Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Bare Naked Truth!

No more masks. No more fig-leafs. With Alawite militias now coming out in the open calling for “cleansing” and “liberating” their areas of Sunnis with the support of established religious figures in their community, the sectarian nature of the Assad regime and the ongoing crackdown can no longer be denied. What we have now in Syria is de facto and de jure a genocidal venture. Indeed, there are many Alawite figures who oppose it, and that gives us some hope for the possibility of intercommunal reconciliation down the road, but for now, we have to see realities for what they are. It’s time we removed the blindfold and admitted to ourselves that we are once again allowing genocide to take place, as we watch. And by the way, someone should tell Mr. Kerry and Mr. Lavrov that those already committed to perpetrating genocide are interested in politics only inasmuch as they can be used as cover for their crimes. The Russians don’t seem to have any compunction about being partners in this particular crime. The question is: how does Obama feel?

Tuesday May 7, 2013

Death Toll: 128, including 5 women, 4 children and 1 martyr under torture: 46 reported in Daraa including 12 found in a mass grave in Sheikh Meskeen; 35 in Damascus and its suburbs; 9 in Hama; 9 in Qunaitra; 9 in Aleppo; 8 in Homs; 7 in Idlib; and 4 in Deir Ezzor (LCC).

News
U.S. and Russia Plan Conference Aimed at Ending Syrian War Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov, announced their agreement to arrange the conference after a day of intense diplomatic meetings here. Mr. Kerry, who was visiting Russia seeking to find common ground on the Syria conflict, told reporters at a joint appearance with Mr. Lavrov in Moscow that the aim would be to push the government of President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian opposition to attend. The announcement appeared to signal a strong desire by both countries to halt what has been a dangerous escalation in the conflict, with evidence of chemical weapons use, a surge in the number of civilians fleeing combat and a refugee crisis that is overwhelming Syria’s neighbors. Israeli aerial attacks this past weekend on suspected munitions sites in Syria heightened and further complicated the tensions in the region.
No Easy Answers on Syria, Obama Says Speaking at a news conference with President Park Geun-hye of South Korea, Mr. Obama said: “Understandably, there’s a desire for easy answers. That’s not the situation there.” “My job is to constantly measure our very real and legitimate humanitarian and national security interests in Syria,” he said, adding that that must be measured against “my bottom line: which is what’s in the best interest of America’s security.” Still, Mr. Obama sought to dispel suggestions that he faced a credibility gap in the wake of intelligence showing that sarin gas was used on March 19 in a Syrian village west of Aleppo and in the outskirts of Damascus. He cited the commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden and the NATO-led air campaign against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya as evidence of his resolve. “There have been several instances during the course of my presidency where I said I was going to do something,” he said, “and it ended up getting done.”
Web monitor: ‘Syria has largely disappeared from the Internet’ The outage appears to have begun at 2:45 p.m. Eastern time, or 9:45 p.m. in Syria. According to a blog post by Umbrella’s chief technology officer Dan Hubbard, “On closer inspection it seems Syria has largely disappeared from the Internet.” Many Syria-watchers feared that the Web shutdown was a precursor to some sort of coordinated regime counterattack or campaign; that President Bashar al-Assad had not wanted the world to see what he was about to do. No such campaign ever appeared to come, however. Later, many Syria analysts concluded that the regime may have been seeking to hamper rebel communication; fighting near the Damascus airport at the time had potentially threatened one of Assad’s key links to the outside.
Sen. Corker on Syria: U.S. will "be arming the rebels soon" "I do think we'll be arming the opposition shortly," Corker said Tuesday on "CBS This Morning." "We're doing a lot more on the ground than really is known but we do have to change the equation. ... The moderate opposition groups we support are not as good at fighting, they're not as good at delivering humanitarian aid."
4 UN peacekeepers taken hostage in Syria Four U.N. peacekeepers monitoring the cease-fire between Syria and the Golan Heights have been detained by unknown captors, a U.N. spokeswoman said. But a rebel group called the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigades claimed it is holding them. The spokeswoman for the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force told Reuters Tuesday that the peacekeepers were in the area where other U.N. observers were detained by Syrian rebels for three days in March. Kieran Dwyer, spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping department, said efforts are under way to secure the four peacekeepers, who are all from the Philippines. In a statement that was posted on the group's Facebook page Tuesday, the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigades said the peacekeepers are not their hostages, but are being kept with them for their own safety.
Turkey condemns Israeli air strikes in Syria "The air strike Israel carried out on Damascus is completely unacceptable. There is no rationale, no pretext that can excuse this operation," Erdogan told a parliamentary meeting of his ruling party. "These attacks are chances, opportunities offered on a golden tray to Assad and to the illegitimate Syrian regime. Using the Israel attack as an excuse, he is trying to cover up the genocide in Banias," he said. Erdogan was referring to a Syrian coastal town where anti-Assad activists said at least 62 people were killed by government fighters over the weekend.
42 Syrian soldiers dead in reported Israeli strike, opposition group says Concern about the possibility of broader war in the Middle East grew Monday after reported airstrikes on Syrian military installations. The reported strikes killed 42 Syrian soldiers, the opposition Syrian Observatory for  Human Rights said Monday, citing medical sources. It said 100 people remained missing. The Syrian government warned Sunday's apparent strikes -- which followed one last week attributed by Syria to Israel -- "opens the door wide for all the possibilities."
Russia says chance of foreign intervention in Syria growing "We are seriously concerned by the signs of preparation of global public opinion for possible armed intervention in the long-running internal conflict in Syria," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement. Russia also voiced concern at Israeli air strikes against Syrian targets, saying that they threatened to escalate tensions in neighbouring countries. "We are looking into and analysing all the circumstances surrounding the especially concerning reports of the May 3 and May 5 Israeli air strikes," the foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that they threatened to destabilise the situation in Lebanon.
Israel to reopen airspace after Syria strike: military "Civilian aviation in northern Israel will resume regular operation following security assessments," a statement said. An army spokeswoman told AFP that the closure, originally scheduled to last until May 9, was expected to end later on Monday.
Israel says 'no winds of war' despite Syria air strikes Oil prices spiked above $105 a barrel, their highest in nearly a month, on Monday as the air strikes on Friday and Sunday prompted fears of a wider spillover of the two-year-old conflict in Syria that could affect Middle East oil exports. "There are no winds of war," Yair Golan, the general commanding Israeli forces on the Syrian and Lebanese fronts, told reporters while out jogging with troops. "Do you see tension? There is no tension. Do I look tense to you?" he said, according to the Maariv NRG news website.

