Reflections - January 2013

© Copyright Peter Crawford

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© Copyright Peter Crawford


January 2013 - In some ways it was a relief to leave the year of the Olympiad - the year of flooding and no Summer.
Of course, the world was supposed to end in 2012, so when Big Ben chimed twelve many people were truly relieved - and we could all carry on with screwing up the poor little world that we are still stuck with.

But for many in the world the chimes of 'Big Ben' provided no relief.
For the many who were unemployed, or in financial trouble in England and Europe there was no relief, -
and for those embroiled in the so-called 'Arab Spring' things only seemed to get worse.
And then the problems of the 'Arab Spring' began, in Africa, to move south.


FLOODING in the UK

Homes were flooded, motorists stranded and travel disrupted as pelting rain combined with melted snow to cause problems across parts of the UK during January 2013.
The worst of the flooding was to be found in parts of the south-west of England, the Midlands, East Anglia and Wales, where hundreds of flood warnings and alerts were put in place.
However, harder rain, plus some gale force winds, are on the way, raising concerns that the sort of serious flooding that caused chaos before Christmas could be repeated.


UK Floods

In Somerset a heroic dock master dived into freezing cold waters to rescue a six-month-old baby boy after his buggy was blown in by strong winds. The infant, who was strapped in the buggy, was swept into the water as his mother walked along Watchet Harbour, Somerset at 8am on Sunday. After hearing screams for help George Reeder, 63, dived in and pulled the pushchair to the wall, before a member of the public helped attach a rope and haul it to dry land.
The baby was revived by a passer-by who administered CPR, before being taken to hospital, where he is now thought to be out of intensive care.

Reeder said he heard screaming from a couple of hundred yards away before jumping on his bike to see what had happened.
Around the country many rivers and streams swollen by the melted snow could cause problems and in some places spring tides are expected to add to the difficulties faced by people living close to the coast.
Agency workers were worried that a string of riverside communities, including Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire and Wyre Piddle in Worcestershire, could be flooded as levels in the Severn and Avon rose. There was also concern about rivers in Devon and Dorset, which were both badly hit by flooding in November.
Further north fire-fighters helped pump out homes in Market Drayton and near Whitchurch in Shropshire.
A few homes were also flooded in north Wales and Pembrokeshire, south-west Wales.
Motorists were rescued from cars in Staffordshire, the Yorkshire Dales and Dorset while eight people were injured in a series of accidents on the M4 in south Wales during a hailstorm.
In North Yorkshire a canoeist was airlifted to hospital after getting into the trouble in the River Swale near Ripon. Rescuers also battled to save 10 sheep from the River Severn in mid Wales.
It may be cold comfort for those affected by flooding, but local flood defence schemes across the south-west have received a boost of £721,000.
Committee chairman James Morrish said: "The increase is a clear statement of the determination to address the backlog of flood defence needs in Devon, Cornwall, Plymouth, Torbay and the Isles of Scilly, particularly following the repeated flooding throughout 2012 which saw over 1,000 properties flooded in 200 locations."


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'THE ARAB SPRING' - EGYPT

عبد الفتاح سعيد حسين خليل السيسي
Colonel General Abdul Fatah Khalil Al-Sisi 

جمهورية مصر العربية
Ǧumhūriyyat Maṣr al-ʿArabiyyah




عبد الفتاح سعيد حسين خليل السيسي
Colonel General Abdul Fatah Khalil Al-Sisi spoke at the end of January 2013 about the threat of the collapse of the state of Egypt.
'The Collapse of the State'

Egypt's army chief has warned of "the collapse of the state" if the political crisis roiling the nation for nearly a week continues.
The warning by Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, also the Defense Minister, comes as the country sinks deeper into chaos and lawlessness.
Attempts by Morsi - the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood president - to stem a wave of political violence appear to have made no headway.
He had previously asked other political groups to meet with him for a dialogue - but the groups were understandably wary of having any involvement with the extremist Brotherhood.
Some 60 people have been killed in the unrest.
El-Sissi's warning came in an address to military academy cadets.
His comments were posted on the armed forces' official Facebook page.
"The continuation of the conflict between the different political forces and their differences over how the country should be run could lead to the collapse of the state and threaten future generations," he said.

