The Damage to Assad’s Security; Death Rate Soars; Fighting in Damascus; Border Crossings Taken

Landis on C-SPAN at Woodrow Wilson Institute talking about Syria and the Revolution: Joshua Landis spoke about political unrest and violence in Syria, as well as strategies to …

Video of the Syrian Army troops after their “victory in Midan” with proclamations that their moral is high, The Midan is a downtown Damascus neighborhood that FSA had taken under its control on Thursday. Government troops now claim that they have The soldiers we made this video seem to all be Alawites based on their accents. Those that speak all pronounce the “qaff” in the manner of the coast. They stick out in the Midan, the heart of Sunni middle-class and religiously conservative, old Damascus. Older Damascenes used to speak of the Alawites who came to Damascus with the Baathist takeover in the 1960s as “muwaffidiin” or alien interlopers. Today, they undoubtedly seem more alien than ever.

Claiming victory in Midan, Syrian state television declared: “Our brave army forces have completely cleaned the area of Midan in Damascus of the remaining mercenary terrorists and have re-established security.” Rebels said they had staged a “tactical withdrawal” from Midan to avert civilian casualties.

On Thursday, helicopters blasted the northern Damascus suburb of Qaboun with rockets, while the armed forces warned residents of a wide area of the southern part of the capital to evacuate ahead of an assault. Thousands of people fled to neighboring Lebanon.

The number of dead in fighting across the land on Thursday was reported to have risen above 300 – the largest number dead in a day since the uprising began. Of the dead, 98 were soldiers, 139 civilians and 65 rebels, rebels said.

Observer writes:  “My family that just left Damascus tell me that the sound of explosions was continuous day and night and that whole units defected.”

Fadi Writes: I’m in Aleppo now. Too many weird stories of liberated this and liberated that! All BS. Just drove around the city during and after the prayers. Some demos here in the usual places. Many shabbiha there too. Tanks entered and left Salaheddin neighborhood after armed clashes earlier today. Here is video of a demo in the square…. [Fadi writes later in the day] Distant sounds of explosions and firearms heard in central Aleppo now. Meanwhile, streets, shops, cafes are crowded!

On the assassination of four of Assad’s top security men, the last word must go to Peter Harling, of the International Crisis Group, who said:  “This is a regime of networks, not institutions.  They are all senior officials, but absolute power tends to be vested elsewhere,” he said.  “What counts is this symbolism of all of this.”

It is also a regime built on loyalty to the Assads and based on the family. Thus the death of Asef Shawkat, the brother-in-law is big. The number of Assads is not infinite and Asef was one of the smarter and more experienced members of the family.

National Security Chief Hisham Bakhtiardied from Wednesday’s bombing in Damascus. The attack, which killed the Defense Minister Daoud Rajha, Assad’s brother-in-law Deputy Defense Minister Assef Shawkat, and the head of Assad’s crisis team Hassan Turkomani, is being called the “turning point“. The New York Times writes: Washington Begins to Plan for Collapse of Syrian Government. Here are the profiles those killed in the blast.

News reports said the funerals of the three men were scheduled for Friday. Maher al-Assad, President Assad’s brother who commands the praetorian guard protecting the family, and Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa were said to have presided over a ceremony honoring them.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said it was “clear that Assad is losing control.” The bombing appears to be part of a coordinated assault referred to by opposition fighters as the “liberation of Damascus.”

Jordan’s King Abdullah said he expected the Syrian government to show “fortitude” following the attack, which was a “tremendous blow” to the regime, and expressed fears of a civil war.

CNN quoted the king saying:

This was a tremendous blow to the regime but again, Damascus has shown its resilience, so I think maybe we need to keep this in perspective. Although this is a blow, I’m sure the regime will continue to show fortitude at least in the near future.

If it breaks down, if civil order breaks down to the point of no return, it will take years to fix Syria. I have a feeling we’re seeing the signs of that. The only people that can bring us back from that brink is the president and the regime. This is the last chance they have.

Assad is in the coastal city of Latakia, opposition sources and a Western diplomat told Reuters. Assad has not made a public appearance since Wednesday’s attack.

Syria denies report of Assad’s readiness to renounce power, 2012-07-20

DAMASCUS, July 20 (Xinhua) — Syrian information ministry on Friday denied as “totally baseless” media reports which cited the Russian ambassador to France as saying that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is ready to leave office in a “civilized way.”

In a statement carried by the state media, the ministry said the interview of Russian Ambassador to France Alexander Orlov with the International Radio France has been altered, adding that Orlov did not make the remarks.

Assad Accepts Need for ‘Civilized’ Exit, Russian Envoy Says, 2012-07-20
By James Hertling

(Bloomberg) — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has accepted the need for his eventual departure under the terms of an agreement struck in Geneva June 30, said Alexander Orlov, Russia’s ambassador to France.     “It will be hard for him to stay,” Orlov said today in a French-language interview with Radio France International. “He is accepting to go, but to go in a civilized manner.”

