Posts Tagged ‘Samantha Power’

How the Assad regime with the help of Russia, Iran, China and Hezbollah transformed peaceful protester to fighters

16 augusti, 2012

Our mistake was to ever believe there could be peaceful change in this country,” he said. ”We wasted time and sacrificed many lives trying to be peaceful. We should have just gone straight to an armed uprising.”

By taking such extreme steps against the moderate opposition the regime is pushing all of its opponents to join the armed rebellion; the regime is making it clear there is no place for the peaceful activists,” said a Syrian political analyst.”

”The cases of Mazen Darwish, Kifah Ali Deeb and Rami Hinawi show very plainly the regime is not fighting militant Islamists but is actually at war with any advocates of real reform in this country, even those who insist on peaceful methods.”

There are no more peaceful demonstrations, there’s no point, we’re not able to move a single metre before the security forces and army start shooting at us,” he says.”

“Liberal, secular, often well educated members of the opposition say their influence over the uprising has been undermined, both through widespread use of indiscriminate violence by the authorities and mass arrests of peaceful dissidents, taking them out of circulation and leaving the field open to more radical groups.”

Here in a nutshell is the description how a brutal dictator transformed peaceful protesters, who only wanted some freedom, to fighters.

In ALL of this, the Assad regime was helped by Russia, Iran, China and Hezbollah. With training, advisors and guidance, troops, snipers, material, spare parts, maintenance, weapons, ammunition, intelligence, money, political backing on ALL levels etc.

In ALL of this, the Assad regime was ALSO helped by USA, EU, UN, Turkey, and The Arab League who did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING during 12 months but talked and had meetings. And then they only sent “observers” who dutifully observed the slaughter and massacres taking place, day in day out .

And ALL the TIME the death toll of civilians keep rising, First it was a 1000, then 5000, then 10 000, then 15 000, then 20 000, and now 23 000.

Massacre after Massacre.

Torture, Slaughter, Summarily Executions and Rape.

A systematic assault on human dignity and civilian lives and freedom on a colossal scale.

Day in Day out.

And the TOTAL destruction of block after block, neighbourhood after neighbourhood in countless cities and villages. Using, aside from bombs and howitzers, tanks, rockets etc., the Russian 240mm F-864 high explosive mortar bomb to “fight” against these unarmed civilians.

The world’s largest high explosive mortar bomb designed to “demolish fortifications and fieldworks” according to a Russian arms merchandizing catalogue. It weighs 130 kilograms and contains 31.93 kilograms of TNT as an explosive charge.

This weapon system is notable for its capability to conduct a “plunging attack,” in which the munition is fired at a high angle and comes down nearly perpendicular to penetrate a building or fortification.

This is the same weapon that Russia used to destroy Grozny in 1994-96. And now they have passed on these “skills” to the Syrians.

By the way, the use of such weapons in dense urban environments is a war crime.

Here is just one small example from Friday August 10 of Cities and Towns under shelling and destruction by the Assad regime. And the list is not complete:

Harasta, Arbeen, Moadamiah, Harran Al-Awameed, Deir Al-Asafeer, Ain Terma, Zabadani, Madaya, Eltal, Dmeir, Hameh, Yelda, Rankous, Qarrah (Damascus Suburbs), Sit Zeinab, Al-Qadam, Midan, Tadamon, Al-Hajar Al-Aswad, Yarmouk, Kafar Sousseh, Mazzeh, Qaboun, Barzeh, Salhiyeh, Ruknaddine, Dafelshawk (Damascus City), Daraa City, Khirbet Al-Ghazaleh, Tafas, Bostra Al-Sham, Na’eemah, Mseifrah, Jimreen, Hraak , Saida, Tal Shihab (Daraa), Rastan, Talbisseh, Houla, Tal Kalakh, Al-Qusayr, Al-Hosn, Al-Ghanto, Al-Bouaydah, Old Homs (Homs Province), Hreitan, Elbab, Eizaz, Marei, Bayanoun (Aleppo Province), Haffeh, Jabal Al-Akrad (Lattakia), Deir Ezzor City, Mouhassan, Albou Kamal (Deir Ezzor Province), Kafar Zeiteh, Hawash, Shahshabo, Hama City (Hama Province), Jabal Al-Zawiyeh, Ma’rrat Al-Nouman, Saraqib, Maar Shoureen, Ariha, Kafroumah, Al-Rami, Khan Shaikhoon (Idlib).

An other example from yesterday August 15 when the “brave and courageous” pilots of Assads Air Force bombed a residential area in Azaz and obliterated a whole block:

The report here including video:

Syria: Fighter Jet Bombing Kills Over 40 Civilians

http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/08/16/syria-fighter-jet-bombing-kills-over-40-civilians

“(Azaz) – A Syrian government fighter jet bombed a residential neighborhood, killing more than 40 civilians and wounding at least 100 others in the town of Azaz, including many women and children, Human Rights Watch said today after visiting the town.  In the attack on August 15, 2012, at least two bombs destroyed an entire block of houses in the al-Hara al-Kablie neighborhood of Azaz, in Syria’s northern Aleppo province.

Human Rights Watch investigated the site of the bombing two hours after the attack and interviewed witnesses, victims, medical personnel, and relatives of those killed.

This horrific attack killed and wounded scores of civilians and destroyed a whole residential block,” said Anna Neistat, acting emergencies director at Human Rights Watch.  “Yet again, Syrian government forces attacked with callous disregard for civilian life.”

What is left of the al-Hara al-Kablie neighborhood of Azaz after the bombing – NOTHING!

An another brave effort by Assads Air Force – They bombed the hospital in Aleppo

Syria: Fighter Planes Strike Aleppo Hospital

http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/08/15/syria-fighter-planes-strike-aleppo-hospital

(Aleppo) – Syrian government fighter planes fired rockets that struck the main emergency hospital in an opposition-controlled area of Aleppo on August 14, 2012, wounding two civilians and causing significant damage, Human Rights Watch said today after visiting the damaged hospital.

A rocket attack by government aircraft on the hospital two days earlier, on August 12, apparently killed four civilians and wounded three, Human Rights Watch said.

Fighter jet attacks on a hospital twice in three days indicate that this was no accident,” said Ole Solvang, emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch. “By firing rockets at a clearly marked hospital, the government shows blatant disregard for civilian lives.”

Dar al Shifaa Hospital in Aleppo after the attack

And by the way, these airplanes are provide by Russia, the pilots trained by Russia, the ammunition supplied by Russia, spare parts and maintenance done by Russia, air control and directions done by Russia, intelligence supplied by Russia etc.

Russian ammunition boxes used by the Assad army in Aleppo

They are SOOO HELPFUL these Russians wouldn’t you say?

And ALL of these politicians, governments, international organisations did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING during these 18 months but observed and talked and had meetings.

I say only one thing: You should be REALLY BE PROUD of yourselves and the children of Syria will remember you. Each one of you.

To the children of Syria!

See my previous post Russia’s solution for Syria – More Carpet Bombing and Total Destruction for links to my previous 18 posts on the situation in Syria.

The National hospital in Homs destroyed by Assad forces

Syria‘s youth found peaceful protest ‘became irrelevant’

http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/syrias-youth-found-peaceful-protest-became-irrelevant

Phil Sands

”DAMASCUS // No great soul-searching accompanied his transformation from peaceful demonstrator to rebel with the Free Syrian Army; it is a path many of his friends had already taken.

Arrested for protesting in the Damascus suburb of Dummar, Mohammed, 23, spent two months in an overcrowded military intelligence detention cell, and was released without charge to find demonstrations had been superseded by armed conflict.

”I wasn’t thinking about taking up a weapon and fighting the regime when I left prison,” he says.

”I went straight out to protest and saw the other opposition people in Dummar were now carrying rifles and I realised I had to do the same.”

Since the start of the Syrian uprising, Mohammed had been part of the Local Coordination Committees, a network of activists organising peaceful demonstrations and tracking civilian deaths.

While the LCCs are still operating and peaceful demonstrations do still take place, Mohammed and other rebels in Damascus say circumstances have rendered the unarmed protests irrelevant.

There are no more peaceful demonstrations, there’s no point, we’re not able to move a single metre before the security forces and army start shooting at us,” he says.

(The hospital in Qusier, Homs. destroyed by Assad forces. The sign reads – Smoking is Forbidden in The Patients Room)

Not all of those involved in the grassroots opposition movement agree, but a broad range of activists concede that those advocating peaceful revolt have been squeezed out by the demands of war.

Liberal, secular, often well educated members of the opposition say their influence over the uprising has been undermined, both through widespread use of indiscriminate violence by the authorities and mass arrests of peaceful dissidents, taking them out of circulation and leaving the field open to more radical groups.

On Sunday two prominent grassroots activists, Kifah Ali Deeb and Rami Hinawi, were detained by a Popular Committee – a pro-government armed militia – in their home neighbourhood of Sahnaya, south of Damascus.

Ms Deeb, an artist and author of children’s books, sits on the governing board of the opposition National Coordination Committees, a political bloc that has called for non-violent democratic change in Syria.

The NCC has been at odds with other opposition factions, including the exiled Syrian National Council, which has called for foreign military intervention to aid rebels.

Ms Deeb, 30, is a member of the Alawite sect, which forms the nucleus of Bashar Al Assad’s regime and dominates ultra-loyalist branches of the security forces and military.

Mr Hinawi, 33, who has long campaigned peacefully for democratic reforms alongside Ms Deeb, is a Druze.

Both are believed to be in the hands of air force intelligence, the most feared branch of the Syrian security forces, although, as with other detentions, no information has been released by the authorities in connection with the detentions.

Sectarian politics are complex in Syria but one of the key arguments made by supporters of Mr Al Assad is that his regime is all that protects Christian, Druze, Alawite and other minority groups from annihilation at the hands of the Sunni majority.

That has brought even sharper focus on members of those minorities who stand with the opposition, rather than the authorities.

                           (Ramadan in Aleppo)

Another influential advocate of a peaceful uprising in Syria, Mazen Darwish, also an Alawite, has been held by air force security for six months.

Although a civilian, he is facing prosecution in a military court usually reserved for army officers. There is no chance of appeal and no defence lawyer, proceedings are secret and the military judge can choose to issue a death sentence.

The human rights lawyer Anwar Al Bunni, a regular fixture at the Damascus courts of justice, said Mr Darwish and thousands of others facing special military courts had been thrown into a black hole, outside of Syria’s regular – and highly flawed – legal system.

”They have had all of their basic rights taken from them, we know nothing about their situation, all the files are kept secret. We are not even allowed to know the names of all of those facing military trials,” he said.

It emerged that Mr Darwish is facing a military court only when a judge summoned him to appear as a witness in another case, and air force security said they would not permit him to do so because he was being held for military trial.

Syrian officials do not talk about court cases but the authorities have long insisted they act in accordance with national laws and have dismissed evidence of widespread torture of detainees that has been compiled by the United Nations and rights monitors.

The use of draconian measures against advocates of non-violence has only accelerated the slide into an increasingly brutal conflict, one that rights monitors say has already killed upwards of 20,000 people, a majority of them civilians.

By taking such extreme steps against the moderate opposition the regime is pushing all of its opponents to join the armed rebellion; the regime is making it clear there is no place for the peaceful activists,” said a Syrian political analyst.

”The cases of Mazen Darwish, Kifah Ali Deeb and Rami Hinawi show very plainly the regime is not fighting militant Islamists but is actually at war with any advocates of real reform in this country, even those who insist on peaceful methods.”

In Dummar, Mohammed admits he has little idea of how to wage war as a guerrilla, never having been in the army or taught how to fire a weapon.

A shortage of arms and ammunition among rebels in Damascus means he is used as a runner to convey messages between fighters when they are in action.

Nevertheless, he believes that is a more productive way of trying to overthrow the Syrian regime than stinging street protests.

Our mistake was to ever believe there could be peaceful change in this country,” he said. ”We wasted time and sacrificed many lives trying to be peaceful. We should have just gone straight to an armed uprising.”

Hezbollah Mercenaries fighting for Assad in front of the Citadel in Aleppo

LEAKED VIDEO – Inside a helicopter gunship over Syria used to bomb and kill civilians in cities

(These videos where taken by Assad troops themselves to show how “good” they are at killing civilians, as trophies, to prove their loyalty etc. etc.)

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Russia’s solution for Syria – More Carpet Bombing and Total Destruction

29 juli, 2012

Just a quick comment of the accelerated slaughter going on in Syria. And Russia’s continued role as the main weapons, ammunition, economic, personal, training, intelligence, diplomatic etc provider and support for Assad.

Here is what captain Konstantin Sivkov, a former strategist for the Russian General Staff between 1995 and 2007, now the first vice-president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, Doctor of Military Sciences, concluded after a “visit” in May and talks with the Assad’s gang:

http://world.time.com/2012/07/26/russia-and-syrias-assad-the-end-of-the-affair/

Sivkov was surprised, he says, with how “gentle” Assad has been in crushing the revolution. “Believe me, some of our guys have told Bashar to adopt much harsher methods, carpet bombing, total destruction,” Sivkov told TIME after returning to Moscow. “If that approach was chosen in Syria, there would be no rebels left after one week, and everyone would be happy.”

Yeah, that’s the Russian way – Total destruction and Carpet bombings of civilians. After all, they have a long experience in Afghanistan, Chechnya etc. And they taught their Syrian pupils well.

Here are just some pictures of the according to Russia “to gentle” Assad treatment of civilians in cities.

In this case from Homs, a major industrial center, and with a population of at least 652,609 people according to the 2004 census:

This is the guy who also told Izvestiya on March 22 this year regarding project 949A, were Antei nuclear-powered submarines will be completed and modernized and armed with new cruise missiles with range up to 1,500 km.

http://rusnavy.com/news/navy/index.php?ELEMENT_ID=14659

“In particular, the newspaper cites Capt 1 rank (retired) Konstantin Sivkov, vice president of Geopolitics Academy saying that Antei-class subs would be equipped with Caliber missiles in order to destroy missile defense assets deployed in Europe.”

That is in plain language EU. Who have done everything possible not to “irritate” Russia and have bent over backwards every time Russia raises its eyebrow.

And this is what he said on March 25 2010 “World War III Has Already Begun”

World War III Has Already Begun

http://english.pravda.ru/world/americas/25-03-2010/112718-world_war_three-0/

http://moodle.fhs.cuni.cz/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=4137

“A resource-poor countries and people, but rich in modern technology and weapons will also want their share. From this perspective, Russia has become the primary objective of aggression.”

“The only limiting factor at this moment is Russia’s nuclear arsenal. According to the experts they predicted that the West will attempt to remove the Russian nuclear shield. “

Yeah, these as always helpful and peaceful Russians.

This is the country, and the persons, that the Obama administration had a “reset” with and has given de facto veto power of the US foreign policy.

Here are my previous posts on Syria:

My first series:

Part 1 – Introduction

Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 1

Part 2 – Reports

Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 2

Part 3 – Russia

Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 3

Part 4 – Iran

Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 4

Part 5 – China

Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 5

Part 6 – Turkey

Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 6

Part 7 – Arab League

Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 7

Part 8 – EU and NATO

Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 8

Part 9 – UN and Kofi Annan

Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 9

Part 10 – US and the Obama administartion

Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 10

Part 11 – Paul Conroy and the targeting and killing of journalists

Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 11

My second series:

It is now nearly one month since I finished my 11 parts series of background on what is going on in Syria (Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs  Part 1-11). So I thought it would be appropriate to give an update of what has happened or not happened since then. And here are some more updates.

The Houla Massacre and the Assad thugs

The Slaughter in Syria and the countries that make it possible – 1

Russia, Iran and China

The Slaughter in Syria and the countries that make it possible – 2

Turkey and EU

The Slaughter in Syria and the countries that make it possible – 3

NATO and UN

The Slaughter in Syria and the countries that make it possible – 4

USA and the Obama Administration

The Slaughter in Syria and the countries that make it possible – 5

What Does the Syrian Opposition Believe, The Shabiha and the armed opposition

The Slaughter in Syria and the countries that make it possible – 6

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The Slaughter in Syria and the countries that make it possible – 6

16 juni, 2012

Some observations:

We have come to the end of this follow up after my first series about what is going on in Syria. I could easily write 250 pages of observations but I am going to spare you that. Instead, I am just going to write about three things: the perception of the opposition in Syria, the Shabiha and the armed opposition.

First the perception of the opposition in Syria.

It has always amassed me that the “do nothing crowd”, (i.e. The Obama administration, NATO, EU, Turkey, Arab league etc), are actually the same ones that are ACTIVELY promoting and supporting the muslim fundamentalist i.e. SNC/The Muslim Brotherhood.

One of the excuses from the west (Obama administration, NATO, EU) has always been that they don’t want to give support to extreme/fundamentalist muslims. Which is quite “funny” if it weren’t so hypocritical because that is what you EXACTLY did in Libya. You armed, trained and fought with al-Qaida and other fundamentalist groups.

So the brutal fact, which so many don’t want to admit, is that most of the opposition are normal people how just want do defend themselves from the attacks of the Assad regime. And they also want a change for the better regarding basic freedoms and liberties.

I would say that these are very reasonable demands wouldn’t you say?

So instead of supporting this secular, civil opposition the Obama administration, NATO and EU is ACTIVELY supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, which literally hates these countries and what their societies stands for.

And if the Muslim Brotherhood came to power, with the help of the money and support of the west, their policy would be ANTI USA, ANTI EU, ANTI NATO and of course destroy Israel.

Seems like a VERY smart policy wouldn’t you say?

And our tax money goes to this madness!

And in the meantime the civilian population in Syria, including the secular, civil opposition, is getting slaughtered and massacred.

The big difference as I wrote in my original series is that after over 45 years of brutal dictatorship the FEAR IS GONE. If you don’t understand that you don’t understand very much of what is going on now.

Here is one of the very, very few opinion polls of what the opposition really thinks:

What Does the Syrian Opposition Believe?

http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/what-does-the-syrian-opposition-believe

“There are increasing calls for international intervention inSyriaafter this weekend’s massacre in Houla, where Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces murdered more than 100 civilians. Obstacles to intervention remain, however, especially concern that the opposition to Assad’s regime is dominated by religious fundamentalists. Until recently, for example, the Syrian National Council, a group of exiled opponents of the regime, was led by Burhan Ghalioun, whose unwillingness to counter the Muslim Brotherhood was widely viewed in the West as a troubling sign of Islamist influence.

But a confidential survey of opposition activists living inSyriareveals that Islamists are only a minority among them. Domestic opponents of Assad, the survey indicates, look toTurkeyas a model for Syrian governance — and even widely admire theUnited States.

Pechter Polls, which conducts opinion surveys in tough spots in theMiddle East,AfricaandAsia, completed the Syria opposition poll in December 2011. Respondents were contacted over a secure Skype connection by someone they could trust — all native Syrians — who asked them to fill out a short questionnaire anonymously in Arabic. Interviewers were selected from different social and political groups to ensure that respondents reflected a rough cross-section of overall opposition attitudes. To ensure confidentiality, the online survey could be accessed only through a series of proxy servers, bypassing the regime-controlled Internet.

Given the survey’s unusual security requirements, respondents were selected by a referral (or ”controlled snowball”) technique, rather than in a purely random fashion. To be as representative as possible, the survey employed five different starting points for independent referral chains, all operating from different locations. The resulting sample consisted of 186 individuals inSyriaidentified as either opposition activists themselves (two-thirds of the total) or in contact with the opposition.

What do these ”inside” opposition supporters believe? Only about one-third expressed a favorable opinion of the Muslim Brotherhood. Almost half voiced a negative view, and the remainder were neutral. On this question, no significant differences emerged across regions.

Most of the survey’s questions asked, ”On a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 means the most negative and 7 the most positive, how would you rate your opinion of X?” Answers of 1 to 3 were considered negative, 4 as neutral, and 5 to 7 as positive.

While many respondents supported religious values in public life, only a small fraction strongly favored Shariah law, clerical influence in government, or heavy emphasis on Islamic education. A large majority (73%) said it was ”important for the new Syrian government to protect the rights of Christians.” Only 20% said that religious leaders have a great influence on their political views.

This broad rejection of Islamic fundamentalism was also reflected in the respondents’ views on government. The poll asked each respondent what country he or she would ”like to see Syria emulate politically,” and which countries the respondent ”would like to see Syria emulate economically.” The poll listed 12 countries, each with a scale of 1 to 7. Just 5% had even a mildly positive view of Saudi Arabia as a political model. In contrast, 82% gave Turkey a favorable rating as both a political and economic model (including over 40% extremely favorable). The U.S. earned 69% favorable ratings as a political model, with France, Germany and Britain close behind. Tunisia rated only 37% and Egypt 22%.

Iran was rated lowest of any country included in the survey, including Russia and China: Not even 2% of respondents had positive views of Iran as a political model. Fully 90% expressed an unfavorable view of Hezbollah, including 78% with the most negative possible attitude.

One of the surprises in the results is the scope of the opposition’s network inside Damascus, despite their difficulties in demonstrating publicly. One-third of the respondents, whether activists or sympathizers, said they live in the Syrian capital. (To protect their privacy, the survey did not ask for more precise identification.)

This ”inside” opposition is well-educated, with just over half identifying as college graduates. The ratio of male to female respondents was approximately 3 to 1, and 86% were Sunni Arab.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, they were ambivalent about Syrian Kurdish demands for ”political decentralization” (like autonomy). Views of ”Kurdish parties” were evenly divided among negative, neutral and positive. (Such feelings are evidently mutual: In the six months since the survey was completed, Syrian Kurdish organizations have increasingly decided to go their own way, separate from the other opposition groups.)

Based on a statistical analysis of the survey, most secularists among the respondents prefer weak central government, presumably as a way to safeguard their personal freedoms. On the other hand, the one-third of respondents who support the Muslim Brotherhood also tend to have a favorable view of Hamas, despite the latter movement’s previous association with the Assad regime.

The survey demonstrates that the core of the Syrian opposition inside the country is not made up of the Muslim Brotherhood or other fundamentalist forces, and certainly not of al Qaeda or other jihadi organizations. To be sure, a revolution started by secularists could pave the way for Islamists to win elections, as has occurred in Egypt. But the Syrian opposition is solidly favorable to the U.S. and overwhelmingly negative toward both Hezbollah and Iran.”

David Pollock is the Kaufman fellow at The Washington Institute and a consultant to Pechter Polls.

The Shabiha, the murderous thugs that do most of the massacres

Assad’s Pact With the Devil

Syrian Regime Using Hired Killers to Cling to Power

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/analysis-of-the-aftermath-of-houla-massacre-in-syria-a-836848.html

“The regime of Syrian ruler Bashar Assad has enlisted gangs of murderous thugs known as ‘Shabiha.’ No assignment is too brutal or bloody for these men who are free to kill, plunder and rape. Assad knows that outright victory over the opposition is his only remaining chance to stay in power.”

“Europe, the United States and perhaps even Kofi Annan are slowly realizing that there will be no compromise with Syrian President Bashar Assad, because there can be no compromise with Assad. Now that more than 10,000 people have died and tens of thousands have been tortured, the phase in which protesters were still staging peaceful demonstrations, and in which negotiations, transitional governments and compromises were possible is irrevocably over.

When the regime was still able to negotiate its own exit, it didn’t want to. Now it no longer has that option, because any sign of weakness would lead to its overthrow.

This realization hasn’t been triggered by the fact that the regime is massacring civilians to save itself. Similar bloodbaths have already taken place in the past. In April of last year, more than 60 people disappeared without a trace in Homs, after government troops had mowed down a group of peaceful protesters. In January, several families in a southeastern Homs neighborhood were massacred in a way that resembled the Houla killings. And when the Bab Amr neighborhood was captured by regime troops several weeks later, after having been almost destroyed by artillery fire, witnesses said that there were mass executions of those who hadn’t fled.

What was different this time was that on Saturday morning, only hours after the killing frenzy, a team of UN observers managed to reach Houla, where they saw and counted the bodies, heard what the survivors had to say and saw the tracks the tanks had made. ”The evidence is clear — it is not murky,” said German UN Ambassador Peter Wittig. ”There is a clear government footprint in those killings.” Whereas earlier massacres were only documented in reports by the Syrian opposition and video recordings that could not be corroborated, this was a different situation.

By failing, the UN mission appears finally to be having an impact. The roughly 300 unarmed observers cannot possibly monitor a nonexistent cease-fire, during which more than 2,000 people had been killed by the end of last week. The UN observers cannot prevent what is happening, but they can prevent it from being covered up. This isn’t much, and for angry Syrians who burned images of Annan, it’s far too little. ”We called the observers during the massacre,” a man from Houla who calls himself Abu Emad was quoted as saying, ”but they refused to come and stop the murders. Damn then, and damn the entire mission!”

“The men, some in civilian clothing and others dressed in army uniforms, went from house to house, reported survivors like 11-year-old Ali, who told CBS News: ”They came to our house at night. First they took out my father and then my oldest brother. My mother shouted: Why are you doing this? Then they shot both of them, and after that my mother. Then one of the men came in with a flashlight and saw my sister Rasha. He shot her in the head.Ali hid with his two little brothers. The man saw them and shot the brothers, but he missed Ali.

Other survivors who hid or played dead consistently gave the same accounts: The men combed through house after house and room after room, killing everyone, some with knives and some with guns. The massacre continued until the morning hours. When the UN observers arrived, they found nothing but corpses in the villages controlled by regime forces. The survivors had fled to neighborhoods held by the FSA, where they placed the bodies they had recovered on mats in the mosques before filming and burying them.

The regime in Damascus could not deny that the massacre had taken place. But Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi, parroting the government’s standard position, promptly blamed the killings on ”armed terrorists” and ”Islamists.” The Russian government, which had blocked every Security Council resolution condemning Syria, launched into a bizarre attempt to apportion the blame. The regime was apparently responsible for the assault by tanks and mortars, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. But the brutish murders, said Alexey Puchkov, chairman of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, ”were definitely committed by the other side.”

Igor Pankin, Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, agreed: ”We cannot imagine that it is in the Syrian regime’s interest to sabotage Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s visit to Damascus.” And he is right in one respect. In PR terms, a massacre of children cannot be helpful to the Assad regime. But he was wrong in another sense, inadvertently putting his finger on Russia’s growing frustration with its ally: Syria‘s leadership is no longer taking decisions that would make sense for a government hoping to reach a political solution to the crisis.

By gradually concentrating power in the hands of the Alawite minority, to which the Assad clan belongs, the regime is fomenting a religious war against the Sunni majority, the very conflict it claims it wants to prevent. Now Assad has backed himself into a corner from which he believes there is only way out: victory. This is why the latest proposal from Berlin and Washington to attempt the ”Yemeni solution,” which would be to depose Assad but keep the regime in power, will not work. The regime is relying solely on violence, accompanied by an outrageous propaganda narrative that blames foreign terrorists and al-Qaida for the uprising.

