Saturday, June 11, 2011

Al-Jazeera Video: Largest demonstration in Bahrain since March

Al-Jazeera Video: Syria protests continue as refugees stream into Turkey

Al-Jazeera Video: Syrian from Jisr al-Shughur talks to Al Jazeera

Syrian army 'cracking' amid crackdown

Testimonies from defected soldiers give a dramatic insight into the split apparently emerging in the security forces.

Hugh Macleod and Annasofie Flamand

"The escalating military offensive in northwest Syria began after what corroborating accounts said was a shoot-out between members of the military secret police in Jisr al-Shughur, some of whom refused to open fire on unarmed protesters.

A growing number of first-hand testimonies from defected soldiers give a rare but dramatic insight into the cracks apparently emerging in Syria’s security forces as the unrelenting assault on unarmed protesters continues.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Turkey, having crossed the border on Friday night, an activist based in Jisr al-Shughur and trusted by experienced local reporters described how a funeral on June 4 for a man shot dead by plain-clothes security a day earlier grew into a large anti-government protest.

"As the demonstration passed the headquarters of the military secret police they opened fire right away and killed eight people," the activist, who was among the crowd, said. "But some of the secret police refused to open fire and there were clashes between them. It was complete chaos."

The following day the activist and others went back to the military police building having heard explosions coming from the area the evening before. They found dozens of bodies, including that of the military police chief, identified by his ID card.

All foreign media is banned from reporting in Syria so it is impossible to verify the account firsthand, though it tallies with other testimonies from residents of the area that clashes between security forces had taken place.

Since then, President Bashar al-Assad has poured dozens of tanks and thousands of troops into northwest Syria, with the military, thought to be led by Assad’s brother Maher, vowing to "restore security" after it said 120 security men were killed in Jisr al-Shughur by "armed gangs."

However, state-run Syria TV admitted that gunmen "in military uniform" were responsible for the killing of the 120 security personnel, with SANA, the official news agency, claiming the assailants had stolen the uniforms and that residents were now pleading for the army to intervene.

"It’s the regime using violence"

Eyewitness accounts painted a very different picture. "It’s tragic. They have burned down all the crops and the villagers are fleeing," said a resident of Jisr al-Shughur who fled on Friday with four people injured by the military assault, heading to the Turkish border. He said he had witnessed the army opening fire on fleeing villagers with machine guns.

Turkish officials said more than 4,000 Syrians have now crossed into Turkey, whose prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said President Assad, whom he once described as a "brother," had acted with "savagery" against his own people. "All the accusations of residents sheltering gangs are false," a Jisr al-Shughur resident said. "And we never asked the army for help or to enter our town. It is them firing on us."......"

The Unfinished "Revolution": US: Arms deals with Egypt to continue

Al-Masry Al-Youm

"US arms sales to Egypt have been unaffected by the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak in February, the Pentagon official in charge of carrying out such programs has said.

"We continue to do with Egypt what we were doing before the Arab Spring, if you will," Vice Admiral William Landay, head of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday....."

Surprise, Surprise! Egypt resumes natural gas supply to Israel

Al-Masry Al-Youm

"Jerusalem--Egypt resumed pumping natural gas to Israel on Friday after supplies were halted in April following an attack on a pipeline, an Israeli official said.

"Gas has resumed flowing at commercial levels," an Israeli energy official told Reuters.

Gas flow was stopped for more than a month following explosions on the Egyptian side of the pipeline in the wake of political turmoil and ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.....Israel receives up to 45 percent of its gas from Egypt under a 20-year deal signed in 2005...."

Video: 10 6 Ma'rrat An Numan Idlib أوغاريت معرة النعمان إدلب الطائرات تقصف المدينة في جمعة العشائر

10 6 Ma'rrat An Numan Idlib أوغاريت معرة النعمان إدلب الطائرات تقصف المدينة في جمعة العشائر

The Syrian elite don't plan to let the revolution spoil their party

The rich and powerful are indifferent to their fellow Syrians and have too much to lose to want the current regime to end


Simona Sikimic
(a British journalist in Lebanon who previously worked in Syria.), Saturday 11 June 2011

"International pressure for President Bashar al-Assad to step down may be growing, but it has failed to catch on among many of the Syrian elite who are carrying on with their lives as usual – in a bubble.

The growing violence – said to have left 1,200 dead and several thousands imprisoned even after the announcement of a prisoner amnesty on 31 May – has not dented the newly moneyed upper middle class's obsession with pleasure and luxury.

Private raves, hosted in the mansions of the rich and powerful, continue unabated, even as EU and US sanctions begin to bite at some of the regime's top personalities. Pool parties in the Damascus suburb of Barada are openly promoted on Facebook, inviting patrons to get "wet and wild" every Friday [I wonder if Hassan Nasrallah will be invited soon to such parties, as a reward for good behavior?] as mosques call the faithful to prayer....

Many of the young, fashionable crowd in Damascus and Aleppo – who have varying degrees of association with the regime – drive in fast cars with blacked-out windows and openly smoke marijuana, knowing they are above the law and resenting the ongoing troubles.

Demands for higher living standards for all and at least a semblance of democratic reform, mixed with an undeniable religious zeal shared by the majority of protesters, could not be further away from the aspirations of the ruling few.

The Syrian elite cannot contemplate deserting Assad, no matter how unsettled about events they personally may be. They have too much to lose and virtually nothing to gain and feel irrevocably alienated from their fellow countrymen.....

But the problem is equally a battle of the haves and the have-nots. Certainly, religion matters much less at the Barada pool than who is ordering champagne and who is drinking the local beer....

For the business and political classes and their offspring, the price of dissent is high, but the fear of what would replace the status quo is even higher, and the Syrian people should not expect sympathies to turn or influential advocates to speak up on their behalf any time soon.

The Arab upheavals of the last six months have made the impossible look almost easy, but the wider the crevasse dividing the two sides, the harder the transition will be. So different are the various visions of the future vying for prominence in Syria that national reconciliation, no matter what reform promises may be made, is going to be very difficult."

Today's Cartoon by the Syrian Cartoonist Ali Ferzat

(Click on cartoon to enlarge)

Fears for Syrian child protesters amid fresh reports of deaths

10 June 2011

"Amnesty International urged the Syrian authorities to protect child protesters amid fresh reports of young people being tortured and killed.

Video evidence has emerged in recent days of two new cases of teenagersThamer al-Sahri and Nazir ‘Abd al-Kader – dying after receiving injuries caused by beatings and gunshot wounds.

“Reports that the Syrian security forces have tortured and killed children in their custody would, if confirmed, mark a new low in their bloody repression of protests,” said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

The violent deaths suffered by Thamer al-Sahri and other children are utterly shocking, as is the Syrian authorities’ apparent lack of action to rein in the security forces accused of being responsible for them.”

