Monday, November 21, 2011

The Civil War Blues!

The situation on the ground in Syria begs for credible proactive and pragmatic leadership on part of the opposition and the international community, if we are to prevent a major humanitarian crisis from taking place.

Monday 21, 2011

On Sunday, 14 people were killed: 11 in Homs, 2 in Idlib and 1 in Hama. 

On Monday, 15 people were killed, 12 of them in Homs City’s Bayadah Neighborhood which witnessed random shelling by pro-Assad militias. 

Over 50,000 people are reported to have migrated from Homs to Tartous over the last 8 weeks on account of the ongoing conflict. The IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) are said to hail from all sectarian backgrounds, but the majority is said to be made up of Alawites and Christians, as most Sunnis preferred to go to the rural areas around Homs. 

Meanwhile, back in Homs City, Sunni and Alawite religious scholars issued on Sunday a joint statement decrying sectarian-motivated kidnappings and killings, saying that such practices are strictly prohibited under any and all conditions.

Links

I am currently undertaking a new European tour, which will cause some interruptions in updating the blog, I apologize for that, but things will return to normal by early December.

The Freudian Slips Continue

For all the talk about descent into civil war, and I am one of those who are warning against scenario, we still need to put things in perspective here. And who is better than Assad Foreign Minister, Walid Moallem to help us do that? Referring to Mrs. Clinton recent warnings of an impending civil war in Syria, he said in a press conference on Monday: ““When Mrs. Clinton says the opposition is well-armed... it is, as they say in English, ‘wishful thinking’.”

Indeed, the Assads do still have an overwhelming monopoly on the use of violence in Syria, we should all bear this in mind when examining the situation in Syria: we still a clear aggressor (the regime)) and a clear victim (the people) here. The two sides are not alike, and will not be.  

Departures in the Shadow of Civil War

My recent presentation at the conference “Departures in the Arab World: Developments and Prospects,” organized by the German Green Party in Berlin under the auspices of Kerstin Müller, Speaker for Foreign Affairs, focused on the need for NATO-supported intervention in Syria as the only way to prevent descent into nation-wide civil war and manage a transition towards a democratic form of governance in which minority rights are protected. Naturally, this was not a popular stance, but it received a sympathetic audience, simply because it marked a radical departure from my erstwhile opposition to such policy. I argued that the situation in the country has deteriorated to the level where purist stand on this issue is no longer tenable, and that the Assads have succeeded in imposing the logic of violence on all. The inability of world leaders to enunciate a stronger position on developments in a timely manner have paved the way to this, I argued, and if the same leader continue to dither, they will be morally responsible for the bloodbaths that will take place. Intervention will be costly in human and material terms, I know, but the cost of civil war will be higher.

The counterargument to this was made by Muriel Asseburg of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin. While agreeing with me on my assessment of the situation, Dr. Asseburg saw that my call for the creation of safe havens and supporting the Free Syrian Army will lead to an increased militarization of the situation, a development that will have dire consequence for Syria’s minority groups who, she believes, will be signaled out for revenge. On the surface of it, the argument seems to make sense. But in reality, it’s pretty naïve. 

For you see, we are indeed heading towards further militarization, and since most of the defectors tend to be Sunnis, and most loyalists Alawites, whatever clash will take place is bound to acquire a confessional coloring. Let’s not forget here that both loyalists and defectors are graduates from the most sectarian institution in the country: the military. The loyalists are already acquiring weapons and logistical support from Russia, Iran and elsewhere, and defectors will soon begin to acquire them from Gulf states, directly or tacitly. They will never reach parity, but their numbers and determination will make up the difference. And defectors will be beholden to those who supplies them with weapons, and the political opposition and NATO will have little influence over the process and therefore little ability to establish limits and impose rules. But when NATO takes the lead here, acting through a regional alliance and through an established political opposition coalition, pragmatic and savvy enough to establish a working relation with the FSA and their military council, then NATO and the political opposition will have some measure of control over developments and might be able to establishment some rules for the ensuing engagement that can protect civilians and minority groups from revenge. Through involvement, one can induce the desired trends by introducing a system of rewards and incentives. The task will be a complex one for sure, but with NATO on the sidelines it will be on impossible one. In short, whoever provides support to the FSA will be able to influence their agenda and tactics. For the only way I know of to retain some influence over paramilitary groups is to support them thus introducing an element of indebtedness and dependence into the mix. The relationship will have to go both ways of course, and that is very problematic indeed, it is also the nature of the beast. There is no substitute for vigilance in these circumstances.  

It is for this reason that I advised the SNC and other opposition groups to engage and recognize the Free Syrian Army, warning that failure to do so will push Riyad Al-Ass’aad and colleagues to go their own way and establish their own council, especially considering their popularity and credibility in the streets. Instead, my colleagues in the opposition dismissed Col. Al-Ass’aad and colleagues as “simpletons” who fail to comprehend the political realities of the world. Post-independence politicians made the same mistake, and paved the way for 50 years of life under military rule. For these “simpletons” only appear so in the academic sense, but as far as the ways of the world are concerned, they are far more savvy than we give them credit, and what they lack in savviness they can compensate for in brute force. More importantly, they remain far closer to the grassroots than any of us.  And it’s already showing.

