After the assassination of his brother-in-law, and regardless of the uneasy nature of their relationship, the struggle in Syria for Bashar Al-Assad became that much more personal. The mixture of spite, contempt and vindictiveness that has always colored his view of dissent and dissidents will now drive him to commit even more massacres and spread more mayhem. Going gently into that good night has never been a favorite choice of Middle Eastern dictators. Spite, rather than bravery, has made it so. Assad is but a case in point.
Aleppo’s Berri Clan and Summary Justice
While we have every reason to be appalled by the summary executions that have taken place in Aleppo, we still have the responsibility to put things in perspective. For such acts of retribution remain pretty isolated and have been widely condemned by opposition groups and known dissidents and activists. More importantly, it’s important to point out that the victims were not some randomly chosen individuals, nor was the motivation involved sectarian in nature.
The three victims of yesterday’s execution, as reported by local activists, were high ranking members of the Berri Clan, including its leader Zeino Berri. The Clan is Sunni and is known for its involvement in drug-trafficking and gun-running, among other illicit activities. The Clan is known as well for its affiliation with Maher Al-Assad and, before him, with his late brother, Bassil. This connection has served to guarantee Berri elders at least one spot in the parliament, and has allowed them to make a mockery out of the legal system in Syria for decades. In fact, many of their members have multiple death sentences issued against them. Naturally, the sentences were never carried out. The worst thing that has ever happened to a Berri clansman, before yesterday, was spending few months in prison for offences that by law warrant execution. Zeino Berri himself is known to have had three death sentences issued against him. It was the fourth one that finally killed him.
Early in the revolution, members of the Berri Clan went to Damascus where they met Bashar Al-Assad and pledged their loyalty. Almost every member of the delegation had at least one sentence of one type or another hanging over his head. That didn’t seem to bother Assad who is said to have given a carte blanche to the Berris in Aleppo. On their return, the Berri Clan became more vicious than ever and served as the de facto pro-Assad militia in the city, spreading terror by jailing, torturing and killing activists, as well as extorting local businessmen and merchants. By the time the rebels entered Aleppo City and clashed with the Berris, the level of popular animosity against the Clan was simply too high. Commanders of Al-Tawhid Brigade were simply ill-prepared to deal with such volatile situation.
The positive thing, however, is that FSA commanders have now become aware that simple assertions and exhortations are not enough to deal with such eventualities, and have promised to establish special courts and prisons for dealing with likes of Berri in the future.
Should the U.S. and other western powers become more closely involved in supporting the FSA, their ability to prevent similar occurrences in the future and to encourage the adoption of a more institutional and legal approach to captured pro-Assad militias will increase dramatically. Crying foul from the sidelines has not stopped the Assad and will not affect the rebels. Only friends and allies can influence the rebels’ behavior. Considering the identity of current backers of the rebels, preventing such scenarios in the future will not constitute a priority for them. By continuing to stand on the sidelines, the U.S. and E.U. will have little influence in this matter. Their condemnations will ring hollow and hypocritical and will have little effect. The more they balk from intervention the worse the situation will get and the more necessary and complex intervention will become.
The indiscriminate shelling http://youtu.be/vs1fnoXZ7qI of the Yarmouk Neighborhood, Damascus City, leaves 20 locals dead http://youtu.be/GvV4OnNuiN4 and scores wounded http://youtu.be/w4889Te2waw , http://youtu.be/5cgpbxvE8lI
The pounding http://youtu.be/6hf77KZlSo4 of nearby Tadamon Neighborhood left several dead as well http://youtu.be/PFm1QqS8HWE , http://youtu.be/-D35-CJX9L4 , http://youtu.be/XjT73WhoWNU
The suburb of Zamalka came under intense gunfire during the day http://youtu.be/9QJqC2csbmA Clashes left a number of casualties http://youtu.be/fS70-dT7-JI
The shelling of the town of Zabadani to the West continues http://youtu.be/YfuRUhk1u1g , http://youtu.be/-Ir6IFhzLTU , http://youtu.be/G29XxzhvHeg , http://youtu.be/7FwXh_8MaT0
Elsewhere in the province, rebels form a new fighting unit http://youtu.be/CqQB0498w3Y
The pounding of Talbisseh continues http://youtu.be/cTjURKknV-U And Rastan http://youtu.be/mADhw4D2I_8 In Qusayr, the pounding left 7 dead that were buried in a hasty funeral http://youtu.be/67QMERZrjEg
Pounding Aleppo City with MiGs continues http://youtu.be/ZV5UMeWauTU Helicopter gunships are also taking part http://youtu.be/iVBkS-9hM8Y
Colonel Ammar Al-Wawi, recently interviewed by the Daily Beast while on a stop in Turkey, is taking part of the battle in Aleppo City with his brigade, Al-Ababeel http://youtu.be/Oks0ixZVemU , http://youtu.be/izsE6Od_xXI
In Treimseh, the pounding resumes, and local FSA members rush to save the civilian inhabitants http://youtu.be/wbPFvJVRNHs
Local defectors form a military council for the province http://youtu.be/yNRaMsy7QRI
Locals in the town of Asharah form a new fighting unit under the banner of the FSA http://youtu.be/4GOxhY8UXxc More to the east, closer to the border with Iraq, another group is formed http://youtu.be/BZUCZ25b2ns
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