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January 7, 2013

Inside Syria – What does 2013 have in store for Syria?


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Father, daughter and the mom's body
Father, daughter and the mom’s body

The Finitiative!


Whether it takes a week, a month, a year or a decade, it does not matter, Assad’s latest initiative is his final political act. By appearing so out-of-touch with reality, Assad has shown that he is not in control of his own regime. He, in fact, is the puppet, his bubble long burst. The question, therefore, is: who’s really running the show at this stage? And what do they want?

Sunday January 6, 2013
Today’s Death Toll: 101, including 2 children and 10 women: 28 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its Suburbs, 22 in Aleppo, 14 in Daraa, 13 in Homs (most of them in Tasneen), 10 in Hama, 10 in Deir Ezzor, 3 in Idlib and 1 in Lattakia (LCCs).
Points of Random Shelling: 294: 7 points were shelled with warplanes, 2 points with cluster bombs, 122 points with mortars, 111 points with artillery and 51 points with missile shelling (LCCs).
Clashes: The Free Syrian Army clashed with the regime’s army at 150 points where they managed to block the regime forces’ attempt to storm Bustan neighborhood in Aleppo (with the defection of several personnel from the Police Academy). They also gained control of the Soldier’s Hotel in Khan Al-Assal and shelled Jarah Military Airport in Maskana in Aleppo. In Deir Ezzor the FSA surround the Political Security branch and dismantled several military machines and in Damascus Suburbs they blocked an attempt by regime’s army to storm Eastern Ghota, through Hteitet Al-Turkman road, and destroyed more than 15 military vehicles and 4 tanks. In Hama, they seized a lot of ammunition and a food unit on the agricultural road connecting between Soqailbiya and Tal Burhan. Also, they destroyed several military vehicles and captured several regime army personnel throughout Syria (LCCs).
Reports from local activists confirm that the son of the newly appointed Minister of Defense, Rustom Ghazali, one of the few Syrian officials accused in plotting the assassination of former Lebanese PM, Rafic Al-Hariri, has been kidnapped by rebels from his hometown in Khirbet al-Ghazali. This development led to increase in the intensity of clashes in the area, and throughout the Daraa Province. Authorities used loudspeakers threatening local of dire consequences should the Minister’s not be returned unharmed. Ghazali had only days ago replaced Mohammad Al-Shaar as Minister of Defense. Minister Al-Shaar had been injured in a rebel attack, received treatment in Beirut then returned to Syria where he disappeared from public view amidst increasing reports that he passed away.
Syria’s Assad rejects dialogue with “puppet” opposition Syrian President Bashar al-Assad announced what he described as a peace plan on Sunday, calling for a reconciliation conference with “those who have not betrayed Syria”, to be followed by the formation of a new government and an amnesty. “The first stage of a political solution would require that regional powers stop funding and arming (the opposition), an end to terrorist operations and controlling the borders,” he said in a speech in central Damascus, his first public comments in months. “We will not have dialogue with a puppet made by the West,” he said.
Defiant Assad’s peace plan rejected by rebels In his first public speech in six months, Assad laid out terms for a peace plan that keeps himself in power, ignoring international demands to step down and pledging to continue the battle “as long as there is one terrorist left” in Syria.
Defiant Assad Says Syria ‘Accepts Advice but Not Orders’ he offered no new acknowledgment of the gains by the rebels fighting against him, the excesses of his government or the aspirations of the Syrian people. Mr. Assad also ruled out talks with the armed opposition and pointedly ignored its central demand that he step down, instead using much of a nearly hourlong speech to justify his harsh military crackdown… Mr. Assad’s speech was a disappointment for international mediators and many Syrians who say they believe that without a negotiated settlement, Syria’s conflict will descend into an even bloodier stage.
Syrian opposition dismiss Assad call for talks amid attack on ‘western puppets’ Rebels say Syrian president offered no meaningful concessions in his first public speech in seven months.
Morsy backs Syrian calls for al-Assad to face war crimes trial “The Syrian people through their revolution and through the movement will — when the bloodshed stops — move to a new stage where they will have an independent parliament and a government of their choosing,” Morsy, Egypt’s first freely elected leader, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in Cairo. “And then they will decide what they want to do to those who committed crimes against them. It is the Syrian people who decide.”
Israel warily watches shifts across its frontier with Syria Trenches lined with coils of razor wire have been dug along the Israeli side of the Golan frontier, and a new 15-foot-high steel fence is under construction, with plans to extend it the length of the boundary with Syria. Surveillance of the Syrian side, aided by cameras, also is being stepped up… Replacing a lower electronic warning fence, the imposing new barrier, encased in rolls of barbed wire, is intended to serve as a bulwark against infiltrators.
Special Reports
While there’s a common perception in Western capitals that the regime is on its last legs, there are plenty of signs on the ground that it remains very much intact—and very dangerous. Assad’s security forces have been forced to relinquish control of many rural areas and  have even ceded the impoverished peripheries of a number of Syrian cities, but it has escalated its attacks on areas under rebel control in recent months, deliberately imposing a heavier toll in humanitarian suffering. And rebels in many areas appear desperately short of funds and military resources, despite promises of expanded support from outside powers.
He wants to negotiate, but with whom, and over what?  
By appearing so out-of-touch with reality, Assad has shown that he is not in control of his own regime. He, in fact, is the puppet. The question, therefore, is: who’s really running the show at this stage? And what do they want?
Assad’s words provide few clues, but the subtext to his speech, the body language and apparent nervousness in delivery, his clear concern for how his speech will be viewed by his supporters as denoted by his repeated assertions that he is not giving up the fight against the “terrorists,” his dismissal of the external opposition coupled with his readiness to negotiate with their backers… all these things point to the presence of a radical camp inside the regime that seems to have taken charge of the day-to-day management of the crackdown, keeping Assad as a necessary window dressing.
What does this radical camp want? At this stage, and judging by developments on the ground, the only possible interpretation is that they want to buy enough time to draw the borders of their coveted enclave, while exacting revenge against the Sunni population all over the country through continued recourse to scorched earth policy.
In short, our descent into hell continues.
Video Highlights
Shortly after the speech delivered by Assad, clashes took place in several neighborhoods in Damascus City ,
Intense clashes took place in the town of Basr Al-Harir, Daraa as well , , , , Rebels take control of a BMP
Intense clashes took place in several neighborhoods in Homs City as well
Clashes took place around the Police Academy in Aleppo City as well
Leaked video documents the use of missile launchers in the pounding of restive cities by pro-Assad militias
But Assad’s fighter jets kept dropping barrel bombs on Kuweirus Airport where rebels are positioned