This conspiratorial obsession is nothing new. Starting in 2003, the intelligence services began secretly organizing the transfer of jihadists from Saudi Arabia, Libya and Kuwait across the Syrian border into Iraq, to deter the Americans from seeking regime change in Damascus as well. At the same time, the regime painted itself as a bulwark in the fight against al-Qaida. Foreigners who were later arrested reported how they had been kept in Syrian intelligence camps in Homs while waiting to be transferred into Iraq.

The attacks on several Scandinavian embassies in Damascus after the Danish cartoon controversy in early 2006 were blamed on an Islamist mob, but as it turned out, the regime had planted Islamists in the crowd. As a precaution, it also removed the guards from in front of a general’s house next to the Norwegian Embassy. Although there was no evidence that the regime was behind the major bombing attacks in Damascus, Aleppo and Deir al-Zor in recent months, they had several strange elements in common: The bombers had immense quantities of explosives, which they easily managed to get through all government checkpoints, and they detonated most of their bombs in front of empty buildings. When the regime published its death tolls after the first attack on Dec. 23, they included the names of men who had already died elsewhere. During the ostentatious burial service at the Umayyad Mosque, signs attached to many of the coffins read ”anonymous martyr.” On May 9, just before a bomb exploded near the convoy of UN observer mission chief Robert Mood, the vehicles were detained at a military checkpoint just long enough so that they would be nearby at the time of detonation.

“Murderous ‘Ghosts’

What happened in Houla followed the pattern of earlier attacks like the one in Homs. First, the target is bombarded with tanks and artillery from a great distance. Then the regular troops move in and drive out or shoot the last remaining rebels. Finally, the regime sends in its helpers, the Shabiha (”ghosts”), over which it has less and less control.

What were once gangs of thugs and smugglers from the hills around Latakia, the home turf of the Assad clan, have turned into an army of irregular troops numbering in the thousands. The gangs are backed by the beneficiaries of the regime, those who profit the most from Syria‘s façade of a market economy, and who now have the most to lose. It’s a Faustian bargain. As long as they are loyal to Assad, they are permitted to murder, loot and rape, as was the case in Houla, where the Shabiha came from neighboring villages to the south.

The Shabiha were also active in the capital Damascusin August 2011. Every evening during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, dozens of them stood in front of mosques in Sunni neighborhoods, prepared to bludgeon and drag off anyone who said anything derogatory about the regime after emerging from prayers. At about 8 p.m., swarms of Shabiha thugs emerged from the intelligence service quarters, were loaded into requisitioned buses and driven to their deployment locations, where they lay in wait until the faithful dispersed after leaving the mosques.

The Shabiha are criminals and day laborers, mostly Alawites, but also Kurds with the PKK terrorist group, members of Sunni clans from Aleppo loyal to the regime, and some Christians. The Shabiha are the shadow force of a regime that no longer trusts its own army, but instead has created a monster that is taking on a life of its own, undermining the Syrian government long before it suffers a military defeat.

Months ago, the author and dissident Yassin al-Haj Saleh, who is in hiding in Damascus, wrote: ”The current heads of the security services may very well reform themselves into a mafia-type organization after the collapse of the regime and continue to practice the violence, theft and discrimination at which they are so adept.”Syria could eventually be controlled by marauding gangs, driven by greed and the fear of reprisal, which becomes more justified with each new wave of killings.”

The Shabiha: Inside Assad’s death squads

The Shabiha started off as racketeers and smugglers. But now, as ultra-loyal enforcers ofSyria’s brutal regime, they have taken on a far more bloodthirsty role, write Harriet Alexander and Ruth Sherlock.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9307411/The-Shabiha-Inside-Assads-death-squads.html

“The door to Dr Mousab Azzawi’s clinic, on the Mediterranean coast ofSyria, was always open to anyone who needed help. But, operating in the heartland of the feared Shabiha militia, there were some patients the doctor would have preferred not to treat.

They were like monsters,” said Dr Azzawi, who worked in Latakia. ”They had huge muscles, big bellies, big beards. They were all very tall and frightening, and took steroids to pump up their bodies.

I had to talk to them like children, because the Shabiha likes people with low intelligence. But that is what makes them so terrifying – the combination of brute strength and blind allegiance to the regime.”

As President Bashar al-Assad’s country continues its savage slide towards full-blown civil war, the violent, dark and secretive world of the Shabiha is coming out into the open.

Nine days ago, 108 people were butchered by the Shabiha in the town of Houla. The pro-Assad thugs went through the village, house to house, and slit the throats of anyone they came across – including 49 children. Exactly a week later, the Shabiha pulled 12 factory workers off a bus in the town of Qusayr, 40 miles to the south; tied their hands behind their backs, and shot them in the head. “

“The world is learning just how bloodthirsty the Shabiha can be. But insideSyria, their capacity for hideous brutality has long been known.

”Even before the revolution, any time there was unrest they would go out into the streets and stop it for the government,” said Selma, who comes from a prominent Alawite family – a Shia Muslim sect, into which the Assad family was born, and to which almost all of the Shabiha belong. Her cousins are Shabiha.

They would just break people’s arms and legs. They would fight for Bashar to the death. It is natural – they have to defend their sect.”

Her cousins wore civilian clothes, she explained – ”then the television can say that these are just civilians who love Bashar.”

President Assad, and his father Hafez before him, used the Shabiha to terrorise Syrians into obedience, brainwashing the militia into believing the Sunni majority was their enemy. “

“After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Syria’s French rulers needed soldiers willing to defend the regime from a Sunni uprising, so they incorporated large numbers of Alawites into the army, who were only too happy to fight their Sunni ”oppressors”.

They became the most politically powerful sect in Syria, and the vast majority of the country’s top intelligence and military officers adhere to the faith. It was from the army that Hafez al-Assad emerged to stage his coup.

Initially the Shabiha were a mafia clan, making money through racketeering. Selma, the Alawite with Shabiha family, said her cousins were ”filthy rich” through smuggling in diesel, milk and electronics. ”Anything toLebanon that is cheaper inSyria, and whatever is needed inSyria fromLebanon,” she said.

The ruling Assad family turned a blind eye to their criminal behaviour and violent methods. In return, the Shabiha became the Assads’ fiercely loyal defenders and enforcers.

”They are fuelled by this belief that they are fighting for their survival,” said Dr Azzawi. ”Assad tells them that they must defend the government or else they will be destroyed; it’s kill, or be killed.”

“An enormous man, identified on the video as Areen al-Assad – a member of the president’s family clan – posed with his gun, grinned from the steering wheel of his car, and flexed his muscles. His huge bicep bulged with a tattoo of the president’s face.

At the end of the video, the posturing Shabiha militants proclaim: ”Bashar, do not be sad: you have men who drink blood.”

”It is their motto,” explained Dr Azzawi, who said that many of the men were recruited from bodybuilding clubs and encouraged to take steroids. ”They are treated like animals, and manipulated by their bosses to carry out these murders. They are unstoppable.”

“The militia operated with blind devotion to the leaders, referred to as ”muallim”, meaning boss, or ”khaal”, uncle. And indeed, it was in many ways a family business.

Mr Assad’s cousin Numir has taken over as one of the key rulers of the Shabiha – even though the government is careful to avoid direct association with the militia and their murderous acts.

How the men are paid is unclear, although many claim the Shabiha is funded by businessmen tied into the Alawite clique that dominates the government.

What is known is that the Shabiha have a strong economic motives for backing the regime. Foot soldiers can earn up to £120 for a day’s thuggery – a fortune in Syria.”

“”If they know the whole area is against the regime they have no problem killing everybody,” she said. ”That is how it works.”

The armed opposition

It has been fascinating to watch the development during the last 15 months of the opposition’s developing from the first few demonstrations. How the demonstrations started spreading and got bigger and bigger.

To the first sporadic attempts from civilians to defend themselves and their families, villages, neighbourhoods etc. against the attacks by the Assad regime. Via the first appearance of the defectors from the Assad army. Until today where you have a lot of groups going from hit-and-run attacks to learning how to coordinate and organize more sophisticated attacks against stronger targets.

They are learning, and they are learning fast because they have to.

In addition, they have increased the pressure on the regime many times over, increasing attrition and increasing defections etc

Still the armed opposition desperately lacks weapons and ammunition, especially to defend against Assad’s tanks and helicopter gunships.

The rebels are also gaining confidence. “Every day we control more territory, every day we have more defections, and we are having better organization in our ranks,” said Maj. Sami al-Kurdi, a spokesman for the Homs Military Council, one of the new military structures that are being established around the country. “The regime now controls only the territory under its tanks, and the evidence is that they don’t dare step out of their tanks.”

And as I said, they are growing in effectiveness and strength.

After driving rebels from strongholds in the Baba Amr district of Homs and several Idlib towns in March, the government has since been unable to press home the advantage. Repeated efforts to dislodge the FSA from the provincial Homs towns of Rastan and Qusair have failed, and a major offensive launched last week against a rebel stronghold in the town of Haffa, northeast of Latakia, faltered despite intense shelling and the deployment of combat helicopters.

The Assad regime can go in and suppress an area with heavy weapons, but as soon as they leave it, it losses the control.

The result is that many parts of northern and central Syria have effectively fallen under the sway of the opposition,

Which also makes it really hard for the regime to move around, and for them to get out of their checkpoints that they are barricaded in. The Assad forces are in many cases pinned down.

Remember that I two months ago talked about how the Syrian army de facto had defected “in place”? Well, now the defections have started to increase and continues at a steady rate. And regular troops are weary after nearly 15 months of continuous deployment since no new conscripts have been called in.

One example – Of 400 soldiers originally stationed in the provincial capital of Idlib, just around 60 remained last week defending their base near the centre of the city, which has seen significant fighting. In the small city of Maraa, near Aleppo, 15 soldiers defected within the space of a weekas many as in the entire previous year.

The rebels also are starting to inflict heavy casualties on government troop’s security forces. It is likely to hit a record level in June for the second month in a row. As of Monday, June 11, the state news agency has announced the funerals of 259 soldiers and police officers who were killed in combat with rebels this month, a record 57 of them Saturday June 10 alone. Well ahead of May’s pace, when 404 such burials took place

Just during the period of June 10 to June 13, here are some of the main events:

- FSA Attacked the Taftanaz military airport.

- In Deir Ezzor several BMP:s and tanks where destroyed there alone. In Baba Amr, where the massacre occurred, well the FSA is back and on June 12 they destroyed two BMP:s.

- And on the same day three tanks where destroyed in Haritan,Aleppo

- The FSA captured the Deir Ezzor checkpoint operated by Army and shabiha. They captured lots of weaponry and ammunition after the attack

- FSA attacked a big regime convoy outside Latakia in operation ‘Cutting the snake’.

- Capture by FSA of shabiha and army in one of their strongpoints in Al Qusayr on June 10.

- Syrian rebels on June 11 briefly seized control of the strategic army base al-Ghanto (surface-to-air missiles are stationed there), close to the central town of Rastan before the army rained down artillery and forced them out of the station. They seized a lot of weapons and ammunition.

- On June 3, rebels attacked a Syrian Air Force As Suwayda air base east of the southern town of Deraa opposite the Israeli Golan border – their first such attack in the 14-month uprising,  Several rebel groups firing mortars set fire to fighter aircraft and assault helicopters in their hangars and ripped up runways.

Does this sounds like some “ragtag” wild bands on the lose?

Inside Syria: You will never guess who arms the rebels

In any revolution, getting weapons is a key challenge. Syria’s rebels have found an interesting solution.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/120606/syrian-rebels-weapons-arms-revolution

“JABAL AL-ZAWIYA, Syria— At the Free Syrian Army base here, a group of men led a nervous prisoner from his cell to a car waiting outside. A few hours later, the rebels returned alone, with a trunkload of weapons.

As they loaded the store room with new bullets and rocket-propelled grenades, Hamza Fatahallah, an army defector who joined the Free Syrian Army nine months ago, described the transaction that had taken place.

We have caught many army prisoners,” he said. “We send them back home for a small amount of money on the condition they do not return to the regime. We use the money to buy weapons.”

For the release of this prisoner, Ahmed Haseeba, the group received $500. With this money, Fatahallah said they were able to buy ammunition from their main supplier: Syria’s national army, also known as the enemy.

This strange cycle of exchanging prisoners for weapons has been playing out between rebel forces and President Bashar al-Assad’s army since the beginning of the revolution.

Fatahallah estimated that his village purchased 40 percent of their weapons from the regime. Prisoner exchanges have so far contributed almost $80,000 toward weapons purchases, he said. And they obtain an additional 50 percent of their weapons during battle. The remaining 10 percent are donated and smuggled from outside the country, or are purchased from private merchants, mostly from Iraq.

Occasionally, prisoners are also exchanged directly for weapons, Fatahallah said. They have received up to two Kalashnikov rifles in exchange for a prisoner in the past.

For the regime, or at least the duplicitous members of it, supplying the enemy is a big business. Government officers also sell Kalashnikov bullets, which typically sold for less than 40 cents before the uprising, for about $4 each, according to Ahmed Al Sheikh, the leader of the armed opposition in Jabal al-Zawiya. He leads about 6,000 men from eight battalions that are collectively known as the Sham Falcons.

Kalashnikovs are bought for about $1,000, he said. Rocket-propelled grenade launchers, complete with a set of four rockets, cost up to $4,000, as does a BKT machine gun.

“These officers sell to us not because they love the revolution but because they love money,” Al Sheikh said of his chain of suppliers. “Their loyalty is to their pockets only, not the regime.

While most of the sellers are corrupt officers, they said lower ranking soldiers have occasionally stolen supplies from government weapons storage and sold them to the rebel forces.

The relationship is not always a smooth one.

Back at the base, the men were relaxing after lunch when a loud explosion shocked everyone to their feet. As they feared, the previous night’s purchase of Kalashnikov bullets had been booby-trapped. This time their colleagues were lucky enough to survive the discovery.

The men had learned from prior experience — bullets acquired from the regime are sometimes emptied of their gunpowder and filled with TNT designed to destroy the Kalashnikov and its owner, rather than the enemy.

After several injuries and the loss of two rifles, the men had learned to spot the fakes. To everyone’s relief this had been a controlled explosion, by someone suspicious of the new batch. The damage inflicted was only a blackened hand, some singed hair and a hole in the table.

“These ones here are good bullets,” said battalion leader Asad Ibrahim, showing the red marking on the base of one of the bullets. Holding up another with a slightly darker red off-center mark he said, “These are Bashar’s bullets to explode our guns.”

The men said bullets like these have destroyed many guns and killed or seriously injured several of their fellow fighters. But desperate for ammunition, they take the risk.

Commander Al Sheikh said that half of the Sham Falcon arsenal are seized from the enemy. Most are taken either during battle, or after attacks on government checkpoints. And the rebels carry out organized raids on government weapon stores whenever they can.

During an attack on a checkpoint in Mughara last week, Al Sheikh proudly boasted that his men had managed a rare grab: a T62 tank along with anti-aircraft weapons.

Another source of arms is from the army defectors themselves, who bring their own weapons along when they join the rebel forces.

Sitting at the base, the men laughed as they recalled the story of two friends, both defectors, who told their superior they needed one of the gun-mounted vehicles and some heavy weapons to check on a call regarding rebel activity. Loading the truck with as much ammunition and weapons as they could find, they drove straight toward the rebels, checking in by radio with their boss with stories of hunting down “rebel traitors” hours after they had already betrayed sides.

While the Free Syrian Army has been adept at obtaining weapons, it has also proven skillful in manufacturing their own.

In a secret warehouse across town from the base, fertilizer and sugar were being boiled in a large pot. Everything from teapots to large metal pipes were being filled to make roadside bombs for attacks on tanks and army vehicles. 23mm bullet casings were filled with explosives with a small wick on top, looking more like an ACME special from a Loony Tunes cartoon than a deadly hand grenade.

We are using very simple weapons against the highly sophisticated weapons of the regime — tanks, rockets, missiles. What a government! What a regime. Doing nothing but killing their people,” Fatahallah said during a tour of the busy workshop.

The men from the battalion spoke constantly of the need, not for military intervention from abroad, but for international help in obtaining more weapons. But with or without this support, they vowed to continue the fight until Assad is removed.

“The Quran says to prepare whatever weapons you can to fight your enemy,” said Al Sheikh, the commander, as his local leaders discussed preparations for their next mission.

“Even if no weapons are available and all we have left to use are stones, we will go on with our revolution until Assad falls.”

Syrian rebels in Turkey doubtful over new Arab arms supplies

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/nationworld/sns-rt-us-syria-crisis-turkeybre85d10p-20120614,0,3789440.story

“ANTAKYA, Turkey(Reuters) – Syrian rebels resting and recovering from wounds in Turkeysay that far from receiving a host of heavy weapons to take the fight to government forces, they feel forgotten by their Western and Arab backers.

Some rebels and opposition figures inside and outside Syria say there has been an upsurge in recent weeks of heavier weaponry being smuggled into Syria via Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq from suppliers inSaudi Arabia and Qatar.

The weapons, which according to the rebels are being supplied by private sponsors, include thousands of shells, hundreds of sniper rifles, as well as anti-armor missiles.

But in the verdant hills, wooded mountainsides and languid refugee camps of Turkey’s southern Hatay province, Free Syrian Army rebels returning from the fight to rest and tend their wounds, said they had seen no sign of any new weapons.

One rebel said less than half the fighters in his unit even had a gun. What weapons they did have, the rebels said, came from inside Syria.

This is an absolute lie. We have not seen anything. If they are coming through Lebanon, maybe, but if they were, we would see these weapons. We don’t see them, where are they? said one rebel who gave his name only as Ahmad.

Every household has had one person killed or wounded. If we had weapons we could defend ourselves,” said Ahmad, clean-shaven and dressed in jeans and a white t-shirt, not fitting the typical image of a rebel fighter.”

“After the tanks push their way through the town and surrounding villages, Ahmad said, Assad’s soldiers, move from house to house rounding up young men and looting their homes. What they leave behind, they destroy, he said.

From a hospital ward in Hatay’s main cityAntakya, Ahmad becomes frustrated when speaking about weapons. He motions his hands emphatically to drive home his point.

By God, we don’t trust anyone. We don’t believe anyone anymore. The world has forgotten us,” he said.

Like most of the Syrians inTurkey, Ahmad would only give one name for fear of reprisals against his relatives at home.

As Ahmad spoke, the newest wounded arrival, 31-year-old Lutfi, was wheeled into the emergency department below. Lutfi, a Free Army fighter was shot in the leg during a clash with government troops in Jabal al-Krad near the western city of Latakia.

Lutfi said he and some 150 rebel fighters ambushed around 200-250 of Assad’s men who were on their way to occupy one of the surrounding villages. Two rebels were killed in the clash and another four were wounded.

The right leg of his camouflage military trousers has been ripped off, revealing a bandage covering his bullet wound. Lutfi laughed when asked whether new weapons had reached his men.

There are no new weapons. All we can do is attack and retreat. They are nothing against their weapons,” he said.

ONLY 40 PERCENT HAVE WEAPONS

Some 45 km (30 miles) south of Antakya only minutes from the Syrian border, Nasim, another rebel stands outside the Yayladagi refugee camp – tents erected inside an old, derelict tobacco factory that now serves as his temporary home.

Like at the others camps scattered around Hatay and further to the east, here fighters come to recoup with comrades or family members. Syrians are free to enter and leave the camp but access to the media is restricted.

Nasim says he regularly crosses back into Syriato smuggle food and blankets to fighters stationed inside but said he had not seen any new weapons cross from Turkey into Syria and that all the weapons he had seen had been acquired in the country.

”Three months ago I heard that Arab countries were going to send us money or weapons but I have not seen anything. Not one country has sent us money or weapons,” said Nasim, a short, stocky, scruffily dressed man in his 30s with a full black beard.

”The only weapons we get are by pooling our money together and buying them in Syria, or someone who supports us will come and give us their hunting rifle or something. Sometimes soldiers from the army sell us weapons,” he said.

Only around 40 percent of his unit even had a weapon, Nasim said, ”and these are light weapons. Assad is hitting us with tanks.”

Some 40 rebels and activists who spoke to Reuters this week all said that apart from a small number of light weapons which had been bought on the black market, they had not seen any weapons smuggled to Syria through Turkey.

While Turkey has thrown its support behind Assad’s opposition, has called for the Syrian leader to step down and given sanctuary to senior defected Syrian army officers, it has opposed any outside military intervention in its neighbor.

Turkish officials sayAnkara is not arming the rebels and have denied reports that weapons from other countries are being smuggled over Turkish territory.

Corroborating accounts of what is happening inside Syria is difficult because the government tightly restricts foreign media access. Most rebels also cross into Syria during darkness and Turkish security forces do not allow media near informal border crossings.

But for the rebels it does not matter where the weapons originate or how they get there, as long as they come.

Wherever they come from it does not matter. We want weapons. We want to be able to defend our women and our families. We don’t want money, just weapons,” said Omar, another rebel smuggler at Yayladagi.”

Syrian Army Unable to Stop Flood of Deserters

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/syrian-army-unable-to-stop-flood-of-deserters-a-838188.html

“Yet the cynical joke about the soldiers at the checkpoint reflects a reality that grows closer with each day, one which is welcomed by many Syrians: The regime is finding its soldiers slipping out of its grasp. One noncommissioned officer from the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib, just hours after defecting to the Free Syrian Army (FSA), relates breathlessly how he made his escape: ”The officer was sitting there, and when he was alone with me and a friend of mine, he demanded, ‘What are you still doing here? Go on and get out of here!’ The officer will issue the order to shoot them, the defector says, and he’ll call their families and threaten them, but all that is nothing but show. It’s over, he says, and it was time for them to disappear.

Shooting from a Distance

Of 400 soldiers originally stationed in the provincial capital of Idlib, just a couple dozen remained last week defending their base near the center of the city, which has seen significant fighting. In the small city of Maraa, near Aleppo, 15 soldiers defected within the space of a week — as many as in the entire previous year.

In Azaz, where Assad’s troops still control a checkpoint at the edge of the city, a heavily fortified city quarter and the minarets of the largest mosque, two soldiers defected a few days ago under the cover of a fake attack. They reported they had received hardly any supplies in weeks, and that they were living on dried out bread and brackish water. One earlier defector had taken with him the numbers of everyone in his unit who owned a cell phone. The FSA then contacted each of them, offering to help them escape. Many of the soldiers found it an attractive offer.

This is just one small insight into the situation in northern Syria, but deserters from other parts of the country who have managed to make their way back to their native villages near Aleppo tell of similar conditions in their own units. Reports of the types of attacks carried out by Assad’s troops also suggest the situation in the south, in the area around Damascus, in Deir al-Zor in the east and in Homs in the west is much the same as it is in the north: In many cases, the army no longer deploys its troops, but instead shoots from great distances using tanks and heavy artillery, or from helicopters, strategies which decrease the risk to the army.

One defector from Homs, a city that has also been the site of heavy fighting, describes a cycle of accelerating collapse. ”If I’d left sooner, state security would have arrested my family and burned down my house,” he says. ”But they’re not going to come now, certainly not just because of me.”

Diminishing Fear

With each bit of the country that slips from the regime’s control, the soldiers’ fear diminishes. That in turn increases the number of defectors, more and more of whom join the FSA. One officer, who defected to the FSA and has a precise mind for figures, estimates the group has around 40,000 former army soldiers in its ranks, although the proportion of soldiers and civilians varies among regions.

Outwardly, power dynamics in Syria have changed little in the past 15 months. The rebellion has gripped the cities, but unlike in Libya, here there is no still no large, contiguous region for the rebels to defend. But the appearance of stability is deceptive. While it’s true that soldiers are no longer allowed to travel by intercity bus without a permit, and that many of those who escape still risk being shot by the omnipresent intelligence service, the fact remains that the regime is no longer able to stay the gradual erosion of its army.

The impression of power and control emanating from the centers of Damascus, Aleppo and other major cities may also be deceptive. The Western half of Syria is a land of villages and small cities, which have joined together with the insurgency in the most densely populated provinces. The area around Aleppo, Idlib, Homs, Hama and Daraa together forms a zone in which the government’s troops may attack anywhere, at any time, yet are no longer able to control the area permanently. And in many places, the people living here have switched sides. Sunni Muslims have certainly done so, but so have most Druzes and Ismailis. And though Kurdish villages in the northwest, such as Basuta and Ain Dara, have started flying the Kurdish flag in recent weeks, rather than the revolutionary flag with its three stars, there’s no one left here who still defends the regime.

Around 50 soldiers are stationed on Sheikh Barakat Mountain near the Churchof St. Simeon, northern Syria’s famous late antiquity ruin, but for the past two months they’ve received supplies only by air, because convoys are no longer able to pass through the surrounding area, which is completely under the FSA’s control

‘We Don’t Get Orders’

The FSA itself is a peculiar entity. It’s clear that it’s effectively organized at the village level and in small cities, each group loosely connected with other districts and provinces, but without a set hierarchy or command structure. ”We have a good relationship with the FSA’s commander in exile in Turkey,” says one local commander, ”but we don’t get orders. We’re in charge of ourselves.”

This set-up isn’t enough to allow coordinated attacks on the regime’s centers of power, but it appears to be good enough to control the rest of the country. What’s sustaining the regime is its monopoly on heavy weaponry, as well as its tough core of 100,000 to 200,000 officers, secret police, elite soldiers and militia members, most of whom are Alawis and fear that the regime’s fall would spell their own end as well. These troops have their stronghold in the Ansariyah Mountains in the west of the country and control parts of the larger cities as well, but they no longer hold all the land between.

Everyone — the rebels, the hundreds of thousands of undecided currently fleeing through the country to wherever they feel they will be somewhat safer, even those who support the regime — are all dreading the ”next step,” in the words of Abu Ali al-Dirri, an officer who changed sides six months ago. The next step is the air force.

‘They’re Going to Bomb the Country’

Syria has made massive improvements to its air force in the past year, but so far, aside from the helicopters, hardly put it into action. ”But before the Assads go down, they’re going to bomb the country,” Dirri believes. For years, he says, the regime has made a point of ensuring the loyalty of the air force, the branch of the military where President Bashar Assad’s father Hafez began his career. ”They’ve increased the proportion of Alawi cadets at the military academy in Aleppo constantly, especially in the air force,” he says. ”They knew things would turn against them at some point.”

At most, Dirri says, the regime would face the problem that many older pilots have been discharged in recent years, while many newer pilots have only barely completed the number of flying hours necessary in order to fly a fighter jet. Dirri himself, as a Sunni, hasn’t even been allowed to carry a gun since the revolution began.

For years, the officer says, ”Russia didn’t want to supply replacement parts any more, because we never paid, but now Russia is providing enormous amounts of assistance, even sending over personnel.” He adds that more than 1,000 Russian engineers were present in the country this January. Many of them were officially there as agricultural consultants, ”but their work doesn’t have much to do with agriculture.” Iran has sent arms and ammunition, he adds, but not much in the way of personnel, while China has a group of air force specialists stationed at Aleppo‘s military airports.

