Syria Today, Nov 8: 123 Killed on Saturday Amid Regime’s Qalamoun Offensive


PHOTO: Claimed image of leader of pro-Assad Iraqi militia detaining a civilian in Nabk on December 4 — initial, erroneous claims were that this was from Saturday’s executions


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The spike in civilian deaths, fed by the regime offensive in the Qalamoun area, continued on Saturday.

The Local Coordination Committees claimed 123 people were killed, including 25 children and 11 women.

Almost half the dead were in Damascus Province, where Syrian forces are pursuing the Qalamoun campaign to take territory between the capital and the Lebanese border. Another 26 died in Aleppo Province and 16 in Raqqa Province.

Activists assert that President Assad’s forces have killed scores of people just in the town of Nabk, 40 miles north of Damascus, since Friday — first through shelling, then through house raids and executions.

The Violations Documentation Center records 80,678 deaths since the start of the conflict in March 2011. Of the dead, 59,632 were civilians.


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  1. I hate to break my self-imposed exile, but your supposed evidence for a massacre on Saturday 7th- a photo of an armed man walking down the road with an unarmed man – was published online days before, on Wednesday 4th:

    Needless to say, I have never before seen such flimsy evidence be used to confer whether a massacre occurred. You would think you would have checked your sources given the severity of the claim. On that note, what ever happened to your claims that evacuees from Moadamiyeh were being used as human shields: ?

    [edited by moderator]

    • Pak,

      Thanks for the catch on the photo — we have clarified the entries for both yesterday and today.

      We noted from the start that the image was “claimed” because of the need to be cautious.

      Our entry on the claimed deaths of more than 34 civilians in Nabk on Saturday was not based on this photograph but on multiple reports from different sources, including the assertion of a first-hand account from one of the victims just before she was allegedly killed.


      • Wouldnt it be then not better to just post said multiple reports and sources to let us figure out how reliable they are?

        Especially for supposed military advances and successes we have learned, that “multiple sources” often just means different twitter accounts and some of them (hopefully not the ones used by EA, but who were appearing in the comment section often enough) are a dead give-away that nothing at all was achieved.

        And Pak: I hope you keep posting, if you found something suspect or if some important things happened, that would get ignored or downplayed otherwise.

    • Pak,

      Thank you for this — I have amended the entries for both today and Saturday.

      From the start, we posted this as “claimed” because of the need for caution.

      Our entry on the 34+ civilian deaths in Nabk on Saturday was not based on this photograph, but on multiple reports from different sources, including one account from an alleged victim before she was killed.


  2. Shaping the Syrian Conflict from Kuwait
    By Elizabeth Dickinson, FP

    For the last two years, MPs like Matar, as well as Kuwaiti charities, tribes, and citizens have raised money — possibly hundreds of millions of dollars — for armed groups fighting the Syrian regime. In many ways, the financing is highly organized. Smartly aligned to a given theme, battle, or season, campaigns are broadcast on social media and advertised with signage and elegant prose.

    But Matar’s account offers a glimpse of just how uncontrollable — even random — this support has become. In Kuwait, private financing came into political vogue in Sunni circles, bringing aboard legions of public figures seeking to associate themselves with support for the Syrian rebels.

    That broad base of popular support among Sunnis has rendered the phenomenon nearly unstoppable for the Kuwaiti government. There is another complication too: some in the Shiite community have held events and possibly raised funds in support of the embattled Assad regime.


  3. How the U.S. Saw Syria’s War
    By Jeremy Shapiro, Miriam R. Estrin, FP

    Many have lamented the “policy gap” that separates scholars and policymakers and prevents them from having meaningful exchanges of ideas. Much of the commentary has focused, on the one hand, on the cultural and hiring trends within academia that reward lengthy, equation-ridden papers as opposed to clear writing, and, on the other, the lack of interest and utility of this kind of scholarship inside the government. But this understates the problem. Even when scholars publish “policy relevant” and well-written pieces, there is a very limited ability for outsiders to teach the government new knowledge.

