Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Battle for Aleppo!

By focusing on the Center, Assad has run the risk of losing the Periphery and it’s happening faster than anyone had thought. Now the rebels are moving to take Aleppo City, and they are organized. Soon the Center itself will not be able to hold. Yeats predicts the rest.

Saturday July 21, 2012

Today’s Death toll:  140. The Breakdown: The toll includes 18 defectors, 11 children and 6 women. 35 in Homs, 31 in Damascus City and Suburbs, 22 in Idlib, 18 in Aleppo, 13 in Daraa, 11 in Deir Ezzor, 8 in Hama, 1 in Hassakeh and 1 in Lattakia.

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, 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)

Rebel groups in the north are moving in to take Aleppo City, having established their control over the most of the rural and suburban areas. Kurdish groups have established their control over their own areas. After seizing most of the border checkpoints with Turkey and Iraq, rebel groups launched attacks on the international airports of both Damascus and Aleppo. Assad continues to withdraw more forces from Daraa province to help with the battles in Damascus.


Op-Eds & Special Reports

Syria rebels' gains in Damascus surprise even them The uprising enters a crucial phase as the rebels face the challenge of trying to seize the capital despite a shortage of weapons and lack of unity among themselves… Echoing the sentiments of the more cautious activists and observers, Ammar Abdulhamid, a U.S. based-Syrian human rights activist and fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote in one of his daily roundup emails last week, "Something is definitely looming in Syria, but it's not end game. It's more like the end of Round One."

The Syrian Endgame There are no guarantees. But in almost every scenario, the violence will persist.

A sequel to a nightmare for Iraqi refugees living in Syria For some Iraqi refugees living in Syria, it feels like a sequel to a nightmare. Tens of thousands of Iraqis fled to Syria during the brutal sectarian war that followed the U.S.-led ouster of Saddam Hussein.

As Chaos Grows in Syria, Worries Grow on the Sidelines The fall of the Assad government would remove Shiite Iran’s last and most valued foothold in the Arab world, and its opening to the Mediterranean. It would give Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states their long-sought goal of countering Iranian influence in the region, finally splitting the alliance between Tehran and Damascus that has lasted for decades. And it would further erode Iran’s role as a patron of the Middle East’s revolutionaries, a goal that moderate Arabs and the United States have long sought.

US must work 'outside UN' to aid Syrian rebels Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations think tank and an experienced former US diplomat, said failure to agree a UN resolution does not preclude Western nations from pushing for Assad's exit through other means… "The United States and other like-minded governments should not equate the United Nations with multilateralism, nor should they see the UN as having a monopoly on legitimacy," Haass, who succeeded George Mitchell as the US special envoy for Northern Ireland, wrote in an article on the think tank's website.

Syria endgame: who and what will emerge from the ruins? Bashar al-Assad is finished – that is a given. But 40 years under a corrupt regime that ruled by fear has left a dangerous vacuum

Damascus chaos strikes fear in Assad’s Alawite bastion It remains unclear if the fear that has eclipsed the mood of defiant confidence in Tartous will last or be a passing panic. But more and more cars with Damascus plates are arriving, and Alawites from the shaken capital say the message is clear. “The (bomb attack) was a strike to the core. If they were able to get to the inner circle, what else is there?”

The battle for Syria is a battle for the entire Middle East If Assad falls, the area will lose a brutal dictator and Iran a pivotal ally. It could mark the end of an entire political culture

Robert Fisk: Sectarianism bites into Syria's rebels The deathwish of fighters in Damascus terrifies many who oppose Assad

Digital Globe image purports to show Damascus rubble from battles and smoke rising from a building on the feeder exchange. (AP)

Situation in the Kurdish Regions

After largely sitting on the sidelines of the Syrian revolution, political groups from Syria's Kurdish minority in the northeastern region appear to have moved decisively to claim control of several Kurdish-populated towns.

The Kurdish Coordination Committee, an opposition group, said the towns of Amouda and Qobani are under the control of a group called the Free Kurdish Army. Opposition groups told Syrian officials and security forces to withdraw from the town.

The towns are near the Turkish border. The Free Kurdish Army, formed from the political Democratic Union Party, has historic links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

The PKK, regarded as a terrorist organization by Turkey and the United States, has been fighting the Turkish government for Kurdish autonomy. There was no immediate comment from Turkey about the development. Turkey has been critical of the al-Assad regime and is hosting Syrian opposition groups and sheltering thousands of Syrian refugees.

Rebels are working to wrest control of Qamishli, the largest of the Kurdish cities, from the government. Clashes between Free Syrian Army rebels and regime forces were taking place near the city's Central Prison, the LCC said.

The Kurdish Coordination Committee reported fighting between Kurdish rebels and security forces in Malikiye, located east of Qamishli across from the Turkish border city of Cizre.

