Sunday, April 29, 2012

“How is it that Assad is still in power?”

“How is it that Assad is still in power?” This question by Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel will continue to hang over President Obama’s head until Assad is removed. The mere delay is a stain on President Obama’s record and honor.

Sunday April 29, 2012

More than 450 people were reported killed in the period of April 24-29 in the ongoing crackdown against protesters ... The cities of Homs and Hama and surrounding communities continue to be pounded by pro-Assad troops ... The northern province of Deir Ezzor has become a battleground between pro-Assad militias and members of the local resistance, especially the town of Mouhassan ... Authorities report attacks on a number of targets along the coast of Lattakia, but details remain murky as no opposition groups claim credits ... A ship reportedly carrying weapons and supplies to rebel groups was halted by Lebanese authorities off the coast of Lebanon ... New “suicide” attacks were reported, with timing and contradictory reports spread by local media suggesting the attacks were government-staged as was the case on previous occasions.

Op-Eds & Special Reports
President Obama is on the right track with Monday's executive order, but the United States needs to get tougher on the global digital arms race.
Obama’s Atrocities Prevention Board institutionalizes indifference to mass murder.
“The greatest tragedy in history could have been prevented had the civilized world spoken up, taken measures,” he said, referring to the Holocaust and how its perpetrators “always wanted to see what would be the reaction in Washington and London and Rome, and there was no reaction so they felt they could continue.” So he asked the audience at Monday’s ceremony: “Have we learned anything from it? If so, how is it that Assad is still in power?”

SNC & the Obama Administration

SNC leader, Burhan Ghalioun, and other figures from the SNC Executive Office, were scheduled to attend an event arranged by The Atlantic Council and the Hariri Center in Washington, D.C. on April 26, followed by meetings with a number of ranking Congressmen. The event cancelled at the last minute, and according to an email sent out by Mr. Ghalioun to a number of Syrian lists by way of explanation, the decision was made after a long meeting with Mr. Jeffrey Feltman, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, and Mr. Frederick Hoff, the Obama Administration point man on Syria.

“We found it better,” Ghalioun said, “to wait for an official invitation to be sent instead of one from a research center, considering how significant this will be to the image of the Council.”

More importantly, he goes on, “we find that it will not be useful today to create any contradiction [sic] between Congress and Administration. It is not politically proper for us not to show consideration to the Administration’s request that we postpone this visit. The administration has undertaken to contact all congressmen and explain the situation to them and to arrange for higher level meetings with all at the next possible opportunity.”

In a follow up communication, and after people on the list complained that this is a wasted opportunity, he explains that Feltman and Hoff promised to “arrange for a combined meeting with the Administration and the Congress during a future visit.”

Let’s see if I got this correct. The Administration has agreed to recognize the SNC at a certain point in the future if its leaders agreed in return to avoid embarrassing the Administration politically by showing up in town so soon after Elie Wiesel challenged Obama’s credibility on Syria?

How will this benefit the people who are dying every day in Syria? And “how is it that Assad is still in power?”

Be that as it may, as far as many Syrians are concerned, Mr. Obama has lost his credibility on Syria long ago. It will take much more than recognizing the perennially dysfunctional SNC to redeem him in our eyes. It will take a safe haven, it will take support to the people on the ground, it will take air strikes, it will leading from where leading is actually done, it will take doing everything he can to ensure Assad’s removal from power, it will take a backbone. Hopefully, he’ll manage to develop one in time, because this is not a comedy routine for us, but more like, how shall I put it?, slaughter.

Syria’s Political Opposition: A report by the Institute for the Study of War

* The SNC has not meaningfully engaged with local opposition forces, and is losing credibility and influence within Syria as the conflict grows more militarized.

* The other significant established political opposition coalition is the National Coordination Committee (NCC ). The NCC is based in Damascus and favors a negotiated political settlement and dialogue with the regime. This stance has made the NCC less popular amongst the grassroots opposition movement.

* The grassroots movement functions at a local and regional level through coordination between the local coordinating committees and revolutionary councils. This movement has become tactically adept, better organized, and more cohesive, developing nascent political structures.

