Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Our Identity Crisis!

As sectarian trends continue to increase and a new conflict pitting Arabs against Kurds explodes, albeit in slow motion, it is becoming increasingly clear that Syrians are going through a major identity crisis with all the trimmings. We may not have a Syria left at the end of this Revolution, but, hopefully, we will end up knowing who we are, or at least more of who we are, at this particular moment in history. Whether we end up liking and accepting ourselves or each other is a different matter. But only people who know and accept who they are, at least at a certain level, can make peace with each other and the world. So, peace will have to wait for a while in our parts, even if the price of war is high. Because the price of ignorance, especially self-ignorance, is even higher.

Tuesday January 22, 2013

Today’s Death Toll: 164, including 12 women and 22 children. 71 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its suburbs, including 8 martyrs in Medira and 8 who had been field-executed in Douma; 32 martyrs were reported in Daraa; 14 in Aleppo; 13 in Homs; 11 in Hama; 11 in Idlib; 11 in Deir Ezzor; and 1 in Lattakia (LCCs).

Points of Random Shelling: 278: including 13 sites that were subjected to aerial shelling. Regime forces used barrel bombs on 3 areas across Syria and 1 area was subjected to cluster and thermobaric bombardment. 133 areas were subjected to artillery shelling; 68 areas were subjected to mortar shelling; and 76 areas reported rocket shelling (LCCs).

Clashes: The Free Syrian Army (FSA) clashed with regime forces in 126 locations, managing to down an attack helicopter flying over Koweires Military Airport in Aleppo and seizing control of the club checkpoint near the Daraa Balad gas station. The FSA also managed to target checkpoints at the oil press and canning plant with mortars, and the Hamidieh camp with homemade rockets. The FSA also destroyed a number of personnel carriers and other materiel belonging to the regime in cities and towns across Syria (LCCs).

Russia's Evacuation From Syria Reflects Doubts About Bashar Assad's Hold On Power In addition to tens of thousands of Russians permanently living in Syria, most of whom are Russian women married to Syrian men and their children, there are also an unspecified number of diplomats and military advisers along with their families. The evacuees were permanent residents not connected to the embassy.
Diplomatic options fade in Syria, as refugees pile up Daily life is mostly spent fending off the cold. There is no electricity, no heat and no running water. Few international aid workers dare to travel to Syria to help… The Turkish government is building another camp that can take up to 3,000 refugees, but that is not much comfort to the more than 40,000 Syrians who are stranded along its border.
US Senators Urge Stronger Response to Syria Crisis Republican Senator John McCain led a delegation of lawmakers that recently returned from a trip to the Middle East and Afghanistan.  At a news conference Tuesday, McCain relayed messages the group received from Syrian opposition leaders and refugees. “We heard desperate pleas for U.S. support and assistance," said McCain… Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said, “The situation in Syria is getting increasingly dire. And it appears the Assad administration is dug in pretty hard.  So there is a real danger of the warfare prolonging, and while it prolongs having the Syrian state devolve into potentially ethnically-cleansed enclaves, and a huge vacuum left for jihadis and extremists to launch attacks from.”
Rebels in northern Syria pin hopes on airbase's downfall The siege does underscore one important point: It has taken less than a year for Syria's rebels to go from being hunted in their homes to now encircling and attacking some of the largest military bases in the country.
Life in Lebanon "horrible" for Palestinians fleeing Syria: U.N. Donors needed to do more to help at least 20,000 Palestinians who have already come in and more than 200 who join them every day, the chief of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Filippo Grandi, told Reuters.
Saudi says negotiated Syria settlement "inconceivable" "Damascus... which has been a city for the longest period of time, is carpet bombed. How can you conceive of the possibility of a negotiated settlement with somebody who does that to his own country, to his own history, to his own people? It is inconceivable to us," Prince Saud al-Faisal told a news conference. He was speaking after an Arab summit focusing on economic development, which was not attended by Syria.

