Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Exits Assad!

In case of Assad, a proof of life is no longer sufficient to make him relevant. Indeed, there is a difference between being “calm under fire” and being “disconnected from reality,” while Assad attempt to project the former image, his actions indicates that, at heart, he fits the latter mold. More importantly, both the revolution and the crackdown will proceed irrespective of his presence or absence. There is no longer any need for an exit strategy for a man who has imperceptibly exited the scene.

Tuesday April 2, 2013

Today’s Death Toll: 113 martyrs, including 7 women, 5 children and 2 martyrs who died under torture. 58 in Damascus and suburbs; 16 in Aleppo; 11 in Qunaitera; 10 in Homs; 7 in Idib; 6 in Daraa; 2 in Hama; 1 in Raqqa and 1 in Deir Ezzor (LCCs).

Points of Random Shelling: 301 points. Warplanes bombed 9 points. Regime forces launched 8 surface-to-surface missiles, most of which targeted the Yarmouk refugee camp and Hajar Aswad neighborhood in Damascus. Explosive barrels were used in 4 points, and mortars in 105. 108 points were shelled with artillery, and 67 points were shelled with rocket launchers (LCCs).

Clashes: 119. Successful rebel operations included shooting down a warplane that was shelling the area of Maaret Al-Numan in Idlib, and shelling Wadi Dayf and Khazanat Camp using locally-made Grad rockets. In Hama, rebels targeted the checkpoints of Breideej, Tal Othman an Al-Mughir using mortars, in addition to hitting Hama Military Airport with two rockets. In Daraa, FSA rebels shelled Air Defense battalion using rocket launchers. In Damascus and its Suburbs, the FSA liberated the checkpoint of Ibn Sina Hospital and Masah Walid in Adra; they also targeted loyalist militias positions in Abbasiyeen Square (LCCs).

News
Syrian forces pound opposition strongholds in Damascus Damascus has become a key battleground in the civil war. From their strongholds in the suburbs, rebel fighters are trying to slowly push their way into the heart of the capital. Assad has deployed his most loyal and best equipped troops there, trying to insulate it from the violence.
Israel Says Its Tanks Responded to Shots Fired From Syrian Side There were no injuries on the Israeli side, but Tuesday’s tank fire represented the second time in 10 days that Israel had responded to fire from Syria, a sign of increasing spillover from Syria’s bloody civil war. On March 24, the Israeli military said it destroyed a Syrian machine gun post after two Israeli patrols came under fire from across the decades-old cease-fire line, which is monitored by the United Nations. Israel’s defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, toured the Golan Heights frontier on Tuesday morning, where he was briefed by the chief of staff and regional commanders.
Syria: UN food agency convoys increasingly caught in conflict “It has become a struggle now to move food from one area to the other with our warehouses and trucks getting increasingly caught in the crossfire,” said Muhannad Hadi, WFP Regional Emergency Coordinator for the Syria crisis. “We are sometimes left with the difficult decision of calling off the dispatch of food to a place where we know there is dire need for it.”
Syria's crisis: The extent of the suffering A new report on the northern city of Aleppo goes some way to showing how dire the situation is. Researchers funded by a group of humanitarian agencies, including Britain's Department for International Development, spent two weeks surveying 52 of 125 neighbourhoods in the city, Syria's most populous, which has been stuck in a tug of war between regime and opposition forces since July 2012. The findings are some of the most detailed yet.
Rape and sham marriages: the fears of Syria's women refugees As well as the fear of attack , there is another more insidious assault on the women and girls of Zaatari. Men - usually from Saudi Arabia and other gulf states - are given free rein at the camp. Coming in the guise of benefactors offering charity, in return many want a wife. But these are marriages of convenience - for the men at least. So called "pleasure marriages", they give cover - a sheen of respectability - to what is often wealthy men exploiting vulnerable women for sex.
Disease stalks Iraqi camps for Syrians: UNHCR "Pressure to accommodate refugees is growing," said Adrian Edwards, spokesman for the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. "The crowding is in turn having an impact on sanitation, which is already below humanitarian standards. Congestion and warmer temperatures are increasing vulnerability to outbreaks of diseases as well as to tension between camp residents," he told reporters in Geneva. As of the end of March, a total of 121,320 Syrian refugees were registered in Iraq, Edwards said, with 90 percent of them hosted in the country's Kurdistan region. The situation at a camp at Domiz, in northwestern Iraq, is particularly worrying, he noted.
Assad offers kidnappers amnesty deal Kidnappers who do not release victims within the 15 days will be sentenced to “a life of hard labor,” or executed if their victims have been killed or sexually abused, state news agency SANA reported. “Anyone who has kidnapped a person for a ransom and deprived him of his liberty for political, financial or sectarian reasons will be sentenced to a life of hard labor,” said the decree, according to SANA.
In north Syria, eating herbs to survive "We eat herbs and collect stagnant rainwater to drink and wash in," says 24-year-old Hisham, his head covered in a red and white chequered keffiyeh scarf. Hisham, who sports a budding blonde beard, was about to enter university when the fighting that has engulfed Syria erupted in 2011. Now he has joined the wave of his compatriots displaced by the conflict.
Syria crisis: Lebanon struggles with influx of refugees An estimated 400,000 Syrian refugees have crossed the border into Lebanon since the start of the fighting. However the influx of people is challenging for such a small country - and creating tension with local people.
Conflict dents loyalties of Golan Druze The Golan’s native Druze have remained fiercely loyal to Damascus through 46 years of Israeli occupation but as the Syrian war draws ever closer, it is dividing the tight-knit community. With the sound of fighting between Damascus troops and rebels booming from just across the armistice line that separates them from their compatriots, some among the Golan’s 20,000 Druze are beginning to question their longstanding devotion to the Syrian regime.
By the numbers: Syria deaths Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in Syria since unrest began in the country two years ago, according to the latest estimate from the United Nations. And that might actually be an underestimate. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Syria's raging civil war has made it "increasingly challenging" to collect accurate and reliable data. But even if that number is on the low side, it does provide a way to put Syria's conflict in historical context.

