1. Finally and about friggin time! Now the rebels can have some of the resources that the regime has had all along.

    • Big huge turning point. I think if they get the right weapons this is a game changer in favour of the rebels.

  2. The way I see it is that Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah left us no choice but to arm the rebels. To not arm the rebels would be a big blow to the credibility of the US in the middle east and possibly elsewhere. It’s also impossible to have negotiations while Assad and his backers are steadily advancing thanks to Hezbollah sending thousands of fighters armed by Iran. There have also been reports that Revolutionary Guards are now taking part in combat. As hard as we may try we can’t turn a blind eye to that. Our allies in the gulf are already furious that we have resisted doing more to help the rebels and some of our European allies feel the same way. I don’t know if Assad used chemical weapons or not, but I do know that Obama didn’t need that to justify stepping up support for the rebels. Assad’s backers can’t say a word because any help we give to the rebels is still likely to be a fraction of the support that Assad is receiving.

    • The chemical weapons issue is no more than a political point. Otherwise, why would a weapon that has, according to the US’ own spin, killed no more than 150 people be so important, when bullets and bombs have killed the vast majority of people in Syria?

      But you are right in saying that the US had no choice but to do this, particularly given the “reputation” argument and the necessity to respond to Russia. The question becomes whether this is also just another political move, or if the Americans are genuinely intent on becoming even more entrenched in the conflict. If it is the former, then a political settlement may become more realistic. If it is the latter, then the US has made another big mistake.

      • I think this whole thing is about negotiations and getting all the players around the table on equal footing. That means we have to bring balance or it’s a waste of time. Assad wasn’t eager to talk when he was perceived to be losing. Now that he is perceived to have the upper hand you think he will talk in good faith? The rebels were right to avoid talks right now. There is no way Assad would be in the mood to give concessions that may be necessary to end the fighting while he still thinks he can win militarily.

          • That’s an interesting read. Thanks for sharing that. I really don’t think the Gulf countries or Turkey would ever stand for Iran to have the type of sphere of influence suggested in the article. The EU and the US probably wouldn’t tolerate that kind of Iranian influence either. Assad’s alliance with Iran has always been one of the major driving forces behind attempts to bring his regime down. His alliance with Iran is like a double edged sword for Assad. On one hand he has Iran’s full support and backing. On the other hand countries are supporting rebels due in part to his alliance with Iran. Maybe he should’ve been a little more thoughtful about who he got in bed with. Nearly every single one of his neighbors is hostile to Iran.

    • ” I don’t know if Assad used chemical weapons or not, but I do know that Obama didn’t need that to justify stepping up support for the rebels.”

      Yes he did, to justify his providing lethal military aid to Syrian insurgents, and perhaps going farther than that, to the American public, who are not in favour of US military inovlvement (or spending) in another war in the ME.

      The red lines he’s citing were crossed a long time ago, but now – after the fall of Qusayr – is a convenient moment to pull them out of the closet and dust them off.

      • The Hizbollah intervention alone should’ve been enough to justify stepping up support for rebels. If he was that worried about what the American public might say then he could’ve did everything covertly. The fact that they are talking about it very publicly means they are intent on sending a message. He doesn’t need permission from congress or anybody else. People inside and outside his administration have been pleading for Obama to take action for about a year now.

        The red line for the American public is boots on the ground. I kind of doubt Americans will be that upset about trying to screw Assad. It depends on how far he goes. He could face resistance if he wants to setup a no-fly zone, but I don’t think people will care that much about sending arms.

        Syria is not Iraq and Obama is not George W Bush. Chemical weapons might be the most convenient excuse, but there are several ways he could’ve sold that to the American public and he has bent over backwards to stay out of it for two years. It depends on how he handles it.

  3. New informative website on Syria: The Syrian Observer http://www.syrianobserver.com

    The Syrian Observer is a daily online news service covering Syrian political and civil society news. It is dedicated primarily to translating into English news content produced by Syria’s official press, opposition groups, activists and civil society. In addition to translated content, the website publishes original features, op-eds, interviews and blog posts. It also aims at building an extensive Who is Who database of the main actors of the Syrian political and civil society scenes.

    The objective of the Syrian Observer is to provide a better understanding of Syria, to introduce Syria’s civil society and nascent political activity to the outside world and to contribute to the advancement of democratic values. The target audience of the website includes journalists, academics, diplomats, think tanks and all individuals and institutions operating in, or with Syria, and interested to learn more on Syria from Syrian sources. The publication is editorially and politically independent. Its editor-in-chief is Wael Sawah.

  4. The Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies has established three local offices inside Syria. These offices are managed by activists and human rights defenders. One of the offices will operate in and cover northern Syria, the second the middle regions and provinces, and the last the southern parts of the country.

    The main mission of these local offices is to document the daily violations in each area of operation, including counting and gathering information about victims and detainees, collecting evidence, creating databases, and documenting testimonies from victims and eye witnesses. Reports will be sent daily with statistical lists, charts, and tables to be published and to finally be used in order to prosecute human rights violators.

    The establishment of the three local offices will be the first step followed by other ones. DCHRS will continue covering all the regions in Syria as possible via its local offices. And for other regions that are difficult to reach and found offices in, DCHRS will continue working with volunteers and activist to cover them as well.

