Sunday, August 26, 2012

Of Moral Culpability and Nightmares!

President Obama cannot escape blame for the killing by pro-Assad militias of 340 Syrians in the Damascene Suburb of Daraya. After all, this mass murder is Assad’s way of saying “thanks for the green light… sorry, I meant the redline.”   


On Saturday, August 25, pro-Assad militias stormed the Damascene Suburb of Daraya and perpetrated a horrendous massacre, the worst so far, that claimed the Lives of over 340 locals by current count, though the number is expected to grow. Pro-regime channels covered the aftermath in gruesome details blaming it on the rebels, a claim that is by now as laughable as Assad’s reformist credentials. But Assad’s point was to show Syrians that he can now kill openly and with impunity and that no one can stop him, thanks to the cowardice of the international community.   

Personally, and though this may burn my last political bridges with the Administration, I cannot but hold President Obama morally responsible for the Massacre in Daraya. His recently stated redline on the potential use of WMDs, his cold calculations and his cynical about-face regarding the Responsibility to Protect have combined to pave the way to this moment, acting as a green light for perpetrating such massacres.

The Administration's "we're not touching this" policy regarding the situation in Syria, a policy that got stated and restated one way or another by American officials after every escalation on part of the Assad regime, has gradually facilitated the use of heavy artillery, tanks, helicopter gunships, fighter jets and now systematic massacres against a mostly defenseless civilian population and have allowed for the transformation of the Syrian Revolution from a nonviolent protest movement calling for democratic change, into an asymmetrical sectarian conflict, in which targeting children and summary executions, carried out mostly by pro-Assad militias, are now commonplace.

To claim that this was a surprising development is disingenuous at best, as this was predicted by a number of activists, dissidents and analysts from day one of the revolution, and was at the heart of most arguments calling for early intervention. And the message was conveyed to Administration officials of all ranks at different junctures throughout the last few months.

To use the current mayhem as retroactive justification for nonintervention is to dismiss in an ad hoc and callous manner the strong potential for preemption that was involved. In other words, this situation was not inevitable, but was made inevitable by the lack of strong response by the international community, especially the United States.

Even now the dissolution of Syria and its failure as a state is not inevitable, but a stronger interventionist policy than would have been necessary in the beginning is now required. But those who dithered then are more than likely to dither now...

Except of course for that nagging possibility of having WMDs fall into the "wrong" hands, because Assad's blood-soaked hands seem somehow "right" to American (and Israeli) officials. So long as Assad is able to show that his grip over the WMDs’ stockpiles is as strong as ever, the world wouldn't give two bits for the thousands of lives he is taking and destroying, all pretenses to the contrary notwithstanding.

"Lucky" for us, and in a typical manner for Assad who continues to be prone to overplaying his hand, reports that he might have already relinquished control of some of his WMDs’ supplies to Hezbollah are proliferating. While few are in a position at this stage to ascertain whether these reports are true, the mere possibility might prove too worrisome for some in the U.S. and Israel to eventually warrant an intervention. The problem is that this intervention might prove to be exactly of the kind that no one wanted: an intervention involving many boots on the ground followed by a long period of micromanaging hostile sectarian and ethnic enclaves.

Some people, it seems, cannot help but make their worst nightmares come true.

Istanbul, Turkey

A Scene from Daraya


Monday, August 20, 2012

Redline and Greenlight!

President Obama's coldly articulated redline regarding the use of chemical weapons might just translate into a greenlight for more frenzied killing sprees by Assad and his militias.

Monday August 20, 2012

Cities & Towns Under Shelling: Harasta, Arbeen, Moadamiah, Harran Al-Awameed, Deir Al-Asafeer, Ain Terma, Zabadani, Madaya, Eltal, Dmeir, Hameh, Yelda, Rankous, Qarrah (Damascus Suburbs), Sit Zeinab, Al-Qadam, Midan, Tadamon, Al-Hajar Al-Aswad, Yarmouk, Kafar Sousseh, Mazzeh, Qaboun, Barzeh, Salhiyeh, Ruknaddine, Dafelshawk (Damascus City), Daraa City, Khirbet Al-Ghazaleh, Tafas, Bostra Al-Sham, Na’eemah, Mseifrah, Jimreen, Hraak (Daraa), Rastan, Talbisseh, Houla, Tal Kalakh, Al-Qusayr, Al-Hosn, Al-Ghanto, Al-Bouaydah, Old Homs (Homs Province), Hreitan, Elbab, Eizaz, Marei, Bayanoun, Dar Azzah, Manbij, Anadan (Aleppo Province), Haffeh, Jabal Al-Akrad (Lattakia), Deir Ezzor City, Mouhassan, Albou Kamal (Deir Ezzor Province), Kafar Zeiteh, Hawash, Shahshabo, Hama City (Hama Province), Jabal Al-Zawiyeh, Ma’rrat Al-Nouman, Saraqib, Maar Shoureen, Ariha, Kafroumah, Al-Rami, Khan Shaikhoon (Idlib).

