Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Crackdown on Brotherhood, Opposition Grows as Egypt Joins Ranks of Most Dangerous for Journalists

Democracy Now!

"Egypt is facing a major escalation of a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and other critical voices. The military government has designated the Brotherhood a "terrorist organization" after a suicide bombing last week that killed 14 people. The announcement came even though the Brotherhood condemned the attack and an unrelated jihadist group claimed responsibility. Using the "terrorism" label, the Egyptian regime has arrested hundreds of Brotherhood members and seized their assets. It is the latest in a crackdown that began with the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi in July following mass protests against his rule. The crackdown has also spread to opposition activists and journalists. Two leading figures behind the 2011 uprising, Alaa Abd El-Fattah and Ahmed Maher, remain behind bars following their arrests for opposing a new anti-protest law. El-Fattah is awaiting trial while Maher and two others have been sentenced to three years in prison. Meanwhile, four journalists with the news network Al Jazeera — correspondent Peter Greste, producers Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, and cameraman Mohamed Fawzy — were been arrested in Cairo on accusations of "spreading false news" and holding meetings with the Muslim Brotherhood. Only Fawzy has been released so far. Egypt’s military government has repeatedly targeted Al Jazeera, raiding offices, ordering an affiliate’s closure and deporting several staffers. The arrests come as a new report details the dangerous conditions for journalists in Egypt and other troubled areas around the world. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, conditions in Egypt "deteriorated dramatically" in 2013, with six reporters killed, more than in any previous year. Egypt trailed only Iraq, where 10 journalists were killed, and Syria, where at least 29 journalists were killed. Overall, the Middle East accounted for two-thirds of at least 70 reporters’ deaths worldwide. We are joined by two guests: Sherif Mansour, the Middle East and North Africa program coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists; and Sharif Abdel Kouddous, Democracy Now! correspondent, and a fellow at The Nation Institute......."

Palestinians trapped in Syria war denied aid, stalked by starvation

Refugees from Syria rally in solidarity with people in Yarmouk refugee camp, at UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City on 29 December 2013.
 (Ashraf Amra / APA images)
By Ali Abunimah
"Among the millions of people displaced from their homes in Syria’s vicious civil war, Palestinians have been disproportionately affected – more than half of the 540,000 Palestine refugees in the country have been forced from their homes by fighting.
But some 20,000 Palestinian refugees in the Yarmouk suburb of Damascus have faced an even worse fate, besieged by the Syrian army since the summer without access to food, medicine or other supplies.
In November, a tentative agreement to vacate armed groups from the camp collapsed, prolonging the grim situation.
Since September, 15 Palestinians in the area have died of starvation according to reports cited by Chris Gunness, spokesman for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees.
“The continued presence of armed groups that entered the area at the end of 2012 and its closure by government forces have thwarted all our humanitarian efforts,” Gunness told Ma’an News Agency this week.
The BBC’s Lyse Doucet reported on 20 December that pictures from inside Yarmouk “showed street markets with only radishes for sale.”
Earlier this month, UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi warned “that humanitarian conditions in the besieged refugee camp of Yarmouk are worsening dramatically and that we are currently unable to help those trapped inside.”
“If this situation is not addressed urgently, it may be too late to save the lives of thousands of people including children,” Grandi said.

Rapid deterioration

Before the war in Syria, Yarmouk, established as an “unofficial” refugee camp in 1957, was home to some 160,000 Palestinians as well as tens of thousands of Syrians.
Although not entirely spared from the fighting and shelling, the situation deteriorated sharply in December 2012 and the months since when, according to UNRWA, “armed conflict has caused at least 140,000 Palestine refugees to flee their homes in Yarmouk, as armed opposition groups established a presence in the area, with government forces controlling the periphery.”
Until July this year, UNRWA says those remaining behind could still access its “assistance at the Zahera entrance to Yarmouk. However, from mid-July 2013, Palestine refugees have been trapped in the area, with little or no access or freedom of movement.”