International media released an amateur video on Thursday purportedly showing the body of 15-year-old Thamer al-Sahri, which was returned to his family in the Syrian village of Jeeza the day before......"

Meet the New Boss

Meet the New Boss.....As Bad As the Old Boss.

Egyptian Gas Export to Israel Has Resumed....
Rafah Crossing is Essentially Still Closed....
Saudi Bribes and IMF "Loans" to the Regime Resume....
US Arms Sales (to use the US "Aid") to the Egyptian Military Have Resumed....
Strikes and Protests Are Now Outlawed....
Protesters Are Still Tortured and Tried in Military Courts....
Emergency Law is Still in Effect....

So, What Exactly Has Changed in the "New" Egypt??
A Few Old Faces Replaced by Few Other Old Faces?


Friday, June 10, 2011

Helicopters open fire to disperse Syrian protesters; Hassan Nasrallah Cheers!

(Click on map to enlarge)

"AMMAN (Reuters) – Syrian helicopter gunships fired machineguns to disperse pro-democracy protests, witnesses said, in the first reported use of air power to quell unrest in Syria's increasingly bloody three-month-old uprising.[What comes next? Grad rockets as Gaddafi has done repeatedly?]

The use of the aircraft came on a day of nationwide rallies against President Bashar al-Assad, as unrest showed no sign of abating despite the harsh crackdown by his authoritarian state.

The helicopters opened fire in a northwestern town after security forces on the ground killed five protesters, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"At least five helicopters flew over Maarat al-Numaan and began firing their machineguns to disperse the tens of thousands who marched in the protest," one witness said by telephone.

"People hid in fields, under bridges and in their houses, but the firing continued on the mostly empty streets for hours," said the witness, who gave his name as Nawaf....."

UN Security Council: Demand End to Syria Crackdown

Discontent on Libya Should Not Deter Action by Emerging Powers

June 10, 2011

"....According to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), "non-governmental organizations and others are now reporting that the number of men, women and children killed since the protests began in March has exceeded 1,100, with up to 10,000 or more detained."

"The Security Council's complete silence in the face of mass atrocities against the people of Syria is emboldening the Syrian government in its bloody crackdown," said Philippe Bolopion, UN director at Human Rights Watch. "A veto by Russia and China to protect the Syrian government and block efforts to stop the killings would be a serious betrayal of Syria's beleaguered citizens."

Despite the efforts of Syrian authorities to prevent access to the country, Human Rights Watch researchers have conducted dozens of interviews inside Syria and established that Syrian security forces have killed hundreds of protesters and arbitrarily arrested thousands, many of whom, including children, have been beaten and tortured....

, another emerging power and a neighbor of Syria, has condemned the violence in no uncertain terms. Most recently Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan - whose country was on the Security Council in 2009 and 2010 - denounced the Syrian government's violent crackdown as a "barbarity" that is "inhumane" and "cannot be digested," according to media reports.

Contrary to Syrian officials' attempts to blame the violence on "terrorist groups" or "armed gangs," Human Rights Watch's research indicates that the protests were overwhelmingly peaceful...."

Brotherhood spokesman in Syria calls on youth to pardon Mubarak

Al-Masry Al-Youm

"The Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson in Syria, Zuheir Salem, is asking the Egyptian youth to organize protests in Tahrir Square for the pardoning of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

In an article published on the website of the Arab Middle East Center for Civilization Studies and Advisory Studies Thursday, Salem asserted that it would be a lesson in civilization for the youth to call for the pardon.

“What a lesson in civilization the youth of Egypt’s Tahrir Square, including Muslim Brotherhood youth, would offer if they called for pardoning the president who treated them unjustly and ignored their suffering for decades?”

Salem said there was no better or more mature way they could say to "Mubarak, who heard no one, that 'We are not like you…you are free to go.'"

Salem justified his radical request on the ground that it is a “civilized message to the people of the world to replace the brutal image of his people that Mubarak presented to the world.”...."

Al-Jazeera Video: Syrians seek refuge in Turkey

"Thousands of Syrians are streaming into Turkey, escaping a deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protests. Many of those injured in the violence are now speaking about their ordeal. Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught reports the southern Turkey-Syria border."

Al-Jazeera Video: Thousands demonstrate on Syria's 'Friday of tribes'

"Titled 'Friday of the Tribes' in recognition of Syrian tribes participating in protests against the Syrian government, today saw large and bloody protests in a number of cities in Syria.

Use of helicopter- and gunfire was reported in the northern town of Maraat al-Numan.

Al Jazeera's Rula Amin reports from Lebanon."

أفكار حول الثورة السورية تحديدا

"1- لا يمكن أن يستمر النظام السوري على حاله، وكان عليه إما أن يتغير أو يغيره الشعب السوري. وقد اختار النظام ألا يتغير، ومن هنا فسوف يغيّره الناس.
2- خيار النظام بين الإصلاح وبقاء النظام على حاله هو خيار وهمي. ما لا يدركه النظام هو أنه في المراحل الثورية يكون خيار الناس بين الإصلاح التدريجي -ولكن الجذري- والثورة على النظام. والثورة في سوريا تختلف تماما. أولا، بسبب درجة قمعية النظام. وثانيا، بسبب طبيعة المجتمعات في المشرق العربي.
3- إن أي محاولة جدية تتضمن إجراءات ملموسة ومقنعة كانت ستلقى الترحيب من الناس، لكن ما جرى ويجري في سوريا هو عكس ذلك.
المشكلة في أن نظاماً من نوع النظام السوري يجر بانهياره الهيئة الاجتماعية برمتها لاحتمال الانهيار، كما يمكن أن يجر انهياره كامل إقليم المشرق إلى فخ التفكك الطوائفي والعشائري
قرار النظام بوأد الثورة أمنيا هو السبب في أن دعاية النظام والناطقين الإعلاميين باسمه تبدأ وتنتهي بالشتم والسباب
استخدام الولاء الاجتماعي والعشائري والإقليمي لا يعني أن الطائفة تحكم، بل يعني توليد عصبية لتمتين ولاء الأجهزة الأمنية للنظام
لا تتوقف المسألة على التخلص من النظام، بل يتطلب الأمر رؤية، وبرامج واقعية، وقيادة مسؤولة, وهذه هي مهمة القوى الوطنية الديمقراطية الجذرية حاليا

Arab revolutions mask economic status quo

Despite talk of a "new social contract", financial powers seek to maintain their grip on the poor of the Middle East.


Mark LeVine

"The World Bank and IMF have been restructuring the economies of the Middle East for decades, with largely negative results. Yet they are poised to play a major role in the post-revolutionary efforts to stabilise Egypt, Tunisia and other post-authoritarian states.....

But the new era was stillborn; Egypt would soon be far too tightly enmeshed within the US-led order to pursue an independent path towards development, continuing a history of frustrated economic development that stretches from the mid-19th century....