News

In his recent White House press briefing, President Obama said that he had not "ordered military engagement" in Syria, but noted that he might change his "calculus" should "we see a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around, or being utilized," by the Assad regime, as this development, for him, as he pointed out, would constitute a "redline."

By framing things this way at a time when Assad's MIGs, helicopter gunships, missiles and heavy artillery are pounding residential neighborhoods and civilian installations, including schools and hospitals, in villages, towns and cities all across Syria claiming hundreds of lives every day, President Obama's redline will most likely be taken by Assad as greenlight for sticking to his bloody tactics to the bitter end. After all, he was just told by the most powerful man in the world that he has no plans to stop him.

President Obama, a Nobel Prize laureate, also showed more concern for the regional ramification of using biological weapons than for the humanitarian cost involved. He said: "It doesn't just include Syria. It would concern allies in the region, including Israel, and it would concern us."

Why President Obama would be so callous about the tragedy unfolding in Syria is beyond me. Why slaughter would be deemed tolerable  if it happened one way and not another remains an enigma. Be that as it may, President Obama has just told millions of Syrians that their suffering simply does not concern him, that his cold calculus does not leave much room for compassion.

Coming from the most powerful man in the world, the man who just last year invoked the Responsibility to Protect to stop carnage in Libya, this is an unfathomable and cynical abdication of moral responsibility. The Syrian people who dared yearn to be free will pay dearly for it. But down the road, so will America, and so will the rest of the world.

For devoid of her moral compass, America will be no different than Russia and China - just another cynical superpower in it for herself, and nothing more. American exceptionalism will come to an end. Many in America and across the world would rejoice, but the world will be left leaderless, and without any reliable mechanism for collective decision-making and consensus building. This will not be a better world, as so many envision, but a cold dark one, filled with conflicts, suffering and tumult.

Syria will be forgotten then, but her torn pieces will continue to bleed. By the time,  the world grasped that Syria is nothing less than its beating heart, it will be too late.

Meanwhile, thank you Mr. President, and Happy Eid to you too.

Antakya, Turkey

Friday, August 10, 2012

From the Road!


Friday August 10, 2012

Cities & Towns Under Shelling: Harasta, Arbeen, Moadamiah, Harran Al-Awameed, Deir Al-Asafeer, Ain Terma, Zabadani, Madaya, Eltal, Dmeir, Hameh, Yelda, Rankous, Qarrah (Damascus Suburbs), Sit Zeinab, Al-Qadam, Midan, Tadamon, Al-Hajar Al-Aswad, Yarmouk, Kafar Sousseh, Mazzeh, Qaboun, Barzeh, Salhiyeh, Ruknaddine, Dafelshawk (Damascus City), Daraa City, Khirbet Al-Ghazaleh, Tafas, Bostra Al-Sham, Na’eemah, Mseifrah, Jimreen, Hraak , Saida, Tal Shihab (Daraa), Rastan, Talbisseh, Houla, Tal Kalakh, Al-Qusayr, Al-Hosn, Al-Ghanto, Al-Bouaydah, Old Homs (Homs Province), Hreitan, Elbab, Eizaz, Marei, Bayanoun (Aleppo Province), Haffeh, Jabal Al-Akrad (Lattakia), Deir Ezzor City, Mouhassan, Albou Kamal (Deir Ezzor Province), Kafar Zeiteh, Hawash, Shahshabo, Hama City (Hama Province), Jabal Al-Zawiyeh, Ma’rrat Al-Nouman, Saraqib, Maar Shoureen, Ariha, Kafroumah, Al-Rami, Khan Shaikhoon (Idlib).

News
Former Lebanese minister arrested for planning attacks for Syria's Assad Michel Samaha, a former Lebanese minister, reportedly confessed to helping plan attacks on Sunni targets in Lebanon. If true, it illustrates how far Syria's Assad regime can reach into Lebanon.

Op-Eds & Special Reports
How, when and whether to end the war in Syria Spillover may force Washington to contemplate real solutions to the Syrian conflict, rather than indulge in frivolous sideshows. If that day comes, our choice will almost certainly be between picking a winner and leading a multilateral intervention.

Syria’s Rebel Judges Promise Sharia Justice With Mercy In Tal Rifaat, the Assad regime has been replaced by a local tribunal of clerics, guided by Islamic law and the pursuit of political reconciliation

Syria: buried besides his fields - a farmer who fought for freedom The cemetery where the Unity Brigade buried Omar Ismail looks out over the wheat-fields he once worked. One of four brothers who farmed their father's rented land, he had volunteered for the amateur army that took him to the big city an hour away, whose lights and tourist souqs were alien to him.



I will be on the road for weeks, but will try to keep sending updates. I will be back to regular pace in early September for sure.

To some, failure seems an option!

Iran, Russia, China, Assad and the rebels are doing their part, the rest of the world is not. Doing your part is more than an occasional show of sympathy, occasional infusion of cash, or an occasional shipment of light weapons and ammunition, a systematic assault on freedom requires an equally systematic response to make sure that the right side wins. But no one, it seems, has done his homework. Considering that this is the only consistent response on part of certain international players, perhaps then, to them, failure in Syria is something they think they can live with.

