Syrian Revolution Digest – February 10, 2013
In a stalemate, chaos is the sole victor. For stalemate is an illusion behind which reality quietly crumbles, and when it’s finally shed, a million hungry flesh-eating zombies arise out of its fragments. This Armageddon is all too real, all too Syrian, and all too… familiar. Unless something deep inside our minds clicks, this cycle of mayhem will keep repeating. If part of the blame can rightly be ascribed to ill-suited policies on part of regional and international leaders, the situation remains for the most part the product of our own failings.
Sunday February 10, 2013
Today’s Death Toll: 124 martyrs, including 11 women and 9 children. 38 in Damascus and Damascus Suburbs, 33 in Aleppo, 24 in Deir Ezzor, mostly were field executed in Jubeileh neighborhood; 9 in Homs; 10 in Daraa; 5 in Hama; 4 in Idlib and 1 in Raqqa (LCCs).
Points of Random Shelling: 326 points, including 19 points that were shelled by warplanes; 3 point using cluster bombs and with vacuum bombs, and 2 points with explosive barrels; 97 points were shelled with mortar, 152 points with heavy caliber artillery, and 77 points with rockets (LCCs).
Clashes: 149 locations (LCCs).
Damascus on Edge as War Seeps into Syrian Capital Soldiers have swept through city neighborhoods, making arrests ahead of a threatened rebel advance downtown, even as opposition fighters edge past the city limits, carrying mortars and shelling security buildings. Fighter jets that pounded the suburbs for months have begun to strike Jobar, an outlying neighborhood of Damascus proper, creating the disturbing spectacle of a government’s bombing its own capital.
Opposition “would talk to Assad in northern Syria” The aim of the talks would be to find a way for Assad to leave power with the “minimum of bloodshed and destruction”, Alkhatib said in a statement published on his Facebook page. Sources in the coalition, an umbrella group of opposition political forces, said that Alkhatib, a moderate cleric from Damascus, met international Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in Cairo on Sunday… The sources said that in their talks on Sunday the two men addressed the question of whether the coalition would formally endorse Alkhatib’s peace initiative. The Muslim Brotherhood, which controls a large bloc within the Islamist-dominated coalition, is against the initiative. But the Brotherhood, the only organized political force in the opposition, is unlikely to challenge Alkhatib’s authority directly, with his initiative gaining popularity in Syria, the sources said.
Iran and Hezbollah build militia networks in Syria in event that Assad falls, officials say The militias are fighting alongside Syrian government forces to keep Assad in power. But officials think Iran’s long-term goal is to have reliable operatives in Syria in case the country fractures into ethnic and sectarian enclaves. A senior Obama administration official cited Iranian claims that Tehran was backing as many as 50,000 militiamen in Syria. “It’s a big operation,” the official said. “The immediate intention seems to be to support the Syrian regime. But it’s important for Iran to have a force in Syria that is reliable and can be counted on.” Iran’s strategy, a senior Arab official agreed, has two tracks. “One is to support Assad to the hilt, the other is to set the stage for major mischief if he collapses.”
Syria’s Chemical Weapons Stockpiles Appear Secure, Dempsey Says “On the occasions when we have noted movement, they’ve been movements that appeared to us to be intended to secure them, not to use them,” Dempsey said in a session with reporters on his aircraft returning from Afghanistan. He added that “our ability to have a completely clear understanding is somewhat limited. We don’t have persistent or perfect visibility on” that nation’s chemical weapons intentions.
Iran: Syria’s Assad Regime Ready To Negotiate Iran’s foreign minister says two sides will have to talk after an opposition leader said he was open to meeting regime officials.
Deckchairs reshuffled as Bashar al-Assad founders Mr Assad changed seven ministers, the official SANA news agency reported. He split the labour and social affairs ministry into two, bringing in a woman, Kinda Shmat, to head the latter. Hassan Hijazi becomes Labour Minister. Ismail Ismail takes the finance portfolio and Sleiman Abbas takes the oil and mineral resources job. The housing and urban development, agriculture and public works ministers also changed. Mr Assad has reshuffled the government several times since the uprising against his rule began in March 2011, the most recent reshuffle being in August, following the defection of former premier Riad Hijab.
Israeli newspaper claims to have interview Syrian opposition leader Sheik Khatib found himself fending off critics from within the anti-Assad movement who objected to his even speaking with an Israeli reporter, though by all accounts he did not initially realize that Mr. Bergman was an Israeli.
