Syria Policy Brief:The situation in Syria and how the US cansupport the pro-democracy uprising.                           ...
Summary:Since mid-March, millions of Syrians have taken to the streets, in peaceful protest, demanding theoverthrow of the...
The SituationMillions of Syrians march for changeSince mid-March, millions of Syrians have taken to the streets, in peacef...
connected network of organizers, activists and community leaders – all preparing for the inevitablecollapse of the Assad r...
With the ongoing regime offensive to quell the uprising during Ramadan, internationalcondemnation has intensified, and as ...
What is Needed:The US has been painfully slow in clearly demonstrating a strategy aimed at supporting the pro-democracy as...
In conclusionThe Syrian people are NOT asking for military intervention. Rather, they are asking for the US tostand by the...
Testimonials from the Syrian Revolution       Story of 13 year old Hamza Ali-Khateeb – tortured and killed by Syrian Gover...
of them, Turkey is the nearest safe haven, although not everyone is willing to be crammed into whatTurkish officials insis...
"I never saw an Islamist or anybody that resembled one," said Wasid. "And nor did anyone else withme." He estimated that a...
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Syria Policy Brief: Situation and US Role

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Syria policy brief articulating the developing situation in Syria (early August), along with the action steps the US should take in support the Syrian revolution.

www.AllianceForSyria.org

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Syria Policy Brief: Situation and US Role

  1. 1. Syria Policy Brief:The situation in Syria and how the US cansupport the pro-democracy uprising. Prepared by: www.AllianceForSyria.org NAFS@AllianceForSyria.org 917-408-3228
  2. 2. Summary:Since mid-March, millions of Syrians have taken to the streets, in peaceful protest, demanding theoverthrow of the brutal regime led by Bashar Al-Assad and a change to a democratic system ofgovernment.Triggered by the torture of children in the southern Syrian city of Deraa, what began as provincialgrievances against corruption, nepotism and human rights abuses now has reached a tipping pointwith large segments of the Syrian population supporting change – there are major protests in everycity, every day.The regime will fall, it is just a matter of when, and how many people will die.While the International community increases its condemnation of Assad, it is a critical that the USshould lead, not follow, and clearly articulate a policy grounded in support of the uprising for theInternational community to stand behind.This brief highlights the background, and key steps the US should take in support theSyrian revolution.Contents:  The Situation o Millions of Syrians march for change o Assad Regime Response o Regime ‘Ramadan’ Offensive o Maturing Opposition o International Reaction o US – moving from ‘reform’ to ‘lost legitimacy’ o Why this is important to the US  What is Needed o 5 Actions for the US to take  Testimonials o Child torture, the story of Hamza Al-Khatib o Syrian refugees in Turkey, story of Umm Omar o Defections in the military, story of Wasif o Syrian-American family attacked, story of Malek Jandali  About the National Alliance for Syria 2    
  3. 3. The SituationMillions of Syrians march for changeSince mid-March, millions of Syrians have taken to the streets, in peaceful protest, demanding theoverthrow of the brutal regime led by Bashar Al-Assad and a change to a democratic system ofgovernment.Triggered by the torture of children in the southern Syrian city of Deraa, what began as provincialgrievances against corruption, nepotism and human rights abuses now has reached a tipping pointwith large segments of the Syrian population supporting change – there are major protests in everycity, every day.The regime will fall, it is just a matter of when, and how many people will die.Brutal Regime ResponseThe response to these demands by the Assad regime has been terrible; as of early August: • More than 2,000 civilians have been murdered, including scores of children • More than 350 Syrian soldiers have been killed by the regime for disobeying orders to shoot unarmed protestors • More than 3,000 civilians have ‘disappeared’ • Some 20,000 have been arrested. They face torture and in many cases death • More than 12,000 externally displaced refugees (in Turkey & Lebanon) • There are tens of thousands of internally displaced civiliansPlease note, for a nation of ~22 million individuals, these numbers are staggering. From aproportional perspective, if Syria was the size of the US, there would be 25,000+ killed & 130,000detained in a matter of months.Regime ‘Ramadan’ OffensiveSince the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan (August 1st), the regime has becomeincreasingly desperate, and has moved to crush the uprising. Military units under the command ofMaher Al-Assad (the president’s brother) have laid siege to multiple cities - Hama, Deir Ezzor &Homs - systematically bombarding the cities, shutting off electricity, restricting food/ aid/ medicalaccess and cutting off any escape for civilians. Supported by pro-regime militiamen (aka “Shabiha”),they are terrorizing the populations through mass-killing and broad detention sweeps. Even underthis pressure, the protests continue, showing the resolve of the Syrian people in their demands for afree nation.Decentralized Leadership of Protests Evolving into a Mature OppositionMuch has been made of the lack of organized opposition in Syria, whether in or out of the country.This has been a major success for the regime. Brutality pays: Over the past 40 years, throughmassacres, human rights violations, the culture of fear, sectarian divisions, military and politicalimpotency, no institutions have been left intact which could be used as a means to oppose theregime.With this reality, at the outset of the uprising, the opposition was truly in its infancy, howeverdespite the systematic assault on activists and community leaders across Syria (estimates are that oneactivist disappears every hour in Syria), the decentralized movement is maturing into a well- 3    