100 LE Note - Egyptian Currency
Suez Canal - Egypt
El-Sissi also stated that the Army was concerned about the security of the Suez Canal (?).
The result of such a warning will undoubtedly be the the draining of foreign investment from Egypt, the reduction of usage of the Canal, and the continued decline of the Egyptian tourist industry.
All these events will, as El-Sissi rightly suggests, exacerbate the decline of the already seriously damaged Egyptian economy in general and the Egyptian currency.
Such a decline will then feed into the growing unrest of the Egyptian people.
What is of note in El-Sissi's unprecedented warning is its implied criticism of the Moslem Brotherhood, which may be seen as the first step to an Army coup from an armed forces which has finally realised the the brotherhood is not only incapable of running Egypt effectively, but is also a malign influence on the country - a view which was previously held by Gamal Abdel Nasser.

The Economy

While the Brotherhood says 'Islam is the answer' and move to a Sharia State - the real problem is the economy.
If the truth be told the Egyptian people do not want more religion - they want more money - because money means bread !

"35 to 40%" of Egypt's population earning less than the equivalent of $2 a day, while only around 2–3% may be considered wealthy

After a slim majority of Egyptians approved a new constitution in December 2012, Egypt's Central Bank announced that its foreign reserves had reached critically low levels, and that it could no longer afford doing business as usual.
Since the January 2011 uprising, the bank has spent 60 percent of its US dollar reserves on paying debt and defending the value of the pound, and now has to resort to new measures to defend its remaining reserves.
These include selling dollars to local banks through auctions, imposing a cap on daily withdrawals by corporations and individuals, imposing a one-two percent fee on individuals buying dollars, and reducing local banks' dollar reserves.
Since the central bank's announcement, the pound has shed about three percent of its value, and now trades at 6.43 pounds to 1 US dollar, a record low.
This has sent shock-waves through the economy.
"Pressure on the pound is normal," Hazem el-Beblawi, a former Egyptian finance minister, told Al Jazeera. "But at this moment there is fear and concern, which complicates the problem."
He warned that "the big fear is that the pound could lose more than needed because a state of pessimism is dominant".

Waiting for Bread - Egypt 2013
Egypt's long-standing economic problems are seen by many as a major cause of the country's January 2011 uprising.
According to the government's latest economic plan published in November, in the last fiscal year (ending in June 2012) 80 percent of Egypt's spending went to fixed items, such as interest on loans (22 percent), public salaries (26 percent), and food and fuel subsidies (32 percent).
The remaining 20 percent hardly covers the country's needs to spend on new programmes and investment projects.
Only seven percent of last year's budget went to new investment projects.
The same budget suffered a deficit of 167.7bn Egyptian pounds ($26bn).
Egypt's current cabinet, led by Prime Minister Hisham Kandeel, ambitiously planned to cut the budget deficit by 15bn Egyptian pounds ($2.3bn), achieve a growth rate of 3.5 percent, while boosting spending on public salaries, food subsidies, and investments.
Egyptian Slums - Cairo - 2013
"Everyone agrees we have an economic problem, and the solution is a political one. It requires sacrifice and consensus. But people are divided."
These increases were a direct response to growing public demand for spending on projects that help the poor.
To achieve these goals, the government wanted to cut fuel subsidies, some of which go to rich corporations and individuals, by 25bn Egyptian pounds ($3.9bn).
It also wanted to raise an additional 44bn Egyptian pounds ($6.9bn) in revenue by hiking taxes and projecting higher revenue from oil exports, the Suez Canal, and government-owned companies.
Finally, the government aimed to double foreign direct investment to $4bn, increase exports by 18 percent, create 700,000 new jobs, and attract 12.5 million tourists.

But things have not been going according to plan.
Political tension spoiled the end-of-the-year tourism season.
And in December, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi rescinded a decree he had issued earlier that same day that would have raised taxes.

Egyptian Currency - 2013
The Muslim Brotherhood and its political wing, the 'Freedom and Justice Party', objected to the planned tax hikes, fearing it would anger voters before the constitutional referendum.
The failure to raise taxes meant delaying agreement over a much-needed $4.8bn International Monetary Fund loan to Egypt, which suffers from staggering budget deficits.
On New Year's Eve, Egypt's planning minister, Ashraf el-Arabi, warned that the "budget deficit is expected to rise to £200bn ($31.3bn) in the current fiscal year unless strict economic policies are put in place to confront it".

