Syria Daily, Mar 20: Regime “No Discussions About Assad’s Future”

Scott Lucas
By Scott Lucas March 20, 2014 07:15 Updated

Syria Daily, Mar 20: Regime “No Discussions About Assad’s Future”

Story Highlights

  • Deputy Foreign Minister: Discussion of Assad's future "now completely finished"
  • Mikdad cautions against "manipulation" of issue of chemical weapons

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LATEST: Regime Forces Take 12th-Century Castle Near Homs

THURSDAY FEATURE

Syria’s regime has drawn a line against any political talks that include discussion of President Assad stepping aside.

Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad told The Wall Street Journal, “The issue of [Assad] relinquishing power is now behind us and this is a flagrant interference in Syria’s internal affairs. This is completely finished and we are not ready to discuss it at all, at all.”

Discussions in Geneva in January and February between the regime and opposition could not even agree on an agenda. The Assad delegation rejected any item about a transitional governing authority, saying the focus must be on confronting “terrorism” — its term for the Syrian insurgency.

The regime is planning a Presidential election in the spring to confirm Assad’s stay in power.

Mikdad also insisted that the regime’s failure to meet deadlines on the handover of chemical weapons stocks must not be manipulated:

We hope this issue won’t be politicized. It’s purely technical.

I affirm that the Syrian chemicals weapons program is finished, it’s behind us, this program no longer exists because we have destroyed all manufacturing capabilities and many production sites and all that’s left are some facilities that we will agree upon.

Sigrid Kaag, head of the mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said on Thursday that 54% of the toxins had been removed or eliminated.

The regime, blaming issues of security, has missed a series of deadlines for the handover, including the destruction of 90% of the chemical weapons by the end of January.

All stocks are supposed to be out of Syria by the end of June.


Regime Forces Take 12th-Century Castle Near Homs

Troops raised the regime flag on the battlements of the 12th-century Crusader castle Krak des Chevaliers on Thursday after a three-month siege.

Soldiers moved in after insurgents withdrew, following the regime takeover of the town of al-Hosn, the town below the castle.

At least 45 wounded insurgents were brought by Red Cross ambulances to hospitals in northern Lebanon hospitals, amid reports of 11 to 40 opposition fighters killed in the battle.

Syrian forces chased the fleeing insurgents across Rajm Hussein, a small hamlet on the outskirts of the border town of Wadi Khaled. The regime troops also closed the Bqaiaa border crossing with Lebanon in both directions.

Only 28 of the wounded were still hospitalized by early afternoon, and none had died. Sources said that many were from Jabhat al-Nusra.

Internet Restored Across Syria After 7-Hour Blackout

Internet service was restored across Syria on Thursday night after a 7-hour blackout.

A group called the European Cyber Army claimed that it had taken down Syrian services, retalitating against the hackers of the pro-regime Syrian Electronic Army.

Insurgents Claims Capture of Post of Regime’s 559th Brigade in Qalamoun

Jaish al-Islam (the Army of Islam) has claimed a victory against the regime’s offensive in the Qalamoun region, asserting that it took the post of the regime’s 559th brigade and seized a number of armored vehicles and heavy weaponry.

The insurgent victory blocks the main highway between Damascus and Palmyra in central Syria.

One of the “liberated” tanks:

Kurdish Militia Fighting ISIS and Chechen Jihadists Near Kobanê

Joanna Paraszczuk reports on fighting between the Kurdish militia YPG and the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham, including Chechen jihadists, near Kobanê (Ayn al-Arab) in northeastern Syria.

Deaths on both sides are reported in the battle around a grain elevator in the village of Sirin.

Video of casualties (Warning: Graphic Images):

1st UN Aid Convoy to Cross From Turkey Into Syria

The United Nations said its first aid convoy from Turkey to Syria is imminent.

About 80 trucks are ready to cross the border, aid officials said Wednesday.

Last week, Syria granted its approval for the opening of the only crossing that it controls on the Turkish frontier. Sources said Turkey has now also agreed.

