Friday, March 1, 2013

The Cauldron!

Today’s rallies took place under the slogan “One Nation, One Flag, One War” – but the Nation in question is not Syria, rather, it’s the Islamic Nation, the flag is not the independence flag chosen by the early protest leaders but Al-Qaeda’s infamous black flag, and the War is not one for the liberation of Syria but one for the restoration of the Caliphate system! The extremists are gaining more and more grounds by the day in Syria. With its reluctance to intervene, the U.S. has already bungled the job there at the expense of $350 million to the American taxpayer in addition to the newly promised 60. The cost to Syrians is immeasurable. This wrong cannot be righted with halfhearted measures. But is it even perceived as a wrong? If not, what’s the point in suggesting remedies? If there is any silver-lining here, it’s found in the refusal by most protesters today to actually abandon the independence flag. The extremists managed to impose their slogan on today’s rallies, but they didn’t succeed in imposing their interpretation and message. The moderates remain in the majority and they are fighting back. But time does not seem to be on their side, especially if they continue to be left alone.

Friday March 1, 2013

Today’s Death Toll: 125 martyrs, including 13 children 11 women and 1 martyr under torture. 54 in Aleppo, 45 in Damascus and Suburbs, 9 in Daraa, 6 in Homs, 3 in Hama, 3 in Idlib, 3 in Deir Ezzor, 1 in Raqqa and 1 in Qouniter (LCCs).

Points of Random Shelling: 324 points, including 11 point were shelled using warplanes; 2 using Scud missiles; 4 points using explosive barrels; 1 point was shelled using cluster bombs; artillery shelling was reported in 124 points; mortar shelling in 95 points and rocket shelling in 87 all around Syria (LCCs).

Clashes: 114. Successful FSA operations include bringing down a fighter jet in Aleppo, taking over the Yarobiya Checkpoint along the Syrian-Iraqi border to the northeast, and attacking a loyalist barracks in Eastern Khirbet Ghazaleh in Daraa (LCCs).

News
Assad forces take Aleppo village, reopening supply line The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the capture of Tel Shghaib marked the last step to creating a land supply route north into Aleppo from Hama province, crucial for Assad's forces who have lost control of part of the main north-south highway. Rebels say they hold most of the city itself and nearly all the rural hinterland. But they have been unable to achieve a decisive victory and complain that they are outgunned and vulnerable to Assad's air force, artillery and ballistic missiles, which killed dozens of people in Aleppo last week.
Syria risks "dissolution", U.N. chief says He said the situation in Syria was deteriorating by the day after almost two years of conflict in which 70,000 people have died, but there was now a slim chance for peace talks. "This is a very small window of opportunity which we strongly support and encourage them to use that. The opportunity may soon close," Ban said at a news conference in Geneva.
Syria crisis: European countries expected to start arming rebels Syrian opposition representative in UK says 'breakthrough' is expected after relaxation of EU rules.
Kremlin says Putin, Obama seek "new initiatives" on Syria "The presidents have instructed (Lavrov and Kerry) to continue active contacts focused on working out possible new initiatives aimed at a political settlement of the crisis (in Syria)," the Kremlin said in a statement.
Are Syria’s pro-Assad hackers up to something more nefarious? So what, exactly, does the Syrian Electronic Army hope to achieve? Some believe the answer may be something more insidious than the group’s stated purpose of “show[ing] the world the truth about the ‘Syria Revolution.’”… The Post’s James Ball has suggested that pro-government hackers have actually begun acting as a sort of quasi-intelligence unit, “using the Internet to uncover members of the opposition” by advertising fake Facebook and Skype software that is embedded with spyware.
U.S. aid to Syria should be "non-lethal," new Pentagon chief says New U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Friday he believed U.S. policy of giving only "non-lethal support" to Syria's opposition was the correct one.
Scud missile fired in Syria lands near Iraqi village: mayor "A Russian-made Scud landed near the village of Yoush Tapa, 3 km from the Iraqi-Syrian border between Telafar and Baaj," said Abdul Aal Abbas, the mayor of Telafar. "There were no casualities or damage, but it created fear among the Turkuman population of that village and they fled their houses". Nineveh governorate spokesman Qahtan Sami said security forces had also said the rocket was of Russian provenance.


