Posts Tagged ‘ Red Lion Revoluton ’

Salafist control of border crossing embarrasses Jordan

Friday, 27 September 2013

Retired Egyptian Brigadier General Safwat Al-Zayyat said on Wednesday that Islamist control of the borders between Syria and Jordan embarrasses the Jordanian government.

The military expert, who often appears on Al-Jazeera, suggested that the current position of the Salafist Al-Nusra Front, which is fighting against the regime in Syria, is an “embarrassment for the Jordanian government”.

Therefore, Al-Zayyat expects that the Al-Nusra Front will concede control over the crossing to the Free Syrian Army, a solution that is more acceptable to the Jordanians.

There are many ideological differences between the Jordanian government and the Al-Nusra Front. The Jordanian government and other regional and international governments accuse the Front of being affiliated to Al-Qaeda.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: http://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/7564-salafist-control-of-border-crossing-embarrasses-jordan.

Insight: Syria’s opposition considers national rebel army, Islamists angered

By Mariam Karouny

BEIRUT | Sun Aug 25, 2013

(Reuters) – Syria’s Western-backed political opposition plans to create the nucleus of a national army to bring order to the disparate rebel forces battling President Bashar al-Assad and counter the strength of al Qaeda-linked rebel brigades.

The latest attempt to unite the rebels coincides with fierce debates in Washington and other Western capitals over whether and how to boost support for Assad’s opponents after an alleged chemical weapons attack by government forces on Wednesday.

Chaos among opposition forces and al-Qaeda’s growing role are barriers to any intervention.

Plans for an army are still under wraps but details began emerging earlier this month before the gas attack. It has the blessing of the rebels’ patron Saudi Arabia, which took over as the main regional backer of Assad’s foes earlier this year.

“It is very serious. It will be a proper army. The future of Syria depends on this move,” said a senior member of Syria’s opposition National Coalition, which hopes to set up the force.

Momentum behind the new force comes from Saudi Arabia and Western nations who, alarmed by the growth of radical Islamists in rebel-held areas, have thrown their weight behind the Syrian Coalition, hoping it could help stem their power.

“Once we get the (battle)field organized, then everything will be organized,” he said. “This will be the army of the new Syria. We want to integrate its ranks and unify the sources of funding and arms,” the Syrian National Coalition member said.

Saudi Arabia has prevailed over Qatar to impose itself as the main outside force supporting the Syrian rebels, in part to counter the influence of Qatari-backed Islamist militants.

Riyadh has put forward $100 million as preliminary funding for a force planned to be 6,000 to 10,000 strong, rebels say.

Sources in the Coalition said the aim was to form a core of several thousand well-trained fighters that would also serve as the base for a bigger national army once Assad was toppled, avoiding a military vacuum and anarchy.

More than two years of a revolt-turned civil war have turned Syria into a magnet for jihadists from across the world, fuelling fears foreign military assistance might fall into the hands of fighters hostile to the West.

That has served only to strengthen the hand of Islamist brigades whose regional backers, many of them private Gulf donors, have been more forthcoming with support.

In recent weeks, al Qaeda-linked groups attacked several Alawite villages in the coastal province of Latakia, Assad’s stronghold. They also seized a strategic airport in Aleppo province that Syrian rebels failed for months to take.

Fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the al-Nusra Front, both of which acknowledge the authority of al Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahri, are now the ultimate rulers in many rebel-held towns.

The authority of the Supreme Military Council – the latest body that Western and Gulf powers have promoted as a moderate, unified rebel command – is increasingly challenged by radical Islamists and foreign jihadists, most recently when an Iraqi Islamist killed one of its senior commanders.

The Military Council demanded that the man, Abu Ayman al-Iraqi, be arrested, but he remains at large, playing a prominent role in rebel campaigns.

ISLAMISTS OPPOSED

Rebel commanders contacted by Reuters in Aleppo, Idlib, Raqqa, Homs and Damascus said they feared the new army would deepen divisions among rebels and lead to further infighting. Comments from Islamists played into those fears.