Syrian rebels seize all border posts with Iraq

…“After the Free Syrian Army took control of the post, they detained a Syrian army lieutenant colonel, cut off his arms and then “executed 22 Syrian soldiers in front of the eyes of Iraqi soldiers,” AFP cited Iraq’s Deputy Interior Minister Adnan al-Assadi as saying.”…

Rebels attacked Syrian forces Thursday along the nation’s porous border with Iraq, killing at least 21 soldiers and seizing control of all four major border posts, a senior Iraqi army official said. Additionally, rebels took control of two major crossings on the border with Turkey, Reuters reports. Syrian rebel spokesmen said they seized control of the customs and immigration buildings on the Syrian side of the northern Turkish frontier gate of Bab al-Hawa, as well as the Jarablus crossing.

[addendum] Iraq: Syrian rebels took only 1 border crossing, Associated Press

“Spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh on Friday refuted earlier reports that rebels had seized all four major border crossings between Syria and Iraq.”

Iraq has reportedly thrown up blast walls to seal its main border crossing with Syria while thousands of Syrians fled toward Lebanon.

Syria forces recapture key areas across the country from rebels – Reuters

Syrian Troops Clash with Armed Rebels in Qaboun District of Capital – 20 July 2012 – xinua

Syria’s state-media said government troops have inflicted hefty losses to armed groups in the Damascus neighbourhood of Qaboun on Thursday. Unspecified large number of armed men were killed in the military crackdown, said SANA news agency, adding that the armed men started to burn the bodies of foreign fighters, so their bodies would not be identified, xinua reported.

Meanwhile, pro-government media reports said the Syrian troops have completely regained control of the Midan neighbourhood, which has been a stage of armed conflict between government troops and armed rebels over the past four days. The capital’s clashes mark the death-match between the two sides, trying to eliminate one another once and for all. […]

DER SPIEGEL: According to the UNHCR Iraq has sent two planes to evacuate Iraqi citizens willing to leave Syria. In the past days 80 buses have already left Syria with Iraqui citizens. Also more than 30.000 Syrians have fled to neighboring Lebabnon within the last 48 hours.

‘It’s all about Iran!  Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s envoy to the UN claims that the UN veto on Syria is all about IRAN. Don’t be duped by US & UK, “the great humanitarians” – remember Iraq’

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Russia and China have vetoed the latest Western-backed draft resolution on Syria at the UN Security Council. RT exclusively talks to one of the men who raised his hand in that ‘NO’ vote – Moscow’s envoy to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin.

CBS News: Clinton on Syria: U.S. has done all it can do

Hillary Clinton has said she plans to step down as secretary of state in January regardless of whether President Obama is reelected. She’s on an extended diplomatic farewell tour, and was met with protests Monday in Cairo. She also sat down with CBS …

US refuses to help Syrian rebels until after election
Barack Obama’s US government has warned its western allies and Syria’s opposition groups that it can do nothing to intervene in the country’s crisis until after November’s presidential election, The Daily Telegraph has learned.
By Peter Foster in Washington, 16 Jul 2012, Telegraph

Despite mounting fury from the Syrian rebels, who are seeking assistance for their efforts to overthrow the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, the White House has refused all requests for heavy weapons and intelligence support.

Syrian lobby groups in Washington, who only a few weeks ago were expressing hope that the Obama administration might give a green light to the supply of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, said they had now been forced to “take a reality pill” by the US government.

The Telegraph understands that the Syrian Support Group (SSG), the political wing of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), recently presented American officials with a document requesting 1,000 RPG-29 anti-tank missiles, 500 SAM-7 rockets, 750 23mm machine guns as well as body armour and secure satellite phones. They also asked for $6m to pay rebel fighters as they battle the regime. All their requests were rejected.

“Basically the message is very clear; nothing is going to happen until after the election, in fact nothing will happen until after inauguration [Jan 2013]. And that is the same message coming from everyone, including the Turks and the Qataris,” said a Washington lobbyist for the group.

The Obama administration has also made clear to its allies that it will not intervene, a message that was carried to London last week by Tom Donilon, the White House National Security Adviser, who made a low-profile stop en route to Israel…..

What Americans would do for Syria – FP reviews recent polls to explain how most Americans don’t want much greater intervention in Syria.

A Syria writes:

My friend who just arrived back from Turkey, recounted to me the story of a Syrian man he met there. This 30 year old, a volunteer from Jisr Alshughour, was helping the refugees to Turkey from Syria. My friend was shocked that this young man did not have a single tooth in his mouth. After a brief inquiry, he found out that this man was arrested in Syria for participating in a demonstration and while in custody, he was tortured by pulling out all his teeth. Needless to say, they were not pulled out properly, so the man needs a lot of surgery that he can not afford.