Economic growth has slowed significantly since the revolution: an anaemic 1.8 percent from June 2010 to June 2011, compared with 5.1 percent the previous fiscal year.
Spending on salaries and government programmes has risen, and foreign investment has fled.
Equally the cabinet has not acted fast enough to devalue the Egyptian pound.
If the cabinet had acted sooner, Egypt's foreign reserves would not be in such a dire condition, and the currency's devaluation would have been more gradual.
It is Morsi's decisions that have hurt the economy, such as his November 22 declaration that prevented his decrees from being reviewed by the judiciary, a decision that sparked huge protests.
Among solutions to the economic problems would be an increase in income tax rates on the rich to 40 percent, an imposition of across-the-board caps on public salaries, and an expansion in the role of government-owned companies.
In addition there should be reforms such as lifting fuel subsidies and increasing taxes, which should be implemented "gradually through a well-known and agreed-upon plan".
However it is obvious that the government has not taken any serious steps to control the budget deficit because it fears the political effects this would have.
Everyone agrees that Egypt has an economic problem, and that the solution is a political one. It requires sacrifice and consensus. But people are divided.

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TOM DALEY and SPLASH


Tom Daley - ITV - Domino’s Pizza - and 'Splash'
Tom Daley
it's 'going down the tubes'
‘It’s loud. We’re live. We’re ready to dive’.
That was the opening salvo from Gabby Logan (cocktail dress) and Vernon Kaye ('long' shorts) to ITV’s new Saturday night stab at riding the wave of the Olympic feel good factor – Splash!

In the run up to last year’s Olympics, Tom Daley was the toast of the nation.
The cute, media-friendly diver was going to be our big medal hope: young, tanned and toned, he was bound to win gold.
Except that actually he’s not all that great a diver.
Now he is one of the best in the world, but he’s not the best.
Which is a shame, because his attempts for the gold medal got hyped out of all proportion.


Tom Daley
Addidas Advertising
Jamie Cunningham
Poor coaching by Andy Banks, and Tom's management (particularly the money grabbing, Dubai based, Jamie Cunningham) who insisted on him making endless advertising commercials (Addidas) and photo-shoots, as well as Tom's book launch, meant that he only achieved a bronze medal.
But back to 'Splash !' - The crowd was insipid for everything other than the first three minutes of the show when Tom Daley appeared in his Addidas trunks (at which point they screamed so much that you couldn't hear the actual presenters trying to read their auto-cue).
The TV audience, however, seemed unimpressed.
Twitter was aghast, with people literally not being sure whether they were part of a massive inside joke or not.
'Air-head' ? - Tom Daley Reading the Reviews
Does he ever get dressed ?
Without overstatement, it was the worst thing on television, and the crassest and most feeble attempt to capitalise on the jingoistic spirit of the Olympics.
And Tom Daley was apparently oblivious to the terribleness of it all.
Which leaves us with a question..... Is Tom Daley an 'air-head' ?
Now he has A levels, so presumably he can't be that stupid, but whenever he gives an interview his comments and answers are so vacuous that one if forced to wonder if he has any opinions about anything (apart from 'mentally ill' individuals who dare to criticize him).
And then, of course, there is his mindless biography ('My Story')!
'Splash !' sees Olympic diver Tom Daley 'train' 15 'celebrities' to dive in front of judges - but viewers said it has plunged television to “a new low”.
No bombing allowed... but that is exactly what is happening to Tom Daley’s television show.
What this is, in fact, is an attempt to exploit the public’s love affair with the shiny-toothed young twinky hero in tiny Speedos, Tom Daley, who is both 'coach' and cheer leader for the series.
It’s one of those simple formulas really... People love Tom (well, teenage girls and gay guys), and Tom dives.
Plus people love celebrities, especially when they’re being put through the wringer.
Which equals, famous people ‘going on a journey’ (of between three and 10 metres) while Tom smiles a lot and says 'well done'.

Andy Banks
Jo Brand - Diving Expert ?
Oh, and two of  the judges are nasty.
Playing the baddies are Tom’s trainer Andy Banks (why no gold for Tom ?) and fellow diver Leon Taylor.

