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Syria Daily: Assad Draws Line Against His Departure

Syria Daily: Assad Draws Line Against His Departure
January 10
07:36 2017

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TUESDAY FEATURE

As Regime Cuts Off Water, Damascus’s Children Fall Ill


UPDATE 1300 GMT: A commander of the rebel Fastiqim Union, Saqr Abu Qutaiba, has said that the ceasefire has “practically ended on the ground” because of pro-Assad actions.

The commander told the pro-opposition Eldorar that Fastiqim, prominent in Aleppo Province, is now preparing to respond to violations of the truce.

Leaders of three other factions said last Sunday that the ceasefire has failed because of the pro-Assad offensives on Wadi Barada, northwest of Damascus, and East Ghouta to the northeast of the capital.

Abu Qutaiba said rebels have not decided yet whether to participate in political talks with the regime in Kazakhstan because of the conditions on the ground.


ORIGINAL ENTRY: While declaring that he is “ready to negotiate everything”, Syria’s President Assad has drawn a line against his departure from power through political talks.

As they brokered a nominal national ceasefire on December 29, Russia and Turkey declared their intention for discussions in late January between the regime and rebels in Kazakhstan.

Assad told French media on Monday, “When you talk about negotiation regarding whether to end the conflict in Syria or talking about the future of Syria, anything, it’s fully open, there’s no limit for that negotiations.”

However, the President immediately questioned whether this was possible:

But who’s going to be there from the other side? We don’t know yet. Is it going to be real Syrian opposition? And when I say “real” it means has grassroots in Syria, not Saudi one or French one or British one – it should be Syrian opposition to discuss the Syrian issues. So, the viability or, let’s say, the success of that conference will depend on that point.

Then Assad put up the barrier to his departure, even at the end of a transitional process, that he has maintained for years amid opposition demands — still maintained — that he cannot remain in office.

My position is related to the constitution, and the constitution is very clear about the mechanism in which you can bring a president or get rid of a president. So, if they want to discuss this point, they have to discuss the constitution, and the constitution is not owned by the government or the President or by the opposition; it should be owned by the Syrian people, so you need a referendum for every constitution.

This is one of the points that could be discussed in that meeting, of course, but they cannot say “we need that President” or “we don’t need that President” because the President is related to the ballot box. If they don’t need him, let’s go to the ballot box. The Syrian people should bring a President, not part of the Syrian people.

Assad, who succeeded his father Hafez as President in 2000, finally arranged an election in 2014 as the conflict escalated. He ran against two nominal candidates, claiming 88.7% of the official vote.

The rebel faction Jaish al-Mujahideen said on Tuesday that it was unacceptable for Assad to remain during a transitional phase.

In the US, State Department spokesman John Kirby responded:

[Assad] was going to take back his whole country and we’ve seen the manner in which he sees fit to do that. So I think it’d be difficult to take any stated commitment to him about elections very seriously.

Ceasefire?

Assad effectively acknowledged that he and his military never adhered to the ceasefire, declaring that the offensive to recapture the Wadi Barada area — northwest of Damascus and held by the opposition since 2012 — would be sustained until rebels were defeated:

There’s breaching of that ceasefire on a daily basis in Syria, including Damascus, but in Damascus mainly because the terrorists occupy the main source of water of Damascus where more than five million civilians are deprived from water for the last three weeks now.

The role of the Syrian Army is to liberate that area in order to prevent those terrorists from using that water in order to suffocate the capital.

The offensive by regime and Hezbollah forces was launched in mid-December with airstrikes, shelling, and ground assaults. The pro-Assad forces have made limited gains in the area of 10 villages and between 50,000 and 100,000 people.

Wadi Barada is vital because its al-Fija springs provide more than 60% of Damascus’s water. The aerial attacks damaged the pumping facilities for the springs in late December, limiting supplies for an estimated 5.5 million people to no more than two hours per day.
The regime covered up the damage with the claim that rebels had “poisoned” the springs with diesel fuel.

