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In Syria, repression plants seeds for regime's defeat

By Nadim Houry
 
Mohannad finally managed to escape the southern city of Daraa on May 9, two weeks after the Syrian army had surrounded the city and cut electricity, phone lines and Internet services, preventing movement into and out of the city. "The situation in Daraa is indescribable," he told us from neighboring Jordan.
 
With six other men, he had taken shelter in Daraa's sewers May 7 to avoid the Syrian forces, who were forcing their way into homes and detaining the town's men. He emerged 13 hours later to return home, only to find that tanks were surrounding his neighborhood.
 
He decided to escape. With about 50 other Daraa residents, including women and children, he walked across fields to reach the Jordanian border near Tel Shehab at midday May 9. "The Syrian security forces opened fired on us as we neared the border," he said. "I think they killed 11 people. I am not sure. I just ran for my life."
 
Mohannad's escape illuminates the repression taking place in Daraa today. Syrian human rights groups have compiled the names of more than 350 individuals who have died in the city since anti-government protests erupted in mid-March. Hundreds of men, possibly thousands, have been detained. Photos posted on Facebook hint at the extent of the damage the Syrian army has inflicted on the town: shelled homes, crushed cars, bullet-ridden mosques.
 
When residents of neighboring villages tried to break the siege of Daraa on April 29 by marching to the city bearing food and water, security forces opened fire, killing at least 12, a witness told us. Faced with an escalating humanitarian crisis, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Syria on May 11 to allow humanitarian teams access to Daraa and other Syrian cities.
 
Although Daraa has suffered the brunt of the Syrian authorities' violent crackdown on anti-government protests, it is by no means unique. The military has also deployed tanks in Baniyas, on the coast; Homs, in central Syria; and Tafas, near Daraa. Security forces have also carried out a nationwide arrest campaign against activists, lawyers and protesters, including many women and children. Those emerging from detention tell of ill-treatment and torture, and they often bear the scars to prove it.
 
The Syrian authorities justify their attacks by saying they are battling terrorists. On May 1, a Syrian military source told the state news agency, SANA, that army units and security forces had killed 10 "terrorists" in Daraa and arrested 499 others. Bouthaina Shaaban, an adviser to President Bashar al-Assad, told The New York Times on May 9 that the authorities were battling "a combination of fundamentalists, extremists, smugglers, people who are ex-convicts and are being used to make trouble."
 
Syrian officials have said that "armed militants" have killed more than 80 soldiers and members of security forces. But the evidence emerging from Syria -- despite the authorities' efforts to suppress it by denying access to journalists and independent observers -- speaks otherwise.
 
Testimony from protesters and footage smuggled out of Syria show that security forces are not shooting "terrorists" but mostly peaceful anti-government protesters. They have killed at least 600 during two months of protests.
 
Far from detaining "extremists and smugglers," security forces have detained political and human rights activists, university students and journalists. In some cases, security forces have even detained family members of activists in an effort to pressure them to cease their activities. Most detainees have been forced to sign confessions without being allowed to read what they were signing.
 
Women have not been spared: On April 30, security forces detained 11 women for participating in a peaceful women-only silent protest near the center of Damascus. A witness said the security forces beat the women to disperse them.
 
There were instances in which security forces were attacked, but these have been isolated incidents, and the people behind these shootings remain unknown. Syrian state television has aired interviews with men who publicly confess to being paid to attack security forces, but given the rampant torture of detained protesters, these public confessions ring hollow. When asked about the identity of those behind the attacks on the security forces, Shaaban said officials were still investigating.
 
Anti-government activists accuse the security forces of firing on some of their own members who refused to fire on protesters. Given the government's lack of transparency, it is hard to know exactly what is happening. But one thing is clear: It is the security forces who have used crushing violence against the overwhelmingly peaceful protesters.
 
And this was no random violence but rather a deliberate strategy to crush the protest movement militarily and to re-erect the wall of fear. Although this strategy may prevail in the short term, its long-term prospects are far less certain. The brute force has exposed -- to those who still had any doubts -- that the regime rules by terror and repression.
 
Its legitimacy, both domestically and internationally, is shaken and crumbling with every bullet that its security forces fire. Al-Assad may soon find out that "crushing" the protesters contains the seeds of his own defeat.
 
Published in: CNN
 
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Nadim Houry.

Official: The Arab revolt makes Tehran nervous

By Amir Taheri

For three decades Khomeinist rulers in Tehran have dreamed of change in the Middle East. Now that change is really happening in much of the region, Tehran is watching with growing nervousness.

That the Khomeinist regime should have dreamt of change is no surprise. 

Thirty years ago, Iran under Velayat-e Faqih or rule by a mullah looked out of place in the Middle East. Indeed, with the exception of Tibet's government in exile under Dalai Lama, the Khomeinist set-up did not resemble any regime in the world. Like the Bolshevik regime of Russia in 1917, it had to either become like others or make all others like itself.

For a decade, under Khomeini himself, the regime tried to make the rest of region like itself by "exporting revolution". 

The results were meagre. Tehran managed to influence part of the Shi'ite community in Lebanon and create a branch of Hezbollah in that country. Tehran also succeeded in turning Syria into a client state without, however, persuading the Baathist regime to adopt Walayat al-Faqih. 

In the decade that followed, under President Hashemi Rafsanjani, the regime tried to become like others, especially in the economic field. The strategy produced a class of new rich with extensive business contacts with the outside world, including the Gulf region. 