Around half of the air force’s 360 fighter jets are fully operational, Dirri says. It’s roughly the same proportion with its 120 helicopters. Its French ”Gazelle” helicopters, equipped with armor-piercing weapons, are in the best condition, ”but not a single one of them has ever taken off — they’re all stationed at the presidential palace airport.”

Where Will the West Draw a Line?

As long as the West continues to declare every few days that it has no intention of carrying out a military intervention, says Colonel Dirri, the regime in Syria will continue to use everything at its disposal. ”Its strength rests in the fact that the whole world is saying, ‘We’re not going to get involved,'” he says. ”If this Rasmussen” — a reference to NATO’s secretary general — ”would just shut his mouth for once, that alone would do Syria a great service!”

At the very latest, after the massacres in Houla two weeks ago and in Mazraat al-Qubair last Wednesday, none of the rebels in northern Syrian still believe the UN’s peace plan will be successful. Instead, their greatest hope is little more than a rumor: that at some point the US must surely draw a line, and perhaps Russia too. What will it take to reach that line? The deployment of Syria‘s air force to carpet-bomb the country? Or perhaps the regime resorting to its arsenal of chemical weapons?

One thing is clear: With or without a vote from the UN Security Council, the rebels want an intervention.”

The T-HOMS 75

Finally the T-HOMS 75. It is a Toyota pickup fitted with steel plates to protect teams of three rebel fighters each behind the rockets and machine guns. Under the motto, “you take what you have”

This is what NATO and Anders Fogh Rasmussen probably would call “a serious proliferation of weapons in the region”.

And this piece from Haaretz on the left and very critical of Israeli policies. Regarding the deafening silence from nearly ALL Israeli Arab artists in Israel and Jewish radicals, the peace movement etc.

A deafening silence

Tolerance in the face of Assad’s bloody murderousness is liable to have the same effect on Arab-Jewish radicalism in Israel.

http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/a-deafening-silence.premium-1.436292

By Ari Shavit

“Remember Deir Yassin? The number of innocent people murdered in Syriaover the past year is 100 times greater than the number of innocent people who were murdered in this Arab village at the edge of Jerusalem in 1948.

Remember the Qibya incident? The number of innocent people killed in Syriaover the past year is 250 times the number of innocent people killed in this pastoral village in Jordan in 1953.

Remember Sabra and Shatila? The number of innocent people butchered during the past year in Syria is 20 times the number of innocent people who were butchered in those Palestinian refugee camps in western Beirut in 1982.

Remember the bloody rioting in October 2000? The number of innocent people who were shot to death in Syria during the past year is 1,000 times the number of innocent people who were shot to death by the Israel Police in the Galilee and the Triangle area in central Israel.

Remember Operation Cast Lead? The number of innocent people who were felled in Syria during this past year is dozens of times the number of innocent people who fell in the Gaza Strip during that widely condemned Israeli military operation in the winter of 2008-09.

The picture is clear: During one year, the secular Arab nationalism of Bashar Assad has spilled more innocent blood than the Zionists have in decades. This Arab tyrant, who in the past was the darling of Arab Knesset members, is massacring his fellow Arabs in a way that Israel never did.

Arab cities are being bombed, Arab women are murdered, Arab children are slaughtered. An Arab society is being shredded, and an Arab state shattered into fragments.

Despite all this, the The High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel is not demanding that the United Nations intervene to stop the bloodshed. Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, is not petitioning the International Criminal Court in the Hague to put the war criminals on trial. Large Land Day type demonstrations have not been called. Protesters who take part in mass marches every October aren’t marching. Arab students who mark the Palestinian Nakba of 1948 aren’t coming out against the Syrian Nakba of 2012. Israel’s Arab minority and its anti-Zionist left are watching as thousands of Arab are massacred – and are standing idly by.

It’s crystal clear that the Syrian tragedy unfolding before our eyes has serious international ramifications. It is taking all meaning out concepts such as international community, international law and the idea of moral validity in international relations.

It’s crystal clear that the Syrian tragedy has serious pan-Arab ramifications. It is taking all meaning out of concepts such as Arab unity, Arab solidarity and the idea that the contemporary Arab world accords any real meaning to human rights.

But the Syrian tragedy has serious ramifications for Israel’s anti-Zionist community as well. The inability of this community to directly confront Arab evil undermines the moral basis for its battle against Israeli evil.

Its unwillingness to demand that universal values be upheld in Hama and in Homs pulls the rug out from under its demands that universal values be upheld in Ramallah and Nazareth. Its silence when faced with the butcher of Damascus makes its condemnations of the State of Israel sound hollow.

The Syrian challenge is a moral challenge. There are some Israeli Arabs who are passing this test honorably. For example, Azmi Bishara, the former MK who fled Israel after being questioned on suspicion of aiding the enemy, who in the past was close to Assad, is today waging a brave and intensive campaign against him on Al Jazeera tv. Unfortunately, few of Bishara’s colleagues in Israel are following suit.

Israeli Arab artists in Israel and Jewish radicals in Israel are silent about what’s going on just over the border. This troublesome silence makes one wonder if their declared humanitarianism is authentic. When they spoke up – against Israel – about human dignity and freedom, perhaps they were simply fooling us?

Communism in the West was destroyed in the 1950s because it tolerated Stalin’s bloody dictatorship. Tolerance in the face of Assad’s bloody murderousness is liable to have the same effect on Arab-Jewish radicalism in Israel.

See Part 1 – Introduction in my original series for more info

Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 1

See Part 2 – Reports in my original series for more info

Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 2

Refusing to arm or help the opposition will not end the conflict or limit it; it will drag on as all the  examples of  like Rwanda, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Darfur, Bosnia (Srebrenica anyone?) etc. shows. Leading to more massacres and atrocities.

And by waiting the situation gets worse and much more complex, then “they” used its complexity as an excuse not to intervene while decrying the lost opportunity for intervention. And ALL this time the killing and atrocities committed by Assad’s regime just continues as nothing has happened.

On the contrary, the Assad regime has increased it’s attacks since Bashar al-Assad agreed to implement the “new” peace plan.

The international community’s response has been ludicrous. Syrians on the ground have felt forgotten and betrayed. A system that is supposed to protect civilians from brutal force has failed on a monumental scale.

And to ALL these countries, USA, EU, NATO, Turkey etc. that are supposed to defend and protect freedom, liberty and human rights.

To ALL these global government organisations (UN),and local ones like the Arab League etc.

To ALL the statesmen and politicians that talk so loudly about “responsibility to protect” (Samantha Power anyone?), freedom, liberty and human rights.

I say only one thing: You should be REALLY BE PROUD of yourselves and the children of  Syria will remember you. Each one of you.

                             To the children of Syria!

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The Slaughter in Syria and the countries that make it possible – 5

12 juni, 2012

Third, the countries and organizations that makes this possible (continuation):

USA and the Obama Administration

You can say much about the Obama administrations Middle East policies. But the easiest is to state the obvious – it is an utter and total failure. In fact, it is even worse than that.

Because what Obama has managed to do is to totally destroy US reputation and standing in the region. He has single-handed managed to alienate ALL the traditional allies in the region like Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel.

The Saudis was so upset after the way Obama throw Mubarak under the buss that they decided that they could NO longer trust this man. After that, they strengthen the Gulf Cooperation Council, intervened in Bahrain etc.

And how Obama have supported the Muslim Brotherhood and the fundamentalist take over after Mubarak and the military regime.

And the Israelis, the way the have been treated regarding the fundamental and existential treat from a nuclear Iran.

Make no mistake; this is a fundamental strategic break. That America will suffer the consequences for many years to come.

Add to that the total failure inIraq where you now have a US installed government that is closely allied to Iran. And is helping Iran support Assad in Syria.

You can add to that the disintegration of Afghanistan. Yemen, where the Obama administration forced out the sitting president Ali Abdullah Saleh and now al-Qaidi controls large parts of that country.

Etc.

Etc.

Remember also that Obama and Hillary Clinton switched the policy 180 degrees compared to the Bush time. Assad was “their” man because he was a ”reformer”. And there was a parade of American politicians going toDamascus to shake the “reformers” hand and praising Assad for his “reforms”.

Even several months into this uprising and the slaughter, Obama and Hillary Clinton still vehemently defend him as a reformer refusing to condemn what was going on.

And Turkey, under his close personal friend Erdogan, witch Obama has hold up as a role model for the rest of the Middle East.

A Turkey under Erdogan which have, on purpose, slowly but very determined Islamized Turkey.  With hundreds of political prisoners like journalist, judges, layers, military, kurds etc. Who have spent years and years in prison without a trial.

And the latest example of how far this process have gone:

This Week, Turkey Went a Long Way Toward Becoming an Islamic Republic

http://rubinreports.blogspot.com/2012/06/this-week-turkey-went-long-way-toward.html

“Hardly surprising; deeply upsetting; and geo-strategically catastrophic, it’s official. Turkey has now passed over toward being an Islamist state. That turning point is marked by a tiny event of gigantic importance. Fazil Say is an internationally acclaimed Turkish classical pianist. He has performed with prestigious symphony orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic, Berlin, Israel Philharmonic, France, and Tokyo as well as being a European Union cultural ambassador. The Turkish state is now going to put him on trial.

An Istanbul court has accepted the prosecutor’s charge, which amounts to heresy. Specifically, he is accused of insulting Islam because of tweets he sent. Say suggested that since the Koran says there are rivers of drinks in heaven that makes it sound like a pub, while the beautiful women available there make it sound like a brothel. A number of his tweets are quoted here. That’s his crime, writing a couple of sentences to describe his thoughts.

We are not talking of someone criticizing Say or disagreeing with him. We are talking about the power of the Turkish state being used to charge a man with a crime and send him to prison for exercising free speech. True, they are only asking for a sentence of eighteen months in prison but once the precedent is set their ambitions will expand.

There are already hundreds of political prisoners in Turkey today who have been in prison for over three years without any trial at all. Now if criticizing Islam in Turkey is a crime, Turkey is not a secular state. And with all of those innocent people already thrown in jail by the regime on trumped-up charges of treason and terrorism, Turkey is no longer a democratic state either.

Yeap, that really sound like a good role model for the rest of the Middle East!

This is the same Turkey, with active American help, trying to make Syrian National Council (SNC, i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood) the sole “representative of the Syrian opposition. Thereby fuelling ALL resources to them and not to the rest of the more secular, democratic opposition inside Syria.

Doesn’t this also seems like another excellent policy by the Obama administration if you REALLY want to be sure of a democratic development in Syria in the future??

And this obsession of Obama and Hillary Clinton that the Russians has to “approve” everything before he actually do anything.

The Obama administration is actually, which is astounding, giving Russia de facto veto power over US foreign policy. A Russia, which literally hates everything USA stands for and it’s position in the world. And witch have done everything it can to interrupt, damage or sabotage US foreign policy.

Russia is the one that is supporting and protecting Assad, Iran etc. Russia is the one selling ALL these weapons to Syria and Iran etc.

And remember that Obama actually told outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on March 26 that he is going to be “more flexible” after the election in November.

MORE FLEXIBLE???

Just to give some recent examples of the “democratic development” in Russia:

This is the Russia that just raised the fines for participating in unsanctioned rallies or demonstration from 300 rubles to 300,000 rubles, a year salary for a normal Russian.

Putin signed the bill on June 8.

The Kremlin’s own Human Rights Council said in a statement the bill violates an article in the constitution guaranteeing freedom of assembly.

And oh by the way, the Russian authorities don’t very often give “permission” for demonstrations.

In March, a discriminatory ban on “homosexual propaganda” went into effect in St. Petersburg.

And on the same theme – Moscow Bans Gay Pride Parades For 100 Years

Yeas, you read right. Moscow city courts has banned ALL pride parades for the NEXT 100 years!

http://www.queerty.com/moscow-bans-gay-pride-parades-for-100-years-20120608/

“Yikes,Russia! A week after protestors for gay rights were arrested in Moscow, a district court upheld the decision by a Moscow city court to ban gay pride parades for 100 years. Yes, the government can now legally forbid gay pride for a century, from March 2012 to March 2112.”

And this how the Russian government defend it:

“The Russian government has said that rulings such as that of the Moscow City Council are not anti-gay but rather rulings that protect ”the majority’s rights.”

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2893357/posts

Not to mention the regular killings of journalist, layers, judges etc.

And just today some more “democratic” developments:

Russian Opposition Leaders’ Homes Raided

http://www.rferl.org/content/russia-opposition-leaders-homes-searched/24610215.html

“Russian police have searched the homes of leading opposition figures in an apparent crackdown on the eve of a planned mass protest against President Vladimir Putin’s third term as president.

The opposition figures have been summoned for questioning by investigators on June 12 — the same day as the planned protest.

Police, some armed with assault rifles, carried out searches on the homes of opposition figures including Boris Nemtsov, Ilya Yashin, Ksenia Sobchak, Sergei Udaltsov, Aleksei Navalny, and at least five others.

Udaltsov said police showed up at his door early in the morning.

Police and Investigative Committee officers started banging on my door early in the morning, at 7 a.m. At the same time, they searched my parents’ home,” Udaltsov said. ”They presented a search warrant as part of the criminal investigation of the events of May 6.”

Udaltsov said police confiscated his computer, a flash stick, his iPad, and mobile telephone.”

By the way “the criminal investigation of the events of May 6.”  was a demonstration against Putin.

I could continue another 3-4 pages with some more recent “democratic” developments inRussia. But I think you get the picture.

Doesn’t this also seems like another excellent policy by the Obama administration??

Begging Russia,  your enemy, to “help” you and de facto giving them veto power over your policies.

After ALL the “resets”Russia hasn’t moved one millimeter to help USA. On the contrary

Just a few examples:

US condemns Syria massacre and looks for Russian help to oust Assad Hillary Clinton harshly condemns Syrian president as Obama reportedly plans to urge Putin to back a transition of power

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/27/us-condemns-syria-massacre-russia?newsfeed=true

“The comments came amid reports that President Barack Obama is preparing to push Russia to back the departure of Assad under a scheme modelled on the transition of power in Yemen.

According to an article in the New York Times, Obama hopes to enlist President Vladimir Putin’s support over a transition of power in Syria during a meeting next month – the first between the pair since Putin’s return to the Kremlin.

Under the reported plan, the international community would broker a settlement in which Assad would leave, but remnants of the political structure would remain intact.

But for the plan to have a chance of succeeding it would need greater backing from Moscow, which to date has been strongly opposed to Assad’s removal.

Russia, as one of Assad’s few remaining allies, has long blocked tough sanctions against the regime proposed by the United Nations, claiming that it could lead to the bloody ouster of Assad.”

And more peddling of the same:

Clinton presses Russia to back political change in Syria

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5ickPHmGjO2L1vDcfS4yInarU-gvw?docId=CNG.6b132c77c83405c53dd440d729dc1b73.c1

““STOCKHOLM — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Russia Sunday to get behind a political transition in Syria, saying President Bashar al-Assad’s departure was not a precondition but should be ”an outcome”.

Clinton spoke to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by telephone at the weekend to say that Washington and Moscow needed to work together on a plan that would halt the violence and bring about political change in the country.

”In my conversation with him, I made it very clear there would be no point to any meeting unless it included all elements of Kofi Annan’s (peace) plan, and that certainly means we have to focus on a path forward for a political transition,” Clinton told reporters Sunday during a visit to Stockholm.

”Assad’s departure does not have to be a precondition but it should be an outcome, so the people of Syria have a chance to express themselves,” she said.”

Russia has resisted UN Security Council efforts to sanction the Assad regime, a longtime ally of Moscow, questioning the effectiveness of sanctions and warning that outside meddling could lead to civil war.

Clinton has sharply criticised Moscow for ”propping up” the Assad regime with continued arms shipments, prompting President Vladimir Putin to defend Russia‘s stance in meetings with the leaders of Germany and France.”

“She said her message to Lavrov was: ”We all have to intensify our efforts to achieve a political transition, and Russia has to be at the table helping that occur. The Syrian people want and deserve change.”

U.S. Hopes Assad Can Be Eased Out With Russia’s Aid

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/27/world/middleeast/us-seeks-russias-help-in-removing-assad-in-syria.html?pagewanted=all

“WASHINGTON — In a new effort to halt more than a year of bloodshed in Syria, President Obama will push for the departure of President Bashar al-Assad under a proposal modeled on the transition in another strife-torn Arab country, Yemen.

The plan calls for a negotiated political settlement that would satisfy Syrian opposition groups but that could leave remnants of Mr. Assad’s government in place. Its goal is the kind of transition under way in Yemen, where after months of violent unrest, President Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to step down and hand control to his vice president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, in a deal arranged byYemen’s Arab neighbors. Mr. Hadi, though later elected in an uncontested vote, is viewed as a transitional leader.

The success of the plan hinges on Russia, one of Mr. Assad’s staunchest allies, which has strongly opposed his removal.

In the past year, Russia has blocked any tough United Nations Security Council action against Mr. Assad, arguing that it could lead to his forced ouster and the kind of fates suffered by Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi ofLibya, who was killed, or Hosni Mubarak ofEgypt, who was imprisoned and put on trial. ButRussia is facing intense international pressure to use its influence to bring about the removal of Mr. Assad as the killings inSyria continue unabated, including the massacre of more than 90 people in a village nearHoms that was reported by United Nations officials on Saturday. “

The Yemen example has been widely discussed in Moscow, so much so that the option has become known by its Russian term, “the Yemenskii Variant,” even in theUnited States. In part, that reflectsRussia’s desperation for a solution to the crisis in Syria, where, the United Nations says, thousands of civilians have been killed since protests began there in March of last year.

Mr. Obama, administration officials said, will press the proposal with President Vladimir V. Putin ofRussianext month at their first meeting since Mr. Putin returned to his old post on May 7. Thomas E. Donilon, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, raised the plan with Mr. Putin in Moscow three weeks ago.

When Mr. Obama brought it up with Prime Minister Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia at the Group of 8 meeting at Camp Davidlast weekend, Mr. Medvedev appeared receptive, American officials said, signaling that Russia would prefer that option to other transitions in the Arab upheaval. During the meeting, “Medvedev raised the example of Mubarak in a cage,” a senior official said, referring to Mr. Mubarak’s confinement at his trial. The official, who requested anonymity because of the delicacy of the discussions, said Mr. Obama had then “countered withYemen, and the indication was, yes, this was something we could talk about.”

And

“After the hopeless gridlock at the special UN session on the Syrian crisis Thursday, an American delegation headed by Fred Hoff, the Secretary of State’s special adviser on Syria, drew a blank in the talks it conducted at the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow Friday, June 8, with Syrian expert, Mikhail Bogdanov.

Moscow has flatly rejected President Barack Obama’s proposal to post 5,000 armed UN monitors in Syria, most of them Russian troops, as the core of a new plan to resolve the Syrian crisis. The Russians may consider convening an international conference, but only if its remit is limited to offering a basis for negotiations between the Assad regime and the opposition and new political reforms. On no account must it deal with Bashar Assad’s removal.

Moscow’s position has grown tougher in the last few days. After Russian officials stated this week that keeping the Assad regime in power was not a priority, Bogdanev said Friday: Moscow isn’t discussing ways to promote Bashar al-Assad’s ouster with Washington. “We aren’t holding such talks.”

He stressed that the only way forward on the Syrian issue was by expanding Annan’s peace plan.

However, the only thing that all the participants at the UN could agree on was that the Annan peace plan had failed. And now that the US mission to Moscow has run into another dead end, the violence in Syria will continue to run riot with no world power or body prepared to step in and stop it.

Adding to the complications, the Syrian conflict and the Iranian nuclear controversy are becoming inextricably intermeshed. The U Sofficial Hoff knew he was arriving in Moscow at a grave disadvantage after Iran indicated to the six world powers that it was seriously considering not turning up for their third round of nuclear talks in Moscow on June 18-19.

Its pretext: The West had failed to come up with “serious proposals.”

Most of all, Tehran took umbrage over US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s demand that Iran come to the talks prepared with “concrete steps to curb its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity.”

When she spoke, Clinton knew there was not the slightest chance of the Iranians accepting this demand.

Tehran also pulled in its horns at International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters inVienna when confronted Friday, June 8, with demands to open up its suspect nuclear sites to international inspection.

These related developments all point in one direction: US President Barack Obama’s deep reluctance to intervene directly in Syria and preference for Russia and Iran to take over have run up against equally powerful reluctance in Moscow and Tehran to put their hands in the Syrian fire or take part in any international effort to quench its flames.

Indeed, the Russians and Iranians believe that as the flames of the civil war already raging there spread, the US president will be blamed by the American public and the Arab world for the horrendous sectarian bloodbath.

And if Obama and America’s European allies do decide on military intervention, they will be too late and find themselves pulled down into a bottomless quagmire.”

Here is yet another example of the utter folly of the Obama administrations policy:

How Can Obama’s Middle East Policy Possibly Get Worse? Answer: Look at Syria

http://pjmedia.com/barryrubin/2012/05/29/how-can-obamas-middle-east-policy-possibly-get-worse-answer-look-at-syria/

“Some of my readers are unhappy that I keep criticizing President Barack Obama and his government. The problem is that this administration keeps doing terrible things in the Middle East. And the most damning evidence on these actions comes not from Obama’s enemies but from the administration itself and the supportive mass media.

Here’s the latest such item:

“U.S. Hopes Assad Can Be Eased Out withRussia’s Aid,” by Helene Cooper and Mark Landler, in the New York Times.

For almost three years, Obama insisted he would win over the Syrian dictatorship and make it America’s friend rather than Iran’s number-one ally. That was ludicrous. Forced by the uprising to back away from Damascus, the Obama administration has spent almost a year bumbling about what to do.

The U.S. government’s main activity was to entrust to the Turkish Islamist regime the job of forming an umbrella Syrian opposition leadership. Not surprisingly, Ankara pursued its own interest by assembling a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated group, the Syrian National Congress. Though several members resigned, complaining of the radical Islamist control, the Obama administration is still trying to force hostile oppositionists to join.

Now the administration has unveiled a new and equally terrible policy. I’ll let the New York Times’ reporters explain it:

President Obama will push for the departure of President Bashar al-Assad under a plan that calls for a negotiated political settlement that would satisfy Syrian opposition groups but that could leave remnants of Assad’s government in place. The success of the plan hinges on Russia, one of Assad’s staunchest allies, which has strongly opposed his removal. Obama, administration officials said, will press the proposal with President Putin ofRussia at their meeting next month. Obama’s national security adviser raised the plan with Putin inMoscow three weeks ago.

Good grief! There are four different acts of strategic insanity involved in this paragraph. They are…

1. “A negotiated political settlement that…could leave remnants of Assad’s government in place.”

The Syrian dictatorship is led by murderous thugs who know this is a case of kill or be killed. They aren’t going to give up any of their power. And why should they since they think they’re winning and may well be right? They know the outside world won’t do anything, despite the regime killing around 10,000 civilians.

2. “A negotiated political settlement that would satisfy Syrian opposition groups but that could leave remnants of Assad’s government in place.”

The opposition is not so foolish as a Washington pundit, policymaker, or politician. They know that their only hope is to destroy the regime entirely. The democrats want to do so in order to have a modern democracy. The Islamists want Islamism. The Kurds and Druze want autonomy. How could there possibly be a coalition? Both sides know that within days people would be murdering each other. How could anyone expect this kind of deal would work or that the opposition would accept it?

If anyone in Syria might favor such a plan it’s the Muslim Brotherhood. which has toyed with the idea of using such a transition period to strengthen its own hand. So the idea cannot succeed but reveals once again that the Obama administration seems to get many of its strategies from the Muslim Brotherhood. That’s an observation, not a conspiracy theory.

3. “The success of the plan hinges on Russia, one of Assad’s staunchest allies, which has strongly opposed his removal.”

Just think about that sentence! The Obama administration wants to depend on a country that’s disdainful of U.S. interests, wants to sabotage them, and is on the opposite side! The president wants to ask a country that is “strongly opposed” to Assad’s removal to remove Assad!

And finally, equally amazingly:

4. “Obama, administration officials said, will press the proposal with President Putin of Russia at their meeting next month. Obama’s national security adviser raised the plan with Putin in Moscow three weeks ago.”

It’s Obama, not Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who is pushing this plan to put Russia in control! If your enemy tries to fool or cheat you, that’s a problem. If you beg him to cheat you and hand him the means to do so, that’s a betrayal of U.S. interests.

To summarize, the Obama policy shows three characteristics that have wider implications for the president’s strategies:

•It favors Islamist enemies.

It “leads from behind” by giving the initiative to those who wish America no good.

And it shows no interest in helping genuinely pro-American moderates who are fighting for their lives.

And that, friends, is why I spend so much time bashing Obama’s Middle East policy, because it is so very bad and dangerous.

Now a possible explanation for all of this would be that Obama doesn’t really want to do anything about Syria for other reasons. The United States doesn’t want to get dragged into direct intervention; it’s a lower-priority issue; there’s no great policy option; and his only concern is the American election.

But so what? It’s still possible to come up with a better policy than this, a policy that would make Obama look good as well as serve U.S. interests. He could call for Assad’s overthrow; back truly moderate oppositionists; subvert Islamist influence; and send arms and money, but only to the moderates. In order to portray himself as decisive, heroic, and a friend of democracy, Obama could take every possible overt and covert opportunity to weaken Assad, even helping at a low cost to create a no-fly zone and safe havens. None of this is going to happen.

Instead, though, he turns over dealing with the opposition to an Islamist regime in Turkey and subcontracts dealing with the regime to a pro-regime Russian government. I’d say that Obama’s policy in the region could not easily be worse, but who knows what’s next, especially if there’s a second term.”

More on the Kurdish question and Obamas push for them to join SNC:

Syrian Kurdish Dissident: BreakSyriaInto Pieces

http://www.gloria-center.org/2012/05/syrian-kurdish-dissident-break-syria-into-pieces/

“Sherkoh Abbas, a veteran Syrian Kurdish dissident, called on Israel this week to support the break-up of Syria into a series of federal structures based on the country’s various ethnicities.

Speaking from Washington, Abbas was also critical of US attempts to induce Syrian Kurds to join and work with the main opposition body, the Syrian National Council. Abbas, who heads the Washington- based Kurdistan National Assembly, said that dismantling Syria into ethnic enclaves with a federal administration would serve to “break the link” between Syria and the Iran-led “Shi’a crescent.”

Syrian Kurdish, Druse, Alawite and Sunni Arab federal areas, he suggested, would have no interest in aligning with Iran.

At the same time, a federalized Syria would avoid the possibility of a resurgent, Muslim Brotherhood-controlled Sunni Islamist Syria emerging as a new challenge to Israel and the West.

“We need to break Syria into pieces,” Abbas said.

The Syrian Kurdish dissident argued that a federal Syria, separated into four or five regions on an ethnic basis, would also serve as a natural “buffer” forIsraelagainst both Sunni and Shi’ite Islamist forces.”

