Monday, November 28, 2005 

US forces invade Syria

American troops have crossed the border into Syria, according to Syrian border guards.

Days ago officals in Washington said anonymously that their forces had entered Syria - two border guards are said to have been killed.

It breaches an important red line, and sets a very dangerous precedent. So much for 'foreign fighters' crossing the Syrian-Iraq border: isn't this exactly the same situation?

An official complaint's been lodged with the American Embassy in Damascus.

Friday, November 25, 2005 

Syria takes it to the brink: the Mehlis interviews WILL take place

Syria has agreed to send five officials to Vienna for questioning. But the Government has confused reporters by stating that five will be questioned - not the six that we all thought were up for questioning.

It's a last minute deal which - once again - saves Syria's skin. Phew.


Deadline: Mehlis demands answers - will Syria accept Vienna?

Detlev Mehlis has set today as the deadline for a Syrian response to his Veinna proposal.

Syria was angry that he wanted to conduct the interrogations of 6 top Syrian officials in Beirut, they suggested a third country - including Vienna, Austria. Mehlis finally agreed under pressure from other parts of the UN and Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who said he didn't want the interrogations in his country.

But inexplicably, Syria STILL hasn't accepted Mehlis's offer. It's what they've been demanding, it's the perfect solution, so why no response?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005 

Israel claim handglider was civilian

israel is claiming that the handglider was a civilian, not military. The Israeli army are known to have used handgliders along the volatile border.


Israel invades Lebanon

We're hearing reports that the Israeli army has entered Southern Lebanon. They invaded to rescue a paraglider pilot who was stranded. They have now left. It's not clear why the paraglider was flying over Lebanon, but Hizbollah have reported more clashes with israeli troops in the past hour.

Sunday, November 20, 2005 

Mehlis meets Syrians in Madrid

Detlev Mehlis, the UN Investigator who has insisted on interviewing Syrian witnesses in Beirut, hs met a senior Syrian official in Spain to discuss the location.

So far he has refused to even visit Syria, or to have a meeting in Lebanon about the location of the interviews, insisting that it is non-negotiable.

But today's meeting shows that his stance is slowly shifting. Mehlis is an investigator not a politician - he knows that it's better to do the interviews, than to do the interviews in the location he insists on. It comes just days after Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said that he'd prefer the interrogations to take place outside his country.

Thursday, November 17, 2005 

Siniora: UN should interrogate Syrians outside Lebanon

In a direct rebuffal to the US and Mehlis, Lebanese PM Fouad Siniora says the UN should question the Syrians outside Lebanon.

Mehlis is insisting that the interviews take place in Beirut. Syria has offered to host the interviews in any UN building in Syria, or in any third country. But still Mehlis insists on Beirut - despite the risk to the witnesses.

Now Siniora says the interviews should take place outside Lebanon: "The investigation is more important than its location. I prefer them to be interrogated outside Lebanon. Our main concern is the truth."

So who is Lebanon's new power broker? Siniora? Or Mehlis? The outcome of this little dispute could determine whether Siniora really is the head of Lebanon's first 'free' government, or whether he's yet another western puppet.


Great Syrians

After legendary Syrian movie producer Moustapha Akkad tragically lost his life in the Amman bombings, one Syria News Wire reader suggested we pay tribute to other great Syrians while they're still alive.

Here, you can mention all of the great Syrians, or people of Syrian origin, around the world. In the arts, entertainment, sport, music...

Just click on the comments link...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005 

Anonymous leaflets in Sidon, Lebanon attack bashar - question his Arabism

Leaflets have been distrbuted in Southern Lebanon, shcoked at Bashar's speech, and questioning how Bashar can claim to be the upholder of Arabism: "To Your Excellency President Bashar Al-Assad we say: you stunned us with your speech - we expected you to pay your respects to the Lebanese people for the catastrophe that hit them but here is an offensive, fake, libellous speech which turns the victim into the torturer."

The leaflet makes many references to the resistance of the Southern Lebanese against the Israeli occupation, and asks how Bashar has resisted Israel: "What's your position on the Golan, where there hasn't been a single shot fired since 1972?"

They refute that Lebanon will be 'the centre for conspiracies against the Arab causes,' but they ask what Bashar has done for those causes.

It goes on...

"You demanded an investigation into the assassination of Yasser Arafat, but you forgot what you did to him and to the Palestinian cause?"

