Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Rat’s Speech!

Assad is scheduled to make a new speech on Sunday, and while many experts expect some dramatic announcement to be made, I expect a litany of accusations, foolish assertions and defiance. Assad will likely try to make himself a hero of the resistance fighting against unbelievable odds, and will then make some announcements that will pave the way for violent crackdown in Damascus, Homs and elsewhere.

Saturday January 5, 2013

Today’s Death Toll: 79, including 6 children and 10 women: 35 martyrs were reported in Damascus and Suburbs, 18 in Daraa, 8 in Idlib including 6 members from the same family in Qmeinas, 5 in Hama, 5 in Homs, 4 in Aleppo and 4 in Deir Ezzor  (LCCs).

Points of Random Shelling: 165: 5 points that were shelled by warplanes, 1 point using cluster bombs and 1 point with vacuum bombs, 79 points were shelled with mortar, 59 points with heavy caliber artillery, 19 points with rockets (LCCs).

Clashes: The Free Syrian Army clashed with the regime forces in 85 locations. In Deir Ezzor, the FSA took control of a tank and used it to shell Deir Ezzor Military Airport. They also gain control over the Technical Services Center in Hweiqa. In Aleppo, the FSA shelled Managh Military Airport. In Damascus, the FSA targeted loyalist headquarters along Damascus International Airport Highway. In Homs, the FSA attacked several regime checkpoints in Rastan city. Finally, in Hama, the FSA  repelled an attempt to storm Taybat Al-Imam (LCCs).

News

Syrian rebel leader talks victory and squalor "The trouble with Idlib is that it has many military airports." Aloush said his Liwaa Islam militia and other groups want to knock the bases "to minimize the reach of the regime's warplanes." Opposition and government sources have reported that the extremist al-Nusra Front, which the United States has designated as a terrorist group, was taking part in the assault on Taftanaz.
Syrian army rockets rebellious Damascus district Government forces fired rockets at Jobar, a Sunni enclave close to the centre of Damascus, a day after bombarding Daraya, a suburb in the east and part of a crescent of rebel-held areas on the outskirts, said Housam, an activist in the capital. "The shelling began in the early hours of the morning, it has intensified since 11 a.m., and now it has become really heavy. Yesterday it was Daraya and today Jobar is the hottest spot in Damascus," he said by Skype.
Shell hits Damascus Christian district: NGO "A shell was fired on Bab Tuma," a Christian quarter of Damascus's old city, said the Syrian Observatory for Human rights, without specifying exactly where it landed or where it was fired from. Bab Tuma was targeted for the first time in the 21-month conflict by a car bomb in October that killed at least 13 people, but has been spared the violent clashes that have torn apart the rest of the country.
U.S. troops arrive in Turkey; rebels battle for airport in Syria A group of 27 U.S. troops landed in Gaziantep, Turkey, where they will survey the Patriot deployment, according to Turkish state news agency, Anadolu… The missiles and troops will be under the overall control of NATO, but the missiles will be operated by U.S. forces
Syrian warplanes bomb Damascus suburbs Government troops are bombing neighborhoods around the capital on Friday, including the rebel stronghold of Douma, activists say.
Dylan Connor: Voice of the Syrian Movement The war in Syria may be 6,000 miles away from the United States, but one musician in Connecticut is using his music to bring people there and here together.

