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Arab Writer: US Concern About Syrian Chemical Weapons Prelude for Intervention
Al-Quds al-Arabi Online
Friday, December 7, 2012


Commentary by Chief Editor Abd-al-Bari Atwan: “Syria: Military Intervention is Drawing Near”

The sudden US-European concern about Syria`s chemical weapons, and the growing panic over the possibility of their use by Syrian President Bashar al-Asad against his own citizens reveal an almost certain intention to intervene militarily in Syria to decisively settle the situation and overthrow the ruling regime in Damascus. A close source to UN envoy Lakhdar Ibrahimi cited him as saying that a key Arabian Gulf ruler told him that the Syrian crisis would be over within two months and that the new Syrian coalition would assume power.

Focusing on the peril of nuclear weapons at this time is reminiscent of the rabid US campaign that preceded the US invasion of Iraq. The chief difference between the two cases is that Iraq had no such weapons, something the United States was aware of, whereas Jihad al-Magdisi, the spokesman for the Syrian Foreign Ministry, who recently defected, has officially admitted to the existence of such weapons in Syria.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who will chair a meeting of the Friends of Syria in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh next week, said there were two possibilities regarding the Syrian chemical weapons: First, the Syrian regime may use them if it reaches a state of despair or, second, if it loses control over these weapons, and thus fall into the hands of extremist Islamic groups.

The Syrian regime stressed through Jihad al-Magdisi before his defection that it would not use such weapons against its own people, but would use them should Syria come under foreign aggression. This may explain the current growing US and Israeli concern about these weapons.

I do not believe that the United States, or all the Arab countries that support US policy in the region, have any concern about or fear for the Syrian people. After all, the Syrian regime committed a massacre in Hamah in 1981, a massacre that Washington did not condemn or withdraw its ambassador from Damascus in protest even though that massacre left more than 30,000 people dead. Likewise, Washington kept silent on the Syrian regime`s dictatorship and violations of human rights for more than 40 years.

What concerns the United States first and foremost is Israel. What the United States really fears is the possibility of these weapons being used against Israelis whether by the regime in a state of despair, which cannot be ruled out, or by the currently militarily stronger jihadist groups in the Syrian territories. When jihadist groups fight against a common enemy like the Syrian regime, this fight would be commendable, but after toppling the Syrian regime, as happened in Libya and earlier in Afghanistan, the Americans` new enemy would be these very groups.

Overthrowing the regime in Syria has absolutely nothing to do with democracy and human rights, but with the Iranian nuclear program. This does not mean that the Syrian people`s demands for democratic change are not legitimate. These legitimate demands have been and are being exploited and used by the United States, Europe, and Arabs to shatter Iran`s nuclear aspirations.

US military intervention (in Syria) is under preparation, awaiting a green light from the White House. The “Eager Lion” manoeuvres, in Jordan, in which 19 countries participated in an area near Syria`s southeast border, included training on ways of fighting in war circumstances in which chemical weapons would be used. The question is: Will military intervention take place end of this year? Or will it wait for a declaration of war against Iran in the coming spring at the most?

There are two assumptions: First, the Syrian chemical weapons may be seized before a US-Israeli carpet bombing of Iran to prevent the Syrian regime from using them against Israel, should it reach a state of despair; the second assumption envisions that the United States and Israel are more likely to wait for a major offensive that will target Iran, Syria, Hizballah, and perhaps the Islamic resistance movements in the Gaza Strip.

Turkey`s request for the installation of patriot missiles on its border with Syria has absolutely nothing to do with fear from the Syrian regime or its aircraft and rockets. The Syrian regime is exhausted and its forces are losing ground while the opposition forces are mounting attacks in the proximity of Damascus, just a few kilometers from the Republican Palace. Turkey`s request for Patriot missiles has to do with an imminent war against Iran.

We have learned from previous experience that there are two key indicators for impending wars in our region: First, exaggerated talk about Arab weapons of mass destruction and, second, US-European interest in Arab- Israeli peace. The sudden US-European protest of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu`s plan to build 3,000 housing units in occupied Jerusalem and their summoning of the Israeli ambassadors in the Western capitals to protest this step are an exposed theatrical move to cover up the imminent military intervention and to deceive some naAAve Arabs. This happened during the era of former US President Gore Bush senior when in 1991 he called for convening the Madrid peace conference to justify the later destruction of Iraq under the label of liberating Kuwait. Similarly, former President Bush junior did the same thing, pledging that a Palestinian state would be created in 2005, he made this pledge prior to the invasion and occupation of Iraq in March 2003.

Settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territories has continued for the past 60 years, but Washington never moved a finger to stop it. Nor did it impose any sanctions against Israel, and absolutely never summoned any Israeli ambassador in protest. So why the current spineless anger against Israel`s settlement construction, anger that involves no sanctions.

The Syrian chemical weapons were obtained to serve as deterrence against nuclear Israel, not to be used against the Syrian people or any other people. If the Syrian regime really uses such weapons against its people, something we doubt and strongly oppose, it would deserve any potential consequences. These are Syrian Arab weapons and must remain in Syrian hands. Neither the United States nor any other country has a right to seize or destroy them, as happened to Iraqi weapons, unless all weapons of mass destruction -- biological and nuclear -- in the Israeli military arsenal are destroyed.

(Description of Source: London Al-Quds al-Arabi Online in Arabic -- Website of London-based independent Arab nationalist daily with strong anti-US bias. URL:

© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.

US, Israeli Special Forces in Syria, Tracking Chemical Weapons
Friday, December 7, 2012

The following article, titled “Obama and Assad Play Chemical Poker before Big Confrontation,” was carried on 7 December by DEBKA-Net-Weekly, an online subscription-only weekly newsletter published by DEBKAfile, a sensationalist website with a penchant for conspiracy theories.

The introductory passage reads: “For the past week, US officials have kept up a flow of leaks to the media suggesting that Syrian President Bashar Assad was on the verge of ordering his army to unleash chemical weapons. The details built up as the week went by, starting with the detection of `unusual movements` of Syrian chemical weapons units, advancing to reports that the Syrians were `mixing precursor chemicals` for the nerve gas sarin and on Thursday, Dec. 6, that bombs had been made ready with sarin gas for loading onto Syrian Air Force fighter-bombers when Assad gave the word. The strange thing about these tactics is this: If `US officials` -- military and intelligence -- were able to keep track step by step of the movements of Syria`s poisonous weapons and could predict that sooner or later Assad will use them, why didn`t they take preventive action in good time? DEBKA-Net-Weekly` s military sources confirm that US, Israeli, Jordanian and Turkish special forces are spread out on the ground in Syria, armed with special gear for combating chemical arms. They are close enough to count the convoys carrying canisters, shells or bombs loaded with poison gas and their reports are supplemented by orbiting US military surveillance satellites and drones able to pinpoint the position of the chemical munitions at any given moment.”

(Description of Source: Jerusalem DEBKA-Net-Weekly in English -- Online subscription-only weekly newsletter published by DEBKAfile, a popular independent, sensationalist website with a penchant for conspiracy theories in its reporting on international terrorism, security affairs, and espionage; URL:

© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.

Syrian Military Commanders Hold Secret Meetings in Turkey To Unite Rebels` Ranks
Al-Sharq al-Awsat Online
Friday, December 7, 2012

Report by Caroline Akum in Beirut: “`Secret Military Meetings` in Turkey Under International Sponsorship To Unite the Ranks. Colonel Al-As`ad to `Al-Sharq al-Awsat`: A Tendency To Divide Syrian Areas Into Four Fronts Each Led by a Military Commander and a Revolutionary Leader”

After four days of secret and intensive “military and revolutionary meetings” held in Antakya, Turkey, under international sponsorship and in the presence of international military commanders for the purpose of uniting the military forces, the oppositionists, among them the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, agree unanimously that positive results will come out by today at most from these meetings that bring together around 700 persons. The results will include the selection of a unified commander of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), as asserted to Al-Sharq al-Awsat by a military source, unlike all the previous attempts by the opposition`s military forces.

FSA Commander Colonel Riyad al-As`ad asserted this and pointed out that the meeting includes all the commanders at the regiments` level that are operating on the ground inside Syria regardless of names and Western commanders in a serious attempt to unite the military forces` ranks, calling it “the serious attempt” whose positive results would be announced in the coming few days.

He told Al-Sharq al-Awsat : “There is a tendency to divide the Syrian areas into four parts or main fronts each of which will be commanded by a military officer and a revolutionary leader and we hope that all of them will be capable of the responsibility.” He added that this project would succeed because it has brought together several parties that had not met earlier for that purpose after everyone became aware of the need to unite, not only in the interest of the revolution but also for the post-downfall of the regime that has become inevitable. He considered all past attempts to unite the ranks individual ones backed by certain parties and did not have any role on the ground.

