December 22, 2011 - Syria News Blog: A Roundup of Key International Reportage & Commentary

In the News | 22-12-2011

Russia presents UNSC draft resolution, Damascus agrees to Arab League observer force, violence surges in Idlib, Homs, Daraa

In a surprise move, Russia presented the United Nations Security Council with a draft resolution on the Syria case one week ago today. Though the move was welcomed by Council members, many deemed the draft weak and insufficient. Just days later, a delegation from Iraq arrived in Syria to push Damascus to implement the Arab League's peace plan - a visit deemed "positive" by the delegation's leader Iraqi National Security adviser Falah al-Fayadh. Indeed, after weeks of negotiation, the Syrian government agreed on Monday to allow the League's international observer force into the country for one month beginning today, 22 December. At the same time, however, the country was shaken by the worst violence seen in some ten months of tumult, with some estimates putting the death toll from 48 hours of security crackdowns as high as 250.
The Syrian Revolution
Protests, security crackdowns, clashes
On Thursday, December 15, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based group, reported that army defectors had carried out an attack against the Syrian military in Daraa, resulting in the deaths of 27 soldiers. According to the Observatory, the defectors used rifles and rocker-propelled grenades to hit a military base inside Daraa, as well as two security checkpoints in the outskirts of the province. The Observatory's report could not be independently verified and did not include any information as to whether opposition forces also incurred casualties. 
The following day, hundreds of thousands of protestors took to the streets across the country, with crowds reportedly exceeding 200,000 in the central city of Homs. Local Coordination Committees charge that between 14 and 17 civilians were killed amid security crackdowns, two women and three children among them. The deaths were reported in Homs, Hama, Daraa, and Damascus's suburbs.
On Sunday, armed clashes were reported in Qusair in Homs province between men believed to be army defectors and members of the Syrian military. Six soldiers were reportedly killed, while three armored vehicles were destroyed and a number of homes were allegedly caught in the crossfire. 
Clashes were also reported near the Turkish border in Jabal al-Zawiya in Idlib province, as well as shootings by security forces in Homs. Some fifteen civilians reportedly died between both. Just the day before, some 24 civilians died amid security crackdowns in Homs
The same day, well-known Syrian blogger Razan Ghazzawi was released from detention. She had been arrest on December 4 on charges of "fomenting sectarian strife and spreading false information". Ghazzawi was freed on bail and will stand trial at an unspecified date. 
Monday ushered in among the worst days of violence since the revolution began over 10 months ago, with between 100 and 110 people reportedly killed amid horrific security crackdowns. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an estimated 70 army deserters were reportedly shot and killed whilst abandoning their positions in Jabal al-Zawiya. Violence in a number of other locations across the country left another 40 people dead, with fatalities reported elsewhere in Idlib province, as well as Homs and Daraa. 
The deaths reportedly occurred in the town of Kfar Owaid in Idlib province. The Observatory's head, Rami Abdul-Rahman, termed the events an "organized massacre. The troops surrounded people then killed them."
On Wednesday, December 21, the Syrian National Council (SNC) called upon the United Nation's Security Council (UNSC) to have a meeting on the "massacres" and "large-scale genocide" by the Syrian government. According the SNC's statement, which was emailed to the UNSC, some 250 people had been killed in the preceding 48 hours in Idlib and Homs. 
The assault in Jabal al-Zawiya continued throughout Wednesday, with sources reporting electricity had been cut in much of Idlib province. Col. Riad al-Assad, commander of the Free Syria Army has reportedly ordered his forces to pull out of the area. The FSA possesses only light weaponry and is no match for the full force of the Syrian army. 
New opposition group announced, headed by former Syrian ambassador to Sweden
On Thursday, December 15, former Syrian ambassador to Sweden Mohammed Bessam Imadi announced the formation of a new opposition group, the National Alliance of Forces, Coordinators and Councils of the Syrian Revolution; Al-Leeqa. Imadi, the self-proclaimed leader of the group, made the announcement during a press conference in Istanbul, Turkey.
"The regime has killed, maimed, arrested, tortured and displaced tens of thousands of people. Therefore different revolutionary groups sought to unify their operational and political leadership to join forces and overthrow the regime," Imadi said.
