Syrian Revolution Digest – Friday, 4 January 2013

By Any Other Name!

Revolution, civil war, proxy war — they are all terms that denote transformation, heaven knows we needed it. The challenge ahead of us now is to remain vigilant and to keep learning, not just fighting. For whatever the immediate outcome of all these goings-on might be, it will not mark the end of the road, but a solitary milestone telling us what we still need to do to get where we want.  

Today’s Death Toll: 170 (including 14 children and 10 women)
74 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its Suburbs (20 of them in Douma), 26 martyrs in Idlib (7 of them in Qmeinas), 21 martyrs in Aleppo, 16 martyrs in Daraa, 12 martyrs in Homs, 10 martyrs in Deir Ezzor, 7 martyrs in Hama and 6 martyrs in Raqqa.
Points of Random Shelling: 303
21 points were shelled by warplane, 5 points by barrel bombs, 3 points by Thermobaric bombs and 2 points by Cluster bombs. The mortar shelling was reported in 115 points, the artillery shelling in 126 points and the missile shelling in 30 points (LCCs).
Clashes: FSA rebels clashed with the regime forces in 143 locations and downed 4 warplanes today: 2 fighter jets in Aleppo Suburbs, 1 MiG in Deir Ezzor and 1 Helicopter in Taftanaz. The FSA gained control of 70% of Taftanaz Military Airport and killed the leader of the airport and the leader of communications. In Jabal Al-Zawiya, FSA rebels liberated Baidar checkpoint in the town of Rami and captured all the vehicles and ammunitions, they also gained control of Madjana Haboush checkpoint. In Zakiya in Damascus Suburbs, the FSA forced the Air Defense Battalion belonging to the regime forces to retreat from Abassiya area completely, and blocked at attempt by the regime forces to storm Dariya from the southern side. In Raqqa the FSA was able to control the Safeeh Oil Field arresting 15 soldiers and 2 officers in the process. FSA rebels also tried but failed to down a warplane that was shelling the area (LCCs).
Special Reports
Where are the demonstrations? The shocking disclosure that Syria’s civil war has claimed at least 60,000 lives has brought precious little reaction. To place this in context, President Bashar al-Assad’s murderous struggle to keep his stranglehold on power has now killed more people than any of the Arab-Israeli wars. Not one of those conflicts, going back to and including 1948, was remotely as bloody as the conflagration in Syria. The nearest comparison is the Six Day War of 1967, which killed 23,500 Arabs and 1,000 Israelis – barely a third of the death toll in today’s Syria.
Those grim assessments by U.N. officials are clearly intended to spur international stakeholders to act more urgently to end the conflict.
Rami Jarrah, a Syrian anti-regime activist now living in Cairo, is launching Syria’s first non-state-run news outlet to provide something he sees as sorely missing: objective reporting.
The Benetech report is only a reflection of available data — not a projection, estimate or demographic study. But there is information in the actual dataset itself that points towards a higher — and maybe even much higher — number of dead.
Though the humanitarian stakes are high, the European Union (France at the forefront) and the U.S. have chosen their allies and continue to defend geostrategic and economic interests by pushing for the fall of the Syrian regime. To pursue this objective, the political discourse is idealistic and focuses on the massacres and humanitarian issues while national interests are real, but not mentioned.
However, from a realistic point of view, the conflict can be viewed as a broader struggle between mainly Russia and Western countries which attempt to advance their national interests. For the West these interests are isolating Iran and bolstering the strategic and economic alliance with Arab allies like Qatar, which invests in Europe and offers an alternative to Russian gas.
This is an excellent analysis of why the conflict in Syria metastasized into a proxy war pitting Russia and Iran on one side, and U.S. and Europe on the other. By now, the reality of this development and the factors contributing to it are simply hard to deny.
Some would even like to argue that the entire conflict in Syria, not to mention the entire Arab Spring phenomenon, were indeed instigated as a reflection of an ongoing geopolitical alignment seeking to isolate Iran, support Gulf allies, and secure future natural gas pipelines. The problem with such analysis is that it simply ignores the genuine democratic aspirations involved on part of revolutionaries and the objective factors that paved the way to the revolutions: authoritarianism, corruption, the youth bulge, and the breakdown of the middle class as a result of introduction of neoliberal economic policies coupled with lack social safety nets and lack of economic opportunity. The Arab Spring and the Syrian Revolution are genuine indigenous phenomena which are now being coopted by a combination of external and domestic players with their own particular agendas. In Syria, the situation has indeed (d)evolved into a proxy war pitting Russia and Iran against the United States and Europe, involving the issues highlighted earlier.
Another thing we should bear in mind while reading this article is that the author, Milad Jokar, had previously made a similar argument and reached a conclusion that was a bit too facile in my view.