“The real goal behind this army is that they want to fight Islamists,” said a commander of a powerful Islamist brigade in Idlib province. “It’s an open game. They will not announce it now or immediately, but this is the long term for it … We will not join, for sure. Not only us, but many others, too.”

A source in Aleppo close to al-Nusra Front said: “With every passing day, those living outside are becoming tools to the West … They fear Islam and see it as the enemy. Unfortunately, some Syrians are falling into this trap.”

Western-backed rebels say the new structure might be modeled on U.S.-backed militias, known as “Awakening Councils”, which drove al Qaeda from Iraq’s Anbar region six years ago.

The leader of one moderate Islamist brigade, which operates in several parts of the country, said he supported the proposal, but would not say if his fighters would join.

Leaders of more radical groups see it as a Western-backed plot to fight them. “They are undermining the work of all of us. They want to throw it in the bin, as if it never happened,” said a senior commander in Homs province.

Opposition political sources were careful not to portray the new army as a challenge to Islamists, but a senior official said it would only welcome them if they left their brigades.

“This will be an army like any other army in the world. When you join it you leave your beliefs outside. Islamists can join as individuals, not as Islamists.”

The new body is not an alliance of brigades, as in previous attempts to unify insurgency groups; individual fighters will be expected to leave their units to sign up.

The Homs commander said that showed the real intention was to dismantle the Islamist units. “This thing is very suspicious,” he said.

Many Syrians initially welcomed the Islamists for bringing order to the chaos of rebel-held territories, but growing resentment of their puritanical rule could win popular sympathy for any new force that challenges them.

Activists in the northern, rebel-held provinces, where Islamists are most powerful, say those criticizing the Islamists are threatened or imprisoned.

“We have challenged Assad when he was strong, and now we are being bullied by radicals who are not even Syrians in our Syria,” said an activist in Aleppo who declined to be named.

With weapons and money flooding into the country, a class of warlords has emerged, including Islamists, who have grown powerful on arms deals and oil smuggling. Activists in the north complain of high levels of theft, bullying and thuggery.

“With this army the Coalition will have a military force on the ground, one that is composed of the best Syrian fighters,” said a Syrian rebel commander in a powerful brigade that has fighters across Syria.

Coalition leader Ahmed Jarba “wants to strike with an iron fist”, he said, adding that the Saudi-backed Jarba wanted all weapons entering Syria to be overseen by his coalition.

However, the al Qaeda-linked rebels control many border crossings in the north, giving them strong influence over what enters the country and who gets hold of it.

The proposed new force must also overcome the same skepticism many fighters feel towards the Military Council.

A rebel commander in the north-eastern Raqqa province, voicing widely shared views, dismissed the body as ineffective and subject to foreign influence.

“They do not have a presence on the ground. They left us on our own. When we need them, they are not here, and then they come and ask us: Where are you getting your funding from? Well, not from you for sure.

“They are only performing external agendas. They don’t know what is happening inside; their people tell them Islamists are the enemies, you need to fight them to get funding, so they come to us and they say: Yes, let’s fight Islamists.”

LAUNCHING FROM THE SOUTH

Sources say the army will be launched, at a date yet to be fixed, in Deraa, the southern province that was the cradle of the 2011 uprising and where the presence of jihadists is still relatively weak.

Jordan is now playing a bigger role in helping the rebels and is more flexible in allowing weapons to enter the southern front, the sources said. A military operations room to oversee the battle in the south is now in Jordan and includes Saudi, Syrian and American officers.

One of the sources said Manaf Tlas, a senior army officer and former friend of Assad who defected last year, is also a member of the joint operation room. He is close to Jarba and has good ties to Saudi Arabia. His name has been floated as the chief of the new army.

But many rebels distrust Tlas because he waited months before defecting, and his father served as defense minister under Assad and his father, Hafez al-Assad, for three decades.

A Coalition official declined to say whether Tlas would head the new army but said he would welcome him having a role. “The man has been an advocate of this from the beginning.”

However, an Islamist commander in Aleppo said Tlas’s leadership would be “another reason why we will not join”.

In the meantime, most agree that the disparate groups should work together, at least in temporary alliances against Assad’s troops. But they share a skepticism that the new group will ever see the light of day, or have much impact if it does.

