Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Fault Lines!

While developments in Damascus City are certainly important, it’s the intensification of the shelling of Hama and Homs cities that tells the real story – the story of an ethnic cleansing campaign getting put on hyperdrive. Assad needs to establish full control over Homs Province and the Sahel Al-Ghab Region, and that requires destabilizing all surrounding areas. Assad is burning the country to the ground except for the little subservient enclave he’s building for himself. Now it’s Damascus’ turn to burn.

Monday July 16, 2012

Today’s Death toll: 97. The Breakdown: 30 in Hama, 21 in Homs,13 in Aleppo,15 in Damascus (11 in city, and 4 in Suburbs), 8 in Daraa, 7 in Deir Ezzor and 3 in Idlib.

Reports from the FSA clam that over 60 pro-Assad militias have been killed in the outgoing clashes in the Midan District. But District and surrounding neighborhoods of Naher Eisheh, Al-Zahirah, Daf Al-Shawk, Al-Tadamon and Al-Yarmouk have been cordoned and surrounded by tanks and armored vehicles.

61 mid- to high level officers have reportedly defected over the last 10 days, including the man in charge of Syria’s WMD program, Brigadier General Adnan Salow, the Syrian Ambassador in Belarus, Farouq Taha and the head of the political security branch in Damascus, Abdurrahman Al-Tahtouh. Today reports emerged asserting that the infamous Rustom Al-Ghazaleh, head of the political security branch in Suburban Damascus and one of the main figures accused in the assassination of former Lebanese PM, Rafic Al-Hariri, has also defected to Amman. But what Syrian activists based in Amman can only confirm the defection of Rustom’s brother-in-law, Yassin Al-Ghazaleh.

The International Airport of Damascus was reportedly closed to incoming and outgoing traffic today, due to the worsening security situation in Damascus. According to a late LCCs report, Al-Qaboun suburb was shelled by a helicopter gunship.

In the refugee camp of Kilis, Turkish authorities used tear gas and batons to break up a rally organized by Syrian refugees to protest their deteriorating living conditions. Dozens have reportedly suffered from various injuries and are in need of medical treatment.


Russian ship with helicopters bound for Syria turns back A Russian ship that tried to supply attack helicopters to Syria last month before being forced back was on Sunday sighted sailing back home after unexpectedly starting a new voyage.

Syria: Assad regime 'ready to use chemical weapons' The most senior Syrian politician to defect to the opposition has told the BBC the regime will not hesitate to use chemical weapons if it is cornered.

Op-Eds & Special Reports
Syria crisis: border tribes could finish off Assad regime The Red Cross's declaration that Syria is in a state of civil war is an important milestone as government control starts to weaken

Syria rebels seek weapons, money on Turkish border Some fighters make their own weapons as prices have skyrocketed. The only well-stocked militias are those affiliated with Islamist factions.

Aside from a brief foray into town in late December, the army has yet to attempt to occupy Yabrud. “They came here for a few days, but then they simply left. There was no significant battle,” said Abu Mohammed, an anti-government activist who asked that his full name not be used. The result is an oasis of calm amid a conflict that the International Committee of the Red Cross formally declared a civil war on Sunday…

The Other Side of Syria's Civil War Death comes for Bashar al-Assad's soldiers, too.

Obama Lets the U.N. Tie His Hands on Syria So why didn't the president feel obliged to seek Security Council authority for drone strikes against al Qaeda?

On Syria, who might give first – Russia or the West? The West says that any extension of the UN mandate for monitors in Syria must have teeth. But Russia is categorically rejecting any resolution that foresees enforcement of punitive measures.

Confessions of an Assad 'Shabiha' loyalist: how I raped and killed for £300 a month Ruth Sherlock hears a chilling confession from a member of the pro-Assad 'Shabiha' militia, likely soon to meet his death.

'They kill . . . because if they don't kill us they think we will kill them' Though hundreds have defected from the Syrian Army, Milah thinks many continue out of fear. “Now, they kill the people because if they don’t kill us they think we will kill them.”

Deadly Uncertainty: The Reason Syria's Chemical Weapons Are So Dangerous Best-case scenarios for Syria's chemical weapons appear to be pipe dreams: Assad is highly unlikely to willingly leave power willingly and allow a negotiated transition; and his downfall isn't likely to come from a clean overthrow by the rebels, either. Assad's hold on power inadvertently prevents the need for a rapid response to contain the massive stockpile chemical weapons--but Washington must develop a long-term plan if its policy is truly for the strongman to leave power.

