Sunday, May 5, 2013

Bluff & Awe!

Ethnic cleansing is not only about how many people are killed, it’s more often about how many people are displaced. With more than 6 million internally displaced persons, 2 million refugees, and hundreds of thousands of detainees and missing, the overwhelming majority of whom happen to be Sunni Arabs, and considering the fact that it has only taken 2 years to achieve this feat, the scale of the human tragedy in Syria assumes new proportions. Furthermore, the tragedy is playing out in the age of “never again” and R2P, reports of this genocide are being broadcast around the clock through social media so no one can feign ignorance, and all is being accomplished with minimal recourse to WMDs. Obama’s red line has been irrelevant since the beginning, and was nothing more than a meaningless bluff that was exposed as such when reports of its violation were casually dismissed by the man who drew the line, and when Israelis just showed the world how red lines are actually maintained… (Continue below).

Saturday May 4, 2013

Death Toll: 271 martyrs, including more than 30 women, 20 children and 1 under torture: 142 martyrs were reported in Banyas in Raas Al-Nabea Massacre which took place on Friday; 33 in Homs; 29 in Aleppo; 21 in Damascus and its Suburbs; 14 in Daraa; 11 in Raqqa; 11 in Hama; 7 in Idlib; 2 in Deir Ezzor; and 1 in Hassakeh (LCC).

Israel enforces 'red line' with Syria airstrike on weapons bound for Hezbollah, officials say But the strike, which one official said targeted a shipment of advanced surface-to-surface missiles, also raised new concerns that the region's most powerful military could be dragged into Syria's civil war and spark a wider conflagration. Fighting has repeatedly spilled across Syria's borders into Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights during more than two years of conflict, while more than 1 million Syrians have sought refuge in neighboring countries.
Explosions shake Damascus, Syria blames Israel Powerful explosions struck the outskirts of Damascus early on Sunday, sending columns of fire into the night sky, and Syrian state television said Israeli rockets had struck a military facility just north of the capital. Israel declined to comment on the attack, but the blasts occurred a day after an Israeli official said his country had carried out an air strike targeting a consignment of missiles in Syria intended for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. One of the sites hit on Sunday, the Jamraya military research center, was also targeted by Israel in January.
'IAF strike in Syria targeted arms from Iran' Reports indicate the strike targeted surface-to-surface Fateh-110 missiles that were stored at a warehouse in the Damascus airport. The New York Times quoted American officials as saying the missile shipment came from Iran. It is unclear whether the Fateh-110 missiles were intended for Hezbollah, who are said to already have a small supply of them, or to Assad forces, who are running low on Fateh-110 missiles that were used on opposition forces, the American official told the Times.
Israel has the right to hit missiles, Obama says after strike It is Israel's right to prevent Hezbollah from getting weapons, President Obama said, a day after Israeli jets reportedly destroyed Iranian missiles in Syria bound for the Lebanese terrorist group. Neither the U.S. nor the Israeli governments have confirmed multiple reports quoting anonymous officials in both countries as saying that Israel was responsible for the strike early Friday on Damascus airport. Obama, in his first remarks on the issue, in an interview Saturday with Telemundo, also would not confirm Israel's role in the strike. He emphasized, however, Israel's right to carry out such attacks. "What I have said in the past and I continue to believe is that the Israelis justifiably have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah," Obama told Telemundo, in remarks picked up first by the Reuters news agency. "We coordinate closely with the Israelis recognizing they are very close to Syria, they are very close to Lebanon," he said.
Israel: Syrian chemical arms safe, Hezbollah does not want them "Syria has large amounts of chemical weaponry and missiles. Everything there is under (Assad government) control," Gilad said in a speech. "Hezbollah does not have chemical weaponry. We have ways of knowing. They are not keen to take weaponry like this, preferring systems that can cover all of the country (Israel)," he said. He was apparently referring to Hezbollah's conventional ground-to-ground missiles, whose number the Israelis put at around 60,000. "Chemical weapons kill those who use them," Gilad added.

