But if Russia’s middle-eastern analysts are to be believed, Vladimir Putin’s objection to a western-led world order enhanced by removing unpopular dictators is fundamental. It has as much to do about the same methods being applied against him at home as it does about Syria. If Putin fears popular revolutions per se, he is no lover of the Arab spring. At its core the Syrian revolt, heavily sectarianised though it has become, is about a people rising up against a deeply entrenched tyranny.
Russia might be persuaded that the longer it waits, and the weaker Assad becomes, the fewer cards it has to play. But for the moment the chances of Putin changing course are minimal. So all talk of a chapter 7 mechanism, which would allow for armed force to be used to enforce a ceasefire or sanctions, is rhetorical only. Annan is right to feel frustrated.
But his frustration is not confined to Russia. It is with the US and the Friends of Syria, who, he implies, are flooding the place with weapons instead of pushing the opposition towards a political settlement. Whether that is remotely likely with Assad in place is a point Annan does not address. But we are not even close to testing his thesis that a transitional deal could be reached if Assad vows to leave. And that surely is Annan’s strongest point. His weakest one is that he has only created a road map for what could happen if the military balance of power in and around Syria changes. His or anyone’s ability to put the UN plan agreed at Geneva into effect and to stop the gradual slide into civil war is currently nil, with the members of the security council at loggerheads with each other.
That leaves two options: the gradual implosion of the regime or a long, hard, bloody grind, which would make the death toll in the past 16 months – an estimated 15,000 – only a foretaste of things to come. The defection of Manaf Tlass, a commander in the elite Republican Guard and a friend and contemporary of Assad, is significant in that he is the highest-level Sunni yet to defect. More than that, it is difficult to say. The claim that the dam of the government’s cohesion is cracking and about to burst has been made many times before, and after each explosion the structure still stands. That’s what makes Syria so different from Tunisia, Egypt or even Yemen. Call it the legacy of Bashar’s father, Hafez, but Syria’s political landscape is bleak, swept clean of genuine political alternatives. That is what holds it together. Fear of the future – and it shows in the cohesion of the security state.
Tlass’s defection was greeted with suspicion by the Syrian opposition, because they know only too well how close he and his family was to the Assads and they suspect he could form part of an attempt to fashion a Yemen-style deal in Syria – in which Assad goes but large parts of the regime stay. Here again the ability of the Syrian opposition to act as one complicates their struggle. The resistance is done by the local co-ordination committees and militias who go to each international conference and leave empty-handed.
That leaves the long, hard slog. Large parts of the country are beyond the control of the regime, but these towns and villages are wastelands whose population has fled to Turkey. A ring of steel has been put around Aleppo and Damascus which is feeling the full force of the economic sanctions. There is no doubt how this is going to end, but every doubt about how long it will take.
Friday 6 July 2012
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: Approximately 100 Syrians killed in syria on Friday 6/7/2012 - 67 civilians have been martyred
63 unarmed civilians:
-In Idlib province 7 civilians were killed. 2 in the city of Ma’arat al-Nu’man by gunfire and regime bombardment. In Khan Sheikhoun, 3 people, including a woman, were killed by direct gunfire from regime forces, 1 civilian was killed when regime forces targeted his car in the town. A woman was killed by the random bombardment on the town of Tamani’a.
-In Reef Dimashq 13 killed. A woman was killed by the bombardment on Zeideen. 2 civilians were killed by sniper-fire in Irbeen. 1 civilian was killed by random fire in Irbeen.. A civilian was killed by a shell in Dareyya. 1 civilan was killed by the bombardment of al-Zabadani today. 7 members of the same family were martyred when a mortar fell on their home in Dareyya.
-In Homs province 11 civilians were killed. 1 from earlier wounds by gunfire in Karm al-Shami. 6 civilians were killed by the bombardment of Khaldiya, Deir Ba’alba and al-Hamidiya neighbourhoods of Homs; 1 civilian was shot in the Karm al-Shami neighbourhood; 1 civilian was killed by regime fire in the qarabees neighbourhood. A woman was killed by the bombardment on the city of al-Rastan. 1 killed by the bombardment of Ghento. 1 civilian was killed by the bombardment of al-Qusayr. 1 was killed when his car was targeted on the Buweida road, Reef Homs.
