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.

Links

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 http://youtu.be/yhmnhQZaxUc When the event is not staged, this is what loyalists actually look like and this is how they behave http://youtu.be/rX8lBxEy7z4 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 http://youtu.be/qXvErItPvIU

We should also bear in mind that Syrian TV was already present on the scene before the “attack” http://youtu.be/8tJwLC_jWko 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 http://youtu.be/8tJwLC_jWko Also, this is the security cordon that existed in the area before the explosion http://youtu.be/68t6LKFOnbY

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 http://youtu.be/C_35uXlUvHw 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 http://youtu.be/K0ojkWgtaEo Elsewhere in Midan, protesters stream out of the Majid Mosque http://youtu.be/-we1Z8okJvM In Qa’ah, more people came out http://youtu.be/sjGv_JhXNrk And another rally in a different part of the large district http://youtu.be/BYnWqCq1zJg Midan is one of the main hotspot of protests in Damascus City proper. People come out at night not paying heed to regime threats http://youtu.be/YeQ3qJQmqKY

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 http://youtu.be/0gOAhAl03hI chanting “freedom forever, in spite of you Assad” http://youtu.be/RyDIz4AjV1Q Protester do come under fire (min 4:30) http://youtu.be/qvludvDBl3c Still, some come out again at night http://youtu.be/eGttB8_N6iU , http://youtu.be/2iqMfjeLrHs

In Kafar Sousseh, the site of the first alleged suicide bombing, protesters started out their rally in the Rifai Mosque http://youtu.be/678k4PyTJkY , http://youtu.be/RQ_dSrOsRj4 before coming out to be immediately assaulted and beaten by loyalist security officers http://youtu.be/rX8lBxEy7z4 , http://youtu.be/UgtNwbl7LNg Treating one of the wounded http://youtu.be/1V9wqInn8Lc

In Moadamiyah, pro-Assad militias ride in trucks with their automatic weapons http://youtu.be/U-mE9UrQLGo and fire randomly when it suits them to terrorize the local population http://youtu.be/jCj1pNk4080 Heavy artillery was used at occasions (1:10) http://youtu.be/WlXuRj5hIqQ Some arrests are made with the usual abuse http://youtu.be/gPAXwjJbx3E

Presence of loyalist troops prevented planned rallies in Daraya http://youtu.be/WvJNY2bYOZA , http://youtu.be/OD6ZKCMemoY , http://youtu.be/qSKM9EQPGLA

Despite heavy presence of loyalist troops http://youtu.be/Tv0t-9QxPto , http://youtu.be/irGfxkd8IBY a protest in Qaboun http://youtu.be/ZMXx3Ig_87k night http://youtu.be/ko46nlhBxl8

A small rally in Qadam http://youtu.be/7tsN3DiEr38 Loyalists come in near dusk http://youtu.be/59ROtyL2H48 Still more protests at night http://youtu.be/nWveNhpMsbU

A small rally in Jobar http://youtu.be/qVZ4qoeLc_4 comes under fire http://youtu.be/PgCxvyS6DGM 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 http://youtu.be/I98axuhSIT8 , http://youtu.be/zH792gXTEhU and wounded http://youtu.be/QDivuNXpLsA , http://youtu.be/TIvk1-3WG5U In total 6 were killed, most of whom bled to death due to lack of proper medical care as this report explains http://youtu.be/8b5c_briIco This was the protest before the crackdown http://youtu.be/H1CNXBXnKI4 , http://youtu.be/B5lfz-C8Y64

In Eltal, loyalists target this car seriously injuring its occupants http://youtu.be/xb_V01ZZjko



Crackdown http://youtu.be/x_a2ZI4b38g , http://youtu.be/hBXInIPVfyo , http://youtu.be/siNG8WlqTz0 , http://youtu.be/3BoAEyGaeCw on this protest in Harasta http://youtu.be/CtAmgyzjpmk , http://youtu.be/xmED0uR43FY , http://youtu.be/s6z1e7-T9gY leaves this martyr http://youtu.be/yvOqKMeRwtM By dusk, snipers had taken up position around town http://youtu.be/vEr0aAhFcg8 Loyalists troops set up impromptu checkpoints at the town’s main entrance http://youtu.be/DLemfYrc9Dk