(Now if I was Andy Banks, I would keep a very low profile, and not appear on TV, considering the appalling showing made by British Diving in the recent Olympics)

And to balance out their no doubt impending maliciousness and vitriol, Jo Brand was on hand to offer her own expertise (?).
In saying that, to be fair, they weren't actually that harsh.
But secondly, because as they continually pointed out, as one celebrity after another toppled into the drink, it really is a very difficult thing to do.
It is also, sadly, dull. It just that it totally lacks any drama.

Leon Taylor and baby Tom
Leon Taylor
Now it is a fact that diving is not an exciting sport - even when people of Olympic standard dive.
A lot of waiting around, climbing steps, and then (and don't blink, or you'll miss it) a couple of seconds for the dive.
So, not surprisingly, nobody was really interested in diving until cute, little 'twinky' Tom, in his minuscule Speedos, started diving.
Now to make 'Splash !' more 'interesting' the journey that each 'celebrity' makes from poolside to board is presented as a protracted parade of loud music, posing and high fives.
They’re padding it out.
In reality it is a diving competition featuring individuals who can't dive - which is a bit like having swimming races for people who can't swim.
A show which is supposed to be a 'diving contest', that consists of people who, either can't swim, are frightened of water, or are frightened of heights, are too fat or too old, and who (and this is important) can't dive, is unlikely to be worth watching.
Of course, like so many TV programs, 'Splash !' required sponsorship - in this case Domino’s Pizza 
The fully integrated sponsorship package was negotiated by ITV Commercial and Arena Media on behalf of Domino’s Pizza.


Tom Daley and Domino’s Pizza
Tom Daley and  Nestle
The package has included broadcast, on-line and mobile, and commences 5 January 2013.
An ITV Commercial spokesperson said: "We are very excited for our new entertainment show Splash! to hit screens and entertain families all over Britain. (entertain ?)

We are delighted to welcome Domino’s Pizza on board as the sponsor of the programme, as we believe it will be an ideal platform for the brand to engage with their target audience.


Tom Daley
Junk-food and Abs ?
Tom Daley - 'Six-pack'
Simon Wallis, sales and marketing director at Domino’s also added: “Our decision to sponsor this brand new show fits perfectly in line with our target audience, promoting Domino’s at the ideal time and in the right place.
The 'target audience' is obviously big fat slobs, glued to their L Z Boys (that's a chair for those not in the know) in front to the TV.
So once again Tom gets associated to purveyors of fattening, unhealthy food - Tom Daley is already associated with Nestle.
So much for the Olympic legacy !
And in case anyone's missed the point - you don't get a 'six-pack' (abdominals) like Tom Daley by eating Pizzas and chocolates.

After the programme Tom said that he may be going to drop a university career for the bright lights of Luton swimming pool’s studios.
Ignoring the massively negative public reaction, and living in cloud-cuckoo-land, Daley said :
'Hopefully it will run for ten years like 'Dancing on Ice' and I can take Vernon’s spot. (I wonder how Vernon feels about that).
But I’d love to do anything like Dermot O’Leary or Ant & Dec, (as far as Ant and Dec are concerned this would involved Tom being cloned - and do we really want two Tom Daleys).
I’d like to present Saturday night TV, that is what I’d ultimately like to do once I’ve finished diving.
I’d like to host 'Splash !'.
That would be my dream job because it is a diving show, a reality show and on Saturday night prime-time'.

Unfortunately for Tom, however, he will have to do much better.
A poor effort at the Olympics (only third), has now been followed by a poor effort on TV.
The only thing that Tom really seems to work at, and succeed at,  is presenting himself as a 'soft porn' twink.
Even his advertising forays have proved less than successful, with his Addidas range now available in 'budget stores' at half the original price, and his biography selling at an equally low price.

Waterstone Book Launch
'Jonathan Ross Show'
On the 'Jonathan Ross Show' Tom made a huge faux-pas when he appeared in a collar and tie and tiny Speedos.
Supposedly intended as a 'joke', I think if most guys appeared in public dressed so totally inappropriately, (not in a swimming pool, at the beach, or at a body-building competition), they would be summarily ejected, or a police constable would be called.
And this is not the first time that Tom has pranced around in just his minuscule Speedos for no good reason.
He performed the same trick at his 'book launch', and for a number of previous TV interviews.
However, it seems likely that someone has had a quiet word in Tom's ear.
Tom in shorts
For 'Splash !', when Tom was wearing trunks, he wore his blue Addidas trunks, which actually seem to be the correct size - and not his Addidas Team GB trunks, (a couple of sizes too small) which barely cover him, or his equally revealing blue Speedos.
What was really strange, though, was Tom, 'preppy' style, appearing in 'long'  grey shorts and a white and green training top, at a swimming pool, when he would actually be justified in wearing trunks.

