Thursday, February 28, 2013

How about a Mojito?

Russian leader Vladimir Putin says that discussing Syria with French President Francois Hollande over a bottle of vodka could lead to a softening of his stand on the matter. President Hollande suggested Port instead. Now let me suggest Mojito as a nice compromise solution, if I may? Then let me also ever so politely suggest that both leaders go stuff themselves. As our country and our people bleed, having two foreign leaders engage in such meaningless banter is nothing less than scandalous.  

Thursday February 28, 2013

Today’s Death Toll: 98 martyrs, including 4 women and 5 children, and 18 martyrs under torture: 35 martyrs were reported in Damascus and suburbs, 33 in Aleppo, 9 in Hama, 8 in Daraa, 6 in Idlib, 4 in Deir Ezzor and 1 martyr in each of Qunaitra, Homs and Latakia (LCCs).

Points of Random Shelling: 268 points, including 7 points were shelled using warplanes, 2 points using Scud missiles, artillery shelling was reported in 107 points, mortar shelling in 83 points, and rocket shelling in 71 points all around Syria (LCCs).

Clashes: 94. Successful FSA operations include targeting loyalist bases on top of Mount Qasayoun, Damascus and shelling of a loyalist camp in Nayraib, Idlib. In Aleppo, FSA rebels inched towards Sabaa Bahrat Square after intense clashes with pro-regime forces (LCCs).

£1bn pledged in aid to Syria fails to materialise Gulf countries and other states including the UK pledged the money at a donor conference in Kuwait last month.
Syria Rebels Seek Premier-in-Waiting as U.S. Steps Up Support It’s not clear when the meeting, originally scheduled for March 2, will take place. The coalition said on its Facebook page yesterday that it has been delayed for “logistical reasons.”
Putin Signals Russia Can Be More Flexible on Syria "We should listen to the opinion of our partners on some of the aspects of that difficult problem," Putin told reporters. "It seems to me that we would need to sit over a bottle of vodka — a bottle of good wine wouldn't be enough — to sort things out. We would need to sit down and think it over." Hollande responded jokingly that he would prefer port.
Syria refugees threaten Lebanon's stability: interior minister The minister, Marwan Charbel, has said Syrian rebels have set up training camps in Lebanon. In addition, members of the rebel Free Syrian Army have used Lebanon's mountainous terrain to regroup before staging attacks on the Syrian army across the poorly demarcated border. "What is concerning me is the security situation," Charbel said at a joint news conference with the United Nations Development Programme. "Who is exploiting (the Syrian refugees)? Who is arming them? We are not controlling them."
Croatia Withdrawing Soldiers from U.N. Force on Israel-Syria Frontier Croatia has nearly 100 soldiers serving with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, which is responsible for maintaining the fragile calm between Israeli and Syrian troops at the demilitarized zone along Syria’s Golan frontier that was established after a cease-fire ended the 1973 war. The decision to withdraw the soldiers from the area came after The New York Times reported on Monday that Saudi Arabia had underwritten a large purchase of infantry arms in Croatia. Croatia has denied selling weapons to either Saudi Arabia or the Syrian rebels. But Mr. Milanovic said t reports of the sales had put Croatian soldiers at risk and that he was compelled to withdraw them because their safety could no longer be assured.
Syria protests Israel's approval for oil drilling In letters sent to the U.N. Security Council and the U.N. secretary general Thursday, the Syrian Foreign Ministry called the decision a "blatant violation" of U.N. resolutions and Syria's sovereignty… On Feb. 21, Israel said it had issued a permit for the American-Israeli company Genie Energy to drill for oil on the plateau. Syria alleges that Israel is trying to consecrate its occupation of Syrian territory and steal its resources.
Syria retains senior post at U.N. committee responsible for ‘decolonizing’ American Samoa Yes, the same Syrian government that has killed thousands of civilians in a brutal civil war was just reappointed to a senior position at a United Nations committee in charge of “decolonizing,” among other places, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa.

