Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Return of the Pink Panther!

When you are the President of the United States, to condemn means to act, that’s why President Obama cannot even bring himself to condemn Assad’s proliferating crimes, for he is simply unwilling to act. His “better half” might like bright red, but he seems partial to pink himself, at least when it comes to his thinly drawn lines. It’s not that the President is afraid or indecisive. No. He is simply ideologically indifferent to the suffering of others. Since America is not the cause of what is happening in Syria, then, and from his perspective, America has no responsibility there. Case closed, but Hell just opened its doors, and its demons may not be so discerning.

Monday January 21, 2013

Today’s Death Toll: 110, (including 8 children and 6 women), 31 martyrs were reported in Aleppo, 26 in Damascus and its Suburbs, 17 martyrs in Homs, 12 martyrs in Daraa, 9 martyrs in Idlib, 9 martyrs in Hama, 3 martyrs from Raqqa who martyred in Daraa and 2 martyrs in Deir Ezzor  (LCCs).

Points of Random Shelling: 260: 21 points that were shelled by warplanes, 4 points using TNT barrels, 4 points using cluster bombs, 2 with vacuum and phosphorus bombs; 124 points were shelled with heavy artillery; 78 points were shelled with mortars; 56 points were shelled with missiles (LCCs).

Clashes: FSA rebels clashed with regime forces in 113 locations, during which they liberated the Almashlab checkpoint in Raqqa, and targeted a youth building housing shabiha in Hama. They also repelled several attempts by regime forces to storm Daraya and Eastern Ghoutah (LCCs).

Moscow Is Sending Planes to Lebanon for 100 Russians Leaving Syria It was not clear whether the news signaled the beginning of a large-scale evacuation. Russia has an estimated 30,000 citizens in Syria, including government and military personnel, private contractors, and tens of thousands of women married to Syrian men. Around a dozen Russian ships are in the Mediterranean off the coast of Syria for naval exercises and could, officials have said, be used to evacuate Russian citizens.
30 pro-regime forces killed in Syria blast A suicide car bomb exploded Monday outside the headquarters of a local government-sanctioned armed group in Syria, killing at least 30 armed people loyal to embattled President Bashar al-Assad, according to an opposition group and state-run television. The blast occurred at an old carpet factory in the eastern Hama countryside that was being used by the local People's Committee group, according the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Arab League: Syria Envoy Mission Makes No Progress Nabil Elaraby, addressing Monday's opening session of a two-day Arab economic summit in Saudi Arabia, proposed that the gathered heads of state call for an immediate meeting of the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Syria and establish a monitoring force to ensure compliance with the truce.
Syria Assembles New Paramilitary Force Aided by Iran Syrian regime has assembled a new paramilitary force, many trained by Iran, to fight what is becoming a guerrilla war… The force, dubbed the National Defense Army, gathers together existing popular committees of pro-regime civilian fighters under a new, better-trained and armed hierarchy, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, according to AFP.
Atrocities Plague Syria, Over 3,500 Children Killed “Media reports today (Friday) from the scene of mass killings in the village of Hasawiya outside Homs said whole families were among the dead in horrific circumstances,” said Maria Calivis, UNICEF regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Assad's mother leaves Syria Ms Makhluf’s ‘‘departure from Syria is another indication of Assad losing support even from within his family'', said Ayman Abdel Nour, head of the newly-formed group Syrian Christians for Democracy and editor-in-chief of opposition news website all4syria.com.


Special Reports
The border zone between Turkey and Syria has become crucial to the economic survival of many Syrians. As refugees flee, activists bring in vital food and medicine, fighters smuggle in weapons, and entrepreneurial types make money from the war. As soon as a Turkish police patrol clears off, horses trot Turkish gas into Syria. A Syrian man hustles his sheep in the other direction, for sale in Turkey. Generator providers and bread sellers do well too.
The United States is the world's strongest nation with the loudest voice. Can't President Obama speak out? I know we're not ready to invade Syria or impose a no-fly zone. Americans don't have the stomach for another war, or an invasion. But does that absolve us from simply condemning the slaughter in the strongest possible terms?
If the crisis continues, Syria risks not so much division into hostile states as happened in Yugoslavia, but control by warlords who will persecute the Syrian people.