DAMASCUS – SOUTH: In Qatana, a loyalist invasion prevented planned rallies http://youtu.be/ok1svMVHRbM


DAMASCUS – WEST: Loyalist security troops stormed into the suburb of Qudsaya http://youtu.be/qXvErItPvIU and opened fire at local protesters http://youtu.be/ZStNKzgC3HI Clashes ensued pitting bullets against rocks http://youtu.be/LKdPmKPCgEk , http://youtu.be/RzhrVY5txcA leaving at least this martyr http://youtu.be/yKpilCyfu3Y and this martyr http://youtu.be/vnqCkpDj9_g and a few wounded http://youtu.be/Z0BQvDz0Voc

Zabadani holds a funeral http://youtu.be/u5HqfcsF4hc , http://youtu.be/-G-G07H_jFM for this local activist http://youtu.be/SjghYeoHxBE Family grieves for the martyr http://youtu.be/yp8Dg03tESE Protesters come out again at night http://youtu.be/2IAPT92EPVM some take part in a noise-making protest http://youtu.be/veHgoJIaOrQ


HOMS CITY: In Inshas’aat an attack on these protesters http://youtu.be/7xjzBQ6uzXE leaves this martyr http://youtu.be/brYwqmCofhY Another martyr falls in Asheereh neighborhood http://youtu.be/V1-19aPKFzI , http://youtu.be/zrP24pQjew4 Karm Al-Zeitun martyr http://youtu.be/g30GVlbynbM

Baba Amr funeral http://youtu.be/Kh9VruDPIXI soon turns into a mass rally http://youtu.be/UsuhO6ysMJY At night, protesters deploy the new tactic of noise-making http://youtu.be/I_lklaaFwaw

At night, Karm Al-Shami comes under fire http://youtu.be/Ao_9sMhSfTk




HAMA CITY: Protesters in Sheikh Anbar come under attack and several are killed http://youtu.be/vSw5TJW36Vw , http://youtu.be/cPVQpXdBQmQ , http://youtu.be/XsCKDSNHr6k Also, in Eleilaat http://youtu.be/3vTZj1IOKOE



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 http://youtu.be/Vbw68ReNWFk , http://youtu.be/XNS6I-kTr4U and many with light injuries http://youtu.be/dWlviy5_g3w , http://youtu.be/QqX9bDPBg6Q Impact of the pounding http://youtu.be/6s1ylUkwTHU

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” http://youtu.be/izn4rbNykng

