Friday, April 19, 2013

Red Line Crossed? Oh, No!

They ignored his threats. They defied his authority. They crossed his red line. Now he is on a mission to find a new subterfuge to keep justifying his do-nothing policy. He is the 44th President of the United States, Guardian of the (Dis) Order of R2P, Leader of the Flee World, and he is out for… an exit strategy, and, generally speaking, anything that can keep him from having to adopt a meaningful policy on Syria. But will he succeed? You can follow this new series on Lifetime, following Project Runway, because CNN and other major news outlets have safer stories and their own made-up controversies to cover.

Thursday April 18, 2013

Death Toll: 111 martyrs, including 6 women, 9 children and 2 martyrs under torture: 53 in Damascus and Suburbs; 19 in Aleppo; 13 in Homs 7 in Raqqa ; 5 in Daraa; ; 5 in Idlib; 5 in Deir Ezzor; and 4 in Hama (LCC).

News
Britain, France claim Syria used chemical weapons In letters to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the two European powers said soil samples, witness interviews and opposition sources support charges that nerve agents were used in and around the cities of Aleppo, Homs and possibly Damascus, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. The European accounts are in part aimed at countering accusations by the Syrian government that opposition forces had fired chemical weapons during fighting in the town of Khan al-Asal near Aleppo on March 19, killing 26 people, including Syrian troops. European diplomats acknowledge that Syrian forces may have been exposed to chemical agents during the attack, but they say it was a “friendly fire” incident in which the troops were hit when a government shell missed its opposition target.
U.S. looks into possible chemical weapons use in Syria U.S. intelligence officials are looking into the possibility that chemical weapons may have been used in Syria in a limited form, although there is no consensus yet and additional analysis is required, a senior U.S. official said on Thursday. "More review is needed," the senior U.S. official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. The disclosure came as the U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said at a Senate hearing that the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad "appears quite willing to use chemical weapons against its own people." "We receive many claims of chemical warfare use in Syria each day and we take them all seriously, and we do all we can to investigate them," Clapper said.
Step toward possible military intervention in Syria: The Pentagon is sending about 200 troops to Jordan to help deliver aid to refugees and to plan for possible military action, including a rapid buildup of forces. The Pentagon is sending about 200 troops to Jordan, the vanguard of a potential U.S. military force of 20,000 or more that could be deployed if the Obama administration decides to intervene in Syria to secure chemical weapons arsenals or to prevent the 2-year-old civil war from spilling into neighboring nations. Troops from the 1st Armored Division will establish a small headquarters near Jordan's border with Syria to help deliver humanitarian supplies for a growing flood of refugees and to plan for possible military operations, including a rapid buildup of American forces if the White House decides intervention is necessary, senior U.S. officials said.
Pentagon Chief Warns That War in Syria Could Be ‘Lengthy and Uncertain’ Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned a Senate panel that intervening in Syria’s grinding, brutal civil war risked plunging the U.S. into another bloody conflict. Even as Hagel did so, however, he announced a contingent of soldiers have deployed to neighboring Jordan as a hedge. “We have an obligation and responsibility to think through the consequences of any direct U.S. military action in Syria,” Hagel told the Senate Armed Services Committee this afternoon. “A military intervention could have the unintended consequence of bringing the United States into a broader regional conflict or proxy war.” Yet Hagel said that to prevent spillover violence, last week he ordered an “Army headquarters element” to go to Jordan to help coordinate contingency planning, particularly over a potential chemical-weapons attack. CNN reports that up to 200 soldiers from the 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Tex. will form a potential “joint task force for military operations.”
UN Asks Sec. Council for Cross-Border Syria Aid OK U.N. agency chiefs for humanitarian affairs, refugees, women in conflict, and children in conflict used the Security Council briefing to speak over the heads of the deadlocked council nations to appeal to the world for support. The agency chiefs launched their campaign Monday with an op-ed in The New York Times that said, "There still seems to be an insufficient sense of urgency among the governments and parties that could put a stop to the cruelty and carnage in Syria."
Syrian Rebels Capture Parts of Army Base in Homs The base is located near Qusair, a contested Syrian town near a key highway between Damascus and the coast. Dabaa is a former air force base and includes an airfield, which hasn’t been used in the two-year conflict. The army has based ground troops in the facility to fight rebels trying to topple President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Israel ready to act on Syria weapons, warns Netanyahu Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told the BBC that Israel has a right to prevent weapons from falling into the wrong hands in Syria. He said that if terrorists seized anti-aircraft and chemical weapons they could be "game changers" in the region. There have been growing calls for the international community to arm rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad. But there is increasing concern that Islamist militants could use such weapons to further their own causes. Israel has said its policy is not to get involved in the Syrian conflict. But in recent months it has retaliated following Syrian firing into Israeli-controlled areas in the Golan Heights.
Syria rebel Coalition says Assad 'isolated from reality' The opposition Coalition said Assad's interview with Syrian state television "revealed his isolation from reality and blindness to the corruption and devastation and bloodshed that he has wreaked." Assad's "approach is like that of tyrants before him," it said, pointing to "his claims of control and denial of the other and the absence of reality and proposal of solutions that bear no relation to the crises."

