Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wisdom!

I have learned from bitter experience to expect the worst whenever seemingly wise and reasonable men come to the fore in the realm of politics, for they appear only when a situation has already been “managed” into a catastrophe, meaning that whatever advice they will choose to offer is bound to be laden with cynicism and aversion to action. Indeed, we are now at a stage where spinelessness and indecision can present themselves as wisdom and sobriety and decency can be dismissed as extremism. The resulting quagmire can then be used to further bolster arguments about the “innate incivility of Arabs and Muslims,” and the “utter uselessness of democracy-promotion in our region,” paving the way for supporting the status quo, which in Syria’s case might be civil war.

Sunday December 17, 2012

Today’s Death Toll: 158, including 11 women and 9 children: 50 in Damascus and Suburbs, 38 in Daraa (including 5 due to the shelling of Tafas and 13 who were field-executed in a refugee camp), 31 in Aleppo, 13 in Hama (including 4 in Kafr Zeita and 3 in Hilfaya), 15 in Idlib, 7 in Deir Ezzor and 4 in Homs. Points of Random Shelling: 248. Clashes: 116. Rebels in Quneitra managed to liberate the headquarters of the 90th Brigade. They also targeted a checkpoint at Hilfaya, Hama Province, liberated the Popular Army’s Headquarters in Raqqa City arresting all loyalist soldiers inside, and blocked several attempts by regime forces to storm the cities and towns of Eastern Ghoutah, Damascus (LCC).

News


Syrian army tanks close in on Damascus Palestinian camp Residents fear Assad loyalists will enter in search of rebel groups after refugees become drawn into conflict in Syria
Syria Says Opposition Could Use Chemical Weapons Syria's U.N. ambassador is warning that extremist groups could use chemical weapons against the Syrian people and blame the government. Bashar Ja'afari reiterated in letters, circulated Monday, to the U.N. Security Council and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the Syrian government is "genuinely worried" that foreign countries could provide chemical weapons to armed groups "and then claim they had been used by the Syrian government."
Syria Warns Refugees Not to Aid Rebels The Syrian warning appeared to reflect the importance that Mr. Assad attaches to the loyalty of the country’s Palestinians, an important element of what remains of his political legitimacy… The warning aimed at these Palestinians was conveyed in a news dispatch by SANA, the official news agency, about a telephone conversation between the country’s foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, and the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon.

Syria VP says neither side can win outright "We must position ourselves to defend Syria's existence -- we are not in a battle for an individual or a regime."The various opposition forces -- whether armed or civilian, or linked to foreign powers -- cannot claim they are the sole legitimate representatives of the Syrian people," he added, referring to the decision of Arab and Western governments last week to recognise the armed opposition. He called for confidence-building measures between the warring parties and said that "the solution must be Syrian, but through a historic settlement including key regional countries and (UN) Security Council member states." "This accord must first bring about an end to all forms of violence and establish a national unity government with broad powers," he added.
Foreign nerves limit Syria rebel arms, Assad's arsenals raided Syrian rebel success in capturing government armories is rendering increasingly irrelevant Western efforts to limit supplies from abroad and avoid sophisticated arms reaching Islamist militants.