Special Reports
The government of President Assad of Syria is under threat. So too is the secretive Shia sect known as the Alawis - or Alawites - to which he and many of the governing party and security officials belong.
Hostility towards the minority Alawi population is such that one leading commentator predicts they are likely to be the victims of the world's next genocide. Presenter Owen Bennett Jones investigates the Alawis' origins, history and culture and asks how these once marginalised people came to power in a Sunni majority state. He discovers that for many their fortunes changed fifty years ago when the Baath party seized power in a coup d'etat. Alawis were dominant among the army officers who took control. They set about modernising the country and rolling out a secular agenda. Now, as Syria's revolution has morphed into a civil war, many Alawis believe their only choice is to kill or be killed. Are the majority of Alawis right to be convinced that the Assad regime is all that stands between them and a return to second-class status, or worse? If the opposition wins in Syria, are warnings about pogroms against the Alawis alarmist, or inevitable?
This is increasing tensions in fractious Lebanon. Its population is bitterly divided over the war in Syria, causing Hizbullah’s popularity to plummet. Having experienced their own 15-year civil war, most Lebanese fear being dragged into Syria’s conflict.
Salih Muslim, the leader of the biggest Syrian Kurdish Party, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), has opened up the possibility that people of Rojava might join the struggle of their fellow Syrians and work toward a more unified transfer of power in post-Assad Syria. Muslim met with leaders of the Syrian National Coalition on Wednesday in Cairo to discuss joining the umbrella organization of opposition groups.
As we watch and they die, as we did 20 years ago with Bosnia, I am reminded that conscience, at the collective level demanded for state action, usually kicks in when it is much too late — not just to spare individual tragedies on a grand scale, but also to preserve the territorial integrity of disintegrating multi-ethnic states. Looking at the Middle East, there is not much in terms of borders that makes sense — they neither reflect national divisions, nor religious ones. They are lines in the sand — the legacy of a rapacious colonial era kept together after the colonial powers left by even more rapacious dictators.
As the violence deepened into a civil war, Qadi worked as a medic but later took up arms when his brother was killed, becoming a field commander. Qadi was leading fighters into battle against the government forces when I met him on two occasions last year, a 25-year-old who was swept up in events he didn’t quite understand and didn’t expect to survive.
The US decision to give direct aid to Syria's rebels (but still no weapons) is too little, too late – unlikely either to speed President Assad’s departure or to boost US influence over the conflict, say many experts.
The US has promised to do a lot more to help Syria's rebellion against the government of Bashar al-Assad, but is stopping well short of the kind of aid that might prove decisive.
The widespread perception among Syrians that the US has abandoned them is untrue, but US aid is rarely branded as such and it is still far short of what is needed.
So Syria, you see, is probably the Arab Left's last chance at having a revolution free from religion. This is most likely the reason for their opposition to the revolution from the very outset because they knew for sure that it would carry a strong religious flavour. Well, sorry to disappoint them. I crossed the length and breadth of Syria shortly before the revolution and saw most communities, Christian and Muslim alike, holding tight to their faith. Whatever shape their revolution will take, the future will be dominated by believers.

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.

NOT everyone agreed with our Syria cover last week. It illustrated the gradual destruction of the country that is the result of the war between President Bashar Assad and the rebels trying to oust him. One aspect of the country that has not been destroyed is the creativity. On February 25th Wissam al-Jazairy, a young Syrian graphic designer took the cover to task. His extended design showing the reconstruction of the country when the war ends went viral. "The cover carried a very bleak idea of the situation in Syria," said Mr Jazairy. "True, there is fighting between people but this is war and death is the blood tax in order to reach a better future." But he remains optimistic, mostly because of what he describes as the peacefulness of the Syrian people. "We started our revolution for a life and freedom and justice and equality," he said. "As Abu al-Kacem Chebbi [a Tunisian poet] said: 'If, one day, a people want to live, then fate must respond to them'."

Video Highlights

Rebels in the town of Talbisseh, Homs Province, claim that they are being targeted by pro-regime militias using these missiles, which, they claim, are made in the U.S.

The pounding of the town of Rastan, Homs Province, continues

The pounding of rebel strongholds in Homs City continues

In Aleppo City, another activist inadvertently captures his final moments

Rebels in Damascus target a loyalist checkpoint on top of Mount Qasayoun

Rebels in Dmeir, Damascus Suburbs, find these bloated bodies belonging to victims who were obviously summarily executed

Pro-Assad militias pound rebel strongholds in Jobar Neighborhood, Damascus City

Rebels in Idlib, secure the defection of hundreds of soldiers from Damascus

Evidence of the use of incendiary cluster bombs in the pounding of Saraqib, Idlib

In the Druze-majority province of Suwaida, more and more young activists are taking the streets showing their solidarity with their fellow revolutionaries across Syria in a manner reminiscent of the old nonviolent days of the protest movement , Of course, the regime has made a choice so far to refrain from using excessive violence to quell these rallies, just as it did in Kurdish-majority areas to keep the situation localized. For their part, the Druzes are unlikely to willingly turn violent in order to preserve their own one and only town in the country.