, a Jordanian Salafi-jihadi leader, on August 9, 2013, see Suha Philip Ma’ayeh. “Jordanian Jihadists Active in Syria.” Countering Terrorism Sentinel, October 24, 2013. http://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/jordanian-jihadists-active-in-syria; “10 Salafists Enter Aleppo Through Turkey,” al-Ghad, October 7, 2013; Muwaffaq Kamal,  “The Salafi Jihadi Denies Establishing a Murabitoon Brigade,” al-Ghad, September 23, 2013; “Teenage Jordanian ‘Jihadist’ Killed in Syria,” Jordan Times, February 28, 2013; Hassan Tammimi, “Jordanian Salafi from Rusaifa Killed in Syria,” al-Ghad, August 4, 2013.

 

[10] John Kerry inaccurately claimed there were no Saudi Arabian fighters in Syria in June of 2013, despite the reported death of a Nusra commander, Kasura al-Jazrawi in May 2013. CNS News.com June 25, 2013.   In October, 2013, the Mufti of Saudi Arabia issued a statement to discourage Saudi engagement in jihad in Syria even as 16 year old Moath al-Hamili arrived to fight. Global Voices, October 1, 2013. http://globalvoicesonline.org/2013/10/01/the-16-year-old-saudi-who-is-fighting-in-syria/

 

[11] “Битва за Ичкерию перекинулась на Сирию,” Kommersant, July 26, 2013 http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/2241167

 

[12] Newsweek, October 25, 2013.

 

[13] Jenny Cuffe, “Who Are the British Jihadists in Syria?” BBC News, October 15, 2013.

 

[14] Samar Batrawi, “The Dutch Foreign Fighter Contingent in Syria.” CTC Sentinel, October 24, 2013.

 

[15]Per Gudmundson, “The Swedish Foreign Fighter Contingent in Syria.” CTC Sentinel, September 24, 2013; Zammit, Andrew. “Tracking Australian Foreign Fighters in Syria.” CTC Sentinel, November 26, 2013.

 

[16] Zia Ur Rahman, “Pakistani Fighters Joining the War in Syria.” CTC Sentinel, [Countering Terrorism Center] September 24, 2013.

 

[17] Ahmed Wali Mujeeb, “Pakistan Taliban ‘Sets up a Base in Syria,’” BBC, July 12, 2013; Maria Golovnina and Jibran Ahmad, “Pakistan Taliban Set Up Camps in Syria, Join Anti-Assad War,” Reuters, July 14, 2013.

 

[18] “Video Confirms Pakistani Taliban’s Presence In Syria,” The Middle East Media Research Institute, August 1, 2013.

 

[19] Aqeel Yousafzai, “Taliban se muzakraat Hukmaran band gali mai,” Hum Shehri [Lahore], September 9-15, 2013.

 

[20] AP News. “For Indonesian Jihadists: Civil War in Syria Beckons.” Townhall.com January 10, 2014.

[22] Shown here after shooting rabbits in the desert, a favorite male pastime. “Mudir “Kahraba tarbiyya” yiktib “wastaituhu”wa ghadir ila Suriyya,al-Sabq 10/7/2013.

http://sabq.org/0qFfde

 

[23] Aaron Y. Zelin, “The Saudi Foreign Fighter Presence in Syria.” CTC Sentinel, April 28, 2014 https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/the-saudi-foreign-fighter-presence-in-syria

 

[24] Fahd al-Dhiyabi, “Saudi Interior Ministry Says 25 Percent of Fighters in Syria Have Returned,” Asharq Alawsat, March 24, 2014.

 

[25] Al Arabiyya, 23 June 2014. http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/2014/06/24/Ministry-around-2-400-Tunisians-fighting-in-Syria.html

 

Syria Update, January 14-15, 2014. Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur

15 Jan

Syria Update, January 14-15 2014.  (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies.  By Sherifa Zuhur)

Tuesday’s death toll:  183 killed including 40 civilians, and of those 7 were children.

