Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Obama’s Great Failure!

A policy of doing the right thing only when it is cheap and easy is prescription for disaster, and disaster is exactly what we have now in Syria, as a result of this policy. But, let’s be clear here: No facet of intervention in Syria will be easy, or cheap, but intervention is still a moral and a strategic must. Millions of lives are at stake, so is the fate of an entire region with all her peoples. Lebanon Iraq and Jordan are already beginning to feel the spillover effects of the conflict in Syria. The fact that WMDs have begun to be used, even if on a limited scale at this stage, is not a good omen at all. And the longer we wait the worst the situation will get. But in order for the U.S. to do the right thing here, we need a courageous president in the White House, one that is willing to face the truth, then relay it honestly to the American people, even if they are reluctant to hear it. No matter how wary and weary the American people are at this stage, there are certain things that their government still needs to do in order to maintain the global order and keep them and all of us safe. Regrettably, President Obama seems incapable of rising to the challenge.

Wednesday April 24, 2013

News
Free Syrian Army general: ‘Clear proof chemical weapons used’ “We took some samples of the soil and of blood. The injured people were observed by doctors and the samples were tested and it was very clear that the regime used chemical weapons,” General Salim Idriss told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday. Idriss said his doctors gave the samples to “observers” of the civil war in Syria, but refused to name which groups. Both Britain and France now say soil samples indicate “some use of chemical weapons.”
Hagel skeptical of Syria chemical weapons claims Any U.S. response to Syria will be based on American intelligence findings, Hagel said in his first public remarks since an Israeli official alleged Monday that the Syria government had used chemical weapons. "Suspicions are one thing," Hagel told reporters traveling with him. "Evidence is another."
Syria crisis: UN to study soil samples for proof of sarin gas United Nations investigators will examine soil samples collected by western intelligence agencies and enter Syrian refugee camps in an effort to assess claims that the Assad regime has used sarin gas against its opponents. Proof of sarin use would increase pressure on the Obama administration which, after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is deeply reluctant to intervene in what could be another protracted and unwinnable conflict.
Syria: We wouldn't use chemical arms against Israel "Even if Syria does have chemical weapons, our leadership and our military will not use them either against Syrians or against Israelis, above all for moral reasons and secondarily on legal and political grounds," Omran al-Zoabi was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying at a Moscow university. He said Syria would not resort to chemical weapons even if it had to go to war with Israel and use "all resources".
Syrian army seizes strategic town near capital Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad seized a strategic town east of Damascus on Wednesday, breaking a critical weapons supply route for the rebels, activists and fighters said. Rebels have held several suburbs ringing the southern and eastern parts Damascus for months, but they have been struggling to maintain their positions against a ground offensive backed by fierce army shelling and air strikes in recent weeks. "The disaster has struck, the army entered Otaiba. The regime has managed to turn off the weapons tap," a fighter from the town told Reuters via Skype. "The price of a bullet will go from 50 Syrian pounds to 1,000 Syrian pounds ($10) now, but we must pay and retake it. It's the main if not the only route."
Syria crisis: 'Heavy clashes' at Aleppo Minnigh airbase Rebels took hold of a key military position outside the Minnigh airport on Tuesday and launched a raid the following day, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said. "The rebels, who have laid siege to the airport for months now, entered it for the first time around dawn," Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the UK-based activist group, told AFP news agency. Heavy fighting was taking place in the grounds, he added.
Minaret of famed 12th century Sunni mosque in Syrian city of Aleppo destroyed Standing inside the mosque’s courtyard, a man who appears to be a rebel fighter says regime forces recently fired seven shells at the minaret but failed to knock it down. He said that on Wednesday the tank rounds struck their target. “We were standing here today and suddenly shells started hitting the minaret,” the man says. “They (the army) then tried to storm the mosque but we pushed them back.” The video appeared genuine and corresponded to other Associated Press reporting of the events depicted.
Pope Francis calls for two Syria bishops to be freed Pope Francis on Wednesday appealed for two Orthodox bishops kidnapped in Syria to be freed and for the bloodshed to end, speaking during his general audience on St Peter's Square. The pope told around 100,000 people present on the square that there were "contradictory reports" about the fate of the two bishops and asked that "they be returned quickly to their communities".
Syria accuses U.N. envoy Brahimi of interfering Brahimi told a closed-door session of the United Nations Security Council last Friday that Damascus was "surprised and embarrassed" by a January offer of talks from opposition leader Moaz Alkhatib, and its response was "slow and confused". At the conclusion of his remarks, which were later circulated by U.N. diplomats, Brahimi suggested Assad "voluntarily forego" the right to stand for another term as president in an election scheduled for next year. Syria's foreign ministry said in a statement that if Brahimi wished to continue his role, he must show impartiality and realize that "the Syrian people are the only decision-makers who will choose their representatives". "The briefing ... was marked by interference in the Syrian Arab Republic's internal affairs and a lack of neutrality which should characterize his mission," the ministry in a statement.

