Archive for February 2nd, 2012

Turkey, Iran Bump Heads Over Syria

August 25, 2011

When the call came in from Iran on Sunday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered his convoy to pull off onto the shoulders of a busy highway for a conversation that last some 40 minutes.

What the Turkish leader and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke about hasn’t been revealed in any detail. The Turkish media said virtually nothing, while Iran’s press reported that their country’s leader urged Erdogan to help mediate between region’s beleaguered despots and the opposition. Almost certainly the conversation was tense.

Just a few months ago the two countries were friends – joined together by growing trade ties, worries about their restive Kurdish populations and by shared Muslim sentiment. But the turmoil of the Arab Spring has quickly found the two countries in opposing camps, especially over Syria and its president, Bashar Al-Asad.

“There’s no doubt that Syria is becoming a battleground,” said Fadi Hakura, Turkey expert at London’s Chatham House. “Turkey has expressed deep dissatisfaction with the approach of the Syrian regime and has called on Al-Asad to implement radical reforms and meaningful dialogue with the opposition, which will inevitably dilute the strategic relationship between Syria and Iran. Iran views the existence of the current regime as an existential issue.”

Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders have framed the fighting in Syria as a battle by Al-Asad to stop U.S. from meddling in the country’s affairs while Turkey’s Erdogan has focused on the bloodletting and the regime’s failure to meet demands for democratic reforms. He has stopped short of calling for Al-Asad to step down.

But the fight is more than a war of words. Although Tehran denies it, Iran is believed to be proving material support to the Al-Asad regime. Newspaper reports cite stories of Iranian snipers firing on protestors, technicians helping to block social networking and others providing advice on containing unrest gleaned from Iran’s experience putting down street protests following the disputed 2009 presidential elections.

Turkey’s role in aiding the Syrian opposition has been more upfront but just as crucial. It has allowed about seven thousand Syrian refugees to cross into its territory and provide eyewitness accounts to the world media, thereby serving as an outlet for news of the Al-Asad regime’s repression. Istanbul has also hosted meetings of opposition groups. Some analysts say Ankara – together with the U.S. – is working to bring cohesion and organization to the disparate groups.

On Tuesday, Syrian activists gathered in Turkey declared a national council to coordinate protests and bring about Al-Asad’s ouster.

In spite of the deep interests at stake, Iran had been hesitant to criticize Turkey until relatively recently, Alex Vatanka, a scholar of Iran at the Middle East Institute in Washington DC, told The Media Line.

“The Iranians deeply appreciated improving relations with one of their most important neighbors, which has helped them in the nuclear issue in terms of economics and trade they didn’t want an issue like Syria to bring it all to an end,” Vatanka said. “But in end of the day, they reached a decision.”

Syria is not the first Arab Spring hotspot where Turkey and Iran have found themselves on opposite sides. Turkey backed Saudi Arabia when it helped crush a Shiite-led revolt in Bahrain, angering Iran’s Shiite regime. Iran praised Turkey’s initial opposition to NATO’s helping Libyan rebels, but Ankara eventually came around to supporting the bombing campaign. But Syria – whose president has since March struggled to contain a revolt seeking to topple him – is the place where the two powers have the most at stake.

Al-Asad’s regime is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world, sharing a strong antipathy to Israel and Western intervention in the Middle East and acting as a conduit to arms and supplies to militant groups like Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Belonging to the Alawi sect, an offshoot of Islam, Al-Asad has fewer problems with Iranian Shiism than the Arab world’s Sunni leaders do.

Under Erdogan, Turkey had worked assiduously in recent years to cultivate ties. Turkey shares a long border with Syria and the two countries both have large Kurdish populations they worry about. In recent years, the two countries signed a free-trade agreement and abolished visa requirements, enabling trade to double in the five years to 2010 and tourism to boom.

Warming relations with Syria were part of efforts by the prime minister – who leads the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) – to reorient Turkey away from the West and towards the Muslim Middle East. Turkey even viewed itself as a bridge between Sunni and Shiite Islam.

But, Hakura told The Media Line, the Arab Spring has put Turkey firmly in the Sunni “camp,” which not only includes Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Gulf emirates and Jordan but, by virtue of their Western orientation, the U.S. and Europe. The shift in Turkey’s policy hasn’t been dramatic – it remained a NATO member and never abandoned its aspirations to join the European Union ¬ – but it made Tehran’s rulers livid.

