Wednesday 31 July 2013

The Syrian Kurdish leader’s whodunit killer

Clockwise from top: The late Isa Huso, his car and flower draped casket

Yesterday’s assassination of Isa Huso, a prominent Syrian Kurdish politician, in Syria’s northeastern town of Qamishli falls into a category police call whodunits-murders.
They are called such because they are notoriously tough to solve, there is more than one potential suspect, with each having a distinct motive.
In Isa Huso’s case, the two prime suspects are:
(1) The Syrian regime, which imprisoned him under President Bashar al-Assad after the 2004-2005 Qamishli uprising by Syrian Kurds and during the rule of Assad's late father Hafez for campaigning for human rights
(2) Al-Qaeda-linked militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra, who are trying to rest control of Syria’s oil-rich Kurdish areas near the border with Turkey.
In a way, the two potential suspects are connected.
The al-Qaeda-linked organizations were a creation of the Damascus government, designed to discredit those who oppose Assad and to hide the regime's own brutal tactics.
This reminds me of the notorious “قناص” -- Arabic for “sniper” -- in the years of Lebanon’s civil war.
Between 1975 and 1990, the Syrian army often planted a sniper on a Beirut rooftop to shoot at one side in the conflict, then the other, to keep them fighting.
Isa Huso, 60, was a member of the Higher Kurdish Council, aimed at bringing together Syrian Kurdish groups, and an opponent of Assad.
Syria's main Kurdish militia later issued a call to arms to all Kurds to fight jihadists operating in the north.
It follows weeks of intense fighting between jihadist groups and Kurds, who make up a little over 10% of the population and are largely concentrated in northeastern Syria, towards the Turkish border.
Huso was leaving his home in the border town of Qamishli when a bomb planted inside his car detonated.
He was a member of the foreign relations committee in the Higher Kurdish Council, an umbrella group for regional Kurdish factions.
"Huso sought to promote Kurdish rights within a united Syria free from the grip of the Assad regime," his former neighbor, Massoud Akko, told Reuters news agency.
“No-one knows who killed him but the fingers point to the militant Islamists. They are the only ones who are targeting Kurds as Kurds,” he added.
Responding to Huso's killing, Kurdish fighters known as the Popular Protection Units (YPG) issued a call to arms.
“(The YPG) called on all those fit to carry weapons to join their ranks, to protect areas under their control from attacks by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) fighters, al-Nusra Front and other battalions,” said a London-based Syria watchdog, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The YPG, which claims to have no political affiliations, was set up to counter offensives in majority Kurdish areas.
In recent months it has been battling to drive out rebels from the north, including the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra.
Areas near the Turkish border have seen some of the most intense fighting, with clashes reported between the strongest local Kurdish group, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), and al-Nusra in the town of Ras al-Ain.
The PYD has said it aims to set up a local council to run Kurdish regions until Syria's war ends.
PYD leader Salih Muslim reassured Turkey last week that his group’s call for a local administration in Syria’s Kurdish regions does not mean it is looking to divide Syria.

Muslim, who flew to Ankara from Erbil, told the media he was in Turkey to allay Ankara’s concerns over Kurdish separatism, and to explain why Syria’s Kurdish regions needed a local administration.

"Kurds will need to have a status in the new order in Syria,” Muslim told Anatolian news agency. “But what's in question now is a provisional arrangement until we arrive at that phase. ”

Muslim told Turkish officials a local administration would include other ethnic groups such as Christians, Turkmen and non-Kurds who live in the Kurdish-majority areas of northeastern Syria.

Muslim’s visit appears to have eased suspicions between Syrian Kurds and Turkey.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters yesterday he acknowledged Syrian Kurds’ need to establish a “civilian administration” in their areas, just as other opposition groups have. He warned such provisional measures were possible provided the administration does not gain “permanent status.”

Tuesday 30 July 2013

After Khalidiya, is Assad winning the Syria war?

