Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Restive Rastan Wrested by Pro-Assad Militias!

No rest for the restive! Assad’s crackdown against protest and dissent continues, as Russia and China shield them against world’s ire.

Tuesday October 4, 2011

Russia and China veto a UN resolution condemning the Assads, as U.S. express “outrage” --- 10 protesters were reported killed in different parts of Syria, including 3 in the besieged town of Talbisseh in the Homs Province --- Clashes between defectors and loyalists reported in Sarjah in Idlib Province and neighboring communities have left 3 loyalists dead --- Demonstrations near the presidential place in the Mohajreen Neighborhood in Damascus featured calls for “executing the president” and were followed by a swift crackdown --- Turkish army to conduct maneuver in Hatay Province on the borders with Syria, as Colonel Riyad Al-Ass’aad denies rumors that he was arrested and confirms establishing contacts with members of SNC --- Assad security forces continue their crackdown on High School and Junior High students with dozens of arrests in Baniyas, Damascus, Homs and other communities.  

More on SNC

As the wrangling over the final makeup of the Syrian National Council continues, let me clarify my position stated in my post yesterday on the issue of representation.

First, I am not necessarily advocating the adoption of a strict quota system for representing different communities, what I am proposing is taking the demographic realities into consideration when making decisions on representation. For instance, when only 2% of members are Christians while their demographic size is 8%, there is definitely a problem here. But if Christians are represented at 6-7%, if not 9%, then should be acceptable. The idea is to have a critical mass of Christians that is capable of voicing the concerns of the diverse Christian communities in Syria and having a serious impact on the decision-making process in the Council.

Of course, the issue of communal representations is further complicated by the unavoidable intersection with political ideology. For a Christian member of the SNC can a communist, a socialist, a Nasserist or a liberal. The same goes for an Alawite, a Druze or a Sunni Arab. So, we certainly cannot look at Christians or Alawites independently of their political affiliations, the process of balancing communal identity and political affiliation will be a complicated one indeed, but one that has to be dealt with. The fact that the SNC is being joined by groups most of which represent coalitions between parties with different political ideologies will complicate things even further. That’s why I am not proposing strict quota system, but proposing the use of demographic realities as a guide towards fairer representation of all.

The Missing Liberals

In his post “Tread Carefully on Syria II” Ed Hussein cautions that “the assumption that a Syrian regime without Assad and the Alawites at the helm would mean an isolated Iran is wishful thinking at best, and uncertain at worse.” He is correct. A Sunni government in Syria, led by a combination of the traditional left and Islamists would more likely adopt a similar stance on resistance and relationship with Iran that is currently espoused by the Assads. The liberal Sunni Arabs are the only force in the Syrian political landscape that can provide a counterweight in this regard, which is why their exclusion from SNC in both its iterations is rather ominous.

Protectus Interruptus: Protection without Intervention

It took Syrian opposition groups 6 months to realize what the protesters have long realized: that toppling the Assad regime requires the immediate ouster of Bashar Al-Assad. I wonder how long it will take them, especially those who joined the SNC, before realizing that the call for protecting civilians requires a certain level of foreign military intervention, and that their attempt at balancing calls for protection with statements rejecting military intervention is all too hypocritical and cowardly. Nonviolence reaches its limits when tanks are set against unarmed civilians, no matter how brave they happen to be. The inability to see that and to realize that international protection was indeed required is exactly what drove some of the protesters, encouraged by defectors and the prospects of more defections, to finally take up arms. True, the international community may not be in a listening mode regarding calls for intervention, but it will never get there unless we do our part in getting it there. And we should get it there, our faith in nonviolence notwithstanding. A large segment of the protest movement has already made up its mind after months of living in the shadows of Assad’s tanks, and they are now being exterminated, we cannot just pretend that this is not happening. Assad’s genocide might be unfolding in slow-motion, but it is taking place, it is real.

We might have wanted things to unfold differently, but they didn’t. And we are partly to blame. We spent the last months wrangling over lists of names and councils and quotas, instead of coming up with a strategy to support the peaceful protesters, and to chart a vision for the future that can alley the fears of minorities, attract the hesitant and inspire the protesters. Until now, our revolution still lacks a strategy and a vision. Who knows? Had we tackled this challenge earlier on, we might not be facing the dilemma of international intervention today? Our failure to unite around a common vision is as responsible for bringing us to the current quagmire as Assad’s bloody crackdown. It’s not too late, however, to come up with something. But we don’t have much time.

