Saturday, January 11, 2014

New Blog

I have been blogging for many years in both Arabic and English, so much so that things have gotten a bit too confusing for those who follow my writings. To make things easier, I gathered all my blog posts from all my blogs, and published all published articles, as well as my studies and papers, in one easily navigable site, which I continue to update on an almost daily basis:

I hope the new site will rise to your best expectations. If you have any comments on the design or content of the new site, do not hesitate to contact me. 



Thursday, June 13, 2013

Another Chapter Ends!

I started the Syrian Revolution Digest to prevent the destruction and demise of my country, not to chronicle it. By keeping a certain key segment of the public informed as to what is taking place in Syria, and by circulating my posts by email to key officials, policy analysts, media professionals and human rights activists, I hoped  to apply enough pressure on American and European leaders to have them decide to intervene early on in the situation. I hoped that their timely intervention would prevent the transformation of the peaceful protest movement into an armed insurrection paving the way to a civil war. I have obviously failed. 

My subsequent attempts to mitigate this failure by calling for the imposition of a no-fly zone and for providing military and humanitarian support to moderate rebels have also come to naught. But the battle is not lost yet. More and more influential public figures are emerging every day in support of this position, including people like Senator McCain and former President Clinton. President Obama might still choose to ignore our pleas, and to persist in his catastrophic approach to the situation, but there is little that I can do through this blog to change his calculations. 

So, and rather than insist on engaging in an activity that has lost its purpose for me, I believe my cause is better served if I shifted my focus and remaining supplies of energy elsewhere. 

I know many of my readers have found this blog useful and have come to rely on it as a dependable source of insights and information, to them, I extend my sincere apologies for having to put an end to it at this stage and hope they understand my reasoning and need for doing so. 

I have always been doing much more than just blogging, of course. I lectured, wrote papers and op-eds, travelled, met with officials and advised opposition groups as well as in-country activists on a variety of issues. 

Under the auspices of the Tharwa Foundation, and in cooperation with a number of international organizations, I have also organized a plethora of workshops meant to educate and build the capacity of young activists and emerging local leaders. In fact, I am currently involved in a program along these lines near the Syrian-Turkish borders. Over the next few months, this will continue to be my focus, alongside my wife, who preceded me to Turkey and is much more engaged in connecting with local activists from across the country, and our two children who have changed their entire career paths so that they could one day help in the reconstruction processes in Syria. 

So, as one chapter ends for us, another immediately begins. I just hope I can keep up. But I increasingly feel out of my Aspergian depths at this stage...

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Bare Naked Truth!

No more masks. No more fig-leafs. With Alawite militias now coming out in the open calling for “cleansing” and “liberating” their areas of Sunnis with the support of established religious figures in their community, the sectarian nature of the Assad regime and the ongoing crackdown can no longer be denied. What we have now in Syria is de facto and de jure a genocidal venture. Indeed, there are many Alawite figures who oppose it, and that gives us some hope for the possibility of intercommunal reconciliation down the road, but for now, we have to see realities for what they are. It’s time we removed the blindfold and admitted to ourselves that we are once again allowing genocide to take place, as we watch. And by the way, someone should tell Mr. Kerry and Mr. Lavrov that those already committed to perpetrating genocide are interested in politics only inasmuch as they can be used as cover for their crimes. The Russians don’t seem to have any compunction about being partners in this particular crime. The question is: how does Obama feel?

Tuesday May 7, 2013

Death Toll: 128, including 5 women, 4 children and 1 martyr under torture: 46 reported in Daraa including 12 found in a mass grave in Sheikh Meskeen; 35 in Damascus and its suburbs; 9 in Hama; 9 in Qunaitra; 9 in Aleppo; 8 in Homs; 7 in Idlib; and 4 in Deir Ezzor (LCC).

