Washington and Western capitals are making headway in establishing a “contact group” among the regional states on Syria. The orchestrated warnings to Damascus from all US allies in the region is a success for the State Department’s diplomacy. It puts Syria’s Muslim neighbors in the lime-light and keeps the US, Western Powers, and Israel in the shadows, where they believe they must remain lest they de-legitimizing the Syrian opposition with excessive muscle flexing.
The Saudi Ambassador to Syria had invited guests to iftar at the Four Seasons Hotel in Damascus in the hours before the King issued his recall. It would seem that the ambassador did not know his recall was to be announced. Al Watan newspaper says that the Saudi King’s letter appears to be an American letter that ignores the real events and proofs on the ground.
Everyone awaits Iran’s reaction today. Will Tehran come out with a strong statement backing Damascus and promising greater support for Syria or will it instead remain quite or content itself with a pro-forma statement of support for its regional ally? The Saudi statement ups the ante considerably for Damascus and turns the struggle for Syria into a more sharply defined religious and geo-strategic match between SA and Iran. Iran’s response will be key. Damascus may wait to make its own response until it communicates with Tehran.
Anthony Shadid writes today that “the business elite in Damascus has begun preparing for the government’s fall.” I wish we knew Anthony’s source for this important bit of info. He is in Lebanon, where he can meet with Syrian businessmen traveling through. It is hard to know what this would mean. How united are Syrian businessmen and what does it mean to prepare for the government’s fall? Buying gold? Or more? Surely this will be a Shadid feature in the coming days. My appetite is whetted and I am eager for the details.
A new defense minister has been appointed by Assad. General Daood Rajha, who was the army’s chief of staff, replaces General Ali Habib in the post.
Syria’s neighbours building a coalition against Assad’s government
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week that his country’s patience with Syria has run out, and that the events taking place in Syria constituted an “internal matter” to Turkey.
By Exclusive Analysis – Telegraph
08 Aug 2011
The Gulf Cooperation Council, a coalition of six Arab, oil-rich, Gulf states dominated by Saudi Arabia, then issued a statement asking for an end to the bloodshed in Syria.
On Sunday, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, in the first such public speech, asked Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to end the military campaign against protesters and to enact sweeping reforms.
It is very likely that these various statements were coordinated, and that they form part of a process aimed at building a coalition against Syria’s government. The next step would likely be for other Muslim and Arab states, prompted by Turkey and Saudi Arabia, to become more vocal in their criticism of President al-Assad.
Saudi Arabia, through its connections to insurgents and Sunni tribes in Iraq and to Sunni politicians in Lebanon, will likely provide additional financing for weapons smuggling operations into Syria.
Turkey is the only country with the military capability, national security interests and favourable geographic location that can intervene in Syria.
Turkey is increasingly likely to receive international support, from Nato and the Arab League and possibly from the UN Security Council, to send troops into northern Syria. In its initial stages, this would likely involve the creation of a 10km-20km buffer zone in Hasaka, Raqqa, Idlib and Aleppo Provinces.
Further, the statements by the GCC and Saudi Arabia indicate increased Arab support for Syria’s Sunni majority, which will likely lead to increased protests against the Ba’ath ruling party.
The risk of protests spreading to central Damascus and to Aleppo has therefore increased. Protests in Aleppo or in the Druse-dominated Suwayda province would increase the strain on the already overstretched Syrian Army and regime protection units, the Presidential Guard and the 4th Division, and making defections more likely and increasing the risk of an internal coup against President al-Assad.
Monday, August 8, 2011
Syrian president unites international community in condemnation of his violence
By James M. Dorsey
Syrian president Bashar al Assad has succeeded where US and European diplomacy failed: five months into anti-government demonstrations demanding his resignation, Mr. Assad has united the international community in decrying the brutality of his failed effort to crush the protests.
Increasingly cornered, Mr. Assad failed in the past week to read the writing on the wall. His ferocious attack on Hama, Syria’s fourth largest city and a symbol of resistance against his family’s four-decade old iron-fisted rule, prompted the United Nations Security Council to call last Tuesday for a halt to the crackdown for the first time since the protests erupted….