Turning point

The turning point came on 16 December 2012 last year when, as the BBC reported, “government warplanes bombed Yarmouk for the first time,” after the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) “sought to seize control of the camp from the PFLP-GC. Some were reportedly killed when a rocket struck a mosque where people had taken shelter.”
The PFLP-GC – Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command – is a Palestinian faction aligned with the Syrian government. It is distinct from the better-known Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
Various reports put the number of people killed in the attack at around two dozen.
In the days following the bombing, tens of thousands of Palestinians fled the camp leaving everything behind, with thousands heading to Lebanon, as warnings broadcast from mosques gave people just hours to leave.
In a February 2013 interview in Beirut, Yarmouk resident and activist Mutawalli Abou Nasser told The Electronic Intifada’s Moe Ali Nayel about the situation in the camp over the previous two years before the December 2012 bombing and the mass exodus.
According to Abou Nasser, while some youth in the camp organized in support of the Syrian opposition, “Yarmouk remained neutral the first year of the Syrian revolution,” amid “public awareness and consensus that the camp should be left out” of the conflict.
But according to Abou Nasser the situation began to shift when members of the PFLP-GC fired on camp residents holding funerals for family members killed by Israeli forces as theytook part in a march at the border in June 2011 commemorating the 1967 war.
Camp residents had accused people loyal to the government of encouraging youth from the camp to go to the border and face grave danger as part of a propaganda effort for the government.
Fourteen residents were reported killed and dozens more injured in the shootings allegedly by the PFLP-GC.

FSA enters camp, government bombs it

In December 2012, FSA fighters entered the camp in order to fight the PFLP-GC.
“The residents of the camp were against the FSA stationing in it,” Abou Nasser said. “I personally rejected the FSA entering the camp. The camp had a humanitarian role; bringing the war to the middle of it was a mistake.”
Abou Nasser added:
The situation started deteriorating six days after the FSA entered the camp: there was no bread anymore, [and] a shortage of all the medical supplies needed by the four field hospitals in the camp.
Before the FSA involved the camp in its war the camp was a humanitarian phenomenon: rents stayed cheap, there was plenty of food, and the medical support the camp offered saved many lives. Only the Islamists in the camp were in favor of the FSA stationing in Yarmouk.
But that opposition softened after the December 2012 bombing by government warplanes.
“People must understand that the indiscriminate bombing of the camp by the regime – killing innocent people, children in their playground – made the FSA’s idea more acceptable to Palestinian residents of the camp,” Abou Nasser explained.
“The more the MiGs [warplanes] bombed the camp, the more people wanted the FSA to stay.”

Failed agreement

For a year, the situation has been getting worse. This November a tentative agreement gave hope for some relief in the situation in Yarmouk.
Under the reported terms of the agreement, brokered by the Palestine Liberation Organization, armed men would have left the camp and displaced residents would have been given safe passage to return and rebuild.
But the agreement collapsed before it could be implemented, with some reports blaming armed groups aligned with the government and others blaming groups aligned with the opposition for torpedoing it.


The reality for Palestinians whether trapped in Yarmouk or seeking refuge elsewhere is that they have little control over their fate.
Um Muhammad is a Palestinian who left Yarmouk for Lebanon seeking treatment for her 14-year-old son who suffered a serious head injury during the December 2012 government air attacks on the area.
In May, she told The Electronic Intifada’s Moe Ali Nayel of the plight she faced trying to get help.
When she took her son to a government-controlled hospital, she said, “they wanted me to sign a paper stating that my son was injured by the terrorists but I refused and told them the terrorists don’t have MiGs.”
The pressure can also come from the rebels. A Palestinian woman who survived an 11 October sinking of a refugee boat told Human Rights Watch, “We could not stay in Syria. I could not send the children to school, because [both sides] ask which side you support and, if you answer wrongly, they will kill you.”
Such lack of safety and protection for Palestinian refugees has driven large numbers to flee Syria, with an estimated 80,000 now in Lebanon, 20,000 in Jordan and 1,200 in Gaza.
As many as hundreds of Palestinians fleeing Syria have died at sea or faced dire conditions and scapegoating in Lebanon.
Without an end to the war in Syria there is as little hope for Palestinian refugees there as for millions of Syrians whose lives have been devastated by the conflict.
In the meantime, UNRWA has launched a $400 million international appeal to support its relief efforts for Syria’s Palestine refugees.
But no amount of aid will do any good if people can’t get access to it.

