Last week marked the one-year anniversary of the Syrian revolution, an occasion that the rebels celebrated by hacking into President Assad's private emails. Turns out, Assad is the kind of multi-tasking hotshot who can order the deaths of thousands of innocent people and shop for luxury furniture with his wife all at the same time. BTW, his wife Asma, who is a British citizen, just got sanctioned by the European Union and is now not allowed to travel to any of its country-members. (Except, of course, Britain).
In other news, Syrian state TV station Al-Dunya provided us with the most valuable piece of information of the week, when they announced that FC Barcelona are part of an anti-Assad plot to supply weapons to the rebels. Blottr reported: "Demonstrating how the smuggling was assisted by Barcelona, Al-Dunya showed a clip of Real Madrid's match with Barcelona. In one of the scenes, Lionel Messi takes on four Real Madrid players before passing the ball to Pedro, who scores a goal. It is at this point that the narrator of the bulletin claims that Barcelona's formation represented arms smuggling routes to Syrian rebels with the players representing the smugglers, while the ball's position representing the current location of the weapons. According to the narrator, when Barcelona star Leo Messi passes the ball it indicates that the weapons have reached rebels in Dir al-Zur."
I take it President Assad is a Real Madrid fan..?
For the second week running, the regime's leaky ship gave up more secrets when its confidential files were leaked to Al Jazeera. Abdul Barakat, a member of a secret crisis management cell in Damascus, fled Syria with files that revealed detailed security plans aimed at major Syrian cities like Damascus and Aleppo. The files also reveal that money is funneled to regime supporters in areas under rebel control, and that diplomats are warned against talking to countries trying to convince them to defect. Also included in the files is a document enclosing a presidential decree from Assad, which orders any public gathering in Damascus to be treated as a riot with attendees being subjected to one year of imprisonment.
Meanwhile, the Free Syrian Army needs all the help it can get. This Washington Post article points out that the FSA are suffering from a lack of weapons and ammunition as Syria increases the security on its borders with Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. The border with Iraq has been harder to monitor, though the weapons coming through have been regularly faulty. The promises by Saudi Arabia and Qatar to send weapons have not materialized and the cost of buying an AK47 from regime troops has jumped to $2000 apiece.
This paper put together by Think Tank, the Washington Institute, argues that the FSA are more successful than media reports would have us believe. Although unable to match the regime in open battle against a mixture of tanks, artillery, and ground troops, the FSA have had numerous successes ambushing regime convoys, overrunning checkpoints and military bases and laying IEDs. This report reiterates the need for military aid but, again, the FSA have proven that they can still bring the fight to the regime's many tanks:
And they're pretty handy at stealing them, too:
For months, the international community and the Syrian people have been scared that the uprising will devolve into a full-scale civil war, where the regime uses its full military arsenal against the revolutionaries. These fears are slowly turning into reality as the regime steps up its assault on FSA positions using its fleet of military helicopters. First, the indiscriminate shelling, now the use of helicopters, next there's the worry that Assad will use his fighter jets to crush the rebellion. And he has been quite clever to not use all three from the start; If he had, the international community would have been obliged to act much quicker. Will scenes like this be the catalyst for international intervention, though?
IDK, maybe scenes like this will:
New York-based organization Human Rights Watch released a report detailing human rights abuses committed by the FSA against regime army members and militia members. This report will likely damage the reputation of the FSA and will perhaps put off the international community from getting involved, though maybe it'll look at it in context and struggle to blame the FSA for indulging in a little payback.
Support for the revolution is widespread among the world's Syrian diaspora, and protests are held regularly in the UK, Germany, Canada, and France. But that doesn't mean you're safe from Assad's reach. The video above shows pro-Assad thugs attacking anti-Assad protesters at a demo in Montreal. In Germany, things are taken to another level: Back in January, a Syrian man was assassinated while driving his car in Hannover by two gunmen, and a Berlin council member, Ferhad Ahma, was beaten on his doorstep by Mukharabat agents posing as police officers.
After last week's surprise outbreak of violence in Mazzeh, Damascus, where security forces came under attack from the FSA, the FSA have announced the formation of a military council in the capital. This council will co-ordinate FSA operations in Damascus and hints that there is a significant rebel presence ready to repeat last week's actions. This is yet another significant threat to the regime that will be hard to ignore and even harder to contain. Assad can't really shell his own capital, especially the areas where most of his supporters and high-ranking security commanders live.
To end this week's update on a (relative) high, the Telegraph has reported that President Obama personally pledged "non-lethal" aid to the FSA ahead of this Sunday's "Friends of Syria" conference in Istanbul. The Turkish government are also thinking about creating a "safe zone" on the border with Turkey, with 500 Turkish troops inspecting the region and assessing its feasibility. Tune in next week to find out how things at the conference went and whether the international community finally pulled its finger out.
Stay up-to-date on what's happening in Syria by following these Twitter accounts:
and the British Syrian Revolution Facebook page:
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Previously - Week Six