The situation on the ground in Syria begs for credible proactive and pragmatic leadership on part of the opposition and the international community, if we are to prevent a major humanitarian crisis from taking place.

Those who don’t want blood on their hand should understand that every choice they make today, even that of silence, will result in blood being shed, and there is no telling which choice will result in more or less bloodshed, and which choice is the ethical one. Personally, I can only tell you at this stage which choice has the better chance of seeing this revolution achieves its main goal of toppling the regime: it is the choice that embraces a NATO-supported intervention. Then stars are not aligned that way at this stage, I know. But it’s our job to get them there, rather than brood over it. 

Military Diplomacy

FSA continues its outreach efforts to Syrian expat community and regional powers. In this clip a member of the Military Council addresses by phone the crowd of protesters standing outside the Syrian Embassy in Paris. He describes Col. Riyad Al-Ass’aad as a hero and everybody applauds. No political leader has managed to garner such a consensus http://youtu.be/R-Pr7Zsp_98

In this interview with Col. Riad Al-Ass’aad, the man comes out as a very practical, down-to-earth and even charismatic guy. He doesn’t say anything new, so I won’t provide a summary of what he says. Just observe his mannerisms. He comes out as a man of the people, unlike SNC leader Bourhane Ghalioun, and the plethora of other pretenders to the throne we see on Arab media. Hence the appeal and the danger http://youtu.be/8arRIIt8PTU

In this piece in Arabic, Syria’s foremost political philosopher and one of her most modest intellectuals, former political prisoner Yassin Al-Haj Saleh points out the danger of having the military leadership take over the management of the revolution at this stage, echoing my sentiments above. He is not for international intervention though, at least not so far, but like so many of my purist colleagues, he offers no solution at the stage other than the hope that demilitarization will somehow take place, allowing for a halt in the protests and for Bashar Al-Assad to have an epiphany allowing him to call for a presidential referendum while easing controls over state media and curbing security apparatuses. Yassin is not naïve as to believe that something like that can happen, as all his previous writings indicate, he is just desperate and afraid, not for himself, but for the country and the people. So am I!

In a related development, the Free Syrian Army issued a statement on Sunday retracting its erstwhile claims of responsibility for the recent attacks on the security and Baath Party headquarters in central Damascus.

On Sunday, the commander of a group of Syrian army defectors retracted earlier claims that his followers launched an unprecedented attack inside the capital, Damascus, in an embarrassing turnaround for the armed movement. Riad al-Asaad, a Turkey-based air force colonel who heads the Free Syrian Army, said in a video posted on the group's Facebook page Sunday evening that Assad's government was trying to tarnish the image of the revolution. "We did not target the party building in Damascus and we will not target any civilian installation," said al-Asaad, who was wearing his military uniform.

Indeed, the style of the attacks, according to eye-witness reports, which consisted of throwing rocket-propelled grenades outside the buildings, seems to be uncharacteristic of the kind of attacks promised and those previously actually carried out by the FSA, which included attempts to storm and plant explosives inside the targeted premises, and avoid damaging non-military buildings or endangering civilians. This lends more credence to reports that the attacks were indeed staged by Assad’s own security forces to discredit the FSA, whose popularity is growing by the day in the City and across the country.

As to why FSA spokesman claimed the attacks to begin with, this seems related to decentralized nature of the group, where different units plan their own missions according to their own timetable in accordance with previously agreed guidelines. As such, the media center of the FSA may have rushed to claim the attack before checking with their local affiliates to see if they have indeed been involved.

But even if we assume that elements affiliated with the FSA, or that amateur FSA-sympathizers, were responsible for the attacks, the rush to distance itself from them shows certain sensitivity to public opinion and image, which makes the FSA a more trustworthy entity amiable to be accepting restrictions on is behavior commensurate with both domestic and international concerns. This is encouraging.

Opposition Blues

The following clip by Al-Arabiya, shows that with the launch of the newly formed National Initiative for Change, which I referred in my earlier post, the Syrian opposition is now made up of the following main groups http://youtu.be/zFjPIOPjh4w:

1)       The Syrian National Council: made up mostly of Muslim Brotherhood with the addition of some in-country activists and popular committees and some independent figures like Burhane Ghalioun.
2)      The National Initiative for Change: largely an offshoot of the Antalya Conference for Change, dominated by liberal figures working in collaboration with Kurds, tribal figures and representatives of confessional minorities
3)      The National Coordination Committees: an amalgam of traditional Damascus-based opposition groups.
4)      The Syrian Revolution General Commission: a group of in-country activists and protest leaders that supports the SNC but remains outside of it, largely in the hope of negotiating its way to controlling one-third of the seats at some point – a highly unrealistic expectation. 
5)      Independent figures, such Michel Kilo, Aref Dalila and the recently released Kamal Labwani.