Special Reports
In retrospect, this was a war of necessity. It was necessary to avoid a regional calamity, the spread of more violence to Lebanon and Iraq. It was necessary to avoid a humanitarian disaster; great suffering that could have been avoided or at least mitigated. It was necessary to take a stand against barbarity because this is — is it not? — a basic obligation. It was necessary to intervene because we could do so at very little cost… We are talking, simply, of saving lives. It was necessary, finally, because not only must the thugs of this world be held accountable by the world community, they must know they will be held accountable by the world community... This — a furious sense of moral indignation — must return to U.S. foreign policy and be the centerpiece of Obama’s second term. This is no longer a matter of choice. It is a necessity.
A CAMP for displaced people in Atmeh is a good measure of the worsening crisis in Syria. When your correspondent last visited the town, just inside Syria's northern border with Turkey, in September, hundreds of people were sitting under olive trees hoping to cross into Turkey. Four months later the sea of white tents stretches into the distance. Whole streets and villages from rural Idleb and Aleppo have been transplanted here—almost the only source of comfort in the relentless misery.
Syria’s conflict gives its Kurdish population an opening to rectify historic wrongs and push for more autonomy, but facing internal divisions, poor ties with the non-Kurdish opposition and regional rivalries, its challenge is to articulate clear, unified and achievable demands.
A rebel commander seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, he described the choice of a cornered man. His resistance began with peaceful demonstrations, he said. When the government answered with force, his tactics changed. “It was only after they showed that they would kill us that we became armed,” he said. But there is a difference between this story and many others. Mr. Abdulkader is a Kurd, not an Arab, which means his experiences and decisions upend conventional wisdom that holds that the Kurds do not see this as their fight.
In sum: The White House wouldn’t know if Assad were about to use chemical weapons, couldn’t be sure if he had used chemical weapons, and in any case isn’t going to do anything about chemical weapons until Assad leaves. In reality then, the president has no red lines for Assad…

Video Highlights

A just released video shows the second rocket as it hits the University of Aleppo compound on January 17, belying the regime’s story of a car bomb attack

Leaked video: pro-Assad Alawite militias in Deir Ezzor execute a young member of a local FSA unit, with the usual glee

Major Defection: Last week hundreds of soldiers defected from pro-Assad militias fighting in Damascus and her suburbs, most of whom came from a Sunni Arab or Kurdish background hailing from Al-Jazeerah region in Syria’s northeast (the provinces of Raqqah, Deir Ezzor and Al-Hassakeh). Today 450 of these soldiers arrived in the province of Al-Hassakeh and were warmly received by local rebels

Rebels in Idlib Province use homemade missiles in an attack on a local loyalist militia headquarters

In Medira, Damascus, today’s fallen included many children More people were killed in nearby Douma

To the west, Assad armies keep patrolling the outskirts of the Daraya suburb Sometimes rebels manage to take down some of these tanks But the use of MiGs gives Assad the upper hand as usual

This leaked video shows pro-Assad militias using missile launchers based in the nearby hills to pound the town of Mouadamiyah and again at night

Meanwhile, the pounding of the town of Zabadani continues

In Hama, pro-Assad militias stationed in the Hama Military Airport used missile launchers to pound nearby communities ,

In Homs City, aerial bombardment against restive neighborhoods continues: Jobar MiG diving for the kill and another dive The destruction is immense

Meanwhile, in the neighborhood of Baba Amr, local doctors save the life of another pro-Assad fighter they captured. The man admits that he comes from the majority-Alawite and Shia town of Mukharram. He says he was recruited by pro-Assad militias, that he is poor and that he and his children had no heating oil or food. He asks his children to forgive him in case he didn’t live to see them again. He tells them to pay attention to their school work, not believe the regime’s lies and not watch Syrian state TV

In this video testimony released by Islamist rebels in Ras Al-Ain, a Kurdish man is seen admitting that he is a member of the PKK and that he and his friends are working in tandem with Assad and Iranian security, including Assad’s security chief Muhammad Mansourah. Kurds from the town of Ras Al-Ain, however, belie this testimony and say the man is a local baker and that the testimony is coerced like those of captured activists paraded on Syrian state TV confessing to all sort of crimes after being tortured Meanwhile, clashes pitting Arab and Kurdish rebels continue