Dramatic images of destruction in Khalidiya

Hyped media reports that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad is winning the Syria war are misplaced, according to Egyptian military and strategy expert Safwat el-Zayyat.
The reports follow the fall of Khalidiya, a neighborhood in Homs city, to Syrian government forces backed by Shiite militiamen from Lebanon, Iran and Iraq.
Seven weeks earlier, these combined forces retook Qusayr, a town some 35 kilometers from Homs city on Syria’s border with Lebanon.
Zayyat said in his live, four-minute military news analysis for Aljazeera TV channel last night:
The regime is not in a position to contend with two battlefronts at the same time.
After retaking Qusayr (on June 5), the regime turned swiftly to Aleppo.
News agencies started saying regime and Hezbollah forces were knocking on Aleppo city’s door and preparing to overrun the nearby villages of Nubul and Zahra.
Four days later, we saw regime and Hezbollah forces refocusing on Homs, instead.
Homs city has been under siege for 442 days.
It took the regime 442 days to forces its way into just one of the city’s numerous neighborhoods – namely, Khalidiya.
I believe the armed opposition’s unified command gives priority to the attrition war.
For now, it is concentrating on the Aleppo and Deraa fronts.
More thrilling perhaps is the Damascus front, where the armed opposition seems to have decided to switch its main thrust from Eastern Ghouta to try and reach Abbasid Square, (a landmark plaza) in central Damascus.
Also, three days ago, regime forces were set to swoop on Qaboun (a neighborhood of Damascus held by the rebels).
Suddenly, regime forces pulled back from around Qaboun and Jobar and started evacuating citizens from the Qassaa, Ghassani, Qusur, Fares el-Khoury and al-Tijari areas of Damascus to safer neighborhoods in the capital, including Muhajereen and Ruknuddin.
The closer the armed opposition gets to the center of Damascus, the less likely the regime’s recourse to carpet shelling and bombing of the capital’s rebel-held areas.  
On the Aleppo province front in northern Syria, the armed opposition captured the key town of Khan al-Asal six days ago.
They have since seized Dhahret Abd Rabbo and are no more than 200 meters away from the Air Force Intelligence building there.
Dhahret Abd Rabbo will allow the armed opposition to control the Aleppo-Aintab motorway, which links them to Aleppo city, Nubul, Zahra and Minnigh all the way to the border crossing (with Turkey) at Bab al-Salam.
The opposition’s advances in Deraa province are even more spectacular.
The rebels now hold the major towns of Nawa, Inkhil and Jassem there.
The entire city of Idlib will come under their control once they flush out regime forces from the neighborhood of Manshiyeh.

Beirut introduced me to the first Mercedes Gullwing

Photo of the 1956 Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing appearing on MailOnline 

