Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Too Little Too Late!

It is said that the U.S. is behind a new initiative to form a transitional government for Syria. American officials, we are told, are doing all they can to ensure inclusivity and adequate representation of all major communities and political groups, including an attempt to bring in as many representatives of the internal opposition as possible. But by now, the fragmentation of Syria is a done deal, warlordism is all the rage, and any national government will have to act as a government-in-exile for years to come. The old political class in Syria has become largely irrelevant to the processes unfolding in the country.

Tuesday October 30, 2012

Today’s Death toll: 163. The Breakdown: Toll includes 13 children and 7 women: 72 in Damascus and Suburbs, 50 in Idlib (most in the shelling of Maaret Al-Nouman and dozens in Saraqeb and Kafar Batekh), 13 in Aleppo, 12 in Homs, 7 in Daraa, 5 in Hama, 2 in Deir Ezzor and 2 in Lattakia (LCC).

News

Special Reports
The rebel hold on Maaret al-Numan has disrupted the regime's ability to send supplies and reinforcements to Aleppo, where government forces have been bogged down since July in a bloody fight for control of Syria's largest city. Rebel advances over the past week in Aleppo have added urgency to opening the route.
… over the last several months, according to U.S. officials and Syrian opposition figures, the State Department has worked to broaden its contacts inside the country, meeting with military commanders and representatives of local governance councils in a bid to bypass the fractious SNC… The new council is an attempt to change that dynamic. Dozens of Syrian leaders will meet in the Qatari capital, Doha, on Nov. 3 and hope to announce the new council as the legitimate representative of all the major Syrian opposition factions on Nov. 7, one day after the U.S. presidential election. The Obama administration sees the new council as a potential interim government that could negotiate with both the international community and the Syrian regime. The SNC will have a minority stake in the new body, but some opposition leaders are still skeptical that the effort will succeed.

Op-Eds
Jacques Bérès, combat zone field surgeon; Mario Bettati, professor emeritus of international law; André Glucksmann, philosopher; Bernard Kouchner, former minister; Bernard-Henri Lévy, philosopher, director of the review "La Règle du jeu", member of the supervisory board of "Le Monde": Enough Evasion, We Must Intervene in Syria!
It is precisely when one judges, as we do, that the dictatorship of the Assads is deservedly doomed and Islamist fundamentalism constitutes a major danger for the country's future that the duty to protect is imperative. And related to and as imperative as this duty to protect is the duty to ensure the security of all elements, all the constituant minorities of the Syrian people. What is at stake goes beyond the fate of Syria.

Ammar Abdulhamid & Khawla Yusuf: The Shredded Tapestry: The State of Syria Today

Video Highlights

The pounding of Damascene suburbs continue: Hamouriyeh MiGs take part in the pounding http://youtu.be/uDaKbRKpMlg , http://youtu.be/LF17tIqp3M8 Treating the wounded http://youtu.be/X8KS1M-5SYU , http://youtu.be/D7fXJRnyfUg Kafar Batna http://youtu.be/GfVA2vdefI0 , http://youtu.be/eKOY3xu-P5Y Ain Terma http://youtu.be/UipesebmnoU Harasta pulling the dead rom under the rubble http://youtu.be/FeCpe8YW3po , http://youtu.be/Ftz1MLQdgMA , http://youtu.be/Tu8AGsc62Jg  Buildings catch fire http://youtu.be/sP4B9jwQfOc Rescuing the wounded http://youtu.be/5cFGHtSnHqU Arbeen tanks take part in the pounding http://youtu.be/fXsY1kdG2S0  And MiGs http://youtu.be/_60cDg1l9iI Douma impact of pounding http://youtu.be/mBsYtRCT9i4 MiGs take part in the pounding http://youtu.be/83_00lXCRp8

Maraat Al-Nouman, Idlib Province, is pounded by TNT barrels http://youtu.be/0ZMIoQx0bJA , http://youtu.be/v_NHUYAu8oU

In an attempt to halt rebel advances in northern Lattakia, helicopter gunships are now taking part in the pounding of restive communities, including the town of Salma http://youtu.be/y7ktFpgJF0c , http://youtu.be/CrsbLZTgHYs

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Notes On A Travesty!

Whether Obama’s Syria team failed to predict what was all too predictable in Syria, or simply did not give a damn, does not matter. The result is both a tragedy and a travesty of justice, decency and humanity. Obama might have killed Bin Ladin, but he also gifted Al-Qaeda a new base for its global operations and the potential of making a hundred new Bin Ladins. The brunt of this failure will be borne by Syrians of course, but soon people all over the region and the world, including Americans, will suffer as well. This is the price of indifference in our interconnected world.

