As world leaders do their version of the Harlem Shake, fighters on the ground do theirs, and theirs seem to be far more spirited, and deadly. A policy on the devolving situation in Syria seems to get outdated by the time it is conceived. Bulletproof vests and night vision goggles in the hands of moderates will not change the dynamics of anything on the ground nor carry you any favor. Alawite and Sunni extremists are now dictating the pace of all developments, and they are not in the mood for conversation.
In its latest editorial, the Washington Post argues for real political and military intervention by the Obama Administration. A policy of toe-dipping will not help at this stage:
If the Obama administration is to lead on Syria, it must commit itself to steps that can bring about the early collapse of the regime and its replacement by a representative and responsible alternative. Only direct political and military intervention on the side of the opposition can make that happen.
Personally, and on the basis of available leaks, I don’t believe that the new policy will mark much of a departure from the current do-nothing policy:
In Washington, activists who have lobbied for US support said the latest promises fell well short of the action needed to topple Assad and ensure moderate rebel groups won the day. Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian dissident, said: “Bulletproof vests and night vision goggles will help you become a more effective fighter, but they will not protect you from MiGs, tanks and Scuds, or enable you to destroy them.”
Islamists Gain Momentum in Syria: After U.S. Efforts to Bolster Moderates and Subdue Extremists, Terrorist-Designated Group Gains Ground
They control airports, dams and oilfields. They are using confiscated tanks and armored vehicles in their operations, and are in possession of helicopter gunships and MiGs, booty from their recent take-over of Al-Jarrah Airport in Aleppo which they have yet to use. Last weeks, they have reportedly come into the possession of two Scud missiles after taking control of what remains of Al-Kibar nuclear facility, which had been bombed by Israel in 2007. It’s not clear whether they managed to get a launch-pad as well. Islamists affiliated with Jabhat Al-Nusra, the Syrian Islamic Front, and other smaller groupings, are emerging as the dominant force on the ground, and probably make more than half the actual functioning rebel force.
Finding a solution in Syria is no longer about arming moderates, although they do need to be armed to remain relevant, if not just to survive, it’s about adopting a political strategy to bring the different parties to the negotiating table, including the extremists from both sides of the growing sectarian divide.
In the two months since the U.S. designation of Jabhat al-Nusra, the group's fighters took control of one of the Taftanaz air base in Idlib, one of largest government air bases in northern Syria, where they seized tanks, helicopters and ammunition. They also took over the Jarrah airfield outside Aleppo, which gave them access to dozens of warplanes, according to rebels who took part in those battles.
In northern Syria, the Syrian Islamic Front coalition, alongside Jabhat al-Nusra fighters backed by Tunisian, Libyan, Iraqi and Chechen jihadists, continue to score the biggest gains, rebels and U.S. officials said.
The Islamist coalition led the takeover of Syria's largest dam this month, giving them control over the electricity supply to the rebel-held east and north.
Jabhat al-Nusra, with its own fighters and the foreigners it has attracted, is now seen as the most powerful force in these rebel areas, along the Turkish and Iraqi borders…
Western-friendly opposition leaders said their inability to convince the U.S. and others to intervene in the war has discredited them among fighters and the Syrian public, making it hard to take control. Moderate rebels continue to report occasional battlefield gains, but the group is geographically scattered and far from unified, rebels said.
The Islamists' December meeting in Turkey, meanwhile, led to the creation of the Syrian Islamic Front, a group that has become the most effective Islamist military coalition.
The meeting was also aimed at making sure the Western-friendly rebels weren't the only ones with political leaders poised for a post-Assad Syria, coalition members said.
"We have a full political project for a modern Syria," said a political representative for the Syrian Islamic Front, from the group's new headquarters in Istanbul. He said Islamist rule was the right of a country with a majority-Muslim population, but that the rights of minorities would be protected.
The U.S. and others in the Friends of Syria will now have a harder time bolstering moderates, analysts said…
Islamists say the Western concept of a secularist Syrian rebel is misguided, in a Muslim nation. "There is no such thing as a secularist fighting on the ground," said Abu Muhammad, a leader with an Islamist group. "In the next phase, the Syrian people won't just welcome radicals. They'll welcome the devil himself if he'll help in the fight."
David Crane has been playing an amazing role supporting the cause of transitional justice in Syria. He does much quietly and behind the scenes, but his efforts have been instrumental in preparing us for the complexity of the task ahead.
A whole range of groups have accelerated a campaign to gather evidence of war crimes including torture, massacres and indiscriminate killings in the Syrian regime's war against rebels, hoping to find justice if President Bashar Assad falls. Some talk about referring the cases to the International Criminal Court or forming a special tribunal, but many in Syria hope that it's all laid out in the country's own courtrooms….
David M. Crane, a former prosecutor at the Sierra Leone tribunal, which indicted former Liberian President Charles Taylor in 2003, said among the challenges is the multitude of inexperienced activists collecting a flood of evidence in an uncoordinated way.
To help with building a case for a future prosecutor, Crane created an organization called the Syrian Accountability Initiative.
"We have mapped the entire conflict, we have built a crime base and we have actually sample indictments for whoever will get the case, be it a Syrian or international prosecutor," said Crane, an international law professor at Syracuse University in New York state. He said that the information is being shared with the International Criminal Court, the United Nations and the Syrian opposition.
In Damascus City, the pounding of Jobar Neighborhood by pro-Assad militias using missile launchers http://youtu.be/O2E_bSO2xSA , http://youtu.be/3C8Y7kv4Pkg A sample of the missiles used http://youtu.be/NMVPYbjKcVQ
Meanwhile, in the Yarmouk Camp, Palestinian fighters defect from the ranks of Ahmad Jibril’s loyalist movement to form a pro-rebel unit http://youtu.be/WqY-SNzxXrg
In Idlib, the town of Saraqib came under intense shelling by MiGs and missiles http://youtu.be/fggMFBjACNY Scenes of devastation http://youtu.be/7-OjIJikR9E Incendiary cluster bombs were used, activists still confuse them with white phosphorous bombs http://youtu.be/JVaTsNSx0ro
In Aleppo City, rebels and loyalist clash in the neighborhoods surrounding the Aleppo Citadel http://youtu.be/pzdcbqOqcHQ , http://youtu.be/OGb1Oz_wYOw , http://youtu.be/Eq9hK4UGewQ
The pounding of Jabal Al-Akrad region in North Lattakia continues http://youtu.be/JacpG9aR_-8
The pounding of Deir Ezzor City continues: Al-Hawiqa neighborhood http://youtu.be/Oc9TWg87Nu4 , http://youtu.be/DPcVH4p8Jg8
Syrian activists in Idlib do the Halrem Shake http://youtu.be/T-v0sT2FG3Y