Blocking access

International aid workers say that while the government officially claims that they can have access to any part of the country, in practice it places many obstacles in their way.
In September, Peter Maurer, president of the Intenational Committee of the Red Cross,stressed his organization’s need for “rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for people in sealed off areas, mainly Eastern Ghouta, the old city of Homs, Yarmouk and Moadamiyah.”
Maurer has also recently said both government and armed opposition block medical aid to the sick and wounded: “On both sides we are struggling with the argument that whatever medical aid is brought to one part or the other is interpreted as an indirect military support to the other side.”
But in the case of Yarmouk, no one disputes that government forces control the periphery and therefore have the power to grant the humanitarian access UN officials have been urging without success.
There can be no possible excuse or justification for the Syrian government to deny food and supplies to Yarmouk camp and other besieged areas.
To use food as a weapon is an abominable crime."

Emad Hajjaj's Cartoon for 2014

اضغط على الكاريكاتير لإرساله إلى صديق!

Saudi Arabia: Terrorism Law Targets Peaceful Speech

Insulting State’s Reputation’ Among New ‘Terrorism’ Offenses

"(Beirut) – Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah should reject a new counterterrorism law that criminalizes virtually any speech critical of the government or society. The Council of Ministers passed the Penal Law for Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing (the “terrorism law”) on December 16, 2013, and it awaits King Abdullah’s promulgation by royal decree to go into effect.

Saudi authorities have not released the text, but a December 16 Saudi Press Agency statement includes a definition of terrorism similar to that in a 2011 draft that had been leaked to international human rights organizations. The 2011 draft contained serious flaws, including an overbroad definition of terrorism; unwarranted limits on speech, assembly, and association; excessive police powers without judicial oversight; and violations of due process and the right to a fair trial.

“King Abdullah should think long and hard before signing into law a definition of terrorism that would criminalize peaceful activities that have nothing to do with terrorist acts,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “King Abdullah should be easing the restrictions on Saudis’ rights, not setting in stone terrible counterterrorism measures.”

The Saudi Press Agency stated that the new law defines terrorism as:
Any act carried out by an offender in furtherance of an individual or collective project, directly or indirectly, intended to disturb the public order of the state, or to shake the security of society, or the stability of the state, or to expose its national unity to danger, or to suspend the basic law of governance or some of its articles, or to insult the reputation of the state or its position, or to inflict damage upon one of its public utilities or its natural resources, or to attempt to force a governmental authority to carry out or prevent it from carrying out an action, or to threaten to carry out acts that lead to the named purposes or incite [these acts].
The new definition contains several small additions to the 2011 draft law’s definition, but is largely similar. Some of the elements are exceedingly vague, such as “disturb[ing] public order,” “shak[ing] the security of society or the stability of the state,” or “insult[ing] the reputation of the state,” Human Rights Watch said.

While protecting public order and national security are recognized in international human rights law as legitimate purposes for limiting certain other rights under narrow circumstances, vague and overbroad legal provisions cannot be the basis for overriding a broad array of fundamental rights. Saudi Arabia’s denial of the rights to participate in public affairs, and freedom of religion, peaceful assembly, association, and expression, as well as its systematic discrimination against women greatly exceed any notion of justifiable restrictions, Human Rights Watch said.

The Saudi law’s definition does not require a person accused of terrorism to intend to use deadly or otherwise serious physical violent means against a population, or to take hostages, which the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights while countering terrorism has said have to be the central elements of a terrorist act.

Since 2011, Saudi authorities have increasingly pursued prosecutions of peaceful human rights and social activists, many of whom prosecutors have charged with the provisions contained in the new law’s definition of terrorism. Prominent activists with the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) – including Abdullah al-Hamid, Mohammed al-Qahtani, and Abd al-Kareem al-Khudr – were convicted and imprisoned by Saudi courts in 2013 on charges that included “disturbing public order.” Fadhil al-Manasif, an Eastern province activist, is currently on trial before Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court for, among other things, “contacting foreign news agencies to exaggerate news and insult the government of Saudi Arabia and its people.” The new terrorism law would codify in written law these vague, overbroad charges used to prosecute peaceful activists and dissidents.

Bandar al-Aiban, the president of Saudi Arabia’s governmental Human Rights Commission, told a Human Right Watch researcher in Riyadh in July that the draft terrorism law had flaws, and that the ministers might drop it from consideration. They did not, however, as the Saudi Press Agencyannouncement shows.