“During this revolution we have seen many great ideas and many great attempts destroyed because of mismanagement. The Free Syrian Army is an example of this. As long as the roots of the problems are not solved, then nothing will change.”

“They are all failed projects; there is no awareness among those leading this revolution and also there is no clear strategy. In addition to this you have got the hesitation from the West. As long as this continues, this will be a failed project.”

(Editing by Dominic Evans, Will Waterman and Philippa Fletcher)

Source: Reuters.

Link: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/25/us-syria-rebels-idUSBRE97O07I20130825.

Syria militant vows revenge for alleged gas attack

August 25, 2013

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — The leader of an al-Qaida linked militia fighting to overthrow the Syrian government has vowed to take revenge for what he says was Damascus’ use of chemical weapons that killed hundreds of people.

Jabhat al-Nusra leader Abu Mohammed al-Golani’s comments came in an audio recording posted Sunday on a militant website that usually carries al-Qaida and similar groups’ statements. It also appeared on the group’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.

The authenticity of the claim could not be immediately verified. Al-Golani said he plans to target Shiite Muslim villages. President Bashar Assad’s regime is dominated by the Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Last Wednesday’s alleged chemical attack in a suburb of Damascus prompted U.S. naval forces to move closer to Syria as President Barack Obama considers a military response.

Deadly attack in Syria renews chemical arms claim

August 22, 2013

BEIRUT (AP) — The images showed lifeless children — wrapped in simple white cloths, their pale faces unmarked by any wound — lined up shoulder to shoulder in a vivid demonstration of an attack Wednesday in which activists say the Syrian regime killed at least 130 people with toxic gas.

The Syrian government adamantly denied using chemical weapons in an artillery barrage targeting suburbs east of Damascus, calling the allegations “absolutely baseless.” The U.S., Britain and France demanded that a team of U.N. experts already in the country be granted immediate access to investigate the claims.

Videos and photographs showed row upon row of bodies wrapped in white shrouds lying on a tile floor, including more than a dozen children. There was little evidence of blood or conventional injuries and most appeared to have suffocated. Survivors of the purported attack, some twitching uncontrollably, lay on gurneys with oxygen masks covering their faces.

Activists and the opposition leadership gave widely varying death tolls, ranging from as low as 136 to as high as 1,300. But even the most conservative tally would make it the deadliest alleged chemical attack in Syria’s civil war.

For months now, the rebels, along with the United States, Britain and France, have accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons in its campaign to try to snuff out the rebellion against President Bashar Assad that began in March 2011. The regime and its ally, Russia, have denied the allegations, pinning the blame on the rebels.

The murky nature of the purported attacks, and the difficulty of gaining access to the sites amid the carnage of Syria’s war, has made it impossible to verify the claims. After months of negotiations, a U.N. team finally arrived in Damascus on Sunday to begin its investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria. But the probe is limited to three sites and only seeks to determine whether chemical agents were used, not who unleashed them.

The timing of Wednesday’s attack — four days after the U.N. team’s arrival — raised questions about why the regime would use chemical agents now. The White House said the U.S. was “deeply concerned” by the reports, and spokesman Josh Earnest said the Obama administration had requested that the U.N. “urgently investigate this new allegation.”

“If the Syrian government has nothing to hide and is truly committed to an impartial and credible investigation of chemical weapons use in Syria, it will facilitate the U.N. team’s immediate and unfettered access to this site,” Earnest said.

Almost exactly one year ago, President Barack Obama called chemical weapons a “red line” for potential military action, and in June, the U.S. said it had conclusive evidence that Assad’s regime had used chemical weapons against opposition forces.

But the possibility of intervention seemed ever smaller after Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a letter this week that the administration is opposed to even limited action because it believes rebels fighting the Assad government wouldn’t support American interests.

Russia decried Wednesday’s reports as “alarmist.” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich denounced an “aggressive information campaign” laying full blame on the Syrian government as a provocation aimed at undermining efforts to convene peace talks between the two sides.