* The established political coalitions such as the SNC have articulated a national vision for a post-Assad future and have received nominal support from the international community, yet they lack strong networks and popular legitimacy inside Syria. On the other hand, the grassroots political opposition has gained the support of the people, but it lacks a national vision and united front as the basis for international support.

* A bottom-up strategy would provide an avenue for U.S. support that incorporates both national and local opposition groups and encourages the emergence of a legitimate national political leadership.

The Assads and Al-Qaeda

The only Al-Qaeda cells that operate in Syria are those manipulated by Assad’s security apparatuses. The suicide bombings are directly staged or facilitated by them. Issues pertaining to the timing and real beneficiaries, and everything we know about the Assads’ involvement in terror networks all point in this direction. And for those who forgot, here is a reminder .

Objectivity demands that international media outlets say whenever they report on such developments in Syria that many experts believe, on the basis of their analysis of available footage in the past, that the Assads are in the habit of staging terrorist attacks inside Syria when that suits their purposes. I am referring here not only to the attacks that were staged during the revolution, but even to attacks in previous years, including the attack on the American Embassy in 2006. It’s not enough to say that the opposition casts doubts, when there are many respected experts who also do.

Video Highlights

A new child martyr from Mouhassan, Deir Ezzor Province Another 9-year old Qouriyeh, Deir Ezzor Province

Finding deformed cadavers like this is becoming commonplace – Saraqib, Idlib Province  

Defections and the formation of new fighting units remain commonplace as well – Aleppo Province Hama Province Hama City Homs Province

The pounding of towns continues: Alatareb, Aleppo

People keep burying their dead with all due defiance: Douma, Damascus

And the men and women of Homs City continue to defy death in their colorful manner

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Travel Notice

I will be travelling over the next few days and may not be able to update the blog as regularly as I want. But I will be back soonest, of course. Meanwhile, I found these articles to be rather eye-opening:

The luxury we don't have in Syria
The case for military intervention in Syria 

Monday, April 23, 2012

The UNmonitors!

As the UNmonitoring of Assad’s mass atrocities proceeds as UNplanned, and President Obama’s Atrocities Prevention Board convenes, the Assads continue to lovingly amass atrocities, as Russia’s arms-peddling Oligarchs sing and Iran’s rageaholics Mullas dance.

Assad’s Plan A

Nuancing my take on Assad’s Plan A (Plan B, namely, the creation of an Alawite state, remains as the fallback plan), it seems that Assad is trying to retake major urban centers by driving away the restive population through ethnic cleansing carried out by indiscriminate pounding of residential neighborhoods.  The rational seems to be that Guerilla warfare in the countryside will not acquire too much domestic or international notice, and that in due course of time, it could be snuffed out by attrition. Meanwhile, leaderless displaced population will be too busy fighting for the basics to cause too much problems.

What is aiding the Assad in implementing his plan is the lack of any international support to the local resistance networks.

In Homs City, most of the plan has already been accomplished as Al-Jazzerah reports highlights below. The plan has long been carried out in Jisr Ashoughour in Idlib Province as well.

Al-Jazeerah report on ethnic cleansing in Homs City: the pounding affected more than 54% of the city and drove away over 700,000 residents and allowed neighborhoods that remain loyal to the regime, inhabited mostly by Alawites, to become geographically connected

Now, Assad’s attention seems to have shifted back to Hama City, one day following the visit of UN monitors.

Arba’een Neighborhood, Hama City: the pounding Some of the victims of the new massacre , , , , Local activist describes how the neighborhood was pounded and how Arab League and now UN monitors proven to be ineffectual Thirteen bodies were buried , In Al-Mrabit neighborhood, protesters play the usual deadly cat-an-mouse game with snipers

In this light, the recent “liberation” of most of Rural Deir Ezzor, may not mean as much to the Assads as their inability to control the city of Deir Ezzor itself.

Deir Ezzor Province: Jafaar Brigade holds a victory parade on April 22 celebrating the liberation of a number of communities

Monitoring the UN Monitors

The UN monitors who visited the town of Zabadani, Damascus Province, do not seem to be “impressed” with the signs of damage wrought by pounding that they locals showed them. At least, this is what the activist who prepared this report says. In it, we hear the UN monitor says that the damage he inspected looks more like normal degradation than impact of pounding  Pro-regime networks escorted the monitors on their visit, we can one of them in the report trying to hide the logo on his microphone. The visit, we are told, lasted for less than an hour.  The monitors refused to take the reports prepared by local activists on loyalist checkpoints and crimes, so they burnt tem in protest after their departure.

