Monday, September 24, 2012


A revolution starts with a “no,” but can only end with a “yes.” So far, no serious discussion has been made to get us there.

Sunday September 22, 2012

Today’s Death toll: 85. The Breakdown:  22 in Damascus and suburbs, 21 in Aleppo, 14 in Daraa, 12 in Hama (including a mother and her 5 children), 7 in Homs, 6 in Idlib, and 1 in each of Deir Ezzor, Qamishli and Lattakia (LCC).

Other Developments (LCC):

Damascus Suburbs: Yabroud, Douma, Harasta, Moadamia came under heavy shelling. Mudira and Daraya came under sporadic shelling. Artouz witnessed raids and arrests.

Damascus City: Clashes reported in Al-Qabou and Tishreen neighborhoods. Barzeh was shelled. Electric blackout reported in Qasayoun Mountain, around Al-Shami Hospital, and in the following districts: Al-Jisr Al-Abyad, Abu Rummaneh and the Malki.

Deir Ezzor: Boukamal Renewal of violent clashes and sounds of more than one explosion near the bridge and sounds coming from near the airport. Deir Ezzor City: A number of shells landed in the area surrounding Ghassan Abboud Roundabout, leading to the destruction of a large number of homes. Fierce clashes between the Free Syrian Army and regime forces are reported in Kanamat neighborhood.

Idlib: Jisr Al-Shughour Heavy shelling with heavy artillery on the village of Mishemshan and a complete cut off of the power supply. Maarat Al-Nouman A number of missiles have fallen on a Al-Massakan neighborhood north of the city, burning a house completely. Salqeen: Heavy artillery shelling on the city.

Hama: Hama City Severe gunfire from heavy weapons in the vicinity of the command area in Al-Dabagha; Heavy gunfire on the neighborhoods south of the barracks. Shahernaz: A young man was wounded in his leg due to the heavy artillery shelling of the village. This led to its amputation. Zabda: More than 14 shells landed at the village from the checkpoints stationed in Kharsan village. Qastoun: Heavy shelling from attack helicopters was reported, and barrel bombs have destroyed a large number of homes.

Homs: Homs City Heavy bombardment from Al-Beyanat Battalion in Al-Wa’ar neighborhood on neighborhoods of Homs using Gvozdika cannons. Krak des Chevaliers Shelling with Shilka weapons is renewed. Al-Rastan Renewal of shelling and mortar strikes on the city. Al-Bouaidiyeh (east): 6 people have been injured from severe shelling by helicopters and heavy artillery that has led to massive destruction of homes and properties.

Aleppo: Tal Rifaat Clashes in the vicinity of the Military Airport. Kafr Halab Martyrs and wounded were reported in the aerial shelling of the town. Warplanes dropped dynamite-filled barrel bombs on the towns of Qubtan Al-Jabal, Hayyan, Bayanoun and Reitan. Aleppo City Shelling by warplanes on the neighborhood of Al-Sha’ar, Firdoss

Raqqa: Hammam Al-Turkman Fierce clashes between the Free Syrian Army and regime’s army were reported near the grain Silos of Al-Rasheed. Tal Abyad Local councils have been formed to administer day-to-day city affairs. The councils have launched a street cleanup campaign and are opening roads as part of their first mission.

Lattakia: Beit Awan Regime forces are shelling the village in Rabi’a area. Salma Bombardments of TNT barrels on the regime and helicopters flying overhead on the town and its suburbs

Daraa: Al-Sheikh Maskeen martyrs and several wounded during a violent military campaign by regime forces in an attempt to storm the city. Smoke clouds fill the air after forces bombed the area; mosques were targeted. Reports of military reinforcements heading to the city. Lajat Shelling of villages by tanks reported.


Special Reports

Ammar Abdulhamid & Khawla Yusuf: The Shredded Tapestry: The State of Syria Today

The recent announcements by Col. Riad Al-Asaad, head of the Free Syrian Army, that he has moved operations inside Syria needs to be put in perspective. So does the call for the overthrow of the Assad regime by an opposition figure based in Damascus.

