By Peter Clifford © (http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-2/)
The UN weapons inspectors handed their report on events in Damascus on August 21st to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon yesterday, Sunday, and it was presented to members of the UN Security Council behind closed doors this morning, Monday.
Vladimir Claims the Peace Prize
Ake Sellstrom Hands CW Report to UN General Secretary
The report has been made available this afternoon and confirms the use of Sarin: HERE:
Syria acceded to the UN Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) on 14th September and will therefore be required to comply with the terms of that treaty within 30 days.
Within 7 days Syria is required provide a list of where it holds chemical weapons and what they are.
The US estimates Syria has chemical weapons in 45 locations and both the US and Russia agree that the stockpile amounts to around 1,000 tonnes.
This stockpile is due, under the US/Russia framework agreement to be destroyed by the end of 2014.
But don’t hold your breath (no pun intended!).
The US agreed to destroy its 31,000 tonne stockpile of chemical weapons in 1997 – in 2013 it still has 3,000 tonnes left.
Some remain very skeptical about the whole agreement, the FSA even claiming that 20 Syrian Government trucks shipped chemical weapon making equipment to Iraq and also to Lebanon.
Certainly, the Syrian Government seems rather too pleased with the outcome of the US/Russian negotiations. Ali Haidar, the Syrian Minister of National Reconciliation, is reported to have told the Russian press that, “We welcome these agreements. On the one hand, they will help Syrians get out of the crisis, and on the other hand, they averted a war against Syria by removing the pretext for those who wanted to unleash one.”
“This is a victory for Syria”, he added, “Achieved thanks to our Russian friends.”
Many would like the US and Russia to go further and get Syria to sign treaties to ban the use of cluster bombs, personnel mines and incendiary bombs, all of which they continue to use.
Clearly disagreements remain on the interpretation of the existing chemical weapons agreement between Russia and the West.
Western Ministers Meet in Paris
A statement issued this morning, Monday, in Paris after a 3-way meeting between US Secretary of State John Kerry, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and President Hollande of France, said, “If Assad fails in time to abide by the terms of this framework, make no mistake, we are all agreed – and that includes Russia – that there will be consequences.”
This was immediately countered by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergie Lavrov, who is keen to convene a Geneva-2 peace conference on Syria, saying, “If for someone it is more important to constantly threaten… that is another path to wrecking completely the chances of calling the Geneva-2 conference.”
FSA FEARS THAT FAILURE BY USA TO TAKE MILITARY ACTION IS LIKELY TO DRIVE SOME OPPOSITION FIGHTERS TO THE SIDE OF THE EXTREMISTS:
The failure by the US to take military action against the Assad regime is of course seen by the FSA as a disaster and the fear is that many moderate fighters will be pushed towards joining the more aggressive and better funded extremist groups such as the Al-Nusra Front (ANF) and The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The London based defence analysis group IHS Jane’s estimates in its latest report that Opposition forces number around 100,000 but that they are now split into at least 1,000 separate groups.
Jihadist Fighter in Syria
Extreme Jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda, such as ANF and ISIL, number around 10,000 according to Jane’s and another 30,000 are thought to be hardline Islamists differing only in that they are concentrating on Syria rather than on the global Islamist fight.
You can read more HERE:
The Islamists case, and that of the Opposition generally, continues to be damaged by horrific reports that they are no better than the Assad regime which they seek to replace.
ANF published an internet statement yesterday in which it claimed that it had killed 30 Alawites in the villages of Massudiyeh, Maksar al-Hissan and Jab al-Jerah in Homs province.
Al-Nusra “justified” its action saying it was in retaliation for the regime gas attack in East Ghouta near Damascus on August 21st – in reality their actions are nothing more than bloodthirsty executions and a war crime for which they should be punished.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has confirmed the attack, saying that at least 22 civilians were killed in Maksar al-Hissan alone, 4 of them aged over 80 and 4 children aged between 9 and 12. 5 Syrian Army soldiers were also reported killed.
The Jihadists withdrew after the attack and the villages are now thought to be back in Government hands.
Ahmad Tumeh, a moderate Islamist himself who is the newly Syrian National Coalition (SNC) appointed “prime minister” and leader of a new provisional Syrian Government (and whose recent appointment was completely overshadowed and missed in the press), pledged at the weekend to curb the influence of the extremist Al-Quaeda linked groups.
Tumeh, now the head of a 13 member “cabinet”, said that the Opposition had to confront Al-Qaeda ideologically by emphasizing that democracy did not contradict Islam and deny the group popularity by restoring public services in rebel-held areas.
That will be easier said than done as the Jihadist groups make a point of moving into Opposition held areas after the FSA have liberated them and “generously” supplying food, money, even toys for the kids and other services to the local population.
Damaged Syriac Catholic Church in Homs
Michael Weiss interviewed, for NOW Syria, Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed al-Abboud who is a member of the FSA’s Supreme Military Command.
He rejected the lastest chemical weapons agreement, saying, “It will change nothing in reality …. We are not being killed by chemical weapons alone; rather, we are being killed using surface-to-surface missiles and explosive barrels”.
Abboud is 2nd in command to General Idriss, but also commander of the eastern front covering Deir Ezzor, Hasakah, and Raqqa provinces. Raqqah city, the only provincial capital held by the Opposition at present, is controlled by ISIL who control both the administration and supplying social services.