In Douma, Damascus Province, locals stage mass rally to celebrate the arrival of the UN monitors as they chant “the people want to topple the regime” and “Death over Humiliation” The monitors arrive “The people want to arm the FSA”

Other video Highlights

In Damascus City, protesters in Naher Eisheh block the nearby highway with burning tires and come under fire This has become a usually nightly routine in many neighborhoods across the city.

In Homs City, locals are forced to use the old wire trick to help rescue the injured from sniper attacks

In the town of Jarjanaz, Idlib Province, a tank shell landed on a house killing 17 locals ,

The people at the Foreign Policy Initiative ask “Does the President Have the Will to End Assad’s Atrocities in Syria?” They then remind President Obama of his words in March 2011 explaining the decision to intervene in Libya:  

“To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and-–more profoundly-–our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are.  Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries.  The United States of America is different.  And as President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.”

“What the President said in March 2011 of the Qaddafi regime’s imminent mass atrocities in Libya,” the concluded, “applies equally today to the Assad regime’s continuing mass atrocities in Syria.”

Indeed. And yet… the policies are not on par, despite the fact that our senses have been assaulted by a barrage of images of slaughter and mass graves. Whatever happened to the Responsibility to Protect? I wonder what the “first Atrocities Prevention Board, chaired by Ms. Samantha Power, Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, National Security Council, and which had its first meeting earlier today, plan to do about the atrocities in Syria!

The Board, we are told is meant to “discuss ways to increase the U.S. efforts in protecting innocent men, women and children from genocide across the world – an effort President Obama called “a core national security interest and a moral responsibility of the United States.”

Well, let’s see.

Violations Galore!

As Assad violates Annan’s Plan, and Annan violates decency, the Syrian people feel doubly violated!

While all eyes were fixated on Homs, Idlib, Aleppo and Damascus, major clashes have been taking place in Deir Ezzor Province, where local resistance leaders have been taking advantage of the vast desert expanses to conduct an effective Guerrilla warfare. Indeed, today, the leader of the Jaafar Brigade declared that his troops control over 70% of the province But the commander also declares that his brigade will abide by the ceasefire agreement, but reserves the right to defend the communities under their protection.

 Someone should tell Mr. Kofi Annan to pick better dinner companions. This kind of old-style diplomacy will not endear him to the side that really matters in this: the revolutionaries (Picture date April 4, 2012. Anna’s companions include, Assad’s spokeswoman, his FM and the Deputy FM)
 Assad’s death squads in Deir Ezzor City hide their tanks in a local school (April 22, 2012)
A sign from the inhabitants of the City of Rastan, Homs Province (April 22, 2012)

Video Highlights

Homs City: refugees sheltered in schools, often five families to a classroom The havoc that is Jouret Al-Shayah

Rastan, Homs Province: UN monitors stop in Rastan on their way to Hama City, where they are welcomed by local members of the FSA Monitors were then escorted around town to inspect damage wrought by the constant pounding The FSA commanders show the monitors that tanks standing at the town outskirts Locals take advantage of the monitors presence to stage a hug rally , ,

In the nearby town of Qusary, and though no monitors showed up, locals take advantage of the lull in pounding to stage a mass rally

Hama City: Assad death squads open fire on protesters who were gathered to receive the UN monitors Locals receive the UN monitors while chanting against Assad and for the FSA, they immediately show them the snipers taking up positions on top of a nearby building Locals take advantage of the presence of monitors to stage a rally In Arba’een Neighborhood, locals welcome the monitors with chants of “the people want to topple the regime” , Locals complain of deteriorating living conditions Wherever they go, the monitors are welcomed by throngs of locals chanting against Assad Here, snipers can be seen threatening locals of what they will do after the monitors leave Snipers act on their threats immediately after the departure of UN monitors Sniper in action, begins shooting when protesters begin chanting “Syria is ours and does not belong to the Assad family” Sniper takes a shot at the cameraman who was wounded in the arm Snipers in Arba’een make sure to target the minaret of the local mosque

