Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Scuds Ahoy!

Between hasty American decisions and opposition angst and confusion, we have allowed Jabhat Al-Nusra to draw too much attention to itself in international media appearing much larger than it actually is on the ground. Most other rebel groups have recently come together under one command for the first time since the beginning of the armed phase of the Revolution, that’s where the real story lies. But no one is covering it – it’s not sensational enough it seems, albeit this is exactly the kind of plot-twist that can actually help seal the fate of the regime, down the road. Meanwhile, careful not to cross any red lines, the regime is now using scuds and incendiary bombs against his opponents.

Tuesday December 12, 2012

Today’s Death Toll: 113 (including 15 children and 7 women): 41 in Aleppo (20 in Safirah Massacre), 31 in Damascus and Suburbs (10 in Daraya), 17 in Deir Ezzor (including 4 rebels in Mouhassan), 7 in Daraa, 7 in Idlib, 3 in Homs, 3 in Hassaka, 2 in Hama, 1 in Raqqa and 1 in Lattakia. Points of Random Shelling: 242. Clashes: 115.  Rebels downed a jet in Eastern Ghoutah, Damascus, making the total of planes brought down by rebels to 94. In Damascus, rebels attacked and destroyed a loyalist convoy on the Airport Highway, as well as 2 tanks and 3 armored vehicles in the suburb of Daraya (LCC).

News

Scores reportedly killed in Syria's Hama Activist group says bomb attacks in village of Aqrab have left at least 125 mainly Alawite civilians wounded or killed.
Jordan Feels Pressure to Take Sides on Syria With growing political and economic unrest at home, the last thing many Jordanians want is conflict with neighbor Syria… Hassan Barari, a professor of International Studies at Jordan University, says it is important to have the Americans on board. “The international community wants Jordan to play a role in Syria," he said. "Jordan can't do it on its own and there should be some support, in particular from the Americans."
Syria: Sick and wounded trapped in Deir Azzour Tens of thousands of people, many of them wounded, are trapped in the city of Deir Azzour, eastern Syria, due to intense fighting and aerial bombardments. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) calls for the sick and wounded to be evacuated to safer locations and for international medical teams to be given official authorisation to provide impartial assistance to all those who need it.
Syria: Incendiary Weapons Used in Populated Areas The Syrian military has used air-delivered incendiary bombs in at least four locations across Syria since mid-November 2012. The conclusion is based on interviews with four witnesses and multiple videos analyzed by Human Rights Watch.
Young Syrian refugees who have risked everything While things are deteriorating inside Syria, the situation for refugees is getting worse with thousands continuing to cross into neighbouring countries.

Special Reports
Aleppo Today TV becomes vital news source amid Syria's chaos
It doesn't look like much. Aleppo Today TV, with it photographic slideshow of Aleppo in happier times accompanied by Syrian music, is not what many would expect from a 24-hour news channel. But two rolling news bars at the bottom of the screen have become a vital news source for residents navigating the shifting violence in Syria's largest city.
Nearly a year ago, the United Nations gave up on keeping track of Syria's dead. Over the summer, the International Committee of the Red Cross declared the conflict a civil war. That means intentional attacks on civilians are now officially considered war crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The question then becomes: How will we know what to prosecute when the fighting dies down if we don't keep track of crimes against civilians, which are, in most cases, women and children?
Syria's civil war has driven wedges through many parts of society, with violence that has killed more than 40,000 people exacerbating differences in class, ideology and religion. Reflecting how deep these divisions run is the near complete split of Syria's artists into pro- and anti-regime camps. Although Syria's writers, musicians and filmmakers fight with sharply worded statements instead of guns and tanks, their mutual animosity bodes ill for reconciliation should Assad fall.
Assad is compounding violence against Syrian civilians with starving them. They need humanitarian and military aid
The battle for Aleppo appears to have eased over the last few weeks but the suffering of those who live in this ancient city has not. Aleppo is facing a winter of misery and of dearth.
In a normal environment, not the Alice-in-Wonderland of the Middle East, what’s happening right now in Syria would be a textbook definition of “blowback.” And yet with Nusra’s growing capability, as well its new blacklisting by the United States, will it be the resistance or the regime with more soot on its face? I asked my friend Joe Holliday at the Institute for the Study of War about the new terror designation. “If it’s an attempt to clearly separate Nusra from the new coalition and pave the way for real US support to the opposition, then this is a good step,” he said. “But if we don't follow through with clear, quantifiable support for the opposition, then this designation will probably alienate a broader segment of the opposition, who will see this as pro-Assad policy.”

