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In recent weeks, the faction within the Obama Administration which favors a pullback from support of Syria’s opposition and insurgency — to the point of accepting President Assad’s stay in power — has had the upper hand in the US media, using spokespeople like former Ambassador Ryan Crocker.
Now those within the Administration who failed to get US military intervention this summer, even after the regime’s chemical weapons attacks of August 21, have hit back through The Wall Street Journal.
The officials have told the Journal that Washington failed to anticipate the impact of Hezbollah’s influx of fighters this spring, which bolstered Assad’s troops. More importantly, they implicitly criticize others within the Administration who did not respond:
U.S. intelligence and military officers watched the evolution with alarm from the sidelines, at least one step behind developments on the ground. The White House was unwilling to commit significant resources to back opposition fighters, wary of getting drawn into another conflict in the region or inadvertently backing violent extremists. Wary U.S. intelligence officials told policy makers that a cohesive, well-organized opposition didn’t exist and was unlikely to take shape even if the U.S. made a more substantial investment, officials involved in the deliberations said.
In June, the Administration, after sustained pressure from allies like Britain and France, finally agreed to public supply of military aid to the insurgency. However, none was ever delivered, and the covert US program of support was also limited, causing tensions with other backers of the insurgency such as Saudi Arabia.
Reports: An Insurgent Suicide Bomb in Daraa Province
Reports are circulating that insurgents have detonated a vehicle bomb against a regime position in Jassim in Daraa Province:
It is claimed that the target was a hospital now used as a Syrian military barracks. The bomber is said to have been a member of Jabhat al Nusra.
There have been heavy clashes in the area in the past week, with regime bombardment said to include barrel bombs.
Another Deadly Regime Bombing of Aleppo: “Look, Bashar, They Are Humans”
Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad of The New York Times describe another deadly regime strike on Aleppo, this one killing at least 10 people in the Tariq al-Bab area:
Half obscured by smoke and dust, a man in a video brandished a milk crate loaded with what he said were fragments of human flesh: the remains of people torn apart when a shell hit a city bus in Aleppo in northern Syria on Tuesday.
“Look, look, Bashar, they are humans, they are civilians,” the man shouted as others searched for more remains among the oranges stacked in a neat pyramid on a nearby cart.
Video: Regime Shelling of Zabadani
Activists post video of the aftermath of regime shelling of Zabadani in Damascus Province — there are also claims that helicopters have dropped barrel bombs :
Sources suggest the attack is in retaliation for regime losses nearby, where insurgent are blockading the highway.
Activists: Islamic State of Iraq Torture & Kill Doctor
Activists claim that Dr Hussein Suleiman, also known as Abu Rayan, was among members of the Ahrar al-Sham insurgent faction who have been abducted and killed by Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham.
A graphic photograph of the doctor, before and after his death, has been posted on Twitter.
Opposition: “Evacuated” Civilians from Adra Detained in Open at Cement Factory
The battle of claims over the situation near Adra, the town 12 miles of Damascus largely taken by insurgents, continues….
State media declares that the Syrian army has now evacuated more than 6,000 civilians, but the opposition asserts that some of the refugees — who were fleeing regime shelling of the town — are being kept in the open in a cement factory without food, water, or adequate shelter:
Refugees from Adra in Qalamoun:
Islamic Front Announces Latakia Operation in Response to Aleppo “Massacres”
The Islamic Front declares that it is launching “Operation Coast”, against regime positions in Latakia Province in western Syria, in response to last month’s mass killing of civilians by the Syrian military’s airstrikes in and near Aleppo:
Syrian Warplanes Kill 1, Injure 10 in Airstrike Inside Lebanon
Syrian jets have again struck inside Lebanon, on the outskirts of the border town of Arsal.
Ten people were wounded in the airstrike, eyewitnesses said. One woman reportedly died of her injuries and three people are in critical condition.
On Monday, the Lebanese army used air defense systems for the first time against Syrian helicopters after explosives were dropped near Arsal.
Hezbollah Commander: “We Intervened to Defend Shia Villages”
A senior Hezbollah commander, speaking to Martin Chulov of The Guardian, explains the reason for the Lebanese organization’s intervention alongside the Assad regime this spring:
We are defending our lands. We are defending our interests. If the takfiris [Sunni Islamists] had not started attacking the border Shia villages, we would not have been forced to act.
Undermining the narrative of US officials that Iran ordered the mass entry of Hezbollah fighters — see separate EA analysis — the commander says:
We started around the Sayyeda Zainab mosque [a shrine near Damascus], then moved to the border villages, then Qusayr [re-captured by the Syrian military in June]. There are members fighting throughout the country, but not in huge numbers….
The battle is intense. The takfiris are committed. They want to destroy Syria and we will not let them.
The commander says that 112 Hezbollah fighters were killed in the battle for Qusayr. Chulov does not say if he offered a figure for losses since June.
Deadline for Shipment of Chemical Weapons Missed
The international community has missed a December 31 deadline to remove Syria’s chemical weapons, with ships returning to port.
Syrian Prime Minister Wael Al Halqi said security concerns and bureaucracy had delayed transport of the weapons to the port of Latakia.
Syria, with the assistance of countries such as Russia, was supported the move the stocks to Norwegian and Danish vessels for delivery to a US ship which would destroy them at sea.
A spokesman for the Norwegian ship gave no new date for the mission: “We are still on high alert to go into Syria. We still don’t know exactly when the orders will come.”
An official of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Christian Chartier, said the overall plan was still on track:
Syria’s chemical arsenal has been completely neutralised, the chemical agents and chemical products are under international control, have been sealed… The effective dismantling of the production and filling plants is on course.
Their capacity to produce and use chemical weapons has been reduced to zero.
Chartier said the operation would meet the deadline of destroying Syria’s chemical arsenal by mid-2014.