The regime began shelling the capital’s eastern suburbs of Zamalka, Arbeen and Ein Tarma around 3 a.m. as part of a fierce government offensive in the area, which has a strong rebel presence, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

The heavy thud of artillery and rockets, as well as the grinding roar of fighter jets, could be heard by Damascus residents throughout the night and early Wednesday, and a pall of gray smoke hung over the towns.

Observatory director Rami Abdul-Rahman cited activists in the area who said “poisonous gas” was fired in rockets as well as from the air. He said that he had documented at least 136 deaths, but said it was not clear whether the victims died from shelling or toxic gas.

The Local Coordination Committees activist group said hundreds of people were killed or wounded. The Syrian National Coalition, the main Western-backed opposition group in exile, put the number at 1,300, basing its claim on accounts and photographs by activists on the ground.

George Sabra, a senior member of the Coalition, blamed the regime, as well as “the weakness of the U.N. and American hesitation” for the deaths. “The silence of our friends is killing us,” he said, adding that Wednesday’s attack effectively eliminated any chance for peace negotiations with the regime.

Syria is said to have one of the world’s largest stockpiles of chemical weapons, including mustard gas and the nerve agent sarin. Jean Pascal Zanders, an independent researcher who specializes in chemical and biological weapons and disarmament, said that in videos of the aftermath of the attacks, the hue of the victims’ faces appeared to show many suffered from asphyxiation.

However, he said the symptoms they exhibited were not consistent with mustard gas or the nerve agents VX or sarin. Mustard gas would cause blistering of the skin and discoloration, while the nerve agents would produce severe convulsions in the victims and also affect the paramedics treating them — neither of which was evident from the videos or reports.

“I’m deliberately not using the term chemical weapons here,” he said. “There’s plenty of other nasty stuff that was used in the past as a chemical warfare agent, so many industrial toxicants could be used too.”

A pharmacist in the town of Arbeen who identified himself as Abu Ahmad said he attended to dozens of wounded people in a field hospital after the shelling on Zamalka and Ein Tarma early Wednesday. He said many were moved to Arbeen.

The bodies of 63 of the dead had signs of a chemical weapons attack, he said, though he could not confirm this. “Their mouths were foaming, their pupils were constricted, and those who were brought in while still alive could not draw their breaths and died subsequently,” he told The Associated Press via Skype. “The skin around their eyes and noses was grayish.”

Activists in nearby Zamalka told Abu Ahmed that an additional 200 people died in that town on Wednesday. Syria’s information minister, Omran al-Zoubi, denied government troops used chemical agents, calling the activists’ claim a “disillusioned and fabricated one whose objective is to deviate and mislead” the U.N. mission.

The head of the U.N. team, which has a mandate to investigate previous claims of alleged chemical attacks, said he wants to look into the latest claims. Speaking to Swedish broadcaster SVT, Ake Sellstrom said the high numbers of dead and wounded being reported “sound suspicious.”

“It looks like something we need to look into,” Sellstrom, who is Swedish, was quoted as saying. He said a formal request from a member state would have to go through U.N. channels and Syria would need to agree — and there is no guarantee that it would.

French President Francois Hollande said the latest allegations “require verification and confirmation,” according to government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem. Hollande said he would ask the U.N. to go to the site “to shed full light” on the allegations.

In addition to the U. S. and Britain, Germany, Turkey and the EU called for immediate U.N. access to the site of the alleged attack. The Syrian government did not immediately respond to the demands. The U.N. Security Council held emergency consultations about the purported attack, and U.N. deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey said Sellstrom’s team was in talks with the Syrian government about all alleged chemical attack, including Wednesday’s.

Mohammed Saeed, an activist in the area, told the AP via Skype that hundreds of dead and injured people were rushed to six makeshift hospitals in the eastern suburbs of Damascus. “This is a massacre by chemical weapons,” he said. “The visit by the U.N. team is a joke. … (Assad) is using the weapons and telling the world that he does not care.”

Photos posted on Facebook by an activist group in Arbeen showed rows of Syrian children wrapped in white shrouds, and others with their chests bare. There appeared to be very little sign of blood or physical wounds on the bodies.