Syrians flee 'massacres' in Baniyas and al-Bayda Hundreds of Syrians have fled coastal areas where activists say government forces have carried out massacres in a campaign of sectarian cleansing. Video footage of mutilated and burned bodies, allegedly from the town of Baniyas, has been posted online. Activists said at least 77 people - 20 from the same family - were killed, a day after 72 died in nearby al-Bayda. The government said it had fought back "terrorist groups" and restored peace and security to the area.
Syria: massacres of Sunni families reported in Assad's heartland Along with the cities of Tartus and Latakia, Banias – which has seen relatively little violence – is at the centre of the Alawite "heartland", referring to the minority Shia sect of which Assad and many of his closest supporters are members. Some analysts have speculated that, in the event of the breakup of Syria, the Assad regime and Alawites might attempt to set up their own mini-state in this coastal strip. According to some sources, Sunni families were being blocked from fleeing south to the town of Tartus at government checkpoints.
U.S. 'appalled' by reports of Syrian massacre "We strongly condemn atrocities against the civilian population and reinforce our solidarity with the Syrian people," State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said in a statement. The opposition National Coalition had reported a "large scale massacre" in the Sunni village of Bayda, in the southern suburbs of Banias, a predominantly Alawite city on the Mediterranean. "The United States is appalled by horrific reports that more than 100 people were killed May 2 in gruesome attacks on the coastal town of Bayda, Syria," the US statement said. "Regime and Shabiha forces reportedly destroyed the area with mortar fire then stormed the town and executed entire families, including women and children. "We extend our deepest condolences to the families of the victims of this tragedy," it said.

Syrian president visits Damascus university The report says Assad inaugurated on Saturday a statue dedicated to "martyrs" from Syrian universities who died in the country's two-year-old uprising and civil war. A photograph posted on Assad's Facebook page showed him surrounded by bodyguards as young men, who appeared to be students, waved at him. Assad normally appears rarely in public. But on Wednesday, Assad visited a Damascus power station to mark May Day, according to the media.

Investigative Reports
Off-the-Cuff Obama Line Put U.S. in Bind on Syria The evolution of the “red line” and the nine months that followed underscore the improvisational nature of Mr. Obama’s approach to one of the most vexing crises in the world, all the more striking for a president who relishes precision. Palpably reluctant to become entangled in another war in the Middle East, and well aware that most Americans oppose military action, the president has deliberately not explained what his “red line” actually is or how it would change his calculus.

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.


… When world leaders fail to uphold their own rules and red lines, it is the global order that is undermined, and the implications of that will be felt in N. Korea, Burma, Congo, and a dozen other hotspots where red lines will soon be obliterated, and instead with one messy conflict, leaders of the free world will find themselves dealing simultaneously with many. This is for all those experts who think the conflict in Syria could be contained. They use smartphones and social media like robots, without understanding the real implications of this technology in the age of hyperconnectivity. There are no locally containable crises anymore. All conflicts are global. But some people can only get this the hard way. Syria seems so far away to most Americans, and so at one point did Chechnya, until she materialized in Boston. A few pro-Assad Syrians based in Dubai sent Wall Street reeling, if only for few minutes this time, with a hacked account and a fake tweet. Everybody’s vulnerable these days. A small set of few determined individuals with a local grievance can undermine everyone’s sense of security.

Video Highlights

This new leaked video shows scenes of the massacre perpetrated by pro-Assad militias in the town of Al-Bayda, Banyas  The picture below shows what happened to the bodies that we see in the room after this video was made. They were set on fire. The white and blue table can be seen in both the video and the photograph.  

This video shows dead babies and children from the village of Raas Al-Nabea (Banyas) which was also stormed by pro-Assad militias over the last couple of days. Some of the bodies seem to have been burnt as well

A major explosion occurs on top of Mount Qasayoun overlooking Damascus , The top of Mount Qasayoun is host to myriad of army bases and weapons depots and has been used by Assadist militias to pound rebel strongholds in and around the city. Both activists and Syrian State TV are saying that the explosion is the result of an air strike raising the possibility that Israel might be behind it. The same explosion as seen from Barzeh neighborhood Explosions also took place near the town of Al-Tal

Local activists in the Hameh region west of Damascus show a shell of one of the bombs that they claim were dropped by Israeli planes on position of pro-Assad militias

However, not all activists are jumping on board this interpretation of events. While the Friday attack might have been the work of Israeli air force, today’s attack, they insist, is the work of the regime as part of its preparations to abandon Damascus. They believe that Assad and his circles are now planning to withdraw to the coastal region, and that they are now destroying all weapon stockpiles they cannot take with them.

Earlier in the day, activists recorded this strange missile streaking its way across the Damascene skies destination origins and destination unknown

Rebel strongholds in Damascus and suburbs continued to be targeted by warplanes, heavy artillery and rockets: Zamalka Jobar Arbeen Barzeh

In Homs Province, several children were killed during the pounding of the village of Al-Bouaydah Al-Sharqiyeh

Meanwhile, tensions are growing between Islamist and Kurdish rebels in north Aleppo, with Islamist rebels said to be preparing to enter the Kurdish-majority town of Efrin The move seems to come as a response to the success of Kurdish rebels in the town of Tal Tamr, in the Hassakeh province in the northeastern parts of Syria in driving away Arab and Islamist rebels from their town following days of fighting.