Posts Tagged ‘bashar al assad’

Defections mount as Syrian Regime invests Aleppo

July 27th, 2012 Comments off

The Baath regime of President Bashar al-Assad is preparing for a major military operation to crush the uprising in Aleppo on Friday afternoon, according to rebel and Western sources. Even as the regime continues to pound rebel-held neighborhoods with tank and helicopter gunship fire, it is massing troops and armor to invest the city.

But while tanks, artillery and helicopter gunships can destroy neighborhoods and force irregular fighters to fade away, the price of treating one’s own population as a military enemy is high. The regime may well win the military fight, but lose the political one.

Ikhlas Badawi, a member of the Syrian parliament representing Aleppo, has just crossed over to Turkey and defected. She is the first member of parliament to do so. She said she was leaving “because of the methods of repression and brutal torture that are practiced on the people, who make the slightest demand for their rights.” The Syrian parliament is of course a rubber stamp and its sessions with al-Assad are marked by an embarrassing amount of sucking up. It is significant to have a Baath Party MP defect, because these are the loyalists of the loyalists.

The Syrian ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Abdelatif al-Dabbagh, has defected, along with his wife, Lamia al-Hariri, who had been the charge d’affaires in Cyprus. The military attache in the gulf oil nation of Oman has also gone to the other side. The ambassador in the UAE would have been responsible for attempting to convince that government to back off in its support for the revolution, which al-Dabbagh clearly has decided is not a plausible task. The Gulf oil states play an outsize role in the region because of their vast wealth and ability to channel resources and weapons to the opposition (the UAE doesn’t, unlike Qatar and Saudi Arabia, appear to be supplying arms, but its support for one side or another is important).

Earlier in July, Nawaf Fares, the Syrian ambassador to Iraq, defected and alleged that Syria had been playing a sinister role in fomenting bombings in northern Iraq. Likewise, the powerful Tlass family of Sunni notables (prominent in the ministry of defense and in business) has left, and Manaf Tlass is now attempting to play a political role in the opposition. The Tlass’s were pillars of the Baath regime, helping to legitimate it with the Sunnis (who form some 70% of the Syrian population) and their defection is a significant blow to the Baath, dominated increasingly at its upper levels by minority Shiite Alawites.

In addition, dozens of one-star generals have gone to Turkey or joined the rebel forces.

Revolutions always involve dual claims of sovereignty. That is, two political forces have to vie over the loyalty of people and political legitimacy. The significance of this raft of defections is that gradually, the Syrian regime is no longer merely faces claims by a ragtag band of defecting corporals and sergeants, or by crowds gathering to chant and protest in town and city centers (both forms of opposition are still going on daily all around the country). The regime increasingly faces a former part of its own political elite, now increasingly denigrating its legitimacy or making claims of their own. This sign of the growth of dual sovereignty in the political sphere could be more decisive over the medium term than who wins what battle for what neighborhood.

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Turkish ‘Nerve Center’: "A triangle, with Turkey at the top and Saudi Arabia & Qatar at the bottom"

July 27th, 2012 Comments off

In Incirlik, it would look like a Star Spangled SQUARE!

(Reuters) – Turkey has set up a secret base with allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar to direct vital military and communications aid to Syria’s rebels from a city near the border, Gulf sources have told Reuters.

News of the clandestine Middle East-run “nerve centre” working to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad underlines the extent to which Western powers – who played a key role in unseating Muammar Gaddafi in Libya – have avoided military involvement so far in Syria.“It’s the Turks who are militarily controlling it. Turkey is the main co-ordinator/facilitator. Think of a triangle, with Turkey at the top and Saudi Arabia and Qatar at the bottom,” said a Doha-based source.“The Americans are very hands-off on this. U.S. intel(ligence) are working through middlemen. Middlemen are controlling access to weapons and routes.”The centre in Adana, a city in southern Turkey about 100 km (60 miles) from the Syrian border, was set up after Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Saud visited Turkey and requested it, a source in the Gulf said. The Turks liked the idea of having the base in Adana so that they could supervise its operations, he added.A Saudi foreign ministry official was not immediately available to comment on the operation.Adana is home to Incirlik, a large Turkish/U.S. air force base which Washington has used in the past for reconnaissance and military logistics operations. It was not clear from the sources whether the anti-Syrian “nerve centre” was located inside Incirlik base or in the city of Adana.Qatar, the tiny gas-rich Gulf state which played a leading part in supplying weapons to Libyan rebels, has a key role in directing operations at the Adana base, the sources said. Qatari military intelligence and state security officials are involved.“Three governments are supplying weapons: Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia,” said a Doha-based source.Ankara has officially denied supplying weapons.All weaponry is Russian. The obvious reason is that these guys (the Syrian rebels) are trained to use Russian weapons, also because the Americans don’t want their hands on it. All weapons are from the black market. The other way they get weapons is to steal them from the Syrian army. They raid weapons stores.”The source added: “The Turks have been desperate to improve their weak surveillance, and have been begging Washington for drones and surveillance.” The pleas appear to have failed. “So they have hired some private guys come do the job………..

 “The Qataris are coming; The qataris are coming!’

