Full Syria Media Roundup (January 22 – 28 )

By Syria Page Editors  – International and Regional Perspectives

The Arab world into the unknown In this crucial piece, Peter Harling and Sarah Birke offer a comprehensive overview of the transformations in the region.

What Iran Wants in 2014 A conciliatory piece by Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani

Iran and the Arab world: a change in foreign policy Maged Mandour argues that “Iran has lost a significant component of its soft power in the Middle East.”

From ISIS to Majed: The Deals of Death Sami Kleib asks if the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s “status being deliberately exaggerated ahead of Geneva II?”

Syrian refugee girl to marry to pay the rent A report by Aljazeera English’s Zeina Khodr, about Hanifa, a 14-year old who “has agreed to marry a 44-year-old Lebanese landlord. Her family can not afford to pay their monthly rent, so the owner of the house has demanded Hanifa become his second wife.”

Lebanon: Bekaa Valley Coupon Racket Scams Syrian Refugees “The coupon, which claims to be under the authority of the Saudi government in memory of a deceased Saudi national, promises the holder $120 worth of goods in exchange for only 2,000 Lebanese lira ($1.33). As it turns out, it is a promise too good to be true,” explains Yazan al-Saadi.

New ISIS Leaks Reveal Particulars of al-Qaida Strategy Matthew Barber, writing on Joshua Landis’ blog, examines the @wikibaghdadi Twitter account adding that “though not highly detailed, the leaks do present us with some interesting insights into the structure of al-Qaida in Iraq, including protective strategies used to insulate key leadership figures, as well as al-Qaida’s readiness to embrace thievery and extortion to fund their own operations.”

The Syrian Conflict and Sunni Radicalism in Lebanon Alexander Corbeil examines “two disturbing trends: the growing radicalization of underprivileged Sunni Muslims and the entry of al-Qaeda’s two Syrian factions into Lebanon.”

 Syria in the context of the Arab Uprisings “The conference is organised by groups and individuals who recognise the need to oppose Western imperialist threats to attack Syria while also continuing to defend Syria’s popular revolution against the Assad dictatorship and its allies” and includes the following speakers: “Yasser Munif, Razan Ghazzawi, Gilbert Achcar, Ewa Jasiewicz, Joseph Daher, Miriyam Aouragh, Iman Murphy, Bushra Al, Rouba Mhaissen, Jamie Allinson, John McDonnell MP”

How Syria’s War Is Dividing the Egyptian Jihadi Movement Jerome Drevon argues that the “Syrian war is reshaping the radical Salafi-jihadi landscape of the Middle East.”

Geneva II

Syria crisis: UN withdraws Iran invitation to Geneva talks

Syrie. L’approche de « Genève 2″ exacerbe les divergences au sein de la Coalition nationale Ignace Leverrier explains how the various participants in Geneva II remain divided.

Préparation de Genève II: «Tous les amis de la Syrie sont responsables» de la situation actuelle Juliette Rengeval interviews Salam Kawakibi.

GENEVE II : « Conférence de paix » pourquoi et pour qui ? Solidarites posts a statement (in French) that reads (rough translation): “We want to remind people that the issue at stake in Geneva II cannot be an unacceptable power redistribution between the regime factions and its affiliates and its opposition.”

To achieve peace in Syria, better start in Aleppo not Geneva, argues Jean-Pierre Filiu

Time to be bold and make peace in Syria Jimmy Carter and Robert A Pastor say that “It is time to change the agenda, the preconditions and the strategy on Syria—and end the war.”


Beyond a self-fulfilling prophesy: religion and conflict in the Middle East Katerina Delacoura revisits the issue whereby primordialism has been used as a lens to analyze conflicts in the Middle East.

Syrian women demand to take part in the peace talks in Geneva Madeline Rees explains how “the international women’s movement, (and here is one!) has not let this pass, and there has been an ongoing process of connection, support and networking to bring women into the narrative for almost two years.”

On western military interventionism Patrice de Beer writes that “if negotiations must always be preferred to war, or have to be tried first, there sometimes comes a point where it can become a face saving excuse for doing nothing and letting innocents die. Like in Syria.”

Why the US should join forces with the Baathist regime in Syria Afshin Shahi says “the Baathist regime is indeed guilty of great war crimes, but the human cost of a failed state would be a greater catastrophe. Washington should have learnt this lesson from Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq.”

Turkey shifts toward Iran on Syria Ali Hashem explains how “Turkey is resetting its relations with Iran, including over Syria.”