"How do you understand Arabism? Is Arabism by closing the borders," between Lebanon and Syria?

It ends: "We, the Lebanese, are the resistance, we are Arabism. We are sure that Israel and the US is our enemy - no one should claim they are more Arab than the Lebanese."


Syrians show unhappiness with Bashar's speech

The value of the Syrian Lira has fallen dramatically since Bashar's 10 November speech.

It was his most defiant and non-concilliatory speech since he became President. He said Syria would resist, and would co-operate with the UN grudgingly, and called Lebanese PM a 'slave'. Many commentators think he was preparing the country for sanctions.

So there has been a massive and sudden exodous of Syrian money out of the country. That forced the value of the Lira down.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005 

Palestinian leader stirs up trouble in Damascus

One of Palestine's top leaders Faruq Al-Qaddumi has caused controversy in Damascus.

He arrived in the Yarmuk refugee camp in the south of Damascus to make a speech on the first anniversary of Yasser Arafat's death. But he was unhappy that he was set to speak under his rival Mahmud Abbas. He refused to speak until the picture was taken down.

The photo of Abbas was put up in the wake of recent peace-talks between Bashar and Abbas - Syria and the PLO broke off contact after the Oslo Accords with Israel.

Monday, November 14, 2005 

Five Palestinians arrested in Jordan after Syria refuses entry

Jordan has put five potential 'bombers' on trial, just days after bombs killed almost 60 in Amman. They were arrested in house raids in July.

The five Palestinians planned to travel to Iraq through Syria, but they were turned away by the Syrian authorities.

They face up to 15 years in jail. Each of the five pleaded not guilty, and its not clear whether they have links to Al Qaeda.


Massive funeral in Aleppo for Hollywood producer

Moustapha Akkad, the legendary producer killed in the Amman bombs, was given a huge funeral in Aleppo today.

He's best known in the West for producing the 'halloween' horror movies. But in the Arab World, he's best known for a film about the Prophet, called 'The Message', and one about a leader of the Libyan resistance movement against the Italian occupation. Both starred Anthony Quinn.

President Bashar Al-Assad awarded 70 year old Akkad one of Syria's top medals for his 'Arab nationalist stances'.


Kofi Annan confident Syria will co-operate

Kofi Annan has repeated his confidence that Syria will co-operate with the Mehlis probe. It's almost unprecedented for him to voice such optimism.

"I think what is important is that (Bashar) did say, in that speech, that he will cooperate with the investigation," he said. He said that Syria has committed itself to applying UN Resolution 1636: "There is a Syrian declaration in this respect."

The US called the speech 'appaling'.

Yesterday Syria's Foreign Minister Farouq Ash-Sharaa said that Mehlis can't interview the six Syrian witnesses in Lebanon - Annan expressed confidence that a deal can be done: "That is something Mehlis will work out and I don't want to interfere. I will leave it to the investigator, Detlev Mehlis, to work out the details with the Syrian authorities as to where the interviews will take place, whether in Lebanon, Syria or elsewhere".

Sunday, November 13, 2005 

No interviews in Beirut

Syria's Foreign Minister, Farouq Ash-Sharaa has rejected UN investigator Detlev Mehlis's request to interview 6 top Syrian officials in Beirut.

Mehlis's request was a test to see the limits of Syria's co-operation, but it raised questions over the politicisation of the Mehlis inquiry.

Syria said no to Beirut, but said that the interviews could take place anywhere in Syria in private - such as the UN headquarters, or in Cairo, Vienna or Geneva. Syria wants neutral territory, apparently it is worried that the 6 Syrian officials would be at risk in Beirut. Sharaa said that it is is no-one's interest to have large demonstrations outside the interrogations.

Friday, November 11, 2005 

Bush defies the UN, slams Bashar's speech

After Kofi Annan praised Syria for agreeing to co-operate with HIS inquiry - Bush has condemned Syria for their failure to co-operate.

In a speech to match Bashar's rhetoric, Bush accused Syria of supporting terrorism. He implied that Syria's bad behaviour was exempliary: "countries like Syria and Iran," he said.

He said Syria's arrest of 'democracy campaigner' Kamal Labwani was a "disturbing step" - although he did struggle with the word Labwani. Labwani had just returned from the US for talks with the US State Department (Foreign Ministry).

He called Bashar's angry and misguided comments on Lebanese PM Fouad Siniora an attempt to "intimidate and destabalise" Lebanon.

