Não consigo compreender é toda a impunidade dada a Israel pela comunidade internacional para atacar quem calha calhou sem que seja efectivamente punida.
The Cape of Good Hope(A talk at Rhodes Forum, October 5, 2013)Israel Shamir First, the good news. American hegemony is over. The bully has been subdued. We cleared the Cape of Good Hope, symbolically speaking, in September 2013. With the Syrian crisis, the world has passed a key forking of modern history. It was touch and go, just as risky as the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. The chances for total war were high, as the steely wills of America and Eurasia had crossed in the Eastern Mediterranean. It will take some time until the realisation of what we’ve gone through seeps in: it is normal for events of such magnitude. The turmoil in the US, from the mad car chase in the DC to the shutdown of federal government and possible debt default, are the direct consequences of this event.Remember the Berlin Wall? When it went down, I was in Moscow, writing for Haaretz. I went to a press-conference with Politburo members in the President Hotel, and asked them whether they concurred that the end of the USSR and world socialist system was nigh. I was laughed at; it was an embarrassing occasion. Oh no, they said. Socialism will blossom, as the result of the Wall’s fall. The USSR went down two years later. Now our memory has compacted those years into a brief sequence, but in reality, it took some time. The most dramatic event of September 2013 was the high-noon stand-off near the Levantine shore, with five US destroyers pointing their Tomahawks towards Damascus and facing them - the Russian flotilla of eleven ships led by the carrier-killer Missile Cruiser Moskva and supported by Chinese warships. Apparently, two missiles were launched towards the Syrian coast, and both failed to reach their destination. It was claimed by a Lebanese newspaper quoting diplomatic sources that the missiles were launched from a NATO air base in Spain and they were shot down by the Russian ship-based sea-to-air defence system. Another explanation proposed by the Asia Times says the Russians employed their cheap and powerful GPS jammers to render the expensive Tomahawks helpless, by disorienting them and causing them to fail. Yet another version attributed the launch to the Israelis, whether they were trying to jump-start the shoot-out or just observed the clouds, as they claim. Whatever the reason, after this strange incident, the pending shoot-out did not commence, as President Obama stood down and holstered his guns. This was preceded by an unexpected vote in the British Parliament. This venerable body declined the honour of joining the attack proposed by the US. This was the first time in two hundred years that the British parliament voted down a sensible proposition to start a war; usually the Brits can’t resist the temptation. After that, President Obama decided to pass the hot potato to the Congress. He was unwilling to unleash Armageddon on his own. Thus the name of action was lost. Congress did not want to go to war with unpredictable consequences. Obama tried to browbeat Putin at the 20G meeting in St Petersburg, and failed. The Russian proposal to remove Syrian chemical weaponry allowed President Obama to save face. This misadventure put paid to American hegemony , supremacy and exceptionalism. Manifest Destiny was over. We all learned that from Hollywood flics: the hero never stands down; he draws and shoots! If he holsters his guns, he is not a hero: he’s chickened out. Afterwards, things began to unravel fast. The US President had a chat with the new president of Iran, to the chagrin of Tel Aviv. The Free Syrian Army rebels decided to talk to Assad after two years of fighting him, and their delegation arrived in Damascus, leaving the Islamic extremists high and dry. Their supporter Qatar is collapsing overextended. The shutdown of their government and possible debt default gave the Americans something real to worry about. With the end of US hegemony, the days of the dollar as the world reserve currency are numbered. World War III almost occurred as the banksters wished it. They have too many debts, including the unsustainable foreign debt of the US. If those Tomahawks had flown, the banksters could have claimed Force Majeure and disavow the debt. Millions of people would die, but billions of dollars would be safe in the vaults of JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs. In September, the world crossed this bifurcation point safely, as President Obama refused to take the fall for the banksters. Perhaps he deserved his Nobel peace prize, after all. The near future is full of troubles but none are fatal. The US will lose its emission rights as a source of income. The US dollar will cease to serve as the world reserve currency though it will remain the North