“The terrorism law would allow the government to label any Saudi who demands reform or exposes corruption as a terrorist,” Whitson said. “The Saudi government seems more focused on silencing peaceful activists than addressing on the real problem of terrorist violence.”"

Bad decisions mean more violence ahead

 December 31, 2013 12:29 AM
By Rami G. Khouri

"Governments, it seems, never learn. I was saddened but not surprised last week to watch policy moves in the Arab world by four leading governments in Iraq, Israel, Egypt and the United States that aimed to promote peace and security, but instead are guaranteed to lead to more conflict, violence, death and chaos. Why do governments with able people and plenty of analytical resources keep making decisions that surely will worsen conditions for themselves and their citizens?
The first bad decision was the Egyptian government’s total ban on the Muslim Brotherhood and its designation as a terrorist organization. This was coupled with the continuing arrests of hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members or supporters, and the closure of over a thousand Brotherhood-linked non-governmental organizations. Participants in Muslim Brotherhood demonstrations can now be jailed for five years and organizers sentenced to death.
This decision will not reduce the core supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, who will simply lay low for a while or provocatively hold demonstrations around the country. It is also likely to push some militants on the edges of the Muslim Brotherhood into overt armed resistance against the state, while galvanizing more active anti-government and anti-armed forces sentiment among millions of Egyptians who have quietly hoped that the armed forces’ removal of the elected president, Mohammad Morsi, in July would lead to a new era of political calm and economic growth. It seems that the Egyptian armed forces have the same low level of understanding of the political and social sentiments of the Egyptian people that the Muslim Brotherhood displayed when it was in office.
The second bad decision last week was the Israeli government’s moves on three fronts – bombing Gaza, announcing new settlement construction in the West Bank, and pondering a parliamentary bill to annex the Jordan Valley region – that are guaranteed to increase Palestinian resistance against Israel and lead to new strife. Some of these decisions are also likely to accelerate pressures on the Israeli government from international parties, including most world governments that oppose Israel’s settlements and annexation policies and a growing civil society movement to isolate Israel because of its apartheid-like controls on Palestinians.
Israel has pursued these and other policies for decades, which is why it is increasingly isolated and stigmatized, and has even been pressured by its closest ally the American government.
The third bad decision last week was the announcement by the U.S. and Iraqi governments that Washington would send surveillance drones and air-to-ground missiles to the Iraqi armed forces to help them fight the growing movement of Al-Qaeda-linked Salafist-takfiri militants in Iraq and Syria. While it is appropriate for governments to seek to eliminate these criminal groups, it should be clear by now after three decades of unsuccessfully fighting them in Afghanistan and Iraq that military force alone cannot defeat them. In fact, using drones and missiles against such militants kills a few hundred of them, but only seems to stimulate the anger of societies that are targeted from the air, leading to the subsequent mobilization of thousands of new recruits who join these movements.
It was ironic but telling that in the same week that the U.S. announced the decision to send sophisticated military systems to help the Iraqi armed forces fight the Salafist-takfiri militants, Taliban fighters attacked the American embassy in Kabul. So after the longest American foreign military engagement in modern history, the symbol and base of American determination to fight these groups in Afghanistan is directly attacked by the forces that massive and sustained American military might neither destroyed nor deterred. The “global war on terror” has used drones to attack and kill militants and civilians in half a dozen countries in recent decades, with the result that today the Salafist-takfiri militants are the fastest growing political actors in the entire Middle East.
It is troubling that the American, Israeli, Iraqi and Egyptian governments last week have all signaled their determination to make poor policy decisions that are certain to lead to higher levels of violence, resistance, militancy, terror and instability in the months and years ahead. These and other governments have been doing this for years, without learning the lessons of their own sustained failures.
More troubling today, however, is the new reality that the Salafist-takfiri militants, whose rise is one of the most significant consequences of these sustained failures, are increasingly linked with each other in an expanding regional web that threatens all governments and societies. Perhaps when government offices in the U.S., Iraq, Egypt, Afghanistan, Israel and half a dozen other countries are attacked simultaneously, the leaders who perpetuate the failed policies will admit colonialism and militarism cannot resolve conflicts whose surface manifestations of violence hide deeper root causes that are political, social and economic in nature."

