[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 firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday night of every week.]
Regional and International Perspectives
Syrie : les scénarios de Genève 2 A program with guests Bruno Tertrais, Joseph Bahout and Peter Harling.
Geneva II: Watch Out for Back-Channel Talks Lina Khatib qualifies the Geneva talks as anti-climatic.
Une proche d`Assad : « Pourquoi préférez-vous les terroristes au gouvernement syrien ? » An interview with Bouthaina Shaaban, the Syrian president’s media adviser.
Moving Mountains in Syria Tam Hussein meets with people from Jebel Akrad, who suspect that the war will last much longer, regardless of the Geneva talks.
Get Real (ist) About the Geneva Talks Timothy Hoyt writes: “I would propose a modest alternative. The United States has articulated three major concerns in this conflict: 1) Ending the suffering and easing the humanitarian crisis. 2) Eliminating Syrian weapons of mass destruction (WMD). 3) Removing Assad from power.The negotiations at Geneva may be able to secure the first two at the cost (and it is an obnoxious one) of not achieving the third.”
Geneva II: Negotiations or Theatre of Syrian Blood? Walid al-Bunni writes: “The failure of the Geneva talks should serve as a lesson for the opposition to redraw its strategy.”
Lines of the Game: Geneva II to End the Syrian Opposition? Sami Kleib asks: “Does Geneva II pave the way for the elimination of the opposition coalition? This is a distinct possibility.”
Could discussing humanitarian issues lead to disaster at the Geneva II talks? Steven Heydemann writes: “Despite the dim hope that a political solution can be found in this round of talks, perhaps the most disastrous turn would be for negotiators to be deviate from the mission of the talks: transitioning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad out of power.”
Analysis: Why Syria`s Assad enters Geneva talks in a position of strength Joshua Landis claims that “President Bashar al-Assad comes to the negotiating table in Switzerland apparently stronger today than at any time in the last two years.”
Geneva II: Avoiding a Death Foretold, Part I Yezid Sayigh writes that “the international conference on Syria, which will be launched at Montreux, Switzerland, on 22 January and followed two days later by the start of direct talks in Geneva between the Syrian regime and opposition, will not produce an agreement is a foregone conclusion. Despite being badly bloodied on the battlefield, the Syrian protagonists are still far from ready politically to engage each other in substantive negotiation.”
Geneva II: Avoiding a Death Foretold, Part II Sayigh adds that “here, the regime still has an advantage that is made greater not by its own strengths or the dependability of its external allies but by the deepening decrepitude of the main exile opposition body, the National Coalition of Syrian Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, and by widening rifts within the armed rebellion.”
Syrian Kurds declare autonomy on eve of Geneva 2 reports RT.
How Geneva 2 Can Help Syrians The blogger Darth Nader says that “a Geneva 2 that will benefit Syrians will be a Geneva 2 that puts in place ceasefires, opens humanitarian corridors, and lifts sieges off of besieged areas such as Homs and Yarmouk camp.”
At Neutral Site, Syrians Feel Free to Confront the Other Side Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad say that “it is an encounter that neither side has experienced before, and in some ways it is the most significant thing taking place at a peace conference that has been more about optics than results.”
Syria Torture Photos: Massacre or Sabotage Scheme? Asli Aydintasbas comments on the timing of the torture photos from Syria that were released the night before the Geneva Convention.
The Prospects of the Geneva II Conference Mustafa Aydin argues that although the Geneva meeting is the first face-to-face talk between the al-Assad regime and some opposition groups, “Syria will continue to be a bleeding wound in the Middle East for years to come.”
Turkey, Syria, and the "Terrorist State" “Is it not sad to hear Syria’s ‘illegitimate’ foreign minister accusing Turkey of ‘supporting and abetting’ terrorism?" Yusuf Kanlı asks.
Turkish Intelligence Service Trucks Reveal Secrets “Did trucks linked to Turkish Intelligence facilitate the smuggling of weapons to rebel forces in Syria?” Fehim Tastekin asks.
Turkey Seals Border Against al-Qaeda Fehim Tastekin reports that “Turkey has closed its gates after al-Qaida captured three border crossings into northern Syria.”
The AKP’s Test With al-Qaeda Verda Özer argues that AKP is faced with a dangerous dilemma whereby it either criticizes al-Qaida loudly or it becomes associated to the group.