Thursday August 9, 2012

Today’s Death toll: 134. The Breakdown: 47 in Aleppo City, 40 in Damascus City and Suburbs (including 7 unidentified bodies in Kafar Sousseh), 21 in Idlib, 14 in Daraa, 5 in Deir Ezzor, 3 in Hama, 3 in Homs and 1 in Qamishlo (LCC figures).  

Cities & Towns Under Shelling: Harasta, Arbeen, Moadamiah, Harran Al-Awameed, Deir Al-Asafeer, Ain Terma, Zabadani, Madaya, Eltal, Dmeir, Hameh, Yelda, Rankous, Qarrah (Damascus Suburbs), Sit Zeinab, Al-Qadam, Midan, Tadamon, Al-Hajar Al-Aswad, Yarmouk, Kafar Sousseh, Mazzeh, Qaboun, Barzeh, Salhiyeh, Ruknaddine, Dafelshawk (Damascus City), Daraa City, Khirbet Al-Ghazaleh, Tafas, Bostra Al-Sham, Na’eemah, Mseifrah, Jimreen, Hraak , Saida, Tal Shihab (Daraa), Rastan, Talbisseh, Houla, Tal Kalakh, Al-Qusayr, Al-Hosn, Al-Ghanto, Al-Bouaydah, Old Homs (Homs Province), Hreitan, Elbab, Eizaz, Marei, Bayanoun (Aleppo Province), Haffeh, Jabal Al-Akrad (Lattakia), Deir Ezzor City, Mouhassan, Albou Kamal (Deir Ezzor Province), Kafar Zeiteh, Hawash, Shahshabo, Hama City (Hama Province), Jabal Al-Zawiyeh, Ma’rrat Al-Nouman, Saraqib, Maar Shoureen, Ariha, Kafroumah, Al-Rami, Khan Shaikhoon (Idlib).

News

Op-Eds & Special Reports
Is Syria's balance of firepower close to a tipping point? As Free Syrian Army blames ammunition shortage for pulling back in Damascus, regime is also struggling with logistics issues… What is counterintuitive… is how little hard evidence there is so far of large amounts of weapons being delivered from outside. What evidence there is of weapons entering the country suggests that so far it has largely been small arms.

State of War: Syria’s Crusader Castles and Medieval Fortresses TIME looks at a number of Syria's most famous medieval fortresses, some of which are nearly a millennium old.

Syria Conflict: Anadan Turned Into Ghost Town After Shelling In this town near Aleppo, "Freedom Square" has been renamed "Destruction Square" by a young Syrian activist who once sang to protesters gathered for peaceful pro-democracy rallies.

Out of Syria: An Expelled Italian Priest Calls for Peace and Reconciliation A 57-year-old Italian cleric who has lived in Syria for more than thirty years speaks out on the nature of the conflict and his hopes for peace.

The real test in Syria is whether fear is at an end All revolutions against dictatorial regimes are, at some level, about the transfer of fear. Populations afraid of regimes shift to regimes afraid of populations. The true test of progress, however, is whether the revolution undermines the use of fear as a tool of governance.

Iran preparing for post-Assad era in Syria Though Iran is still loyal to the Syrian regime, the time has come to start considering other options – Iran’s recent political maneuvers show that it is doing just that. Syria captive rift: Iran defiant, Hezbollah silent "The situation in Syria is complicated and every country is trying to protect its interests," said conservative Iranian parliament member Javad Jahangirzadeh. "Syria is Lebanon's neighbor, but not Iran's neighbor. So it's not surprising they are adopting different policies."


Every piece advice by an official or an analyst, every warning, every exhortation, every homily, is, by now, academic. Everything about this revolution and its course was all too predictable, and what needed to be done to prevent the devolution into mayhem that are witnessing today was known to each and every expert and politician willing to put ideology aside and see the facts for what they are: the situation in Syria begged for a combination of diplomatic pressures, air strikes and a willingness to work with the opposition on transition planning. Nothing less could have worked, nothing more was needed. But the powers-that-be have waited too long, each for its own purposes, and missed very conceivable opportunity to help produce an outcome that was there for the taking: a democratic pro-western Syria. Achieving this goal is not necessarily impossible now, but what could have been accomplished in months, and little expense and sacrifice, will now take years, if not decades, and a heavy investment in human and material terms. But the same calculations that prevented intervention before would likely prevent it in the future. Syria is being consigned to becoming a failed state.