In an amateur video posted online, a young girl with curly brown hair wearing a Minnie Mouse shirt lay on the ground, her head lolling on the tile floor as doctors injected medicine into her arm. Next to her, paramedics attended to two young boys who appeared unconscious, their bodies limp.

The photos and videos distributed by activists to support their claims were consistent with AP reporting of shelling in the area, though it was not known if the victims died from a poisonous gas attack.

Associated Press writers Zeina Karam and Bassem Mroue in Beirut, Lynn Berry in Moscow, Amir Bibawy in New York, Sarah El Deeb in Cairo, Malin Rising in Stockholm, Sylvie Corbet in Paris and Julie Pace in Washington contributed to this report.

Top Syria rebel visits fighters in Assad homeland

August 12, 2013

BEIRUT (AP) — The military commander of Syria’s main Western-backed opposition group visited rebels in the coastal province that is President Bashar Assad’s ancestral homeland following recent opposition advances in the area, a spokeswoman said Monday.

Over the past week, rebel fighters in Latakia province have swept through a string of villages that are populated by members of Assad’s Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. The advances have not shifted the strategic balance in the area, but they did embarrass the regime in a region that has been under tight government control since the Syrian revolt began more than two years ago.

Assad’s forces have launched a counteroffensive to try to dislodge the rebels, and activists say fighting is raging over several villages in the mountainous region. In a video posted on the opposition Syrian National Coalition’s Facebook page, rebel military chief Gen. Salim Idris walks with a small group of fighters through hilly terrain. Dressed in civilian clothes with a shoulder holster and a pistol, Idris tells them that he visited the front to see the “important achievements and great victories that were made by our brother rebels in the coast.”

“We are here to confirm that the command is fully coordinating with the coastal command,” he said. Coalition spokeswoman Sarah Karkour said the visit to Latakia took place Sunday. She did not specify whether he went to the newly captured territory.

Idris is the leader of the Coalition’s Supreme Military Council, a loose umbrella group of more secular-minded opposition brigades that serves as the main conduit for Western aid to rebels fighting to oust the Assad regime. He has little more than nominal control, however, over the hundreds of rebel factions that make up the constellation of opposition forces on the ground.

The most effective and efficient rebel groups — the Islamic extremist factions — don’t even recognize Idris’ authority. In recent months, there have been a rising number of clashes between al-Qaida-linked factions and more moderate opposition brigades. The infighting has undermined the opposition’s overall effort to topple the Assad regime.

Despite their ideological differences, Islamic extremist groups and more secular-minded rebels also frequently coordinate their efforts when its suits them and there is a mutual benefit. That has been the case in Latakia, activists say, where more moderate rebel groups fighting alongside al-Qaida-linked jihadi factions, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, captured 11 Alawite villages last week.

The offensive forced residents of the villages to flee their homes and left at least 60 civilians dead, activists say. Another 400 civilians, mostly Alawites, are missing and are presumed to be in rebel custody in the area, according to activists who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

The gains in Latakia by anti-Assad fighters have provided a small boost to the opposition after weeks of government victories in central Syria and around the capital, Damascus.

Syrian Kurds score more victories in ongoing battle against Jihadists

2013-07-23

BEIRUT – Syrian Kurds made rapid advances in the north of the country Tuesday, expelling jihadists from several villages, as a gulf of mistrust between Arabs and Kurds grew, a watchdog and activists said.

Tuesday’s fighting hit several villages including Yabseh, Kandal and Jalbeh, which lie in the northern province of Raqa on Syria’s border with Turkey and are home to a mixture of ethnic and religious communities, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

It also reported that the Kurds expelled the jihadists from Kur Hassu, Atwan, Sarej and Khirbet Alu villages in the same area, which lies near the majority Kurdish town of Cobany.

In Hasake to the east, Kurdish-jihadist fighting went into the seventh consecutive day in the Jal Agha area and other villages in the majority Kurdish province, the Observatory added.

The latest battles come a week after fighters loyal to the Committees for the Protection of the Kurdish People (YPG) expelled the jihadist Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) from the strategic Kurdish town of Ras al-Ain in Hasake province.