American currency. Other parts of the world will resort to their euro, yuan, rouble, bolivar, or dinar. The US military expenditure will have to be slashed to normal, and this elimination of overseas bases and weaponry will allow the US population to make the transition rather painlessly. Nobody wants to go after America; the world just got tired of them riding shotgun all over the place. The US will have to find new employment for so many bankers, jailers, soldiers, even politicians. As I stayed in Moscow during the crisis, I observed these developments as they were seen by Russians. Putin and Russia have been relentlessly hard-pressed for quite a while. * The US supported and subsidised Russia’s liberal and nationalist opposition; the national elections in Russia were presented as one big fraud. The Russian government was delegitimised to some extent. * The Magnitsky Act of the US Congress authorised the US authorities to arrest and seize the assets of any Russian they deem is up to no good, without a recourse to a court. * Some Russian state assets were seized in Cyprus where the banks were in trouble. * The US encouraged Pussy Riot, gay parades etc. in Moscow, in order to promote an image of Putin the dictator, enemy of freedom and gay-hater in the Western and Russian oligarch-owned media.* Russian support for Syria was criticised, ridiculed and presented as a brutal act devoid of humanity. At the same time, Western media pundits expressed certainty that Russia would give up on Syria. As I wrote previously, Russia had no intention to surrender Syria, for a number of good reasons: it was an ally; the Syrian Orthodox Christians trusted Russia; geopolitically the war was getting too close to Russian borders. But the main reason was Russia’s annoyance with American high-handedness. The Russians felt that such important decisions should be taken by the international community, meaning the UN Security Council. They did not appreciate the US assuming the role of world arbiter. In the 1990s, Russia was very weak, and could not effectively object, but they felt bitter when Yugoslavia was bombed and NATO troops moved eastwards breaking the US promise to Gorbachev. The Libyan tragedy was another crucial point. That unhappy country was bombed by NATO, and eventually disintegrated. From the most prosperous African state it was converted into most miserable. Russian presence in Libya was rather limited, but still, Russia lost some investment there. Russia abstained in the vote on Libya as this was the position of the then Russian president Dmitry Medvedev who believed in playing ball with the West. In no way was Putin ready to abandon Syria to the same fate. The Russian rebellion against the US hegemony began in June, when the Aeroflot flight from Beijing carrying Ed Snowden landed in Moscow. Americans pushed every button they could think of to get him back. They activated the full spectre of their agents in Russia. Only a few voices, including that of your truly, called on Russia to provide Snowden with safe refuge, but our voices prevailed. Despite the US pressure, Snowden was granted asylum. The next step was the Syrian escalation. I do not want to go into the details of the alleged chemical attack. In the Russian view, there was not and could not be any reason for the US to act unilaterally in Syria or anywhere else. In a way, the Russians have restored the Law of Nations to its old revered place. The world has become a better and safer place. None of this could’ve been achieved without the support of China. The Asian giant considers Russia its “elder sister” and relies upon her ability to deal with the round-eyes. The Chinese, in their quiet and unassuming way, played along with Putin. They passed Snowden to Moscow. They vetoed anti-Syrian drafts in the UNSC, and sent their warships to the Med. That is why Putin stood the ground not only for Russia, but for the whole mass of Eurasia. The Church was supportive of Putin’s efforts; not only the Russian Church, but both Catholics and Orthodox were united in their opposition to the pending US campaign for the US-supported rebels massacred Christians. The Pope appealed to Putin as to defender of the Church; so did the churches of Jerusalem and Antioch. The Pope almost threatened to excommunicate Hollande, and the veiled threat impressed the French president. So Putin enjoyed support and blessing of the Orthodox Patriarchs and of the Pope: such double blessing is an extremely rare occassion. There were many exciting and thrilling moments in the Syrian saga, enough to fill volumes. An early attempt to subdue Putin at G8 meeting in Ireland was one of them. Putin was about to meet with the united front of the West, but he managed to turn some of them to his side, and he sowed the seeds of doubt in others’ hearts by reminding them of the Syrian rebel manflesh-eating chieftains. The proposal to