To justify the offensive, the regime and its allies have claimed that the jihadists of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham — which they claim are excluded from the ceasefire — are the rebel force in the area.

The opposition and rebels say JFS, formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra, left the area in late 2015. Local sources have confirmed that there are no more than 30 members of the group in Wadi Barada.

Justifying Aleppo’s Deaths and Destruction

Assad also justifying the campaign to retake all of Aleppo city, with thousands of civilian casualties since 2012 and widespread devastation:

Every war is about destruction, every war is about the killing, that’s why every war is bad….

But the question is: how can you liberate the civilians in those areas from the terrorists? Is it better to leave them, to leave them under their supervision, under their oppression, under their fate defined by those terrorists by beheading, by killing, by everything but not having state? Is that the role of the state, just to keep and watch? You have to liberate, and this is the price sometimes, but at the end, the people are liberated from the terrorists. That’s the question now; are they liberated or not? If yes, that’s what we have to do.

After a four-month siege and intense Russian-regime bombing, pro-Assad forces — led by Iranian units, Hezbollah fighters, a Palestinian brigade and Iranian-led Afghan and Iraqi militias — retook all of Aleppo last month.

The city had been divided since July 2012.


Pro-Regime Site Confirms Breaking of Ceasefire in Southern Aleppo

The pro-regime site Al-Masdar has proclaimed the breaking of the ceasefire by pro-Assad forces in southern Aleppo Province.

The site said Hezbollah, Iraqi military, and regime units fired missiles and shells on rebel positions in Rashidin and Khan al-Asal just after midnight.

Al-Masdar acknowledges that the attacks were on positions of the Jaish al-Fatah rebel bloc, who are covered by December 29 ceasefire. It says, “Hezbollah and their allies are expected to launch a massive offensive in the southern countryside of Aleppo in the coming weeks.”

Local pro-opposition sources reported last week that Iranian units and Iranian-led militia are being flown into airbases near Aleppo for a possible offensive.

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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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25 Comments

  1. Barbar
    Barbar January 10, 10:48

    Assad … finally arranged an election in 2014 as the conflict escalated.” — Neither ‘finally’ nor related to the state of the imposed proxy war at all, as the election occurred on schedule. Also, it was his third victory, having previously been elected to the position in 2000 and 2007.

    Reply to this comment
    • Scott Lucas
      Scott Lucas Author January 10, 11:12

      “Finally” as the 2000 and 2007 showpieces were not elections but staged referenda on Assad, with no opposing candidate allowed.

      Reply to this comment
      • Barbar
        Barbar January 10, 11:43

        Just because no opposing candidates ran does not mean they were prevented from doing so. For a recent example, the DNC wanted to proclaim The Psycho-HoseBeest as their primary winner, seeing as she was The Anointed One who it was entirely futile to oppose. In the event, they only narrowly squeezed Bernie out of contention by employing a mass of dirty tricks, thus ironically securing the historic upset loss against i>Der Trumpenführer.

        Reply to this comment
        • Scott Lucas
          Scott Lucas Author January 10, 12:09

          “Just because no opposing candidates ran does not mean they were prevented from doing so”.

          Hmm — yes, they were….

          Reply to this comment
          • Barbar
            Barbar January 10, 12:29

            Who then prevented an opposing candidate from running in 2000 or 2007, and how?

            Reply to this comment
            • Scott Lucas
              Scott Lucas Author January 10, 12:48

              Start by reading about what happened to those who put forth the Damascus Declaration of 2005….

              Reply to this comment
              • Barbar
                Barbar January 10, 12:51

                No, you start by substantiating your blank claim instead of sending me off on a wild-goose chase, thanks muchly.

              • Scott Lucas
                Scott Lucas Author January 10, 14:19

                If you want to understand how the Assad regime is operating as a plutocracy that allows little dissent and no challenge to the President, including elections, you need to learn about the 2005 Damascus Declaration and the regime’s response to it.