Ultimately, what this analysis reminds us is that even if IMF or Bank officials might have gone a bit soft, the US under President Obama, as under his predecessors, has as little interest or ability to change a system it has profited from enormously over the past half century. Ultimately, neither the generals of Egypt's Supreme Military Council, nor the barons of Wall Street (and their allies among the generals in the Pentagon) will willingly allow anything more than "cosmetic changes" to the political economy of either country....."

Syria's state TV director tells BBC 'refugees' just visiting family in Turkey

Reem Haddad puts spin on the desperate attempt of hundreds of locals to flee Jisr al-Shughour before government clampdown

The Guardian

"She may look like the actor Isla Fisher and speak like a Mayfair lady who lunches, but appearances – and words – can be deceptive. As hundreds of refugees fled the Syrian border town Jisr al-Shughour on Thursday, desperate to avoid an expected government clampdown after the killing earlier this week of 120 soldiers, Reem Haddad , the director of Syria's state TV network, gave an interview to the BBC to account for the crowds pouring into Turkey.

Many have relatives in villages just the other side of the border, she said. "A lot of them find it easy to move across because their relatives are there. It's a bit like having a problem in your street, and your mum lives in the next street, so you go and visit your mum for a bit."

As Syria's security and humanitarian crisis escalates, Haddad, who acts as a spokeswoman for the country's information ministry, has become one of the most familiar faces of President Bashar al-Assad's regime, with a talent for insisting on innocent explanations for the brutal government response to the protests.

In this she has drawn comparisons to Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf, whose exuberant insistence on behalf of Saddam Hussein's government that the Iraqi army was invincible earned him the nickname Comical Ali before the 2003 allied invasion.

Little is known about Haddad's early career to date, though her father served as Syria's ambassador to East Germany and is said to have modelled Syria's secret police on the Stasi....."

حزب الله في زمن الثورات العربية

داعمو المقاومة وخيبات الأمل
حزب الله يقرأ كتاب الثورات العربية
حزب الله وسوريا
حزب الله والوضع اللبناني

"....غالبية المراهنات على حزب الله عادت لجُحور أصحابها بخُفيّ حُنين، لا سيما بعد الخطابيْن الأخيريْن لنصر الله الذي أوضح فيهما موقف حزبه من الثورات
الاستياء الحاصل من ممارسات حزب الله لم يعد يقتصر على خصومه السياسيين، بل وصل إلى أناسٍ داعمين له ولمقاومته
بعد كل ما سبق، فليسمح لي خالد صاغية مدير تحرير صحيفة "الأخبار" (معروفة بقربها من المقاومة) أن أستعير عباراته في وصفه للحزب، بأنه ليس "حزباً إصلاحيّاً. ولا يملك برنامجاً إصلاحيّاً في لبنان، ولا نيّة لديه لدعم برنامج إصلاح جذريّ.. وأنّه مستعدّ للتضحية بالكثير من أصول العمل الديمقراطي إذا ما تعارضت مع ما يراه مصلحة للمقاومة".

فرد الاعتبار للنظام السوري الذي وقف إلى جانب الحزب لا يُبرّر له أن يناصره ظالماً ومظلوماً، بحجة الوفاء وعدم التنكر. والأفضل لحزب الله أن يأخذ بالحكمة القائلة "الصديق من صَدَقك لا من صدّقك" إذا كان بالفعل حزباً مبدئياً مرجعيته الإسلام وقيمه وليس حزباً سياسياُ برغماتياً تحركه وتتحكم به المصالح السياسية؟!

إذ أن الخشية اليوم تكمن في خسران حزب الله ما تبقّى مما كسبه من محبة في قلوب العرب مع كل قطرة دم ذكية نزلت من جبين طاهرة لمناضليه في "مارون الراس" و"بنت جبيل" و"عيتا الشعب" من تراب جنوبنا الحبيب.

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

This new poll asks:

Do you support reactivating the Gulf initiative to deal with the Yemen situation?

With over 800 responding so far, 74% said no.

Turkish PM: Syria crackdown inhumane

Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Ankara could support UN resolution against Damascus, saying crackdown is "unacceptable".



Erdogan has exhibited more courage and decency than any Arab leader, including those in the new Egypt and Tunisia!

Not a single Arab leader stood up and denounced the butchery of the Syrian regime; why?

Worse, Hassan Nasrallah is actually supporting the Syrian butchers; can you believe that?

"Turkey's prime minister has condemned Syria's crackdown on anti-government protesters as "inhumane'' and says Ankara could support a UN resolution against Damascus.

The semi-official Anatolia news agency quoted Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying in an interview on ATV television late on Thursday that some images coming out of Syria were "unpalatable".

"Unfortunately, they [the regime of President Bashar al-Assad] are acting in an inhumane way," Anatolia reported on Friday.

"The savagery right now... think about it, the images they are playing in the heads of the women they kill is so ugly, these images are hard to eat, hard to swallow," Erdogan told Anatolia.

"I talked to Mr Assad four or five days ago. ... But they underestimate the situation," he said.

Erdogan described the treatment of the bodies of women slain by the security forces as an "atrocity".

He also said the brutal crackdown on protesters was "unacceptable".....

Erdogan reiterated that his country would keep the doors open for refugee waves from Syria, but asked, "How far this will continue?"

More than 2,500 Syrians have fled to Turkey and more are coming in to escape the unrest back home.

The arrivals have sharply increased since Tuesday, with most refugees fleeing the flashpoint town of Jisr al-Shughur, some 40km from the Turkish border, where tensions have flared amid accusations by Damascus that armed gangs killed 120 members of its security forces.

On Friday, the Syrian government sent troops to Jisr al-Shughur.

More than 1,100 civilians have been killed and at least 10,000 arrested in the brutal crackdown on almost daily anti-regime demonstrations in Syria since March 15, rights organisations say."

A Sample of Fresh Videos From Inside Syria, Documenting Protests Against the Bloody Regime on Friday June 10, 2011.

شام - حوران - مظاهرات جمعة العشائر يوم 10-6 ج3

شام - حمص - مظاهرات جمعة العشائر 10-6 بأكبر علم

شام - دير الزور - البوكمال - مظاهرات جمعة العشائر ج 3

شام - القامشلي - مظاهرات جمعة العشائر 10-6 ج1

شام - عامودا - مظاهرات جمعة العشائر 10-6 ج1

شام - عامودا - مظاهرات جمعة العشائر 10-6 ج2

Al-Jazeera Video: Egypt's unfinished revolution

"Hundreds of families were evicted from their homes in Egypt, in January.

Promised to be moved into government housing quickly, these Egyptians still live in tents.

If the revolution was about reclaiming Egyptian dignity -- then what happens to these homeless citizens remains its unfinished business.

Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros reports from Cairo."