Tom practices for his male strip show
This was doubtless a huge disappointment to his teen female fans, and his gay male fans, but then possibly someone has decided that Tom is not going to be taken seriously if he continues to present himself and be seen as a 'soft porn' exhibitionist.
Perhaps if 'Splash !' folds, as it probably will, Tom might take up a career as a male stripper, after all he already seems to be practising - (see the pathetic video clip - left)
And as an aside, what has Tom done to his hair ?
He's beginning to look like an un-dyed Jedward !


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C O M M E N T

Tom Daley 'checks out' Anthony Ogogo
Anthony Ogogo
 Gold Speedos
'Numerous variations of this screen-grab from 'Splash !' were pinged around the virtual world.
It's our Tom with Olympic boxer Anthony Ogogo.
"Are you thinking what we are thinking?" 
While some might think it amusing - it's also rather sad.
Tom sexuality is up for debate - and we  know nothing for sure, except he's clearly 'screaming'.
I wonder if he even knows himself?
And perhaps one should worry about Tom, now he's become a Saturday 'teatime' TV 'superstar' and is regularly 'exposing himself' - meaning just by being himself - he'll just be the subject of ever more scrutiny and speculation - check Twitter for endless comments just on how he walks and talks.
Such is the power of social media this chatter will inevitably transfer into the papers.
This is the modern world; a virtual world where being 'in the closet' is now virtually impossible. 
And PR feeds and 'paparazzi shots' to the press about his possible "girlfriends" will ultimately only make it worse. 
It's already seeping in, slow as sludge - for now.
And who do you think writes the 'celeb mags' and tabloid gossip pages? 
It's gay guys, who think that being 'gay' is almost boringly normal - and that now it's being 'in the closet' that's a little 'queer' - or should we say odd.  
And meanwhile the poor boy could be dying inside, silently 'screaming'.'

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David Sparkes
Olympic bronze medallist Daley was heavily criticised before London 2012 for not concentrating enough on his sport.
Now British Swimming chief executive David Sparkes has raised concerns over 18-year-old Daley's role as a mentor for the celebrity divers in Splash!

Sparkes said: 'Tom is an incredibly talented young man, but he's yet to achieve his full potential and it's only going to get harder to achieve that Olympic gold medal as he gets older.
'You can rest assured the next Chinese diving superstar will not have such distractions from training.
Jamie Cunningham
'He should look at the example of skaters Torvill and Dean who waited until the end of their competitive careers before doing such programmes. I'm concerned Tom is putting the cart before the horse and I've expressed those concerns to his agent.' (Tom's agent is Jamie Cunningham - see above)

Agent Jamie Cunningham said: 'Whatever people think about the show, Tom has come across incredibly well. We would only agree to such an undertaking at a quiet time of the year.


British Diving performance director Alexei Evangulov had warned last February that Daley faced missing out on an Olympic gold medal unless he reduced his media and sponsorship work.
He said: 'If I had power over this, I would restrict it. If you look at the Chinese, they work three times harder. That's the only secret. Just work hard.'
Andy Banks, the long-term coach of Olympic bronze medallist Tom Daley, fears the teenage diver could walk away from the sport if he continues to receive “grief” from critics of his media commitments.

Debbie Daley

Tom Daley's mum has now got in on the act.
Apparently Tom is still a 'baby', and needs his 'mum' to come to the rescue - no wonder he was bullied at school.

Debbie on  'planet Daley'
"I find it incredible that you want to criticise him so publicly, when he does so much for your organisation and for sport in the UK.
As far as I'm aware, Tom was one of the few major success stories for British Swimming this summer... and possibly one of the athletes that helped you retain your job.
Others say that your performance was the worst of any CEO in British sport. Surely you should be thanking Tom and showing your support and gratitude ?"