NGOs have used Turkey’s Nusaybin border post, close to the Kurdish city of Qamishli, to bring in smaller consignments of aid.

Scott Lucas
By Scott Lucas March 20, 2014 07:15 Updated
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10 Comments

  1. RedTornadoes March 20, 19:55

    Roundup #3

    HIGHLY RELIABLE ARAB CHRONICLE EXPLAINS WHY REGIME COULD STILL BE AT RISK IN QALAMOUN

    Arab Chronicle (Cedric Larousse) is a mapmaker whose maps are respected by both sides. For mapmaking you need good, up-to-date and reliable sources. Mapmaking requires good sources, accuracy and honesty otherwise it is useless. No matter who you’d like to see win (AC despises the regime for the same reasons I do), you cannot afford to slant the map or no one will trust your maps in the future. Thus, it AC writes the following it is likely accurate:

    “The rebellion in Eastern Qalamoun and near Qaryatayn Mountains is more and more strong. Thousands of men and tanks…Jaysh Al-Islam, Jabhat Al Nusrah and many FSA locals from eastern Homs countryside and Qalamoun are concentrated in these areas.

    If all this is true, what does that mean?

    #1. Even a portion of such forces would suffice to cut off Aleppo or even mount a substantial attack on Khanasser, Al Safira and beleaguered regime forces near Aleppo airport.

    #2: Many regime supply bases and key airports are on the “wrong” (eastern side) of regime forces (including Hezbollah) and therefore more vulnerable as the takeover of a major tank and artillery site demonstrated yesterday.

    #3: Along with the rebel positions in Adra (a natural location to cut the Homs/Damascus road) the above forces will continue to pose a major threat to an any garrisons left behind in Yabrud and points north. If the regime had hoped to shift forces toward endangered areas (Aleppo, Damascus, north of Homs, etc.) they may have to stick around.

    If I were the rebels, I’d clear up all remaining positions east of Adra, meaning the Dumeir area and itsmilitary airport. That would give them a solid “green” rear with no substantial regime forces in event of any regime offensive. Rebels may already be doing that. The reason 559th Brigade’s Tank Base just east of Dumair, fell so easily is that the regime didn’t even have the manpower to defend it.

    AC makes an important point all coverage has missed: “The army base 559 capture gave to the rebellion the biggest tanks and artillery pieces capture since conflict beginning…” If you check the location on a map you’ll see lots of juicy targets nearby, most defensively crippled I believe.
    The newly captured rebel tanks are already on the move–possibly to Dumeir airport or to those other targets.

    Tazi Morocco has apparently reached the same conclusion. He writes, “Syrian rebels are now focusing on area where the Regime is weak, like Army base located in the middle of the desert. Interesting!” The same thinking should applies to any offensive in the south. Go for the easier pickings before considering a two-pronged offensve on Damascus. Let forces in East Ghouta tie up the regime, while rebels rampage though Quneitra, Daraa and Sweida provinces, sweeping up tens of thousands of defectors. I think regime defenses there will be almost as weak as in the desert.

    http://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&lat=33.691924&lon=36.822224&z=13&m=b

    HAMA TO IDLIB AREA

    Near Mork: A 9K111 Fagot eliminates a regime tank and its Alawite crew today.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKfHvEohCPg

    EUROPEAN CYBER ARMY EXPLAINS WHY IT SHUT DOWN SYRIA’S INTERNET

    http://pastebin.com/RBsgrhqM

    Reply to this comment
    • RedTornadoes March 20, 21:14

      THE CAPTURE OF ARMY BASE 559 IS STARTING TO LOOK EVEN MORE IMPORTANT THAN FIRST APPEARED

      Everyone is focused on the captured equipment, which is nice in itself and the access to regime targets further east. Note its value in the opposite direction. Having taken Base 559 the rebels can virtually seal off any regime forcs in Dumeir and related airport.

