Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cease Liar!

A “coalition of the willing,” even if it only included a handful of countries, would prove enough to topple the Assad regime. But someone in the international community needs to take the initiative on this matter. Hint, hint, wink, wink, our neighbor in that big old White House!

Wednesday 18, 2012

Today’s death toll: 23. The Breakdown: 9 in Homs City, 2 defectors in Qseir in Homs Province, 2 women in Ma’arrat Al-Nouman in Idlib Province, 1 in Manbij in Aleppo Province, and 2 in rural Damascus who died of wounds received on prior occasions...   

Links
Steven Cook: “The conventional wisdom in Washington and beyond is that Bashar al-Assad will fall on his own and that an intervention would be counterproductive, but with thousands dying we need to reconsider those assumptions”
BY Ammar Abdulhamid and Ken Ballen: “The protesters and all Syrians who yearn for freedom are unambivalent in their call for international intervention. America faces a fundamental choice. It can stand behind democratic aspirations fully, or it can continue to rely on 19th century notions of power politics and influence.

After 5 days of shelling and foiled attempts at incursion, loyalist troops were forced to negotiate a ceasefire with local representatives of the Free Syrian Army stationed in the town of Zabadani along the borders with Lebanon. The terms of the ceasefire call for lifting the siege on the town and refraining from any further attempts at incursion, in exchange for maintaining a small security presence in town. Locals say the terms were negotiated by officers taking their orders from Assef Chawkat, Assad’s brother-in-law and the man believed to be responsible for orchestrating all current sweep operations in the country. The negotiations happened through the auspices of local dignitaries, that is, there were no direct meetings between defectors and loyalists. The occasional pounding that took place earlier on Wednesday came to a quick halt and the pullout to points further outside the town seems to have proceeded as agreed.

Still, there are legitimate concerns that the ceasefire in Zabadani was made because the regime intends on carrying out major sweep operations in the restive region of Eastern Ghoutah to the East of Damascus. But even if this were the case, the fact that the regime needed to negotiate a ceasefire in order to ready itself for the alleged operations, is a major indication of how embattled its troops are at this stage.

With this in mind, the arguments that Ken Ballen and I made in our column in CNN international website earlier today were pretty much on the money: small groups of “ragtag defectors from the Syrian Army, joined by civilians… have fought Assad's loyalist troops and militias nearly to a standstill with only light arms, obtained locally.” As such, all that Syrian rebels need at this stage is some support, and they can take care of the business of bringing down the Assad regime on their own. This is what Ken and I recommended as far as measures that the U.S. can take:

“Providing [the rebels] with more sophisticated gear, including RPGs, night vision goggles and better communication equipment, would likely enable them to neutralize Assad's tanks and possibly free entire towns. Implementing a no-fly zone could also prevent Assad from laying these towns, once free, to waste. A naval blockade of Syrian ports would help prevent arms shipments to the regime… If Russia persists in threatening a veto at the U.N. Security Council, the United States should call for an international conference on Syria, with the Arab League, the Islamic Conference, NATO, Japan, India, Brazil and all concerned states. This would be a viable path to legitimate multilateral intervention while circumventing the Russian veto.”

In other words a “coalition of the willing,” even if it only included a handful of countries, would prove enough to topple the Assad regime. But someone in the international community needs to take the initiative on this matter. 

Meanwhile, unless the Assads have reconciled themselves to surrendering power and negotiating a way out, the ceasefire won’t hold for long and it will definitely not be expanded to include Homs, Idlib and other restive parts of the country. Zabadani remains under siege, and the situation remains tense.

Rallies took place in protest communities throughout the country. The following videos highlight the most important developments that took place on Wednesday January 18, 2012.  