And

Two Obama Administration Scandals on Syria?

http://pjmedia.com/barryrubin/2012/05/17/two-obama-administration-scandals-on-syria/

“When a delegation of Syrian Kurdish rebels recently visited Washington, D.C., the State Department met them to ask for a favor. What was it? The Obama administration urged them to join the Syrian National Council (SNC), the organization created by the U.S. government through Turkey to lead the opposition movement and receive Western aid for all Syrian opposition groups.

But the Turkish Islamist regime, which Obama put in charge of forming the SNC, put the Muslim Brotherhood in control, a fact I pointed out within hours of the announcement of the SNC leadership’s names.

Now that several SNC leaders have resigned complaining about Brotherhood domination, followed by some Arab journalists pointing out the obvious Brotherhood domination at the SNC’s last meeting, that reality is clear. But the implications of such an incredibly foolish policy—America putting an anti-American, antisemitic group into the “official” leadership of Syria’s rebels — have never been properly examined as a case study for Obama’s disastrous Middle East policy.

The Kurds had walked out of the talks that formed the SNC last year when they saw how Islamists would be in control. Not only do they oppose Islamism itself but they also see the Brotherhood as an Arabizing and centralizing group that would impose a regime oppressing the non-Arab Kurds.

The new U.S. effort so backfired  that, with the Obama administration ignoring their concerns, the enraged Kurds in the delegation spoke for the first time of breaking up Syria altogether!

To sum up, Obama policy has strengthened the Islamist forces in the opposition and fragmented the rebels, thus helping preserve a radical anti-American Syrian regime that is an ally of Iran or helping make any revolution more likely to produce a radical anti-American Syrian Islamist regime that will be an ally of an Islamist Egypt.

Now comes a very peculiar story in the Washington Post with the headline, “Syrian rebels get influx of arms with Gulf Neighbors’ Money, U.S. coordination.” Let’s break this down logically:

–The Saudis and Qataris have been providing arms already.

–They know how to buy weapons, how to get them to the Syrian border, and how to give them to Syrian rebels.

What do they need American “coordination” for? What does the word “coordination” mean? I presume it means that the Obama administration, absolutely clueless about what to do regarding Syria, simply wants to take credit for others’ actions. It is part of the pre-election spin about what a great job Obama is doing.

Yet there is another problem here, a potentially devastating one. Who is getting the weapons? There are different people and groups in the Syrian opposition. Some are Salafists who feel comfortable with al-Qaida; some are Brotherhood men; some are ex-Syrian army officers, professionals and relatively apolitical; and some are liberals who really want democracy.

Whoever gets these weapons will be tremendously empowered. So what’s to say that the arms being “coordinated” by the United States aren’t going to revolutionary Islamists? While this is a complex subject, there is information that these arms supplies up until now have not been sufficiently discriminatory toward moderates and away from Islamist radicals. We will know more in the weeks to come if we can see and identify which opposition groups in what parts of Syria have become better armed.

And if it comes out that the U.S. government is “coordinating” the arming of such people with weapons — as it is already helping their political counterparts in the SNC — wouldn’t that be a tremendous scandal?

Let’s be clear here: A proper U.S.policy would help moderate Syrians overthrow the Assad dictatorship and make sure weapons went to the best elements in the Free Syrian Army’s decentralized forces. Such a policy would make sure to deny money, weapons, and power to the Islamists and Salafists, who are proportionately far weaker in Syria than in Egypt.

Obama policy follows the worst possible course. It minimizes U.S. help to the revolution while at the same time ensuring that a disproportionately large amount goes to Islamists.”

And

Will There Be Room for Kurds and Other Minorities in a Post-Assad Syria?

http://www.newenglishreview.org/custpage.cfm/frm/115831/sec_id/115831

“New York Times reported that the US hopes that Russia, one of the Assad regime’s allies, along with the Islamic Republic of Iran and China, might offer some assistance to facilitate Assad leaving the embattled regime in Damascus. Prof. Eyal Zisser of the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University in a recent Israel Hayom article, “The Road to Damascus Runs Through Moscow,” noted the transition proposal of the Obama Administration:

The Americans pulled a new rabbit out of their hat in the form of Russian President Vladimir Putin. They suggested that Moscow and Washington jointly impose the ”Yemen solution” on Syria, which calls for Assad’s removal while keeping his regime in place to rule Syria until elections can be held; similar to what took place in Egypt and Tunisia. The Americans hope that such a solution will appeal to those inside Assad’s inner circle, who feel his end is near and will agree to abandon him in order to ensure their own futures.

However that may be a vain hope. Given US, Turkey, Saudi, Qatar and Gulf Emirate support for the Syrian National Council what might follow in Syria could be a Sunni Arab nationalist regime.  A regime dominated by a fundamentalist Islamist coalition. That would dash hopes of minority ethnic and religious groups for a secular democratic federal republic. A federal republic that might include secular Sunni and Alawi moderates, Christians, Druze, Turkmen and the country’s second largest ethnic group, the Kurds. Arabs constitute nearly three-fifths (57 percent) of the country’s 22 million population. That is the hope of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria (KURDNAS) leader Sherkoh Abbas. He has joined with US Syrian Sunni reformer Dr. M. Zhudi Jasser to advance this cause via the Syrian Democratic Coalition.”

“For Abbas and other Syrian Kurds, the past four decades witnessed socio-economic deprivations and Arabization of the Kurdistan Region by the Assad regimes – a virtual ethnic cleansing. An estimated 500,000 Kurds were denied Syrian citizenship following a special census in 1963. They lived as aliens in their ancestral lands in the northeastern border areas adjacent to Turkey on the north and Iraq to the east. Arable land and control of valuable oil resources in the Syrian Kurdistan heartland were seized to become the personal wealth of the Assad family. Instruction and schooling in Kurdish language and culture was stopped. This repression of Syria’s Kurds witnessed virtual starvation and usurpation of their national provenance. That led to the uprising in 2004. Dozens of Kurds were killed; more than 4000 were jailed and tortured. “

“Abbas demurs. He maintains that Syria post-Assad may not become another fundamentalist Sunni Arab post-revolutionary government. He noted in a recent Front Page Magazine interview with Joseph Puder, “Syria: An Alternative Choice”:

The Muslim Brotherhood, with the support of President Obama and Turkey, will not succeed in controlling all of Syria. The Alawis and Hezbollah backed by Iran, Russia and China, will not give up power easily.

Asked what the US role might be in the current struggle, Abbas asserted:

The US has a moral responsibility to insure freedom and democracy for all Syrians. .. an Arab nationalist or Islamist regime would lead to more violence and civil war.”

“Gordon:  Recently, the US State Department held meetings in Washington with the Syrian National Kurdish Council. What were the purposes of the session, who attended and what did the Obama Administration hope to achieve?

Abbas:  The U.S. Administration has asked the Kurdish National Council delegation to join the Syrian National Council, and wanted this meeting to directly hear Kurdish opinion. The interpretation of the U.S. Administration in support for the Kurdish political movement is premature. This was a positive event, but the US government should contact and meet various representatives of the Syrian Kurdish street, especially those that work for a federal Syria and want to bring down the Assad terrorist regime.

Gordon:  Do you believe that the Obama Administration has played a productive role in fostering Syrian dissident opposition during this crisis?

Abbas:  Unfortunately, the Obama administration played a role in the mismanagement of the Syrian crisis. It did not encourage a clear and supportive policy toward democratic groups. If the Syrian Revolution fails, the current U.S. administration will have had a key role. This policy is producing harmful results for the Syrian people and encourages the system to continue to commit crimes against humanity. The question for President Obama is what is his Administration’s goal? Is the goal either keeping the Baathists in power in Damascus or bringing Muslim Brotherhood Islamists who control the SNC to power? Both cases do not serve the interests of either the majority of the Syrian people or the international community.”

And the Obama administration stopped a France and Saudi plan to in one strike take out the top Assad leadership:

“US President Obama recently vetoed a detailed Franco-Saudi plan for ending President Bashar Assad’s rule by means of a massive air strike against his palace that would at one fell swoop wipe him, his family and top leadership circle out,

Their plan was for the presidential palace situated atop Mount Qassioun northeast of Damascus to be devastated by French warplanes taking off from the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier off Syria’s Mediterranean coast and Saudi and United Arab Emirates bombers flying in through Jordan.

They would bomb the palace for 12 hours in several sorties while at the same time American fighter jets launched from a US aircraft carrier cruising in the Mediterranean or Red Sea would shut down Syria’s air defenses, which are considered among the most sophisticated and densely-arrayed in the region.

US warplanes would also keep the Syrian Air Force grounded and prevented from repulsing the incoming bombers.

This plan was presented to President Obama separately by Nicolas Sarkozy before he was voted out of office and Saudi Defense Minister Prince Salman, who arrived at the White House on April 12 for a personal presentation. The prince maintained that there is no end in sight for the Syrian conflict; it would only spread and ignite the rest of the Middle East. The peril could only be rooted out at source by a single, sharp military strike that would remove Assad and his close clan for good. This would be the only acceptable kind of Western-Arab armed intervention in Syria and it had the added advantage of being effective without bringing foreign boots to Syrian soil.

In early May, Sarkozy was still trying to talk Obama around to the plan. He spent his last days in the Elysée Palace in long telephone conversations with the White House in which he drove home three points:

1. Because Assad has concentrated his family, top military command and intelligence chiefs at a single nerve center behind the fortified walls of the Qassioun Palace, the snake’s head can feasibly be cut off at one stroke.

The case of Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi was different because, unlike Assad, he never stayed long in one place and was constantly on the move.

2. Once that nerve center is destroyed, Syrian army and intelligence would be bereft of their sources of command. Their troops may remain in their bases and wait for news, while their officers may use the sudden political vacuum inDamascus to try and seize power. In either case, the Syrian military would be free of its orders to crush the anti-Assad revolt.

3. The French, Saudi and UAE air forces lack a central command center capable of coordinating a major combined air operation and therefore depend on the United States to provide this essential component. American military input is also vital for paralyzingSyria’s air defenses by applying its cyber warfare capabilities to disrupt the radar systems ofSyria’s anti-air missile batteries.

Our Washington sources report that Obama consistently resisted repeated French and Saudi efforts to jump aboard their initiative.

The Saudi defense minister at one point in their conversation told the US president harshly that it was time for the Americans to stop talking and start acting. But Obama remained unmoved.

These events, provide the background for Presidents Barak Obama and Francois Hollande’s divergent responses Tuesday, May 29, to the al-Houla atrocity and its 108 brutally murdered victims.

The White House repeated its objection to military intervention in Syria “at this time,” because it would only “increase the carnage.” A military option was left on the table.

That was standard Obama-speak for the crisis in Syria, behind which he remains determined to stay out of armed action for unseating President Assad and instead seek a deal with the Russians on the Syrian ruler’s fate as part and parcel of a comprehensive accord on Syria and Iran’s nuclear program.

President Hollande was at first quoted as saying he does not rule out armed intervention in Syria. Elysée sources later watered down this statement with the qualifier: …”only with UN Security Council approval.”

On top of the American hurdle, Moscow and Beijing rushed Wednesday, May 30, to reiterate that they would oppose (veto) any Security Council resolution authorizing military intervention in Syria, so effectively nipping the French intention in the bud.

Bashar Assad accordingly had no qualms about sending UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan off empty-handed from a final bid to salvage his peace mission: The world powers have left him sitting pretty in his palace, unconcerned about his future and free to pursue one of the most vicious anti-opposition campaigns of modern times.”

I wrote six weeks ago:

“Samantha Power, a prominent advocate of humanitarian intervention and the principle of ”responsibility to protect”, is considered to be the key figure within the Obama administration in persuading the president to intervene militarily in Libya.

Power, was a senior foreign policy adviser to senator Obama, and now a Special Assistant to President Barack Obama and Senior Director of the National Security Council.

But on Syria? NOT A PEEP!

And the same Samantha Power, Special Assistant to President Barack Obama and Senior Director of the National Security Council, mentioned above just got apointed by Obama to head the new White House Atrocities Prevention Board.

But still on Syria? NOT A PEEP!

So apparently she is Very SELECTIVE in which atrocities to “prevent”.”

And now over a month later, the White House Atrocities Prevention Board hasn’t said one letter or peep about Syria.

So apparently the slaughter of over 15 000 civilians, many of them children, in the most barbaric ways imaginable are not apparently considered by Samantha Power, The White house, Hillary Clinton or Obama; to be atrocities.

So the next time these people in their usual pompous ways start talking about human rights, peace, the UN Charter,  ”responsibility to protect”, prevention of atrocities etc. ; you know it’s utter crap and a lie.

Their hypocrisy is so staggering that it is sickening. Literally. And they are the enablers of this crime against humanity.

I have to stop here because this is way too long already. I could continue for another, say 30 pages. to describe the folly of the Obama administrations Middle East policy. But that I leave for another day.

See Part 10 – US and the Obama administartion in my original series for more info

Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 10

The final part in two or three days

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Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 10

5 maj, 2012

As usual, I start with some recent news and developments:

Al-Arabiya: Tuesday’s death toll in Syria rises to 43 people (May 1)

The atrocities continuous, ceasefire or no ceasefire, UN peace plan or no UN peace plan, it doesn’t matter.

A young boy shot through the eye by a sniper from Assad’s forces. A very brave solder indeed.

”A LITTLE BOY IS SHOT THROUGH THE EYE AND KILLED BY ASSAD’S FORCES. Homs(Jouret Al Sheyah): May 1, 2012- Kutaiba Amer Saber was shot by an Assadist sniper straight through his eye. what kind of human can take aim at a child and murder them in such a  brutal way … all in the name of their leader, Bashar Al Assad.”

Video here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=AMu7Um2k1io

And the destroying of mosques continuous and were are the protests?

“THIS IS THE RESPECT ASSAD AND HIS FORCES HAVE FOR RELIGION. THEY DESTROY A MOSQUE MINARET. Homs(Al Sa’an): May 29, 2012- The Muslim world is outraged by cartoons, yet when Assad destroys mosque after mosque and forces detained men, women and children to renounce God … there is nothing but silence.”

Video here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEa3v7ktoI0&feature=player_embedded

Normal family life wouldn’t you say?

”DAILY LIFE FOR A FAMILY – HUDDLED IN FEAR IN A BASEMENT. Idleb (Jisr Al Shighour): May 1, 2012- This is how these children live. This is how they are being raised, in cramped basements acrossSyria. When the cameraman asks the kids “Do you like Bashar?” They respond “No!” He asks why and they respond simply “because he’s hitting us with rockets”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUTVRh5p1_Y&feature=player_embedded

The deliberate destruction and looting of Syria’s culture heritage. Remember that this happened in Iraq to but that was AFTER the fall of Saddam. In Syria, it happens with Assad’s consent and on his watch:

Syria’s cultural treasures latest uprising victim

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iZa2t6xYRmy1mvXIthfI6wu1rD8A?docId=f6b9e1bc5a12428ea316c067cb47e166

“In one of the most egregious examples, shells thudded into the walls of the 12th century al-Madeeq Citadel, raising flames and columns of smoke as regime forces battled with rebels in March. The bombardment punched holes in the walls, according to online footage of the fighting.

Local activists said regime forces carried out the assault and afterward moved tanks into the hilltop castle. Later footage showed bulldozers knocking through part of the walls to create an entrance.

The government and opposition have traded blame for damage and looting of sites around the country. But a group of European and Syrian archaeologists tracking the threats through witness reports from the ground says that in several cases, government forces have directly hit historic sites and either participated in or turned a blind eye to looting.

We have facts showing that the government is acting directly against the country’s historical heritage,” said Rodrigo Martin, a Spanish archaeologist who has led past research missions inside Syria.”

And there is a new report from Human Rights Watch witch documents war crimes by Assad’s forces in Idlib “War Crimes in Northern Idlib during Peace Plan Negotiations”:

Syria: War Crimes in Idlib During Peace Negotiations

http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/05/02/syria-war-crimes-idlib-during-peace-negotiations

(New York) – Syrian government forces killed at least 95 civilians and burned or destroyed hundreds of houses during a two-week offensive in northern Idlib governorate shortly before the ceasefire, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The attacks happened in late March and early April, as United Nations special envoy Kofi Annan was negotiating with the Syrian government to end the fighting.

The 38-page report, “‘They Burned My Heart’: War Crimes in Northern Idlib during Peace Plan Negotiations,” documents dozens of extrajudicial executions, killings of civilians, and destruction of civilian property that qualify as war crimes, as well as arbitrary detention and torture. The report is based on a field investigation conducted by Human Rights Watch in the towns of Taftanaz, Saraqeb, Sarmeen, Kelly, and Hazano in Idlib governorate in late April.

While diplomats argued over details of Annan’s peace plan, Syrian tanks and helicopters attacked one town in Idlib after another,” said Anna Neistat, associate director for program and emergencies at Human Rights Watch. “Everywhere we went, we saw burnt and destroyed houses, shops, and cars, and heard from people whose relatives were killed. It was as if the Syrian government forces used every minute before the ceasefire to cause harm.”

Human Rights Watch documented large-scale military operations that government forces conducted between March 22 and April 6, 2012, in opposition strongholds in Idlib governorate, causing the death of at least 95 civilians. In each attack, government security forces used numerous tanks and helicopters, and then moved into the towns and stayed from one to three days before proceeding to the next town. Graffiti left by the soldiers in all of the affected towns indicate that the military operation was led by the 76th Armored Brigade.

In nine separate incidents documented by Human Rights Watch, government forces executed 35 civilians in their custody. The majority of executions took place during the attack on Taftanaz, a town of about 15,000 inhabitants northeast of Idlib city on April 3 and 4.

A survivor of the security forces’ execution of 19 members of the Ghazal family in Taftanaz described to Human Rights Watch finding the bodies of his relatives:

We first found five bodies in a little shop next to the house. They were almost completely burnt. We could only identify them by a few pieces of clothes that were left. Then we entered the house and in one of the rooms found nine bodies on the floor, next to the wall. There was a lot of blood on the floor. On the wall, there was a row of bullet marks. The nine men had bullet wounds in their backs, and some in their heads. Their hands were not tied, but still folded behind.”

Human Rights Watch researchers were able to observe the bullet marks on the wall that formed a row about 50-60 cm above the floor. Two of those executed were under 18 years old.

In several other cases documented by Human Rights Watch, government forces opened fire and killed or injured civilians trying to flee the attacks. The circumstances of these cases indicate that government forces failed to distinguish between civilians and combatants and to take necessary precautionary measures to protect civilians. Government forces did not provide any warning to the civilian population about the attacks. For example, 76-year-old Ali Ma’assos and his 66-year-old wife, Badrah, were killed by machine-gun fire shortly after the army launched its attack on Taftanaz in the morning on April 3 as they tried to flee the town in a pick-up truck with more than 15 friends and family members.

Upon entering the towns, government forces and shabeeha (pro-government militias) also burned and destroyed a large number of houses, stores, cars, tractors, and other property. Local activists have recorded the partial or complete burning and destruction of hundreds of houses and stores. In Sarmeen, for example, local activists have recorded the burning of 437 rooms and 16 stores, and the complete destruction of 22 houses. In Taftanaz, activists said that about 500 houses were partially or completely burned and that 150 houses had been partially or completely destroyed by tank fire or other explosions. Human Rights Watch examined many of the burned or destroyed houses in the affected towns.

In most cases, the burning and destruction appeared to be deliberate. The majority of houses that were burned had no external damage, excluding the possibility that shelling ignited the fire. In addition, many of the ruined houses were completely destroyed, in contrast to those which appeared to have been hit by tank shells, where the damage was only partial.

During the military operations, the security forces also arbitrarily detained dozens of people, holding them without any legal basis. About two-thirds of the detainees remain in detention to date, despite promises by President Bashar al-Assad’s government to release political detainees. In most cases, the fate and whereabouts of the detainees remains unknown, raising fears that they had been subjected to enforced disappearances. Those who have been released, many of them elderly or disabled, told Human Rights Watch that during their detention in various branches of the mukhabarat (intelligence agencies) in Idlib city they had been subjected to torture and ill-treatment.

Opposition fighters were present in all of the towns prior to the attacks and in some cases tried to prevent the army from entering the towns. In most cases, according to local residents, opposition fighters withdrew quickly when they realized that they were significantly outnumbered and had no means to resist tanks and artillery. In other towns, opposition fighters left without putting up any resistance; residents said this was in order to avoid endangering the civilian population.

The fighting in Idlib appeared to reach the level of an armed conflict under international law, given the intensity of the fighting and the level of organization on both sides, including the armed opposition, who ordered and conducted retreats. This would mean that international humanitarian law (the law of armed conflict) would apply in addition to human rights law. Serious violations of international humanitarian law are classified as war crimes.

Human Rights Watch has previously documented and condemned serious abuses by opposition fighters in Syria, including abuses in Taftanaz. These abuses should be investigated and those responsible brought to justice. These abuses by no means justify, however, the violations committed by the government forces, including summary executions of villagers and the large-scale destruction of villages.

Human Rights Watch called on the United Nations Security Council to ensure that the UN supervisory mission deployed to Syria includes a properly staffed and equipped human rights section that is able safely and independently to interview victims of human rights abuses such as those documented in this report, while protecting them from retaliation. Human Rights Watch also called on the UN Security Council to ensure accountability for these crimes by referring the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, and for the ongoing UN Commission of Inquiry to support this.

“The United Nations – through the Commission of Inquiry and the Security Council – should make sure that the crimes committed by Syrian security forces do not go unpunished,” said Neistat. “The peace plan efforts will be seriously undermined if abuses continue behind the observers’ backs.”

Eyewitness Accounts From “‘They Burned My Heart’: War Crimes in Northern Idlib during Peace Plan Negotiations”

“The soldiers had handcuffed him behind his back. They didn’t hit him in front of me, but I saw that his eye was bruised. I tried to be quiet and nice to the soldiers so that they would release him.

They spent about 15 minutes in the house, asking him about weapons and searching everywhere. I think they were looking for money. I didn’t say good-bye so as to not make him sad. He didn’t say anything either. When they left, the soldiers said that I should forget him.

–Mother of Mohammad Saleh Shamrukh, chant-leader from Saraqeb, who was summarily executed by the Syrian security forces on March 25, 2012

“The soldiers placed the four of us facing a wall. They first asked Awad where his armed sons were. When Awad said that he was an old man and that he didn’t have any armed sons, they just shot him three times from a Kalashnikov. They then said to Ahmed that apparently 25 years in prison had not been enough for him. When he didn’t say anything, they shot him. They then shot Iyad without any questions and he fell on my shoulder. I realized that it was my turn. I said there is no God but Allah and Muhammed is his prophet and then I don’t remember anything else.”

–Mohammed Aiman Ezz, 43-year-old man shot three times in the back of the head and neck by government forces in an attempted execution of four men in Taftanaz on April 4. He was the only survivor

“I knew in my heart it was my boys [my son and my brother], that they were killed. I ran out, and about 50 meters from the house there were nine bodies, next to the wall. There were still snipers on the roofs, and we had to move very slowly, using flashlights. I pointed my flashlight at the first body, then the second – it wasn’t Uday or Saed. Then I asked the neighbors to help, and we found them both. Saed still had his hands tied behind. People later told me that Uday and Saed were executed there, and the other seven were FSA fighters brought from other places. Uday had a bullet wound in the neck and the back of his head; Saed in his chest and neck.”

–“Heba” (not her real name), mother of 15-year-old Uday Mohammed al-Omar and 21-year-old Saeed Mustafa Barish, both executed by the Syrian security forces in Saraqeb on March 26, 2012

“The tank was on the main road, just 10 meters away from the house. Suddenly, they fired four shells, one after the other, into the house. I was in the house next door, with my mother and six children. We were all thrown into the air by the blast, and for 15 minutes I couldn’t see or hear anything. Then we went into the room that was hit by the shells. One of the walls had a huge hole, some 1.5 meters in diameter, and the opposite wall was completely destroyed. We found Ezzat in the rubble; we could only see his fingers and part of his shoe. It is a miracle that his wife and child were not hurt. They were in the same house, but went to the kitchen when the shells hit. We took Ezzat out, but couldn’t save him. His chest was crushed, and blood was coming out of his mouth and ears.”

–“Rashida” (not her real name), a relative of 50-year-old Ezzat Ali Sheikh Dib who died when the army shelled his house in Saraqeb onMarch 27, 2012

They put a Kalashnikov [assault rifle] to my head and threatened to kill us all if my husband did not come home. The children started crying. Then an officer told a soldier to get petrol and told the children that he would burn them like he would burn their father because he is a terrorist. When the soldier came back with some sort of liquid – it didn’t seem to be petrol – they poured it out in three of the rooms while we were staying in the living room. We wanted to get out of the house, but the soldiers prevented us. My young daughters were crying and begging them to let us go. We were all terrified. Finally, they allowed us to leave the house, but I became even more afraid when I saw all the soldiers and tanks in the street.”

–“Salma” (not her real name), whose house in Taftanaz was burnt by the soldiers on April 4, along with the houses of her five brothers-in-law

“They put me in the car, handcuffed, and kept there all day, until seven in the evening. I told them, ‘I am an old man, let me go to the bathroom,’ but they just beat me on the face. Then they brought me to State Security in Idlib, and put me in a 30-square-meter cell with about 100 other detainees. I had to sleep squatting on the floor. There was just one toilet for all of us. They took me to an interrogation four times, each time asking why some of my family members joined the FSA. I didn’t deny it, but said there was nothing I could do to control what my relatives do. They slapped me on the face a lot.”

– “Abu Ghassan” (not his real name), 73-year-old man who was detained in one of the towns in northern Idlib and held in detention for 18 days

Report here:

http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/syria0512WebVersionReduced.pdf

Video here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=DjbdGx9Au94#!

And the UN observers have finally seen what has been there in plain sight all the time:

UN: Syrian government still has heavy weapons in cities

http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=391627

“Syrian security forces have kept heavy weapons in cities in breach of a UN brokered cessation of hostilities, but the government and opposition both have committed truce violations, a top UN official said Tuesday.

The 34 unarmed military observers now in Syriahave seen Howitzer guns, armored personnel carriers and other weaponry in cities, UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told a press conference at UN headquarters.

Ladsous insisted, however, that the monitors were having an effect in cities where they have been allowed to go.

Withdrawing weapons and troops from Syrian cities was a key part of a six-point peace plan agreed by President Bashar al-Assad and UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan. Syria has told the UN that weapons have been pulled back.

”Regarding the heavy weapons, yes, our military observers do see a number of APCs, for instance, they see a number of Howitzers and other military equipment in most places where they are,” Ladsous said.

Syria has told the monitors that the armored carriers have been disarmed but this has not been verified, Ladsous added.

The UN Security Council has approved a 300 strong force to monitor the cessation of hostilities which started on April 12 but has barely held. Ladsous said only 150 monitors have been promised by UN member states so far. Syria has refused visas for three monitors that the UN wanted in the country.

Ladsous, a UN under secretary general, said that government forces and opposition groups have broken the truce.

”All the parties need to take further steps to ensure a cessation of violence in all its forms.”

”The important fact is that violations do come from both sides,” he said while refusing to say whether one side had committed more breaches.