Today's Cartoon by the Syrian Cartoonist Ali Ferzat

(Click on cartoon to enlarge)

Gaza Crossing Lets Trickle Through

By Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani

"CAIRO, Jun 9, 2011 (IPS) - Egypt's border with the Hamas-run Gaza Strip was reopened to Palestinian travellers Wednesday after a series of squabbles over operational procedures had temporarily brought cross-border traffic to a halt...

Gamal Zahran, political science professor at Suez Canal University and former MP, says that daily passenger limits ought to be scrapped altogether if Egypt is to fulfil its vow to permanently reopen the border.

"The travel-ban list, meanwhile, which was drawn up under the former regime, should be modified with input from Hamas," Zahran told IPS. "What's more, the crossing must be opened up to commercial traffic, while urgent humanitarian cases should be allowed through at all times."

The Muslim Brotherhood's al-Arian, for his part, attributed the recent confusion to more than just red tape.

"Egypt is subject to behind-the-scenes pressure by the U.S. and Israel to maintain the Mubarak-era status quo at the border," he said. "These forces are keen to pre-empt Egypt's post-revolutionary foreign-policy realignments - especially those pertaining to Hamas and the Gaza file."...."

Syrian soldier 'ordered to fire' on peaceful protesters

9 June 2011

"A former member of the Syrian Republican Guard has told Amnesty International that he and other soldiers were ordered to open fire on unarmed protesters holding a pro-reform demonstration in Harasta, near Damascus, in April.

Walid ‘Abd al-Karim al-Qash’ami has been told that he is now under sentence of death in Syria because he refused to shoot and joined the protesters after witnessing soldiers kill three children, a young man and woman.

Speaking by phone from the country where he is now taking refuge, the 21-year-old said he was among 250 soldiers sent to quell a protest at Harasta on Saturday, 23 April.

Their officers told them they were to confront a “violent gang” but what they found were around 2,000 unarmed protesters, including children and women. Many of the men were bare-chested to show that they carried no weapons. Many of the protesters were carrying roses.

I was shocked when I saw the security services and the army actually shooting at unarmed protesters who were chanting “Silmieh, Silmieh” (Peaceful, Peaceful) and “Nafdiki Ya Dera’a” (Our lives in return for you, Dera’a). When I heard those slogans, I just could not shoot at them, especially as I am from Dera’a and they were risking their lives for my city.”.....

Walid ‘Abd al-Karim al-Qash’ami is the second Syrian soldier to have told Amnesty International that he deserted the ranks and fled when ordered to shoot at unarmed protesters."

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The balance of power is shifting

A MONTH ago seasoned watchers of Syria reckoned that the regime’s ferocious crackdown would keep the lid on dissent, albeit with President Bashar Assad’s legitimacy badly impaired. Now the prevailing wisdom is changing. Rather than subside, the protests are spreading and intensifying. Having started in the south and spread to coastal cities such as Banias, they moved to Homs, Syria’s third-biggest city, and the surrounding central districts. More recently they have gripped Hama, the country’s fourth city, famed for its uprising in 1982, when 20,000 people may have been killed by the then president, Hafez Assad, the present incumbent’s father. After starting in the rural areas, the unrest has hit cities all over the country. And the death toll, well past 1,200, has begun to rise more sharply. On June 3rd, at least 70 people are reported to have been killed in Hama alone.
The first of two big questions is whether the revolt will get going in Damascus and Aleppo, the capital and Syria’s second city respectively, which have been relatively but by no means entirely quiet. The second big question is whether the security forces, on which the regime was founded when Assad père took over in 1970, will stay loyal. If the army’s middle and lower ranks, drawn mainly from the country’s Sunni majority, which comprises some 75% of the population, begin to turn against the senior ranks where the Alawite minority (10%, including the Assad family) predominates, the regime could begin to fall apart. The events of June 5th in the town of Jisr al-Shughour, near the north-western border with Turkey, suggest that this may be starting to happen.
An accurate version of what happened there is hard to confirm, because independent reporters are banned from Syria and the state media have plumbed the depths of mendacity. Usually, however, they flag up an event and give an indication, sometimes unintentionally, of its magnitude. Then they set about rearranging the facts. In the case of Jisr al-Shughour, they at first said that 20 members of the security forces had been killed in an ambush “by armed gangs” and then, within an hour, raised the figure to 120, declaring that “decisive” action would be taken as part of the state’s duty to protect its citizens. Probably the death toll has indeed been high.
Across the country, a growing number of religious leaders are weighing in behind the protesters. More of Syria’s minorities, such as Christians, who have looked to Mr Assad for protection, may also be joining in. The several hundred thousand Palestinians who reside in Syria may also be turning against him (see article). On June 6th there were clashes in Yarmouk, the biggest refugee camp, on the edge of Damascus. “We’re getting to a tipping point, where groups waiting for a balance of power to change will move,” says a veteran analyst in Damascus. The influential Qatar-based television channel, Al Jazeera, reported that a member of the Tlass family, a Sunni clan that has been close to the president, had defected. He contradicted the government’s line that the army is fighting against armed rebels.

Syrian refugees in Turkey: 'People see the regime is lying. It is falling apart'

Bloodied but defiant, those who have fled the besieged town of Jisr al-Shughour damn the rule of Bashar al-Assad

Martin Chulov in Antakya, southern Turkey, Thursday 9 June 2011

"....After five days away from his homeland, Abu Majid is convinced that the four decades of unshakable autocracy he left behind are now steadily unravelling. He is sure that the government's claim that armed locals killed 120 government forces through ambushes and assaults in Jisr al-Shughour over the weekend will soon be proved wrong. He is sure, too, that those who oppose the rule of President Bashar al-Assad now outnumber his supporters. But he says Assad's government is stirring sectarian chaos as it tries to claw back the legitimacy it lost during street demonstrations across the country, which it regularly crushed through violence.

"We never thought in sectarian ways before all this happened," he said. "And now people are talking about Sunnis, Alawites, Shias, Christians. You can say many things about us, but you can't say that Syria was ever like Iraq or Lebanon. This is leading the country into the unknown."

Officials in southern Turkey said that about 2,500 Syrians, many from Jisr al-Shughour, had crossed the border. Despite being told by their hosts not to speak publicly about the uprising, refugees are still willing to talk about the events of last weekend, which Damascus has tried to cast as an armed rebellion that it had no choice but to put down.

"There was a desertion," said Abu Majid. "I saw it with my own eyes. There were a large number of strangers in town on Saturday. I don't know who they were, they were big men, many of them bearded and most in civilian clothes. They started shooting at the people and some of the security forces tried to join us. They were killed – there were many of them killed."

In beds alongside him in Antakiya's government hospital, three other Syrians, also nursing wounds, chimed in. They had all been shot in earlier clashes on 20 May at a village 10 miles south of Jisr al-Shughour...."