  4. 4. connected network of organizers, activists and community leaders – all preparing for the inevitablecollapse of the Assad regime by establishing local representation, connecting them nationally &internationally and formalizing political platforms.As this broad-based opposition representing the diversity of Syria develops, it is critical to note thatthe Syrian people will not accept an externally fabricated opposition that is not reflective andgrounded in the aspirations of the Syrian people. Examples of this are Ahmed Chalabi in the case ofIraq, or Farid Ghadry (the Syrian ‘Chalabi’), based in Washington DC.International ReactionWith the ‘Ramadan’ offensive by the regime, the international community is beginning to issuebroad condemnations. In the past week alone:  On August 3rd, the UN Security Council issued a presidential statement condemning the Syrian governments "widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians."  Even those nations within the UN Security Council who have been supportive of Assad are now shifting: o Brazil, India and South Africa are sending envoys to Damascus to deliver strong messages of concern o Even Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned that if Assad did not shift course "a sad fate awaits him …”  Turkey has repeatedly condemned Assad and most recently their Foreign Minister went to Syria to deliver the message that Ankara “is running out of patience”  Italy recalled its ambassador for consultations, citing Damascus’ “horrible repression against the civilian population”  A day following the Gulf Co-operation Council urged Syria to "end the bloodshed" Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain recalled ambassadors from Damascus, with the strongest condemnation coming from Saudi King Abdullah who called on Syria to “stop the killing machine” and said the violent repression by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government had “nothing to do with religion, or values, or morality.” o Even the impotent Arab league put out a statement recently calling for a halt on the recent Regime offensive  Pope Benedict XVI called Sunday for an adequate response to the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian peopleOnly Iran continues to stand by the Assad regime, and in mid-July even announced the offering of amassive $5.8 billion financial aid package to stabilize the isolated regime.US – moving from ‘reform’ to ‘lost legitimacy’While the International community increases its condemnation of Assad, it is a critical that the USshould lead, not follow, and clearly articulate a policy grounded in support of the uprising for theInternational community to stand behind.Until recently, the Obama administration has focused on asking for ‘restraint’ and ‘reform’. It took aregime-orchestrated mob attacking the US embassy in July to finally trigger a strong response fromSecretary of State Hillary Clinton indicating that the US had “absolutely nothing invested in him[Bashar] remaining in power.” 4    
  5. 5. With the ongoing regime offensive to quell the uprising during Ramadan, internationalcondemnation has intensified, and as highlighted above, even long time ‘friends’ of the Syrianregime have provided stern warnings. The US administration is inching forward cautiously, and nowClinton has said that Washington believes the regime is responsible for more than 2,000 deaths intheir crackdown of pro-democracy protestors and repeated that the US believes Assad has "lost hislegitimacy to govern the Syrian people".Why this is important to the USSyria is at the center of most US foreign policy goals in the Middle East: Syria is a key influencer inensuring the stability in Iraq; is at the core of both Iran and Turkey’s regional policy; is still in a stateof Cold war with Israel; and is a major stakeholder in Lebanon’s political landscape.A democratic Syria will no doubt be in the interest of the US, especially if the Syrian people view theUS as a friend in their time in need and not a nation that stood on the sidelines while Syrians bravelydemanded freedom from a ruthless regime. 5    