Annan is to brief the Security Council on May 8 on events in Syria, where the UN says well over 9,000 people have died since an uprising against Assad started in March last year.”

The new Berlin Wall, but of course, it’s ONLY to “protect” the people inside the wall. And were are the international protests?:

Syria’s sealed-off rebels

Baba Amr in Homs, once an opposition stronghold, is now isolated by a 10-foot high concrete wall

http://www.salon.com/2012/04/30/syrias_sealed_off_rebels/singleton/

BABA AMR, Syria— For Syrians on both sides of the concrete wall that now surrounds this neighborhood, the comparisons to the region’s longest running conflict are unavoidable.

“When my wife described the wall to me I immediately thought of the wall built by the Israelis to isolate Palestinian villages and towns in theWest Bank,” said Abu Annas, formerly a resident of Homs’ devastated Baba Amr district.

I can understand that Israel built a wall to protect Israeli settlers from Palestinians. But I cannot understand how a national government builds a wall to separate its citizens from each other.”

Since forcing the retreat of rebel fighters from Baba Amr after a brutal month-long bombardment in February, government forces have constructed a massive concrete wall to seal off the former opposition stronghold.

A reporter for GlobalPost recently visited Baba Amr and the wall, describing it as up to 10-feet high and made of cement. It’s still so new there is no graffiti. Since most residents have long fled, the neighborhood behind the wall has become “a dead land for cats and dogs,” as one former resident described it.

Soldiers and secret police guard the few narrow passages through the wall, arresting any male aged between 13 and 60, said Annas, whose wife and young daughter recently went to check on what remained of their home inside Baba Amr.

“They spent half an hour arguing with the security officer who said his men would have to check them before they passed through,” he said. “She came back crying, saying, ‘There is no Baba Amr.’”

Those houses not destroyed in February’s siege have been taken over by soldiers, Annas said. Electricity and phone lines have been cut for months and now cars cannot enter, nor delivery trucks, meaning shops are almost all closed.

Activists in the area said the neighborhood — once home to some 28,000 people — has now been all but abandoned, with only about 1,000 still living inside the wall.

In other Sunni-majority opposition neighborhoods throughout Homs, such as Karm al-Zeitoune, where whole families were killed in recent sectarian massacres, and Deir Balbah and Qarabes, the majority of residents have also fled.

With the UN-Arab League ceasefire plan in tatters — at least 462 people have been killed since April 16 when the UN resolved to send ceasefire monitors, according to the opposition Local Coordination Committees — and veto-wielding Russia blaming the armed opposition for the majority of attacks, the Assad regime appears to be taking steps to re-exert long-term security control and collectively punish rebellious communities.

On Saturday, Abu Bakr Saleh, a spokesman for the Baba Amr media center who lived through the bombardment, said other security measures were preventing residents from traveling between Baba Amr and neighboring Joubar neighborhood, to the far southwest of the city.

Last week, GlobalPost witnessed continued shelling in Khaldiyeh and Bayada, Sunni-majority neighborhoods in north Homs that support the opposition and lie adjacent to Zahara, a neighborhood of mainly Allawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, to which the ruling Assad family and a majority of government elites belong.

Cairo Street, which leads from north Homsinto Zahara in the east of the city, has been renamed “Death Street” by locals after the deadly snipers deployed to rooftops, presumably to protect the pro-regime neighborhood.

On their first visit to Homs on April 21, members of the advance team of UN observers, the first of 300 due to be deployed to monitor violations of the ceasefire agreement, were forced to take cover after shots rang out as they walked down Cairo Street from Bayada.

“The regime will not adhere to the Annan plan and the near future will prove that,” said Omar, a 24-year-old member of the rebel Free Syrian Army, told GlobalPost in an interview at his home inHoms’ Deir Balba.

The regime is preparing for the post-Annan cease-fire by building walls around Sunni districts to block our movement and is digging a long trench around Homs two meters wide.”

Reports of Assad’s forces digging trenches around the south and west of Homs, where Baba Amr is located, first emerged last November. A video journalist working with GlobalPost witnessed the trench during a visit to Homs this February. The purpose of the trench remains unclear, but it appears to be a another military tactic to hinder access to rebellious neighborhoods.

In Daraa, the first city to rise up against the regime and suffer a sustained military assault, GlobalPost recently witnessed a labyrinth of checkpoints and deployment of tanks, troops and snipers, effectively sealing off the population from surrounding areas and the capital.

The regime blames “armed terrorist groups” for the breakdown in the ceasefire agreement. Information Minister Adnan Mahmoud told state-run Syrian Arab News Agency last week that the “terrorists” had committed more than 1,300 violations.

Russia last week echoed a similar line. Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich accused the opposition of shifting “to tactics of terror on a regional scale,” claiming Western governments were arming the rebel fighters.

Rather, it appears post-revolutionary Libya, which strongly supports Syria’s opposition, has made the first serious effort to arm the rebels. On Saturday Lebanese authorities announced they had discovered guns and rocket propelled grenades aboard a ship attempting to dock in north Lebanon’s Tripoli, a Sunni-majority city also widely supportive of Syria’s opposition.

Omar, the young rebel fighter from Homs, said the FSA was now restructuring after suffering a strategic defeat in Baba Amr.

“We will adopt guerilla tactics,” he said. “We are fighting in small groups and moving from one district to another so we don’t let the regime block this district and kill us. The FSA leaders made a big mistake when they tried to hold Baba Amr.”

As the rebels seek new strategies for their armed struggle, the Assad regime has made its contempt of the international diplomatic effort clear. Assad himself revealed his scorn for last December’s Arab League monitoring mission in an email, first obtained and verified by the Guardian.

Writing to Hadeel Ali, his young media consultant, the president forwarded a YouTube video ridiculing the mission’s inability to spot hidden Syrian tanks, to which she responded, “Hahahahahahaha, OMG!!!”

That same contempt appeared to be on display more recently as Kofi Annan, the Arab League envoy, briefed the Security Council on a letter received from Syrian Foreign Minister Waleed Mualem on April 21. The letter stated that the government had now withdrawn all heavy armor and troops from population centers, the first step in Annan’s cease-fire plan.

But daily videos of smoke billowing above Homs and troops opening fire in urban protest centers have told a very different story.

Syrian officials see Annan’s plan as “a license for the regime to do more of the same,” the respected International Crisis Group, one of the only international think tanks able to still interview Syrian officials, wrote in its April 10 report.

“As the regime sees it, Annan’s mission, far from presenting a threat, can be a way to drag the process on and shift the focus from regime change to regime concessions,” ICG reported, “granting humanitarian access, agreeing to a ceasefire and beginning a vaguely defined political dialogue, all of which can be endlessly negotiated and renegotiated.”

As that process unfolds, the wall in Baba Amr stands as a physical symbol of the deep-seeded sectarian hatred that a year of relentless violence in Syria has engendered in former neighbors.

“The Sunni districts are hosting terrorists and armed gangs so the government should close them off by all means. If this needs a high wall, why not?” Haidar, a 35-year-old Allawite fromHoms’ Zahara neighborhood, told GlobalPost.

A member of the Popular Committees, the official name for armed civilian militias fighting for the regime, Haidar said the possible collapse of the regime would mean no future for three million Allawites in Syria’s big cities. “We would return to our villages in the mountains,” he said.

“We have been occupying senior positions in the army, security agencies and government in Syria for four decades and we will keep the power in our hands, whatever this costs us.”

Students at the university of Aleppo send a message to the world

(Note these students were attacked on the morning of May 3 by Assad’s forces. Several was killed, many wounded and over 200 arrested http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=392233)

And the situation for the children of Syria, targeted and killed by Assad’s forces. And remember, these thugs were and are trained by Iran and Russia:

Syria’s children under siege

http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=391570

Yazen is a four-year-old boy from Homs who found refuge in the Lebanese town of Ras Baalbek three months ago. He lost his ability to speak because of the psychological trauma he endured after being brutally beaten by the Syrian regime’s thugs when they came into his home in search of his father.

The killing machine in Syria did not spare children; rather, since the start of the uprising, the regime of Bashar al-Assad has intentionally targeted them, earning the Syrian president the title of “child murderer” among his detractors.

According to the Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria, 1,089 children – boys and girls alike – have been killed so far, and 464 wounded.

At the start of the uprising, a group of Syrians launched an initiative on Facebook calling for keeping children out of protests to keep them protected from the pro-regime forces that attack demonstrations. But it was not enough, as the killers go after children in their homes and schools. Reports by the United Nations and Human Rights Watch indicate that schools have been turned into detention and torture centers run by regime forces, who would also position snipers on the roofs.

According to the same reports, children have been shot by snipers, killed by shelling, tortured to death, and have died from untreated wounds. Reports also mention children being raped in prisons.

Anna Neistat, an associate director at Human Rights Watch, worked for years on conflicts from Chechnya to Zimbabwe to Sri Lanka. In an article in the Global Post, she said that the level of state-sanctioned torture taking place in Syria is incomparable with any other conflict she has ever witnessed. There is no distinction between children and adults in prisons, she said, adding that if anything, children are more brutally beaten, as investigators believe they respond faster to such practices.

In the same context, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told the BBC that hundreds of children were taken as hostages or information sources. The Human Rights Watch report said that regular troops used children as human shields and put them in tanks and buses when the Syrian army stormed Ain Larouz in theprovince of Edleb on March 10.

The Syrian regime uses methodical violence against children for many reasons, including revenge, as children have played an essential role in the uprising from the beginning; indeed, it was children who wrote anti-regime slogans on walls in Daraa, launching the protests last year.

The regime is also trying to send other children a message. A year ago this week, the regime brutally tortured Hamza al-Khatib before sending his mutilated body to his parents, thus delivering a message to its opponents right from the start, namely that it is not bound by any moral and humanitarian deterrent and is capable of committing atrocities if the revolution goes on.

By targeting children, the regime is “striking the foundations” of the new generation and undermining the stability, safety and future of society and family, especially in rural areas where children are regarded as an “investment” by parents and a means to provide for them when they grow old, according to the UC Davis Human Rights Initiative Blog.

These practices have tremendous and dangerous effects on children who survive or witness such violence. “[The child] suffers from deep disorders and experiences a state of concern and feeling of being unsafe. This renders him or her unable to plan for the future, ignites his or her anger and influences his or her behavior,” says Psychoanalyst Rena Sarkis. “Any change in the child’s habits, such as having a different school or home, can put him or her in a state of shock. Seeing pictures of an earthquake in some countries affects the child’s spirit, as he or she fears that something similar may happen to him or her. This holds especially true when war invades his or her street, home and school. It is as though he or she was left alone in this life without any reference and markers,” Sarkis added.

Children victims of violence need to rebuild their sense of security and dignity by talking over what happened to help them understand and move on, Sarkis said, though UNICEF Child Protection Officer Abir Abi Khalil noted that while some children can express themselves using words, others find it difficult to do so.

In an attempt to provide them with psychological support, UNICEF established “child-friendly spaces” in the Lebanese regions in which Syrian nationals took refuge. Volunteers organize entertainment, cultural and educational activities for children and use drawing to help them express what they cannot put into words. “Drawings speak,” says Abi Khalil, adding that in their first drawings, many children depicted weapons, fire and guns. “Several months now into their displacement and participation in activities, they have started drawing suns and children.”

According to UNICEF Media Director Souha Bsat, the idea underlying the project is to allow the child to lead a normal life away from home, since parents – due to their mental state – cannot provide an atmosphere of joy and calm. These activities also help Syrian children mingle with their Lebanese peers, who also need spaces for playing and entertainment, since the Lebanese regions that saw an influx of Syrian refugees are the poorest inLebanon. Bsat goes on saying that these spaces fill the free time of displaced children constructively, especially for those who have been unable to enroll in Lebanese schools or were forced to work in order to provide for their families.

In Syria too, despite the killing, groups have started providing psychological support to children. “We are rebelling for them so that we provide them with a more beautiful future. The calendar of freedom gives a detailed description every Tuesday of activities and games that help children deal with psychological trauma resulting from violence,” according to the Facebook page of Syrian journal Ayyam al-Horriya (Days of Freedom).

But as Sarkis points out, it is only after the violence ends can Yazen and other children recover the glitter, color and songs of their childhood. “

And thanks to NATO’s, EU’s and US overthrow of Qaddafi weapons are flowing all over the place. Defected Syrian officers and agents desperately pleading with the Obama administration to change policy but to no avail. And this lunacy policy is CREATING EXACTLY THE SITUATION which this no arms policy is said to prevent:

“In the seven months since the Qaddafi regime was destroyed, Washington, London and Paris have turned a blind eye to the impossibility of establishing a stable government in Tripoli because rebel factions and militias identified with al Qaeda which control Libya’s main towns are too busy running the biggest arms smuggling network ever seen in North Africa.

Rockets, explosives and every kind of weapon is reaching al Qaeda elements and affiliates in abundant quantities across northern Africa and the Middle East, including their offshoots in Egyptian Sinai and the Gaza Strip.

Groups identified with al Qaeda have seized control of large parts ofMaliand directly threaten the stability of the Algerian government.

Sources report fears that Syriamight go the same way as Libya. Syrian officers and agents who have deserted from Syrian military and security agencies have made their way to Washington to implore administration officials to abandon the US policy of non-intervention in Syria. They warn that the rebel Free Syrian Army is falling into the clutches of al Qaeda. It won’t be long, they say, before these jihdist terrorists not only wreak mayhem in Syria, but turn that country into their haven and base for cross-border attacks against Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.

Their pleas have not moved the Obama administration. That so long as the Americans stay out of involvement in Syria, France, Turkey and Arab League nations will also stand aside, because the US alone is capable of establishing combined commands and infrastructure for coordinating an operation with multiple air support on the scale required for Syria.

By opting out of action in Syria, the West and the Arab League not only give Assad free rein to continue slaughtering his people but leave the door open for al Qaeda to move in on the various Syrian rebel movements and add the element of terror to the ongoing carnage.”

“He is a liar, a liar,” he said. ”It was just talk, talk, talk. Nobody helped us.”

Inside Syria’s broken city of Homs

The eccentricity of terror is drawn in dust-covered colours in the homes of Baba Amr.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9239518/Inside-Syrias-broken-city-of-Homs.html

“Few people were prepared to talk, but one man was upset enough on learning he was talking to a Briton to damn the perfidy of David Cameron, who had seemed to want to help but had ”done nothing”.

”He is a liar, a liar,” he said. ”It was just talk, talk, talk. Nobody helped us. The whole world was against us.”

Another man described how he had been held in prison for 50 days – though not long enough to avoid the savagery of February’s bombardment that finally drove the Free Syrian Army’s Farouq Battalion from the suburb. It was a humiliating retreat which may have marked the turning point of this war.

Every day for thirty days the shells came. They started at six in the morning and ended at eight at night. In between, there was not a minute’s peace.”

And this video makes fun of the Syrian state TV’s propaganda:

“THE LUNACY OF SYRIAN STATE TV – SAME MAN APPEARS IN 10 DIFFERENT VIDEOS FOR STATE TV AS ‘COMMON BYSTANDER OR WITNESS’. The video speaks for itself.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_137knC2Zs&feature=player_embedded

US and the Obama administration

Remember the suicide bombing against the United States embassy in Beirut, Lebanon on April 18, 1983 that killed over 60 people, mostly embassy staff members and United States Marines. An additional 120 people were wounded in the bombing

Of the Americans killed, eight worked for the Central Intelligence Agency, including the CIA’s top Middle East analyst and Near East director, Robert C. Ames, Station Chief Kenneth Haas and most of the Beirut staff of the CIA.

Following the attack, the embassy was moved to a supposedly more secure location in East Beirut. However, on September 20, 1984, another car bomb exploded at this embassy annex, killing twenty Lebanese and two American soldiers.

And then there was the  Beirut Barracks Bombing on October 23, 1983 in Beirut, when two truck bombs struck separate buildings housing United States and French military forces—members of the Multinational Force in Lebanon—killing 299 American and French servicemen.

Of the 299 killed 241 was Americans. And sixty Americans were injured. Representing the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima of World War II, the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States military since the first day of the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War, and the deadliest single attack on Americans overseas since World War II.

The blasts led to the withdrawal of the international peacekeeping force fromLebanon.

Well, that was “daddy” Hafez al-Assad  and Iran (Hezbollah).

As I have been saying, It’s a family affair. A deadly one.

And here they are (from 1994):

At the front are Hafez al-Assad and his wife, Mrs Anisa Makhlouf. In the back row, from left to right, are Maher (1967 -), Bashar (1965 -), Bassel (1962 – 1994), Majid (1967 – 2009), and Bushra Assad (1960 -).

Under the Bush administration US policy towards Syria cooled in 2003. Then Secretary of State Colin Powell was the last high ranking person to go to Damascus in May 2003.

And the Bush administration recalled its ambassador to Damascus on February 15, 2005 after Syria’s assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafic Al-Hariri on 14 February 2005. Under the rest of Bush’s term no US ambassador where stationed in Damascus.

Following Hariri’s death, there were several other bombings and assassinations against anti-Syrian figures. These included Samir Kassir, George Hawi, Gebran Tueni, Pierre Amine Gemayel, and Walid Eido. Assassination attempts were also made on Elias Murr, May Chidiac, and Samir Shehade who was investigating Hariri’s death.

It was the “son” this time. Together with Iran (Hezbollah).

The assassination gave rise to the so-called Cedar Revolution, a rare Lebanese political consensus. Syria, cowed by the collective anger, had to withdraw its troops.

The primary goals of the original activists were the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and the replacement of a government heavily influenced by Syrian interests with more independent leadership, the establishment of an international commission to investigate the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri, the resignation of security officials to ensure the success of the plan, and the organization of free parliamentary elections.

The UN investigation and the Mehlis report

“The Mehlis Report is the result of the United Nations’ investigation into the 14 February 2005 assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri. The investigation was launched in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1595 and headed by the German judge, Detlev Mehlis. It involved questioning of Lebanese and Syrian officials.

The official Mehlis Report made no specific mention of anyone in the Syrian government as responsible for the assassination. However, the report was first erroneously released as a Microsoft Word document which preserved changes that had been made in the document since its creation. According to that document, the original U.N. report had specifically named many high-ranking Syrian government and military officials by name as being personally responsible for the death of Rafik Hariri.

For example, a previous editing of the report stated that ”Maher al-Assad, Assef Shawkat, Hassan Khalil, Bahjat Suleyman and Jamil al-Sayyed” were behind the killing of Hariri. But in the official version, this is replaced by ”senior Lebanese and Syrian officials”. Maher al-Assad is the brother of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and Assef Shawqat, a powerful figure within the regime, is married to their sister Bushra. Suleyman is a top Syrian security official and al-Sayyed, the only Lebanese of the four, was formerly the head of Lebanon’s General Security Department.

Some suggest that the document indicates the report was altered to remove these names during a meeting with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, despite the fact that he had personally stated that this would not happen. Mehlis himself has denied outside influence on the report, and said that Annan did not suggest any changes. The motivation for removing the names is not known.”

Yeap, Annan again.

Report here:

http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N05/563/67/PDF/N0556367.pdf?OpenElement

You can read more about the failed UN investigation here:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2010/11/19/f-rfa-macdonald-lebanon-hariri.html

Since the Bush administrations recall of the ambassador to Damascus there were some parading of politicians going to Damascus and meeting Assad. Many democrats but some republicans too.

The most notorious is when Nancy Pelosi (D), Speaker of the US House of Representatives, in April 2007 meets Assad in an effort to sabotage Bush foreign policy:

We came in friendship, hope, and determined that the road to Damascus is a road to peace,” said Pelosi, who met for three hours with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Even the Washington Post did not defend her:

”We came in friendship, hope, and determined that the road to Damascusis a road to peace,” Ms. Pelosi grandly declared.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040402306.html

“Ms. Pelosi was criticized by President Bush for visiting Damascusat a time when the administration — rightly or wrongly — has frozen high-level contacts withSyria. Mr. Bush said that thanks to the speaker’s freelancing Mr. Assad was getting mixed messages from theUnited States.

Never mind that that statement is ludicrous: As any diplomat with knowledge of the region could have told Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Assad is a corrupt thug whose overriding priority at the moment is not peace with Israel but heading off U.N. charges that he orchestrated the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri. The really striking development here is the attempt by a Democratic congressional leader to substitute her own foreign policy for that of a sitting Republican president. Two weeks ago Ms. Pelosi rammed legislation through the House of Representatives that would strip Mr. Bush of his authority as commander in chief to manage troop movements in Iraq. Now she is attempting to introduce a new Middle East policy that directly conflicts with that of the president. We have found much to criticize in Mr. Bush’s military strategy and regional diplomacy. But Ms. Pelosi’s attempt to establish a shadow presidency is not only counterproductive, it is foolish. “

Meeting Assad, Pelosi calls visit to Syria the ‘road to peace’

http://articles.boston.com/2007-04-05/news/29225817_1_syrian-security-officials-syrian-president-bashar-assad-mideast-crises

“DAMASCUS– House Speaker NancyPelosi challenged the White House on Middle East policy yesterday, meeting with Syria’s leader and insisting ”the road to Damascus is a road to peace.”

That brought a sharp attack from the Bush administration, which has rejected direct talks with Damascusuntil it changes its ways.

Unfortunately that road is lined with the victims of Hamas and Hezbollah, the victims of terrorists who cross from Syria into Iraq,” said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for President Bush’s National Security Council. ”It’s unfortunate that she took this unilateral trip which we only see as counterproductive.”

The United States accuses Syria of backing Hamas and Hezbollah, two groups it deems terrorist organizations. It also says Syria is fueling Iraq‘s violence by allowing Sunni insurgents to operate from its territory and is destabilizing Lebanon‘s government. Syrian security officials have been implicated in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri in Beirut, thoughDamascus has denied a role.”

Assad’s Speaker

Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Syria is part of a larger problem.

http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/220559/assads-speaker/eric-cantor

”In one fell swoop, the Speaker legitimized and emboldened a ruthless thug whose unyielding support for terrorism has bogged down our attempts to bring stability and peace to the region at every step of the way. The excursion, condemned by most major newspapers, undoubtedly won Pelosi plaudits from her reflexively anti-Bush liberal base.

But most instructively, it revealed why Democrats remain woefully unfit to set the nation’s foreign policy.

Presenting Assad with “a new Democratic alternative” — code for making President Bush look feckless — Mrs. Pelosi usurped the executive branch’s time-honored foreign-policy authority. Her message to Assad was that congressional Democrats will forbid the president from increasing pressure on Damascus to stop its murderous way. Several leading legal authorities have made the case that her recent diplomatic overtures ran afoul of the Logan Act, which makes it a felony for any American “without authority of the United States” to communicate with a foreign government to influence that government’s behavior on any disputes with the United States. Regardless of the law, Pelosi proceeded to make Assad an important regional player without first having to become a responsible one. At such a critical moment in the volatile Middle East, this is no time for the United States to be sending out mixed signals to our enemies.”

Then enter the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton. With a total change of policy. They sent a new ambassador to Damascus. And were the Bush administration refused to lend the UN “Human Rights” Council credibility by U.S. membership and withholding taxpayer dollars.

In 2009 President Obama, signed on, paid the dues, and is currently seeking a second three-year term for the United States on the Council. Etc (see my part 9).

Why??

Because the Obama administration had determined that Assad was a “reformer”

Yeap, you read right. According to Obama, Clinton and the top democrats, Assad was a “reformer” who they could work with.

And they did and tried. And kept silent about the atrocities. As long as he was “their man”.

As late as March 28 2011 Clinton STILL called Assad a “reformer”. That was two weeks after the uprising stared in earnest.

Back in March Hillary Clinton said (in CBS “Face the Nation) their would be no intervention in Syria because the dictator Bashar Assad was a “reformer.”

Syrian President Assad Regarded As a ‘Reformer,’ Clinton Says

http://cnsnews.com/news/article/syrian-president-assad-regarded-reformer-clinton-says

“Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday drew a contrast between Syrian President Bashir Assad and his late father and predecessor, and said U.S. lawmakers who recently have visited Damascus regarded him as a “reformer.”

She made the startling comment while explaining why the United States will not intervene on behalf of Syrian civilians revolting against the regime as it has done in the case of Libya.”

“Doing the round of Sunday television talk shows with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Clinton told CBS’s Face the Nation that the U.S. would not enter the conflict in Syria as it has in Libya.

No,” she said. “Each of these situations is unique.”

While saying the administration deplored the violence in Syria, she contrasted the situation to that of Libya.

“What’s been happening there [in Syria] the last few weeks is deeply concerning, but there’s a difference between calling out aircraft and indiscriminately strafing and bombing your own cities and then police actions, which, frankly, have exceeded the use of force that any of us would want to see.”

“CBS newsman Bob Schieffer, the interviewer, noted that the president’s father, Hafez Assad, had “killed 25,000 people at a lick” – a reference to the crushing of an Islamist revolt in the town of Hama in 1982 – and said the regime now was firing at civilians with live ammunition.

“Why is that different from Libya?” he asked.

There’s a different leader in Syria now,” Clinton said. “Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer.”

Despite appeals from the Obama administration, Bashir Assad has aligned himself with Iran and Hamas.”

“A regular visitor to Damascus is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who has met with Assad at least six times, most recently last November.

Kerry was a strong supporter of the Obama administration’s decision to re-engage the Assad regime and to send an ambassador to Damascus for the first time in five years. He has also taken an interest in prodding Syria and Israel towards peace talks.

In a March 16 speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on U.S. policy in the light of what he called “the new Arab awakening,” Kerry referred to the situation in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Morocco, Oman and Lebanon.

There was not a single reference in the speech to Syria, however.

When Kerry was asked about Syria during a question-and-answer session afterwards, he voiced optimism about the direction relations were taking.

I have been a believer for some period of time that we could make progress in that relationship,” he said. “And I’m going to continue to work for it and push it.”

President Assad has been very generous with me in terms of the discussions we have had,” Kerry continued. “And when I last went to – the last several trips to Syria – I asked President Assad to do certain things to build the relationship with the United States and sort of show the good faith that would help us to move the process forward.”

He mentioned some of the requests, including the purchase of land for the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, the opening of an American cultural center, non-interference in Lebanon’s election and the improvement of ties with Iraq and Bahrain, and said Assad had met each one.

So my judgment is that Syria will move; Syria will change, as it embraces a legitimate relationship with the United States and the West and economic opportunity that comes with it and the participation that comes with it.

Kerry said nothing about the need for internal reform in Syria.

In contrast, Kerry early this month was an outspoken advocate for the administration to act in Libya, describing Gaddafi as “a mad man bent on maintaining power” and saying the U.S. should lead the world in preventing the slaughter of more Libyan civilians.”

Assad, like his father, has nurtured strong ties with Iran and the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, while continuing to host Palestinian terrorist groups in Damascus.

He also maintained Syria’s decades-old policy of political and military interference in Lebanon, and his regime was suspected of high-level involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.

