• Nora Benkorich, a researcher at the College de France, published an opinion column in Le Monde. Without questioning the popular revolt dogma, she emphasizes the presence of jihadists among the rebels and the need for the latter to distance themselves from them if they want to retain their support among the population.

• Jonathan Littel continues his series on his January visit to Syria. It appears in both Le Monde and El Pais. A French-speaking novelist, living in Barcelona, the author is slated to take over from Bernard-Henri Lévy, with whom he has worked in Bosnia, Chechnya and Afghanistan. Each episode is an opportunity for him to send a message across: the one on Wednesday underscores that the Free "Syrian" Army is composed of Syrians, but has few resources and is in need of foreign weapons, while the national army is decaying; Thursday’s episode explains that the rebels do not belong to any particular faith and are not sectarian, but represent the diversity of the Syrian population.
It is probably not clear to the readers of Le Monde and El Pais why Jonathan Littel chose to enter clandestinely into Syria, when the country had just opened its borders to journalists. Both newspapers actually omit to indicate that the novelist is a national of a state at war with Syria and which occupies its Golan Heights.
The novelist’s narrative is completely at variance with the accounts we have collected from people living in Bab Amr. He repeatedly brings up his conversations with Lieutenant Tlass Brigade of the Al-Farouq Brigade. However, it has now been recognized by the international press that the Al-Farouk Brigade is "linked to Al Qaeda," which does not exactly make it an advocate of freedom of conscience. Especially, since at the time of reporting, Lieutenant Tlass was sequestering the Iranian Shiite civilians that he had abducted, but which Jonathan Littel is careful not to mention so as not to water down his idyllic description of peaceful citizens, armed in self-defense, and aspiring toward a common good.

• Also in Le Monde, an op-ed by Jean-Sylvestre Mongrenier depicts the international crisis around Syria as a harbinger of the crisis linked with Iran and invites his readers to interpret the positions of the major powers in this light.

• The Tagesspiegel deciphers the reactions of the states surrounding Syria. The purpose is to underline the impossibility of preventing a conventional war against Syria from spilling into the other countries.

Le Temps announced that Switzerland closed its embassy in Damascus, urging its nationals to leave the country without delay.

• Peace advocate Marinella Corregia in Il Manifesto protests against the one-sided disinformation (that is to say, NATO war propaganda). With supporting evidence, she shows how the Syrian scenario is a narrative modeled on Libya’s, and unrelated to the reality on the ground.

• Sir Malcolm Rifkin, chair of the U.K. Intelligence and Security Committee, elucidates in The Daily Telegraph Prime Minister David Cameron’s position: we must increase the pressure on Syria. This is akin to the US position, but runs counter to that of France and Germany who support the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping force. Rifkin assures that it is possible for economic sanctions to run the al-Assad regime aground. However, the article is intended for the sole benefit of those who ignore the reasons behind the lifting of the Arab League’s economic sanctions: the closing of the Jordanian border would cause Jordan to collapse in a few days, considering that all its supplies are delivered by land, and that the country is totally dependent on Syrian water.

• The Wall Street Journal reveals that the U.S. monitors via satellite Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons to make sure that they will not fall into the hands of the Islamists. This comes primarily in response to concerns raised by the Israelis, who also fear that those weapons could be used by the al-Assad government in a war of diversion against them. On its side, the Jerusalem Post revealed that the IDF is meanwhile preparing for this eventuality.

L’Orient-Le Jour propagates a controversy which surfaced on the Web after the release of a video showing Colonel Riad al-Asaad. The chief of the Free "Syrian" Army has shaved his mustache and let his beard grow. Could he be an Islamist?

Gulf News echoes the statements of Lebanese MP Walid Jumblatt. According to the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, the Al-Qaeda announcements were orchestrated by the al-Assad government to discredit the Free "Syrian" Army.
There is just one problem: it is difficult to understand how and why Damascus would have recruited and sent Habdel Hakim Belhaj to organize the armed opposition, or how and why it could have manipulated Ayman al-Zawahiri making him call for its own overthrow.

• A debate in the columns of The National is pitting Anthony Elghossain against Brian Kappler. The former argues that the principle of the responsibility to protect can be invoked by regional organizations (NATO, GCC, Arab League) to intervene in Syria. The latter points out that such a precedent could also be used by the CIS, or the SCO in other situations, which would render international law null and void.

• The Saudi Gazette reports on the intervention by Great Imam Ahmed El-Tayeb of the Al-Azhar University of Cairo, calling on the Arab League to take strong action against the "killing machine of Bashar al-Assad."

• In the China Daily, He Wenping deplores that Westerners use their dominance in the media to propagate only their opinion on Syria, stifle other world voices and lead a smear campaign against Russia and China who do not share their views.

Photo of the day

© Muzaffar Salman, Associated Press

The photo mostly used worldwide to illustrate articles on Syria was taken in the suburbs of Damascus. A child on a bike walks past Loyalist soldiers with portraits of the "tyrant" on their vehicle.

On the face of it, there was no ideological reason to promote this uninteresting photograph. Unless it is designed to prepare Western public opinion for a policy reversal. The child does not feel threatened by the soldiers, and they do not inspire fear. The graceful movement of the officer descending from the truck is more reminiscent of a ballet than a dictatorship.

Cartoons of the day

© The Globe and Mail

Bashar al-Assad covers his ear to shut out the cries of his people.

© Pang Li, China Daily

The Chinese were hurt in their national pride when Ambassador Susan Rice said she was "disgusted" by their veto. In this drawing by Pang Li, the Chinese Panda who is dressing the wounds of the peace dove is accused of having injured it by the United States, seen holding a handgun which is still smoking.

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