Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 18, 2012

Syria on Saturday

Filed under: International HLS,Radicalization,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on February 18, 2012

Earlier today several thousand residents of Damascus participated in a funeral procession as an act of defiance aimed at the Assad regime. As of 0600 (Eastern) there are several breaking news stories of mourners being killed. According to the Associated Press:

Syrian troops have fired on mourners taking part in a massive funeral procession in the capital… Several people were wounded by gunfire in the Damascus neighborhood of Mazzeh. Tear gas was also fired on the Saturday procession mourning three people killed by security forces following protests in the area a day earlier. An eyewitness who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals said the procession numbered around 15,000.

Thursday the United Nations General Assembly voted to condemn human rights violations by Syrian authorities. The resolution was passed with 137 nations in favor, 12 against, and 17 abstentions.

According to a UN statement:

The Assembly called on Syria to abide by its obligations under international law, and demanded that the Government, in line with the 2 November 2011 Action Plan of the League of Arab States, and its decisions of 22 January and 12 February 2012, without delay, stop all violence and protect its people, release all those detained during the unrest, withdraw all armed forces from cities and towns, guarantee peaceful demonstrations and allow unhindered access for Arab League monitors and international media.

The language of the resolution closely mirrored that of a text vetoed by China and the Russian Federation in the Security Council two weeks earlier…

By other terms of the text adopted today, the Assembly expressed its full support for the Arab League’s decision to facilitate a Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, pluralistic political system, including through a “serious political dialogue between the [Syrian Government] and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition”. Reaffirming its strong commitment to Syria’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity, it further reaffirmed that all Member States “should refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State”.

Perhaps in response to the United Nations action, on Friday Syrian forces seemed to step up their action. According to The Daily Star (Lebanon):

Syrian troops intensively shelled rebel-held neighborhoods in the restive central city of Homs Friday and killed at least five people, activists said… Activist groups said tens of thousands of protesters poured into the streets after Friday prayers from Daraa in the south to Aleppo and Idlib in the north and Deir el-Zour in the east to areas around the capital Damascus. The Local Coordination Committees said security forces opened fire on some protests.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), “Syria has become a magnet for foreign fighters, with al-Qaeda aligned jihadists streaming across the border from Iraq and rebel soldiers from the Libyan city of Misrata crossing in from Turkey…”

In testimony on Thursday to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, said, “We believe that Al Qaeda in Iraq is extending its reach into Syria.”

During a British-French summit held in Paris on Friday there was considerable nostalgia for the entente cordiale that contributed so much to toppling Qaddafi. But Prime Minister Cameron and President Sarkozy were also clear on preconditions to any military intervention in Syria. According to The Guardian, “Cameron said the situation in Syria was “appalling” and said the government was “butchering and murdering its own people”. He said that Syria was different to Libya in three ways: in Libya the west had a UN resolution, the Arab League was calling for action, and the opposition represented the whole country, he said.”

From The Telegraph’s report on the Paris summit:

They did not rule out joint military action in Syria but said the current circumstances were not right. “The main obstacles are not to do with such and such country’s attitude at the UN,” Mr Sarkozy said. “The fact is we cannot bring about a revolution without the Syrian people. We cannot bring this about if the Syrian opposition does not unite and organise to help us help them.”

There is increasing international discussion of a “protected zone” in Northwest Syria to incubate a more unified opposition. Many are pointing to Idlib province immediately adjacent to Turkey. The Free Syrian Army has had more freedom of movement in Idlib than in most other venues.

But Turkey — essential to the survival of any such enclave — has made it clear it prefers what it calls a “Mediterranean corridor.” According to the Sabah newspaper (Turkey):

Foreign Affairs Minister Davutolu has already relayed his concerns to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Ankara is in favor of a humanitarian aid corridor being established via the Mediterranean and suggests that instead of designating a route through Turkey, the British base in Cyprus be used for this purpose.

In this morning’s edition of Hurriyet (Turkey) Illan Tanir writes,

One of the biggest obstacles preventing the international community from giving a decisive outside push to overthrow Bashar al-Assad is its inability to see a viable, unified alternative for the post-Assad period… The U.S. in particular has played a significant role in attempting to unify the Syrian opposition, by conditioning their recognition of the SNC as the legitimate government of Syria on providing more assurances towards minority groups. The U.S. has been engaged in facilitating talks to unify the Syrian opposition since before the SNC’s formation, and it was the main organizer of the talks between the SNC and KNC last month. The U.S. appears to be the only power with interest in pulling this off in a non-sectarian manner, as especially Qatar and Saudi Arabia, in one way or another, have interests in supporting Sunni Islamist groups.