      As I noted above he speed and ease with which the base fell (in contrast to Yabrun) is remarkeable and something we’ve seen before in the same general area. Recall the huge supply base at Mahin. Even regime supporters were asking, “How could it happen? ” This is the second time now which suggests further possibilities. It also suggests an answer: the regime’s manpower shortage is even worse than advertised and regime officers must have been crossing their fingers hoping rebels wouldn’t notice.

      I think many of the troops that people assumed were in this area have been shifted to combat areas or–in the case of conscripts with suspect loyalties, to th southern provinces. I’ll bet you’ll find nobody’s home in many of these locations. What would make that situation even better is the potential rebel blocking force and its location as described by Arab Chronicle.

      At this point, I’d say this victory is 10 times more valuable than Yabroud not because of what was taken by how it was taken, the comparative difficulty of getting it back and the fact that Yabroud merely shuts one among many supply lines and doesn’t open nearly the opportunities Base 559 offers.

      Reply to this comment
  2. RedTornadoes March 20, 19:12

    Roundup #3

    USUALLY RELIABLE ARAB CHRONICLE EXPLAINS WHY REGIME COULD BE AT RISK IN QALAMOUN

    Arab Chronicle (Cedric Larousse) is a mapmaker whose maps are respected by both sides. Mapmaking requires good sources, accuracy and honesty otherwise it is useless. Thus when AC writes the following, it is likely accurate:

    “The rebellion in Eastern Qalamoun and near Qaryatayn Mountains is more and more strong. Thousands of men and tanks…Jaysh Al-Islam, Jabhat Al Nusrah and many FSA locals from eastern Homs countryside and Qalamoun are concentrated in these areas.

    ON THE IMPORTANCE OF REBEL CAPTURE OF 559th BRIGADE’S TANK BASE

    “The army base 559 capture gave to the rebellion the biggest tanks and artillery pieces capture since conflict beginning…” –Arab Chronicle. Check out the location of the base below and zoom back to not other possible targets. As online videos show, newly rebel tanks are already on the move. Meanwhile, the more regime forces are tied up in Qalamoun, the less they can help in this vicinity or in Adra, Aleppo, Idib, Damascus, etc.

    http://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&lat=33.691924&lon=36.822224&z=13&m=b

    HAMA TO IDLIB AREA

    Near Mork: A 9K111 Fagot eliminates a regime tank and its Alawite crew today.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKfHvEohCPg

    EUROPEAN CYBER ARMY EXPLAINS WHY IT SHUT DOWN SYRIA’S INTERNET

    http://pastebin.com/RBsgrhqM

    Reply to this comment
  3. RedTornadoes March 20, 18:58

    Note: I wrote this the other day but I’m not sure if I posted it.

    PROPOSAL: AN ISRAEL/REBEL ALLIANCE COULD BENEFIT BOTH & BRING MIDEAST PEACE

    The Israeli strike on the Assad yesterday was music to the ears of most Syrians. Enduring America claims Israel has budgeted three million for a strike on Israel—a wise precaution. However there’s a far chaper and less risky way to emasculate Hezbollah and Iran more effectively and with less danger of revenge attacks. Why not an alliance, formal or otherwise, with Syria’s rebels? .Hezbollah forces inside Lebanon would be left alone so long as they behave themselves. Hezbollah forces were they don’t belong (Syria) would be fair game.

    Iran and its Lebanese proxy would be intolerable if their Man in Syria were allowed to prevail. Important missiles and other weapons would flow into Lebanaon and Syria by the thousands from Iran and Russia. In his bullying quest for regional empire at the expense of all neighbors, Khamenei resembles Putin exactly. One quest drives Russian neighbors closer to the West. The other draws Iran’s neighbos closer to Israel. Iran does not really give a fig about the Palestinians, or it would not aid a sadist who massively starves Palestians and chuckles as he does so. Let’s be frank: Everyone knows Israel would oppose a successful Israel-Palestinian settlement no matter how favorable to the latter. We also know what Soleimeni and Al Quds would devise to torpedo it.

