Friday, March 15, 2013

No Way Out!

Under Assad rule we do have much corruption in the judicial system, as is the case in other sectors, but the legal code itself is not all that bad. An upgrade is surely needed, but a return to Sharia rule, as so many are advocating today, sounds more like a downgrade to my secular ears. But if that’s what Islamists want, that’s what they should get. There is absolutely no problem in their desire to apply sharia law to themselves. The problem lies in their burning desire to apply it even to those who reject it, under the faulty understanding of democracy as majority rule, individual rights notwithstanding. Irrespective of how and why our revolution started two years ago, the issue of identity, individual, communal, regional, is now at stake, and while it is quite obvious that the common identity we thought we had, Syrian, and the one we do indeed have, human, is not enough to inspire mutual confidence and trust and prevent our internecine strife, geography tells us that our destinies will remain interlinked for the rest of time whether we liked or not. Sooner or later we have to work things out, none of us will be moving to the stars anytime soon.  

Thursday March 14, 2013

Today’s Death Toll: 132 martyrs, including 6 women, 13 children, and 1 martyr who died under torture: 37 martyrs in Damascus and Suburbs, 35 in the massacre committed by the regime’s army in the area of Tal Barak in Hasakeh, 18 in Daraa, 11 in Aleppo, 6 in Raqqa, 6 in Hama, 5 in Idlib, 1 in Quneitra, 1 in Deir Ezzor, and 1 in Jableh (LCCs).

Points of Random Shelling: 358. 27 locations were bombed by warplanes; 3 sites were subjected to Scud missile attacks; and 4 locations were hit by surface-to-surface missiles. 5 locations were subjected to cluster bombing: Najiyeh, Kafr Zeta, Marjeh, Saraqeb, and Taftanaz. 106 locations were shelled using mortars; 124 locations were artillery-shelled; and 90 locations were subjected to rocket attacks (LCCs).

Clashes: 145. Successful operations include downing two warplanes: in southern Homs and in Hama. FSA rebels also sealed off the road linking Hassakeh and Qamishly, and established multiple checkpoints along the road (LCCs).

News
Seeking to Aid Rebels in Syria, France Urges End to Arms Embargo “We want Europeans to lift the arms embargo,” President Fran├žois Hollande of France told reporters as he arrived in Brussels for a European Union summit meeting. Echoing earlier comments by his foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, Mr. Hollande said: “We are ready to support the rebellion, so we are ready to go this far. We must take our responsibilities.”
Syria’s historic treasure trove in ‘unpublicized’ danger Over 12 museums have been looted; all six of the UNESCO World Heritage sites have been damaged; historical sites, including Bosra, Krak des Chevaliers, Palmyra, Apamea, have been destroyed while surrounding areas have become a stage for war. Aleppo’s medieval Citadel, Great Mosque and the Ottoman Souq have all become a battlefield.
Watch: Damascus synagogue in ruins Syrian opposition releases further documentation of synagogue damaged in early March, allegedly by mortar shells fired by Assad's army; former chief rabbi of Syria 'chilled' at the damage
Two years later, Syrian revolutionaries reflect on their cause, the costs The popular unrest following the first protests in March 2011 has challenged the dynastic dictatorship that has ruled Syria for years. Today, Syria is being torn apart by a civil war that has killed more than 70,000 people and forced more than one million Syrians to flee the country. The conflict threatens to spill across borders to destabilize neighbors in an already turbulent Middle East. The opposition says Friday (March 15) marks the second anniversary of the beginning of the uprising.

