Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Who takes responsibility for failing Syria!

Secretary Clinton bravely assumed responsibility for the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, but who in the Obama Administration will assume responsibility for losing Syria? But more importantly, perhaps, who in the ranks of the Syrian opposition will own up to this?

Monday October 15, 2012

Today’s Death toll: 134. The Breakdown: toll includes 17 children and 6 women. 33 reported in Damascus and Suburbs,29 in Aleppo, 27 in Deir Ezzor (20 due to aerial shelling of Mayadeen), 16 in Idlib, 9 in Daraa, 7 in Homs, 6 in Hama, 3 in Lattakia, 3 in Raqqah, and 1 (originally from Jableh) martyred in Hama. Summary: Pro-Assad militias shelled 25 areas across the country and perpetratd three massacres. Rebels responded with 2 operations in Raqqah Province and in Eastern Ghoutah Region in Damascus Province. (LCC)

News

Special Reports
The blend of poverty, religious piety and anger could define the future of Aleppo, and perhaps the rest of Syria, if the rebels take over the country's largest city, which is also its economic engine.
The ancient Souk Madina, a World Heritage Site, is divided between rebels and President Bashar Assad's forces. Caught in the middle are residents and merchants.
For security officials, the fear is that extremists with European passports who are alienated and newly trained to wage war will ultimately take skills learned in Syria and use them back home. In France, where an Islamic extremist trained in Pakistan attacked a Jewish school and a group of soldiers earlier this year, the fear is particularly acute.
…the Obama administration's hands-off approach has contributed to the very outcomes that the White House presumably wanted to avoid, and thought it could avoid by "learning from Iraq."
Russia and Turkey are in a war of words, but it's the makeup of the post-Assad government that's really being fought over
Through left-leaning intellectuals who see the problem in Syria in terms of US-supported "Islamists", or through categories of inter-confessional regional struggle between Sunnis and Shi'a - but not the regime of Bashar al-Assad - have abandoned analysis of the local dimension of the events to keep only its international one. They lack any understanding of the Syrian events in terms of class or as a revolt against injustice, repression, and censorship. Instead, their self-satisfying geopolitical reading sees only a struggle between a US-led effort to impose imperialistic order and a last-ditch Arab resistance supported by Russia and China.
Are foreign extremists gaining disproportionate influence inside the opposition forces? Anne Therese Day talks to a Saudi fundamentalist who is funding the “Syrian jihad” and to Syrian activists who say they both need and fear the foreign fighters.

Op-Ed
While al-Assad's murderous reign will ultimately come to an end, America's ability to influence what comes afterward is diminishing by the day. It's hard to imagine a worse fate for Syria than for al-Assad to stay in power. But allowing Islamic extremists to overrun the country and enhance Iran's power would be devastating to brave Syrians who have fought so hard.

Arabic Press (Prepared by Steven Miller, FDD Research Associate)
"World Health Organization: 67 Percent of Health Facilities in Syria Damaged" Asharq Al-Awsat The WHO announced that 67 percent of the health facilities in Syria have been damaged to varying degrees as a result of ongoing violence there, including nearly 29 percent that have been completely disrupted. The organization pointed out that the recent escalation in violence inflicted enormous damage on the facilities in every part of the country, depriving people access to basic health care services and preventing health workers from providing them.

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

The Question of Responsibility

When it comes to taking responsibility for the current crisis in Syria, many people should indeed step forward, or be brought to account. I, for one, have to step forward. I have been speaking for years about the looming revolutionary upheavals in our part of the world, and calling and agitating to ensure that my predictions come true, especially when it comes to Syria.

The first thing I did after I was sent into exile in September of 2005 was to write a paper titled: Managing Transition: Few Guidelines For A Velvet Revolution In Syria. I have even began using the term Jasmine Revolution. Making this revolution come true was what drove me for years. I spoke of it even when it turned into a distant possibility, when Basshar Al-Assad seemed to emerge out of the isolation imposed on his regime following the invasion of Iraq (2003) and the assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafic Hariri (2005). But, basing my analysis on the videos and reports sent by activists in our Tharwa network in Syria, the sounds of that distant revolutionary drumming remained quite audible for me. Indeed, when I was chosen to offer testimony in Congress back in April 2008, becoming the first Syrian citizen to do so, my main topic was the internal living conditions in Syria and the looming revolution.  

