Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Whether by design or not, external players are indeed doing just enough to maintain a state of stalemate in Syria. Syrians will not be allowed to solve their problems until these players solve theirs. It’s not the Islamists who are hijacking the revolution: Islamists, loyalists, secularists, Alawites, tribalists, even nonviolence activists, all now are but instruments of implementation of agendas that they do not control or even want. This revolution has been hijacked by the usual powers-that-be. Failure to draw clear redlines in the first months, allowed for a protest movement to turn into an armed uprising, failure to create a no-fly zone allowed for the armed uprising to pave the way for a civil war, civil wars encourage external dabbling, transforming the conflict into a proxy war. Proxy wars can only be resolved through an international consensus, which usually takes years to be reached. Meanwhile, the seesaw of stalemate grinds on, with rebels pushing and Assadists pushing back.  

Monday April 8, 2013


Special Reports
Have Syria's Kurds Had a Change of Heart? Reports indicate that YPG militiamen and Syrian rebels have agreed to share control of the strategic Sheikh Maqsood District of northern Aleppo, cutting off regime supply routes to a hospital, prison, and other key positions. Rebel fighters entered the district largely unopposed on March 31. On April 6, the Syrian military bombarded Kurdish neighborhoods in northern Aleppo, killing 15 people in a likely response to this new arrangement. The following day, Kurdish militiamen attacked a Syrian military checkpoint in the city, killing five troops.
Mistrust mars deal between Syria rebels and Kurdish fighters under the surface, feelings of mutual suspicion run deep. Dozens of men wearing the Kurdish YPG militia uniform – distinct for its yellow star symbol on a red background – stand at a checkpoint. They are visibly more disciplined and organized than the FSA in Aleppo, most of whose checkpoints are manned by young, shabbily dressed fighters. A YPG commander says the Kurds’ priority is self-defense. “We are here to protect our people and residents of Sheikh Maqsoud, where the PYD has been present for years,” he says. “Some FSA rebels are respectable, but others are here just to steal. They break into company premises and loot stuff,” adds the Kurdish commander. Because of this, the fighters are well spread out in Sheikh Maqsoud. Arab rebels keep a lookout in residential areas of the district, while the YPG is responsible for the industrial part.
Despite U.S. concerns, little prevents Islamists from joining Syria fight The foreign fighters would be hard to miss for Turkish and Western intelligence operatives – they stay at established safe houses, openly recruit comrades and often stand out with distinctive appearances and habits – yet there’s been no overt effort to crack down on their presence in frontier towns. “Even with this growing jihadist threat, there’s a reluctance to do anything more proactive on Syria,” said Elizabeth O’Bagy, an analyst with the Institute for the Study of War who recently spent two weeks traveling with rebels in Syria, where she encountered Tunisian, Moroccan and Algerian fighters, she said. That observation was similar to what a McClatchy reporter witnessed during a recent trip to Syria, where he saw Egyptians and Libyans, as well as other nationalities, among rebel fighters. “The pipelines are still open and fighters are coming in quite freely,” O’Bagy said.
A Close-Up Of Syria's Alawites, Loyalists Of A Troubled Regime Alawites might not have it good now, Hassan says, but they think it would be even worse if Assad were to fall. "There is a big group that believes that it's their life, their survival," he says. "There is also a group who almost make him a divine figure that will provide protection." What the people of Tartous don't realize, Hassan says, is that the regime is just using this sectarian promise of protection as a way to maintain its own power. He says Alawites are now trapped by fear — a fear that's allowed them to go from oppressed to oppressors. Most of those who lead the government's army and security forces — soldiers responsible for thousands of deaths in Syria — are Alawites.
In Syria, Follow the Money to Find the Roots of the Revolt: Economic liberalization without political reform to spread that wealth triggered the civil war, writes Majid Rafizadeh. The regime and the gilded circle of al-Assad, like those of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Zein Al-Abedin Ben Ali of Tunisia, and Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen, did gain short-term benefits in terms of wealth and capital accumulation from their privatizations and neoliberal policies—all without any of this wealth ever reaching the vast majority of the population. The flaw was that they neglected equality and distribution, political liberalization, without the foresight to realize what the eventual consequence of this imbalance of riches would be.
Were chemical weapons used in Syria? UN team poised for probe: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called for a chemical-weapons investigation of an alleged March 19 attack, but he’s apparently gotten cold feet. Here's why. Mr. Assad wants the UN investigators to limit themselves to one reported attack March 19 in a village outside Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and a northern stronghold of the rebellion. But the opposition, backed by Britain and France, insists that the team look into all alleged incidents of chemical-weapons use in Syria, including two attacks elsewhere on March 19 and another case from last December in Homs.

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

Scenes from the suicide car bomb attack in the Seven Fountains Square in Damascus City http://youtu.be/BtonWc_BLYg , http://youtu.be/CnFzc6puHaI

Scenes of devastation from the aftermath of an aerial raid on the Sukkari Neighborhood in Aleppo City http://youtu.be/pOXTYpOc5-o

I’ll leave to experts to say whether this video is authentic or not, but it is currently being posted on Facebook and Twitter, and some activists are finding it a proof that the regime was behind the assassination of the Islamic Scholar Ramadan Al-Bouti. The video purports to show Al-Bouti at a time when the explosion took place http://youtu.be/XFGwwRQINvg

Two years have elapsed since the beginning of the revolution, but pro-Assad militias keep torturing their captives in the most inhumane manner http://youtu.be/gHJM1BNfvag And we see them torturing a defector by hoisting him from a tank muzzle http://youtu.be/u0r0c9BmQAI

Islamist rebels in the town of Mayadeen, Deir Ezzor Province, capture three locals accusing them of perpetrating thefts while claiming to be members of the Free Syrian Army. Summary justice imposed by Sharia courts is the way many rebels groups are using to  keep law and order in place under their control http://youtu.be/9MFK-CNdKD0

Syrian American activist Aref Agha pays a visit to injured FSA founder Col. Riyad Al-Assaad. The colonel lost a leg in an attempt on his life in the town of Mayadeen, and is currently being hospitalized in Turkey http://youtu.be/4GgVlF6qZBs

Intense clashes continue to take place in and around the village of Abel, Homs Province http://youtu.be/4hnvPxGHtSI , http://youtu.be/FFW_AVLLMm0 , http://youtu.be/ZwKaMh7tcqs , http://youtu.be/h7Dk3VCl5k4