Monday, December 30, 2013

Fighting erupts as Iraq police break up Sunni protest camp

(Reuters) - Fighting erupted when Iraqi police broke up a Sunni Muslim protest camp in the western Anbar province on Monday, leaving at least 13 people dead, police and medical sources said.
The camp has been an irritant to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite Muslim-led government since Sunni protesters set it up a year ago to demonstrate against what they see as marginalization of their sect.
The operation triggered an immediate political backlash as dozens of Sunni lawmakers offered their resignations.
Maliki, who is seeking a third term in April's elections, has repeatedly vowed to remove the camp and accused protesters of stirring strife and sheltering al Qaeda-linked militants.
Violence has spiked this year as al Qaeda-linked militants target the government and anyone seen to be supporting it, raising fears of a return to the sectarian conflict of 2006-7 that killed tens of thousands. Another 11 people died in separate attacks across Iraq on Monday.
Police sources said Monday's clashes broke out when gunmen opened fire on police special forces trying to enter Ramadi, the western city where the protest camp is located.
The gunmen destroyed four police vehicles and killed at least three policemen in the north of Ramadi, one source said.

The bodies of 10 other people killed in the clashes were brought into Ramadi's morgue, hospital and morgue sources said. In Falluja, gunmen attacked army patrols deployed along the main highway leading to Ramadi.

Overthrow the Speculators

"Money, as Karl Marx lamented, plays the largest part in determining the course of history. Once speculators are able to concentrate wealth into their hands they have, throughout history, emasculated government, turned the press into lap dogs and courtiers, corrupted the courts and hollowed out public institutions, including universities, to justify their looting and greed. Today’s speculators have created grotesque financial mechanisms, from usurious interest rates on loans to legalized accounting fraud, to plunge the masses into crippling forms of debt peonage. They steal staggering sums of public funds, such as the $85 billion of mortgage-backed securities and bonds, many of them toxic, that they unload each month on the Federal Reserve in return for cash. And when the public attempts to finance public-works projects they extract billions of dollars through wildly inflated interest rates.

Speculators at megabanks or investment firms such as Goldman Sachs are not, in a strict sense, capitalists. They do not make money from the means of production. Rather, they ignore or rewrite the law—ostensibly put in place to protect the vulnerable from the powerful—to steal from everyone, including their shareholders. They are parasites. They feed off the carcass of industrial capitalism. They produce nothing. They make nothing. They just manipulate money. Speculation in the 17th century was a crime. Speculators were hanged......."

US and Iran’s First Joint Military Venture: Fighting al Qaeda in Iraq


"With the Geneva Nuclear Accord still far from implementation a month after it was signed in Geneva, the United States and Iran are moving into stage two of their rapprochement: They are now fighting together to crush Al Qaeda terror in Iraq,DEBKAfile’s exclusive military sources report.
Iraq is two weeks into a major offensive for cutting al Qaeda down - the first major military challenge the jihadists have faced in the past six years. Three armies are fighting alongside Iraq: the United States, Iran’s Al Qods Brigades officers and Syria.
Their mission is to foil Al Qaeda’s drive to spread its first independent state in the Middle East across the Iraqi-Syrian frontier. Its Iraqi and Syrian branches - ISIS and the Nusra Front - have declared a holy war to this end under their commanders Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and Abu Mohammed al-Golani.
The Anbar province of Western Iraq is the scene of he fiercest combat close to Iraq’s borders with Syria and Jordan.
To counter Al Qaeda’s superiority in speed and surprise, the US has sent the Iraqi army Hellfire surface-to-air missiles. They are already in use against al Qaeda camps on the Syrian border. Next, Washington is sending out small, long-endurance unmanned aerial ScanEagles. These drones are best suited to combat in Anbar’s deep wadis and the halophyte thickets lining the Euphrates River.
In this topsy-turvy scenario, Washington and Tehran share another surprising motive: to save the Assad regime in Damascus from Al Qaeda’s long arms.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted approvingly on Dec. 26: “Attitudes are changing in Western countries; they are becoming more realistic in their approach towards the Syrian crisis. The threat of terrorism in Syria, of jihadists coming to power, of creating a caliphate with extremist laws, these are the main problems.”
Since the Syrian chemical issue was addressed in September, Russian-Iranian-American collaboration is going strong. The joint US-Iranian war on al Qaeda is strengthening Tehran’s grip on Iraq as well Syria. It gives Russian President Vladimir Putin hope for keeping al Qaeda away from the Winter Olympics at Sochi – an ever-present menace as a female suicide bomber, a Dagestan national, demonstrated Sunday, Dec. 29, by blowing up the railway station at the southern Russian city of Volgograd, killing up to a score of people.
The other incentive for US President Barack Obama is the hope of transposing his collaboration with Tehran and Moscow to improve US chances of a reasonable accommodation in the Afghanistan arena."

