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Syria Forecast, Nov 13: A Regime Offensive in Aleppo?

Syria Forecast, Nov 13: A Regime Offensive in Aleppo?
November 13
08:39 2013

ALSO IN WEDNESDAY FORECAST

Snapshot: The Importance of Private Support of the Insurgency

WEDNESDAY FEATURE

Spotlight: “Superior Funding, Resources Helping ISIS Pose Threat To ‘Moderates’ Near Turkey Border”

Chatter is rising about an offensive by President Assad’s forces to re-take parts if Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, after a stalemate of 16 months.

The talk has been fuelled by regime victories in the last month, such as the capture of the town of as-Safira to the east of Aleppo.

Mohammad Nour of Shaam News Network said areas such as the eastern district of Hanano are now vulnerable.

“Regime forces aided by Hezbollah, the Iraqis and the Iranians have launched a pincer movement from the north and the east and are closing in on major neighborhoods,” he said.

Activists said Assad’s forces backed by tanks had taken two highrise buildings in the northern Ashrafieh and Bani Zeid districts, and advanced into the two neighborhoods after close-quarter street fighting.

The leading insurgent faction Liwa al-Tawhid Brigades sent reinforcements to the eastern al-Naqqarin district after Assad’s forces and their militia allies penetrated the area, opposition sources said.

Claimed footage of reinforcements heading to Aleppo:


Ahrar ash-Sham Propaganda Video Shows “Weekly Victories” (English)

Islamist insurgent faction Harakat Ahrar ash-Sham have published a Weekly Bulletin video showing off the most important achievements of the group in the past week. These include providing humanitarian aid to prisoners in the Aleppo Central Prison, as well as military victories. The video has an English voice-over.

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Snapshot: The Importance of Private Support of Insurgents

The New York Times offers a snapshot supporting our analysis that private money from the Gulf States is significant in support of insurgent groups:

The money flows in via bank transfer or is delivered in bags or pockets bulging with cash. Working from his sparely furnished sitting room here, Ghanim al-Mteiri gathers the funds and transports them to Syria for the rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad.

Mr. Mteiri — one of dozens of Kuwaitis who openly raise money to arm the opposition — has helped turn this tiny, oil-rich Persian Gulf state into a virtual Western Union outlet for Syria’s rebels….

One Kuwait-based effort raised money to equip 12,000 rebel fighters for $2,500 each. Another campaign, run by a Saudi sheikh based in Syria and close to Al Qaeda, is called “Wage Jihad With Your Money.” Donors earn “silver status” by giving $175 for 50 sniper bullets, or “gold status” by giving twice as much for eight mortar rounds.

The article leaves a key question unanswered, however: to what extent are the private activities supported by the Governments & regimes of the Gulf States?

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About Author

Scott Lucas

Scott Lucas

Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

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19 Comments

  1. Pak
    Pak November 13, 09:26

    Syria conflict: Grief and anger in Damascus
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-24922829

    “”I don’t recognise him.” Samira Zakhi screamed with a mother’s piercing wail that filled the largest morgue in Damascus.

    “He was blonde and had green eyes, but now his eyes are gone,” she cried.

    These were Samira’s last distressing moments with her son, 35-year-old Rafid, who suffered grievous injuries to his face in the mortar attack that killed him.

    Rafid was the driver who was helping children board his school bus when two mortars struck the Old City of Damascus on Monday. He and four children died on the spot.

    A second shell slammed through a sandbagged window in a nearby school, injuring some children and damaging a classroom with desks painted in pastel shades of purple and pink.

    “My son did no wrong,” Samira declared.

    “We need President [Bashar] al-Assad to terminate all those people,” she said in a harsh rebuke to the opposition that underlined how emotions are hardening in this brutal war.”

    Reply to this comment
  2. kiwi7
    kiwi7 November 13, 11:15

    Armenian Patriarch and killing of the Catholic children by the rebels: http://asbarez.com/116101/karekin-ii-condemns-attacks-on-christian-communities-in-syria/
    ANNA report from the factories recently liberated from rebel hands in Muaddamiah: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlxl9G4gUo8 (English subs). I consider interesting Marat Musin states the commanders of remaining 1.500 rebels are foreigners, what´s the main problem.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Pak
    Pak November 13, 11:21

    In Aleppo I only survive by looking Syrian
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/12/only-survive-by-looking-syrian-hunted-by-islamists

    “Since the rise of the Islamist resistance, parts of Syria have become off-limits to journalists – 30 of us are now missing. Today my helmet is a veil, and my flak jacket a hijab. Because the only way to sneak into Aleppo is by looking like a Syrian.

