Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Battle for Damascus!

Beyond the lies, the propaganda and the theatrics lies the simple truth of the increasing fragility and vulnerability of the Assad regime. The stalemate of the last few months is already given way to a slow but quite perceptible decay of the regime. The regime can still kill with impunity, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, but the tide is nonetheless shifting.

Friday 6, 2012

Today’s death toll: 36, in Hama, Deir Ezzor, Homs, Deraa and Rural Damascus.

Assad official media allege that 26 have died in the “Al-Qaeda” attack that took place in Midan, and 63 were wounded. There were also reports of “attacks” in the Mazzeh Autostrad near the Iranian Embassy, but so far o word on casualties.

This Friday is dedicated to the internationalization of the Syrian situation, in other words, protesters are demanding international intervention.


The Context

For weeks now, the regime has been losing control over the rural and suburban areas of Damascus, and of key neighborhoods within Damascus City itself. I have been trying to illustrate this for weeks now, but especially here and here. This is what I describe as a homsification process: the regime knows that it has lost control, and knows that regaining it requires conducting massive military operations that will involve tanks, armored vehicles, thousands of troops and, of course, random shelling of residential neighborhoods. By staging “terrorist attacks” in key neighborhoods that have grown restive over the last few months, the regime is seeking to create the necessary legitimating narrative for the eventual intervention it has been planning for a while. For the story of Damascus is no longer one of restive rural suburbs, rather, it’s a saga of restive neighborhoods and districts within Damascus proper. For this reason, the Assad’s War on Damascus is now unfolding and promises to be quite bloody. But then, no one has to take my word for it. All the world has to do is what it has exactly been doing for all the preceding weeks and months: kick back and watch the fireworks while debating the possibility of issuing more sanctions, and finding new justifications to avoid intervention.

On the specifics of this event: had these attacks been real, the regime would have benefited from letting an independent commission investigate them, which would have required preserving the crime scene in each case for a few days/weeks to give time to such a commission to come and conduct its own inspection. But the regime opted for publicity: minutes after the “attacks,” it brought its own media to cover the scene live, then, it brought the few Arab and international journalists in the country, then, it undertook an extensive clean-up of the scene.

Meanwhile, this is the message that the regime wanted to deliver: Sunni suicide bombers are killing unarmed Alawite law-and-order officers. International observers might take this with a grain of salt, if not sack-full of it, but international media will still have to cover it – and there is enough fear, ignorance, stupidity, prejudice and private interests out there to turn attentions away, again, from the real crimes taking place throughout the country, all of which perpetrated by Assad loyalists, all of which can now be seen in a different light, if at all. As for the internal audience: the supporters will continue to supporters, the protesters will continue to protest, and the silent will remain silent.

In this entire clip of the scene shown by Syrian TV, we can see clearly that Assads scenarists have been working hard on their staging techniques since their last production. Still, not a single rifle or club can be seen. All the YouTube videos we have been receiving from protesters in the neighborhood since the beginning of the Revolution have consistently shown that loyalist security officers always come armed with clubs, rifles and Kalashnikovs. But in this clip, the only weapons we see are those carried by some of the “rescuers” who rushed in to save their comrades. Moreover, 20 seconds into the clip, we hear someone crying for his colleague “Haydar.” Haydar is an Alawite name. To the Alawites who constitute the main support base that the Assads have in the country, that call, and these scenes, must have hit home, just like the scenes of the massacres perpetrated against the protesters by their sons never did and will never do When the event is not staged, this is what loyalists actually look like and this is how they behave The clip is shot today in Central Damascus in the neighborhood of Kafar Sousseh, a 10 minutes ride from Midan (barring traffic). This clip is from Qudsayah, a suburb to the northwest of Damascus, also from today

We should also bear in mind that Syrian TV was already present on the scene before the “attack” It’s not unusual for Addounia TV to send a reporter and a cameraman to the scene where anti-Assad rallies are expected to cover them in their own way, usually by shooting the empty side streets to claim that nothing have taken place, or to shoot protesters when they throw stones without showing what provoked them. But, it is not usual for Syrian TV to send an entire crew to the scene before anything has transpired. This clip was made by an activist Also, this is the security cordon that existed in the area before the explosion