Reflecting the views heard frequently in Tehran these days, Iran’s hardline Qods daily scored Turkish leaders for surrendering to U.S. pressure. “If Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government does not change its political behavior toward Syria, Turkey will be the main loser of the Syrian events if Damascus gets out of the current crisis,” it wrote in a recent editorial.

Neither Turkey nor Iran can afford to let their conflict ratchet up too much. Turkey gets 20% of the natural gas its needs for its booming economy from Iran, Hakura said. Facing United Nations sanctions, Iran can’t afford to lose a good customer.

Vatanka said that among top Iranian leaders, Ahmadinejad is probably the least inclined to sacrifice the relationship with Turkey to help save Al-Asad because of the damage fraying ties with Turkey would do to the economy.

“The president is looking at his own position in Iran and says ‘I’m someone who needs to reach out to the masses and get as much grassroots support as I can,” explained Vatanka. “So, one of the issues he has to worry about is bread and butter issues that ordinary Iranians care about the most.”

Source: Rise of the Iranian People.

ارتفاع عدد اللاجئين السوريين بالأردن إلى 2700


خبرني- أحصت جمعية المركز الاسلامي من خلال مراكزها الموجودة في مختلف المحافظات الاردنية عدد السوريين الذين فروا إلى المملكة من سوريا بـ2700 مواطن سوري.

ووفقا لاحصائيات حديثة نشرت الخميس بلغ عدد الاسر السورية التي تم حصرها 120 اسرة من بينها 13 اسرة في العاصمة عمان فيما تمركز العدد الاكبر منها في محافظة المفرق (47) اسرة ومن ثم محافظة الرمثا (45) اسرة واربد (15) اسرة.

واشار نشطاء يقومون على تقديم المعونة للعائلات السورية الى ان نحو 20 سوريا فروا الى المملكة بطريقة غير شرعية حيث تم وضعهم تحت الحراسة .

وقدمت غالبية الاسر السورية من درعا وريف دمشق، فيما بدأت عائلات تاتي من حماة وحمص وتبليسة وفقا للنشطاء.

وتقدم الجمعات الخيرية الانسانية العاملة في المحافظات التي يوجد فيها مواطنون سوريون مساعدات عينية لها لتمكينها من قضاء احتياجاتها المعيشية، بالاضافة الى تامينها بالسكن المناسب في ظل ارتفاع اجرة السكن في المفرق والرمثا، حيث يتم تامين اكثر من عائلة في شقة واحدة.

المصدر: خبرني.

Rights group warns Syrian journalists may face torture and ill-treatment

DAMASCUS (BNO NEWS) — Syrian journalists and activists who have passed on information about the country’s unrest to regional and international media may risk torture and other ill-treatment, rights group Amnesty International reported on Wednesday.

The rights group warning comes as journalist Adel Walid Kharsa faces his second week in solitary confinement after being arrested by security forces in his hometown of Hama on August 18. Kharsa was seemingly detained for his news reports on the protests and the government’s violent crackdown despite being cautious by making his reports anonymously by phone.

“If this is the case then he is a prisoner of conscience and should be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“He, like many detained during the regime’s crackdown, is now at risk of acts of brutality while in the hands of the authorities,” said Luther while recommending that Kharsa should be protected from torture and other ill-treatment, allowed immediate contact with his family and a lawyer, as well as given any necessary medical attention.

Amnesty International said it has information indicating that other detainees have been tortured to find out whether they have given news about events in Syria to regional and international media.

One such case is 28-year-old “Wael”, who was detained in May and held for three weeks accused of filming demonstrations with his cell phone in his hometown of Tell Kalakh, south of the western city of Homs.

“I was taken to an interrogator… He accused me of being a correspondent for Al Jazeera, the BBC and [Gulf-based] Wesal channels. It was true that I filmed events with my cell phone but I did not send them to any channel,” Wael, which is not his real name, told Amnesty International.

Wael said he was forced into a stress position known as the shabah (ghost) by being tied by the wrists to a bar high enough off the ground that he was forced to stand on tiptoes for six hours. He said he was also splashed with water and electrocuted.