Special Reports
Syria's Christian Minority Lives in Fear of Kidnapping and Street Battles: War-weary from months of fighting, one community attempts to co-exist with rebel militias. Ras al-Ayn, located along the border with Turkey, is a city of 50,000 with a diverse population of Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Turkmen, Armenians, and Chechens, and it's home to three Christian churches. Christians make up an estimated 10 percent of Syria's 23 million citizens. Issam Bishara, regional director of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, recently told Asia News that approximately 300,000 Syrian Christians have fled the country. The increased sectarianism in the conflict, especially the growing influence of Jihadi forces, has left many fearful of what's to come. Prior to the conflict, many saw Ras al-Ayn as a beacon of tolerance between Muslims and Christians. Residents say that they there is still a camaraderie among the citizens that live there, but that problems arise from those fighting who don't live in the city, be they FSA, YPG, or Islamists.
Syria’s forgotten casualties: The chronically ill According to the World Health Organization , there are 168 medicines that will be “urgently needed” over the next 12 months, including 92 essential drugs and 33 cancer treatments. Insulin, oxygen, anesthetics, serums and intravenous fluids are no longer available in many parts of the country. Before the crisis, more than 90 per cent of medicines consumed in Syria were locally produced. Today, the national production has been reduced by 90 per cent, aid organizations say.
Surreal Damascus, shellfire and lattes in a city under siege So keen is the besieged government of Bashar al-Assad to show that city life remains normal that it trucks civil servants to the ministry of agriculture on the edge of rebel-held Jobar in armoured vehicles… And in its way, Damascus still lives. Its markets are crowded; its high-class hotels — the Sheraton and Four Seasons — are open for business, albeit on a skeleton staff… Assad's armed opponents in this civil war — most of them from the country's Sunni majority — have almost surrounded his capital, and are close enough to fire mortars at ministry buildings, even at the Sheraton hotel, when they have the time or inclination… Like most cities under siege, the wounds of Damascus quickly become familiar. No one any longer casts a glance at the ruined façade of the defense ministry, blasted away by a car bomb last year. The outdoor restaurant of the city university, where 15 students were killed by a mortar shell in March, has been cleaned up. The fire-blackened wall of the military base above the Barada River, scene of a truck bombing last August, has been repainted. But no paintbrush is likely to whitewash the human damage of this war.

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

This leaked video purportedly shows Alawite officers being tortured by their comrades. They are accused of having helped rebels in Baba Amr Neighborhood in Homs City, and of desertion http://youtu.be/7oBEzt_AkKA

This video purportedly shows a Hezbollah fighter killed in the fighting with rebels in the town of Qusair, Homs Province http://youtu.be/DIUu12bOZew

Rebels take control of the military air base of Al-Dab’ah in Homs Province after a long siege http://youtu.be/VPZzHsCzB4M , http://youtu.be/bwDhFsKkiGA The liberation took place at night http://youtu.be/H-JQsedtqaA Soon after, MiG fighters begin pounding the liberated base http://youtu.be/_zE0QpuvNOs Removing the statue of Hafiz Al-Assad http://youtu.be/kaugZ3AgwUc

Rebels in Homs liberate the checkpoint at Qarayatein http://youtu.be/HIIEnfafnJ4

A mortar round falls on a group of rebels in the town of Sheikh Sa’eed, Aleppo Province http://youtu.be/tCEWEzq-m0U An aerial raid on a different part of town leaves several dead http://youtu.be/cismgz1i8fQ

In Deir Ezzor City, rebels quietly dig a tunnel under a building known to house pro-Assad militias, then, they fill it with explosives and blow it up from a distance killing an estimated 30 loyalists, as local activists claim http://youtu.be/qkeEk04wENE  

Elsewhere in Deir Ezzpr Province, rebels pound the military airport with homemade rockets http://youtu.be/TrzM50XCFoc

In Raqqah Province, rebels target the military airport near Tabqa with homemade rockets as well http://youtu.be/MHAkELsoFdQ , http://youtu.be/2L8mMdFwj2Q

Locals in Aleppo City, come to identity the bodies that were collected from the streets by rebels during the brief ceasefire brokered by the Red Crescent two days ago http://youtu.be/2BvpPA80iBk

Tanks keep trying to pound their way into rebel strongholds in the town of Daraya, Damascus Suburbs http://youtu.be/vXaAyQ58IYw , http://youtu.be/BVwq2rNMK0Q , http://youtu.be/jznZfCGAKMc