From the Editors
The New York Times says Jadaliyya "Brings New Life to Arab Studies." Read about it by clicking here.
[This is a roundup of news articles and other materials circulating on Syria and reflects a wide variety of opinions. It does not reflect the views of the Syria Page Editors or of Jadaliyya. You may send your own recommendations for inclusion in each week's roundup to email@example.com by Monday night of every week.]
Regional and International Perspectives
Peter Harling, project director, International Crisis Group A comprehensive interview with France 24 on current developments in Syria and the reasons behind the stalemate.
Peter Harling, directeur du projet "Irak, Liban et Syrie", International Crisis Group Another interview he gave to France 24, this time in French.
When politics is determined by guns After providing an overview of developments at the various Syrian borders Vijay Prashad writes: “When politics is determined by guns, the civil rebellion — howsoever intense — is no longer significant. It will have no role at Geneva. Neither will the Syrian refugees who are frozen in the hillside town of Arsal and in the Jordanian desert camp of Za’atari.”
Can the Arab revolutions survive Syria and Egypt? Hamid Dabashi says that “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.”
Iraq-Syria Adam Shatz argues that “the Iraq war is not over; it never really ended. It just spilled into a new war, the war in Syria.”
The Future of Lebanon In this pertinent piece, Karim Makdisi suggests that “the assassination of Mohamad Chatah, tragic as it is, has thus created an opportunity for Saudi Arabia and March 14 to ratchet up the sectarian rhetoric, isolate Hizbullah further from national institutions, and provoke it into expending its energies and political capital inside Lebanon thus potentially weakening its resolve and capability in Syria,” but also warns that “this does not at all suggest that the Saudis or Israelis are behind Chatah’s assassination in some cynical attempt to trigger a war; nor that Hizbullah, the Syrian regime, or Iran cannot possibly have been behind it[…] But there can be little doubt that Chatah’s murder is more than a local settling of scores, or some absurd form of revenge against a series of tweets.”
Shatah Assassination: First Details of Investigation Emerge Amal Khalil, reporting for Al Akhbar, suggests that the investigation seeking to trace the perpetrator were pointing to people from the Ain al-Helweh Palestinian refugee camp.
Assassination of former Lebanese minister Mohamad Chatah A press statement by Ahmed al-Jarba condemns the attack and calls it a “cowardly act aimed at destabilizing Lebanon and undermining its security”
Sleiman announces $3B Saudi grant for Army In a dangerous turn of events, following the Shatah assassination “Saudi Arabia has pledged $3 billion to buy arms for the Lebanese Army from France, President Michel Sleiman said Sunday, describing it as the biggest grant ever for the military in Lebanon’s history.”
I am NOT a martyr - أنا مش شهيد A Facebook page that emerged after the bomb that killed seven people including Mohammed Shatah. The page’s about section reads: “We refuse to become martyrs. We refuse to remain victims. We refuse to die a collateral death.”
Power Struggles Among the Alawites in Lebanon, Part I Raphael Lefevre chronicles “the rise of the Arab Democratic Party among the Alawites of Lebanon”
Power Struggles Among the Alawites in Lebanon, Part II “looks at politics of Jabal Mohsen during the Syrian uprising”
Officials: Lebanese Forces Fire on Syrian Planes in the first action against warplanes violating Lebanese airspace since the start of the war.
Syria, Iraq, Egypt most deadly nations for journalists Elana Belser on the dangers of reporting from those countries.
Observatory in the crosshairs for its coverage Marlin Dick reports on how “The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, one of the leading sources of information about the war in Syria, has received death threats over its work from members of the opposition” because of conflicting narratives over the perpetrator of killings across Syria.
WikiLeaks Party team meets Bashar al-Assad “Speaking on Syrian television, Mr Shipton [Julian Assange’s father] announced plans to establish a WikiLeaks Party office in Damascus, saying he wanted "to show the solidarity of the Australian people and Wikileaks Party with the difficulties that Syria is having at the moment".
Can Iran Go to Geneva II Without Endorsing Geneva I? Aron Lund explains how Iran has not been invited to Geneva II despite there being many reasons to invite its representatives.
Syrian Kurds agree to disagree Wladimir Van Wilgenburg explains how, “despite agreeing to speak with a single Kurdish voice at Geneva II, Syria's Kurds are far from united on how to administer the Kurdish areas in the future.”
War in Rojava
Rojava: Syria's Unknown War An introductory video on the war in Rojava.
