Death Toll: 173 martyrs, including 6 women, 9 children and 14 martyrs under torture: 53 reported in Hama; 49 in Damascus and Suburbs including 13 in the Marjeh can bombing; 19 in Aleppo; 17 in Idlib; 13 in Homs; 11 in Daraa; 8 in Deir Ezzor; 2 in Raqqa; and 1 in Lattakia (LCC).
Obama moving toward sending lethal arms to Syrian rebels, officials say Yet even as Obama voiced caution in responding to what he has called the “red line” on chemical weapons use, officials described him as ready to move on what one described as the “left-hand side” of a broad spectrum that ranged from “arming the opposition to boots on the ground.” “We’re clearly on an upward trajectory,” the senior official said. “We’ve moved over to assistance that has a direct military purpose.” Officials did not specify what U.S. equipment is under consideration, although the rebels have specifically requested antitank weapons and surface-to-air missiles.
Leader of Hezbollah Warns It Is Ready to Come to Syria’s Aid The leader, Hassan Nasrallah, declared in a televised speech that Hezbollah could become more deeply involved in the future, and warned that Syria had “real friends” who would not allow it “to fall into the hands” of America, Israel and Islamic extremists, the forces that the Syrian government routinely blames for the two-year uprising against it. He appeared to be referring to Iran, a patron of both Hezbollah and the Syrian government, as well as Hezbollah itself, whose well-organized guerrilla fighting force, honed by past battles with the Israeli military in southern Lebanon, is widely considered more effective than Lebanon’s army. Hezbollah relies on Iran and Syria to supply its arms. “You won’t be able to bring down Damascus and you cannot bring down the regime, militarily,” Mr. Nasrallah said. “The battle will be long.”
Obama balks on Syria chemical arms threat With the U.S. disengaging from the unpopular war in Afghanistan and still smarting from the difficult conflict in Iraq, Obama has been reticent to unleash American military power in the Syrian fighting, a civil war that has killed tens of thousands of people. The president said the conflict is a “blemish on the international community generally.” But he added that he was not prepared to rush to respond to growing evidence that chemical weapons had been used in Syria, something he had termed would mark the crossing of a “red line” and a game-changer. “I meant that we would have to rethink the range of options open to us,” Obama said. But when measuring additional action, Obama said, “I’ve got to know I’ve got the facts.” “We don’t know who used them. We don’t have a chain of custody that establishes” exactly what happened. Obama further declared that the international community had to be completely confident in the assessment that chemical weapons have been used. Syria urged the United Nations to send scientists to investigate its claim of a chemical attack by rebels in Aleppo, but said it does not trust U.S. accusations that such arms were used elsewhere in the country.
Bombings Hit Syria as Obama Urges Caution on U.S. Role The blasts in Syria, which killed at least 13 people in Damascus and at least five at the Bab al-Hawa crossing in northern Syria, came a day after an attempted assassination of Syria’s prime minister in central Damascus from a bomb aimed at his motorcade. The prime minister, Wael Nader al-Halqi, survived the attack but at least five others including a bodyguard were killed, Syria’s state news media reported. In a news conference in Washington, Mr. Obama said that despite an American intelligence assessment last week that there was evidence that chemical weapons had been used in Syria, the evidence had not yet surpassed his “red line” for a change of American strategy regarding the conflict, in which President Bashar al-Assad is fighting an increasingly violent insurgency.
Rebel advocate: Obama’s call for Syria probe ‘a bluff’ “Obama will never get the concrete evidence he wants unless there’s a full U.N. investigation, to which Assad will not agree,” said Abdulwahab Omar, a Syrian anti-Assad activist based in London. “That means Obama will never be obliged to do anything,” he said. “You can call it a bluff. He tried to show that the United States would be prepared to intervene when things get serious, when in reality, the U.S. is not prepared to intervene unless its own interests are directly affected.”
Syria War Draws Caution From U.S. Joint Chiefs The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, said Tuesday he is “cautious” about U.S. military intervention in Syria because of doubts that it would halt the violence or achieve political reconciliation. He cast doubt on the effectiveness of establishing a no-fly zone, saying that only about 10 percent of the casualties suffered by anti-regime forces are caused by air strikes. He said 90 percent are caused by small arms and artillery, which would be unaffected by a no-fly zone. Dempsey, an Army officer who is the nation’s most senior military commander and chief military adviser to the president, also said the Joint Chiefs have “not yet” been asked to look at options for putting American ground forces inside Syria.
Russia bans passenger flights over Syria The federal agency Rosaviation said the ban on flights over Syria went into force on Monday and will remain until further notice. “The federal air transport agency believes that in this situation commercial interests cannot prevail over the safety of people who use the services of Russian airlines,” it said in a statement. The ban comes after the crew of a charter plane flying from the Egyptian resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh to the Russian city of Kazan on Monday said it had come under threat when it flew over Syria.
Activists: 15 Syrian rebels die in battle for base The Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights said the rebels tried to storm the Mannagh base in the northern province of Aleppo late Monday but the regime deployed fighter jets to the area. The jets pounded rebel positions around the helicopter base, which is located near Syria’s border with Turkey, said Rami Abdul-Rahman, the Observatory’s director. On Tuesday, 15 rebels were killed in a hit on the base, said Abdul-Rahman, whose group relies on a network of activists on the ground.