Can the Arab revolutions survive Syria and Egypt?

The continued carnage in Syria has given rise to staggering numbers of people dead and displaced [AFP]

The hopeful wave of uprisings that started in Tunisia in 2011, seems to have given way to despair and violence.


"As we mark the commencement of Year Four of the Arab revolutions, a quick glance around the Arab world may leave much to be desired from the initial promise of the crescendo of events that warranted the term “Arab Spring”.
Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation on December 17, 2010, his death on January 4, 2011, and the subsequent uprising in Tunisia that resulted in the fall of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on January 14, 2011, triggered a series of uprisings all the way from Oman and Yemen, to Egypt, Syria, and Morocco. Now more than three tumultuous and ground-breaking years later, things seem to be different - the Arab Spring seems to have come to a premature Arab Winter. 
In Egypt, the democratically elected president was toppled by a military coup, and what is even more unsettling is the fact that leading Egyptian intellectuals seem to be cheering along the side-lines. In Tunisia, mass demonstrations demanding the resignation of the Islamist-led government continue. In Libya, private and public sectors have staged a general strike demanding the government confront the armed militias. In Yemen, the shady shape of “al-Qaeda” seems to have staged a comeback. In Bahrain, all signs of resistance to the ruling regime seem to have been uprooted, to the point that even an art exhibition depicting the Bahrain uprising is not tolerated. Any sign of protest in Saudi Arabia is brutally suppressed, Moroccan constitutional reform now seems bogus, Iraq still reels under sectarian violence, and Kuwait and Jordan are dormant.
The case of Syria
All these events, however, pale in comparison with the continued carnage in Syria. The numbers are staggering. According to The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, from an estimated population of 22.4 million, more than 100,000 people have been killed; 9.3 million people are in dire need of help inside Syria, while some 6.3 million people have been internally displaced. Syria as a country, for all intents and purposes, has disintegrated, while Bashar Assad stands morbidly still and entirely unfazed.     
A quick look at the composition of the external forces now turning Syria into a proxy war clearly shows that all of them have one single and common purpose: To put an end to the momentum of the Arab revolutions. They have successfully changed the discourse away from the democratic will of the Syrian people and degraded it into one of civil war. That narrative transmutation of “revolution” into “civil war” is by far the most dangerous threat facing the Arab revolutions today. 
Revolutions are destabilising. The United States, as an imperial project with vast material and strategic interests in the Arab world is not happy with these revolutions that destabilise the region, endanger its allies, and potentially embolden its adversaries. Israel has even more at stake to thwart this revolutionary tide. For the entire duration of its colonial project, Israel has relied on corrupt Arab potentates like the ones the Arab revolutionaries are overthrowing. The apartheid state prefers a tyrant like Assad over messy unfolding democratic movements like the ones in Egypt and Tunisia.  
Saudi Arabia is a staunch ally of the US and Israel in this opposition to the uprisings. As a retrograde monarchy with no democratic institutions ever allowed disrupting its tribal rule, it is naturally opposed to any mass revolution that ipso facto exposes its political obscurantism. Iran is a strange bedfellow with Saudi Arabia in this endeavour. Having swallowed a vastly cosmopolitan political culture, and eliminating all its ideological rivals in the aftermath of the Iranian revolution of 1977-1979, the custodians of the Islamic Republic are not happy with a tsunami of revolutions that returns to the global stage what they are doing their best to repress. Initially they branded these revolutions as “Islamic Awakening”, and when Egyptians revolted against the Muslim Brotherhood, they learned their lesson and let a moderate like Hassan Rouhani become president and began negotiating a better deal for their future with “the Great Satan”.
Is Turkey next?
The “deep state”, successfully hiding behind the democratic facade in Turkey, has a singular mission in its political DNA to be a major player in the region, for its own interests - and that interest has no principles: They collaborate with Israel, deny the Armenian genocide, suppress Kurdish demands for autonomy, squarely partake in NATO’s military projects in the Mediterranean, and in every turmoil see and seek their own immediate and distant interests. A potential success of the Arab revolutions, as we saw in the course of the Gezi Park uprising, can be a model of revolt for Turks as well. 