According to Imadi, Al-Leeqa counts "the majority of revolutionary groups conducting the revolution in Syria" among its ranks. The Syrian National Council, the most organized of the opposition's groups, includes Al-Leeqa among its members. According to Imadi, relations between the two groups will be more coordinated in the coming months. 
Syrian National Council convenes first plenary session
The Syrian National Council convened its first plenary assembly in Tunisia last weekend with the explicit intent of solidifying its policy goals and consolidating its position among the opposition. The following is an excerpt from the SNC's subsequent official press release issued on Monday, December 19:
"The SNC discussed key issues, including its own responsibilities, and concluded with the following outcomes:
At the Organizational Level: 
The conference discussed and approved the Political Program of the SNC and the bylaws and regulations governing the ongoing relationships among its various institutions. The conference also restructured the SNC offices to promote the active participation of all political entities, including the driving forces of the Revolution and the independent national figures that have joined the SNC. The role of women in the SNC was also emphasized.
The SNC vowed to continue all efforts to promote national unity, and to expand national efforts to guarantee the success of the Revolution and provide a means to achieve its humanitarian objectives, including freedom and dignity.
At the Domestic Level: 
The SNC renewed its commitment to the Syrian people and to the achievement of their goals. This includes the primary objectives of the Revolution:
First, the ouster of the regime and its figures, along with all of its symbols and pillars.
Second, the establishment of a new Syria as a democratic, pluralistic, civil state, where all citizens – men and women – are treated equally under the rule of law.
The SNC reaffirmed its commitment to recognize the Kurdish national identity under the constitution. 
The Kurdish cause is an important part of a national issue of concern to the country as a whole.  
Within the framework of unity in Syria, the SNC will resolve the injustices toward the Kurdish people by recognizing their national rights and compensating those affected.
The SNC stressed its commitment to recognizing the national identity of the Assyrian Syrians under the constitution, and called for a solution to this issue within the framework of national unity.
The SNC emphasized its rejection of any discrimination against any components of Syrian society, regardless of religious sect or ethnicity (including Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrian, Syriacs, and others), in the context of national citizenship.
The SNC pledged to make every effort to meet the demands of the Syrian people, including relief requirements in disaster areas, as they continue their peaceful Revolution and successful civil disobedience such as the Strike for Dignity.
The SNC and its institutions call on the Arab League, the United Nations, and the international community to take urgent action with regard to the protection of Syrian civilians and activists by creating safe havens and protected zones.
The SNC pledged to support the Free Syrian Army, recognizing its honorable role in protecting the peaceful Revolution of our people.
The SNC emphasized its commitment at all levels – media, economic, political, and diplomatic – to stifling the regime until its ouster.
The SNC reaffirmed its vision of the transitional period and the general principles for the new Syria, which seek to realize a general consensus. The SNC called on all Syrians to unite in confronting injustice and tyranny and to join the Revolution in crafting the future of Syria.
At the International Level:
The SNC emphasized its concerns with regard to cooperation with the members of the Arab League, the international community, and other international organizations to achieve the objectives and wishes of the Syrian Revolution. The SNC warned that the regime continues to disregard and circumvent the initiatives and sanctions imposed upon it. The SNC also stressed that the regime must not be granted any additional deadlines or chances.
Moreover, the SNC urged that all countries and citizens bear a moral and humanitarian responsibility toward the Syrian people, who are facing the worst of crimes against humanity. The SNC emphasized that it is in the best interest of foreign countries to stand with the Syrian people and not with a faltering regime.
The SNC stressed that the new Syria will restore national sovereignty to the occupied Golan Heights and support the complete and legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. This will lead to true stability in the region, as opposed to the repressive regime that threatens the stability and unity of the state, and prompts international intervention in Syria’s internal issues. The regime alone bears responsibility for the events in the country."
To read the press release in full, click here.
President Assad issues law - death penalty for those involved in terrorist acts
On Tuesday, December 20, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued law No. 26 for 2011, "stipulating for a 15-year hard labor penalty for those who have smuggled weapons, and a life sentence of hard labor for those who have smuggled weapons with the aim of trafficking in them or committing terrorist acts".
The new law also permits "the death sentence for whoever distributed amounts of weapons or contributed to distributing them with the aim of committing terrorist acts." According to the law, "the partner and whoever involved in this will be also punished with the same penalty." 