Syrian refugees flee across border to Turkey - in pictures

Hundreds of Syrian refugees have fled across the border into Turkey to escape the brutal crackdown by the regime of Bashar al-Assad

The Guardian

(9 photos)

Thousands of Syrians flee unrest to Turkey


More than 2,400 refugees flee unrest in Jisr al-Shughur and other towns as Turkish officials brace for further arrivals.


"More than 2,400 Syrians have fled into neighbouring Turkey to escape the unrest in Jisr al-Shughur and other towns, according to the UN and Turkish officials.

Refugees started entering Turkey on April 29, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). But the flow of refugees has increased sharply this week. More than 1,000 people crossed the border in the last 24 hours, the UNHCR said on Thursday.

Speaking from Abu Dhabi, Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, said: "We have serious concerns about the situation in Syria.

"Half an hour ago I received exact numbers - more than 2,400 people have now come to Turkey as refugees." Most are being housed at a refugee camp in Yayladagi, a town about 10km from the border and 25km from Jisr al-Shughur.

Dozens of white tents have been set up in the camp, and ambulances have been carrying wounded people to hospitals in Antakya, the capital of Turkey's southern Hatay province......

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Turkey will not "close its doors" to Syrians fleeing conflict.

He also urged Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's government to "change its attitude towards civilians.".....

'Massive flow'

Turkish officials say they are preparing for the possibility of more refugees in the coming days; the camp at Yayladagi can hold up to 5,000 people, and a second camp is "under consideration," according to local media.

Video shot near the border shows dozens of Syrians camped out in a field on Syria's side of the border, apparently trying to position themselves for a quick exodus.

"We have taken all necessary precautions in case of a massive flow of crossings," Davutoglu said in a Turkish television interview on Wednesday....."

حديث الثورة .. 9 يونيو .. د. عزمي بشاره - 1

حديث الثورة .. 9 يونيو .. د. عزمي بشاره - 1

حديث الثورة .. 9 يونيو .. د. عزمي بشاره - 2

حديث الثورة .. 9 يونيو .. د. عزمي بشاره - 3

حديث الثورة .. 9 يونيو .. د. عزمي بشاره - 4

Video Of a Defected Syrian Officer

انشقاق البطل المقدم حسين هرموش 9_6_2011

A Sample of Fresh Videos From Inside Syria, Documenting the Suffering of Syrian Refugees

شام - الحدود التركية -استمرار نزوح الاهالي 9-6 ج1

أحوال اللاجئين السوريين على الحدود 9 6 2011

Video: إغضب

Dedicated to Hassan Nasrallah

Obama Hides Meeting With Top Bahraini Leader—And Mutes Criticism of Ongoing Crackdown

"Amidst an intensifying crackdown on anti-government protesters in the tiny Gulf island Kingdom of Bahrain, President Obama met Tuesday with Crown Prince Salman bin Isa al-Khalifa, a visit that was not announced beforehand. We speak with Nabeel Rajab, president of Bahrain’s Center for Human Rights, based in Manama. "We do not see anything that makes us optimistic that the government has the willingness to go for a dialogue with the opposition and to listen to the grievances and demands of the people," says Rajab, noting that soldiers from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Bahrain continue to arrest protesters and the doctors treating those injured during pro-democracy demonstrations...."

Today's Cartoon by the Syrian Cartoonist Ali Ferzat

(Click on cartoon to enlarge)

Afghanistan: Why Civilians are Killed

Analysis by James Petras

"Introduction: The recent rash of civilian killings by NATO forces in occupied Afghanistan raises several basic questions: Why do US – NATO air and ground forces kill so many civilians, so persistently, over such long stretches of time, in regions throughout the country?....

A People’s War: Not a War on Terror

The killing of civilians is not “accidental”. The fundamental reason that so many civilians are killed, everyday, in every region for over a decade, is because the civilians and the combatants are indistinguishable. The image of the Afghan combatants as some kind of footloose professional bomb throwing terrorist is completely off the mark. Most Afghan fighters have families, cultivate farmland and tend herds; they raise families and attend mosque; they are ‘part-time civilians’ and part-time fighters. Only in the schematic minds of the “great strategists of war” in the Pentagon and NATO headquarters do such distinctions exist. Their deadly military mission to ‘save the people from terrorist fundamentalists’, a self-serving self-deception, is, in fact, a ladder up the military-political hierarchy. Each step up depends on waging a ‘just war’ to a successful conclusion.

The civilian-combatants are a mass popular phenomenon. How else can we explain their capacity to sustain armed resistance for over a decade, indeed, advancing with the passing of time? How can we explain their military success against the armed forces and advisers from 40 countries, including the US, Europe and a clutch of Afro-Asian-Latin American mercenaries? How can we explain the growing resistance despite suffering from military occupation, backed by the most advanced technological instruments of war? How can we explain the ebb of popular support for the war in the ‘Conqueror’s country and the growing number of recruits for the Resistance? The combatants have the loyalty of the Afghan people; they do not have to spend billions to buy the spurious ‘loyalties’ of mercenaries who can and have at any moment ‘turned their guns the other way’....."

I Know That This is an Old Story, But....Here Goes: Target: Iran

by Philip Giraldi, June 09, 2011

"Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent and successful excoriation of the Palestinians before a receptive American audience made it easy to miss the subplot, which was the alleged threat posed by Iran. Netanyahu took every opportunity to attack the Iranians, tying them into each hostile group in the Middle East and taking them to task for their presumed efforts to become the regional hegemon rather than his beloved Israel. So it comes as no surprise that an Israeli Deputy Prime Minister has now called for war against Iran. Speaking at the end of May in an ‘interview’, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon urged an attack on Iran, arguing that it is necessary to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Ya’alon also called on the other countries, by which he meant the United States, to join in because Iran is “a threat to the entire civilized world.”

And it is not just an Israeli government official who would be expected to mouth the party line who is sending up red flags. Respected journalist Amir Oren, writing for Haaretz, ‘opines’ that there is considerable danger that Iran will be surprise attacked between the June departure of Robert Gates from the office of Secretary of Defense and the retirement of Admiral Mike Mullen from the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September. The timing of the attack is intended to take advantage of the confusion inevitable when there is a change of command in Washington. A regional war would also preempt any Palestinian attempts to declare statehood at the UN in September. And there are many in Washington who would welcome such an enterprise. Sources ‘report’ that the Pentagon is carrying out contingency planning based exercises in which US forces follow-on to the first Israel strikes against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. It is being presumed that President Obama would find it difficult not to do so, in support of “friend and close ally” Israel......

The bills in Congress, which do absolutely nothing for the United States and its citizens and instead ratchet up tension in the region while also providing a carte blanche for Israel to start another war, should provide convincing evidence to anyone who cares that Benjamin Netanyahu pretty much calls the shots insofar as America’s legislature is concerned. If the reports from Haaretz are true and we are quite possibly looking at war later this summer, that would mean that the control extends to the White House. Obama, keen to get reelected, would not want to cross the Israel Lobby even if it means sinking farther into the international quagmire that has characterized American foreign policy over the past ten years. Someone should tell him that when you fall in a hole the way out is not to dig deeper."

