Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, March 6th, 2012
A friend from Aleppo wrote me over the weekend that he believes that the northern suburbs of Aleppo are falling out of government control. In particular, the poorer towns of Azaz, Hreitan, and Anadan, which are on the road to Turkey, have been taken over by opposition groups. On February 27, a number of local residents were killed by the military, setting off protests and violent confrontations with local security. He does not believe the regime’s end is imminent because the armed groups are not centrally organized. All the same, the migration of neighborhoods out of government control is unceasing. Although the government has retaken Homs, it is losing Aleppo and the broader North, an area that has long been fertile ground for Islamist currents.
I just had a long conversation with friends and family in Aleppo. It may not be long before the city joins the revolution, I believe. My father could not travel by car to the border with Turkey. No driver dares take the roads north any longer. The drive to Turkey is only a half-hour. The working-class neighborhoods of Azaz, Hreitan and Anadan have largely fallen out of government control. Friends who own factories in the industrial regions outside of Aleppo complain that for a week now they have been unable to visit them. Lack of security, frequent anti-regime demonstrations and clashes between militants and the army make the excursion impossible.
I am a partner in one Aleppo factory that was attacked Sunday night (March 4). The attackers beat up the two night security guards and bound them. They then lifted the whole safe box and carried it out of the factory. Thankfully, the safe only contained syp 350,000 and not more. Also thankfully they did not burn the place down, as has happened to some Aleppo factory owners.
The fact that neighborhoods, such as Azaz, Hreitan and Anadan have fallen out of government control is significant because cars can no longer travel, even in daylight, to Turkey from Aleppo. The entire boarder area is becoming unsafe. This is much worse than Baba Amr or Khaldiye falling out of government control from the point of view of security because Turkey is the base for the Free Syrian Army, arms exports into Syria, and most opposition groups.
To make maters worse, the Syrian Pound has fallen to 83 to the dollar. This means that the net worth of every Syrian has fallen by over 70% since the beginning of the uprising. People do not have enough to eat. More than half the country is living on two dollars a day or less. Hunger and fear are spreading.
Even the middle and upper classes that live in the city centers are beginning to panic and look for a way out of the country. Plane flights to Lebanon from Aleppo are booked for the next month. The exodus has begun.
This is the first real breakdown of Aleppo control. My sister says law and order is deteriorating in the center of Aleppo as well. Armed elements are kidnapping folks for ransom, breaking into houses, and beating people up and stealing their jewelry and money. My wife’s relative, the Gharo family, was invaded in Aleppo today. A guy rang the intercom and said he was from the security service. He was buzzed in and went upstairs to their apartment. When the Gharos opened the door, a group of thugs went in, grabbed their young son and held a knife to his neck and demanded every valuable in the apartment. When they got their loot, they fled!
Government forces are doing their share of damage. Michael Aswad, a patriach of a prominent Christian family, was killed by the security service last week, apparently by accident when he didn’t stop the taxi he was in as he entered the security zone around his apartment. A high-ranking official lives in his apartment. His death has mortified upper-class Aleppines because he was killed in the city center.
The ability of the government to supply basic goods and services has crumbled. Now security is evaporating. More and more Syrians realize that the state is losing control and are taking maters into their own hands.
On Feb 27, fighting in Aleppo’s northern suburbs resulted in this news
Aleppo Suburbs: The number of martyrs for today has reached 11 martyrs as a result of the continuous shelling by regime’s army on several areas of the suburb. Helicopters are being used to bomb some of the areas.
Aleppo: Andan: Mr. Adnan Abu Ghafour was martyred due to the shelling by the security forces in the city.
Aleppo: Aazaz: Alaa Shawki Al-Shash was martyred by helicopter bombing in the city.
News Round Up
Bearing Witness in Syria: A Correspondent’s Last Days
The armed opposition in Syria is led by the under-equipped Free Syrian Army.
By TYLER HICKS, March 04, 2012
Here are some recent videos of militant brigades that have announced their formation in Syria. They are taking shape with growing frequency.
إدلب كللي || الجيش السوري الحر || تشكيل كتيبة الفرقان
الأعلان عن تشكيل كتيبة صقور العقيدات في حمص العدية و ريفها التابعة الى الجيش السوري الحر توجه نداء الى الشعب السوري و الى عشائر جزيرة الشام للإنضمام الى صفوف الثوا
U.S. sees ‘no fracturing’ of al-Assad regime
(CNN) — After weeks of collecting intelligence on Syria and watching the attacks by the forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad, the U.S. sees “no fracturing” of the Syrian regime and assesses al-Assad could remain in power for some time to come if the …
The European Union announced its recognition of the Syrian National Council as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people, and called for other opposition factions to unite and work with the Council.
the Arizona Republican said in an impassioned speech in the U.S. Senate. “The only realistic way to do so is with foreign air power.”