Monday October 29, 2012

Today’s Death toll: 115. The Breakdown: Toll includes 7 children and 3 women: 53 in Damascus and suburbs (including 10 in Al-Hajar Al-Aswad and 10 in the Jaramana explosion), 27 in Aleppo (most in Maghayer neighborhood), 13 in Idlib, 9 in Homs, 6 in Daraa, 4 in Hama and 3 martyrs in Deir Ezzor. Other Developments: 416 violations of the ceasefire have been documented, including aerial bombardment in 26 locations mostly in Damascus and suburbs (LCC).

News

Special Reports
Many families that sought sanctuary in Syria are back in Baghdad after escaping for their lives a second time.
The failure to push through a truce so limited in its ambitions — just four days — has been a sobering reflection of the international community's inability to ease 19 months of bloodshed in Syria. It also suggests that the stalemated civil war will drag on, threatening to draw in Syria's neighbors in this highly combustible region such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.
A jihadist group prospers in Syria
For more than a year, the Obama administration has been assuring the world that the downfall of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is “a matter of time.” Yes, its own Middle East experts warned, but how much time matters. The longer the fighting goes on, they said, the more likely it is that what began as a peaceful mass opposition movement would be hijacked by extremists, including allies of al-Qaeda. President Obama ignored that advice, ruling out measures that could have quickly brought down the regime — such as a no-fly zone — in favor of a year of feckless diplomacy. But it turned out the experts were right. So now the consequence of Obama’s passivity has a name, one that will surely haunt the occupant of the White House in 2013: Jabhat al-Nusra.

Op-Eds
In their desperation, Syrians have become cynical towards America's true stance on the Assad regime. Still, they have given the Obama administration the benefit of the doubt, telling themselves that nothing will change before the US elections. But as the number of dead steadily increased, the hope of a shift in US foreign policy towards Syria after the elections has faded. This was clearly expressed on October 19, the first Friday since the revolution began to have been given an anti-American name: "America, your silence is complicit in thousands of our deaths."

Ammar Abdulhamid & Khawla Yusuf: The Shredded Tapestry: The State of Syria Today

Like so many are willing to say these days, it was only a matter of time: the flourishing of Jihadi groups, Arab-Kurdish clashes, and the breakdown of the state. Each and every of these developments was all too predictable, and was in fact predicted, including by yours truly on this blog, and by many others.

Whether Obama’s Syria team failed to see this, failed to predict the all too predictable, or simply did not give a damn, does not matter. The result is both a tragedy and a travesty. Obama might have killed Bin Ladin, but he also gifted Al-Qaeda a new base and the potential of making a hundred new Bin Ladins.

The brunt of this failure will be borne by Syrians of course, but soon Americans will suffer as well. Soon, someone in the United States will once again have a reason to ask “why do they hate us?” And experts will rush in to provide the same tired answers that conflate ideology with facts. The result will be new and often flawed policies that reflect too many ideological compromises to allow them to be effective, and the world will sputter on towards a new tragedy.

You cannot break this cycle without some honest discussion about America’s real place in this world and without engaging the world in a real discussion about the nature, structure and decision-making mechanisms of the new world order. As things stand right now, we are still standing in the shadows of the Cold War, yet to transition into a new vision of a the world beyond the issue of polarity.

The New Front or the Internal Spillover

Developments in the majority-Kurdish neighborhood of Al-Ashrafiyeh in Aleppo City come as another warning sign of how much worse things in Syria could still get. If the situation is not controlled immediately, spillovers will be felt in the Kurdish-majority towns of Efrin and Kobani in north Aleppo, and Kurdish-majority areas beyond, including the critical province of Al-Hassakeh. A new front will signal what might be an irreversible dissolution process for Syria.