Russia and China, in two different but complementary ways, are strategic allies in opportunism, one primarily in political and the other in patently economic terms. They are no allies of any revolutionary cause. Russia and China only haggle and negotiate with the US for a bigger share of the pie they see in every conflict and chaos. 
Tunisia marks third anniversary of uprising
Though these players may appear at odds with each other, in fact, they are united in doing all they can to divert these revolutions. The combined interests of all these forces have successfully turned a popular democratic uprising in Syria into a civil war in which there are obviously two sides that are to be separated and adjudicated.
As Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah help Assad; the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states are aiding and abetting an entire army of mercenary fighters who sport and brandish one Islamist brand or another. They are all categorically mercenaries and no amount of branding them lslamist should detract from that fact. The fabrication of a Sunni-Shia fight is an entirely bogus claim. This is a fight between Saudi Arabia and Iran - one supported by Russia and the other by the US/Israel - a fake fight to divert attention from the real issue:  the Arab revolutions. 
From the very beginning there were two kinds of reactions to the Arab revolutions: The distrustful nay-sayers who thought the whole thing was a passing fever, or else manipulated and “kidnapped” by the US; and those who were deeply invested in these revolutions, never blinded to the tumultuous road ahead, and yet unflinchingly hopeful.
We did not inherit the postcolonial world of 2011 overnight. It took the combined calamity of domestic tyrannies and European imperialism of some 200 years or more to bring us to where we were when Bouazizi set himself on fire. It will not take another 200 years to set things right; nor will the counterrevolutionary forces from Washington DC, Tel Aviv, Riyadh, or Tehran just pack up their interests and disappear into thin air overnight.
Buy into civil structures
Resistance to these regional and global counterrevolutionary forces must be local - domestic to the Syrian people themselves - and their peaceful desire for a transition to democracy. This, therefore, is the time for the formation of voluntary associations, labour unions, women’s rights organisations and student assemblies.
In Syria, as elsewhere, the brutes that are gathered around Assad or the mercenary thugs among those who are fighting him are categorically incapable of governing a civilised society. Syrians, as the rest of Arabs and Muslims, must be busy translating the civilised will of their democratic uprising into institutions of resistance to tyranny - right now, as those who know nothing but the language of violence are busy discrediting and destroying each other. 
The question of the Kurds is also critical here. The Syrian Kurds now have an historic opportunity to provide a template for democratic change if they put an end to the abuse by every major and minor player that takes advantage of their aspirations for a unified Kurdistan. If they abandon that dream and channel its legitimate aspirations into the democratic will of Kurdish people now scattered in Iran, Turkey, Iraq, and Syria, they can in fact become a game changer. 
The Syrian debacle has put a damper on the Arab revolutions and beyond. Every country from Afghanistan to Iran to Morocco now points to Syria as a justification that all these revolutions were in vain, that the ruling regimes and all their atrocities are better than this carnage. This is a bogus binary. The choice has never been between the carnage we witness in Syria and the corrupt elite and the deep states that rule from Morocco to Turkey, from Afghanistan through Iran to Saudi Arabia. The choice is between the will of the people and their revolutionary uprisings and the conspiracy of counterrevolutionary forces to put an end to these aspirations. 
In between these two forces what has irreversibly changed is the calculus of the democratic will of the people at large, 422 million Arabs and 1.3 billion Muslims. That calculus of liberation is the major momentum of our contemporary history - and it will not be reversed.  "

وفاة 15 فلسطينيا بسبب الجوع في مخيم اليرموك بدمشق

وفاة 15 فلسطينيا بسبب الجوع في مخيم اليرموك بدمشق


بيروت- (أ ف ب): توفي 15 فلسطينيا على الاقل بسبب الجوع منذ ايلول/ سبتمبر في مخيم اليرموك المحاصر في جنوب دمشق، بحسب ما افادت وكالة الامم المتحدة لغوث وتشغيل اللاجئين الفلسطينيين وكالة فرانس برس الاثنين.

