Monday, November 25, 2013

Syria updates November 25 , 2013 - US finally sends aid to Syrian FSA Rebels - which is promptly seized by Al Qaeda Rebels and to rub salt in the wound , FSA Commanders captured by Al Qaeda and currently awaiting trial by Al Qaeda ... Updates on the fighting around Damascus - Rebels take large losses ...Alleged Syria peace conference set for January 22 , 2014 - based on the position of Al Qaeda regarding these talks , if it even occurs , nothing will happen notable !

Key Syria rebel group won't join talks unless Assad told to step down

November 25, 2013  8:30AM ET  Updated 2:04PM ET
Future of embattled president a major sticking point in creating road map for political transition, a goal of the talks
Syria's War
Bashar al-Assad
Rebel fighters shoot through a hole in a wall towards forces loyal to the regime Sunday in Aleppo.
2013 AFP
The head of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) said Tuesday that opposition forces loyal to him would not join a planned peace conference in Switzerland in January if it allows any possibility of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remaining in power.
During a phone interview with Al Jazeera, FSA chief Gen. Salim Idriss said: "We won’t go if Geneva doesn't say clearly Assad must go." He also said the rebels will not halt fighting during the conference.
The United Nations said Monday that Syria's government and opposition will hold their first peace talks, in Geneva on Jan. 22, an attempt to halt the nearly three-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, including 11,000 children. However, the uncertainty over the FSA’s attendance raises questions about who will join and what it may ultimately be able to accomplish. 
Nabil Elaraby, secretary-general of the Arab League, said Tuesday that he welcomed the news that a date was set, but expressed regret at the delay in convening the conference because every day in Syria the death and destruction increases.
The Western-backed FSA is an umbrella group encompassing many rebel units, but opposition sources and analysts say its influence has already been reduced by powerful Islamist groups who are making their own alliances that draw in the strongest rebel forces on the ground.
The opposition has been badly divided over Geneva 2, with the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the opposition’s umbrella political leadership – which is also supported by the West – agreeing to talks despite strong resistance from fighters and activists on the ground.
Rebels are wary of the talks that they feel do not represent them, and which they fear will not ensure Assad’s ousting.
Previous attempts to bring the two sides together failed, mainly because of disputes over who should represent the Syrian opposition and government and whether Iran, Saudi Arabia and other regional powers should be at the table.

Half of Syrians need foreign aid to survive, UN says

Future of Assad

Click here for Al Jazeera coverage of the Syrian conflict 
The goal of the conference is to implement the Geneva Communique of June 30, 2012, which provides for the establishment of a transitional governing body with full executive powers, including over military and security entities, based on mutual consent. 
But there has been no agreement on how to implement that roadmap. One of the biggest sticking points has been the future role of Assad.
The prospect of peace talks was up in the air at several points because opposition groups and Syria's government have argued over who should represent them and conditions for the talks. At one point, opposition groups wanted political prisoners released before they would agree to talks.
The opposition to Assad’s government in Syria has become increasingly fractured in recent months, further complicating the negotiations. It's still not clear exactly which groups will represent the opposition and who will represent the Syrian government.
The SNC, the main opposition group that has limited control over the myriad of rebel groups fighting Assad’s forces, has not yet decided who it would send, according to spokesman Khaled Saleh. 
"We want to have a successful conference, and we are not interested in a conference that is going to waste time; we are not interested in a conference that is going to justify killing more Syrians," he said.
Saleh said the SNC remained dead set against inviting Iran -- a staunch supporter of Assad that given him significant financial support and is believed to have sent military advisers, trained pro-government militiamen and directed one of its proxies, Lebanon's Shiite Muslim Hezbollah group, to fight alongside Assad's troops -- to the talks. 
"As of now, what I can say is Iran is not a party that's welcome given the current circumstances to attend the conference. If they change their positions, they start pulling out, and stop killing Syrians; we will start talking about them attending to the conference," he said. 
Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria, also addressed the media on Monday, saying he hoped both the government and opposition would "name their delegations as early as possible."
When asked if Iran and Saudi Arabia, a staunch backer of the opposition, would participate, Brahimi answered, "We haven't established a list yet. These countries will certainly be among the possible participants." 
Meanwhile, the Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon that ending support for the "armed terrorist groups" in Syria is "crucial for any political solution to the crisis in Syria to succeed and to give such a political process credibility in the eyes of the Syrian people." Contents of the letter were broadcast on Syrian TV on Monday.
Syrian government officials have insisted Assad would not step down and may even run for another term in presidential elections scheduled for mid-2014. Recent battlefield victories have shifted the momentum of Syria's conflict in Assad's favor.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the meeting the best opportunity to "form a new transitional governing body through mutual consent--an important step toward ending the suffering of the Syrian people and the destabilizing impact of this conflict on the region". 

Al-Qaeda Seizes US Aid Warehouse From Syrian Rebels

US Aid Finally Reached Syria, Almost Immediately Was Seized

by Jason Ditz, November 24, 2013
The Obama Administration’s plans to provide arms and other equipment to secular Syrian rebels took a lot of planning, but finally began in earnest in  recent days, as massive amounts of goods bound for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) started crossing the border from Reyhanli, Turkey into a warehouse in Atmeh, in northern Syria.
The plan was controversial, with a lot of fear that the goods would eventually start falling into the hands of al-Qaeda and other Islamist factions, and that seems to have been putting it mildly, as the whole warehouse in Atmeh was almost immediately captured by al-Qaeda.
Thousands of US made tents and other equipment meant for the FSA never ended up in the hands of those rebel fighters, and instead is all under the control of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). To make matters worse, the FSA commanders who were overseeing the transfer at the warehouse were all captured by AQI and are now awaiting trial in AQI-run religious courts.
US officials are now reportedly looking to revamp their supply methods yet again, but this misses the point that once the goods cross into Syria, such problems are inevitable.
This is exactly why the major border crossings into pro-rebel Turkey are so hotly contested by rebel factions, as controlling a crossing allows a faction to demand a cut from everything entering through that territory, and in the cases of US supplies, where “sharing” is considered out of bounds, there is little to stop AQI or whoever else from seizing the equipment outright.

At Least 160 Rebels Killed in Heavy Fighting in Damascus Suburb

Rebels Aim to Break Blockade of Ghoula

by Jason Ditz, November 24, 2013
Fighting in metro Damascus has largely gone in favor of the Assad government’s forces in recent months, and an effort by rebels to break the blockade against one of their last strongholds, the suburb of eastern Ghoula, does not appear to be going well.
According to the most recent accounts from rebel activists, the fighting over the weekend has left at least 160 of the rebels dead, and the siege remains in place.
The Syrian state media hasn’t issued their version of the fighting yet, and there are no indications of how many casualties the Syrian military suffered, but since they have the rebels boxed in and cut off from supplies, they were at a clear advantage.
The rebels around Damascus are largely out of rebel supply lines at this point, reflecting that the stalemated civil war is increasingly boiling down to regions, with the Assad government retaining Damascus and the rest of the south, while rebels solidify their control over the northwest. The Kurdish dominated northeast is more or less outside of the control of all the factions, with the Kurdish militias controlling it.

Syria peace conference to be held on January 22 – UN

The Syria peace conference ‘Geneva 2’ will be held on January 22, the UN announced on Monday. “We will go to Geneva with a mission of hope,” a statement from the spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. The date for the conference aimed at ending the conflict in Syria was set after six months of wrangling. The statement did not say who would attend and made no mention of whether Iran would be invited, Reuters reported.