Investigative Reports
Qatar faces backlash among rebel groups in Syria Tiny, U.S.-allied Qatar has emerged as one of the strongest international backers of the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar Assad. Many in the Syrian opposition laud Qatar, saying it has stepped in while the international community has failed to intervene or send military aid that would help tip the balance in favor of the rebels, three years into the uprising-turned civil war that has ravaged the country and killed more than 70,000 people. But its role has also caused tensions within the ranks of the highly fragmented rebellion and political opposition. Some rebel brigades complain they are left out in the cold from the flow of money and weapons, sparking rivalries between secular and Islamist groups. Fighters and opposition activists worry that Qatar is buying outsized influence in post-Assad Syria and giving a boost to Islamist-minded groups if the regime falls.
What is the Syrian Electronic Army? One key question revolves around how close the group is to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which has been involved in a bloody civil war for more than two years. On that subject, all the signs are of "tacit support," says Helmi Noman, a senior researcher at the Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. He has been tracking the Syrian Electronic Army since May 2012, when it first emerged as an organized group with a Facebook page and then its own website. "What we know is their domain name was registered by the Syrian Computer Society. We looked into the Syrian Computer Society and discovered that it was headed by al-Assad in the 1990s, before he was president," said Noman. "It's hosted on the network of the Syrian government, which is interesting because it's the first time we've seen a group with questionable activities being hosted on a national computer network."
From Belgian school to Syrian battleground A camera shakily films a group of rebel fighters preparing to pray, lined up in rows, their weapons at their feet. A young man walks into shot and takes off his rifle before briefly turning towards the camera. "That's Brian," says Ingrid de Mulder, pointing at her nephew in the online video on her computer. "I'm 100% sure. That's him. No doubt." Nineteen-year-old Brian de Mulder from Antwerp is one of hundreds of Europeans authorities believe to be in Syria. "It's not the Brian brought up by his mother," says Ingrid. "Brian was athletic, he was sporty, he was helping everybody. We never saw him like this. For me it's a programmed robot."
Syria Open Backyard Refineries as War Reaches Oil Field “There is also little proof the national coalition has much oil under its control,” David Butter, associate fellow of the Middle East and North Africa program at London-based Chatham House said. “It’s all very sketchy.” The fields of the east and northeast are in areas where Islamist militants predominate, the Economist Intelligence Unit said in an April 24 report. “The majority of the fields are controlled by al-Qaeda; some by the Free Army; some others by the Kurds,” said Rami Abdurrahman of the Coventry, England-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. “We cannot confirm what percentage each controls.”

Analyses & Op-Eds
Bennett Ramberg: Syria’s Chemical Genie Recent statements from US officials have not been reassuring. In January, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that the US was not pursuing options that involve “boots on the ground” to secure Assad’s arsenal during the conflict. At the same news conference, Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, conceded that preventing the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons would require such clear, comprehensive intelligence that obtaining it is “almost unachievable.” Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 17, Dempsey added that he had no confidence that US forces could secure the arsenal given the number of sites. Such remarks from senior military authorities suggest that Obama’s warnings may be hollow. Worse, they inspire little confidence that the US can deal with future cases in which countries with nuclear assets find themselves in revolt, civil war, or political collapse – and with compromised domestic atomic safeguards risking the spread of nuclear havoc to other regions. Such risks demand examination and planning. But, to rely on the US government alone to plot the most effective strategy in the shadow of possible internal group-think is asking too much. Outside vetting – including published reviews by congressional investigative bodies, think tanks, and scholars – could add important insights.
Could John McCain's roadmap for intervening in Syria work? “No one should think that we have to destroy every air defense system or put tens of thousands of boots on the ground to make a difference in Syria. We have more limited options. We could, for example, organize and overt and large-scale operation to train and equip Syrian opposition forces. We could use our precision strike capabilities to target Assad's aircraft and Scud missile launchers on the ground, without our pilots having to fly into the teeth of Syria's air defenses. We could use similar weapons to selectively destroy artillery pieces and make their crews think twice about remaining at their posts. We could also use Patriot missile batteries outside of Syria to help protect safe zones inside of Syria.”
Chemical weapons in Syria: Bashar al-Assad hovers over a red line In the past, Damascus has backed down when faced with the credible threat of force: for example, in 1998, under Bashar’s father, Hafez al-Assad, when Turkey massed tanks on Syria’s border until it ceased supporting Kurdish insurgents; or in October 2005 when Bashar sent an emissary to sue for peace in Washington as the Bush administration readied reprisal options against his funnelling of jihadi volunteers into US-occupied Iraq. The problem now – in addition to the passivity of the international community – is that the Assad clan and its hardline, mostly Alawite support base sees this conflict as existential. They are prepared to destroy Syria and, after more than 70,000 deaths, wade through the blood of the Syrian people to impose their right to rule. So it is no longer about testing limits. There are none.

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

A video found on the mobile phone of a pro-Assad militiaman captured and killed by rebels. The place of the massacre is believed to have taken place a few days ago in the town of Al-Otaibeh in Damascus Suburbs, which fell completely back into regime hands earlier today (Wednesday) http://youtu.be/qkRcA9gLJaA A second clip shows the corpses being gathered in a ditch and set on fire http://youtu.be/i9y6Y_8lAyQ A third video from the same mobile seems to show the perpetrators  http://youtu.be/caqj--dkFwo

Meanwhile, rebel strongholds in Eastern Ghoutah get targeted as well: Dhiabiyeh http://youtu.be/xzcKUy8SKlY , http://youtu.be/wg2A8suJm7Y

Multiple missiles hit the suburb of Daraya, Damascus http://youtu.be/_jm-fLaH910 , http://youtu.be/no52BNW6lYc Fighter jets targeted the suburb as well http://youtu.be/YUuGH7LGqvo

Rebels attacking Minnigh Military Airport in Aleppo claim that these corpses belong to Iranian soldiers fighting for Assad http://youtu.be/vgGTtfpTpgc

Rebels in Lattakia claim that these grad missiles targeted the Alawite town of Qardaha, Assad’s hometown http://youtu.be/hFEGHowXpPw

In Aleppo City, rebels claim that pro-Assad militias bright down the historic minaret of the Aleppo Omayad Mosque, one of the oldest in the world http://youtu.be/vqcTkCEzfow Targeting mosques and minarets in particular have been a modus operandi for pro-Assad militias since the early weeks of the revolution.