The UK today urged the opposition – uncoordinated and beset by personality differences – to unite, after Foreign Secretary William Hague met with rival groups.

“I’ve emphasized the importance to them of achieving a united platform and a unified body among the opposition,” he said. “At an extreme moment in their nation’s history it is important for opposition groups to be able to put aside their own differences and come to a united view of the way forward.”

Britain could not offer formal recognition, “partly because there are differing groups.”

“There isn’t a single national council as there was in Libya … and the international community has not yet reached that point,” he said.

Other Videos:

In Yabroud / Rural Damascus / Nov 20, residents demonstrate in front of the local Baath headquarters http://youtu.be/cIM7N7eE4gI So, and as the regime crackdown in Homs, more and more areas in Rural Damascus are joining the revolution, and their slogans hearken back on their early days of the revolution: the simple and all-telling “the people want to topple the regime.”

Elsewhere in Rural Damascus, defectors form a new Brigade, the Liberty Brigade, under the auspices of the Free Syrian Army (Nov 20) http://youtu.be/jBxiAqxNTeo Defections continue day after day, and the number of 17,000 defectors now begins to sound credible. These defectors hail from the Air Force Academy in Homs (Nov 21) http://youtu.be/XykQWXJAGK4

Nov 20: Locals a town in Hauran/Deraa Province, manage to sabotage an armored vehicle. We are told that occupants of the armored vehicle were taken prisoner and delivered to the FSA  http://youtu.be/OGh2b9cuViA

An all-women demonstration in Insha’aat Neighborhood in Homs City (Nov 21) calls for an intervention by the FSA http://youtu.be/mXKjRmVYbyg 

In Khaldiyeh Neighborhood in Homs City (Nov 20), and due to fuel shortages, people invent their own make-shift stoves to get warm using wood chips http://youtu.be/C9DfKe5JeT4 The inventors says “we have brains, we don’t need Bashar’s petrol.” He then adds: “We have distributors in all provinces.” Another look at the final product http://youtu.be/3bnRVVfUjlk

But of course, the pounding of residential neighborhoods continues: Bab Al-Sibaa (Nov 21) http://youtu.be/TPDTOG4HAIk

And of course, people keep taking to the streets: Bab Houd (Sign says “what are you waiting for Erdogan, they violated your borders and killed your own people?”) http://youtu.be/NUSSv2u8kxI Deir Baalbah http://youtu.be/sl_4E6zOzsI And this is Baba Amr, the neighborhood that pro-Assad militias pounded for weeks and have allegedly taking control of “the people want international protection” http://youtu.be/NUSSv2u8kxI And this is Bayadah, the neighborhood that was pounded earlier tolday http://youtu.be/rDDzkRMb0-I

And of course, demonstrations took place in communities all over Syria, and the demands remain the same now, as this sign from Assaly Suburb in Damascus (Nov 21) shows: No fly zone, safe haven, protection of civilians, and support to the Free Syrian Army” http://youtu.be/ncjvEDjtbSc

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Killing Continues!

The killing throughout Syria continues, so does the befuddlement of world and Syrian opposition leaders as to what can and should be done.

Saturday 19, 2011

24 people were killed in search-and-destroy operations led by pro-Assad militias in Hama, Idlib and Homs provinces. The operations included pounding the towns of Kafar Takhareem in Idlib, leaving at least 7 residents dead, and Himsaya in Hama leaving 4 dead. For their part troops affiliated with the Free Syrian Army attacked a security convoy on the Salamiyah-Homs road, killing 4. Another FSA operation left 2 loyalists dead and a number of armored vehicles destroyed near the town of Qseir in Homs province.

On Friday, a day dedicated to calling on the international community to chase out Assad Ambassadors, 18 protesters were killed as more than 210 communities around the country fielded demonstrations calling for end of Assad rule. 

On Thursday 20 people were killed, including 9 in Hama, 8 in Homs, 3 in Deir Ezzor and 4 in Idlib. Clashes were also reported between FSa troops and loyalists in the city of M’arrat Al-Nouman following an attack on a local security headquarters. 

On Wednesday 22 people were killed including 11 in Homs and 8 in Idlib. 

Links

I am currently undertaking a new European tour, which will cause some interruptions in updating the blog, I apologize for that, but things will return to normal by early December.

As part of ongoing efforts by different opposition groups, councils and coalitions to find unity and relevance, a new initiative was launched in Cairo earlier today by a group of Syrian intellectuals, activists and dissidents. The National Initiative for Unifying the Syrian Opposition merits some attention on account of the diverse backgrounds of its authors and their approach which basically seeks unity around a specific set of clearly stated goals rather than bicker regarding quota allocations to different political groups.

The main goals include: Toppling the regime including ouster of Assad, demanding international protection for civilians including the creation of safe havens and the imposition of a no-fly zone, supporting the Free Syrian Army and all defectors, referring all human rights abuses to ICC and the freezing of regime assets.

The Group also asserts its commitment to the creation of a parliamentary system and to protection of the basic rights of all ethnic and religious communities in Syria.