eliminate Syrian chemical weapons was deftly introduced; the UNSC resolution blocked the possibility of attacking Syria under cover of Chapter Seven. Miraculously, the Russians won in this mighty tug-of-war. The alternative was dire: Syria would be destroyed as Libya was; a subsequent Israeli-American attack on Iran was unavoidable; Oriental Christianity would lose its cradle; Europe would be flooded by millions of refugees; Russia would be proven irrelevant, all talk and no action, as important as Bolivia, whose President’s plane can be grounded and searched at will. Unable to defend its allies, unable to stand its ground, Russia would’ve been left with a ‘moral victory’, a euphemism for defeat. Everything Putin has worked for in 13 years at the helm would’ve been lost; Russia would be back to where it was in 1999, when Clinton bombed Belgrade. The acme of this confrontation was reached in the Obama-Putin exchange on exceptionalism. The two men were not buddies to start with. Putin was annoyed by what he perceived as Obama’s insincerity and hypocrisy. A man who climbed from the gutter to the very top, Putin cherishes his ability to talk frankly with people of all walks of life. His frank talk can be shockingly brutal. When he was heckled by a French journalist regarding treatment of Chechen separatists, he replied: “the Muslim extremists (takfiris) are enemies of Christians, of atheists, and even of Muslims because they believe that traditional Islam is hostile to the goals that they set themselves. And if you want to become an Islamic radical and are ready to be circumcised, I invite you to Moscow. We are a multi-faith country and we have experts who can do it. And I would advise them to carry out that operation in such a way that nothing would grow in that place again”. Another example of his shockingly candid talk was given at Valdai as he replied to BBC’s Bridget Kendall. She asked: did the threat of US military strikes actually play a rather useful role in Syria’s agreeing to have its weapons placed under control?Putin replied: Syria got itself chemical weapons as an alternative to Israel’s nuclear arsenal. He called for the disarmament of Israel and invoked the name of Mordecai Vanunu as an example of an Israeli scientist who opposes nuclear weapons. (My interview with Vanunu had been recently published in the largest Russian daily paper, and it gained some notice). Putin tried to talk frankly to Obama. We know of their exchange from a leaked record of the Putin-Netanyahu confidential conversation. Putin called the American and asked him: what’s your point in Syria? Obama replied: I am worried that Assad’s regime does not observe human rights. Putin almost puked from the sheer hypocrisy of this answer. He understood it as Obama’s refusal to talk with him “on eye level”. In the aftermath of the Syrian stand-off, Obama appealed to the people of the world in the name of American exceptionalism. The United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional”, he said. Putin responded: “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.” This was not only an ideological, but theological contradistinction. As I expounded at length elsewhere, the US is built on the Judaic theology of exceptionalism, of being Chosen. It is the country of Old Testament. This is the deeper reason for the US and Israel’s special relationship. Europe is going through a stage of apostasy and rejection of Christ, while Russia remains deeply Christian. Its churches are full, they bless one other with Christmas and Easter blessings, instead of neutral “seasons”. Russia is a New Testament country. And rejection of exceptionalism, of chosenness is the underlying tenet of Christianity. For this reason, while organised US Jewry supported the war, condemned Assad and called for US intervention, the Jewish community of Russia, quite numerous, wealthy and influential one, did not support the Syrian rebels but rather stood by Putin’s effort to preserve peace in Syria. Ditto Iran, where the wealthy Jewish community supported the legitimate government in Syria. It appears that countries guided by a strong established church are immune from disruptive influence of lobbies; while countries without such a church – the US and/or France – give in to such influences and adopt illegal interventionism as a norm. As US hegemony declines, we look to an uncertain future. The behemoth might of the US military can still wreck havoc; a wounded beast is the most dangerous one. Americans may listen to Senator Ron Paul who called to give up overseas bases and cut military expenditure. Norms of international law and sovereignty of all states should be observed. People of the world will like America again when it will cease snooping and bullying. It isn’t easy, but we’ve already negotiated the Cape and gained Good Hope. (Language edited by Ken Freeland)