Special Reports
Sorting out the Syrian opposition Even though the rebels have only loose coordination, they have become a potent force. They have seized control of most of Aleppo and northern Syria, and they are tightening their grip on Damascus, controlling many of the access routes east and south of the city, according to rebel sources. Free Syrian Army leaders believe that the battle for Damascus will reach its climax in the next two to three months.
Amid Syria's Atrocities, Kurds Scratch Out a Home: Will the minority group succeed at creating a flourishing, autonomous region after Assad? The Syrian Kurds are determined to preserve their fragile autonomy, but rebels, backed by the Turkish government, are equally committed to nullifying it… if Syria is to split, the Kurdish part of it stands a fair chance of emerging as the most stable, peaceful part of the country. The most one can perhaps legitimately hope for is that the PYD ascendancy in northeast Syria will secure a way for Syria's Kurds and the other minorities that live among them to avoid the worst atrocities of the civil war in Syria, for as long as it lasts by securing their area of control, and continuing to deny entrance to regime and rebels alike.
A Black Flag In Raqqa For the next few hours, the men engaged in a combative and highly charged discussion. It was about the black banner, but more than that about the direction the Syrian uprising has taken. The men of the house feared that it had been hijacked by Islamists, led by Jabhat al-Nusra, who saw the fall of the regime as the first step in transforming Syria’s once-cosmopolitan society into a conservative Islamic state. All four men said they wanted an Islamic state, but a moderate one.
U.S. restraint in Syria could aid Iran nuclear talks President Barack Obama's reluctance to give military aid to Syrian rebels may be explained, in part, in three words: Iranian nuclear weapons… "You can argue it either way, but in the end I think the collapse of Assad makes a nuclear deal more likely, because the Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) will feel more isolated, under greater pressure, more likely to make tactical concessions in order to relieve further isolation and pressure," Samore said Monday. "Of course, that is not going to change his fundamental interest in acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. I think it will confirm for him that the best way to defend himself against countries like the United States is to have that capacity."
Portrait of an Activist: Razan Ghazzawi, the Syrian Blogger Turned Exile Despite her outspokenness, Ghazzawi is also self-effacing to a fault, and she has been uncomfortable with the international attention that came with her arrests. She is critical of the way the international media elevates the voices of English-speaking activists like her. “I was not fearless. I am still not fearless. I wrote in English because they [the regime] don’t read English. Those who are fearless are those who write in Arabic, and they write in their real name,” she says, bringing up bloggers like Hussein Ghrer, who has been jailed for over a year after writing under his own name.

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.

Quickly Noted

* Bashar Al-Assad has reportedly given an exclusive interview to a Turkish channel that will be aired this Friday, this is the promotional clip that the channel is currently airing http://youtu.be/_L4n3edvQYA In it, Assad is commenting on the assassination of Sheikh Ramadan Al-Bouti, saying that he was a key figure in combating the sectarianism of the rebels and that he was not the only religious figure to be assassinated by them.

Video Highlights


MiGs take part in bombing Eastern Ghouta: Saqba http://youtu.be/5ZQ4cjONwvA , http://youtu.be/gh9ufLDvBw4

To the west, the suburb of Daraya comes under fire http://youtu.be/gh9ufLDvBw4 Tanks continue to operate at the outskirts of the suburb http://youtu.be/zWiEU1Fr9bk

Homs City: the pounding of rebel strongholds continues http://youtu.be/K4TNPCQ6E9s , http://youtu.be/FpbXvcVF6-4

Scenes from rebel operations around Raqqa City http://youtu.be/xwbi3wLLNhU , http://youtu.be/ERwD5ahHN6M Operations near Tabqa City in Raqqa province http://youtu.be/hPtDZx3OVm4 But as this 6-minute tour of the city of Raqqa shows, life is very much back to normal there and rebels groups do not seem to maintain any overt presence there http://youtu.be/lyKJkpSE1G8