On February 24 Tunisia will host a meeting of the “Friends of Syria”. Much will depend on how effective these friends are in convincing the various Syrian enemies of Assad to be friends with each other.

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Comment by Philip J. Palin

February 18, 2012 @ 8:10 am

To be explicit: I consider this a homeland security story because the Syrian situation is a hot house for potential radicalization.

If it can be credibly argued (or just persuasively positioned) that the United States was passive in the face of Syrians being slaughtered, our own risk is increased. We will be perceived — again — as enablers (or worse) of mass murder. (Self-interest is not the only factor here, but neither should it be dismissed.)

This is not to suggest the Sixth Fleet set sail for Latakia (and certainly not Tartus). But it is the sort of leading indicator that we have too often ignored… and therefore failed to engage in creative ways when we still had maximum opportunity.

I hope in addition to everything that is being done in foreign affairs, we are also reaching out constructively to the Syrian-American and related communities. I did not know until this morning that Mitch Daniels (Governor of Indiana) and Jerry Seinfeld (comedian) were of Syrian ancestry.

Comment by The Doomsayer:Syria, Iran and Egypt

February 19, 2012 @ 9:18 am

We, our beloved nation, can be perceived by still a great many as some global police officer, however We are no longer in the position…stop living in yesteryears….get a grip in reality and see who we have become with objective lens, for We are a broken nation! Homeland Security is enmeshed in so many ways within our daily living and because of technology…what happens here and there…matter! Solar panels being manufactured in China..not the US. Carbon nano tube technology and now – graphene – technology and instead of us leading the pact, We will not do so. We have lost our way and Homeland Security issues abound….

Syria is the problem of Germany leading a soon to be downsized ten (10) nation compositon supported by the Vatican and it is interesting how we did not intervene in Syria w/so many innocents slain at the hand of teh sword, the same on the streets of Tehran at the hand of these “Brutes of Tehran” – innocents killed, rich Persian blood spilled on the streets of Tehran and the US, turned its face and frowned…Oh, yes, we knew how to intervene everywhere else, but ……

Listen, these thugs leading Syria will fall. There is no doubt. It will not be in the interest of Tehran. However, while Turkey in its moderate perspective does all it can to keep stability in the region, the Muslim Brotherhood folks in Egypt and their arm extended into Gaza have other ideas… We cannot trust the Germans leading the EU for they have their own agenda and will be the thorn on the side of those seeking to undermine Europe. We see disharmony and strife on the streets evolving in Europe as a result of this – charade – being played out between the politicians and their banker pals, much like here in the States w/this “Goldman Sachs” riddled administration extending to the corruptness of both sides of the Congressional aisle which I yell from the rafters…treason, I say, treason against the US Constiution, ‘ol glory flying on my front porch upside down depicting the distress our beloved Republic finds itself bbecause of those we “entrusted” and they choosing their self-serving ways…and the degradtion of the principle of this Judeo-Christian nation being undermined in every way….

Homeland Security you speak of…what about our own Homeland Security Dr. Paul? It is interesting that We here on Main Street USA hear of our government referring to a US citizen – a good US Citizen – a real US Citizen being referred to as “terrorist” if questioning the government, yet the “beltway bandits” when hearing one say the word – treason- theyr shriek foul! Well the facts are we are in dire need of leadership and Winston Churchill is gone.

Syria will choose another way shortly, yet it will not be in our interest and we have nothing we can do aboiut it and Iran, while many believe that it, too will fall to its demise…well, time will certaily tell, however it will Not and while our aging aircraft (Air Force) and our aging vessels (Navy) are not being replaced as they should be and we are not keeping up with the Jones..watch China and wave to them from here as they unfurl the Chinese flag on the moon and man’s first colony!