I am one of over 84 million users a month who have made MailOnline the world’s newspaper website.
It’s where I read news of a collection of around £40 worth of vintage Mercedes-Benz cars going under the hammer in London’s Battersea on September 8.
On seeing the first photo in the article of a 1956 Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing worth £900,000, my eyes flashed with heartbeat and my mind instantaneously took a trip down memory lane to Beirut, of all places.
Lebanon Auto Club names Nizar Ghandour (left) as 1955 race winner
Beirut is where I admired an exclusive 1956 Mercedes 300SL Gullwing two or three years after it rolled out of the production line.
It was in black color and ordered by the Mercedes dealership in Lebanon especially for the late Nizar Ghandour, the scion of an upper-crust family of confectioners.
Nizar was a car enthusiast and an habitué of the Kit-Kat, a top nightlife spot on l'Avenue des Français. That’s where we met and where he offered to take me for a spin.
The five-minute drive along Beirut’s seafront felt like sitting in a fighter jet ready to launch.
That’s all I can remember.
Now back to the MailOnline article (where you can see more pictures of the Mercedes collection):
An incredible haul of 74 Mercedes owned by the same person is expected to fetch more than £19m in London’s most valuable ever car auction.
The ‘Ultimate Mercedes-Benz Collection’ is made up of dozens of the German carmaker’s most important models spanning a 100-year period.
There are limousines, sports cars, convertibles and even an ambulance in the fleet which has been assembled by the 'anonymous European collector” over the years.
Leading the sale are two 1938 Mercedes 540K cabrios which should sell for between £1.3m and £2.5m each.
There are also three of the company’s iconic 300 SLs, including a 1956 Gullwing, which should fetch £900,000.
An 81-year-old Mercedes 370S is expected to sell for £1.2 million while a 1936 500K Cabrio should fetch £900,000.
There is even an old ambulance, with 1952 emergency vehicle offered with a guide price of £50,000 to £70,000.
And a replica, built in 2000, of the world’s first car - the 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen - should sell for £55,000.
The incredible collection will be going under the hammer as part of RM Auctions’ Battersea sale on September 8.
If they attract the attention that is anticipated, the 74-strong fleet should net the owner in excess of £19m.
Peter Wallman, car specialist at RM Auctions, said: 'As with all collections of this size, there is a car to suit everyone - pre-war, post-war, open or closed, two door, four door, supercharged, normally aspirated, large cars, or small cars.
'The Ultimate Mercedes Collection includes a variety of rare and fun models, including a very sweet 170V Roadster, a beautifully presented 1952 170DA Pickup, and an interesting 170 SV Ambulance.
'To round things off, no Mercedes collection would be complete without the evergreen and hugely popular 190SL, whether the 230 Pagoda models or the luxurious and advanced 1966 600 Limousine.'
The overall sale could be the most valuable car auction to ever take place in Europe.
On top of the £19m Mercedes collection, there is a £17m haul of sports cars owned by Lord Laidlaw alongside Ferraris, Rolls-Royces and James Bond’s submarine car.
In total, sales could top £40m - beating the £36m achieved by Bonhams at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this year.

Sunday 28 July 2013

Syrian opposition dots the i’s and crosses the t’s

Ghalioun (left) and Jarba
Syrian opposition leaders have told the UN Security Council, which they met for the first time Friday, they are prepared to take part in the Geneva-2 peace conference if it can get President Bashar al-Assad’s commitment to the provisions of Geneva-1.
They were referring to the key provision in the June 30, 2012 Geneva-1 communiqué calling for “the establishment of a transitional governing body that would exercise full executive powers.”
“Ahmad al-Jarba, the president of the National Coalition of the Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces gave U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry what he needed, that is, an announcement by the opposition that it is ready to attend peace talks,” reported CBS News' Pamela Falk, who presided at their press conference, “and, although there were conditions that they wanted met, they were all within the framework agreed to in Geneva" in June 2012.
“The significance of the trip to the UN cannot be underestimated," Falk reported, "because few people in the international community had heard much from the Syrian National Coalition, and they were able to present their side of the conflict.”
Falk is president of the UN Correspondents Association, which hosted the Syrian delegates’ press briefing after their informal UN Security Council meeting.
The United Kingdom gave the opposition the opportunity to address the Security Council through what are known as “Arria-Formula” consultations.
According to a description posted on the Security Council’s website, Arria-Formula meetings allow the Council to meet “with persons whom the inviting member or members of the Council believe it would be beneficial to hear and/or to whom they may wish to convey a message.”
In Jarba’s words:
It was an historic opportunity to convey our people’s legitimate aspiration to freedom and democracy.
We urged the international community, represented by the Security Council, to assume its responsibility in putting an end to this humanitarian catastrophe.
Specifically, we called for the following:
  • That the Council requests the regime to implement Geneva-1, including the peaceful transition of power
  • That the Council insists on finding a straightforward way –including through Syria’s borders -- to deliver humanitarian and relief aid to people in need
  • That the Council refers the regime to the International Criminal Court so it can investigate the war crimes committed in our country.

