Throughout the conflict dating back to spring 2011, our focus has been on the warring factions and the large displacement of Syrian refugees as well as loss of many lives. In addition to these significant topics, Syria holds some of man’s oldest preserved historical sites which still possess a multiplicity of secrets yet to be discovered. Now these sites which are usually under protection are being robbed of their artifacts, looters are destroying these “dead cities” in search of valuables. Detractors argue during this time of crisis, what advantage is there in cataloging these damaged sites? Archeologists suggest knowing which sites have been damaged when the fighting subsides will be the first step to rebuilding and or recovering what has been lost. The preservation of historical sites is invaluable to all students of history and has unfortunately become another casualty during this conflict.
After a two day internet blackout, communications have been restored to many areas in Syria as fighting continues in southern Damascus. One issue not yet discussed here is the coming winter, and its effect on the displaced refugees as a result of the fighting. “Ban Ki-moon warned the UN General Assembly in New York that Syrian refugee numbers could swell to 700,000 by January” It would seem inevitable now that regardless of the victor Syria will be facing all the problems of a failed state.
As it can be seen in the video Syrian Rebels are now making serious advancements on the capital city Damascus, stronghold of President Bashar al-Assad. While still these captures do not mean complete organization against the government military, and the “Free Syrian Army” has yet to gain complete control over a major city, more victories could mean rebel opposition can focus on Assad’s forces in fewer locations. It must be acknowledged then; the increasing effectiveness of the rebel opposition is present and real consideration should be made for a fallen state in Syria.
As the violence of total war continues, with an estimated 200 people being killed in Syria every day, the Syrian Nation Council reports the election of new leaders in attempt to conform with US ideals. Fearing loss of US and allied support, the SNC plans to further organize their opposition with this move, while so attempting to reach out to more demographic groups. This would be in accordance with US ideals; however, there are some within the SNC who see Riad Seif’s plan as undermining the SNC with American assistance. This is further evidence to suggest the group is still too far apart to attempt this type of move by the United States. Again, the United States intervention must avoid the previous mistakes made in other occupational mobilization campaigns, dating back to the 1950’s. Replacement of al-Assad cannot result in control by an extremist fundamentalist group in the vacuum of power that will ensue.
Here are images showing the destruction that has been taking place since earlier this spring. One powerful image is on slide four. We see people in the act of adding to the mountains of trash that have accumulated since trash collection has ceased. Next there is an image of Syrian artillery targeting a civilian target in the village of Bariqa, these attacks are forcing people to flee for the Turkish border in attempt to avoid being killed during the ongoing skirmish. Slide eleven is particularly telling as it shows a very large explosion in the result of the bombing of rebel controlled Ras al-Ain. Seldom seen are the powerful images associated with total war, on slide twelve we can see a young boy with multiple injuries being carted off.
I have been following the crisis in Syria extensively the past few weeks; this is the first detailed plan a foreign entity has had to combat the conflict and killing taking place in Syria. Of course this four point plan could be expound upon I agree, I was encouraged by its preliminary steps. While some of the language is rather vague I believe the work outlined by Lakhdar Brahimi could provide a means to an end for this ongoing struggle. More to come.
Dictator Bashar al-Assad, he told us, still had a chance to outlast the rebellion against him, though “it will take a couple of years and more than 100,000 killed.”
This is an interesting article from The Washington Post; it outlines the spread of the Arab Spring with a key quote from Assad seen above. Possibly most important is the Post's statement on the actions of the President of the United States and his administration. I have stated before, world leaders need to step in and take action to counter act the total warfare. The Obama administration continues to take a “soft-line” approach to the issues in Syria, “(Obama administration) is pursuing the shortsighted policy of seeking to restrain anti-Assad forces. That strategy has had no effect in either country other than to empower U.S. enemies and jihadist groups”
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama declared Syria's main opposition group the sole "legitimate representative" of its country's people.
Benjamin DeRita's insight:
This most recent development regarding the Syrian Civil War may shape the conflict going forward into 2013. A month after meetings in Qatar, the United States is now giving recognition to what it has deemed the most legitimate rebel group in the form of the Syrian Opposition Council. Most importantly in this writers opinion is the blacklisting of known al-Qaida groups hijacking the rebel cause. It is now known terrorist groups are among a fraction of the rebels attempting to seize any form of power that should come out of a failed Syrian state. Along with this was last week’s developing story of the possible use of chemical weapons stemming from reports of pro al-Assad militant groups preparing “sarin.” Global leaders and allies of the United States made a clear proclamation that the use of chemical weapons by al-Assad on his countrymen would not be tolerated. As of now the organization of the rebel alliance up to US specifications is a step, but in what direction? With winter approaching an estimated 500,000 refugees are currently displaced as a result of the Civil War, exposer could add to the already 40,000 dead in the coming weeks. Finally, as a direct result of the elevated status of the Syrian Opposition Council, they are expected to receive non-lethal humanitarian aid and possibly direct representation in Washington in the near future.
