Friday, December 7, 2012

Prepare for Real Politics?

A political solution is not meant to save Assad or his regime, but to stabilize the country after their fall preventing a descent into a prolonged communal strife. A political solution requires more than forming a transitional government, it requires the adoption of a clear transitional vision, something that remains missing.

Friday December 7, 2012

Today’s Death Toll: 130, including 4 women and 4 children: 51 in Deir Ezzor (including 50 in Aljbaila neighborhood massacre), 43 in Damascus and suburbs, 9 in each of Aleppo and Daraa, 8 in Idlib, 6 in Hama, 2 in Homs and 1 martyr in each of Latakia and Hassaka. Points of Random Shelling: 237. Clashes: 149 (LCC).

Rebel Groups in Syria Make Framework for Military The agreement, the product of three days of intensive talks among more than 260 rebel commanders, was a marked departure from previous attempts because it was built strictly around commanders from inside Syria. Following the terms of the pact, the participants elected a 30-member Supreme Military Council, which then selected the chief of staff, Gen. Salim Idriss, by consensus.
Russia Arms Syria With Powerful Ballistic Missiles Iskanders carry 1,500-pound warhead at 1.3 miles per second.

France funding Syrian rebels in new push to oust Assad Money delivered by French government proxies across Turkish border has been used to buy weapons and ammunition.
US uses rumours of chemical weapons to underpin threat of action in Syria Syria's ally Russia casts doubt on flurry of leaks from Pentagon and state department that Assad is preparing sarin gas
Syrian refugees 'turned back from Greek border by police' Asylum seekers crossing from Turkey say they have been illegally deported by Greek police or blocked from entering

Special Reports
The end appears near for the Assad regime in Syria. The opposition and world powers must do more to prevent the kind of post-conflict revenge – mainly against Alawites – that could ricochet in the Middle East.
What a pathetic policy we have undertaken that consists largely, if not entirely, of rhetoric backed up by little concrete action. Ford could not bring himself to give the body count, but  our lack of decisive action has had a price –  in tens of thousands of dead Syrians, in Syrians who surely must be convinced we are worthless friends, and in an ever-more emboldened Iranian regime, which sees how feckless we are.
The extent of the violence is both exaggerated and understated by rumour or propaganda
The Lebanese Army attempted to quash fighting in Tripoli on Friday—the seventh round of clashes since the Syrian uprising began 20 months ago. Jamie Dettmer on whether Beirut can stop a civil war within their own borders.
The second Obama Administration might depart from its isolationism on the international scene because the events in the Middle East are forcing it to do so. Prolonging the conflict in Syria would not only lead to thousands more civilian deaths, but also to the growth of extremist fundamentalist movements, to such an extent that they would regain a foothold in various places, and not solely in Syria. This represents a threat that could reach America and thrust the President to the forefront of the confrontation he seeks to avoid.
Activists in Syria say government forces have reinforced their positions in the suburbs of the capital, Damascus. There have been clashes around the city in recent days. The opposition says it is increasingly fearing a ground attack on rebel-held areas. The BBC's Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen is in Damascus where fighting has intensified in the last week.
Western human rights analysts who have argued for more robust action to protect civilians are rightfully raising new concerns about the brutality of the situation in Syria. Specifically, revenge violence and massive political execution may await al-Assad's supporters in Damascus should the rebels triumph. Should this happen, this horrific conflict will become even more bloodstained. Will the West just look on?
The precise dimensions of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal are not known, in part because it has never been subjected to outside inspection. Experts say it is a formidable collection, but the weapons date back almost 40 years — when Assad’s father, President Hafez Assad, began accumulating them — and have not been modernized.

As the banner below shows, the week beginning this Friday will be dedicated to rejecting any plans to send in peacekeepers to Syria. The reason? Peacekeepers, according to the Arabic note below, are meant to separate combatants, thus preventing the possibility of reaching a military resolution to the current conflict with one side triumphing over the other, while ensuring the fragmentation and division of the country.

