Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Burden!

Should we be honored that a new regional order is being “negotiated” on our land, exploiting our differences, our fears, our desires and our prejudices? Should we say “thank you world!” for giving us such a “historic” opportunity, such a historic mess? Sarcasm aside, now that the resurgent “realists” are arguing more loudly for a sustainable stalemate in Syria, extolling its benefits for all different players, it should be clear by now that the Syrian civil war is bound to last for years to come, that a path out of the quagmire will be difficult to carve, and that the burden of the work will have to carried out by Syrians.

Sunday April 7, 2013

News
Syria oil industry buckling under rebel gains Exports have ground practically to a standstill, and the regime of President Bashar Assad has been forced to import refined fuel supplies to keep up with demand amid shortages and rising prices. In a sign of the increasing desperation, the oil minister met last week with Chinese and Russian officials to discuss exploring for gas and oil in the Mediterranean off Syria's coast. Before the uprising against Assad's regime began in early 2011, the oil sector was a pillar of Syria's economy, with the country producing about 380,000 barrels a day and exports — mostly to Europe — bringing in more than $3 billion in 2010. Oil revenues provided around a quarter of the funds for the government budget.
Steep fall in Syria foreign trade in 2012: study The study, published in pro-regime daily Al-Watan, showed "the dramatic impact caused by the current crisis" on foreign trade. The value of Syria's exports registered in the year 2012 dropped to a mere $185 million, a decline of 97.4 percent on the $7.21 billion registered in 2011. In 2010 exports were valued at $11.35 billion. The study attributed the massive fall-off to "the large-scale destruction of the country's infrastructure and industrial supplies, causing many enterprises to stop functioning". Imports also suffered an unprecedented sharp decline of 78.4 percent in 2012, dropping to a value of just $3.58 billion from $16.57 billion a year earlier. The study blamed "the important role" played by international sanctions for the decline in foreign trade, which had pumped up the trade deficit and weakened the national currency.
Zawahiri urges establishment of Islamic state in Syria to help return of Caliphate "Let your fight be in the name of Allah and with the aim of establishing Allah's sharia (law) as the ruling system," he said in his first message posted on the Internet since last November. "Do all that you can so that your holy war yields a jihadist Islamic state," said Zawahiri, adding that such a state would help to re-establish the Islamic "caliphate" system of rule. "The enemy has begun to reel and collapse," he said, referring to forces loyal to Assad. Islamist rebel groups such as the Al-Nusra Front, which has links to Al-Qaeda, have eschewed the main opposition National Coalition, making it clear their goal is the creation of an Islamic state to replace President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
Women and children killed in shelling near Damascus: report Fifteen people, among them a child and three women, were killed in shelling of the towns of Jisreen, Kafr Batna and nearby areas, said the Observatory, which relies on a network of activists, doctors and lawyers for its reports. Another six rebel fighters were killed in fighting in Nashabiyeh, also east of Damascus, said the Britain-based group. Some of Syria’s fiercest and best organised rebel groups hold enclaves east of Damascus — known as the Eastern Ghouta area — and the army has for the past several months fought to halt the insurgents in their tracks.
Syria Army Oust Rebels From Airport Near Aleppo, Activists Say Intense fighting is taking place on the outskirts of the “strategic” Aziza village after Syrian forces ousted rebels late yesterday after weeks of clashes, the U.K.-based group said on its Facebook page today. Aziza and Jisr Assan were used by rebels to attack the airports, the group said. Rebels have tried to capture military airports to reduce the government’s air superiority. In February, rebels including the Islamist Al-Nusra Front, a group classified terrorist by the U.S., captured the Jarah military airport in Aleppo province. They have been unable to seize the Aleppo airport and the Bab al-Neyrab military airbase.
Syria Airstrikes Launched By Regime, Rebels Warned Via Text Message At least 20 people were killed in heavy airstrikes that targeted rebels trying to topple the regime in at least seven cities and regions. To underline their resolve, the government called on opposition fighters to surrender their arms and warned in cellphone text messages that the army is "coming to get you." State television said the aim of the counteroffensive was to send a message to the opposition and its Western backers that President Bashar Assad's troops are capable and willing to battle increasingly better armed rebels on multiple fronts.
Report: Syria withdraws troops from Golan Assad's army moves thousands of soldiers into battle fronts closer to Damascus, The Guardian reports. Rebels move into the vacuum.

Special Reports
Grave Robbers and War Steal Syria’s History Across much of Syria, the country’s archaeological heritage is imperiled by war, facing threats ranging from outright destruction by bombs and bullets to opportunistic digging by treasure hunters who take advantage of the power vacuum to prowl the country with spades and shovels. Fighting has raged around the Roman ruins of Palmyra, the ancient city in central Syria, once known as the Bride of the Desert. And the Syrian Army has established active garrisons at some of the country’s most treasured and antiquated citadels, including castles at Aleppo, Hama and Homs. For decades Ebla has been celebrated for the insights it offers into early Syrian civilization. The scenes here today offer something else: a prime example of a peculiar phenomenon of Syria’s civil war — scores, if not hundreds, of archaeological sites, often built and inhabited millenniums ago because of their military value, now at risk as they are put to military use once more.
Should America let Syria fight on? An unsettling new way to see the catastrophic civil war Many observers fear that Assad will fall and open the way to a five- or ten-year civil war between his successor and a well-armed coalition of Islamist militias, turning Syria into an Afghanistan on the Euphrates. The only thing that seems likely is that whatever comes next will be tragic for the people of Syria. Because this chilly if practical logic is largely unspoken, the current hands-off policy continues to bewilder many American onlookers. It would be easier to navigate the conversation about intervention if the White House, and the policy community, admit what observers are starting to describe as the benefits of the war. Only then can we move forward to the real moral and political calculations at stake: for example, whether giving Iran a black eye is worth having a hand in the tally of Syria’s dead and displaced.

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

Rebels in Khan Shaikhoon, Idlib, bring down a fighter jet http://youtu.be/pbFoCVy0QuM

In Raqqah City, regime pounding targets the grain silos http://youtu.be/9wuQpY8RuBQ Schools have become centers for refugees http://youtu.be/55iY1OO-u58 Water mains explode due to pounding http://youtu.be/qdegDTbUjQg , http://youtu.be/_aI2NQZE5Zs

Aerial raids against Eastern Ghouta in Damascus Suburbs leave many dead: Jisreen http://youtu.be/fdmuMeC1aV8 , http://youtu.be/amqbtml8axM Kafat Batna http://youtu.be/Zwh_FjrOWUg , http://youtu.be/QSx4e5MFUaY