Tuesday, July 10, 2012

521 Kissinger warns against US intervention in Syria

Kissinger warns against US intervention in Syria

(1) Houla Massacre: US and its allies may consider "taking actions"
against Syria
(2) Al-Houla massacre leaves Syrian regime on the ropes
(3) Houla massacre victims "were supporters of Syrian Government"
(4) The Houla Massacre: Opposition Terrorists "Killed Families Loyal To
The Government"
(5) Kissinger warns against US intervention in Syria
(6) Hamas steers a new course after break with Syria

(1) Houla Massacre: US and its allies may consider "taking actions"
against Syria



The massacre in Houla is being blamed on the Syrian government without a
shred of evidence. This incisive report by independent Russian
journalist Marat Musin, based on a chronology of events and eyewitness
accounts, confirms that crimes against humanity are being committed by
terrorist militia. The objective is not only to isolate the al-Assad
government politically and economically, but to develop a pretext and a
justification for waging an R2P humanitarian war on Syria. The US
Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice has hinted that, if necessary, the US
and its allies may consider "taking actions outside of the Annan plan
and the authority of the [UN Security] Council." It is essential to
reverse the tide of war propaganda which uses civilian deaths as a
pretext to wage war, when those killings of civilians were carried out
not by government forces but by professional terrorists operating under
the helm of the US-NATO sponsored Free Syrian Army.

(2) Al-Houla massacre leaves Syrian regime on the ropes


Global Times | May 31, 2012 21:58

By Khaled Ali

Until recently, al-Houla, a sleepy town in the Syrian interior, was
virtually unknown globally. Located between Homs and Hama, two hotbeds
of the Syrian Revolution that broke out against Bashar al-Assad in early
2011, al-Houla had never made headlines.

Overnight al-Houla became the focus of the world's attention as armed
men stormed it late last Friday, killing 116 civilians in cold blood,
including 55 children, 32 of them less than 10 years old. Those who
survived to tell the tale played dead, to avoid being butchered. The
massacre looked like the Sabra & Shatila atrocities that appalled the
world in Beirut back in September 1982.

The identity of the killers, however, remains in doubt although the
entire Syrian opposition, along with ordinary Syrians, has blamed it on
the Assad regime, and so have world powers from all four corners of the
globe. In an official reaction to the massacre, the US, France, the UK,
Australia, Italy, Bulgaria, Canada, and Spain, all collectively expelled
Syrian diplomats from their capitals Tuesday. British Foreign Secretary
William Hague flew to Moscow to talk the Russians, so far Syria's
strongest surviving ally, into increase pressure on the Damascus regime.

As in any crime, usual suspects are usually picked up by police, and in
this case, Syrian officialdom, it must be noted, was at first completely
mute about the al-Houla massacre. As international reactions mounted,
and with the Syrian street boiling with anger, Syria's state-run media
came up with a statement at noon on Saturday, saying that "armed
terrorist groups" had carried out the massacre.

By early evening, Syria's official news agency SANA blamed the attack on
Al Qaeda. The next morning, Syria's state run dailies all echoed a
similar phrase, running very graphic images of children's bodies, with
throats slit, blaming it too on Islamic fanatics and anonymous terrorist

Jihad Makdissi, spokesman for the Syrian Foreign Ministry, came out 48
hours after the massacre, denying any connection. The government, he
said, "was not responsible at all" for what happened in al-Houla.

Yet contrary to what was expected, the victims did not get state media
attention during their collective funeral, and President Bashar al-Assad
neither addressed the nation on the solemn day, nor did he call for a
mourning period.

The question remains: Who committed al-Houla massacre, and why? If the
regime did it, which remains the most probable option, it would be like
shooting itself in the foot.

One theory says that armed thugs on the government's payroll, known in
Arabic as shabiha, carried out the attack, with no clear orders from the
central government in Damascus. They did it in revenge, rumor has it,
for the attempted murder of six regime officials last week through
poisoned food. Among those targeted in the assassination attempt was
Assef Shawkat, the Army Deputy Chief of Staff and brother-in-law of Bashar.

