Monday, February 11, 2013

The Game is Afoot!

The Assad regime finally responded to opposition leader Moaz Alkhatib’s offer for talks. The response was somewhat “positive,” and with it, the game is now afoot. Opposition members had better take a crash course in negotiation skills. Lucky for them, someone had already prepared a handbook on political negotiations for dummies and the ideologically impaired. Meanwhile, rebels continue their advances in hotspots throughout the country. Now, we can be engaged on both fronts: the military and the political, until something gives, the state collapses, or both.

Sunday February 11, 2013

Today’s Death Toll: 109 martyrs, including 15 children and 9 women and martyr under torture: 41 martyrs in Aleppo, 33 martyr in Damascus and its Suburbs,10 martyrs in Idlib, 10 martyrs in Homs , 8 martyrs in Daraa, 5 martyrs in Deir Azzor, and two martyrs in Hama (LCCs).

Points of Random Shelling: 302 points, 16 points were shelled by warplanes, 3 points by Cluster Bombs, 1 point by Thermobaric Bombs and 1 point by barrel bombs. Artillery shelling was reported in 161 points, mortar shelling in 74 points and missile shelling in 67 points (LCCs).

Clashes: 135 locations. Successful operations include the liberation of Al-Jarah Military Airport, taking over the Tabqa Dam in Raqqa, the Musiqiya Barracks in Jobar in Damascus City and a Republican Guard center in the town of Adra in Damascus Suburbs (LCCs).

Syria rebels seize dam, blast on Turkish border Rebels have captured Syria's biggest hydro-electric dam and battled army tank units near the center of Damascus, activists said as the opposition renewed an offer on Monday to negotiate the departure of President Bashar al-Assad. On the Turkish border, nine people were killed when a car arriving from rebel-held territory in northwestern Syria blew up at the Reyhanli frontier crossing; Turkish officials said it was unclear whether the blast was a suicide attack or an accident.
Syrian minister offers to meet opposition leader overseas "I am willing to meet Mr Khatib in any foreign city where I can go in order to discuss preparations for a national dialogue", Ali Haidar, the minister for national reconciliation, told the Guardian. His remarks were the most positive response the Syrian government has yet given to the opposition leader's surprise change of line… In explaining the purpose of the national dialogue, Haidar raised the prospect of a genuine contest for a multiparty parliament and for the presidency when Assad's mandate runs out next year.
Syria's Assad meets new Greek Orthodox leader "President Bashar al-Assad welcomed Patriarch Yuhanna X Yazigi," said state news agency SANA. "Assad congratulated the patriarch for the key role played by the Orthodox Church in maintaining national unity, in the face of the attacks suffered by Syria," the agency added.

Special Reports
Amidst a brutal war, Syria’s Palestinian community finds itself seeking refuge yet again—this time, in Lebanon’s famous Sabra and Shatila camps.
The lifeline thrown by Iraqi Kurdistan to its neighbor extends the influence of Masoud Barzani, the autonomous region's President, over Kurds in Syria as civil war threatens to dismember the country. For Syrian Kurds the conflict presents an opportunity to win the kind of rights enjoyed by their ethnic kin in Iraq, who live autonomously from Baghdad with their own administration, armed forces and an increasingly independent foreign policy.
Russia, Others Should Support Efforts to Ensure Assistance Reaches All
Tal Kalakh, near Syria's border with Lebanon was one of the first cities to rebel against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. It has seen heavy fighting since the uprising began. Many civilians were forced to flee as government and rebel fighters battled in the streets. Houses, pockmarked with signs of artillery fire, bear witness to the fierce clashes that raged here.
The stakes for the two warring sides couldn't be higher. For Assad, holding the capital at any cost is vital. Its loss would amount to an enormous symbolic, military, and political blow. His self-portrayal as the head of a still-functioning state would be decisively shattered. Regardless of urbanites' skepticism toward the rebels, the loss of Damascus would mean that they could no longer cling to the president as their defender. The same holds true for those who still support him out of hostility to the rebels' presumed ideological and political beliefs, but who lack an organic link to the regime. Without Damascus, which Assad would never be able to retake, he will probably lose command-and-control over loyal units across the country -- except in the northwest, where his most loyal supporters reside.
Where is Syria now? Syria is a country where random killing has become an everyday occurrence for some of its citizens, and an interesting sideshow for others. The State's sites of torture, misery and death are no longer confined to detention centers belonging to the repressive security apparatus; even universities are now playgrounds for murderers and thugs. Away from politics which I don't really understand, away from your theories, debates and analysis, my people are being killed systematically and all of your well-meaning words seem helpless in all of this. The situation In Syria is no more political, it is a wholesale purposive destruction of a society. Whatever the result of this conflict will be, spilled blood will not dry; and millions of refugees will never forget the humiliation of waiting aid cars for hours under the falling snow. If anything has to be made, if anything has to be discussed it should be how to stop this breakdown of society and this legitimization of criminality. This will help us to collect our breath. Then we can tackle politics.
U.S. military action other than drone warfare isn't in favor these days, but Syria is showing how doing nothing has costs of its own. In overruling his advisers, Mr. Obama has prolonged Syria's civil war, increased regional instability, and delivered a strategic gift to Iran, the main enemy of Israel and the U.S.