UN aid teams abandoned delivery of aid to Yarmouk after the Syrian government insisted that it use a dangerous route to the southern entrance of Yarmouk.  http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2014/Jan-15/244117-un-abandons-aid-delivery-after-syria-insists-on-dangerous-route.ashx#axzz2qUVMvXzW

At least 10 and perhaps as many as 26 people were killed Wednesday morning in a car bomb in Jarablous in Aleppo province  attributed to ISIS http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/jan/15/irans-fm-discusses-peace-talks-with-syrias-assad/

 

 

Starvation as a weapon of war in Yarmouk (and elsewhere) https://www.oximity.com/article/About-the-death-of-Palestine-at-the-ca-1

 

SANA reported that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad today (Wednesday) in Damascus Syria.  The two have been speaking about the United Nations conference scheduled for next week in Montreux, Switzerland.  In the meeting Assad slammed Wahhabism and Saudi Arabia. http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/syrias-assad-slams-saudi-ideology-as-threat-to-world.aspx?pageID=517&nID=61082&NewsCatID=352

John Kerry’s message to the Friends of Syria  – http://m.state.gov/md219697.htm

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/13/us-syria-crisis-raqqa-idUSBREA0B0MX20140113

Refugees and Relief:

UK gives amnesty to 1500 Syrian refugees.  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10555821/UK-accepts-1500-asylum-seekers-from-Syria.html

 

Bulgarian neo-Nazis attack and threaten immigrants in Bulgaria including Syria’s estimated 10,000 refugees. http://muftah.org/bulgarias-neo-nazis-wage-war-syrian-refugees/

 

Oxfam says donor funds must go to Syria and the impacted neighboring countries. http://beta.syriadeeply.org/op-eds/oxfam-kuwait-donors-funds-syrians-neighbors/#.UtbKMGDGtGk

 

 

 

Aleppo  provincehttps://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+aleppo+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152ff85ac00b17c9:0xf68ea3d8dc74b61b,Aleppo+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=R9DLUKfTFoWO0QHBuIHABA&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

 

At least 10 and perhaps as many as 26 people were killed Wednesday morning in a car bomb in Jarablous attributed to ISIS http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/jan/15/irans-fm-discusses-peace-talks-with-syrias-assad/

On Wednesday morning, violent clashes took place between ISIS and Islamic battalion fighters and rebels near the town of Ratian, Jarablous, areas near the city of A’azaz, and the eastern countryside of Aleppo province . 3 mortars fell on Hrietan.

 

Tuesday, Islamist and rebel (other FSA) battalions took over Kafar Kalbin and Kafra, after clashes with ISIS.  The regime’s security services tortured to death one man from Darat Izza  A rebel attack killed 2 regime soldiers stationed at a checkpoint in the Salaheddin neighborhood, of Aleppo.  Regime forces bombarded areas of Bustan al-Qasr and a mortar fell on the Meridian area.

 

Damascus province:   https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+damascus+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x1518e6dc413cc6a7:0x69e5b88ad5b0817b,Damascus+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=_s_LUPTwHqWw0AHTtYDQAg&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

 

So far, 49 civilians reported to have died from malnutrition or lack of medical supplies in the besieged Yarmouk camp; which has been choked by the regime for several months. Several mortars fell on Halab street, the Qusoor neighbourhood and the Adawi area causing injuries.

 

Also on Yarmouk (English and Greek subtitles):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcDQ4alZbu4

 

Dara`a provincehttps://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+daraa+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15195fa1016e8de7:0xff6b41761235d49c,Daraa+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=u9DLUPDfIcXq0gGRwIHADQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

 

There was an airstrike in Dael (by the regime) here is a video of the aftermath:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQ443XO6GdI  There was fierce artillery shelling of Jiza, and rebels destroyed a Doshka at the Nawa road frontline.

 

Regime shelling wounded a fighter at Inkhel:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tanUb5wgDns

 

 

Deir az-Zur province:

 

https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=Dayr+Az+Zor+province+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x1548153314d3dbad:0x9d5a68804221c27f,Deir+ez-Zor+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=WtLLUJL5NanI0QGozIH4Bw&ved=0CDMQ8gEwAA

 

Regime forces bombed the city of Deir az-Zur after midnight yesterday.

 

 

 

 

Hama provincehttps://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=hama+governorate&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15248293d5052f19:0x6e6de1581c39ed96,Hama+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=CdPLUKKbIqyF0QHB94HQAw&sqi=2&ved=0CIEBELYD

 

Regime forces are launching a raid and arrest campaign in the village of Zor Assors and shelling the village of al-Jwayz.    Violent clashes took place today (Wednesday) between the FSA and Assad’s forces at Muwak on the outskirts of Hamah and there was artillery shelling in the area.