Hteitet Al-Tukrman, Rural Damascus: Martyr – victim of a sniper attack , Martyr & Son His nighttime funeral

Douma, Rural Damascus: local stage mass funeral for today’s martyrs  

Al-Hraak, Daraa: the siege of the town by pro-Assad troops continues for the third straight day, people are not allowed to leave and no one is allowed to come in

Elbab, Aleppo Province: locals hold a funeral for another of their martyrs

Dirbassiyeh, Hassakeh: Kurdish inhabitants stage a mass rally for a local martyr

Al-Rami, Idlib: Two of today’s martyrs , Their funeral

Another Major General declares his defection and joins the FSA

On April 19, head of the High Military Council, Major General Mustafa Al-Shaikh, calls for international military intervention and strikes against the regime outside the UN purview, including arming the FSA and establishment of safe havens

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Déjà Failed!

Another monitoring mission, another set of people from all over the world making excuses, trying to explain the unexplainable and getting frustrated and fired upon to boot. When will the world follow a plan that makes sense. To the world we say: Give us what we need to get the mission accomplished, not what you need to feel good about yourselves.

Saturday April 21, 2012

Death Toll: 25, including 13 in Aleppo, 4 in Homs, 4 in Daraa, 2 in Rural Damascus, 1 in Hassakeh and 1 in Deir Ezzor.

The pounding of Homs City was halted due to presence of UN monitors, who were nonetheless fired on during their visit to Khalidyeh and other beleaguered neighborhoods.

At night, local activists reported explosions and gunfire at the Mazzeh Military Airport near Damascus City.  

Op-Eds & Special Reports
Security Council adopts a resolution to deploy 300 observers to Syria, yet ethnic strife on the ground and disagreements among world powers cast doubt over mission's effectiveness.

Video Highlights

UN monitors come under fire in Khaldiyeh as local try to protect them with their bodies , , , Earlier, activist tells the camera: we informed him that we have 25 bodies we need to pull out, and he said we will call the Red Cross Assad loyalists prevent the monitors from crossing into Bayadah

One of the locals address the visiting monitors in English and asks them to stay

Local activist Khalid Abou Salah stops the monitors and invites them for a meeting in one of the local homes, the lead monitor tells him that UN is neutral and cannot report any propaganda, but that he is willing to meet During the meeting, local FSA leader, Abdurazzak Tlas, tells the visiting monitors that they are under the protection of his unit even if 50 of them showed up so long as they stay in their neighborhoods, but, he said, they cannot protect them if they stayed at the hotel  

Tlas escorts the Monitors on their tour of the neighborhoods At point, the crowd get fire at, but they keep walking Local activist Sarout asks locals to protect the monitors with their bodies Monitors inspect the damage done to the neighborhood ,

Mothers of martyrs complain, and locals tell the monitors that the pounding will resume the moment they leave

Monitors tour the local hospital The monitors in Jouret Al-Shayah In the neighborhood of Qarabbis, which did not receive a visit by the monitors, snipers were busy seeding terror

Taking advantage of the calm, locals in Malaab staged a rally The people in Wa’er did the same Jouret Al-Shayah as well  

Now that they have time to walk around, locals keep stumbling on dead bodies, this one with the hands of its owner tied behind his back seem to belong to someone who has been burnt alive  

In Qusayr, Homs Province, locals locate the remains of a missing local who were identified by his brother The man has been looking for his brother for 2 months, now that he found him, he collects his remains in a trash bag and leaves There are 8-12,000 people estimated missing.  

More Qusayr martyrs: an old woman

Hama City, Arba’een Neighborhood: a tanks patrolling and firing at the locals  The pounding intensifies at noon and at night

In Anadan, Aleppo Province, 5 people were killed in a new massacre by Assad’s death squads

In Marei, Aleppo Province, locals bury one of their martyrs

In Douma Suburb, Rural Damascus, locals held a mass funeral for two local martyrs

In Taybat Al-Imam, Hama Province, locals held a funeral for a local martyr