Entries in Golan Heights (8)
An audio recording purportedly from Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, calls on jihadi groups in Syria to prevent the establishment of a pro-US regime in the country.
In the message, published on the internet on Thursday, urges the "Lions of Islam in ash-Sham [the Levant] to gather and unite" above sectarian issues, saying that "America and its agents" want you to shed your blood… to bring down the criminal Baathist regime and then to set up a regime loyal to them that will guarantee Israel's security".
The message goes on to say that jihad in Syria aims to establish an Islamic caliphate in the country, and then condemns Iran for desiring "Safavid expansion". The Mujahadeen of as-Sham have "exposed the ugly face of Iran…and its heinous crimes", al-Zawahiri says.
Al-Manar: Mr. President, we are in the heart of the People’s Palace, two and a half years into the Syrian crisis. At the time, the bet was that the president and his regime would be overthrown within weeks. How have you managed to foil the plots of your opponents and enemies? What is the secret behind this steadfastness?
President Assad: There are a number of factors are involved. One is the Syrian factor, which thwarted their intentions; the other factor is related to those who masterminded these scenarios and ended up defeating themselves because they do not know Syria or understand in detail the situation. They started with the calls of revolution, but a real revolution requires tangible elements; you cannot create a revolution simply by paying money.
I spoke with The Globalist this morning about yesterday's announcement of a "Syrian National Coalition" to lead the opposition, including the election of Damascus cleric Moaz al-Khatib as President with prominent dissident Riad Seif and Suhair al-Atassi, one of the few women prominent in the opposiiton, as deputies.
We discussed the manoeuvres that led to the Coalition, its aims, and the likelihood that it can achieve them. Take-away line: the opposition is hoping to establish a "provisional government" in northern Syria, with the backing of the international community for a protected zone --- but can the factions within the Coalition work together to reach that goal?
There is also discussion of the weekend's escalation in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, with Israel firing a "warning missile" after Syrian mortars hit the area.
The conversation starts at the 1:34.45 mark.
9. Religion and the Alawites: The Alawites are a secretive religious sect usually regarded as an offshoot of Shia Islam. In Syria they are a tiny minority but, through the president's family and others in senior positions, they are dominant within the regime. About 74% of Syria's inhabitants are Sunni Muslims; Shia Muslims (including the Alawites and Ismailis) account for 13%, various Christian groups 10%, and Druze 3%. Jewish communities have existed in Syria for centuries but today their number is extremely small – probably no more than a few dozen people.
On Monday a law, proposed by the Likud Party, mandating a referendum before any decision to withdraw from sovereign Israeli territory was adopted 65-33 in the 120-member Knesset.
Because of the reference to "sovereign Israeli territory", there is no need for a referendum to withdraw from the West Bank. However, because the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem were annexed by the Knesset, a referendum will be required unless withdrawal is approved by a two-thirds majority of the legislators
Having strengthened its position vis-a-vis the Palestinians on the negotiation table, having passed the loyalty bill requiring new immigrants to pledge loyalty to the "Jewish and democratic" state, the Knesset is now purusing the "eternal and indivisible capital".
Considering efforts to bring Syrians and Israelis to the negotiation table, we said on 17 September:
To strengthen Ramallah’s hand at the negotiation table and to give a regional dimension for the Israel-Palestine talks, the Obama Administration is bringing in another strategy: Israeli-Syrian talks. These would serve both as a back-up measure to prevent radicalism and as an implicit pressure on both the Palestinians and Israelis.
We then asked whether this wass a "waste of time", given both Damascus' ties with Tehran and the US intention to use Syrian-Israeli talks as a tool for success of the Israeli-Palestinian discussions. We left the door open for a regional settlement as long as Damascus can get deal beyond return of the Golan Heights to Syra.
Following US special envoy George Mitchell's visit to Damascus on 16 September, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will see Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem in New York on Monday. "A comprehensive peace has to include the Syria-Israel track. It’s absolutely essential that Syria be part of this process," Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeff Feltman told reporters.