We unambiguously urged Russia to stop helping the criminal regime kill our people. We also urged the Member States to lean on Russia and Iran to stop sending weapons and mercenary fighters from Hezbollah, Iraq and Iran to kill our women and children.
We supported all regional and international initiatives for a political solution in Syria. We also expressed our readiness to enter into negotiations based on the implementation of the Geneva-1 Declaration and the establishment of a transitional governing body that would exercise full executive power – inclusive of security and military powers. This means Assad is outwith Syria’s future.
Answering a question from BBC News on the opposition leaders’ meeting with Secretary of State Kerry, Burhan Ghalioun told the press conference:
Our relations with Washington are longstanding, especially as regards our Syrian people’s aspirations.
The Secretary’s position was unequivocal in that America will remain supportive of the Syrian people and will not allow the regime to score any victory.
At the same time, the Americans were clear in their support of (our) participation in the Geneva-2 negotiations.
For our part, we told the Americans the Syrian opposition has been supportive of all international initiatives, including participation in Geneva-2 negotiations – this, in order to fulfill the Syrian people’s aspirations, but not to reach a compromise with the existing regime.
We told the Americans: The opposition is not after any post or after sharing government positions. It is after enabling the Syrian people to elect their representatives posthaste.
We said as soon as Geneva-2 was proposed, the regime and its allies launched an all-out offensive against rebel positions, using all sorts of heavy weapons, and tapped unlimited support from Russia and Iran as well as from Hezbollah forces and Iranian and Iraqi Shiite militias.
This proves the regime has no genuine intention to uphold the Geneva principles. It simply wanted to win the fighting on the ground so it could go to Geneva-2 and formalize its triumph.
That’s why we suggested the following:
  • For Geneva-2 to gel, the negotiations should start with a moratorium on the use of such heavy weapons as warplanes, ballistic missiles, Scuds and chemicals  -- weapons meant to kill people en masse. The moratorium on heavy weapons does not mean a ceasefire.
  • Lifting the sieges clamped on cities to starve them of food and medicine.
  • Allowing relief aid to reach all Syrian regions in need across all Syria’s borders.
  • A statement by the regime, which continues to label the opposition as a terrorist organization, that the purpose of the negotiations is to switch to democratic governance based on the people’s will.

Press here for a three-part video documentary of the press briefing hosted by the United Nations Correspondents Association.