    Next to a victory by Al Queda extremists (impossible for many reasons), the next worst outcome for Israel would be an Assad victory being tantamount to a Putin/Iran/Hezbollah victory with predictable consequences. By comparison most (maybe not all) rebels could be won over creating a friendly government next door or at lease a neutral one absorbed–unlike Iran–in its own problems. Most Syrians are equally repulsed by an ISIS lifestyle as much as the life forvever under the boot of the equally sadistic Bashir Assad.

    Israel should consider a informal or formal alliance with the rebels–the last thing Nasrallah and Khamenei hoped for when they invaded Syria. It’s not totally inconceivable that even JAN might agree to such an alliance or at least not oppose it. The Islamic Front might well sign on under certain conditions (an agreement to stop freeze West Bank settlements, help rebuild afterwards, even consider a common market in time). In return the latter would have to agree to accept democratic elections and respect results. A smart deal would include post war planning of the sort FDR did. Israel is far more likely to keep its word than Obama, as everyone knows by now.

    Both sides would have much to gain. For the rebels victory would assure victory and punish Putin, Assad and Nasrallah. The latter would be terrific for Israel as well. Both would enjoy showing up the Double Crosser in the White House. Afterwards Israel would have a great incentive to take positive toward both Syria and the Palestinians. Indeed, nothing might do more to contribute to a Mideast peace than a victory over troublemaker Assad and his toublemaking allies in Russia and Iran. What is equally certain is that a regime victory would prolong the Israel Palestine conflict and fire up non-stop sectarian warfare while also spurring radicalization and ISIS-type brutality. It’s a case of best outcome compared to worst possible outcome–a no brainer.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Catmari March 20, 17:40

    Syrian army retakes Crusader castle from rebels

    (Reuters) – Syrian soldiers have raised the national flag on the battlements of a 900-year-old Crusader castle after a three-month siege that ended on Thursday when rebel fighters fled.

    The recapture of Crac des Chevaliers, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a real and symbolic victory over divided rebel factions.

    The army has also wrested back control of most of al-Hosn, the town below the hilltop castle, which was surrounded by Syrian troops for weeks until many rebels moved out on Thursday morning and the army moved in, according to residents.
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/20/us-syria-crisis-lebanon-idUSBREA2J19M20140320

    Reply to this comment
    • RedTornadoes March 20, 18:25

      Symbolic victory, yes. Strategic victory, no. Another pyrrhic win, yes. See my analysis below on that. I don’t just claim things or offer conclusions. I try to supply reasons to justify them.

      Reply to this comment
  5. RedTornadoes March 20, 17:39

    XENOPHOBIA IN RUSSIA IS AT AN ALL-TIME HIGH, EXPERTS SAY

    Even Chinese immigrants are being targeted and that could have impact in Beijing. A majority supports the slogan “Russia for the Russians” according to a recent poll. It is clear to me that the attitude is spreading to Russian ethnics in most countries adjoining Russia and that Putin is encouraging it.

    Some analysts have pooh-poohed claims that Russia is becoming more like Nazi Germany but it clearly is. Hillary got mocked by the GOP (to its discredit) for speaking the thuth. What no one seems to have noticed is another affinity: How the restrictions of media freedoms and freedoms of speech closely resemble the moves Hitler made after the false flag Reichstag fire. After that, there was no stopping the Nazis and they could do anything they pleased at home and—thanks to Chamberlain and Dadalier—in nearby Eastern Europe.

    All of this makes more disgusting how Obama sold out Syria to please Putin, Khamenei and Nasrallah as he catered openly to all three. I’m reminded of how Deladier and Chamberlain kidded themselves about Hitler, talking of how “he is a reasonable man and someone we can deal with.” If the shoe fits, Obama should wear it. How could he be such a sucker? American needs a Chuchill, and Obama has two years to go unfortunately.