U.S. and Russia Plan Conference Aimed at Ending Syrian War Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov, announced their agreement to arrange the conference after a day of intense diplomatic meetings here. Mr. Kerry, who was visiting Russia seeking to find common ground on the Syria conflict, told reporters at a joint appearance with Mr. Lavrov in Moscow that the aim would be to push the government of President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian opposition to attend. The announcement appeared to signal a strong desire by both countries to halt what has been a dangerous escalation in the conflict, with evidence of chemical weapons use, a surge in the number of civilians fleeing combat and a refugee crisis that is overwhelming Syria’s neighbors. Israeli aerial attacks this past weekend on suspected munitions sites in Syria heightened and further complicated the tensions in the region.
No Easy Answers on Syria, Obama Says Speaking at a news conference with President Park Geun-hye of South Korea, Mr. Obama said: “Understandably, there’s a desire for easy answers. That’s not the situation there.” “My job is to constantly measure our very real and legitimate humanitarian and national security interests in Syria,” he said, adding that that must be measured against “my bottom line: which is what’s in the best interest of America’s security.” Still, Mr. Obama sought to dispel suggestions that he faced a credibility gap in the wake of intelligence showing that sarin gas was used on March 19 in a Syrian village west of Aleppo and in the outskirts of Damascus. He cited the commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden and the NATO-led air campaign against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya as evidence of his resolve. “There have been several instances during the course of my presidency where I said I was going to do something,” he said, “and it ended up getting done.”
Web monitor: ‘Syria has largely disappeared from the Internet’ The outage appears to have begun at 2:45 p.m. Eastern time, or 9:45 p.m. in Syria. According to a blog post by Umbrella’s chief technology officer Dan Hubbard, “On closer inspection it seems Syria has largely disappeared from the Internet.” Many Syria-watchers feared that the Web shutdown was a precursor to some sort of coordinated regime counterattack or campaign; that President Bashar al-Assad had not wanted the world to see what he was about to do. No such campaign ever appeared to come, however. Later, many Syria analysts concluded that the regime may have been seeking to hamper rebel communication; fighting near the Damascus airport at the time had potentially threatened one of Assad’s key links to the outside.
Sen. Corker on Syria: U.S. will "be arming the rebels soon" "I do think we'll be arming the opposition shortly," Corker said Tuesday on "CBS This Morning." "We're doing a lot more on the ground than really is known but we do have to change the equation. ... The moderate opposition groups we support are not as good at fighting, they're not as good at delivering humanitarian aid."
4 UN peacekeepers taken hostage in Syria Four U.N. peacekeepers monitoring the cease-fire between Syria and the Golan Heights have been detained by unknown captors, a U.N. spokeswoman said. But a rebel group called the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigades claimed it is holding them. The spokeswoman for the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force told Reuters Tuesday that the peacekeepers were in the area where other U.N. observers were detained by Syrian rebels for three days in March. Kieran Dwyer, spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping department, said efforts are under way to secure the four peacekeepers, who are all from the Philippines. In a statement that was posted on the group's Facebook page Tuesday, the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigades said the peacekeepers are not their hostages, but are being kept with them for their own safety.
Turkey condemns Israeli air strikes in Syria "The air strike Israel carried out on Damascus is completely unacceptable. There is no rationale, no pretext that can excuse this operation," Erdogan told a parliamentary meeting of his ruling party. "These attacks are chances, opportunities offered on a golden tray to Assad and to the illegitimate Syrian regime. Using the Israel attack as an excuse, he is trying to cover up the genocide in Banias," he said. Erdogan was referring to a Syrian coastal town where anti-Assad activists said at least 62 people were killed by government fighters over the weekend.
42 Syrian soldiers dead in reported Israeli strike, opposition group says Concern about the possibility of broader war in the Middle East grew Monday after reported airstrikes on Syrian military installations. The reported strikes killed 42 Syrian soldiers, the opposition Syrian Observatory for  Human Rights said Monday, citing medical sources. It said 100 people remained missing. The Syrian government warned Sunday's apparent strikes -- which followed one last week attributed by Syria to Israel -- "opens the door wide for all the possibilities."
Russia says chance of foreign intervention in Syria growing "We are seriously concerned by the signs of preparation of global public opinion for possible armed intervention in the long-running internal conflict in Syria," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement. Russia also voiced concern at Israeli air strikes against Syrian targets, saying that they threatened to escalate tensions in neighbouring countries. "We are looking into and analysing all the circumstances surrounding the especially concerning reports of the May 3 and May 5 Israeli air strikes," the foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that they threatened to destabilise the situation in Lebanon.
Israel to reopen airspace after Syria strike: military "Civilian aviation in northern Israel will resume regular operation following security assessments," a statement said. An army spokeswoman told AFP that the closure, originally scheduled to last until May 9, was expected to end later on Monday.
Israel says 'no winds of war' despite Syria air strikes Oil prices spiked above $105 a barrel, their highest in nearly a month, on Monday as the air strikes on Friday and Sunday prompted fears of a wider spillover of the two-year-old conflict in Syria that could affect Middle East oil exports. "There are no winds of war," Yair Golan, the general commanding Israeli forces on the Syrian and Lebanese fronts, told reporters while out jogging with troops. "Do you see tension? There is no tension. Do I look tense to you?" he said, according to the Maariv NRG news website.

Analyses & Op-Eds
Israel Bombs Syria: Nation a ‘Battlefield for the World’s Powers’ The rebels weren’t behind those fireballs. As the international community refuses to officially intervene, Mike Giglio on how regional players are stepping up their own involvement in Syria.
Will Syria Still Exist a Year From Today? While Obama wrings his hands over a ‘red line,’ the U.N. sits on the sidelines. How long until Syria as we know it falls off the map? Janine di Giovanni sounds the alarm—again.
Kurds Should Not Fear Renewed Per­se­cu­tion in Syria, Expert Says Dr. Nikolaos van Dam is the former Ambassador of the Netherlands to Iraq, Egypt, Turkey, Ger­many and Indonesia, and author of The Struggle for Power in Syria (2011). With a profound diplomatic experience in different areas across the world and a broad knowledge on various outstanding causes in the Middle East, including the Kurdish issue, Dr. Nikolaos van Dam observes the current developments in Iraq and Syria with a special interest in the potential outcome of the ongoing crises on the future of the Kurds. Dr. van Dam illustrates his views in this regard through this exclusive interview.
Reported Israeli airstrikes in Syria could accelerate U.S. decision process Now, in part because of growing confidence in the rebel Free Syrian Army, “the national security team and the diplomatic team around the president” favor increased involvement, and their views are gaining momentum despite the caution expressed by Obama’s political advisers, according to a senior Western official whose government has closely coordinated its Syria policy with Washington and who spoke before the reported Israeli strikes. The official discussed sensitive diplomatic assessments on the condition of anonymity. Even U.S. lawmakers who have expressed reservations about stepped-up U.S. involvement appeared to now see it as inevitable. “If we are going to arm the rebels, we have to make sure those arms are not going to end up in the possession of al-Qaeda supporters,” Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
What if al Qaeda Gets Syrian Chemical Weapons? “I think we should be worried,” says Jeffrey White an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and former military intelligence officer. “As the war progresses and the rebels gain territory, assuming they do, inevitably they’re going to close in on some of the regime’s chemical facilities.” In fact, that has already happened. Earlier this year, rebel fighters with the powerful Jabat al Nusra faction–a group the State Department calls an extension of al Qaeda in Iraq–battled close enough to a major Syrian chemical stockpile near Aleppo that the regime is believed to have relocated its weapons to another location.
Lessons from a massacre that Assad looks to exploit The narrative is that the regime's forces are driving Sunni families from Alawite areas, in Homs and elsewhere, for the purpose of paving the way for a potential statelet on the coast. But that narrative is inaccurate because such moves are not systematic or universal. Sunni families were welcomed in the Alawite heartlands and Alawite families are similarly leaving their areas in the country's middle when there is violence and heading to the coast. These moves, therefore, suggest that sectarian cleansing is not being conducted for the purpose of establishing a potential state but for other strategic reasons to ensure the flow of Alawite fighters from and into this area. As the rebels close in on the coastline, the regime probably feels that such massacres will deepen sectarian tensions and pit Sunni and Alawites against each other, thereby convincing the Alawites they need to fight alongside the Assad regime for their survival. A similar ploy was employed in the beginning of the conflict in 2011. A month into the anti-regime protests, pro-regime militias - their fighters with accents and names associated in Syria with Alawites - filmed themselves humiliating protesters in the same village as the weekend's massacre.

