Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Getting It Right!

As the U.S. seems to be inching its way towards providing military assistance to rebel groups, the importance of having an overarching strategy that goes beyond throwing weapons at the problem is now more urgent than ever. Since the main challenge ahead is now clearly more about putting pieces of the puzzle back together than managing a top-down transition, the U.S. needs to come up with a sophisticated strategy for working with local councils and local rebel groups to develop micro transition plans that can ensure rapid stabilization of their areas. The U.S. should also work with the Syrian National Coalition to develop a more detailed bottom-up vision for managing the transition period ahead.

Monday February 25, 2013

Today’s Death Toll: 135 martyrs, including 8 children and 12 women and 1 martyr under torture: 40 martyrs in Damascus and Suburbs, 25 in Aleppo, 21 in Idlib, 14 in Raqqa, 14 in Homs, 10 in Deir Ezzor, 7 in Daraa, 3 in Hama and 1 in Hasakeh (LCCs).

Points of Random Shelling: 384 points, including 26 points that were shelled by regime warplanes, 4 points using Scud missiles, 2 points using surface-to-surface missiles, 3 points using barrel bombs, 3 point with vacuum bombs, 157 points using heavy caliber artillery, 93 points with mortars and 99 with rockets (LCCs).

Clashes: 162, with the fiercest clashes took place in Damascus and Suburbs (LCCs).

News
Syria opposition to join Rome talks after foreign aid pledge The Syrian opposition has agreed to attend an international summit in Rome, after the US and UK "promised specific aid" to the Syrian people. The group had previously announced it would boycott the talks because of "the world's silence" over the violence. US Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Minister William Hague earlier confirmed there would be more support for Syria's opposition.
Syria rebels fight for key Aleppo buildings Rebels launch new offensive for government complex housing a police academy
Syria opposition chief: no contact yet about government talks "We have not been in contact yet, and we are waiting for communication with them," Syrian National Coalition leader Moaz Alkhatib told reporters in Cairo after Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said Damascus was ready to talk. Alkhatib also said opposition visits to the United States and Russia had been delayed "until we see how things develop". But he added: "We will go to any place that could lead to the removal of the suffering of our people."
Kerry Vows Not to Leave Syria Rebels ‘Dangling in the Wind’ “We are determined that the Syrian opposition is not going to be dangling in the wind wondering where the support is or if it’s coming,” Mr. Kerry said at a news conference in London. “And we are determined to change the calculation on the ground for President Assad.”
UN Security Council has ‘failed’ Syria: rights chief “Two important situations, Darfur in 2008 and Libya in 2011, have been referred” by the Security Council,” Pillay said, but it had not done the same for Syria, “despite the repeated reports of widespread or systematic crimes and violations by my office,” and a wide range of other sources, she said. The ICC can only probe war crimes if asked to by the Security Council.
UN Staffer Missing on Israel-Syria Border U.N. deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey would not say whether the missing person was a military or civilian member of the international or local staff. "We can confirm that a staff member is not accounted for and we are in touch with the relevant parties to determine what has happened," del Buey said. "We have no further comment at this time."
Photographer Killed in Syria Spoke of Adrenaline Olivier Voisin listed work in 15 countries, half of them war zones. He described the rush of bearing witness to a conflict that otherwise could go unrecorded. On Sunday, the 38-year-old French freelance photographer became the 23rd journalist killed in fighting in Syria after he died of shrapnel wounds sustained days earlier.
Turkey, Qatar denounce Syria's war on own people Turkey and Qatar accused Syria on Monday of attacking Syrian towns with bombs, shells and Scud missiles and called at the main U.N. human rights forum for perpetrators of atrocities to be brought to justice. Britain and Switzerland urged the United Nations Security Council to refer war crimes in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution.