December 2012 - January 2013 | An anarchist among jihadistsA view from the grassroots of the Syrian revolution.As an anarchist it wasn't easy for me to be among Jihadists, but for some reason, it wasn't the same treating them as a doctor.From the first moment I entered the hospital where I was working I was clear that I would treat anyone who needed my help, be they civilians, or fighters from any group, religion or sect. I was determined that no one would be mistreated inside that hospital, even if they were from Assad's army.It is true that not all the free army militants are devoted jihadists, although most of them think — or say — that what they are practising is 'Jihad'. But the truth is that there are a lot of ordinary people among them, as in any armed struggle.Yes, I helped some jihadists to survive and others to go back to fight. But my real intention was to help the masses I belong to, firstly as a physician, and secondly as an anarchist.My real problem, and that of the oppressed in general I think, is not with god himself, but with human beings who act as gods and are so sick with authority that they think and act like gods, be they secular dictators like Assad or Islamic imams.God himself is never as deadly dangerous as those who 'speak' for him.My first and lasting impression about the current situation in Syria is that there is no longer a popular revolution going on there. What is taking place is an armed revolution that could now simply degenerate into a civil conflict.The Syrian people — who showed unprecedented courage and determination in the first few months of the revolution, defying Assad's regime despite its brutality — are now exhausted. Nineteen long months of fierce repression, hunger, widespread scarcity and continuous bombardment by the regime's army have weakened their spirit. And the beneficiary of all this hasn't been the regime, but the opposition, especially the Islamists.Drawing on its international relationships — especially those with the rich Gulf despotisms — the latter can now feed and support the hungry population in the areas controlled by its forces. Without such support, a grave humanitarian situation would be taking place.But this support is not provided for free, either by the Gulf rulers or the opposition leaders. They, like any other authoritarian force, are asking the masses for submission and obedience, and this can only mean the real death of the Syrian revolution as a courageous popular act of the Syrian masses.The problem with what is happening now in Syria is not only the difficult and bloody process of changing a ruthless dictatorship, but that we may be substituting it with another dictatorship, which could be worse and bloodier.Early in the revolution, a small number of people — mainly devoted Islamists — claimed to represent the revolting masses and appointed themselves the true representative of the revolution. This went unchallenged by the mainstream of the revolutionary masses and intellectuals. We [anarchists] opposed these claims, but we were — and still are — too few to make any real difference.These people claimed that what was taking place was a religious war, not just a revolution of oppressed masses against their oppressor, and they aggressively used the fact that the oppressor [Assad] was from a different sect of Islam than the majority of the people he was exploiting — a sect that Sunni scholars have judged to be against the teachings of true Islam.We were shocked by the fact that the majority of Alawis (the sect of the current dictator), who are poorer and more marginalised than the Sunni majority, supported the regime; and participated in his brutal suppression of the revolution. And this was used as 'evidence' of the 'actual religious war' taking place between Sunnis and Alawis.Then came the material support from the Gulf rulers.Now the potential for any real popular struggle is decreasing rapidly. Syria today is governed by weapons, and only those who have them can have a say about its present and future.And this is not just true for Assad's regime and its Islamic opposition. Everywhere in the Middle East the great hopes are disappearing rapidly. The Islamists seem to be getting all of the benefits of the people's courageous struggles and could easily initiate the process of establishing their fanatical rule without strong opposition from the masses.The other issue that I think is important for us — Arab anarchists and the Arab masses — is how to build the libertarian alternative. That is, how to initiate effective anarchist or libertarian propaganda and build libertarian organisations.To tell the truth, I have never tried to convince anyone to be an anarchist and have always thought that trying to affect others is another way of practicing authority upon them.But now I see this issue from another perspective. It is all about making anarchism 'available' or known to