This is one of many stories of arrest and torture that many of our young and old recount. I say: God damn us all. Each and every one of us, who for years accepted this as part of normal life. Our collective silence allowed this to happen and continue to happen for years in Syria. While we were going to school, our friends were in Tadmor being treated with the utmost cruelty and some tortured to death, yet we kept our mouths shut. God damn each one who is still supporting these murderous criminals for whatever reason.

Syria refusing visas for Western aid workers: U.N. By Stephanie Nebehay | Reuters

Government Increases Gas Oil Price: The Ministry of Economy has raised the price of gas oil, or mazout, for the second time in two months. (Syria Report)

Trade with Lebanon Resilient: Bilateral trade between Lebanon and Syria remained remarkably stable in the first five months of this year.

Economy President Appoints new Governors: The Syrian President has appointed seven new governors and a new head for the State Planning and International Cooperation Commission.

Russia sees the West’s attempts to hold it responsible for the escalation of the Syria conflict due to Moscow’s refusal to vote for the UN resolution that would slap sanctions on the Syrian authorities as unacceptable.

Robert Fisk: Syria rebels will not claim their greatest prize

The appalling scenes in Syria begin to reflect the barbarism of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia….

They have gone for the jugular now. ….Assassinations take time to plan, but this was on an epic scale, to match the bloodbath across Syria. Bashar al-Assad’s own sister, Bushra, one of the pillars of the Baath party, loses her husband in a massive explosion in the very centre of Damascus. No wonder the Russians talk about the “decisive battle”.

It won’t be a replay of Stalingrad, but the tentacles of the rebellion have now moved towards the heart. And, of course, there are massacres to come. Why else would thousands of Syria’s citizens flee to the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp yesterday, to seek protection from the most betrayed citizens of the Arab world?….

“At the time, a Syrian friend of mine looked at it bleakly. The torture goes on below ground, he said. “You don’t even want to know what happens there.” But whoever emerged from there would be happy to kill his tormentors, let alone the chief torturers.”

Towards the endgame, 21 July 2012, The Economist

The world should start preparing for what comes after Syria’s President Bashar Assad…  IN EVERY revolution, there is a moment when the tide turns against the regime…. In Syria it may have happened on July 18th, when a bomb struck at the heart of Syria’s military command. If the attack shifts the balance of power decisively against President Bashar Assad,…

Bashar al-Assad has amassed fortune of up to £950m, analysts estimate, The Guardian‎

The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, has amassed up to $1.5bn (£950m) for his family and his close associates, according to analysts, …

Many of Assad’s assets are held in Russia, Hong Kong and a range of offshore tax havens to spread the risk of seizure, according to London-based business intelligence firm Alaco.

A myriad of companies and trusts are understood to have been deployed to disguise assets that ultimately belong to members of the Syrian regime.

Iain Willis, the head of research at Alaco, said the millions of pounds frozen in UK bank accounts make up just a fraction of the regime’s estimated global wealth.

In peacetime, the Assads and their close friends owned around 60% to 70% of the country’s assets, from land and factories to energy plants and licences to sell foreign goods. But Assad would find it difficult to liquidate such assets in the event of his regime’s collapse.

“In terms of realisable assets, it’s likely to be in the region of $1bn to $1.5bn (£636m to £950m),” said Willis. “This would be in line with Egypt’s Mubarak and the Marcoses of the Philippines.

“These are held, not just by Assad himself, but by extended family members, by second cousins, uncles, business partners and their advisers…

Comments (256)

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251. zoo said:

Turks played with fire, and got burnt while France is living in a Qatari-Qodmani fantasy.

A Turkish regional governor said on Saturday Syrian rebels and “independent groups” linked to smuggling were still holding the Bab al-Hawa commercial crossing point.

Mehmet Celalettin Lekesiz said nine Turkish trucks on the Syrian side had been set on fire by the Syrian groups, contradicting statements by the rebels that they were torched by the Syrian army because of Turkey’s support for the rebels.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, speaking after contacts with the head of the Arab League and Qatar’s prime minister, said all three agreed that it was time for Syria’s fractured opposition to prepare to take charge of the country.

“We would like to see the rapid formation of a provisional government representing the diversity of Syrian society,” said Fabius. Syria’s main political opposition group, the Syrian National Council, operating in exile, has so far failed to unite Assad’s disparate foes on a united political platform.

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July 21st, 2012, 5:25 pm


252. Halabi said:

Where is Bashar? Syrian TV had a propaganda video of Assad’s thugs in Midan and they chanted for Syria, not Bashar. Shouldn’t he come out and reassure his slaves and allies that he is in control? Is he even allowed to speak now? If I were amoral and brain-dead and supported this murderer, I would want to hear from him that Thooriya Bkheir and that we will emerge stronger from the crisis.

