Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A New Middle Eastern WMD Saga!

Damascus City is officially the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. An assault on Damascus is an assault on history. Indeed, it’s part of our collective memory and consciousness that is being pounded to the ground as we watch and throw our hands in the air.

Monday July 23, 2012

Today’s Death toll: 175. The Breakdown: 90 in Damascus and Suburbs, 25 in Daraa, 15 in Aleppo, 15 in Idlib, 10 in Deir Ezzor, 9 in Homs, 7 in Hama, 3 in Lattakia, and 1 in Raqqah.

Cities & Towns Under Shelling: Harasta, Arbeen, Moadamiyah, Haran Al-Awameed, Zabadani, Madaya, Eltal, Dmeir, Hameh, Yelda, Rankous, Qarrah (Damascus Suburbs), Sit Zeinab, Al-Qadam, Modan, Al-Hajar Al-Aswad, Yarmouk, Kafar Sousseh, Mazzeh, Qaboun, Barzeh (Damascus City), Daraa City, Khirbet Al-Ghazaleh, Tafas, Bostra Al-Sham, Na’eemah, Mseifrah, Jimreen, Hraak (Daraa), Rastan, Talbisseh, Houla, Tal Kalakh, Al-Qusayr, Al-Hosn, Al-Ghanto, Al-Bouaydah, Old Homs (Homs Province), Hreitan, Elbab, Eizaz, Marei, Bayanoun (Aleppo Province), Haffeh, Jabal Al-Akrad (Lattakia), Deir Ezzor City, Mouhassan, Albou Kamal (Deir Ezzor Province), Kafar Zeiteh, Hawash, Shahshabo, Hama City (Hama Province), Jabal Al-Zawiyeh, Maar’at Al-Nouman, Saraqib, Maar Shoureen (Idlib)


Senior Israeli official: Syria regime 'acting responsibly' about chemical weapons Assad has been moving some of the chemical stockpiles to bases remote from the fighting or having greater security, the source added.

Mortar shell from Syria lands near Israeli border In second incident this week, a mortar shell lands close to border in northern Golan Heights; IDF: It is the result of fighting between Syrian army and rebels.

Op-Eds & Special Reports

Will Syria use chemical weapons against foreigners? The past week of fighting in Syria has escalated international pressure on President Bashar al-Assad. Syrian officials now say they won't use their biological and chemical weapons 'unless Syria faces external aggression.'

As Syria Teeters, So Do Decades-Old Assumptions About the Middle East The conflict is testing the brittle bonds of a national identity in states carved out of old Ottoman provinces at the end of World War I.

Analysis: The myth of Palestinian neutrality in Syria It is both painfully ironic and incredibly moving that Yarmouk, built to host ethnically cleansed Palestinians, has now turned into a safe haven for Syrians fleeing the shelling on Tadamon and Midan; that UNRWA schools became shelters in the last few days; and that Palestinian residents of the camp have donated mattresses, meals and medicine for their wounded Syrian neighbors. These acts of solidarity have been beacons of inspiration amid the endless cycle of violence and grief that has descended upon Syria.

Analysis: Syrian Civil War Enters New Phase The rebels are winning. But the latest events do not yet herald the beginning of the regime’s last stand. That moment has not yet arrived. When it does, it may well not take place in Damascus.

In Syria conflict, U.S. struggles to fill intelligence gaps With no CIA operatives on the ground in Syria and only a handful stationed at key border posts, the agency has been heavily dependent on its counterparts in Jordan and Turkey and on other regional allies.

Is Syria’s Bashar Assad Going the Way of Muammar Gaddafi? As his regime slowly crumbles and options for exile and reconciliation narrow, Syria's embattled President Bashar Assad looks likely to cling grimly on to power, no matter the consequences.

The Saga

Not too long ago, the Wall Street Journal published a report including leaks from the American officials to the effect that Assad has moved part of his WMD stockpiles from Damascus in the direction of Homs. Today, we got confirmation from the regime itself that the regime does indeed have WMD stockpiles and that it would them in case it is attacked by a foreign power. Considering the fact that the rebels are considered to be foreign agents working for external powers, the assertion made that WMDs will not be used against the people rang hollow.

But the whole situation becomes even more Kafkaesque when we take in consideration that Iraq was invaded for suspicion of having WMDs, and here we have a neighboring regime openly boasting of its WMD capacity and threatening to use it. Yet all that President would say about this is that “the world is watching!” But that’s exactly what the world has been doing since the beginning of the revolution, and what difference did that make so far? How exactly did that impact the behavior of Assad ad his militias? If the world is not planning to act, who gives the damn that it’s watching. After all, we are not putting on a show for its amusement.  

But the plot thickened even more today.

According to Israeli officials, Assad has moved stockpiles of WMDs to more “secure areas” for safekeeping. The only secure areas today are located along the coast and in the coastal mountains where WMDs’ presence could also serve to secure the enclave for Assad when push comes to shove.

There were reports circulated by Kurdish activists not too long ago through Facebook claiming that Assad moved some of his stockpiles as well to the Kurdish-majority town of Qamishly in the northeast. The town has recently fallen under the control of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian branch of the PKK. If these reports were true, then Turkey’s worst enemies might be about to get their hands on stockpiles of chemical weapons. Personally, however, I seriously doubt that these reports are true. It does not make sense for Assad to move any WMDs to a region where his control has become tenuous from day one in the revolution. The logical place for WMDs at this stage is the coast and the surrounding mountains.  