Another theory says that Assad has completely lost control of large
parts of the country, which have fallen to chaos. If the regime was
unable to protect its citizens, and if the massacre took place under its
nose, then this is a huge challenge for the current regime to handle.

The author is a freelance writer and commentator based in Beirut.

(3) Houla massacre victims "were supporters of Syrian Government"

Date: Sat, 02 Jun 2012 13:05:56 +0100 From: Ian Henshall

Slaughtered families in Houla were supporters of the Syrian government

By Ian Henshal

Truth News Australia, 2 June 2012


BBC's Newsnight last night interviewed
<http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01jhlmh> a London based Syrian
businessman who stated that the families murdered by terrorists in Houla
were supporters of the Syrian government, not the opposition.

If correct this would make it highly unlikely that the narrative pushed
by the mainstream media is true, and suggests the opposite is the case:
the atrocity was committed not by the Assad regime but by the
insurgents, supported by NATO, Al Qaeda and the gulf arab dictators, and
reported to be covertly armed by Turkey's Muslim Brotherhood linked

The official story of the Houla massacre has changed substantially since
it first broke, with unconfirmed reports from insurgents (routinely
described on the BBC as activists). Version one, corroborated by at
least one BBC corespondent, had it that the victims were killed by heavy
weapons of the Syrian army. Version two was that villagers had been
randomly killed by militias sponsored by the Assad government. Version
three, the current version, concedes that most of the victims came from
a few extended families.

It should not be difficult to establish who the families were loyal to:
the insurgents or the Syrian government. The Syrian businessman on
Newsnight stated they were related to an MP elected in recent elections
which the insurgents have boycotted.

It was not clear whether the information from the Syrian businessman was
expected in this live TV show. The potential bombshell was ignored by
hawkish presenter Gavin Essler and high profile warmonger Paul
Wolfovitz, who demanded a military attack on Syria. A UN spokesman
refused Essler's invitation to confirm that the Houla victims were
killed by Syrian government forces.

If we now hear less and less about the massacre with no further details,
many will conclude that the prima facie suspects for the atrocity are
the insurgents, backed by NATO and the Gulf arab dictators, aided and
abetted by the mainstream media, including the BBC. This would be a
classic false flag terrorist atrocity. Ironically the Egyptian branch of
the Muslim Bortherhood has denounced the 9/11 attacks as a false flag
atrocity organised by Israel or the CIA.

In one way this would be good news: there are no logistical reasons why
these people cannot be arrested, prosecuted and tried. It is established
in international law that propaganda on behalf of war criminals is in
itself a war crime. The fact that no-one would expect this to happen is
testimony to the tacit acceptance that NATO governments and media have
no real interest in human rights.

(4) The Houla Massacre: Opposition Terrorists "Killed Families Loyal To
The Government"

From: Paul de Burgh-Day <pdeburgh@harboursat.com.au> Date: Sun, 3 Jun
2012 22:07:26 +1000

By Marat Musin


June 1, 2012

ANNA NEWS (Original Russian) and syrianews.cc

Global Research Editor's Note

This incisive report by independent Russian journalist Marat Musin
dispels the lies and fabrications of the Western media. ...

It is essential to reverse the tide of war propaganda which uses
civilian deaths as a pretext to wage war, when those killings of
civilians were carried out not by government forces but by professional
terrorists operating under the helm of the US-NATO sponsored Free Syrian

Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, Montreal, June 1, 2012 +_+

In the weekend of May 25, 2012, at about 2 PM, big groups of fighters
attacked and captured the town of Al – Hula of the Homs province.
Al-Houla is made up of three regions: the village of Taldou, Kafr Laha
and Taldahab, each of which had previously been home for 25-30 thousand

The town was attacked from the north-east by groups of bandits and
mercenaries, numbering up to 700 people. The militants came from
Ar-Rastan (the Brigade of al-Farouk from the Free Syrian Army led by the
terrorist Abdul Razak Tlass and numbering 250), from the village of
Akraba (led by the terrorist Yahya Al-Yousef), from the village Farlaha,
joined by local gangsters, and from Al Houla.

