Friday, December 21, 2012

The Long Road Ahead!

It’s counterintuitive but it’s true. The road to a political solution in Syria goes through further militarization, while saving the whole require working on stabilizing and securing the pieces. Few will understand this logic and many will see it as a conspiracy, as such, it will have few early adopters on the ground, that’s why a solution may take years to come.

Thursday December 20, 2012

Today’s Death Toll: 117, including 5 women and 9 children: 42 in Damascus and suburbs, 23 in Daraa including 6 field executed in refugee camp and 5 in Izra’, 18 in Hama including 7 in Halfaya, 14 in Aleppo, 10 in Homs including 7 in Houla, 5 in Deir Ezzor and 5 in Idlib. Points of Random Shelling: 274. Clashes: 133. Rebels liberated the check point at Tal Alnasr in Deir B’alba and too control of Al-Ishara Batallion in Homs. In Deir Ezzor, they took control of a military industrial complex. In Hama, they liberated a number of towns and villages including Kafar Naboda, Karnaz, Breidij, Kafar Zeita, Jabin, Alzaka, Alhamamyat, Heyalin, Ellatamneh and Halfaya, and are currently trying to liberate Morek (LCC).


Post-ABC poll: U.S. involvement in Syria In general, Americans widely oppose U.S. military involvement in Syria, but majorities support establishing a no-fly zone and direct action rises if chemical weapons are used by the government.
War in Syria: Clashes ease at Damascus Palestinian refugee camp Some of the more than 100,000 residents who fled the brutal violence in the Syrian capital of Damascus began to trickle back on Thursday as the fighting subsided.
Wounded Presage Health Crisis for Postwar Syria Four-month-old Fahed Darwish suffered brain damage and, like thousands of others seriously hurt in the civil war, he will likely need care well after the fighting is over. That's something doctors say a post-conflict Syria won't be able to provide. Making things worse, there has been a sharp spike in serious injuries since the summer, when the regime began bombing rebel-held areas from the air, and doctors say a majority of the wounded they now treat are civilians.
Living Conditions Difficult in Rebel-Held Syria The crude oil they’re using to heat one room in the house is expensive. So is the gasoline for the car that Hassan needs for his work as a driver. Food is five times more expensive than last summer, when it was already high.  A week ago, the electricity the 40,000 townspeople rely on for most heat was cut and now they are struggling to keep the bitter winter cold at bay. Hassan and his family only use one room now to eat and sleep – the rest of the house is frigid.

Special Reports
The city, as many Kurdish cities, acted as a sanctuary, free from the spread of the Assad regime's forces. Today, Ras al-Ain is under the grip of jihadis and young men with black beards and black flags circling the streets under the banner of the FSA. Tunisians, Moroccans, Afghanis, Iraqis, Saudis, and Syrians are in the squares, raising the Turkish flag alongside the black flag, and the flag of independence. They distribute bags of rice, flour, and sugar to poor and terrified residents, after seizing many grain warehouses, with the goal of garnering local support and using residents under the guise of freedom and toppling the regime.
What remains unanswered is whether the Alawites could survive as a military power in the mountains. Landis says that would depend on two factors:  “Whether Iran is willing to continue to invest and support them militarily by sending weapons and money, and whether the Sunni Arabs overcome their deep factionalism and unify.”
Now that the U.S. and more than 100 other countries have recognized Syria's opposition coalition, the dynamics are changing for local councils in provinces under rebel control. These councils are going to get money and become humanitarian aid organization and now they have to figure out how to deliver 1,200 tons of bread a day for a population of 6 million people in Aleppo province. Melissa Block talks to Deborah Amos.
“In Syria, life can be schizophrenic at times. I was travelling with colleagues outside Damascus one day. We were riding in office vehicles, and on one side of the road we could see people shooting while on the opposite side others were going about their normal business as if nothing was happening. It was like a sci-fi movie.”