“The Qataris mobilized their special forces team two weeks ago. Their remit is to train and help logistically, not to fight,” said a Doha-based source with ties to the FSA.Qatar’s military intelligence directorate, Foreign Ministry and State Security Bureau are involved, said the source.  The United States, Israel, France and Britain – traditionally key players in the Middle East – have avoided getting involved so far, largely because they see little chance of a “good outcome” in Syria.“…”

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Onslaught looms as Assad forces pound Aleppo rebels – Reuters

July 27th, 2012 Comments off

Business Recorder

Onslaught looms as Assad forces pound Aleppo rebels
* Syrian artillery pounds rebel areas around Aleppo * US State Dept fears massacre in the city * Battle for Aleppo seen as potential turning point By Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Mariam Karouny AMMAN/BEIRUT, July 27 (Reuters) – President Bashar al-Assad's
Syrian Helicopters Fire on Aleppo as Army Prepares for Possible AssaultNew York Times
Syria crisis: US fears Aleppo 'massacre' – live updatesThe Guardian
Syria Pounds Rebel Areas as UN Warns of ConfrontationBloomberg
Businessweek –CNN International –Los Angeles Times
all 8,047 news articles »

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Battle for Aleppo intensifies as both sides reinforce

July 26th, 2012 Comments off

Helicopter gunships strafed several neighbourhoods of the commercial capitalSyrian troops and rebels sent reinforcements to the intensifying battle in the second city Aleppo, as the US said fresh defections from the regime showed President Bashar al-Assad's "days are numbered".

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Syrian Baath Escalates, Uses Jets to Bomb Aleppo

July 25th, 2012 Comments off

When I was interviewed by the BBC last week about rebel advances in Damascus, I cautioned that putting some armed bands in some neighborhoods would not result in a revolution. Nor did even a big bombing of security officials. I said that that a significant proportion of the population of the capital would have to rise up in order for the regime to fall. The rising did not take place (people were still terrified, and thousands fled). In subsequent days, the Baath government riposted, taking back the downtown Midan and other areas, and not hesitating to use its massive firepower advantage, even if it meant high non-combantant casualties.

Then the rebels launched their Aleppo campaign, taking over whole neighborhoods of the country’s largest city, in the north. This advance was probably made possible in part because the regime had pulled troops to the capital to meet the challenge there. But now that Damascus has been largely regained, the government of Bashar al-Assad has turned its sights on Aleppo.

One Arabic report has it that that the al-Assad regime has removed hundreds of Sunni officers from responsibilities for safeguarding chemical weapons stores and commanding helicopter gunships. They are giving these sensitive responsibilities to officers from the minority Alawite Shiite community instead, which dominates the upper echelons of the Baath government and military.

The defection of the Tlass (Talas) family, formerly pillars of Sunni support for the regime, may have driven this change if it is true. Manaf Tlass surfaced Tuesday to call on Syrians to rise up against their government.

In a remarkable escalation, the regime on Tuesday and early Wednesday subjected Aleppo to bombing raids by MIGs.

ITN has a chilling video report with footage from Aleppo:

The determination of a terrified and brutal minority regime to reassert itself is clear in the appointments made by President al-Assad to replace his assassinated officials. As Joshua Landis explains, they are all hawks.

On Tuesday evening into Wednesday, ground forces subjected the Tal district of Aleppo to heavy artillery bombardment. The 216th Mechanized Brigade directed fire on the district of 100,000 people about 5 miles north of Aleppo proper. Helicopter gunships were also deployed against the rebels.

Elsewhere in the north, there was back and forth fighting by rebels and regime loyalists in Deir al-Zor.

The Syrian regime is armed to the teeth, with 5,000 tanks, thousands of artillery pieces, and a significant air force. If it decides to commit these massive military resources to the fight with the rebels, it may well be able to crush them in the short term. But its problem is to retain the loyalty of enough of the population and the troops that stem from them to continue to operate the machinery of war against its own urban population.

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No impunity for Al-Assad France

July 25th, 2012 Comments off

France has said despite the Arab League making proposal of safe exit for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, it would not earn him an impunity, Xinhua reported. “In the end, for him … there will be …
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Defector general Tlass calls for Syrian unity

July 25th, 2012 Comments off

Undated file picture shows top Syrian General Manaf Tlass smoking a cigar in an undisclosed locationSyrian general Manaf Tlass Tuesday called on Syrians to unite and start building a post-President Bashar al-Assad Syria as he made his first public appearance since defecting from the regime.

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Wall Street Journal on US "covert" policies in Syria

July 24th, 2012 Comments off
“The U.S. has been mounting a secret but limited effort to speed the fall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad without using force”.  Let me count the lies in this one sentence: it is neither secret nor limited and it is certainly violent.  (thanks Laleh)

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Assad ‘moves chemical weapons to Syria border’: rebels

July 24th, 2012 Comments off

A portrait of Syria President Bashar al-Assad is set alight on July 23 during clashes near AleppoSyria's rebels accused strongman Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday of moving chemical weapons to the country's borders, a day after his beleaguered regime said it would use its stockpiles if attacked.

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Feared regime forces assault Syrian capital

July 22nd, 2012 Comments off

An armed Syrian rebel wearing the jersey of FC Barcelona rests with comrades near the northern city of AleppoFeared forces led by President Bashar al-Assad's brother used helicopter gunships Sunday in a new assault on rebels in Damascus, activists said, as clashes also raged in Syria's second city Aleppo.

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