Saturday, 8 October 2016

"Singing and dancing, asking for the same goals - freedom and dignity"

 Robin Yassin-Kassab: 

 "I don't think there is a play between the superpowers. I don't think there is a battle between Russia and America. On the ground in Syria, the perception is that they are more or less on the same side. America wants Bashar al-Assad to go, but the régime to stay in place. Russia wants Bashar al-Assad to stay as well, and they're trying very hard to work together. When Assad killed 1500 people with sarin gas in 2013, Obama's red line disappeared, and he very publicly handed the Syria file to Russia. He's just done a deal with Iran over the nuclear issue, which is a good thing, but precisely at the moment when Iran has got tens of thousands of occupation troops, including Shia jihadists, in Syria. He's not talking about that. So the Syrians think Russia and America are, more or less, on the same side, the whole world is betraying them." Mazen Darwish:

This is our life for more than four years. This is daily Syrian life in many places. And they ask why are there all these refugees, why do people become extreme and turn to terrorism? This is the result." 

 Robin Yassin-Kassab: 

 "We have to remember that as well as the horrors of war, and the extremists, the jihadists, the fascist régime, the foreign occupation, there is also remarkable stuff happening in Syria, in the revolutionary areas, which nobody talks about, which is part of the solution. There are over 400 local councils in Syria, many of them democratically elected; and these are the people who are representative Syrians, they are keeping life together in the most difficult of circumstances. That's what's under threat in Aleppo. Aleppo is the biggest concentration of civil society activists and groups, education services, the White Helmets, everybody else, in the country. If they manage to destroy that in Syria, then in a year or two we will be facing just jihadism."

Mazen Darwish:

 "Nobody can win in the end through military means. We are talking about 300,000 civilians in this area. If they want to kill all of them, this is the only way to have a victory." 

 Robin Yassin-Kassab: 

 "I must dispute that the Syrian government forces are trying to invade eastern Aleppo. It's not really the Syrian government forces. The Syrian Army is more or less finished. It hasn't won a battle by itself since 2012. It's Russian bombs, Iranian and international Shia jihadist ground troops. It's a foreign occupation as much as it's a civil war at this point."

Mazen Darwish:

 "From the beginning, the régime pushed for this solution -for the extremism. While we were arrested, the human rights defenders and civil society leaders, Assad released more than a thousand jihadists from al-Qaeda from prison. So from the beginning they have had this strategy, to push the country towards violence. And because they get support, not just from Russia and Iran, but from the West in general. They see what happens in Syria, and they don't care, or don't think we will reach this level. Only now after the refugee crisis has Syria become important, but what has happened is systematic, and this is the result."

Robin Yassin-Kassab:
 "The revolution survives, remarkably, despite the fact that the régime has made it into a war, and done everything it can to bring extremists into the country so that the West will be scared of the alternative. Nevertheless, there are hundreds of democratically elected councils, there are tens of Free radio stations, Free newspapers, Free TV stations, women's centres." 

  Mazen Darwish:

"Each time you have a ceasefire, like you had in February, thousands of people come out in civil protests again. Singing and dancing, asking for the same goals - freedom and dignity."

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Al-Zoghbi Uncovers Russian Plan Targeting Idlib, Hama following Aleppo

Syrian civil defence volunteers evacuate a man and children from a residential building following a reported air strike on the rebel-held eastern neighbourhood of Bab al-Nayrab in Syria's second city Aleppo, on April 29, 2016.

 'Head of the Syrian opposition delegation to Geneva, Asaad al-Zoghbi revealed a Russian-Iranian plan in coordination with the Assad regime to move the systematic destructive battle from Aleppo to the city of Idlib and later to Hama.

 In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat published on Monday, al-Zoghbi said that a meeting of the opposition held in Istanbul two days ago agreed on uniting all military opposition factions under one brigade and one leadership capable of facing the Russian destructive forces that are supported by the Syrian regime and Iranian militias.