The Hariri killing prompted President Bush to withdraw the U.S.ambassador from Damascus. Seeking improved relations with Syria, President Obama nominated Robert Ford as ambassador and, after the process stalled in Congress, appointed him during a recess last December.”

So slaughtering civilians, including children, execute and massacre them, commit war crimes, destroying block after block, neighbourhood after neighbourhood with the world largest mortar bomb (Russian 240 mm) is OK IF YOU ARE DEEMED A REFORMER by the Obama administration.

Then all high talk and “responsibility to protect” doesn’t matter.

And Washington Posts Fact Checker concluded: “Clinton’s remarks gave a highly misleading impression”

Hillary Clinton’s uncredible statement on Syria

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/hillary-clintons-uncredible-statement-on-syria/2011/04/01/AFWPEYaC_blog.html

There’s a different leader in Syria now. Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer.”

–Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, on “Face the Nation,”March 27, 2011

“I referenced opinions of others. That was not speaking either for myself or for the administration.”

–Clinton, two days later

Hillary Clinton is known for making provocative statements, but few have generated such a firestorm as her comment last week that the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, may be a reformer. She made her remarks after “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer noted that Assad’s late father had killed 25,000 people during an uprising against his regime.Clintonresponded by noting that the son was now in power and he was a “different leader.”

Lawmakers and columnists quickly condemned her remarks. So two days later Clinton tried to deflect the criticism by telling reporters she was only referencing “the opinions” of lawmakers who had met with Assad and that she was not speaking for the administration. But then she added: “We’re also going to continue to urge that the promise of reform, which has been made over and over again and which you reported on just a few months ago – I’m a reformer, I’m going to reform, and I’ve talked to members of Congress and others about that, that we hear from the highest levels of leadership in Syria – will actually be turned into reality.”

 Officially, the State Department has taken a dim view of Assad’s pledges, describing him as “authoritarian” in the most recent human rights report. “The government systematically repressed citizens’ abilities to change their government,” the report said. “In a climate of impunity, there were instances of arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life.

There’s no question that Assad had promised reform to reporters, most recently in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. But have “many of the members of Congress of both parties” who have met with Assad actually come away from those meetings believing that Assad was a reformer?

Relations between the United States and Syria hit a low point in 2005 after the former prime minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri, was assassinated and the Bush administration withdrew the U.S.ambassador.

But President Obama has sought to repair relations, believing a peace deal between Israel and Syria would help stabilize the region. Over congressional opposition, he returned the ambassador to Damascus.

In a meantime, a number of congressional delegations have made trips to Damascusto meet with Assad. Most famously, then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) met with Assad in 2007 over the objections of President Bush, though Republicans such as Rep. Darrell Issa of California also traveled there, believing it was important to maintain a dialogue. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has made repeated visits to Damascus to meet at length with Assad.

We will take it as a given that a number of Democrats believed Assad could be a reformer. On March 16, for instance, Kerry said at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: ”So my judgment is that Syria will move; Syria will change, as it embraces a legitimate relationship with the United States and the West and economic opportunity that comes with it and the participation that comes with it.

But what about Republicans? Clinton claimed that “many of the members of both parties” who had gone to Syria “in recent months” had decided Assad was a reformer. The State Department, however, refused to provide any names.

So, using news articles, the Internet and other sources, we tried to identify every Republican lawmaker who had gone to Syria on an official trip since Pelosi’s visit in 2007. We came up with a list of 13 names, some of whom are now retired and some of whom have made repeated visits. We then checked every public statement or news release the lawmakers made about their trips or meetings with Assad.

We could not find anything close to sentiments indicating Assad was a reformer. Issa, for instance, urged a need for dialogue but said that “we should hold no illusions about the regime of Bashar al-Assad.” Issa added, “Our discussions were tense and focused on Syria’s support for Hezbollah and Hamas, interference in Lebanon, the movement of foreign fighters to Iraq and the repression of the Syrian people.”

Throughout the Middle East uprisings, Clinton has had trouble calibrating her comments to the mood of the moment, such as when she pronounced the Mubarak regime to be “stable’ and “looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.” Days later, Mubarak was gone.

But did any of these lawmakers come away from the meeting believing Assad was a reformer? Shelby, through a spokesman, said he never believed or said that (and also did not brief Clinton after the trip). “He has known both the father and son, and believes they are brutal dictators with horrible reputations,” said spokesman Jonathan Graffeo. Other senators on the trip also denied that, though not all immediately responded.

Interestingly, even Kerry seems to have lost patience with Assad, blasting him in a statement on Thursday, just four days after Clinton suggested Assad was a reformer.

(My addition:

 http://www.foreign.senate.gov/press/chair/release/?id=c86dd9d9-651e-4bcb-b694-4947136a1a05

Chairman Kerry On The Situation In Syria

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Violence against peaceful protesters is unacceptable — whether in Syria, Bahrain, Yemen or anyplace else — and betrays the values that we, as Americans, respect and that people everywhere should share.  I am particularly concerned about the violence against protesters in Syria.  President Bashar al-Assad did not use his speech yesterday to promise concrete reforms, including lifting the emergency law. With large protests scheduled for tomorrow, it is essential that his government refrain from using violence against its own people)

The State Department’s refusal to identify these lawmakers is also suspicious, especially after Clinton backtracked and sought to pin the blame for the sentiments she expressed on others. So we are left with a public record that suggests Clinton was exaggerating or inventing the chorus of support on the GOP side.

In fact, Clinton’s remarks gave a highly misleading impression — that there was general consensus by experts on Syria in both parties that Assad was a reformer, even though Clinton’s own State Department reports label him otherwise. “

That “reformer” has now killed over 11 000 civilian men, women, children, elderly etc.

Syria’s ‘reformer’

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/syrias-reformer/2011/03/31/AFy4JFCC_story.html

Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone toSyriain recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer.

— Hillary Clinton on Bashar al-Assad, March 27

Few things said by this administration in its two years can match this one for moral bankruptcy and strategic incomprehensibility.

First, it’s demonstrably false. It was hoped that President Assad would be a reformer when he inherited his father’s dictatorship a decade ago. Being a London-educated eye doctor, he received the full Yuri Andropov treatment — the assumption that having been exposed to Western ways, he’d been Westernized. Wrong. Assad has run the same iron-fisted Alawite police state as did his father.

Bashar made promises of reform during the short-lived Arab Spring of 2005. The promises were broken. During the current brutally suppressed protests, his spokeswoman made renewed promises of reform. Then Wednesday, appearing before parliament, Assad was shockingly defiant. He offered no concessions. None.

Second, Clinton’s statement is morally obtuse. Here are people demonstrating against a dictatorship that repeatedly uses live fire on its own people, a regime that in 1982 killed 20,000 in Hama and then paved the dead over. Here are insanely courageous people demanding reform — and the U.S. secretary of state tells the world that the thug ordering the shooting of innocents already is a reformer, thus effectively endorsing the Baath party line — “We are all reformers,” Assad told parliament — and undermining the demonstrators’ cause.

Third, it’s strategically incomprehensible. Sometimes you cover for a repressive ally because you need it for U.S. national security. Hence our muted words about Bahrain. Hence our slow response on Egypt. But there are rare times when strategic interest and moral imperative coincide completely. Syria is one such — a monstrous police state whose regime consistently works to thwart U.S. interests in the region.

During the worst days of the Iraq war, this regime funneled terrorists into Iraq to fight U.S. troops and Iraqi allies. It is dripping with Lebanese blood as well, being behind the murder of independent journalists and democrats, including former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri. This year, it helped topple the pro-Western government of Hariri’s son, Saad, and put Lebanon under the thumb of the virulently anti-Western Hezbollah. Syria is a partner in nuclear proliferation with North Korea. It is Iran’s agent and closest Arab ally, granting it an outlet on the Mediterranean. Those two Iranian warships that went through the Suez Canal in February docked at the Syrian port of Latakia, a long-sought Iranian penetration of the Mediterranean.

Yet here was the secretary of state covering for the Syrian dictator against his own opposition. And it doesn’t help that Clinton tried to walk it back two days later by saying she was simply quoting others. Rubbish. Of the myriad opinions of Assad, she chose to cite precisely one: reformer. That’s an endorsement, no matter how much she later pretends otherwise.

And it’s not just the words; it’s the policy behind it. This delicacy toward Assad is dismayingly reminiscent of President Obama’s response to the 2009 Iranian uprising during which he was scandalously reluctant to support the demonstrators, while repeatedly reaffirming the legitimacy of the brutal theocracy suppressing them.

Why? Because Obama wanted to remain “engaged” with the mullahs — so that he could talk them out of their nuclear weapons. We know how that went.

The same conceit animates his Syria policy — keep good relations with the regime so that Obama can sweet-talk it out of its alliance with Iran and sponsorship of  Hezbollah.

Another abject failure. Syria has contemptuously rejected Obama’s blandishments — obsequious visits from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry and the return of the first U.S. ambassador to Damascus  since the killing of Hariri. Assad’s response? An even tighter and more ostentatious alliance with Hezbollah and Iran.

Our ambassador in Damascus should demand to meet the demonstrators and visit the wounded. If refused, he should be recalled to Washington. And rather than “deplore the crackdown,” as did Clinton in her walk-back, we should be denouncing it in forceful language and every available forum, including the U.N. Security Council.

No one is asking for a Libya-style rescue. Just simple truth-telling. If Kerry wants to make a fool of himself  by continuing to insist that Assad is an agent of change, well, it’s a free country. But Clinton speaks for the nation.”

And on top of that, Hillary Clinton is telling the Syrian freedom protesters to lay down their arms.

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4168102,00.html

“A few weeks ago, Amar met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He presented to her, among other things, information about soldiers who defected and plan to launch a guerilla fight against the army. “To my surprise, she asked that the defectors lay down their arms,” he says. “That’s an odd request. Why didn’t they ask the rebels in Libya to lay down their arms? How can they do it if at any moment they can be fired at and murdered? It’s impractical.”

“I can’t understand why the Americans are silent,” Amar says. “We expected them to intervene. Militarily. To bomb the Syrian army from the air. They intervened in Libya and managed to prompt Gaddafi’s removal, and that is what we expect them to do to Assad now. Thus far, more people were killed in Syria than in Libya at the point where Obama decided to launch a military offensive in order to avert a greater massacre. NATO also bombed in Kosovo when it was necessary. Why this hypocrisy?”

As I wrote in part 1 and 9:

“It is also very interesting to compare how eager the Obama administration, EU and NATO was to go into Libya with their do nothing attitude with Syria.

The dictator Gaddafi had not killed as many civilian people as Assad’s regimes have by a long shot. Or destroyed as many neighbourhoods as Assad. Nor did Gaddafi support so many terrorist groups as Assad. Or had the same strategic value for USA as Syria.

Nor did Gaddafi kill so many Americans as did Assad (Bashar and Hafez al-Assad – It is A Family affair). Etc. Etc.

So in every way and shape or form, in comparison Libya under Gaddafi doesn’t even come close to Syria under Assad.

Samantha Power, a prominent advocate of humanitarian intervention and the principle of ”responsibility to protect”, is considered to be the key figure within the Obama administration in persuading the president to intervene militarily in Libya.

Power, was a senior foreign policy adviser to senator Obama, and now a Special Assistant to President Barack Obama and Senior Director of the National Security Council.

But on Syria? NOT A PEEP!

And some of the “excuses” for not doing anything, like “the arms could end up in the wrong hands”, become ABSOLUTELY mind-boggling hypocritical when you remember that NATO and US special operations troops together with their intelligence operatives in Tripoli, armed and put Al-Hakim Belhadj in control over Tripoli. And gave him “the keys” to Gadhafis armoury.

Those arms were advanced items which British and French special operations forces gave the rebels, according to “a senior” American source.

Who is Al-Hakim Belhadj you may ask. He is a leader and commander of LIFG, the Al Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Which by the way is listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. He is an al Qaeda veteran from Afghanistan, he joined the Talliban etc.

He was first captured in Pakistan 2001 and handed over to US security officials, he was repatriated to Libya two months later. Later CIA captured him in Malaysia in 2004. He was then transferred to Bangkok, where he was then placed in the custody of the CIA.  Later they extradited him to Libya where he was kept in prison for six years by Qaddafi.

According to the Spanish, Al-Hakim Belhadj was suspected of complicity in the 2004 Madrid train bombings etc. etc.

For the first time, therefore, the armies of Western members of NATO took part and helped directly in a bid by extremist Islamic forces to capture an Arab capital and overthrow its ruler.”

Then there was NO concernthat it would fuel a proliferation of weapons in the region”. In fact, NATO gave sophisticated weapons to known Al Qaeda groups like LIFG.

As I said before, it is so ABSOLUTELY mind-boggling hypocritical that you just want to throw up.

And while NATO is “concerned”, the Syrian civilian population continues to get slaughtered.

But how cares?

And that Samantha Power, Special Assistant to President Barack Obama and Senior Director of the National Security Council, mentioned above just got apointed by Obama to head the new White House Atrocities Prevention Board.

But still on Syria? NOT A PEEP!

So apparently she is Very SELECTIVE in which atrocities to “prevent” and when to use “responsibility to protect”.

Or as Tom Hayden posted at the Rag Blog, a far-left website that is home to radical 1960s anti-war leaders, some with previous close ties to Obama, Hayden remarked on Power’s use of war.

Tom Hayden was the principal organizer for the 1960s anti-war movement group Students for a Democratic Society, from which the Weather Underground domestic terrorist group splintered.

Hayden contended that Power’s Balkans experience led her to become an advocate of American and NATO military intervention in humanitarian crises.

“She began to see war as an instrument for achieving her liberal, even radical, values,” he stated.”

The Saudis and the Gulf countries ALL mistrust Obamas Middle East policy, including his Syrian policy.

Here is just one example from the editor Tariq al-Homayed of the pan-Arab Al-Sharq Al-Awsat:

Obama is also a problem

http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=2&id=28813

(Original in Arabic here: http://aawsat.com/leader.asp?section=3&article=667694&issueno=12158)

”The blame for the situation in Syria does not lie with Russia alone; one of the biggest problems is also the Obama administration, which has squandered a golden opportunity to get rid of a significant obstacle to security in the region – and by extension US national security, Bashar al-Assad. However, it is clear that Obama is not concerned with the security of the region – even though it impacts upon international security as a whole, especially with the chaos in Syria overlooking the Mediterranean – rather Obama is preoccupied with his re-election bid.

The US administration has directed as much blame, if not more, towards the Syrian opposition as it has towards al-Assad. What is worse, and indeed a major scandal, is that the Obama administration has said that there could be an al-Qaeda presence [among the opposition] in Syria, even though al-Qaeda ran wild in Iraq under the auspices of the al-Assad regime. When I say this is a scandal, this is because the American newspaper The Washington Post – quoting US intelligence agents – reported that the only evidence Washington has of an al-Qaeda presence in Syria is the style – yes the style – of the bombing that took place in Damascus, and nothing more! The Obama administration is the one calling for the Syrian opposition to unify their ranks, yet Washington knows full well that the unification of the opposition requires international support and hard work, in any situation, not mere statements.

The problem with the current US administration is that it is notorious for misinterpreting events in the region. Here it is suffice to consider Obama’s dealings with the Green Revolution, where instead of supporting it he decided to withdraw from Iraq, leaving it in the hands of al-Maliki and Tehran. With regards to Syria, the Obama administration says that the al-Assad regime is still cohesive, but this is something to be expected for several reasons. Washington knows the extent of Iranian support for al-Assad, in terms of arms, money, men, equipment and all manner of resources, via Iraq. This makes it difficult for any Syrian official to defect. How could they, when they don’t see Obama taking any form of serious stand, and instead opposing the armament of the Syrian opposition and refusing to declare that overthrowing the tyrant of Damascus is an issue of national security?

How could a full military division defect when there is no buffer zone to ensure the protection of the defectors and to help them re-organize their ranks? Those who defected in Libya went to Benghazi, but where would the Syrian defectors go? If the Obama administration wants to see significant and rapid divisions, then it must adopt a firm stance. Let us recall the era of George W. Bush, when the US administration brandished the stick towards al-Assad after the assassination of Rafik Hariri, with an international tribunal just around the corner, at a time when Ghazi Kanaan was rumored to be plotting a coup and was subsequently assassinated! Where is the stick today, and where is the international tribunal?

Furthermore, from reading recent history we would find that no one defected from Saddam Hussein’s regime prior to the US invasion, and even in its early days, because at the time all members were aware that their families would be targeted. The al-Assad regime is worse than Saddam in that regard. But first and foremost, how can the Syrians mobilize when they don’t see a serious stance coming from Washington?

So the problem is not Russia alone, but also the hesitance of President Obama and his administration. Events have been interpreted in the wrong manner, the Syrians have been left alone to face the crimes of the al-Assad regime, and the biggest chance to create stability in the region and curtail Iran’s influence has been lost, so who will tell Obama this?”

And more

Obama’s detachment policy on Syria

http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=376305

“On Monday, the editor of the pan-Arab Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Tariq al-Homayed, penned a column that delivered a scathing critique of the Obama administration’s Syriapolicy. The title of the piece said it all: “Obama is the problem, not just Russia.” While one can’t say for sure, it’s hard to read Homayed’s editorial as anything other than an indicator of Riyadh’s exasperation with Washington’s dithering as the Syrian uprising marks its first year anniversary.

The Saudis’ frustration with the Obama administration’s approach was already evident at the “Friends of Syria” gathering in Tunis last month, when Foreign Minister Saud al-Faysal left the meeting, citing lack of serious action. It was then that al-Faysal publicly went against the administration’s declared policy, calling the arming of the Syrian opposition “an excellent idea.” The Qataris, too, shared the Saudis’ desire for more robust action, including direct support for the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

However, if that’s the case, then why did Riyadh and Doha agree to yet another futile initiative with the Russians, which did nothing but buy more time for Assad to escalate his military campaign? In addition, reports continue to suggest that the Saudis and Qataris remain far from aggressively supplying the FSA with weapons. To answer these questions, one must again turn to Washington.

Last week, an anonymous administration official disclosed that a “decision has been made at the next Friends of Syria meeting to not oppose any proposals to arm the FSA and we’re not going to publicly or privately message on that,” the official said. “We’re not going to publicly or privately tell the Friends of Syria not to do this.”

The problem, of course, is that the administration did continue to message publicly against any lethal support to the FSA, and against any military options more broadly. As late as this Tuesday, the White House spokesman was still repeating the familiar mantra: “It is certainly our position that providing arms is not a move that we’re considering right now because we believe it could heighten and prolong the violence in Syria… So it is our position that we do not want to contribute to the further militarization of Syria because that could lead down a very dangerous road.”

In addition to administration officials making the same arguments in testimonies before Congress, press briefings were organized by intelligence officials with the sole aim of trashing the notion of arming the FSA. Unnamed US officials warned of al-Qaeda’s supposed infiltration of the revolution, and exaggerated to a laughable extent the capabilities of the Assad regime in order to counter any push for military action, which some influential voices in Congress had begun voicing.

At the same time, the US renewed its efforts to engage Russia at the Security Council, introducing a new draft resolution, which, according to one leaked version, calls for a dialogue between the regime and the opposition, thereby making a remarkable concession to Moscow, tantamount to reversing the declared US policy of regime change.

Despite the embarrassing fiasco of the Kofi Annan mission to Syria, and the predictable lack of any progress with the Russians, President Obama yesterday still doubled down on this failed approach. “[F]or us to provide strong support to Kofi Annan, to continue to talk to the Russians, the Chinese and others… that’s the most important work that we can do right now.”

As a result, it’s not hard to see why the Saudis and Qataris felt forced to go through Russia one more time. It was the expressed wish of the President of the United States. A careful rereading of the statement made by the anonymous official to ForeignPolicy.com shows that this was the message communicated to US allies.

The official noted that the USwould take the passive attitude toward arming the FSA “at the next Friends of Syriameeting,” which will take place early next month. In other words, the Obama administration opted to waste a full month banging on the Kremlin’s door, yet again, as Bashar al-Assad escalated his military campaign in Homs, Idlib and Daraa.

The administration has been criticized repeatedly for not asserting leadership when it came to Syria. In reality, however, the administration did very much push its preferences on its regional allies. Its public messaging and diplomatic activity left no doubt that it continued to oppose any military aid to the FSA and that it insisted on going through Moscow one more time, regardless of the time this would buy Assad.

So, although the official said that the administration was not going to “publicly or privately” tell allies not to arm the FSA, as a matter of fact, Washington has been quite verbose these last three weeks, and its message to regional allies, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, against arming the opposition, has been unmistakable. After all, the US Secretary of State herself twice said that arming the Syrian opposition might be like sending weapons to Al-Qaeda.

It’s clear that President Obama, who’s running on a policy of extrication from the region, sees that opening the door to military aid risks drawing the US in. Despite the increased pressure to move in that direction, the president is determined to keep the US out of the game.

This was not lost on Al-Sharq Al-Awsat’s Homayed. “[I]t is clear that Obama is not concerned with the security of the region… rather [he] is preoccupied with his re-election bid,” he wrote in his column.

The Saudis may not yet have gone as far as Senator John McCain, who the other day called the administration’s policy “disgraceful and shameful.” However, with their media now openly labeling President Obama as part of the problem alongside Assad’s Russian allies, they’re hardly being subtle.”

And as I wrote in Part 6 about Turkey:

“And to further prove that point that the Obama administration is ACTIVLY discouraging and opposing ANY small step Turkey wants to take regarding Syria:

US tells Turkey to back off  Syria

http://nowlebanon.com/NewsArchiveDetails.aspx?ID=378866

“In a previously unreported turn of events, it has now come to light that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in her meeting with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu last month, emphatically dismissed a number of forward leaning options on Syria that the Turkish top diplomat proposed to the Obama administration.

What this means is that Washington, which at one point subcontracted its Syria policy to Ankara, has now called the Turks off the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

According to well-informed Turkish and US sources, during his meeting with Secretary Clinton, Davutoğlu put forward a set of measures, including, among others, creating a buffer zone and/or a humanitarian corridor, as well as organizing and equipping the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The secretary of state responded in no uncertain terms that the Obama administration had no interest in pursuing any of these options. In fact, according to one account, Clinton told her Turkish counterpart no less than three times, “We are not there.”

This conversation fits well with the administration’s message to other regional allies, namely Saudi Arabia, against arming the FSA and pushing Washington’s preferred policy of going through the Russians, in an attempt to reach a “political solution” to the Syrian crisis.”

“Apparently, the Turks, much like the Saudis, were looking to the first Friends of Syria meeting in Tunis as a possible forum to bypass the Russians and begin a more muscular effort, with US backing. The Saudis found out at the meeting that no such action was forthcoming, and withdrew in frustration, while publicly voicing their preference for arming the Syrian rebels.

The Turks got their answer from Secretary Clinton well before the Tunis gathering, and, according to the Turkish sources, were dismayed at the Obama administration’s extraordinary passivity and refusal to lead.

The message conveyed to the Turks was the same one made clear to the Saudis. According to one US source, when Davutoğlu ended up asking Clinton where the administration was on the issue, her response simply repeated the mantra about the Arab League initiative and going to the Security Council again for another go at the Russians. In other words, it was more of the same.”

“As a result, the administration has found itself in the surreal position of siding closer with Assad’s Russian ally and at cross-purposes with its own regional allies – and, most significantly, in contradiction with its own stated policy of regime change in Syria.”

With “allies” like this who need enemies?

And then is the push by the Obama administration together with Turkey to make SNC (the Syrian National Council), the sole voice for the Syrian uprising i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood. And the sole recipient and controller of money for the uprising.

(See also what I wrote in part 6 about this)

In Syria, America Allies with the Muslim Brotherhood

The president’s support for the Syrian National Council strengthens Islamists.

http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/297361/syria-america-allies-muslim-brotherhood-john-rosenthal#

“While the Obama administration’s burgeoning contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egyptcontinue to cause controversy, the administration’s policy of growing cooperation with the Syrian opposition continues to enjoy almost unanimous support. This is remarkable, since by virtue of that policy the administration is openly allied with none other than the Muslim Brotherhood: that is, openly, but with perhaps just enough misdirection for the alliance to escape the notice of the broader public.

The Syrian opposition organization that the United Statesand other Western powers have been officially supporting is, of course, the Syrian National Council (SNC). At a meeting in Istanbulon April 1, the so-called Friends of Syria, including the United States, recognized the SNC as “a legitimate representative of all Syrians.” Although the use of the indefinite article suggests there were reservations on the part of some participants, U.S. State Department statements both before and after the Istanbul meeting leave no doubt that the Obama administration treats the SNC as its principal Syrian interlocutor. The SNC is also the presumptive recipient or at least conduit of the aid that the Obama administration has pledged to the Syrian opposition. While in Istanbul, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with representatives of the SNC, and she afterwards promised that “there will be more assistance of all kinds for the Syrian National Council.”

But who is the Syrian National Council? Although the chairman and most recognizable face of the council is the secular Paris-based political scientist Burhan Ghalioun, it is openly acknowledged that the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is a major force within the council. In fact, there is strong evidence that it is the major force. When several members of the council resigned in mid-March, they cited the overwhelming influence of the Brotherhood as a reason for their decision. The Brotherhood took the whole council,” departing council member Walid al-Bunni told the New York Times. “We became like extras.”

The Belgian Syria expert Thomas Pierret, a lecturer in contemporary Islam at the Universityof Edinburgh, estimates that “around half” of the SNC’s members are Islamists. According to Pierret, moreover, the Muslim Brotherhood controls the council’s “commission on humanitarian aid” and thereby the distribution of SNC funds in Syria. As a consequence of the repression of the organization by the Syrian regime, the leadership of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has been living in exile for decades. Pierret notes that the Brotherhood now stands accused of using its control over the SNC aid spigot in order to reconstruct a base of popular support within the country. Pierret cites remarks made by Kamal al-Labwani to the Arab press as the source for the accusation. Al-Labwani is one of the SNC members that resigned in March.

The contrast between the controversy surrounding the Obama administration’s outreach to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and the widespread indifference to its alliance with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is particularly odd in light of al-Labwani’s accusation regarding the latter’s control of SNC aid money. For, if this accusation is correct, American and other international support for the SNC does not only imply joining forces with the Muslim Brotherhood: It implies helping the Brotherhood to obtain an influence inside Syria that it did not previously have.”

Iran and Obama’s Syrian hesitation

The president fears confronting Assad because of the effect it might have on his nuclear diplomacy.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303916904577373820191499222.html

”Despite months of negotiations by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and extensive Security Council deliberations, hostilities in Syria continue. Although overall violence is down slightly and the council has increased U.N. observers to 300, the civilian death toll continues to rise. Syria’s dictatorship ignores Mr. Annan’s “cease fire,” and Bashar al-Assad himself shows no signs of stepping down.

President Obama seems paralyzed for two basic reasons: First, he is committed to a U.N. process almost certainly doomed to failure; and second, he fears taking on the real nemesis in Syria, namely Iran’s ayatollahs.