Special Reports
The number of Jihadist groups flooding into Syria two years after the start of the uprising is threatening to eclipse the power of mainstream opposition groups as well as the authority of the Free Syrian Army. One of the increasingly influential groups, Jabah al Haq (The Front for Justice) [Correction: the name is Jabhat Al-Haq which means The Front for Truth], told Sky News that Jihad is spreading across North Africa and the Middle East and will not stop at Syria but will include Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and even Israel.
Estimates of the size of the al Nusra organization vary, but they may now account for up to a quarter of the opposition fighters in Syria. The al Qaeda presence is stronger around Aleppo and the north than around Damascus, but it is becoming a national phenomenon. Without doubt, they are among the most effective fighters in the resistance to the Assad regime and the most willing to use multiple simultaneous suicide bombings, an al Qaeda trademark. Al Qaeda in Iraq has a wealth of experience in developing large sophisticated bombs—experience that has been exported into Syria.
Five Syrian women tell their personal stories of revolt and war. Filmed mostly by the women themselves over a period of seven months in 2012, this documentary provides unique insights into how Syria's conflict has transformed their lives. This film was transmitted on BBC Arabic as 'Souriyyat', and on BBC World News in a two-part series entitled 'Inside Syria'.
Typhoid and hepatitis outbreaks are spreading. An estimated 70,000 people are dead, and another 850,000 are refugees. After covering the battle for Damascus for a month, photographer Goran Tomasevic of Reuters declared the situation a “bloody stalemate.” “I watched both sides mount assaults, some trying to gain just a house or two, others for bigger prizes, only to be forced back by sharpshooters, mortars or sprays of machine-gun fire,” Mr. Tomasevic, a gifted and brave photographer, wrote in a chilling first-hand account. “As in the ruins of Beirut, Sarajevo or Stalingrad, it is a sniper’s war.”
Nearly two years after the start of Syria's popular uprising, the conflict has evolved into a slow-moving, brutal civil war with many players and no clear end in sight. Multiple rebel groups across the country continue to fight President Bashar al-Assad's forces, using any weapons they can get their hands on. While the rebels are using many modern weapons, they've also come up with their own makeshift solutions. In these weapons workshops, anti-aircraft guns are welded to pickup trucks and armor shields are attached to machine guns and cars. Mortar shell nose cones are turned on lathes and explosives are mixed by hand. Homemade grenades are launched by jury-rigged shotguns or giant slingshots in the urban battlefields of Aleppo and Damascus. Gathered here are a few examples of the hand-built munitions of the Syrian rebels.
The weapons began reaching rebels in December via shipments shuttled through Jordan, officials said, and have been a factor in the rebels’ small tactical gains this winter against the army and militias loyal to Mr. Assad. The arms transfers appeared to signal a shift among several governments to a more activist approach to assisting Syria’s armed opposition, in part as an effort to counter shipments of weapons from Iran to Mr. Assad’s forces. The weapons’ distribution has been principally to armed groups viewed as nationalist and secular, and appears to have been intended to bypass the jihadist groups whose roles in the war have alarmed Western and regional powers… Washington’s role in the shipments, if any, is not clear… But one senior American official described the shipments as “a maturing of the opposition’s logistical pipeline.” The official noted that the opposition remains fragmented and operationally incoherent, and added that the recent Saudi purchase was “not in and of itself a tipping point.”

My new paper, prepared for a briefing in Washington, D.C. that took place on January 15, 2013, is now out and is titled “Syria 2013: Rise of the Warlords.” It should be read in conjunction with my previous briefing “The Shredded Tapestry,” and my recent essay “The Creation of an Unbridgeable Divide.

Video Highlights

Rebels bring down a helicopter gunship over Minnigh Airport, Aleppo http://youtu.be/_y0-qQomARI

The pounding of rebel strongholds in Eastern Ghoutah, Damascus, continues, using missiles, heavy artillery and MiGs: Douma http://youtu.be/hj9XJcuSqdM Jisreen http://youtu.be/JDWSH9RbEsA Arbeen http://youtu.be/HJ0Skrm_OgQ

Tanks take part in pounding rebel strongholds in Damascus City: Jobar http://youtu.be/edo3YC1UnJ8 , http://youtu.be/xf6sbMVykXg Clashes between rebels and loyalists continue at night http://youtu.be/iGofhWsD3yM , http://youtu.be/8EdmObCKF2k

The pounding of rebel strongholds along the border with Lebanon, Damascus: Boucain http://youtu.be/rYrhNpKh3vU Madaya http://youtu.be/oZvXMGHqfO0  , http://youtu.be/GZubaTJFdUk

The pounding of Deir Ezzor City continues http://youtu.be/KWHT5-wp_Dg