Monday, May 16, 2011

The Ghouls of War!

After sectarianism, the Assads now play the Israel card, putting Rami Makhlouf’s earlier warning into action. Will world leaders succumb to this blatant act of blackmail, as they have repeatedly done before? Or will they finally have the same epiphany that protesters had not too long ago, and realize that time has finally come for the Assads to go?

Sunday 15, 2011
7 more people were killed in Sunday in the town of Tel Kalakh (Talkalakh) as army troops and security forces continued their crackdown against the local population who recently rejected Baath rule and Assad’s leadership. Snipers have taken up positions in many key locations, including the rooftop of the local hospital. Hundreds more poured across the border and into Lebanon’s Wadi Khalid region, some of them were carrying their wounded family members with them. An old woman who has been shot later died in a Lebanese hospital. The siege of Tel Kalakh continues, although Syrian officials say that the military operation is near completion. Meanwhile, many towns across held vigils in support of their compatriots in Tel Kalakh and other besieged communities.

Meanwhile, the situation in Deraa City has somewhat eased off following the pullout of army tanks from the vicinity of the Al-Omary Mosque. The tanks remain within the city’s periphery. In Homs, the neighborhood of Bab Al-Sibaa and the town of Rastan witnessed major anti-regime rallies as well. The Bab Al-Sibaa protest was disperse when security forces opened fire on demonstrators, but exact casualty figures are not yet known.

Around noon, 4 Syrians were killed and dozens wounded when Israeli soldiers opened fire on groups crossing the borders into the Occupied Golan Heights.


On the Israel Card


Of course, there was nothing spontaneous about the border incursions that took place in the Golan Heights today. If the fact that this is happening for the very first time since 1974 and only days after Bashar Al-Assad’s cousin, Rami Makhlouf, made his threatening statements is not a clear enough indication of this, then let’s mourn the death of reason, and glory in the triumph of impunity and willful blindness over everything decent.


The Assads have played the sectarian card at the beginning of the revolution, and now they are finally playing the Israel card. In other words, they are playing the same old cards that they had always played before hoping for the same outcome that they had repeatedly achieved before, because the world has always been willing to accommodate them. When the sectarian card was played before, there were many people in the country who, driven by their sectarian fears and political ideologies and prejudices, were willing to subscribe to the Assad Doctrine that put stability and security over freedom and reforms. The result was to give the Assads the upper-hand in any internal showdown.


By playing the Israel card, the Assads are trying to prey on the fears and concerns of their neighbors, especially Israel and its international allies. Previously, such manipulation had served to undermine efforts by Syria’s opposition groups to project themselves as a viable alternative capable of holding the country together and securing its borders.  By talking about armed Salafist gangs and showing a willingness to be foolhardy enough to allow for border crossing by “radicals,” the Assads are saying that only they can secure the borders. The question before us in this connection: Is Israel, and the world, in the mood to be fooled again?


But today is not exactly like yesterday, there is one major difference here: the internal challenge currently facing the Assads is not an elitist one posed by a haphazard groups of opposition movements with little grassroots connections, and it’s not a terror campaign sponsored by Assads’ regional enemies, but an ingrown popular grassroots movement that found resonance and adherents all over the country, one that is fast becoming self-organizing, and one that showed enough maturity and sense of commitment to avoid violence despite all the provocations from Assads thugs. That’s the potential game changer. So long as the protesters are willing not to be cowed or fooled, and are willing to risk life and limb day after day by taking to the streets to challenge Assads’ rule, the world now has to be more careful about its calculations, for it is the very salvageability of the Assad regime that is now in question. A return to the status quo ante is no longer possible, and a weakened Assad regime might just be far more dangerous than the alternative. A case in point: today’s incursion into the Golan. The very fact that the Assads are willing to play this card in this way is a great indication that they are no longer “reliable.”


A regime that is killing its own people with impunity and is doing its very best to saw sectarian discord in order to instigate a civil strife, and a regime that is willing to plunge the country into a destructive, needless and unwinnable war against a neighbor with whom they have maintained a quasi-peace treaty for over 40 years, is not a regime worthy of saving. Indeed, the Assads have lost all legitimacy, and they must go. The Ghouls of War need to be tamed. Those inside and outside Syria who are worried about an alternative should take a proactive approach towards the matter by trying to engage it, shape it and support it, rather than standing on the sidelines and bemoaning their fortune, or worse, standing with regime and hoping to tip its hands against the peaceful protesters.  


By carrying banners over the last 2 weeks praising Turkish PM, Recep Tayip Erdogan, for his supportive statements, and calling for UN intervention, protesters have shown that they are indeed willing to engage the international community, and are expecting it to come to their aid. Let’s not disappoint them.  



Army troops trying to carry out a meaningful dialogue with protesters

Protesters in Idlib say they were briefly detained and beaten by security forces. The first said they tried to make kneel to a poster by Bashar.

Damascus / Kisweh / May 15: the entire town is under lockdown and siege, with troops and checkpoints all over the city. Still an activist takes his hidden camera and records his interactions with army troops: “see how they want to scare us. This is a policy of intimidation, they want to terrify the entire country.”

Homs / Ghouta / May 15: nighty vigil, with protesters urging more people to join, and chanting anti-regime slogans, including “the people want to topple the regime” “No dialogue with the killer” “Bashar leave” “Bashar you’re an agent of Israel”

Idlib / May 15: funeral for a soldier whose family believe he was killed by superiors for refusing to fire at protesters.

Homs / Qseir / May 15: funeral for local martyr. “God is greater than the oppressor.”

Damascus / Darayyah / May 15: protesters carry a banner mocking Rami Makhlouf’s statement on Israel’s stability. Another banner says: “stop the killing, use your mind.” Chants: “lift your head up high, you’re a  Syrian”

Hama / May 15: Banner says: the youth of Hama did not delegate anyone to negotiate in their name”

Idlib / Mouarrat Al-Nouman / May 15: a vigil.

Banyas / Bayda: this new video confirms what happened in the village of Bayda four weeks ago, when security forces and Shabbiha gangs invaded the village and terrorized the local inhabitants.

Homs / Talbisseh / May 14: a vigil in support of Talkalakh

Homs / Bab Dreib / May 14: nightly vigil in support of Talkalakh

Homs / Talkalakh / May 14: the wounded

Deraa / Al-Hrak / May 13: local residents chase out Lieutenant General, Muhammad Al-Khairaat, who came as a representative of bashar Al-Assad. People chanted: “long live Syria, and down with Bashar Al-Assad” and “the people want to topple the regime”

Homs / Talbisseh / May 13: we don’t know how many Christians are taking part in this protest, but the chant itself is indicative that the people are not exactly Salafi sympathizers: “It’s written on the church walls, God is protecting you Talbisseh”. Other chants: “the people want to topple the regime” “the forgotten youths have come out seeking freedom” “we all stand for national unity: Muslims & Christians, Sunnis and Alawites”

Homs / Rastan / May 14: “leave, leave”

Homs / Deir Baalbah / May 13: “the people want to topple the regime” “We take death over humiliation”

Homs / Deir Baalbah / May 14: funeral

Deraa / Khirbet Ghazali / May 13: “Syria is ours, it doesn’t belong to the Assads” “Long live Syria, down with Bashar Al-Assad”

Deir Ezzor / Qouriyyeh / May 14: an anti-Assad vigil. “The people want to topple the regime” “Where are the infiltrators”