those who want to fight any oppressing authority, be they workers, the unemployed, students, feminists, the youth, or ethnic and religious minorities.It is about trying to build an example — or sample — of the new free life, not only as a living manifestation of its potential presence, but also as a means to achieve that society.Our Stalin or Bonaparte is not yet in power, and the Syrian masses still have the opportunity to get a better outcome than that of the Russian revolution. It is true that this is difficult and is becoming more so every minute, but the revolution itself was a miracle, and on this earth the oppressed can create their miracles from time to time.We, Syrian anarchists, are putting all our cards and all our efforts with the masses. It could be no other way, or we would not deserve our libertarian name
Israeli strike on Syrian defense base an attempt to derail peace talks Published time: November 01, 2013 03:41An alleged Israeli strike on a Syrian air defense base near the port city of Latakia late Thursday had multiple purposes - not least of which was to undermine Syrian peace negotiations, former US Senate foreign policy analyst James Petras told RT.An Obama administration official told AP that the attack happened overnight on Thursday, but provided no further details. Another security official told the news agency that it took place in the Syrian port city of Latakia, and that the targets were Russian-made SA-125 missiles.“The Israelis’ efforts to undermine [peace talks] by supporting the opposition have failed,” Petras said. “I think this is clearly an effort to sabotage the negotiations that may take place shortly.”Petras also sees Israel’s aggressive stance against Syria as part of a “policy...to destroy any adversary of its land grabs in Palestine, and Syria is certainly an ally of the Palestinians.”RT: Do these reports surprise you?James Petras: I think they’re quite reliable. I think there’s no question that Israel is deeply involved in trying to undermine the peace process in Syria. The international community is looking very favorably on Syria’s destruction of the chemical weapons. There’s an effort clearly underway to organize peace negotiations between the opposition and the government in Geneva. The Israelis’ efforts to undermine that by supporting the opposition have failed. I think this is clearly an effort to sabotage the negotiations that may take place shortly.RT: Why do you think Israel would resort to such actions and undermine peace talks when an unstable Syria would be more of a threat?JP: I think the reason is that Israel’s policy is to destroy any adversary of its land grabs in Palestine, and Syria is certainly an ally of the Palestinians. They support Palestinian self-determination. And Syria is also an ally of Iran. So the Israeli policy is rule or ruin. And they are now supporting the opposition, not because they expect the opposition to be any better but because the continuing support for the opposition will perpetuate and destroy the economy of Syria and undermine civil society and any modus vivendi. I also think this is a precedent for a possible attack on Iran. I think the Israelis have been pushing here in the US Congress, going whole-hog to push legislation that would strangle the Iranian economy just as the peace negotiations between the 5+1 is underway. So I think this attack on Syria has multiple purposes. One, as a distraction from its building 1,500 new apartments in East Jerusalem. I think it’s a way of signaling its superiority in the region, and I think it’s a way of undermining Syria’s resistance to the opposition.RT: But if these strikes are targeting Hezbollah - which Israel considers a terrorist organization - isn't that a justification?JP: I think this is ridiculous. Hezbollah did not invade Israel, Israel invaded southern Lebanon. Israel violates the skies over Lebanon. They violate the borders of Lebanon, and not vice versa. Everything points to an aggressive Israel. Normally, these kinds of acts of war by Israel would receive sanctions and strong criticism.RT: If it is proven that Israel has attacked another sovereign state without provocation, would that constitute a war crime?JP: Exactly right, and the only way Israel can act with impunity is because in the United States, the Israeli Fifth Column is so influential on Capitol Hill and, in particular, it is influential within the Obama regime. There is hardly an appointment that goes on in the Obama regime which doesn’t result in a pro-Israeli official. Look at Commerce, look at Treasury, look at Trade. All the appointments - [US Trade Representative Michael] Froman, [Dept. of Treasury Secretary Jack] Lew, [Dept. of Commerce Secretary Penny] Pritzker - are all pro-Israel zealots. I think this is one of the problems. The US does not act in accordance with international law when it comes to Israeli war crimes.