International Politics & Diplomacy
Russia brings draft resolution on Syria to UN Security Council
In a move that came as a surprise to many, on Thursday, December 15 during an emergency United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting, Russia put forward a draft resolution on the situation in Syria. The resolution came as pressure on the UNSC to respond to the crisis in Syria mounts. 
While the move was well-received by both Europe and the United States, both of which have expressed frustration with both Russia and China's obstinacy on the Syria issue, a number of western officials expressed concerns about the overall weakness of the text, which roughly equated the Syrian government's use of violence against the opposition, with that employed by armed factions of the opposition. Additionally, the text of the resolution called for an end to violence by all sides and the start of dialogue between the government and its detractors, but did not include stronger language regarding possible repercussions should the government neglect to adopt a less brutal strategy for dealing with the current crisis. 
While the text of the draft resolution noted that nothing in its language could be used to incite or condone international intervention in Syria, specific language pertaining to future foreign backing of the various opposition groups in Syria was not included. The issue of imposing a total arms embargo against Syria was also not part of the text, which comes as no surprise given the extent of Russia's arms deals with the Syrian government. 
The text of the draft resolution:
"The Security Council, Expressing grave concern at the situation in Syria, Recalling its presidential statement of 3 August 2011, 
Welcoming the plan of action developed by the League of Arab States on November 2011, 
Strongly condemning continuing violence coming from all parties, including disproportionate use of force by Syrian authorities, and expressing grave concern over the potential for a further deterioration of the situation, 
Expressing profound regret at the death of thousands of people, 
Calling for an immediate end to all violence and provocations and condemning the activity of extremist groups, including attacks against state institutions, law-enforcement personnel and urging all sides to act with utmost restraint, 
Stressing that the only solution to the current crisis in Syria is through an inclusive and Syrian-led political process with the aim of effectively addressing the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the population which will allow the full enjoyment of fundamental human rights and freedoms for all without distinction, including that of the rights of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and further stressing that such a political process can only be advanced through an environment free from violence, 
Recalling the Syrian authorities responsibility to comply with their obligations under applicable international law and to bring to account all those responsible for violence, and urging in this regard the government of the Syrian Arab Republic to initiate prompt, independent and impartial investigations into all cases of human rights violations,
Noting the measures taken by the Syrian authorities towards reform, including recent local elections, regretting insufficient progress in their implementation and calling upon the Syrian government to expedite progress in promoting political pluralism through adoption of new electoral law and constitutional reform, guaranteeing freedom of media, ensuring respect for human rights,
Calling further upon the Syrian authorities to alleviate the humanitarian situation in crisis areas, to allow expeditious and unhindered access to international humanitarian assistance and for international media and cooperate fully with the Office of the High Commissioner for human rights,
Underscoring the importance of ensuring the voluntary return to their homes in safety and security of those who have fled from violence,
Calling upon the Syrian authorities to release all those detained for expressing their rights to freedom of expressions, peaceful assembly and association,
Expressing great concern at the illegal supply of weapons to the armed groups in Syria and calling on neighboring and other states to take necessary steps to prevent such supplies,
Mindful of the role which Syria plays in the maintenance of peace and stability in the region,
Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria as well as to the basic principle of international law which provides that state shall not intervene in matters within the domestic jurisdiction of any state in accordance with the charter of the United Nations,
Reaffirming further the need to resolve the current crisis in Syria peacefully, ruling out any military intervention from outside,
Welcoming the engagement of the Secretary-General and all diplomatic efforts aimed at addressing this situation,
Noting in this regard the meeting between the League of Arab States ministerial committee with the Syrian authorities in Doha on October 30 and the acceptance by the Syrian government of the LAS plan in order to implement the above-mentioned initiative,
Emphasizing the importance of expeditious settlement of all remaining issues that concern the implementation of the LAS plan which will open the way to peaceful, non-violent settlement of the situation in Syria that excludes intervention from outside,
1. Demands that all parties in Syria immediately stop any violence irrespective of where it comes from in accordance with LAS initiative.
2. Urges the Syrian government to put an end to suppression of those exercising their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association and complete without delay investigations carried out by the Syrian judicial committee into all events in which civilians and security personnel were killed or injured.