To Ban or not to Ban

A few days ago, Syrian authorities banned the import of certain products in the hope of preserving hard currency, but just yesterday the decision was revoked. The reason: the decision was opposed by members of the business community who would have been more hurt by this decision than by any sanctions so far imposed on the Assad regime. The lesson: the business elite does have an influence over decision-making on certain levels, so sanction the hell out of them, let them use their influence to stop the violence, or let them pay the price.


Spokesman for the defectors in Rastan, Khalid Bin Al-Waleed Division, says that they have withdrawn from the town in order to safeguard the local population from continuous shelling by loyalist troops. The town has been under attack by pro-Assad troops and militias for over a week . If anything, the battle has shown that defectors are organized and are capable of making tactical decisions in the heat of battle. Regime’s victory at this stage might be pyrrhic, as troops might get bogged down in Rastan with defectors mounting guerrilla warfare and treating them as an occupation force. In this video, survivors from the Khalid Bin Al-Waleed Division confirm that they have joined the Free Syrian Army under the leadership of Riyadh Al-Ass’aad who has now emerged as the de facto military leader of the opposition.

Meanwhile, however, the shelling of the town by Assad loyalists continues 

On October 3, Assad troops tried a new technique, spraying the town with pesticides But the battle followed a mostly traditional route (Sept 27) Havoc Locals hae been demanding a no-fly zone for weeks, but recently their calls have been adopted even by protesters in Damascus’s Midan district


Syrian TV broadcasted statements by a woman claiming to be Zainab Al-Husni, but protesters say that the woman shown on TV was not the real Zainab who, they insist, was killed and mutilated by security forces. The banner carried by a protester in this video says “Syria media lies, this is not the real Zainab.” Others provided this photo comparing the two Zainabs and claiming that mother’s name on ID card is different.

Supporting the SNC
The SNC gets support from some protest community following a tradition that has been established since the Antalya Conference, but, by now, protesters have developed certain weariness. This is the fourth council to receive such “popular” endorsement.

Homs / Qoussour Homs/Jouret Al-Shayah Homs/Khaldiyeh Homs/Bab Dreib Homs/Baba Amr Deraa/Harrah Idlib/Heesh Idlib/Jabal Al-Zawiyeh Idlib/Kafar Nabbol Aleppo/Tal Rif’aat Damascus/Zamalka Damascus/Madaya Damascus/Zakiyah Damascus/Al-Hajar Al-Aswad

Student defiance continues
Mostly Junior High and High School students

Deraa/Khirbet Ghazaleh: students shout “the people want to execute the president” as they run down the halls  Deraa/Sanamein Deraa/Bosra Deraa/Tseel Damascus/Douma (Oct 3) Damascus/Douma (Oct 2) Damascus/Barzeh Aleppo/Bayanoun Idlib/M’arrat Hourmah Idlib City Idlib/Saraqib Deir Ezzor/Qouriyeh Homs/Qoussour (University) Homs/Midan

Tables turned

Captured shabbiha “confess” as they get beat that they received orders to shoot at civilians from Maher Al-Assad, that army troops were involved in rape, and that Hezbollah men have been involved in lending support to pro-Assad militias Captured security officer “confesses” that security forces and army troops and not just militias are kidnapping local women in Homs City

Tuesday was dedicated to showing solidarity with Sheikh Ahmad Al-Sayasneh now languishing in Assad’s jails.

Daytime: Sourah Abtaa Hraak tanks still occupy the streets


Daytime: Douma a funeral for an activist 


Daytime: Sarjah sounds of battle between loyalists and defectors Sarmeen Assad loyalists celebrate a pyrrhic victory Khan Al-Subul tanks in the streets , Kafar Ouayd funeral

Nighttime: Binnish M’arrat Al-Nouman M’arr Tamsareen


Homs City / Daytime: Locals who were tortured to death by pro-Assad militias

Homs City / Nighttime: Bab Houd Insha’aat Ghoutah

Homs Province: Talbisseh house directly hit by tank shell (Sept 30) Nonstop shelling (Oct 1) Nonstop shelling (Sept 28) Leaked video shows the scene from the loyalists’ perspective: shelling and missing the target (Sept 27)  Palmyra/Tadmor Houleh