I have watched China grab every commodity it has been able to from Africa and Indonesia and elsewhere, my pleading with those in government to see China stockpile commodities of every type for the next 100 years and we are looking to concern ourselves in getting involved in the problems of Syria..let the Germans (Assayrians) worry about this as it is truly their problem…Not ours and we are no longer capable of reaching out to distant shore policing the world for we are banklrupted not once, but now nearly $15 trillion federal reserve notes later and for the most part of it, those here on ‘Main Street USA” – never mind the kids and Grandchildren we hear about, other than the “elitists” led by the “Harv’d Professor” and this Chicago community organizer in the White House doing everything possible to erode this nation to the core…treason I shout…aloong with his “Smug-smiled Pelosi” posse…and not one Republican candidate who has the muster to take on the challenge…We should not be engaging in looking at Syria or Iran if We are Not going to act as we have done in other places…

Homeland Security begins here at our borders and in our court system whereby anyone found who is Not a legal American citizen, put back on a boat and so addressed. I don’t care how many illegal, law-breakers, are rounded up and sent back home. Up until recently, when we asked a Presidential candidate like the one a few years back to proviode legal docs…even this fella chose to say No just like when Hank Paulsen was asked what happned with the first $750 billion in stimulus monies – supposedly lost – how is that possib le? and good ‘ol Hank’s reply to the question posed by the media as to whom receved these funds…”I won’t tell!”

Homeland Security…read Biblical verse and you will see, depiste your Ivy League diplomas which you flaunt at the WH, but heck have little knowldge in foreign policy or much of anything else…Homeland Security, watch Egypt. Tell your banker pals in Europe who have raped the good people of the EU w/my fellow Hellenes now enlightened to the charade unfolding that this German orchestrated EU superpower was nothing more than Brussels to grip as many people in their fist and do whatever they wanted and it is not working out and it will not as energy and food and oil soar…Social unrest, political upheaveal and corruptness becomes so apparent….as Germany leads us all to War once again….

To Iran and Syria and to those in Yemen and others, to their brothers in Gaza…keep a weary eye on German, not the US. We do not have the courage, the commitment to police you or anyone else. We are at peril at home. Our Homeland Security issues are clear and they are from within. We hve folks here who permit – lawbreakers – illegals to walk the streets and while doing so, we pay for their electric bills, their newbortns and educational expenses…while countless folks line up every morning in front of embassies and consulates standing for hours and for two and thre eyears to gain legal entry ino the US and we allow – criminals – to walk the streets and hearing them talk so condescendingly about our beloved Republic….Homeland Security,,,well you saw the new Russian and Chinese alliance the other day on the UN floor give a “Go” card to these Syrian thiugs to kill innocent and good Syrian people on their own streets…Just wait as the Europeans foolishly decided to thwart the further development of nuclear power plants on their soil while China nd India are building dozens and dozens more planned and the “KGB Putinites” will strangle the European people hangin the energy dangling the nergy carrot in front of them…hoodwinking them…stability in tbe future, not a chance! Our porous borders to the North and Soutrh open for anyone…Homeland Security issues.

Syria and Tehran. This administration left a poor, helpless and innocent wonderful young woman on the streets of Tehran to be killed by these Iranian thugs, and whether it is here on this blog or anywhere else, We were once a Beacon of Hope to the oppressed and our history and compromises so forgotten, with our precious youth willing and scarficed in the name of Liberty and instead of worrying about Syria or the good people of Iran…where we will do little even behind the scenes which in the long run people hope “change” will occur..good change…it will not! We no longer have the fortitude to stand up to these thugs. We spend trillions of decades to finance this guy and that guy and within the last 100 years, we have had two World Wars and unfortunately, unless We do considerably better and from here on “Main Street USA” we cannot see one emergeing to take the flame and run with it…We like the Brits are in much peril from ourselves, our own greedy and corruptive ways and it will once again be the (Assayrians) the German downsized ten (10) nation EU which will lead us to World War III and this time, with our leaving some 108 WMD’s on European foreign soil…instead of bringing them back home and placing them within the contiguous 48….just watch the Germans aand should these thugs in the Middle East who have their hands in the peoples’ coffers…while we see the porr and unfortunate Palestinian people used by the Arab League and others to be used as pawns in this hatred towards the chosen people with special covenant and from my travel to Hebron and Jericho and other places…Hebrew and Arab working together and tired of this generational and dysfunctional way which cannot be in the interest opf Jew or Arab. All good people, striving to give their offspring and themselves quality of Life and little Hope and for many, only despair. This is Homeland Security….stand tall and with all these continued federal reserve notes being printed and sent overseas…stop funding the real culprits…for after all, it surely seems as though We will have fewer and fewer of these so called dollars to use so use them wisely. Look around…do you really see people prospering.