    Key excerpt: “… the problem feeds upon itself. The authorities’ increasingly tolerance for or even exploitation of ethnic extremism makes it more acceptable and as it becomes more acceptable, the authorities feel themselves pressed to be even more tolerant of intolerance.”

    http://www.interpretermag.com/xenophobia-in-russia-at-an-all-time-high-experts-say/

    Reply to this comment
  6. RedTornadoes March 20, 16:36

    Update #2

    REGIME DID NOT CAPTURE KRAK DES CHEVALLIERS. REBELS ABANDONED IT

    Regime propagandists exaggerate the value of Yabroud and now Krak de Chevallier. Sophisticated regime strategists are aware of what they can’t tell their less informed masses:

    #1: the victories were lessened greatly because rebels left while they could.

    #2: The victories were pyrrhic in time and especially irreplaceable manpower losses.

    #3: Yabroud would be worth more if only rebels didn’t have many alternatives. Krak was symbolic.

    #4: Simultaneously the rebels were making far more ominous gains elsewhere (Adra/Dumeir, Quneitra, Daraa, the Hama to Idlib area and, lately Aleppo)—gains that will be hard to undo and involved even greater manpower and equipment losses.

    #5: In light of situations elsewhere the regime can’t afford to heavily garrison Yabroud, Nabk etc. which means that, having paid such a high price, the regime may not be able to hold them. That creates Sysiphus-like frustration.

    Every move the regime would like to make (garrison, encircle, hold on, recapture, defend, attack) requires what it does not have: enough motivated and skilled fighters. Every morning regime forces in the only manpower category that counts and rebel forces grow slightly. The entire process must accelerate greatly if rebels opt to take the south which is loaded with tens of thousands of Sunni conscripts aching to switch sides and short on loyalist fighter—most of whom are Alawite shabbiha, a tasty and hated target.

    Arab Chronicle reports that hundreds of FSA and Jund Ash Sham evacuees are now in the countryside west of Homs near al Husn and Zaraa after evacuating Krak de Chevalliers while a route was still open. Alawite militia have occupied the fortification.

    Zarra links Homs to the Mediterranean coast and is a long time conduit for of rebel fighters and arms. The regime had taken it from the rebels on March 8th and now may be losing it again in an exchange of locations. The regime will be forced into an attempt to re-encircle the region and while it does rebel will exploit opportunities elsewhere as they always do.

    When you are fighting an enemy with limited manpower, the more you can spread his forces, the better.

    Reply to this comment
  7. RedTornadoes March 20, 16:32

    Update #1

    NORTHERN DAMASCUS/ADRA AREA

    Rebels have rejected a truce offer from the commander of the nearby military airbase at Dumeir.

    QALAMOUN

    Video of Aham Al-Sham attacking the Assad base at Jebel al-Qualamoun.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9mZNCG8NS8&feature=youtu.be

    HORRIFIC TORTURE VIDEOS EMERGING FROM LIBERATION GHARZ PRISON IN DARAA DEMONSTRATE WHY REGIME MUST GO

    Regime supporters like to tell everyone that we should all prefer Assad simply on the basis that he is secular which rests on the false premise that the only alternative is a Taliban-like state as if that is what everyone who resists Assad wants.

    The truth is that secular dictators can be every bit as vicious as religious ones. See: Milosevic, Stalin, Hitler, Khamenei, Putn and Assad. They are all cut from the same cloth with not an ounce of difference between them. Any, when challenged, will murder the populace gladly and, if necessary, do anything possible to foment sectarian divisions where such possibilities exist.

    http://yallasouriya.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/syria-graphic-18-do-you-recall-those-leaked-videos-of-torture-inside-gharz-prison-in-january-2013/

    Reply to this comment
  8. Catmari March 20, 12:06

    Three Years of Strife and Cruelty Puts Syria in Free Fall
    By ANNE BARNARD, NYT
    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/18/world/middleeast/three-years-of-strife-and-cruelty-put-syria-in-tailspin.html?_r=0

    Reply to this comment
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