Saturday 27 July 2013

A millennium of isolation

The late theologian Yunus Khalis

By Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia’s authoritative political analyst, author and kingpin of the impending Al Arab TV news channel, writing in Arabic today for the mass circulation newspaper al-Hayat
I sat on the floor opposite the late Mawlawi Yunus Khalis, God bless his soul, in a modest abode in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area.
It was 1989 and I wanted to pick the Afghan theologian-cum-commander’s brains about democracy and elections.
It was the period when the Afghans and their allies in Islamabad and Riyadh were looking for the best way to seal the Afghans’ jihad with a glorious victory and a happy ending that would bring peace, harmony and prosperity to the people of Afghanistan after the Soviets’ defeat there.
Afghanistan’s political map was very simple.
It was based on power, money, arms, mobilization and special links to the region’s various intelligence services.
Since all these elements were readily available to all and sundry, each of the Afghan parties could claim the measures of supremacy and leadership.
The result was chronic discord among Afghan leaders interspersed with “plebeian” clashes and mysterious assassinations, which impeded the “happy ending” of the Afghan jihad.
Afghans lacked the culture of “elections.”
Prevailing were the old traditional tools of mass mobilization and clout on parochial, tribal, sectarian or ethnic grounds.
Once political Islam entered the scene, partisan ideology followed – until it also fragmented among the sides.
Someone suggested “elections” as a solution. The question was how? Who would oversee elections in an untested environment and a war-torn country?
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who proposed the elections, was himself a political party leader. He did not have everyone’s trust.
Being hungry for power, he did not hesitate taking “exceptional measures” – assassinations for instance – to settle his differences with others.
But there were more vital questions concerning elections and democracy, which is what I heard from Mawlawi Yunus Khalis when he criticized voting as the key instrument of democracy by saying: “How can you equate the ballot of the virtuous scholar with the ballot of the immoral evildoer?”
The question was akin to our surroundings. It belonged to a world of yore and had nothing to do with the present except for the two-wheeled Doshka heavy machinegun sitting on the roof, next to a relaxed turbaned fighter overlooking the valley.
On the valley’s opposite side, exhausted government soldiers were taking a breather from a decade-long war.
The Afghans never agreed an answer to the theologian-cum-commander’s question and did not opt for elections to settle their differences, keeping up their internecine strife until this day.
Yunus Khalis did not study at the Sorbonne or work in international organizations.
He was a religious scholar who studied at a Haqqania maddrassa (religious school), which formed most Taliban leaders.
The school offers simple and direct answers to modern-day problems revolving around two concepts of halal (lawful, based on the Quran) and haram (forbidden by Islamic law) with minimal diligence, reflection and insight.
The result was the Taliban’s failure and ceaseless conflicts in Afghanistan.
Going back to our Arab world, which is relatively more “advanced” than Afghanistan and where liberals and rights advocates have been championing democracy and human rights, we find that 30 months into what we dreamt up as the Arabs’ spring, democracy has hit rock bottom. The ruling elites are wary of it -- of its results rather -- and the marginalized forces have almost lost confidence in it.
But, as Winston Churchill once said, democracy is better than those other forms of government that have been tried. In the Arab republics, democracy is better than a military coup mounted by a “nationalist officer” keen to put his country on the right democratic path.
The “nationalist officer” will always resort to exceptional steps, having applied them in the first place -- by using force instead of the constitution -- to inaugurate his rule. Problem is exceptional steps always hinge on interest and politics. Decisions made outside the rule of law are justified as being “well-intentioned,” except that they open the door to new problems.
Moreover, the outcome of exceptional steps is neither assured nor predictable. The call for a demonstration in support of a step can produce calm, victory and empowerment. But it could also end in bloodletting that leaves an open wound in the nation and its people’s body.
Democracy could turn out the wrong president or a one-sided parliament. But democracy has inbuilt corrective mechanisms that can go as far as impeaching the president and disbanding parliament.
There’s always room for a “second chance” in a democracy. But the second chance under extraordinary measures depends on the whim of the “nationalist officer.” As an individual, the latter is apt to make right and wrong decisions and to be swayed by his entourage and circles.
The big question raised at the onset of the Arab Spring is decidedly apropos: Why did its high winds sweep the republics and caress the monarchies as a breeze?
The answer lies in the republics’ social contract, which states: “The people are the source of all powers.”
Fact is the people discovered that the “nationalist officer” is the source of all powers. The find infuriated them. They revolted at a historic moment and have yet to mollify.
Democracy takes pride of place in the social contract. But it was defaced and turned into a “décor” by regimes prior to the Arab Spring.
Today, Arab liberal and secular forces are disfiguring democracy beyond recognition after it worked in political Islam’s favor. They shelved their “revolutionary purity” and accepted to go along with rationed democracy.
Is political Islam the problem of democracy in the Arab world? Or is an authoritarian culture permeating Arab minds?
These are hypothetical questions that need not be raised or answered. Neither political Islam will disappear, nor will authoritarianism prevail again.
What is certain until further notice is that we will learn democracy the hard way – by trial and error and by bitter experiences that is.
Our masses will face off and we will test rationed democracy, exclusion and forgery pending an awakening liable to challenge all this and persist in the endeavor, assisted by the force of history.
These are the same aspiring forces that took to the streets in Tunisia, Yemen and Egypt two-and-a-half years ago despite their torment and frustrations.
Some came from political Islam, despite its tribulations and immaturity. Others came from “deep states” that refuse to give up and go away. And the rest were trying to find their way after a millennium of isolation.

