This photo of an opposition banner hung on a dormitory at the University of Aleppo shows the growing reach of the opposition in Aleppo. Another sign of the growing capability of the opposition is its ability to set off car bombs with growing regularity near intelligence offices and in Syria’s major cities, such as this one: Car bomb hits Syrian city of Deir al-Zour, killing 9 instantly and wounding 100. An intelligence headquarters was the target.
But the assassination of Syria’s six top security officials and Baathists seems beyond the capabilities of the opposition just yet.
According to the Guardian, Heavy clashes were reported in Damascusovernight and in a video message (Arabic), the Free Syrian Army claimed to have killed six key figures in the Assad regime.1) Asif Shawkat (Head of Syrian intelligence)2) Mohammad Shaar (interior minister)3) Dawood Rajha (defence minister)4) Hassan Turkmani (vice president’s deputy)5) Hisham Bikhtyar6) Mohammad Saeed Bkheytan
But it is safer to doubt these claims until they are proven true. The opposition has no coordinated information outlet and many competing news sources, so exaggeration and disinformation seems to be the order of the day. For example, the opposition continues to insist that every car bomb and explosion at an intelligence headquarter is set off by the Syrian military itself in order to blacken the reputation of the pacifist opposition.
This does not make sense for many reasons.
1. Why would the mukhabarat kill itself? No mater how evil one presumes Syria’s intelligence agents are, it remains unlikely that they would kill themselves in such great numbers. This is a bit like believing that the CIA is so evil that it killed the people in the World Trade Center to give President Bush the pretext to invade the Middle East and kill Muslims.The willingness of Western news agencies to repeat these opposition claims demonstrates that Westerners are just as prone to conspiracy theories as are Arabs. All it takes to believe in conspiracy theories is to demonize your enemies to the point that you can believe they will carry out any operation in order to advance their devilish aims.
2. It makes sense for the opposition to set off car bombs in down town areas. Classic stage-two insurgency tactics call for terrorist acts in public places to make the regime look weak and to provoke it to lash out in rage, killing innocent people and provoking more and more neutrals to hate the regime and side with the insurgency. Targeting intelligence headquarters is smart as it accomplishes all of these opposition goals.
Addendum: MM writes in the Comment Section:
Your conclusions are all wrong.The connections make complete sense to the outside observer, however, to the internal Syrian, even those pro-Regime (within their heart of hearts) – the truth is evident.–1. Why would the mukhabarat kill itself?They’re not. All the important Allawites on-site left well before the attacks. Show me the list of martyrs and show me who’s who. Do they contain high ranking Allawite officers? There have been no funerals in the Allawite neighborhoods in Damascus for any Allawite Intelligence officers. No CCTV footage was captured, nothing – cameras were dismantled the week before (they learned this after the first bombing almost blew their cover — and to some extent did).–2. It makes sense for the opposition to set off car bombs in down town areas.No, it doesn’t. It provides fodder for bloggers like you and Syrian TV commentators to point fingers at the opposition, insinuating that the opposition is entirely or significantly radical, which justifies and warrants regime response. There’s no benefit here to the opposition — we don’t want to be in the position of having to explain to the world stage that this is a regime tactic as opposed to Al-Qaeda elements potentially fighting alongside us. Killing a few intelligence officers, even if we wish death upon them, won’t win the war here. This regime has a repertoire of Intelligence buildings — the ones attacked are nothing and sacrificing a few for their cause is worth it in their view.We all know that the regime is not dumb (in certain respects) – they have smart people concocting PsyOps measures to subdue the population and other strategies to ward off western military intervention. They are effective. They got the American administration to say Al-Qaeda has a presence in Syria. They fooled certain elements in the Obama administration. You can’t get any better than this result as a regime plotter. You got the only nation capable of removing you from power to state that the enemy they have been fighting since Sept 11, 2001 is involved in Syria’s unrest. You can’t sell the idea of intervention to the American people at this point.My own personal assessment was that I was initially unsure of the first couple of car bomb attacks — was this indeed a “third force” that was intervening in the Syrian conflict? However, there was no doubt who dunnit when I saw the aftermath of the most recent car bomb attacks (or bus bomb?). The crater is larger than anything ever seen in Iraq. My personal assessment, based on my Engineering training, is that it would require a significant force — the types of explosives not available in the Terrorists’ kitchen which requires a Government’s complicity. Some pro-Regimites may implicate Gulf nations, however, they would have no interest in undermining our cause. The first car bomb had a deleterious effect on the Opposition and subsequent bombs were progressively worse on us.Furthermore, the true military wing of the Opposition – the Free Army, has consistently denounced each bombing. The political wing of the Opposition has done the same. Which branch of the Opposition are you implicating here? If it is a third force, then it’s not part of the genuine opposition movement in Syria – it is out of our hands and we wish for them to stop. But it’s not — all these bombs seem to have found their mark. Bonafide suicide terrorists detonate early more than half the time, but we haven’t seen any of this (I hope I’m not giving the regime ideas here, I’d rather not). These attacks are carried out with quite some precision.
