Thursday, July 19, 2012

The End?

Something is definitely looming in Syria, but it’s not end-game. It’s more like the end of Round One. 

Thursday July 19, 2012

Today’s Death toll:  217. The Breakdown: 70 in Deir Ezzor (Albou Kamal, Jbeileh, Deir Ezor City), 40 in Damascus Suburbs (Sit Zeinab, Eltal, Harasta, Arbeen, Zabadani, Madaya, Diyabiyeh), 15 in Damascus City, 33 in Idlib (most in Saraqib), 21 in Homs, 16 in Hama, 14 in Daraa, 7 in Aleppo and 1 in Hassakeh.

Local activists report that “intense clashes” between the Jordanian and Syrian armies have taken place at the border checkpoint of Nasseeb. No independent confirmation can be provided at this stage.

Several Damascene suburbs and neighborhoods have reportedly come under the complete control of FSA units and local political resistance.

Kurdish activists from across the country are reporting that all Kurdish-majority towns have been liberated or are in the process of liberation. The move was not as violent, as regime’s presence has been kept at a minimal level over the last few months in order to avoid antagonizing the local population opening another front in its showdown with the people.


Syrian tyrant’s Brit-born wife Asma al-Assad ‘flees to Russia’ According to Ria Novosti “Russia's Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the rumors when contacted by RIA Novosti.”

Op-Eds & Special Reports

Is Syria Facing a Yugoslavia-Style Breakup? Even if the regime loses its grip on growing swaths of territory, the civil war's sectarian dimension could see it opt to retreat into enclaves controlled by its base of Alawite, Christian and non-Sunni support
Fouad Ajami: Syria's War Hits the House Of Assad Bashar al-Assad has been sly: He made sure that the Alawites, as a community, were implicated in the recent massacres that have poisoned the well between these two communities. Alawite villagers were unleashed on their neighbors. They killed at close range. The survivors knew the killers, they had gone to school with them. The fiction that this was regime violence was shredded in the recent horrific massacres. There was method in the cruelty, and this will make itself felt in the phase to come: The Alawite-based regime was rounding out the borders of an Alawite homeland.

On the Chemical Front

Fears grow Syria will use chemical weapons stockpileBashar al-Assad is highly likely to deploy chemical weapons as he faces an unprecedented threat to his rule, security sources warned on Thursday night.”

At this stage, and considering the recent leaks from the State Department that Assad has indeed moved some of his WMDs stockpiles from Damascus to central Syria, and considering the situation in central Syria and the emerging pattern of ethnic cleansing there orchestrated by Assad and his militias, we need to change the nature of the conversation in policymaking circles in Washington from what can or should be done in case Assad used WMDs, to what can and should be done to preempt this very possibility. Use of chemical weapons by Assad will not come as a surprise. This will not be another Halabja in this sense. We can already see the chain of events paving the way to this eventuality. For this, doing nothing is tantamount to becoming a culprit.

The Assassinations

This video claims to show the building where the National Security Office is headquartered after the explosion that claimed the lives of Shawkat, Turkmani and Rajhah took place. We only see white smoke coming out from the building, and we hear the voice of a spokesman reading a prepared statement explaining that the attack took place in revenge for the massacres perpetrated by the regime, encouraging more defections and telling members of the international community that they are unreliable and that the revolutionaries no longer expect anything from them.

The Ominous Message

By way of preemption, and considering that pro-Assad militias will now be unleashed on the public, Syrian TV issued this dire warning:

(Reuters) - Syrian state television warned citizens on Thursday that gunmen were planning to attack people in the capital using military uniforms as disguises.
Several neighborhoods in Damascus have been rocked over the past five days by fierce clashes between security forces and rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria TV said uniformed men in those districts may not actually be from the armed forces.

"Armed men in Tadamon, Midan, Qaa and Nahr Aisha (neighborhoods) are wearing military uniforms with the insignia of the Republican Guard. This confirms they are planning to commit crimes and attack people, exploiting the trust of citizens in our courageous armed forces," Syria's official channel said in a message flashed across the screen.

The Hidden Message: massacres will be committed in Damascus and all are fair targets.

Moving Towards An Alawistan?

University of Oklahoma Syria specialist Joshua Landis finds the Alawite-state scenario unconvincing. “Once the regime loses Damascus, it’s finished,” he says. “The Alawite mountains are not a sufficient basis for a nation-state. It has no separate economy of its own, and the regime hasn’t planned for this. Such an entity wouldn’t have an external backer — Iran wouldn’t be in any position to provide the necessary support. Once the Sunnis own the capital and the income from the oil fields, they’d make short work of any remaining Alawite resistance.” (The Time)

There are three major problems with this analysis: first, it fails to provide an adequate explanation of existing patterns of ethnic cleansing; second, it fails to see a potential role for Russia in this matter, even though Russia has prepped up such enclaves before and has made it clear so far that they don’t have any plans for giving up on Assad.