But the move by Bashar Al-Assad may not have come soon enough, if we are to believe these sensational claims made by Captain Maher Al-Nouaimai, the official spokesman of the Free Syrian Army. For in an interview with the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan, Al-Nouaimi says that the Damascus rebels have recently captured missiles from a base on Mount Qasayoun that are actually loaded with WMDs. He also said that the rebels now have 15 helicopter gunships under their disposal after their original pilots defected and joined the rebels.

It’s difficult to dismiss these reports offhand, since they are made by the official spokesman for the FSA, but it’s reasonable to demand and expect proof, perhaps in the form of a video.

Meanwhile, irrespective of whether these reports are true or false, the regime can now use WMDs and blame it on the rebels.

Video Highlights

A massacre in the Damascene suburb of Daraya resulting from the continued shelling http://youtu.be/sxKrqpnG2tw In nearby Moadamiyah, local activists found dead bodies that seem to have been intentionally set on fire http://youtu.be/-Hh3X_nIVm8 In Al-Hameh, people prepare the victims of another massacre for burial http://youtu.be/sYU4WjOpSVo Another massacre takes place in Dmeir http://youtu.be/gG1sDh068O4 In Kafar Sousseh, another massacre (July 22) http://youtu.be/2FCM9khKCdk

The pounding of Zabadani continues by night http://youtu.be/LYdfg3SLyjo and during the day http://youtu.be/kvfX9vTcgYk , http://youtu.be/w4JxRfcpxUI

Local activists take control of the political security apparatus in the Damascene suburb of Harasta http://youtu.be/e_9oGjMIDWE

The nearby suburb of Saqba is being patrolled by pro-Assad militias in their tanks http://youtu.be/QlWTWcRslW8 , http://youtu.be/2wW0XQVNuPI

In Damascus City, the pounding of the old Cactus Groves in Mazzeh Bassateen continues http://youtu.be/SrtrRa5sN7U The nearby neighborhood of Ikhlas was completely destroyed, the building under construction we can see behind it is the new Iranian Embassy  http://youtu.be/NokdFN3fWAU , http://youtu.be/0VTxvkUoK_w , http://youtu.be/YfWQ-RTvsoU

The pounding of Al-Qadam Neighborhood continues http://youtu.be/KSlUzoqnaeI Scenes of havoc and destruction from Qaboun http://youtu.be/IjlIHl__1VQ

Tanks and buses belonging to pro-Assad militias patrol the neighborhood of Naher Eisheh in Damascus City http://youtu.be/apyDUARFtTU , http://youtu.be/NB_iDJerYC4 The neighborhood was pounded by helicopter gunships a day earlier http://youtu.be/hE1dxML_-D8

An internal interview with Abou Joum’ah, the leader of Al-Tawhid Brigade in Aleppo Province, whose members are taking part in the battles of Aleppo city as well. The interview took place on July 18. http://youtu.be/8kPf37O1MnQ Abou Joum’ah vows to close down the embassies of Iran, Russia and China and to sever all relations with these countries once Syria is liberated. Other leaders pledge to liberate Aleppo. 

In Aleppo City, pro-Assad militias are busy targeting and killing activists. This is one from the neighborhood of Marjeh http://youtu.be/ormPw7P1fgw Elsewhere in Aleppo City, a video leaked by activists from inside the central prison shows imprisoned activists receiving treatment for wounds received during clashes with prison authorities http://youtu.be/Ccx_lJ-gQVk Eight activists were reported dead.

In Sakhour Neighborhood, clashes between FSA units and pro-Assad militias left two tanks destroyed http://youtu.be/Ig0XI43quZ4 , http://youtu.be/2wW0XQVNuPI One tank was confiscated http://youtu.be/T7TB9TM6xGE In Hanano, clashes http://youtu.be/FSalyGIq-sA , http://youtu.be/537fYojHnVg left one tank destroyed http://youtu.be/DqbOJtkM8oQ , http://youtu.be/Wb7uMdHFfAI Residents stream out of the neighborhood http://youtu.be/aoikwVgvKhE

In Salaheddine Neighborhood, local activists clean their streets to make up for the interruption of services http://youtu.be/ndHZ5Y6kCuA Elsewhere in the neighborhood, pro-Assad militias engage in random shooting to terrorize the residents http://youtu.be/lGFLdikTR5o

In Jabal Al-Akrad, Lattakia, fires from the pounding carried out by pro-Assad militias keep burning http://youtu.be/1vAWUAh9KaA

In Homs Province, the pounding of Talbisseh continues http://youtu.be/K7ybLBnn7RI So does the pounding of Rastan http://youtu.be/OM8NQ7OPGks The pounding of Old Homs as well http://youtu.be/MbM-zn0nY4c , http://youtu.be/mDPnonnTFYI , http://youtu.be/WXTEH91s4zg

The pounding of Hawash, Sahel Al-Ghab, Hama Province, continues http://youtu.be/4RCFcg0DyDg , http://youtu.be/IsIYPOXU9hY

Daraa City, among other towns in Daraa Province, continue to be pounded http://youtu.be/YeBvSkuxf8Y , http://youtu.be/3ZPZs6AcrEk Homes catch fire http://youtu.be/IfsKAc6GPXw Nearby Al-Hraak was pounded as well http://youtu.be/-Eeovd1FSqs , http://youtu.be/hmDufsKHwuE