Regarding the Islamic factions` participation in these meetings or coordination with them, Al-As`ad asserted that most of these factions are taking part in these meetings apart from “Al-Nusrah Front” which was not invited but contact with it is continuing and would be activated after the announcement of the meetings` results. He stressed that “no party or side can be marginalized.”

It is recalled that Ibadah al-Agha who represents Al-Sahabah Regiments in Damascus told “Reuters” that “Al-Nusrah Front`s” absence from the meetings - which oppositionists assert to Al-Sharq al-Awsat that the number of its elements is increasing greatly in the Syrian areas - threatens to undermine this project. Al-Agha pointed out that the new entity being established has much greater support from a broader group of oppositionists and therefore there is a chance of success and added: “The only way to that is getting the external backing that it needs as otherwise these efforts will fail before they have even started.”

Asked whether reaching an agreement on uniting the ranks is bound to have a positive impact on Western promises to back the opposition and provide it with weapons, Al-As`ad said: “We are relying on the unity to activate the military action that saw and will see in the coming stage noticeable development after we have changed the military action strategy and succeeded in seizing control of several military units, especially the 46th Corps, and therefore we are not relying anymore on any words or promises.”While Al-As`ad did not deny that the FSA has obtained limited military support and weapons, he stressed that most of the light and heavy weapons, including the antiaircraft ones, it is using are from the regime`s own weapons and the spoils that the elements succeed in seizing.

(Description of Source: London Al-Sharq al-Awsat Online in Arabic -- Website of influential London-based pan-Arab Saudi daily; editorial line reflects Saudi official stance. URL:

© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.

Syrian National Coalition To Meet 9 Dec To Name Provisional Government Head
Al-Sharq al-Awsat Online
Friday, December 7, 2012

Report by Adham Sayf-al-Din in Cairo and Talhah Jibril in Rabat: “Syrian National Coalition Holds Extraordinary Meeting in Cairo and Expectations of `Marrakesh Meeting`s` Recognition. Sources to `Al-Sharq al-Awsat`: Al-Shishakli the Candidate To Head the Government and Faris for the Defense”

The National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces will hold an extraordinary meeting on Sunday and Monday in Cairo to complete building the political structure and name the head of the provisional government before the start of the “Friends of Syria” conference in Marrakesh on 12 December.

Sources inside the Coalition disclosed to Al-Sharq al-Awsat that “Samir al-Shishakli is the leading candidate for heading the government and Major General Pilot Muhammad al-Faris for the defense minister post.”

Coalition member Haytham al-Malih said “the Coalition informed us that a meeting will be held next Sunday and Monday to discuss a number of issues, among them naming the head of the provisional government and its ministers and completing the formation of the political bureau.” He added in statements to Al-Sharq al-Awsat that “some Coalition members are objecting to the timing which was sudden.”

The National Coalition concluded its last meeting on 4 December after having agreed on the statutes of 43 articles. Coalition member Muhammad al-Sarmini told Al-Sharq al-Awsat that “Samir al-Shishakli is the most prominent candidate for heading the provisional government.” Al-Shishakli, a member of the National Council, worked at the United Nations since the 1970s and became prominent some decades ago as an opponent of late President Hafiz al-Asad. He is the grandson of late President Adib al-Shishakli.Two other names were proposed. The first was that of Riyad Hijab but Article 29 of the Coalition`s statutes (in its fifth clause) probably excludes Hijab from the nomination since a condition for membership in the government (is that the member should not be one of the regime`s key officials). The second name is that of As`ad Mustafa, a former agricultural minister who was the governor of Hamah Governorate under Al-Asad the father. Mustafa, who lives in Kuwait now, left the country some decades ago in protest to Hafiz al-Asad`s policies.

According to sources inside the Coalition, the government will be made up of around 13 ministries at the top of them the foreign, security (interior), and relief ones in addition to defense. Voices inside the Free Syrian Army (FSA) command are nominating Maj Gen Muhammad Faris for it. Bassam Dadah, the FSA`s political adviser, told Al-Sharq al-Awsat that “Muhammad al-Faris is the strong candidate for taking over the defense ministry. There is agreement on him among the military commanders because they consider his hands to be clean and he was isolated for nine years when Hafiz al-Asad ordered his exclusion from any activity.” (Passage omitted citing Moroccan Foreign Ministry)

(Description of Source: London Al-Sharq al-Awsat Online in Arabic -- Website of influential London-based pan-Arab Saudi daily; editorial line reflects Saudi official stance. URL:

© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.


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