In the final analysis, however, that strategy, too, failed.

Under President Muhammad Khatami, the regime tried a new version of that strategy, this time emphasising the political domain. 

Known as the "Davos Strategy", named after the Swiss village where Khatami spent time courting Western political and business leaders during the World Economic Forum, it focused on public relations. That included pseudo-intellectual speeches in Western universities and clubs, peppered with quotations from Hobbes, Locke and de Tocqueville. 

Nicknamed "A Smile Under A Turban", Khatami for a while charmed some naïve souls.

However, that strategy, too, failed because a leopard does not change by painting is spots.

By the time, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had become president, it must have been clear to rulers in Tehran that no nation would be foolish enough to copy Walayat al-Faqih.

That was why Ahmadinejad tried to move the ball in a different court by focusing on the Israel-Palestine issue. 

His calculation was based on the assumption that the issue was top of the list of priorities for Muslims, especially Arabs, throughout the world.

To that end, Ahmadinejad adopted an incendiary rhetoric to inject the classical Khomeinist discourse with a stronger dose of anti-Israel and anti-American themes.

Well, that strategy, too, has failed. 

The Arab Uprising was, and is, about people rejecting brutal and corrupt military-security regimes imposed by coups d'etat and maintained by repression. It is not about religion and even less about Israel-Palestine. Nor is there much sign of anti-American sentiments, quite the contrary. 

No one knows how the current tsunami may reshape the political landscape. 

But one thing is certain: no one is trying to adopt the Khomeinist model.

Tehran strategists are not quite sure what is happening in the Middle East. Nevertheless, it is clear that, all in all, they are pessimistic about the outcome of the current turn in the region's political kaleidoscope.

After 9/11, the mullahs feared that change in Afghanistan and Iraq might be extended to Iran. President George W Bush's so-called "Freedom Agenda" for the Greater Middle East clearly included Iran.

Now we know that change in the Middle East need not come either from "export of revolution" by Iran or military invasion by the United States.

This why Tehran is nervous. Ten days ago, Esfandiar Masha'i, the key strategist in Ahmadinejad's administration, warned against "starry-eyed assessments of the events" in Arab countries affected.

"We must not assume that the change will necessarily be in our interest," he said. 

Newspapers controlled by the "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenei attacked Masha'i for "trying to create the impression that the Arab Uprising is not profoundly Islamic." 

However, the Islamic Majlis, Iran's fake parliament, has just published a lengthy analysis that echoes Masha'i's alleged "pessimism."

It says that Libya will end up under a new government backed by the United States. Nevertheless, the Majlis rejects the idea of backing Muammar Gaddafi to prevent the US from scoring a strategic gain. 

The analysis also admits that Egypt and Tunisia will end up under new pro-Western regimes backed by their respective armies. The most that Tehran could hope for is to restore diplomatic ties with Tunis and Cairo. But even that "does not look likely at present."

The Majlis analysis insists that the Islamic Republic should deploy "strategic support" for President Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria to crush the popular revolt.

In that context, the analysis adds, the role of Hezbollah in Lebanon is "of special importance". The "spread of revolt to Syrian cities" a threat to "the interests of the Islamic Republic".

The analysis recommends hat Hezbollah units be used to affect the outcome of the current tensions, especially in Bahrain and Yemen through "asymmetric warfare."

The Majlis report calls for using Hezbollah to "strengthen our zone of influence in Lebanon".

The analysis also recommends the use of "clandestine operations" against Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Another move recommended by the analysis is to "extend and deepen relations" with Qatar as a means of dividing the Gulf states. With the fall of the Syrian regime now a possibility, the analysis recommends "strengthening relations with Nuri Al-Maliki's government" in Iraq.

All in all, however, the analysis, predicts that Iran's relations with the Gulf states, except Qatar, may be severed at some point in the future.

The Majlis report also predicts a popular revolt in neighbouring Azerbaijan and recommends that "contingency plans be drawn to face any eventuality." 

An prising in the former Soviet republic may quickly spread to Iran's Azerbaijani provinces that account for almost 15 per cent of the total population.

The Islamic Republic looks like a man who, all his life, has dreamt of a big do in which he would be the heart of the party but, when the party comes in the end, he has the door shut in his face.

Crimes of the Syrian Regime - Hawleh

Crimes of the Syrian Regime - Hawleh

'Criminal' Marrakesh blast kills 14

RABAT (AFP) – A powerful blast killed 14 people and injured 20, including several tourists, in a cafe in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh on Thursday, authorities said, describing it as a "criminal act".
 
"The casualties include people of various nationalities and reports seem to indicate that it was a criminal act," an official said.
 
An interior ministry official confirmed the report and said an investigation was under way to shed more light on the blast which occurred on Jamaa El Fna Square, a favourite spot for foreign visitors, in central Marrakesh.
 
Earlier reports spoke of the accidental explosion of several gas canisters in the Argana cafe in the middle of the square.

Crimes of the Syrian Regime - Izraa


Graphic amateur footage purportedly shows the aftermath of clashes between police and presumed demonstrators in the southern Syrian village of Izraa on Friday. In the footage a barrage of gunfire is heard before the camera tilts around to show people lying on the ground, many surrounded by pools of blood. Witnesses to the incident say police used live bullets to shoot at the crowd. Chaos and shouting follows the shooting, with severely wounded people being carried away from the scene by others.

Crimes of the Syrian Regime - Banias

Syrian regime thugs humiliating and torturing anti-Assad protesters in Banias, Syria.

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