Kurdish Groups Agree to Attend Geneva II Under United Banner The Syrian Kurdish groups have agreed to attend next month’s Geneva II conference under a united banner.
How al-Qaeda Changed the Syrian War Sarah Birke analyzes the Syrian civil war by focusing on al-Qaeda’s actions.
Aid to Syrian Rebels
Syrian rebels get arms and advice through secret command centre in Amman Phil Sands and Suha Maayeh report that “rebel fighters and opposition members say the command centre, based in an intelligence headquarters building in Amman, channels vehicles, sniper rifles, mortars, heavy machine guns, small arms and ammunition to Free Syrian Army units – although it has stopped short of giving them much coveted anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles.”
Aid to Syrian rebels flows through a complex maze Phil Sands adds that “another key source of weapons are those seized by rebel brigades from regime bases they overrun, with factions sharing out the spoils. Rebel groups sometimes sell these weapons to each other, or trade weapons they may not want or be able to use, such as artillery pieces, for those they more urgently need, such as small arms ammunition.”
Obama’s Failed Islamist Outreach Josh Rogin explains why “the Obama administration’s outreach to the Islamic Front in Syria earlier this month failed due to a flawed plan and unrealistic goals, insiders say—and now American influence on the ground with the armed Syrian opposition is at a new low.”
The Islamist Enemy of Our Islamist Enemy Hania Mourtada explains how the newly created Islamic Front “might soon be the West's unpredictable new friend in Syria.”
The As’ad AbuKhalil Defamation Campaign
"Angry Arab" or CIA operative? This week Now Lebanon published a piece alleging that professor and prominent blogger As’ad Abukhalil was being paid by the CIA.
Debunked: the claim that As’ad AbuKhalil worked for the CIA Benjamin Doherty argues that “the allegations disseminated by the website Now that California State University Stanislaus professor As’ad AbuKhalil worked for the CIA are based on nothing more than information harvested from Internet spam sites and web forums.”
Under Pressure, ISIS Releases Its First FSA Prisoner “The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), al-Qaida’s Syrian arm, has released a Free Syrian Army officer from detention, reportedly the first FSA prisoner to be set free by the extremist group.
Who's who: Yahia Abdulbari “Souad Khibieh writes for The Syrian Observer on the doctor who became a landmark in Damascus Countryside”
I want my husband’s corpse! Hanadi Zarf on “a sentence that you frequently hear today in Syria, though in different phrasings, from many women who have lost their men in battle, without knowing where they were finally buried.”
Radicals are Assad’s best friends Mohammed Habash, a religious scholar and former member of the Syrian parliament explains the relationship between the radicals and the Syrian regime and traces it back to the war in Iraq.
Palestine and Syria are one! In memory of the Palestinian Syrian revolutionary activist and actor Hassan Hassan A piece about Hassan Hassan on Syria Freedom Forever.
Answering Karl reMarks: The Case Against Anti-Interventionism Maysaloon writes: “Karl reMarks has written an essay describing the Arab uprising as a missed opportunity for self determination. I agree with him that there is a serious lack of historical context and political understanding when it comes to analysing and understanding the Arab spring, but I think his conclusions are, on the one hand, premature when it comes to judging some aspects of this spring a failure, and on the other, inaccurate when we come to the question of interventionism and the role played by outside countries in these national struggles.”
My Grandmother, My Country A very personal account by Lina Sergie Attar who writes: “My grandmother died on Tuesday, Dec. 17, thousands of miles away from her home. Our ultimate dreams of return to Syria were slashed with her death. There will forever be an absence in the apartment in the Sabil neighborhood where my father was born and an absence in the cemetery where my grandfather is buried. There will forever be an inconsolable loss in our family that marks us as Syrians. For there is no family without loss in this terrible war.”
Search for Assad alternative clouds Syria prospects This piece examines the prospects of the Geneva conference and features the stance of Nikolaos Van Dam, former Dutch ambassador to Iraq and Egypt and the author of The Struggle For Power In Syria.
Syria, Peace and Christmas, 2013 A message by Joseph Daher on Syrian Freedom Forever
Syria: Talk to Assad? Frederic C. Hof says “the real issue, as Ryan Crocker and other professionals would point out, is what to say.”
No hope for peace in Syria as long as Assad is in power Hassan Hassan argues that “if outsiders move beyond Mr Al Assad and start working on a solution that excludes him, only then can we imagine a peace settlement in Syria."