Signatories include: Syria’s foremost political philosopher Dr. Sadeq Jalal Al-Azm (and his son, Dr. Amr Al-Azm, an anthropology professor at Shaunee University in Ohio), the well-known thinker and head of the Damascus Declaration Council abroad, Dr. Abdurrazzaq Eid, the well-known Kurdish leader Salah Badreddine and the well-known human rights activist and current president of the Antalya Group Executive Committee, Dr. Ammar Qurabi. Other signatories come from diverse ethnic backgrounds, including Kurdish, tribal, Christian, Alawite and Druze figures. Last but definitely not least, my wife, Khawla Yusuf, a member of the Antalya Group Executive Committee, was also included as signatory. As for me, I am willing to advise as usual.

Meanwhile, the killing continues.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Uneven Isolation!

The Assads are not the only ones facing isolation. The protesters are being isolated as well – and in that splendid isolation imposed on all, they are left to fend for themselves against a killing machine that remains well-oiled and well-committed to the task at hand.

Tuesday 15, 2011

16 people including 2 children were killed in the ongoing crackdown by pro-Assad militias, including 6 in Idlib City, 5 in Homs City, 3 in Hama Province and 2 in Deraa/Hauran Province. Moreover, clashes between loyalists and defectors near the town of Kafroumah in Idlib Province left 14 loyalists dead. 5 more looyalists were killed in clashes near Harrah Town in Deraa/Hauran Province. In the city of Homs, 19 unidentified bodies were found in the streets by locals, the bodies are believed to belong to people who were kidnapped and killed by pro-Assad militias. Clashes were also reported in Rastan and in a number of Damascene suburbs, including Harasta and Daraya where local security branches seem to have been targeted.

Meanwhile, and in the hope of averting confirmation of the country’s suspension from the Arab League, Syrian authorities released 1180 detainees, including the well-known activist Kamal Al-Labwani, jailed more than 6 years ago, following a visit to the United States in which he met with American officials and called for increased diplomatic pressures on the Assads over their human rights record.

Links
Ammar Abdulhamid, a US-based Syrian poet and activist who runs the Tharwa Foundation, says "The Turkish government is now forced to make hard choices." "Neutrality is not a viable option here, and the question now confronting Mr. Erdogan and his advisers regarding Syria deals with the extent of their potential involvement in managing the looming transition there," he told SES Turkiye. "This calls for a greater engagement with opposition groups, and not only the SNC, but also greater logistical and material support to the Syrian Free Army," he said.

The Assads are not the only ones facing isolation. The protesters are being isolated as well – and in that splendid isolation imposed on all, they are left to fend for themselves against a killing machine that remains well-oiled and well-committed to the task at hand. Moreover, the Assads have their supporters in the international community, even in isolation. The protesters have none. The Assads keep getting arms, the protesters keep getting words. Impunity on the hand, frustration on the other, add a dash of rebellious hope, and, voilà, a civil war unfolds.

Funerals took place in protest communities throughout Syria HOMS PROVINCE: Houleh http://youtu.be/0KZXSOZoiUc  DERAA/HAURAN: Mleiha Sharqiyeh http://youtu.be/Hdfs3HkHeuY Mleiha Atash http://youtu.be/KFLrd0RK1yw Nahteh http://youtu.be/oz7exxdwdXA Basr Al-Harir http://youtu.be/WSEPguLi04M Sanamein http://youtu.be/1mlUZ1hgZ48 IDLIB: Idlib City http://youtu.be/YDkkVlQz5Ow nighttime funeral for a dead child http://youtu.be/TuO-N7Qest8 Gilli http://youtu.be/eG4xfG41MWA Hzano http://youtu.be/FsmTOXvbSHo HOMS CITY: http://youtu.be/URuVR9fmnso Bayadah http://youtu.be/zZOJslV4ouM DAMASCUS: Daraya http://youtu.be/qQsLtQc_Ges Wadi Barada http://youtu.be/wjZaIMYNCK4 But mourners soon get under attack http://youtu.be/3KkXtOZYShk HAMA: Taybat Al-Imam http://youtu.be/ZL-fVpTUeQ4 DEIR EZZOR: Deir Ezzor City http://youtu.be/nHrcrmoSMYQ

HOMS CITY: the havoc in Baba Amr Minaret destroyed http://youtu.be/DWKwRFZgcpE Houses destroyed http://youtu.be/CcBwy_6OEvI , http://youtu.be/JvfwbaEyfOk , http://youtu.be/lBh9_Pnf33Q , http://youtu.be/vrm_7WXida0 , http://youtu.be/Px5d5QoSSes Still people take to the streets at night http://youtu.be/PV9AaYbaFU0

Earlier in the day, fighters affiliated with the Free Syrian Army destroyed a tank taking part in the crackdown against the neighborhood http://youtu.be/SpJt20hBacU

Bab Dreib sniper tries to pick targets http://youtu.be/ykfnzY05RdA Still people take to the streets at night http://youtu.be/nRmZF21j10E



IDLIB PROVINCE: Town of Mar Shmareen is stormed by loyalists http://youtu.be/vAehO9EgN-A Maar Shamshah as well http://youtu.be/-Se79ufeC94

