Wednesday 29 February 2012

“Syrian Army to blitz Idlib after Baba Amr fall”

An official Syrian communiqué will announce “in the next few hours” the Syrian Army’s full takeover of the rebel-held district of Baba Amr in the restive central city of Homs.
This is according to the Beirut daily al-Akhbar, which is close to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
A report titled “Crucial Hours” on the paper’s front page states: “Damascus sources confirmed to al-Akhbar the Syrian Army has gained control of most parts of Baba Amr neighborhood and broke into its main streets after a 25-day blockade. The sources said the army was overnight flushing the remaining rebels out of hiding while guarding against mines and booby traps. They (the sources) expect the authorities to issue a communiqué in the next few hours announcing the area is now safe.”
The global campaign organization Avaaz announced Tuesday that “a network of Syrian activists” coordinated by the group “helped the international journalist Paul Conroy escape into Lebanon. He had been injured and trapped in Baba Amr for six days under continuous Syrian government shelling. The three other journalists Javier Espinosa, Edith Bouvier and William Daniels remain unaccounted for.
“Avaaz responded to requests from the journalists, their families and colleagues to attempt to evacuate them and worked with over 35 heroic Syrian activists each night who volunteered to help in the rescue.  
“The activists have offered to support in the evacuation every night since Remi Ochlik and Marie Colvin were killed by Syrian government shellfire last Wednesday, during which time they rescued 40 seriously wounded people from the same place and brought in medical supplies. Tragically this operation led to a number of fatalities as the Syrian Army targeted those escaping, during their bombardment of the city on Sunday evening. 13 activists were killed in the operation. Syrian targeted shelling killed three activists as they tried to assist the journalists through Baba Amr.  
“While Paul Conroy successfully escaped the city, ten activists died bringing relief supplies into Baba Amr...”
The Syrian Army’s next target after Baba Amr will be Idlib, according to a pro-Assad figure talking exclusively to Lebanese Hezbollah’s al-Manar news website.
Dr. Muhammad Darar Jamo, identified as “head of the political division and international relations of the International Organization for Arab Immigrants,” tells al-Manar in remarks published this morning: “The Syrian army is set to launch, within the coming 10 days, a major offensive in the north, starting in Idlib and extending to the borders with Turkey.”
Jamo said, “Calm on the Syrian-Turkish border is the kind of calm preceding a storm… specially that armed gangs consider Idlib a safe haven and an area of influence that is out of bounds for state authorities.”
In Turkey, meantime, activist Taner Kiliç, chair of the Executive Board of the Association of Solidarity with Refugees, explains in an article for Today’s Zaman how “Syrian asylum seekers have been sold out” by Ankara.
In the U.S. last week, Republican Senator John McCain called for arming Syrian insurgents against Assad regime repression.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton disagreed with McCain’s plea during an interview Sunday with CBS News.

“We really don’t know who it is that would be armed,” Clinton said during a visit to Morocco. “Are we supporting al-Qaeda in Syria?” she said. “Hamas is now supporting the opposition. Are we supporting Hamas in Syria?”
All these news tidbits justify the title of an exceptional essay I read last night, "The Syrian Uprising of 2011; Why the Assad Regime is Likely to Survive to 2013."
The author is Dr. Joshua Landis, a highly respected Syria expert and associate professor and director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. He wrote the piece for the journal of the Middle East Policy Council.
You can read it here.