وقال المتحدث باسم الوكالة الاممية كريس غونيس “تحدثت تقارير وردتنا نهاية الاسبوع ان خمسة على الاقل من اللاجئين الفلسطينيين في مخيم اليرموك المحاصر في دمشق لقوا حتفهم بسبب سوء التغذية، وبذلك يصبح إجمالي عدد الحالات المبلغ عنها 15″.

وحذر من تدهور الوضع في المخيم، حيث يحاصر 20 الف فلسطيني وسط محدودية في الطعام والإمدادات الطبية.

وقال “نحن غير قادرين منذ ايلول/ سبتمبر 2013 على دخول المخيم لتقديم المساعدات الضرورية التي يحتاجها السكان”.

اضاف “إن استمرار وجود الجماعات المسلحة التي دخلت المنطقة في نهاية عام 2012، ومحاصرتها من قبل القوات النظامية، احبطا كل جهودنا الانسانية”.

وتسيطر المعارضة المسلحة على غالبية أجزاء المخيم الذي يعد الاكبر للاجئين الفلسطينيين في سوريا، وتحاصره القوات النظامية منذ نحو عام ما تسبب بأزمة إنسانية، ونزوح عشرات الآلاف من اصل 170 الفا كانوا يقطنون فيه.

وكان المرصد السوري لحقوق الانسان اعلن الجمعة وفاة خمسة اشخاص بسبب الجوع في المخيم، بينهم مسن وامرأة وشخص من ذوي الحاجات الخاصة.

ووجهت وكالة الاونروا نداء في العشرين من كانون الاول/ديسمبر لتقديم المساعدة لسكان اليرموك. وقالت في النداء ان ظروف الحياة في المخيم تتفاقم بشكل “مأساوي”، مشيرة الى ان نحو عشرين الف شخص لا يزالون محاصرين داخله.

واضافت انه “في حال عدم معالجة الوضع في شكل عاجل، قد يكون فات الاوان لانقاذ حياة آلاف الاشخاص، ومن بينهم اطفال”.

واشار غونيس الى ان الوكالة وجهت نداء “الى جميع الاطراف من اجل الوفاء فورا بالتزاماتها القانونية وتسهيل تقديم المساعدة الإنسانية العاجلة إلى مخيم اليرموك والمخيمات الفلسطينية الأخرى”.

ويقطن في سوريا نحو 500 الف فلسطيني نزح نصفهم تقريبا بسبب النزاع الدامي الذي اندلع في البلاد منتصف اذار/ مارس 2011.

وادى النزاع السوري الى مقتل اكثر من 126 ألف شخص، ولجوء قرابة ثلاثة ملايين إلى الدول المجاورة

"Freedom" - Sisi Style: Four Al-Jazeera journalists arrested in Egypt for broadcasting 'false news'

The Guardian

"Egyptian police have arrested four Al-Jazeera journalists, including the TV network's Cairo bureau chief, Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, and a former BBC correspondent, Peter Greste.
The interior ministry accused the journalists of holding "illegal meetings" with the banned Muslim Brotherhoodwhich was declared last week to be a terrorist organisation.
The military-backed interim government has launched a crackdown on the movement ever since the army ousted the Brotherhood-backed president, Mohammed Morsi, from power in July.
An interior ministry statement accused the journalists of broadcasting "false news" that was "damaging to national security". It said that cameras, recordings and other material had been seized from rooms at a Cairo hotel.
The journalists were said to possess materials that promoted "incitement", such as information about campus strikes by students who support the Brotherhood.
The two other arrested Al-Jazeera staff were identified by the network as Baher Mohamed and cameraman Mohamed Fawzy. All four have been in custody since Sunday evening.
Greste, an Australian, is an experienced foreign correspondent who previously worked for ReutersCNN and the BBC. He won a Peabody Award in 2012 for a BBC Panorama documentary on Somalia.
Egypt's media have been under pressure since Morsi's overthrow. Several Islamist channels were closed down in the summer and their journalists were temporarily detained."