Video Highlights

Aleppo City: The pounding of Salaheddine http://youtu.be/glKafCeL5qc , http://youtu.be/bIPZm7Y6XvY , http://youtu.be/pV1yc1KeLYA Clashes http://youtu.be/NpJonZiiKqI ,  http://youtu.be/5NlQKM0MBmo , http://youtu.be/d3RcrYiT7s4 , http://youtu.be/shx5D8JNMJk , http://youtu.be/kAX7TxnS2GU Fighter jets took part in the pounding http://youtu.be/3Ve6sI7JoeA , http://youtu.be/Dq0qcRE8vhA Building catches fire http://youtu.be/CjCOqTBlbZc Impact of shelling http://youtu.be/p1Ot8F1p9fQ , http://youtu.be/9CwbiY8qCh4 Building in Sheikh Faris Neighborhood catches fire on account of continuous pounding http://youtu.be/5PF4WrVPbVU Civilians streaming out of the neighborhood of Bab Al-Hadid http://youtu.be/f1xR86d-cBM to escape these clashes http://youtu.be/KbIBJBVgtVM

At end of the day, local fighters issue a statement saying that, contrary to new reports, they have not pulled out from Salaheddine http://youtu.be/BAqKMJtxwMs A similar statement was made by another fighter from a different part of the neighborhood http://youtu.be/HtJIxz29ykk But both statements were issued earlier on Wednesday.

Elsewhere in Aleppo Province, a new fighting brigade is formed and given the name of the old armed wing of the Muslim Brotherhood from back in 1970s and 1980s http://youtu.be/khY60GP0Jz8 Could this be one of the brigades being established by the Muslim Brotherhood that activists have long been talking about?

Now that Assad has been allowed to use fighter jets with nary a meaningful reaction from the international community, he using them everywhere and not only in Aleppo city and Province. Indeed, fighter jets are now used in the pounding of Mouhassan in Deir Ezzor Province to the northeast http://youtu.be/SwWD4UCnoNI and the pounding of Kafrenbel in Idlib province http://youtu.be/6L304KZb8bY , http://youtu.be/iLxFCgsvwaw Kafroumah, Idlib http://youtu.be/ZonQ9hIgYo8

This pattern of tentative use of a certain controversial weapon (beginning with tanks, mortars, heavy artillery, helicopter gunships and finally fighter jets) followed by larger scale use is clearly meant to gauge international reaction, and it’s clear that the lack of reaction is encouraging Assad to go all out. International dithering has clearly encouraged and fed Assad’s belligerence.

Despite this, the local rebels in Kafrenbel maintain their Guerilla attack against pro-Assad militias http://youtu.be/JKPaz6bWYtk , http://youtu.be/rfvu05Zuel0 , http://youtu.be/Wuy_qSDjd2M , http://youtu.be/V16fjzVeBK4 and keep inflicting losses http://youtu.be/AGhtc9mCYZc This local activist says that the local rebels have destroyed Assad’s tanks with weapons they made with their own hands and vows to destroy Assad’s planes in the same way http://youtu.be/HotAtC6VXAs

The pounding of neighborhoods in Homs City continues: Baba Amr http://youtu.be/GWQyvXlq5Gw , http://youtu.be/wXSl28B31lQ

The pounding of the nearby cities of Rastan, Houla, Al-Qusary, Tal Kalakh and Talbisseh is continuing as well: Rastan http://youtu.be/RGLi9Vi2SKE

In Daraa City, locals bury 8 unidentified bodies belonging to rebels http://youtu.be/yJG2XCryKm4

In Lattakia province, local Turkmen clans form a new fighting brigade to defend their territory against ongoing attempt at ethnic cleansing by pro-Assad militias http://youtu.be/3d-LQ7LDSMU

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Nightmare!

As more of our towns and neighborhoods get turned into wastelands and as we pull the pieces of our dying dream from under the rubble, it’s difficult not to be angry at a world that stood by and let it happen. All of this was foretold, the warning signs were clear, everything was taking place in full light of day, yet they all watched, while some gambled and hedged their bets by backing the killers, as the dream was slowly transformed into a nightmare. All demons are loose now, and heaven only knows when and how we could put the country back together. Still, we go on, going back has never and can never be a legitimate option.

Wednesday August 8, 2012

Today’s Death toll: 150.

Cities & Towns Under Shelling: Harasta, Arbeen, Moadamiah, Harran Al-Awameed, Deir Al-Asafeer, Ain Terma, Zabadani, Madaya, Eltal, Dmeir, Hameh, Yelda, Rankous, Qarrah (Damascus Suburbs), Sit Zeinab, Al-Qadam, Midan, Tadamon, Al-Hajar Al-Aswad, Yarmouk, Kafar Sousseh, Mazzeh, Qaboun, Barzeh, Salhiyeh, Ruknaddine, Dafelshawk (Damascus City), Daraa City, Khirbet Al-Ghazaleh, Tafas, Bostra Al-Sham, Na’eemah, Mseifrah, Jimreen, Hraak (Daraa), Rastan, Talbisseh, Houla, Tal Kalakh, Al-Qusayr, Al-Hosn, Al-Ghanto, Al-Bouaydah, Old Homs (Homs Province), Hreitan, Elbab, Eizaz, Marei, Bayanoun (Aleppo Province), Haffeh, Jabal Al-Akrad (Lattakia), Deir Ezzor City, Mouhassan, Albou Kamal (Deir Ezzor Province), Kafar Zeiteh, Hawash, Shahshabo, Hama City (Hama Province), Jabal Al-Zawiyeh, Ma’rrat Al-Nouman, Saraqib, Maar Shoureen, Ariha, Kafroumah, Al-Rami, Khan Shaikhoon (Idlib).

