Posts Tagged ‘bombing’

Top Ten Implications of the Damascus Bombing

July 19th, 2012 Comments off

The bombing of the Security Headquarters of the Baath government of Syria on Wednesday killed the Minister of Defense, the deputy Minister of Defense, and the Assistant to the vice-president and head of crisis management office Gen Hassan Turkomani. It wounded the Minister of the Interior (i.e. head of the secret police) and a member of the national security council. Some reports said that also wounded was Hafez al-Makhlouf, a cousin of the president on his mother’s side of the family and a key security figure. The Makhloufs, especially Ramy, are the business wing of the al-Assad cartel, and their billionaire ways were among the sources of discontent that provoked the uprising.

What does this bombing mean for Syria and the Middle East?

1. It demonstrates that the rebels have sympathizers in high positions within the regime. The bomb had to have been planted by an insider. This situation reminds me of the American dilemma in Vietnam, where we now know that many high-ranking Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) officers were in fact sympathizers with the Communists and basically double agents.

2. It follows upon this conclusion that the al-Assad regime is unlikely to be able to emulate the Algerian military, which crushed the Islamic Salvation Front in a brutal civil war from 1992 through the early zeroes of the present century. Some 150,000 Algerians are said to have died in the dirty war, with atrocities on both sides. But when the smoke cleared, the junta was still in control, and its favored secular civilians were in office. In all that time, the Muslim fundamentalist opposition never laid a glove on any of the high officials or officers. But the Algerian elite closed ranks against the Islamic Salvation Front, having a cultural set of affinities and a common source of patronage in the state-owned oil and gas sector.

If the rebels in Syria can reach into the Security HQ this way, and assassinate the highest security officials of the regime, that ability does not augur well for Bashar al-Assad’s ability to win the long game, as his counterparts did in Algeria.

3. The targets of the bombing were likely intended to send a message to Syria’s minorities. The minister of defense, Daoud Rajha, was a Christian. The Christian minority, which could be as large as 14% of the population, has been on the fence during the revolution, and some actively support the secular nationalist regime because they fear Muslim fundamentalists will come to power. Rajha’s assassination was intended to warn them to join the revolution or at least get out of its way. Likewise, Assef Shawkat, the deputy minister of defense, was an Allawite Shiite and was married to Bushra, the sister of Bashar al-Assad. If it is true that Hafez Makhlouf was wounded, he was another prominent Allawite. The rebels are largely (with significant exceptions) Sunni Muslims, from the majority community that has not typically held its fair proportion of high office.

4. The rein of terror unleashed by the Allawites on the Sunni rebels, using Ghost Brigade death squads, has backfired big time. Many Sunnis formerly allied with the regime have turned on it, including at the highest levels. The defection of the Sunni Tlass family, who had dominated the ministry of defense and regime business interests for decades, is a straw in the wind here.

5. The rocket-propelled grenades smuggled to the opposition by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as part of their proxy war against Iran, are allowing the rebels occasionally to kill tanks and take down helicopter gunships. The more such weapons they have, and the more sophisticated they are, the more they help level the playing field for the rebels.

6. Defections and desertions of Sunni enlisted men and low-level officers could accelerate in the wake of the bombings, as soldiers become convinced that the regime will eventually fall. They won’t want to risk their lives fighting for a ship that is anyway sinking, and won’t want to risk being seen as war criminals in the aftermath.

7. The economic disruptions in the capital could be decisive. With the rebels now fighting in districts like Midan and Tadamun, the Syrian business classes are not going to be making any money for a while. Since for them, the purpose of the Baath Party is to throw them licenses and government contracts, they will turn on it if it is unable to satisfy their needs.