        • gunny
          gunny January 10, 14:27

          “”Just because no opposing candidates ran does not mean they were prevented from doing so””
          =

          The first review in five years of Syria’s human rights record has found President Bashar al-Assad is responsible for an “abomination” of violations. An estimated 400,000 have been killed in the fighting, the majority at the hands of his regime and its backers like Russia and Iran, it reported.

          “After millennia, this Syrian government led by President Assad succeeded in just a few years to utterly destroy the entire meaning of the Syrian civilisation,” said Roderick van Schreven, the Netherlands ambassador to the UN.

          “We face today not a legitimate government seeking to improve human rights, but a vicious regime waging war on its own people,” added Julian Braithwaite, the UK’s mission to the UN in Geneva, who described the Universal Periodic Review as “like no other”.

          We know today that the syrian security service have 3 Departments of cyber security.
          Who ever was found criticiing the Assad Regime even before 2011 has disappeared in Assad’s torture dungeons.

          The question of who has prevented an alternative syrian candidate is cynical and is a typical Russian bullshit question: Who ever raised his voice against Assad was tortured to death.

          Reply to this comment
        • Leeroyjenkins
          Leeroyjenkins January 10, 15:30

          Barbar are you pretending syria wasnt a dictatorship?

          Reply to this comment
      • Amir in Tel Aviv
        Amir in Tel Aviv January 10, 12:07

        Syria is not Britain. Not everything that is good for Britons will necessarily be good for the Syrians. Democracy is not a religion and it is not up to you to decide what is democratic enough or not for others.

        Reply to this comment
        • Don Cox
          Don Cox January 10, 15:19

          You mean, the British have a right to democracy, but a brutal dictatorship is good enough for the primitive Syrians ?
          .
          The theory that wogs like being ruled by tyrants seems to be widespread. I think it is wrong.

          Reply to this comment
          • Amir in Tel Aviv
            Amir in Tel Aviv January 10, 15:45

            No. The superior white man because he is more wise than the infetior primitive natives, can dictate them of what is good for them.

            Reply to this comment
            • Don Cox
              Don Cox January 10, 17:26

              The Syrians didn’t rise up against Assad in 2011 because some outsider told them to. They rebelled for the same reason the English rebelled against Charles I or the Russians against Nicholas II. They had had as much of the old tyranny as they could stand.

              Reply to this comment
              • Amir in Tel Aviv
                Amir in Tel Aviv January 10, 19:27

                Seeing “rising up” as an ultimate remedy to all problems and as something that is always the right thing to do, is immature to say the least.
                Is freedom priceless?

              • Afshin
                Afshin January 11, 15:51

                Syria is not a revolution and these so called Moderate Rebels are nothing but supported terrorists by the likes of Saudi’s, Qatari’s etc. Very much like Libya was.

                Except this time Russia and Iran said not in my backyard.

    • Don Cox
      Don Cox January 10, 21:19

      Revolution is the worst solution to political problems, but it is the only remaining remedy when everything else has failed. Remember that the uprising began with peaceful demonstrations, which were met with violence.
      .
      The big problem with revolutions is that the chaos provides an opportunity for a power grab by fanatics (or by those who are simply eager for power). This was true in England, France, Russia, Iran, Syria and Egypt.
      .
      But in the end, when the government is likely to torture you to death or lock you up for decades for the most minor comment, many people do find it worth while to risk their lives.

      Reply to this comment
  2. ​Saliatus
    ​Saliatus January 10, 15:16

    State Department Spox John Kirby: Incendiary & false accusations about the U.S. in Turkish media are offensive and could endanger our citizens. Must stop.
    https://www.reddit.com/r/syriancivilwar/comments/5mcpco/state_department_spox_john_kirby_incendiary_false/ 1/6/2017

    The United States has long been cast by some nationalist and Islamist elements as the guiding hand behind plots to undermine Turkey. Conspiracy theories have reached fever pitch in recent weeks, and in some cases been fuelled by elected officials.
    .
    The Islamist Yeni Akit newspaper said last week that a New Year’s Day shooting which killed 39 people in an Istanbul nightclub, claimed by Islamic State, was a “joint production” by the CIA, Israel’s Mossad spy agency, and what the Turkish government calls “FETO”, the Gulenist Terror Organisation.
    .
    “Daesh (Islamic State), the PKK and FETO are terror groups with strings linked to the same centre. Along with many secret services, the most active user is the CIA,” Samil Tayyar, a ruling AK Party lawmaker, said on Twitter after the attack.
    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-turkey-usa-erdogan-idUSKBN14T1D6 1/9/2017