    Locals here don’t refer any more to “liberated areas”, but to east and west Aleppo – they don’t show you pictures of their children, or of siblings killed by the regime, but simply the pictures of beautiful Aleppo before the war. Because nobody is fighting the regime any more; rebels now fight against each other. And for many of them, the priority is not ousting Bashar al-Assad’s regime, but enforcing sharia law.

    Aleppo is nothing but hunger and Islam. Dozens of threadbare children, disfigured by leishmaniasis, walk barefoot in the steps of mothers, covered in black from head to toe – all bowl in hand, seeking a mosque for bread, their skin yellowed by typhus. In the narrowest alleys, to dodge mortar fire, boys are on the right with their toy Kalashnikovs, while the left is for girls, already veiled. Jihadi fathers push with their beards, djellabas and suicide belts. In July, Mohammad Kattaa was executed for misusing the name of the prophet. He was 15.

    And so there are only Syrians now to tell us what’s happening. They work for the major media, and contribute to articles written from New York, Paris and Rome. They are the famous citizen journalists, glorified by those who probably would never trust a citizen dentist.

    And the outcomes are cases similar to that of Elizabeth O’Bagy, the analyst mentioned by John Kerry during the days of the chemical attack. In fact, she had just published through the Wall Street Journal a piece that essentially made you believe that the rebels were all good guys: that hardliners, here, are but a handful – because the problem for the US is that Assad might be replaced by al-Qaida. A few days later, while Human Rights Watch uncovered evidence of rebels responsible for war crimes against the minorities, it was revealed that O’Bagy was on the payroll of a Syrian lobby group whose goal was to pressure the Obama administration towards intervention. In the Twitter and YouTube era, when many newspapers save on correspondents on the ground by raking up somebody who will summarise for them what’s going on in his own backyard, it’s on the O’Bagys that we then base foreign policy, base our wars: on the accounts of a recent graduate, born in 1987.”

    Reply to this comment
  4. Pak
    Pak November 13, 11:24

    Private Donors’ Funds Add Wild Card to War in Syria
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/13/world/middleeast/private-donors-funds-add-wild-card-to-war-in-syria.html?_r=0

    “The money flows in via bank transfer or is delivered in bags or pockets bulging with cash. Working from his sparely furnished sitting room here, Ghanim al-Mteiri gathers the funds and transports them to Syria for the rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad.

    Mr. Mteiri — one of dozens of Kuwaitis who openly raise money to arm the opposition — has helped turn this tiny, oil-rich Persian Gulf state into a virtual Western Union outlet for Syria’s rebels, with the bulk of the funds he collects going to a Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda.

    One Kuwait-based effort raised money to equip 12,000 rebel fighters for $2,500 each. Another campaign, run by a Saudi sheikh based in Syria and close to Al Qaeda, is called “Wage Jihad With Your Money.” Donors earn “silver status” by giving $175 for 50 sniper bullets, or “gold status” by giving twice as much for eight mortar rounds.

    “Once upon a time we cooperated with the Americans in Iraq,” said Mr. Mteiri, a former soldier in the Kuwaiti Army, recalling the American role in pushing Iraq out of Kuwait in 1991. “Now we want to get Bashar out of Syria, so why not cooperate with Al Qaeda?””

    Reply to this comment
  5. Pak
    Pak November 13, 12:01

    Syria: Militants Capitulate in Damascus Countryside
    http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/syria-militants-capitulate-damascus-countryside

    “According to the sources, over the past year the Syrian army has effectively eliminated strategic threats to Damascus, paving the way for serious discussion of fully liberating both eastern and western Ghouta.

    Indeed, the effects of the army’s achievements in the capital’s countryside began to gradually appear on the field, with the militants and their popular bases in several areas around the capital seeking deals with government forces. In the past two days alone, three such deals were declared in the Yarmouk Palestinian camp, Qudsia, and Hama, in which militants were given amnesty, and safe corridors were opened for the evacuation of civilians.

    Observers attribute the success and increasing rate of these deals throughout the countryside to several factors, including: the progress made by the army on more than one axis over the past month, especially in the southern countryside; the collapse in the ranks of the armed opposition on more than one front; and the deterioration of humanitarian conditions in the flash points as a result of sustained clashes.

    However, the direct reason behind these deals becoming a general trend, according to Luay Hilal, a national reconciliation activist, is “the success of the early attempts in places like Beit Saham and Maaddamiyyeh, which built up trust and credibility.””

    Reply to this comment
  6. Richard
    Richard November 13, 13:03

    Obama blew it.

