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    • State Dept, Pentagon push back on reports of US-trained fighters being abducted, killed in Syria
    • The State Department and Pentagon pushed back Friday on claims made by multiple media outlets that the leader of a U.S.-backed Syrian rebel group and as many as 60 other fighters under him were abducted and killed by al-Nusra, an Al Qaeda offshoot operating in that country.

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    • The Kurdish militias (YPG, PKK) have been Washington’s most effective weapon in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. But the Obama administration has sold out the Kurds in order to strengthen ties with Turkey and gain access to Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base. The agreement to switch sides was made in phone call between President Obama and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan less than 48 hours after a terrorist incident in the Turkish town of Suruc killed 32 people and wounded more than 100 others.

       

      The bombing provided Obama with the cover he needed to throw the Kurds under the bus, cave in to Turkey’s demands, and look the other way while Turkish bombers and tanks pounded Kurdish positions in Syria and Iraq. The media has characterized this shocking reversal of US policy as a “game-changer” that will improve US prospects for victory over ISIS. But what the about-face really shows is Washington’s inability to conduct a principled foreign policy as well as Obama’s eagerness to betray a trusted friend and ally if he sees some advantage in doing so.

    • Turkish President Erdogan has launched a war against the Kurds; that is what’s really happening in Syria at present. The media’s view of events–that Turkey has joined the fight against ISIS–is mostly spin and propaganda. The fact that the Kurds had been gaining ground against ISIS in areas along the Turkish border, worried political leaders in Ankara that an independent Kurdish state could be emerging. Determined to stop that possibility,  they decided to use the bombing in Suruc as an excuse to round up more than 1,000 of Erdogans political enemies (only a small percentage of who are connected to ISIS) while bombing the holy hell out of Kurdish positions in Syria and Iraq. All the while, the media has been portraying this ruthless assault on a de facto US ally, as a war on ISIS. It is not a war on ISIS. It is the manipulation of a terrorist attack to advance the belligerent geopolitical agenda of Turkish and US elites. Just take a look at these two tweets from CNN Turkey on Saturday and you’ll see what’s going on under the radar: 

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    • NATO vows solidarity with Turkey over ISIS threat but urges peace with Kurds

       
       

      Turkish airstrikes targeted Kurds this week

       

          The Associated Press    Posted: Jul 28, 2015

    • NATO declared its "strong solidarity" with Turkey on Tuesday as ambassadors gathered for a rare emergency meeting about the threat faced by a member.

       

      Turkey requested the extraordinary meeting to gauge the threat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extremist group poses to Turkey, and the actions Turkish authorities are taking in response, including attacks on Kurdish rebels.

       

      "We strongly condemn the terrorist attacks against Turkey, and express our condolences to the Turkish government and the families" of victims killed in recent terrorist actions, NATO ambassadors said in a statement after the meeting.

       

      While public statements stressed unity, a NATO official said members also used the closed-door meeting to call on Turkey not to use undue force and to continue peace efforts with representatives of the Kurdish minority. The official was not authorized to speak on the record and spoke on condition of anonymity.

       

      In a series of cross-border strikes, Turkey has not only targeted ISIS but also Kurdish fighters affiliated with forces battling ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, in Syria and Iraq.

    • Article 4 of NATO's founding treaty empowers member states to seek emergency consultations when they consider their "territorial integrity, political independence or security" to be in jeopardy. This was only the fifth such meeting in NATO's 66-year history.

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    • It has been confirmed that TV journalist Richard Engel’s kidnapping/rescue in norther Syria in late 2012 was a hoax. NBC management knew the story was probably false but proceeded to broadcast it anyway.
    • There are at least two good things about “Engelgate”.

       

      * It is clear evidence of mainstream media bias in their reporting and characterization of the conflict in Syria. The kidnapping was meant to show that “bad” Assad supporters had kidnapped Richard Engel only to be rescued by the Western/Turkey/Gulf supported “good” rebels. NBC management knew the scenario was dubious but promoted it anyway.

       

      * Engelgate is also proof that Syrian anti-government rebels consciously manipulated western media for political gain. An elaborate ruse was performed to demonize the Syrian government &supporters and to encourage more support for the anti-government rebels.

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    • Turkey Accused of Shelling Kurdish Positions in Syria

        

      Officials says Ankara is investigating

    • Kurdish fighters on Monday accused Turkey of shelling their positions in Syria, highlighting the difficult situation Ankara faces as it presses forward with its first direct fight against Islamic State there.

      The Kurds’ People’s Defense Units, or YPG, has emerged as a key partner to the U.S. in fighting Islamic State. That has complicated matters for Turkey, which is concerned about Kurdish territorial ambitions and fears an emboldened Kurdish minority seeking more autonomy at home.