The cold hard cash counter-revolution

By Pepe Escobar
Asia Times

"....Take Egypt. The House of Saud has just given Supreme Military Council leader Field Marshall Tantawi US$4 billion in cold hard cash - although not even the Sphinx knows for sure how much power Tantawi, 75, deposed tyrant Hosni Mubarak's former minister of defense, really wields.

Washington extended Cairo $1 billion in "debt forgiveness" and another $1 billion in loan guarantees. Not much - compared to what Washington extends to Israel, but still a signal. And then theInternational Monetary Fund extended an extra $3 billion in loans. The "new" Egypt will start to do business already bound in unforgiving chains.

This goes a long way to explain how the "opening" of Rafah - the border with Gaza - was not really an opening. The quota of free-moving Gazans is a maximum of 400 a day; and no less than 5,000 Gazans remain blacklisted. So essentially the gulag situation remains similar to Mubarak-sanctioned levels.

This also goes a long way to explain why now you see it/now you don't tentative Egyptian presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei is now on an overdrive charm offensive on Saudi media - singing the praises of King Abdullah while performing the contortionism of ignoring frenetic Saudi support for Mubarak until (and beyond) the last minute.....

Then there's the Muslim Brotherhood question - essential in the context of the carefully orchestrated US/Saudi counter-revolution.The Muslim Brotherhood is being instrumentalized by the House of Saud all across the board, from Syria to Egypt. In Egypt, the reactionary old guard Brotherhood is working very close with the Military Council; "rewards" for good behavior by both Washington and Riyadh should be in the works.....

As the cold hard cash counter-revolution goes on, the future of the great 2011 Arab revolt looks grimmer and grimmer. It all depends on how forcefully the Tahrir Square spirit will keep the Military Council in Egypt in check. And how progressive forces in Egypt, Yemen and beyond find ways to counterpunch the relentless impact of the House of Saud oil wealth."

Civilians flee for border as Assad forces advance on rebel town

Britain leads push for UN resolution as witnesses describe fear of Syrian regime

By Khalid Ali
The Independent

"Hundreds of Syrian refugees were stranded in the mountainous woodland bordering Turkey last night as they fled convoys of tanks and troops which were reportedly heading north towards the town of Jisr al-Shughour.

Families carrying bundles of clothes and other belongings arrived at the border fence after travelling on foot or in convoys of pick-up trucks and cars.

They were fleeing the area after the government vowed a tough response to the deaths of 120 members of the security forces at the hands of so-called "armed groups", reported by state television earlier this week.Refugees contacted by phone told The Independent they were escaping from the area because they feared for their lives.....

Details of the killings – which would mark an unprecedented blow to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad – remain thin on the ground. But activists and witnesses said soldiers who had defected were responsible for the deaths of the security men. The number of casualties is unconfirmed. But in a rare admission yesterday, a pro-government newspaper acknowledged that Syrian troops had lost control of large parts of the country's north-west.

Yesterday there were reports that the Syrian army's notorious 4th Division – headed by the President's younger brother, Maher, and previously used to destructive effect in the southern city of Deraa – was heading towards Jisr al-Shughour.....

....The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: "We are monitoring developments in Syria with concern. Syria should change its attitude towards civilians and should take its attitude to a more tolerant level. It is out of the question for Turkey to close its doors to refugees coming from Syria." [But Hassan Nasrallah would.]....."

Surprise, Surprise! I Am Shocked! Will the US really withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan?

Behind closed doors in the White House and the Pentagon, a battle is raging over the wisdom of a complete exit

Simon Tisdall, Wednesday 8 June 2011

"....Like Karzai in Kabul, Nouri al-Maliki's administration in Baghdad is weak, fractious and unloved. It faces a reviving challenge from Iran via Muqtada al-Sadr and his Shia Mahdi army. Key ministries such as defence and interior remained leaderless. And Maliki is far from immune from the Arab spring; renewed anti-government protests over jobs, electricity and corruption are expected this Friday. Little wonder, then, that some Kurdish and Sunni leaders would prefer the Americans to delay their departure, possibly indefinitely. The US says it is willing to "entertain" this idea.

And there's the rub. In Iraq, as in Afghanistan (where despite Karzai's hostile rhetoric, a long-term "strategic partnership" agreement is being negotiated), the prospect of a continuing presence of quasi-permanent US military bases in both countries, lasting far beyond the nominal exit dates, is a very real one. Behind all the talk of withdrawals lies this dirty little secret: the Yanks aren't going home."

Police cracks down on workers, students, farmers, urban poor شرطة عصام شرف تفض بالقوة اعتصامات العمال والطلبة والفلاحين وفقراء المدن بالقاهرة

From Hossam El-Hamalawy

بلدنا بالمصري: فض اعتصام الفلاحين بالقصر العيني

"On orders from Essam Sharaf’s cabinet, Central Security Forces troops suspended by force yesterday by Awqaf farmers, auto workers around the parliament, smashed student protesters in front of the ministry of higher education, and dispersed urban poor protesters demanding housing in front of Maspero.

UPDATE: Comrade Per blogs about Egypt’s neoliberal counter-revolution…"

More Reforms in Syria: Syrians decry 'torture' of teenage protester

Video emerges appearing to show body of Syrian boy killed in government crackdown, as UN mulls vote condemning violence.


"Video footage has emerged showing the body of a Syrian boy reportedly tortured to death after his arrest in April following a government crackdown on pro-democracy protests in the country.

The video, provided to Al Jazeera by sources inside Syria, shows the mutilated body of 15-year-old Thamer al-Sahri, who was arrested for participating in an anti-government demonstration.

Hundreds of residents of the Syrian town of Jeeza filled the streets to mourn his death on Wednesday, the day his body was released from the mortuary and returned to his parents, six weeks after he went missing.

The amateur video shows al-Sahri's body riddled with bullets, missing an eye, several teeth, and according to Al Jazeera's source, returned to his family with a broken neck and leg.[Hassan Nasrallah should feel very proud of his ally, the Rabbit!]

Al Jazeera is unable to independently verify the footage due to restrictions on journalists in the country.

Al-Sahri was arrested along with his friend, 13-year-old Hamza al-Khateeb - the teenager whose brutal death caused much of the world to pay closer attention to the events in Syria. Al-Khateeb's body was also mutilated.

The Syrian government has denied using torture against protesters, but the latest video could lead to renewed demonstrations in the country....."

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Real News Video: Fatah-Hamas Reconciliation and the Palestinian Struggle

Omar Barghouti: Will this further Palestinian rights or just divide power under occupation?

More at The Real News

Under the cover of democracy

US and its allies assist will be using neoliberal economic policies to make sure new Arab governments stay in line.