Special Reports
Three items on Syria from Foreign Policy Research Institute: In this essay, Gary Gambill, an analyst of Syrian and Lebanese politics, provides an in-depth look at Syria’s Druze and ponders whether they will turn to the rebels or back the regime. In this essay, Adam Garfinkle, editor of The American Interest magazine, suggests it may be best – at this point -- for the US to stay out of Syria, having earlier supported a more activist policy to help oust the regime. In this audio file of a recent session of Geopolitics with Granieri, "Syria: Where Do We Go from Here?", FPRI Senior Fellow Barak Mendelsohn takes questions on the latest developments in Syria.  There is no good solution in sight, he says, but he does help to clarify the policy dilemmas.
Courts Become A Battleground For Secularists, Islamists In Syria Powerful Islamist brigades are competing with pro-democracy civilians to shape Syria's future. One battlefront is in the courts. In many areas in northern Syria, Islamists have set up religious courts that deliver rulings under Shariah, or Islamic law — a fundamental change in Syria's civil legal system… There is also a fear that Islamist radicals may kick out the old form of dictatorship but replace it with an Islamist version. In the northern city of Raqqa, militants posted leaflets announcing that anyone who supports democracy is an infidel, a serious charge in any Islamic court.
Syria’s bloody anniversary THE means to prevent this implosion are the same that could have stopped the ignition of the civil war: aggressive intervention by the United States and its allies to protect the opposition and civilians. This would not require ground troops, only more training and the supply of heavy weapons to the rebels, and airstrikes to eliminate the regime’s warplanes, missiles and, if necessary, chemical weapons. The recognition of an alternative government led by the civilian Syrian National Coalition would send the message to wavering regime supporters that it was time to defect and would help to isolate al-Qaeda before it is too late.
In Syrian Clash Over ‘Death Highway,’ a Bitterly Personal War Since late last spring, antigovernment fighters have wrested much of northern Syria from Mr. Assad’s control, overrunning military checkpoints and several bases, and pushing the army back. But the rebel tide, largely led in northwestern Syria by Islamic groups, moves slowly, checked by weapon shortages and by a lingering archipelago of government positions where the army and loyalist militias have settled in with powerful weapons, equipped for a long fight. Each of these military positions, and the roads between them, have become minifronts, an almost uncountable set of bloody battlefields where rebels try to silence government outposts, which are mostly arrayed around Syria’s main cities.
The tough lessons from an invasion a decade ago do not apply today The Syrian leader’s slaughter of his own people carries dangerous messages for the region and imperils a civilised international order. There comes a point where humanitarian imperatives must trump hard-headed calculations of narrow interests… What is required now… is a display of the energetic US diplomacy that has been woefully absent during most of the fighting. Where was Hillary Clinton? Where is John Kerry? Or, indeed, where is Mr Obama? Where is the high-level demarche that tests to destruction Moscow’s declared desire to halt the bloodshed by backing a settlement? What about gathering support at the UN for humanitarian corridors? If Vladimir Putin needs to be flattered and bribed, so be it. And, yes, Mr Assad should be offered dirty guarantees of safe passage. A big diplomatic push might fail. If it does, the US and Europe will have to think hard about providing arms to the rebels. But Mr Obama could at least make the effort. Iraq was a painful demonstration of American hubris. Syria should not pay the price of US timidity.
Two Years Later: What the Syrian War Looks Like What does the Syrian war look like? It looks like shells that crash and thud and thump into residential streets, sometimes with little warning. It looks like messy footprints in a pool of blood on a hospital floor as armed local men, many in mismatched military attire and civilian clothing, rush in their wounded colleagues, or their neighbors… What does the Syrian war look like? Above all, it looks like the names and faces of the seventy thousand people the United Nations says have been killed in the two years since the uprising began. The real figure is likely much higher. The U.N. number is of those whose names or faces are known, and doesn’t include the countless others who are still missing, who may be in mass graves. At least seventy thousand people dead. That means seventy thousand individuals, each part of a family, each family part of a community, each community part of a country. That is what the Syrian war looks like.

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

The oldest synagogue in Damascus City is hit during regime shelling of Jobar Neighborhood http://youtu.be/nqgWJSkzwSU

Rebels in Damascus Suburbs, take loyalists prisoners in the town of Khan Shaikh http://youtu.be/Vv5vSe6QNfU

Islamist Rebels rig a car in preparation for an attack on a loyalist militia position in Kneiseen http://youtu.be/F3EL1373wCw

The battle for Daraa City intensifies as rebels seek to liberate the entire southern parts of Syria and complete their siege of Damascus http://youtu.be/_EmnYqbKgTY , http://youtu.be/hYZfjwsGwOw

The battles around the town of Heesh, Idlib intensify http://youtu.be/u-fNs9L39xs The pounding of nearby Bsheiriyeh by regime forces intensifies as well http://youtu.be/LUyhogiHQk8 , http://youtu.be/O6P3NVQbw_E , http://youtu.be/9HW2-T9JSbU