 The position will have two parts: Enhance the military operations and ask for the help of the international community without relying on Washington,” he said.

 Commenting on the latest developments in Aleppo, al-Zoghbi said: “Currently, there is a complete systematic destruction of Aleppo, and this destruction is on its way to devastate Idlib and later Hama. The attention in Syria is not directed anymore to a revolution against the Assad regime, but rather towards the Aleppo battle. This is what the Russians and the Americans want.

 “After this phase, an agreement will be reached supported by a decision from the U.N. Security Council. Then everybody will forget about what Assad controls from Lattakia to Damascus.”

 The head of the Syrian negotiating team said scores of Russian warplanes are currently bombing Aleppo. “There was a Russian plan that the Russian Defense Minister and Iran had agreed on during a meeting held three months ago in Tehran to either totally control Aleppo, or completely destroy the city.”

 He said that since the announcement of the alleged seven-day ceasefire during the Eid al-Adha, the Russians, the Iranians and the regime were mobilizing their forces and more than 8,300 soldiers to prepare for the battle of Aleppo.

 Al-Zoghbi said that Saudi Arabia and other brotherly countries, which are helping the Syrian opposition, have decided to back the armed opposition and provide them with weapons.

 He said Turkey also supports arming the opposition, adding he expected a similar position from Gulf countries soon.'

'The Country Is a Devastated Graveyard'

Boys climb over rubble

 'For at least a year before the summer of 2016, civilians and fighters in rebel-held East Aleppo prepared for a siege they believed was both avoidable and inevitable. Correctly, it turns out, they calculated that the opposition’s bankrollers and arms suppliers—the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and other “friends of Syria”—cared little for the well-being of civilians in rebel-held areas. Through the spring, contacts inside Aleppo prepared for the siege, expending minimal effort on appeals to the international community, which they assumed would be futile.

 For all the world-weary resignation of the opposition fighters and other residents of rebel Aleppo, they have a well-earned pride in what they’ve done. They’ve maintained their hold on half of the jewel of Syria, and under withering assault, have cobbled together an alternative to Bashar al-Assad’s rule. “From the beginning of the revolution, we held Aleppo as the role model of the liberated city, that holds free elections, has an elected city council, and elected local committees that truly represent the people,” Osama Taljo, a member of the rebel city council in East Aleppo, explained over the phone after the siege began in earnest. “We insisted to make out of Aleppo an exemplar of the free Syria that we aspire to.”

 Unfortunately, Aleppo has become an exemplar of something else: Western indifference to human suffering and, perhaps more surprisingly, fecklessness in the face of a swelling strategic threat that transcends one catastrophic war.

 Now that Russia, determined to reestablish its status after the humiliating collapse of the Soviet Union, has pushed the United States into a humiliating corner and weakened that international order, it is raising the stakes. Either the United States will push back, or the disequilibrium will spread even further. In either case, many thousands more Syrians will perish. As Bassam Hajji Mustafa, a spokesman for the Nour al-Din al-Zinki Movement, one of the more effective, if violent, rebel militias influential around Aleppo, put it, “People have adapted to death, so scaring them with this siege is not going to work.” Those who remain in Aleppo echo this refrain again and again: The last holdouts have stayed out of conviction. It’s hard to imagine anything but death driving them out. “If Aleppo falls and the world stays silent, then that will be the end of the revolution,” Hajji Mustafa said.

 In the end, Aleppo is not a story about the West; it is a cornerstone of Syria and an engine of wealth and culture for the entire Levant. Aleppo is the story of the willful destruction of a pivotal Arab state, a center of gravity in a tumultuous region in sore need of anchors. It’s a story of entirely avoidable human misery: the murder of babies, the destruction of homes, the dismantling of a powerful industrial and craft economy.

 Perhaps, finally, Assad and his backers have gone far enough to provoke an American defense of that indispensable order that America helped construct.'