I often get asked what advice I would give to President Obama should I ever have an occasion to meet him. Naturally, at different points I would have recommended different things. At this point, though, I would tell him to take a page out of opposition leader Moaz Alkhatib’s book and show some moral gumption by going against the accepted wisdom in his circles. Indeed, the U.S. options regarding Syria are not about avoiding getting dragged into another regional conflict, but about managing a bad situation in order to prevent a worse outcome. We should bear in mind here as well that the bad situation itself is, in part, the product of this avoidance mindset. Yes, America does need to look before she jumps, but with regard to Syria, President Obama has been navel-gazing for far too long. This is not leading from behind: this is not leading at all.
· AFP reports that rebels are now training boy soldiers to take part in the fight against Assad. This is horrendous. But pro-Assad militias have been relying on teen soldiers for months now, and the trend is bound to continue in both camps. Albeit, the rebels are clearly one-upped when to comes to the recruitment of women into the fighting force: pro-Assad militias have created all-female militias including women from all age groups and professional backgrounds, but in confessional terms, the overwhelming majority of these women are Alawite, with sprinkling of Christian recruits.
· President Obama’s purported “pivot” on Syria is said to be intended to produce a “broad-based diplomatic counterweight to the killing” there. But, unless military realities on the ground have shifted drastically in favor of rebels, this alleged pivot would prove completely useless and will be nothing more than another way for staying Missing in Action. President Obama has committed himself to the goal of regime change in Syria, but so far he has failed to produce a policy that can help achieve that goal. That needs to change.
Today, Amer Matar feels betrayed by the "international community" - twice over. First, for not defending the peaceful movement that sought freedom; second, for not helping it when the conflict turned violent.
When I asked Yassin al-Haj Saleh what he now expected from the international community, he answered: “If you do not want to help (the revolution) then fine. But do not stop others helping us. The pretext initially was that the opposition is disunited, then that there are jihadis. How can you say you want such groups not to emerge when tens of peoples are being killed every day for two years, and over a hundred people every day for the past six months?”
When Syria's people revolted, they wanted freedom, to make their claim to be part of the modern world. The regime refused, and the rest of the world did not rush to help them. Now, the Syrians are doing it their own way, with whatever help they can get.
The growing mood among Syrian opposition activists is that it suits the great powers for internal destruction and division among Syrians to continue. Michel Kilo, a leading dissident figure now exiled in Paris, wrote in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat in August 2012 that the west had created many pretexts not to intervene in Syria: from saying the opposition is not unified to arguing the regime's air defences are too powerful. A "new lie" is "the penetration of the Free Syrian Army by al-Qaida, as if [the west] did not pave the way between Benghazi and Tripoli with their planes to enable al-Qaida fighters to attack from eastern Libya. And those who were leading the fight against Gaddafi were formerly in Guantánamo.”
The position of western countries vis-à-vis the Syrian events is a complex one. But the idea that the west will accept a protracted conflict in order to weaken Syria as a state, exhaust it as a society, and reduce its ability to play a role in the region, is now widespread among the opposition. It is another bleak signal in a conflict without end.
That the sense of abandonment produced such an anti-western reaction on the elite and grassroots level, as described above is not surprising. After all, our culture has always been steeped in anti-Westernism, and more specifically, anti-Americanism. There was a limited window of opportunity for changing this state of affairs. It came at the beginning of this revolution, and ended after the Obama Administration watched on as Assad troops swept across Hama, then, started pounding the hell out of protest neighborhoods in Homs. But a change in policy might still enable America to find few friends in Syria, but the real challenge at this stage is to avoid complete state failure, a prolonged civil war and a regional meltdown that seems increasingly likely.
Moaz al-Khatib, the Damascene preacher elevated to lead Syria’s rebel coalition last November, is the most astute tactician the opposition has fielded so far... The Khatib initiative is pragmatic, hard-nosed and devious. “It is proving to the international community that Assad is not willing to compromise one millimetre and we need to take advantage of that”, one opposition leader told Reuters. It would be a shame if a gambit designed to sow dissent within regime ranks ended up by splitting the opposition.
A rally in Boustan Al-Qasr, Aleppo City: a little girl signing and is “rudely” interrupted by a mortar round that well-nigh claimed her life http://youtu.be/--L0-KfiNtE Today, rebels and loyalist militias clashed http://youtu.be/C03PYMc7c_c , http://youtu.be/yPLTz5U2mdo , http://youtu.be/qcSL_0kofHo
Rebels in Damascus City document their battle in Jobar neighborhood and their takeover of a loyalist checkpoint there http://youtu.be/NPv7wTiQt9k , http://youtu.be/8_qeW7JwNac Loyalist militias responded with mortar attacks http://youtu.be/--v9BhomsNI Checkpoint liberated http://youtu.be/n7zOUBMUqcI , http://youtu.be/52qUB2VIDvw The scene from a distance http://youtu.be/RBC-lHwwfIQ Clashes took place in nearby Dafalshawk as well http://youtu.be/1gCX-zV8xN0 The sounds of clashes could be heard all the way in central parts of the Damascus City http://youtu.be/YXFbjurWeT4 At night, a huge explosion takes in the southern parts of the city on account of the continuous pounding http://youtu.be/depM93_mZiI Intense clashes took place in Al-Qadam neighborhood as well http://youtu.be/uQovnbva2d4 A car bomb explodes in Al-Zahirah Neighborhood http://youtu.be/DlRY5U-xdzI To the north, Al-Qaboun Neighborhood was pounded http://youtu.be/HaMEVHKbEQ8 A fire break out in Abdassid Square http://youtu.be/K5URlhczQTE The Yarmouk Camp was pounded as well http://youtu.be/abAA5V-Q2c4
The nearby town of Arbeen, Eastern Ghoutah, Damascus Suburbs, was pounded as well http://youtu.be/2ddx-jVscag , http://youtu.be/5oiq6y3C0sk
On February 4, an entire neighborhood in the suburb of Tadamon was leveled by regime forces as a form of collective punishment for the restive locals http://youtu.be/v6QQq3Z98uw
In Hama, aerial raids against the town of Kafrenboudeh continue http://youtu.be/YEcTq_xhUAQ