The Russian foreign minister claims the West is threatening not to renew a UN observer mission in Syria if Russia doesn't vote for a resolution that could lead to military intervention… "There is a red line that Russia will not cross, and that is authorizing any forceful intervention in Syria from outside," says Lukyanov. "No amount of turmoil, no terrible atrocities, nothing will convince Russia to vote for a Libya-style operation against Syria. It looks bad, but Russia is convinced that after the fall of Assad it will only be much worse."

To Lukyanov and others, let me be clear in stating that the situation in Syria will most certainly grow worse after Assad’s departure, but maneuvering through the post-Assad mayhem is the price that we will gladly pay in order to get out from under his stinking mantle. My advice to Putin and his officials is to invent a time machine and use it to go back and serve under the Czar and his ministers, so that their beloved Anastasia won’t have to scream in vain. For some people are more interested in glory, power and stature than they are in freedom: usually they are the ones who don’t have to suffer the indignities of serfdom. 

Recent defector confirms assertions that I have repeatedly made on this blog regarding the real party responsible for the car bombings in Syria: the Assads. Of course, recent events also indicate that local resistance groups have finally adopted this tactic but only in targeting loyalist checkpoints and not during in-city operations where civilian casualties can take place.

Exclusive interview: why I defected from Bashar al-Assad's regime, by former diplomat Nawaf Fares Jihadi units that Mr. Fares himself had helped Damascus send to fight US troops in neighbouring Iraq were involved in the string of deadly suicide bomb attacks in Syria

The Situation in Damascus

The pounding of Tadamon neighborhood in Damascus City forced hundreds of residents to leave to go stay with family and friends in the nearby Yarmouk Camp http://youtu.be/LtlyrlEhKDQ , http://youtu.be/BgzYmbZTB9M as members of the local resistance provide them with protection http://youtu.be/2Xfa4sNn1qE UNRWA has reportedly opened schools to receive refugees. Many shops and homes were burned http://youtu.be/1yXFyOauR9U , http://youtu.be/SEpNfRwk8lk , http://youtu.be/dvMistd7vmU A child among the dead http://youtu.be/LE5a7IBP7EY

The population of Tadamon is a mix of Palestinian refugees who originally hailed from Yarmouk Camp and old Damascene families who were forced by worsening socioeconomic conditions to relocate to the suburbs, from such districts as Midan and Kafar Sousseh.

The mourning started with clashes in the district of Kafar Souseh http://youtu.be/CrkFrlDDM_o , http://youtu.be/5OqSCXYDw8s Then Tadamon was pounded again http://youtu.be/LL1lOfTPaFU before the action shifted to the Midan District http://youtu.be/fvQolHMjREQ

Daytime clashes in Midan District http://youtu.be/dlNmxe6s878 , http://youtu.be/8F-TmozzW6U , http://youtu.be/La6g8dI1m2w , http://youtu.be/IelK3DEgDHg leave many dead and injured http://youtu.be/Cs3m_Y9_TVM But the local resistance group were able to inflict some casualties of their own. Some reports estimate that 60 pro-Assad militiamen were killed. A few died in this burnt out car http://youtu.be/9jAEuNi4dS0 A tanks heads towards Midan http://youtu.be/34yBA14hEgw Plumes of black smoke rise above the neighborhoods http://youtu.be/sDSsIQMWdYs Hoisting the Revolution’s flag on a local water tower http://youtu.be/J6ToZwIdTcw Few of the martyrs http://youtu.be/JudRsQn2E_0 , http://youtu.be/xWpcSehYYp0

Clashes took place in nearby Al-Qadam http://youtu.be/UjmfXfhNCos and Daf Al-Shawk http://youtu.be/nha0dUaucBg , http://youtu.be/7rDckbprbsc A car catches fire under pounding http://youtu.be/OtSycLijz_w And the clashes continue into the night http://youtu.be/Fwkp6MuW9w4 Al-Qaboun witnessed some daytime clashes as well http://youtu.be/Vvut3LJb1B0 then more intense nighttime battles http://youtu.be/aEOEgTIXvJY , http://youtu.be/e6-m7WzbDrY , http://youtu.be/wAYlA1BwVjY