This woman obviously lives on another planet - 'planet Daley'.
While she is entitled to her opinion, all the evidence (Book launch, Adidas Adverts and Videos, Photo Shoots etc) adds up to Tom 'taking his eye off the ball' in the run-up to the recent Olympic Games.
Tom, by listening to his financial advisers at 'Professional Sports Group', (headed by Jamie Cunningham), rather than his coaches and the officials at team GB, failed to win a Gold Medal at the 2012 Games - (he only came a lame third).
He had the ability to win Gold, if he had concentrated on his training, rather than his media and advertising interests.
It is possible that by 2014 he will have passed his physical peak, and will not be able to win a Gold medal.
He will then have the rest of his life to regret his foolish selfishness in 2012.
There is nothing to thank Tom Daley for, and no one owes him any gratitude.
His lust for money, fame and celebrity has done a great disservice to British Sport, and Debbie Daley should know better that to publish such a self-opinionated, self-serving and disrespectful letter.

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CIVIL WAR IN SYRIA


بشار حافظ الأسد
Bashar Hafez al-Assad
Clashes between Syrian insurgents and loyalist troops in Damascus rage and spread to the suburbs and other areas, activist groups reported.
الجمهورية العربية السورية
Al-Jumhūrīyah Al-ʻArabīyah As-Sūrīyah
They said fighting also erupted in the large Palestinian refugee neighborhood of Yarmouk on the capital’s southern outskirts, which has been drawn into the civil war at least twice in the past few months.
The expanded mayhem, described as some of the worst fighting to afflict Damascus in months, offered further indication that any hope for a diplomatic resolution to the nearly two-year-old conflict has all but evaporated.
Those hopes were resurrected last week when the leader of Syria’s largest political opposition group suggested holding talks with President Bashar al-Assad.


Syrian Ba'ath Party Emblem
بشار حافظ الأسد - al-Assad (born 11 September 1965) is the President of Syria and Regional Secretary of the Syrian-led branch of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party. He has served as President since 2000, when he succeeded his father, Hafez al-Assad, who had ruled Syria for 30 years prior to his death.
Al-Assad graduated from the medical school of the University of Damascus in 1988, and started to work as a physician in the army. Four years later, he attended postgraduate studies at the Western Eye Hospital, in London, specializing in ophthalmology. In 1994, after his elder brother Bassel, the heir apparent to their father, was killed in a car crash, Bashar was hastily recalled to Syria to take over Bassel's role. He entered the military academy, and took charge of the Syrian occupation of Lebanon in 1998. In December 2000, Assad married Asma Assad, née Akhras. Al-Assad was elected as President of Syria in 2000 and 2007, unopposed each time.
Initially seen by the domestic and international community as a potential reformer and gaining the nickname "The Hope", this expectation gave way to the events of the Syrian civil war. The domestic Syrian opposition and large parts of the wider international community have subsequently called for al-Assad's resignation from power.

Syria’s official news agency, SANA, characterized the clashes on Thursday as terrorist assaults.

Syrian Islamist Sunni Terrorists - 2013
It said that government forces in at least a dozen suburbs had vanquished or killed many attackers, including some who were disguised as women and others who were caught with antiaircraft weapons.
But the scope of the clashes described in the SANA report seemed to corroborate that the fighting had intensified close to the center of government power in Syria, forcing the military to go back into areas it had repeatedly sought to secure.
Among the affected suburbs, for example, was Daraya, famous as an early hotbed of protest against the government and the site of one of the war’s deadliest episodes back in August, when the Syrian military stormed Daraya in what it called a “cleansing” operation that left hundreds dead.
The Local Coordination Committees, an anti-Assad network inside Syria, reported what it described as fierce clashes between government forces and fighters of the Free Syrian Army at an entrance to Yarmouk, a longtime Palestinian refugee encampment south of Damascus that is politically delicate.
Both President Assad and his opponents have sought the allegiance of the tens of thousands of Palestinians in Syria who were displaced decades ago by the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Yarmouk was convulsed by fighting in December, when insurgents temporarily seized control, and again in early January.
Residents of central Damascus spoke of heavy bombardments of rebel positions by government self-propelled artillery, along with mortar fire, roadblocks and snipers on rooftops.
They said that forces loyal to President Assad had been deployed in strength, particularly to protect neighborhoods where wealthy Syrians and diplomats live.
Some said the fighting was the most intense in the city since July.
A 50-year-old resident of the affluent Abu Roumana district, who identified himself as Abu Mohammad, said he could hear fighting nearby.
“It is very close, and I feel it is next to my house,” he said. If the government cannot contain rebels in heavily guarded neighborhoods like his, he said, “what about other districts and suburbs ?
The Syrian conflict has left at least 60,000 people dead, displaced about two million people inside the country and sent 700,000 fleeing to neighboring nations, the United Nations has said in dire warnings in recent weeks about the worsening crisis.