    There are many reasons for this limited ability. It is difficult for outsiders to influence the state of government knowledge because they themselves usually disagree, as is to be expected on any complex subject. Policymakers can usually cite “experts” to bolster all sides of an argument. And even when outside experts largely agree, academic theories that present challenges to pre-existing ideas have greater difficulty making headway inside the government.

    For these reasons, outsiders need to find a way to connect their knowledge to an existing policy process. This means they have to move beyond the simple truth or falsity, and present their knowledge in ways that reflect an understanding of the political and bureaucratic incentives and the policymaking process. For any given debate, an outsider needs to ask which specific policymaker can benefit from this new knowledge by using the outside authority as a weapon in the inevitable internal struggles over government policy.

    Full article (very interesting):


    Yesterday I wrote this paragraph “Without Obama’s help, there is absolutely no way that Assad can break the blockade or survive if it drags on for long. Any regime’s success there will be correctly seen as proof of Obama’s behind-the-scenes intervention.”

    Someone offered a two-word rebuttal ”Absolutely false”–unaccompanied by supporting evidence. I’ll simply lay out my case and let readers decide. EA’s stats are a good place to start because they so encapsulate the regime’s failed approach everywhere, not just Qalamoun. Intended to intimidate, atrocities alienate instead, driving legions of determined fighters to join the rebels and encouraging tens of thousands of Sunni conscripts to defect given the opportunity.

    Rater than start a new header (yesterday’s took 14 hours to get approved), I’ll be updating my Syria Roundup today under the existing lead at the link below. I’ve started by looking at EA’s stats and following up on the points made here. I try to demonstrate why it appears impossible for the regime to win in Qalamoun without behind-the-scenes help from Obama who unquestionably has tried to handicap the rebels earlier. That’s what gives credence to the possibility of further backstabbing.


    I’ve have not checked twitters but I suspect to find moe on an interesting report last night. A rebel unit—apparently an elite commando group, reportedly sneaked into the Saydet Zeynab suburb of Damascus (so loaded with foreign militia) and killed at least 50 foreign militia using knives and small calibre weaopons with silencers.

    EA might want to check that one out. I reported on an update last night under the current heading.

    • Typo correction:

      The word “cover” should read “covert” in the header above.

      I injured some fingers several years ago when a 8000 pound trailer/ hitch came down on them above a block of wood so I sometimes miss letlets. I’m also a lousy proofreader because I tend to speed read rather than look at every letter. I can’t seem to slow that down. I do better when I read aloud, but forget to do so or sometimes lack the time or patience or both.

      • OK I gotta call ya out on this one.
        This isn’t 1950 with mechanical typewriters where injured fingers would be a problem.
        As a graduate of a speed reading course I can assure you that speed reading allows you to identify more typo’s in a shorter time.
        Take some pride in your work……..Don’t have time?……Make time!!!
        How much time does proofreading a few paragraphs take?

        P.S. I type with two fingers and spent three minutes on this reply.

    • “Someone offered a two-word rebuttal ”Absolutely false”–unaccompanied by supporting evidence.”

      And what exactly am I supposed to do? Prove a negative? Share classified information with a stranger on the Internet? How absurd and illogical is that?

      When you make claims it’s incumbent upon you to provide the supporting evidence, not simply say whatever you want and then demand that anyone showing skepticism prove their doubts. This is basic stuff. Given that the “evidence” you’ve compiled for your conspiracy theory literally consists entirely of “the government is surviving, ergo Obama must be helping them” it’s really quite galling that you have the nerve to try to call out another person in the first place.

      The basic fact of the matter is that the Syrian government and its military subordinates routinely conducts activity on a weekly basis that is essentially impossible for an entity that is on the verge of collapse, as you claim it is, to be conducting, and no I can’t go into detail about those activities because I would rather keep my job. You don’t have all the facts. EA doesn’t have all the facts. *I* don’t have all the facts. [Edited by moderator]

      • All,

        I’m stepping in to end this thread now — we realize that the issues discussed here can be emotive but commenters are asked to please refrain from turning debate into personal attacks against others here.