A Very Good Piece
Joseph Massad

"....The answer is simple. There is an increasing understanding among US policy makers that the US should ride the democratic wave in the region in those countries where it cannot crush it, and that in doing so, it should create political conditions that would maintain the continued imperial pillage of their economies at the same rate as before and not threaten them. Saudi money followed by American money and IMF and World Bank plans and funds are all geared to supporting the business elites and the foreign-funded NGOs to bring down the newly mobilised civil society by using the same neoliberal language of structural adjustment pushed by the IMF since the late 1970s. Indeed, Obama and his business associates are now claiming that it is the imposition of more neoliberal economic policies that is the main revolutionary demand of the people in Egypt and Tunisia, if not the entire Arab world, and which the West is lovingly heeding. That it is these same imperial policies, which were imposed on Poland by the IMF (and produced Solidarnosc in 1980), and ultimately led to the fall of the Soviet Union, as they marched onwards to impoverish the entire globe, with special attention to Africa, the Arab World, and Latin America, is glossed over as socialist whining. In this sense, the US will ensure that the same imperial economic policies imposed by international capital and adopted by Mubarak and Ben Ali will not only be maintained, but will be intensified under the cover of democracy.

Moves to limit economic protests and labour strikes are ongoing in Egypt and Tunisia. Once elections are held to bring about a new class of servants of the new order, we will hear that all economic demands should be considered "counterrevolutionary"and should be prosecuted for attempting to "weaken" if not "destroy" the new "democracy". If, as is becoming more apparent, the US strikes alliances with local Islamist parties, we might even hear that economic protests and opposition to neoliberal imperial economic policies are "against Islam." The US-imposed "democracy" to come, assuming even a semblance of it will be instituted, is precisely engineered to keep the poor down and to delegitimise all their economic demands. The exchange that the US hopes to achieve by imposing some form of liberal political order on Egypt and Tunisia is indeed more, not less, imperial pillage of their economies and of the livelihoods of their poor classes, who are the large majority of the population. The ultimate US aim then is to hijack the successful uprisings against the existing regimes under the cover of democracy for the benefit of the very same local and international business elites in power under Mubarak and Ben Ali. How successful the US and its local allies will be will depend on the Egyptian and Tunisian peoples."

Up to 12 killed as Palestinian refugees are drawn into Syria revolt

Phil Sands
Jun 8, 2011
The National

"DAMASCUS // Up to a dozen protesting Palestinians have been killed by security guards in a Damascus suburb, in a sign that Syria's large Palestinian refugee community is slowly being sucked into an increasingly bloody national uprising.

The shootings took place on Monday afternoon and evening, according to residents of the sprawling Yarmouk Camp neighbourhood, when a large crowd of Palestinians descended on the headquarters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC).

Thousands strong, the crowd threw stones at the faction's offices before setting fire to the building and cars.

PFLP-GC security guards - all Palestinians, not Syrians - armed with assault rifles then shot directly into the crowd.

"They were shooting at people, not above their heads. Many people were killed and wounded," said Abu Amar, a 50-year-old Palestinian who lives close by and was hit by a ricochet while trying to calm the situation.....

The PFLP-GC is considered by Palestinians in Syria to be close to the Syrian security services, and some insist it is nothing more than a branch of Syria's mukhabarat, or secret police.....

Suspicions about the group have only increased after the Naksa protest, which, critics say, was designed to divert attention away from the Syrian government's domestic crackdown in which human rights groups say more than 1,000 civilians died, and direct national ire at Israel, the traditional enemy.

"There is a reason why the PFLP-GC office was burned, while the Hamas office was not touched," said an independent Syrian political analyst specialising in Palestinian affairs. "Hamas has remained independent while the PFLP has openly sided with the Syrian government.

"The Palestinian people were sending a strong message to everyone that they do not want to be used as a bargaining chip in an internal Syrian argument."

However, more marches on the Golan Heights seem assured. Tishreen, a Syrian government-run newspaper, yesterday warned Israel to expect a similar event "at any time". Syria and Israel have been at war for decades over the Jewish state's illegal annexation of the Golan Heights.

More protests could backfire on the Syrian authorities, the independent analyst said, with ordinary Palestinian refugees even being pushed to joining anti-government demonstrations.

"Most Palestinians sympathise with the protesters but they have kept quiet because they say it is not their business to interfere," he said. "But if they start being used as a pawn in those protests, they may decide the time has come to pick a side, and they might not choose the government's."...."

Al-Jazeera Video: Momentum builds for UN action against Syria

"European nations seek UN Security Council resolution condemning crackdown in Syria as Syrians brace for more violence....."

Al-Jazeera Video: Syrian town braces for military assault

Real News Video: Inside al-Qaeda and the Taliban Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11

Gareth Porter on the new book by recently murdered Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad

More at The Real News

Who Can Kill More Syrians, Netanyahu or Assad? By Khalil Bendib

(Click on cartoon to enlarge)

The people vs the president

Syria in turmoil as resistance turns to insurrection

By Robert Fisk

"Syria's revolt against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad is turning into an armed insurrection, with previously peaceful demonstrators taking up arms to fight their own army and the "shabiha" – meaning "the ghosts", in English – of Alawi militiamen who have been killing and torturing those resisting the regime's rule.

Even more serious for Assad's still-powerful supporters, there is growing evidence that individual Syrian soldiers are revolting against his forces. The whole edifice of Assad's Alawi dictatorship is now in the gravest of danger.

In 1980, Assad's father, Hafez, faced an armed uprising in the central city of Hama, which was put down by the Special Forces of Hafez's brother Rifaat – who is currently living, for the benefit of war crimes investigators, in central London – at a cost of up to 20,000 lives. But the armed revolt today is now spreading across all of Syria, a far-mightier crisis and one infinitely more difficult to suppress. No wonder Syrian state television has been showing the funerals of up to 120 members of the security services from just one location, the northern town of Jisr al-Shughour....

Bashar and his cynical brother Maher – the present-day equivalent of the outrageous Rifaat – may now be gambling on the old dictator's saw that their regime must be defended against armed Islamists supported by al-Qa'ida, a lie which was perpetrated by Muammar Gaddafi and the now-exiled leaders Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen and Ben Ali of Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and the still-on-the-throne al-Khalifas of Bahrain.....

Al Jazeera television yesterday aired extraordinary footage of a junior Syrian officer calling upon his comrades to refuse to continue massacring civilians in Syria. Identified as Lt Abdul-Razak Tlas, from the town of Rastan, he said he had joined the army "to fight the Israeli enemy", but found himself witnessing a massacre of his own people in the town of Sanamein. "After what we've seen from crimes in Deraa and all over Syria, I am unable to continue with the Syrian Arab army," he announced. "I urge the army, and I say: 'Is the army here to steal and protect the Assad family?' I call upon all honourable officers to tell their soldiers about the real picture, use your conscience... if you are not honourable, stay with Assad.".....

