Monday, July 9, 2012

A Change To End All Change!

The International Community has long shifted its focus on Syria from supporting democratic transition to containing an impending “catastrophe,” to borrow Hillary Clinton’s term. But in both cases they remain unsure as to what needs to be done. That lingering uncertainty is exactly why catastrophe is fast becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Saturday July 08, 2012

Today’s Death toll:  60. The Breakdown: 14 in Damascus Suburbs, 12 in Homs, 10 In Daraa, 7 in Deir Ezzor, 6 in Hama, 6 in Idlib and 5 in Aleppo.

Many towns and cities across the country came under heavy pounding today, including:

Karak, Yadoudeh, Sheikh Miskeen, Ghabaghib, Bosra, Maarabha, Izraa, Mseifrah, Ghariyeh and Daraa City (Daraa Province), Deir Jammal, Eizaz, Hreitan and Anadan (Aleppo Province), Deir Ezzor City and Mayadeen (Deir Ezzor Province), Homs city, Houla, Rastan, Qusayr, Tal Kalakh and Talbisseh (Homs Province), Douma, Jisreen, Diyabiyeh Misraba and Madaya (Damascus Suburbs), Hama City and Sahel Al-Ghab (Hama Province), Khan Shaikhoon (Idlib Province).


Op-Eds & Special Reports

A Change to End All Change

The Scenario: A national unity government is agreed under the presidency of a Sunni figurehead. Assad is out, but rather than going to Russia, he goes to Lattakia where he is the undisputed leader of an ethnically cleansed Alawite-majority enclave, and still in charge from behind the scenes of manipulating the national army and security apparatuses which remain for years to come under Alawite control. Kurdish enclaves are granted autonomy, and the rest of the country is held together by a Sunni Arab-majority government. FSA groups are gradually reintegrated into the regular army.

This, it seems, is the current scenario being thrust upon us. There are myriad problems with this scenario, but the most important one is the fact that events on the ground are moving too fast for it. This scenario requires a lot of micromanagement, but no party, domestic, regional or international, is well-positioned or equipped to do it effectively. This is why Russia wants Iran to be on board, but even their combined efforts cannot stand the test of unfolding realities.

People need to get real on Syria.

Assad’s recent interview with Germany’s ARD TV provides us with few revealing gems that should help dispel some illusions, if only international leaders and experts are willing to listen.

On the infamous Houla Massacre

When asked directly about the killing of more than 100 civilians in the Syrian village of Houla in May, he blamed it on gangs who “came in hundreds from outside the city.”

This is the second time Assad has had a chance to tell us about the identity of the victims. But neither in his speech that took place after the massacre, nor in this interview did Assad claim that the victims of Houla were Alawites or recent converts to Shi’ism. As such, we must in all fairness dismiss such claims as blatantly false and stand by the initial reports and eyewitness accounts, supported by videos and satellite photography, that put the blame clearly on pro-Assad militias. The Massacre of Houla came as part of an ethnic cleansing campaign aimed at Sunni inhabitants in key locations that Assad and his supporters want to transform into an Alawite majority enclave as part of their Plan B in dealing with the current situation.  

Reform vs. Freedom

Assad said a “majority of the people ask for reforms, political reforms (but) not freedom.”

This particular pearl of wisdom should be quoted in each standard textbook on political science, political philosophy and psychology. This is exactly the kind of wisdom for which Assad should be remembered for eternity. That’s the sum total of his heritage.

On Stepping Down

He stressed that he still had the overall support of Syria’s people, firmly ruling out stepping down. “The president shouldn’t run away from challenge and we have a national challenge now in Syria,” he said.

There it is then: Assad has no plans to step down voluntarily, and the Russians want him to be part of the political transition process. What does that mean really? Political solution without military muscle will not be possible in Syria. It’s as simple and plain as that.

On dialogue

While he said he was ready for political dialogue with the opposition, Assad left no doubt that he would fight those his government perceives as terrorists. “But as long as you have terrorism and as long as the dialogue didn’t work, you have to fight the terrorism. You cannot keep just making dialogue while they are killing your people and your army,” he said.

The ethnic cleansing of Syria has already begun, warns Dall'Oglio. But he insists that it is a project of the Assad government, not an objective of the Sunni-led guerrilla forces that have inspired such misgivings among Christians and other Syrian minorities, including Assad's Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

"The regime is already acting in the logic of division of the country," says Dall'Oglio, citing rumors of contingency plans for an Alawite-run rump state carved from the Mediterranean shore to the Orontes River. "What do you do with most of the Sunni population? They have started to kill them, massively."

The emails were published back in March, 2012, but their subject is still pretty much relevant.

"After a couple hours of talking, they said without saying that SOF teams (presumably from US, UK, France, Jordan, Turkey) are already on the ground focused on recce [i.e. reconnaissance] missions and training opposition forces... They have been told to prepare contingencies and be ready to act within 2-3 months, but they still stress that this is all being done as contingency planning, not as a move toward escalation." They then discuss the option of an air campaign in Syria and what its objectives would be, saying the situation "makes Libya look like a piece of cake" because of the geography and Syria's robust air defenses. "The main base they would use is Cyprus, hands down. Brits and French would fly out of there. They kept stressing how much is stored at Cyprus and how much recce comes out of there... There still seems to be a lot of confusion over what a military intervention involving an air campaign would be designed to achieve."

"He says there are in Syria about 3,000 IRGC men and 2,000 HZ fighters, in addition to 300 Amal Movement men [i.e. Lebanese Resistance Detachments] and 200 [Syrian National Socialist Party] militiamen. The IRGC men are leading the pro-regime armed gangs. Syrian soldiers who refuse to open fire on protesters are killed by the Iranians and pro-Syrian Lebanese allies. The Iranians and Lebanese usually stand behind Syrian troops and kill Syrian soldiers immediately if they refuse to open fire. The 17 Syrian troops dumped in the Orontes River in Hama were killed by HZ men."

The former director of the security firm Blackwater aided the Libyan opposition and was subsequently sent to contact Syrian rebels in Turkey at the request of a U.S. Government committee, according to published Stratfor emails and reported by Al-Akhbar English.

Video Highlights

This leaked video from a defector shows the aftermath of an attack that he filmed before defecting. It was an attack by a local resistance unit on a pro-Assad military facility that left 48 loyalists dead. The attack is said to have taken place on June 28 in Iz Ma’areen Village in Hama Province  

Local resistance groups in the town of Anadan, Aleppo Province, take possession of a cannon that was used by pro-Assad militias in pounding their town

In Hreitan, Aleppo Province, an Islamic local resistance group clash with invading pro-Assad columns

In Deir Jammal, Aleppo Province, tanks and helicopter gunships take part in the pounding.

Helicopter gunships take part in pounding Eizaz, Aleppo Province

The sounds of nighttime clashes in Abassid Square in downtown Damascus City

The pounding of Homs City continues , So does the pounding of Houla and Talbisseh the pounding was aimed at stopping this funeral for a local martyr

In Daraa, the pounding of Maaraba by helicopter gunships continue ,

Different neighborhoods and suburbs in Daraa City also comes under pounding, leaving many houses on fire

The Damascene suburb of Madaya comes under pounding , ,