Israeli planes strike Syrian military base to destroy Russia-made missiles - reportsPublished time: October 31, 2013 19:37 Edited time: November 03, 2013 22:34 Israeli warplanes struck a Syrian air defense base near the port city of Latakia on Thursday, US official have confirmed to media.An Obama administration official told AP that the attack happened overnight on Thursday, but provided no details. Another security official told the news agency that it took place in the Syrian port city of Latakia, and that the targets were Russian-made SA-125 missiles. Another US official told CNN that the Israelis believed the base near Snobar Jableh, south of Latakia, had sensitive and sophisticated missile equipment that may have been transferred to the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah.Earlier, Dubai-based broadcaster al-Arabiya reported two attacks carried out by the Israeli Air Forces – one in Latakia and the other one in Damascus. Neither the Syrian nor Israeli governments have commented on the alleged attacks. No casualties have been reported.A spokesman for the Israeli Defense Ministry declined to speak on the matter. "We're not commenting on these reports," he told Reuters. However, an Israeli official speaking anonymously to the news agency said he was inclined to believe that Israel had carried out a strike, although he was not entirely certain. The Lebanese military said it observed six Israeli jets flying over Lebanese territory on Wednesday, Reuters reported. Israeli jets frequently fly over Lebanon, but such high numbers have in the past been an indication of a military strike against Syria. Earlier in the day, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said there was a series of explosions at a Syrian air defense base in the Mediterranean coastal province of Latakia. "Several explosions were heard in an air defense base in the Snubar Jableh area," SOHR director Rami Abdel Rahman said, adding that the reason for the blasts remains “unclear.” Meanwhile, a Syrian security source said that "a rocket fell near the base, causing a fire to break out," AFP reported. However, RT Arabic’s source within the Syrian security forces has denied the media reports. Ammar al-Asad, head of the foreign affairs committee within the Syrian National Council, said in an interview with RT that "In Latakia, we did not hear any sounds, incidents, or anything that can prove the attack happened." There have been five previous incidents in which Israel is believed to have struck inside Syria. The first of those took place in January. In all of the alleged attacks, the reason given was that Israel feared that weapons were making their way into the hands of Hezbollah. But many critics said that it was just an excuse for a blatant direct attack inside Syria, RT’s Paula Slier explained.In the past, Damascus has threatened to strongly retaliate against such attacks.
CNN Exclusive: Inside Syrian town living under al Qaeda reign of fearBy Nick Paton Walsh, Raja Razek and Gul Tuysuz, CNNNovember 6, 2013 -- Updated 1340 GMT (2140 HKT)Gaziantep, Turkey (CNN) -- Raqqa was, a matter of months ago, one of Syria's most liberal cities. Now locals call it Tora Bora. They say it's as if the Taliban of Afghanistan have taken over.After months of bombardment by the regime and a chaotic lack of control by weak and divided moderate rebels, al Qaeda have found a broken society, made it their home, and imposed on it hardline Islamist law.Each morning, activists told us, they seem to awake to a more conservative city. The "Bayanaat" or rulings sometimes appear on town walls. Many limit women's rights -- to walk alone, to style or show their hair. Other edicts come by word of mouth -- no smoking, no cameras. Behind them are often foreign jihadists from the al Qaeda linked militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.The fear that now grips the city can be felt in the shocking bruises on Adnan's body. Adnan, whose name has been changed out of fears for his safety, was behind some graffiti in Raqqa that told ISIS to get out. They caught him filming too, and dragged him into the burned-out ruins of a church they had torched and labeled as a new ISIS base.Adnan was then taken to a nearby basement where the torture started. "Every 15 minutes, someone poured water on me, electrocuted me, kicked me, then walked out," he said. But his own pain, he said, he could handle, as his body eventually went numb. It was hearing the pain and the screams of other prisoners he knew that was the hardest. "When a person is tortured in front of you, you feel responsible. That's the hardest. One guy still inside used to call me Dad as I taught him about democracy," he said.One ISIS video -- part of a high-definition, heavily produced social media channel that displays