The decision to deploy additional military observers was a positive step but the existing observers have hardly displayed much initiative. They have, for instance, declined to monitor anti-Assad demonstrations to avoid, they said, making their mission part of the dispute. One might confuse this with satire were the consequences not so grave.

Perhaps recognizing the U.N.’s lack of real impact to date, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently suggested that the Security Council impose an arms embargo against Syria’s government if hostilities continue. It was unclear, however, if other governments would agree. Neither Russianor Chinahas responded positively. Given their February double veto against stronger sanctions, there is considerable doubt that they would ever allow an effective arms embargo, especially given Russia’s long-standing arms-supplier relationship with Syria.

An enforceable U.N. embargo would require invoking Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, to restore “international peace and security,” which Moscow and Beijing intensely distrust, particularly after Libya. There, the Security Council acted ostensibly to prevent humanitarian tragedy, and NATO then used the mandate to facilitate ousting Moammar Gadhafi. Russia and China will not repeat that mistake. Moreover, they could insist on a total weapons ban, both to Assad and the opposition. In the U.N. world of moral equivalence, they would almost certainly prevail, as with the 1992 arms embargo when the former Yugoslavia broke up.

Mr. Obama’s real failure is not reliance on the cumbersome, ineffective U.N., but his unwillingness to confront Iran, which is determined to maintain Assad in office. Tehran has long treated Syria as a satellite, part of its regional arc of influence that includes terrorist Hezbollah, now politically and militarily dominant in Lebanon. It is prepared to shed considerable Syrian blood to save Assad. The Islamic Republic has supplied arms and financial assistance to the Assad regime, and Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers are on the ground in Syria aiding government forces.

Mr. Obama knows that if he confronts Iran directly in Syria, any chance will disappear for a negotiated settlement to Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons. While he should have long ago understood that diplomacy will never persuade Iran to renounce its objective of becoming a nuclear power, he has not. So despite Iran’s obvious role (backed by Russia and China) in defending Assad’s brutality, the president cannot bring himself to admit his Iran policy’s futility. And Mr. Obama is entirely unwilling to risk foreign adventures that might imperil his re-election.

Washington needs to acknowledge that effectively challenging Assad means moving beyond sanctions and diplomacy, and toward regime change in Tehran. Mr. Obama seems unable or unwilling to understand that Iran is an enemy of the U.S. and that its nuclear and regional hegemonic ambitions must be thwarted, or the ayatollahs overturned. Such an uncertain leader cannot handle a critical confrontation effectively. Unfortunately, we may have to wait for a more resolute president rather than proceed and fail inSyria with a weak one.

Israel may not be willing to wait for a firm American hand to deal with Iran’s nuclear-weapons program. And if the conflict in Syria is concluded in Assad’s (and Tehran’s) favor, it could well have significant negative implications for Israel, and for peace and security in the Middle East as a whole. That will be the real cost of Mr. Obama’s fruitless deference to the U.N. process, and of his unwillingness to confront Iran’s mullahs.”

Well the efforts to try to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons have been going on for ages without nothing to show.

Some examples: UN Security Council has passed seven resolutions on Iran since 2006. Including sanctions and an arms embargo.

Result? So far nothing.

EU has been going at it for nine years now, including sanctions, and nothing to show for it.

IAEA has made a lot of reports and resolutions, and nothing has changed.

USA has for a long time imposed many sanctions against Iran (since 1979) but nothing has changed. That is 33 years of futile sanctions that has not achieved its objective.

Other countries like Canada, Australia, South Korea, Japan, Switzerland etc also have imposed various sanctions.  And nothing has changed.

Etc. Etc.

Now Obama is spinning this wheel another turn. And since he doesn’t want to “offend” Iran, Assad can continue to slaughter his people.

No “responsibility to protect” there.

I could continue for a very long time, there is much more to be said, but this already a way to long post. So I stop here. You get the picture.

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Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 8

26 april, 2012

This is “ceasefire” a la UN – and just in Hama:

Al-Jazeera: Syrian forces’ shelling of Hama kills 54 people, activists say (April 25)

So the same UN that outlaws and forbid discrimination and racism is allowing the Syrians regime to pick and chose which colour and country the observers come from:

Syrian Cease-fire Deteriorates With More Violence

http://www.voanews.com/english/news/Syrian-Intelligence-Officer-Killed-in-Damascus-Attack-148650995.html

“Timor Goksel, the former spokesman of the U.N. peacekeepers in Lebanon. defended the observer mission in Syria. He said it will take time for the team to deploy and get acclimated, but that it would ultimately have a positive effect on the situation.

”Once they are there in force with the proper command structure, then they will try to start making themselves felt by going to trouble spots and doing reporting,” said Goksel. ”We are hoping to get unbiased, neutral, impartial reports that we don’t get from anybody else and by their presence in the area, they will calm down the situation and help contribute to an atmosphere of dialogue of some sort, but they are not the ones who are going to solve this problem.”

Goksel said that extra time is needed to get the full observer team on the ground, since the Syrian government insists on approving what nations will participate.

Analyst Nadim Shehadi of Chatham House inLondon, however, said that time is of the essence in deploying the U.N. observer team.

We should not repeat the Iraq experience of the ’90s of allowing Saddam Hussein to massacre his people while the world is undecided about what to do,” said Shehadi. ”Time is not a neutral element. Time is measured by people being killed and by the regime gaining an upper hand.”

Some more examples of the glorious UN ceasefire and its observers:

From Facebook

“From People of Zabadany regarding the UN Observers

We, the residents of the city of Zabadany, draw your attention to the fact that the international delegation of UN observers visited the city yesterday, Monday, April 23, and met with opposition activists. The meeting lasted 10 minutes.

Upon their arrival, only three of the monitors emerged from the UN vehicle: the head of the mission, an Indian; a Brazilian monitor; and a third, a Moroccan, Col. Ahmad Hamishi. The rest of the observers remained in the vehicle.

When we requested that Col. Hamishi receive the lists of detainees, some of whom had been detained for 8 months, and lists of local martyrs and their causes of death, he refused, explaining that it was not part of his mission.

After that, we asked him to take possession of our activists’ Google Earth satellite images of the map of Zabadany. The images show clearly where heavy military equipment is stationed in the city, and where tanks and artillery equipment are deployed; this equipment has a range of approximately 45 kilometers. Col. Hamishi refused to accept the images, providing no reason for his refusal.

When we informed him that we had risked our lives to meet him, and were ready to accompany him so that he could see with his own eyes the widespread military checkpoints, he refused, saying he did not have the time.

As he walked to his car to leave, after fewer than 10 minutes with us, one of our activists pointed to a house in which a wall had been destroyed during Assad forces’ bombing. Col. Hamishi informed us that he did not believe that the damage was the effect of shelling, and that his position was justified by the fact that the house had not completely burned down.

When the mother of a missing person approached to request that he return her son, he refused to listen to her, and informed her that he did not know Arabic.

After that, the UN observers’ delegation met with a regime delegation made up of Intelligence agents and shabiha. The regime representatives informed the UN observers that there was no military or tank deployment in the city – even though they would have had to pass through checkpoints to reach the area where the opposition activists were gathered.

It is important to note that the Syrian Intelligence agents listed the names of the activists who met with the UN delegation, and listed those activists as armed and dangerous criminals who must be prosecuted and executed.

Some more examples of the UN/Annan ceasefire:

Massgrave:

“THERE ARE SO MANY DEAD – THEY MUST ALL BE BURIED IN A MASS GRAVE. Hama (Al-Arbe’en): Apr 24, 2012 – This is the aftermath of the massacre in Al-Arbe’en neighborhood of Hama after Assad’s forces mercilessly shelled the area with an unrelenting barrage of Russian made and supplied shells, rockets and mortars … all falling on residential buildings.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUtT71dZb7w&feature=player_embedded

One of many videos shoving the continuing destruction of neighbourhoods, this one from Mashaa Al Tayyar, Hama April 25:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yi_YQYcHEgw&feature=player_embedded

As I reported in part 4:

“But an activist outside the city of Hama said that demonstrators had been chanting against the presence of U.N. monitors.We don’t want more people to watch us be killed,” said Mousab Alhamadee via Skype, calling instead for practical help for the opposition, including arming rebel forces. “

But killed they are. Sometimes watched by these observers.

And according to the as always very “helpful” Russians, it is the population and resistance that are the culprits:

Russia denounces “terror” by Syrian rebels

http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=389980

“Russia accused the Syrian rebels on Thursday of waging a wide-scale terror campaign that is designed to kill as many civilians as possible despite a formal ceasefire.

”Opposition groups have essentially reverted to waging wide-scale terror in the region,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Alexander Lukashevich.”

So the civilian population is apparently shelling themselves with the Russian 240 mm mortar bombs to destroy their own houses and apartments. And killing themselves so they can put themselves in mass graves.

Yeap that sounds like a very plausible theory doesn’t it?

EU

I was going to write about EU’s part but what’s the point? On Monday April 23, EU imposed the 14th round of sanctions.

14!

I mean come on! 14 in little over one year -That’s one every 24 day. It’s becoming ridiculous.

And as I wrote in part 1 after the 13th round of sanctions:

“EU the other day “strengthened” sanctions, the 13 in a row, banned Assad’s wife from shopping on the Continent. Yea, I bet Syria’s dictator Bashar Hafez al-Assad felt threatened to his core!

This is NOT serious. It’s just cynical and hypocritical.

This is the EU that according to the official rhetoric was set up to be a “big” player on the international arena, be a counterweight to USA, and to promote peace.

The mouse that squeaked?

And EU hasn’t even worked out which goods will be included in the new embargo!

EU imposes new sanctions on Syrian regime

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2012/04/23/financial/f013240D84.DTL&type=business

“EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said the EU’s 27 foreign ministers approved the new set of sanctions — the 14th in the past year — ”because of deep concern about the situation and continuing violence in spite of the cease-fire.”

”We expect the government to withdraw all troops and heavy weapons from towns and cities (and) we want to make sure that the regime gives full access to humanitarian organizations.”

Previous rounds of U.S. and EU sanctions have done little to stop the bloodshed, although there are signs the Syrian economy is suffering. International measures against Assad’s regime have depleted its foreign currency reserves by half, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said last week.

EU experts will work out later precisely which goods will be included in the new embargo. One of the diplomats said so-called ”dual-use” goods can include anything from vehicles to fertilizers and other chemicals.

The only precedent in international relations for the luxury ban is one imposed by the EU in 2007 on North Korea for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Officials said this could serve as a model for the same measure against Syria. That ban included foods such as caviar and truffles, high-quality wines and spirits, fashion accessories including bags and shoes, perfumes, crystal and silverware, and purebred horses.

”We need to continue to intensify pressure on the Assad regime,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said. ”They are not in complete compliance with the cease-fire provisions of the Annan plan.”

EU agrees new sanctions on Syria

http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=388718

”The European Union agreed Monday to slap new sanctions on the Syrian regime, banning luxury goods exports and further restricting the sale of items used to repress dissidents, a diplomat said.

”These sanctions will be put in place against Syria,” the diplomat told AFP after EU ambassadors endorsed the measures ahead of a meeting of foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

The extent of the luxury ban has yet to be defined but the aim is to deliver a symbolic blow against the posh lifestyle of President Bashar al-Assad and his glamorous British-born wife Asma, another diplomat said.

”The Assad couple, as well as his inner circle and leaders of the regime must be made to understand that events in Syria will also impact their personal lives,” the source added.

Brusselsalso decided to expand the blacklist of dual-use goods which can be used for internal repression or for the manufacturing of equipment used for internal repression.

The 14th round of EU sanctions comes as violence continues in Syria despite the presence of  UN truce observers in the country.”

So now after the 14th round of sanctions the EU blacklist is totalling 126 people and 41 firms or utilities.

Yes, the sanctions have some small effect and it annoys the Assad ruling circle but that’s about it.

With the massive help from Russia, Iran and China. And the use of the already established sanction busting network forIran(see part 4), which Syria can use

So what are EU doing about the Russian, Iranian and Chinese massive support and sanction busting?

Nothing of course.

Because then you have to annoy them, and of course you cannot do that.

So instead, ALL the efforts of EU is into these quite meaningless sanctions.

When EU has imposed the say 48th round of sanctions,  maybe will be worth writing a post about it.

NATO

On one side Russia, Iran and China literally pouring in all types of heavy weapons (remember the 240 mm Russian mortar bomb), personal, training etc for the Assad regime.

On the other unarmed civilians and a resistance with some light arms.

And NATO is apparently very worried that if the civilians get anything more than Kalashnikovs and the odd RPG, so they at least can defend themselves and offer some resistance to the Assad forces, that that would constitute “a proliferation of weapons in the region”.

NATO opposes arming Syria rebels

http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=382781

“NATO’s chief on Monday said the alliance was opposed to providing arms to the Syrian opposition seeking to counter a regime crackdown, warning that it would fuel a proliferation of weapons in the region.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen called for a diplomatic solution and reiterated that NATO, which led the Libya air war that contributed to Moammar Qaddafi’s downfall last year, had ”no intention whatsoever to intervene in Syria.”

And to top it off:

We monitor the situation closely,” Rasmussen said, adding that the situation in Syria could impact neighboring Turkey, a NATO member.

It’s absolutely outrageous what we have witnessed in Syria,” he added.”

This must be one of the most hypocritical, cynical and ridiculous statements ever made by NATO.

The people of Syria will “thank you” for your “deep concern” as they are being slaughtered by the Assads forces.

So according to this superb NATO logic, the Russian 240 mm mortar bomb, supplied by the as always helpful Russia, used to destroy block after block, neighbourhood after neighbourhood in CIVILIAN Syrian cities, is NO PROBLEM WHATSOEVER.

It is the largest mortar bomb known to be in production and use. It weighs 130 kilograms and contains 31.93 kilograms of TNT as an explosive charge.

By the way, the use of such weapons in dense urban environments is a war crime.

But giving this to the resistance so they can defend themselves is a serious “proliferation of weapons in the region”.

Really good work there NATO!

This is the same NATO that without any hesitation went in full scale in Libya. Then it wasn’t any talk about “that it would fuel a proliferation of weapons in the region”.

As I wrote in part 1:

“It is also very interesting to compare how eager the Obama administration, EU and NATO was to go into Libya with their do nothing attitude with Syria.

The dictator Gaddafi had not killed as many civilian people as Assad’s regimes have by a long shot. Or destroyed as many neighbourhoods as Assad. Nor did Gaddafi support so many terrorist groups as Assad. Or had the same strategic value for USA as Syria.

Nor did Gaddafi kill so many Americans as did Assad (Bashar and Hafez al-Assad – It is A Family affair). Etc. Etc.

So in every way and shape or form, in comparison Libya under Gaddafi doesn’t even come close to Syria under Assad.

Samantha Power, a prominent advocate of humanitarian intervention and the principle of ”responsibility to protect”, is considered to be the key figure within the Obama administration in persuading the president to intervene militarily in Libya.

Power, was a senior foreign policy adviser to senator Obama, and now a Special Assistant to President Barack Obama and Senior Director of the National Security Council.

But on Syria? NOT A PEEP!

And some of the “excuses” for not doing anything, like “the arms could end up in the wrong hands”, become ABSOLUTELY mind-boggling hypocritical when you remember that NATO and US special operations troops together with their intelligence operatives in Tripoli, armed and put Al-Hakim Belhadj in control over Tripoli. And gave him “the keys” to Gadhafis armoury.

Those arms were advanced items which British and French special operations forces gave the rebels, according to “a senior” American source.

Who is Al-Hakim Belhadj you may ask. He is a leader and commander of LIFG, the Al Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Which by the way is listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. He is an al Qaeda veteran from Afghanistan, he joined the Talliban etc.

He was first captured in Pakistan 2001 and handed over to US security officials, he was repatriated to Libya two months later. Later CIA captured him in Malaysia in 2004. He was then transferred to Bangkok, where he was then placed in the custody of the CIA.  Later they extradited him to Libya where he was kept in prison for six years by Qaddafi.

According to the Spanish, Al-Hakim Belhadj was suspected of complicity in the 2004 Madrid train bombings etc. etc.

For the first time, therefore, the armies of Western members of NATO took part and helped directly in a bid by extremist Islamic forces to capture an Arab capital and overthrow its ruler.”

Then there was NO concernthat it would fuel a proliferation of weapons in the region”. In fact, NATO gave sophisticated weapons to known Al Qaeda groups like LIFG.

As I said before, it is so ABSOLUTELY mind-boggling hypocritical that you just want to throw up.

And while NATO is “concerned”, the Syrian civilian population continues to get slaughtered.

But how cares?

And that Samantha Power, Special Assistant to President Barack Obama and Senior Director of the National Security Council, mentioned above just got apointed by Obama to head the new White House Atrocities Prevention Board.

But still on Syria? NOT A PEEP!

So apparently she is VERY SELECTIVE in which atrocities to “prevent”.

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Syria and Vladimir Putin: The Butcher of Homs – Part 1

10 april, 2012

Introduction

There is so much to be said about the uprising in Syria and the extremely brutal suppression by the Assad regime. And as usual, most of it is not said in the mainstream media.

So I thought I give you some pieces that are to the point and that give you some perspective of this slaughter of civilians. In other words, some insight into the world of real politics. This is a different universe that the normal platitudes and declarations our political elites are so good at excelling at.

I have so much material, all from public and open sources, that it is ridiculously big and unwieldy. Therefore, I have to drastically cut it down. Otherwise, it would become a book. The focus is therefore going to be on some countries and international organisations and what they have done or not done in 11 posts.

Part 1- Introduction. Part 2-Repports/Videos/Photos, Part 3- Russia, Part 4- Iran, Part 5- China, Part 6- Turkey, Part 7- Arab league, Part 8- UN, Part 9- EU/NATO, Part 10- US and the Obama administration and Part 11- Paul Conroy

The explanation for the headline you get at the end of this post.

This Syrian uprising started little over a year ago. The movement began in Syria on March 15th of 2011 with spontaneous demonstrations that demanded that the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad reform Syria to a free and democratic state. Assad responded, as usual, with relentless force and a brutal crackdown. Which led to the people to call for the president to step down, and heed to his people’s will to relinquish his power. And for a peaceful transition to democracy.

All reasonably demands wouldn’t you say?

And from this start the Assad’s regimes force and a brutal crackdown have just intensified and widened. The death toll is around 11 000. Mostly civilians: children, women, families, elderly etc. Many of them executed in the most barbaric way.

On top of that, the deliberate destruction of WHOLE blocks of cities, Block after block, neighbourhood after neighbourhood.

Turning of electricity, water, telecommunications etc for cities and neighbourhoods. Destroying hospitals and preventing medicine and food to reach these areas etc.

I can add systematic rape to that mix of systematic violation of human rights.

Wouldn’t you say that this regime seems utterly barbaric and worthy of world condemnation?

And wouldn’t you have thought that the world would have done something by now?

And the answer to these questions is of course – YES ands as usual NO.

NOTHING have in realty been done except some cheap and empty rhetoric. A lot of grandstanding as usual with these people. And of course a lot of meetings, summits, conferences etc. Usually in very nice places very far from the reality they are supposed to talk about.

EU the other day “strengthened” sanctions, the 13 in a row, banned Assad’s wife from shopping on the Continent. Yea, I bet Syria’s dictator Bashar Hafez al-Assad felt threatened to his core!

Some of these people, for over a year now, have assured us that the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad is about to fall. These assurances from the so-called “experts” are always delivered with great confidence.

And yet Assad, hangs on, slaughtering his own people, destroying and despoiling whole neighbourhoods, calling the bluff of the Arab League, Turkey, UN, USA and EU/NATO.

Helped to a very large degree by the enormous material support, weapons, training, intelligence, troops,  personal etc. from Russia, Iran, China and Hezbollah.

And by a traditional policy of dived and conquer the different ethnic and religious groups in Syria. And of course by terror and fear.

Nonetheless, this is a regime, with an enormous arsenal of heavy weapons, which in a year has not been able to dispatch a divided, badly organized, having hardly any weapons, and disparate opposition. It can be defeated and it will implode  from the inside.  The slaughter would end much faster if the people got some, any support, from abroad.  And the fear is gone.

It is also very interesting to compare how eager the Obama administration, EU and NATO was to go into Libya with their do nothing attitude with Syria.

The dictator Gaddafi had not killed as many civilian people as Assad’s regimes have by a long shot. Or destroyed as many neighbourhoods as Assad. Nor did Gaddafi support so many terrorist groups as Assad. Or had the same strategic value for USA as Syria.

Nor did Gaddafi kill so many Americans as did Assad (Bashar  and Hafez al-Assad – It is A Faimly affair). Etc. Etc.

So in every way and shape or form, in comparison Libya under Gaddafi doesn’t even come close to Syria under Assad.

Samantha Power, a prominent advocate of humanitarian intervention and the principle of ”responsibility to protect”, is considered to be the key figure within the Obama administration in persuading the president to intervene militarily in Libya.

Power, was a senior foreign policy adviser to senator Obama, and now a Special Assistant to President Barack Obama and Senior Director of the National Security Council.

But on Syria? NOT A PEEP!

And some of the “excuses” for not doing anything, like “the arms could end up in the wrong hands”, become ABSOLUTELY mind-boggling hypocritical when you remember that NATO and US special operations troops together with their intelligence operatives in Tripoli, armed and put Al-Hakim Belhadj in control over Tripoli. And gave him “the keys” to Gadhafis armoury.

Those arms were advanced items which British and French special operations forces gave the rebels, according to “a senior” American source.

Who is Al-Hakim Belhadj you may ask. He is a leader and commander of LIFG, the Al Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Which by the way is listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. He is an al Qaeda veteran from Afghanistan, he joined the Talliban etc.

He was first captured in Pakistan 2001 and handed over to US security officials, he was repatriated to Libya two months later. Later CIA captured him in Malaysia in 2004. He was then transferred to Bangkok, where he was then placed in the custody of the CIA.  Later they extradited him to Libya where he was kept in prison for six years by Qaddafi.

According to the Spanish, Al-Hakim Belhadj was suspected of complicity in the 2004 Madrid train bombings etc. etc.

For the first time, therefore, the armies of Western members of NATO took part and helped directly in a bid by extremist Islamic forces to capture an Arab capital and overthrow its ruler.

As for the do nothing as usual UN, it “proudly” upholds its tradition of doing ABSOLUTLY NOTHING when it really maters, like Rwanda, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Darfur, Bosnia (Srebrenica anyone?) etc.

Refusing to arm or help the opposition will not end the conflict or limit it, it will drag on as all the above examples shows.

And by waiting the situation gets worse and much more complex, then “they” used its complexity as an excuse not to intervene while decrying the lost opportunity for intervention. And ALL this time the killing and atrocities committed by Assad’s regime just continues as nothing has happened.

On the contrary, the Assad regime has increased it’s attacks since Bashar al-Assad agreed to implement the “new” peace plan.

From Kafrnabel, Idleb

A snapshot from Idlib province

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-syria-idlib-offensive-20120401,0,6769772.story?page=2

“The feeling here is one of desperation — and steadfast defiance”

”They are planning to retake the region piece by piece,” said Abu Hamdo, a member of the Revolution Command Council in Idlib. ”But there is no going back, because if they catch us we are dead, and if we fight them we are dead.”

It is a scenario that is playing out repeatedly here: The army and security forces sweep into village after village, leaving behind bodies and burned homes, and the routed rebels must regroup.

Mazen Arja, an agricultural engineer “We have to organize anew and figure out who was killed and bring people together to begin the liberation of the northern region,” Arja said. “If we’re not patient and fight, we’re all dead anyway.”

When we first went out in protests, we had hope for foreign support, but that hope was dashed. We had hope for buffer areas; that was dashed. We had hope for support for the Free Syrian Army, and that was dashed,” said the militia’s 25-year-old leader, Bilal Khabeet, who like Free Syrian Army members is a military defector. ”A rifle and 120 bullets, that’s all I have. Once they are finished, I am finished.”

Or as Ammar Abdulhamid  a liberal democracy activist said:

“Of April Fools and Useless Tools!

The irony involved in holding an international conference on Syria on April Fools is all too noticeable, and the fact that just on the day before, an Assad official would claim victory simply adds a certain “je ne sais quoi” to the mix. But the Revolution-cum-Devolution goes on, no amount of irony or wishful thinking will make it go away.”

And

“Whatever the geopolitical calculations of Arab, regional and international leaders may be, ours is still a revolution for freedom, dignity, justice and equality. Is there any power in heaven or earth whose basic interests are commensurate with these aspirations of ours? If so, act now! Or forever be damned.”

Another snapshot from Daraa province:

http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=383043

“Sayyed Mahmud, an activist in Daraa reached by Skype, told AFP the situation was extremely tense in Dael.

They burned down 14 houses yesterday. They are arresting people and have sent in troop reinforcements,” he said.

As part of the regime’s campaign to starve the people, troops are raiding homes, destroying food stocks and equipment,” he added. ”For example, if they see a sowing machine, they destroy it.

They go into bakeries and destroy the dough. There are 15-hour power cuts a day.”

You REALLY get “impressed” by these “brave soldiers” who “attacks” and destroy dough and sowing machines. Not to mention killing unarmed civilians.

That is really a “worthy” adversary for a real soldier.

And the endless deception and chicanery, round 27, of the Assad regime continues. Making a mockery of all so called “peace” deals. In addition, the world let him get away with it again and again.  Without doing ANYTHING except generate “new peace” plans.

With all the usual strong and optimistic words and platitudes. Or as one Syrian said:

“As Obama and Erdogan talk, Assad kills”

You can put whatever country and organisation there instead, it doesn’t change anything.

Assad’s Vision for Reform

Here is the latest:

Damascus sees no deadline to withdraw troops

http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=383883

“The Syrian regime is not bound by a deadline to withdraw its troops from strife-torn areas, pro-government daily Al-Watan on Thursday quoted a government official as saying.

There is no set date or deadline,” the unnamed official said.

”April 10 is the date set for the beginning, not the end, of the withdrawal of troops and it does not constitute a deadline.”

Before that:

Syria says army will not be first to lay down arms, rejecting appeal by UN chief

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/syrian-official-says-army-will-not-make-1st-move-withdraw-troops-from-flashpoint-areas/2012/03/31/gIQAJhcpmS_story.html

Syria rejected international envoy Kofi Annan’s call for the regime to halt violence first just days after the government agreed to a cease-fire plan. A senior official declared victory over the opposition.

It was the government’s first response to an appeal by Annan, the U.N.-Arab League envoy, to stop military operations first as “the stronger party” in a “gesture of good faith” to the lightly armed opposition. Annan brokered the agreement aimed at stopping the bloodshed and Assad agreed to it on Monday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdessi said the government will not pull tanks and troops from towns and cities engulfed by unrest before life returns to normal there.

“The battle to bring down the state in Syria has already ended and the battle of reinforcing stability has started,” Makdessi said in an apparent reference to a string of recent regime offensives that drove rebels from key strongholds. He spoke on state TV late Friday.”