    More: http://dchrs.org/english/news.php?id=1236&idC=1

  5. Social Media Reporting and the Syrian Civil War
    The United States Institute for International Peace presents an in-depth study of how social media have influenced coverage of the Syrian civil war.

    – The lack of traditional reporting and verifiable journalistic reports about the ongoing conflict in Syria has led to an increased dependence on social media as a source of news. But assessing the veracity of these reports has proven extremely difficult, creating consistent distortions of Syria’s on-the-ground reality.

    – The large amounts of social media data emerging from conflict zones like Syria and new data analysis tools have the potential to help overcome these distortions.

    – Despite this enthusiasm, a number of conceptual and practical hurdles remain before these tools can create reliable predictive models of conflict dynamics.


  6. Why Obama is arming Syria’s rebels: it’s the realism, stupid. http://drezner.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/06/14/why_obama_is_arming_syrias_rebels_its_the_realism_stupid

    “To your humble blogger, this is simply the next iteration of the unspoken, brutally realpolitik policy towards Syria that’s been going on for the past two years. To recap, the goal of that policy is to ensnare Iran and Hezbollah into a protracted, resource-draining civil war, with as minimal costs as possible. This is exactly what the last two years have accomplished…. at an appalling toll in lives lost.

    This policy doesn’t require any course correction… so long as rebels are holding their own or winning. A faltering Assad simply forces Iran et al into doubling down and committing even more resources. A faltering rebel movement, on the other hand, does require some external support, lest the Iranians actually win the conflict. In a related matter, arming the rebels also prevents relations with U.S. allies in the region from fraying any further.

    So is this the first step towards another U.S.-led war in the region? No. Everything in that Times story, and everything this administration has said and done for the past two years, screams deep reluctance over intervention. Arming the rebels is not the same thing as a no-fly zone or any kind of ground intervention. This is simply the United States engaging in its own form of asymmetric warfare. For the low, low price of aiding and arming the rebels, the U.S. preoccupies all of its adversaries in the Middle East.”

    • Is that any different from the Iranian strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan? I doubt many people in the US or the Gulf countries would mind seeing Iran bleed in Syria and if the situation was reversed the mullahs would be thrilled to do the same to them(not that they haven’t tried already).

  7. Syria: Bilal Ahmed Bilal, the Detained Journalist is Tried Before Military Field Tribunal
    The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression is reporting that the Syrian Journalist, director at Palestine Today TV, Bilal Ahmed Bilal was sentenced to fifteen years in jail after a trial before the military field tribunal.

    September 13th 2013, Syrian authorities arrested Bilal Ahmed Bilal at the Recruitment Division while he was trying to obtain an allowance to leave for Lebanon on assignment, according to some sources, Bilal was severely beaten since the first moment of his arrest and he was detained by Air Force Intelligence.

    Bilal is suffering a very bad health in Saidnaya Jail resulting from the brutal torture he was subject to, while he was detained in the Air Force Intelligence, witnesses said.

    Military field tribunal is an exceptional secret court in which no lawyers allowed to attend and no judicial process of any kind is possible just as defense, cassation, appeal and its sentences are to be immediately carried out
    More: http://scm.bz/?page=show_det&category_id=1&id=1130&lang=ar

  8. Syria: Inventing a Religious War
    By Toby Matthiesen, New York Review of Books blog
    It might be tempting to view Shia fighters traveling to a foreign country to defend a religious shrine as the final realization of an age-old battle that started with the schism of Islam after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. Such a simplistic reading is, however, deeply misleading. Sayyida Zainab—a shrine whose status as a site of Shia religious pilgrimage was largely created in the 1980s and 1990s—lies at the heart of a strategic relationship between the Assad regime, Iran, and Arab Shia groups. This relationship uses religious symbols and sectarian language but it is driven far more by geo-strategic interests than faith. The various groups that profit from a further sectarianization of the conflict, this time on the Shia side, are to blame. These include Iran, which is trying to re-establish its influence over all Shia political movements and groups, whether in the Gulf, in Iraq or elsewhere.

    More: http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2013/jun/12/syria-inventing-religious-war/

    • The Shia-Sunni rift is immensely overblown. It is more a representation of deep seated material and ideological differences — but of course the regime benefits to portray it as sectarian.

  9. Activists: Clashes in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city
    (AP) — Syrian troops and rebels fought the heaviest battles in months Friday Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, a day after U.S. officials said Washington has authorized sending weapons to opposition fighters for the first time.

    The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the clashes concentrated in the eastern rebel-held neighborhood of Sakhour, calling the fighting “the most violent in months.” It said troops attacked the neighborhood from two directions but failed to advance, suffering casualties.

    The opposition’s Aleppo Media Center said troops bombarded Sakhour with tank shells and rockets before sending in troops. The fighting lasted about four hours, and then warplanes raided rebel positions in Sakhour. http://news.yahoo.com/activists-clashes-aleppo-syrias-largest-city-080117056.html

    • Aleppo is no Quasir….Aleppo will not fall, actually i wouldent be surprise to watch major FSA advances in aleppo and in the south of the country with these new weapons starting to enter the battlefields.

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