Despite Walkout, Syria National Coallition Decides to Attend Geneva Alex Simon reports: “The final vote count Saturday in Istanbul was 58 in favor of attending and 14 opposed, with two abstentions and one blank ballot. This tally, however, did not include the votes of 44 members who walked out of the Coalition’s meeting.  Thus, while the 58 ‘Yes’ votes comprised a majority of the 73 votes cast, they represented less than half of the Coalition’s total membership of 119.”

European Spies Reach Out to Syria Maria Abi-Habib reports that “European intelligence agencies secretly met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s delegates to share information on European extremists operating in Syria, Western and Middle Eastern officials said, the first known encounters since withdrawing their ambassadors.”

Exclusive: Russia steps up military lifeline to Syria’s Assad – sources Jonathan Saul reports that “In recent weeks Russia has stepped up supplies of military gear to Syria, including armored vehicles, drones and guided bombs, boosting President Bashar al-Assad just as rebel infighting has weakened the insurgency against him, sources with knowledge of the deliveries say.”

Syria: Army of the Mujahideen Challenges ISIS Gains Suhaib Anjarini on the emergence of this new group, which capitalized upon ISIS’ retreat in some areas.

Asylum seekers’ perilous path to Sweden Yermi Brenner recounts the long and hazardous journey of a Syrian man to Sweden.

Syrian Narratives


Yarmouk – A Palestinian Responsibility Ibrahim Al-Amin writes a rather controversial piece that reads: “as a matter of fact, Yarmouk is not Sabra and Shatila. Syria is not Lebanon. The Syrian army is neither the Israeli occupying forces nor the racist Lebanese gangs. The armed groups in the camp are not the pioneers of the Palestinian revolution. The Salafi Palestinian movement is not the Palestine Liberation Organization. And the road to Palestine doesn’t pass through Damascus.”

Yarmouk Camp – A Responsibility to Protect Nour Samaha writes: “whatever we may think of either side in the Syrian war, we must not wash our hands of the thousands of civilians left behind.”

 Yarmouk Camp – Resistance Camp Needs to Reflect Amal Saad-Ghorayeb responds to Al-Amin, and writes: “His thesis, that the Palestinians are personally and collectively responsible for the tragedy that has befallen the Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk, is at once intellectually flawed, morally indefensible and politically damaging. Although Amin’s position is one not shared either publicly or privately by Hezbollah, his commentary warrants a response if only because it reflects the rise of a new and troubling discourse within our ranks which fails to distinguish between ordinary Palestinians and the treachery of their leadership.”

Cornell SJP responds to the situation in Syria’s Yarmouk refugee camp “We ask that the government coordinate with the United Nations or other capable and non-compromised agencies to ensure that the people of Yarmouk can eat. We demand that the armed groups respect its neutrality and leave the camp immediately.”

While you were neutral about Yarmouk Talal Alyan responds to SJP Cornell’s statement saying “the statement from SJP Cornell is a disaster, not only for the Palestinian solidarity movement but also more generally for the continuation of the Palestinian cause. We cannot ask that the world stand with us against our oppressor while we whitewash, or deflect, the crimes of someone else’s.”


Syrie : Les ennemis de la révolution populaire, le régime dictatorial et les forces de la contre-révolution réactionnaires Syria Freedom Forever writes: “we condemn the false and dangerous political position of certain structures of the soft liberal opposition linked to some countries of the region that consider the elimination of Da3ech, in addition to the Democratic Union of Kurdistan, as the elimination of all counter-revolutionaries forces, in their eyes.”

The Politics of the Islamic Front, Part 1: Structure and Support Aron Lund takes a closer look at the alliance formed at the end of November.

The Politics of the Islamic Front, Part 2: An Umbrella Organization Lund focuses here on the group’s ideology and organization.

 The Politics of the Islamic Front, Part 3: Negotiations Lund here looks at the group’s various stances.

The Politics of the Islamic Front, Part 4: The State Lund on the group’s conception of a future state.

The Baath Battalions Move Into Damascus Aron Lund provides an update on this military development whereby “a new military faction has started to show up at government checkpoints and roadblocks in Damascus, according to Syrian media. The so-called Baath Battalions, a militia controlled by the ruling Baath Arab Socialist Party, was first formed in Aleppo in 2012.”

En Syrie, l’autorité des oulémas mise en cause par la révolution In this pertinent piece, Thomas Pierret examines the return of religion actors who had long been excluded from the political scene under the Assad regime and how this new reality is carving a new power balance.