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    • There's no agreement to establish no-fly zone in Turkey, senior U.S. official says

      Updated 9:34 AM ET, Mon July 27, 2015

    • (CNN)Ahead of a hastily called NATO meeting, a senior Obama administration official told CNN on Monday there is no agreement with Turkey to establish a no-fly zone in the country.

      But, the official said, Turkey has granted the U.S. access to its air bases to push back ISIS militants, so essentially that arrangement creates "nearly the same effect" as a no-fly zone.

    • "What we are talking about with Turkey is cooperating to support partners on the ground in northern Syria who are countering ISIL," a second senior administration official said. "The goal is to establish an ISIL-free zone and ensure greater security and stability along Turkey's border with Syria."

      ISIL -- the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant -- is sometimes used instead of the acronym ISIS.

      Turkey requested the NATO meeting under Article 4 of NATO's founding treaty, which allows countries to ask for consultations when they believe their territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened.

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    • 'UK Govt priorities were wrong over Libya'

           
       
           
         
         
       
       

      The UK government spent 13 times more bombing Libya than securing peace in the years afterwards, it has been revealed. 

       

      The House of Commons library has released information which shows the UK government spent around £320 million in a bombing campaign against Libya, and just £25 million in re-building programmes following the conflict. 

       

      The revelations follows serious concerns raised by the SNP over the UK’s current involvement in Syria -which had been taken forward despite a vote against bombing Syria in the House of Commons two years ago. 

       

      Stephen Gethins MP said:

       

      “These figures are eye-watering. The amount of money the UK government will spend bombing a country dwarves the re-building programme thirteen to one. 

    • “The lessons of Libya, like Iraq, is that you cannot just bomb somewhere and move on. The figures are especially alarming given the UK government’s current involvement in Syria. 

       

      “The case for bombing in Syria has simply not been made – and the involvement of British service personnel in bombing without the approval of Parliament clearly flouts the democratic decision taken by the House of Commons.

       

      "We urgently need honesty and transparency about the UK intentions in Syria- and a strong commitment to the country following the conflict.” 

       

      Commenting on UK intervention in Syria on the Marr show this morning, SNP Foreign Affairs spokesperson Alex Salmond said:

       

      “Parliament has to be consulted and Parliament would have to be persuaded.  And I’ve heard nothing yet from the Prime Minister that would persuade me that there’s an integrated strategy that would justify a bombing campaign.

       

      “Spending £320m on a bombing campaign and £25m to help restore the country is one reason perhaps that we have a failed state in Libya.”

       

      ENDS

    • Note to Editor: 

       

      Operation Ellamy- Libya

       

      The total cost of Operation Ellamy is estimated at around £320 million:

       

      http://researchbriefings.intranet.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN03139

       

      State-building

       

      A PQ answered in June 2014, giving a figure of £25 million:

       

      Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much (a) military and (b) humanitarian aid the UK provided to the Libyan Government in (A) 2011, (B) 2012 and (C) 2013.

       

      Hugh Robertson: Owing to our accounting structures we are only able to provide exact spending figures for financial years rather than calendar years. In this time, the UK has provided military aid to Libya in the form of the defence portion of the tri-departmental (MOD, FCO, DFID) conflict pool, and core defence funding for defence engagement activity. This has been:

       

       Year £

       

      2010-11 3,000

       

      2011-12 200,000

       

      2012-13 2,173,000

    • The United States and Turkey are finalizing plans for a military campaign to push the Islamic State group out of a strip of Syrian territory along the Turkish border, a move that would further embroil Turkey in Syria's civil war and set up a potential conflict with U.S.-backed Kurdish forces.

       

       A U.S. official said Monday that the creation of an "Islamic State-free zone" would ensure greater security and stability in the Turkish-Syrian border region. However, the official said any joint military efforts with Turkey would not include the imposition of a no-fly zone. The official insisted on anonymity because this person was not authorized to publicly discuss the talks with Turkey.

    • The U.S. has long rejected Turkish and other requests for a no-fly zone to halt Syrian government air raids, fearing it would draw U.S. forces further into the civil war.

       

       The discussions come amid a major tactical shift in Turkey's approach to the Islamic State. After months of reluctance, Turkish warplanes started striking militant targets in Syria last week, following a long-awaited agreement allowing the U.S. to launch its own strikes from Turkey's strategically located Incirlik Air Base.

       

       On Sunday, Turkey called a meeting of its NATO allies for Tuesday to discuss threats to its security, as well as its airstrikes.

