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.
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."
Another profile of Father Paolo: Italian priest created an interfaith refuge in Syria
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 http://youtu.be/5qwhIpUeT2o
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 http://youtu.be/embeLcpC4Os
In Hreitan, Aleppo Province, an Islamic local resistance group clash with invading pro-Assad columns http://youtu.be/PWUwt5Yg85Y
In Deir Jammal, Aleppo Province, tanks http://youtu.be/Tc5j-CVdmEc and helicopter gunships http://youtu.be/ASaLyYYtpUI take part in the pounding.
Helicopter gunships take part in pounding Eizaz, Aleppo Province http://youtu.be/Kju-Q5s4ZOQ
The sounds of nighttime clashes in Abassid Square in downtown Damascus City http://youtu.be/9v5GCPNBdvs
The pounding of Homs City continues http://youtu.be/Oy2l10Zodjw , http://youtu.be/HxTwXPl6DT8 So does the pounding of Houla http://youtu.be/TYTzchb4iAY and Talbisseh http://youtu.be/yc1nWGLvteY the pounding was aimed at stopping this funeral for a local martyr http://youtu.be/fCrDajbo2NQ
In Daraa, the pounding of Maaraba by helicopter gunships continue http://youtu.be/_IgUp4s0MX0 , http://youtu.be/_IgUp4s0MX0
Different neighborhoods and suburbs in Daraa City also comes under pounding, leaving many houses on fire http://youtu.be/6l4_EdmKz-s
The Damascene suburb of Madaya comes under pounding http://youtu.be/eCxIa5CRTsY , http://youtu.be/2ZkKACaVv5c , http://youtu.be/BQN0PQnRma0