    Not that he is a bad president. The republican agenda would have ruined our economy and it’s more important to fix your own home first. But regarding foreign policy. Obama is the worst since Carter. Arab spring could have been the death blow to Al Queda. Instead he allowed it to be their best recruiting tool. Why? Because Al Queda’s red lines do not turn to blue. Frustrated and oppressed youths will find that appealing and extremists will turn that appeal into recruits.

    Reply to this comment
    • Adrian
      Adrian November 13, 15:31

      And what should he have done otherwise in your eyes?
      Not intervene in libya? Or staying in libya, permanently occupying the country and forcefully disarming the militias?
      Should he have sided more with the MB in egypt and an increasingly autocratic islamic government against the will of the majority of egypts? Should he have sided more with the current military regime in egypt and their massacres against protesters?
      Should he have intervened in syria, against the direct will of the american people and most of his allies? Should he have dragged america into another religious and ethnic quagmire, that made iraq look like a clear straightforward campaign? A war marked by massacres by both sides, infighting, religous hate and were neither of the (relevant) sides has anything even remotely in common anymore with the pro-democracy movement of the beginning?

      The Arab Spring failed mainly, because it was hijacked by radical islam and islamism, and sorry, but this is soley the fault of the people involved and not because obama let the arab people sort out their problems first before sending the bombers and drones.

      Reply to this comment
  7. Catmari
    Catmari November 13, 14:44

    The sons feared lost to al-Qaida in Syria
    Constanze Letsch in Adiyaman, The Guardian
    Parents in Turkish town of Adiyaman tell of anguish of searching for offspring recruited for jihad in neighbouring country
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/11/sons-lost-al-qaida-syria-turkey-jihad

    Reply to this comment
  8. Pak
    Pak November 13, 17:02

    An article written in 2009 by an “expert on relationships between language and cognition”. An interesting read, and, in the context of EA’s coverage, quite relevant to how we perceive and define events in the Middle East.

    How Does Language Shape The Way We Think?
    http://edge.org/conversation/how-does-our-language-shape-the-way-we-think

    “I have described how languages shape the way we think about space, time, colors, and objects. Other studies have found effects of language on how people construe events, reason about causality, keep track of number, understand material substance, perceive and experience emotion, reason about other people’s minds, choose to take risks, and even in the way they choose professions and spouses. Taken together, these results show that linguistic processes are pervasive in most fundamental domains of thought, unconsciously shaping us from the nuts and bolts of cognition and perception to our loftiest abstract notions and major life decisions. Language is central to our experience of being human, and the languages we speak profoundly shape the way we think, the way we see the world, the way we live our lives.”

    Reply to this comment
  9. RedTornadoes
    RedTornadoes November 13, 18:04

    WIN OR LOSE, THE BATTLE OF ALEPPO WILL HAVE COST THE REGIME TOO MUCH

    My lead story today focuses on Aleppo. Starting with a look at part of the large reinforcements on the way, I than evaluate the horrific consequences should the regime offensive on Aleppo fails by looking at what the rebels should do next in order of priorites (The link below will have more updates later)

    http://iranian.com/posts/view/post/24045

    EA says the regime’s intended goal is “to retake part of Aleppo.” Even if it were accomplished I can’t see the military sense in that. Basically it amounts to opening a new front at a time when the regime has its hands full elsewhere. Meanwhile, the effects of the huge weapon seizure at Mihin will more than compensate for the withdrawal of any rebel forces to deal with Aleppo. It is the regime, already manpower short, which can’t afford to forego the troops sent to Aleppo.

    (At this point I expect to hear that tens of thousands of Sunni fighters who still retain loyalty to the Alawite Regime despite their full knownledge of regime crimes against their kin, homes, neighborhoods and classmates. The “logic” implies that mere membership in the Syrian army, even if forced, is tantamount to loyalty. Predictably as the regime uses such troops to “fill in” on defense elsewhere it loses bases and manpower to mass surrender.

    COUNTING UP THE PRICE THE REGIME HAS PAID FOR THE ALEPPO OFFENSIVE

    Mihin occupies the top spot having supplied the rebels with enough arms to fight for ten years.but defeats elsewhere, big and small, continue at an unsustainable pace. As my roundup yesterday noted the rebels benefited again, capture of a military base which now poses a threat to Thalia airport, capturing another base near Quneitra (the second mass surrender recently) , and posing a serious threat to Kalahah Air Base via a growing rebel axis to the east. That’s without considering the other attrition-creating smaller victories I noted.

    http://iranian.com/posts/view/post/24004

    MIHIN: THE MYTHMAKING NEVER ENDS

    Frantic to draw attention away from serious defeats in the South, regime propagandists counts their chickens before they hatch in a battle where even the limited victory sought would add to their problems elsewhere.

