Monday, March 4, 2013

The Other Sequester!

Liberating land without the ability to secure the air makes Syria a disintegrating state. But since no one has any plans for a no-fly zone, a failed state and an imploding region is what we have to contend with for years to come.

Tuesday March 4, 2013

Today’s Death Toll: 149 martyrs, including 6 children, 1 woman, and 2 martyrs under torture: 40 martyrs in Damascus and Suburbs, 35 in Raqqa, 25 in Aleppo, 17 in Homs, 12 in Daraa, 10 in Idlib, 6 in Hama, 3 in Deir Ezzor, and 1 in Lattakia (LCCs).

Points of Random Shelling: 395 points, including 1 point shelled by Scud missile, 5 point by regime warplanes. Shelling using cluster bombs was reported in Saraqeb in Idlib, shelling using surface-to-surface missile was reported in 1 point; in addition, 163 points were targeted by shelling using heavy caliber artillery, 119 points using mortars and 105 using rockets (LCCs).

Clashes: 145. Successful operations include the liberation of Raqqa City, tightening siege of the military airports of Minnigh and Kuweiris in Aleppo, liberation of the Haramla checkpoint in the town of Zabadani, Damascus Suburbs, repelling an attack on the town of Daraya, destroying a BMP armored vehicle near Abbasid Square on the road leading to Jobar (LCCs).

News
Kerry Criticizes Iran and Russia for Shipping Arms to Syria “There is no guarantee that one weapon or another might not at some point in time fall into the wrong hands,” Mr. Kerry said in a joint news conference in Riyadh with the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal. “But I will tell you this. There is a very clear ability now in the Syrian opposition to make certain that what goes to the moderate, legitimate opposition is, in fact, getting to them, and the indication is that they are increasing their pressure as a result of that.”
Syrians tear down statue of Bashar al-Assad's father after rebel advance Footage shows protesters beating gold statue of Hafez al-Assad with shoes in city of Raqqa near Turkish border… The euphoria, however, is brief. A second video taken by activists soon afterwards captures a government mortar landing in the square, followed by thick black smoke. Several dead and injured lie on the ground. Rebels frantically load the wounded, including a woman, into cars as a second mortar drops nearby.
Israel warns it cannot "stand idle" as Syria war spills over border Israeli U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor wrote to the 15-member council to complain about shells from Syria landing in Israel. "Israel cannot be expected to stand idle as the lives of its citizens are being put at risk by the Syrian government's reckless actions," Proser wrote. "Israel has shown maximum restraint thus far."
IAEA says not yet contacted by Syria rebels about ex-nuclear site he U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has long sought access to a site in Syria's desert Deir al-Zor region that U.S. intelligence reports say was a nascent, North Korean-designed reactor geared to producing plutonium for nuclear weapons before Israel bombed it in 2007. On February 24, opposition sources in eastern Syria said rebels had captured the destroyed site near the Euphrates River. "Certainly we are aware of the report on (the) rebel group's offer to invite us to the site of Deir al-Zor but we are not aware of any communication to that effect," Amano, IAEA director general, told a news conference, referring to a media report last month.
Iraq ambush kills 48 'unarmed, wounded' Syrian soldiers The ambush in Anbar province, a day after a key Syrian opposition group accused Iraq of interfering in Syria, threatens to entangle Baghdad in its neighbour's civil war -- something it has tried hard to avoid. "This confirms our fears of the attempt of some to move the conflict to Iraq, but we will face these attempts by all sides with all of our power," Ali Mussawi, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's spokesman, said of the ambush.

No endgame in sight for Syria's civil war Last week's events provided a glimmer of hope but at this point it's still difficult to see signs of an endgame in Syria.


Special Reports
Just as the Leader forces crowds into the streets, the Assad regime controlled the masses through fear and intimidation until, nearly two years ago, Syrians resisted and started protesting for reform—only to be shot in the streets. They demanded Assad’s downfall instead. Another word came to Sirees: slavery. “If a slave ran away, his master would find him and kill him,” he said. “The same is happening now. If anyone defects from the Army, from his post, his party—if he defects from the masses—in the mind of the leader, he deserves to be executed.”
Syria's Aleppo Province elected a local council this weekend, replacing an interim local government and taking a step toward restoring some semblance of order to the war-torn province.
I think there’s a sense everywhere that the stalemate is increasingly bloody, increasingly costly and is really putting the future of Syria as a state at risk. I think the conventional wisdom everywhere is that intervention is risky and may have unintentional consequences. Iraq and Afghanistan have left everybody with a bad taste about intervention. Syria is showing us that doing nothing can be just as bad.
On February 20, an unexploded rocket was found in Hermel’s al-Qasr village, in the eastern Bekaa Valley on the border with Syria. It had allegedly been fired from Syria by the Free Syrian Army rebels to counter an attack from Hezbollah fighters. Two days later, the Free Syrian Army accused Hezbollah of invading villages inside Syria and issued an ultimatum to the Party of God to cease its operations in their country or face attacks on its installations in the Hermel region of Lebanon. The ultimatum did not end with a war between the FSA and Hezbollah. But the stand-off did shed light on a battle between the Syrian rebels and Hezbollah fighters that has been going on for months in Syrian villages in Qusayr area, next to the Lebanese border. A few days after the FSA ultimatum, Hermel was quiet, but residents warned that “many journalists [have been] arrested and expelled from these parts.” A resident told NOW that “Hezbollah is keeping this area under very strict control.”
Syrian rebel leader General Salim Idris was a general in the army of Syria's dictator, Bashar al Assad until he defected 10 months ago. He speaks with Margaret Brennan about what anti-regime forces need from the U.S. to bring down Assad.
In a town market in Douma – a Damascus suburb under the control of the FSA – some local shopkeepers are seemingly reluctant to take sides in a conflict which has wracked the country for the past two years. Abu Abdo, an elderly shoemaker in his seventies told me his mind when I asked him his opinion: "I just want to live and work so I can feed my family. I don't care who rules because [whoever comes in] will always be a corrupt hypocrite. Both sides – the regime and the opposition aren't worth supporting as they both steal and kill. Death, homelessness and destruction is all that we've got from them".