It was, for Bush, an uncharacteristically well argued speech - mobilising his opponents' arguments against them. It comes just a day after Bashar's uncharacteristic speech - resembling the words of Hafez more than Bashar the reformer.

"The government of Syria must stop exporting violence and start importing democracy," he said to applause.


Annan praises Bashar's speech

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has welcomed Bashar's statement yesterday that Syria will co-operate with the UN investigation.

"I was encouraged by what he said in the speech that he will cooperate with the U.N. investigation. I think that is essential and is good for Syria to cooperate. It is good for the region and the international system so I am happy that he did indicate he would cooperate," he said.

It was feared that Bashar's angry speech - by far his most combative since coming to power - would increase tensions with the UN and demonstrate 'non co-operation'.

Bashar said yesterday that Syria would 'play the UN's game'.


Bashar's speech online

Hear Bashar's speech here.


Syrian film director dies in Amman blasts

Mustafa Akkad has died in hospital from wounds he sustained in the Jordan bomb attacks on Wednesday.

He worked in Hollywood, and made Arab nationalist movies with Western stars. He was most famous for making the 'Halloween' horror movies.

He made a film about the Prophet: 'The Message', in 1976. Later he directed a film about the Libyan occupation: Lion of the Desert, starring Anthony Quinn as nationalist leader Omar Al-Mukhtar.

He was in the lobby of the Hyatt hotel. He was attending a wedding, and his daughter had just arrived from Beirut.


Bashar: Siniora is a 'slave'

In a rhetoric-filled speech, bound to disappoint Syria's reformers, Bashar has denounced Lebanon's prime minister as a 'slave' to the West.

But he did say that Syria would "play the game" of the West by offering full co-operation with Mehlis. He reiterated the conspiracy theory that Mehlis is part of a grand plot to frame Syria: "no matter what we did and how much we cooperate, the result will be that Syria did not cooperate," he said in response to Mehlis's refusal to visit Damascus, even to the UN building in Damascus, or to meet in the Arab League headquarters in Cairo.

He spent most of his time, however, slamming Lebanon's right-wing: "We used to hear attacks against Syria under the slogan of Syrian tutelage in Lebanon ... The truth is those people, or most of them, are blood merchants. They created a market out of al-Hariri's blood and this market makes money and creates positions. Everything has a price, every position has a price and every television hour has a price."

He advised Siniora to steer clear of Lebanese Parliamentarians who want to divide the two countries.

It was hoped that Bashar would bring forward much delayed reforms, and that he would capitalise on Kofi Annan's words yesterday, that Syria has a long history of complying with UN Resolutions. Instead, we heard more Hafez than Bashar today.

Thursday, November 10, 2005 

67 dead in Jordan

Update 00.26

Official figures put the number of dead at 67, with 300 injured.

Jordan's borders with Saudi, Iraq, Israel, Syria and Occupied Palestine have been closed.

All government buildings and schools have been closed until further notice.


Syria news update

There's been a lot of news about Jordan on the Syria News Wire tonight. But some very important things are happening in Damascus too. So in case you missed it, here's an update:

Syria puts travel ban on the UN 6: the six Syrians who Mehlis has requested interviews with have been barred from leaving Syria.

Kofi Annan praises Syria: Kofi Annan praises Syria for its history of complying with UN Resolutions.

Bashar to make crucial TV address: Syria's President is to make a speech tomorrow - he's thought to be planning radical reforms.

Mehlis invited to Damascus

Dom Joly: My Brush with Syrian Secret Service: British comedian returns to the Syria of his youth.

Of course, stay with the Syria News Wire for the latest updates from Amman.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005 

53 dead, prominant Jordanians attacked

Update 23.46

Latest reports of 53 deaths.

Suggestions that the wedding party that was attacked in one of the hotels was for a prominant Jordanian family. No independent confirmation.


Ministry of Health: 52 dead in Amman

Update 23.44

The Jordanian Ministry of Health says 52 have died in Jordan.


31 dead in Amman, reports of suicide bombers

Update 22.38

Police say 31 have been killed and 200 injured in a set of blasts in hotels in Amman, Jordan. Early reports say the attacks were carried out by suicide bombers.

The death toll has been rising all evening. Stay with the Syria News Wire.