 

Hassake province

https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=AlHasakah+Governorate,+Syria,+google+maps&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x400976912dee2dfb:0x1735b67e4a2454b0,Al-Hasakah+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=UMLTUOKtN4ra0QG9-oHYBg&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

39 fighters of the YPG were mourned today in Qamishli.  They were killed in clashes against ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamist rebel fighters near Tal-Brak and Tal-Hamis in the countryside near Qamishli from the end of December to the 7th of January 2014.  The YPG has retreated from the area now controlled by ISIS and other allied groups.

Homs province:   https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=homs+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15230eeab10528a7:0x65655b88027a8699,Homs+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=BFPRUM6RBaTI0AHw1ICoCQ&ved=0CDMQ8gEwAA

On Tuesday,  mortars hit the Alawite village of Fella, injuring at least 3 civilians.  Regime bombardment on the Houla area,killed 2 men and others were injured.  Clashes between rebels and regime forces supported by the NDF took place near the town of  al-Usiya.  Gunfire was heard on the Homs – Tartous road near the town of al-Mazra’a, followed by regime gunfire.  Regime forces hit the town of al-Ghento with heavy machine-guns.

Regime forces carried out raids and arrests in the Ghouta neighbourhood.  Regime bombardment on the al-Wa’er neighborhood killed one man.

40 (here given as 65) died trying to break the siege of Homs.

http://eaworldview.com/2014/01/syria-the-65-men-who-died-trying-to-break-the-siege-of-homs/

Rebel mortar attacks on the 12th of Jan. in Homs.   http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/syrian-government-shelling-kills-20-21502907

Idlib province:   https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=idlib+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152500e6cc6ed27b:0xe59a7e2f651fc24c,Idlib+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=51PRUIiREsaB0AHN_YD4BQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

Islamic fighters carried out an ambush on ISIS on the north side of Saraqeb killing a Belgian commander in ISIS, known as the Amir of Saraqeb was killed, and another foreign ISIS fighter.  A third foreign fighter was injured and transported to Turkey.

Islamic movement fighters were killed and 10 others seriously injured (late Monday) by a large ISIS suicide car bomb explosion targeting a checkpoint and military motorcade between Ram Hamdan and Zardana   Assad’s forces shelled several areas in the northern neighborhood of Ma`arat al-Nu`man.

Latakia province: 

https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=latakia+governorate+google+maps&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15241c8bc2bf561f:0xdbb2edac5c45c32b,Latakia+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=ghv_UOaOOMGW0QH88YDYDw&ved=0CC0Q8gEwAA

Regime forces bombarded villages near the town of Salma  on Tuesday. One ISIS fighter was killed in the northern countryside.

Quneitra province  https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=Quneitra+governorate+Google+maps&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x151eb4afcd3e069f:0xbcbbd63808a65623,Quneitra+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=Ch77ULCILuyP0QG67YDoDQ&ved=0CC0Q8gEwAA

On Tuesday, the villages of the southern countryside of Quneitra were bombarded by regime forces, killing at least 4 civilians and injuring 17.  Clashes resumed near the town of al-Samadaniya al-Sharqiya, and regime forces continued bombardment there and brought in reinforcements from the National Defense Froces militia. There were reports that regime detained 15 civilians from the village of Shura, near Sa’sa’ town, and that regime forces were stationing themselves in houses there.

 

Raqqa province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+ar-raqqah+province,+Syria&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x153719cee4c60ce7:0x9d4657e00e899ab6,Ar-Raqqah+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=PJ_bUKrTBObF0AGMuYHwBw&sqi=2&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

On Wednesday, it was learned that ISIS executed 2 civilians from Yabesa, five days ago. The two had been traveling from this Kurdish village to Tal Abyad to buy bread when ISIS took them.  Their bodies were found near the village of Talsolah, with their hands tied behind their backs and they had been tortured.

The ISIS has released many Islamic fighters today.

Further ISIS attacks:  http://syriahr.com/en/index.php?option=com_news&nid=1330&Itemid=2&task=displaynews#.UtY0BWDGtGl

On Tuesday, regime forces have advanced towards the western barrier of the 17th division, the base was under the control of an islamist movement but it retreated days ago. Members from the division were observed planting landmines by the western barrier. ISIS has granted control over the Tal Abyad border crossing to a local council from the city (Turkey had closed the crossing earlier. Meanwhile ISIS took full control of the city Raqqah city following several days of clashes.