Ever since, fighting has spread from Hasakeh in northeastern Syria to several hotspots in Raqa province in the north.

At least 70, most of them jihadists, have been killed in eight consecutive days of Kurdish-jihadist fighting, said the Observatory.

“What we are seeing is the spreading of fighting between Kurds and jihadists westwards, across areas that are home to both Arab and Kurdish communities,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Though the fighting is between jihadists and organized Kurdish forces, there is “a growing gulf between Kurdish and Arab residents of these areas,” Abdel Rahman said.

“The battle is morphing from a fight between the YPG and the jihadists to a struggle between Kurds and Arabs as a whole.”

Prior to the outbreak of the 2011 revolt against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule, the Kurds suffered for decades from marginalization and oppression at the hands of the Syrian regime.

When the revolt erupted, one of the first measures taken by Assad was to grant the Syrian nationality to Kurds who had up until then been deprived of this right.

Then, starting mid-2012, Assad’s forces withdrew from Kurdish regions which now are run by local Kurdish councils.

The Kurds, who represent about 15 percent of the Syrian population, have since walked a fine line, trying to avoid antagonizing either the regime or the rebels.

But as abuses by jihadist groups in areas that have fallen out of Assad’s control mounted, the Kurds announced they would seek a temporary autonomous state and establish a constitution.

The speedy developments have brought to the surface a deep-seated mistrust that has been heightened by the Syrian opposition’s failure to adequately represent Kurdish groups, activists say.

“There hasn’t been real trust at the political level since the start” of the revolt, Syrian Kurdish activist Havidar said via the Internet.

“We (Kurds) all stood by the revolution but unfortunately the Syrian opposition… has played games with the Kurds… and marginalized them,” Havidar said.

As a consequence, “there is a very obvious divide now” between Kurds and Arabs, he said.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=60293.

Syria rebels seize strategic regime bastion in Aleppo

2013-07-22

BEIRUT – Syria’s rebels on Monday seized the strategic town of Khan al-Assal, a regime bastion in the northern province of Aleppo, a monitoring group said.

They also took two villages located southeast of Aleppo, as they advanced towards cutting off the army’s supply route to Syria’s second city.

Khan al-Assal was the last regime bastion in the west of Aleppo province, which lies on the Turkish border, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The town lies on a road linking the province to the western part of Aleppo city where rebels have stepped up their bids to break a year-long stalemate and take control of areas still in regime hands.

Large swathes of northern and eastern Syria are in rebel control, while much of central and southern Syria is squarely held by regime forces.

“Opposition fighters have taken control of the town of Khan al-Assal, which is strategically located in the west of Aleppo province,” said the Britain-based Observatory.

The rebel Ninth Division, which is deployed in the western part of Aleppo city, also announced it had captured Khan al-Assal in an online video.

“We the leadership of the Ninth Division announce that the town of Khan al-Assal has been completely liberated,” a rebel commander said in a video posted on YouTube.

The Observatory said clashes also raged on the southern outskirts of Khan al-Assal.

The rebels had tried for several months to advance on Khan al-Assal.

The town’s biggest battle took place in March, when the rebels took control of the police academy and temporarily seized several other positions.

The eight-day battle killed 200 rebels and government forces.

Both sides also traded accusations that chemical weapons were used in Khan al-Assal and killed around 30 people, according to toll released in March by the Observatory and the regime.

The rebels also seized on Monday the villages of Obeida and Hajireh southeast of Aleppo city, the Observatory said.

The takeover comes amid a rebel attempt to cut off the army’s main supply route linking Hama in central Syria to Aleppo in the north.

Meanwhile in Damascus, the loyalist air force staged two strikes against the eastern district of Jobar, home to sizeable pockets of resistance to the army, the Observatory said.

It also reported violence in southern Damascus and said the entrance to the Yarmuk Palestinian camp had been closed, a day after an army assault on rebel positions in the district.

Monday’s violence comes a day after at least 232 people were killed across Syria, said the Observatory, adding the toll was one of the highest in the 28-month conflict.

Some 100,000 people have been killed in Syria’s war since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad erupted in March 2011, according to Observatory figures.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=60275.