In Naher Eisheh, local activists interrupted the flow of traffic on the international highway connecting Damascus and Amman by burning tires and staging a sit-down http://youtu.be/Bob-KBvWtQ4 , http://youtu.be/hfnZYRrWv7k , http://youtu.be/7feH8pOj8BY Soon after, the neighborhood comes under fire from pro-Assad militias http://youtu.be/HhWFod3YKGQ The independence flag is hoisted, but the neighborhood gets pounded http://youtu.be/ZHSbeqPBtHw , http://youtu.be/jauOYb2UiAY The armored cars come in http://youtu.be/Bd1r4fVPCc0 One of the activist is killed after getting shot in the face http://youtu.be/QTblOcRn5rc Another martyr, originally from Haffeh District in Lattakia http://youtu.be/4QSESdzmR-Y More martyrs http://youtu.be/P-pxGoQBT0s , http://youtu.be/UCh4RUEMCB4

In Khalid Bin Al-Walid Street, local activists interrupt traffic with burning tires http://youtu.be/xEncSlRh2f4 And in Al-Hajar Al-Aswad http://youtu.be/GslmfZ8KSpU

At night, helicopter gunships overfly the restive neighborhoods and shoot at the people below: Jobar http://youtu.be/Su2TeREPO-I And the many of many neighborhoods in the Midan District come under fire http://youtu.be/DIOLfXuujDw At night, tanks and loyalist militias lay siege to Midan http://youtu.be/DqmnIgPLLpQ

To the northwest of Midan, in the majority-Kurd neighborhood of Ruknaddine, nighttime protesters come under fire http://youtu.be/QvZkpnq-f0U

Clashes also took place in Al-Qadam Neighborhood http://youtu.be/yI7ei1rR6CA , http://youtu.be/-aZYo_T9e-E , http://youtu.be/Ttfb_N4B5CA and Mazzeh http://youtu.be/7C0XVxx6s2k During the lull times, activists in Al-Qadam find a safe place to hold a defiant rally http://youtu.be/iOTDLC4wI-Q

In Kisweh Suburb, clashes take place at night http://youtu.be/CZAQp5M3xoM , http://youtu.be/iO-xceyxB0s Clashes also took place in Al-Hameh http://youtu.be/_37xmG1jB6k

Other Video Highlight

Daraa City comes under shelling at night http://youtu.be/Ti5oMvYILJc , http://youtu.be/m9mRx4OYMNU , http://youtu.be/WeWdAM3oszo In nearby Sheikh Miskeen, locals uncover a mass grave http://youtu.be/vSRWa9n6m0I , http://youtu.be/n4DahCgo0cw , http://youtu.be/nFTQRwVCs4I , http://youtu.be/7IK5h-maX7Q Burning the crops in Tal Shihab http://youtu.be/i9NMtNDaijk

In Hama City, Hamidiyeh Neighborhood is shelled http://youtu.be/kYbT3iUwIFM , http://youtu.be/xtrBLo2VT4E , http://youtu.be/GpZcOJgjtGk , http://youtu.be/nYrdPydHZQI , http://youtu.be/bRh83oV3jRQ , http://youtu.be/G_pwTdEakaY , http://youtu.be/0F2TxyeniaM Close-up of the loyalist troops taking part in the pounding http://youtu.be/7tsB18UPoLQ And there were wounded http://youtu.be/Hs49j5_6fyc And Aleppo Road came under intense pounding as well http://youtu.be/nL8fJhr4cYk , http://youtu.be/eECm8xKdeOo , http://youtu.be/pqJ44QQfGxU As pro-Assad militias carry out their patrols http://youtu.be/ZWV_3Ss1qII Al-Jib Neighborhood was also pounded http://youtu.be/O1JSGyw_ekc Tanks take part in the pounding http://youtu.be/-okdPAvfNlg The pounding of Arba’een Neighborhood http://youtu.be/SV4MoVekVrU , http://youtu.be/ef7bscvLlho , http://youtu.be/wvDanldesok, On July 14 pro-Assad militias detonated a car bomb in Al-Karaeh Neighborhood http://youtu.be/6lS4F_qoVTE