Impact of pounding in Kafroumah in Idlib province http://youtu.be/oAeYViirZbo A home destroyed http://youtu.be/JiOCPjVw5lU Forces of occupation http://youtu.be/O29uZBq1xcI Still, people take to the streets http://youtu.be/4-lH3y5FnG4

Tanks on the prowl in Hbeit in Idlib Province http://youtu.be/bArsW153nBU Pro-Assad militias set homes of local activists on fire http://youtu.be/EW7hbQ9MGq8 Still, people take to the streets http://youtu.be/D698-HHIN-Q

Major demonstrations took place in Idlib City http://youtu.be/GrHkBkQJjdI Kafar Nabbel http://youtu.be/ZYp4vl4yBtk Jabal Al-Zawiyeh http://youtu.be/wDgq9AX4amQ Kafar Sinjah http://youtu.be/9iFWwWO4syk Taftanaz http://youtu.be/4KRrrmz16o4 Kafar Takhareem http://youtu.be/NMlW5NrWIe4

HAMA PROVINCE: farms belonging to inhabitants of Taybat Al-Imam stormed by pro-Assad militias http://youtu.be/OrqFtBSaKUU Major demonstrations took place in Hama City (Malaab) http://youtu.be/O1-19JPofYU (Bab Qibli) http://youtu.be/300D0FDX_1Y Kafar Zita http://youtu.be/XZQYRe0xDc8


DAMASCUS: A flash demonstration in Shaalaan Neighborhood in downtown Damascus http://youtu.be/I1iDOMdO-oI Major demonstrations took place in Harasta http://youtu.be/YO8B4oftQNQ Zabadani http://youtu.be/ssBQ5iN5YZ0 Yabroud http://youtu.be/yP-d1hWqE98 Assal http://youtu.be/GCz8iJWFCk8 Jobar http://youtu.be/Mmm0M8A-1CM Rankous http://youtu.be/tMhYQu4CUbQ


HASSAKEH: Ras Al-Ain http://youtu.be/YR8AgpHSLj4

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

War of the Worlds – Syria Edition!

Welcome to the Syrian Civil War. It took 8 months to get us here, but we are finally here, thanks to the diligent efforts and dedication of the cowardly few, the silent middle and the impotent lot, who all collaborated to make the sacrifices of the protesting majority meaningless. Let there be no doubt that the protesters, the little germs according to Assad, will overcome at the end, but the human and material cost will be much higher than it could have been had we all acted earlier to support them.  

Monday 14, 2011

51 people were killed including 20 civilians and 20 loyalists. 16 civilians were killed when loyalist troops fired at a convoy of protesters on the road connecting the towns of Khirbet Ghazaleh and Hraak. Later, clashes between loyalists and defectors left 20 loyalists and 5 defectors dead. 11 more civilians were killed in various locations in Homs Province. 6 more were killed in Idlib Province and 2 in Hama and Qamishly.  Clashes between defectors and loyalists were also reported in Bayadah neighborhood in Homs City and in the town of Shaizar in Hama Province.

The Arab League has decided to send a 500-strong delegation made up of military experts and officials as well as representatives of the media and of human rights organizations to monitor the situation on the ground in Syria. The upcoming meeting of the League on Wednesday which will take place in the Moroccan city of Rabat will decide on the exact date of the visit.

Death toll for Thursday November 10 is now put at 39 including 15 in Homs City, 9 in Idlib Province, 5 in Hama Province, 3 in Deraa Province and 6 in the Damascene suburb of Barzeh. The dead included 5 children and a baby. Also, 6 loyalists were killed in M’arrat Al-Nouman in Idlib Province and Deir Ezzor City in ambushes staged by the units affiliated with the Free Syrian Army.

On Friday November 11, a day dedicated to demanding freezing of Syria’s membership in the Arab League, 33 people were killed by pro-Assad militias. Pro-democracy demonstrations took place in close to 300 communities.

On Saturday November 12, 15 people were killed, mostly in Homs City. An ambush by members of the Free Syrian Arm also left 9 loyalist militiamen dead on the road between M’arrat Al-Nouman and Khan Shaikhoon in the Idlib Province.

On Sunday November 13, and as Russia announced that it will continue arms sales to the Assads, Assad loyalists killed 28 people, including 14 in Hama Province and 7 in Homs City.

The official death toll for Friday November 4 is now pout at 165.

Links

While the opposition celebrate pyrrhic victories, make grandiose claims and exchange meaningless accusations, the Assads have managed to plunge the country into civil war, just as they had threatened since the beginning of the protest movement.

Yes. There is no denying it anymore, and no sugarcoating it. It’s here, it’s now, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon – it’s Syria First Civil War of the modern era, and it is taking place everywhere: in Homs, in Hama, in Deir Ezzor, in Deraa and in Rural Damascus – and this is only the beginning. The only thing we can do now is see to it that the tragedy is brought to a swift conclusion with the protesters emerging as the true and indisputable victors. It will then be our task to make sure that this is last such war to take place in our country.