Turkey Under Pressure Over Jihadists on Border “The recent terrorist bombing at the border and the acrimonious exchange between the Turkish and Syrian foreign ministers at Geneva II hints at the extent to which Turkey has become embroiled in the Syria conflict,” Semih Idiz writes.
Turkish military strikes ISIL convoy in Syria “Turkish troops opened fire on Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) positions in northern Syria after a mortar shell fired from Syria landed in Turkish territory during clashes between ISIL and the Free Syrian Army, broadcaster NTV reported.”
Different Policies, the Same Game: Syrian and Palestinian Refugees in Egypt Kelsey P. Norman takes a closer look at the policies towards the refugees.
ISIS in Lebanon: Lebanese Army a Target according to Radwan Mortada
Lebanon: Syrian Refugees Face Sexual Harassment, Abuse Doha Shams writes: “there is no respite for Syrian women refugees in North Lebanon’s Akkar from the daily humiliations of sexual harassment. Impoverished and desperate, they are forced to work under abusive bosses, rent from shady landlords, and are even married off by their own fathers. Meanwhile, the local residents worsen the situation by claiming that “cheap” Syrian wives are “stealing our men.”
Can Lebanon Handle 3,000 Syrian Refugees a Day? “Twenty percent of those living in Lebanon today are refugees due to the war in Syria, representing around twenty-five percent of Lebanon`s residents before the Syrian revolution.”
Clapper Says Syrian Al-Qaida Wants to Attack US The top U.S. intelligence official told this to Congress on Wednesday.
How the War in Syria Empowers Lebanese Jihadism A pertinent piece by Raphael Lefevre
Where are the Syrian refugees going? An informative piece published by the Guardian.
Syrian Opposition Is Set to Meet With Russians “Syria`s opposition in exile is scheduled to travel to Moscow on Monday in a bid to thaw relations with one of the Syrian government`s most powerful allies.”
Syrian Refugees in Lebanon Resort to Unofficial Marriages Malath al-Zoubi on this emerging practice among refugees.
A Revolution in Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood? Raphael Lefevre says that “the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has often been branded as one of the most influential actors in exiled Syrian opposition politics, but it may not be as cohesive as most people think.”
The Politics of the Islamic Front, Part 5: The Kurds Aron Lund says that the Front “has presented unified positions on a number of issues, but in one case the Islamic Front has had trouble reconciling its stated ideological agenda with political reality—namely, the Kurdish question”
Syria’s “Lost Province”: The Hatay Question Returns Emma Lundgren Jorum on the history of Turkey’s annexation of Hatay and how it shaped the relation between Turkey and Syria.
Manbij, a Success Story in the Liberated Areas “An interview with Yasser Munif on Manbij, a city governed by a revolutionary council and that saw the creation of Syria`s first free trade union and independent police force.”
Hope Springs in Syria? Hassan Hassan says that “limited local cease-fires, fragile though they are, can still serve as models for ending the Syrian civil war.”
With Friends Like These: Al Qaeda and the Assad Regime Brian Fishman concludes: “while absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, there is no public smoking gun that Assad is collaborating directly with ISIS. The argument that they are in cahoots finds fertile soil because it is obvious that the Assad regime benefits from the presence of ISIS and other jihadis in Syria.”
The Other Syrian Peace Process Aron Lund discusses the “Umma Initiative.”
Understanding Syria: From Pre-Civil War to Post-Assad William R. Polk offers a lengthy expository piece on Syria.
Syria`s Bodies: `The Stench Was Unfathomable` Christoph Reuter and Christoph Scheuermann
provide background information on the report released last week regarding the torture of prisoners at the hands of the Syrian regime.
When Assad`s horrific prisons were the CIA`s dumping ground. David Kenner reminds readers about Maher Arar’s ordeal to reveal the irony behind the United States’ surprise in the face of the torture reports.
Discussion of Aymenn J. Al-Tamimi’s Latest Article A response to “‘The Dawn of the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham’.Although only a peripheral point in the essay, if passed without critical examination, it has the potential of leading to some significantly off-the-mark conclusions.”
Maaloula Nun Captors Seek Release of All Islamist Prisoners in Roumieh “Informed sources told Al-Akhbar that ongoing negotiations to procure the release of the Maaloula nuns kidnapped by al-Nusra Front and held in the Syrian city of Yabroud close to the Lebanese border have been deadlocked since December 6.”