Syrian National Council head Burhan Ghalioun tells Saudi paper that Syrian opposition has no intention to normalize relations with Israel after fall of regime…“We are convinced that the Syrian regime’s strongest ally is Israel,” he told the paper, adding that the international community’s lack of action in Syria stems from concerns for the Jewish State’s safetyGhalioun reiterated the Syrian opposition’s position by which “the continued occupation of the Golan Heights severely undermines Syria’s national sovereignty, which it will only regain after the occupied territories are returned.”Asked about a recent statement made by a member of the opposition, by which Syria will establish relations with Israel after Assad’s fall, Ghalioun said: “Who is the fool who said such a thing?”
World Bulletin/News Desk The Swiss state prosecutor said on Sunday it had opened criminal proceedings against Syrian and Libyan citizens on suspicion of money laundering. Jeannette Balmer, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor, said Swiss authorities had …
Syria diary – 19 May 2012 – (h/t War in Context)
Layla Al-Zubaidi writes: ‘Welcome to Assad’s Syria,’ the signpost at the Lebanese-Syrian border still says, letting the visitor know who owns the country. The ceasefire had just been announced, but few Syrians I knew held out much hope that three hundred UN observers could keep an eye on the whole army. The journey from Beirut [...]
Two Obama Administration Scandals on Syria?, By Barry Rubin – Meria
When a delegation of Syrian Kurdish rebels recently visited Washington, D.C., the State Department met them to ask for a favor. What was it? The Obama administration urged them to join the Syrian National Council (SNC), the organization created by the U.S. government through Turkey to lead the opposition movement and receive Western aid for [...]But the Turkish Islamist regime, which Obama put in charge of forming the SNC, put the Muslim Brotherhood in control, a fact I pointed out within hours of the announcement of the SNC leadership’s names.Now that several SNC leaders have resigned complaining about Brotherhood domination, followed by some Arab journalists pointing out the obvious Brotherhood domination at the SNC’s last meeting, that reality is clear. But the implications of such an incredibly foolish policy—America putting an anti-American, antisemitic group into the “official” leadership of Syria’s rebels — have never been properly examined as a case study for Obama’s disastrous Middle East policy.The Kurds had walked out of the talks that formed the SNC last year when they saw how Islamists would be in control. Not only do they oppose Islamism itself but they also see the Brotherhood as an Arabizing and centralizing group that would impose a regime oppressing the non-Arab Kurds.The new U.S. effort so backfired that, with the Obama administration ignoring their concerns, the enraged Kurds in the delegation spoke for the first time of breaking up Syria altogether!…
Syrian Kurdish Dissident: Break Syria Into Pieces,
By Jonathan Spyer May 16, 2012 – Meria
By Jonathan Spyer May 16, 2012 – Meria
Sherkoh Abbas, a veteran Syrian Kurdish dissident, called on Israel this week to support the break-up of Syria into a series of federal structures based on the country’s various ethnicities.Speaking from Washington, Abbas was also critical of US attempts to induce Syrian Kurds to join and work with the main opposition body, the Syrian National Council. Abbas, who heads the Washington- based Kurdistan National Assembly, said that dismantling Syria into ethnic enclaves with a federal administration would serve to “break the link” between Syria and the Iran-led “Shi’a crescent.”Syrian Kurdish, Druse, Alawite and Sunni Arab federal areas, he suggested, would have no interest in aligning with Iran.At the same time, a federalized Syria would avoid the possibility of a resurgent, Muslim Brotherhood-controlled Sunni Islamist Syria emerging as a new challenge to Israel and the West.“We need to break Syria into pieces,” Abbas said.The Syrian Kurdish dissident argued that a federal Syria, separated into four or five regions on an ethnic basis, would also serve as a natural “buffer” for Israel against both Sunni and Shi’ite Islamist forces….