But if the armed insurrection takes hold, then it is also the 11 per cent Alawi community – once the frontier force of the French mandate against the Sunnis and now the prop of Assad against the poorer Sunnis – which is at threat. So appalled is the Assad regime at its enemies that it has been encouraging Palestinians to try to cross the frontier wire on Israeli-occupied Golan. The Israelis say this is to divert world attention from the massacres in Syria – and they are absolutely right.

The Damascus government's Tishrin newspaper has been suggesting that 600,000 Palestinians may soon try to "go home" to the lands of Palestine from which the Israelis drove them in 1948, a nightmare the Israelis would prefer not to think about – but not as great a nightmare as that now facing the people and their oppressors in Syria itself."

Yemen, and the trouble with 'democratic transition'

Politics in Yemen is beset by personal rivalries – it will be hard to keep the various players from each other's throats

Brian Whitaker, Tuesday 7 June 2011

"The US said on Monday that it wants to see an orderly, peaceful and democratic transition of power in Yemen. But, as one tweeter pointed out, that is not quite the same thing as saying it wants a transition to democracy.

The US has always viewed Yemen as a security problem and very little else – a view reinforced by media scares about al-Qaida taking over – but beyond providing military and economic aid it has very little influence on the ground. It is therefore relying on one of the world's least democratic countries, Saudi Arabia, to help manage this "democratic transition".

The Saudis have always been deeply involved in Yemen's politics, though their meddling has often failed miserably. They backed the losing side in the 1960s when Yemenis overthrew the monarchy, and again in 1994 when secessionists took up arms in the south....

Meanwhile, for the young protesters on the streets – singing, dancing and daubing themselves with face paint – these military power plays are anathema and belong in the past. For them, getting rid of Saleh is just the first step towards shaking off the cobwebs and even if the Americans, Saudis and military men are not paying them much attention now, time is firmly on their side. The average age of a Yemeni is just 17."

Egypt's IMF-backed revolution? No thanks

Year after year, the IMF praised Mubarak's 'progress'. Signing up to its $3bn loan now hardly seems a break with the past

Wael Khalil

(Wael Khalil is a socialist activist and a blogger at He is active in the Palestinian solidarity, anti-war and democracy movements that filled the Egyptian scene in the decade that preceded the revolution.), Tuesday 7 June 2011

"News that the Egyptian interim government has struck a deal with the IMF through which the fund will hand Egypt a $3bn loan has met with differing reactions. It was greeted with relief by some, as proof of the country's positive economic prospects in the medium and long term, and a rebuttal to those scaremongers who have been loudly warning that Egypt is on the verge of bankruptcy because of the revolution and of the continuing protests and street activities.

But many people, myself included, were unhappy with this news and the impact such a loan will have on deepening the country's debt and mounting debt servicing burden.

And there's a more disturbing detail – this is the IMF for God's sake. I recall repeatedly demonstrating over the past 10 years against the Hosni Mubarak regime and chanting against the "Fund" and the "Bank", meaning the IMF and the World Bank. "We will not be governed by the Bank, we will not be governed by imperialism", we chanted, "and here are the terms of the Bank: poverty, hunger and rising prices."

The IMF and the World Bank have for years been pushing the neoliberal measures implemented by Mubarak and his governments, piling praise on him for his courage and achievements.....

I believe that this country's future lies not with the same highly paid, unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats of the IMF, nor with their sacred indicators of budget deficits and market economics. Our future lies with a new home-grown economics that caters for the majority of Egyptians, the schools where their children are educated, the hospitals where they receive healthcare, and the jobs that guarantee them decent and honourable living.

Our revolution, before it called for bringing down Mubarak, has called for "social justice and human dignity" and we will not stop until that is achieved."

Egypt haunts Saudi Arabia again

By propping up the Arab monarchies, Saudi Arabia is reverting to its old anti-revolutionary role


Soumaya Ghannoushi
The Guardian, Wednesday 8 June 2011

"Little did Riyadh know that the most severe strategic blow to its regional influence would come not from Tehran, or Tehran's agents in Baghdad – but Cairo, its closest Arab friend. The ousting of Mubarak did not only mean the loss of a strong ally, but the collapse of the old balance of power. The region could no longer be divided on a Riyadh-Cairo v Tehran-Damascus axis. Revolutions have struck in both camps: in "moderate" Egypt and Tunisia, as in "hardline" Damascus and Tripoli. The principal challenge for the Saudi regime is no longer the influence of Syria, Iran or Hezbollah, but the contagion of revolutions.....

Although the Saudi regime is preoccupied by the Iranian threat, its eye is now focused on Egypt and the Arab revolutions, existing and potential. There is nothing that it dreads more than a return to the 1950s and 60s scenario of Cairo spearheading a revolutionary Arab world against pro-American conservative kingdoms. Riyadh is in the process of reproducing the 1955 Baghdad pact, forged in confrontation with Nasser and his revolutionary officers and bringing together the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Jordan (both unofficially), Pahlavi Iran and royal Iraq, as well as Turkey and Pakistan. Some of the players have been replaced, and nationalism has made way for Islamism, but the structure of the strategic game is the same.

And so is its mightiest weapon: money. In a battle where internal fears coincide with external interests, Riyadh is resuming its old role as the vanguard of a cold war against change."

This Syrian tinderbox could set fire to the region

Assad's regime threatens dire consequences for the bloodshed in Jisr al-Shughour. They may not be restricted to Syria's borders

Simon Tisdall, Tuesday 7 June 2011

"......This chill moment is reminiscent of the day in July 1995 when Serbian forces brushed aside UN peacekeepers and seized the besieged Bosnian town of Srebrenica. Europe held its breath, fearing the worst. What transpired was even more awful than most could have imagined.

Assad should know by now that violence added to violence is not the answer. Amazingly, he does not. Or perhaps he is no longer in control, superseded in effect by his more martial younger brother, Maher, and other Alawite hardliners in the palace-general staff clique. The risk of civil war now looms large over Syria, in part because of this uncertainty about who is in charge; in part, also, because much of the Jisr al-Shughour bloodshed seems to have been the result of infighting between reluctant army units, filled with conscripts, and plainclothes security men – Syria's equivalent of Iran's notorious basij militia.

Wissam Tarif, director of Insan, a human rights organisation, was quoted on Monday as saying that many deaths resulted from clashes between loyalists and defectors, an account he said was backed up by local witnesses. There have been previous reports from other flashpoint towns of conscripts being shot for refusing to open fire on civilians, always officially denied. But the unprecedented regime casualty list in Jisr al-Shughour suggests the rot is spreading inside the many-headed security apparatus. Assad now faces two revolts. One on the streets, another within his own power structures. Like autocrats elsewhere, he will discover you cannot shoot down an idea....."