Dom Joly: My brush with the Syrian Secret Service

Returning to the Syria of his childhood summers was to be a trip down memory lane for British comedian Dom Joly. But then he was plunged into a world of high-speed car chases, sinister spies and evil dwarves...

The Independent, UK
Published: 09 November 2005

Here's a dream scenario: someone rings you up out of the blue and asks whether you'd fancy going on a trip anywhere in the world for free. As you check the caller ID to see if it's a friend taking the piss, the person announces that you'll obviously be paid to do it. You can take a friend, oh and there'll be a camera crew coming along with you to record the trip for posterity and Sky One.

Unbelievably, it caused me some consternation. Some people might be worried about how they'd appear with a camera crew documenting their every tantrum and nose-pick. Not me. I gave up any idea of retaining dignity on TV the moment I donned my first squirrel outfit. My problem was more of a practical nature: where to go? Should I cruise the French Riviera in a Bentley? Maybe I should sail to an island in the South Seas?

I'd heard that Harry Enfield had also been offered one of these trips so I rang him up to find out what particular paradise destination he'd chosen, just so that we wouldn't clash. His unusual choice to retrace the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union forced me rethink my options. Maybe I should be doing something with a bit more worth? So I opted for a camping trip in the Axis of Evil. I grew up in the Lebanon and, at least twice a year, my family would set off on extraordinary road trips east into Syria - now prime Axis of Evil territory. My parents divorced in 1987 and I left Lebanon with my mother, never to return. Now I was going to go back and revisit my childhood haunts.

My friend Pete agreed to accompany me. He's an artist, living in the middle of Newfoundland with his wife and daughters. With temperatures at home starting to hit the minus 20s, he was over like a shot at the merest mention of some sunshine.

Three days later we were in Beirut. Beirut is an extraordinary mix of the old and the new. The old Holiday Inn still towers over the city, pock-marked with shell holes from the 1975-76 civil war. Right next to it is the fully refurbished Phoenicia Hotel where I used to go as a kid to get my hair cut. Two hundred metres down the road are the remains of the St George Hotel, a Sixties hot spot for the glitterati. It survived the civil war, but was shattered by the enormous car bomb in February that killed the ex-prime minister, Rafik Hariri.

After sampling some of the Lebanese capital's legendary nightlife, we drove out of Beirut over the Chouf mountains, through pine forests and past hillside Druze villages, just one of the myriad armed factions that have waged war in Lebanon in the last 30 years. Our destination was the Bekaa valley, home of Hezbollah and, weirdly, the Lebanese wine industry. We got hideously drunk at a wine-tasting before moving on to Baalbeck, home of the most famous ruins in Lebanon. We wandered around the breathtaking remains of the Temples of Jupiter and Bacchus completely alone, save for one Japanese tourist who couldn't seem to stop laughing, so we assumed that he'd sampled the Bekaa valley's other main cash crop, hashish.

We didn't stay long, we were nervous about getting into Syria as the political situation was getting tense with the impending release of the Mehlis Report on the assassination of Hariri, in which it was widely assumed that the Syrians would be implicated. The border is a tricky one to cross at the best of times, let alone when accompanied by a camera crew. Fortunately for us, the Syrian Embassy in London had been more than helpful, and told us that the Ministry of Tourism had sent a man to the border to help with the formalities of getting through. As we drove into the Syrian part of the border, there he was. His name was Sham, and we nicknamed him "Jimmy" after Jimmy Pursey, the lead singer of punk outfit Sham 69. Jimmy was indeed very helpful and we sailed through the border. We were about to say thank you and drive off when he dropped his bombshell. He was going to be accompanying us on our entire trip as a "guide". We thanked him for the kind offer but insisted that we didn't need one. Unfortunately, it wasn't an offer.

Jimmy and I did not hit it off. He immediately started to tell us where we'd be staying that night and what we were going to see. I tried to explain to him that I'd been to Syria many times and had a very clear idea of where we were going and where we would be staying. He had this really annoying habit of nodding in agreement and then ignoring everything that I'd just said. So started a series of weird drives where we'd try to lose him by driving incredibly fast. Then, just as we would be celebrating, he'd turn up and we never knew how he did it until we realised that the driver we'd hired for our crew vehicle was also in on the game and they were constantly calling each other on their mobiles.