their ideals and exploits -- shows their militants driving through Raqqa at night. They pass a poster, put up by ISIS, encouraging women to wear the Islamic hijab or partial veil, to "cover their beauty".The militants' goal, though, is reaching a cafe where they tell patrons smoking will be banned. Another video shows them burning not only marijuana, but also large numbers of cigarette cartons. Another shows an ISIS teacher -- his face blurred -- with a group of schoolchildren, all wearing ISIS's distinctive black headbands.It is extraordinarily dangerous to film inside Raqqa. Activists have been beaten and jailed by ISIS for doing so. But CNN has gathered rare video from some activists and from ISIS's own websites that paint a chilling picture of the rapid lurch towards radical Islamist ideology in a city now under ISIS control.Dozens of interviews with activists and Syrians have also detailed the story of a city where women -- along with the previously liberal lifestyle of an entire town -- are being rapidly suppressed by militants bent on establishing an Islamic caliphate across northern Syria.One female activist said: "They are closing hair salons, women can't go out at certain times. They spat on one girl for disobedience. It's like Afghanistan. Now people call Raqqa Tora Bora." The speed of change has overwhelmed many who notice that the city is becoming quieter and more conservative each week.ISIS first came into town on May 15, and swiftly executed men they accused of working for the regime. At first, they seemed an Islamist but better-organized alternative to the rebels who had failed to bring governance or peace to the city for months. But slowly a broader agenda emerged and began to gather pace each week, activists told CNN.Rebels who opposed ISIS were at first jailed, sparking protests. Yet ISIS became increasingly uncompromising in their grip on the town. Rules for social conduct in Raqqa, some written and some not, have emerged in the past few weeks. They have yet to reach the extent of those seen in the nearby town of Jarablus -- where one poster recently warned thieves would have their hand chopped off -- but locals fear that could come soon.Anti-ISIS dissent has been silenced in Raqqa, and many activists and locals we spoke to have fled the town. Some stay and spray-paint graffiti declaring that ISIS and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are the same, or telling ISIS to get out.Locals note the irony in the fact that ISIS beats them for this graffiti, just in the same way that the Assad regime was accused of torturing young people for anti-government graffiti in the southern town of Daraa -- an incident that began the revolution in March 2011. For many, ISIS is now something worse than the regime.
Al Qaeda-linked group strengthens hold in northern SyriaBy Gul Tuysuz, Raja Razek, and Nick Paton WalshNovember 6, 2013 -- Updated 1612 GMT (0012 HKT)Gaziantep, Turkey (CNN) -- Al Qaeda has swept to power with the aim of imposing a strict Islamist ideology on Syrians across large swathes of Syria's rebel-held north, according to a CNN survey of towns, activists and analysts that reveals an alarming increase in al Qaeda-linked control in just the past month.Al Qaeda-backed militants known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are the predominant military force in northern Syria, according to activists and seasoned observers, and have a powerful influence over the majority of population centers in the rebel-held north.Al Qaeda's growing influence in SyriaRami Abdul Rahman, from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said: "ISIS is the strongest group in Northern Syria -- 100% -- and anyone who tells you anything else is lying." Chemical weapons doubts in Syria Syria's foreign fighters Turkey's secret jihadi smuggling routeCNN conducted dozens of interviews with activists, local and international observers and residents of the towns affected by ISIS in preparing this study. Many of the Syrians CNN spoke to talked anonymously for fear of angering ISIS, saying ISIS has in some areas made it a crime punishable by flogging to even say their name.The swift al Qaeda expansion poses a severe policy dilemma for the United States and its European allies who have long delayed their promised armed assistance to rebel groups as they struggled with fears that the weapons could end up in the hands of al Qaeda-backed extremists.Observers say the delay has provided a vacuum in the often chaotic rebel ranks that the organized and fearless Islamists have moved to fill.Many observers explain that the extent of ISIS's discipline and resources -- they are said to have considerable cash at their disposal -- means that the other rebel groups operating in the north do not seek to confront them.Read more: Al Qaeda-linked