Assad offers only more of the same – mukhabarat brutality

Jan 7, 2013

The world still blinks every time that Bashar Al Assad speaks, as if it has not learnt anything from 21 months of violence.

In his speech yesterday – his ninth since the uprising began – the dictator offered a plan that would include a lengthy, complicated process of gradual change and “truth and reconciliation”. That would, in theory, lead to a new coalition government and a new constitution.

The speech was preceded by an aggressive two-week diplomatic campaign by the regime’s allies and the UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. That renewed push for diplomacy followed 140 countries’ recognition of the National Coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people, Nato Patriot missiles and military personnel that were dispatched to Turkey’s border, and pledges of increased support for the opposition.

The diplomatic overture by the regime is part of a Russian-backed plan that would keep Al Assad in power until presidential elections in the summer of 2014. And the diplomacy appears to have succeeded in slowing down aid to the rebels, with reports that arms supplies are drying up. But the speech yesterday should remind the world that this dictator has no place in a future Syria and that support for the rebels is the only way forward.

Russia probably pressured on Al Assad to announce a plan of reconciliation. But the speech sounded more vindictive, dismissive and exclusivist than even his previous bombast. For example, he said the plan was directed at only segments of the opposition, and that “those who reject the offer, I say to them: why would you reject an offer that was not meant for you in the first place?” In other points, he emphasised vengeance rather than reconciliation. He also blamed the rebels for the destruction of infrastructure and for cutting off electricity and communications.

“Syria accepts advice but never accepts orders,” he said. “All of what you heard in the past in terms of plans and initiatives were soap bubbles, just like the [Arab] Spring.”

It was clear that he tried to sound steadfast, but his voice betrayed him several times. And before his departure from the room, the crowds chanted “may God protect you” – a chant that is used when someone is threatened. The usual party line is “with our soul and blood, we sacrifice ourselves for you”.

Why would the regime offer a plan now, when it has not made a single meaningful concession since the beginning of the uprising? The violence would never have reached such staggering levels had Al Assad offered reasonable reforms from the beginning. Any hope that he can engineer an end to the violence is an illusion, which will only prolong and worsen the crisis. If anything, the speech showed that the regime will not change its policies except under duress.

The aim seemed to be threefold: to create the impression that the rebels refuse political settlements; to add to the world’s reluctance about arming the rebels; and to question the legitimacy of the National Coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people.

The proposal of a new constitution is merely a red herring. Syrians did not rise up against the constitution, nor have they demanded constitutional change. People rose up against brutality, and the fact that the existing constitution was never honoured – the mukhabarat apparatus has dominated almost every aspect of Syrian life. The immediate cause of the uprising in Deraa was the mukhabarat, who arrested and tortured school boys for writing anti-regime graffiti and then humiliated their families.

Nor did Syrians rise up to be included in a coalition government. Any government that includes these same criminals will be no different.

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