Analyses & Op-Eds
Israel Bombs Syria: Nation a ‘Battlefield for the World’s Powers’ The rebels weren’t behind those fireballs. As the international community refuses to officially intervene, Mike Giglio on how regional players are stepping up their own involvement in Syria.
Will Syria Still Exist a Year From Today? While Obama wrings his hands over a ‘red line,’ the U.N. sits on the sidelines. How long until Syria as we know it falls off the map? Janine di Giovanni sounds the alarm—again.
Kurds Should Not Fear Renewed Per­se­cu­tion in Syria, Expert Says Dr. Nikolaos van Dam is the former Ambassador of the Netherlands to Iraq, Egypt, Turkey, Ger­many and Indonesia, and author of The Struggle for Power in Syria (2011). With a profound diplomatic experience in different areas across the world and a broad knowledge on various outstanding causes in the Middle East, including the Kurdish issue, Dr. Nikolaos van Dam observes the current developments in Iraq and Syria with a special interest in the potential outcome of the ongoing crises on the future of the Kurds. Dr. van Dam illustrates his views in this regard through this exclusive interview.
Reported Israeli airstrikes in Syria could accelerate U.S. decision process Now, in part because of growing confidence in the rebel Free Syrian Army, “the national security team and the diplomatic team around the president” favor increased involvement, and their views are gaining momentum despite the caution expressed by Obama’s political advisers, according to a senior Western official whose government has closely coordinated its Syria policy with Washington and who spoke before the reported Israeli strikes. The official discussed sensitive diplomatic assessments on the condition of anonymity. Even U.S. lawmakers who have expressed reservations about stepped-up U.S. involvement appeared to now see it as inevitable. “If we are going to arm the rebels, we have to make sure those arms are not going to end up in the possession of al-Qaeda supporters,” Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
What if al Qaeda Gets Syrian Chemical Weapons? “I think we should be worried,” says Jeffrey White an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and former military intelligence officer. “As the war progresses and the rebels gain territory, assuming they do, inevitably they’re going to close in on some of the regime’s chemical facilities.” In fact, that has already happened. Earlier this year, rebel fighters with the powerful Jabat al Nusra faction–a group the State Department calls an extension of al Qaeda in Iraq–battled close enough to a major Syrian chemical stockpile near Aleppo that the regime is believed to have relocated its weapons to another location.
Lessons from a massacre that Assad looks to exploit The narrative is that the regime's forces are driving Sunni families from Alawite areas, in Homs and elsewhere, for the purpose of paving the way for a potential statelet on the coast. But that narrative is inaccurate because such moves are not systematic or universal. Sunni families were welcomed in the Alawite heartlands and Alawite families are similarly leaving their areas in the country's middle when there is violence and heading to the coast. These moves, therefore, suggest that sectarian cleansing is not being conducted for the purpose of establishing a potential state but for other strategic reasons to ensure the flow of Alawite fighters from and into this area. As the rebels close in on the coastline, the regime probably feels that such massacres will deepen sectarian tensions and pit Sunni and Alawites against each other, thereby convincing the Alawites they need to fight alongside the Assad regime for their survival. A similar ploy was employed in the beginning of the conflict in 2011. A month into the anti-regime protests, pro-regime militias - their fighters with accents and names associated in Syria with Alawites - filmed themselves humiliating protesters in the same village as the weekend's massacre.