8. The fall of the Baath regime in Syria would leave Hizbullah high and dry. Its rockets and other weapons, and some of its communications and code-breaking abilities, depended on Syrian help. The leader of the Hizbullah Shiites of south Lebanon (a neighbor of Syria), Hassan Nasrullah, gave a speech Wednesday unapologetically supporting the Baath regime and sending condolences to the families of those killed. If the regime does fall, the new government is likely to have a grudge with Hizbullah for a while. The downside of any weakening of Hizbullah is that it could encourage Israeli expansionism in South Lebanon, as in the 1980s and 1990s (Israel’s leaders have long wanted to steal the water in south Lebanon’s rivers).

9. On the other hand, the Muslim Brotherhood is a significant force among the rebels, and it likely will play an outsized role in a post-Baath Syria. It has ties to the Muslim fundamentalist party, Hamas, which dominates the Gaza Strip. Hamas could therefore become and more formidable adversary for Israel, if it is supported by both the Egyptian and Syrian branches of the Muslim Brotherhood.

10. Given the proliferation of medium weapons among the rebels, the longer the civil war goes on, the more likely these arms are to flow into Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq, enabling small guerrilla groups in those countries to challenge the status quo. If the Baath hangs on for years rather than months, the whole region could see more decades of instability. That is why Jordan just declared martial law and has begun turning back refugees at the Syrian border, why Israel’s security establishment had an urgent meeting Wednesday, and why Syria’s other neighbors are watching developments there with anxiety and suspicion.

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Bombing in central Iraq kills six

July 6th, 2012 Comments off

At least six people have been killed in a suicide car bombing in central Iraq, reportedly targeting a Sunni Awakening Council member, officials say.
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Syria troops step up Homs bombing

February 6th, 2012 Comments off

Heavy artillery fire rocks the restive Syrian city of Homs, in what anti-government activists are calling one of the fiercest assaults yet.
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Funeral for Damascus Bombing Victims Turns Into Pro-Assad Rally

December 25th, 2011 Comments off

A mass funeral in Damascus for the victims of a double suicide car bombing on Friday has turned into a strong show of support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose government is under pressure f
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‘Persian Incursion’

November 10th, 2011 Comments off

… 1. Bombing Iran is complicated. There’s a lot of prep work that needs to done. Persian Incursion assumes that an Israeli air campaign is only feasible if one of Iran’s neighbors — Saudi Arabia, Turkey or Iraq — overtly or covertly agrees to Israeli passage through its airspace.2. Iran can’t do jack about being bombed. The Persians in Persian Incursion have a snowball’s chance in hell of militarily stopping the Israeli onslaught. The Iranian player has to roll dice every turn just to see if his maintenance-starved air force can even get off the ground, while Israeli jammers and decoys keep things hopping for Iranian radars and anti-aircraft missiles. But Iran doesn’t have to shoot down every plane to win. Parading a dozen captured Israeli pilots before the cameras would be a political victory.
3. Israel can’t do jack about Iranian retaliation. The Israeli Air Force is going to be too busy bombing nuclear sites to go after Iranian missiles. The game assumes that Israel’s Arrow anti-missiles will knock down some Iranian rockets (I’m not so sure, given the less-than-sterling record of ballistic missile defense). But regardless, some Iranian weapons will get through. Israel has military superiority, but not invulnerability.
4. Iran’s nuclear hydra has many heads. Persian Incursion’s target folder lists dozens of Iranian nuclear facilities (along with their exact dimensions and defenses — the game is a reference library in a box). Some of them are hardened against all but the biggest bunker-busters. I don’t know how many would have to be destroyed to ruin Iran’s nuclear program, but the Israelis will have spread their limited resources over many targets.
5. Israel can’t do it all in one shot. Unlike the 1981 raid on Iraq’s Osirak reactor, Israel can’t pull this off in a single raid. Persian Incursion assumes Israel will need to conduct a one-week air campaign. Besides the diplomatic ramifications of a sustained assault, combat losses and maintenance downtime means the Israeli effort will only weaken over time….