But, more importantly, the above analysis insists on examining things from the rational perspective of what is or is not viable. Assad and his clique never looked at things from this perspective, a perspective  that is bound to remain alien to them until they are 6 feet under. Simple spite and a nihilistic sense of machismo are often the sole motivations involved.

Joshua Landis, and other former advocates of engagement with Assad seem, to date, incapable of reconsidering their analytical methodology when it comes to the behavior of Assad & Co., where motivations are consistently more personal and guttural than rational.

Moreover, and as the GlobalPost reported recently: “Rumors had begun circulating among Allawites of oil and gas wealth along the coastline.” In other words, in addition to the ongoing military campaign, there is an parallel propaganda campaign taking place as well meant to make the prospect of an Alwite State more alluring to member of the Alawite community and other minority communities in Syria.

However, Joshua is right in noting that:

Once the regime departs the capital, it essentially vacates the structure of power it had established, Landis argues. And that raises the danger of even more vicious fighting ahead, spearheaded by the Shabiha units of pro-regime thugs often led by men no older than 21.

Indeed, where so many focus in their discussion solely on possible retributions against the Alawites once regime falls, it’s the behavior of the pro-Assad militias that might prove more problematic, not only in Damascus, but also in coastal towns where Sunnis still make up 40% of the population and living currently under siege in various villages and neighborhoods besieged by Alawites checkpoints. If Assad truly wants to create his majority Alawite enclave, the ethnic cleansing of the coast should begin soon.

What the US should do?

I second this advice by Andrew Tabler, but, after today’s double veto, it should be clear to all that the U.S. has to move outside the purview of the UN to get anything done in regard to Syria, that is, if the U.S. wants to do anything at this stage.

The time to act is now, before disaster strikes. By leading an effort at the U.N. Security Council to warn the Syrian regime about the dire consequences of using its chemical weapons stockpile, and raising the possibility of a military response in the event that effort fails, Washington will be communicating to Assad that he would be sealing his fate if he crosses this last remaining red line.

Video Highlights
Rallies continue to take place across the country despite the inherent dangers, while towns and suburbs across the country continue to be pounded and shelled by tanks, heavy artillery and helicopter gunships. Below are just a few highlights of what has become a very complex and chaotic scene.

A unit of the FSA takes control of Bab Al-Hawa, one of the official checkpoints on the Turkish-Syrian border Fighters remove posters of Assad The rejoicing , , Removing Assad’s posters , ,

These families are leaving Damascus City to Idlib

Damascus City

Yarmouk: FSA fighters take control of the local police station , , Victim of a sniper attack Clashes take place at night Impact of impounding

A hasta burial for some of yesterday’s victims in Sit Zainab

Thick black smoke rises over Qaboun As pounding by helicopter gunships continues More smoke rises over Tadamon and Kafar Sousseh

Shop-owners in the Old Hamidiyeh market observe a strike

Tanks patrol the neighborhood of Al-Qadam

Huge fire on top of mount Qasayoun which activists say is the result of destroying a missile base there by local resistance ,

Clashes take place in Mazzeh In nearby Kafar Sousseh, Assad’s snipers take up positions

Damascus Suburbs

Activists document the use of cluster bombs in the pounding of the towns of Madaya and Zabadani in Damascus Suburbs

The pounding of Zabadani was quite intense today , , , , But nearer to the town, local resistance destroy a checkpoint manned by pro-Assad militias

Local resistance in the suburb of Eltal mange to take control of the local political security branch hoisting the independence flagon top Locals celebrate the development Elsewhere in town, the resistance destroys a tank But the suburb soon came under shelling from helicopter gunships , ,

The various towns making up Eastern Ghoutah came under heavy pounding from helicopter gunships: Arbeen Some of the martyrs Smoke rises over Madeera and over Zamalka , and over Hamouriyeh After pounding from this helicopter and this one

Clashes in Kafar Batna

The massacre of Madeera , The massacre of Sbeineh

To the south, the suburb of Kisweh comes under heavy automatic gunfire 


In Kafar Takhreem, a pro-Assad soldier comes under fire



The pounding of Kafar Nouran the pounding of Atareb

Inhabitants of the Kurdish-Majority town of Kobani take control of a local security station and burn Assad’s posters Soon afterwards, all of Kobani’s official buildings fell to the local activists. Other Kurdish-majority towns throughout Syria soon followed suit.

Local resistance “liberate” the town Eizaz , , Forcing Assad forces to retreat


Tafas: local resistance take out a tank

The pounding of Daraa City continues

The pounding of Maarba


More fires in Jabal Al-Akrad