Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Release the Kraken!

They’re baaaack! All those missing pundits who had little to say about the tragic developments in Syria over the last few months are now back and at it again, tackling their favorite topic in the whole wide world and making their usual sweeping assertions about its centrality to the regional woes: who cares about authoritarianism and corruption, it’s the Arab-Israeli Conflict baby. What they have missed in the midst of their ideological orgy is the simple fact that the Conflict has long morphed into an Israeli-Iranian affair with Turkey trying to work herself in, and Arabs, rich and poor alike, being nothing more than glorified proxies. Meanwhile, Russia and China play the spoilers when it suits them, as America stands disinterested, and perhaps a little puzzled, if not clueless. Meanwhile, in Syria, the Islamists pursue their hijacking of the revolution.

Monday November 19, 2012


Syrian Revolution Seeks Commanding Position The rebels may not yet have a national political structure… but “The new organization has a chance to shape how the war is going be fought now.”
Syrian rebels eye Assad's economic lifeline in east Speaking from the rebel-held town of Ras al-Ain on the border with Turkey, Sheikh Nawaf al-Bashir said rebels are planning to advance into two lightly defended frontier towns further east in the resource-rich province of Hasaka, 600 km (375 miles) from Damascus.
Syria rebels seize part of key army base: watchdog Syrian rebel fighters today took control of part of a strategic army base they have been laying siege to for weeks in the northern province of Aleppo, a watchdog and residents said.
Syrian rebels say they seize base on Damascus outskirts Syrian rebels said they had seized the headquarters of an army battalion near the southern gate of Damascus on Monday, the nearest military base to the capital reported to have fallen to opposition fighters in a 20-month revolt.
Syria rebels clash with armed Kurds Fighting near Turkey between Free Syrian Army and Kurds affiliated with Democratic Union Party leaves several injured.

Special Reports
With the sound of mortars in the background, Syrians in Aleppo express concern for our American correspondent and his storm-battered homeland.
The head of the French State took a decisive step with regard to Syria during his press conference of November 13th. Thus, in his words, France has recognized the Syrian Coalition… In virtue of the logic that follows this recognition, François Hollande has adequate grounds to demand that the United Nations see to it that liberated zones, controlled by the new power, be declared sanctuary without delay.
Government forces resumed their attack on rebel-held areas in Aleppo, Syria's largest city. U.S. officials say they fear a possible civilian massacre there. Clarissa Ward met with some rebel fighters.
International charity Save the Children has warned 200,000 Syrian refugee children are at serious risk from freezing temperatures, as winter sets in the Middle East.
The Syrian government has all the heavy weapons, but it does not have enough troops to establish permanent military control over every rural area in a country of 24 million people. However, it does have the strength to smash any attempts to create a rival authority with the powers of a real government in those rural areas, and it still holds most of the cities: the front line in Aleppo has scarcely moved since last summer.
A small number of exiled Syrians in Paris, Cairo and other cities launched a radio station called SouriaLi (My Syria / Surrealist) in October for the people of war-torn Syria. The programming is uncensored and available from a Cairo studio as a web-based series of podcasts on www.souriali.com.
No sooner had the UN team called it a night at the border post and left the refugees, but the Jordanian border force performed a volte-face, ordering the families to go back to wherever they came from.

