Saturday, November 10, 2012

Reform Baath-Style!

The more things change in the SNC, the worse they become. But we cannot keep blaming the SNC for what is essentially a cultural malaise of our educated elite, a group where ideologies and parochial interests have long become intertwined with and mistaken for national interests. The sacrifices that our people are making will not go in vain, an idol has been smashed and the status quo has been irrevocably shattered, but we still have hell to go through before democracy, development and dignity can be reached.

Friday November 09, 2012

Today’s Death Toll: 136. The Breakdown: Toll includes 11 children and 7 women: 33 in Damascus and suburbs, 33 in Deir Ezzor (most in Qourieh), 19 in Aleppo, 12 in Idlib, 10 in Hama, 10 in Homs, 9 in Daraa, 2 in Raqqah, 1 in Hassakeh and 1 in Qunaitera. Other Developments: LCC documented 176 points of random shelling by regime forces: 17 by war jets, 4 using explosive barrels, 65 by mortars, 56 by artillery and 38 by rockets. Rebels clashed with loyalists in 81 points. 446 anti-regime rallies took place. 97 in Idlib, 83 in Hama 72 in Aleppo, 64 in Deir Ezzor, 51 in Damascus and Suburbs, 43 in Daraa, 17 in Homs, 14 in Hassakeh and 5 in Lattakia (LCC).

As rebels took control of the border crossing into Turkey near the town of Ras Al-Ain/Seri Kaniye, they clashed with armed Kurdish rebels affiliated with PYD party, and the local Kurdish local population was not happy seeing Islamist rebels coming into their town. The situation in the majority-Kurdish city remains pretty tense. In other Kurdish-majority cities in Hassakeh, especially Amude and Derbassiyeh, local Kurdish groups moved to kick out the remains of Assad’s security officials and assumed direct control of their cities in order to consolidate their hold and prevent arrival by Islamist rebels. In the Kurdish –majority town of Kobani north of Aleppo, PYD militias fired at a rally organized by other Kurdish groups, in a sign of growing rivalry and tension between different Kurdish groups.

News
Thousands flee Syria in exodus, millions more need aid The U.N. said 11,000 refugees had fled in 24 hours, mostly to Turkey. The influx caused alarm in Ankara, which is worried about its ability to cope with such large numbers and has pushed hard, so far without success, for a buffer zone to be set up inside Syria where refugees could be housed.
UN: Syria 'Dramatically Deteriorating' The United Nations says the huge upsurge in the number of civilians fleeing Syria reflects the dramatically deteriorating situation in that country. Aid officials estimate that 2.5 million civilians still inside Syria need humanitarian assistance. 
Syria’s main opposition bloc elects Christian former teacher as new president George Sabra, a Communist-turned-social-democrat and former high school teacher who once wrote for the Arabic version of Sesame Street, said his election as head of the Syrian National Council is proof that Syrians are not beholden to sectarianism.
Jordan Said to Help Arm Syria Rebels Shipments Are Routed Through Border as Kingdom Steps Up Aid, Opposition Members Say; Amman Denies Connection


Special Reports
While much recent media attention has been focused on Hurricane Sandy and America's presidential election, Syria's horrific civil war continues. In some places, it has worsened. Aerial bombardment of civilian neighborhoods, deadly sniper fire, brutal street fighting, assassinations, and summary executions have become the norm in Syria. Cease-fire agreements have collapsed, rebel forces remain disorganized, foreign intervention is still hamstrung, and no path to peace appears to be forming yet. Britain is now reportedly looking for options to circumvent an arms embargo in order to supply rebels with weaponry. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remains defiant, stating in an interview with Russia Today that he planned "live and die in Syria," adding, "I am tougher than Gaddafi." Collected here are images of this bloody conflict from just the past few weeks.
On numerous occasions, America has cited concerns that disorganization within the rebel ranks is allowing foreign jihadists to gain a foothold and acquire some of the money and weapons flowing into Syria. But as long as it stands on the sidelines, America risks looking weak, while the very extremists it fears seem to be gaining more influence.
The rebel shortcomings have been compounded by changes in the opposition, from a force of civilians and defected soldiers who took up arms after the government used lethal force on peaceful protesters to one that is increasingly seeded with extremist jihadis. That radicalization has divided the fighters’ supporters and made Western nations more reluctant to give rebels the arms that might help break the intensifying deadlock. Instead, foreign leaders are struggling to find indirect ways to help oust Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad.

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

There long-heralded restructuring of the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the expansion of its membership base by including more members in the General Assembly did not produce the promised diversity or change. If anything, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and its Islamist sympathizers, long believed to be the real power behind the scene in the Council, assumed more direct overt control of the elected General Secretariat and the Executive Council. Of the 41 members elected to the General Secretariat, 31 are Islamists, No women were elected, and 4 members of minority groups were chosen (2 Kurds and 2 Christians). As for the Executive Council, the table below should make things clear. But George Sabra, the Christian teacher who was “elected” as head of the SNC’s Executive Committee, was not initially elected to the General Secretariat, he was appointed in retrospect then picked as head of the SNC to water down its Islamist image.