The city of Ar-Rastan has long been abandoned by most civilians. Now
Wahhabis from Lebanon dominate the scene, fueled with money and weapons
by one of the main orchestrators of international terrorism, Saad
Hariri, who heads the anti-Syrian political movement "Tayyar
Al-Mustaqbal" ("Future Movement"). The road from Ar-Rastan to Al-Houla
runs through Bedouin areas that remain mostly out of control of
government troops, which made the militant attacks on Al Hula a complete
surprise for the Syrian authorities.

When the rebels seized the lower checkpoint in the center of town and
located next to the local police department, they began to sweep all the
families loyal to the authorities in neighboring houses, including the
elderly, women and children. Several families of the Al-Sayed were
killed, including 20 young children and the family of the Abdul Razak.
Many of those killed were "guilty" of the fact that they dared to change
from Sunnis to Shiites. The people were killed with knives and shot at
point blank range. Then they presented the murdered to the UN and the
international community as victims of bombings by the Syrian army,
something that was not verified by any marks on their bodies.

The idea that the UN observers had heard artillery fire against Al-Houla
in the Safir Hotel in Homs at night… I consider nothing short of a bad
joke. 50 kilometers lie between Homs and Al-Houla. What kind of tanks or
guns has this range? Yes, there was intensive gunfire in Homs until 3
am, including heavy weapons. But, to give an example, on the night of
Monday to Tuesday shooting was due to an attempt by law enforcement to
regain control for a security corridor along the road to Damascus, Tarik

After a visual inspection of Al Hula it is impossible to find traces of
any of fresh destruction, bombing and shelling. During the day, several
attacks by gunmen are made on the last remaining soldiers at the Taldou
checkpoint. Militants used heavy weapons and snipers made up of
professional mercenaries were active.

Note that once, the exactly same provocation failed at Shumar (Homs) and
49 militants and women and children were killed, when it was organized
just before a visit of Kofi Annan. The last provocation was immediately
exposed as soon as it became known that the bodies of the previously
kidnapped belonged to Alawites. This provocation also contained serious
inconsistencies – the names of those killed were from people loyal to
the authorities, there were no traces of bombings, etc.

However, the provocation machine is running all the same. Today, the
NATO countries directly threat to bomb Syria, and a simultaneous
expulsion of Syrian diplomats has begun … As of today, there are no
troops within the city of Al Hula, but there are regularly heard bursts
of automatic fire, nonetheless. Moreover, it is unclear whether the
militants are fighting with each other, or whether supporters of Bashar
al-Assad are being cleaned out.

Militants opened fire on virtually everyone who tries to get closer to
the border town. Before us a UN convoy was fired upon and two armored
jeeps of the UN observers were damaged, when they tried to drive up to
an army checkpoint in Tal Dow.

In the attack on the convoy a twenty-year-old terrorist was spotted. The
fire was directed on the unprotected slopes of the first jeep, the back
door of the second armored car was hooked by a fragment. There are
wounded among those accompanying.

According to a wounded soldier:

"The next day, UN observers came to us at the checkpoint and as soon as
they arrived, gunmen opened fire on them. And three of us were injured.
One was wounded in the leg, the second – in the back, and I was hit in
the hip.

When the observers came, they could hear a woman who was standing next
to them and cried, the woman stood and pleaded the observers’ help – to
protect her from the bandits. When I was wounded, the observers watched
as I fell, but none of them tried to help. Our checkpoint no longer
exists. There are no civilians any longer in Taldou, only militants
remain. Our relationship to the locals was excellent. They are very good
to us; they called on the army to enter Taldou. We were attacked by

Unfortunately, many of the militants are professional snipers. 100-200
meters from our group TV-crew, militants attacked a BMP that went to
replace soldiers at the checkpoint. During this a soldier – draftee got
a concussion and slight tangential wound in the head by a sniper bullet.
Looking at the pierced Kevlar helmet, it seems he did not even realize
that he survived by a miracle.