Change in Syria is not a matter of “if” anymore, but of when, how and who. Facts and factors influencing and dictating change are already in progress and are, for the most part, the product of internal dynamics rather than external influences. Although this assertion seems to fly in the face of traditional wisdom regarding the stability of the ruling regime in Syria, the facts are clear and plainly visible for all willing to see.

The problem has been that most experts and policymakers have always been more concerned with high-end politics to pay any real attention to what is actually taking place on the ground. Issues such as the International Tribunal established to look into the assassination of former PM Rafic al-Hariri, Iran’s growing regional influence, the Assads’ sponsorship of Hamas, Hizbullah and certain elements in the Iraqi insurgency, escalating international pressures against the regime, and the ongoing cat-and-mouse game between the regime and opposition forces continue to dominate the ongoing international debate over Syria’s present and future.

The dynamics of daily life, however, shaped more by inflation, unemployment, poverty, imploding infrastructure, and official corruption and mismanagement might actually be rewriting the usual scenarios in this regard. For as that old adage goes: “it’s the economy stupid!” And Syria’s economy is indeed imploding. The lack of government response in this regard, or, to be more specific, the fact that government policies seem to be making matters worse for most Syrians, is forcing people to organize around issues of local concern, and to begin to agitate. Albeit this agitation is not yet anti-regime per se, that is, no one is yet demanding the ouster of the current president, it is indeed anti-establishment in nature, that is, it is clearly aimed against official policies, corruption, mismanagement, neglect, lies, arrogance and impunity. As such, it marks an important departure from the usual docile attitude and an important milestone on the road towards the rise of a popular grassroots movement against the Assad dictatorship, if the situation is properly managed by opposition groups.

This phenomenon is still admittedly in its embryonic phase at this stage, and might take years before it produces a real challenge to the regime’s authority on the grounds; it should also be borne in mind here that this phenomenon may not automatically translate into grassroots support for any of the existing opposition movements or coalitions and might just lead, in the absence of active outreach efforts by the opposition, to the emergence of new more popular forms and figures of opposition, albeit the Damascus Declaration seems to be the one movement with the greatest popular appeal. Still, what is clear here is that the phenomenon is real and does merit observation. And, for those interested in ensuring the emergence of a “positive” democratic outcome eventually, it does merit support as well.

In 2009, the Tharwa Foundation produced a TV program, First Step, which openly called for a nonviolent revolution:

…we remain adamant on pushing for a peaceful change in Syria even should the regime resort to violence, because we cannot afford to forget about the future and focus only on this moment, like the regime does, we cannot afford to leave our children a legacy of blood, violence and conflict, just as we cannot leave them a legacy of oppression, corruption, neglect and injustice. We have a double duty to our homeland and our future: pursuing democratic change, and adopting the right means to achieving this goal.
The challenge that we have to deal with then is that stemming from a patriotic and humanitarian duty and is not a question of making an arbitrary choice, or embarking on an ill-considered confrontation, or engaging in a power-struggle, or deciding who is better: the regime or the opposition, or searching for saviors and leaders. In reality, each one of us has his own important role in leading change, and each one of us has his/her own share of sacrifices which he/she has to make, and without which no change can ever happen…

… Yours is the true leadership role. You are the initiators. Our role on the outside is to provide the necessary material, logistical and moral support that you need, regardless of the difficulties involved in this. Each situation has its own set of challenges with which we have to deal.

That last paragraph captures the essence of my failure. I made a promise that I obviously failed to keep. The people in Syria took the initiative as I urged, and I have so far failed in getting them the promised support.

Oh yes, it’s a collective failure I know, a failure of the entire opposition complex, and, of course, the protesters did not take to the street in response to my urgings. For even though First Step aired for 2 years on a satellite network run by the opposition, few Syrians seem to have watched it. Still, my actual contribution to bringing about this revolutionary moment does not matter, it suffices that I know what I had said and what I had done for almost a dozen years of activism to know where my moral responsibility lies, and to admit failure.

