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Entries in Bashar al-Assad (267)


Syria Today: US and Russia Manoeuvre Over Support for Assad

1930 GMT: Even Government Sources Admit Baniyas is Different.

The Baniyas massacre on Syria's coast may be a singular event that stands out as being dramatically different than all the other massacres. For starters, the scale of the massacre is at least among the worst of all of Syria's massacres, though some reports suggest that it may be magnitudes worse than any event that has taken place since the start of this crisis. Also, this incident had a clearly sectarian nature to it that is not disputed - Alawite militias loyal to President Assad targeted Sunnis, many of them children, and killed them en masse. In a thorough, nuanced, and eloquent description of the massacre, the New York Times' Anne Barnard and Hania Mourtada point out that the Assad government typically blames civilian deaths on "terrorists" even when their own forces and loyalists are implicated. This time, however, even the government admitted that its people were responsible for a mass killing, though they tell a different tale than Baniyas's residents:

Multiple video images that residents said they had recorded in Bayda and Ras al-Nabeh — of small children lying where they died, some embracing one another or their parents — were so searing that even some government supporters rejected Syrian television’s official version of events, that the army had “crushed a number of terrorists.”

One prominent pro-government writer, Bassam al-Qadi, took the unusual, risky step of publicly blaming loyalist gunmen for the killings and accusing the government of “turning a blind eye to criminals and murderers in the name of ‘defending the homeland.’ “

The article chronicles some of the evidence and eyewitness reports. It also argues that there were those who were trying to break with the sectarian nature of the killings even while the violence was ongoing. In the end, however, it's a must-read article on a story that has been under-reported.

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Syria Audio Analysis: Have US & Britain Changed Their Lines?

EA's Scott Lucas spoke with Monocle 24's The Briefing this afternoon about the latest US and British rhetoric on Syria.

Listen from 17:26 on The Briefing homepage or in a separate pop-out window

In a week when British Prime Minister David Cameron met Russian leader Vladimir Putin and then US President Barack Obama, have Washington and London moved from support of the insurgency to a political accommodation with the regime?

And what of others involved in the conflict --- for example, why is Iran talking so tough this week?


Syria Today: US and Britain Play for Time

2110 GMT: Islamist Faction Executes Pro-Regime Militia in Raqqa

Graphic video posted on YouTube today shows the execution of three men, claimed to be pro-regime militia, in the main square of the city of Raqqa.

Before the execution, a man reads out a statement declaring the execution to be in response to the mass killing of residents of the coastal town of al-Bayada, near Baniyas, earlier this month.

The man signs off the statement with a reference to the "Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham".

The identity of the faction is unclear as is any affiliation with large Islamist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra, which has been prominent in the takeover of Raqqa.

Residents of Raqqa have rallied tonight in protest against the executions.

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Syria Today: Russia Holds Off US and British Political Approach

The moment one of two car bombs went off in Reyhanli in Turkey, near the Syrian border, killing more than 40

See also Friday's Syria Today: Turkey "Backs US-Enforced No-Fly Zone"
Friday's Syria Today: Turkey "Backs US-Enforced No-Fly Zone"

1610 GMT: Deadly Bombing Inside Turkey on the Border

Leading Turkish officials have been issuing statements as the death toll from the two car bombs in Reyhanli, just inside Turkey on the Syrian border, passed 40 with more than 100 injured.

President Abdullah Gul said, "We should be careful against provocations," while Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared:

These actions could have been taken to raise sensitivity in Hatay Province. Twenty to twenty-five thousand refugees live in camps and others are our guests.

The culprits could be those who could not digest this. Or it could be those who want to provoke this fact.

I think we need to be very careful and patient.

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Syria Today: Obama Maintains Cautious Line on US Intervention

Protest in Beza'a in Aleppo Province on Friday

1205 GMT: Sanctions and Surveillance

Documents establish that large amounts of computer equipment from Dell have been sold to the Syrian government through a Dubai-based distributor despite strict trade sanctions, according to The New York Times.

The computer equipment was sold by BDL Gulf, which is based in Saudi Arabia and is an authorised distributor for Dell in the Middle East and Africa and a reseller for other computer brands, including Samsung and Acer.