My new paper, prepared for a briefing in Washington, D.C. that took place on January 15, 2013, is now out and is titled “Syria 2013: Rise of the Warlords.” It should be read in conjunction with my previous briefing “The Shredded Tapestry,” and my recent essay “The Creation of an Unbridgeable Divide.

The Genocidal Truth

Lest we forget, this is the reality of what is happening in Syria today: genocide. The images below are the villages of Byada and Raas Al-Nabea in Banyas.


More information on the current Alawite militias carrying out the ethnic cleansing campaign in Banyas has also surfaced.

The group spearheading the effort is called the Syrian Resistance and is headed by one Mihrac Ural (, AKA Al-Kayyal (the weigher) and also Ali Kayyali, the fellow we recently saw in a leaked video ( calling for ethnic cleansing as part of a “cleanse and liberate” approach to consolidate Alawite hold on the coastal regions in Syria.

Mihrac is the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Iskandarone, an organization created by the late Hafiz Al-Assad to “liberate” and retrieve the Hatay region from Turkey. The movement was nothing more than a propaganda stunt really and was rendered obsolete during the rapprochement with Turkey under Bashar Al-Assad. But the growing rift between the two sides since the onset of the revolution breathed a new life into the movement and transformed into a fanatical Alawite militia fighting to maintain Assad rule and seeking to cultivate support for his regime among the Alawite community in Hatay. Mihrac himself is a communist, but religious Alawite figures such as Sheikh Mouaffac Ghazal among others are also playing their part in the new movement.

In this video from March 2013, we can see Mihrac and his people introduce themselves defiantly at a time when their campaign was being planned. Their message is simple: we are poor, we are not receiving military or financial support from anyone, and we do what we do because we believe in the cause (link from a Youtube channel affiliated with the group) (this is another link to the view from a rebel YouTube channel: Of course, pro-Assad militias re supported logistically and financially by the Assad regime.

In this video, we see Mihrac speaking at a funeral of a local militiaman following the massacre in Al-Bayda promising to fight on against the terrorists of the Empty Quarter (reference to Saudi Arabia support to rebels) under the leadership of Bashar Al-Assad 

This is an older video of Mihrac (January 2013) with English subtitles

Another leaked video from Banyas shows Alawite militias abusing and transporting the corpse of a captive to unknown whereabouts

Stupefied? Dumb? Or Duplicitous?

Carla Del Ponte says that she “was a little bit stupefied by the first indication of the use of nerve gas by the opposition" For their parts Syrians were stupefied by her previous fuckups as a prosecutor. Meanwhile, the White House makes clear that “Assad likely behind chemical arms use,” and Peter Bergen considers “Al Qaeda's track record with chemical weapons” in Iraq, specifically with chlorine gas. The problem with this analysis is that people who have been hit by chemical weapons attack in Syria are rebels and their host communities.

The Violations Documentation Center has issued this report on use of chemical weapons by the regime in April 2013 in Damascus City! So, the story regarding use of chemical weapons in Syria at this stage is that they are being used methodically by the regime even in the country’s capital.

Video Highlights

Rebels in Qusair, Homs Province, claim that their city was targeted with napalm type bombs during aerial raid. They show this man as a proof this is the bomb that was dropped on town and caused the injuries

Attack on Al-Bayda by artillery continues ,

Rebels in Deir Ezzor blow up a research center used as loyalist headquarters by pro-Assad militias inside the military airport But the pounding of the city with heavy artillery continues ,

The aftermath of a rebel attack on a loyalist convoy in Damascus Suburbs

Pro-Assad militias execute an Egyptian prisoner who was fighting for the rebels in Eastern Ghoutah, Damascus Suburbs

On the other hand, rebels for the most part still treat the captured and wounded pro-regime soldiers with some decency, not matter how reluctantly. This video is from Daraa Rebels are under constant pressure from activists in their midst to behave according to legal norms, and oftentimes, this pressure works, albeit violations among rebels are mounting. Pro-Assad militias on the other hand operate under the opposite pressures: they are meant to misbehave torture, loot and kill.

Rebel strongholds in Damascus City continue to be pounded: Jobar , Zamalka

To the West, the pounding of Moadamiyeh Suburb continues ,

Monday, May 6, 2013

“Cleanse and Liberate!”