News
White House official says Syria no-fly zone not off table "rest assured that various options that are being talked about in the press, and sometimes being advocated, these are things that the United States government has been looking at very carefully, trying to understand the implications, trying to understand the advantages and the disadvantages," he said.
In Syria, Potential Threat to Government Air Power Emerges For the first time since the conflict in Syria began last year, an activist opposed to President Bashar al-Assad has publicly presented possible evidence that the antigovernment forces have obtained a heat-seeking, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile.
Russian general denies reports he was killed by rebels in Syria Vladimir Petrovich Kuzheyev meets reporters in Moscow after video statement from rebel group shows copy of his Syrian-army issued ID.
Syria military launches assault on key district in Aleppo Reports conflict on whether Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces or Syrian rebels have control of the Salahuddin district of Aleppo.
Al-Qaida fighters infiltrate Syria At least 262 al-Qaida militants are now operating in the border area between Turkey and Syria and rebels say another group of fighters are living in a tented camp just outside Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. NBC’s Richard Engel reports.
Seized Iranians in Syria Are Army Retirees, Salehi Says “We rejected reports saying these individuals are part of the Revolutionary Guards and explained that a number of retired individuals from several ministries and the guards had signed up to make the pilgrimage,” Salehi said. “Pilgrimage trips to Syria had been interrupted but resumed recently as we can’t stop people from visiting the holy shrine.”
Neighbors pull dead from Syria house rubble Rebels have said Assad's forces have been attacking rural areas in an effort to put pressure on those opposition fighters who have rural backgrounds.
Syria border standoff a new front in Iraq-Kurdish rift The standoff, for a moment last week so close to confrontation, is the most dramatic illustration of a growing rift between Baghdad and the autonomous northern region of Kurdistan. Frictions over oil revenues are exacerbated now by conflicting views of the Syrian rebellion and by territorial disputes that pose questions about the unity of Iraq.

Op-Eds & Special Reports
Malcolm Rifkind, former Britain's defense minister and foreign secretary under Prime Minister John Major, writes: A Call to Arm Syria's Rebels The longer war drags on, the more likely a legitimate struggle for self-determination will descend further into a cycle of communal violence, poisoning the possibility of a mutually acceptable political settlement. Without such a settlement, Syrian and regional violence will continue — whether the Ba’athist regime survives or not.

The Washington Post Editorial Board explains how to “Get… around a dead-end in Syria” The only workable policy in Syria is one that aims at ending the civil war as quickly as possible with a victory for the opposition. A coup by regime elements that removes Mr. Assad may still be possible, but only if generals perceive that the war is lost. That means supplying the rebels with the arms they need to stop the tanks and planes of the Assad forces. To protect civilians, safe zones can be established along Syria’s borders with Turkey and Jordan, with help from Turkey or NATO.

Echoes of Syria's War in the Golan Heights With close-knit families and clans here already divided, there is fear on both sides that a slide into bloodshed would be disastrous. Druse community leaders have acted quickly to broker understandings and restore calm.

Syria rebels see future fight with foreign radicals Some fighters who have come to Syria are idealists who believe in jihad, or holy war, for oppressed Muslims, and would probably return home in a post-Assad era. But others are al Qaeda-linked fighters who may want a base in Syria. Their numbers are still low, but enough to worry countries fearing Iraq-style bloodshed in Syria, a country straddling the lines of most ethnic and regional conflicts in the Middle East.
"We could not endure anymore," Aleppo refugee says Some 2,400 Syrians reached Turkey overnight, the state-run Turkish Anatolian news agency said on Wednesday, adding to the 45,000 who have fled to Turkey since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad started 17 months ago.
Two days in Aleppo: Snipers, temporary graveyards and stairwell beds Account of what Wedeman saw in Aleppo, including his harrowing trip into the city past snipers, street vendors selling their wares as bombs fall, and a lack of enthusiasm for the rebels' battle among many civilians.
Assaults on Aleppo come in response to Syrian defections The massive bombardment of rebels in Syria's largest city aims to prove to supporters of Bashar Assad that his regime is in control despite defections of top officials, activists and experts said Wednesday.


Video Highlights

In Da’el, Daraa Province, helicopter gunships take part in the pounding http://youtu.be/dElNKypDUp0 , http://youtu.be/jttXWC0XiO4 A mortar round falls on a funeral for local activists http://youtu.be/UCfyAEQTwd4 People rush to pull bodies from under the rubble http://youtu.be/aM-rWFocNsY

In Homs City, many neighborhoods lie now in rubble after months of indiscriminate shelling http://youtu.be/E8GdERCtlN0 http://youtu.be/f-rz03vx3Kg , http://youtu.be/b8ISXLDJgUU With this, 500,000 people, the overwhelming majority of whom Sunni Muslims who are now scattered all over the country, have effectively been deprived their homes. This makes the Alawites and Christians, with close to 250,000, the new majority population in town. The remaining Sunnis constitute around 50,000. But the pounding of their neighborhoods continues http://youtu.be/gfqjgVclJLM