Snipers kill up to 10 soldiers and policemen at checkpoints each day. It
is true, that the daily casualties of law enforcement agencies in Homs
were dozens of victims daily. But, unfortunately, at 10 am, six dead
soldiers were taken to the morgue. Most were killed by a shot in the
head. And the day had just begun…

So, these are the names of those were killed by snipers in the early
morning hours of May 29:

1. Sergeant Ibrahim Halyuf
2. Sergeant Salman Ibrahim
3. Policeman Mahmoud Danaver
4. Conscript Ali Daher
5. Sergeant Wisam Haidar
6. the dead soldier’s family name could not be clarified

The bandits even fired an automatic burst on our group of journalists,
although it was clear that this is a normal filming crew, consisting of
unarmed civilians.


After Friday prayers at about 2 PM on May, 25th a group from the Al Aksh
clan started firing on a checkpoint of law enforcement officers from
mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. Returning fire from a BRDM hit
the mosque, and this was the very aim to lead to a bigger provocation.

Then, two groups of militants led by the terrorist Nidal Bakkour and
Al-Hassan from the Al Hallak clan, supported by a unit of mercenaries,
attacked the upper checkpoint on the eastern outskirts of the city. At
15.30 the upper checkpoint was taken, and all the prisoners executed: a
Sunni conscript had his throat cut, while Abdullah Shaui (Bedouin) of
Deir-Zor was burned alive.

During the attack on the upper checkpoint in the east, the armed men
lost 25 people, which were then submitted to the UN observers, together
with the 108 dead civilians – "victims of the regime", allegedly killed
by bombing and shelling of the Syrian army. As for the remaining 83
bodies, including 38 young children, they were from the families that
were executed by militants. These families were all loyal to the
government of Syria.


with a law enforcement officer:

"My name is Al Khosam, I am a law enforcement officer. I served in the
village of Taldou, the district of Al-Houla, a province of Homs. On
Friday, our checkpoint was attacked by a large group of militants. There
were thousands.

Q: How do you protect yourself?

Answer: A simple weapon. We had 20 people, we called support, and when
they were coming for us, I was wounded, and regained consciousness in
the hospital. The attackers were from Ar-Rastan and Al-Hula. Insurgents
control Taldou. They burned houses and killed people by the families,
because they were loyal to the government. Raped the women and killed
the children."

Interview with a wounded soldier:

"I am Ahmed Mahmoud al Khali. I’m from the city Manbej. Was wounded in
Taldou. I come from a support group that came to the aid of our
comrades, who were stationed at the checkpoint.

Militants destroyed two infantry fighting vehicles and one BRDM standing
at our checkpoint. We moved out to Taldou in a BMP, to pick up our
wounded comrades from the checkpoint within the city. We drove them back
in the BMP, and I filled in their place.

And after a while the UN observers came. They came to us, we led them to
the homes of families who were cut by thugs.

I saw a family of three brothers and their father in the same room. In
another room we found dead young children and their mother. And another
one- an old man killed in this house. Only five men, women and children.
The woman raped and shot in the head, I covered her with a blanket. And
the commission had seen them all. They put them in the car and drove
away. I do not know where they took them, probably for burial."

A resident of Taldou on the roof of the police department:

"On Friday afternoon I was home. Hearing the shots, I came out to watch
what was happening and saw that the fire came from the north side,
towards the location of army checkpoint. As the army did not respond,
they started to approach the homes, were subsequently the family was
killed. When the army started to return fire, they used the women and
children as human shields and continued firing at the checkpoint. When
the army began answered, they fled. After that, the army took the
surviving women and children and brought them into safety. At this time,
Al Jazeera aired pictures and said that the Army committed the massacre
at Al Hula.

In fact, they killed the civilians and children in Al-Hula. The bandits
did not allow anyone to carry out their work. They steal everything that
they can get their hands on: wheat, flour, oil and gas. Most of the
fighters are from the city of Ar Rastan."

After they captured the city, they carried the bodies of their dead
comrades, as well as the bodies of people and the children they killed
to the mosque. They carried the bodies in KIA pickups. On May, 25th, at
around 8 PM, the corpses were already in the mosque. The next day at 11
o’clock in the morning the UN observers arrived at the mosque.

