Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Screwed by Design?

The U.S. is secretly “feeding” us, while Russia and Iran are “secretly” arming Assad, now he has a “second wind,” and we are doubly screwed. For fear of “mission creep,” the U.S. has so far been indulging in mission crap. By refraining from doing what should be done, that is, supporting moderate rebels and imposing a no-fly zone, and by keeping secret its humanitarian aid to the Syrian population, thus allowing extremist to claim credit for it, the U.S. has weakened moderate forces, strengthened the hand of extremists, and gave Assad all the leeway he needed to plunge the country, and perhaps the region, into chaos and mayhem. Had this been by design it wouldn’t have worked so perfectly.

Monday April 15, 2013

Death Toll: 75 martyrs, including 7 women, 4 children and 1 martyr under torture: 47 reported in Damascus and Suburbs, most in Douma; 9 in Aleppo; 7 in Daraa; 5 in Idlib; 3 in Deir Ezzor; 3 in Homs; and 1 in Hama (LCC).

U.S. feeds Syrians, but secretly So secretive is the operation, however, that almost none of the Syrians who receive the help are aware of its American origins. Out of concern for the safety of the recipients and the delivery staff, who could be targeted by the government if their affiliation to the United States were known, the Obama administration and the aid workers have chosen not to advertise the assistance… The bakery is fully supplied with flour paid for by the United States. But Waisi credited Jabhat al-Nusra — a rebel group the United States has designated a terrorist organization because of its ties to al-Qaeda — with providing flour to the region, though he admitted he wasn’t sure where it comes from.
Assad's forces break rebel blockade in north Syria Rebels had kept the army bottled up in the Wadi al-Deif and Hamidiya military bases in Idlib province. But on Sunday, President Bashar al-Assad's forces outflanked the rebels and broke through, the pro-government al-Baath newspaper said. The insurgents counter-attacked on Monday but their front has been weakened in recent weeks due to infighting and the deployment of forces to other battles, activists said. The break-out from the bases, located outside Maarat al-Nuaman town, may enable the army to recapture the main route into Aleppo, Syria's largest city, and bolster their fragile supply lines in the heart of the rebel-held north.
Are we seeing Bashar al-Assad’s second wind? Mr. Assad has mostly delivered on the promises and threats he has made over the duration of the uprising. Early on he spoke of “ten Afghanistans” in Syria should outside forces intervene, or fundamentalist takfiris and Islamic extremists dominating the opposition. Though clearly propaganda at the time, today it is difficult to dismiss his argument, a perspective that resonates with the millions of Syrians exhausted by two years of conflict and instability… Though he is undoubtedly losing the long-term war, Mr. al-Assad is being proved more correct as each day passes. The result? An increasingly divided Syrian population and a country that much harder to put back together.
Leader of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood denies accusations group seeks to control opposition “Our aim is not to tear apart but to unite the (Syrian) opposition,” al-Shaqfa told reporters in Istanbul, where he is based. He blamed accusations against his group on “lies and fabrications” that he said were spread by President Bashar Assad’s regime. Some rebels say the Brotherhood is trying to control the uprising through the political opposition’s exiled groups, such as the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition umbrella bloc, marginalizing fighters inside the country from non-Islamist groups. They say the movement is positioning itself to take power once the war against Assad is won. Tensions within the opposition rose last month with the election of Ghassan Hitto as interim prime minister for the opposition. Some of his critics claimed the Muslim Brotherhood orchestrated the choice of Hitto, a Syrian-born U.S. citizen and a little-known figure prior to his election.
U.N. aid groups say world must act now to save Syria If the international community continues to dither the crisis could turn into a humanitarian catastrophe that could scar the region for a generation, one of the leaders said.
Swedish Islamists in Syria leave Säpo 'worried' Around 30 Islamists have travelled from Sweden recently to fight or to be trained to fight in Syria, Swedish security service Säpo revealed on Monday, expressing its concerns over the development.
Wounded Syrians flown to Germany for medical care The injured, among them women and children, were flown aboard a specially equipped air force plane and were to be transferred to four German military hospitals in cities including Berlin and Hamburg.
UK concerns over chemical weapon use Foreign Minister William Hague said the claims must be urgently investigated and perpetrators held to account. Meanwhile, soil samples gathered from random sites in Syria, have been smuggled to the UK for testing, British intelligence sources told the BBC. The evidence suggests "some use of chemical weapons"' but it is not clear by which side, the sources said. Syria is believed to have stockpiles of mustard gas and the highly toxic nerve agent sarin.
Syrian Man Arrested in Greece With Weapons Cache The official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media about the case, said he believed the weapons were headed for Syria. There has been no official announcement by police. The arrest took place Thursday when the man, who is a resident of Belgium, crossed the border with Turkey in a tractor trailer, according to the official. Customs officials found 281 telescopic sights. The arrested man said he re-entered Greece after Turkish customs authorities turned him back. He will appear in a Greek court Monday.