Abboud claimed however that the FSA control all military positions and that ISIL only hold checkpoints in liberated areas and are not prominent on the frontline. You can read more of this excellent in-depth interview, HERE:
ALMOST 2 MILLION SYRIAN CHILDREN WITHOUT SCHOOLING – VICTIM OF ATTEMPTED TALIBAN ASSASSINATION COMES FORWARD TO HELP:
Whoever is in charge whether it is Opposition or regime areas, millions in Syria continue to suffer.
The Assad regime boasted that 4.5 million school age students started their new school year in Syria yesterday, Sunday. But they don’t include the almost 2 million children between the ages of 6 and 15 who have dropped out of school attendance since the last school year began in 2012 because of displacement and violence.
Injured Girl Hopes for Victory Soon
An estimated 4,000 schools in Syria, around one in five, have been damaged or destroyed, or are sheltering internally displaced families.
Some children are missing out on an education for a third year in a row.
The BBC has a video report on “a lost generation of school kids”, HERE:
In the Atman refugee camp in northern Aleppo province, near the Turkish border and the only refugee camp inside Syria, they don’t even have a school, just a tent with occasional maths lessons from a volunteer teacher.
Most aid agency workers are afraid to go there. Conditions are reported as terrible. Al Jazeera has a video report from Atman, HERE:
If Atman was not bad enough, watch this video of 1,300 people living with their children in a derelict underground garage in Lebanon:
Lebanon estimates that by the end of 2013 nearly 550,000 school-aged Syrian children will be living in their country, outnumbering Lebanon’s own school-age-population by 250,000.
One extraordinary young lady trying to help them is Malala Yousufzai, who has pledged, in conjunction with the UK’s former prime minister Gordon Brown, to raise $500 million over the next 3 years to provide an education for Syrian children living in Lebanon.
Malala, just 16 herself, was shot and almost killed by the Taliban in Pakistan in 2012 for advocating education for Muslim girls but since her recovery lives and goes to school in England.
Malala at the United Nations
Having spoken at the UN and been the winner of International Children’s Peace Prize for her dedication to education, Malala has now been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
You can support her international campaign in conjunction with A World At School, by signing the petition on Syria,HERE:
To raise awareness for her programme, Malala spoke via Skype with two young Syrian refugees, Zahra and Om Kolthoum Katou, in Lebanon who had been forced from their home in Aleppo.
“I totally support you,” she told them. “You are very brave. I believe that you will get your education, that you will go to school – and that no one can stop you.” (EDITOR: That we were all so brave to stand up like Malala)
MULTIPLE TANKS DESTROYED AND ARMY BASES OVERRUN AS FSA CONTINUES ITS CAMPAIGNS AGAINST IRANIAN LED ASSAD REGIME:
On the ground, there are reports that the Assad regime has lost control of the Deir Salman army base near Damascus and from the eastern suburbs of Hama city that the Opposition has captured the base of Brigade 66, destroying 2 T-72 tanks at the Abu Shafiq checkpoint and killing 50 Syrian Army personnel.
As one wit on Twitter put it, the “Assad Army has lost so many bases that pretty soon they’ll be sleeping in the Sheraton and Four Seasons”.
Also near Damascus, heavy fighting is reported near the base of Signal Regiment 81 not far from the International Airport road.
This video shows the Opposition (EDITOR: I am not quite sure where?) reputedly destroying a consignment of Assad’s weapons with a roadside bomb, HERE:
Opposition Fighters Becoming Ever More Resourceful
Another noticeable feature of the conflict recently, while the media has been in a frenzy over chemical weapons talks, is that there is a significant increase in the number of Assad’s tanks being destroyed over the last 2 months.
Not only that, but increasingly the models destroyed are the newer T-72s and T-80s.
The bigger problem for Assad is not so much the loss of these tanks, but the loss of experienced tank crews, who now know they are “sitting ducks” every time they go out on the frontline.
A direct hit on a tank, showering bullet like pieces of shrapnel on the crew trapped inside the cockpit, means that few survive. (EDITOR: My thanks to CJ for technical advice here).
This T-72 tank was destroyed this week in the Qalamoun mountains in the Damascus countryside using a KonKurs guided missile, HERE:
Additionally, the Opposition are becoming more and more inventive, creating new and effective weapons from their own resources rather than relying on an unresponsive world to help them.
There is a video of a new type of field cannon, HERE: and a sophisticated and accurate remote control rifle, HERE:
According to this video Opposition fighters have stormed another Syrian Army base in Quneitra province not far from the Israeli border, HERE:
There are also reports coming in from Turkey this afternoon that Turkish military jets have shot down a Syrian helicopter that has “violated Turkish airspace” over Antakya after repeating warnings not to do so. The wreckage came down in Latakia in Syria, HERE:
In Deraa province, not far from Jordan, where the Opposition are particularly successful at present, reports say that fighters are targeting the regime base of Brigade 61 at Tel Al-Jabiah and simultaneously attacking 8 border posts 72,73,74,75,76,7,78 and 79 along the frontier.
Lastly, there has been much speculation over the last 2 years over the involvement of Iran in Syria. Reports coming out of Iran suggest that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is training thousands of Shia men from across the Middle East to become fighters at the Amir Al-Momenin (“Commander of the Faithful”) base 15 kilometres outside Tehran. You can read more, HERE:
And this video, apparently captured by Opposition fighters in Aleppo, appears to be part of an incomplete documentary and shows not only Iranian officers in charge of training but both punishing and directing Syrian soldiers. (EDITOR: Iran’s hold over Syria may be much greater than we think. Courtesy of Al Jazeera with English voice over):