Friday, August 3, 2012

Spiteman!

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.

Thursday August 2, 2012

Today’s Death toll: 145. The Breakdown: 50 in Damascus City and Suburbs (including 20 in Yarmouk Neighborhood), 30 in Daraa Province (including 4 children and a woman), and 17 in Homs, 7 in Hama and 5 in Aleppo.

Cities & Towns Under Shelling: Harasta, Arbeen, Moadamiah, Harran Al-Awameed, Ain Terma, Zabadani, Madaya, Eltal, Dmeir, Hameh, Yelda, Rankous, Qarrah (Damascus Suburbs), Sit Zeinab, Al-Qadam, Midan, 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, Al-Ghanto, Al-Bouaydah, 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, Ma’rrat Al-Nouman, Saraqib, Maar Shoureen, Ariha, Kafroumah, Al-Rami, Khan Shaikhoon (Idlib).

More clashes have been reported along the Syrian-Jordanian borders. President of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, met with SNC leader, Abdulbassit Seida, to discuss the situation in Kurdish areas in the region, and the prospects of unifying the Syrian Kurdish opposition.

News

Op-Eds & Special Reports

Rebels give inside account of Damascus fighting "We never had enough ammunition to capture the entire city, so how could that have been our plan? We withdrew when we received the order, not because we were forced."

After Assad Falls: When his regime ends, will a new slaughter begin? Syria is a mosaic of ethno-religious communities. Good fences will be required to make them good neighbors. Start with Syria’s Kurds, who have been aloof from the fighting, relatively safe in their northeastern territories. In a post-Assad Syria, they’ll want substantial autonomy. They should have it within a federal Syria that guarantees minority rights — to Alawites, Christians, Druze, and other groups. Al-Qaeda won’t like that, Iran and Hezbollah won’t like that, and some in the Sunni majority won’t like it either. But those who hope to rebuild Syria as a decent country, independent and at peace within its borders, should readily grasp the benefits.

Washington, get ready for more Iranian influence after Bashar al-Assad falls in Syria After the fall of Bashar-al Assad in Syria, Iran will compensate for its lost ally by strengthening its influence in Lebanon alongside its affiliate Hezbollah – the Shiite militant group that now dominates the country. To prevent this, Washington must take a leadership role in the Lebanon.

Resigning as Envoy to Syria, Annan Casts Wide Blame “without serious, purposeful and united international pressure, including from the powers of the region, it is impossible for me, or anyone, to compel the Syrian government in the first place, and also the opposition, to take the steps necessary to begin a political process.”… “It is clear that President Bashar al-Assad must leave office,” Mr. Annan wrote. “The greater focus, however, must be on measures and structures to secure a peaceful long-term transition to avoid a chaotic collapse.”

Leading from behind? Syria's invisible president "Until the regime feels it has the upper hand, I don't think we will see him again," he said. "His style and personality is one that only engages, whether with his own people or the international community, from a position of strength."

How to stop al Qaeda in Syria “The number is relatively small now,” Benjamin said. “I would put the numbers in the dozens to a hundred, a hundred plus. We don’t have that much granularity that we can say with any certainty how many there are.”


Syrian human rights activist Ammar Abdulhamid, with the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, says his contacts in Syria tell him there is no evidence of a surge in aid to the rebels. “I do not really see any intensification of these efforts.  I see a lot of leaks, it seems to me, that were sort of primed to show that something is being done.  But the reality is, so far on the ground, we have not detected any real involvement by the U.S. in the ongoing military operations in the country,” Abdulhamid said… Human rights activist Ammar Abdulhamid says he expects much of the new aid to go to refugees in camps in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, as well as to those trapped in Syria. “But I will also imagine that they will try to send some aid to local communities who are cut off and have been cut off because of the fighting, and where food supplies are getting more and more scarce,” Abdulhamid said.

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.

Damascus

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


Elsewhere in the province, rebels form a new fighting unit http://youtu.be/CqQB0498w3Y

Homs

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

Aleppo

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

Hama

In Treimseh, the pounding resumes, and local FSA members rush to save the civilian inhabitants http://youtu.be/wbPFvJVRNHs

Raqqah

Local defectors form a military council for the province http://youtu.be/yNRaMsy7QRI

Deir Ezzor

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

The Reason for Annan’s Decision to Resign