As a pro-Assad militia leader explained that the driving philosophy behind the current operations in Banyas and its surroundings is to “cleanse and liberate” the only coastal town in Syria where Sunnis make up a majority, and as hundreds of Sunni families are indeed being forced to flee, world attention seems destined to focus over the next phase on the allegations just brought by Carla Del Ponte that rebels were behind the use of Sarin gas in Syria! And yet, miraculously, it’s the rebels and their supporters who are being killed and displaced! Cut the bullshit!, pardon my Italian! Had rebels had access to Sarin gas and had they had the necessary knowhow to deploy it, they might have been tempted to use it during their months-long siege of various military airports that keep raining death and havoc on their communities. The fact that they haven’t reflects either a principled stand on their part, lack of access, or both, but in all cases, it makes clear that the Sarin call in Syria has been heeded by the Assadists only, not the rebels. QED

Sunday May 5, 2013

Death Toll: 116, including 16 women and 21 children: 29 were reported in Damascus and its suburbs; 21 in Banyas; 19 in Homs; 10 in Idlib; 10 in Aleppo; 9 in Deir Ezzor; 7 in Daraa; 7 in Hama; 3 in Lattakia; and 1 in Raqqa (LCC).

Syria Blames Israel for Fiery Attack in Damascus The attack, which sent brightly lighted columns of smoke and ash high into the night sky above the Syrian capital, struck several critical military facilities in some of the country’s most tightly secured and strategic areas, killing dozens of elite troops stationed near the presidential palace, a high-ranking Syrian military official said in an interview. Israel refused to confirm the attacks, the second in three days, and Israeli analysts said it was unlikely that Israel was seeking to intervene in the Syrian conflict. They said the attacks in all likelihood expanded and continued Israel’s campaign to prevent the Syrian government from transferring weapons to Hezbollah, the Shiite militia and political party in neighboring Lebanon that is one of Israel’s most dangerous foes.
U.S. received no early warning on alleged Israeli strikes in Syria, American official says Meanwhile, Syrian official tells the New York Times strike hit elite Republican Guard units; local doctor reports at least 100 soldiers killed.
Syrian Rebels May Have Used Sarin “Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals,” Ms. Del Ponte said in an interview with Swiss-Italian television. “According to their report of last week, which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated.” “This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities,” she added, speaking in Italian… The United States has said it has “varying degrees of confidence” that sarin has been used by Syria’s government on its people.
Syrian rebels enter northern air base The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels moved deep inside Mannagh air base, near the border with Turkey, despite fire from government warplanes. The Aleppo Media Center says rebels captured a tank unit inside the base and that the base commander, Brig. Gen. Ali Salim Mahmoud, was killed. The fighting came hours after Israeli warplanes struck areas in and around the Syrian capital, setting off a series of explosions as they targeted a shipment of highly accurate, Iranian-made guided missiles believed to be bound for Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group, officials and activists said.

Investigative Reports
Exclusive: Syrian aid in crisis as Gulf states renege on promises Food rationing for refugees planned as $650m pledged to UN remains undelivered

Analyses & Op-Eds
Bill Keller: Syria Is Not Iraq t in Syria, I fear prudence has become fatalism, and our caution has been the father of missed opportunities, diminished credibility and enlarged tragedy. The United States has supplied humanitarian aid and diplomatic pressure. But our reluctance to arm the rebels or defend the civilians being slaughtered in their homes has convinced the Assad regime (and the world) that we are not serious. Our fear that arms supplied to the rebels would fall into the hands of jihadis has become a self-fulfilling prophecy, because instead of dealing directly with the rebels we left the arming to fundamentalist monarchies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and they are predictably using lethal aid to appease the more radical Islamists.
Strikes on Syria Signal an Emboldened Israela civil war that has gone on for more than two years has changed Israel’s calculus. Israeli officials are betting that Assad will not retaliate, both because his forces have their hands full already and because any strike against Israel would risk Israeli counterstrikes that might seriously degrade his advantages in the civil war, like airpower. “They don’t want to open a new front that might be the last one they open,” says one Israeli military official. “They would suffer a knockout punch.” One measure of Israel’s confidence was the whereabouts of its Prime Minister: Benjamin Netanyahu left on Sunday for a long-scheduled state visit to Beijing.

My new paper, prepared for a briefing in Washington, D.C. that took place on January 15, 2013, is now out and is titled “Syria 2013: Rise of the Warlords.” It should be read in conjunction with my previous briefing “The Shredded Tapestry,” and my recent essay “The Creation of an Unbridgeable Divide.

“Cleanse and Liberate”

In this leaked video we see a leader of a pro-Assad militia known as Al-Kayyal speaking to supporters during a recent recruitment rally explaining the philosophy behind the current loyalist campaign in the coastal town of Banyas. Al-Kayyak is a Turkish Alawite and leads a small militia of Turkish Alawite recruits fighting for Assad in Syria. The religious scholar to his left is an Alawite religious figure known as Mouaffac Ghazal. Al-Kayyal says that Banyas (a town where the majority population happens to be Sunni Arab whereas the population of the larger province happens to be Alawite) is the only outlet the “traitors” [AKA the Sunnis] have to the sea and could be used to bring enemies from abroad, hence the need to “besiege” and “cleanse” the town, “sooner rather than later.” The essence of their resistance, he says, is to “cleanse and liberate.” Politics is not their concern, he says. Indeed, the city of Banyas is now being targeted by heavy artillery

Cleanse Your Mind

Meanwhile, member of the UN commission member investigating possible use of chemical weapons in Syria, Carla Del Ponte, made a statement in a press conference in Geneva in which she seemed to assume that rebels were beyond the use of Sarin gas in the incidents under investigation. While she claimed that the results of the investigation provided “strong, concrete suspicions” that Sarin was used, she said that the evidence was not “incontrovertible.” She then added matter of fact that the use of Sarin was “on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities.” She offered no evidence in this regard, but she seems to be referring to official claims made by the Assad regime after an attack took place against the town of Khan Al-Assal for which the regime blamed rebels – a ludicrous and unsupported claim that was nonetheless widely circulated by international media at the time.