Before the MB settled on Sabra, however, they floated the name of Ahmad Ramadan as possible leader. Ahmad, a shadowy figure who never was part of opposition circles and whose emergence on the scene and previous activities remain shrouded in mystery, is one of the most reviled members of the SNC. Stories of his double-dealings and his attempts to establish his own private militias in the country have long turned sentiments against him. But he remains ambitious, and is believed to be one of the key power brokers in the Council, and even MB, although he is not officially a member. The storm of protest that greeted the mere suggestion that Ahmad could be selected as the new SNC head dissuaded him from pursuing this matter at this stage allowing for the section of Sabra. Sabra came under major critic from previous sympathizers and colleagues for accepting this position. All accused him of putting personal ambitions over principles. Sabra has become just another secular figure burnt by affiliation with SNC.

Name
Political Background
Ethnic Background
Regional Background
Comment
George Sabra
Communist
Christian
Damascus Suburbs

Abdel-Ahad Steifo
Assyrian Democratic Organization
Assyrian
Hassakeh
Long-time ally of the Brotherhood  
Abdulbassit Sieda
Independent
Kurd/Sunni
Hassakeh
Long-time ally of the Brotherhood
Ahmad Ramadan
Islamist
Sunni
Aleppo
One of the key players in SNC
Khalid Al-Salih
Independent
Tribal/Sunni
Deir Ezzor or Raqqah

Salim Al-Mislit
Independent
Tribal/Sunni
Hassakeh
Tribal leader
Hussein Al-Sayyid
MB
Sunni
Idlib

Hisham Marwa
Islamist
Sunni
Damascus
Lawyer, lives in U.S.
Jamal Al-Ward
Islamist
Sunni
Lattakia
Lives in U.S.
Farouq Tayfour
MB
Sunni
Hama
One of the key leaders of the MB
Nazir Al-Hakeem
MB
Sunni
Aleppo


SNC spokespeople have said that a woman or two might get appointed to the General Secretariat as well and perhaps one could be appointed to the Executive Council.

Meanwhile, SNC delegate postponed their participation in discussions over the plan for transitional government proposed by long-time dissident Riad Seif until Saturday.

Following the elections of the Executive Council, the Local Coordination Committees, the second largest group to take part in the Council after the Brotherhood, announced that they are withdrawing from the Council. This move undermines significantly the representation of in-country activists in the overall makeup of the Council. Many individual withdrawals also followed.

Despite the positive media spin that SNC leaders are trying to put on things at this stage, they have never been more irrelevant than they are now. Some began referring to the SNC as SIC, the Syrian Islamic Council, pun intended.

At this stage, the SNC cannot be approached as a national body, but more like a Sunni-dominated coalition representing the aspirations of a particular segment of the Sunni population. In this shape, SNC leaders cannot pretend to represent the Syrian people even if they shouted it from the mountaintop. Their outreach to different rebel groups has always been weak and problematic, and now any possibility of them being able to reach out to minority communities has been severely undermined. With its shrinking reach and appeal, no national role is possible for the SNC in its current format.

All eyes now will turn to Riad Seif and his ongoing effort to put a transitional government together.

Video Highlights

Aerial bombardment of Damascene suburbs by MiGs continued: Zamalka http://youtu.be/DcbgEYkC8R0 Harasta http://youtu.be/2oL8DjUx0x0 Hamouriyeh http://youtu.be/4TexRs-Qlx0 Jobar http://youtu.be/F1aalUyWmSM Elsewhere http://youtu.be/CAnvv1Q97Aw

In nearby Saqba, locals held a rally http://youtu.be/TdIDOVzenqg and Jobar as well http://youtu.be/djnZElJ0-yc Rallies like these took place all over Syria, as they do every Friday. Saqba later received its fair share of aerial bombardment http://youtu.be/aNa0LdqnD_A

Areas in Mazzeh Neighborhood, Damascus City were pounded by rockets and tanks http://youtu.be/guNShEKE_O8

Aftermath of the explosion in Moadamia, Damascus Suburbs http://youtu.be/EocjvafsFaw , http://youtu.be/ePCUVRiDbg0

Rebels clash with loyalists in Tadamon, Damascus City http://youtu.be/7nUnu9WQQPk

In Deir Baalbah, Homs City, rebels clashed with loyalist militias http://youtu.be/hlvrOoFhuDU

Islamist rebels launch missile attacks against positions held by pro-Assad militias in Ras al-Ain/Seri Kanye, Hassakeh province http://youtu.be/OgYBT_uubIE Rebels take over the local security headquarters http://youtu.be/3SqI2ELLPhc , http://youtu.be/jhl2LtZwVCg Scene of the clashes http://youtu.be/qRJGKdNtMjA , http://youtu.be/1Up-zM7P_jY , http://youtu.be/7w9hCdbHfzs Rebels use their own confiscated tank in the operations http://youtu.be/cpCN4JaraCQ

The battle for control of Allayramoon Neighborhood in Aleppo City continues http://youtu.be/aNa0LdqnD_A