       

       A Turkish-driven military campaign to push IS out of territory along the Turkish border is likely to complicate matters on the ground. Kurdish fighters in Syria control most of the 910 kilometers (565 miles) boundary with Turkey, and have warned Ankara against any military intervention in northern Syria.

    • In a series of cross border strikes since Friday, Turkey has not only targeted the IS group but also Kurdish fighters affiliated with forces battling the extremists in Syria and Iraq. The Syrian Kurds are among the most effective ground forces battling the IS group and have been aided by U.S.-led airstrikes, but Turkey fears they could revive an insurgency against Ankara in pursuit of an independent state.

       

       Syria's main Kurdish militia — the YPG or the People's Protection Units — is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey and maintains bases in remote parts of northern Iraq.

       

       It was not immediately clear how an IS-free zone would be established along the Turkish-Syrian border. In comments published Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey and the United States had no plans to send ground troops into Syria but wanted to see Syria's moderate opposition forces replace IS near the Turkish border.

       

       In a reflection of the complexities involved, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday refused to draw a distinction between the Islamic State group and the PKK.

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    • To read Human Rights Watch and the western mainstream media, the Syrian government army is inflicting massive casualties upon the Syrian civilian population, most especially through the use of “barrel bombs”.  Thousands of bombs have been dropped, inflicting thousands of casualties.
    • But wait a minute.  Doesn’t that imply one casualty per bomb?

       

      Credible and reliable facts and figures are notoriously hard to come by, but Human Rights Watch intrepidly goes where angels fear to tread.  They are the only ones that provide both casualty and bomb counts for a given period of time, from February, 2014 through January, 2015.  According to them, more than 1,450 bombs – mostly “barrel” bombs – were dropped on the areas of Daraa and Aleppo covered by the report.  HRW also reports 3,185 civilian casualties from aerial attacks for the same time period and in the same places.  So roughly two casualties per bomb, even if you accept that a lot of “civilians” are actually fighters and that HRW and its sources are hardly unbiased.

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      Canada lacks long-term strategy in ISIS fight, according to report

       
       

      Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute says Ottawa has little influence in Baghdad

       

          By Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press    Posted: May 11, 2015

    • An independent report on Canada's war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) says the extremist threat is real, but perhaps exaggerated, while the Harper government ignores other important political concerns.

       

      An analysis by the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute released Monday says the violence being meted out by extremists is just the latest expression of Sunni alienation in Iraq and is rooted in a philosophy to which few Canadians can relate.

       

      "The threat to homeland security, first, is real, but it should not be overstated," said Thomas Juneau, an assistant professor at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa.

       

      "According to the government, a few dozen Canadians have travelled to Iraq or Syria to fight or train with [ISIS] and other extremist groups. Some of them have been or will be killed, while a majority will return home without ill intentions. This leaves a handful who could attempt attacks."

    • Canada's endorsement of airstrikes and the training of local security forces will not be enough to defeat ISIS, and a more long-term vision needs to be developed, he added.

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    • Barack Obama says ISIS will be defeated by ideas, not guns

       
       

      U.S. president meets with Pentagon officials following weekend airstrikes in eastern Syria

       

          CBC News    Posted: Jul 06, 2015

    • The complex threat of the ISIS extremist group will not be ultimately defeated by guns but through ideology, Barack Obama says.

       

      The U.S. president made the remarks Monday on the military campaign against the Islamic State group after being briefed by Pentagon officials earlier in the day. 

       

      He called for co-operation among countries in a fight he said spills over borders. Obama will look to partner with Muslim communities that he said are often the target of ISIS attacks.

       

      "The battle for hearts and minds is going to be a generational struggle," he said.

    • Obama has insisted he will not send U.S. troops into ground combat to fight the Islamic State in Iraq or Syria. However, he has acknowledged that the U.S. lacks a "complete strategy" for training Iraqi troops to carry out ground missions. He identified local authorities in targeted communities as essential to any kind of resolution.

       

      "If [the U.S. military tries] to do everything ourselves, we'll be playing whack-a-mole," Obama said.

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    • Russia moves to shut down 'undesirable' foreign organizations

       
       

      Recently passed laws have led to increased pressure on Russian NGOs

       

          The Associated Press    Posted: May 15, 2015

    • The Russian parliament gave preliminary approval Friday to legislation that would allow prosecutors to declare foreign and international organizations "undesirable" in Russia and shut them down.

       

      The step appeared to be part of a campaign to stifle civil society and dissent in Russia that intensified when President Vladimir Putin began his third term in 2012.

       

      Russian suspicions of Western intentions have been further heightened because of tensions over the conflict in Ukraine.

