Thursday, January 31, 2013

Impossible Dialogue, Improbable Politics!

In the absence of leaders, no dialogue is possible, and in the absence of dialogue no salvation is possible for a state crumbling along ethnic and regional lines. But with killers representing one side and nincompoops the other, our tragedy is bound to drag on for many months to come, and Syria’s fate might have already been sealed. Our only hope lies in having those few voices of rationality out there, represented by the like of opposition leader Moaz Al-Khatib and the Revolution’s top thinker, Yassin Al-Haj Saleh, finding enough soulmates in time to enable the opposition to project a strong alternative that can be embraced and empowered both by the international community and rebel leaders. Perhaps when one side finally stumbles on capable leadership and a viable program, the other side will be compelled to do the same to stave off defeat.

Wednesday January 30, 2013

Today’s Death Toll: 144 martyrs, including 7 children and 3 women: 39 in Aleppo, 42 in Damascus and suburbs, 27 in Homs, 13 in Idlib, 7 in Hama, 6 in Hasakeh, 3 in each of Raqqah, Deir Ezzor, and Dara’a, and 1 in Qunteira (LCCs).

Points of Random Shelling: 374 points, including 13 points from warplane shelling, 2 points have been recorded from the use of phosphorus bombs, and 1 point each from cluster bombs, Thermobaric bombs, and TNT barrel. Artillery shelling has been recorded as 146 points and was most violent in Damascus, followed by 130 points of mortar shelling, and 80 points of missile strikes (LCCs).

Clashes: 133 locations. Successful operations included the downing of two warplanes in Karnaz and Kafar Nabouda in Hama, liberating the military Gas Station on Aleppo-Latakia Highway, and hitting various loyalist checkpoints in Harran Al-Awamid and Qadam neighborhoods in Damascus (LCCs).

Israeli Jets Blast Arms Shipment Inside Syria The early-morning strike in a border area west of Damascus targeted a convoy of trucks carrying Russian-made SA-17 missiles to Hezbollah, the anti-Israel Shiite militant and political group in Lebanon, according to a Western official briefed on the raid.
Syria Opposition Leader Would Talk to Assad Regime Al-Khatib was chosen in November to head the Syrian National Coalition, a new umbrella group designed to represent most of the rebels and soothe Western concerns about the ability of the opposition to pull together and present a viable alternative to Assad's rule. His offer to talk to regime officials threatened to fracture the opposition once again. After an outcry, al-Khatib said he was just expressing his own opinion.
Piecing Together Accounts of a Massacre in Syria The rebels and the government have blamed each other for the mass killing, but Ms. Sherlock, of The Daily Telegraph, reported that many of the dead were residents of rebel-held areas whose families said they disappeared after traveling to government-held areas. “It was impossible to be certain who was responsible for their deaths. But those identified, at least half the total by nightfall, were from rebel-held districts, and locals blamed government checkpoints on the other side of the river.”

Special Reports
Located on flatlands and ringed by wheat and potato fields that offer little cover or concealment, the base and the village at its eastern side have even been nigh unapproachable. To venture near has been to risk machine-gun and rifle fire, as well as high-explosive ordnance from armored vehicles and tanks or an attack from one of the patrolling aircraft that serve as the lifeline for entrapped soldiers within. The rebels hope to change that this winter. In recent weeks they have rejoined the battle for Minakh with greater intensity, driven in part by a sense that the government garrison on the base – thinned by casualties and defections – is significantly weaker than what it was.
Reports indicate that Hezbollah recently expanded its actions in Syria to include its most valued resource — its highly trained and strategically irreplaceable special forces units. Hezbollah’s secretive military wing is reportedly composed of 2,000 to 4,000 professional soldiers and thousands of reservists hailing from Shiite villages south of the Litani river and the Bekaa Valley, meant to be called into action to repel a future Israeli invasion. During the 2006 conflict with Israel, the loss of roughly one quarter of Hezbollah’s special forces was assumed to constitute the group’s most severe setback. Varying reports from Syria suggest that the direct participation of these special forces units in combat zones nationwide has increased, and additional forces may be on the way.

Impossible Dialogue, Improbable Politics

The willingness of Syrian opposition leader Moaz Al-Khatib to dialog with the Assad regime was misrepresented and misinterpreted by all. For in order to conduct such dialog with regime figures, Mr. Al-Khatib stipulated the release of all 160,000 political prisoners currently languishing in regime jails, granting Syrian passports to all Syrian exiles, and holding the talks somewhere outside Syria. A regime that has already failed to honor its commitment to release 2,300 detainees as part of a much publicized prisoner exchange program that led to the release of 50 Iranian hostages held by rebels, the regime released only 200 detainees to date, is unlikely to accept these conditions, and Mr. Al-Khatib knows it. So, why even make the overture, one might ask? Smart politics.

Rejecting dialog outright when international leaders are calling for a political solution is simply not smart politics, entering dialog without any conditions as some opposition groups who recently met in Geneva seem willing to do is equally dumb. But asking for something that makes sense, sch as freedom for all political detainees so they can take part in monitoring the dialogue, and so that conditions on the ground for making dialogue possible are created, now that’s smart politics. That’s brave politics, and Mr. Al-Khatib has shown to be a capable leaders. Unfortunately though, he has also shown himself to be a lone voice in a political wilderness. The criticism he has received from the very coalition he is leading proves it.

Video Highlights

The regime pound the city of Tabaqa, Raqqa Province, with barrel bombs  Rebels try to take down the planes with their heavy guns

I have commented on this leaked video before, but now it comes with English subtitles: Soldiers of Al Assad's army arrest a civilian and torture him to entertain themselves. They try not to hit him hard in order to keep him alive so that they can have more fun. He begs them to let him see his kids one last time, but they insult him by agreeing on one condition which is letting them sleep with his wife. At the end of this footage, some of them get angry and sad because he died and they lost their enjoyment!

Sounds of clashes in Ariha, Idlib ,

Rebels in Deir Ezzor City celebrate the liberation of the political security headquarters  

Rebels in Al-Qadam Neighborhood, Damascus City keep repelling attempts by regime forces to storm the neighborhood , , The pounding of the nearby Yarmouk Camp continues In Eastern Ghoutah, this goes for a quiet day in the suburb of Harasta

Rebels in Salaheddine Neighborhood, Aleppo City, stand by a no-man’s land separating them from positions of regime loyalists