However, Del Pone’s statement, as sensational as it is at this stage, does not seem to reflect an official position by the commission itself, as such, an official clarification needs to be issued soon. For the real story in Syria today is the all too visible and ongoing ethnic cleansing campaign against the Sunni population in coastal and central areas in Syria and the repetitive incidents of Sarin gas use in a variety of locations across the country by regime forces. Incidents of the regime use of Sarin have been corroborated by the Americans (shyly), the French, the British and the Israelis.

Airport Cleansed!

Rebels took over huge segments of Minnigh Military Airport today. The progress comes after a defector killed the Airport’s chief, Ali Salim Mahmoud, and some of his top men two days ago. This is a rebel commander announcing the development two days ago.

Video Highlights

Rebels in Deir Ezzor brought down a government chopper killing its 6-men crew

Unfazed by Israeli raids, regime forces pound rebel strongholds in Damascus City using rockets launchers on top of Mount Qasayoun Yarmouk Camp , Southern neighborhoods Jobar

To the West of Damascus, the town of Moadamiyeh continue to be pounded ,

News editor at Syrian Satellite TV, Khalid Khalil, declares his defection and apologizes to the Syrian people for the lateness in announcing his decision, but says he was providing reports to rebels since the beginning of the revolution

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Bluff & Awe!

Ethnic cleansing is not only about how many people are killed, it’s more often about how many people are displaced. With more than 6 million internally displaced persons, 2 million refugees, and hundreds of thousands of detainees and missing, the overwhelming majority of whom happen to be Sunni Arabs, and considering the fact that it has only taken 2 years to achieve this feat, the scale of the human tragedy in Syria assumes new proportions. Furthermore, the tragedy is playing out in the age of “never again” and R2P, reports of this genocide are being broadcast around the clock through social media so no one can feign ignorance, and all is being accomplished with minimal recourse to WMDs. Obama’s red line has been irrelevant since the beginning, and was nothing more than a meaningless bluff that was exposed as such when reports of its violation were casually dismissed by the man who drew the line, and when Israelis just showed the world how red lines are actually maintained… (Continue below).

Saturday May 4, 2013

Death Toll: 271 martyrs, including more than 30 women, 20 children and 1 under torture: 142 martyrs were reported in Banyas in Raas Al-Nabea Massacre which took place on Friday; 33 in Homs; 29 in Aleppo; 21 in Damascus and its Suburbs; 14 in Daraa; 11 in Raqqa; 11 in Hama; 7 in Idlib; 2 in Deir Ezzor; and 1 in Hassakeh (LCC).

Israel enforces 'red line' with Syria airstrike on weapons bound for Hezbollah, officials say But the strike, which one official said targeted a shipment of advanced surface-to-surface missiles, also raised new concerns that the region's most powerful military could be dragged into Syria's civil war and spark a wider conflagration. Fighting has repeatedly spilled across Syria's borders into Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights during more than two years of conflict, while more than 1 million Syrians have sought refuge in neighboring countries.
Explosions shake Damascus, Syria blames Israel Powerful explosions struck the outskirts of Damascus early on Sunday, sending columns of fire into the night sky, and Syrian state television said Israeli rockets had struck a military facility just north of the capital. Israel declined to comment on the attack, but the blasts occurred a day after an Israeli official said his country had carried out an air strike targeting a consignment of missiles in Syria intended for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. One of the sites hit on Sunday, the Jamraya military research center, was also targeted by Israel in January.
'IAF strike in Syria targeted arms from Iran' Reports indicate the strike targeted surface-to-surface Fateh-110 missiles that were stored at a warehouse in the Damascus airport. The New York Times quoted American officials as saying the missile shipment came from Iran. It is unclear whether the Fateh-110 missiles were intended for Hezbollah, who are said to already have a small supply of them, or to Assad forces, who are running low on Fateh-110 missiles that were used on opposition forces, the American official told the Times.
Israel has the right to hit missiles, Obama says after strike It is Israel's right to prevent Hezbollah from getting weapons, President Obama said, a day after Israeli jets reportedly destroyed Iranian missiles in Syria bound for the Lebanese terrorist group. Neither the U.S. nor the Israeli governments have confirmed multiple reports quoting anonymous officials in both countries as saying that Israel was responsible for the strike early Friday on Damascus airport. Obama, in his first remarks on the issue, in an interview Saturday with Telemundo, also would not confirm Israel's role in the strike. He emphasized, however, Israel's right to carry out such attacks. "What I have said in the past and I continue to believe is that the Israelis justifiably have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah," Obama told Telemundo, in remarks picked up first by the Reuters news agency. "We coordinate closely with the Israelis recognizing they are very close to Syria, they are very close to Lebanon," he said.
Israel: Syrian chemical arms safe, Hezbollah does not want them "Syria has large amounts of chemical weaponry and missiles. Everything there is under (Assad government) control," Gilad said in a speech. "Hezbollah does not have chemical weaponry. We have ways of knowing. They are not keen to take weaponry like this, preferring systems that can cover all of the country (Israel)," he said. He was apparently referring to Hezbollah's conventional ground-to-ground missiles, whose number the Israelis put at around 60,000. "Chemical weapons kill those who use them," Gilad added.