3. Urges also all groups of Syrian opposition to dissociate themselves from extremists, accept LAS initiative and to engage without preconditions in political dialogue with the Syrian authorities with a view to holding a substantial and in-depth discussion on the ways of reforming the Syrian society.
4. Calls upon all member states maintaining contacts with various groups of Syrian opposition to urge them to accept LAS initiative and expeditiously engage in national dialogue.
5. Demands that all the parties insure respect for and act in accordance with applicable international law.
6. Calls for an inclusive Syrian-led political process to be conducted in the environment free from violence and lead to the full implementation of the reforms that will effectively address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of Syria's people.
7. Encourages the League of Arab States to continue efforts in cooperation with all Syrian stakeholders aimed at putting an end to violence, promoting political dialogue, including through deployment of the league's mission of observers to Syria with the aim of assessing the situation on the ground and expresses full commitment to provide all necessary assistance in the implementation of these plans.
8. Calls upon Syrian government and League of Arab States to expeditiously settle the remaining issues concerning the deployment of the league's mission of observers to Syria.
9. Calls upon the Syrian government to expedite the implementation of the announced reforms, in particular drafting and adopting a new constitution, in order to effectively address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of Syria's people.
10. Stresses the need for a free and fair electoral process in Syria's upcoming parliamentary elections to be conducted in the atmosphere of calm, security and democratic competition.
11.Decides that nothing is this resolution shall be interpreted as an authorization of any sort of military interference in Syria by anyone.
12. Decides to consider the situation again 30 days after the adoption of the present resolution."
Canada urges citizens in Syria to evacuate immediately
On Thursday, December 15, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird advised Canadian citizens to leave Syria immediately, asserting that the Syrian government "has lost all legitimacy, and its abhorrent behavior will not be tolerated". 
Iraqi delegation travels to Damascus to push peace plan
On Saturday, December 17, an Iraqi delegation traveled to Syria to hold talks with the government on bringing an end to the violence that has taken hold of the country. The delegation was led by Iraqi National Security adviser Falah al-Fayadh, who later termed the talks "positive".
Damascus agrees to let in international monitors, GCC calls on Damascus to stop "its killing machine" 
The concession came after weeks of negotiations and a threat last week by the League to turn Syria over to the UN Security Council. According to Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, the agreement came only after the Arab League accepted a number of Damascus's conditions, though Moallem did not specify which conditions were allegedly approved. 
"Syrian sovereignty was preserved in the heart of the protocol," Moallem said during a press conference in Damascus the same day. 
Moallem went on to state that, "Syria welcomes every sincere Arab effort to resolve the crisis, and that it will deal with the observer mission seriously, professionally and objectively," and added that the "observers' mission will have a duration of one month that can be extended for one more month only with the consent of the two parties, and that the mission will be protected by the Syrian state and free to move".
"We want to come out of the crisis and build a safe and modern Syria that is an example in democracy and plurality and all contributions are welcome," Moallem said.
"What encouraged us to make the decision to sign was the phone call from AL General Secretary Nabil al-Arabi yesterday morning, during which I felt that the man is sincere and wants to discuss and coordinate with us and contribute to a political solution for the crisis… I relayed this to the President and the leadership… this is what encouraged us, regardless of a word here and there," he continued.
The Syrian opposition largely dismissed the move, asserting that it was an empty gesture by Damascus aimed at buying the government more time. At the same time, measures to protect the monitors in the country's most unstable areas will limit their exposure to the full scope of the situation. 
At this stage, the Arab League has no intention of lifting its sanctions against the Syrian regime. An advanced team of the observers is set to arrive in Damascus today, December 22
The day after Damascus agreed to allow the League's observer force enter the country, the Gulf Cooperation Council stepped forward to call on the Syrian government to "immediately halt its killing machine, put an end to bloodshed, lift all signs of armed conflict and release prisoners, as a first step towards implementing the (Arab) protocol" agreed to on Monday.
Economic Development & Trade
Syria to lose USD 100 million following rerouting of Turkish trade routes
On December 16, the Turkish Economy Ministry announced that Syria was set to lose over USD 100 million a year in revenues from transport, as the Turkish government seeks out alternative routes for the export of its goods to Gulf/Middle East states. 