Indeed, this is the prevailing thinking among rebels and opposition at this stage: the regime needs to be toppled and the authority of the central state needs to be reestablished over every inch of land by military means. No ethnic enclaves will be tolerated, even if they remained tied to the state through the adoption of a decentralized form of government such as a federation or a confederation.

In practical terms, this is a recipe for a prolonged civil war, irrespective of what happens to Assad and Co. Alawites and Kurds, and perhaps Druzes and Christians, will not likely to rebels storm into their traditional areas without a fight. Once Assad loses his grip over Damascus, and irrespective of what happens to him, the battle in Syria will no longer be one pitting freedom fighters against an oppressive regime, but one pitting fighters from different communal and regional backgrounds against each other. For if loyalist militias are perceived, a perception justified by their actions, as an occupation force in rebel communities, once they enter Alawite and Kurdish majority areas, rebels, the overwhelming majority of whom are Sunni Arabs, will be perceived in the same light, and will draw fierce resistance from local populations.

But since no country seems willing to offer peacekeepers anyway, what is needed is a commitment from the rebels to refrain from storming into minority regions, leaving the matter of their reintegration back into the state in the hands of political forces.

This is indeed a good piece of analysis and one that both the Obama Administration and the Syrian opposition, including moderate rebels, better heed:

… can the Obama administration isolate Jabhat al-Nusra? While some in the Syrian opposition would welcome a U.S. decision to slap a terrorist designation on the group, many will likely view this as another case of the U.S. government actually acting in support of Assad -- demonizing an element of the insurgency while simultaneously offering little assistance itself to topple the regime.

As a result, designating Jabhat al-Nusra could backfire on the United States. In the short term, it might galvanize more support for the group as Syrian rebels look to spite the Obama administration for its lack of support. A terror designation could also provide even more legitimacy for the organization amongst global jihadi supporters, leading even more foreigners to join up with its cause.

In the long run, however, marginalizing Jabhat al-Nusra and its ideology is a fight that the United States -- and ordinary Syrians everywhere -- must win. Once the Assad regime falls, the rebels' shared military goals will disappear, and it will be the job of the Obama administration and mainstream rebel groups to isolate extremist groups.

The outcome of this future fight is inextricably related to the Obama administration's efforts to help the rebels now. But without a swift end to the Assad regime and more engagement with the opposition, the United States won't have much leverage to shape Syria's future -- no matter what it decides to call Jabhat al-Nusra.

For his part, Peter Beinart, senior political writer for The Daily beast, asserts that:

It is not too much to ask that, in cooperation with the U.S., the Russians try to persuade Syria’s military professionals to break with Assad in return for strong guarantees that they will have an honorable role to play and that their families will be protected in the wake of the regime’s fall. I never believed that the Assad regime could be quickly or easily brought down. But I certainly do believe that Bashar, if facing defeat, prefers guaranteed safe-passage into exile rather than an ignoble death.

A “safe-passage” for Assad and “an honorable role” for his generals is a formula that can only work when rebels become saints with a deep case of amnesia. We talks about regional rights, minority protections, general amnesty, national reconciliation, etc. But the architects of the genocide that has been taken place cannot have any role to play in Syria’s future. A safe-passage for all is the best that can be expected, and even that will prove a tough sale to rebels and members of the political opposition.   

Video Highlights

Hundreds of rallies like these took place throughout the country as is customary on Fridays:

Maarabah, Daraa Elbab, Aleppo Kafar Zeiteh, Hama Dhiyabiyeh, Damascus Kafrenbel, Idlib

Sounds of explosions and gunfire in Qaboun Neighborhood, Damascus City The pounding of Eastern Ghoutah continues: Harasta The pounding of the restive parts of Damascus Province also continues: Daraya This leaked video shows pro-Assad militias using tanks to pound Daraya neighborhoods