Red Crescent under Fire from Both Sides of the Civil War Karam Mansour reports from Eastern Ghouta
ISIS takes on Kafranbel, the voice of the uprising Marlin Dick reports on developments in Kafranbel, where “militants from the Al-Qaeda affiliate the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) have stormed several media facilities in the rebel-held town of Kafranbel, one of the best-known symbols of Syria’s anti-government uprising, activists said.”
Five Die From Hunger in Yarmouk Camp “The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced on Friday that five people have died from hunger in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus.”
Stop Starvation in Syria | End the Blockades “We are starting the first phase of a “rolling” solidarity hunger strike onFriday, December 20, where someone will do a hunger strike every day in support of the hunger strikers in Syria through the rest of December”
SYRIA: An Old Woman Describes Her Suffering under the Siege A video that puts a human face on the hardships endured by most in Yarmouk.
Bachar el-Assad affame la Palestine... à Damas Jean-Pierre Filiu provides an account on the starvation campaign unfolding in Yarmouk.
Barrel Bombs Kill 1000 People in Aleppo: Revolution Commission “More than 1000 people have been killed in 13 days of government airstrikes on the northern Syrian city of Aleppo and its countryside, the Syrian Revolution General Commission said Thursday.”
Women of Zabadani Kayani and The Street Foundation produced this film in which “the women in the Damascus’ suburb of Zabadani talk about their role and activism in the uprising in their town.”
Christmas in liberated Saraqeb, Idlib province, Syria. Footage of life in Saraqeb.
Assad's Supporters Demand Expulsion of Displaced People From Coast “Pro-regime activists have established a Facebook page calling for the expulsion of displaced people who settled in the Syrian coastal cities. They claim the displaced people are relatives of terrorists attacking Syrian soldiers.”
Arts and Social Media
Skyrocket Light Project “This project includes two parts: (1) installing solar-powered LED lights in critical areas in the camp, which include 42 Child-Friendly Spaces (CFS), three community centers for trauma victims, as well as a children’s library, and (2) providing school supplies to Syrian refugee children living in the surrounding communities, particularly in Mafraq and Amman where they often have few if any opportunities to go to school.”
Photoblog: Embroidery Workshop Helps Refugee Women “Located down a narrow alleyway in the Palestinian refugee camp of Shatila in Beirut, is a workshop where women are busy making pillow covers, tablecloths, scarves, caps, wallets, baby clothes and other needlework products.”
Policy and Reports
2014 SYRIA REGIONAL RESPONSE PLAN Prepared by the UNHCR
Lebanon: Child Refugee Deaths Expose Corruption in Relief Work Rajana Hamyeh asks: “Who oversees the work of these organizations, and who can guarantee that the aid is reaching the intended recipients?”
Economy and Agriculture
Halqi Claims Syria's Debts Less than Half a Billion Dollars Syrian Observer translates this piece from a Syrian economic magazine that says “the Prime Minister Wael Al-Halqi has claimed that Syria’s debts do not exceed half a billion dollars and assured that Syria’s debt is decreasing through timely payments. The statement contradicts national economic figures.”
Syrian War Boosts Demand for Lebanese Tobacco Mouhamad Wehbe writes: “Lebanon’s tobacco regulatory authority has allocated around $39 million to increase its production of Lebanese cigarettes. Prompted by an increase in demand, both locally and in Syria, the ultimate goal of the investment is to increase production capacity in Lebanon to 50,000 crates per month, around 60 percent of current local consumption.”
«المعارضة ترتب أوراقها قبل «جنيف السوري
Mohammad Balloot on the arrangements between the different factions of the opposition (mainly the Syrian National Coalition and the Syrian National Coordination Body) before Geneva 2.
تفاصيل الندوة التي أقيمت حول القضية الكردية ومشروع الإدارة الذاتية
The Syrian National Coordination Body provides the details for the forum that was held about the Kurdish case and the project of self-management.
«داعش» تشن «غزوة» على كفرنبل... و«غنائمها» إذاعة و «باص الكرامة»
Ibrahim Hamidi reports that ISIS has advanced into the Syrian city of Kafranbel and raided its media center, imprisoned a number of activists and media personnel. ISIS also took over the “dignity bus” which takes care of internally displaced children, supervising their education and providing them with psychological assistance.
'بعد الاعلان عن فيلم سعودي باسم ‘الجحش
Al-Quds reports, after the production of a Saudi film entitled “al-Jahsh”, in which Al-Assad and the Syrian government is insulted, the Syrian regime has responded by closing its border to cars with Saudi license plates.
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