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Syria and Turkey commentary

Archive for the tag “Shia”

Russian and Iranian tentacles dig deeper into Syria

lattakia-beaches-and-hotel-august-2015-holiday-beach-resort-near-tartous

Recent days have seen increasing evidence of both Russia and Iran, the key supporters of President Bashar al-Assad’s Damascus-based regime, consolidating their military occupation of Syria. Their clear intention is to make it impossible for their interests to be displaced from those parts of the country that matter to them, namely Damascus and the two corridors that connect first west to Lebanon and Hezbollah and then northwest via Homs to the Tartous and Lattakia provinces on the Mediterranean.

Russia has its naval base at Tartous and its airbase at Hmeimim south of Lattakia, converted from the former Basil al-Assad airport, from which it flies all its sorties Aleppo and the rest of the country.

russia-flag-and-bashar

New infrastructure is being built around the airbase  to accommodate Russian servicemen. Now it has been announced that Russian companies will be investing in Syria’s electricity and tourism industries in Tartous and Lattakia provinces, by setting up electrical generators and supplying houses and factories direct according to their needs. Syrian contractors had sought to do the same in the past but were turned down. Russian-financed hotels and chalets are being built along the coast near Jableh and Lattakia and in the summer hill resorts of Slunfeh and Kasab, as well as Qardaha, Assad’s home village, as part of the tourism drive which is seeking to draw visitors under the slogan “Syria Always Beautiful”. Exact locations are decided based on recommendations from Assad’s security services and the presidential palace. Bit by bit Syria is being sold off to Putin’s Russian mafia friends, while Syrian investors are being frozen out.

Meanwhile in Damascus Iran is making sure its interests are secured, the latest announcement being a new “coordination office” ostensibly to bring together the Sunni and Shia ideologies, but financed by Iran and located in the dominantly Shi’a quarter of Al-Amin in the walled Old City. Under Bashar al-Assad’s presidency an unprecedented 15 Iranian seminaries have been set up inside Syria, now with over 5,000 Shi’a students mainly from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon. The first public Shi’a rituals took place in Damascus in 2005 with the “Kerbala March” along the main Old City artery of Medhat Basha, the biblical Street Called Straight. The spread of Shi’ism in Syria however goes back to Bashar’s father Hafez al-Assad when the first Shi’a seminary was set up in 1976 near the Sayyida Zainab shrine in Midan, south Damascus, still the most important Shi’a shrine in the country. Its founder, one Hassan Mehdi al-Shirazi who had fled Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1975, made himself useful to Hafez al-Assad by issuing a fatwa that “every Shi’ite is an Alawite doctrinally and every Alawite is a Shi’ite in ideology.”

sayyida-zainab

With every week that passes, Syria is being sold off to the regime’s supporters. Russia and Iran are digging their tentacles deeper and deeper into Syrian soil, even altering the local demographic in their favour by resettling their own people in areas evacuated under “starve or surrender” sieges, as in Homs and Darayya.

Cushioned by Russian and Iranian support, Assad sleeps well in his bed while the West, the UN and the international community express righteous “outrage” at the bombing of aid convoys but little else. They are powerless to change the dynamic on the ground, leaving ordinary Syrians in despair that their country can ever return to the single entity that it was pre-2011.

Relevant articles:

http://syrianobserver.com/EN/Features/31646/New_Stage_Submission_Lattakia_Electricity_Coastal_Tourism_Russian_Custody/

http://syrianobserver.com/EN/Features/31645/Damascus_Iranian_Operations_Room_Spread_Shiism/

Vladimir Putin resurrects the KGB

http://europe.newsweek.com/russia-plans-permanent-naval-base-syria-tartus-tension-airstrikes-508436?rm=eu

http://www.syria-report.com/news/economy/iran-visit-seeks-enhance-bilateral-business-ties

http://syrianobserver.com/EN/Features/31800/Ashoura_Damascus_Publications_Farsi_Children_Flogging_Selves_Streets/

 

 

 

 

 

Who or what was the target of the Damascus Old City bomb?

The destroyed Christian quarter of Damascus, 1860.

The destroyed Christian quarter of Damascus, 1860. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Ancient Roman triumphal arch (Al Khar...

English: Ancient Roman triumphal arch (Al Kharab) on Street Called Straight, Damascus, Syria Français : Arc de triomphe romain (Al Kharab) sur la Rue Droite à Damas, Syrie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: A greek Orthodox Procession

English: A greek Orthodox Procession (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The world’s media is distracted by the build-up to Egypt’s 30 June showdown, so an important event was given only scant and even misleading coverage. On 27 June the BBC website reported what it called a blast from a suicide bomber in the Christian Quarter of Damascus’ Old City:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-23086213

The BBC commentary went on to assume that the target was the Christian community, specifically the Greek Orthodox church of the Virgin Mary which was close to the blast, and then talked about how Christians have been targeted before and are being drawn into the conflict.

But the Greek Orthodox church of Miriamiye as it is known, is not really in a Christian part of the Old City, but beside the Roman Arch on Straight Street which marks the rough boundary between the Christian, Muslim and Jewish quarters. The church is directly opposite Naranj, a classy restaurant right beside the Roman Arch, known to be one of Bashar Al-Assad’s favourite dining places and often used by regime figures.

Closer examination of the facts reveals that the bomb in fact exploded not outside the church, but 50 yards away outside a Muslim charity where the suicide bomber was said to be queuing up for food with other residents. Four people were killed, many more injured and nearby shops damaged. But Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen newspaper put forward another theory – that the target was a nearby post of the National Defence Forces, a regime paramilitary force fighting the rebels.

About three hours after that blast, two mortar shells landed in nearby Al-Amin street, a mainly Shi’a area, wounding a number of people.

No one has claimed responsibility for these blasts, and local residents are confused. Was the target Christian, regime, rebel or Shi’a? No one knows except those who perpetrated the acts.

It tragically sums up what is happening increasingly now in Syria’s civil war – that very often no one knows anymore who is doing what to whom.

Roman arch, Straight Street, Damascus.

Roman arch, Straight Street, Damascus. (Photo credit: jemasmith)

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