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Syria Deeply, Covering the Crisis

Syria Deeply is an independent digital media project led by journalists and technologists that explores a new model of storytelling around a global crisis. Our goal is to build a better user experience of the story by adding context to content, using the latest digital tools of the day. Over time the hope is to add greater clarity, deeper understanding and more sustained engagement to the global conversation.

Source: About Us | Syria Deeply, Covering the Crisis

Syria Deeply is a very cool exploration of the Syrian Conflict.  From a digital storytelling standpoint and a international relations student standpoint, I like  the daily executive summaries of the conflict, the map which helps visualize the conflict, and the timeline for looking back on important moments in the conflict. I also like that that header includes a count of how many days have passed thus far in the conflict.  I think for long ongoing stories, the team at Syria Deeply is onto something interesting. 

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US closes embassy in Syria – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

The US has closed down its embassy in Syria and pulled all of its employees out of the country, amid reports that the Syrian military is intensifying its assault on the central city of Homs.

via US closes embassy in Syria – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

This is usually one of the final steps before an attack. If the Security Council doesn’t act in the next few weeks, I fully expect action under someone else’s banner. If I was to put a time table on it, I would say sometime towards the end of this month, beginning of next.

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Russia proposes draft resolution on Syria

After Russia (along with China) vetoed a resolution on Syria back in October, the UN Security Council has remained in a stalemate. This week though, Vitaly Churkin, the Russian ambassador to the UN, introduced a draft resolution on Syria that while not strong, does put some pressure on the al-Assad government to end the attacks on its own people.

Churkin told reporters that he hoped the resolution would help “stop violence, uphold human rights” and expedite government reforms. “We all believe the Security Council must do something.” He said the council should not play a role that would “fan the conflict” but instead “bring an end to the crisis.”

via Turtle Bay

I find the language pretty soft, with the resolution mainly calling for both sides to follow the peace process plan laid out by the Arab League. The most interesting part is the decision to readdress the situation in thirty days, which I take to mean that Russia might be open to more concrete action if the situation does not improve.

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Is Syria preparing for a new Hama Massacre?

Homs, Syria. Photo by Syrialooks.Used under a Creative Commons license

The last major uprising against an al-Assad regime in Syria ended with a massacre in the city of Hama. Reports differ as too how many people actually die. The Syrian Human Rights Committee says 30,000. Journalist Robert Fisk says 20,000. Even the Hafez al-Assad regime admitted to1,000at the time. Are we headed down a similar path now in the city of Homs?

The Syrian government has warned protesters in the city of Homs to stop demonstrations, hand in weapons and surrender defecting military members by Monday night or face bombardment, an opposition leader said.

via Syrian opposition: Bloodbath could be imminent in Homs –

The UN estimates more than 4,000 people have already been killed in the current uprising. The Syrian government is describing its soldiers that have been killed as martyrs. How many more need to die before this ends?

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Bashir al-Assad denies killing his own people

Bashir al-Assad comes off as pretty crazy in an interview. Hell he even says “No nation in the world kills its people unless it is led by a crazy person”, which almost sounds like an admission.

In the interview excerpt lasting just over three minutes, Ms. Walters’ questions probe whether Mr. Assad feels guilty: “I did my best to protect the people,” he tells Ms. Walters. “I cannot feel guilty when you do your best. You feel sorry for the lives that have been lost. But you don’t feel guilty when you don’t kill people. So it’s not about guilty.”

via Feisty Barbara Walters presses Assad on deaths: “Is this news to you?” – The Globe and Mail.

Check out the clip for yourself and decide if he is crazy or not.

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Hamas Removing Staff From Syria –

Hamas ordered the departure of nearly all its staff at its Damascus headquarters by next week following pressure from Turkey and Qatar, two regional allies trying to isolate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad amid an eight-month crackdown on antiregime protests, according to a Hamas official.

via Hamas Removing Staff From Syria –

This is an interesting development. Not so much on a Syrian front, but the fact that Hamas is aligning it self with the Arab League vs. with Syria / Iran / Hezbullah.

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Syria continues delaying and stalling

A spokesman for Walid al-Moallem, Syria’s foreign minister, said he had “responded positively” to the league demand, which was backed by the threat of sanctions, and sent a letter to the organisation’s chief Nabil Elaraby on Sunday night.

“In it, Syria accepts that the Arab League sends observers to monitor the situation on the ground in Syria. However, a source at the Arab League told Al Jazeera that. although the letter contained positive notes to build upon, it stops short of saying that the Syrian response was an outright acceptance.”

Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin in the capital Beirut said the Syrians want “some changes” and that they were more diplomatic in the way they were seeking them.

“They say they agreed to the protocol in principle [but] they want the measures that the Arab League took against Syria to be reversed,” she said.

via Syria ‘positive’ on Arab League monitors plan – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

More stalling from Syria. Until Arab League boots are on the ground, I have no trust that al-Assad’s government is doing anything but spewing hot air.  It’s the same reaction they had a few weeks ago to the last deadline.

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How Effective will the Arab League Sanctions on Syria be?

The Arab League is trying to pressure Syria to end the violence against its citizens and has agreed to implement sanctions if al-Assad doesn’t agree to allow peace keepers in. But it’s going to be hard for them if its own members don’t comply.

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El-Shamayleh, reporting from neighbouring Jordan, said she was hearing that the Jordanian government was asking the Arab League to be excluded from imposing sanctions because of the economic losses involved.

"Jordan is concerned about stopping flights between Damascus and Amman and about a high volume of trade between the two countries, amounting to $400 million per year", she said.

"Nonetheless, Jordan says that as a government it supports the Arab consensus on punitive measures but it does not want to cut its bilateral economic ties.

Iraq and Lebanon have already said they will not impose sanctions on their neighbour.

via Violence in Syria as sanctions deadline looms – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

In 2010, Syria amounted to four percent of the exports for Jordan. Overall though, Lebanon and Iraq are more important though. Forty-one percent of Syrian exports in 2010 went to those two nations. I hope the Arab League is able to stay together and actually implement these sanctions when al-Assad inevitably doesn’t agree to the peace keepers.