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Hariri Bombing Indictment Based on Flawed Premise

August 31st, 2011 Comments off
Categories: Arab Blogs Tags: , , ,

Bombing in Jerusalem

March 23rd, 2011 Comments off

A bomb has gone off near the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem, killing one person and injuring many. There has been an escalation of violence since Saturday, when 50 mortar rounds were fired from Gaza into Israel, followed by Israeli strikes on Gaza.

The quid pro quo cycle is sadly familiar and perhaps inescapable;I do wonder if this is some way linked with Mahmoud ‘Abbas announce willingness to go to Gaza to meet with Isma‘il Haniyya about settling the Fatah-Hamas split. At first glance it may seem odd to strike Israel to abort a Palestinian reconciliation, but in the calculus of this conflict, it could produce such a result.

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A Historical Note: Libya and Aerial Bombing

February 22nd, 2011 Comments off

The use of combat aircraft against civilian protesters in Libya brings to mind a couple of historical ironies concerning aerial bombing and Libya.

On November 1, 1911, only eight years after the Wright Brothers first flew, the first aerial bomb dropped from an airplane in anger was dropped by an Italian pilot on Turkish positions during the Italo-Turkish war. At right is a photo of Italian dirigibles dropping bombs on Turkish positions.

After the defeat of Turkey, Italy waged a long counterinsurgency campaign against the Libyan resistance leader Omar Mukhtar. During the long period of pacification (throughout the 1920s), Italy regularly used aerial bombing against Libyan resistance. (Britain also used aerial bombing against Iraqi villages in 1920-21.)

So aerial bombing of civilians in Libya is not new; it’s just it hasn’t been seen since the fall of Italian fascism.

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Bombing of funeral in Baghdad kills near 50

January 28th, 2011 Comments off

Violence across Iraq claimed at least five lives on …
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The Alexandria Church Bombing

January 3rd, 2011 Comments off

I just returned this afternoon from a few days in the Egyptian countryside, with no phone and internet. News of the Alexandria bombing had reached us, but it didn’t quite hit home until I caught up with news reports, all the activity on Twitter and today’s various protests (confusingly both about the church bombings and in solidarity with Tunisia’s Sidi Bouzid protests). The protests are ongoing, with a novelty being the police cordon and heightened security around the TV building in central Cairo. This story will unfold over the next few days, with so far little confirmed about the perpetrators.

I will thus reserve my take, for now, to the main issues:

1. The attacks could indicate a new al-Qaeda inspired group is operating in Egypt. It’s unlikely that such a group is foreign, as the authorities were very quick to say (because somehow no Egyptian would do this?), although this could be a first manifestation of the “returnees from Iraq” phenomenon experienced elsewhere. It is unlikely that it’s the revival of an Egyptian Islamic Jihad sleeper cell either, so we are probably talking about a “freelance jihadi” cell of some kind, the radicalization of a Salafi group (with Alexandria being a major center of Salafi activity) or, less likely, a more serious attempt at destabilizing Egypt by al-Qaeda in Iraq, which had issued threats against Egypt a few months ago (again the “returnees from Iraq” scenario would point to that). Whoever the perpetrators are, this goes to show how interconnected the world of jihadi Salafism is, and the porous borders it has with “Scientific” or non-violent Salafism.

2. It’s yet another very worrying indication of rising sectarian tensions in Egypt. It’s not so much the attack itself, but the recriminations it has engendered and the rioting that followed it. At that same time, it’s also heart-warming to see so much indignation and solidarity on Twitter and elsewhere. Hopefully something good can come out of this drama and seeing Muslims call out for genuine, total equality between themselves and Copts is a good sign. Let’s hope it’s not all wasted by security interference, irresponsible clergymen and imams, and the other usual spoilers.

3. There is also something specifically Alexandrian about this. Yes, sectarian attacks have taken place elsewhere, but usually sparked by some clash over conversion or church-building, or in the case of the Naga Hammadi murders most probably local politics. This is of a completely different order, and more similar to the 2006 church murders I wrote about here. Something is rotten in Alexandria, not for the first time.

Here’s a collection of links, articles and more about the church bombing.

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