    “Experts say the west is distracting Turkey by throwing Al Nusra in front of them as a pawn to protect the PKK/PYD” m.yenisafak.com/en/news/al-nus… https://t.co/PXBq61XTju
    https://twitter.com/hasavrat/status/817816969441329152 1/7/2017

    Reply to this comment
    • ​Saliatus
      ​Saliatus January 10, 15:27

      Sort of pro-JFS article slams Ahrar as ‘Turkish-Qatari proxy’ https://t.co/hvvIXw2wxS
      https://twitter.com/vvanwilgenburg/status/818646217504722944 1/9/2017

      Lyon II University faculty member and Washington Institute fellow Middle East expert Fabrice Balanche published an analysis in Le Figaro on the agreement signed among the regime and the groups they are in conflict with by the mediation of Russia, Iran and Turkey. Balanche underlined that there is a risk that the Kurds may be sacrificed as a result of the Russian-Turkish cooperation.
      .
      The analysis was published with the title “Syria: Why the ceasefire doesn’t announce the end of the war” and in it Balanche argues that Turkey has joined the Russia-Iran alliance in a tactical move and that the ceasefire was “so far a success”.
      .
      Balanche pointed out that the ceasefire doesn’t include regions under Fatah Al Sham (previously known as Al Nusra) control and foresaw Bashar Asad staying in power until 2021, and stated that the “withdraw” of Asad mentioned in the agreement was “just to lure the West and the Gulf countries to the table”.
      https://www.anfenglish.com/news/balanche-kurds-may-be-the-victim-of-the-russian-turkish-cooperation 1/5/2017

      Russia and Turkey have reached an understanding. Turkey would be silent in the face of Russia’s actions in Aleppo. It would abandon demands for regime change in Damascus, and end support for certain jihadi groups threatening Assad. In turn, Russia would turn a blind eye to Turkey’s illegal occupation aimed at establishing a “safe zone” inside Syria.
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-l-phillips/us-retreat-from-syria_b_13873562.html 12/28/2016

      Reply to this comment
      • Barbar
        Barbar January 10, 20:34

        This Balanche chap is rather droll:
        .
        Balanche commented that Russia declared they will withdraw their troops in March and “in Russian” that means a rotation of units and equipment for a new large-scale attack.

        Reply to this comment
  3. Barbar
    Barbar January 10, 20:39

    ‘Rebel’ Fitnah News — Sheikh Maqdisi [AQ semi-domesticated pet of ‘King’ Playstation] predicts that the failure of JFS & AAS merger will inevitably lead to open war between the NATO-conform factions and those wishing to maintain independence and establish a Sharia state:
    https://twitter.com/ToreRHamming/status/818523581160243200
    .
    Which surely means the war has already begun, else this character would never utter this publicly.
    .
    This indicates that AQ are moving on to their long-planned Phase 2 — The rise of a new Taliban in Shaam:
    https://justpaste.it/Taliban_Shaam
    .
    And that’s your vaunted ‘Obomber Foreign Policy Legacy’ in a nutshell — aiding the official enemy’s expansion — Brain-Bug brilliance, eh?