There are personal and objective reasons for this failure of course, and the fight is far from over. After all, assuming responsibility for a failure obligates one to trying to manage its consequences. But it’s important that we admit failure now, at a certain deep level, if we are to have a chance to change things around. I hope the Syrian conferees in Doha recognize the importance of this, though I harbor no delusions in this regard.

Video Highlights

Rebels in the town of Talbisseh, Homs Province, captured Matar Hamdo Al-As’aad a Brigadier General in Assad’s air force. But during the interrogations, they tricked him, by blindfolding him and speaking to him with a coastal dialect, pretending to be pro-Assad militias. So he defended his credentials and his record, noting that he was recently promoted for his services to Assad, that he is one of Assad’s heroes, and that he relayed orders from his superiors to troops in Lattakia to open fire on Turkish airplanes in the famous incident that took place few weeks ago and brought down a Turkish F16. When he was asked whether he would ever defect, he shouted that he would never commit such treason. Asked about his opinion in the Free Syrian Army, he said they were all dogs. Rebels then remove his blindfold, and reveal their identity. Obviously, he was shocked. Rebels tell him not to be afraid. They ask him who his leader is: he says: “it was Assad.” They laugh, and ask him again: “and now?” “God,” he says. They give him water and a cigarette, and ask him whether he was ill-treated, he says “no.” We don’t know what happened after that. But a decision to commit treason by defection seems a likely outcome http://youtu.be/AtZMd6yEtCQ.  

Brig. Gen Mustafa Al-Shaikh tours liberated towns in Lattakia Province, and preaches to local rebel leaders that Alawites are victims as well and have been duped by Assad, and should, therefore, be treated with respect http://youtu.be/m6fSJYzqFIQ

Col. Abdul-Jabbar Al-Oqaidi, head of the Aleppo Military Revolutionary Council, tours liberated neighborhoods in Aleppo City http://youtu.be/OXpAj3Ng-qo He meets with local rebel leadership http://youtu.be/N4ic_l70TkU , http://youtu.be/Qop4L4c-kas

Elsewhere in Aleppo city, battles between rebels and pro-Assad militias continue: Hazzazeh  http://youtu.be/IMEx07s2qVU , http://youtu.be/3w9N1PUuDYA , http://youtu.be/PwqxTyEPAIU

Local rebels do some of their own shelling now. This is a fighting unit affiliated with Suqur Al-Sham, the Brigade lead by the Salafist preacher Ahmad Abu Issa in Jabal Al-Zawiyeh. The target of the shelling regime held areas in Wadi Al-Daif  http://youtu.be/TdjINOl0nX8 , http://youtu.be/Ml0AEqAQVr0

Of course, while none of this compares with shelling by MIGs and tanks and helicopter gunships and missiles. This is still how rebels are fighting back and liberating territories, so it’s quite effective.

This improvised cannon is used by Salafi rebels in Hama http://youtu.be/9bnEY3DIPMw Another improvised weapon: mounting a video camera on a rifle to improve one’s aim http://youtu.be/--lYgH26sVY

Al-Farouq Brigade, another Islamist group whose members hail mostly from Homs Province have become quite active in Raqqah Province as well, and they can be heard here taking credit for some of the recent operations in the province http://youtu.be/_hh47Y79bLo 

Clashes between rebel groups and pro-Assad militias in Maarbah, Daraa Province http://youtu.be/yuf0I2lc3f8 , http://youtu.be/uOoTmcFsrss Planes forced to fly hi to avoid being targeted by rebels who have had some success in the last few days http://youtu.be/jkcxhASM0To

Rebels near Ma’arrat Al-Nouman, Idlib Province, heads towards the main highway to intercept reinforcements sent by Assad to take back the recently liberated city http://youtu.be/YO6Fxz53fl8 , http://youtu.be/SHNhlOjZUYM

In Damascus, city and suburbs, MIGs keep pounding restive areas http://youtu.be/IDUkwFTRAdA , http://youtu.be/VH1udCJQSQc