Special Reports
This is a hydra-headed war, a bit like a high-stakes poker game, and the best Washington can likely do is take a deep breath and sit down at the table to try its hand, hoping to make some profit by doing so and not lose the family farm in the process. Given the U.S. role in the world, there is no real option but to play, because out of Syria’s mess will come some kind of new reckoning between the world’s powers where everyone’s leverage lies in the new Middle East. The Russians have staked their bets, and, in their own way, the Chinese, the Iranians, the Turks, and the Saudis have, too. So has everyone else in the neighborhood, even the small fry. The result is a bloody stalemate. For better or worse, everyone is looking to the Americans to tip the balance, because that is the role that a superpower, still in the game, is expected to play. This is not about what’s right so much as it is about the game. If the Americans want the outcome to favor them and their allies they must try to help mold it. Direct aid may have its risks, but no move at all means losing, too.
The U.S. has declined to supply the rebels with the heavier weaponry that could help neutralize the regime’s advantages in air power, armor and artillery, and is widely reported to have also restrained many of its allies from doing so. Still, Saudi Arabia has reportedly recently managed to supply some rebel forces with anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, and has openly agitated for the West to do the same. But the Administration sees arming the rebels — a plethora of small armed groups, some of the most effective among them being jihadists, and lacking a single overarching chain of command or political leadership — as a risky bet.
Why couldn't NATO forces take on targeted attacks like that to hasten Assad's fall from power? (A transitional government and U.N. peacekeeping force would have to be ready, waiting.) Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican, is calling for using cruise missiles to destroy Syrian aircraft on runways.
Using the Bosnia precedent, and allowing for a population four times its size, up to 200,000 foreign troops could be needed in a post-war stabilization effort – if only for a time. But if their focus were on policing ceasefire lines, the number might be cut in half, with the U.S. share perhaps 20,000.

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.


Below is my article at the Freedom Collection Website. I have to apologize to my Syrian readers in particular for not drawing a rosy picture in it or any of my recent writings, I prefer to describe reality and deal with it as it is in order to see what can be done to change it. For me, romantic notions don't give me the necessary will or tools to do that. They might work for other people, but they don't work for me. After all, I am not motivated by faith, but by a mixture of dutifulness and personal obsession, for better or worse.

As we approach the second anniversary of the Syrian Revolution, it’s important to remember a simple truth, if for no other reason than out of respect for all who have died or continue to suffer:

Although the revolution has unleashed one of the most brutal post-Cold War conflicts, it began as a peaceful protest movement calling for democratic reform. However, the massive crackdown ordered by the Assad regime, the inaction of Western leaders, and the political ineptness of the Syrian opposition have gradually transformed this nonviolent protest movement into a full-fledged civil war that has devastated the country.

In its current condition Syria is no longer a viable state, and no political settlement seems conceivable at this stage. Though the civil war remains asymmetric with the bulk of the massacres being perpetrated by regime-linked militias, extremist groups (including some with Al-Qaeda connections) are proliferating on the side of rebel forces. Over the preceding year, the struggle between the two sides has been transformed into an identity conflict and a veritable holy war ruling out the possibility of compromise. Law and order has broken down across the country, except in a few pockets along the coast, in Kurdish-majority areas in the north and northeast, and in the Druze-majority province of Suweida in the South. With the introduction of Scud missiles to pound rebel-held territories alongside fighter jets, the nihilistic dimension involved in the conflict can no longer be ignored.  I fear the fate of the country has been irrevocably sealed.

The Syrian National Coalition’s near boycott of the Friends of Syria meeting in Rome and of their scheduled meetings in Moscow and Washington underscores the point that politics in the current context have been rendered irrelevant. The world can either intervene to put a forceful end to this tragedy, irrespective of the risks involved, or it can choose to maintain course and watch Syria implode perhaps seeking to alleviate some of the suffering.

