Friday, April 26, 2013

The Adventures of Professor Calculus in the White House!

Syrians have been demanding a no-fly zone long before the death toll reached 1,000. With the official death toll now around 100,000, we can safely say that President Obama is not in the habit of rushing into things, jumping to conclusions or shooting from the hip. In fact, President Obama has just demonstrated the veracity of a very interesting hypothesis, namely that refraining from action for long enough period can have the same devastating effect as rushing into it. Now, and on the basis of these findings, would the President be willing to undertake some course correction? Would he finally change his “calculus?”  

Friday April 26, 2013

Death Toll: 139 martyrs, including 16 women, 14 children and 5 under torture: 29 in Damascus and Suburbs; 27 in Homs; 19 in Idlib; 16 in Hama; 15 in Daraa; 11 in Hasakeh; 11 in Deir Ezzor; 11 in Aleppo (LCC).

Obama says Syria chemical weapons reports a 'game changer' U.S. President Barack Obama issued a cautious warning Friday that Syria's reported use of chemical weapons could be a "game changer" that could provoke international intervention in the country's ongoing civil war. Although U.S. intelligence reports Syria may have crossed that line, Obama did not commit to any specific action… "We have to act prudently," he said. "We have to make these assessments deliberately. But I think all of us ... recognize how we cannot stand by and permit the systematic use of weapons like chemical weapons on civilian populations."
Turkey says chemical arms use would escalate Syria crisis Turkey said on Friday any use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would "take the crisis to another level", but remained cautious about any foreign military intervention in the conflict on its border… "We have been hearing allegations of the use of chemical weapons for quite some time now and these new findings take things to another level. They are very alarming," Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Levent Gumrukcu said.
'Action on Syria red line sends message to Iran' Deputy Foreign Minister Ze'ev Elkin warned Friday that a failure by the international community to act against Syria for using chemical weapons would show Iran that the US does not act when its "red lines" are crossed. Elkin was speaking in an Army Radio interview a day after US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said that the US intelligence community believes that some chemical weapons, likely sarin gas, have been used in the Syrian civil war. Hagel's announcement came after Israel's top military intelligence analyst said Tuesday that the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad had already used chemical weapons in its fight against the country's opposition.
U.S. Not Rushing to Act on Signs Syria Used Chemical Arms President Obama repeated his past assertions that the use of chemical weapons would cross a line and produce an American response, but he indicated that he was not yet satisfied with what he had been told, calling it “preliminary.” He gave no hint about what would convince him or what action he might take. “We have to act prudently,” he told reporters before a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan. “We have to make these assessments deliberately. But I think all of us, not just in the United States but around the world, recognize how we cannot stand by and permit the systematic use of weapons like chemical weapons on civilian populations.”
White House: Obama's "red line" on Syria chemical weapons not crossed The White House said the evidence of Syrian chemical weapons attacks is still too thin and President Obama's red line has not been crossed, and that means military intervention by the United States in the Syrian civil war is not imminent and not guaranteed but more study and investigation is needed.
U.S. Seeks Support for Syria Intervention US President Barack Obama met Tuesday with Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani in Washington. Obama was due Friday to confer with King Abdullah of Jordan for their second summit in less than a month. Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel visited the United Arab Emirates, on the final stage of his first tour to the Middle East since becoming Pentagon chief Pentagon nearly two months ago. "It is clear that a decision has been made in Washington and elsewhere that the situation in Syria has reached the point of no return and requires international intervention," Oraib Rentawi of the Amman-based al-Quds Centre for Political Studies, told dpa. "These meetings are designed to determine how and what type of intervention will take place."
"Evidence" of Syria chemical weapons use not up to U.N. standard Weapons inspectors will only determine whether banned chemical agents were used in the two-year-old conflict if they are able to access sites and take soil, blood, urine or tissue samples and examine them in certified laboratories, according to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which works with the United Nations on inspections. That type of evidence, needed to show definitively if banned chemicals were found, has not been presented by governments and intelligence agencies accusing Syria of using chemical weapons against insurgents.

Syrians Report Broad Fighting and Suspicious Airstrike Activist groups in eastern Syria asserted that the military airstrike, which hit the eastern city of Deir al-Zour, was carried out by a warplane that had flown across the border with Iraq. Some accused Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq, whose Shiite-dominated government is engrossed in a worsening conflict with Sunni militants, of ordering the strike. Others said the plane was a Syrian Air Force MiG that had crossed into Iraqi airspace before turning back into Syria for its bombing sortie.
Syrian air strikes, shelling batter rebels in Damascus suburbs Assad's forces, which have been trying to dislodge rebels from several outlying districts south and east of the capital, focused their assault on Jobar, just inside central Damascus. The army seized the town of Otaiba on Wednesday, cutting a weapons supply route from the Jordanian border into the eastern fringes of Damascus that rebels had used for eight months.
Muslim clerics in Syria urge release of kidnapped bishops Imams and preachers at mosques throughout the Syrian capital said in Friday sermons that  the kidnappers were  “violating the sanctity of Christian and Islamic clergymen,” the official Syrian Arab News Agency reported. Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim were abducted Monday when gunmen stopped their vehicle near the battleground northern city of Aleppo, where both are based. The deacon who was driving their car was shot and killed in the attack. The two were on their way back to Aleppo from a “humanitarian mission” to neighboring Turkey, church officials said.