First, Washington should use Patriot missile batteries in an offensive capacity against regime aircraft -- and deploy them defensively against SCUD and Fatah 110 missiles targeting opposition-dominated areas along Syria's borders with Turkey and Jordan… Second, Washington should provide a package of intelligence-sharing, military training, and other security assistance to mainstream nationalist, non-extremist groups that have been vetted by Western countries, both to increase their military capabilities and in exchange for any chemical weapons captured from the regime's stockpiles… Third, Washington and its allies should provide local communities supporting mainstream groups that cooperate with Washington's program to secure chemical weapons with a larger civil assistance program. Large swaths of Syrian urban and rural areas have been ravaged by war, and the task of providing services and rebuilding basic infrastructure will be extensive.
To stave off disaster and play a leadership role in shaping Syria’s future, the United States should provide lethal assistance to the Syrian opposition, forge a genuine national dialogue that includes Alawis and Christians, and create an International Steering Group (ISG) to oversee and lend support to the transitional process, including the creation of an international stabilization force to provide protection to Syrian civilians. You will need to engage directly with President Putin to overcome already weakening Russian resistance to these essential endeavors.

My bout with the flu coincided with many important turns in the Syrian crisis: the bloodiest week on record since the beginning of the Revolution with close to 800 dead, the intensification of the ethnic cleansing campaign in Homs (city and province), the opening of a new front in the war pitting Islamists rebels against Kurdish fighters, and the intensification of battles in Western Ghoutah in Damascus, especially in the suburbs of Daraya and Mouadamiyah, to name but a few.

UN-Insanity: Before we delve in our coverage of past events, however, it is important to highlight the insanity of a recent plan by the UN to deliver aid to the Syrian Regime. It is something out of theater of the absurd. The UN plans aims to transfer “$519,627,047 to cover the period of January 1, 2013 to the end of June, 2013”  as an effort aimed at “supporting the Government of Syria’s efforts in providing humanitarian assistance to the affected populations.” As to why would the UN expect a government that has spent billions over the last 2 years trying to pound these very population into submission be excepted now to reverse course and begin delivering aid to the people it seeks to subjugate, no explanation is provided. This is simply unbelievable. By funding Assad, the UN will be officially joining the war against the Syrian people, not helping them. Opposition activists have been signing petition and making calls to officials trying to convince them to put a freeze on this plan, but so far, to no avail. Assad might have been right about the Cosmic Conspiracy after all, but it is not against him, it’s against the people.

Ethnic Cleansing in Homs was marked by an intensification of aerial raids and ground bombardment of restive neighborhoods in Homs City and a series of attacks and massacres in surrounding villages and towns, including a massacre against over 100 residents that took place last week in the village of Haswiyeh:

Forces loyal to President Bashar Assad swept through a small farming village in central Syria this week, torching houses and shooting and stabbing residents in an attack that killed up to 106 people, including women and children, activists said Thursday. The assault on Haswiyeh outside the city of Homs took place on Tuesday, but was only coming to light two days later as the scale of the killings became more apparent. The attacks appeared to have sectarian motives and bore a resemblance to the attack last May on the nearby village of Houla that killed 108 people and drew international condemnation of the Assad regime.

Government, as usual, continue to blame “terrorists,” but activists tell a different story and the victims just happen to be Sunnis. One villager told the BBC the army was present at the time of the deaths.

Soon after Haswiyeh, another massacre took place. This one was in Kafar ‘Aya on the outskirts of Bab Amr neighborhood in Homs City http://youtu.be/BjLkvHhgmpQ Treating the wounded http://youtu.be/26SR8xaEnfI , http://youtu.be/FGMQ_GxE5ws Some doctors have to struggle to keep themselves from falling apart as they watch more and more bodies being brought in http://youtu.be/rywPZBeUIIk But for some children, help has come too late http://youtu.be/J876gDvU0rA

Today, another massacre took place in Baba Amr, 20 people were killed, including a family that was set on fire. We see their bodies in this video, but we see as well an injured member of Alawite militia said to be responsible for the attack. He was treated, and according to Dr. Mohammad Al-Mohammad, he will not be killed and will be taken a prisoner http://youtu.be/vqAdJuzEo4k

Divisions and increasingly rivalry among rebel groups as well as a more coordinated campaign by pro-Assad militias took their toll over the city and the province over the last week, but over the last couple of days, rebels have managed to regroup and are now pushing back.