Jimmy also had an annoying habit of taking what he called "memory photos" - which must translate from the Arabic "intelligence dossier photos". Everywhere we went he snapped away. Say it was a restaurant - he would photograph the exterior, get a close-up of the name, get an interior and then insist that he get a photo of us at the table. We developed a sophisticated counter-espionage technique and told him that in England it was traditional to raise your glass when a photo is taken at a meal. Every night he would be forced to e-mail yet more photos of six people sitting at a table with wine glasses strategically placed in front of their faces. This became a standing joke and became even more bizarre when, at the end of the trip, Jamie, our cameraman, asked Jimmy to show him his snaps. Jimmy was not keen to do this but finally flicked through the memory card very quickly. Not so quickly that Jamie didn't spot the three snaps of several naked women in some sort of Jacuzzi. Jimmy was clearly having a better trip than we'd suspected.

Our trip continued and we clambered over the magnificent Crusader castle of Krak Des Chevaliers and wandered down the totally empty Roman boulevards of Apamea with no one but Jimmy following behind us like some love-struck puppy. It was quite extraordinary: in any other country, sites like this would be teeming with tourists and coaches and fast-food outlets.

Our final destination was Palmyra, an extraordinary ruined Roman town slap-bang in the middle of the Syrian desert. For poor Jimmy, the final straw was when we announced we were heading off into the desert proper to try to find the caves I used to explore as a kid. The plan, if we found them, was to camp there. Jimmy went nuts. We finally had the big confrontation that this sort of television requires; he even put his hand over the camera lens and told us to turn it off: documentary gold. Apparently the problem was that he had to report our whereabouts every evening to Damascus, and "the middle of the desert" was not going to be good enough.

As a desperate bid to restrain us, Jimmy told us that it wasn't safe, that there were wolves and evil dwarves in the desert, but he could see that we were going to go anyway. We left him in Palmyra a broken man, and headed off into the middle of nowhere. All in all, it was a rather excellent adventure. And here's a tip for anyone planning subversive activity in the Axis of Evil: camp.

Dom Joly's Excellent Adventure is on Sky One (UK and Europe) tomorrow at 9pm


20 die in 3 bomb blasts in Amman

Update 22.59

20 people are now thought to have died, with many more injured, in three simultaneous blasts in hotels in the Jordanian capital.

The Radisson, Hyatt and Days Inn have been targetted. Some arrests have been made near the Radisson, and police are said to be looking for a car with Iraq.

An Al Jazeera reporter says journalists' tapes have been confiscated.


Third hotel explodes in Jordan

The Days Inn hotel in Amman is now being named as another hotel which has suffered an attack this evening.


7 dead in Amman

First bomb hit at 20.50 (8.50pm). The first Syria News Wire post was two minutes later.

AP say 7 bodies were remvoed from the Hyatt. The whole of the stone entrance was shattered. Police say another explosion hit the nearby Radisson hotel, in the wedding hall. There were casulties there too.


Reports say one bomb in Amman

BBC, AFP say there was ONE bomb - at the Radisson hotel. The bomb exploded while police were evacuating the Hyatt hotel. Five reported dead. 40 injured.

The timing is possibly significant - Jordan's King Abdullah is planning a visit to Israel. Radisson/Hyatt hotels host a number of Israeli tourists.


Mehlis invited to Damascus

Syria has invited Detlev Mehlis to Damascus to sign a co-operation agreement.

"The Syrian commission of inquiry invites you to come to Syria at a date that you will specify so the two commissions can study the best means and mechanisms of cooperation," said Ghada Murad the ehad of the Syrian Commission set up in response to Mehlis's calls for a Syrian invesigation.

The Syrian Commission "expresses its readiness for a complete cooperation and a thorough coordination with your commission to reach the truth which we are all seeking," she continued.


Bashar to make crucial TV address

Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad is set to make a TV speech tomorrow. In his last speech he announced that Syrian troops would be leaving Lebanon.

It's hoped that tomorrow's speech will be either to announce radical reforms, or to announce that Syria is set to 'fully co-operate' with Mehlis. Either way it shows thatSyria is running scared after the recent tough UN Resolution threatening 'further action'. Syria has learnt, it seems.

Party members say Bashar is set to call BOTH for progress on reforms, and for co-operation with Mehlis. But he's not expected to respond directly to Mehlis's request for interviews with the 'Hariri Six'.


Two Amman hotels targetted

Update 21.29

Five people have been killed at the Grand Hyatt hotel. The Radisson may also have been targetted - no casualty reports yet. That's the latest from AFP. Stay with the Syria News Wire.