A Military Council

The Free Syrian Army announced earlier today the formation of a Military Council made up of

1.   Colonel Riyad Moussa Al-Ass’aad (leader)
2.  Colonel Malik Abdulhaleem Kurdi
3.  Colonel Ahmad Hijazi Hijazi
4.  Colonel Arafat Rasheed
5.  Colonel Aref Muhammad Nour Al-Hamoud http://youtu.be/cmJ6gDhErtA
6.  Lieutenant Abdurrazzaq Rashid Al-Rahmoun
7.  Lieutenant Abdulsattar Muhammad Jameel Younso
8.  Lieutenant Ghassan Ismail Hleihel
9.  Major Maher Ismail Al-Rahmoun

The main goals of the council include: toppling the regime, protecting citizens, protecting public and private property and preventing chaos and any acts of vengeance once the regime has been toppled.

In the meantime, the co0uncil will retain complete jurisdiction over military operations and safeguarding security, but its members cannot take part in political party or religious movement. The Council will constitute the highest military authority in the land and will have the rights to contact foreign government and organizations. It will also form a military police unit charged with pursuing loyalists suspected of committing crimes and submitting them for trial by the revolutionary court.
  
Once the regime falls, all security apparatuses will be dissolved and all members who were not involved in killings will be invited to become members of the FSA. The same apply to all military personnel.

All governmental and political institutions were called upon to cooperate with and implement the directives of the FSA.

Meanwhile, FSA leader admonished all members of his army to adhere strictly to international law governing protection of civilians and civilian targets, and asserted that the Military Council will dissolve itself once a democratically elected government takes charge of the country.

On the political front…

Cairo has become the current mecca of Syrian opposition groups, where all are heading to the headquarters of the Arab League to argue their case for inclusion in the ranks of the officially recognized opposition, when it gets officially recognized.

And no, this is not a race between the SNC (Syrian National Council) and NCC (National Coordination Committee), or the SNC and the FSA (Free Syrian Army), as some would like to picture it. The scene is much more open than this: there is the liberal-oriented Antalya Group, the Salafist-leaning council established by the popular preacher Sheikh Adnan Arour, the Kurdish National Council, formed in protest over the size and quality of Kurdish representation in the SNC, the Secular Democratic Coalition, or at least some segments in it who continue to protest against the overrepresentation and the great behind-the-scene influence of Islamist elements on SNC decision-making process, among many others.

The protesters, of course, cannot find themselves anywhere in this scene. Those of them who are still betting on the SNC are doing it for pragmatic reasons and in the hope that events will nudge SNC leaders into adopting their demands, despite their ideological objections and predilections. But the erstwhile enthusiasm is definitely gone.

Indeed, and speaking of enthusiasm, the Kurdish streets have grown relatively quiet of late, the assassination of Mishal Tammo, which could have ignited them, had no such effect. The policies of the SNC and the statements of its leaders on the Kurdish Question have served to alienate the Kurds, and played into the hands of those who prefer keeping a low profile in hope of striking a deal with the regime for greater autonomy.

Meanwhile, the Turkmen, who number around 750,000 strong located in the northern and central parts and in some areas along the coast, recently issued a statement saying that the SNC does not represent them. But then, in all fairness, no Syrian opposition group has so far bothered to reach out to the Turkmen, who are only now beginning to organize themselves politically. 

Last ditch attempts at clarifying the exact membership of the SNC and opening it to more groups and figures are currently taking place in Cairo, but no one is holding his breaths. The powers-that-be behind the SNC seem satisfied with murkiness of the current situation, even if it stood as an obstacle in the way of getting international acceptance and legitimacy. For while SNC propagandists are quick to point out that the Turkish Foreign Minister, for instance, has recently declared the Council as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people, they fail to tell us why he didn’t declare them as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people at this stage, which is the coveted position for any institution hoping to lead the transitional phase.

But the reason is known, and it’s the same reason given by the French and Americans, among other: problems with representation, including overrepresentation of certain currents and underrepresentation of others, as well as lack of transparency in the selection and decision-making processes, not to mention lack of clear political vision and transitional plans. If these “details” are not worked out in Cairo over the next few days, a new council, if not several of them, might end up emerging.   

Nov 10: A general strike in most protest communities

This leaked clip from Hama City dates back to September but it still convey the reality of what is taking place in many communities throughout Syria today (September 24): pro-Assad militias trying to storm into the home of a local resident http://youtu.be/sdtW38VcR8Y

This more recent leaked clip from Baba Amr Neighborhood in Homs City shows a tank and a couple of loyalist troops who were hit by local members of Free Syrian Army during recent clashes http://youtu.be/QGWFLEFT_eY

Meanwhile, in the Damascene suburb of Harasta, a protester was killed and his body snatched by pro-Assad militias http://youtu.be/XiJl9uC-WnQ Shortly afterwards, defectors clash with pro-Assad militias and drive them out http://youtu.be/nf-aWBkzOws  