BDL sold the equipment to Anas Hasoon Trading, a Damascus-based company with contracts to provide computers to the Syrian government, according to billings records and e-mail exchanges between the companies.

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Syria Today: Assad Appears --- Does It Matter?

President Assad looks at the wall of an electricity plant on Workers' Day on Wednesday

2046 GMT: Mass Killing

Claimed photos are circulating of the mass killing in Bayada.

1956 GMT: Mass Killing

Activists are claiming that scores of people have been slain by regime forces in Bayada in Homs Province:

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Syria Audio Feature: Is a Lasting Assad Regime Better than the Current Situation? --- Scott Lucas with Monocle 24

I spoke with Monocle 24's The Briefing yesterday about the political and military situation in Syria, framed by the question, "An end game seems as distant as ever --- should questions be asked in the West now about what seems to be a misguided confidence that Assad would eventually go? Will be continued instability be a lot worse than a continuation of the Assad regime?"

Listen from the 6:39 mark on The Briefing's homepage or in a separate pop-out window

My response begins with a reply to the challenge that a lasting Assad regime is the best option:

That would be just as mistaken as people who said he would fall within a few weeks.

To simply say that it would be better for the Assad regime to continue would be almost blind to the reasons why the protests started in March 2011. It would be blind to the fact that, for the largest part, it is the regime which is responsible for the tens of thousands of deaths since then.


Syria Live: Assad "No to Surrender, No to Submission"

1523 GMT: Sectarian Threats on the Front Lines of Homs. Some of the rebels who captured the Al Dabbaa airport in Homs (see update 1320) appear to have chanted sectarian slogans. According to The Guardian, a translation of a video from Syrian rebels indicates a strong sectarianism in the language of some of the victorious rebel groups.

Mona Mahmood translates a speech given by a bearded leader in the clip. He says:

"Let the Arab leaders knee under the feet of the mujahideen and heroes of Quasir. We are fighting the most vicious enemy in the world the Shia and the Nusairi. The Shia and Nusairi are gathered against us to destroy Quasir."

It came as the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Right uploaded a video claiming to show three soldiers from the ruling Alawite sect being tortured by rebels in Homs province [Warning: disturbing content].

The clip shows three naked men with plastic blindfolds in oil drums being repeatedly kicked, slapped and spat at by rebels.

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Syria Live: A Cease-Fire in Aleppo.... But Just to Gather the Bodies

The Red Crescent gathers 31 bodies, some lying for months, from the streets of Aleppo during a cease-fire

See also Syria Analysis: US Arms to Insurgents, "Al Qa'eda", and Muddled Reporting
Bahrain (and Beyond) Live: Stepping Up the Formula 1 Protests
Tuesday's Syria Live Coverage: Airstrikes Continue Around Damascus

2020 GMT: Assad Interview

More on President Assad's defiant appearance on pro-regime Al-Ikhbariya tonight....

"We have no choice but victory. If we don't win, Syria will be finished and I don't think this is a choice for any citizen in Syria," Assad said. "The truth is there is a war and I repeat: no to surrender, no to submission."

The President said that the West was "supporting al-Qaeda in Syria, Libya and other places and [would] pay the price later in the heart of Europe and in the heart of the United States."

Assad addressed the effort --- including the US, Britain, France, and Arab States --- to arm insurgents from a base in Jordan:

We cannot believe that thousands of insurgents are entering Syria with their weapons, at a time when Jordan was capable of stopping and arresting one person carrying a simple weapon for the Palestinian resistance.

"The fire will not stop at our border and everybody knows that Jordan is exposed as Syria is.

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Syria Analysis: US Arms to Insurgents, "Al Qa'eda", and Muddled Reporting

The Obama Administration has come to the point where it either has to withdraw from the effort to provide weapons --- in which, it faces the prospect of insurgents, some of whom it does not like, getting the arms elsewhere and thus being beyond US "influence" --- or it accepts that the weapons will not always remain in the hands of "moderate" factions.

The US official says --- although the Journal does not realise this --- that the Obama Administration has chosen the latter scenario.

It is this, not the inaccurate hook-line of "Islamists tied to Al Qa'eda", which is the real story of US intervention in the Syrian conflict.

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