In Tal Rifa’at, Aleppo Province, the pounding by fighter jets http://youtu.be/MX5Dlpkz2y8 left a home in rubbles, and its owners trapped underneath http://youtu.be/S11UAJgG6f4 Pulling bodies and body parts from under the rubble http://youtu.be/y6eRJz3CBlI , http://youtu.be/hEU9IG1ZaWo , http://youtu.be/HO--c8uSKf0 , http://youtu.be/EhTIVfSs2k0 , http://youtu.be/2T1QxSjtZrk A local school was left in ruins http://youtu.be/zLozXJJqTxI , http://youtu.be/sbpiDJLPCpE

  The pounding of Aleppo City by fighter jets continues http://youtu.be/kzyWwQA1ud0 , http://youtu.be/fb_lb1UGnqc There were clashes http://youtu.be/8x09se8U03w Trying to take on a chopper http://youtu.be/3rRHbwvlAHw But many neighborhoods remain clearly under rebel control http://youtu.be/Bt-KRhQgfe8

Rebels in Idlib are mounting a methodical campaign on tank convoys going to Aleppo. Tank parts lie in piece along the highway http://youtu.be/xFuoXlohr1w

Inhabitants of Kafrenbel, Idlib Province, rush to save their wounded following a round of pounding by pro-Assad militias laying siege to their town http://youtu.be/VPk_ySxqdts The shelling leaves many homes on fire http://youtu.be/kH69AMHjpWc The tanks taking part in the pounding are stationed outside Kafrenbel closer to the town of Ma’arat Al-Nouman http://youtu.be/HfyYGP4_-CE Other nearby villages in Jabal Al-Zawiyeh were also pounded http://youtu.be/yJwfkckbSks

In Lattakia, the pounding of the village of Salma, a summertime resort in Al-Akrda Mountain continues http://youtu.be/aX1nqo1p_Kw , http://youtu.be/Jm06nfgayhU , http://youtu.be/5OzUNK_iS74

The pounding of Talbisseh, Homs Province, continues http://youtu.be/XNaRj3ke72M , http://youtu.be/F0T9rGMoU-4 Nearby Houla gets pounded as well http://youtu.be/udYAhS030yQ , http://youtu.be/XSOTzMeU6Ko Rastan is pounded as well http://youtu.be/uiYlJeKtpJM

The pounding of Zabadani, Damascus City, continues http://youtu.be/cMU_3v1NwV0 Helicopter gunships are taking part in the pounding as well http://youtu.be/qgTTr3-hD6I

In Midan Neighborhood, Damascus City, local rebels destroy a tank http://youtu.be/9Jsu89GY7uU

Clashes in Karnaz, Hama province, leaves several local dead http://youtu.be/hbamuCzI-LY

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

As a huge chunk of human heritage gets obliterated by Assad’s warplanes in Aleppo City and across Syria, and world leaders stick to their usual song and dance about Assad’s loss of legitimacy and impending end, the resilience of the Syrian people and their willingness to go on are the only source of inspiration.  

Tuesday August 7, 2012

Today’s Death toll: 170. The Breakdown: the toll includes 10 women and 18 children: 35 in Homs (including 10 in Deir Baablbah, mostly children and 4 children and their mother in Rastan), 33 in Damascus and Suburbs, 33 in Aleppo (including 10 prisoners who were  summarily executed), 25 inDaraa, 15 in Idlib 14 in Hama (most of whom killed in a massacre in Jarsis), 10 in Deir Ezzor (including 4 members of the FSA), and 5 in Lattakia. (According to LCC)

Cities & Towns Under Shelling: Harasta, Arbeen, Moadamiah, Harran Al-Awameed, Deir Al-Asafeer, Ain Terma, Zabadani, Madaya, Eltal, Dmeir, Hameh, Yelda, Rankous, Qarrah (Damascus Suburbs), Sit Zeinab, Al-Qadam, Midan, Tadamon, Al-Hajar Al-Aswad, Yarmouk, Kafar Sousseh, Mazzeh, Qaboun, Barzeh, Salhiyeh, Ruknaddine, Dafelshawk (Damascus City), Daraa City, Khirbet Al-Ghazaleh, Tafas, Bostra Al-Sham, Na’eemah, Mseifrah, Jimreen, Hraak (Daraa), Rastan, Talbisseh, Houla, Tal Kalakh, Al-Qusayr, Al-Hosn, Al-Ghanto, Al-Bouaydah, Old Homs (Homs Province), Hreitan, Elbab, Eizaz, Marei, Bayanoun (Aleppo Province), Haffeh, Jabal Al-Akrad (Lattakia), Deir Ezzor City, Mouhassan, Albou Kamal (Deir Ezzor Province), Kafar Zeiteh, Hawash, Shahshabo, Hama City (Hama Province), Jabal Al-Zawiyeh, Ma’rrat Al-Nouman, Saraqib, Maar Shoureen, Ariha, Kafroumah, Al-Rami, Khan Shaikhoon (Idlib).