Running the gauntlet: delivering food in Syria Matthew Hollingworth said in an interview last week that WFP is trying to feed 2.5 million people every month inside Syria – a tenth of the population – and a million outside, in a conflict that has left 70,000 dead. He says his organization will need to almost double the number of people it reaches by the end of the year. “It’s no secret that the conflict is intensifying, or has been intensifying over the last month,” said the WFP’s deputy regional emergency coordinator. “The two parties of the conflict are digging in.” “We are trying to keep up with the enormity of the crisis and the impact of the brutality,” he said.
At least 500 Europeans fighting with Syria rebels, study finds, stoking radicalization fears The EU’s Gilles de Kerchove told the BBC there were at least 500 Europeans taking part in Syria’s civil war, and it was “likely many of them will be radicalized” fighting alongside some of the known Muslim extremist militias in the country, and that the returning EU nationals would pose, “a serious threat” to security in European nations. Peter Neumann, Director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization (ICSR) at London’s King’s College, was led the report. He believes the number of fighters from countries including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Sweden and Belgium to be “at least in the mid-hundreds to high-hundreds.”
Already unable to cope with refugees, Syria’s neighbors brace for more The United Nations says about 1.5 million Syrians have fled to the countries that border Syria, and just as on the Lebanese border, more are waiting to enter Jordan and Turkey as well. Aid agencies already have said they cannot cope with the problem in its current state, let alone the arrival of more Syrians, a trend that appears inevitable as Syrian government troops push to regain territory lost to rebels along the Lebanese and Jordanian borders. Many of those fleeing now have been displaced inside Syria multiple times, and officials in Aarsal, which lies on a longtime smuggling route between the countries, say they’re expecting the biggest influx yet.
Syrians deserting the FSA: Faust wants his soul back In the midst of this harsh war, Syrians have found themselves at a crossroads: obliged to choose between either their personal interest and life or the country’s freedom. A question occurs to me here – Is it possible for fighters who quit the FSA to go back to their old lives? It seems highly improbable, given that Syria has been ripped into so many different pieces with different authorities holding sway over particular areas – here the regime, there such and such battalion. The country is now a hotchpotch of hot and cool areas. Families have been displaced across the country in their millions. Most fighters are wanted by intelligence forces and they can’t go back to their original villages and towns, nor can they meet their families who were forced to flee. This is how our lives – and not just that of FSA fighters – have been trapped, in the eye of a tornado that is hurtling at breakneck speed. Where and how we get off is anyone’s guess. One thing is for sure – it won’t be an emerald city.
Did someone fire missiles at a Russian jetliner flying over Syria? R ussia’s foreign ministry said in a statement that it will “take the necessary emergency measures to clear up the details of the story and work in cooperation with the Syrian authorities.” But some aviation experts say they are skeptical that anything of the kind could have happened, and suspect the event may have been “staged,” perhaps for political reasons. “This is a fairy tale. Nothing like that could have happened, it’s just been staged,” says Magomed Tolboyev, one of Russia’s most famous test pilots. “It’s too silly to discuss.” But others say it could have happened and, if so, it’s a very serious warning for civilian aircraft to avoid flying over Syria. “A passenger plane has no means of preventing a missile attack, but it does have a system that warns of approaching objects and automatically makes the plane go up or down in response,” says Valery Entanaltsev, executive director of the Fund for Developing Aviation Infrastructure, an industry-supported public organization. “It’s not clear who was behind this shooting, but it needs to be thoroughly investigated. Maybe it was a provocation. It’s a very worrisome development,” he says.
Analyses & Op-Eds
Max Boot: Red Line or Punch Line? Instead of doing something about Assad’s war crimes, Obama prefers to ask for a full United Nations investigation, which could take years–if ever–to reach a definitive finding. This is rapidly turning the U.S. into a global joke: the superpower that issues ultimatums it has no intention of enforcing. But the consequences of inaction are no joke because they are, as former U.S. army officer Joseph Holliday argues, a virtual invitation for Assad, now that he has seen the world will do nothing, to expand his use of chemical weapons.
David Ignatius: Frustrated by Obama’s caution on Syria Obama said in the televised news conference that he wanted solid evidence of chemical weapons that could prompt international action against Bashar al-Assad. “If we end up rushing to judgment without hard, effective evidence, then we can find ourselves in a position where we can’t mobilize the international community to support what we do,” Obama said. But Idriss countered that his forces have enough information now to answer Obama’s questions of how, where and when the weapons were deployed on four separate occasions. He welcomed U.S. plans to train his forces but said this strategy will be useless if Assad continues the chemical attacks. Idriss claimed the regime could deliver the chemical weapons with planes and Scud missiles, which he said must be destroyed.
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.”
No one in the opposition has advanced the argument that a no-fly zone will stop the killing everywhere in Syria. Our argument has and continues to be focused on the need for allowing legitimate local governments to emerge and actually govern in liberated areas, because it will be mostly up to these governments to legitimize a political process meant to put an end to this crisis. A no-fly zone will go a long way in allowing this to happen.
Shelling of neighborhoods inside Damascus City often takes place from artillery positions on top of Mount Qasayoun http://youtu.be/U_KOwtSgH1g This leaked video shows a sample of the soldiers taking part in the pounding, while accusing rebels of using drugs, it’s regime soldiers who often dohttp://youtu.be/iSb4ol6PJtQ
Missile launchers are also used, especially in targeting rebel strongholds in Eastern Ghoutah: Kafar Batna http://youtu.be/9A0ieqk_-uw