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.

The “Aleppo” Elections

The fact that elections for the new ruling council in Aleppo took place in Gaziantep, Turkey, is in itself a clear indication of the virtual impossibility of establishing the mere semblance of normal governance in any of the liberated territories, so long as the skies are not safe. The elections that took place could not have been in any way shape or form representative of the real communal and political diversity in Aleppo City, and making too much out of it gives too much legitimacy to a group that plans to conduct its affairs on the basis of Sharia law without consulting or paying any difference to the existing civil code. The people did not rise up against the civil code, they rose up against corruption and authoritarianism. The intentions of the people who organized and took part in the elections are probably good, but they are limited by their ideological predilections, limited experience and social backgrounds.

So, let’s not spin this development: it’s actually a sign of how bad things are in Syria today, and a testament to how the international community is facilitating the rise of Islamists, moderates and extremists, through its indifference. Only a no-fly zone can enable people to organize reliable elections in liberated territories, thus ensuring adequate participation and representation. The Islamists might still dominate the political process, considering all that has taken place so far, but there is a difference between a 50% representation and a 90% representation.


Iran has taken command inside Syria and is maneuvering to create a new leadership structure; in the meantime Assad’s regime has crumbled to merely a fa├žade. Evidence of this can be found most obviously in the 9 January prisoner swap between opposition and regime forces, as well as in the increased role Iran has recently been playing in military planning and operations…

… Further, Iran is building a sectarian Alawite- and Shia-majority militia, Ammar Abdulhamid, a pro-democracy Syrian activist based in Washington DC, and the head of the Tharwa Foundation, tells NOW. Abdulhamid believes this new militia will seek to maintain old alliances with minority communities, loyalist Sunni clans and groups, while attempting to forge new ones in the future among potential ‘rogue’ rebel units who would be more interested in carving out turf for themselves than in the fate of the country.

“At this stage,” adds Abdulhamid, “Assad is a mere placeholder. Despite the all-too-real cult of personality that surrounds Assad in the ranks of the Alawite community, this does not ensure his long-term survival. Iran eventually wants a group that will be beholden to [it] first, not to Assad,” says Abdulhamid.

Video Highlights

The “liberation” of Raqqa City

The rebels in charge of the liberation were all members of Jabhat Al-Nusra, Ahrar Al-Sham and the Syrian Islamic Front.

Protesters in Raqqa City bring down a giant statue of Hafiz Al-Assad soon after rebels entered in the city http://youtu.be/85uiTAjIN-A , http://youtu.be/zO2WRlepeKQ , http://youtu.be/85uiTAjIN-A But they soon came under mortar fire from pro-regime forces still active in the outskirts of the city http://youtu.be/leEbu51Et-4 , http://youtu.be/sSojL9Y0cEA The dead and wounded line the streets http://youtu.be/0e1NJyiVGxI

Scenes from the last battles that preceded the liberation of the city: an attack on a local police headquarters (Hajjaneh) http://youtu.be/IA7iwOyDxe4 Rebels claim victory http://youtu.be/f5bgZeZBTXQ Then proceed to liberate another checkpoint inside the City’s perimeters http://youtu.be/WRCRlOf8TMY A victory parade http://youtu.be/GbYn24z06_w , http://youtu.be/28ufMYXkLo0 Rebels take over the local security headquarters http://youtu.be/Ryou6NYqgnE Rebels protest the local archeological museum http://youtu.be/EnbSShfMT54 Then move to secure the Governor’s Palace http://youtu.be/tQyPbCqj2As The Governor, Hassan Salih Jalali, and the local Baath leader are arrested http://youtu.be/T9RJ0fzWiCc

Destroying a picture of Khamenei found in a local security headquarters http://youtu.be/7lgITlPIVmI

Pro-Assad militias are not giving up though, and they have formed their own resistance group to fight back http://youtu.be/MpVOz1zuRRo

In Raqqa’s second largest city of Tabaqa, rebels clash with remnant of the regime forces http://youtu.be/6b4o9Ge44JU , http://youtu.be/fm5UfRormcc

Aleppo

Col. Abdel-Jabbar Al-Oqaidi inspects the siege of Minnigh Airport, Aleppo http://youtu.be/Zmrs4yeegew Rebels continue their siege http://youtu.be/Ucpo4jzLaE0 and prepare for the final assault http://youtu.be/jNvkSA5Ysds Rebels pounding the military airport of Kuweiris http://youtu.be/tb81mcJuB8w

Hassakeh

In the town of Shdadi, Hassakeh Province, rebels bring down the regime’s flags from the local oilfield installation http://youtu.be/Amdxgm3CCtk  and celebrate their victory with Jabhat Al-Nusra cries of “Our eternal leader is our Master Muhammad” http://youtu.be/293s9KeEDUw

Rebels control the Yaroubiya Border Checkpoint with Iraq http://youtu.be/G7GfoUEBAQs

Homs

The attack on the rebel strongholds in central Homs City intensifies http://youtu.be/R4NGYHp1FEk