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 Genocidal Truth

Lest we forget, this is the reality of what is happening in Syria today: genocide. The images below are the villages of Byada and Raas Al-Nabea in Banyas.


  



More information on the current Alawite militias carrying out the ethnic cleansing campaign in Banyas has also surfaced.

The group spearheading the effort is called the Syrian Resistance and is headed by one Mihrac Ural (https://www.facebook.com/mihrac.ural.1?fref=ts), AKA Al-Kayyal (the weigher) and also Ali Kayyali, the fellow we recently saw in a leaked video (http://youtu.be/y0P4rhRjR9I) calling for ethnic cleansing as part of a “cleanse and liberate” approach to consolidate Alawite hold on the coastal regions in Syria.

Mihrac is the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Iskandarone, an organization created by the late Hafiz Al-Assad to “liberate” and retrieve the Hatay region from Turkey. The movement was nothing more than a propaganda stunt really and was rendered obsolete during the rapprochement with Turkey under Bashar Al-Assad. But the growing rift between the two sides since the onset of the revolution breathed a new life into the movement and transformed into a fanatical Alawite militia fighting to maintain Assad rule and seeking to cultivate support for his regime among the Alawite community in Hatay. Mihrac himself is a communist, but religious Alawite figures such as Sheikh Mouaffac Ghazal among others are also playing their part in the new movement.




In this video from March 2013, we can see Mihrac and his people introduce themselves defiantly at a time when their campaign was being planned. Their message is simple: we are poor, we are not receiving military or financial support from anyone, and we do what we do because we believe in the cause (link from a Youtube channel affiliated with the group) http://youtu.be/yWiA7KqacNk (this is another link to the view from a rebel YouTube channel: http://youtu.be/dXOGqT3gB3Y) Of course, pro-Assad militias re supported logistically and financially by the Assad regime.

In this video, we see Mihrac speaking at a funeral of a local militiaman following the massacre in Al-Bayda promising to fight on against the terrorists of the Empty Quarter (reference to Saudi Arabia support to rebels) under the leadership of Bashar Al-Assad http://youtu.be/SJeLuV1j2GE 

This is an older video of Mihrac (January 2013) with English subtitles http://youtu.be/PwnQ4-D2cOQ

Another leaked video from Banyas shows Alawite militias abusing and transporting the corpse of a captive to unknown whereabouts http://youtu.be/IyOE_BngaS8

Stupefied? Dumb? Or Duplicitous?

Carla Del Ponte says that she “was a little bit stupefied by the first indication of the use of nerve gas by the opposition" For their parts Syrians were stupefied by her previous fuckups as a prosecutor. Meanwhile, the White House makes clear that “Assad likely behind chemical arms use,” and Peter Bergen considers “Al Qaeda's track record with chemical weapons” in Iraq, specifically with chlorine gas. The problem with this analysis is that people who have been hit by chemical weapons attack in Syria are rebels and their host communities.

The Violations Documentation Center has issued this report on use of chemical weapons by the regime in April 2013 in Damascus City! So, the story regarding use of chemical weapons in Syria at this stage is that they are being used methodically by the regime even in the country’s capital.

Video Highlights

Rebels in Qusair, Homs Province, claim that their city was targeted with napalm type bombs during aerial raid. They show this man as a proof http://youtu.be/p9qyNvI6uIA this is the bomb that was dropped on town and caused the injuries http://youtu.be/a3XPawgE1oA

Attack on Al-Bayda by artillery continues http://youtu.be/BXyYDE1GdfQ , http://youtu.be/nZX34LC0_gY

Rebels in Deir Ezzor blow up a research center used as loyalist headquarters by pro-Assad militias inside the military airport http://youtu.be/11sqb8-WU24 But the pounding of the city with heavy artillery continues http://youtu.be/lbIIGpM-U-0 , http://youtu.be/orbO-U80yzA

The aftermath of a rebel attack on a loyalist convoy in Damascus Suburbs http://youtu.be/3MXj0pAkico

Pro-Assad militias execute an Egyptian prisoner who was fighting for the rebels in Eastern Ghoutah, Damascus Suburbs http://youtu.be/0OpuRS_eh44

On the other hand, rebels for the most part still treat the captured and wounded pro-regime soldiers with some decency, not matter how reluctantly. This video is from Daraa http://youtu.be/6MHk3A2h1cg Rebels are under constant pressure from activists in their midst to behave according to legal norms, and oftentimes, this pressure works, albeit violations among rebels are mounting. Pro-Assad militias on the other hand operate under the opposite pressures: they are meant to misbehave torture, loot and kill.

Rebel strongholds in Damascus City continue to be pounded: Jobar http://youtu.be/60jyJ9iNnj0 , http://youtu.be/S2lNMY2Y-nM Zamalka http://youtu.be/-JSL7AaCGnc

To the West, the pounding of Moadamiyeh Suburb continues http://youtu.be/5XzevFVdPp4 , http://youtu.be/1-J_9h230jM