An to rely prove this point :

“Certain he is safe from Western-Arab intervention, Bashar Assad Sunday unleashed an across-the board air and ground offensive against the last surviving rebel locations. 

Starting Sunday noon, April 8, 30 towns and villages were hit simultaneously. For the first time since the outbreak of revolt thirteen months ago, heavy long-range artillery and air force helicopters pounded the rebel positions remaining in the northern mountains of Idlib near the Turkish border. The scale of the onslaught was such that it is hard to come by casualty figures, but they certainly run into hundreds.

As he lifts all restraints, the Syrian ruler is also certain he is backed to the hilt byTehranandMoscow.”

And today, April 9 Assad’s forces attacked a Syrian refuge camp in Turkey.

Turkey: Three wounded as Syrian forces fire over border

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-three-wounded-as-syrian-forces-fire-over-border.aspx?pageID=238&nID=17975&NewsCatID=341

”A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government rules, saidTurkeyimmediately protested the incident to the Syrian charge d’affaires and asked that the fire be halted, the Associated Press reported.

Two refugees and one Turkish citizen, a translator, were wounded inside the camp near the town of Kilisin the southwestern Gaziantep province, he said.”

Yeap, that’s REALLY showing respect for the “ceasefire” and UN “peace plan”. And the “world” will let Assad get away with again, and again.

Waiting for Syria’s regime to Change

And another snapshot from Kastanaz:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/06/us-turkey-syria-refugees-idUSBRE8341DC20120406

The army is destroying buildings and bombing them till they turn to charcoal,” said Mohammed Khatib, a refugee who said he came from Kastanaz, a Syrian town of 20,000 people.

”The army wants people to move out of their houses. If the residents refuse, they destroy them with the people inside.”

For the past three days there have been bodies lying in the streets. Around 200 have been killed. The town is now abandoned.”

I could go on an on to give one witness after another of atrocities and planed destruction.

Another from Sarmin:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9177910/Syria-eyewitness-dispatch-I-watched-as-Assads-tanks-rolled-in-to-destroy-a-rebel-town.html

“Using information stored on laptops, army intelligence officers detain all manner of people. Bad-mouthing the regime? Arrested. Seen at a protest? Arrested. Got an internet connection? Arrested. The list goes on.

”The shabiha (pro-government militia) came to my house and took my children,” said Fatoum Haj Housin, a resident of the town Sarmin, five miles north-west of Saraqeb, which had been attacked a few days earlier.

They took all three of them. They were young men in the army but they defected in January. The militia shot them in the head and burned their bodies in front of me in our courtyard. In the name of God, bring me a Kalashnikov and I will kill Assad myself!

There was still scorching and ash in front of her house – and much evidence elsewhere in Sarmin of destruction by ground forces. The field hospital had been torched, walls and houses sprayed with AK47 fire and the mosque smashed by three shells.

When the tanks leave the city centres and the ground forces come in, this is what happens – with nobody from the outside to see.

Yet for every person killed the rebels’ resolve seems to grow day by day.

”We can never go back now,” said Feras Mulheen, a student from Saraqeb who had just seen his house destroyed by the tanks. ”There’s nothing to go back to. We either win or we die trying. There’s nothing in between.”

The situation for the FSA (Free Syrian Army):

http://syrianfreedomls.tumblr.com/post/20479724510/free-syrian-army-has-the-worlds-support-but-no

“We are getting money mainly from individuals, from Syrians living abroad. We hear a lot of promises from the international community, but nobody will support us,” said Mohammed.

His unit has 50 men and two satellite phones in a country where mobile telephone networks are down, security forces tap landlines, and the Internet is dysfunctional.

As for the guns, Mohammed said, his unit has just light weapons, not enough to confront the Syrian army.

“The air force attacks us and we do not have artillery to fight back,” said the commander.

He said there are a lot of soldiers in the regular army who are too afraid to defect, but help the FSA from the inside.

Our unit exchanged a carton of cigarettes for 200 bullets; we get gasoline from a soldier who steals it from the tanks in the bases,” he said.

Other local commanders described their constant hustle to-and-fro across the Syrian-Turkish border to secure money for their supplies.

“We have enough men. The defectors’ numbers have increased. But they do not have weapons. If they have a gun, they do not have ammunition,” he said while busily working on his laptop.

Communications technologies are a precious commodity. Asked about internal FSA communications, Abu Muhammed, commander of a unit in the Idlib countryside, replied with sadness and irony, We use pigeons.”

“There’s not a lot of direct communication between the ground and the leadership,” he said, explaining how his men do not take specific daily orders from the officers sitting in the Turkish camps, like Col. Riad al Asaad, nominal head of the FSA.

“With the means we have, this is only self-defense,” he admitted.

See also (excerpts):

Undergunned and Overwhelmed

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/03/30/syria_undergunned_and_overwhelmed

“It’s a view widely shared by defectors, arms dealers, and refugees alike here along the Turkish-Syrian border. For months, Assad’s opponents have been buying black-market weapons from the countries bordering their volatile state — from Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan — as well as from within Syria, primarily from members of the corrupt regime or military sympathizers who remain embedded with loyalists. But it’s getting harder. Money doesn’t seem to be the main problem. Securing supplies is.

Nor have Assad’s staunchest enemies — the Arab Gulf kingdoms — opened their armories to the rebels. In late February, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal raised the FSA’s hopes when he said that arming Assad’s opponents was ”an excellent idea.” Yet, more than a month later, Saudi supplies have not made their way to the front, according to the FSA leadership as well as numerous rebel commanders inside Syria.

Still, the ire and resentment of many activists and fighters on the ground is directed primarily toward the so-called leaders of the opposition, all of whom are in exile. The depth of anger was perhaps best expressed in a short video in which a small group of men in civilian garb stand in two neat rows in front of an olive tree, scarves concealing their identities. The clip is not unlike countless others purporting to show members of the FSA, except that none of the nine men featured in it holds any weapons. Some carry lemons instead of grenades; others hold sticks as if they were rifles. One wields a hammer.

”In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate … We, the free men of Idlib, announce the formation of the ‘We Hope to Be Armed’ brigade,” the speaker says. ”We do not have any weapons. We ask the National Council and the commander of the Free Army to fulfill their lying promises and to stop serenading the revolutionaries on the ground without sending weapons, because your serenades are killing us.”

Col. Ahmad Hijazi, the FSA’s chief of staff, says he can understand the resentment. ”I don’t blame them,” he says. ”The people are angry and they are taking out their frustrations on us. But what can we do? They are asking us for more than what we can do. Governments must support the Free Army.”

In the absence of such aid, Syria‘s military defectors just wait. The camp housing the FSA officers looks just like the others Turkey has established for the thousands of civilians who have fled across its border — rows of white tents are neatly pitched along lanes of uneven loose white gravel. But unlike most of the others, the officers’ camp is isolated from nearby towns and villages. It’s in the middle of a lush agricultural plain in Apaydin, about 12 miles from Antakya, where verdant fields abut plowed, upturned earth, and snow-capped hills rim the horizon.

The FSA may claim to be operating a ”command and control center” for the anti-Assad military effort from the camp, but it’s unclear whether they can control much of anything from a base with regular power cuts. Its critics, like the ”We Hope to Be Armed Brigade,” say it has offered little to the men fighting and dying inside Syria in its name. How do the FSA’s commanders account for their seeming lack of impact on the ground?

Hijazi shifts uncomfortably in his plastic chair inside one of the many identical tents in the officers’ camp. He doesn’t like the question. Nor does his fellow officer, Major Maher Nuami, who is seated on a single bed (the only one) in the tent. ”It’s sensitive,” Hijazi finally says. They won’t say if the FSA has sent emissaries to Saudi Arabia, Qatar or Libya — which recently pledged $100 million to the Syrian opposition — but insist that they have received no help on the ground from these states.

If the international community doesn’t arm them and provide logistical support, ”everything” the world fears from the fall of Assad will come to pass, Nuami argues.

”The people will get weapons, one way or another, so help us,” Nuami continues. ”If you give us weapons, we can control them. We want the fall of the regime, not the fall of the state. If the international community helps us, we’ll help them. If it doesn’t, our people offer no guarantees.”

According to the FSA officers, the claims of foreign fighters in Syria — eagerly touted by the Assad regime — are wildly overblown. A lone Libyan had reportedly volunteered to fight with their FSA unit recently, but left after a few days. ”He said, ‘You guys are crazy, this is suicide, you don’t have weapons’,” Mokbat said. ”He was right. I wish the revolution would go back, it was better before. We used to shoot into the air, we didn’t worry about ammunition. Now we think twice about using each bullet.”

Although Turkey houses the FSA, it ”does not allow any weapon to be transferred to Syria in [an] illegal way,” a Turkish government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said. Anyone caught trying will be arrested and the weapons confiscated, he added.

That’s exactly what many Syrian refugees, defectors and civilian revolutionaries accuse the high-level defectors in the camp of doing — just sitting there. In the absence of an organized military effort, the burden of securing weapons and funding has fallen to lower-level officers like Alaa, as well as ordinary Syrians like Abdel-Salim, a taxi driver turned thuwar who commands the ”Free Syrians,” a ragtag bunch of farmers, taxi drivers and other civilians from a string of villages abutting the Turkish border. Abdel-Salim, a 40-year-old with a bushy salt-and-pepper beard and high cheekbones, had crossed the border into southernTurkey to try and secure supplies for his group: 3,000 bullets, to be precise.

The ”Free Syrians” are under the FSA banner, he explains, and are in regular communication with its leadership via a few defectors in his group. ”We ask the defectors to go to the officers’ camp to ask for help but we haven’t got anything from the Free Army yet,” Abdel-Salim says. ”But to be fair, I don’t think the Free Army has anything itself.” 

Abdel-Salim recalls that he participated in peaceful protests for months, and only picked up a weapon four months ago, when he ”lost hope” in protests. He was shot about a month before that, in his stomach and his right leg, and spent 10 days recuperating in a Turkish hospital. He walks with a limp, but that didn’t deter him from crossing back into Syria to fight Assad’s army. ”I didn’t want to pick up a weapon,” he says, ”but I think Israel is more honorable than the Syrian regime.”

The longer Abdel-Salim speaks, the angrier he gets. ”Where is the money the Syrian opposition got from the Libyans?” he seethes. ”We haven’t seen any of the [Syrian] National Council members down here. … What is Riad al-Assad doing in Turkey anyway? Army commander? He should cross the border, lift people’s morale. What is he scared of — dying?”

             The Assad System – to kill more

Another from defected soldiers:

Defectors: Torture of children, rape by #Syrian army ‘routine’ !

http://syrianfreedomls.tumblr.com/post/20372447508/defectors-torture-of-children-rape-by-syrian-army

In addition to shooting unarmed civilians, Syrian military personnel routinely have raped women and girls, tortured children and encouraged troops to loot the houses they storm, former foot soldiers say.

“What I have seen with my own eyes, it was indescribable,” said Rolat Azad, 21, who said he’d served as a master sergeant in Idlib province in the northeast of Syria. There, he commanded 10 men who’d break into houses seeking to arrest men whose names they’d been given by the country’s intelligence agencies. “They gave us orders: ‘You are free to do what you like,’ ” he recalled.

Starting last July, he said, his unit arrested and tortured five to 10 people daily. “We had a torture room on our base,” he said. “There was physical torture — beatings — and psychological tortures,” said Azad, a Syrian Kurd who deserted and fled in March to the Kurdistan region of Iraq. “They also brought women and girls through. They put them in the closed room and called soldiers to rape them.”

The women often were killed, he said.

Azad — as with other former soldiers here, the name is a pseudonym assumed to protect his family, still in Syria — was interviewed at a camp that Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government set up for Syrian army deserters. He recalled the torture of two young teenage boys. He said they’d been arrested either for shooting videos of the military or showing disrespect for the military and the regime, something that wasn’t uncommon, even among children. “I once asked a small kid why he wasn’t going to school,” Azad said. “He said, ‘We won’t until this regime is gone.’ “

One boy, about 13, was brought into the torture room and given electrical shocks, Azad said. Another, 14, was brought into the room in late February. His screams could be heard in the camp outside the town of Jisr al Shughour. “It was painful for all the soldiers,” he said. Azad said he had no idea of the boy’s fate. “They held him one or two days. Either they killed him or sent him to military security,” he said.

Even worse, he said, was hearing the wailing and screaming of old men being tortured: “When they tortured old men, I couldn’t stand it. I went outside. Others closed their eyes. I could not stay.”

An independent U.N. commission of inquiry has described the Syrian government’s offensive against civilians as possible “crimes against humanity.” The commission, which reports to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, detailed arbitrary arrests, disappearances and torture, including the torture of children, in its latest report, issued in February, but it didn’t detail the practice of rape. Commission officials said they had yet to talk with a rape victim.

He was assigned to a military construction unit but was ordered to the scenes of demonstrations, where troops would shoot at civilians.

“It was an ugly scene. We were at the top of a building and would shoot at civilians: children, women, men, anyone against the regime.” He said the Syrian intelligence agencies stationed personnel to make sure they shot civilians. “They were watching anyone not shooting and taking down names,” he said.

Several soldiers said Kurdish and Sunni Muslim troops tried wherever possible to fire over people’s heads, but Alawites — members of the sect related to Shiite Islam that President Bashar Assad belongs to — boasted about how many demonstrators they’d killed.

“We had an order to shoot and kill,” said Khaled Derecki, 20. “But some of those demonstrating were my friends, and we fired over their heads. “But the Alawites in my unit were very proud. They’d say: ‘Today, we killed seven or eight.’ “

240mm mortar bombs

One of the weapons used by the Assad’s regime in “attacking” and destroying cities and neighbourhoods is the Russian SM-240 (2S4) 240-mm self-propelled mortar known to the West as the M-1975.

This systems fire the world’s largest high explosive mortar bomb (240mm F-864), designed to “demolish fortifications and fieldworks” according to a Russian arms merchandizing catalogue.

It is the largest mortar bomb known to be in production and use. It weighs 130 kilograms and contains 31.93 kilograms of TNT as an explosive charge.

Other munitions used by Assad’s regime on the “attack”  is Russian 122mm howitzers and 120mm mortars and 121-mm and 81-mm shells.

You REALLY get “impressed” by these “brave soldiers” who attacks civilian cities and destroy whole blocks and neighbourhoods by using among other things 240mm mortar bombs. Designed to “demolish fortifications and fieldworks”

That is really a “worthy” adversary for a real soldier – killing unarmed civilians in their homes.

This is a photo of the 240mm mortar bomb. I cut it from a Russian instructional video.

So who are these “brave” men slaughtering unarmed civilians?

The main force is Assad’s loyal shabiha, a militia of an estimated 35,000 Alawites who have pledged loyalty to Assad and are his regime’s key prop.

The Syrian opposition refers to this ragtag band of Assad loyalists as jaysh abu shahhata— or the “army of the sandals,” referring to its shoddy equipment and lack of discipline.

Another one is the infamous Fourth Armored Division, under the control of the president’s brother, Maher. The Syrian 14th Infantry Division and the 40th and 90th mechanized brigades has also taken part.

In addition, they are not very “professional” or good at their work, except of course to destroy cities and kill civilians.

For example when the 4th Armored Division were sent (February 28) to the Baba Amr district of Homs, after Syrian forces failed in their three-week long offensive (including intensive shelling) to enter the city. It wasn’t until the army shut off the  last supply line that it was able to enter Baba Amr—spearheaded by nearly 7000 soldiers from the 4th Armored Division, which is roughly the entire unit.

The resistance there was carried by one of the most professional Syrian rebel group, The Al Farouk Brigades, which kept the Syrian military at bay for nearly a month although they have no ties with the FSA and number no more than 300 to 400 fighters. The rebel movement has some 40 small “brigades”, mixed freelancers who fight at random here and there but demonstrate little operational ability.

And what did this “glorious elite” Armored Division do after the capture?

Well one of the first thing it did was to behead 17 civilians.

A “normal routine” for any professional soldier wouldn’t you say?

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/michaelweiss/100140744/assads-security-forces-have-beheaded-17-civilians-in-baba-amr/

”Assad’s security forces have just beheaded – yes, beheaded – 17 civilians in Baba Amr, according to the human rights group Avaaz. I have been speaking to Will Davies, Avaaz’s media campaigner, who confirmed with me that he is ”100 per cent” sure that this story is true as it’s been corroborated by independent sources. In fact, he provided a list of all the victims:

1. Abdul-Haleem Sabouh 2. Abdul-Naser Sabouh 3. Abdul-Hameed Sabouh
4. Abdul-Rahman Sabouh 5. Abdul-Baset Sabouh 6. Amer son of Omer Sabouh
7. Abdul-Moueen Daboul 8. Abdul-Salam Kujuk 9. Barri al-Akidy
10. Ez al-Deen al-Akidy 11. Ahmad al-Akidy 12. Abdul-Rahman Jneed
13. Abdul-Kafi Juneed 14. Radwan Bitar 15. Mahmoud al-Zoubi
16. Mahmoud al-louz 17. Alaa al-Ali”

But for the most part, most of the army stays out of this. They have “defected in place”

From division level down to battalions and brigades level. Entire units from commander down defy orders from the General Staff in Damascus to fight the rebels without crossing the lines to the opposition. To keep the spreading passive mutiny, Assad keeps the defiant units supplied in their barracks with funds and food.

Another example of this passive mutiny by the Syrian army, was when the five Syrian divisions stationed on Syria’s Golan border with Israel and its frontier with South Lebanon; were told by their commanders in beginning of March to ignore orders from Damascus to join the crackdown on rebels because their mission was “to defend the Syrian homeland from external threats” – another form of “defection in place.”

In other words, we are so “busy” protecting the borders so we don’t want to and don’t have time for this kind of “nonsense”.

For the most part, the Syrian army is a declining, anachronistic force, whose high officers is afraid of the leader, and watch each other’s backs. The problems with corruption, nepotism, poorly organized technical and maintenance support etc. This keeps much of the army paralyzed.

Some Special Forces and armored units are exceptions, but promotion is highly dependent on favoritism and nepotism.

That is why – contrary to what the West believes – Assad is not using his army to crack down on the uprising but the loyal Alawite Shabiha brigades and battalions.

Many artists, writers etc have taken part in the protests and uprising. To name some:

Samar Yazbeck, Ibrahim Qashoush, Rasha Omran, Ali Farzat, Mai Skaf, Khaled Khalifa, Samih Shqair, Fadwa Sulaiman —there’s an impressive list of Syrian writers, musicians and artists who have bravely and unambiguously supported the people’s aspirations for dignity.

As the Alawi actress Fadwa Sulaiman, on November 8, 2011,  leading the crowd in besieged and blood-soaked Homsin chants of “No Muslim Brotherhood, No Salafis, We All Want Freedom.” And “One, One, the Syrian People are One.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZT1PdiQVNI&feature=player_embedded

A video statement she made on November 10, 2011, excerpts :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlQlLxh5rEE&feature=player_embedded

“Districts are being raided since last night, searching for me. People are being beaten to reveal my hiding place. In case I get arrested by the security or army forces, who might force me to appear on Al-Dunia channel to make me to admit that I am part of the conspiracy against Syria the way they did with the honorable Sheik Al-Sayasneh and the brave officier Hussein Harmoush. If they hurt me or any members of my family in any way, then I hold the government and its security apparatus and thugs fully responsible.”

“I urge the great Syrian people to continue their peaceful struggle until they topple the regime and achieve the democratic civic state that all Syrians dream of. And I invite you to unite and stand together to overthrow the regime which lost its legitimacy the moment the constitution was changed to accommodate the appointment of Bashar Al-Assad as president ofSyria, for no reason other than being the son of the late president.

I urge you to come out to the streets and squares today and every day to declare civil disobedience and hunger strike until the withdrawal of the security and military forces from the streets and the release of all the political and opinion prisoners which are currently in the oppressive jails and to spare the blood of all Syrians.

I urge all the Syrians around the world, and all people to support us and stand in front of our embassies around the world declaring hunger strike to express the right of people to express their opinion about their regimes without being killed by these regimes.”

“Baba Amr is living a real humanitarian disaster. Stand by Baba Amr, because no district or road in Syria is exempt from a fate similar to that of Bab Amr, as long as the Arab league is providing the regime with one extension after another so that it continues repressing the Syrian people, and depriving them from their freedom, dignity and life, and peace be upon Syria and its people.”

And journalist, writer and screenwriter Samar Yazbek speaks up on Syria in an Italian magazine, April 24, 2011

http://www.rayaagency.org/2011/04/samar-yazbek-speaks-up-on-syria-in-an-italian-magazine/

“I’m not optimistic, to the contrary. In recent weeks people have finally broken the silence and fear, I myself have participated in the demonstrations”, she says. “We have found the courage to ask for freedom and democracy, an end to emergency laws that oppress us since 1963. We demand real political parties and elections, the right to express ourselves. But the repression is very hard, with many deaths and arrests. As always, the regime makes promises, but does not maintain them. The army and security forces control everything.”

“The regime has indeed destroyed the Alawite religion, a peaceful religion, as it engaged in things foreign to the faith, leading some to become its Alawite thugs. But many of us are opponents, in jail, in exile, or banned from travel. The regime is playing with sectarianism to terrify “its” minority and get support. A game that will end, but first, I fear, there will be clashes between the communities. ”

In Syria, Holding a Camera is a Death Sentence

Most of the documentation, videos, photos etc from the Assad’s regimes slaughter of it’s own people has been documented by very brave civilians who risk their life every time they try to document and record what is happening. Many has paid with their life for this “crime”

Here is an interview with the founder of the of Syria’s Dier Press Network. How a group of doctors became the vanguard of Eastern Syria’s free press.

http://www.guernicamag.com/blog/3584/danny_thiemann_holding_a_camer/#.T2hKD2-TG5U.twitter

“In the town of Dierez-Zour on the road from Syria to Iraq, a doctor, who we’ll call Kareem, put down his medicine bottles. It wasMarch 15, 2011. The media blackout in Syria had just begun. Kareem had no experience as a journalist. But when he turned on the TV and saw the blackout, he picked up the phone. On the other end is his cousin, who we’ll call Ahmed, a young law student in theUK.

When Syria’s crackdown on protests began to intensify, Ahmed and Kareem made a commitment to respond. On March 21, they formed a network of smugglers, cameramen, and tech support that has become known as the Dier Press Network (DPN.), Syria’s first citizen-journalist media company.

One year later, Ahmed and Kareem reflect on the small company that has grown into a satellite TV network, the colleagues they’ve lost, and the future of the Syrian free press. Their names have been changed to protect their families.”

”Guernica: How did you start?

Ahmed: Kareem gave me a call one day. The government started using live ammunition on protesters, beating them up, and if you were caught you risked torture. You could hear the metal clang of tanks outside the classroom windows, the drone of airplanes above the teacher’s voice, the plodding of artillery, like footsteps of a faraway giant. I had already left the country about a year ago. But he was seeing all these things with his own eyes and he wanted to show the world what he saw.

Kareem: Most news was on the Western side ofSyria, but the East was rebelling and no one knew about it. I wanted to do something, but I was really starting from zero. It was a process of trial and error at the beginning.

Guernica: How did you build a citizen-journalist network? How would others do so?

Kareem: First thing was to start a Facebook page. The problem with this, we found out, was that Facebook was heavily monitored by the government. But still, we felt the most prominent way to spread the news during the media blackout was through Facebook.”

“Guernica: What is DPN exactly?

Ahmed: It stands for Dier ez-Zour Press Network. Dier ez-Zour is our province in Syria. DPN. is a non-partisan, non-sectarian news group. We rely on a mix of volunteers within and without the company. It is a sort of crowd-sourced journalism that relies on ordinary citizens.

Guernica: What are the next steps in expanding this kind of media network?

Ahmed: You need a lot of public support. We had it. But after the media blackout worsened, we depended less and less on trusted friends and more and more on anonymous volunteers. Basically, we went from one cameraman and Kareem to hundreds cameramen and hundreds of Kareems [smugglers]. The problem was that when the army entered towns like Dier ez-Zour, filming any citizens getting killed was very dangerous, and yet DPN. was carrying all of these videos. Carrying a camera was a death sentence.”

Some recent headlines from local media:

Al-Arabiya: Saturday’s death toll in Syriareaches 133 people (April 7)

Turkeysays 2,800 fleeSyria in one day (April 5)

More than 1,000 Syrian refugees flee toTurkey in single day (April 4)

Al-Jazeera: Wednesday’s death toll in Syriarises to 92 (April 4)

Al-Arabiya: Sunday’s death toll in Syriarises to 57 people (April 1)

Al-Jazeera: Syrian forces kill 50 people on Saturday, activists say (March 24)

Al-Jazeera: Syria’s Thursday death toll rises to 81, activists say (March 22)

Wednesday’s death toll in Syriarises to 70, Local Coordination Committees say (March 21)

Al-Arabiya: Syrian forces kill 55 people on Tuesday (March 20)

Monday March 19, 2012

Death toll: 52, including 6 inDeraaProvince, and 6 inDeirEzzorProvince. Explosions were heard in Arbeen and Harasta inEastern Ghoutah region ofDamascus, as well as in Qaboun District inDamascusCity itself. The pounding of Old Homs continues, as locals find 6 bodies belonging to local women killed by pro-Assad death squads.

Al-Arabiya: Friday’s death toll in Syriarises to 41 (March 16)

Al-Jazeera: Thursday’s death toll in Syriarises to 72 (March 15)

Syria planting border mines to stop refugee flight,Turkey says (March 15)

One thousand Syrians flee toTurkey in single day, official says (March 15)

More than 9,000 killed inSyria violence, monitors say (March 15)

Syria– one year after the revolution: 10,000 confirmed dead.20,000 missing / 120,000 detained / 230,000 internally displaced / 150,000 refugees(Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Gulf, Europe) / 1,400,000 at risk of famine(according to FAO).

Wednesday March 15, 2012

Tuesday: Forty people were executed by pro-Assad death squads near Bilal Mosque inIdlibCity. But ten loyalist troops were killed in an ambush in the city of Ma’aratAl-Nouman. In Homs City, the pounding of Jub Al-Jandali Neighborhood continued,leading to the death of at least 5 residents. In nearby Talbisseh, poundingleft 14 locals wounded. In the town ofDa’el,DeraaProvince, 12loyalists were killed in an ambush by local FSA units.

Wednesday: 85 people were killed mostly inIdlib City as pro-Assad death squads took controlover the city. The death toll also includes 6 who died under torture in HamaCity (3) and AleppoCity (3), 6 killed inDamascus and suburbs, and 11 who werekilled in a renewed incursion intoDeraaCity.

Thursday: 91 people were killed including at least 23 who were executed by pro-Assad death squadsinIdlib City. Death toll also includes 5 children and 4 defectors.

Al-Jazeera: Syrian security forces kill 76, activists say (March 14)

And by the way, the headline Vladimir Putin ‘The Butcher of Homswas given by the people on the streets in Homs and Babr Amr.  That’s as he so “fondly” known on the streets of Babr Amr.

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