Syria: The Syrian army recaptured three neighborhoods in the center of Aleppo while clashes continued in other parts of the city, residents told the press on 23 August.
An interview in The Independent is worth reading for a Syrian government perspective. Robert Fisk reported on an interview with a captured member of the Free Syrian Army, after a successful Syrian Army re-capture of a neighborhood in Aleppo. The youth told his captors and Fisk that he did not realize how beautiful “Palestine” was. This young man and his fellow fighters were not Syrian and though they were fighting in Palestine against the Israelis.
Comment: Fisk was in Aleppo to take the interview. He was escorted by an English-speaking Syrian Army major. His description of what he saw is neutral. Reports about the disorientation of foreign fighters have surfaced previously in Syria, as they did in Iraq during the height of the civil war. Nothing is quite as it is reported.
Politics. Former Syrian National Council member Randa Kassis said President Bashar al-Asad will only be toppled when he loses the support of the minority Alawites. Kassis, a critic of the SNC who maintains the group is ignoring the increasing influence of Islamist extremists, said, “Without the defection of the Alawites, we won’t be able to do anything and we will go straight into civil war.
Comment: NightWatch agrees with Kassis’ judgment, with one caution. The resignation of Asad appears increasingly likely, but does not signify the end of the Alawite regime. Asad appears weary of his duties, especially since his brother was maimed by a bombing in Damascus. He never had much enthusiasm for the presidency, but has done his duty to his sect and tribe.
He is the public face of the Alawite political and military elite and its Sunni financiers and supporters. Nevertheless, he is expendable.
Syria-Iraq: Reports that a Syrian jet penetrated Iraqi airspace are untrue, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s media adviser said on 23 August.
Comment: Fixed wing combat aircraft always violate national borders when attacking targets near the border. It is a function of the physics of jet-powered flight. The story behind the story is that Iraq did not protest or respond in any obvious fashion, which implies tacit consent. That explains the denial. There is no need to explain an event that officially did not happen.
Syria-Russia: The Russian Foreign Ministry’s point man on Syria says Moscow has guarantees from the Syrian government that it will not use or move its chemical weapons. Speaking in an interview for The Associated Press on Thursday, Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said that Russia is working closely with the Syrian government to make sure its arsenal of chemical weapons remains securely in place and does not fall into the hands of terrorists.
Comment: Two points are noteworthy. All through the past 18 months of fighting, Syria has relied on Russia, not Iran, to present its case to the world and protect it from UN sanctions. The primary Russian interest is to block the US, and secondarily, NATO.
Point of order. On multiple occasions this month US news outlets have described Turkey as a one-time ally of Syria that has now turned against it. The Turks have not been allies of Arabs in more than a thousand years. Somebody needs to tell Fox News and others that their research staffers need to actually read some history.
The second point is about the US statements of concern about Syrian use of chemical weapons. The US warning to Syria ignored the infinitely more serious and palpable threat that Salafist or al Qaida fighting groups might overrun and capture a CW depot and redistribute its weapons to other terrorist groups or fire them at Israel.
Syria has been as responsible as any great power in controlling its chemical weapons. It has assured the international community on multiple occasions that it would not use CW against its own citizens.
On the other hand, theWestern and Arab backers of the Syrian opposition do not even know the identity, nationality, composition and theology of the opposition fighting groups that might take possession of Syrian weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems. The danger that these could be turned against Israel is reinforced by the statement of the captured fighter in Aleppo that he understood he was fighting against Israel
If Syrian opposition militants fire Syrian CW at Israel, war crimes accusations against Western and Sunni Arab policy makers could follow at some point.
Phi Beta Iota: NIGHTWATCH remains vastly more reliable as a source of news and inside with respect to Syria than any conventional or aspiring media outlet. The dangerous influence of the USA, which has no idea what it is creating as it mucks around with tribal antipathies going back thousands of years, should be clear from the above. What may not be clear is that the restoration of the power of majorities over minorities is inevitable. The reversal of artificial political boundaries and predatory economic structures is one side of the near future; the secession of minorities is the other.
Philip Allot (2002). The Health of Nations: Society and Law beyond the State. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press