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July 21st, 2012, 5:55 pm


253. AIG said:


Seriously, when you write “Turks played with fire, and got burnt” what exactly goes through your mind? How would you describe what Assad did by not introducing serious reforms for 11 years? Was he “playing with fire”? Would you call what he has caused Syria “getting burnt”? If you judge someone by the results of their actions as you do Turkey, how is Assad not a disaster for Syria?

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July 21st, 2012, 6:22 pm


254. omen said:

247. IRRITATED said: The intention was to create a ‘free zone’ where they could regroup and make it easy for defectors to join them. It failed miserably and after the FSA looted the trucks, the Turks won’t be very helpful anymore. Because of their behavior, it is becoming obvious that the FSA fighters are just a bunch of thugs not even capable of respecting their hosts, the Turks.

251. ZOO said: A Turkish regional governor said on Saturday Syrian rebels and “independent groups” linked to smuggling were still holding the Bab al-Hawa commercial crossing point.

Mehmet Celalettin Lekesiz said nine Turkish trucks on the Syrian side had been set on fire by the Syrian groups, contradicting statements by the rebels that they were torched by the Syrian army because of Turkey’s support for the rebels.


okay, these are contradicting accounts.
who did what to these trucks?

is “independent groups” code for kurds? isn’t the syrian side along the turkish border controlled by them? kurds harboring grudges (or even the regime) torching turkish trucks would make sense.

irritated, let’s say the rebels did loot the turkish trucks. wouldn’t that counter your contention that the fsa are materially supported for by the saudis and qataris?

rebels sufficiently provided for with monies, weapons and supplies by wealthy sponsors don’t need to resort to looting in order to be able to support their mission.

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July 21st, 2012, 7:28 pm


255. ann said:

Syrian capital’s governor tours troublesome district, clashes slightly decline – 2012-07-22

DAMASCUS, July 21 (Xinhua) — The governor of Syria’s capital Damascus toured Saturday the neighborhood of Midan after being cleansed of armed insurgency at a time the intensity of clashes slightly declined inside the capital.

After touring the neighborhood Saturday, Bisher al-Sabban said the normal life will be completely restored in Midan within five days after the ending of the restoration process.

Midan has emerged as a main battleground between armed rebels and government troops over the past week of clashes in the capital.

Large amount of ammunition has been confiscated as many of the armed rebels were rounded up on Friday.

Meanwhile, al-Sabban stressed that all food stuffs and other services will be made available in a short time.

In the capital Saturday, the intensity of clashes has to some extent declined after soaring up over the past week as the most of food shops in some areas have opened and shoppers filled the markets.

Still, clashes have been reported in the Razi orchards in the Mazzeh district and the southern district of Qaboun.

Severe clashes have erupted in Damascus last Sunday, in what the armed rebels name as the “big battle of Damascus” aiming at bringing down the regime’s stronghold.

However, after getting slammed with the blast, the Syrian administration promised it will hit back hard, unleashing great firepower in a number of districts in the capital crippling the armed opposition fighters, particularly in Midan, which was announced rebel-free on Friday.

The opposition fighters, over the past couple of days, have tried to take over a number of border points with Turkey, Iraq, and recently Jordan.

They have managed to take over points on the borders with Iraq, but the Syrian army recaptured the posts. Also media reports said that clashes have erupted on border crossing with Turkey.

The rebels have also tried to capture border point with Jordan, but the attempt was rendered flat when the regular troops responded to them.

The opposition fighters have been apparently trying to make a foothold on the border so it can repeat the Libyan scenario when the Libyan rebels used Benghazi as a launching pad to their assaults.


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July 21st, 2012, 7:38 pm


256. Halabi said:

اهداء لأرواح الشهداء الاعلاميين من عبد الباسط الساروت وابو عمر

The revolutionaries come up with great songs for their martyrs. Menhebaks chant for Assad and pledge to be his shabi7a forever. In addition to the lack of creativity, the lack of compassion is also a characteristic of the pro-Assad side. While we gather money, medicine and other help for the millions of Syrians in need, even calling on Arabs and foreign governments, the pro-Assad side complains about sanctions but does nothing to help – not one camp was built by this so-called national army for the internal refugees in the country. I’ve challenged menhebaks before to point me to an organization that sends donations to the families of shabi7a killed during their criminal acts to no avail.

All the menhebak has is hatred for other sects and a warped view that everyone opposing them share the same kind of racism. The revolution is about music, collective action, demonstrations, protecting towns and villages and fighting one of the world’s truly evil armies. Who wouldn’t be optimistic with that when Assad can only deliver an eternity of tashbee7.

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July 21st, 2012, 8:27 pm


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