Special Reports
No Water, Power, Cash: Syria Rebels Run Broke Town
The anti-regime locals who have thrown together a ramshackle administration to run this northern Syrian town have one main struggle: Finding money to keep their community alive. Like other nearby rebel-held towns, Maaret Misreen is broke. Many of the town's 45,000 residents are out of work. There's no cash to keep water or electricity running, so they come on only sporadically. Prices have skyrocketed. Long lines form at the only working bakery for miles around, creating vulnerable potential targets for airstrikes.
Ali was the fourth baby to die in three weeks in the windswept camp. United Nations aid workers say none of the deaths were the direct result of conditions in Zaatari, yet they highlight the challenge facing relief agencies scrambling to provide basic shelter for half a million refugees in the region.
These days, Zahle is a place of safety. Christian families fleeing the violence and chaos of Syria's civil war just a few kilometres further down that ancient highway are arriving in the city where Christian aid agencies care for them. The question is - will be they be able to return to their homes once the fighting dies down or will they become the latest chapter in the long story of the how the Christian population of the Middle East is continuing to decline?
Among those with money to throw around in the scrum for influence are groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, which the State Department says has ties to Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Contreras’s pictures from Syria have proven to be not only significant and, in some cases, unforgettable. His sequences invariably capture the anguish of a conflict that has trapped countless civilians in their own land and made refugees of tens of thousands more, while more than a few of his individual photos already feel iconic.
Just a day after Iran’s foreign minister pledged unwavering support for the embattled Assad, officials in Tehran outlined on Sunday a step-by-step peace plan for Syria capped by elections that presumably could usher in a new leader in Damascus.
In Qabbasin secondary school, students are learning English and putting ethnic tensions aside
Mr. Sharaa says that both the regime and rebels will need to work together to resolve the conflict in Syria, since neither has exclusive rights to dictate the country's future.

Syria Deeply
There are roughly 2.5 million Alawites in Syria, making up 13% of the population. They are the stalwarts of Assad’s inner circle, disproportionally represented in military and security posts (a U.S. official told Syria Deeply that 80% of military officers come from the sect).


Enter The Wise Men

Patrick Cockburn argues that the civil war in Syria is not a “fight between goodies and baddies.”  Meanwhile, Chuck Hagel, our potential future Secretary of Defense admonishes that “You've got to be patient, smart, wise, manage the problem.”

What can I say? Both men are right. At this stage, cynicism is amply justified, especially for those who could forget how we got here, how it all began. After all, twenty months is more than enough for so many people to forget that at one point this was a nonviolent pro-democracy protest movement, that Assad and his minions were the clear “baddies” who put us on this course, while world leaders buried their heads in their favorite hole where few sunrays can penetrate. Once you are willing to forget all about the dithering, the willful blindness, the duplicity and the downright betrayal that helped pave the way to this moment, then the Cockburns and Hagels of the world can step onto the stage and play the wise men trying to inject a sober note into the ongoing discussions. 

I have learned from bitter experience to expect the worst whenever seemingly wise and reasonable men come to the fore in the realm of politics, for they appear only when a situation has already been “managed” into a catastrophe, meaning that whatever advice they will choose to offer is bound to be laden with cynicism and aversion to action. Indeed, we are now at a stage where spinelessness and indecision can present themselves as wisdom and sobriety and decency can be dismissed as extremism. The resulting quagmire can then be used to further bolster arguments about the “innate incivility of Arabs and Muslims,” and the “utter uselessness of democracy-promotion in our region,” paving the way for supporting the status quo, which in Syria’s case might be civil war.

Still, Cockburn and Hagel are right. By now, there is enough sectarian hatred, enough weapons and enough hotheads on both sides to trample underfoot all the “goodies” and confuse all facts, that is, if you want to be confused, and if you inner disposition has since the onset been in favor of standing on the sidelines watching.

The reality is; nothing that is happening in Syria is so unique or unpredictable. The scenario with all its variables is quite familiar and those who really want to manage the situation can do so, effectively even, if they have the will to do it, otherwise, and as the recent Massacre of Aqrab shows, our wise men will keep finding incidents that can be used to justify their calls for “patient, wise, smart” management of the problem, which usually result in lack of any serious action, pushing us further and further into the quagmire.

The Massacre at Aqrab

As more details emerge regarding the massacre of Alawite civilians at Aqrab, it becomes clear that the rebels’ version calls for some serious scrutiny. While mass suicide/homicide involving Alawite militias and their families seems to have taken place, it is the rebels’ siege of their homes that seems to have prompted this course. Moreover, involvement by foreign Jihadi elements in the battle has been reported by some eye-witnesses. Still, neither this account nor the account provided by the rebels, which I have previously relayed, are satisfactory. Further investigation is definitely required.