    • As I wrote some time ago, the regime may take some of these towns (where they become sitting ducks) but cannot take ALL the towns and countryside and hold them. Also I suspect the road is open northward to Homs but bit be so to the south.

  5. To RedTornadoes:

    I think you should understand that the american administration have no one to support anymore. The Syrian National Council and the Syrian military council have been completely sidelined.

    The FSA is completely dead and gone, the Islamic Front has taken over the arms depots of the SMC yesterday at the border crossing.

    Now it’s all the Islamic Front, ISIS and Al Nusra. There are the three main forces on the rebel side. The rest is negligible.

    The US can’t support any of them. Even the Turkish islamists are now hesisating. Saudi Arabia and Qatar , two salafists states are the main backers.

    • I’ll take the non-Al Queda Islamists over Assad any day. As having more palatable choices, no one did more to eliminate those than Obama–certainly not the regime, nor Iran and proxies. Obama is TOTALLY to blame for that.

  6. Whose sarin?
    By Seymour M. Hersh

    “Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack. In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.

    But in recent interviews with intelligence and military officers and consultants past and present, I found intense concern, and on occasion anger, over what was repeatedly seen as the deliberate manipulation of intelligence. One high-level intelligence officer, in an email to a colleague, called the administration’s assurances of Assad’s responsibility a ‘ruse’. The attack ‘was not the result of the current regime’, he wrote. A former senior intelligence official told me that the Obama administration had altered the available information – in terms of its timing and sequence – to enable the president and his advisers to make intelligence retrieved days after the attack look as if it had been picked up and analysed in real time, as the attack was happening. The distortion, he said, reminded him of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, when the Johnson administration reversed the sequence of National Security Agency intercepts to justify one of the early bombings of North Vietnam. The same official said there was immense frustration inside the military and intelligence bureaucracy: ‘The guys are throwing their hands in the air and saying, “How can we help this guy” – Obama – “when he and his cronies in the White House make up the intelligence as they go along?”’”

    • Maybe Seymour M. Hersh unfortunately considered not all facts which lead to the realization that Assad is the mass gas murder:

      The most striking piece of new information is that Assad may have considered a bigger chemical operation in December 2012:

      “”The U.S. intercepted an unusually complete communication in which Syrian officials spoke about a potentially larger-scale chemical attack involving aircraft. The White House sent private messages to the Russian government, which in turn asked Iran to lean on the Syrians to scrap the plan, according to current and former U.S. officials involved in the matter. Iran did just that, the officials say. A spokesperson for Iran’s U.N. mission said Iran had made it clear it opposed the use of chemical weapons.””


      “”US and Israeli communications intercepts reveal chaos inside the Syrian regime that night (the night of the gas attack) When the reports of mass casualties filtered back from the field, according to the officials briefed on the intelligence, panicked Syrian commanders shot messages to the front line: Stop using the chemicals!

      Calls came in to the presidential palace from Syrian allies Russia and Iran, as well as from Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group whose fighters were inadvertently caught up in the gassing.””

      on the timing:

      “”On the immediate case of the August 21 attacks, the article puts out a straightforward argument of the chain of communications not being able to process intelligence quickly enough to anticipate a large attack:

      “U.S. intelligence agencies didn’t translate the intercepts [from August 18 to August 20] into English right away, so White House officials didn’t know what the Syrian regime was planning until the assault began.””

      The fact remains: Iran supports a gas mass killer.

    • Obama may have provided them. Many suspect he’s been helping the regime open the highway northward to Homs to enable transport of chemical weapons to Latakia. It’s begining to look like he’s always favored the regime and everything else was just an act. He’ll deny of course but Syrians know better.

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