Monday, August 13, 2012

Report on Syrian Issue - Government Position

NCF daily Report on Syrian Issue – The Government – Report dated 10 August 2012 (evening)

Our intention in this report is to convey the attitude of the Syrian establishment. The following report does not reflect the opinions of the Next Century Foundation:
Fighting in Aleppo has forced almost all of the FSA to retreat. Meanwhile, Iran held a day-long conference in Tehran to discuss Syria, on the 9th of August. It was attended by representatives of 27 countries, including China, India and Pakistan.
A statement issued at the end of the meeting said it discussed, "ways to lay the groundwork for consultations among countries in a peaceful atmosphere and to reinforce all-out regional and international efforts aimed at helping the Syrian people find a way out of the ongoing crisis in the country." The meeting also emphasised the need for a political solution based on national dialogue to solve the crisis in Syria. Iran’s Foreign Minister Salehi, said that Iran backed the efforts of the UN and specifically, backed the continuation of (parts of) the Annan Plan. 
The following report is in three sections:
1.      A comment from a prominent Baath Party member
2.      What the Syrian government is saying
3.      What is happening on the ground
A private comment from a senior Baath Party source:
·         The following is from a prominent member of the Baath party who has some sympathy for the rebels.
“The Syrian army is very strong.  The rate of defection is very low regardless of whatever the opposition says. In many cases the opposition have proved to be liars. Look at the supposed killing of the Russian General, who turned out to be retired and living in Moscow. Then just the other day they said that the President’s Chief of Protocol had defected, so we had to bring him out and show him in public. Sure the government has a lot of trouble on its plate, but it is not going to collapse.
“But, that does not mean that Bashar al Assad will lead us forever, even if he crushes the revolt he can’t stay in power for a long time and the revolt won’t be crushed that easily because of all the money being thrown at it from the outside. He thinks he can stay in power as long as he has the support of the army and is safe. So he and his friends sit in their palaces, safe and secure, and the army has no problem with that? That won’t work forever. Bashar al Assad and those around him care about themselves. At the end of the day they will retreat to their heartland.  Many Alawites now say, ‘shall we pay the cost of keeping Assad in power?’
“The ruling class of the Alawites is from a tribe called the Glassiyah. The other Alawites, the coastal Alawites, are called the Haydoriah. In all these years no prominent person from Al Haydoriah has risen to power in government, only the Glassiyah. So even the Alawites say they haven’t benefited from 40 years of Alawite rule. Only the inner circles have benefited.  That’s why they are ready to sacrifice Bashar al Assad.
“The government is in a state of despair, hoping that someone will come to aid them. The Saudis won’t, the Qataris won’t and the war has not spilled over into Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan or Saudi Arabia, as once expected.
“The only thing the government has left that they could do would be to unleash a strike on Israel, but this would be a last straw, they won’t risk it.
“The only comfort the government has is that the army is still fighting. The army fights because the army is a national institution and no one believes it should be disintegrated just to support Bashar al Assad. The army fights to preserve the army and ultimately will turn its guns against al Assad.
“Iran is trying to buy some time but nobody is interested. The killing is unbelievable. It is everywhere. There is anarchy in Syria. One of my own family was kidnapped, this happens day in day out. Many Syrians are subject to this horrible problem. There is no security, no water, no fuel, and no bread. We are either pounded by artillery by the government or mowed down by the rebels’ Kalashnikovs. Almost every village in Syria is affected. What do you expect out of this? We haven’t even reached an all-out civil war yet. The war is to come. From last year we have been paying this price. Someone in every family has been killed or kidnapped and we have no idea what we can do. What is the best solution for my family? Families are not like your families in the West. I head a family of three or four hundred people. What am I to do? What am I to tell them to do? Every city has families being subjected to this. I go to work just to forget, just to keep myself busy, so I don’t have to think about it.”
What the Syrian Government is saying:
3 August 2012: A man by the name of Mohammed Salim Qabbaini has appeared on state television to talk about how he was “working for the external media and was fabricating stories about Syrian forces which were not true”. He claims he was speaking from Beirut when he said he was in Homs. His stories were going to the BBC and Al Jazeera.
3 August 2012: The government also claims that “terrorist groups have martyred civilians at the al-Yarmouk camp by bombarding that area”. They also claim to have killed an armed terrorist group driving SUV cars equipped with BKC machine guns on the Aleppo-Raqqa highway.
3 August 2012: Syria’s Foreign Ministry expressed regret and sadness over the resignation of Kofi Annan. They say they “tried on multiple occasions to implement the 6-point plan” and they are “sad he has gone”.
6 August 2012: Minister of Information Omran al-Zoubani said that “no matter how many government officials leave their post it will not affect the government and that 99 percent of the stories about Syria are desperate attempts with defined goals”.
9 August 2012: Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar stressed that Syria will go on “pursuing terrorists wherever they are to bring Syria back to a stable, secure nation”. This was said at a meeting between al-Shaar and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations for Safety and Security, Gregory B. Starr. In this meeting Starr echoed the interior minister’s desire for a “stable and safe Syria”. 
What is happening on the ground:
26 July 2012: Recent videos that have shown that rebels are increasingly in possession of missiles systems, capable of being fired at helicopters, prove questionable at best, and seem to indicate the opposite, either that the weapons in question are not functional, or that the rebels do not know how to use them.
31 July 2012:  There have been some reports of growing optimism amongst rebels in Aleppo, who claim they are capable of capturing the city despite being outgunned.
2 August 2012: Rebels start to retreat as the government throws everything they have at Aleppo. The rebels are saying they never intended to hold Damascus, and that their retreat was planned and not forced by the Syrian army.
3 August 2012: Fighting continues in the Tadamon district of Aleppo. The FSA attacked a number of government bases including police stations. State media claims to be “pursuing terrorists” in the Salaheddin neighbourhood of Aleppo.
9 August 2012: The FSA has to retreat in the face of a heavy ground assault as the government clears Aleppo of rebel forces. Fighting, once again, has been extremely fierce in the Salaheddin neighbourhood. The government claim control of the district (as well as saying they killed “large numbers of terrorists” there, while others were arrested or surrendered) but the rebels say this is merely a tactical withdrawal.
Wael al-Halki, a Baath loyalist from Dera’a, has been named as the new prime minister.
10 August 2012: Government forces continued their pursuit of rebels in the city of Aleppo. This is another day of a large ground offensive by government troops. “One day is ours, one day is theirs,” said a senior commander of the Free Syrian Army, who identified himself as Abu Mohammed. “We have very little capacities, but we have achieved much so far.” Most of the FSA have now fled Salaheddin.

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