Yarmouk Camp As’ad AbuKhalil writes: “It is indubitable that the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria is under siege by the troops of the Syrian regime; it is also indubitable that the Syrian rebels find it easy to use the camp as a staging ground for the continually-postponed attack on Damascus. Both sides have shown disregard for the lives of the Palestinians inside the camp. But then again, both sides in Syria have shown disregard for the lives of ordinary Syrians, and it isn’t surprising that they would be disregarding the lives of the Palestinians inside the camp.”
Revolutionary Left Current in Syria: always with the masses in their struggle for their emancipation The Revolutionary Left current reiterates its support of the revolution.
Enduring Myths of Sectarianism in Syria Elyse Semerdjian deconstructs the sectarian argument used to discuss Syria.
Assad the Guardian Angel The Syrian Observer translates this pro-regime outlet’s piece claiming that “Assad enjoys immense popularity as the most popular Arab leader”
Syria Talks May Yield Little, but Give Cover to Those Defying Hard-Liners Anne Barnard and Mohammed Ghannam write: “The images from spotless, quiet Geneva were striking — Syrian government and opposition figures sitting down together for the first time to discuss ending their country’s war — but inside war-torn Syria, patience wore thin as the talks dragged on with few results.”
New Texts Out Now: Lisa Wedeen, Ideology and Humor in Dark Times: Notes from Syria Lisa Wedeen discusses her most recent article and how it relates to her current book project.
Road to Raqqa Vijay Prashad on how “the influence of radical Islamists like the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham has been growing along the desert road that straddles Iraq and Syria.”
Coalition Hands Over Document Outlining Transitional Government “The delegation of the Syrian National Coalition at Geneva has handed the regime delegation a document detailing mechanisms for the formation of a transitional governing body without Bashar Assad,” reports Aks al-Ser.
Syria Plea: ‘We Are Eating Cat and Donkey Meat, Have Mercy on Us’ “The Wall Street Journal’s Sam Dagher went to the frontline of the Yarmouk Camp, where tens of thousands of people, mostly Palestinians, have not been allowed to leave the area for about a year. Both sides in the conflict have used access to food and medicine as a weapon, according to human-rights groups and aid workers.”
Syrian Government Employees Struggle to Make Ends Meet Salaam al-Saadi meets with some of them.
Syria: Trapped Women of besieged Homs decline evacuation, fearing for their Men “More than half of the 500 women and children trapped in the Syrian city of Homs refuse to be evacuated, saying they fear leaving male relatives behind, activists said Monday.”
Consumer Fraud Leads to Deaths in Qamishli Vyan Mohammad reports.
Behind Perdition’s Eyelid: To Live and Die in Aleppo Suhaib Anjarini asks: “how do the residents of the capital of the Syrian north go about their lives? Or more aptly, how exactly are they coexisting with death?”
Syria: Rampant Looting by Both Sides in Damascus Countryside Laith al-Khatib on the reasons behind those acts by “both sides.”
Barrel Bombs Death Toll Rises to 62 in Aleppo “At least 62 people, including an unknown number of children, have died as a result of barrel bomb attacks in Aleppo, according to the Syrian Revolution General Council (SRGC).”
Arts and Social Media
Syria: Attempted killing of human rights defender Mr Raed Fares “On 29 January 2014 leading media activist and human rights defender Mr Raed Fares was shot at close range in front of his home in Kafranbel in the North-west Syrian province of Idlib. The human rights defender is in a stable condition at Al-Aqra` hospital, despite having sustained serious injuries in the attack.”
Syrian Revolutionaries Resist Violent Fundamentalists An interview Raed Fares gave only a few weeks before he was attacked.
Syria`s heritage in ruins: before-and-after pictures Martin Chulov presents some of the most shocking images revealing the destruction across the country.
Daft Punk hacked by Syrian Electronic Army at Grammys (Parody)
IDFA 2013 | Trailer | Return to Homs A film by Talal Derki
Sundance documentary winner Return to Homs sheds light on Syrian conflict
Jasmenco (Short Film) 2013 “Jasmenco was produced to showcase the pain and struggle that artists are facing in Syria due to the unprecedented conflict of the last 3 years.”
Syrian Metal Is War - Documentary Promo “Syrian Metal Is War: an independent documentary by Monzer Darwish, addressing Metal and its survival in times of war in Syria.”
The Jihadi alternative to the Geneva peace talks Karl Sharro’s satirical take surrounding the Geneva talks.