-In Aleppo province 11 civilians were killed. A woman was killed, under unknown circumstances, by the exit to the city of Hureitan. 2 civilians were killed when regime forces fired at a protest in the Salaheddine and Amiriya neighbourhoods of Aleppo. A civilian was killed by a sniper in Hureitan. A child was martyred when pro-regime forces ran him over with their can in the al-Bab neighbourhood. A civilian was killed by wounds from an earlier explosion in the al-Sakhour neighbourhood. A civilian from the Salaheddine neighbourhood was summarily executed by regime forces. A woman and her child were killed by the bombardment on A’zaz. A civilian died of wounds he received in the town of Zebdein, Reef Dimashq. 1 civilian was killed by regime fire while he was assisting the wounded in Deir Izzor.
-In Damascus 5. A civilian was killed by an ambush set up for him by regime forces in the Nahar Eisha neighbourhood. 3 people, including a child, were killed during clashes, between defected fighters and regime forces, in the al-Liwan neighbourhood. 1 civilian was killed by pro-regime gunmen in the Qaboun neighbourhood.
-In Dera’a 6 killed. A woman was killed by wounds from the bombardment of Dera’a al-Balad neighbourhood. 5 civilians were martyred by the regime bombardment of Nawa.
-In Hama province 5 civilians were killed. A little girl was killed in the al-Sheikh Anbar neighbourhood. A civilian was killed by regime fire when a protest came out in Dahiyat Abi al-Fida’, Hama. 2 civilians were killed by sniper fire on the neighbourhoods of al-Bayyad and al-Arba’een, Gama city. 1 civilian died of a gunshot wound he received by regime forces in Junoob al-Mal’ab.
-In Deir Izzor 5 civilians were killed. 1 by sniper fire in al-Deir al-Ateeq neighbourhood. A man and his son were killed by the bombardment on the town of al-Eshara. An elderly man and his wife were killed by the bombardment of Mehkan, Reef Deir Izzor.
4 Armed rebels:
Homs: 1 rebel fighter was killed during clashes in Khaldiya
Aleppo: A rebel fighter was killed during clashes in the village of Andan.
Idlib: 2 rebel fighters killed by gunfire in Ma’arat al-Nu’man.
A first lieutenant was killed during clashes in Reef aleppo. A defected Soldier was killed during clashes in Ma’arat al-Nu’man, Reef Idlib. 1 defected soldier killed during clashes in Deir Izzor.
No less than 26 members of the Syrian armed forces were killed during clashes and targeted attacks in Deir Izzor, Idlib, Aleppo and Dera’a.
Deir Izzor province: The town of Quriya is being violently bombarded by regime forces, rockets fell on the old al-Sakh mosque, the Tu’s and al-Bazol neighbourhoods, as well as on the main road, several have been reported injured. Violent explosions rocked the city of al-Boukamal, the sources are unknown. In the city of Deir Izzor violent clashes took place between rebel fighters and syrian troops, who later began bombarding several areas of the city.
[local time] 21:41 UN envoy Kofi Annan warned on Friday that Syria will face a civil war and risk a spillover of the conflict unless Russia, the West, and Arab states end their “destructive competition” to impose a ceasefire and begin a political process.
20:57 Activists said on Friday that Syrian forces killed 74 people, Al-Arabiya reported.
19:41 Syrian forces clashed with Free Syrian Army members on Friday in Damascus’ neighborhood of Al-Tadamon, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
18:44 Activists said on Friday that Syrian security forces killed 60 people, Al-Arabiya reported.
16:18 The UN Human Rights Council on Friday tightened pressure on Syria with a new resolution condemning the violence there and demanding all sides abide by envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan.
15:56 Friday’s death toll in Syria has increased to 45 people, Al-Arabiya television quoted the Local Coordination Committees as saying.
15:46 A rights watchdog reported at least 29 people killed across Syria on Friday as protesters took to the streets in several provinces after being urged to call for a “People’s liberation war.”
15:07 Friday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 36 people, Al-Jazeera television quoted the Local Coordination Committees as saying.
14:15 German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called Friday for a non-military UN resolution and tough sanctions as a way of piling pressure on the Syrian regime to stop a deadly crackdown on opposition.
13:42 Al-Arabiya television is broadcasting live footage of an anti-regime protest in Daraa al-Balad.
13:27 Defected Syrian general Manaf Tlass on Friday was on his way to Paris, AFP cited France as saying.
12:24 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Friday called for a UN resolution on a transition in Syria backed by sanctions, slamming Russia and China for blocking progress on efforts to end the conflict.
11:54 The Syrian conflict has become a threat to international peace and security, French President Francois Hollande told a Friends of Syria meeting on Friday, appealing to Russia to back regime change.
11:47 Syrian security forces killed 17 people on Friday, Al-Arabiya TV quoted activists as saying.