Thursday 25 July 2013

Egypt: My gloomy crystal ball reading

Egypt’s brilliant columnist and high-profile talk show host Imad Adeeb wrote this think piece in Arabic for the country's al-Watan news-paper:
Will we be “spiraling down” or “reaching a compromise” in Egypt?
What’s in the cards – more frenzy, demonstrations, violence and bloodshed, or the boon of commonsense, wisdom, moderation and serious negotiations?
It seems – and God knows best – that tension, escalation and bloodshed will prevail in the near and medium terms.
I sense further internecine bloodletting on public squares and streets and in Egyptian cities and provinces.
I see hundreds if not thousands killed and injured in the few coming weeks.
I see attacks on police stations, government buildings, party headquarters, public facilities, security directorates and military barracks.
I see the emergence of unconventional weapons in the upcoming battles, including the “Grenov” (RPG-18), rocket launchers and anti-aircraft missiles.
I see the beginnings of sectarian strife in the provinces and the appearance of weapons stockpiled for months in mosque and church basements.
I see all sides’ political elites keeping up their hysterics and inflammatory speeches calling for violence, killings and the total exclusion -- if not its erasure from history and geography -- of the opposite side.
Regrettably, I see no prospect of an imminent compromise.
I don’t see words of wisdom reaching open minds. Nor do I see an atmosphere conducive to dialogue between the parties to the crisis.
The tragic irony is the crisis we were controlling lately has now transformed into a crisis controlling us.
The problem that was running deep is now running out of anyone’s control.
The big tragedy is that nothing can lead to a solution or a compromise. Muslim Brotherhood rule won’t lead to stability. And shutting out the Brothers won’t restore calm.
Since January 2011, we tried a president with a military background, military council rule and a president from the Muslim Brotherhood. We are now trying an honorable man’s rule as interim president.
Despite these variations and experiences, we still haven’t found the desired solution.
We went through a revolution in January 2011 and another in June 2013 and saw the army intercede and millions take to the streets on both occasions.
No event, regime, revolution or coup d’état pacified people or restored their aplomb and satisfaction.
How can Egyptian society recoup its serenity, calm and stability?
It’s a great question worth pondering and answering.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

White House: Assad 'one of worst tyrants of his era'

Jay Carney

History will record Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as "one of the worst tyrants of his era," says White House spokesman Jay Carney.
The United States and other allies will maintain their support to the opposition, stressing Assad would be removed from power eventually, Carney said Tuesday during a media briefing.
I excerpted from the briefing all the Qs and As on Syria:
Q. Now that the deadlock has been broken in getting Syrian rebels the weapons, how quickly do you expect the weapons to get there?  What impact do you expect them to have?  Is there still time to stop Assad, who seems to be winning at this point?
CARNEY:  There is no question that Assad, with the support of Hezbollah and Iran, is continuing to wage a brutal assault on the Syrian people.  And because of the support he’s gotten from other bad actors in the region, that assault has intensified.  And that is why it is so important that the United States and our allies and our partners provide the assistance that the opposition needs to strengthen itself and so that it can withstand the Assad forces and the Hezbollah and Iranian-backed forces.
As I said all along, conversations with Congress, especially ones that are behind closed doors, I'm just not going to get into.  And I'm not going to catalogue or detail all of the assistance that we're providing the Syrian opposition.  But we have been providing assistance to the Syrian opposition and to the Syrian military council, and we will continue to.  And the President, as he made clear not long ago, is committed to ramping up that assistance as necessary because of the circumstances that we find, and because of the need for the opposition to further strengthen and unify.
Q. But are there any concerns that it’s coming too late, that Assad may just win the thing?
CARNEY:  Well, as I said the other day, Assad will never control Syria again, will never rule Syria again.  And it is our firm position that the Syrian people will not allow, and we will not abide Assad as leader of Syria into the future.  The transition has to be a post-Assad transition.  And that is what we're working towards with the opposition, with our allies and partners in the region to help bring about that day when we can have a transition in place that can begin to rebuild Syria, that will bring about an end to the horror and the bloodshed, and can create an opportunity to transition to a government that is responsive to the will of the Syrian people.
Q. …Administration officials have said the purpose of providing some assistance to rebels in Syria is to keep them alive and to keep them hanging on.  Why would we help them do anything short of topple Assad?
CARNEY:  I'm not sure whom you're quoting.  But the fact of the matter is the Syrian opposition needs the assistance that we're providing, and which many of our partners and allies are providing, in order to strengthen the cohesion of the opposition and to improve their circumstances as they deal with the assault that's being waged upon them by Assad’s forces.
And there is no way out of this that doesn’t include a transition to a post-Assad Syria.  And the Syrian people will not stand for it, and the Syrian opposition and the military opposition will continue to resist Assad, and resist with the assistance of the United States and many partners and allies in the effort.
Bashar al-Assad will now go down in history as one of the worst tyrants of his era and with just a terrible amount of blood on his hands, the blood of his own people.  And that is why we have pursued the policy that we are pursuing and why we believe it's essential to continue to provide assistance to the opposition, assistance to the military council, and humanitarian assistance to the many displaced Syrians who are suffering tremendously because of this conflict.
Q. Is the administration at a place where you'd see this as a slow bleed? 
CARNEY:  Look, I think that it's a challenging situation in Syria, which is why we have to provide this assistance.  If you're asking me do we believe that Assad will prevail, the answer is no, he will not -- and not because we say so, but because the Syrian people will not stand for it.
Q. But you're also acknowledging this isn't going to make him go.
CARNEY:  No, I didn't say that.  I’m not acknowledging -- I have no crystal ball here to predict when Assad will go.  But I have no doubt, and we have no doubt, that the Syrian people will not --
Q. I guess I'm asking, is the aid intended for the purpose of toppling him?
CARNEY:  The aid is intended to assist the opposition in its effort to resist Assad and to ultimately prevail over Assad and his forces. 
Q. Are you suggesting that the arms to the Syrian opposition will be decisive?
CARNEY:  I think I just answered that.  I can’t predict into the future.  I think the assistance the Syrian opposition is receiving comes from the United States as well as many other places, and that that assistance is provided and designed to assist the -- or help the opposition in its efforts against the horrific war being waged on the Syrian people by the Assad regime. We obviously support the Syrian opposition and support their efforts to combat Assad militarily, because that is necessary as we move to a point where a political transition can take place.  And the brutality being engaged in by the Assad regime needs to be countered.  And we are providing assistance for the Syrian opposition in their efforts to do that.