Video Highlights

Children are among the victims as usual: Al-Hajar Al-Aswad, Damascus City http://youtu.be/7L_8-4j65Lc , http://youtu.be/bswy3HY-O9Y Idlib http://youtu.be/rW7ezJI1MmM , http://youtu.be/dEIaCSsfkXI Karak, Daraa Province http://youtu.be/bNbhty96FCw

The pounding of Eastern Ghoutah region in Damascus Province by MiGs and Sukhoys continues: Kafar Batna http://youtu.be/ZDhWIksDies Saqba http://youtu.be/4FUE5ATKP7M  Hamouriyeh http://youtu.be/H5iBfpqQVm4 Arbeen http://youtu.be/XiEJt9rxfFI Jobar http://youtu.be/njKaxax-UdU  Al-Tadamon http://youtu.be/JjJgTTlwybg Harasta http://youtu.be/jqdoUTmZsbY

The city of Deir Ezzor received its share of the pounding as well http://youtu.be/E-XH6XCGJ8w

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Truth about The Truce!

It’s time to face the truth: with no incentives on the table and no threats, the truce in Syria never had a chance, and was nothing more than a piece of political theater staged for the benefit of indifferent and impotent international audience. The “truciness” of it is all too evident.

Sunday October 28, 2012

Today’s Death toll: 119. The Breakdown:  Toll includes 15 women and 14 children: 56 in Damascus and suburbs, 27 in Idlib (most in Barrah massacre), 13 in Aleppo, 10 in Homs, 6 in Deir Ezzor (most in Mayadeen), 2 in Daraa and 2 in Hama (LCC).

The LCC reports that over 70 loyalist soldiers in Idlib Province surrendered themselves to Turkish border guards.

News

Special Reports
More than at any time in recent years, Hezbollah is facing scrutiny inside Lebanon, even from some once-loyal backers, mostly because of increasing signs that it has become a partisan in a Syria conflict that has become deeply divisive in Lebanon.
Some 200 people were captured, all but 20 of them by the rebels, the Observatory said. Residents said some 200 rebels had moved in to the area on Thursday, announcing they had come to spend the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Adha, starting the next day, in the neighbourhood.
In a two-hour and 12-minute video posted on Islamist websites on Wednesday, Ayman al-Zawahri also called U.S. President Barack Obama a 'liar' and 'one of the biggest supporters of Israel.'
Another failed ceasefire in Syria once again demands new ways to end the violence. Perhaps the truth-telling tactics of the opposition in YouTube videos can help hollow out the lies of the Assad regime so that his remaining support collapses.
The truce was called as the two sides were battling over strategic targets in a largely deadlocked civil war. They include a military base near a main north-south highway, the main supply route to Aleppo, Syria's largest city, where regime forces and rebels have been fighting house-to-house. It appears each side feared the other could exploit a lull to improve its positions.
Award-winning cartoonist, brutally beaten by Al-Assad's thugs over a year ago, continues to create images of defiance

Ammar Abdulhamid & Khawla Yusuf: The Shredded Tapestry: The State of Syria Today

Video Highlights

MiGs and Sukhoys resume pounding Damascus Suburbs http://youtu.be/zHQjzeIbMcM , http://youtu.be/7WsXv7Fi7zU Saqba http://youtu.be/csu38cFhdGg , http://youtu.be/SkEZw8RiGzc Pounding by heavy artillery also took place in Douma http://youtu.be/LHrFF3ksqOY

First, it was the pro-Asasd militias cursing freedom in their slogans. Now, we have rebels doing the same. In this video from a Damascene suburb, a small rally by Islamist protesters features shouts of “Toz Toz to Freedom, we want an Islamic Caliphate.” Toz is an Arabic for fart, and has been used by Qaddafi to address the Libyan people shortly before his demise” http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=293113190789402 Protesters also say they want “the rule of the Quran,” and “Toz to peaceful struggle.”

Leaked video shows TNT barrels carried in helicopter gunships before they were dropped http://youtu.be/FpZTOKJmji4

Col. Abduljabbar Al-Oqaidi shows off some of the improvised weapons used by rebels in Aleppo Cityn http://youtu.be/UK-O7BNAKj8

What happened in Ashrafiyeh, Aleppo City http://youtu.be/z_V5b92uOxc Kurdish demonstrators demanding departure of Islamist rebels from their neighborhood soon came under fire from some of the rebels. Rebels present in the neighborhood were mostly members of Jabhat Al-Nusrah and Aharah Al-Sham, known for their Al-Qaeda sympathies. Both groups have Islamist Kurdish fighters in their ranks as well. As such, the scene involves an Arab-Kurdish struggle as well as an intra-Kurdish struggle.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Marred and Peppered!

Marred by violent clashes, and peppered with anti-Assad rallies, ah the holidays in Syria – so much pain, so much hope, and so much global indifference.