Syria Deeply
As part of our effort to highlight civilian stories, below is a conversation between Syria Deeply and a law student at Aleppo University. He stopped going to class after the regime crackdown on student protests earlier this year. The student, originally from Raqqa, allowed us to reveal his full name but Syria Deeply decided to keep it private. Last week his classmate was abducted by regime agents after speaking to the press, revealing his true identity.

Send Austin Home

The Sectarian Turnabout

The crackdown in Syria was sectarian in nature from the very beginning, as evidenced by the statements of various Syrian officials at the time including those of Assad himself. Still, thanks to the goodwill and hard work of the country’s pro-democracy activists, it took almost 18 months to transform the revolution into a sectarian uprising. The tide began to turn in the Summer of 2012, during which the overwhelming brutality of the Assad regime, the cynical indifference of western powers, the competing agendas of regional players, and the shameful inadequacy of traditional opposition groups combined to feed the most extremist tendencies on the ground, and Syria began to fracture.

By August 2012, and as I noted in my report at the time, The Shredded Tapestry, the point of no-return in the devolution of Syria seems to have been reached. Only a massive intervention can save the country now, and there are no takers. We may not be able to save the whole anymore, but we might be able to stabilize the pieces so that humanitarian conditions are improved and spillover effects are contained. It will take many years to put the pieces back together. But these processes will not be possible until all sides realize that they cannot have it all.

A combination of pain, anger and ideology will make selling this vision at this stage a well-nigh impossible task.

But, and as my colleague, Amr al-Azm, argues, getting to a point where dialogue over these issued is made possible, requires serious investments in militarization. Indeed, a political solution requires changing the military realities on the ground.  

Entering negotiations to hand over power to the opposition requires the regime’s loss of one or more major urban cities. The potential ability to seriously threaten core areas of Alawites, Assad’s tribesmen, and Damascus simultaneously would be significant game changers. The loss of Aleppo and Idlib would put opposition forces within reach of the Homs and Hama hinterlands, core areas of the Alawite communities. The loss of Deir Al-Zor would lay open the desert road Tariq Al-Badiya that swings across the eastern steppe through Palmyra and opens up the eastern and southern approaches to Damascus, where fighting is on-going.  Such a threat would force the regime and its Iranian and Russian mentors to reconsider their calculus regarding the containment of the crisis, making them more likely to seriously engage in alternative options, such as negotiations for a transition.

Meanwhile, we should always be weary of Russian leaders waxing wise and reasonable, as Russian President Putin just did:

“Our position is not for the retention of Assad and his regime in power at any cost but that the people in the beginning would come to an agreement on how they would live in the future, how their safety and participation in ruling the state would be provided for, and then start changing the current state of affairs in accordance with these agreements, and not vice versa.”

The question is here: what did Putin do to get Assad to accept sitting down with the opposition to discuss these issues? The Obama Administration was willing to give Putin the lead in this matter for many months, but he produced nothing. Rather he and his officials refused to put any kind of pressure on Assad, whether through the UN or their own outreach. Moreover, in their media coverage and official statements, they wholly adopted Assad’s version of events, and in all their discussions with opposition figures, they put the burden for halting ongoing violence on them! Their strategy was to beat down the victims into submission and prep them to accept whatever pittance Assad chooses to offer them. Meanwhile they kept arming Assad. The net effect of their activities: giving Assad enough time to tear the country apart.

So, pardon us for not buying whatever offer Putin seems to be peddling.

Video Highlights

Fierce clashes took place in the plush Mazzeh Neighborhood in Damascus City at night , Earlier in the day, missile launchers from the nearby military airport were busy pounding surrounding suburbs

Towns and communities around Damascus continue to come under heavy shelling: Deir Al-Assafeer

Rebels in Damascus Suburbs use their confiscated tanks to pound pro-regime positions around Damascus International Airport Clashes also take place near Agraba

Leaked video shows pro-Assad militias abusing women detainees in Haffeh, Lattakia