Rallies Idlib City http://youtu.be/_pOfcTM0CVo , http://youtu.be/dwjRkLA683c , http://youtu.be/7wspSg-kdrk Binnish http://youtu.be/8cjboNGo9xo , http://youtu.be/6jptsNIf9mE , http://youtu.be/YYtjQwEcwZQ , http://youtu.be/tqs7vxdTi7M Taftanaz http://youtu.be/A5W2fIFLq-s   Kafroumah http://youtu.be/f3TlUzSaeh4 Saraqib http://youtu.be/6a-gziGYLxU Kafar Yahmoul http://youtu.be/JgHYlYU9lug Kafrenbel http://youtu.be/qyXGkZ6gp6M , http://youtu.be/9aNFhX2PZ5Q Afes http://youtu.be/Zf1pTSp0Ink Sarmeen http://youtu.be/duY_rAnH7hI Kafar Ouaid http://youtu.be/f21qsdh8WIQ Ariha http://youtu.be/xFD6cUBZfCk , http://youtu.be/E-CbZi7DcAE Habeet http://youtu.be/8Ig2yKodPZE Hzano http://youtu.be/LDjE92Lb73A Courine http://youtu.be/qmjHYeS3GYs Ram Hamdan http://youtu.be/R7vu_WIF_Z0 Ma’arrat Al-Nouman http://youtu.be/PxQRMjiodGY , http://youtu.be/b2asPbyA6AM Ghadfah http://youtu.be/9Bux2YzlWdc Haass http://youtu.be/cywwARBJpR8 Taoum http://youtu.be/Wo76WO9mb9o Gilli http://youtu.be/gfV1ol5wcVk Sarmada http://youtu.be/63Ir61A58QY Jisr Ashoughour a protest near the local church http://youtu.be/wfxXLL65ifY Kastan http://youtu.be/3xJU959nKcw Jabal Al-Zawiyeh http://youtu.be/kC2_1tnstzc Darkoush http://youtu.be/sfrjlAi8hrs Sfouhin http://youtu.be/cGOdmt67Z2Q Sinjar http://youtu.be/PhCaZSX4fvc Kafar Sinjah http://youtu.be/nMKtbqClxQQ Firkaya http://youtu.be/ILn9YGA5B3s Deir Sharqi http://youtu.be/VmGTiycvLbY Ma’ar Shamsheh http://youtu.be/f7pm1ZXsmcw Elteh http://youtu.be/YPQZ3SnbbVI Mastoumeh http://youtu.be/uFdpv814iaY Tel’aadah http://youtu.be/Eq9yj5wLyck Khan Al-Subul http://youtu.be/Hhk3-uPjeas Kafar Haya http://youtu.be/Mk1Jebrpm8Y Maasraan http://youtu.be/8mzV5EsSn5s

DERAA CITY: Protesters in Qoussour Neighborhood are teargased http://youtu.be/32VFV2yRjnE In Mahata, protesters http://youtu.be/Kwrab6kv_kQ come under fire http://youtu.be/d1wHNltPGAo But gather themselves again and hold their ground http://youtu.be/O7C3inGyS3Y

Musa Bin Nusair Mosque http://youtu.be/zGT0rrY1rVw Protesters are teargased http://youtu.be/_RWWgK4VVB8 and hosed with water canons http://youtu.be/3-ugVlrDOik


DERAA/HAURAN PROVINCE: In Nawa, loyalist troops continue to lay siege around Al-Omari Mosque http://youtu.be/S_J7ZdVWQQc , http://youtu.be/z1UBe4tw90w In Izraa, a funeral http://youtu.be/kBRoyqL0kaU In Jbab, the aftermath of a crackdown leaves bullet shells and blood on the ground http://youtu.be/3ffjNwrZ2CQ



DEIR EZZOR: Injured in Qouriyeh http://youtu.be/-0OgWpQPEJk

In Deir Ezzor City, protesters http://youtu.be/ybeak_HG-3o came under fire (Ourfi) http://youtu.be/oF_JUp1M2ws A security truck was seen transporting the dead later to an unknown destination (freeze frame at 6th second to see it, it’s fleeting) http://youtu.be/TVktfmc-z5o

Al-Jazeerah broadcasted this webcast live from Shouaytat http://youtu.be/KTsNxg_IT3M

Tanks pass through the town of Boukros http://youtu.be/uh_bVKFxYo8


ALEPPO CITY: Rallies Marjeh http://youtu.be/AO5ZY6-vHFo night http://youtu.be/u55LHUjRD4c Teargas was used to disperse the protesters http://youtu.be/JL4oW-kgbM0

Salaheddine http://youtu.be/h02PRcDdkZw , http://youtu.be/m9Kfu-er25g Protesters come under attack from loyalists http://youtu.be/WMA_SRCJDpI But come out at night again http://youtu.be/eVY5NQol0gs , http://youtu.be/5WETKOLaYvA

ALEPPO: In Safirah, protesters hoist the independence flag http://youtu.be/oMuWrbG2gEI , http://youtu.be/sLqzewiCCLU and come under fire and there were injuries http://youtu.be/VmPMbrJY__Y

A rally from Hreitan http://youtu.be/Zw_ELUKl5UE reaches Anadan http://youtu.be/RGdLcEmTKhI and stays till dusk http://youtu.be/9P1JY3NzXAw