Daraya, Western Ghoutah, Damascus Suburbs: Pounding by MiGs http://youtu.be/n1pqLRyJHJM , http://youtu.be/N_2OZByFhMw Incendiary Cluster Bombs are used http://youtu.be/r8hyXC72BGI Missiles and rockets are also used http://youtu.be/Y3n2AN8V6zY The destruction http://youtu.be/TqrMQO0DnwI Collecting the dead from under the rubble is a daily routine http://youtu.be/bjwqlYqWeQk and a nighttime activity as well http://youtu.be/ETrjvMGAJz8 But Assad pro-Assad ground troops continue to be held at bay http://youtu.be/f3R5hNqJSYk And many are killed http://youtu.be/QTjOxNtc3wc Nearby Mouadamiyah was not spared http://youtu.be/UzSwZRs84d8 , http://youtu.be/gz3A0PG72vo

And the pounding of Eastern Ghoutah went on all throughout this period http://youtu.be/483jCFljkkM , http://youtu.be/mgi354EH_gg , http://youtu.be/RD-z1YNRxSk Pulling bodies from under the rubble in Hamouriyeh http://youtu.be/xQL3XXQ550w , http://youtu.be/_DMFubmxIvs Mayhem in Arbeen http://youtu.be/qRh4BLEZpg8

On the overall course of battles in Damascus, I had this to say to Mike Giglio of the Daily Beast a few days ago:

“I think the rebels have been forced to halt their push into Damascus for now, on account of the brutal bombardment of host suburbs by the regime,” says Ammar Abdulhamid, a U.S.-based dissident and fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies… But most analysts expect that Assad will soon face another push from the rebels in Damascus—and that the capital will remain battered by conflict for months to come. “The battle is not over,” says Abdulhamid of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “As usual, in a few weeks, after reconsidering their tactics, regrouping and acquiring some more supplies, a new drive [by the rebels] will begin. Giving up is simply not an option for either side.”

Serekanye/Ras Al-Ain: Islamist rebels deployed tanks in their fight against Kurdish militias in town and reportedly shelled civilian neighborhoods. The Kurdish militias are members of the so-called YPG or local protection units established by residents in cooperation, as many believe, with PYD, the Syrian offshoot of the PKK in Turkey. Islamist rebels seem to have moved into town weeks ago specifically to contain what they consider to be growing separatist threat by the local Kurdish population and have been supported by some local Arab tribes. Meanwhile, Kurdish groups across the Kurdish-majority areas in the northeast remain too divided to pose any such threat, and have been calling for some form of administrative autonomy. Kurds have also been concerned over the increasing Islamization of the Revolution as most Kurds remain staunchly secular. The rebels are reportedly to be coordinating their moves with members of the Syrian National Council and the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as certain tribal leaders, including Nawaf Al-Bashir. Jabhat Al-Nusra is involved as well, but mostly through its affiliates. 

Further underscoring the ideological divide on this issue among revolutionaries, most YouTube networks dedicated to the revolution, such as Sham News Network bill their videos of the clashes: “clashes between FSA and Assad militias.” Naturally, Kurdish sites refer in their coverage to “terrorists” or Erdogan and Nawaf Al-Bashir Brigades”

Videos: Islamist rebels deploy tanks http://youtu.be/8Z2_hbkiY_Y , http://youtu.be/aoml_qrBuyg and arrest and beat local civilians who are obviously unarmed accusing them of being PKK members http://youtu.be/fd3zTmXZkTg Some of the Kurdish fighters involved in the clashes http://youtu.be/dYDN1D8nZF8 Rebels saving an injured colleague http://youtu.be/UdBc9ZD854I Local Kurds saving an injured civilian http://youtu.be/ZBvUmQ52V7E

Clashes from the point of view of rebels http://youtu.be/ey2qUVaTeWk Use of the agreed revolution’s flag in this clip, rather than the black banner of Islamist groups, indicates that not only Islamist groups are taking part in the clashes on the side of the rebels, tribal groups are involved as well, perhaps at this stage leading the charge http://youtu.be/fsdwydb4QLI

As part of the increasing propaganda campaign meant to incite rebels against Kurds, this is one of the video clips being circulated through social media, it shows PKK fighters in Turkey mocking the Islamic prayer rituals http://youtu.be/BRZTtpmJJ1E