CC Image courtesy of Bidna Capoeira on Flickr

CC Image courtesy of Bidna Capoeira on Flickr

In June 2013 the U.S. intelligence confirmed limited chemical weapon use stating “the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against the opposition mutable times in the last year.” In December of 2012 Obama said, “I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under his command: The world is watching. The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable and if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons there will be consequences and you will be held accountable.”

The White House identified several incidents where it believed chemical weapons had been used. On march 19 in Aleppo suburb of Khan al Asal, april 13th in the Aleppo neighborhood of Sheikh Maksud, May 14th in Qar Abu Samra (north of Homs) and on May 23rd in an attack in eastern Damascus. On August the 22 shocking images filled television screens and newspaper covers worldwide in another chemical attack in a Damascus suburb. This attack however surpassed the others in its size and left hundreds of people killed. People across the world were confronted with images of dead and suffocating Syrians, many of them children, and were appalled about what they saw. The incident flared great outrage among citizens and governments around the world. But also shed confusion on the identity of perpetrators of this violent act.

Thus one of the primary concerns for the U.S. and other international policymakers is, as it has been for some time, the status of the Syrian military’s control over a large amount of conventional and non-conventional weapon stockpiles. These stockpiles include chemical weapons, shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, surface-to-surface rockets, armored weapons, explosives and small arms. U.S. officials are confident that they have reliable estimates of the quantities and locations of Syrian chemical weapons and have indicated that a “extensive network” of related facilities is being monitored “very closely” by ways of unspecified means. Reports on Syria suggest that the production and storage of nerve and mustard gas are located in and around Al Safira, Damascus, Hamah, Latakia and Homs tough stockpiles may be dispersed in other military locations around the country. The U.S. sees it as a priority to find and secure stockpiles in the wake of any sudden collapse of the Assad regime. U.S. government assessments estimate that it would require the amount of 75.000 military personnel to fully secure the potential WMD-related sites in Syria, fearing it could fall into the wrong hands. It fears some chemical agents may fall into the hands of one of the extremist groups now operating in Syria. In Turkey fighters from the Al Nusra front, one of the more effective combat groups, have been seized with large amount of sarin confirming these fears. Mainly Israel has voiced similar concerns stating they will consider any indication that the Assad regime is transferring WMD materials to Hezbollah or non-state actors to be an act of war.

So, the ‘red line’ has been crossed and the question that remains is what this red line will entail for the people that crossed it?

The Syrian conflict seems to have developed into a conflict of massacres. Where factions have stopped with conventional fighting and started a sectarian fueled war of the massacres. What did people see on the 22nd of august if not the meaningless slaughter of innocent people? Was what they saw ‘crossing the red line?’ The fact is the red line consisted of the meaningless killing and suffering of man, women and children. The fact is that while all factions keep exercising their violent ways to come to power, the suffering of the ordinary Syrian continues. And while the world keeps to their daily business, the end to the Syrian conflict seems a distant mirage vaporizing with each blow that is dealt to the innocence of a countries people.

CC Image courtesy of Jonathan Rashad on Flickr

CC Image courtesy of Jonathan Rashad on Flickr

The Egyptian president has proposed a consensus government that is to oversee the next parliamentary elections. In the meanwhile the military has been preparing what some call a coup. The army has stated it is developing a roadmap that seems to consist of; overthrowing Morsi, forming a new constitution, forming a government of independents headed by an army general and setting dates for new elections. Some people are worried the army is trying to reclaim the influence that was taken by Morsi when he became president.

Morsi has reacted by stating he will stay in office at all costs. He has given a speech on state television saying quote: “If my blood was the price to maintain legitimacy then I am ready for this for the sake of this nation’s stability.”

Egyptians are bracing for a showdown between Morsi and the army fearing the amount of violence seen so far may escalate into a much bigger conflict.

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The Egyptian army has given president Morsi a 48 hours to calm the protest that have been going on since yesterday. As many as five ministers have already resigned because of the unrest in the African country, as statement in support of the protests.

The protests that had been announced to take place on the 30th of June have been reasonably peaceful, never the less they still claimed the lives of sixteen people en saw many more injured.