    Attempts to downplay Mihin have included a fake massacre in Sadad (actually based on a real one the regime committed elsewhere in 2012), diaily reports of regime victories and advances in the Mihin area (an advance that has been on the way for two weeks but has yet to be seen), claims that the Alawite air forces has annihilated the base along and prevented rebel trucks from hauling off seized goodies ( (not a single truck had been hit yet as of yesterday!) and this silly question yesteday,. ” Where did they take those tonnes of ammo and how did they manage the logistics?” A video answers that question:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhX-kY9SpA4

    Notice the number and large size of these trucks. As large as those vehicles are, it would take more than one truck to empty many of these bunker stuffed with supplies. To empty all of them takes time. Thanks to all those troops shipped off to Aleppo that has been no problem.

    PREDICTION: The next propaganda line on Mihin will be “How come we haven’t seen any consequences yet?” Because it take time to deliver, distribute and hide such a massive amount of weapons. Priority #1 is to assure that every bunker is emptied and ever bullet, missile, ATGM and mortar saved before comtemplating where to stomp the regime first.. Removal and distribution first, then planning is the sensible order. The good part is yet to come.

    .

    Reply to this comment
  10. kiwi7
    kiwi7 November 13, 18:13

    Syrian regular forces allegedly controlling Hejira ( after Sbeneh) and a rally in Jibreen: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.593821053987014.1073742648.298382103530912&type=1

    Reply to this comment
  11. Genome45
    Genome45 November 13, 19:30

    The Syrian Army has taken Hejeira today.

    http://www.kansas.com/2013/11/13/3114596/syrian-media-troops-capture-south.html

    The suburbs south of Damascus were long considered rebel strongholds and were keys positions in their attempts to besiege Damascus and to threaten the airport.

    The collapse of the rebel front south Damascus is complete. This is a major developpement as it ends any hope rebels had to take Damascus. This is even more significant than the recent victories in Aleppo governorate. Rebels are getting seriously outmuscled in the two main governorates.

    Reply to this comment
    • Adrian
      Adrian November 13, 23:06

      Genome45:
      Its a little bit too early to declare the complete collapse of the southern Rif Dimashq frontline.

      The rebels still held Hajar al-Aswad, a suburb directly south of the Yarmouk camp and north of Hejeira and Sbeneh. Most of the defeated rebels in the last days retreated there and I guess it is the next and final target of the recent fighting.

      And west of that there are still the two Western Ghouta suburbs of Moadamiyet and Daraya. Nobody really has a clue, how much of that territory is still held by rebels.

      Reply to this comment
    • RedTornadoes
      RedTornadoes November 14, 06:07

      As the British discovered, you can’t beat an insurrection by taking over cities (as the Brits did in Charleson, Philly, NYC and Boston. You have to defeat their armies. So long as the rebel army remains untouched, victory is elusive.

      In most cases where the rebels take base or checkpoints they capture or kill the defenders.

      When the regime takes rebel held areas, the rebels almost always slip away because a given situation has been deemed undefensible. We’ve all seen this time and again. It is exactly what the Americans did.

      What makes the regime so vulnerable is that is MUST defend in far too many places with too few forces. It MUST maintain checkpoints for a number of reasons and it MUST run convoys through rebel held countryside. The first ties down too many troops and the last two are extremely vulnerable. Many of those forces are lost in consequence.

      While doing all of that, Assad can’t leave offense only the enemy but he finds it difficult to launch more than one offensive at a time.

      So where did he get the troops involved in Aleppo? Obviously the Quneitra area near the Golan Heights and the Homs/Hama area. Knowing this, rebels take advantage.

      Reply to this comment
  12. Genome45
    Genome45 November 13, 19:46

    ISIS beheaded an Arhar al Sham commander today in their horrible video presenting his head to people filming, and falsely presenting him as a “shia infidel”.

    Jnan Moussa ‏@jenanmoussa 29 min

    #pt Ahrar commander confirms the slaughtered rebel belong 2 his group. He tweets: ISIS still have our fighter’s head https://twitter.com/khaled852111/status/400683835014135809

    Who will stop these people? Other rebels should try to negociate with the governement….when we see what their “allies” do to them.

    Reply to this comment
    • RedTornadoes
      RedTornadoes November 14, 06:14

      It’s kind of like the position of pro-democracy Spaniards who has a lousy choice between the fascists and Stalin-back left who often purged the ranks to assure loyalty to Stalin.

      It’s clear that Sunni civilians heavily prefer democracy–not Islamist rule or Al Queda rule while closest to battle if radicalizing regime fighters, though most hate ISUS, even many strongly Islamist ones.

