Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Road Ahead!

Government goes down in Lebanon. Truce declared between PKK and Turkey. Israel apologizes to Turkey. Turkey accepts. ‘Tis nothing but a region rearranging itself around developments in Syria, in preparation for rearranging Syria herself. The end result, in the words of President Obama, will not be “ideal.” It’s going to take many more years of civil activism to make it so. But then, that’s how revolutions work. You start with a protest that triggers a civil war that metastasizes into a proxy war that leads to new external arrangements which, in turn, “inspire” internal arrangements, and violĂ : a  new order emerges that needs to be challenged in new ways to become popularly legitimate, stable and durable. But at least that’s the optimistic take on things. On the long run, I am forever an optimist. It’s the short run that kills me.  

Friday March 22, 2013

Today’s Death Toll: 100 martyrs, including 5 women, 12 children and 2 martyrs under torture: 28 in Damascus and Suburbs, 18 in Daraa, 17 in Hama (9 executed in Kernaz), 13 in Aleppo, 9 in Homs, 5 in Raqqa, 5 in Idlib, and 5 in Deir Ezzor (LCCs).

Points of Random Shelling: 340 points. Shelling with warplanes 14 points. Explosive barrels in 6 points. Scud missiles in 3. Surface-to-surface missiles in 3. Shelling with mortars in 107. Artillery in 112. Rocket launchers in 95 (LCCs).

Clashes: 110. Successful rebel operations include shooting down a MIG warplane in eastern Hama Province and targeting an armored car in Tal Othman. In Homs, FSA rebels imposed a siege on the Dabaa military airport and repelled several attempt by regime forces to storm the old neighborhoods of Homs City, and of the town of Al-Dar Al-Kabira. In Daraa, rebels liberated the checkpoint at Janin and destroyed an armored vehicle in Sheik Meskin. In Aleppo City, rebels regained control of Saed Bin Abi Waqqas Mosque in Salah Eddin neighborhood. In Damascus, rebels in Daraya destroyed a T72 tank and repelled attempts to storm (LCCs).

News
Obama Warns Syria Could Become Enclave For Extremists “I am very concerned about Syria becoming an enclave for extremism because extremists thrive in chaos,” the president said at a joint news conference with Jordan’s King Abdullah II. “They don’t have much to offer when it comes to actually building things, but they’re very good about exploiting situations that are no longer functioning. They fill that gap.” Obama said he was certain that Assad will go, saying “it’s not a question of if, it’s when,” and urged the international community to work together to accelerate a viable political transition. “We can’t do it alone, and the outcome in Syria is not going to be ideal. Even if we execute our assistance and our coordination and our planning and our support flawlessly, the situation in Syria now is going to be difficult,” he said. “Something has been broken in Syria, and it’s not going to be put back together perfectly immediately anytime soon, even after Assad leaves,” he said.
Lebanon’s government falls “I have sought, as much as I could, to preserve Lebanon and keep it away from erupting volcanoes to protect the balance [in the country]," he added. The premier called for the formation of a national-salvation government, saying, "There will be no rescue [for Lebanon] except through dialogue and making room for the formation of a salvation government in which all groups are represented.” Miqati's resignation came after the cabinet failed to approve the formation of a supervisory electoral body and did not vote on the extension of the tenure of Internal Security Forces chief Ashraf Rifi, who like Miqati is a prominent Sunni figure from Tripoli. The PM said it was "necessary that Rifi continues to hold his position during these circumstances."
Israeli Apology Resets Alliance With Turkey: Netanyahu's Contrition on 2010 Raid Offers U.S. Renewed Leverage in Mideast The rapprochement between the two countries could boost Ankara's bid to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, if it results in the pooling of Israel's technology and intelligence capabilities with Turkey's robust military presence on the Syrian border, analysts said.
France, Britain fail to win easing of Syria arms ban Paris and London want to exempt Assad's opponents from an EU arms embargo, a step they believe would raise pressure on Assad to negotiate after two years of a civil war that has claimed 70,000 lives. But they won little support from other EU member states at a foreign ministers' meeting in Dublin, diplomats said, despite raising concerns about chemical weapons to bolster their case.
On Capitol Hill, calls for action in Syria Two senior U.S. senators who are influential in Washington on national security and foreign policy circles sent Obama a letter on Thursday urging him to do just that. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told Obama he should use air strikes and take other measures to cripple Assad’s military, boost the opposition and protect Syrian citizens. On Friday, several senators joined the chorus arguing for intervention, and several others signaled they are not opposed.
Armenians Flee War In Syria For Homeland, One Century After They Left Mass Killings In Turkey ArmeniaNow, which is published by a nongovernmental organization, has reported that at least 6,000 Armenian families have departed or were forced out of Syria since the civil war erupted two years ago. BBC reports the number is closer to 10,000.