The goal, added the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, should be to establish and defend safe havens, primarily in northern Syria, where opposition forces could organize their efforts. “These safe havens could also help the Free Syrian Army and other armed groups in Syria to train and organize themselves into more cohesive and effective military forces, likely with the assistance of foreign partners,” he said.
McCain, a Vietnam War veteran, said that any such effort would require taking out Syria’s air-defense systems. “We’re the only ones who can do that,” he said.
But he predicted that some kind of intervention will happen, even if the United States does not act. “So the real question for U.S. policy is whether we will participate in this next phase of the conflict in Syria, and thereby increase our ability to shape an outcome that is beneficial to the Syrian people, and to us. I believe we must.”
McCain said that any effort must include other nations. “We should seek the active involvement of key Arab partners,” such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar “and willing allies” in the European Union, NATO and Turkey, he said.
McCain acknowledged that his proposal is a risky one, that the opposition lacks cohesion and that the American public has wearied of war, but said that should not dissuade U.S. officials from moving forward. “There are no ideal options in Syria,” he said. “We need to deal with reality as it is, not as we wish it to be.”
He added, “The Syrian people deserve to succeed. Shame on us if we fail to help them.”
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was non-committal. “The secretary is interested in exploring options that could help end the brutal violence in Syria, but he also recognizes that this is an extremely complex crisis,” a senior Pentagon official said. “Intervention at this time could very well exacerbate problems inside the country.”
WHY DELAYED INTERVENTION IN SYRIA COULD CAUSE RADICALIZATION
By Soner Cagaptay
CNN Global Public Square
March 2, 2012
To view this article on our website, go to:
A new argument against intervention in Syria is that since the opposition consists of radical Islamist elements, the United States and other countries should shy away from supporting the rebellion against the Bashar al-Assad regime for fear that they might empower Islamists.
I recently visited Turkey, stopping in cities near the Syrian border such as Antakya and Gaziantep. During this trip, I talked to people who are in daily contact with Syrians, including professors at Zirve University in Gaziantep, an international school that has Syrian students, and American journalists who had just returned from Syria. I did not find any evidence that Islamists run the uprising, yet I left Turkey thinking that delayed intervention against the al-Assad regime could surely lead to building Islamist resentment towards al-Assad to the point of empowering radicals in Syria.
In this regard, there is a lesson to be learned from the war in Bosnia in the 1990s. When the Yugoslav Army started its attack on Bosnia in 1992, Bosnian Muslims (also known as Bosniacs) held the distinction of being the world’s “most secular Muslims.” The Bosniacs’ embrace of Islam was non-political, and one’s level of religiosity was a personal matter. The Bosniacs even ate pork liberally, a violation of orthodox Islam that shocked even their fellow liberal Muslims in Turkey.
Only a couple of years after the onslaught against the Bosniacs began, though, Bosnia’s “pork-eating” Muslims were flirting with radical Islamists, including Iranian agents and jihadists. As the outside world watched Serbian forces slaughter Bosniacs, these people increasingly came to view their persecution through a religious lens. They started to believe that (Christian) Serbs were targeting them because of their (Muslim) faith and that the outside world turned a blind eye to their persecution because of their Islamic religion. This process led to a rapid politicization of the Bosniacs’ Muslim identity. Previously secular and even irreligious Bosniacs started to view the world through a religiously-guided Manichean perspective.
This persecution-driven metamorphosis — a historical phenomenon not uncommon among Muslim communities — transformed the Bosnian political landscape quickly and radically. Jihadists, previously considered alien and shunned by Bosniacs, could now find refugee in Bosnia. In fact, when the outside world, led by the United States, decided to intervene in Bosnia in 1995, it was justified by the fear of speedy Bosniac radicalization.
Even though the conflict in Syria lacks an inter-religious dimension, it has a sectarian overtone that could lead to Islamic politicization in Syria akin to that in Bosnia.
The al-Assad regime’s inner circle is composed of Alawites, an offshoot of Islam, while the opposition is mostly made up of Sunni Muslims. Even if the protestors’ demand for democracy is non-religious, the fact that the al-Assad regime and its (Alawite) supporters are brutally killing (Sunni) demonstrators is already giving the conflict in Syria a sectarian hue. Persecution-driven metamorphosis of Islamic identity can reshape the conflict as a religious one — one pitting Alawites against Sunnis, and Sunnis against Alawites.