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.

National Reconciliation

Ali Haidar, head of the newly established Ministry of National Reconciliation is not the right caliber person for opposition leader Moaz Alkhatib to meet. But Alkhatib can delegate someone to go meet with the Minister on his behalf. That person should be tasked with reiterating opposition demand for the resignation of Bashar Al-Assad and assuring that a provisional government formed by the Coalition will be representative of all communities and regions in Syria and that it will set itself immediately to the task of preparing for presidential and parliamentary elections. No further details should be brought out at this early stage. But it would be interesting as well to have the Coalition representative ask Minister Haidar to offer his ideas as to what exactly is meant by national reconciliation as far as the Syrian regime is concerned: are they talking about national reconciliation between sects, regions or political parties? It will be interesting to see to what extant Syrian officials still want to cloak communal and regional dynamics in the garb of political ideologies?

As for place of the proposed meeting, Haidar opted for Geneva, but Alkhatib had earlier in the day offered areas in the liberated north as an alternative. I think Alkhatib should stick to his position. Meeting on Syrian soil to discuss Syrian affairs makes far more sense, and since the meeting will take place under the auspices of the UN, both sides should feel safe.

Video Highlights

Rebels claim to have recently killed the number 2 man in the 4th Division, Gen. Said Zarifah, in an operation that official sources in Syria has not recognized. The number one man in the Division is Bashar Al-Assad’s brother, Maher Al-Assad, himself rumored to have been injured in a previous attack

Scenes from the explosion in Bab Al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey , While some pro-regime sites claimed that the explosion was a security operation carried out by regime infiltrators, Turkish authorities remain unsure as to what exactly took place, with speculating that this could have been an accident. Members of the Syria National Council and the Syrian Opposition Coalition claimed that an opposition convoy was supposed to go through the crossing around the same time the explosion took place. Around 20 people were reportedly killed, and many wounded, including Turkish border police.

Scenes from the battle for the liberation of Al-Jarrah Military Airport (the tank in this video belong to the rebels) , ,

A delegation representing the Jordanian Baath Party meets with Bashar Al-Assad and declare their solidarity and loyalty

Rebels in Tabqa, Raqqa Province, take control of a security branch in the city, as they consolidate their hold over the city and the nearby dam , A tour of the liberated headquarters Rebels allow regime forces to withdraw from the building and escort them to the town’s outskirts Detainees are freed and go on celebrating their freedom Destroying a statue of Hafiz Al-Assad Setting the statue on fire Rebels take us on a tour of the Tabqa Dam

Rebels in Damascus storm a security headquarters in the town of Adra and imprison some pro-Assad officers Meanwhile, clashes in the towns and suburbs of Eastern Ghoutah intensify Douma  MiGs take part in the pounding putting out fires , MiGs pound Saqba as well

Tot the West, the regime continues its pounding of the town of Moadamiyah

In Daraa City, rebels take over the Harsh barracks , Meanwhile, clashes continue in the nearby town of Al-Harrah , ,