    • Laws passed in recent years already have led to increased pressure on Russian non-governmental organizations, particularly those that receive foreign funding. Hundreds of NGOs have been subject to raids and inspections, ostensibly to check their compliance with laws banning extremism or requiring organizations that receive funding from outside Russia and engage in political activity to register as foreign agents. Such a label carries connotations of spying.

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    • Eight Problems with Amnesty’s Report on Aleppo Syria

       
    • In 1990 Amnesty International made a horrendous mistake in the midst of the media campaign leading up to Gulf War 1.  While U.S. military action was being debated and the public was significantly opposed, it was reported that Iraqi troops were stealing incubators from a Kuwaiti hospital and leaving babies to die on the floor. In dramatic testimony before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, a Kuwaiti teenage girl claimed she was a hospital volunteer and eye-witness. Congress members were in tears, the event received huge publicity and had significant influence in changing public opinion. The event was a fabrication conceived by a Washington PR firm and the girl was the Kuwaiti Ambassador’s daughter. There might have been more scrutiny and investigation but the story was corroborated by Amnesty International.
    • More recently, in early 2011, Amnesty International and other human rights groups were influential in spreading false or exaggerated information about conditions in Libya. It paved the way for a “No Fly Zone” which NATO converted into a mandate for “regime change”. The consequence has been a catastrophic loss of security and living standards for the citizens of Libya and an eruption of violence and sectarianism within and beyond the borders.

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    • ISIS leader Abu Sayyaf killed in Syria, U.S. says

       
       

      Miltant's wife captured during commando raid, enslaved woman freed

       

          The Associated Press    Posted: May 16, 2015

    • In a rare ground attack deep inside Syria, U.S. Army commandos killed a man described as the Islamic State's head of oil operations, captured his wife and rescued a woman whom American officials said had been enslaved.

       

      A team of Delta Force commandos slipped across the border from Iraq under cover of darkness Saturday aboard Black Hawk helicopters and V-22 Osprey aircraft, according to a U.S. defence official knowledgeable about details of the raid. The official was not authorized to discuss the operation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

    • The Americans intended to capture a militant identified by U.S. officials as Abu Sayyaf. When they arrived at his location, a multi-storey building, they met stiff resistance, the U.S. official said, and a firefight ensued.

       

      Abu Sayyaf was killed, along with an estimated dozen ISIS fighters, U.S. officials said. There were no American casualties.

       

      Before the sun had risen, the commandos flew back to Iraq where Abu Sayyaf's wife, Umm Sayyaf, was being questioned in U.S. custody, officials said. The goal was to gain intelligence about ISIS operations and any information about hostages, including American citizens, who being held by the group, according to Bernadette Meehan, spokeswoman for the U.S. National Security Council.

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    • Holes in the Neocons’ Syria Story

       
       
        
      Global Research, June 01, 2015
       
      Consortium News 31 May 2015
    • Official Washington’s narrative about Syria’s civil war is that innocent “pro-democracy” protesters were driven to violence because the Syrian government cracked down harshly – and that if only President Barack Obama had armed the protesters and supported “regime change” at the beginning, the current crises in Syria and Iraq could have been averted.

       

      But the storyline was never that black and white. Though there surely were many Syrian protesters in 2011 simply seeking the end of President Bashar al-Assad’s rule and political reform, there were also extremist elements in their ranks from the start, including “Al-Qaeda in Iraq” terrorists, as a Defense Intelligence Agency report describes.

    • “AQI supported the Syrian opposition from the beginning, both ideologically and through the media,” the DIA wrote in a partially redacted classified report from August 2012 that was released to Judicial Watch in response to a court case over the Benghazi controversy. “AQI declared its opposition of Assad’s government because it considered it a sectarian regime targeting Sunnis.”

       

      In other words, Assad’s early complaint about “terrorists” having infiltrated the opposition wasn’t entirely false, although it was often treated that way by the mainstream U.S. news media. Even early in the disorders in 2011, there were cases of armed elements killing police and soldiers.

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    • The Red Line and the Rat Line

       

      Seymour M. Hersh on Obama, Erdoğan and the Syrian rebels

    • In 2011 Barack Obama led an allied military intervention in Libya without consulting the US Congress. Last August, after the sarin attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, he was ready to launch an allied air strike, this time to punish the Syrian government for allegedly crossing the ‘red line’ he had set in 2012 on the use of chemical weapons.[*] Then with less than two days to go before the planned strike, he announced that he would seek congressional approval for the intervention. The strike was postponed as Congress prepared for hearings, and subsequently cancelled when Obama accepted Assad’s offer to relinquish his chemical arsenal in a deal brokered by Russia. Why did Obama delay and then relent on Syria when he was not shy about rushing into Libya? The answer lies in a clash between those in the administration who were committed to enforcing the red line, and military leaders who thought that going to war was both unjustified and potentially disastrous.