As anecdotal evidence suggests, some protestors already view their persecution through a religious lens, believing that the regime is targeting them not because they demand democracy, but because it is an Alawite machine trying to massacre the Sunnis. And the more the outside world sits idly by as Syrians are slaughtered, the more the Sunnis in Syria will believe that the world turns a blind eye to such horrors because of their religion.
Add to this the fact that some orthodox Sunnis do not consider Alawites rightful Muslims, and it could be a matter of months before radical elements such as al Qaeda start a propaganda war to depict the Syrian conflict as one of “non-Muslim” Alawites killing Muslims. This perception would transform the fighting as well as send sectarian waves across the Middle East’s fragile landscape. At the same time, it could lead to the radicalization of Syria, turning the country into a fertile recruitment ground for radical groups.
The sooner the international community is able to help end the killing in Syria, the more likely it will be able to prevent the radicalization of the country’s population along sectarian and even religious lines. In Bosnia, after some soul searching, the international community concluded that intervention was the way to end the radicalization of Muslims. What was true in Bosnia appears to also be true in Syria.
Now, An Intervention Must Take Place in Syria
Bernard-Henri Lévy: 02/28/2012
On March 19th, it will be a year, day for day, since squadrons of French planes, later followed by British, American and Arab aircraft, saved Benghazi from what would have been its inevitable destruction.
Well, things being what they are and if the international community does not pull itself together, this anniversary may have the bitter taste of ashes and failure.
For today, there is a new Benghazi.
There is a city in the region that is in precisely the same situation as was Benghazi. To be exact, there is a city that finds itself in even more dire straits than Benghazi was, since the same type of tanks, stationed in the same manner, at the same distance from unarmed civilian populations have, this time, already gone into action, and this for the past several months.
This city is Homs. This is the Syrian capital of pain, where they target journalists and massacre civilians indiscriminately.
And the fact is: what we did there, we are not doing here; the same tanks our aviators nailed to the ground in Libya, just hours before they let loose their fire, are operating in Syrian with complete impunity. Of course, I am aware that the two situations are not identical…..
India refuses government guarantee on Syria oil imports: sources
NEW DELHI | Fri Mar 2, 2012 6:49am EST
(Reuters) – India has refused to provide its sovereign guarantee for oil imports from Syria, two government sources said, frustrating refiners looking for alternative sources of crude to hedge against possible supply disruptions from sanctions-hit Iran.
The Oil Ministry had hoped that the government would underwrite Syrian oil cargoes after Indian insurance firms failed to find re-insurers for shipments from the Middle East nation, which is also targeted by Western sanctions.
New Delhi’s stand on Syrian oil comes after it voted last month in favor of a U.N. resolution endorsing an Arab League plan calling on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.
“This is true that the government has denied sovereign guarantee for import of Syrian oil. This was done because of India’s vote against Syria in the United Nations,” said one of the sources.
Both sources had direct knowledge of the decision and declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Indian refiner Hindustan Petroleum Corp and explorer Oil and Natural Gas Corp, which has a stake in Syrian fields, wanted to import oil from Syria but insurance problems halted their plans.
HPCL had even engaged the Shipping Corp of India to hire a vessel to import Syrian crude. The India government is now weighing options, including extending sovereign guarantees for its shipping lines and buying Iranian oil on a delivered basis to ensure cargoes from July.
Iran is India’s second-largest crude oil supplier, meeting about 11 percent of the South Asian country’s imports. Tehran is facing Western sanctions over its nuclear plans that many say is aimed at making a bomb. Iran says it wants to produce power.
The sanctions have made it difficult for its Asian customers to pay for oil imports. India currently pays Iran for its imports through a bank in Turkey but that conduit is vulnerable to Western sanctions. India currently does not buy any crude oil from Syria.
Nick Heras, “The Revolution Will Be Uploaded: Citizen Journalism in Homs.” It is published in Fair Observer and it explores how Syrian citizen journalists are taking the leading role in reporting the battle for control in Homs.
Greg Djerejian of Belgravia Dispatch discusses several recent op-eds recommending intervention in Syria, especially Nakleh’s op-ed in the FT
EU De-lists Ghreiwati, Names Seven Blacklisted Ministers: The seven new Syrian individuals on whom the European Union imposed sanctions on Monday have been named, while a prominent businessman has been taken off the blacklist.
Syria to Conduct Barter Deals for the Purchase of Key Food Commodities: The Syrian Government has decided to carry barter deals to circumvent the impact of international sanctions on the Syrian economy, according to a local newspaper.
Russian Companies Stop Operations in Syria: Russian companies have interrupted their operations in Syria because of the security situation in the country, according to Georgy Petrov, Vice President of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Libya Offers USD 100 million to Syrian Opposition: The Libyan Government has announced that it would give USD 100 million in humanitarian help to Syria’s opposition.