Flash Flash 5 dead in Amman

Flash Flash 21.11

5 dead, more than 12 injured at a blast in a hotel in the Jordanian capital, according to witnesses.

More follows...


Kofi Annan praises Syria

Syria "has had a good record" in implementing UN Security Council Resolutions, Annan said.

He was responding to claims of Syria's non co-operation with Mehlis.

Annan praised Syria's full compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which called for the full withdrawal of Syrian troops and intelligence apparatus from Lebanon.

Syria has also fully complied with previous UN Resolutions on Lebanon during and after the Civil War, and on the Golan ceasefire.


Flash Flash - explosion at Amman hotel

Flash Flash 21.02

Reports of an explosion at the Radisson hotel in Amman, the capital of Jordan, just a couple of hundred miles South of Damascus.

This blog covers Syria and Lebanon - but we will continue to follow this story if it turns out that Jund Ash-Sham were involved.


Syria puts travel ban on the UN 6

Flash 20.35

Syria has put a travel ban on the 6 people the UN wants to question over the murder of Rafiq Al-Hariri.

Asif Showkat and Maher Al-Assad - two of the President's closest advisers are among those will be stopped at the border if they try to leave Syria.

Keeping them in the country is seen as the first stage in handing them over to Detlev Mehlis's UN Commission.


America ends talks with Syria on the border issue

America has abruptly ended all talks with Syria on protecting the Syrian-Iraqi border, in order to weaken President Assad.

They have also ended talks with the Ministry of Finance, aimed at stopping terrorists using foreign bank accounts.

These two decisions fly in the face of stated US policy goals. How can America's demands be taken seriously when they refuse to discuss the border, and refuse to talk to the Banks about terror-funding. If the US is even slightly serious about making the border watertight, they wouldn't be walking away from talks - but if the border is a lever to twist Syria's arm with, then walking away might be just what's needed.


Kamal Al-Labwani arrested

Opposition activist Kamal Al-Labwani has been arrested at Damascus Airport. He was returning from the US.

Labwani has been criticised by other members of the opposition for calling for regime change. Hasan Abd Al-Azim, a fellow activist and friend distanced himself from Labwani, saying he doesn't support his extreme views.

Human Rights campaigner Ammar Qurabi, who said Syrians would support the government's release of 190 political prisoners last week, condemned Labwani's arrest. The opposition community will be hoping he has only been taken for questioning - how quickly he is released will say a lot about how the Syrian government really intends to treat the opposition.


Ariel Sharon: no agreement with Syria even though they want to talk

Ariel Sharon: "I do not intend to sign any agreement with Syria. Talking about leaving the Golan Heights is a serious mistake and I've said this in the past ... I don't intend to hold negotiations with Syria even though the Syrians definitely want this."

Monday, November 07, 2005 

The second Damascene Spring?

Sami Mobayed asks why many of Syria's intellectuals are living outside Syria, and points to a simple answer: compulsory military service dating from the 1950s. According to Mobayed, most Syrians left during the flawed union with Egypt, during the early Baath years pre-Hafez, and during the early 1980s, when a coup seemed likely (and when 20,000 Hamawi were murdered).

The implication of Mobayed's piece is that the Syrian government is successfully uniting Syrians with a series of very modest reforms, and that major ones may be on the way. He suggests the martial law may be lifted, ALL political prisoners might be released, a major cabinet reshuffle will occur, reducing the number of government posts given to Baathists, full citizenship for all Kurds, and a lifting of the ban on opposition parties.

He thinks it'll have some effect, but - contrary to the Bush/Bashar view of the world, Syrians don't want an end to the emergency law, or general amnesties, or voting rights as much as they want better education, health care, jobs and housing. He says that's also a reason why the embryonic opposition remain embryonic, isolated and lacking popular support.

Mobayed points to the fact that none of the signatories of the Damascus Declaration - which claims that Bashar and his government are part of Syria's problem not the solution (essentially a call for regime change, not reform) - have been harrassed or arrested. Is this the dawn of the second Damascene Spring?

Full article: Sami Mobayed, "A brand name called Syria"


Two-thirds of teachers in the Arab World are from Syria

Just one of the incredible facts from Syria's best journalist, Sami Mobayed.

In his latest article, he also says that there are 60,000 Syrians in Germany - ONE-THIRD of them are doctors.