On Sunday, ISIS recaptured much of its territory.  http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/12/us-syria-crisis-qaeda-idUSBREA0B0JD20140112

International:

14 Syrian rockets hit Arsaal in eastern Lebanon yesterday.  http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2014/Jan-14/244020-14-syria-rockets-hit-lebanons-arsal-source.ashx#axzz2qUVMvXzW

Gordon Brown speaks about the education aid needed for Syria’s refugees:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3a0ZR_PbFA

Lebanon’s prime minister, Najib Mikati calls for safe havens inside of Syria and for help with Syria’s refugees inside of Lebanon.  http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2014/Jan-15/244125-mikati-pleads-for-help-with-syrian-refugees.ashx#axzz2qUVMvXzW

NGOs pledge 14 million in Syrian relief campaign http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/01/ngos-pledge-400m-syria-relief-campaign-201411522535504457.html

Western countries’ intelligence representatives have reportedly been meeting with representatives of the Syrian government, despite the sanctions on Assad’s government in efforts to stem any backblow of jihadists to the West (or perhaps in the other direction?) http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/16/world/middleeast/syria-western-intelligence-cooperation.html

Human Rights Watch issues a warning that Islamist fighting groups in Syria are eroding the rights of women and girls, enforcing Islamic dress rules, and disallowing free movement of women to work or school.  http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/01/13/syria-extremists-restricting-women-s-rights

UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon warned that nearly half of Syrians needed humanitarian aid in his address to a one day donor conference being held in Kuwait City:  http://www.afp.com/fr/news/topstories/1242951/

Donors have pledged nearly $1.3 billion at this meeting:  http://www.khaleejtimes.com/kt-article-display-1.asp?xfile=data/middleeast/2014/January/middleeast_January168.xml&section=middleeast

A new academic book on Syria’s television.  http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/16019/new-texts-out-now_rebecca-joubin-the-politics-of-l

 

 

Syria Update, November 25, 2013 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

26 Nov

Syria Update November 25, 2013. (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

Death toll: 200 were killed on Friday (11/22/13) including 49 civilians

At least 160 opposition fighters were killed over two days (Saturday and Sunday) in an effort to break the regime siege on areas of southern Damascus. No estimates given on regime soldiers casualties, as yet.

11 deaths reported in Aleppo today.

Reaction from the opposition on the planned Geneva II talks http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/11/25/syria-geneva-un-peace-talks/3695995/

11,420 children have been killed in Syria: http://www.imra.org.il/story.php3?id=62449

The Free Syrian Athletes Union mourned the death of Mustafa Al-Nakdali, Syrian wrestling champion, killed while fighting alongside opposition forces against regular troops in the eastern Al-Ghouta, in Rif Dimashq on Sunday.

Iranian fighters are shown here in Syria (along with fingers of the cameraman). You can briefly hear them communicating in Farsi. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gsh59Gxg8ig

Sunday, An assassination attempt on Syria’s Reconciliation Minister, Ali Haidar, killed his driver, but Haidar was not in the car according to the Syrian state news agency http://rt.com/news/minister-assassination-syria-negotiations-215/
However, the opposition said that Haidar was wounded in the attack.

An unsympathetic portrait of the changes in several of the largest salafi-jihadist fighting groups. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/11/21/rebels_inc?page=full

4 British Muslims have been identified as among those killed fighting in Syria. http://europenews.dk/en/node/74498

A newly-leaked cable (from 2010) on U.S.-Syrian intelligence cooperation. Suggests that Syria was exploiting U.S. fears of salafi-jihadist groups even then. Mamlouk claimed Syria was successful because “In principle, we don’t attack or kill them immediately. Instead, we embed ourselves in them and only at the opportune moment do we move.” http://www.theguardian.com/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/250462

Refugees and Relief:

Some Syrian victims of the fighting are being treated in Israel http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-24998618

Book by a teen-age refugee: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Culture/Books/2013/Nov-21/238607-the-heartbreaking-story-of-a-courageous-teenage-refugee.ashx#axzz2laQfx6Ib

Kidnappings:

Jamie Dettmer, a Beast reporter tells how he was almost kidnapped by Syrian soldiers in Qamishli and much about the three-way struggle (rebels, Kurdish forces, Assad’s forces in the area, see below under Hassake) http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/11/25/how-i-escaped-assad-s-army-in-syria.html

Aleppo province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+aleppo+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152ff85ac00b17c9:0xf68ea3d8dc74b61b,Aleppo+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=R9DLUKfTFoWO0QHBuIHABA&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

11 were killed in Aleppo as rebels fired on Jamilia and 20 were injured according to SANA. http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2013/Nov-25/238878-11-dead-in-mortar-fire-on-aleppo-city-syria-state-media.ashx#axzz2lhn9HuAG

Today, the FSA blew up a building in Sheikh Maqsud with a mine.
Yesterday opposition battalions (of ISIS and Ahrar al-Sham in the new Islamic Movement alliance) strengthened their control over multiple villages in the southern Aleppo countryside, following a few days of fierce battles. Opposition forces gained control over the towns of Rasm Al-Sheikh, Rasm Ikerish, Yaman and Rasm Al-Helou, in addition to Sad’aya and Mazare’a Azan, among other towns. http://syrianewsdesk.com/en/2013/11/24/news-opposition-forces-seize-multiple-towns-southern-aleppo
Yamen Naddaf, a media activist was killed yesterday in Sheikh Saeed. http://syrianewsdesk.com/en/2013/11/24/news-media-activist-yamen-naddaf-killed-aleppo
Yesterday, the FSA targeted Brigade 80, targeted the towns of Nubl and Zahra and both military airports Alnayrab Kweiris
. The FSA shot at regime forces in the neighborhood of Ashrafieh
Fighting also focused on Khanaser.
On Saturday, regime airstrikes killed at least 40 in Aleppo. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-25068112

Damascus province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+damascus+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x1518e6dc413cc6a7:0x69e5b88ad5b0817b,Damascus+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=_s_LUPTwHqWw0AHTtYDQAg&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

The rebel forces are taking over villages and checkpoints in the Eastern Ghouta in an advance. http://reliefweb.int/report/syrian-arab-republic/syria-rebels-press-advance-around-damascus-aleppo-monitor

Yesterday, the FSA hit the regime forces’ barracks at Kamal Masharaqah in Jobar
 with Grad missiles; also Dumayr military airport, and targeted regime forces’ enclaves in Barzeh
. The FSA targeted the vehicles administration [building] in Harasta, and the Republican Guard headquarters on Mount Qasioun.

Rebel forces’ consolidated their grip on the international highway #Homs to #Damascus in #Qalamoun area http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96kAHXcl9RM

The much-touted “Qalamoun offensive” (reported on by various journalists for about a month) may not start for a while. (Some on the Web claim it started on 11/15.) http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/security/2013/11/syria-opposition-qalamoun-battle-war.html?utm_source=&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=8604

However, 20 regime air strikes hit al-Nabk in al-Qalamoun on Saturday.

Dara`a province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+daraa+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15195fa1016e8de7:0xff6b41761235d49c,Daraa+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=u9DLUPDfIcXq0gGRwIHADQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

HRW’s Nadim Houry on Dara`a: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kd3D3rhO7YU&feature=youtu.be

Deir az-Zur province:

https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=Dayr+Az+Zor+province+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x1548153314d3dbad:0x9d5a68804221c27f,Deir+ez-Zor+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=WtLLUJL5NanI0QGozIH4Bw&ved=0CDMQ8gEwAA

Rebels gained control of the al-Omar oilfield and a number of tanks and vehicles, killing a number of soldiers.

On the seizure of the oil field: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/24/world/middleeast/syria.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&smid=tw-nytimes&_r=0

From Qanat Deir al-Zur:

Hama province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=hama+governorate&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15248293d5052f19:0x6e6de1581c39ed96,Hama+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=CdPLUKKbIqyF0QHB94HQAw&sqi=2&ved=0CIEBELYD

Yesterday: The FSA controlled the villages of Asafra and Albarghotah in the countryside east of Hama. 
The FSA fired mortars at the Alhamamyat checkpoint and the Saman checkpoint killing regime forces. The FSA 
liberated the Abidha checkpoint and also inflicted casualties there.