Q. If it not decisive, is it understood by those in Congress you’ve been working with that it will escalate in order to bring about the inevitability of this --

CARNEY:  Again, I can’t predict.  The President has made clear that we have significantly –

Q. I know you can’t predict the outcome.  But if it’s not decisive, will it escalate?

CARNEY:  Well, again, I can’t predict, but I can note and deduce from the way that we have steadily increased our assistance to the Syrian opposition, as that opposition has become more unified and strengthened, that the President’s commitment will continue.  And he believes we need to continue to step up our assistance because of the imperative that Assad not be allowed to essentially murder an entire nation.

Q. We are in this until he falls, in other words?
CARNEY:  Well, I think that the opposition -- it’s not us.  We’re not alone here.  We are supporting an opposition here, and we are supporting an opposition, together with many allies and partners who cannot abide what Assad has done in his country and to his people.  There is broad international consensus with a very short list of holdouts when it comes to opposing Assad and insisting on his departure from the scene. Unfortunately, those holdouts have prevented the passage of United Nations Security Council resolutions, but they have not prevented us from working with other partners and allies in providing assistance to the Syrian opposition.
Q. …You’ve said Assad will never rule Syria again, that he will not prevail.  What is giving you that confidence?  Because it seems like right now he does have the upper hand.
CARNEY:  Well, I took that question moments ago, and I would simply say that Assad has waged a bloody war against his own people.  And it is for the Syrian --
Q. But I mean, what proof do you have?
CARNEY:  Proof of what?  Does Assad rule Russia?  I mean, does Assad rule Syria right now?  And will --
Q. But he seems to have the upper hand.
CARNEY:  Well, I’m not sure.  There are ebbs and flows in conflicts like this.  There is no question that with the assistance of Iran and Hezbollah, a couple of very bad actors -- notable friends, you might say, friends that say a lot about Assad in a situation like this -- he has inflicted even more harm on the Syrian people.  And for that reason and others, it’s incumbent upon the United States and friends and allies who support the Syrian people in their battle against Bashar al-Assad to provide the assistance and the stepped-up assistance that we’re providing. 
But the reason why I’m confident is because the Syrian people will not allow it, and they’ve made that clear.