More on Mobayed's piece follows...


Mehlis demands interviews with 6 Syrian officials... Lebanon.

It seems to be a test to push the limits of Syria's 'full co-operation'. But such a test will again raise questions over the political nature of Mehlis's investigation.

Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq Ash-Sharaa, who delivered an incredibly hostile speech to the UN Security Council, replied by giving his full acceptance of the demand.

1 of the 6 who is due to travel to Lebanon for questioning is Bashar Al-Assad's brother-in-law Maher Al-Assad. Some of the others are said to be:

-Asif Shawkat
-Major-General Bahjat Suleiman, the former head of Syria's domestic intelligence
-Brigadier-General Rustum Ghazale, the Syrian intelligence head in Lebanon when Hariri was assassinated
-Jameh Jameh, Ghazleh's deputy

These four names were given by the Lebanese who Mehlis summoned as 'witnesses' in his first report - among them anti-Syrian commentators and politicians, including An-Nahar editor-in-chief Jubran Tuwaini.

Sunday, November 06, 2005 

Mehlis can question Showkat and Maher Al-Assad ... in private

In a shock announcement, Syria says it will allow Maher Al-Assad and Asif Showkat to be interviewed in private by the UN investigator.

They are the two members of Bashar's inner circle who Mehlis pointed the finger at for the Hariri murder.

"Mehlis can meet them completely alone, even choose a place in Damascus with a UN flag," Sami Khyami - Syria's Ambassador to London said.

He even suggested that Mehlis would be able to meet Bashar Al-Assad if he wants to.

Saturday, November 05, 2005 

10 die in Tartous

10 people have died after a wall collapsed at a bus station in Tartous.

The wall had been built in the coastal city to stop flood waters coming in. But water seeped in an weakened the structure, which fell apart.


Syria ready to put government officials under house arrest?

In the past few hours there have been reports of military activity around the houses of some government members.

The people being targetted are the ones mentioned by UN investigator Detlev Mehlis.

Does this suggest Bashar could be ready to 'co-operate' with Mehlis even at the expense of his closest allies?

The news comes just days after Syria announced that Mehlis CAN interrogate Maher Al-Assad and Asif Showkat.

A new dawn for Syria?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005 

Syria frees more political prisoners

Syria has freed 190 more political prisoners. It comes just two days after a scathing UN resolution. One of those freed was the final remaining member of the Al-Attasi forum, who had been jailed in May for reading out a statement by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Arab Organisation for Human Rights in Syria's spokesman, Ammar Qurabi, says "this move gains the government more popularity and consolidates national unity in the face of the dangers facing Syria." Ammar has in the past been incredibly critical of Bashar.

Today's move seems to have been pushed by Bashar personally, against the dissent-hating old guard.

One of those freed was the leader of the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in Syria.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005 

Syria says Maher Al-Assad and Asef Showkat CAN be questioned by the UN

Syria has announced that the president's brother Maher Al-Assad and his brother-in-law Asif Shawkat, the military intelligence chief CAN be questioned by Detlev Mehlis.

It comes just a day after the UN adopted a resolution calling for Syria to co-operate fully with Mehlis or face possible further action - although the threat of sanctions was dropped at the last minute.

Syria's Ambassador to the UK, Sami Al-Khiyami says that Mehlis interviewed a handful of people in Damascus, but made no request to speak to Maher or Asif.

Mehlis left Syria saying he was "satisfied" that Syria had co-operated. Weeks later he published a report saying Syria had failed to fully co-operate, and that was the basis for yesterday's UN action.


US, UK, France drop the threat of sanctions

The three pro-sanctions nations surprised the world by removing any mention of sanctions in the UN resolution against Syria today.

They were expected to push for a resolution threatening sanctions if Syria did not 'fully co-operate' with Mehlis. Russia and China were expected to abstain, allowing the resolution to pass, but not giving their support to it.

But at the last minute, the reference was changed to 'further action if necessary'. it is clear that the Russian, Chinese and Algerian negotiators had an important part to play in getting that through.

The last minute change does, however, allow the big three to claim that the 'international community' is behind them.

About me

  • Written by sasa
  • From Damascus, Syria
  • From Damascus to London via Beirut. Based in and out of the central Damascene hamlet of Saroujah. News and feelings from the streets every day. I'm talking rubbish? Leave a comment. Welcome to the information democracy. See below for info about this site.
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