group gains strength on NATO borderCharles Lister, analyst at IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre, said: "Although not a numerically dominant force, ISIS is playing an increasingly pre-eminent role in the northern Syrian insurgency."Much of this is a result of its capability to exploit superior levels of financing and resources -- essentially, to spread itself thinly enough to exert influence and/or control, but not too thin as to be overpowered by rivals."Most activists point to a clear strategy by ISIS -- which aims to dominate a large swathe of the north from the north-western town of Idlib to the north-eastern city of Raqqa and beyond -- of focusing on population centers on the edges of rebel-held territory and slowly choking off central areas. Some ISIS figures have described a broader aim of trying to link the Sunni province of Anbar in Iraq to the Mediterranean coast, near the Syrian town of Latakia.There are a number of smaller towns in northern Syria which -- activists and residents have told us -- are controlled entirely by ISIS: Keftin, Tal Rifat, Azaz, Ad Dana, Dar Ta Izzah, Binnish, Raqqa, Ma'arrat Misrin, Jarablus and Al-Bab.The survey has established that ISIS also has a presence -- which is often hard for other rebel groups to challenge -- in the following towns: Sarmin, Salqin, Hraytan, Tabqa Dam, Hayyan, Al Eyramoon, Karm Al Meeyasir, Karm Al Qatarji, Al Atarib, Sarmada, Tal Halef, Menbij, Athimah, Maarat an-Numan, Saraqib and Ariha.Watch video: Secret jihadi smuggling route through TurkeyWhile the main city of Aleppo remains in the control of a series of different rebel groups, ISIS has begun exerting control on key entry points into the city, and has recently gained control of the al-Sakhour neighborhood. The group is also gaining ground in controlling the northern access points to the city and territory in the rebel-held east.ISIS' control around Idlib, another key city, is complicated by the regime's continued presence there, but the group has established a foothold to the north east in Sarmin, is present in the town of Saraqib, and is in full control of Binnish, a key town to Idlib's north.Their grip over the rebel town of Raqqa is considerably tighter than elsewhere, despite the continued presence of rival and even aligned rebel groups who do not seek to challenge them. The Washington Institute think-tank says ISIS' grip on Raqqa makes it "the largest city al Qaeda has ever controlled in the Islamic world."CNN al Qaeda expert Peter Bergen said the Washington Institute assessment could be correct, given the nature of ISIS's dominance in Raqqa, but pointed out that the U.S. Marine Corps admitted al Qaeda was in control of the Iraqi province of Anbar in 2006, which contained, at the time, around a couple of million people, and so could technically be considered larger.In these ISIS-held areas, signs of the kind of Islamist society that the al Qaeda-backed militants seek to create have been swift to emerge; one woman activist drew comparisons with the Taliban's rule over Afghanistan. Rulings have been posted in some towns forbidding women to travel without a male relative and at certain times of the day, ordering them to cover up their hair with the traditional Islamic headscarf and not to wear trousers in public, and banning them from wearing make-up and seeking treatment from male doctors. Smoking and cameras have also been banned.Watch video: Al Qaeda's growing influence in SyriaOn Sunday one northern town, Jarablus, saw a poster erected by ISIS threatening thieves with having their hand cut off -- an extreme form of punishment mandated by radical readings of Islamist, or Sharia, law.While many Syrians have described the initial approach of ISIS towards towns they seek to control as friendly and peaceful, often offering generous cash incentives to cooperate, they are increasingly brutal in dealing with their critics.One activist described how he was taken by ISIS militants from the town of Azaz and held in a blanket factory in Aleppo's northern suburb of Hyratan."I was tortured, beaten. They hung me from the ceiling and used electricity on me. They kept trying to make me confess being a British spy," he said, adding that the factory held 20 other prisoners, mostly from rival rebel brigades, and that the site was also used by ISIS to make bombs.ISIS have released a series of slickly-produced videos about their growing control, and some skeptics say they are promoting stories of their dominance to increase their power over local populations.Yet in recent weeks, many activists accept that ISIS' genuine hold on the rebel north has escalated to the point where rival groups are unable to challenge them.
russian mudzahedins fighting against syrian Shuhada Badr rebels somewhere in Aleppo outskirts