In Aleppo, local resistance groups in Eizaz repel an attempted incursion by pro-Assad militias http://youtu.be/C3YiEFY8veA Clashes http://youtu.be/Y07SpYxgNqA the town gets pounded http://youtu.be/yDSl84HDb_M , http://youtu.be/r90xlgyOjv4 , http://youtu.be/4KSZGmkR2J0 But the local resistance managed to inflict some casualties, destroying some tanks and transport vehicles at the outskirts of the town http://youtu.be/JJOJf812_6c A helicopter gunship takes part in the pounding http://youtu.be/OlLzUXKWIUc

Meanwhile, the town of Bayanoun was pounded http://youtu.be/fHA8YCYtaCg and the town of Al-Atareb (day) http://youtu.be/DCWnFqTU1XU (night) http://youtu.be/xJNvE9FXG-4 The pounding in Bshantrah leaves many injured http://youtu.be/dyCH2Leugvw , http://youtu.be/I1BZ6L_1BOo

In Idlib Province, the pounding of the town of Salqeen continues http://youtu.be/agid9M69FXs , http://youtu.be/u3x1UlXfMQQ A local martyr http://youtu.be/EAhQ78B0K9o  

The pounding of Deir Ezzor City continues http://youtu.be/UDQb2Ym4J2o , http://youtu.be/nfO7cmTMALU , http://youtu.be/ZB2gMKnzRF8 The pounding of the Old Airport Neighborhood http://youtu.be/xW0OJNP_khg

Pro-Assad militias keep starting fires in the forest surrounding restive villages in Lattakia Province http://youtu.be/XOvxMTY9VD8

Anonymous goes to War against Assad http://youtu.be/aU2OWAxbJoQ

The Kurdish Question

While most of Syria burns, Kurdish regions in Syria, especially in Al-Hassakeh Province, are dancing to their own unique tune. A recent agreement between the PYD and KNC ensures signed in Irbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, dubbed as the Hawler Accord, after the Kurdish name for Irbil, has finally agreed a mechanism for power sharing in Kurdish majority towns between the two major coalitions: the Kurdish National Council, made up of a number of Kurdish parties, and the People’s Council of Western Kurdistan (PCWK) affiliated with the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdish Labor Party (PKK). Other Kurdish parties and political movements that remain outside the scope of these two major coalitions, such as the Future Current, established by the late Mishaal Tammo, assassinated early in the Revolution, and a variety of youth movements are expected to play along.

In the meantime, a local military force is being established http://youtu.be/4ZgTXuxtD2g

As such, the Kurdish strategy at this stage is clear: to further consolidate their hold on their regions to strengthen their recently gained autonomy. While these changing priorities are not likely to impact the level of Kurdish youth participation in the revolutionary movements in Damascus and Aleppo cities, among other places (Homs, Lattakia), they do rule out the possibility of extending the revolutionary spirit to Kurdish-majority areas where rallies will increasingly focus on showing solidarity from a distance. Barring a major change in dynamic between Arab and Kurdish opposition groups, especially the Syrian National Council and the two main Kurdish groups, the Kurds will not be a factor in future confrontations with the Assad regime.

Still, there is a potential conflict brewing in Kurdish areas, albeit, its dynamics will be quite different from what’s taking place elsewhere in Syria. The new conflict could either pit Kurd against Kurd, should the power sharing arrangement fail, as many expect it to – after all, it is the second such arrangement to be reached in the last few weeks, the first one collapsed amidst a series of kidnapping, beatings, and assassinations, blamed mostly on PYD. Or Kurds cold find themselves in conflict with local Arab tribes who are not too enthusiastic about the prospects of becoming a minority in an autonomous Kurdish-majority enclave. This applies especially to those Arab clans known as Arab Al-Ghamar, or the Flood Arabs, who were introduced into the area by Baath officials since the late 1960s and early ‘70s as part of an Arabization campaign. Many Kurds would want to see these particular Arab clans leave their areas. The problem is that these Arabs have no place to go back to, their original lands having been submerged under the waters of the Euphrates when the Assad regime built the Tabqa Dam (1968-73). 

The minority Assyrian, Chaldean, and Armenian communities find themselves caught in between, but are more likely try to work out an arrangement with the more secular leaning Kurds, than they are with Arab tribes.