Saturday: Four martyrs are listed in (from) Hama — Abdul Kader Ahmad al Sayfi killed in shelling onto Hama countryside.
 2. Ahmad Faisal Yousuf al Hasan killed in a battle at al-Quneitra
http://goo.gl/aVVJ8u
http://goo.gl/DbRLhL
3. Khaled Sha’ban of the FSA killed in the clashes in the city of Douma. 
4. Jameel Shaleesh killed by regime forces in Harem
Regime forces stormed al Faraya neighborhood blocking all entrances, and arrested many young men.
 Regime forces made many arrests in Tareeq Halab al-Qadim and took them to al A’laf checkpoint.

There was shelling with barrel bombs on the town of Eqerebat. And al-Hamadaniyya. Intense shelling from the al-Rahjan checkpoint onto the villages outside of Salamiyya. Shelling with barrel bombs on the mosques of Kaferzeita.
Helicopters (regime) flew over and dropped barrel bombs on the mosque of Kafrenboda.
Western Hama province: Shelling from al Azezya , al Nahel and Joreen checkpoints onto the villages of al-Salhia and Zayzoon villages and al Jood farm.
Southern Hama province: Heavy shelling by the regime from checkpoint in the loyalist villages on the town of Aqrab
The FSA forces liberated Asmad , al Barghoteya , al Asafra villages and killed 35 regime troops near Abu Balaya, also inflicting casualties with a bomb to the east of Ma’ar Shohur. There were heavy clashes at the al-Kafer checkpoint to the west of Taib al-Imam.
The FSA liberated the checkpoint of al Webda farms inflicting casualties and taking cars and ammunition; also the checkpoint of Ibn al-Noona

Hassake province
https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=AlHasakah+Governorate,+Syria,+google+maps&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x400976912dee2dfb:0x1735b67e4a2454b0,Al-Hasakah+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=UMLTUOKtN4ra0QG9-oHYBg&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

Sunday: The FSA destroyed the PKK barrier in the village of al-Moharraket near alQahtaniyah.

Saturday: Was al-Hassakeh Martyrs Day – activists documented the killing of three villagers of Alaguebash who had been detained by shabiha of the PKK. They were among 30 detainees who were charged with cooperating with the FSA (the FSA killed 21 on the other side).
Major bombings in the city of Qamishli and 2 explosions inside of the city (believed to be at the headquarters of the Worker’s Party and also a car bomb).
Another car bomb hit a checkpoint 10 km. southeast of the outskirts of Qahtaniyya. Hospitals in the city were full. (Much of this report was unclear as posted, so not including it)

Homs province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=homs+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15230eeab10528a7:0x65655b88027a8699,Homs+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=BFPRUM6RBaTI0AHw1ICoCQ&ved=0CDMQ8gEwAA

FSA targeted a regime forces compound in the refinery yesterday.

Idlib province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=idlib+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152500e6cc6ed27b:0xe59a7e2f651fc24c,Idlib+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=51PRUIiREsaB0AHN_YD4BQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

Rebels blew up the Haboosh checkpoint; casualties reported. They also shelled he brick factory.
Raqqa province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+ar-raqqah+province,+Syria&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x153719cee4c60ce7:0x9d4657e00e899ab6,Ar-Raqqah+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=PJ_bUKrTBObF0AGMuYHwBw&sqi=2&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

The rebels targeted the military airport and also shelled regiment 17.
International:

Pope Francis (along with Putin, with whom he is meeting) calls for a negotiated settlement in Syria. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/05/pope-francis-syria_n_3872435.html

2 Swedish journalists have been kidnapped in Syria http://www.taiwannews.com.tw/etn/news_content.php?id=2353580

John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State says a peace conference planned for January 22, 2014 in Geneva is the best opportunity to form a “new transitional governing body.” http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/25/us-syria-crisis-talks-kerry-idUSBRE9AO0P420131125

At Geneva, the parties are supposed to work out a way to implement the principles in this full final communiqué for the Action Group for Syria (from June) http://www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/Syria/FinalCommuniqueActionGroupforSyria.pdf

Opinions:

From Amal Hanano
http://www.thenational.ae/article/20131123/OPINION/131129704

That the Iran-US agreement will not likely affect the Syrian revolution:
http://www.arabnews.com/news/483181

That the Iran-US agreement will not help negotiations on Syria
http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Security-Watch/Backchannels/2013/1125/Does-Iran-nuclear-deal-pave-way-for-Syria-compromise-Not-so-fast