The University of North Carolina (UNC) announced its tuition costs will be raised. Why do we have such expensive college educations. Our kids cannot afford to go to school. Isn’t it interesting that China and India continue to graduate far more scietists and engineers than we are here in the US. We have already lost our advantage…We have already seen China build its nuclear submarine fleet on federal reserve notes prowling the Atlantic, never mind the Pacific. It is not the Chiense I worry about..as we are nothing but an – entertainment engrossed populace, but I certainly do as many here on “Main Street USA” when talking about Homeland Security in its broadest sense…we do worry abou these “KGB Putinites” and how they will wield their stick against the Europeans especially in the energy sector and Germany and Brussels does not like it….Get our nukes off European soil. They have asked us to do so and bring them home. Let Germany take care of the United States of Europe which these thugs and its sidekick, the ever powerful Vatican who has used its hugh influence and popularity of the Pope to win commerce (trading) contracts away from US and our good people and resulting downturn in orders and loss of jobs and prosperity….

Syrian, Iranian, Palestinian, goof folks who deserve much more and unfortuantely, the good and most charitable American people, broken by the – elitists – from within, while We all would like to help our neighbors so oppressed in distant shore, our Homeland Security here at home who should be going after the one man in Yemen who works day and night to cover his man-made bombs in HP printers and Ed Markey demanding that we screen every piece of cargo and my stating that no cargo – packages – be placed aboard any aircraft entering or leaving the US – that’s Frank Smith created FedEx and why competition has forged the netrepreneurial genius in creating UPS and so many other companie to carry packages…

My Homeland Security would begin by banning any and all cargo and packages onboard passenger airlines until these ever popular and printed federal reserve notes among the elitists can bring new technology which will identofy any explosive substance and then the skies will certainly be much friendlier getting onboard and taking this advantange away from those so willing to kill innocents and make judgement on another when it is only God according to Biblical verse and the Qur’an which give no individual the right to kill another….

If it were me and I was Syrian or Iranian….I would be holding signs and portesting to eternity demanding that the ever so corrupt UN send troops into Syria and Iran and no matter where when facts are presented that innocents are being killed by their own government. It is a global Homeland Security issue and just as local, state and national Homeland Security issues and our own unpreparedness even versus hurricane or tornado..Mother Nature…or earthquake such on a small Haiti still reeling after an earthquake 2 half years ago…whye does the US still send money to support the UN? This, too a Homeland Security issue very much and adversely affecting the good people of Palestine, Syria, Iran, and so forth…people striving to make a living and caring for family w/an imposing government thwarting teh efforts and hope of people very much like what is now happening here on “Main Street USA” where we have seen an every willing government making every attempt to take over Life here in America and tell folks what is good and not good…take care of your own kids Mrs. Obama…stay out of our schools and what our kids are eating…as your Chicago community organizer husband has been smoking – butts – in front of his own kids for decades and you had little influence or care within your own home back in Chicago or during this your on term lease at the WH! Is he still smoking? He promised jobs..jobs.. and ya know what…in your arrogant way much like Tom Brady’s wife…if folks had jobs, they would have a paycheck to be able to go grocery shopping and give their kids proper nutrition…now as we see in Florida and other places, kids living w/their parents in trucks and cars…this is the America you and Barry Obama have created by spending us firther into bakruptcy while you and the grils vacationing in Spain along with your gal pals costing a fortune and vacationing on the Vineyard while folks have no food to eat and I am not kidding w/food bank after food bank often out of food! This is our Homeland Security issue…you take care of your husband’s smoking affecting the health of your children. He can get up and sing his notes…yet unimpressed with his smile for our own good people here in our beloved Republic are befing challenged everyday and during this four year gig, you both have disappointed so, so many and the $750 mln in your campaign coffer will not even be enough to win against Mitt Romney or any other ill preparedand incompetent….for anyone will do better than this WH administration….as recall initiatives will become the way and term limits as the public at lareg is being enlightened and no longer living and hoping…demanding now transparency and laws to stop these self-interest groups and attacks against the US Constitution so discredited by the very own we have entrusted by precious vote!