10:59 Reuters reported on Thursday that Manaf Tlass, a leading Republican Guards general and a friend of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, defected Thursday and was headed to Paris’ Friends of Syria meeting.
10:14 Troops rained shells on the central Syrian town of Daraya on Friday, killing at least one civilian, a day after nationwide violence cost the lives of more than 90 people, a rights watchdog reported.
10:11 The United States is set to call for tough new UN sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad and his inner circle, as over 100 Western and Arab nations meet Friday in Paris for “Friends of Syria” talks.
10:04 An AFP feature piece details how young refugee Syrian children are dealing with the trauma of the war in their country.
UNITED NATIONS – U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon recommended to the U.N. Security Council on Friday that its Syria monitoring mission shift focus from observing a non-existent ceasefire to securing a political solution to the conflict that has killed thousands.
The deeply divided council must make a decision on what to do with the U.N. mission in Syria, known as UNSMIS, before July 20 when its mandate expires. The council is scheduled to discuss the issue on Wednesday and is due to vote on July 18.
The 15-member council approved in April the deployment of up to 300 unarmed military observers to Syria to oversee a ceasefire that has failed to take hold. The mission is part of a six-point peace plan proposed by international envoy Kofi Annan.
Ban’s report to the council, obtained by Reuters, recommends the emphasis of UNSMIS’ work shift from military observers – who suspended most of their monitoring activities on June 16 because of increased risk amid rising violence – to the roughly 100 civilian staff focusing on a political solution and issues like human rights.
The mission would keep its current mandate for up to 300 unarmed observers under this option, but significantly fewer likely would be needed to support the new focus.
“If UNSMIS were re-oriented in this manner, the Mission would redeploy from the field to the capital (Damascus) to minimize risks, retaining core civilian and military observer capacities to focus on the spectrum of initiatives feeding into the political process,” Ban’s report said.
“A reduced military observer component would support these civilian-led activities with military liaison and, as it does now, conduct visits to incident sites to conduct fact-finding and verification tasks,” the report said.
While saying this approach would strengthen the conciliation approach and build support for Annan’s peace plan, Ban warned the Security Council that it had drawbacks.
“At a minimum, it implies that establishment of a sustained cessation of violence is not an immediate prospect, and limits observation and reporting capacity concerning violations of a reputed cessation of violence accordingly,” Ban said.
“Nonetheless, the risks associated with this approach may be more acceptable in comparison to the benefits of enhanced engagement and the uncertainty of alternatives,” he said.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have killed more than 15,000 people since a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters began in March 2011, Syrian dissidents and Western leaders say. Damascus says rebels have killed several thousand of its security forces.
UNSMIS head General Robert Mood suggested on Thursday that he would support such a reconfiguration of the mission. He said the mission must stay, even though the ceasefire it was sent to police is non-existent and violence is reaching an “unprecedented level.”
WITHDRAWAL “A LOSS OF CONFIDENCE”
Ban presented other options that included withdrawing the mission altogether, expanding the number of military observers or adding an armed protection force, and leaving the mission as it is – although he said this last approach meant UNSMIS “would remain configured for tasks it cannot implement.”
He said a complete withdrawal would “signal a loss of confidence in an early return to a sustainable cessation of violence and remove the sole source of independent monitoring of the six-point plan implementation on the ground.”
“It would likely precipitate a further blow to efforts to stabilize the situation on the ground, and render the prospect of a negotiated Syrian-led transition, as laid out by the Action Group, more difficult,” he added.
Russia and China, which have vetoed U.N. Security Council resolutions designed to pressure Assad, say they are committed to Annan’s peace plan and have indicated they want the U.N. mission to remain in place as is.
But the United States, European council members and others have suggested that keeping hundreds of military observers in Syria to monitor a non-working ceasefire makes no sense.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeated on Friday a call for a U.N. Security Council resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which allows the Council to authorize actions ranging from diplomatic and economic sanctions to military intervention. U.S. officials have said they are talking about sanctions on Syria, not military intervention.
Annan’s peace plan calls for an end to fighting by government security forces and rebels, withdrawal of heavy weapons from towns, return of the army to barracks, humanitarian access and dialogue between the government and opposition aimed at a “political transition” for the country.
“The six-point plan initially provided a mechanism to assist parties in de-escalating the conflict. Regrettably, it has not been implemented in any meaningful way,” Ban said in his report.
“As of now, the Government of Syria and the armed opposition both appear to have chosen to pursue a military response to the current conflict, narrowing the space for comprehensive dialogue between the parties on what the future of their country should look like and how it can be achieved,” he said.