Addendum: aron writes in the comment section:
Those Barry Rubin and Jonathan Spyer articles are highly misleading. Sherko Abbas is very marginal as far as Syrian Kurdish politics go, and to the best of my knowledge he was not even a part of the Kurdish National Council delegation to Washington – he just lives there. This is also not a new opinion of his, he’s been wanting to split Syria into mini-states for a long time, so it has nothing to do with recent events or with Obama’s policy towards the opposition.In fact, not a single one of the actual opposition parties in the KNC (al-Parti, Progressive, Azadi, Yekiti, etc) or outside of it (PYD, Future, etc) have expressed support for a partition of Syria. Rather, all of them have explicitly stated that they DO NOT seek independence, and the newest version of the KNC program cleary states this. This is the relevant paragraph, published in mid-May:6- الشعب الكردي في سوريا جزء من الشعب السوري وهو يشكل قومية أساسية أصيلة في البلاد،وحركته الوطنية هي جزء من الحركة الوطنية الديمقراطية العامة وحراكه من الثورة السورية.6 – The Kurdish people in Syria is a part of the Syrian people and it constitutes a fundamental and authentic nationality in the country. Its national movement is a part of the general national democratic movement and its mobilization is part of the Syrian revolution. (My quick transl. – A)Long story short, Rubin seems to be trying to actively mislead his readers by equating a Kurdish version of Farid al-Ghadry with the mainstream Syrian Kurdish opposition. Or maybe he’s the one who’s been misled. Either way it’s bad analysis.
|Car bomb strikes near Syria military complex|
Reports of fatalities and many wounded after explosion outside military intelligence facility in city of Deir az-Zor.
Last Modified: 19 May 2012 13:37
A car bomb has exploded in the eastern Syrian city of Deir az-Zor, killing nine people and wounding 100 others, according to state-run media.
The blast reportedly struck a parking lot for a military intelligence complex on Saturday.
State TV showed footage of damaged buildings, smoldering cars, and trucks turned upside down by the blast.
"A car bomb has exploded in the Ghazi Ayyash neighbourhood of Deir az-Zor", Ikhbariya TV said, describing the blast as "a terrorist attack".
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based opposition group, also confirmed the explosion, saying it was followed by heavy gunfire.
It was the latest of a wave of deadly blasts that apparently targeted security agencies across the country in the past months.
The most recent bombing occured near an intelligence building in Damascus on May 10, killing about 55 people.
The unrest comes as the government of President Bashar al-Assad tries to quell a 14-month nationwide uprising.
Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from the Turkish city of Antakya, along the border with Syria, said that opposition groups accuse the government of staging the blasts as a ploy to make the country's protest movement appear violent.
"A human rights activist group and activists on the ground have been brushing aside accusations of the government, saying these are similar tactics that had been used before by the government in different parts of the country to discredit the pro-democracy movement as radical and terrorist," he said.
The Syrian National Council (SNC), the country's main political opposition group, also blamed the government for the blast.
"The Syrian National Council places on the Syrian regime the entire responsibility for the criminal bombings in several Syrian cities, including the one today in Deir az-Zor," a statement said.
"These repetitive blasts are part of the regime's plan to sow chaos and trouble, given that it failed to repress the revolution of the Syrian people."
Saturday's bombing came as government troops clashed with members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), an armed opposition group composed mainly of defected soldiers, across the country.
At least 10 FSA members were reportedly killed in clashes with government troops in the northern city of Idlib. The fighting in the district of Bab al-Hawa broke out soon after scores of soldiers defected.Al Jazeera is unable to independently verify reports of violence, as the Syrian government has placed strict restrictions on reporting.