Newsflashes: *** FSA members from the Ghoutah Region claimed that they have killed a Russian General working with the local pro-Assad security forces. The General was taking active part in the crackdown, they say. Al-Arabiya TV aired the report along with a photo of the general, identifying him as General Petrovic Kojiev. No word yet from Moscow in this regard.

News
Abdullah warns Al Assad could seek Alawite refuge “In his mentality, he is going to stick to his guns ... I think the regime feels that it has no alternative, but to continue. ... I don’t think it’s just Bashar. It’s not the individual. It’s the system of the regime. “For Bashar, at the moment, if I’m reading the way he’s thinking, is, he’s going do what he’s going to do indefinitely.”
Assad Vows to Rid Syria of 'Terrorists' Syrian state-run media report Assad said he would show no leniency in quashing the rebellion against his government. His comments followed a meeting with Iran's visiting national security council secretary, Saeed Jalili.
Fighting Grows More Intense in Syria’s Largest City It was an especially violent day all over the country… But Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, with an ancient and foreboding citadel at its center, seemed on course to become the country’s Gettysburg.
Aleppo strafed by shells, fear, misery The Free Syrian Army remains ensconced in many Aleppo neighborhoods, but it has endured a pounding from Syrian forces for days and days… Opposition forces report warplane strikes on the Bab al-Hadid and Bab Al-Nasr areas, and shelling is raging in the Salaheddine neighborhood.
Syria: Mig fighter jets bomb Aleppo as rebels dig in Free Syrian Army strategy seemingly anchored more in hope than vision as regime counter-assault intensifies
Survivor Describes New Syria Mass Killing Together, they painted a picture of the summary slaying of 10 men, at least some of whom had only loose links to the armed rebels seeking to topple the regime. That story jibes with activist claims of the increasingly brutal tactics regime forces are using to try to crush the rebellion that has spread to Aleppo, Syria's largest city.
Druse from Israeli-held Golan return from Syria The evacuation, coordinated by the Red Cross, highlights the dilemma facing Golan Druse. Many are horrified by the carnage, occasionally taking place within earshot of their villages, but they are also hesitant to turn against a Syrian regime to which they have remained at least outwardly loyal.
Clinton warns against sectarian turmoil in Syria "We have to set very clear expectations about avoiding sectarian warfare," Clinton said, answering a question on Syria during a news conference in the South African capital Pretoria, her latest stop in a tour of Africa. "Those who are attempting to exploit the situation by sending in proxies or terrorist fighters must realize that will not be tolerated, first and foremost by the Syrian people," she added.
UN: 22,000 Iraqis in Syria return home to flee war The returning Iraqis have been joined by some 3,600 Syrians who have crossed into Iraq since July 23, when Baghdad announced it was opening its western borders to refugees. The Syrians are being kept near the border, evoking some complaints.
Officials: Syria's prime minister defects from al-Assad regime "But all indications are that Hijab was probably kept in the dark. This wasn't a man who had Assad's ear. Assad appointed him just a few months ago. He was essentially just another Cabinet member without much power at all."
Syria 'crumbling' after PM's defection Western powers have said the defection of Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab is a sign that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad is crumbling. Mr Hijab, the most senior Syrian figure to defect, on Monday denounced Syria's "terrorist regime" and said he was joining the revolution.
Iranian officials dispatched to Turkey, Syria The Iranian foreign minister is traveling to Turkey, where he is expected to request Ankara's help securing the release of 48 Iranians being held in Syria by rebel forces.
Jordan's king warns of Syrian chemical weapons threat Clinton: 'We can begin planning for the day after the Assad regime falls.'
Livni on Syria: 'International community is impotent' “The fact that the international community is quite, excuse me, impotent on this issue sent a very sad and problematic message to the region. Because the international community is being watched by extremists in the region. It’s not only inside Syria, it’s by Iran, by other radical elements, by Hezbollah, by Hamas.”
WHO Warns of Severe Medicine Shortage in Syria Syria used to produce 90 percent of its medicines and drugs locally. With battles raging in the country, the World Health Organization says pharmaceuticals production has slowed because of less availability of raw materials, international sanctions, increased fuel costs and instability in much of the country.

Op-Eds & Special Reports
Iran Sees Syria as Priority Issue The former Iranian president says the stakes are high for Tehran because if the Shi'ite Syrian government falls, it not only would be a major blow to Iranian influence, but it also could mean the Tehran government is next.

Stanching Syria’s Bleeding: Inside a Rebel Triage Unit A medical student who has spent months saving lives in makeshift trauma stations shares his harrowing tale.

US makes plans to keep post-Assad Syria intact The State Department and the Pentagon are jointly working on plans for a post-President Bashar Assad Syria. They hope to avoid the kind of implosion they believe occurred because of a lack of planning for post-Saddam Iraq.

Syria’s agony prolonged as Russia and America pursue regional agendas “You have to understand: as an envoy, I can’t want peace more than the protagonists, more than the Security Council or the international community for that matter,” said Annan. “My central concern from the start has been the welfare of the Syrian people. Syria can still be saved from the worst calamity if the international community can show the courage and leadership necessary to compromise on their partial interests for the sake of the Syrian people.”