World powers struck an agreement in Geneva on Saturday that a transitional government should be set up in Syria to end the conflict there, but they remained at odds over what part Assad might play in the process.
Friend of Assad deserts Syria for France: BEIRUT – Manaf Tlas, a family friend of President Bashar al-Assad and head of a unit of his elite Republican Guard, has fled Syria for France and has information about the regime that could help its opponents, the Syrian rebel army said on Friday…
Thousands flee Syria fighting, face food shortage: GENEVA – Thousands of families in Syria have fled their homes in the past two weeks due to heavy fighting between government forces and rebels and many face food shortages, the United Nations said on Friday…
Kofi Annan has issued a blunt warning that Syria will face a spreading civil war and risk a spillover of the conflict unless Russia, the west and Arab states end their “destructive competition” to force a ceasefire and launch a political process that the opposition insists must see President Bashar al-Assad step down.
In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, the UN envoy called for an end to mutual recriminations and insisted that despite disagreements at an international conference on Syria in Geneva last weekend, the support of the entire UN security council for a political transition in Damascus was a significant achievement that should not be squandered.
“We are trying to implement some of the decisions taken in Geneva, most importantly exploring on the ground the most effective way to stop the violence and get them thinking of the political process,” Annan said. “I understand the reaction of the [Syrian] opposition. Maybe in their shoes I would have done the same or gone further because they didn’t get 100% of what they wanted. But it doesn’t mean they got nothing.”
In the face of criticism that his cautious and consensus-building diplomacy is getting nowhere as Syria bleeds – with an estimated 15,000 dead in 16 months – Annan insisted he had no intention of resigning.
The ceasefire, the first point of Annan’s six-point plan for Syria, has never been implemented after a brief lull in the first days after it was announced on 12 April, and the country has slipped into a state of all-out war.
The Geneva meeting was intended to “kick-start” the political process, but was overshadowed by a row between Russia and the west over whether Assad must step down before the creation of a transitional government. This crucial issue was fudged to say it could include members of the present government and the opposition “and shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent”.
Annan said: “There is a road map so people will know there is an alternative if they stop fighting. What is important is that for the first time the five permanent members [of the security council] came together and agreed on a political transition. They talked about institutions including security sectors and the type of leadership that is required.”
But the envoy, also representing the Arab League, made clear that western criticism of Russia, a long-standing ally of Assad, was not enough. “Russia does have influence and can encourage the Syrian government to implement fully the six-point plan and security council resolutions,” he said. “But this task cannot be left to the Russians alone. I expect Iran to play a role. Those governments – the US and the Friends of Syria – that have influence with the opposition should also play a role. If they continue with this destructive competition everyone will lose.
“They [the west] accuse the Russians of arming the [Syrian] government. The Russians accuse them of arming the opposition and flooding the place with weapons. This is instead of coming together to see what can be done.”
Saudi Arabia and Qatar are financing and arming the Free Syrian Army and the US says it is helping co-ordinate with the rebels and supplying communications equipment.
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, underlined tensions when she told ministers at the Friends of Syria conference in Paris on Friday: “I ask you to reach out to Russia and China and to not only urge but demand that they get off the sidelines and begin to support the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.”
Annan said he was constrained by his role as mediator and could not speak for the Syrian leader, but added: “Assad has to understand that things cannot continue as they are. I raised the issue of transition in our first meeting in March and nothing has happened to shift people away from the concept of transition. I am sure he realises it has to come.”
Critics have made reference to Annan’s role as head of UN peacekeeping operations at the time of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and the massacre of Bosnian Muslims by Serbs at Srebrenica the following year. The implication is that his record makes him the wrong man to be leading negotiations, which – however well-intentioned – provide an excuse for inaction and buying time for the Assad regime to continue the killing.
Annan rejects this charge as unfair. “I am worried about the people of Syria. My only concern is them. If I can help save at least one life I will be happy. I am worried about the alternative that will lead to further militarisation of the conflict.
“I have nothing to prove. As a retiree I could have continued sitting in my garden. But it was difficult to say no when I was approached. When you have been in the game for a while and you have footprints, people will use them for you or against you. When I take a job or decide to resign it is uniquely my decision.
The claim that the government’s cohesion is cracking has been made many times before, and after each explosion the structure still standsKofi Annan could not have been clearer. There is no prospect of either a ceasefire or a political process in Syria until what he called thedestructive competition between rival members of the UN security council stops. Hillary Clinton, in her most aggressive comments to date, has demanded that Russia and China pay a price for sabotaging western and Arab attempts to strong-arm Bashar al-Assad out of the way.