Now the army has made a statement giving Morsi 48 hours to calm down the protest or the army will step in to prevent, as they stated, the county from slipping into chaos. The question remains who will benefit from this possible interference by the army.

In the meanwhile pro Morsi protesters have stated Morsi we be leave over their ‘dead bodies.’

A full version of the army statement can be found at the Al Jazeera website or by clicking on the link below.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/07/201371174917747751.html

CC Image courtesy of FreedomHouse on Flickr

CC Image courtesy of FreedomHouse on Flickr

For some time now Syria has been dominated by an autocratic one party state headed by the al Assad family. How did this family come to rule Syria?

Al Jazeera has published a documentary on the website of Al Jazeera English covering the years leading to the rule of Bashar al Assad. The documentary sheds light on the rise of Hafaz al Assad, Bashar’s father, and tells how he slowly rose through the ranks of the Syrian Baath party to eventually claim power for himself.

The Arab Socialist Baath party was created to counter the Syrian communist party. The Baath party staged a coupe on the 8th of March 1963 being inspired by the Baath revolution in Iraq on February the 8th in 1963.

The documentary shows how slowly but steadily Hafaz rises to a top position in the Baath party winning popularity and loyalty from within the army. Eventually it was this strong loyalty that gave Hafaz the opportunity to get his opponents and the civilian branch of the Baath party out of the way, claiming for himself the absolute power over Syria and its population.

The documentary also shows opposition to the oppression experienced by many Syrians is not a new phenomenon. Neither is the violent reaction the Syrian government gives when these cases. the documentary made me wonder: Why the need for all this power? What is the need? It seems in the case of Hafaz he just wanted power for the sake of power. And he didn’t seem to shun for extreme violence towards his own population to obtain and this power. Or maybe this is a sectarian conflict and is the al Assad family clinging to power to keep its own sect in a privileged position. Maybe Iran benefits from keeping the control over Syria from the Sunni majority. Either way it’s a great documentary and I recommend watching it.

Link to the documentary: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/aljazeeraworld/2013/04/2013415114923968435.html

 

 

CC Image courtesy of FreedomHouse on Flickr

CC Image courtesy of FreedomHouse on Flickr

The ongoing conflict in Syria has, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, surpassed the death toll of 100,000. What started with protests around March 2011 has, within the last two years, become a civil war.

Like other countries in the region, a big part of the Syrian population seemed to be grasped by what has come to be known as the Arab spring. But unlike many of these other countries (like Egypt and Tunisia), the protests in Syria did not, in the long run, amount to the resignation of its president Bashar al Assad. The Syrian protests shifted from street protests to street fights after the Syrian army reacted with great force on the protests and send tanks to protest hotspots like Hama. This lead to a great amount of arrest and the first casualties of what has come to be known in the media as: the Syrian war.

The amount of violence has since grown and so has the amount of blood that has been spilled. The conflict has known a violent escalation. At first it resembled the struggle the world had witnessed in Libya and as was the case with Libya the West was quick to verbally express its support for the Syrian People and its hunger for freedom. Unlike the conflict in Libya however, the West did not back these words of understanding and support they spoke with action. No no-fly-zone was imposed and support in the form of arms and other means have been of a slow start. The Syrian army however has won time to regroup itself and develop tactics to react to the public defiance of al Assad. While the Free Syrian Army struggles against the heavier weaponry of a trained military force, begging the West for support by material means. The Syrian army has got unconditional support from Russia, Iran en Hezbollah. Around June 2013 this combination of factors and influences accumulated in the battle for Qusayr near the Lebanese border. The Syrian army backed up by Hezbollah fighters defeated the Free Syrian Army and the other factions that had, by this time, been drawn into the conflict.

The involvement in Syria of many other factions and parties has led to tension not only in Syrian but other countries in the region. Recently violence has also spread across the border to Lebanon and Iraq.

I have been following the conflict for some time now. And it has been interesting and horrifying to see how the conflict has developed. It has raised many questions; why is the West so slow to react? What does the conflict mean for this region and geopolitical tensions? What will be done to solve the conflict and how will it develop itself in the coming time? I will be keep following the conflict closely and I hope to find answers to these questions among others.