Syrians flee 'massacres' in Baniyas and al-Bayda Hundreds of Syrians have fled coastal areas where activists say government forces have carried out massacres in a campaign of sectarian cleansing. Video footage of mutilated and burned bodies, allegedly from the town of Baniyas, has been posted online. Activists said at least 77 people - 20 from the same family - were killed, a day after 72 died in nearby al-Bayda. The government said it had fought back "terrorist groups" and restored peace and security to the area.
Syria: massacres of Sunni families reported in Assad's heartland Along with the cities of Tartus and Latakia, Banias – which has seen relatively little violence – is at the centre of the Alawite "heartland", referring to the minority Shia sect of which Assad and many of his closest supporters are members. Some analysts have speculated that, in the event of the breakup of Syria, the Assad regime and Alawites might attempt to set up their own mini-state in this coastal strip. According to some sources, Sunni families were being blocked from fleeing south to the town of Tartus at government checkpoints.
U.S. 'appalled' by reports of Syrian massacre "We strongly condemn atrocities against the civilian population and reinforce our solidarity with the Syrian people," State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said in a statement. The opposition National Coalition had reported a "large scale massacre" in the Sunni village of Bayda, in the southern suburbs of Banias, a predominantly Alawite city on the Mediterranean. "The United States is appalled by horrific reports that more than 100 people were killed May 2 in gruesome attacks on the coastal town of Bayda, Syria," the US statement said. "Regime and Shabiha forces reportedly destroyed the area with mortar fire then stormed the town and executed entire families, including women and children. "We extend our deepest condolences to the families of the victims of this tragedy," it said.

Syrian president visits Damascus university The report says Assad inaugurated on Saturday a statue dedicated to "martyrs" from Syrian universities who died in the country's two-year-old uprising and civil war. A photograph posted on Assad's Facebook page showed him surrounded by bodyguards as young men, who appeared to be students, waved at him. Assad normally appears rarely in public. But on Wednesday, Assad visited a Damascus power station to mark May Day, according to the media.

Investigative Reports
Off-the-Cuff Obama Line Put U.S. in Bind on Syria The evolution of the “red line” and the nine months that followed underscore the improvisational nature of Mr. Obama’s approach to one of the most vexing crises in the world, all the more striking for a president who relishes precision. Palpably reluctant to become entangled in another war in the Middle East, and well aware that most Americans oppose military action, the president has deliberately not explained what his “red line” actually is or how it would change his calculus.

My new paper, prepared for a briefing in Washington, D.C. that took place on January 15, 2013, is now out and is titled “Syria 2013: Rise of the Warlords.” It should be read in conjunction with my previous briefing “The Shredded Tapestry,” and my recent essay “The Creation of an Unbridgeable Divide.


… When world leaders fail to uphold their own rules and red lines, it is the global order that is undermined, and the implications of that will be felt in N. Korea, Burma, Congo, and a dozen other hotspots where red lines will soon be obliterated, and instead with one messy conflict, leaders of the free world will find themselves dealing simultaneously with many. This is for all those experts who think the conflict in Syria could be contained. They use smartphones and social media like robots, without understanding the real implications of this technology in the age of hyperconnectivity. There are no locally containable crises anymore. All conflicts are global. But some people can only get this the hard way. Syria seems so far away to most Americans, and so at one point did Chechnya, until she materialized in Boston. A few pro-Assad Syrians based in Dubai sent Wall Street reeling, if only for few minutes this time, with a hacked account and a fake tweet. Everybody’s vulnerable these days. A small set of few determined individuals with a local grievance can undermine everyone’s sense of security.

Video Highlights

This new leaked video shows scenes of the massacre perpetrated by pro-Assad militias in the town of Al-Bayda, Banyas  The picture below shows what happened to the bodies that we see in the room after this video was made. They were set on fire. The white and blue table can be seen in both the video and the photograph.  

This video shows dead babies and children from the village of Raas Al-Nabea (Banyas) which was also stormed by pro-Assad militias over the last couple of days. Some of the bodies seem to have been burnt as well

A major explosion occurs on top of Mount Qasayoun overlooking Damascus , The top of Mount Qasayoun is host to myriad of army bases and weapons depots and has been used by Assadist militias to pound rebel strongholds in and around the city. Both activists and Syrian State TV are saying that the explosion is the result of an air strike raising the possibility that Israel might be behind it. The same explosion as seen from Barzeh neighborhood Explosions also took place near the town of Al-Tal

Local activists in the Hameh region west of Damascus show a shell of one of the bombs that they claim were dropped by Israeli planes on position of pro-Assad militias

However, not all activists are jumping on board this interpretation of events. While the Friday attack might have been the work of Israeli air force, today’s attack, they insist, is the work of the regime as part of its preparations to abandon Damascus. They believe that Assad and his circles are now planning to withdraw to the coastal region, and that they are now destroying all weapon stockpiles they cannot take with them.

Earlier in the day, activists recorded this strange missile streaking its way across the Damascene skies destination origins and destination unknown

Rebel strongholds in Damascus and suburbs continued to be targeted by warplanes, heavy artillery and rockets: Zamalka Jobar Arbeen Barzeh

In Homs Province, several children were killed during the pounding of the village of Al-Bouaydah Al-Sharqiyeh

Meanwhile, tensions are growing between Islamist and Kurdish rebels in north Aleppo, with Islamist rebels said to be preparing to enter the Kurdish-majority town of Efrin The move seems to come as a response to the success of Kurdish rebels in the town of Tal Tamr, in the Hassakeh province in the northeastern parts of Syria in driving away Arab and Islamist rebels from their town following days of fighting.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Regulation Massacre!

Just another “regulation” massacre took place in Syria on Thursday. No chemical weapons were used. No red lines were crossed. The whole episode was written in blood using only guns and knives, as was the case in most previous massacres. In a sense, the whole thing was too mundane an occurrence to merit any notice really – just a brief interlude in an ongoing ethnic cleansing campaign, an ongoing act of folly, observed by all, making us all complicit to varying degrees of shame.