Special Reports
Jabhat al-Nusra, Ghassan Hitto Divide Syrian Opposition The National Coalition and National Council, which are controlled by a liberal Islamic alliance, have managed, on the other hand, to avoid until now any discussion about the true nature of Jabhat al-Nusra and other Jihadist brigades, equally as Salafist and jihadist as Jabhat al-Nusra. The time now is not for the discussion of any trespasses, but for toppling the regime. Only afterward is the opposition expected to discuss the conduct of Jabhat al-Nusra and other Jihadist factions, their monopoly over the administration of cities, especially in al-Raqqah, and the countryside of Aleppo and Idlib which, in some parts, has been transformed into Islamic emirates.
Vali Nasr: The Dangerous Price of Ignoring Syria t is time America takes the lead in organizing international assistance to refugees. America should not hide behind the Russian veto. It should pursue a concerted diplomatic strategy in support of arming the rebels and imposing a no-flight zone over Syria. That would not only hamper Assad’s ability to fight, it would allow refugees to remain within Syria’s borders, thus reducing pressure on neighboring countries. It is time the U.S. took over from Qatar and Saudi Arabia in organizing the Syrian opposition into a credible political force — failure to do that accounts for the chaos that has paralyzed the group. There are powerful economic sanctions that the U.S. could use to cripple the Assad regime. Finally, America should build ties with the Free Syrian Army with the goal of denying extremist groups the ability to dominate the armed resistance and gaining influence with groups that will dominate Syria’s future. It was failing to build those ties in Afghanistan that allowed the resistance groups who opposed the Soviet Union to disintegrate into the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The fatal mobilization of Hezbollah in Syria Truth is, the maliciousness displayed by Hezbollah while managing its battle in Syria is met by chaos and tension displayed in the rhetoric of other sectarian groups from among Sunni extremists.
Another reason for U.S. to act on Syria: Sending message to Iran “There is a relationship between what’s happening in Syria and Iran,” Ross said. “We want very much to convince the Iranians to change their behavior, not just on Syria but on the nuclear issue.  And one of the problems we have at this point is [that] they don’t believe that we will actually use force. “The irony here is, if you want diplomacy to succeed, they actually have to believe we’re going to use force,” Ross said. “Our hesitancy in Syria, I think, plays to their perception that we won’t. So the more we’re prepared to do in Syria, the more I think we actually may affect the Iranian calculus in terms of the nuclear issues as well.”

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.

