Thursday, April 11, 2013

Impunity Central!

While some seem to have perfected the art of killing with impunity, others are busy perfecting the art of watching them with impunity. Ours is the Golden Age of Impunity.

Wednesday April 10, 2013

U.N. talks with Syria on chemical arms probe at "impasse" Syria and the United Nations have been exchanging letters for weeks but the two sides are far from agreement on how the investigation should be run, diplomats said on condition of anonymity.
Syria refugees struggle outside Jordan camps Thousands of Syrians who fled homeland live in abandoned buildings and struggle for humanitarian aid.
Israel may be operating in Syria: Troops are allegedly working to identify wounded Syrians and administer basic medical care A senior Israeli source told GlobalPost that wounded Syrian rebels who have received medical care in Israel “are transported across the border only once they are positively identified and receive initial emergency medical treatment while still on the other side,” meaning on Syrian soil. This indicates a much higher level of activity by Israel in rebel-held lands than has previously been acknowledged. It also is a sign that Israel is willing to put some of its own personnel in significant peril in order to retain some semblance of order at the national boundary line.
Israel indicts Arab citizen for joining Syria's insurgency An Israeli official said Hikmat Massarwa's case was the first of its kind. Indicted for unlawful military training, travel to a hostile country and contacts with foreign agents, he could be jailed for up to 15 years if convicted. Massarwa, 29, was arrested on March 19 upon returning from Syria, where he helped set up a rebel base and underwent weapons training, Israel's Shin Bet domestic intelligence service said in a statement.
Human Rights Watch - Syria: Aerial Attacks Strike Civilians The 80-page report, “Death from the Skies: Deliberate and Indiscriminate Air Strikes on Civilians,” is based on visits to 50 sites of government air strikes in opposition-controlled areas in Aleppo, Idlib, and Latakia governorates, and more than 140 interviews with witnesses and victims. The air strikes Human Rights Watch documented killed at least 152 civilians. According to a network of local Syrian activists, air strikes have killed more than 4,300 civilians across Syria since July 2012. “In village after village, we found a civilian population terrified by their country’s own air force,” said Ole Solvang, a Human Rights Watch emergencies researcher who visited the sites and interviewed many of the victims and witnesses. “These illegal air strikes killed and injured many civilians and sowed a path of destruction, fear, and displacement.”
Move to Widen Help for Syrian Rebels Gains Speed in West In Washington, administration officials said President Obama had not yet signed off on a specific package of measures, but had agreed in principle to increase assistance to the military wing of the Syrian opposition that could include battlefield gear like body armor and night-vision goggles, but not arms. “Our assistance has been on an upward trajectory, and the president has directed his national security team to identify additional measures so that we can increase assistance,” a senior administration official said.

Special Reports
Syria rebel group's dangerous tie to al Qaeda The fact that al-Nusra has publicly aligned itself with central al Qaeda is worrisome. A long-term safe haven for this group in Syria could be the prelude for the formation of an organization with the wherewithal to attack the West, just as al Qaeda's sojourn in Afghanistan when it was controlled by the Taliban prepared the group for the 9/11 attacks. Second, al-Nusra is widely regarded as the most effective fighting force in Syria, and its thousands of fighters are the most disciplined of the forces opposing Assad. Al-Nusra is also the first al Qaeda affiliate to take a page out of Hezbollah's book and operate not only as an effective fighting force but also as a large-scale provider of services, for instance, distributing enormous quantities of desperately needed bread in the areas of Syria that the group controls. Finally, al-Nusra is the first jihadist group for many years that has chosen to merge with al Qaeda at a time when it is having significant success on the battlefield. Al Qaeda's North African franchise, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, as well as the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, both announced their affiliation with al Qaeda only when they were struggling for resources and exposure.
Tensions Emerge in Al-Qaida Alliance in Syria The apparent tensions between Jabhat al-Nusra and al-Qaida in Iraq emerged on Wednesday, when Nusra leader Abu Mohammad al-Golani appeared to distance himself from claims the two groups had merged. Instead, he pledged allegiance to al-Qaida's leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Golani said he was not consulted about the merger and only heard about it through the media. He did not deny the two groups had united, but remained vague, saying the announcement was premature and that his group will continue to use Jabhat al-Nusra as its name.
Sisters in Arms Join the Fighting in Syria “We see women rebels fighting in the Kurdish areas, in Aleppo, in Homs,” said Rami Abdul-Rahman, founder of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group based in Britain. Women are holding positions both on the battlefront and behind the lines, he said. This reflects a new strand in the Syrian civil war, according to commanders, opposition politicians, journalists, aid workers and activists. Women on both sides are seeking a bigger military role and are finding ways around cultural barriers that keep them from the battlefield.
Hamas, Hezbollah Take Opposite Sides in Syria Traitor or not, Middle Eastern politics is well known for its complexities and elusive alliances. Meshaal made the right choice if he is to survive in this seething region. This is realpolitik at its best: What do you do, and how do you do it, when the ground beneath your feet is in flames and you have no choice but to leave and find another patron to offer you shelter? When it comes to that, Hassan Nasrallah could learn a lesson or two from Meshaal.

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

My take on the recent exchange between head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq (the Islamic Republic of Iraq), Abu Bakr Al-Bahgdadi, and Abu Muhammad Al-Jolani, head of Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria Jabhat Al-Nusra.

As Jabhat Al-Nusra looks to consolidate its hold on Deir Ezzor and Raqqa provinces, Al-Baghdadi feels that he is being left out. He makes his announcement referring to Al-Nusra as an extention of his group to put Al-Jolani in place. But, Al-Jolani, while acknowledging that Al-Qaeda in Iraq was indeed its initial benefactor, reassures his allegiance to Al-Qaeda leader, Al-Zawahiri. By doing this, he puts himself on equal footing with Al-Baghdadi and asserts his independence. But the incident proves Al-Nusra’s connection to Al-Qaeda and creates problems for her on the domestic scene.

Video Highlights

Pro-Assad militias perpetrate a new massacre in the town of Sanamein in Daraa province. Locals say members of Hezbollah and Iraqi Shia fighters were involved. After particularly intense pounding, around 1,500 troops entered the city and set fires to homes killing over 40 people, including women and children, Many were killed with knives: some of the dead , burnt out homes ,