Media Disinformation

To exert pressure on public opinion and change the positions of Russia
and China, texts and subtitles in Russian and Chinese languages were
prepared in advance, reading: "Syria – Homs – the city of Hula. A
terrible massacre perpetrated by the armed forces of the Syrian regime
against civilians in the town of Houla. Dozens of victims and their
number is growing, mainly women and children, brutally killed by
indiscriminate bombing of the CITY."

Two days later, on May 27, after the residents’ stories and video
recordings made showed that the facts do not support the allegation of
shelling and bombing, the bandits’ videos had undergone significant
changes. At the end of the text appeared this postscript: "And some were
killed with knives."

Marat Musin, Olga Kulygina, Al-Houla, Syria

Original text / source: http://maramus.livejournal.com/86539.html

video: Russian

The translation is based on the impressive work of Soldatovich and
Elena. Thank you very much for the translation of this text about the
recent events near the Syrian city of Homs and in the area of al-Houlah.

For media inquiries: crgeditor@yahoo.com

© Copyright Marat Musin, ANNA NEWS (Original Russian) and syrianews.cc, 2012

(5) Kissinger warns against US intervention in Syria

[Shamireaders] From: Come Carpentier <comecarpentier@gmail.com> Date:
4 June 2012 18:04
From: Bhadrakumar Melkulangara <mkbhadrakumar@gmail.com
Date: 2012/6/3
Subject: Kissinger warns against US intervention in Syria

Washington Post, June 2

Syrian intervention risks upsetting global order

By Henry A. Kissinger


The Arab Spring is generally discussed in terms of the prospects for
democracy. Equally significant is the increasing appeal — most recently
in Syria — of outside intervention to bring about regime change,
overturning prevalent notions of international order.

The modern concept of world order arose in 1648 from the Treaty of
Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years’ War. In that conflict,
competing dynasties sent armies across political borders to impose their
conflicting religious norms. This 17th-century version of regime change
killed perhaps a third of the population of Central Europe.

To prevent a repetition of this carnage, the Treaty of Westphalia
separated international from domestic politics. States, built on
national and cultural units, were deemed sovereign within their borders;
international politics was confined to their interaction across
established boundaries. For the founders, the new concepts of national
interest and balance of power amounted to a limitation, not an
expansion, of the role of force; it substituted the preservation of
equilibrium for the forced conversion of populations.

The Westphalian system was spread by European diplomacy around the
world. Though strained by the two world wars and the advent of
international communism, the sovereign nation-state survived, tenuously,
as the basic unit of international order.

The Westphalian system never applied fully to the Middle East. Only
three of the region’s Muslim states had a historical basis: Turkey,
Egypt and Iran. The borders of the others reflected a division of the
spoils of the defunct Ottoman Empire among the victors of World War?I,
with minimal regard for ethnic or sectarian divisions. These borders
have since been subjected to repeated challenge, often military.

The diplomacy generated by the Arab Spring replaces Westphalian
principles of equilibrium with a generalized doctrine of humanitarian
intervention. In this context, civil conflicts are viewed
internationally through prisms of democratic or sectarian concerns.
Outside powers demand that the incumbent government negotiate with its
opponents for the purpose of transferring power. But because, for both
sides, the issue is generally survival, these appeals usually fall on
deaf ears. Where the parties are of comparable strength, some degree of
outside intervention, including military force, is then invoked to break
the deadlock.

This form of humanitarian intervention distinguishes itself from
traditional foreign policy by eschewing appeals to national interest or
balance of power — rejected as lacking a moral dimension. It justifies
itself not by overcoming a strategic threat but by removing conditions
deemed a violation of universal principles of governance.

If adopted as a principle of foreign policy, this form of intervention
raises broader questions for U.S. strategy. Does America consider itself
obliged to support every popular uprising against any non-democratic
government, including those heretofore considered important in
sustaining the international system? Is, for example, Saudi Arabia an
ally only until public demonstrations develop on its territory? Are we
prepared to concede to other states the right to intervene elsewhere on
behalf of coreligionists or ethnic kin?