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    • Now the truth emerges: how the US fuelled the rise of Isis in Syria and Iraq 

       
        
       
    • The sectarian terror group won’t be defeated by the western states that incubated it in the first place
    • Wednesday 3 June 2015

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    • Blowback: Paris Terror Suspects Recently Returned from Syria and Demonstrated Military Training

         
        Dan Sanchez,   January 07, 2015
    • Briefly noted in the third paragraph of a USA Today report about the suspects in today’s Paris terror attack: “Both brothers returned from Syria this summer.”

       

      What would French radical Islamists be doing in Syria around that time? Quite possibly getting training from the US and its allies to fight Assad. And as Ben Swann reports: “Analysts have said that this attack was carried out by men who had formal military training and was carried out by men who acted like a ‘special forces unit’.”

       

      However, such training is by no means certain, for as Mitchell Prothero reports:

    • “Other evidence suggests they could be linked to a top French al Qaida operative, David Drugeon, who’s been the target at least twice of U.S. airstrikes in Syria over the last four months.”

       

      Yet, even if they didn’t manage to get past U.S. “vetting,” and instead received training from al Qaida alone, the fact that the war they earned their spurs in was persisting at all was due to U.S. aid to the rebels.

       

      This is the kind of blowback that is so quick to follow intervention that Scott Horton incisively terms it “backdraft.”

       

      And once again, just as with Sony and North Korea, the implications concerning empire are getting lost in the hullabaloo over rogue groups allegedly seriously threatening freedom of speech.

    • US-led strikes may have killed civilians: Pentagon
    • Washington (AFP) - The US military is reviewing several incidents in which civilians may have been killed in coalition air strikes against Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria, officials said.
    • The comments marked the first time the US military has acknowledged that the air war may have exacted a toll on civilians.

      US Central Command, which is overseeing the air campaign, initially looked into 18 cases and concluded 13 were not credible but five merited further review. Of those, two incidents -- one in Iraq and one in Syria -- prompted formal investigations, defense officials told AFP.

      The current probes involved one case that occurred as recently as December 26, officials said.

      "What I know is that Central Command is investigating several (of) what they believe to be credible allegations of civilian casualties," Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters.

      "This is something we always take seriously. We are very mindful of trying to mitigate the risk to civilians every time we operate, everywhere we operate."

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    •     <!-- Content Start -->  
         

      PHYSICIANS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS JOIN THE RANKS OF PRO-IMPERIALIST NGO’S

    • Starving Syrians For Human Rights

       

      *John V. Walsh

       

      The wing of the U.S. human rights movement which targets foreign countries can wind up as a cruel business, aiding the ruthless and violent actions of the U.S. Empire, wittingly or not. For the U.S. all too often uses human rights as a cover for taking action against countries that defy the Empire’s control.

       

      Some weeks back, I decided to look into one such group, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), an organization I had long refrained from joining out of skepticism. But perhaps, I thought, PHR had sidestepped the dangers inherent in this work. So I joined to find out.

       

      Some days later I received my first email from PHR. I was floored by the heading, “Protect Syrian Citizens: Help Make Sanctions Tougher.” The word “tougher” struck me. The email read in part: “Help us impose tougher sanctions on Pres. Assad’s brutal regime. The Syria Sanctions Act of 2011, S. 1472, will target Syria’s energy and financial sectors. Contact your Senators today and urge them to back S. 1472.” The sponsor of this bill was Kirsten Gillibrand, and among the 12 co-sponsors were two neocon leaders, John McCain and Joe Lieberman, the latter hardly a human rights stalwart when it comes to Palestinians. Did that not ring alarm bells at PHR?

    • Sanctions Target the Syrian People, Bringing Poverty and Hunger

       

      PHR argues that the sanctions are “targeted” at the oil and financial sectors and therefore are of consequence only for the Syrian elite. Since 25% of the revenue of the Syrian government comes from oil revenues (according to  the text of the bill), expenditures providing needed relief to the population, for example, the current price supports for food, will certainly be affected. But it is not only the revenues of the Syrian government that are affected.  The Financial Times reports:

       

      The most significant sanctions are on the oil industry, estimated by the International Monetary Fund to have accounted for almost a fifth of gross domestic product in 2010. Analysts estimate that they helped contribute to a contraction of 2-10 per cent to Syria’s economy last year (2011).

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