Locals and defectors form a new anti-Assad brigade in Deir Ezzor Province http://youtu.be/Qks1Z35w_OI More defections took place in Idlib Province as well http://youtu.be/CDkV4mBx_VM In Deraa Province, defectors dance openly in the streets to the tunes of Bashar is a traitor to Syria” http://youtu.be/5iaRy3Wbb28

In this leaked video from Idlib Province, we see pro-Assad militias treating their own wounds http://youtu.be/w_D-Rl7d7tU

Demonstrations: Hama (Taybat Al-Imam) http://youtu.be/jEWpVKYmBQ4 (Hilfaya) http://youtu.be/A9aEatVNVgY (Karnaz) http://youtu.be/FyuioBaPewg In the town of Kafroumah in Idlib Province, the daughter of a local martyr leads his funerary procession (in green) http://youtu.be/BTK32TKfpHI

Friday / Nov 11: Membership suspension

A young man from Bosra in the Deraa/Hauran province is taking his last breaths after being shot in the chest http://youtu.be/27VQ2PZV2T0 Other people were shot as well in Bosra http://youtu.be/w_j4php4YgQ Protesters came under fire in Tafas as well http://youtu.be/OWwq_Ur8nbw

Abdelbassit Sarout, goalkeeper of the national soccer team for under 21, recounts how his house in Bayadah Neighborhood in Homs City was bombed http://youtu.be/ptBjoU6hyIw   The pounding of the neighborhood resumes during the night http://youtu.be/ye9WpPPlz1E , http://youtu.be/dGqcETaPAUs The story unfolds in the nearby neighborhood of Khaldiyeh http://youtu.be/Hlio339I_pY

In Deir Baalba Neighborhood in Homs City, 3 people were killed when their car was shelled http://youtu.be/r5O0RILgFIo

Protesters retrieve the body of a fallen comrade in Cairo Street in Homs City http://youtu.be/lbhvR7Gf1Eg Protesters in Wa’er find themselves under fire http://youtu.be/EmvCQgG173A

Karm Al-Zeitun aftermath of shelling http://youtu.be/9M-sSCRYLyc A baby was shot dead in his crib when a bullet came through the window http://youtu.be/EE9XTs4sw5E

Armored vehicles patrol the streets of Homs City http://youtu.be/OCi3PXVLLBA

In the town of Mseifrah in Deraa/Hauran Province, a teenager is killed when he stepped on a landmine http://youtu.be/ElozQm7qmSk

Ass’aad Ashiq Mustafa, a former minister and governor of Hama announces his defection http://youtu.be/tUCQVGl2E3g

In Aleppo City, a protester is being brutalized by Assad loyalists http://youtu.be/N2ArKV2ju7s His colleagues get the same treatment http://youtu.be/75AMTCZgE3o Another protester is brutalized in Deraa City http://youtu.be/oYzHWqSA07k



IDLIB PROVINCE: Kafroumah http://youtu.be/o7zgi_Vf8Eo Kafar Nabbel http://youtu.be/3D05RZBT6lg


DAMASCUS: Qarrah http://youtu.be/TPRAmEtGClU

DERAA/HAURAN: Basr Al-Harir http://youtu.be/fD-kpQ-5eb8

DEIR EZZOR: Albou Kamal protesters come under heavy automatic fire http://youtu.be/9Lj16hjzv5Q

In this interview with a Dounia TV Cameraman who left the country, he asserts what protesters have been saying all along, that security officers were always present during interviews with people on the streets to make sure that they said the “right” things, and that weapons shown on TV belonged to pro-Assad militias and security forces http://youtu.be/YnDltKtr76E


Nov 12, Saturday

More defections in Idlib http://youtu.be/eWm4scZiLgM More destruction in the Bayadah Neighborhood in Homs City http://youtu.be/XOfAkBo02yk and elsewhere http://youtu.be/ThzBUYVT0Os

DERAA/HAURAN: Sourah http://youtu.be/-4fyTts9O54 Deir Al-Bakht http://youtu.be/Vdy_sX7PZDI

Nov 13 / Sunday

9 students were wounded in Homs City when a tank shell hit a classroom in the local College of Architecture http://youtu.be/rTThLerUeKo Elsewhere, students run for cover when gunfire is heard around the campus http://youtu.be/T7Ty991e0nQ And in Mahata, Christian protesters chant for the glory of Mary and freedom http://youtu.be/vpjUBmnCPQQ , http://youtu.be/pAgz9mjegHo

Meanwhile, clashes between defectors and loyalists continue to take place in Hama City. We can hear the gunfire I this clip and see loyalist troops positioned on top of the local chapter of the Baath Party http://youtu.be/45-8tHUDjKU  Protesters come under fire near the Murabit Mosque http://youtu.be/CgkQi92Htq8 A child is shot dead http://youtu.be/ejBW--U7w2c Another martyr http://youtu.be/g4-bfVG6ywo

More defections: Damascus http://youtu.be/Kmx2AMJ8gSQ Rastan (Homs) http://youtu.be/7lRzaO4XUIU Hbeit (Idlib) http://youtu.be/KYTnblfMRJw