The Jihadist from Phoenix Eric Harroun claims to have joined up with an al Qaeda-linked group fighting in Syria’s brutal civil war. We tracked him down, but getting the truth was more difficult.
Syria's refugee brides:'My daughter is willing to sacrifice herself for her family' Refugee brides: Woman takes a cut to help Syrian refugee girls in Jordan find Arab grooms from all over Middle East

Special Reports
The provision of actionable intelligence to small rebel units which have been vetted by the CIA represents an increase in U.S. involvement in the two-year-old conflict, the officials said. The CIA would neither confirm nor deny any role in providing training or intelligence to the Syrian rebels… The CIA has sent officers to Turkey to help vet rebels that receive arms shipments from Gulf allies, but administration officials say the results have been mixed, citing concerns about weapons going to Islamists. In Iraq, the CIA has been directed by the White House to work with elite counterterrorism units to help the Iraqis counter the flow of al Qaeda-linked fighters across the border with Syria. The West favors fighters aligned with the Free Syrian Army, which supports the Syrian Opposition Coalition political group… The U.S. uses satellites and other surveillance systems to collect intelligence on Syrian troop and aircraft movements as well as weapons depots. Officials say powerful radar arrays in Turkey are likewise used to track Syrian ballistic missiles and can pinpoint launch sites.
The Dom: Syria's Invisible Refugeesone ethnic minority has undergone more than its share of suffering — both during the current fighting and for centuries preceding it — and few outside of Syria know much about it. The group is known as the Dom and it has been a presence in Syria since before the Ottoman Empire. Often mislabeled by the pejorative “gypsies,” the Dom get their name from their language, Domari, means “man.”  They have joined the exodus of Christian, Muslim and other Syrians refugees into Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and beyond.  But wherever they go, they generally face a less than warm welcome.

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

Activists from the town of Yelda in Eastern Ghoutah, Damascus Suburbs, claim that the pink smoke we see here is a poison gas that has been used against local populations leading to a number of cases of suffocation http://youtu.be/Jr7S0AJyHrE Elsewhere in the city, in the neighborhood of Sidi Qaddad, the pounding leave several dead http://youtu.be/ChS1nVQJKS0 , http://youtu.be/_Dt_CYPXlX4

Al-Jazeerah correspondent, Ahmad Zeidan, embedded with the rebels around the Damascus claims that rebels killed two Afghan militiamen today who were taking part in the protection of Ruqaiyah Shrine in Damascus City. There is a small Shia population in Damascus whose members hail from different parts of South Asia, and the regime has been recruiting them for its operations around Shia shrines. As sectarianism increases, it is quite likely that the regime could attempt to recruit Shia fighters from across the world and not only Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey (Alawites) to carry on its war, as I argued in Rise of the Warlords.

Douma and other rebel strongholds in Eastern Ghoutah, Damascus Suburbs, come under intense shelling http://youtu.be/VrsrrQ--qoQ Zamalka http://youtu.be/jyL5PWag86s , http://youtu.be/2OEjdrRU-6I

The pounding of rebel strongholds in Damascus City continues: Yarmouk Camp http://youtu.be/ZQwX1AwTwlM Maisat http://youtu.be/IHXXhosCVO4 Tadamon http://youtu.be/sxP9CdRuaws , http://youtu.be/kLnUF-tvFKU

Rebels gathering to carry out attack on a local loyalist regiment on the southern outskirts of Damascus City http://youtu.be/Ga6AtHMuPf0 , http://youtu.be/orA12X0z1oo Soon, MIG fighters began pounding rebel positions http://youtu.be/ERbv0gX2nTE

In Eastern Ghoutah, rebels from the Maghaweer Brigades continue their “cleanup operations” against loyalist outpost consolidating rebel hold on the ground http://youtu.be/Qj4l_vtHcg0

To the West, the pounding of the town of Daraya continues http://youtu.be/a7LmFtf5QFU

Violent clashes between rebels and loyalists continue to rock Daraa City http://youtu.be/NKBMMGUFDHM , http://youtu.be/KuwUM_MczGI House to house combat http://youtu.be/qzkcdj3p3Cc Street to street http://youtu.be/AadTgx71Y4o

Al-Wa’er Neighborhood in Homs city comes under intense shelling http://youtu.be/aV8FHjMLKfE Fires erupt http://youtu.be/SIbxjeHZ_4E , http://youtu.be/kxdUizUgpuM , http://youtu.be/UjEJncRT8uA Khaldiyeh neighborhood was also targeted http://youtu.be/01_CxrWv1-8

The pounding of the town of Rastan continues http://youtu.be/npdhOfhqr9o , http://youtu.be/Ll-u3rCMByI

Jabhat Al-Nusrah consolidates its hold on the town of Kabajib in Deir Ezzor Province, by clearing the last loyalist outpost and capturing these prisoners http://youtu.be/yALJ-Wbkbbw