This is not Houla, as Alex Thomson clearly notes in his report. The absence of the usual “song and dance,” to use his own unfortunate wording, and the absent of any YouTubes showing grieving parents and mass burials come as clear indication that something is amiss here. The days of innocence are indeed over. Rebels have learned by now what international media want to hear, so they gave us a version of events that catered to that. Their account of such developments cannot be taken at face value.

I have earlier referred to the incident in Aqrab as a Massada option, because such developments cannot take place unless people are desperate and under siege. Rather than trying to ignore this incident, opposition groups need to lead efforts to understand what happened there and establish mechanisms to prevent recurrence, otherwise, all will be lost.

With or without international support, this is the kind of situations we need to confront by ourselves, we cannot wait for anyone to help and we cannot keep throwing our hands in the air. Frustration is no excuse for adopting the same tactics that the regime has deployed against us. This kind of incidents happens only when there is failure in leadership, at a time when we are trying to convince the international community that we are finally getting our act together, and have finally developed a credible leadership structure, what better ways to underscore that than by taking a clear and moral stand on such developments?

If we cannot make Aqrab a turning point for the good, it will become a turning point for the hideous.

Video Highlights 

The pounding of the Palestinian-majority neighborhood of Yarmouk in Damascus City by pro-Assad militias was quite intense http://youtu.be/Pxz5vv7rjdU Regime used missile launchers http://youtu.be/XUwZp851s20 But rebels reportedly remain in control of it. The fighting and the pounding drive thousands of residents away http://youtu.be/H8UyZh4gnOs

Aerial raids against the towns and villages of Eastern Ghoutah, Damascus, continue http://youtu.be/syw43ySv0dM

Pro-Assad militias commit a massacre in a refugee camp in Tafas, Daraa Province http://youtu.be/mSsisMvhvHw The usual grief http://youtu.be/RTwmERSRlcQ And gory scenes http://youtu.be/BR58_KRPhFQ The dead were olive farmers http://youtu.be/UHwS0p3u81I

Rebels in Aleppo City take control of the Local Infantry School http://youtu.be/ohouRBx61AE With this step, rebels come in possession of much needed equipment including tanks http://youtu.be/St4XfJeN71E , http://youtu.be/i25QmNc9Ag0 guns and ammunition http://youtu.be/aDlvQRbvlLk The battle was bloody and there were many wounded http://youtu.be/vxmnKFHf4cM

Rebels destroy a checkpoint near Hilfaya, Hama Province, destroying a tank in the process http://youtu.be/MAsfPiofLJw The checkpoint was used to pound the town http://youtu.be/BvUmFeLCWKA

Rebels and loyalists clash in Deir Ezzor City http://youtu.be/pbCm9Abokd8 , http://youtu.be/U_YHNuq9NlM

Leaked video shows pro-Assad militias executing an unarmed civilian http://youtu.be/pcaJcd6gXdQ

Rebels in Aleppo are manufacturing their own missiles: Rohingya 1 and 2, named after the persecuted ethnic Muslim minority in Burma http://youtu.be/eEqNrtHxZrs It takes 6 hours to manufacture each missile which reportedly has arrange of three Kilometers.

A pro-Assad militiaman captures how he and his comrades strolled into a village, thinking that it has been evacuated by rebels http://youtu.be/3sN90sSC314 only to be caught in an ambush http://youtu.be/uRE3b3L8Tis Ten were killed. The incident took place in the village of Joussiyeh, Homs Province. 

A video obtained from the mobile of a captured loyalist shows the extant of involvement by Hezbollah operatives in current events in Syria. Hezbollah troops clearly took part in storming restive neighborhoods in Homs City back in summer of 2011. They can be identified by the yellow ribbons around their upper arms http://youtu.be/RB6dBNmsF3I