News of NATO approval for Turkey to mobilize Patriot missiles on the southern border for defensive purposes marks another chapter in the ongoing Syrian conflict. Russia in particular has been supportive of the rebel opposition; voices against this move for it may only increase the possibility for violent recourse on both sides if fired. Turkey also has cause for concern in using the missiles, its effect on the ethnic Kurdish population which inhabits shared boarder locations, could be further disastrous. Iran has been the major proponent for al-Assad and the Syrian government, supporting the Shiite sect against the Sunni majority. Most importantly this most recent and ongoing manifestation of the Arab Spring is a complete mess, and victory by either side is unclear at this time. While the opposition has made gains the government regime has held on to power throughout. Whereas the Kaddafi regime was aided by foreign intervention, the US and allies are weary to arm or help the opposition for fear of supplying terrorist organizations with not only resources but a state to control in the aftermath. Since spring 2011 an estimated 40,000 people have lost their lives in relations to the conflict in Syria.
For the first time in the 20 month conflict, reports confirm that the government under President al-Assad has shut down internet access across Syria, along with cellular telephone capabilities in some regions. At first state television claimed the outage was limited to certain areas, now a US based network security firm says: "In the global routing table, all 84 of Syria's IP address blocks have become unreachable, effectively removing the country from the Internet," This tactic seen in Egypt previously is meant to disrupt organized attacks by rebel forces but is obviously having an impact on the civilian populations as well. Blocking access to information and communication is widely accepted as a complete outrage. It is not hard to imagine these developments coming after the recent advancements the rebels have made in Syria. If rebel victories over government military institutions continues what will be the next step for al-Assad? It is clear the Syrian government is not afraid to target civilian communities in attempt to stop the opposition.
Some rebel militias claim "Islamic state" in key city of Aleppo, reject new coalition earning cautious backing abroad...
In the wake of the new organization spurred by US intervention, sectors of the rebel group are in staunch opposition to it as previously outlined. The votes have failed to incorporate outside factions previously targeted with the reorganization; evidence for this is seen in continued inter-rebel skirmishes – not increased organization. This article reports on the extremist Islamist factions within opposition that view a “national alliance” with western powers, as conspiracy against the movement itself. These developments are exceedingly interesting in regards to the “next step” by supporters, including that of the US. Many questions surrounding the support of the rebels remain; clearly the outfitting of units allied with al-Qaeda is unacceptable, at least in this writer’s opinion. Admittedly the Obama administration has continued opposition to the militarization of the conflict on both sides, but now world powers may lean in other directions (France).
News from Washington revealing a secret plan to counteract the fighting in Syria is now on the table. While the plan is still in its early stages, ideally minority groups still supporting al-Assad will be influenced by the US and allied nations to back the rebel alliance. The leading rebel group, the Syrian Nation Council will no longer be the “visible leader” of the opposition according to US. Organization of an administrative zone with nonlethal assistance from US and allies in the rebel controlled northern border may be the first step. This article also outlines plans for a meeting in Cairo where opposition representatives could establish a formal presence. Looking ahead, if international recognition is on the table restoration and expansion of basic public services could be backed by US dollars. Detractors have reason to doubt these plans at the most fundamental level, no support in lethal terms by the US will do nothing to stop the air to ground attacks on civilians. In addition, the two sides are still too far apart for this kind of initiative, the SNC are not on board with attending these meeting at this time.
This is a great source that depicts the life style those in warring regions must endure. The article follows Amjad, a 16 year old boy who is finishing his studies in the army-controlled city. This problem is magnified because while Amjad must pass guarded checkpoints to and from class, his father is part of the rebel alliance. Living in a neighboring village Amjad and his family must live a double life of sorts, secluding themselves from the community for fear of being discovered by the pro-Assad military. Already the conflict in Syria has resulted in over 32,000 casualties. Even now Shi’ite are fighting alongside Sunni rebels, against the oppressive Bashar al-Assad. Even while Syria is split between opposing factions of control, it is the citizens that must continue to traverse the lines in an attempt to preserve their livelihood.
This is an extremely disturbing piece that depicts the horrors taking place in Syria. War is graphic in nature but having the ability to see this footage should put a new perspective on the issues in Syria, and MENA moreover. As stated this is a total war disaster, taking life without regard. World leaders need to take action now - In the wake of the Presidential Debates, I feel as though neither party outlined a specific plan to deal with this very real problem which has already spilled over to surrounding regions.
Click on the map to follow events province-by province and to learn more about Syria's uprising.
Benjamin DeRita's insight:
This interactive Syrian Conflict timeline of events is a great resource to begin with when attempting to understand the conflict in its beginning stages. Most interesting is the ability to filter events based on groups whether it is the al-Assad regime or rebel forces on the ground. In addition to this the major reactions by the international community are included in this piece. By having these stories in one location one can track the developments of each party and see how protest turned to violence and eventually full blown Civil War.
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