Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Too Little Too Late?

I fear that by the time any agreement on Syria is reached in international policy circles, unfolding events on the ground will have rendered it completely irrelevant. The turtle of disintegration is about to cross the finish line, but the rabbit of intervention is still foraging for carrots.

Tuesday February 26, 2013

Today’s Death Toll: 111 martyrs, including 13 children, 4 women, and 5 martyrs under torture: 51 martyrs in Damascus and Suburbs, 50 in Aleppo, 11 in Idlib, 10 in Hama, 7 in Homs , 6 in Deir Ezzor, 4 in Daraa, 1 in Raqqa and 1 in Swaida (LCCs).

Points of Random Shelling: 374 points, including 20 points that were shelled by regime warplanes, 3 points using Scud missiles, 4 points with barrel bombs, 6 points with cluster bombs, 2 point with Thermobaric bombs, 150 points using heavy caliber artillery, 98 points using rockets and rocket shelling in 91 points across Syria (LCCs).

Clashes: 154, with the fiercest clashes were reported in Damascus and Suburbs where FSA rebels successfully liberated the Operations Command Building in the Police Academy in Khan Aasal. In Aleppo, FSA rebels continued their shelling of the local Police Academy setting parts of it on fire. In Hama, rebels targeted the 47th Brigade using mortar shells. And in Daraa, rebels liberated a police station located on the Jordanian-Syrian borders (LCCs).

News
U.S. considers direct aid to Syrian rebels The Obama administration is moving toward a major policy shift on Syria that could provide the rebels with equipment such as body armor, armored vehicles and possible military training and could send humanitarian assistance directly to Syria’s opposition political coalition, according to U.S. and European officials.
Rome talks unlikely to break Syria conflict deadlock Whatever exactly emerges from the Friends of Syria meeting in Rome on Thursday, one thing is clear: the parameters of the Syrian conflict - a brutal, slow-moving slugging-match on the ground, and deadlocked international diplomacy - have not changed, nor are they likely to for some time.
Ballistic missile strikes on Aleppo signal new escalation in Syria war The Syrian government denied this week that it is using Scuds in its battle to crush the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, in which as many as 70,000 people have been killed. But military experts say all the available evidence, including the scale of the devastation from the explosions and the sightings — captured on video — of missiles being fired from bases outside Damascus shortly before the blasts, points to them being Scuds. The Russian-designed missiles carry about 2,000 pounds of explosives and are manufactured by Syria using parts imported from Russia, North Korea and Iran. The Obama administration also thinks the missiles are most likely Scuds.
Will Kerry Convince Ankara on Syria? Although the two countries have closely coordinated on Syria in the past, differences have started to emerge on how the crisis should end, a fact that will no doubt focus added attention on the talks Kerry has with his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu.
Russia wants U.S. to urge Syria rebels into peace talks The crisis in Syria made up "the bulk of the conversation" between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at talks in Berlin on Tuesday, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. After talks she characterized as "really serious and hard-working", Moscow and Washington sounded a rare note of accord over efforts to launch talks to end the nearly two-year-old conflict, in which 70,000 people have been killed.
Displacement in Syria giving way for serious gender-based crimes, warns UN official “This displacement is not only about loss of homes and economic security. It is also, for many, accompanied by gender-based crimes, deliberate victimization of women and children and a frightening array of assaults on human dignity,” the Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Erika Feller, told the Human Rights Council in Geneva. “Reports are revealing that the conflict in Syria is increasingly marked by rape and sexual violence employed as a weapon of war to intimidate parties to the conflict destroying identity, dignity and the social fabrics of families and communities.”
Syria needs grow, rebel-held north out of reach: U.N. The rebel-held north of Syria remains largely out of reach to aid operations, even though they have been stepped up elsewhere in the country torn by civil war, U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said on Tuesday. "We are watching a humanitarian tragedy unfold before our eyes," Amos told a news briefing. "We must do all we can to reassure the people that we care and that we will not let them down."
Syria: Unlawful Missile Attacks Kill More Than 140 The Syrian government launched at least four ballistic missiles that struck populated areas in the city of Aleppo and a town in Aleppo governorate during the week of February 17, 2013. The attacks killed more than 141 people, including 71 children, and caused immense physical destruction.
Syria troops, rebels battle in Aleppo's old city The rebels seized the centuries-old Umayyad Mosque, which for months has been used as a military encampment and checkpoint by regime forces, after a day of fighting, Aleppo activists said. The mosque sits near the medieval citadel, the city’s signature landmark and a strategic site high above the surrounding neighborhood, which remains in the hands of the military.

Special Reports
Several rebel commanders and fighters told Reuters that a shipment which reached Syria via Turkey last month comprised shoulder-held and other mobile equipment including anti-aircraft and armor-piercing weapons, mortars and rocket launchers. Rebels told Reuters the weapons, along with money for cash payments for fighters, were being distributed through a new command structure, part of a plan by foreign backers to centralize control over rebel units and check Islamists linked to al-Qaeda. However, in a sign of the difficulty in uniting disparate fighting groups, some rebels said they had turned down the arms and refused to submit to the new command.
Is this John Kerry, now traveling in Europe and soon the Middle East for consultations about Syria, or is it Warren Christopher, who embarked on a similar mission 20 years ago to bring the bloodshed in Bosnia-Herzegovina to an end? The parallels between the two missions are striking -- and we should hope that Kerry has learned the lessons from Christopher's tragically failed bid.
With security concerns and bureaucratic hurdles keeping most international aid workers from actually entering this war-torn country, NGOs rely on Syrians like Mahmoud to make the hazardous trek across the border to assess the needs for assistance and deliver aid to the local population. Syrian "implementing partners" pick up the supplies at warehouses in southern Turkey, near the border, and drive them into Syria -- avoiding major highways to mitigate the risk of being attacked by a plane or helicopter. "The roads are bad because there are many parts of the road that are destroyed because of the shelling," Mahmoud said.
Though Western and Iranian officials will not discuss Syria when they sit down for talks on Iran’s nuclear program in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, Iran’s ability to shape that conflict will hang over the negotiations, strengthening both Tehran’s perception of its position and the West’s resolve to deny Iran meaningful sanctions relief.

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

A video found on the mobile of an Assad supporter captured by rebels during a battle in Daraa Province shows pro-Assad troops torturing two detainees to death and beyond, including cutting off their genitals (gruesome) http://youtu.be/oRvN3v01oiA

This just released video shows the prisoner exchange that took place a few weeks ago involving Iranian hostages held by rebels http://youtu.be/_1H6fjKzG_8

These videos are from February 12, they take us on a tour of Al-Jarrah Airport, Aleppo, after its liberation by rebels http://youtu.be/YXkoqFnkAJ0 , http://youtu.be/1jt65bMim10

In Damascus Suburbs, pro-Assad militias continue their pounding of rebel strongholds: Moadamiyeh http://youtu.be/w1CQx3aOzr0 , http://youtu.be/wKZSxXfIxGI Daraya http://youtu.be/T3UHp1jx6Vs

In Damascus City: Jobar locals rush to put out a fire started by a missile attack http://youtu.be/T4k0hDSC6TA , http://youtu.be/uOhEDFQe-NQ Yarmouk http://youtu.be/tnTdipCsJtA

The pounding of Daraa City by pro-Assad militias continues http://youtu.be/BL8lNSBedyo

In Idlib, the pounding of the town of Ariha by pro-Assad militias continues http://youtu.be/r078Dyu73HY