At the same time, traditional strategic imperatives have not
disappeared. Regime change, almost by definition, generates an
imperative for nation-building. Failing that, the international order
itself begins to disintegrate. Blank spaces denoting lawlessness may
come to dominate the map, as has already occurred in Yemen, Somalia,
northern Mali, Libya and northwestern Pakistan, and may yet happen in
Syria. The collapse of the state may turn its territory into a base for
terrorism or arms supply against neighbors who, in the absence of any
central authority, will have no means to counteract them.

In Syria, calls for humanitarian and strategic intervention merge. At
the heart of the Muslim world, Syria has, under Bashar al-Assad,
assisted Iran’s strategy in the Levant and Mediterranean. It supported
Hamas, which rejects the Israeli state, and Hezbollah, which undermines
Lebanon’s cohesion. The United States has strategic as well as
humanitarian reasons to favor the fall of Assad and to encourage
international diplomacy to that end. On the other hand, not every
strategic interest rises to a cause for war; were it otherwise, no room
would be left for diplomacy.

As military force is considered, several underlying issues must be
addressed: While the United States accelerates withdrawals from military
interventions in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan, how can a new
military commitment in the same region be justified, particularly one
likely to face similar challenges? Does the new approach — less
explicitly strategic and military, and geared more toward diplomatic and
moral issues — solve the dilemmas that plagued earlier efforts in Iraq
or Afghanistan, which ended in withdrawal and a divided America? Or does
it compound the difficulty by staking U.S. prestige and morale on
domestic outcomes that America has even fewer means and less leverage to
shape? Who replaces the ousted leadership, and what do we know about it?
Will the outcome improve the human condition and the security situation?
Or do we risk repeating the experience with the Taliban, armed by
America to fight the Soviet invader but then turned into a security
challenge to us?

The difference between strategic and humanitarian intervention becomes
relevant. The world community defines humanitarian intervention by
consensus, so difficult to achieve that it generally limits the effort.
On the other hand, intervention that is unilateral or based on a
coalition of the willing evokes the resistance of countries fearing the
application of the policy to their territories (such as China and
Russia). Hence it is more difficult to achieve domestic support for it.
The doctrine of humanitarian intervention is in danger of being
suspended between its maxims and the ability to implement them;
unilateral intervention, by contrast, comes at the price of
international and domestic support.

Military intervention, humanitarian or strategic, has two prerequisites:
First, a consensus on governance after the overthrow of the status quo
is critical. If the objective is confined to deposing a specific ruler,
a new civil war could follow in the resulting vacuum, as armed groups
contest the succession, and outside countries choose different sides.
Second, the political objective must be explicit and achievable in a
domestically sustainable time period. I doubt that the Syrian issue
meets these tests. We cannot afford to be driven from expedient to
expedient into undefined military involvement in a conflict taking on an
increasingly sectarian character. In reacting to one human tragedy, we
must be careful not to facilitate another. In the absence of a clearly
articulated strategic concept, a world order that erodes borders and
merges international and civil wars can never catch its breath. A sense
of nuance is needed to give perspective to the proclamation of
absolutes. This is a nonpartisan issue, and it should be treated in that
manner in the national debate we are entering.

(6) Hamas steers a new course after break with Syria

From: "Sadanand, Nanjundiah (Physics Earth Sciences)"
<sadanand@mail.ccsu.edu> Date: Fri, 27 Apr 2012


Author: Kersten Knipp / sac

April 24, 2012

The ongoing violence in Syria is forcing the Palestinian Hamas to strike
a new path. Initial steps indicate that the group will follow a more
pragmatic course in the future.

Already in January, things in Syria had gone too far for Hamas. Even the
most loyal allies could no longer accept the violence which the regime
under President Bashar al-Assad was exerting on its own people.

There was no need for complex considerations to reach one simple
conclusion: anyone who remained on Assad's side would ruin its
reputation in the Arab world for years to come - possibly even
irreparably. There was only one option: to distance themselves from a
man who is apparently willing to impose the greatest possible damage to
his country and his people on the way to his political demise.

In January 2012, the Hamas leadership in exile under Khaled Mashaal left
its longtime base in Syria because of this. Since then, he and Ismail
Haniyeh, who leads Hamas out of Gaza, are in search of new allies.