Analysis: Hamstrung Turkey's nightmares coming true in Syria Turkey's worst nightmares are beginning to come true in Syria - a protracted sectarian civil war on its long southern border with the emergence of a de facto Kurdish-controlled region friendly to its main domestic foe… "They cannot and will not intervene militarily. All they can do is help on the edges, i.e. allow insurgents free passage, train them, help them organise politically," Barkey told Reuters. "Still this is more than what many others are doing."

Armenia: An Uncertain “Homecoming” for Syria’s Diaspora Many ethnic Armenians are disgruntled after fleeing the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo for the safety of Armenia. They say they have been left to fend for themselves in the country they view as their ethnic homeland. Armenian government officials, meanwhile, insist they are doing what they can to accommodate diaspora members. Armenia: Destination Karabakh for Armenian-Syrian Refugees? Now, some politicians from both Armenia proper and Nagorno-Karabakh are floating a controversial remedy; encouraging those fleeing the Syrian violence to settle in the breakaway republic.

Now is the time for U.S. to act on Syria Our goal should be limited: Pressure al-Assad's regime to negotiate with the rebels on major reforms but not to hand them victory… Above all, we must warn the rebels that we shall cease all support for them if they commit atrocities, a step we did not undertake in Libya, resulting in some very distressing consequences.

Assad's time is running out in Syria The defection of Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab is the most significant of all those who have already deserted the Assad regime. It is a hard slap in the face to the president's prestige and a win for the rebels, especially on a symbolic level.

Syria: Despite prime minister's defection, Assad’s inner circle intact About five Alawite clans, all linked through intermarriage and business interests, control the real power bases in Syria — such as the security apparatus and the military — and there have been no notable defections from their ranks, said Ammar Abdulhamid, an exiled opposition member who is on the Syria Working Group at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, a think tank in Washington. “They control the key decision-making process in tactical terms,” Abdulhamid said of the powerful Alawite dynasties. “The defection shows that the regime has lost control of an old game: the Sunni fig leaf.”

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly About the Syrian Civil War Ammar Abdulhamid may know more about Syria’s civil war than anyone else in the world. That’s no exaggeration. An pro-democratic oppositionist living abroad, Abdulhamid has functioned on a virtual 24/7 basis as the source of news and analysis about events within Syria, always trying to be honest and accurate in his assessments regardless of his own preferences. Barry Rubin, PJMedia Middle East editor, interviewed Abdulhamid on the latest developments and trends.

Video Highlights

The video in which, the FSA in Damascus took credit for the killing of the Russian General, Petrovic Kojiev http://youtu.be/CxLIl82PNuc

A video that shows defected PM Riyad Hijab sitting with local members of the FSA in the village of Nouaimah, Daraa province, close to the Jordanian borders. While rebels insist that the PM has already crossed into Jordan, Jordanian authorities still deny that he did http://youtu.be/xMR98bfp7S0 Local activists report that the Finance Minister Muhammad Al-Jleilati, who had planned to defect as well, has been arrested by Assad loyalists. But Member of Parliament Ali Al-Bish announces his defection http://youtu.be/OP8L2AHNBIU

A fighter jet dropping a bomb on Sakhour Neighborhood in Aleppo City http://youtu.be/9brPQyP8Gc4 Another fighter jet in action http://youtu.be/V71Mbc--a_A Meanwhile, the indiscriminate pounding of the Salaheddine Neighborhood continues http://youtu.be/wVTtDaBJAzA , http://youtu.be/b7JkgXIhOH4 , http://youtu.be/mRF2w2r1y_g Elsewhere in the neighborhood the clashes continue http://youtu.be/kNemZ-Q-bwk Just at the outskirts of the city, activists stumble on the site of a massacre, where 10 people seem to have been executed on the spot http://youtu.be/ZBAfrlJyrQU

One of the cannons taking part in the indiscriminate pounding of Daraa City http://youtu.be/V59VQflAZ7s

A helicopter gunship taking part in the pounding of Ayn Terma, Damascus Suburbs http://youtu.be/fbjlc0n6v5k Nearby Jisreen is pounded by mortar rounds http://youtu.be/hOJnWxkUxiU In Jisreen, pro-Assad militias perpetrate another massacre by executing some of the local activists on the spot http://youtu.be/I97bhClT2gU The pounding claims the lives of two children in Kafar Batna http://youtu.be/maUeUcCIZ8E

The indiscriminate pounding of Rastan, Homs Province http://youtu.be/5oLgy02lcJg , http://youtu.be/19MFt5tsCWg keeps claiming the lives of children: 4 children and their mother – dead http://youtu.be/lrRjSoawnfo , http://youtu.be/6oTlnphPkSQ the pounding of nearby Talbisseh continues as well http://youtu.be/HDvaQetzOn0

The pounding claims the lives of more children in Deir Baalbah, Homs City, http://youtu.be/RyAYTzTwPhI , http://youtu.be/HicDak6LO-k , http://youtu.be/ao-HudANboA