Homeland Security….let’s strengthen our local police and firefigyters and EMT’s. Let’s train every high school student graduating the basics in Life-saving techniques. Unemployment high, no jobs to say and all this technology abounding, yet China and India taking more and more of the lkead and cybersecurity for me (us), no #1 as those in our fusion centers, the FBI and CIA and those well spirited and real Americans sitting with their headphones listening to those who seek our demise at NSA and other such agencies daily and nightly, let’s prioritize and afford these fellow Americans who keep us safe…thwarting every attempt by Lucifer to pull thei veil of darkness across our land of magisty, God’s Blessing and let us stand strong against enemies from outside and within and as an NRA card holder I strongly suggest you refer to the Bill of Rights Amendement II: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” so every American has the Right to carry weapon for all lawful purpose and the Attorney General of the United States and anyone else who chooses to circumvent the Rights as bestowed by our founding Fathers with their wisdom and they being weary of foes of our flag from within…We will stand tall in the court of law and We will prevail!

God Bless America!

Christopher Tingus
PO Box 1612
Harwich (Cape Cod), MA 02645 USA

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 20, 2012 @ 1:16 am

Any chance of discovering how many people fully fluent in writing and speaking ARABIC at the foreign service level 5 [like a native) are now employed anywhere in the US government? And if this number not available privately or in public why or why not?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

February 20, 2012 @ 11:29 am

Bill, Not a precise or current answer, but: As of 2008 several sources say there were 279 State Department employees with some ability in Arabic. Only ten were then rated at the highest level of fluency.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

February 20, 2012 @ 11:44 am

Here’s a possible nexus I would hesitate to analyze on the front page, but I think worth noting in the comments.

Over the last year I have argued that our position, action, or inaction regarding Syria has possible implications for domestic and international radicalization.

To be gratuitous: The less concerned the US seems to be regarding the massacre of Muslims, the more we can be characterized as the enemy of Islam.

In this context please access the following AP story running in the February 20 Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey). Imagine you are an angry young man in New York or Istanbul or Boston or… you name it and you read this story — or more likely hear some warped version of the story from your peers — while viewing gruesome videos of the killing of women and children in Syria.

X + Y = ? (This is not to imply I am ready with a clear subtractor or divisor)

Please see: NYPD monitored Muslim students all over Northeast America

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 20, 2012 @ 10:23 pm

Thanks Phil! And the NYPD story is a huge one. NYPD monitored colleges over the entirety of the North EAST?

Comment by Arnold Bogis

February 21, 2012 @ 12:08 am

Phil, there is a thin line between concern about massacres of Muslims and unnecessary intervention or even invasion. And those last two categories carry far more weight in radicalization than a value judgment about our complicity or inaction in the face of atrocity.

And at the end of the day, the question is what would you have the U.S. do? Volume in condemnation does not count for much in the long run. Arming unknown quantities might be worse for us in the big picture. And direct intervention is even more unpredicatable (and not without costs–if we intervene in Syria where do we stop?).

Comment by Philip J. Palin

February 21, 2012 @ 8:07 am


You ask, “what would you have the U.S. do?” Four responses:

First, I would have the citizens of the United States pay attention. This is both a modest and a highly unlikely goal. Last week we gave much more attention to the sad death of Whitney Houston and the phenomenal performance of Jeremy Lin than to anything happening in Syria. There is not much I can do directly regarding Houston or Lin, but there are lessons-to-be-learned from giving attention to each story. We might actually be able to do something in regard to Syria.

Second, I am trying to pay attention to decipher what we might constructively do. There are a range of options. The more I pay attention the more options emerge. Right now I perceive there are important steps the United States can take to facilitate a more broad-based and unified opposition. As I communicate with others who are also paying attention, I hope more options will emerge. I agree with you that intervention also entails risk.

Third, I think the situation in Syria is a good, real-time example of where we (the republican “we”, as in all citizens) can be aware of a reasonable moral basis for radicalization and be more attentive to our neighbors who are also horrified at what is happening. An authentic expression of sympathy and shared frustration here at home might also serve a positive purpose.

Fourth — and perhaps principally — I am trying to bear witness, which I feel is insufficient, but is the best I can do today. At the very least, the United States can bear witness, and this would be more meaningful if this was a real expression of national sentiment. Three quotes from Elie Wiesel:

“Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must — at that moment — become the center of the universe.”

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Seeing Syria

February 23, 2012 @ 3:04 pm

[…] Last week Arnold Bogis asked the obvious question, “What would you have the U.S. do?” (see last two comments in the linked chain for his question and my answer.) […]

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