Thursday October 25, 2012

Today’s Death toll: 103. The Breakdown:  Toll includes 9 women and 6 children: 39 in Damascus and suburbs (including 10 in an explosion in Al-Zohor neighborhood), 22 in Aleppo (including 4 rebels), 12 in Homs, 11 in Idlib, 9 in Daraa, 7 in Deir Ezzor, 3 in Hama. Other Developments: Regime committed 292 violations at end of 1st day of truce (LCC).

In Aleppo Neighborhood of Al-Shrafiyeh, where the majority of residents are Kurdish, local activsts reported clashes between rebels affiliated with the Jihadi group Jabhat Al-Nusrah and local militias affiliated with PYD, the Syrian branch of the PKK. The clashes left 5 local residents dead.

News
Syrian rebels advance into Aleppo Territorial gains break more than two months of stalemate as large areas of country's second city change hands

Special Reports
* City seen as bastion of loyalty to Assad before uprising * Businessmen hit by attacks, kidnapping, extortion * Rebel groups, government-linked gangs blamed * Political splits emerge within business community * Industrial zones operating at 5-10 percent of capacity
Islamist opposition groups are reported to be better funded and armed than their secular comrades.
The Syrian rebels and their support networks use social media for a variety of purposes including self-promotion, fundraising, directing attacks, and exchanging tactics. While the rebels would still be able to operate in the absence of social media, their financing and combat capabilities would be diminished, as would the influence of some high-profile rebel leaders.
Iran is conducting a region-wide drive with an eye on the regional balance of power. This is what’s at stake in Syria, and what’s playing out in Iraq, the Kurdish Regional Government, Lebanon and Turkey. This Iranian power play best explains why Hassan was killed.
Lebanon’s politics are inextricably linked to Syria’s. Syria and Lebanon were one country until Lebanon gained independence in 1943, and Syria occupied Lebanon militarily from 1976 until 2005.
Whatever the rationale, Assad is continuing his attempts to buy the building blocks of nerve agents like sarin. The CIA and the U.S. State Department, working with allies in the region, have recently prevented sales to Syria of industrial quantities of isopropanol. Popularly known as rubbing alcohol, it’s also one of the two main chemical precursors to sarin gas, one of the deadliest nerve agents in existence. The other precursor is methylphosphonyl difluoride, or DF. The Syrians were also recently blocked from acquiring the phosphorous compounds known as halides, some of which can be used to help make DF.
Can Syria's Kurds take advantage of the civil war to form their own government? Or are they too busy starting their own civil war?
Syrian refugees, trying to bring some normality to their new life in Turkey, are setting up schools for their children. But this is not always with the blessing of their host, as the BBC's James Reynolds finds out.

Arabic Press (Prepared by Steven Miller, FDD Research Associate)


Ammar Abdulhamid & Khawla Yusuf: The Shredded Tapestry: The State of Syria Today

Why “Assad is continuing his attempts to buy the building blocks of nerve agents like sarin?” Wonders Noah Shachtman.

Simple: because his program was never as big and advanced as previously advertised. The price of maintaining a system based on loyalty to a particular family above everything else is that you end up with corrupt morons populating key positions and leading key initiatives. At its best the regime could only attract third-rate technocrats who would soon become too mired in corruption to care about doing their jobs, beyond maintaining certain appearances.

Video Highlights

Clashes in Mahatah, Daraa City http://youtu.be/0XcKN6zAa1w In Al-Qadam, Damascus City http://youtu.be/UtLImaNhe_8 Douma, Damascus Suburbs http://youtu.be/R6hC-N8Xq3Q


In their rush to distance themselves from more extremist groups and project an image of moderation, this rebel groups dubbed itself Master Jesus’s Battalion http://youtu.be/3lBgOrQytT4

Over 400 anti-regime rallies took place throughout Syria, like this one in Jobar Neighborhood in Damascus City http://youtu.be/KA674b4kGcs Yabroud, Damascus Suburbs http://youtu.be/H3rqJVbKU9I Elbab Road, Aleppo City http://youtu.be/BiioRVPP-P0 Bouqrous, Deir Ezzor http://youtu.be/VyFhJkw4dYU Aleppo Road, Hama http://youtu.be/n1ehcFtHTkY Hilfaya, Hama http://youtu.be/HsgS25vxJoc Fatirah, Idlib http://youtu.be/fRPQohHSVH8 Kafrenbel, Idlib http://youtu.be/MBek3ZlBT_I Houleh, Homs http://youtu.be/mB-7ffb-_PE