Damascus

Zabadani (northwest): despite the cease fire agreement, the sounds of occasional shelling can still be heard in the distance in the morning http://youtu.be/0nqrour2VsE But, by noon the pullout had begun http://youtu.be/LKWWk8KH-w0 This is one of the checkpoints that were vacated http://youtu.be/Fbh0uQzS9tY Locals rally to celebrate their victory http://youtu.be/KzzGP6s33sg , http://youtu.be/eYuIEFnzEC8 Women took part http://youtu.be/N7qLtPlU5pU Local members of the FSA make an appearance http://youtu.be/rl9f68A9U1k Locals take back to the streets at night http://youtu.be/byBIXNO1hYU , http://youtu.be/3de9cMXL9lU With women taking part as well http://youtu.be/AyY5wrG5t_g Fireworks were involved http://youtu.be/IqAfOZsv8Ck This is a tour of some of the damaged homes, courtesy local members of the FSA http://youtu.be/uhjOu7k98kw

Kisweh (south): a mother grieves for her late son in front of AL monitors http://youtu.be/RLr5DPrwt2I Other women took part in a nearby rally http://youtu.be/_f4oOcy9DLQ

Qatana (south): A martyr http://youtu.be/VX_qpi0ZEXY


Damascus City: Old Mazzeh http://youtu.be/Y6WWhKeylTs , http://youtu.be/EisEr8-W6PQ Barzeh http://youtu.be/Lno7x2kvz9s , http://youtu.be/5yXnnwj7jnU Jobar http://youtu.be/oKT2BTES9Qo Loyalists storm Qaboun in the cover of dark http://youtu.be/yVYvUgSZzxA Still, locals rallied chanting “we won’t bow down” http://youtu.be/TnbZKYE_9xo

Homs City:



Baba Amr: A martyr http://youtu.be/dzMQ0ziFqQQ Another http://youtu.be/gFbrypX0KY8 A funeral http://youtu.be/R5KzLG2nKCw Impact of shelling in Cairo Street http://youtu.be/gfJoDDVUKCA Still, local women take to the streets http://youtu.be/HezxoxBjCAc followed by the men http://youtu.be/zglR-3wgTBU Locals come out again at night http://youtu.be/hi22-Z0V3_0

Al-Rifai A martyr http://youtu.be/ojWCyQvHPSo A body lies unapproachable in the street http://youtu.be/njJZif3e8Oo While tanks move freely http://youtu.be/hz30zvu7y7M

Karm Al-Zeitun comes under fire http://youtu.be/axFlij-S88I A funeral in Malaab comes under fire but mourners remain defiant http://youtu.be/MvxcOJQsK4Q

Bab Al-Sibaa: closed shops, mounds of garbage and snipers http://youtu.be/VN0i4USV_NA Some of the poorest inhabitants are forced to forage among the garage in search of anything edible or useful http://youtu.be/ZvHBHsqRV88

New defectors and new units http://youtu.be/q0Mscvb0mjM

Idlib:


The pounding of Khan Shaikhoon http://youtu.be/yQDV7B8da14 , http://youtu.be/j5RKfIEandQ Kafar Takhareem comes under fire including the local mosque http://youtu.be/UM_rmKBhiYw A car catches fire http://youtu.be/NvYRZg6yHpk Impact of shelling http://youtu.be/wJrNLV1JIfY

Ma’arrat Al-Nouman: funeral for a local activist http://youtu.be/-G7ZbcYlD88 A funeral http://youtu.be/jc-nah1L8IY Ghadfah A funeral http://youtu.be/o9Qav4ecnfM Firkaya A martyr http://youtu.be/vW9JjOhnDDk

In Kafroumah, local mock AL monitors http://youtu.be/qwx36gEUD9E


Aleppo City:

University students continue to lead the protest movement in the city, with this rally by the students at the College of Literature http://youtu.be/abBYXJn6nsQ

Aleppo Province:

The rural areas of Aleppo will probably become the next hotspot: Bayanoun http://youtu.be/ipXpcPOsT2w Anadan http://youtu.be/e6Zfbmcdlss Marei http://youtu.be/8c5BpZipBp4 Hayyan http://youtu.be/50rKZAzVKGY Atarib http://youtu.be/b1WVXxxsU9M