Monday, April 22, 2013

Betting on America!

You let a man get away with murder once and he might think that you didn’t notice, twice, and he might think that you are infirm of purpose, but letting him get away with it, shall we say, 100,000 times, and he might just mistake you for an ally, your rhetoric notwithstanding. This is how Assad thinks about America. But don’t take my word for it, take his: “The Americans have been pragmatic from the very beginning and never pursued any course to its [logical] conclusion. They would eventually side with the victor."

Monday April 22, 2013

Death Toll: 106 martyrs, including 3 women, 5 children, and 8 under torture: 47 in Damascus and Suburbs; 24 in Aleppo; 12 in Idlib; 10 in Homs; 4 in Daraa; 4 in Deir Ezzor; 2 in Hama; 1 in Raqqa; and 1 in Lattakia (LCC).

News
Up to 500 feared dead in Damascus suburb: activistsAt least 109 people have been documented as killed and up to 400 more are likely to have died in an almost week-long offensive by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on a rebellious Damascus suburb, opposition activists said. If the accounts are confirmed, the killings in the mainly Sunni Muslim suburb of Jdeidet al-Fadel would amount to one of bloodiest episodes of the two-year-old uprising against Assad. Many of the dead were civilians, the activists said.
Lebanese Salafists call for jihad in Syria The calls by Sidon’s Sheikh Ahmad Assir and Tripoli’s Sheikh Salem alRifai, staunch supporters of the Syrian uprising, came as the newly appointed head of Syria’s opposition National Coalition warned that Hezbollah’s role in fighting in the central Syrian province of Homs amounted to a “declaration of war.” “What is happening in Homs is a declaration of war against the Syrian people and the Arab League should deal with it on this basis,” George Sabra said in Istanbul shortly after the opposition bloc announced his appointment as interim chief. “The Lebanese president and the Lebanese government should realize the danger that it poses to the lives of Syrians and the future relations between the two peoples and countries.” His statement follows reports that fighters from Hezbollah were taking the lead in the Syrian regime’s battle against rebel groups the Al-Qusair area of Homs.
Syria says two bishops kidnapped by rebels SANA news agency said the Syriac Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo, Yohanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi, were seized by "a terrorist group" in the village of Kfar Dael as they were "carrying out humanitarian work". A Syriac member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Abdulahad Steifo, said the men had been kidnapped on the road to Aleppo from the rebel-held Bab al Hawa crossing with Turkey. Several prominent Muslim clerics have been killed in Syria's uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, but the two bishops are the most senior church leaders caught up in the conflict which has killed more than 70,000 people across Syria.
EU lifts Syria oil embargo to bolster rebels he decision will allow for crude exports from rebel-held territory, the import of oil and gas production technology, and investments in the Syrian oil industry, the EU said in a statement. Any export or investment initiatives will be taken in close coordination with the leaders of the Syrian opposition, the bloc's 27 foreign ministers decided at a meeting in Luxembourg. The move marks the first relaxing of EU sanctions on Syria in two years as governments try to help ease shortages of vital supplies in areas held by the opposition in the civil war-struck Arab state.
Rebels warn Hezbollah to stay out of Syria Syrian National Coalition urges the Lebanese government to 'adopt the necessary measures to stop the aggression' of the pro-Assad Shi'ite group.
Syria’s pro-Assad hackers are hijacking high-profile Twitter feeds On Saturday, hackers identifying as members of the Syrian Electronic Army defaced four Twitter accounts owned by CBS News, including the “60 Minutes” account, which had 320,000 followers until it was disabled by Twitter in apparent response to the hacks. The messages were among some of the pro-Assad hackers’ most elaborate, a long string of messages that accused the United States of supporting terrorism in Syria as part of a larger plot to impose a one-world government.
Health Experts: Leishmaniasis on the Rise in War-Torn Syria Health workers in northern Syria have reported a dramatic rise in cases of Leishmaniasis--locally dubbed “Aleppo Button Disease” for the sores it produces--and are calling on the World Health Organization and other international agencies for help. 
Car bombs on the rise in Syria, report shows The introduction to the VDC report notes that both the regime and the rebels have accused each other for bearing responsibility for all those unclaimed car bombs and explosions, which thus far have killed 1,156 civilians and rebels – including 120 children and 93 women, and only 106 opposition fighters – and 389 regime soldiers. The Daily Star could not independently verify the contents of the report.
Syrian opposition to establish moderate form of Islamic law he legal code was drawn up by Muslim scholars, judges and top anti-Assad politicians in advance of meetings this week in Istanbul convened by the Syrian National Council (SNC), where transitional justice arrangements are being discussed. The opposition hopes that an interim government, as yet unformed, will apply a version of the new legal system nationwide, after it goes into effect in areas currently controlled by the insurgents.