Lebanon’s Christian Patriarch prays for peace in Syria Rai, whose church has 900,000 members in Lebanon, a quarter of the country’s population, is on the first visit to Syria by a Maronite Patriarch since the independence of neighboring Lebanon in 1943. His visit comes at a time when Christians in the region feel under threat from the rise of political Islam. “(I pray) that the consciences of local, regional and international leaders are inspired to put an immediate end to the war in dear Syria … and bring peace through dialogue,” he told dozens of worshippers inside the church.
Israeli strike in Syria might be first in series Amos Yadlin, a former chief of Israeli military intelligence who directs the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said in an interview that while future Israeli action could be expected, it would depend on specific calculations of the advantages and risks of such strikes.
Rebels have been on the offensive in Damascus since launching a series of attacks on government positions on Wednesday. They brought their fight to within a mile of the heart of the capital on Friday, seizing army checkpoints and cutting a key highway as they pressed their campaign for the city, the seat of President Bashar Assad’s power.
On this week’s show, Fareed hears from Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati about Syria policy during a panel of Arab leaders at the World Economic Forum’s Davos meeting. “We are disassociating ourselves from what’s going on in Syria by all means. We are disassociating because we have a kind of historical, geographical relations with Syria. And now, today, if we take any position, really, we would be more boosting the division in our Lebanese society and between Lebanese citizens. For this reason, we had the position as the Lebanese government to disassociate ourselves. But this doesn’t mean that we disassociate ourselves from humanitarian issues. “Today, we are helping and receiving Syrians without any limit. And why fully we are ensuring for them shelter, medical care, schooling, food – everything.”
… this young man carries a burden — maybe an honor, too — that almost no one else shares. He knows that he and his friends helped start it all. They ignited an uprising. It began simply enough, inspired not so much by political activism as by teenage rebellion against authority, and boredom. He watched his cousin spray-paint the wall of a school in the city of Dara’a with a short, impish challenge to President Bashar al-Assad, a trained ophthalmologist, about the spreading national revolts. “It’s your turn, doctor,” the cousin wrote.
Although not a polished performer in the political arena, he has managed to install himself in a pivotal role at the centre of the Syrian crisis
But they told CNN that, despite enduring many casualties, their morale has not flagged. Though Homs has been the site of urban combat for two years, the soldiers — from the front line to checkpoints — appeared largely combat-ready.
Syria is Iraq’s twin. The only way you’ll get a multisectarian transition there is with a U.N. resolution backed by Russia and backed by a well-armed referee on the ground to cajole, hammer and induce the parties to live together.
A Muslim summit revealed the sectarian nature of Assad’s Shia Alawite suppression of Sunni protestors and rebels
Syrian city is guarded about relative calm as governor calls for unity against al-Qaida and intense fighting continues elsewhere
With the battle for Aleppo in its seventh month, a series of rebel gains that many locals believe should add up to sustainable military successes appear to have become bogged down. Roughly five million of the province’s six million people now live in territory governed by rebels and local civilian councils, said council and rebel leaders. The rest live in the city’s west, across a jagged front line. About a dozen main rebel factions operate in Aleppo, their names scrawled on pavement and half-collapsed buildings. Many, like the Tawhid Brigade, are torn by infighting. Factions are often alienated from each other by larger ideological divisions. And because nearly all of the fighters hail from the countryside outside Aleppo or beyond, they often also struggle to find common ground with, or cede leadership roles to, local civilians. Regime warplanes bomb rebel territory daily, the government’s so-far unbeatable air power serving as a further reminder of the limits to rebel control.
In his classic study, The Arab Cold War, Malcolm Kerr charted the machinations of inter-Arab politics during an era dominated by Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser. In another renowned work, The Struggle for Syria, Patrick Seale documented the links between Syria’s tumultuous domestic politics and the broader contest for supremacy in the region, stemming from factors ranging from inter-Arab conflicts to the global cold war.  Today, amid the chaos in Syria and the transformations in the region, these texts, both originally published in 1965, seem all too contemporary. Once again, regional politics shows many signs of an Arab cold war and, once again, that broader conflict is manifesting itself in a struggle for Syria.
Regardless of what might come after Assad, many minorities have already made up their mind about what they will do if he falls. “We’re leaving,” said Hanan, a grandmother and a devout Shiite who lives in an affluent Damascus neighborhood. “Because we know that whoever takes the rein after Assad will commit massacres against us.” Shiites are a small minority in Syria. Many religious minorities share Hanan’s fears. This is particularly true of the Alawites, the sect to which Assad belongs… as Syria’s uprising turned civil war drags on, militancy among the fighters has continued to grow. “In the end, those with guns will rule, at least initially,” said another activist. “They’ll be hardened and vengeful after all this fighting. And Assad’s mythology may turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy after all.”