"It will be Syria who loses in this process of introducing alternative trade routes," the statement by the Turkish Economy Ministry read.
The estimated is based on the 46,000 Turkish trucks that traveled through Syria last year, which paid Damascus some USD 2,135 each. 
Turkish truck drivers have reported considerable security threats whilst traveling on the road to Homs. At the same time, many note that tensions between Ankara and Damascus over the Syrian government's management of the uprising have led Turks to be signaled out by Syrian officials for harassment, and in some cases worse. 
Syria, Iran sign free trade agreement 
On Sunday, December 18, Syria and Iran signed a free trade agreement aimed at upping bilateral trade in agriculture, mining, and industry. The bill provides for free trade between the two countries for the coming five years. The aim is to bring bilateral trade up to an annual USD 5 billion. 
Fuel shortages straining households during cold winter months
Fuel shortages across the country have deepened in recent weeks, leaving many families unable to heat their homes during the winter months. In theory, EU and US sanctions against Syria should free up much of its oil supplies for domestic consumption. In reality, however, supplies are tied up by divisions of the Baath party that reportedly control the registration and distribution processes required to obtain and sell oil. According to journalist Asi Abu Najm, the "party is then able to play its usual game of favoritism and refuse people known to be in the opposition, under the pretext of having run out". 
At same time, districts known to be loyal to the government reportedly receive daily supplies, whilst those known to house opposition members are subject to rationing. Corruption has also resulted in the coveting and reselling of supplies on the black market, driving prices up even further. 
A growing sense of lawlessness had prompted many to respond to the crisis by illegally logging the country's critically important forests. 
For more on the diesel crisis, click here
Further Reading & Viewing
On torture:
"Syria's Torture Machine" - Channel 4 - A critically important documentary on the use of torture in Syria. Highly graphic, not appropriate for all audiences. 
On the cultural awakening unleashed by the revolution:
"In Protests, Syrians Find the Spark of Creativity" - New York Times - Neil MacFarquhar covers the "the cultural flowering" unleashed by the Syrian revolution, asserting that the protests are often scenes of dancing and singing, a signal "that despite months of bloody repression, the euphoria people feel in seeking freedom cannot be suppressed".
"Syrian Revolution Chants Disappointing? I Beg to Differ" - Maysaloon - A short post by Syrian expat blogger Maysaloon on the musicality and creativity of the Syrian protest movement. 
On the troubles of the Syrian National Council and the Free Syrian Army:
"Syria's Opposition Should Be Careful Not to Overplay its Hand" - The Guardian - James Harkin covers the opposition's use of the media to play its hand whilst also critiquing the overly simplistic "conceptual tools" used by the west to make sense of "overseas conflicts".
"Syria's Opposition: What if We Offered Assad Immunity?" - TIME - Rania Abouzeid covers the Syrian National Council's consideration of offering President Assad full immunity and safe relocation, in exchange for handing over the reigns of the government. Also covered are the opposition's considerable credibility issues, as well as debate over international intervention. 
"Stratfor Challenges Narratives on Syria" - The Huffington Post - Sharmine Narwani highlights recent research by the international security research firm Stratfor that calls into question reports by the Syrian opposition, including those of the Syrian National Council and the Free Syrian Army, of solidarity between the opposition's ranks, and both group's use of media to impart a troublingly uncomplicated view of the situation in Syria. 
"Syrian National Council - Growing Efforts to Present United Front" - Global Arab Network - An interview with Bassma Kodmani, a spokesperson for the Syrian National Council. 
"The Turn to Armed Rebellion in Syria: The Rise of the Free Syrian Army" - Jamestown - Chris Zambelis assess the FSA's capabilities and resources, allegations of its sectarian nature, and the manner in which such allegations play into broader concerns about the impact of the situation in Syria on regional intra-Muslim competition.
On regional diplomatic maneuverings: 
"Foreign policy: Pragmatic Pursuit of Regional Interests" - Financial Times - An excellent article by Roula Khalaf on Qatar's foreign policy and the manner in which Doha has navigated the diplomatic hurdles of the Arab revolutions. The second half of the article focuses on Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani's gamble with regard to the Syria issue.