For its part, the Free Syrian Army simply does not use suicide bombers. In Hama City on this very Friday January 6, the same day of the alleged attacked in Midan, Al-Farouq Unit affiliated with the FSA blew up this bus carrying loyalist troops the old fashioned way: by using an RPG This is the kind of operations that Maj. Gen. Riyad al-Assad, head of the FSA was promising when he spoke a few days ago prosing surprises.

The context then is clear. The subliminal messages are clear. The goals are clear. The stakes are as clear as they are high. And the war is unfolding. Powers across the worlds have stakes in the outcome, but no one will interfere. The situation is too complicated, they say, too inconvenient, and it will likely remain so until it is too late.

But in reality, the situation is much simpler than thought….

despite the violent crackdown, the regime has not been able to prevail over the protesters the overwhelming majority of whom remain committed to nonviolent tactics. But the little armed resistance that has taken place has proven too daunting for the regime which has already lost control of Idlib, Homs, Hama, Deir Ezzor, Deraa and Rural Damascus. Yes, it is still putting up a fight and commit massacres, but the best it can achieve is establish control over certain municipal and security buildings in big cities, and retain the ability to carry out brief incursions into smaller communities to intimidate the local restive populations.

In Hassakeh and Raqqah Governorates, the regime retains some control over the capital cities of Hassakeh and Raqqah, but the smaller communities, especially the Kurdish areas, have for the most part joined the protest movement. Rural Aleppo and certain neighborhoods in Aleppo City itself are quickly following suit. As for the coastal areas, they are nothing more than pressure cookers at this stage waiting for the right moment to explode.

Moreover, and for all the concerns about minority rights, it is the diverse Sunni communities of Syria who have been suffering more than anybody else over the last few months, and the last few decades. In the coastal communities in particular, it is the Sunnis who have much to fear in terms of becoming victims of cold-blooded massacres and ethnic cleansing when the shit hits the fan.

Still, the regime is clearly losing control, and if the attacks are not staged, then it is really losing control. So, with an internationally mandated and protected buffer zone in place, humanitarian support to protest communities, and material and logistical support to the Free Syrian Army, the job of toppling the Assads can be accomplished. Focus of the international community should now move to drawing up day-after political and security arrangements in cooperation with an assortment of Syrian opposition members and experts. This discussion cannot be avoided or delayed anymore. The regime is losing control. This means that the alternative needs to be found soon so that all these nightmarish scenarios we are afraid of can be avoided.

As for the coveted transitional council, I believe that western embassies should open communication lines with protest leaders through which they can nominate their representatives to the Council from inside and outside the country. 

DAMASCUS CITY: Midan Locals held a small rally moments before the explosion just as protesters were gathering to go to the area where the alleged suicide bombing occurred Elsewhere in Midan, protesters stream out of the Majid Mosque In Qa’ah, more people came out And another rally in a different part of the large district Midan is one of the main hotspot of protests in Damascus City proper. People come out at night not paying heed to regime threats

In Old Mazzeh, a few minutes from where the other alleged “terrorist attacks took place in Damascus today, protesters held their largest rally ever in that neighborhood chanting “freedom forever, in spite of you Assad” Protester do come under fire (min 4:30) Still, some come out again at night ,

In Kafar Sousseh, the site of the first alleged suicide bombing, protesters started out their rally in the Rifai Mosque , before coming out to be immediately assaulted and beaten by loyalist security officers , Treating one of the wounded

In Moadamiyah, pro-Assad militias ride in trucks with their automatic weapons and fire randomly when it suits them to terrorize the local population Heavy artillery was used at occasions (1:10) Some arrests are made with the usual abuse

Presence of loyalist troops prevented planned rallies in Daraya , ,

Despite heavy presence of loyalist troops , a protest in Qaboun night

A small rally in Qadam Loyalists come in near dusk Still more protests at night

A small rally in Jobar comes under fire A checkpoint is quickly established.