News that Obama vetoed a plan by his senior security staff to arm Syrian rebels reveals the extent of his humanitarian impulse. But he must also protect the new UN doctrine of a ‘responsibility to protect’ by being more open about his Syrian strategy.
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.”
Did the CIA Betray Syria’s Rebels? Mike Giglio of News week argues that when “Americans didn’t keep promises” the made to opposition leaders, the latter “turned against the U.S.”
True. But the antagonism is not absolute or irrevocable. All depends on whether President Obama will change course soon. Meanwhile, the entire development should be seen in context of the Clinton-Petraeus Plan that was shot down by President Obama. People who made the initial contact with rebel leaders had to halt their activities when President Obama and his closer circles of advisers rejected the Clinton-Petraeus Plan. Rebel leaders are not exactly privy to the complexity of American decision-making processes, and not matter how much, their CIA interlocutors must tried to explain matters to them, rebel leaders would have simply understood that aid was promised, but nothing was delivered. As such, the whole process, the must have concluded, was meant for intelligence gathering purposes only, and American had no intention of actually helping the rebels.
Moreover, I think we should also differentiate here between certain Obama appointees, like Clinton, Petraeus and Panetta, and his inner circle of advisers, people like Thomas Donilon, Obama’s National Security Adviser, and his Deputy and White Chief-of-Staff, Denis McDonough, just succeeded by Anthony Blinken. Even people like Valerie Jarret who carried the official title of Senior Adviser to the President seem to be much closer to the President than other appointees. Indeed, it seems that Obama has relied more heavily on these figures, among others, when it came to formulating his foreign policy stands, than on Clinton, Petraeus and Panetta whose appointment seems to have reflected first term political calculations than ideological affinity. Things might change with the advent of John Kerry and Chuck Hagel whose views seem to correspond to the President’s own, especially with regard to Syria.
Islamist rebels showcase their own home-made missile with a range of up 60 KM, or so they claim http://youtu.be/zvA2SRVzn0w
Leaked video shows pro-Assad militias torturing a detainee in a missile base that was later captured by rebels http://youtu.be/k_Ie2LHnKfo Another video from the same base shows pro-Assad soldiers posing next to a dead rebel http://youtu.be/3CMKvNUAeVk
A third leaked video is even more gruesome, and shows the aftermath of a massacre perpetrated by pro-Assad militias http://youtu.be/IA9brNT70Ho
The town of Binnish, Idlib Province, has fallen over the last few months under the control of Islamist groups, including Jabat Al-Nusra, whose rhetoric has been getting more and more extreme, as the siege of their town by pro-Assad militias from nearby Shia and Alawite villages continue. The inhabitants of Binnish now call for the establishment of a caliphate. In this video, we see a child singing while waving a dagger (near the end) threatening Shiites and Alawites with slaughter http://youtu.be/-BKUNbDfkxw. Islamist rebels have been organizing themselves more as a local governing body as well providing services, such as garbage collection http://youtu.be/US-thZavg5Q and bread making http://youtu.be/7QHIKB83uEA Moreover, locals have come out quite vocally against the initiative for dialogue by opposition leader Moaz Alkhatib http://youtu.be/Hkyr3TfPfuY
Elsewhere in Idlib, rebels attack ad take control of Al-Shaghar checkpoint, killing many Assad loyalists http://youtu.be/Ewjaq1ZQ2j4
In Damascus City, intense clashes between loyalists and rebels take place in several neighborhoods, including Al-Qadam (Port Said Alley) http://youtu.be/Ewjaq1ZQ2j4 , http://youtu.be/ZIIbfwp_q_U But pounding by tanks continues http://youtu.be/1Oj-bV9dzms , http://youtu.be/NRx5tXz6Enc , http://youtu.be/N7MFwrtuMLw Buildings catch fire http://youtu.be/LUCOMrzUpmo
The battles in Jobar Neighborhood continue, with more tanks coming to support regime troops: http://youtu.be/VGcM5aUoXdE , http://youtu.be/qH-B9hCGgew Survey of some of the damage http://youtu.be/HU4u8D5Bgzc , http://youtu.be/1kTOrQ3AVOA , http://youtu.be/5oblEl39fks MiGs take part in the pounding http://youtu.be/pZKMZbrCC5E
Further west, along the Lebanese borders, the pounding of the town of Zabadani continues http://youtu.be/_lgh57gShRc