Investigative Reports
No Exit: Syria’s War Through the Eyes of a Fighter on Both Sides Rebel fighter Siraj, who only uses one name to protect his family still in Damascus, understands that reluctance. Something has happened over the course of the war that corrupted even the most upright of leaders, he says. Once he defected from the Syrian Army in early 2012, he quickly climbed the ranks of a well-regarded rebel brigade fighting near Homs. But he was blinded in one eye in the battle of Baba Amr and escaped to Lebanon for surgery. When he returned to Syria a few months later, he was shocked by the levels of corruption and thievery within the ranks of his own brigade. The weapons he arranged to have smuggled over the border from Lebanon had been sold off for cash, and comrades who once winced at firing a gun now relished in the kill. Acts of battlefield barbarity had become commonplace. He saw corpses mutilated and watched opposition fighters steal from the populations they were supposed to be defending. “I started thinking, ‘Why am I in this fight?’ I sacrificed my life, my sight, my education because I thought I was on the right side. But the way they were behaving, they made me think this side isn’t so good either.” Disillusioned, Siraj joined a Salafist brigade near Damascus similar to Jabhat al-Nusra. Al-Nusra stands out for its designation as a terrorist group, but there are many fighting brigades in Syria that share its jihadi ethics and prowess on the battlefield. They may not have formally joined al-Qaeda, but they do not disguise their admiration for the global terrorist organization. Siraj’s experience with the jihadis gave him pause. He appreciated their discipline and ironclad rules — no stealing, no killing of women and children, and no raping. But he soon realized that the group, largely made up of foreign fighters, had a different vision for his country. “They saw another Syria,” says Siraj. “A land for fighters, a place for guns, for training, where there is no law and no government. They wanted to make Syria a land of jihad. And I thought, ‘What about our revolution?’” So he left, eventually ending up in an apartment where he lives with other refugees of the Syrian war.
Peter Harling & Sarah Birke: The Syrian Heartbreak The regime and its allies have lost any moral standing in what they chose early on to frame as an existential struggle, in which self-serving ends justify abominable means. Much of the opposition, in response, has gradually adopted a similar worldview, brandishing its enemy’s ruthlessness to excuse its own excesses, to the point of no longer recognizing them as wrong. “I see the change in myself and in my men,” commented one rebel commander with discomfort. He described moving from feeling sorry for his opponents to summarily executing them. Several months later, he has stopped worrying about it. More than ever, one side’s casualties erase any regret for the other’s losses. Fighters see their predicament as a zero-sum game: Kill or be killed. Even some of the smartest activists have started to say that soldiers (and, in some cases, ‘Alawis) -- who they once described as “brothers” -- deserve whatever they get for failing to desert the regime.

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.

Assad’s American Bet

In his meeting with a Lebanese delegation from the pro-Hezbollah March 8 coalition on April 21st, Assad revealed an important element in his thinking at this stage when he told his guests that “The Americans have been pragmatic from the very beginning, and never pursued any course to its [logical] conclusion.  They would eventually side with the victor."

Over the years, the Americans have given Assad plenty of reason to think like this. Even under the Bush Administration, pressures on Assad were lessened in order to allow for Syria’s participation in the Annapolis peace conference. Under the Obama Administration, he was treated as a reformer for reasons more closely linked to the Administration’s ideological stands than Assad’s own record. Then, and ever since the beginning of the Revolution, and despite calls on him to step down, Assad has been allowed by the Administration to literally get away with murder, not once or twice, but 100,000 times by conservative estimates, as red lines keep shifting and vanishing.

Assad has been given too many opportunities before, and has been allowed to get away with too many things to think differently. His father’s own career, especially, his relations with various American administrations would also go a long way in reinforcing this.

At this stage, Assad’s entire strategy seems hedged on surviving long enough for America to come around and hitch her regional wagons to him again.

Video Highlights

Leaked video from the village of Mukharram, Homs Province, shows pro-Assad militias setting the corpses of several rebels on fire http://youtu.be/2IG3y5S9Qm4

An Alawite supporter of Assad in Tripoli Lebanon gets abused by local rebel sympathizers, as sectarian tension keep escalating http://youtu.be/FPBPkrB9kS0

Rebels in Aleppo showcase their gains from a recent takeover of a loyalist position, known as Al-Alkamiyah http://youtu.be/k8hvJGWztZs , http://youtu.be/VNvZf51_uR0 Scenes from the clashes http://youtu.be/h2KweUjprAY The position of a strategic importance and its capture could facilitate the takeover the military airport a Minnigh.  

Loyalists take up positions around the town of Hraak, Daraa Province http://youtu.be/YRPtm0jJj-w Prepare their own tanks for the looming confrontation http://youtu.be/e5FRcJULDEI and their anti-aircraft batteries http://youtu.be/oTtjqeayeVQ Rebels and loyalists clash near Khirbet Ghazaleh http://youtu.be/lQbBUjFmlhw and around Basra Al-Sham http://youtu.be/gCMwSsIk_xA

The intensive pounding of Jobar Neighborhood, Damascus City http://youtu.be/eCnia0HIY-g , http://youtu.be/TEkXMxdabkA leaves a family of 5 dead http://youtu.be/NDNluhqKjRw

Aerial bombardment on rebel strongholds in Eastern Ghoutah, Damascus Suburbs, continues: Saqba http://youtu.be/Cs42CzEZNH0 , http://youtu.be/voqIhyRFGXs , http://youtu.be/oNqedJTNYos Kafar Batna http://youtu.be/ziZM6UaWSFI , http://youtu.be/tM7WHjqiFWE Zamalka http://youtu.be/pBQx6ICaEU8

To the West, the suburb of Moadamiyah continues to be pounded http://youtu.be/myC3GICbQoE Nearby Daraya comes under aerial attack http://youtu.be/uvYXL-Um3Kk , http://youtu.be/FksTL-Kaqio