At least 2,200 people have been killed and tens of thousands have been arrested since pro-democracy demonstrations began in Syria in mid-March as part of a broader uprising across North Africa and the Middle East that has led to the toppling of entrenched regimes in Tunisia and Egypt and conflict in Libya.

Syrian security forces have been carrying out widespread arrests targeting people perceived to have organized or openly supported protests, whether in public gatherings, in the media or on the internet.

The Syrian government has repeatedly claimed that the violent acts have been instigated by terrorists who use military uniforms and weaponry to pose as soldiers while attacking citizens, but these claims have been rejected by residents, human rights groups, and the international community.

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Source: WireUpdate.

Lebanese tribunal examining more cases

LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands, Aug. 23 (UPI) — A tribunal investigating the 2005 slaying of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri said it was looking into a series of other attacks on Lebanese leaders.

The U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon recently released detailed information about four suspects with Hezbollah allegedly tied to the 2005 assassination of Hariri in a massive bombing in Beirut.

The tribunal’s pre-trial judge announced attacks on three other individuals fell under its jurisdiction. The tribunal said it was investigating the attempted assassinations of former Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh in 2004, and former Deputy Prime Minister Elias el-Murr and Community Party leader George Hawi in 2005.

The tribunal in a Tuesday statement said the investigations marked a “new chapter” in the tribunal’s work.

“The Lebanese judicial authorities retain jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute the other attacks not yet found to be connected with the Hariri case and not yet deferred to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon,” it added.

The tribunal’s decision stems from its statute giving it the authority to investigate cases of similar nature to the Hariri slaying.

Hezbollah complains the tribunal is part of an Israeli plot to discredit the Shiite movement, pointing to Israeli involvement in Lebanese telecommunications sector to back its claims.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Hezbollah urges Libya opp. to find Sadr

Tue Aug 23, 2011

Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah has called on Libyan fighters to help find missing Lebanese Shia leader Imam Moussa al-Sadr and two of his companions believed to have been kidnapped in Libya in 1978.

“We are full of hope that they will be freed by your (Libyan fighters’) hands and returned to their families,” Hezbollah said in a statement late Monday, the Associated Press reported.

It is widely believed in Lebanon that Imam Moussa al-Sadr, the founder of Lebanon’s Amal movement, was kidnapped on the orders of senior Libyan officials while on an official trip to the North African country in August 1978.

Accompanied by two of his companions, Mohammed Yaqoub and Abbas Badreddin, Sadr was scheduled to meet with officials from the government of the embattled Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

In 2008, Beirut issued an arrest warrant for Gaddafi over Sadr’s disappearance.

Sadr’s family also addressed the Libyan opposition fighters in a statement on Monday saying, “We appeal to those who will take over in Libya after the collapse of the tyrant to give special attention to this case.”

Libya has been the scene of intense fighting between regime troops and fighters since a revolution seeking to topple Gaddafi began in mid-February.

The Libyan fighters swept into the heart of the capital Tripoli early Monday, and seized control of much of the city without facing significant resistance from regime forces.

Source: PressTV.

Lebanon eyes TNC help on Imam Sadr

Tue Aug 23, 2011

Lebanon has recognized Libya’s Transitional National Council (TNC), saying it would work with “emerging authorities” in the North African country to uncover the fate of a missing cleric.

“The Lebanese government has decided to recognize the National Transitional Council in Libya,” read a statement released after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

“Foreign Minister Adnan Mansur has also been delegated to submit plans for cooperation between Lebanese authorities and all relevant and emerging Libyan authorities to uncover the fate of Imam Moussa Sadr and his companions,” it added.

Lebanon has never stopped searching for Sadr and his comrades and now there is a real and present opportunity to discover what became of them, Mansur added.

Imam Moussa Sadr was a greatly popular and highly venerated Lebanese Shia cleric of an Iranian descent, who disappeared on Aug. 31, 1978 in a visit to Libya.

Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah on Monday called on Libyan fighters to help find Imam Moussa al-Sadr and two of his companions.

“We are full of hope that they will be freed by your (Libyan fighters’) hands and returned to their families,” Hezbollah said in a statement.

Source: PressTV.