      Never forget that virtually every Sunni has experienced the horror of Assad’s rule while few have experienced ISUS Taliban-like ugliness. Even so, the latter doesn’t slaughter peple of one-one hundreth of the extend Assad does.

      How many Sunnis have lost family or friends of homes to ISIS compared to those who have lost such things to the regime? In other words, the horrors of ISIS remain merely potential while the horrors of Assad’s rule are an everyday experience everywhere.

      Reply to this comment
  13. RedTornadoes
    RedTornadoes November 14, 18:15

    INVADERS MAY HAVE RUN INTO A NEW PROBLEM AT ALEPPO AIRPORT

    A huge fire now at the airport could mean serious trouble for the regime. Either it is an aviation fuel or an ammunition dump going up. Either would have serious implications.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-3ECpsLEEw

    Having no planes, rebels don’t need aviation fuel but the regime does. However, the regime hopes to seize the airport and enough surrounding territory to make it usable for resupply and reinforcement. If the aviation fuel were destroyed, replacing it in any quantity would likely require land shipment which rebels can disrupt at the source or en route. Most supplies and reinforcements to forces in the north would also have to come by land.

    If the explosion was an ammunition dump, it would put a serious crimp into regime offensive plans and could hurt defensively as rebel reinforcements arrive.

    SCRATCH UP TO TWO MIGS TODAY IN THE NORTH

    FSA forces have shot down one of the regime’s MiG warplanes over Khanasser in Aleppo province.
    Significance: 1) This suggests a threat to supply lines between Central Syria and the north. Supply lines further south near Homs and Hama remain at increasing risk as well and 2) Depending on how the plane was destroyed, have the rebels captured or acquired more anti-air missiles?
    Rebels also claim to have shot down another MIG via a missile while it was attempting to land at Aleppo airport. Source for both items: Markito0171.

    ISUS TO AHAR AL-SHAM: “Sorry About That! We Beheaded the Wrong Guy.”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10449815/Al-Qaeda-linked-rebels-apologise-after-cutting-off-head-of-wrong-person.html

    Reply to this comment
  14. RedTornadoes
    RedTornadoes November 14, 18:18

    REALLY GOOD ARTICLE ABOUT A PRESIDENT OUT OF HIS DEPTH

    Having Driven Off First-Rate Talent and Replaced it with Slugs, Obama Made His Fatal Syria Decision in a few seconds on the Advice of a Second Rate Adviser and without even notifying Kerry. Obama doesn’t listen to anyone but a small circle of people—mainly incompetent—who he trusts.

    http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2013/11/locked-in-the-cabinet-99374_Page5.html#ixzz2kdV4Tkvu

    ARM-TWISTING RUSSIA IS LAUNCHING A NEW “GAS WAR” TO FORCE THE UKRAINE TO REMAIN IN RUSSIA’S BACKWARD-LOOKING ORBIT

    Polls show that 40 percent of Russians want to live in the West. A new poll I posted a news item about a poll in which 2 out of 3 educated young Russians (yes, Russians) in the northeastern part said they wanted no part of Putin’s plan for an archaic, nationalistic, authoritarian and xenophobic “Eurasian Union.” Nor do Ukrainians. Can’t blame them. This heavy handedness, dominance seeking combination of an inferiority complex combined with delusions of gradeur is so very “Russian” in the old USSR/Tsarist mode.

    As I’ve noted before, Russia is a country that might have had a future but now has none after the takeover of its government by a man whose vision is totally backward looking rather than forward looking. It is a country with an aging population of ultra-nationalistic teeth grinders who make the US Tea Party look like raging liberals by comparison and who are dead set on waging war on muslims abroad (Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Chenchny) and the young and growing muslim population at home which may already constitute a majority among military age young. What’s coming is mass censorship, Syria-like civil war only worse and massive loss of revenue from cheap oil.

    Under the short-sighted, anti-western Putin and his corrupt mafia state, Russia has floated on cheap oil (much like the IRI), never developed a diversified economy (much like Iran) and (much like Iran) has repelled most foreign investment that might have diversified its economy. Would you buy cars made in a country where half the workers are drunk on vodka?

    http://imrussia.org/en/economy/603#.UoPDlyf4aUx.twitter

    Reply to this comment
  15. RedTornadoes
    RedTornadoes November 14, 20:23

    Great Breaking News for Rebels in Aleppo

    Many gains in or near city–including Base 80 Area

    Rebels May also be cutting off invading forces from the rear which would leave them trapped with no retreat.

    See my latest update under the lead post here:

    http://iranian.com/posts/view/post/24045

    Reply to this comment

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