In Deraa, commander of Al-Omari Brigade announces an operation against Assad loyalists that left 20-30 dead http://youtu.be/Dfze4W-TlXA

Idlib City: caravan of humanitarian aid meant for Homs City from the inhabitants of a town that is also suffering from the effect of blockade and collective punishment by pro-Assad militias http://youtu.be/xV1Yw04KZ3k

Nov 14 / Monday

In Deir Baalbah Neighborhood in Homs City – locals stumble on 2 dead bodies in the street short execution style http://youtu.be/1s09rNMSevg In Bayadah, locals hold a mass funerals for 4 of their martyrs http://youtu.be/Qs2O3d2rhsY including this one http://youtu.be/CuCs4RUp_8I and renew their revolutionary vows http://youtu.be/PonjaIm3yQg In Qoussour, people try to fill up their natural gas tanks http://youtu.be/t3qiSoZAcdI In Wa’er locals try to fill up on Kerosene http://youtu.be/7TpaDQaEj0g In Insha’aat Neighborhood, locals come under fire http://youtu.be/kA1UGkmklYs In Jib Al-Jandali, tanks in the streets http://youtu.be/8MlZQ6bymaY Finding people in burnt out apartments is now a commonplace occurrence http://youtu.be/4YDhlia5lhw In Bab Al-Sibaa, clashes took place between loyalists and defectors http://youtu.be/ajr2PZnTWb8

In defiant Baba Amr, smoke rise above the horizon following new rounds of pounding http://youtu.be/AtQpogDBcFc , http://youtu.be/TPvQyXLHgi8 But the pounding continues http://youtu.be/nnMwNmUvLFo , http://youtu.be/njSdqtq_12Q , http://youtu.be/VGgZxROlMKU , http://youtu.be/Pof6OGiPJF4 Another house catches fire http://youtu.be/p2ynobSeuAE More defections take place among the ranks of troops sent in to quell the protests http://youtu.be/b8WJb3q-xo4 But during the brief nighttime lull, locals took to the streets as usual http://youtu.be/EI5OjU-anGs

Pro-Assad militias storm the town of Khirbet Ghazaleh in Derra/Hauran Province http://youtu.be/ST7Wfww3_QY Others storm the Sabeel Neighborhood in Deraa City http://youtu.be/PQmFibChMjM But in the College of Literature, students protest within the hall of their campus http://youtu.be/v54a929yKEc and in Kashef Neighborhood the people rule the streets http://youtu.be/e5XLgnJHEwU In Ankhel, locals hold a funeral for one of their fallen sons http://youtu.be/OjpUI2Tp-CA And soon come under fire http://youtu.be/YJCfV4OTpJg In Basr Al-Harir, there were many martyrs as well http://youtu.be/sYKMkBNnEVQ , http://youtu.be/d5Xko8ukBZg  

Elsewhere in the province, loyalists pound the village of Alma http://youtu.be/MB0g9EVCAek But defectors affiliated with the Free Syrian Army fight back and blow up a tank http://youtu.be/3qzbJNpt1o4 and armored vehicle http://youtu.be/HrvwNl3-VYE

All these developments in Deraa/Hauran lead to more defections in the ranks http://youtu.be/Grt_Qdmu8xs

In Idlib City, security forces separate loyalist and protest demonstrations http://youtu.be/i2TlRpKwzNc But no one can keep the protesters down http://youtu.be/MzphceTGPAE In Sarmeen in the larger Idlib Province, a tank storm into the city firing its way through http://youtu.be/PIt9IrgPi4M

In Khneizeer village in Hama Province, local water tanks and mosque come under fire http://youtu.be/9-s6_Y0yAd0 In Shaizar Village, pounding by loyalists leave many wounded http://youtu.be/id8pvE2lzyc , http://youtu.be/f7DDkpNFiv4

In Kisweh Suburb in Damascus, the nights come alive with the sounds of heavy gunfire http://youtu.be/qZHMMumtaCA In Douma, pro-Assad militias go on a vandalism spree http://youtu.be/PqWLAAv_juk


HOMS PROVINCE: Houleh http://youtu.be/_AAVa-LITxY Ghanto http://youtu.be/rSSjzRX5fqE Tadmor (Palmyra) http://youtu.be/-dbcVlu5bNY



DAMASCUS: Student demonstrations Douma http://youtu.be/ATL5qEzWuHc , http://youtu.be/SWYFOohzffA Main Demonstrations



DEIR EZZOR: Qrayah http://youtu.be/fP5VvAOK-Rs

Note:
I wanted to personally invite you to join me at FDD’s annual policy summit, Washington Forum, taking place December 7-9 at the Newseum in DC. This year’s conference focuses on “Ideology, Power, and Alliances in a Changing Middle East.” I’ll be speaking on “The Syrian Factor: The Middle East With and Without the Assad Dynasty” at 11:00am on December 8. I invite you to attend this session and any other of the public sessions as my guest. The full schedule can be found at www.FDDWashingtonForum.org. You can register here: www.fddwashingtonforum.org/register.php.