"Syria’s Civil War is Bigger than Syria Itself" - The Washington Post - Jim Hoagland covers the manner in which regional and international powers will likely exploit the crisis in Syria for strategic gains.
"Rivalry Over Syria, Iraq Widens Rift Between Turkey and Iran" - Today's Zaman - Mahir Zeynalov covers growing tensions between Turkey and Iran over the crisis in Syria, noting that the Arab revolutions and Turkey's hardline response to the Syrian government's management of its domestic woes have thrown Ankara's 'zero problems' approach to foreign policy to the wind. A well-written clip.
"Iran Hedges Its Bets on Syria" - Inter Press Service News Agency - Barbara Slavin covers Tehran's recent multifaceted diplomatic game of making inroads with the Syrian opposition whilst maintaining close ties with Damascus. 
"Iraq: The New Regional Broker?" - Al-Akhbar - Elie Chalhoub covers Iraq's move to broker a peace agreement in Damascus and its connection to Baghdad's growing political and sectarian crisis. 
"Iraq’s al-Maliki Seeks Arrest of Sunni VP as Terrorist, Parliament in Uproar" - Informed Comment - Middle East expert, Juan Cole's biting commentary on Baghdad's political woes and their connection to Damascus. 
"A New Balance of Power if Syria Shifts Away from Iran" - Carnegie Endowment - Paul Salem assesses Iranian concerns over the possible collapse of the Syrian government, as well as the impact of a change in power in Syria on the Syrian-Israeli peace talks.
On the west's current and anticipated future response to the revolution:\
"United States Policy in Syria: Masterful Inaction?" - The Brookings Institution - Michael Doran critiques the Obama Administration's response to the situation in Syria, and argues that sending "messages of support to unarmed protestors as they face off against well-armed death squads" is not what "we really need in order to figure out how to stop the violence". Instead, Doran believes at Obama should assemble a "diplomatic coalition dedicated to compelling Assad, by all means short of military intervention, to step down". Doran terms Obama's response to the situation in Syria, "masterful inaction".  In a remark that some will no doubt find quite  audacious, Doran continues: "It [Obama's diplomacy in Syria] makes a show of trying to stop the violence…In addition, it amounts to an abdication of the traditional leadership role that the United States has played in the Middle East for the last fifty years." Interestingly, though Doran writes of the unarmed protestors with great concern, he concludes his article by asserting that the US must intervene in Syria to protect its "considerable interest in weakening Iran regionally" for if "Washington does not join the game, it is unlikely to win."
"Instability in Syria: Assessing the Risks of Military Intervention (Working Draft)" - Center for Strategic & International Studies - An exceptional report by Aram Nerguizian on the issues pertaining to any form of international military of humanitarian intervention in Syria. Worth reading for all concerned. 
"Intervention in Syria? An Assessment of Legality, Logistic and Hazards" - Henry Jackson Society - Another report on the ramifications of any form of military or humanitarian intervention in Syria, this time by Michael Weiss. 
Three human interest clips on Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Turkey:
"From Homs to Hermel: Feeling the Pain of Separation"  - Al Akhbar - Afif Diab and Rameh Hamieh cover the lives of Syrian refugees in the Hermel region of Lebanon as well as the impact of Syria's security crisis on local imports of Syrian goods. 
"Syrians Lament Their Losses in Turkish Border Village" - Reuters - Suleiman al-Khalidi covers Syrian refugees in Turkey, presently numbering around 8,000. 
"Syrian Refugees Give Firsthand Account of Slide into Bloodshed" - Los Angeles Times - Alexandra Zavis and Rima Marrouch cover the story of a young Syrian family taking refuge in Lebanon and their account of the sectarian nature of the conflict in certain areas of Homs.
On Syria's changing literary culture:
"Historic Bookstores in Damascus Closing Doors" - Al Akhbar - A clip by Anas Zarzar on Syria's declining market for books. In recent years, a number of the most famous of Syria's bookstores have closed their doors due to a marked dropped in sales. 
References made to articles, individuals, organizations or government bodies in this blog do not necessarily reflect or imply an endorsement by The Syria Report. The Syria News Blog is a news service offered by The Syria Report only for the purpose of recapping foreign reportage on matters pertaining to Syria.
Written by: Evelyn Aissa
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