The Living Martyr

In a conference in Istanbul on Islam and Transitional Justice, Syrian Opposition Coalition leader, Moaz Al-Khatib, whose retirement is still in limbo, delivered a powerful speech condemning Jabhat Al-Nusra and Al-Qaeda ideology. After spending the first part of his speech addressing the issue of transitional justice, Al-Khatib turned his attention to the issue of Al-Nusra and the recent admission by her leader to ties to Al-Qaeda. Al-Khatib reminded people of Al-Qaeda’s beginning in Afghanistan and said that Al-Qaeda has been infiltrated by myriad intelligence organizations and were carrying out agendas that have nothing to do with Islam. In Iraq, he said, Al-Qaeda was controlled by Iran and was responsible for deaths than the American invasion. He also reminded people of the role that the Syrian security apparatuses played in supporting Al-Qaeda and of the role of the late Al-Qaqa, the enigmatic preacher from Aleppo who was responsible for recruiting Syrians then betraying them to the security apparatuses, until he was killed in mysterious circumstances. He, then, called on JAN members in Syria to leave the organization and establish a new group with a new identity and a new vision to put the taint of al-Qaeda affiliation behind them and serve a national Syrian agenda, rather than an external agenda. Throughout his speech, he repeatedly kept saying that he was only providing advice and that he is in no position to prevail on any group to do what it does not want. The conference was boycotted by the Muslim Brotherhood at the last minute, and Al-Khatib’s words received a lukewarm response as we can see at the end of the video. For all practical purposes, Al-Khatib is a walking martyr now, he is challenging the regime, the rebels, the traditional opposition and the international community with its different camps into doing the right thing on Syria. He has made formidable enemies, while his friends are few and fickle http://youtu.be/aeL0nJ415gc

Video Highlights

Rebels take control of another border along the Syrian Jordanian border http://youtu.be/8x1R9U5W9m4 Meanwhile, on the Turkish-Syrian border, thousands of refugees rush through Bab Al-Hawa crossing in order to evade the constant bombardment http://youtu.be/NG6q7je4R48 Syrian MiGs have in fact violated the Turkish airspace in their pursuit of people (see around 2:25 and after). The Clip was taking on the Turkish side of the border http://youtu.be/wsQGYeQggII

400 new defectors form a new rebel unit in areas south of Damascus http://youtu.be/09Qsgf7fd3g

The battle for the control of loyalist headquarters in Shouqaif, Aleppo, left dozens of loyalists dead http://youtu.be/gFOvoksZkPs

Rebels in Damascus Suburbs use home-made missile launchers to pound security headquarters inside Damascus City http://youtu.be/RJ1WNQ_lLY4 Meanwhile, the pounding of Jobar Neighborhood by pro-regime forces continues http://youtu.be/j_nxtVQeOzI , http://youtu.be/ZsveG8bHLkM The nearby suburb of Zamalka is also hit http://youtu.be/ew9GyWi-e8Y

An aerial raid on the town of Douma, Eastern Ghoutah, Damascus Suburbs http://youtu.be/4UzOKNO1hnU Send people scurrying in all directions http://youtu.be/phyNwKoEZew and leave many dead http://youtu.be/SsehG4KYTCc , http://youtu.be/tRwcWSZ5O38 , http://youtu.be/8L89s5ictrg , http://youtu.be/wEbjVaHNtII , http://youtu.be/rg8VowGy4LU The havoc http://youtu.be/gq-H6vUg8cs , http://youtu.be/0uWnYkCFKug Sifting through the rubble http://youtu.be/k6gIyOH0Wpc

Other towns in Eastern Ghoutah were also targeted, including Hamouriyeh http://youtu.be/dVT7JPfIVzQ

The pounding of the nearby suburb of Qaboun http://youtu.be/u8clI7mpqlI , http://youtu.be/2tdYQWPDLoo leaves these children dead 

In Daraya, Damascus Suburbs, tanks keep trying to pound their way in http://youtu.be/iicNhOJLsWg

Clashes in Khirbet Ghazaleh, Daraa Province, continues http://youtu.be/6R3LBt2-Elc , http://youtu.be/YhHZSKcZd0I , http://youtu.be/odCWqyIyvQ4

In the historic city of Palmyra, Homs Province, loyalist militias pound the surrounding farm areas http://youtu.be/B_WJKF9oecc , http://youtu.be/Va1tUTkYWZk

Clashes in Deir Ezzor City continue http://youtu.be/tNvnhFSiJA0

The pounding of the resort town of Salma in the Lattakia mountains continues http://youtu.be/6rD-3IxTD0Y , http://youtu.be/j3k5NSN5LPQ