    Reply to this comment
  4. K9
    K9 January 10, 21:18

    #Observation: Many on this board (and perhaps on twitter too) wonder how the Russians once being involved in this conflict can lie so shamelessly but the fact of the matter is the same way the German writer Clausewitz viewed warfare as ‘a continuation of politics by other means’ the Russian military (and the security services the helped Putin to power) view lying/deceit as a continuation of warfare by other means. So as long Russia continues supporting Assad remaining in power the Russians will continue lying to rebels (e.g. about wanting peace/’cease fires’, or call the destruction of hospitals ‘ISIS depots’ or calling the FSA and rebels in generals ‘ISIS’ or attacking rebels [see Daraa] even if the only fighting rebels are doing is against Daeesh and then tell the world media the next day that only ISIS got targetted etc) and about rebels.
    .
    The following are a number of links on how the use of ‘deceit’ is considered a strategic weapon by the Russian military and Putin’s FSB:
    .
    This link below is a wiki description of Russian military deception –
    .
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_military_deception
    .
    And for those living in the UK this is an excellent audio programme from BBC Radio4 about Russia’s use of deception in war.
    .
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b050674y
    .
    For those who are nerds about this whole area of ‘Russian strategic use of deception’ here is an interesting PDF about the subject from the US military.
    .
    http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a165980.pdf
    .
    Finally rebels shouldn’t be surprised that the Russians lie so shamelessly about them – especially on RussiaToday – since throughout their history the Russians have ALWAYS lied about any group they’re at war with (e.g. they lied about the Finns during the Russian-Finnish winter war and they’ve lied about almost every conflict since including the two Chechen conflicts as well as the Ukrainian conflict).

    Reply to this comment
  5. K9
    K9 January 10, 22:26

    #International: 1) Below is a photo captured by journalist Stephan Nabil of Daeesh’s command centre in Mosul of a room that has military style maps and battle field maps. These maps shows that Daeesh have fully thought through strategic battle-plan. Rebels in Syria on the other hand still can’t do this even though they have google earth.
    .
    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C11a51NUkAAh7gJ.jpg
    .
    2) Reports that a anonymous Arab country bought this new vehicle-based mortar system. I have a feeling we may see this vehicle-based mortar system in the Syrian conflict.
    .
    http://defence-blog.com/army/alakran-mortar-carrier-system-secured-first-export-order-from-a-middle-east-customer.html
    .
    The advantage of this new system is that because it’s attached to a motor vehicle this mortar system once fired can be disused and moved to another location (much like a TOWie ATGM) before it can be located and destroyed by counter-fire. If the rebels do get this it’ll allow them to retain their firepower as well as increase their mobility. Here’s an excerpt from that above link “High accuracy thanks to its automatic aiming, high firepower (6 shoots per minute – manual loading). Alakran needs 12 seconds to deliver firepower and only 5 seconds to be out of action.”
    .
    #Observation: “Russia claiming to be “withdrawing” from Syria while sending more ground fighters” – Malcolmite
    .
    See my above post about Russian strategic/military use of deception-lies to further Russian war aims in Syria.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Barbar
    Barbar January 11, 06:43

    Fake News Alert
    .
    Wilfully purblind Clintonite losers CNN & BuzzFeed trolled by 4Chan into releasing 35-page ‘secret Trump Dossier’ [supposedly prepared by CIA] which any non-cretinous teenager on a quick scan could have informed them is patently fake:
    http://www.dailywire.com/news/12313/hours-trumps-press-conference-cnn-and-buzzfeed-hit-john-nolte#.WHW1-lddqLd.twitter
    https://twitter.com/_0Hour1__/status/819044762233749504
    https://twitter.com/Cernovich/status/818996127148056576
    .
    Here’s a snippet of the content for flavour:
    As early as 2011 TRUMP is known to have been flying directly to Moscow to meet with Kremlin contacts to formulate his 2016 presidential race. While out on weekend nights FSB agents posing as prostitutes baited TRUMP into sexual and nonsexual fetish acts. Among these include asking the presumed prostitutes to pop balloons by sitting on them, engage in water sports, and anal fornication. Additionally TRUMP asked them to use brown sharpies to simulate ‘black face’ at which point they engaged in role play where the FSB agents acted as burglars shouting “mup da doo ditta po mo BIX NOOD” while TRUMP himself flogged them with a cat of nine tails and told them to “pick this cotton from the sheets while I’m balls deep”.
    https://twitter.com/KnotEradEatoR/status/819045824898433024
    .
    LOL, this beats The Hitler Diaries hands down!

    Reply to this comment

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