They have been travelling through the entire region for talks with
decision-makers in the most significant countries. A great many doors
have been opened for them and many countries come into question as a new
home base in exile for Hamas: Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, Bahrain and also Turkey.

The friendly welcome isn't selfless, though, said Maximilian Felsch, a
political scientist at Beirut's Haigazian University. It was true that
Hamas could not finance itself by its own means and therefore continued
to be dependent on strong partners. But since Hamas has broken off ties
to the Syrian regime and therefore also indirectly to Iran, it has
become an interesting partner for many countries.

"These states consider themselves in a conflict with Iran, which is why
they are now courting Hamas," Felsch told DW. "Hamas appears to want to
join this camp now."

Agreement on a new course

The Hamas leadership has apparently reached a consensus on the group's
new direction. Whereas there was still talk of a possible dispute
between Haniyeh and Mashaal at the beginning of the year, the two men
have apparently settled their differences in the meantime.

"I can't observe any major conflict between Haniyeh and Mashaal," Felsch
said. "When Mashaal left Damascus, Haniyeh immediately supported him."
This did not mean, however, that there would not be any more disputes on
the group's future political course within Hamas.

Palestinian civil rights activist and politician Mustafa Barghouti
agreed that there was a conflict over policy, but said that this
difference of opinion was a good thing.

"The fact that they have differences internally is of course a
reflection of change," Barghouti, who is secretary general of the
Palestinian National Initiative, told DW. "In my opinion, this is a
healthy sign because it shows that change is taking place." He said in
the end, the majority would support the new direction of Hamas.

Unavoidable change

In fact, Hamas hardliners will probably have no other choice than going
along with the new course. Though the group has become a desired partner
for Sunni-led countries since its break with the Assad regime, this
partnership calls for significant changes from Hamas. Felsch said that
Sunni governments supported the Middle East peace process. Hamas could
therefore not oppose it as vehemently as it did during the period of
close ties to Syria and Iran.

"Hamas was opposed to the peace process," Felsch said. "For this reason,
it wasn't able to reach an agreement with the PLO." But that is changing
at present. Barghouti, who has been closely accompanying the
rapprochement between the political leadership in the West Bank and in
Gaza, named three points in which Hamas had "definitely" changed its

"First, they accept the principle and the solution based on two states,
second they are accepting popular non-violent resistance, and third -
and this is still to be tested - they said that they are ready to accept
a democratic election system."

Pragmatic role of religion

The change of course which Hamas has taken also brings up questions of
its religious self-image. Up to now, the Sunni organization had no
problems closing ranks with Shiite partners. The common antagonism
towards Israel was the stronger bond. But if politics were to take an
overriding role over religion, which significance would questions of
faith play for Hamas in the future?

Felsch said Hamas was exploiting Islam for pragmatic reasons. Religion
was a unique feature for the group as compared to the united powers in
the PLO.

"It can distance itself from them through religion and by declaring that
revolutionary ideas today no longer come from the left camp," Felsch
said. "Rather, Hamas asserts that Islam also possesses revolutionary
potential, namely Islamism as a political form of Islam."

No political extremism

The redirection of Hamas also fits in the political landscape of the
Palestinian territories, Barghouti said. The political leadership in
both regions, within Fatah and Hamas alike, were progressively more
aware that the Palestinian population was growing tired of the hitherto
existing ideologies.

"I believe the society does not like extremism and wants a balanced
approach," he said. Palestinians were aware of the lack of democracy in
the Palestinian territories and yearned for more democracy. For this
reason, the population welcomed a secular approach, as it gave hope for
a positive development.

"There's a lot of worry about the fact that there's very little space
for democratic practice due to the concentration of power in the
executive authority whether in West Bank or in Gaza," Barghouti said.

The Arab Spring has led to dramatic changes in large parts of the
region. It has long arrived in the Palestinian territories, as well.
Though it hasn't set any spectacular processes into motion, it is still

Impulses in particular from Syria are flowing into both areas, which are
significantly changing the political landscape. Hamas has changed under
the impression of Syrian violence - maybe even been forced to change.
The impact on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, however, cannot be
anticipated yet.

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