Monday, October 15, 2012

Cluster This!

Use of cluster bombs by Assad falls short of violating the Obama Redline. As such, the development might at best generate a condemnation, but no action should be expected.

Sunday October 14, 2012

Today’s Death toll: 220. The Breakdown: death toll includes 8 children and 3 women. 140 martyrs fell in Damascus and suburbs (including 100 found in local hospital between Daraya and Moadamia), 21 in Idlib, 12 in Aleppo, 12 in Lattakia, 12 in Deir Ezzor, 11 in Homs, 9 in Daraa, 9 in Tartous, and 2 in Hama (LCC).


Special Reports
Turkey and Syria share a meandering border over 500 miles long, where in places the villages seem to merge, families share their names and pedigrees, if not their passports, and twisted olive trees roll out over the hillsides. Here, amid the quiet rhythms of rural life, people are witnessing what for 19 months had been one of the gravest concerns about the war next door: that it would spill over the border, draw in neighboring nations and, in a flash, become a regional conflagration. War, it becomes clearer by the day, is inching closer to home.
President Bashar Assad’s embattled regime is believed to have one of the largest chemical weapons stockpiles in the world. Fears have risen that a cornered Assad might use them or that they could fall into the hands of extremists, whether the Lebanese Hezbollah militia, an Assad ally, or al-Qaida-inspired militants among the rebels.
What are we worried about? That Syria will become a state sponsor of terrorism? That it will be hostile to the US and to Israel? That it will be a repressive dictatorship that jails and murders thousands of people? That it will be an ally of Iran, our principal enemy in the region? Syria is already all of those things.

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

Alawite Defections

In regarding to high level defections among Alawites, it should be noted that Col. Zubaidah Almiqi is not the highest ranking Alawite officer to defect. We know there are more. But Col. Almiqi seem to have been selected to come out in the open because she is one of the few Alawites who hail from the Golan Heights, an area far from the Alawite heartland along the Syrian coast. Being surrounded by rebel bases her family might be safe from loyalist retributions. As we have seen from the situation in Qardaha, dissention in the ranks will be followed by immediate clashes and retributions, as such, it requires careful management. In tactical terms, Alawites who grew disillusioned cannot just “dissent,” they have to plan an uprising and stick with it. This requires careful planning, something that might already be taking place.

Chemical Obama

If the Obama Administration were seriously concerned over the issue of Syrian WMDs falling in the wrong hand, they had a strange way of showing it. Indeed one would have expected a more proactive attitude towards managing the entire situation, including working closely with the opposition to form a transitional government and agreeing on a transitional plan, working closely with the rebels to establish a clear command structure and supervising all efforts meant at arming and training the rebels. This approach would have undercut any attempt at building radical networks by Jihadists in Syria. Instead, the Obama Administration remained aloof, and failed to lead on any front, even from behind. American officials and experts were missing in action throughout the crisis, other western officials followed their lead. This left the doors wide open for a variety of regional actors to approach the conflict on the basis of their own particularistic priorities and in the manner to which they were accustomed: building up radical Islamist networks on the ground (the main backers here are Saudi and Qatar, but always with Turkish support) and using Islamists in exile to lead all work on political transition abroad (Turkey’s work with the Muslim Brotherhood, and Gulf support going to Salafist groups and figures).

Consequently, fear of WMDs falling into the wrong hand are now more justified than they have ever been before, but, at this late stage, there may not be a way for the U.S. to secure the WMDs’ without employing a foot-on-the-ground approach. But if such an approach is used without rebel support and without supporting rebels in their fight against Assad, than any U.S. involvement in this regard could have negative repercussion on the situation and will further radicalize sentiments.

The Obama Administration has recently sent troops to Jordan reportedly as part of a potential future operations meant to secure Syria’s WMDs. But it is not clear that such an operation would entail considering the fact that WMDs locations are scattered throughout the country, and seeing that contact with rebel groups remain too sporadic to allow for efficient coordination of efforts. Little can be achieved without active support from rebels, but rebels are unlikely to help the Administration achieve its objectives, if the Administration is not willing to help them achieve theirs.

By doing nothing, the Obama Administration has, in fact, done plenty to make its own worst scenario in Syria come true, and we all have to live with the consequences of its folly.

Video Highlights

In Idlib and Aleppo rebels bring down two more MIGs: Idlib

More towns and villages are being liberated by rebels in Aleppo and Idlib: Heesh (Idlib)

Jabhat Al-Nusrah takes part in liberating a missile base in Aleppo Province ,

Leaked video shows pro-Assad militias “arresting” a local activist Another shows a cold-blooded summary execution

The historic Omayad Mosque in Aleppo City was set on fire as result of shelling by pro-Assad militias. The mosque was used at first as a base by pro-Assad militias who wrote offensive graffiti on its walls, leading to a push by local rebel unit to liberate it, which, in is turn, encouraged pro-Assad militias to shell it.  Like every choice made by rebels and activists since the beginning of this revolution; it always boils down to a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” type situation

In this TV interview with a Gulf-based channel, the Salafist Scholar Adnan Arour, addresses the issues of foreign fighters and the nature of the desired state in Syria: he says that rebels do not need foreign fighters coming to fight and die on their land, because they have enough men. Rebels needs money, not men, he says and insists that this is the right way for interpreting Sharia law in this regard. He also says that the state that rebels want to establish and that he supports is a state that respects the right of all for dignity, freedom and justice, not an Islamic state. He adopts this point of view, he says, not because he does not believe in an Islamic state, but because he believes that it cannot be established by force but by admonishment This is a marked diversion from his earlier stands: at the beginning of the revolution, Shaikh Arour even issued a fatwa against challenging the ruling regime, but, he quickly reversed his position, lent support to the revolution and called for retribution against the Alawites. He, then, reversed that position as well. Over the last few months, Shaikh  Arour seems to be trying to become a more acceptable figure to a larger swath of Syria’s Sunni population by carefully calibrating his positions and moderating his views. His strategy seems to be working: he has more followers in Syria now than he had ever enjoyed. His ability to bring material support to the rebels has boosted his popularity as well. Indeed, Arour’s recent venture into the liberated areas in the north was fruitful and resulted in the establishment of the Union of Military Revolutionary Council. Though the Union is not as large as its other Islamist rivals: the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Syria, the Tawhid Brigades, the Jabhat Al-Nusrah (the Syrian incarnation of Al-Qaeda) or its pragmatist rivals, especially the Syria martyrs Brigades, much could change in the days and weeks ahead as facts on the grounds remain in flux.

A bomb in the plush Mazzeh Autostrad Neighborhood targets In-House, a Starbucks-type coffeehouse. The explosion took place at dawn, making clear that the intention was to spread fear rather than produce casualties