Friday May 3, 2013

Death Toll: 139 martyrs, including several women and children as well as 2 martyrs under torture: 37 were reported in Damascus and its Suburb; 35 in Banyas (in Al-Bayda Massacre); 22 in Aleppo;15 in Homs; 13 in Hama; 7 in Daraa; 3 in Deir Ezzor; 4 in Idlib; 2 in Lattakia and 1 martyr in Hasaka. Pro-Asasd militias perpetrated a massacre in the village of Bayda in Banyas killing more than 200 residents as per latest counts. Victims, including many women and children, were butchered and burnt (LCC).

Images of Sabra and Shatila in Banias Activists say fighting broke out in Bayda early Thursday and that at least six government troops were killed. Syrian forces backed by Alawite gunmen known as shabbiha from the surrounding area returned in the afternoon and stormed the village, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The gunmen torched homes and used knives, guns and blunt objects to kill people in the streets, the group said. It added that it had documented the names of at least 50 dead in Bayda, but that dozens of villagers were still missing and the death toll could rise up to 100. Amateur video showed the bodies of at least seven men and boys lying in pools of blood on the pavement in front of a house as women wept around them.

Administration Includes Military Strikes in Possible Syrian Options …by attacking Mr. Assad’s main delivery systems, the officials say, they would curtail his ability to transport those weapons any significant distance. “This wouldn’t stop him from using it on a village, or just releasing it on the ground, or handing something to Hezbollah,” said one European official who has been involved in the conversations. “But it would limit the damage greatly.” The topic was alluded to on Thursday, when Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met with his British counterpart and talked about “the need for new options” if Mr. Assad uses his chemical arsenal, the officials said. But while the military has been developing and refining options for the White House for months, the discussion appears to have taken a new turn, officials say, as they struggle to determine whether the suspected use of sarin gas near Aleppo and Damascus last month was a prelude to greater use of such weapons.

Obama foresees no US troops in Syria Mr Obama told reporters in Costa Rica on Friday that as a commander-in-chief he could rule nothing out "because circumstances change". But he added he did not foresee a scenario in which "American boots on the ground in Syria" would be good for either America or Syria. He also said he had already consulted with Middle Eastern leaders and they agreed with him. Mr Obama reiterated that there was evidence that chemical weapons had been used in Syria, but that "we don't know when, where or how". He stressed that if strong evidence was found it would be "a game changer for us" because "there is a possibility that it (weapons) lands in the hands of organisations like Hezbollah" in neighbouring Lebanon.

Sources: U.S. believes Israel has conducted an airstrike into Syria U.S. and Western intelligence agencies are reviewing classified data showing Israel most likely conducted a strike in the Thursday-Friday time frame, according to both officials. This is the same time frame that the U.S. collected additional data showing Israel was flying a high number of warplanes over Lebanon. One official said the United States had limited information so far and could not yet confirm those are the specific warplanes that conducted a strike. Based on initial indications, the U.S. does not believe Israeli warplanes entered Syrian airspace to conduct the strikes. Both officials said there is no reason to believe Israel struck at a chemical weapons storage facilities. The Israelis have long said they would strike at any targets that prove to be the transfer of any kinds of weapons to Hezbollah or other terrorist groups, as well as at any effort to smuggle Syrian weapons into Lebanon that could threaten Israel.

American journalist held in Syria believed to be in detention center The family and employer of James Foley, a U.S. journalist missing in Syria since November, say they now believe he is being held by the Syrian government in a detention center near the capital, Damascus. That conclusion follows a five-month investigation by Foley's family and his employer, GlobalPost, and was announced on Friday in an article posted on the news organization's website. "With a very high degree of confidence, we now believe that Jim was most likely abducted by a pro-regime militia group and subsequently turned over to Syrian government forces," GlobalPost CEO and President Philip Balboni said, according to the article.

Investigative Reports
Outwitting Sanctions, Syria Buys Dell PCs The disclosure of the computer sales is the latest example of how the Syrian government has managed to acquire technology, some of which is used to censor Internet activity and track opponents of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. According to internal company e-mails, cash transfer statements, sales receipts and shipping documents, the computer equipment was sold by BDL Gulf, which is based in Saudi Arabia and is a large distributor of computer equipment in the Middle East. It is an authorized dealer for Dell in the Middle East and Africa, and is also a reseller for other computer brands, including Samsung and Acer. BDL sold the equipment to Anas Hasoon Trading, a Damascus-based company with contracts to provide computers to the Syrian government, according to billings records and e-mail exchanges between the companies.

Syria’s War Has Once-Quiet Border Area in Israel on Alert Many increasingly see no possible positive outcome of their neighbor’s bloody conflict, no clear solution for securing their interests in the meanwhile. Israel’s military leadership now views southern Syria as an “ungoverned area” that poses imminent danger. “This is the new reality of the Golan Heights,” Brig. Gen. Gal Hirsch, an active reservist who is deputy commander of a unit focused on long-range operations in enemy territory, said as he stood near the Merkava tank positioned here. “Inside the bush, we have units that are ready to jump and open fire. You can see here tanks, you can see forces — and there are many things you cannot see.”

Taking sides in Syria is hard choice for Israel The state is prosecuting an Arab Israeli who briefly joined the rebel forces fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad. Arrested after his return to Israel, Hikmat Massarwa, a 29-year-old baker, is accused of unlawful military training, having contacts with foreign agents and traveling to a hostile state. The trial hinges on the unanswered question of who, if anyone, Israel favors in the war and if the rebels will turn out to be friends or enemies. The prosecutor in Lod is trying to depict Massarwa as having aligned himself with foes of Israel, but Judge Avraham Yaakov is struggling for clarity. "There's no legal guidance regarding the rebel groups fighting in Syria," he told a recent hearing. Matters were simpler during the decades of unchallenged Assad family rule.