The moves described above come on the heels of an agreement reached between PYD (or the Democratic Union Party) and the KNC (the Kurdish National Council) recently reached in Irbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, under the patronage of Mesud Barazani, President of Iraqi Kurdistan. Considering the close ties between President Barzani and the Turkish PM, it seems that this move reflects a Turkish policy of encouraging the establishment of a Kurdish buffer zone to shield Turkey from any future instability in Syria along the long border that separates the two countries.

Turkey will still to deal with parts of its borders in the northwest, where Sunni Arabs make up the majority. Turkey also need to deal with the increasing competitions over control of Haffeh and Jabal Al-Akrad districts in Lattakia province, where Kurds, Turkmen, Sunni Arabs and Alawites are vying for control.

Still, if the Kurdish parties managed to reach compromises with the local Arab tribes, including those who were forced to move into their territories as a result of Baath Party’s Arabization policies of the late 1960s and ‘70s, then the move highlighted above would indeed be quite positive as it will ensure the rapid stabilization of certain regions in Syria, ad might inspire similar pragmatism elsewhere.

Ferry Biedermann, who covered Syria between 1999 and 2010 as a correspondent for The Financial Times, gets it right:

…the question is what the right prism might be through which to see the Syrian situation. Since the outbreak of the civil unrest, many new narratives have sprung up: the opposition is dominated/infiltrated/co-opted by Al Qaeda and other fundamentalists; Saudi Arabia and its allies are stoking the unrest; the regime is being propped up by Iran; the only alternative to the Assads is chaos and the slaughter of minorities, etc.

There may be grains of truth in some or all of the above statements but they do not represent a fundamental narrative of what has been, and is now, happening in Syria. That is, simply put, that a sectarian minority of the population has been ruling the country for almost half a century, empowered by its strong, post-colonial position in the armed forces. It has co-opted some in the majority but that support is now crumbling with each new massacre. It has also co-opted other minorities by playing on, often justifiable, fears of marginalisation. The ruthless way it has ruled and the nature of the traditional opposition, often Sunni sectarian and Muslim fundamentalist, make compromise unlikely.

Oversimplified and schematic though this narrative may be, it offers the advantage of clarity and pointing a way forward. Rather than count on the regime and its inner circle to give up, international efforts should be aimed at ensuring that Syria's revolution does not become the zero-sum game that politics and power in the region so often end up as.

Minorities, notably Alawites and Christians, should be reassured that their safety and their interests will be safeguarded in a post-Assad Syria. This can be done both by direct international commitments and by wresting guarantees from the opposition, now that it still badly needs international support.

Even while Russia blocks co-ordinated international action, the West should stop equivocating and put forward a clear narrative that tells the regime that its time is up. An amicable or at least peaceful transfer of power is a shameful fantasy perpetuated by people in Syria and outside it who have no interest in change or who feel powerless to enable it.


Colonel Abdel Jabbar Muhammad Al-Aqeidi, leader of the Military Council for the Province of Aleppo issues a call for general mobilization and says that the liberation of Aleppo City is unfolding. He vows that all religious and national minorities will be protected and that those who harm members of any community will be held accountable. He also calls on colleagues to defect Spokesman for the Al-Tawhid Brigade issues a similar call  

Rebels establish control over the town of Bayanoun But the liberation does not stop the pounding

In Aleppo City, members of the newly formed Al-Tawhid Brigade enter the recently liberated neighborhood of Sakhour ,


In Damascus City, tanks storm into Midan District , Burnt out cars and dead bodies line the streets The destruction in some quarters was massive , Pro-Assad militias stormed Naher Eisheh Helicopter gunships pounded Tadamon and adjacent neighborhoods

In the Suburbs, the pounding of Zabadani continues , , Nearby Madaya is also pounded

Harasta and other towns in Eastern Ghoutah get pounded by helicopter gunships Ground battles in the area usually end up in favor of the rebels: he bodies in this video belong to pro-Assad militias

The town of Eltal has fallen to the rebels, who proceed to take control of the local political security apparatus and to imprison and torture its staff

In the Qalamoun Region, the town of Al-Qarrah was also pounded wit helicopter gunships

The suburb of Moadamiyah was pounded again today


In Rastan, people keep pulling bodies from under the rubble Two martyred children An old woman takes her last breaths in the arms of her husband

Talbisseh, Houla were also pounded. But it’s the pounding of Old Homs that remains the most intense: Jouret Al-Shayah ,

Deir Ezzor

Local activists claim that this video shows victims of a poison gas attack in Deir Ezzor City


Loyalist troops pull out of the town of Marrabah

The pounding of Daraa City resumes

Mseifrah was among other towns that were pounded by helicopter gunships