Jobar, Zamalka, Qadam, Midan, Daraya and Moudamiyeh are all points of entry into Damascus City from the rural areas. This is why the regime attempts to maintain a tight grip on them, but, considering it the development over the last few weeks, it is clear that this is grip is getting weaker by the day as these neighborhoods have effectively become part and parcel of the protest movement. The regime is getting further retrenched inside Central Damascus.

DAMASCUS – NORTH: Crackdown on protesters in Dmeir leaves martyrs , and wounded , In total 6 were killed, most of whom bled to death due to lack of proper medical care as this report explains This was the protest before the crackdown ,

In Eltal, loyalists target this car seriously injuring its occupants

Crackdown , , , on this protest in Harasta , , leaves this martyr By dusk, snipers had taken up position around town Loyalists troops set up impromptu checkpoints at the town’s main entrance

DAMASCUS – SOUTH: In Qatana, a loyalist invasion prevented planned rallies

DAMASCUS – WEST: Loyalist security troops stormed into the suburb of Qudsaya and opened fire at local protesters Clashes ensued pitting bullets against rocks , leaving at least this martyr and this martyr and a few wounded

Zabadani holds a funeral , for this local activist Family grieves for the martyr Protesters come out again at night some take part in a noise-making protest

HOMS CITY: In Inshas’aat an attack on these protesters leaves this martyr Another martyr falls in Asheereh neighborhood , Karm Al-Zeitun martyr

Baba Amr funeral soon turns into a mass rally At night, protesters deploy the new tactic of noise-making

At night, Karm Al-Shami comes under fire

HAMA CITY: Protesters in Sheikh Anbar come under attack and several are killed , , Also, in Eleilaat

IDLIB: The number of actual rallies that took place in Idlib is probably double what is listed below. The regime doesn’t seem any basis of support in this restive province at this stage.

In Saraqib, pounding of the town by loyalist troops leave 9 locals with serious injuries , and many with light injuries , Impact of the pounding

In Idlib City, a Christian girl addresses the throngs and says: “I am Christian, the regime it want to protect me, but I lived all my life here, and I don’t need them to protect me from my people”

Rallies Idlib City , , Binnish , , , Taftanaz   Kafroumah Saraqib Kafar Yahmoul Kafrenbel , Afes Sarmeen Kafar Ouaid Ariha , Habeet Hzano Courine Ram Hamdan Ma’arrat Al-Nouman , Ghadfah Haass Taoum Gilli Sarmada Jisr Ashoughour a protest near the local church Kastan Jabal Al-Zawiyeh Darkoush Sfouhin Sinjar Kafar Sinjah Firkaya Deir Sharqi Ma’ar Shamsheh Elteh Mastoumeh Tel’aadah Khan Al-Subul Kafar Haya Maasraan

DERAA CITY: Protesters in Qoussour Neighborhood are teargased In Mahata, protesters come under fire But gather themselves again and hold their ground

Musa Bin Nusair Mosque Protesters are teargased and hosed with water canons

DERAA/HAURAN PROVINCE: In Nawa, loyalist troops continue to lay siege around Al-Omari Mosque , In Izraa, a funeral In Jbab, the aftermath of a crackdown leaves bullet shells and blood on the ground

DEIR EZZOR: Injured in Qouriyeh

In Deir Ezzor City, protesters came under fire (Ourfi) A security truck was seen transporting the dead later to an unknown destination (freeze frame at 6th second to see it, it’s fleeting)

Al-Jazeerah broadcasted this webcast live from Shouaytat

Tanks pass through the town of Boukros

ALEPPO CITY: Rallies Marjeh night Teargas was used to disperse the protesters

Salaheddine , Protesters come under attack from loyalists But come out at night again ,

ALEPPO: In Safirah, protesters hoist the independence flag , and come under fire and there were injuries

A rally from Hreitan reaches Anadan and stays till dusk