الإخوان المسلمون
al-ʾIkḫwān al-Muslimūn
The civil war in Syria is, of course, a 'proxy war', which forms part of the 'greater war'.
On one side are the Sunnis, led by the Saudi Wahabbis, and aided by extreme Islamists in North Africa, and al-ʾIkḫwān al-Muslimūn (the Muslim Brotherhood) in Egypt.
These religious factions are fighting against the Shia Iranians (Persians).
Assad and the Ba'ath are predominately Alawi, which are a Shia sect, and are therefore supported by Iran.


Hizb Al-Ba'ath Al-'Arabi Al-Ishtiraki


حزب البعث العربي الاشتراكي‎ - The Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party (‎Hizb Al-Ba'ath Al-'Arabi Al-Ishtiraki) is a Ba'athist political party, with branches across the Arab world. The party emerged from a split in the original Ba'ath Party in February 1966. The party leads the government in Syria. From 1970 until 2000, the party was led by the Syrian president Hafez al-Assad. As of 2000, leadership has been shared between his son Bashar al-Assad (head of the Syrian regional organization) and Abdullah al-Ahmar (head of the pan-Arab national organization). The Syrian branch of the party is the largest organisation within the Syrian-led Ba'ath Party.

Al-ʾIkḫwān al-Muslimūn

The Society of the Muslim Brothers is the Arab world's most influential and one of the largest Islamic movements, and is the largest political opposition organization in many Arab states. Founded in Egypt in 1928 as a Pan-Islamic, religious, political, and social movement by the Islamic scholar and schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna, by the end of World War II the Muslim Brotherhood had an estimated two million members. Its ideas had gained supporters throughout the Arab world and influenced other Islamist groups with its "model of political activism combined with Islamic charity work".
The Brotherhood's stated goal is to instill the Qur'an and Sunnah as the "sole reference point for ...ordering the life of the Muslim family, individual, community ... and state."

The Alawites


 ذو الفقار‎ 
Dhū l-Fiqār
The Alawites, also known as Alawis, Nusayris and Ansaris (ʿAlawīyyah (Arabic: علوية‎), Nuṣayrī (Arabic: نصيريون‎), and al-Anṣāriyyah) are a prominent mystical religious group centered in Syria, who follow a branch of the Twelver school of Shia Islam. They were long persecuted for their beliefs by the various rulers of Syria, until Hafez al-Assad took power there in 1970.
 علي بن أبي طالب
Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib
Today they represent 12% of the Syrian population, and for the past 50 years the political system has been dominated by an elite lead by the Alawite Assad family.


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Shia Islam

Shia Islam (Arabic: شيعة‎, Shīʿah) is the second largest denomination of Islam. Adherents of Shia Islam are called Shi'ites or Shias. "Shia" is the short form of the historic phrase Shīʻatu ʻAlī (شيعة علي), meaning "followers", "faction", or "party" of Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law and cousin Imam Ali, whom the Shia believe to be Prophet Muhammad's successor in the Caliphate. Like other branches of Islam, Shia Islam is based on the teachings of the Quran and the message of the Islamic prophet Prophet Muhammad. In contrast to other types, the Shia believe that only God has the right to choose a representative to safeguard Islam, the Quran and sharia. Thus the Shias look to Imam Ali, Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law, whom they consider divinely appointed, as the rightful successor to Prophet Muhammad, and the first imam. The Shia extend this belief to Prophet Muhammad's family, the Ahl al-Bayt ("the People of the House"), and certain individuals among his descendants, known as imams, who have special spiritual and political authority over the community.

It should be noted that the players in the gradual 'destruction' of the Middle East are, generally speaking, not neo-colonial powers, or liberal groups seeking democratic solutions to the area's many severe problems, but rather religiously motivated, totalitarian, dictatorial groups, some of which are dynastic and tribal in nature.

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