Earlier this summer, Vali Nasr, former special adviser to the White House and now Dean of the SAIS of Johns Hopkins University explained on Australia Network News that “the rebels are not democrats, they are too fractured. This is an uprising that is becoming increasingly bloody. It is now essentially a sectarian war between a minority Alawite regime and its Christian and Kurdish allies, and the majority Sunnis”.
Nasr already argued that the conflict “is no longer about democracy, and a liberal democracy does not emerge in these kinds of circumstances of violence and fratricide.”
He compares a possible fall of Assad to the situation of Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2005 where “very quickly al Qaeda began to recruit among Iraqis and then sent Saudis, Egyptians, Syrians to come to Iraq to serve as suicide bombers and take over territories and confront U.S. forces and they became a major muscle within the insurgency”.
Today, we can clearly see this picture in Syria and the current situation confirms the words of Nasr, who warned months ago, “the more the control of the Assad regime erodes, the more you are going to have opportunities in which varieties of forms of illegal activities, from drug lords to criminal to mafia types and to al Qaeda, begin to finding the ability to taking over towns, villages and neighborhoods to operate at will because there is not going to be any police or military to push them out.”
What is happening in Syria is no longer about a democratic movement against a dictatorship, nor is it simply a civil war between two camps. Syria has become the theater of a proxy war which is spilling over to its neighbors. Consequently, to focus only on the departure of President Bashar al Assad is a strategy doomed to failure because it will not solve the conflict. The crisis is spreading far beyond the person of Bashar al Assad. Demanding the departure of the dictator can only be viewed as an attempt to advance the West’s geostrategic and economic interests, namely isolating Iran, securing Western energy supply policies and competing with Russia, and bolstering Arab Gulf allies; what it will not achieve is a lasting ceasefire to stop the bloodshed and a transition to a brighter political future for the Syrian people.
The last paragraph in particular is quite telling: Assad’s departure serves the West’s interests and is not conducive to a lasting ceasefire or a transition to democracy.
By the same logic, however, we can argue that keeping Assad serves Russia’s interests and is equally unhelpful when it comes to achieving a lasting ceasefire, or any ceasefire for that matter, not to mention facilitating transition to democracy. So, the author did not follow his own logic to its own logical conclusion and was unable to say that irrespective of Assad’s fate, no lasting ceasefire or a transition towards democracy is likely at this stage, thanks to this ongoing proxy war. As such, what we have to look forward to in the near future is civil strife and state failure. Both Russia and the West might be willing to live with this outcome for a while, albeit, Russia and Iran might be the ones hurt by it the most. The West might end up wiggling out a victory of some sorts in time, at which point we have to hope that the state can still be put back together, a development that cannot logically happen with Assad and his top aides on board. We simply cannot ignore the element of psychopathy involved in their case. But this development cannot happen unless a highly decentralized vision for administering the country is adopted by all parties. It’s this decentralized vision that might give minority groups a way to decouple themselves from Assad without fearing for their existence.
Be that as it may, the final outcome relies heavily on the nature of unfolding developments on the ground. Surprises can still happen that could twist things around.
Video Highlights
Many activists on the ground are still confusing incendiary cluster bombs with white phosphorous bombs, I did for a while as well. But experts who reviewed this video among others have confirmed that these are white incendiary cluster bombs, treatment for wounds resulting from such bombs is quite different from those resulting from use of white phosphorous. We have alerted many activists to this, and we hope to mount an awareness raising campaign in this regard as well, not that treatment is readily available. This video was taking in Jobar, Homs City where pro-Assad militias have intensified their attacks on restive neighborhood in order to drive out rebels and take full control of the city Nearby village of Eastern Bouaydah was also pounded with cluster bombs
A leaked video shows loyalist militias abusing the dead bodies of rebels
This video reportage by Al-Arabiya shows how Syrian regime media fabricate lies about the rebels. In this part of this video, we see a girl with her face blurred claiming that she has been kidnapped and raped by rebels in the Damascene suburb of Harasta. In the second part, we see clips smuggled by a defector showing the same girl as she rehearsed her parts, giggling, making mistakes and is being corrected by her handlers
Scud missiles are now being used more regularly in pounding rebel strongholds. This particular missile was fired from Al-Hisheh military base near Tartous City, the target: the Hama countryside
Shelling leaves many dead in Eastern Ghouta, Damascus Suburbs, especially inDouma , A martyred child Arbeen Putting out a fire And the pounding continued: Hamouriyeh , , Saqba
In Idlib, the shelling of the town of Qmeinas left many dead
Rebels laying siege to Manag Airport, Aleppo , ,
Clashes in Aleppo City

Author: Impunity Watch Archive