Regarding the first instance, we need to bear in mind that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is nothing more than a brand name employed at one point by rebels to reflect an image of unity in the hope of turning it into a reality. But, a year after the onset of the armed phase of the Syrian Revolution, the hope for unity remains elusory. The FSA does not represent an actual command structure for the rebels. Very much like its political counterpart, the Syrian National Council (SNC), it has long developed into an institution that has little relevance on the ground. People continue to invoke and perhaps even venerate the name, but in no way does this translate into allegiance to the FSA leadership in Antakya.

Rebel groups operating inside the country owe their allegiance to their various civilian leaders who emerged from their midst. Except in few instances, defectors from the regular army have a supporting role at best. Respect is reserved mostly for those officers who elected to stay in Syria following their defection. People like Brig. Gen. Mustafa Al-Shaikh, head of the High Military Council, and Col. Riad Al-Asaad, head of the Free Syrian Army, among the dozens of officers and generals who sought refuge in Turkey following their defection lost much credibility and relevance as a result. Their failure to play a major role in supplying rebels on the ground with arms did not help their case.

Over the last few months, the officers have been busy trying to ingratiate themselves to local rebel leaders in the hope of gaining allegiance. Their sales pitch is premised on two things: their experience as military commanders, and the fact that without professional officers on board the international community will continue to dither when it comes to supporting the rebels. Rebel leaders to understand that, and over the last few weeks, they began encouraging Antakya-based officers to Syria at least for brief sojourns in order to survey the situation, provide advice and gain some trust, if not some allegiance. Brig. Gen. Al-Shaikh among other generals and officers from the High Military Council have been making visits to Syria and meeting with local rebel leaders for weeks now. The announcement by Col. Al-Asaad regarding moving the FSA to Syria is nothing more than an act of one-upmanship in the ongoing competition between the two men. On the ground, it has little relevance, as both men continue to lack any real authority, albeit the majority of rebel leaders seem to prefer Al-Shaikh and his right-hand man Col. Abdul Jabbal Al-Oqaidi, to Al-Asaad. Al-Shaikh has been able to play a better role in channeling some support to groups on the ground and his secular leanings endeared him to the traditional rebel leaders who continue to lead the larger groups. It is not clear, however, whether Islamists will throw their support behind Col. Al-Asaad, though it is highly unlikely that he would have made his move without some support from rebels.

In the second instance, the opposition group that organized the conference in Damascus and called for the overthrow of Assad is the National Coordination Body, a leftist political coalition with little support among rebels and rebel communities. In fact, the NCB doesn’t even have much influence among nonviolence activists, not to mention rebels. Its early involvement in nonviolent protests has always been marginal. Its younger cadres have long grown disillusioned with existing leadership figures such as Hassan Abdul Azim and Haitham Al-Manna who excel in highlighting what they don’t like about the current situation, but fail to provide any convincing proposal as to how it can be changed. They excel in rejection and fail in affirmation.

At this stage, the Assad regime will allow NCB to call for anything it wants, so long as it also stands against foreign intervention, even while ingratiating itself to Iran, Russia and China, and speaks against the armed opposition. But, should the regime ever be ready to negotiate, it will have to negotiate with rebel groups, not with the NCB, the SNC or even the Antakya-based FSA leadership, because it’s the rebels who can actually deliver. An agreement with NCB, or even the SNC or FSA, will amount to nothing if not endorsed by rebel groups. The regime knows that. Assad is not ready to negotiate. He still believes he can win.

Video Highlights:

Leaked video showing pro-Assad security torturing detainees

Dead and wounded reported in Qubtan Al-Jabal, Aleppo Province, following an intense nighttime shelling In nearby Bayanoun, the town was pounded by MIGs MIGs also targeted Marei ,

In Damascus City, smoke rises over the neighborhood of Al-Zahirah In the suburb of Kafar Batna, an aerial raid leave many dead and wounded

The activist group Nahel Al-Sahel, prepares leaflets for distribution in Alawite villages along the coast. Some of the slogans “Shabiha have always been thugs, how come they are considered heroes now?” and “Why do authorities refuse to let you open the coffin to inspect your dead son’s body?” (The implication is that he was shot execution style to prevent him from defecting)