Thursday, October 18, 2012

No Third Way Out!

The only way out in Syria takes us further in. The sooner America’s leaders understand that the better for all. For now, even without U.S. intervention, Syria has already become a Vietnam-by-proxy, and America is losing again. All America’s major regional allies are currently involved, not to mention of course, America’s enemies. How could anyone think that America could manage to stay out of this is beyond me. But what’s even more surprising is that some still advocate “non-intervention” or accepting compromise outcomes that could make Russia and Iran happy at the expense of things like freedom, dignity, decency and humanity. Yeah, that should make a world a better place, a place where mullahs, oligarchs and sociopaths can have their way.

Wednesday October 17, 2012

Today’s Death toll: 155. The Breakdown:  toll includes 13 children and 8 women. 48 in Damascus and suburbs (including 10 executed in East Ghouta), 46 in Aleppo (most in Shaar Massacre), 27 in Idlib (most in Kafrenbel Massacre), 12 in Homs, 7 in Raqqah, 6 in Deir Ezzorn 4 in Hama, 3 in Daraa, and 2 in Latakia (LCC).


Special Reports
Residents of Arsal, a Sunni Muslim town of 40,000, say they have strong motives to help those trying to topple Syria's regime: they themselves were harassed and abused by it during three decades of de facto Syrian control of Lebanon. But in siding with the rebels, many of them fellow Sunnis, Arsal is also deepening rifts with its Shiite Muslim neighbors in the Bekaa Valley that runs along Lebanon's eastern border with Syria.
The Bekaa Valley is a lawless territory even at the best of times… Smugglers have long operated in the hinterlands, and some farmers grow hashish, as their fathers have for centuries. Now… Lebanese villagers have had to abandon homes as shells hit their fields. Rebel fighters take shelter and rest in hamlets beyond the Syrian lines. The villagers say Assad's troops move through the fields at night. It is a corner which could provide the spark for a wider conflagration in a war in that has already claimed 30,000 lives and pushed up to the borders of Turkey, Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights as well as Lebanon.
Keen to secure loyalty, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has granted Syria's Kurds de facto control over predominantly Kurdish areas of the country. But with the freedom, divisions have emerged.
Syria's wealthy, long cultivated by President Bashar Assad as a support for his regime, are seeing their businesses pummeled by the bloody civil war… Several businessmen interviewed by The Associated Press say resentment is growing against Assad over the crisis — but they also aren't throwing their lot in with the rebellion. They are hunkering down, trying to salvage their companies.
The Assad regime wants their support and warns of a genocide, even as it shells their neighborhoods. Whom can the country’s Christians trust? Clare Morgana Gillis reports from Aleppo.
When popular committee patrols go out with their weapons at night in rural Damascus and Jaramana (a district of 200,000 people), Syrian army units in the area can breath a sigh of relief. These civilians who have taken up arms — or received light arms and ammunition from army units — prevent the FSA from entering many of the lively and densely populated cities in rural Damascus (whose population totals 1 million).
For the last 19 months Syria has fallen deeper and deeper into civil war. What started in March 2011 as another offshoot of the Arab Spring, the demand for freedom and reform, was met so brutally that ordinary Syrians decided that Assad had to go. Left to fester, with the United Nations deadlocked over how to end the fighting, the death toll has reached 29,000 according to the Syrian opposition, and the most horrific massacres of women, children and old men have taken place. Extremists and foreign jihadists are joining the battle. With 1.2 million people displaced, the approaching winter poses as much of a threat as the relentless violence.

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

Myth of the Third Way

Robert A. Pastor, professor of international relations at American University in Washington and a senior adviser to the Carter Centre on conflict resolution in the Middle East, proposes the exploration of “a third option in Syria,” one that seeks “not to overthrow Al Assad but build a political system that will provide voice and vote to all Syrians and protect all minorities and sects.” There are two main problems with this logic: it rewards Assad’s bloody tactics and sets a precedent for others in the region and elsewhere to emulate, and, as professor Pastor himself concedes, it closes the doors for now on democratic change:

Is democracy possible in Syria? It seems improbable. But the most likely alternative — a decade-long descent into self-destruction — is too awful to contemplate.

But that’s exactly the conclusion that Assad wanted us to reach from the very beginning. If we embrace this “third way,” as Pastor put it, we will be, in fact, rewarding the very sociopathic behavior that is at the roots of our current dilemma, and we will also be giving the Obama Administration and other western leaders a pass on doing nothing in the face of mounting evidence that Assad was willing and actively involved in perpetrating genocide as they watched and feigned shock and horror. It is this kind of approach that is too awful to contemplate as far as I am concerned.

As for that “decade-long descent into self-destruction,” only those bent on adopting an approach that either rewards evil or does nothing are willing to provide this kind of prognosis so it can used to justify turning their back on democracy. There was nothing inevitable about the situation we face in Syria today. The tragedy was all too predictable and all too preventable. While we may not be able to turn back the clock to correct our mistakes, we can avoid compounding them: instead of turning our backs on democratic change, we can still pursue it as our immediate goal. Assad has to go and has to be held accountable for his crimes, and a political process that could pave the way to democratic transformation within a reasonable timeframe has to be worked out in cooperation with in-country activists and rebel leaders. 

Video Highlights

Islamist rebels in the town of Elbab in Aleppo Province interrogate the pilot of a downed MIG. He is Christian from the coastal town of Mashtal Hilou, and his name is Roni Ibrahim. Rebel leader says that bruises on Roni’s face happened when he resisted arrest, but pledges that Roni will not be tortured. Roni says that he was just following orders, as he is berated by different rebels

In Al-Akrad and Turkmen Mountains in Northern Lattakia Province, rebels continue their successful operations against pro-Assad militias and troops, killing several high ranking colonels and officers Battles in the region are pretty sectarian in character at this stage. Many rebels are clearly Salafists. Still, the pejorative term, Nusairi, that some Salafists use when referring to Alawites is not heard in the video itself but is used in the video description on the YouTube channel. Sectarian sentiments on all sides are real, but by controlling media outlets and imposing their particular terms and vocabs, Islamists are trying to assume a greater ownership of the Revolution than their actual size and contribution would allow, for now. In the video, the pejorative terms of Fatissah, an Arabic word for the corpse of animals, is used to refer to dead pro-Assad officers, who include Col. Ali Al-Ali, whose body can be seen trampled underfoot by rebels at the end of the video. The term “pigs” is also used. The same video appears on a different YouTube Channel without the pejorative term “Nusairi,” but the channel is titled “Unfortunately, I used to be Shiite.”

In a nearby location, a new fighting brigade is formed: from the names of the various affiliated units, an Islamic leaning group Rebels from the unit showcase some of the arms they have recently gained from their campaign against loyalists , Ne defectors join in Elsewhere in the region, local rebels use a mortar cannon to fire rounds at a loyalist position

Rebels shoot a helicopter gunship in Idlib

A missile lands next to the headquarters of one of the leaders of Al-Tawhid Brigade in Aleppo City during an interview with Sky News

Elsewhere in Aleppo City, Islamist rebels fire their improvised missile at a loyalist checkpoint , Rebels from the same group operating in the town of Tal Abyad, Raqqah Province, claim to have launched 60 such missiles at loyalist positions

Meanwhile, the Dresdenification of Aleppo and so many other Syrian towns and cities continues: Al-Sha’ar Neighborhood, Aleppo City , Martyrs

MIGs keep pounding Eastern Ghoutah Region in Damascus

A MIG drops its load over the town of Ma’arrat Hourmah in Idlib Province ,