  6. 6. What is Needed:The US has been painfully slow in clearly demonstrating a strategy aimed at supporting the pro-democracy aspirations of the Syrian people. It is now time to put forth the strongest condemnationpossible, and align with the pro-democracy movement in Syria. 1. Unequivocally, declare Bashar Al-Assad’s regime illegitimate and call for him to step down. a. It is time for the US to take a firm stance and not wordsmith responses of condemnation while leaving the door open for ‘reform’ b. The Syrian people will not accept anything but the removal of the regime, and the opposition is maturing and will emerge to lead the nation ‘the day after’ Assad falls 2. Further sanction the regime, and the industries propping them up a. We applaud the expanded list of targeted sanctions on members of the regime, however Syrian oil needs to be embargoed as ~1/4 of the regime budget is derived from this sector and is funding the military and security apparatus  Building on this, the US will need to pressure European consumers of Syrian oil to slash consumption of Syrian oil – while this will not make a major impact in the worlds oil market, it will severely restrict the regimes ability to fund the onslaught 3. Exert pressure through the United Nations (UN) to isolate the regime a. Push for the temporary suspension of Syrian activity in the UN b. Pressure the UN Security Council to refer Regime leaders to the International Criminal Court (ICC) c. Assign a special representative of the Secretary-General to go to Syria, act as a monitor (assess humanitarian needs) and report-back to the UN 4. Pressure Turkey and Lebanon to declare Syrian civilians seeking refuge as refugees to enable UN access to provide protection and assistance a. The Syrian refugees in Turkey and Lebanon have been isolated from the UN/NGOs and the rest of the world. They are currently suffering as the Turks are sequestering them in the hopes that other refugees will not cross the border. In Lebanon, there are numerous reports of some Lebanese factions are deporting refugees back to Syria. As the regime becomes more desperate and more refugees cross the border, this will turn into a humanitarian disaster 5. Showcase solidarity with pro-democracy movement by cutting or reducing diplomatic relations a. Take the lead by immediately expelling the Syrian Ambassador, and pressuring allies to do the same around the world b. Coordinate the withdrawal of foreign ambassadors from Syria while keeping a skeleton diplomatic presence to ensure monitoring and further reiterate the world’s rejection of the Assad regime c. Urge for opening the nation to international media 6    
  7. 7. In conclusionThe Syrian people are NOT asking for military intervention. Rather, they are asking for the US tostand by the values it preaches and to support the aspirations of the people by isolating the regime,politically and economically.What the Syrian people are urging the US to do is to stand on the side of history. For the Assadregime will fall - sooner rather than later. But the Syrian blood, shed today with US acquiescence willNOT be recovered. Nor it will be forgotten. Rather, it will stay unforgivable and haunting. 7    
  8. 8. Testimonials from the Syrian Revolution Story of 13 year old Hamza Ali-Khateeb – tortured and killed by Syrian GovernmentHamza Ali Al-Khateeb (October 24, 1997 – May 2011) was a 13-year-old Syrian boy who died whilein the custody of the Syrian government in Deraa during the 2011 Syrian uprising.On April 29, 2011, he was detained during a protest. One week later, his body was delivered to hisfamily, having been badly bruised; along with burn marks, three gunshot wounds, and severedgenitals. Hamzas family distributed photos and video of his body to journalists and activists.Shocked by what those depicted, thousands of people showed their support for Hamza online andin street protests. Many news organizations described Hamza as the new symbol of the Syrianrevolution.Hamza lived with his parents in a village called Al Jeezah or Al Giza in Daraa Governorate. He wasa seventh-grade student who enjoyed swimming and watching his collected homing pigeons flyabove his house. He had a reputation for being generous. "He would often ask his parents formoney to give to the poor. I remember once he wanted to give someone 100 Syrian Pounds ($2),and his family said it was too much. But Hamza said, I have a bed and food while that guy hasnothing. And so he persuaded his parents to give the poor man the 100," his cousin told Al Jazeera.Hamzas family reported that he was not interested in politics, but on April 29, 2011, he joined hisfamily in a rally to break the siege of the city of Daraa. "Everybody seemed to be going to theprotest, so he went along as well," said his cousin. Hamza walked with friends and family 12 kmalong the road from his Al Jeezah north-west to Saida. Firing began almost as the protesters reachedSaida. Hamzas cousin reported: "People were killed and wounded, some were arrested. It waschaotic we didnt know at that point what had happened to Hamza. He just disappeared."Sources confirmed that Hamza had been among 51 protesters detained by Air Force Intelligence,which detainees described as having a reputation for brutal torture. Syrian Refugees in Turkey (Stories of Umm Ahmed) as told to NPRAs Syrian troops continue their crackdown against demonstrators in the north of the country, moreSyrians are massing on the border with Turkey. Nearly 10,500 Syrians are already seeking refugethere, and Turkish officials are scrambling to keep the situation from getting out of hand. For many 8    