The problem with the latter approach, beyond the grave humanitarian implications, is that it ignores the potential for spillover into neighboring countries and across the region. It also ignores the security ramifications of seeing various Syrian regions become havens for new Jihadi terrorist groups. More importantly, with so many autocratic regimes around the world facing the potential for similar revolutions, inaction by the international community against the Assad regime’s atrocities sends the wrong message to tyrants worldwide.

Meanwhile, in Syria’s quest for liberty or death, we are likely to see more death than liberty for years to come.


Video Highlights

The intermixing of the flags, as we see in the protest rally in Manbij, Aleppo, is a clear indication that the battle for the soul of Syria, and its majority Sunni-community in this case, is far from over http://youtu.be/_MphSpnG3sA the intermixing was seen in many communities: Massakin Hanano, Aleppo http://youtu.be/wtF0MiyTgbI Boustan Al-Qasr, Aleppo City http://youtu.be/hby0buKC17o Alboukamal, Deir Ezzor http://youtu.be/yEszBeD3HlE Kafrenbel, Idlib http://youtu.be/Iex1xos-SvQ

But we can already see pockets of extremists emerging in different parts of the country, in the town of Maarabah in Daraa Province for instance, extremists seems to have taken over with some popular backing http://youtu.be/V9ZPnrg_oU8 In Douma, Damascus Suburbs, the black flags intermixed with the white flags of the extremist Islamist party Hizb Al-Tahrir http://youtu.be/-LRmVQ06-bw Same in Old Homs, Homs City http://youtu.be/arle-TNDlhk , http://youtu.be/zIzRFPw-qUE But in Al-Waer Neighborhood there is some intermixing http://youtu.be/m2Vni02LZhA

In the town of Binnish, Idlib, despite the presence of some independence flags, the speaker was chanting for the Caliphate. The town has been taken over by extremists belonging to Jabhat Al-Nusra and Ahrar Al-Sham but not all inhabitants are happy with this http://youtu.be/1P1xIi6M_jE

All three flags made their appearance in the town of Yabroud, Damascus Suburbs http://youtu.be/KfvZPv-5NQk

But in the majority of rallies that took place today, the black flag was completely absent: Kafar Zeiteh, Hama http://youtu.be/IE9hOVu7Gmk Tawhid Street, Hama City http://youtu.be/FYooyh-IwKU Sarmada, Idlib http://youtu.be/I8D5TASuLR4 Houleh, Homs http://youtu.be/zTigj76OEOU Bouqrous, Deir Ezzor Province http://youtu.be/C74wWSHFSfA Babbila, Damascus Suburbs http://youtu.be/DJRFV7p5ip4 Bayanoun, Aleppo http://youtu.be/qlzMKGwuQkQ Al-Kashif, Daraa City http://youtu.be/xfKClZ7wfO0 Bza’ah, Aleppo http://youtu.be/QyV-_mqL_cs Ellatamneh, Hama http://youtu.be/o4rMt3F7yzw El-Bab, Aleppo http://youtu.be/ElBgO_R9je0 Maarrat Masreen, Idlib http://youtu.be/AqcYgI7W2Ps

Of course, in Kurdish-majority areas, such as in Salhiyeh, Al-Hassakeh Province, the independence flags intermixed with Kurdish flags and people didn’t even raise today’s slogan http://youtu.be/urRxJpMxySU Same in Al-Qamishly http://youtu.be/t7pqiSJnzVY

Elsewhere, the battles and the bombing continued: Zamalka, Damascus Suburbs MiGs take part in the pounding http://youtu.be/8n-lt5UMT3I , http://youtu.be/FXm-MVJFPCA , http://youtu.be/yYKidTON1ZU

Clashes between loyalist militias and rebel groups continued across the country: Old Aleppo, Aleppo city http://youtu.be/5UUNxqNgRNE , http://youtu.be/hi3dsva9dZ8 Daraa Al-Balad, Daraa City http://youtu.be/RgLAjeOo2n8