Policy and Reports
Syrian government backs away from U.N. plan on humanitarian relief for Homs
Syria’s Polio Epidemic: The Suppressed Truth Annie Sparrow writes: “Syria has become a cauldron of once-rare infectious diseases, with hundreds of cases of measles each month and outbreaks of typhoid, hepatitis, and dysentery. Tuberculosis, diphtheria, and whooping cough are all on the rise. Upward of 100,000 children are stigmatized by leishmaniasis, a hideous parasitic skin disease that flourishes in war.”
Systematic killing evidence in Syria just tip of iceberg - aid agencies An update by Martin Chulov
More relief supplies reach Syria’s Yarmouk Camp “More than 1,000 food parcels were delivered to the besieged Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus, a UN spokesperson said on Thursday.”
Syria wiping neighbourhoods off the map to punish residents – rights group Martin Chulov reports on this Human Rights Watch finding.
Economy and Agriculture
Did Drought Trigger The Crisis In Syria? A lengthy piece discussing the intersect between the current war in Syria and the environmental history of the country.
Fiscal Deficit In Latakia Reaches 260 Million SP
Government Buys Syrian Currency from Neighboring Countries “Informed sources have revealed that the Syrian government has started buying Syrian Pounds from neighboring countries, particularly Lebanon.”
Syrian Gold Lira in Markets
700 Billion Syrian Pounds to Rebuild Destroyed Houses The Syrian Observer translates an update from All4Syria, which offers “a list of Syrian governorates according to the number of destroyed houses and the cost of rebuilding them.”
Drowning in Debt: Lebanon Loses $10 Billion Due to Syria War
From the Heart of the World Economic Forum, Syria Reaches Out to the World Rouba Mhaissen asks: “What should the international community do and how will it do it better?”
جنيف 2: المهمة المستحيلة
Dialogue with the Syrian Leftist Revolutionary Current member Ghayath Naisse about Geneva 2.
حوار مع المحامية الناشطة نورا غازي
Dialogue with activist and lawyer Norah Ghazzi, whose husband has been in prison since March 2012.
«الدراما يكتبها الأقوياء»
Ibrahim Hajj Abdi writes about the new censorship rules against Syrian dramas that are set to be broadcast during the upcoming month of Ramadan.
و«الائتلاف» المعارض يذهب وحيداً...
Maataz Hisso writes about the lack of representatives of the Syrian people in Geneva 2 and the attendance of only a small group of members of the Syrian National Coalition.
رجاء كما عرفته... مسكون بالعروبة وفلسطين وسوريا
Mohammad Sayyed Rassas salutes his comrade and friend Rajaa Annasser.
الاحتفال بالأعلان عن الإدارة الذاتية - قامشلو
The Syrian Kurds celebrate the announcement of their autonomy.
مخيم اليرموك: وفاة 85 شخصاً... و20 ألفاً يعانون الحصار
Al-Hayat reports that in Yarmouk, 85 people have been killed and 20,000 are currently suffering under siege.
اليرموك: مساعدات «إعلامية» مذلّة والأهالي يطالبون بالعودة أو اللجوء إلى دولة تحترمهم
Mahmoud Sarhan on the false hope that people in al-Yarmouk had after the Syrian government agreed to allow some aid to enter the camp from its main entrance.
١١٠٠٠سبب من أجل التحرك الحقيقي بشأن سورية
Phillip Luther writes about the pictures that have spread recently of severely tortured Syrian prisoners since 2011.
جنيف 2: برنامجان وفخاخ كثيرة
Monalisa Freha is not so optimistic about Geneva 2.
«لهذه الأسباب رفضت «هـيئة التنسيق» المشاركة في «جنيف 2
Monther Khaddam writes, “for these reasons the Coordination Body refused to participate in Geneva 2.”
نظرية تشبيك البحار الخمسة ... كبديل مشرقي
Abdallah Ben Amara claims that the Al-Assads were the upholders of “Arab nationalism” and discusses Bashar al-Assad “strategic plan” in order to keep Syria and its “natural composites of the Syrian entity” connected.
الاقتصاد المنزلي وأهميـته في الأزمة السورية
Maataz Hisso views that domestic economy and women have an important role to improve the economic situation in Syria.
اليرموك: هل تخلّت فلسطين عن فلسطين؟
Elias al-Khoury on al-Yarmouk and the reaction of Palestinians to the humanitarian crisis in the camp.
*عن مخيم اليرموك بعيون العائدين
Abdel Rahman Jasem writes about what Palestinian refugee camps such as Yarmouk mean for the hopeful Palestinian returnees.