  9. 9. of them, Turkey is the nearest safe haven, although not everyone is willing to be crammed into whatTurkish officials insist on calling "temporary tent cities" and not "refugee camps."Umm Ahmed, 34, sits with her sister and three of her seven children in a small room where theywere taken in by relatives. Many families cross borders in this part of the world, not always bychoice." It was very scary. We wanted to stay at first, thinking we could be safe. But then we sawmen in the village had bullet wounds, and people told us the army was coming our way," she says."So we had to run." Fleeing is nothing new to her. She says her husband opposed the regime in the1980s, and the family was forced to flee, that time to Iraq. Returning more than two decades later,after Assad offered amnesty, she says her husband was arrested. His health failed in prison, and hedied soon after. Her daughters listen to this recitation of the family history without blinking. Theresno show of emotion when their mother is asked what they will do now, if this conflict drags on. Shereplies with the stoicism of the powerless: Now we wait here, and we will see what our destiny willbe. Down in the valley beneath this hillside village, masses of Syrians squat in damp fields,wondering where they will go next. Turkey has tried to project an image of being in control of asituation that has no obvious resolution. Syrian Army Defector (Story of Wasid) as told to The GuardianWasid, a Syrian conscript, set off for the southern town of Deraa in late April filled with the zeal of asoldier going to war. "We were going to fight terrorists," he said. But less than a day after arrivingthere, he was planning to defect. The Syrian regime has cast the uprising in Deraa as a conflictbetween a loyal military and a large and highly mobile group of heavily-armed foreign-backedinsurgents, roaming the country attempting to ignite sectarian strife.Over three hours in an Istanbul safehouse, Wasid, 20, described events in the southern town wherethe wave of dissent that has swept Syria first broke. In the month they were stationed there, neitherWasid nor any of his colleagues saw any demonstrators with weapons in Deraa or the nearby townof Izraa. And instead of confronting armed insurgents, the unit was ordered to shoot protesters. Inthe weeks leading up his deployment with the Syrian armys 14th Division, commanders had givenregular briefings on the "violence" ahead."When we were at the base in Damascus before we left for Deraa, we were not allowed to watchtelevision at all, except for two hours each day when we could watch Rami Makhloufs channel," hesaid. [Makhlouf, a tycoon, is Bashar al-Assads first cousin]. "All they showed were armed groupsroaming the villages. I found out later that these groups were on our [the regimes] side – they werethe Shabiha." According to Wasid, the Shabiha – ghosts – were the only civilian gunmen in town.Their group has strong links to the military and has developed a reputation over recent bloodymonths of being willing to do the dirty work in troublesome towns and villages."The first day we arrived there, 24 April, the Shabiha came to the base to speak with our officers. Itwas clear that the relationship was close." Wasid showed the Guardian his military ID andapplication for refugee status, copies of which have been kept. He did not want his real name orphotograph used out of fear that his family may be targeted for reprisals. 9    
  10. 10. "I never saw an Islamist or anybody that resembled one," said Wasid. "And nor did anyone else withme." He estimated that about 30% of his unit were disaffected with the military. But neither dissentnor defection are easy in Syria, where conscripts are paid £6 a month. "One guy – I only know hisname as Wael, he was from the east – told an officer that what we were doing was wrong.” The nextday he was killed. They said he had been shot by terrorists."Defections have been regularly reported during the uprising, but on a small scale. Syrian-American singer’s family attacked in Syria, as reported on CNNThe family of the singer, Malek Jandali, a US citizen, was attacked in Syria after he performed at arally in Washington DC in support of the pro-democracy movement.Regime security forces attacked Jandalis father and mother, wrecked their home in Homs, andlocked the couple in the bathroom. “The father, Dr. Mamoun Jandali, 73, was carrying groceries from his car to his home in Homs when a man grabbed him from behind and asked him to help care for someone who had been injured, Jandali told CNN Friday in a telephone interview from Orlando, Florida. When the doctor agreed to do so, the man spoke into his cell phone and said to bring the patient. Moments later, two other men showed up unaccompanied by any patient. They handcuffed the doctor, covered his mouth and nose with duct tape, then took him upstairs, Jandali said. The musicians 66-year-old mother, Linah, was in bed. "All of a sudden, she finds two men attacking her while the guy was holding my dad and ordering the other two to beat my mom in the head and eyes," Jandali said. "My dad, he couldnt do anything other than watch this atrocity." The three men broke his mothers teeth and beat his father, then locked them both in their bathroom and ransacked the house, their son said. After the attackers had departed, the father, who had held on to his cell phone throughout the ordeal, called relatives. He had to call security forces to remove his handcuffs.”About the National Alliance for Syria (NAFS)NAFS is a network of Syrian-Americans; activists, community groups, organizations all dedicated tocreation and development of a democratic Syria, free from sectarian privileges, a nation to representthe people, equally. For more information, please visit www.AllianceForSyria.org. 10    

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