Arabic Press (Steven Miller, FDD Research Assistant)
According to the Syrian state news agency SANA, an explosion rocked the Kafar Souseh neighborhood near the Interior Ministry in Damascus, and sources said that the explosion targeted Interior Minister Mohamed al-Shaar's convoy. Furthermore, two explosive devices attached to cars exploded near the Justice Palace in the Qanawat area of the capital, injuring a bystander and damaging cars and shops nearby. In fighting throughout the country today, Syrian forces killed 69 people in Damascus, its outskirts, and Aleppo, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights. In Darya, the Cham network reported that 8 people were killed and several wounded by regime bombing, and activists in eastern Ghouta said that the regime resumed bombings there with white phosphorous bombs.

Syria Deeply
Sneak Peak: Syria Statement on Self-Defense A diplomatic source sent us a draft of the Friends of Syria conclusion, what would be the end result of this meeting in Marrakech.

It has long been noted that Arab officials have a tendency to say one thing when addressing Arab media and another when addressing western media. A friend of mine finally noticed that I tend to do the same thing, with a twist. For while Arab officials tell both audiences what they want to hear, I tell them what they don’t.

Indeed, when I write in Arabic (mostly on Facebook), or appear in Arab media (a rare occurrence these days), I explain, justify and often defend U.S. positions on a variety of issues, simply because I hate the conspiratorial way in which these positions are perceived. When I address western media, though, be it through this blog or my articles and interviews, I wax as critical of western, especially American, dithering and indecisiveness, albeit I often understand the concerns expressed by western officials, and often share them.

Lately, I have been explaining and defending America’s thinking on Al-Nusra to my Arab audience, even as I was criticizing the timing of the decision on this blog. Indeed, it is not the decision to classify Al-Nusra as a terrorist group that was wrong, it was the timing. Quite communications with opposition and rebel groups could have helped get the message across while avoiding the current public circus, which gives Al-Nusra more attention and weight than it deserves.

The awkwardness involved here can be seen in how National Coalition leader, Moaz Al-Khatib, was forced to call on America to “re-examine” her decision in this regard, even as his group was getting the recognition it needed from the Friends of Syria. Failure to fall in line with America’s policy in this matter, which might soon become a European policy as well, will co0mplicate efforts to fund and arm the opposition.

More importantly though, between hasty American decisions and opposition angst and confusion, we have allowed Al-Nusra to draw too much attention to itself in international media appearing much larger than it actually is on the ground. Most other rebel groups have recently come together under one command for the first time since the beginning of the armed phase of the Revolution, that’s where the real story is. We have managed to make important headway in creating the nucleus for a professional army that could hold the country together in the not-so-distant future. We need to do all we can at this stage to make sure that this fledgling structure is well-supported and professionally managed in order to ensure the future stability and wellbeing of the country.

This task is already complicated by the fact that Al-Nusra is not the only armed group out there calling for the establishment of an Islamic state. We have already witnessed the establishment of the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Syria almost three months ago. But new groups adopting this agenda are appearing everyday with Ansar Al-Khilafah (Supporters of the Caliphate), based in West Aleppo Province, being the newest comer http://youtu.be/wY8G-Jusw1M.

At the heart of all these developments is the argument over the nature and shape of future Syria. Is it going to be an Islamist Jihadist state, or a civil democratic state? But considering the current level of structural fragmentation, political and communal divisions, and regional dislocations, the real question confronting at this stage is whether Syria will survive as a unified state, or if it can be put back together somehow in the near future.

So far, things do not augur well in this regard.

Video Highlights

This is a gruesome video currently being circulated by pro-regime sites. It shows a child taking part in beheading captured pro-Assad militiamen somewhere in Homs or Hama Provinces. Albeit most atrocities continue to be perpetrated by pro-Assad militias, their cruelty is beginning to inspire retributions and copycatting in certain rebel circles. The trend seems unstoppable at this stage http://youtu.be/dOaJQSMmqa4

The bodies of the dead and wounded line the streets of Al-Qadam Neighborhood in Damascus City as a result of random shelling by regime forces http://youtu.be/uNVTJOJSi58

Meanwhile, jets keep pounding Eastern Ghoutah: Hamouriyeh http://youtu.be/DK1o96GEAiA Kafar Batna cluster bombs are used sending people scurrying n all directions http://youtu.be/7UvKtCC-zsk , http://youtu.be/m-W6q0WMb90 Harasta http://youtu.be/7LBb0NTAZ7k

MiGs continue to pound restive communities in Aleppo Province: Marei pounding leaves a headless corpse http://youtu.be/3z9dxIWQtMU

Clashes between rebels and loyalists intensify in Deir Ezzor City http://youtu.be/2TM95ig-xQ4 So does the pounding of the city MiGs and rockets http://youtu.be/44tNqXPHDOw , http://youtu.be/5tmPSfb9fCE

MiGs pound the town of Tal Abyad, Raqqah, on the border with Turkey http://youtu.be/X8FrKeh6sRY

This video just surfaces showing MiGs pounding the old town in Homs City back on December 9 http://youtu.be/9jE7AtaiagY

Leaked video shows the interrogation and torture of a prisoner by pro-Assad militias http://youtu.be/Ng5h62nkqnY