Investigative Reports
Covert help for Syria's rebels in Jordan More evidence has come to light of Syrian rebels receiving training from Western sources in neighbouring Jordan - but the Jordanian Islamists are also taking an interest in the conflict, as the BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse reports.
Damascus, the city where everything's for sale but no one's buying: Syrian capital has escaped fighting that has ravaged Homs and Aleppo, but it has been reduced to an economic dead zone In a city that lives in fear of car bombings and to a soundtrack of artillery salvoes and air strikes against rebel positions, nightlife is a thing of the past. Damascus was once famous for its clubs, restaurants and tourist attractions. Now they are struggling to survive a crisis that is crippling the economy as well as killing and displacing Syrians.
Syria Plays on Fears to Blunt American Support of Rebels Confident they can sell their message, government officials have eased their reluctance to allow foreign reporters into Syria, paraded prisoners they described as extremist fighters and relied unofficially on a Syrian-American businessman to help tap into American fears of groups like Al Qaeda. “We are partners in fighting terrorism,” Syria’s prime minister, Wael Nader al-Halqi, said. Omran al-Zoubi, the information minister, said: “It’s a war for civilization, identity and culture. Syria, if you want, is the last real secular state in the Arab world.”
Photo Essay - Aleppo: Scenes from a City of Ruins Italian photographer Alessio Romenzi has been chronicling the Syrian civil war for months. The following pictures of his are from a few days in mid-April spent in the battle-scarred city of Aleppo. They include a glimpse of a rebel fighter encamped in the famed Great Mosque of Aleppo, built nearly a thousand years ago by the once mighty Umayyad dynasty.
‘Liberal’ court in Aleppo struggles for influence The Shariah courts have the backing of an array of hard-line rebel groups whose fighters help enforce their decisions in rebel-controlled districts of Syria’s main northern city. The judges of the rival Unified Judicial Council mostly lack the firepower to enforce their writ, but Chief Justice Marwan Kaed, who was a civil judge in Bashar Assad’s regime, is proud of presiding over a more liberal legal system.

Analyses & Op-Eds
Syria chemical weapons: Pentagon weighs evidence, plans response Pentagon officials say they are still trying to confirm reports that Syria has used chemical weapons against civilians, but that they are preparing a military option for any outcome.
Aaron David Miller - Obama's Syria Dilemma: Damned if he does; damned if he doesn't. Whatever Obama does on Syria, he should make sure that he doesn't say anything that he's not prepared to act on. "As president of the United States, I don't bluff," he famously said with regard to U.S. policy toward Tehran. It's just as good advice when it comes to America's approach to Damascus. U.S. street cred is already at all time low in the Middle East. We don't need what remains of U.S. credibility to be lost in the gap between the president's words and his deeds.
Israel Sees U.S. Response to Syria as Gauge on Iran But to the Israelis, how Mr. Obama navigates the next few weeks will be viewed as a gauge for what he might do later regarding the potentially bigger confrontation in the region. “There is a question here: when a red line is set, can we stick by it?” Zeev Elkin, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, said Friday in a radio interview. “If the Iranians will see that the red lines laid by the international community are flexible, then will they continue to progress?” Mr. Obama, during his visit to Israel and Jordan last month, repeated that Iran would not obtain a nuclear weapon on his watch. Yet judging when it would be too late to stop Iran is an even greater intelligence challenge than determining whether chemical weapons were used in Syria near Aleppo and Damascus.
Joseph Holliday - Assad’s Chemical Romance: How the Syrian dictator’s cynical and clever chemical weapons strategy outfoxed Obama. The Syrian regime's subtle approach deliberately offers the Obama administration the option to remain quiet about chemical attacks and thereby avoid the obligation to make good on its threats. But even more worrying, Assad's limited use of chemical weapons is intended to desensitize the United States and the international community in order to facilitate a more comprehensive deployment in the future -- without triggering intervention.

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.


White House: “red line not crossed” + military intervention “not imminent” = Slaughter Can Continue.

President Obama: use of chemical weapons could be “a game changer.” Indeed, instead of hide-and-seek Assad might now be expected to play possum, at least until the current storm of vague reports and speculations blows over.

Video Highlights

War planes dropped explosive barrels on the town of Saraqib, Idlib  , ,

The pounding of rebel strongholds in Eastern Damascus, including Eastern Ghoutah, intensifies: Jobar Tanks take part in the pounding Rebels damage one of the attacking tanks A building catches fire Zamalka The Southern Highway Misraba targeted by warplanes Douma and Arbeen as well , Ain Terma

Warplanes pound rebel strongholds in Daraa City ,

A bomb leaves a family in pieces near the village of Ghariyeh, Daraa Provcince

Scenes from the clashes between loyalists and rebels in the mountains of North Latakia , The resort town of Salma, a rebel stronghold, is now being pounded by fighter jets , , ,

An aerial raid on the town of Alboukamal in Deir Ezzor province ,

War planes target the city of Tabqa in the liberated province of Raqqa