Tuesday 17 July 2012

Unabated urban warfare in and around Damascus

Images I captured from videos on the fighting in and around Damascus

Urban warfare in and around the Syrian capital Damascus today entered its third day with no signs of abating.
The capital city is now seeing the biggest military deployment in the 16-month uprising as state forces try to stifle a "Damascus volcano" offensive mounted by the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA).
Video clips uploaded by opposition activists (from which I captured the images for this post) showed insurgents hiding in sandbagged alleyways, firing rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns amid clouds of dust as gunfire crackled. Rebels burned tires and blocked some streets to ease pressure on the fighters. Black columns of smoke billowed over the capital.
Monitors and activists say the regime had early Tuesday deployed helicopters to fire into Qaboon district of Damascus and that rebels and troops had clashed violently in Midan and Hajar al-Aswad neighborhoods.
Other neighborhoods rocked since Sunday by fighting include Tadamon, Kfar Sousa, Nahr Aisha, Barzeh, Mazzeh and Jobar.
In his daily column for Beirut’s independent daily an-Nahar, Ali Hamadeh says, “July 15, 2012 shall remain a landmark in the history of the Syrian revolution. On that day, several Damascus districts rose against the regime and officially opened a new front inside the capital. On July 15, 2012, the revolution sank roots in the capital and put the regime on the defensive…”
Sarkis Naoum, Hamadeh’s colleague and an-Nahar’s leading political analyst, says U.S. military researchers recognize the regular Syrian army remains strong, well equipped and cohesive, despite defections from its ranks. At the same time, however, the researchers expect “the Syrian army’s vigorous fight back against the rebels to wane for four major reasons,” namely:
(1) The armed rebels and the insurgents who linked up with them to set up joint fighting formations are now “a force to be reckoned with, despite their shortage of firepower and secure means of communication. They retain the unflinching support of Syria’s Sunnite majority. They proved their fighting prowess in urban and rural areas.” They set up a chain of command and they learned the difference between fighting army regulars and shabiha militiamen.
(2) Syria’s geography is such that lengthy lines of communication and supply do not help the army and shabiha to keep up their attacks on restive areas. “This means the regime can’t keep the whole country under its control, which allows rebels to move more freely between rural areas and cities. It’s what we call a 360-degree war.”
(3) The speed and frequency of military operations since mid-May this year is increasing the army’s burden at an increasing rate.
(4) Fighting fatigue, ceaseless defections, mounting casualties and growing suspicions between Alawite commanders and Sunnite rank and file soldiers are bound to wear away army morale.
Nevertheless, The Daily Telegraph reports today from Washington that the U.S. is refusing to help Syrian rebels until after its presidential election.
Filing from Washington, the paper’s Peter Foster writes in part:
Despite mounting fury from the Syrian rebels, who are seeking assistance for their efforts to overthrow the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, the White House has refused all requests for heavy weapons and intelligence support.
Syrian lobby groups in Washington, who only a few weeks ago were expressing hope that the Obama administration might give a green light to the supply of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, said they had now been forced to “take a reality pill” by the US government.
The Telegraph understands that the Syrian Support Group (SSG), the political wing of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), recently presented American officials with a document requesting 1,000 RPG-29 anti-tank missiles, 500 SAM-7 rockets, 750 23mm machine guns as well as body armor and secure satellite phones. They also asked for $6m to pay rebel fighters as they battle the regime. All their requests were rejected.
“Basically the message is very clear; nothing is going to happen until after the election, in fact nothing will happen until after inauguration [Jan 2013]. And that is the same message coming from everyone, including the Turks and the Qataris,” said a Washington lobbyist for the group…
Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think-tank in Washington, [said], “The reality is that the US appears to have no coherent foreign policy since the Arab Spring. It is not clear why we helped topple Gaddafi and we let Mubarak fall but we let Assad stay in power...”