The Spillover Effect
President Francois Hollande's decision to recognize Syria's new opposition bloc aims to secure long-term French interests in the region and boost his foreign policy image but, with few allies following suit, Paris may risk isolation… As the former colonial master in Syria, it makes sense for France to be a leader in solving the crisis and its economic ties with Assad's government have been modest in recent years. By positioning itself now for the long term, Paris hopes to reap the business rewards from Syria's reconstruction.
Civil war in Syria is taking its toll on several sectors of the economy of neighboring Lebanon, where exports have tumbled 12 percent, Lebanon's economy minister said on Monday. In addition to tumbling exports, Lebanon's tourist industry has declined by as much as 15 percent.
The 750-mile project was first announced in July 2011 as Syrian rebels began stepping up the fight to topple Assad. Many analysts predicted the pipeline would remain in the planning stages because of the countless risks involved, but Iran’s decision to start work — even just the beginning sections — is seen a public show of confidence in Assad’s ability to ride out the uprising.
"Some are saying that Israel is punishing Hamas for they think it abandoned Iran, Syria and Hezbollah," Nasrallah said in a speech beamed to supporters on a big screen in the Shiite southern suburbs of Beirut. "Iran, Syria and Hezbollah will not give up on the people of Gaza and its resistance, and this is our religious and moral and humanitarian obligation," he said.
Might Putin, if Bashar's regime became more threatened, be tempted to pull another Pristina? -- the moment in 1999 when Russian troops, in support of their Serbian allies, sent a column in to occupy Pristina airport, in Kosovo… one must not underestimate the contrarian force represented by the Russia of Vladimir Putin. He may or may not be concerned by being on the wrong side of the Sunni-dominated Arab Spring, but he certainly hasn't shown it thus far.

A group of Islamist Rebels convened in Aleppo City earlier on Sunday and issued a statement rejecting the recently formed National Coalition as a conspiratorial body established by external powers, and said that consensus has been reached on establishing an Islamic State. Unsurprisingly the main groups represented in this meeting were Jabhat Al-Nusra, Ahrar Al-Sham and Ahrar Syria, long believed to be al-Qaeda affiliates. But the other main group taking part was Liwa Al-Tawhid, which is somewhat surprising considering the more moderate tone and stature that its leaders tried to project earlier. Other major Islamic groups like Al-Farouq and Suqur Al-Sham (Al-Sham Falcons) were noted for their absence, but it will be interesting to see what their reactions will be now that the genie is out of the bottle http://youtu.be/XOazhu3LB1Y

The timing of the statement itself is quite telling. European countries are already discussing the possibility of lifting the arms embargo on Syria, which, if it happens, can help empower moderate rebel groups by giving them more advanced weapons allowing them to stand up both to pro-Assad militias as well as the Islamist groups. Jabhat Al-Nusra and affiliates are right then: the Coalition is a conspiracy against them. The Coalition was established specifically to save this revolution from an ongoing extremist takeover.

By Monday, the improvised announcement drew fierce denouncements from moderate and secular rebel groups, forcing a retraction by Al-Tawhid, and more vocal support to the Coalition by major rebel groups and activists throughout the country. As such, rather than weakening the Coalition, the rejection by Islamists served to shore up its popular appeal, at least for the time being.

But a showdown between moderate and Islamist forces is looming, and the best that can be done at this stage is to defer it until a vision for an endgame in Syria emerges in opposition circles. With the clashes taking place between Islamist rebels and Kurdish militias in Seri Kanye on the Turkish border, there is enough side drama in rebel camps going on at this stage. Cool heads will probably prevail for few more weeks, but a conflict pitting moderates against extremists seems unavoidable, especially as extremists control more territory and more border crossings with neighboring countries. Indeed, Jabhat Al-Nusra either directly, or through smaller affiliates, some of which pretend to be moderates control all border crossings with Turkey. Recently, Jabhat Al-Nusra moved to take control of the town of Alboukamal along the borders with Iraq. The Jabhat and its extremist partners and affiliates were allowed too much leeway in the last few months, thanks to international dithering and opposition incompetence, and they cannot be reined in eventually without some measure of force. The die is cast, Alea Jacta Est, the Kraken is released, and all that sort of things. Putting Syria back together is fast becoming a herculean undertaking.  And now we have to deal with Gaza.  

Video Highlights

After weeks-long siege, rebels manage to capture a key army-based in Al-Atareb, Aleppo Province. The base is the headquarters of the 46th Battalion of the regular army still loyal to Assad. http://youtu.be/9kny-Ur-KxM Showcasing the supplies that they have gained http://youtu.be/Rlu_KqLO_2s