Fleeing Syria, Refugees Arrive to a Different Kind of Hell in Greece Thousands of Syrians are seeking refuge in Greece, but the country's economic and asylum problems make for an unwelcome new home… Most refugees don't have a government-issued pink card - the document they need to stay in the country legally for a few months. Without it, many are arrested and thrown into detention centers where they are given little food, no clean clothing, or bed linen. They have no soap to wash themselves, no opportunity to call family or friends. They are beaten. When released after six to 18 months, they must leave the country; but having fled their own, most don't have authorization, and trying to leave Greece without papers is also illegal. They can't stay in Greece; they can't leave.

Analyses & Op-Eds
DANIEL C. KURTZER: Obama Can’t Go It Alone in Syria Constructing an international coalition of willing states — especially Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar — is the only strategically wise option for the United States. Without such a coalition, intervention won’t work. And without such a coalition, America must reject unilateral military intervention in Syria.

Slouching Toward Damascus In Syria's implosion, Secretary of State John Kerry already faces a defining task. How hard is he prepared to push against Obama's weary realism?

Is Assad Winning? The Syrian regime’s information campaign is part of a larger war against Western interests. Assad knows that keeping the White House on the sidelines and preventing it from tipping the balance of power against him on the battlefield with money, arms, and the coherent command structure that would follow cash and weapons, is a large part of his struggle. Assad’s information operations then are largely keyed to American sensibilities, playing not only on the Obama administration’s misgivings, but also the fears and concerns of the American public. In this instance, Assad’s intended takeaway is simply this: why would Americans want to support in Syria the same people who bombed an American city? Don’t Americans recognize that since I’m fighting the same people, I’m essentially an American ally.

Saudis Try to Quell Jihadists … the Syria conflict is exposing rifts and contradictions within the kingdom over its tradition of aiding beleaguered foreign Muslims. "There are tensions…between some elite decision makers over how best to deal with the Syrian issue," said Michael Stephens, a regional researcher at the British Royal United Services Institute think tank in Qatar. "It is clear some princes favor an activist approach that involves increased support for Islamist groups in Syria, while other princes remain concerned over the…undermining of Saudi's internal security." Syrian rebels and Arab officials say Saudi Arabia has shipped arms and aid to the Syrian opposition, though the Saudi government hasn't confirmed or denied such reports. But top Saudi government officials and religious leaders are ordering its citizens to stay home, telling them instead to send money and prayers to Syria's rebels.

Samar Yazbek: The Syrian revolution has changed me as a writer I left Syria in mid-June 2011, having been discredited, persecuted, threatened and arrested. A year would pass before my return. I travelled between various towns and cities, speaking about the revolution, conscious of the regime's prowess in manipulating the media, and its success in duping the world into believing that this was a war brought about by Sunni Islamists. I met with intellectuals, politicians and diplomats. They had little idea of what was going on. Most wanted to believe the story that it was a Salafist revolt. Their response was always that the minority groups in Syria were under threat – that the Christians and the Alawites would be in danger from the Sunni jihadis. This was not true; it was a monster they had created to scare themselves. What I saw on the ground told a very different story.

Widespread Middle East Fears that Syrian Violence Will Spread - No Love for Assad, Yet No Support for Arming the Rebels … a new survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted before news emerged of alleged use of chemical agents by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, found little regional support for Western or Arab countries sending arms and military supplies to anti-government groups in Syria. And there is even greater opposition among American and European publics to such indirect Syrian involvement by their governments.

Firas Maksad: The abduction of Bishop Bob And the uncertain fate of Syria’s minorities Syria’s rebels, and those who support them, also have an important role to play in promoting communal coexistence. It is difficult for a Druze from southern Syria, or an Alawite from the coastal mountains, to join rebel ranks when the uprising is morphing from a national struggle for freedom, to one increasingly dominated by radical Islamists espousing sharia law. In such a conflict, there is no space for diverse religious groups or moderate Muslims. Instead, they will remain beholden to the relative safety of Assad rule.

My new paper, prepared for a briefing in Washington, D.C. that took place on January 15, 2013, is now out and is titled “Syria 2013: Rise of the Warlords.” It should be read in conjunction with my previous briefing “The Shredded Tapestry,” and my recent essay “The Creation of an Unbridgeable Divide.

Quickly Noted

“The United States should act in Syria in the way that it believes will best serve American interests and most effectively respond to Syria's horrific violence, not because it feels it must enforce an ill-advised red line.”

When you read the above advice just bear in mind that the one giving it was up until the beginning of the revolution was advocating engaging Assad because he believed he was a reformer, and that he was popular and beloved by his people. It’s indeed bewildering how the same set of scholars and experts who, at one point, advocated engagement are now advocating caution. In both instances Assad had more to gain than the United States, and notions of human rights went by the wayside.

If the “Syrian nightmare” has indeed destroyed the “the spirit of fun, hope, and positive change of the early Arab uprisings,” such experts and their precious advice bear much of the blame.

Video Highlights

The Bayda Massacre

This gruesome video was taken and leaked by the perpetrators of the Bayda massacre as part of their campaign to terrorize the local population. It was initially posted on a variety of loyalist sites

The following videos were made by local activists and residents.

This teenage girl was killed in her own bedroom, crouching near her bed to hid herself. Her mother and younger sibling can be seen in a different corner Entire families were wiped out A local lawyer and her 5 children were killed People were killed in their homes Some corpses were torched ,

Other videos

Food aid delivered by the SOC to the people of Hama Province

The aerial pounding of Eastern Ghoutah, Damascus, continues  And the pounding by heavy artillery and tanks from the top of Mount Qasayoun