Syrian Military Mounts Assault on Another City
By ANTHONY SHADID, August 7, 2011
Other signs of pressure on the government have emerged, perhaps most importantly indications that the business elite in Damascus has begun preparing for the government’s fall. That elite has long proved one of the most important pillars of the Syrian leadership, notably during the Islamist revolt in 1982.
“The regime is its own worst enemy, and it can’t be saved from itself,” said a Damascus-based analyst who asked to remain anonymous. “It is ripe for collapse, but the question remains what will trigger it and when.”
Residents put the death toll in Deir al-Zour at 42, and one of them said a family of six trying to escape — a couple with four children — was among the dead. Activists said that many residents had left in recent days. A local man who gave his name as Maamoun said that pickup trucks packed with as many as 25 women and children each were fleeing down abandoned streets.
Syrian President Names New Defence Minister, 2011-08-08
DAMASCUS (AFP)–Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Monday appointed a new defence minister, state television reported, amid mounting Arab condemnation of nearly five months of deadly crackdown on dissent. “President Assad has signed a decree naming General Daood Rajha as the head of the defence ministry,” the television report said. Rajha, who was the army’s chief of staff, replaces General Ali Habib in the post.
Kuwait Joins Saudis in Pulling Ambassador from Syria on Violence
2011-08-08, By Dahlia Kholaif
Aug. 8 (Bloomberg) — Kuwait recalled its ambassador from Damascus for consultations, following a similar move by Saudi Arabia today, amid a deadly crackdown by Syrian forces against protesters. Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Al-Sabah, speaking to reporters in Parliament, also said members of the Gulf Cooperation Council will soon meet to discuss Syria.
They state that the regime is particularly responsible for the situation because it is the stronger.
الأحد, 07 أغسطس 2011 23:14
أصدر مجموعة من علماء حلب بياناً استنكروا فيه ما يحدث في سوريا من ” سفك للدماء”، حيث حمل البيان السلطات المسؤولية الأكبر تجاه هذه الأحداث، مطالبين في الوقت ذاته بـ “بتعظيم حُرُمات المساجد وعدم المساس بقدسيتها”.
وجاء في البيان الذي وقع عليه 11 من كبار علماء حلب، بينهم مفتيا حلب الدكتور ابراهيم سلقيني والدكتور محمود عكام ” الحمد لله رب العالمين، والصلاة والسلام على سيدنا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه أجمعين، وبعد:
انطلاقاً من مسؤوليتنا أمام الله تعالى، ومن الغيرة على وطننا ووحدته، وصيانته من كل سوء، فإن علماء حلب يستنكرون وبشدّة ما يحدث على أرض الوطن الغالي من سفك ٍللدماء البريئة، وانتهاكٍ للأعراض الحصينة من
أيِّ جهةٍ كانت، ويُحملّون القيادة – باعتبارها الطرف الأقوى – النصيبَ الأكبر من المسؤولية عن ذلك
Syrian Shaykh Yaqoubi at the recent Istanbul Ulema (scholar) Conference. The Shaykh was twice dismissed from his position at the Ummayad mosque in Damascus. He gives a message to the regime and the protestors. He reassures his listeners that a successful revolution will not mean a change on the position regarding Israel. He reminds the Cities of Syria their religious duty to support a just revolution. The Shaykh calls for a dialogue on a peaceful transition of power in which all sects are respected and protected and the economy is preserved.
Like Hama, Deir al-Zour had effectively fallen under the control of the protesters, who had erected barricades to keep the military out, enabling them to stage massive rallies that routinely drew tens of thousands of people.
Moreover, the city’s remote desert location near Iraq gives it a special sensitivity because many of its residents have family ties to tribes in the Iraqi province of Anbar and, like their kinsmen, typically keep weapons, raising the specter of armed confrontations between the military and anti-government forces.
Austria suspends its delivery of bank notes to Syria because of the brutal repression.