Special Reports
Children often show signs of trauma from their experiences inside Syria. A U.N. team interviewing Syrian children in a refugee camp found that most lost a loved one in the fighting, and almost half have post-traumatic stress disorder.
Syria: How Activist Vanished Into 'Black Hole' When Zed didn't answer calls, Sky's Tim Marshall wasn't worried - until he found out he was in the hands of Syria's secret police.
Without doubt, Iran has tremendous geopolitical and strategic interests in Syria, but the country has additionally become a crucial economic lifeline for Iran. As both countries become increasingly isolated from the international community their economic ties have become exceedingly more important. However, billions of dollars in Iranian investments have been suspended with the current crisis in Syria. And until there is a resolution to the nearing two-year conflict, with either Assad regaining control or the establishment of a new government, economic conditions will continue to be threatened.
Tragically mixing international apathy with a largely stalemated civil war means that the most likely scenario for Syria is one of sustained conflict with no obvious end in sight.
Al-Nusra, a group the U.S. has identified as a terrorist organization, has been steadily attacking Syrian-government targets—and becoming more legitimate in the eyes of the people.
With no sign of the west relaxing its ban on arming opposition forces, rebels are forced to focus on a gradual war of attrition.
Moscow does not care about the political organization of a future government in Syria. It wants more negotiations that last as long as possible, as both sides keep arming (with Russia arming at least the state army, if not other groups, be they Islamist or not), and it wants the continuation of "small" atrocities that don’t escalate into a regional war. A frozen conflict is lucrative, as dignitaries and businessmen in Moscow learned in Chechnya, Transnistria and the two separatist regions in Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
To help oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an opposition group has drafted a plan for a transitional justice system that would impose harsh penalties against die-hard members of his inner circle but provide amnesty for most of his Alawite supporters. The goal is to provide a legal framework that reassures Alawites this isn’t a fight to the death and that they will have a place in a post-Assad Syria. The plan would also encourage the rule of law in areas that have been liberated from Assad’s control, stemming the growing trend toward warlordism and revenge killings.
Mr. Assad remains in power in part because two years into the uprising, a critical bloc of Syrians remains on the fence. Among them are business owners who drive the economy, bankers who finance it, and the security officials and government employees who hold the keys to the mundane but crucial business of maintaining an authoritarian state. If they abandoned the government or embraced the rebels en masse, they might change the tide. Instead, their uncertainty contributes to the stalemate.
A number of reports indicate that the government forces purposefully surrendered territories with little to no resistance. They would have done this in order to shorten their communication lines and to cut some expenses - but also in order to let the population taste a nightmare version of freedom which would conceivably lead many people to choose Assad's rule as the lesser evil. With millions homeless in the middle of winter, most of them in rebel-held areas, and food, running water and cooking oil sparse, such a scenario is not altogether out of question. Even more importantly, recent reports indicate that the rebels themselves may actively contribute to such an outcome. In-fighting, looting and random abductions have become the order of the day in many places. Aleppo, an affluent city of merchants where insurgents from the poorer countryside have flocked, may be an extreme example, but it is by far not the only one.


Video Highlights

Pro-Assad Alawite militias are carrying out a massive ethnic cleansing campaign in the villages of the Homs countryside, especially in the villages around Homs City and the town of Rastan. This video shows some of the women and children who were forced out of the village of Tissneen, http://youtu.be/sKd0rFiOlfU The men, including the teenage boys, were killed. Many of the inhabitants are Turkmen. Alawite families were safely evacuated by pro-Assad militias to make room for their attack. But it took rebel intervention to secure the release of Sunni inhabitants, or at least the women and children http://youtu.be/V5wTgIH5TNs , http://youtu.be/S7Ex5lRmBn8

Meanwhile, in the city of Homs itself, clashes between loyalists and rebels are increasing http://youtu.be/yTduT62-gYI Rebels try to take down a lo flying helicopter http://youtu.be/XC427_UnT7c

Leaked video: Pro-Assad Alawite militias in action. This clip was taken from the Facebook page of an Assad supporter, it shows the activities of pro-Assad militias in Homs City. The sound track is a religious Shiite song praising Imam Ali, who in Alawite doctrine is an incarnation of God. This doctrine among others is one of those elements that distinguish Alawites from other Shiite groups. To many Alawites, this has indeed become a holy war against the Sunnis. It is against this development that the activities of Jabhat Al-Nusra and the increasing sectarianism among the rebels have to be understood. From the beginning of the revolution, Assad and his supporters have done all they can to use sectarianism as their rallying cry for Alawites, and they have indeed been quite successful. By leaking videos showing Alawites militias in action committing atrocities, abusing their prisoners and terrorizing the local population, it was only a matter of time before Sunnis produced their own sectarian militias. Still, it took almost a year before this development was consolidated, and almost 18 months, before Jabhat Al-Nusra became the go-to group among Sunni rebels. Many people forget, by the Treasury Department have designated both the pro-Assad militias as well as Jabhat Al-Nusra as terrorist organizations http://youtu.be/McDE4ZSf3PQ This video shows pro-Assad militias cutting off the genitals of their dead prisoners http://youtu.be/qyYS4iDN_dA As for this, it documents the continued use of scuds against rebel positions http://youtu.be/ylXI9Cl46YU

In Bosra Al-Sham, Daraa, a member of Jabhat Al-Nusra carries out a suicide attack against a pro-Assad outpost leaving 60 dead http://youtu.be/Jsxf4xoOnh8

This video from Eastern Ghoutah, Damascus, is a before and after montage: the first part is taken from the mobile phone of a loyalist solider made before an attack on his outpost, the second part is a clip made by rebels showing how they imprisoned some of the same soldiers hours later when they took control of the outpost http://youtu.be/e-HzJRdVG-0

Local activists in Qaboun, Damascus City, find 5 unidentified bodies that were burnt and left in their neighborhoods by pro-Assad militias http://youtu.be/FlnNZ03z6E0

In Aleppo, rebels shell the military Airport at Managh http://youtu.be/EVmRHgKyE_c , http://youtu.be/J38hckoFy6Y , http://youtu.be/RTmmSwTCTt4