Who’s who: Bahjat Sulaiman, The New Old Guard The Syrian Observe offers this profile of this “Syrian ambassador to Jordan has a history in intelligence operations”

Inside Syria

“Observations of a Homsi living in Tartous,” by Aboud Dandachi

Aleppo between the Cold Winter and Fuel Shortage Oliver Holmes reports that “aid workers in Syria have accused authorities of hampering deliveries to opposition-controlled areas and threatening groups with expulsion if they try to avoid bureaucratic obstacles to help the tens of thousands trapped in an almost three-year civil war. Syria blames rebel attacks for aid delays.”

 Electricity Rations Plunge Damascus into Darkness Salam al-Saadi meets with a man who claims that power cuts in his Damascus suburb are now in place 16 hours per day.

Syrians Facing “Coldest” Winter Yet With No Diesel Lina al-Hakim reports from Aleppo, writing that “procuring fuel has become a main preoccupation in Aleppo. The demand for gasoline to generate electricity grew because of the recurring power cuts that sometimes last for days. In the absence of coal, the price of wood increased to 60 Syrian liras (about 40 cents) per kilogram, up from between 15 and 25 liras last winter.”

Displacement Crisis Worsens in Jaramana “There are now about 900,000 displaced persons in Jaramana, according to a relief worker. They are scattered between houses, schools, and half-finished buildings which alone house around 200 families.”

 Used Clothing Stores Are Destinations for Both Rich and Poor “The outrageous inflation of prices in Syria has driven the poorest and richest members of Syrian society to shop at second-hand stores. Each has their own reasons for resorting to used clothes: the poor are searching for affordable prices while the rich are on the lookout for brand names,” reports a journalist from the Damascus Bureau.

Syrian government introduces Kurdish in universities Andrea Glioti reports on this latest development.

 The Story of Two Armenians Arrested by ISIS Suhaib Anjarini tells the story of “ Wanis and Minas Livonian, two Syrian-Armenians from the north Syrian city of Aleppo”, who were killed by ISIS after being accused of faking to convert to Islam.

Syria: Military Checkpoints Hate, Love and Arrest Ruba al Khaier on this new reality faced by people across Syria.

Arts and Social Media

Syria: A Literature of Resistance Farouk Mardam Bey reports on Khalid Khalifa’s winning of the Naguib Mahfouz prize and encourages readers to explore the Syrian literature of the past decades.

New Texts Out Now: Rebecca Joubin, The Politics of Love: Sexuality, Gender, and Marriage in Syrian Television Drama “In The Politics of Love: Sexuality, Gender, and Marriage in Syrian Television Drama, I contend that Syria’s television industry provides insight into the political and cultural climate of Syria prior to and following the uprising. During my preliminary fieldwork in 2000 and 2001, my extended residence in Damascus from 2002 through 2008, and fieldwork there during the summers of 2010 and 2011, I was privileged to have known leading Syrian drama creators who were dedicating their lives to transforming society and politics from within.”

Syria: Aleppo Defeats Death With Theater Suhaib Anjarini reports on this “eight-day theater festival to celebrate life in a time of war.”

The Medieval Scheme – Poetry – Omar Imady

The Fragility Of Syria In One Heartbreaking Photo Bassam Khabieh captures images in the aftermath of a government airstrike in Douma.

The Controversial Death of a Teenage Stringer David Kenner on the Reuters the 18-year old freelance photographer Molhem Barakat.

Haunting images of Syria’s abandoned homes The pictures were taken by Italian photographer Matteo Rovella last June.

Policy and Reports

Evidence of ‘industrial-scale killing’ by Syria spurs call for war crimes charges Ian Black examines a report that explains how “Syrian government officials could face war crimes charges in the light of a huge cache of evidence smuggled out of the country showing the “systematic killing” of about 11,000 detainees, according to three eminent international lawyers.”

Syria’s refugees: international effort needed Sherif ElSayed-Ali reports on an Amnesty International report that has highlighted the huge gap between the Syrian refugee crisis and the global response. Fortress Europe needs to discover an ethos of hospitality

New analysis of rocket used in Syria chemical attack undercuts U.S. claims Matthew Schofield reports on the latest development in the chemical attack file, explaining how “a series of revelations about the rocket believed to have delivered poison sarin gas to a Damascus suburb last summer are challenging American intelligence assumptions about that attack and suggest that the case U.S. officials initially made for retaliatory military action was flawed.”

Possible Implications of Faulty Intelligence In the Damascus Nerve Agent Attack of August 21, 2013 The report that challenges the US claims.

U.N.: $2.4bn pledged at Syria donor conference

U.N. abandons aid delivery after Syria insists on dangerous route