Friday, February 17, 2012

Assad's Deadly Crackdown Continues With Artillery Assaults Against Homs

Homs has been under fire almost continuously since the beginning of the year, and the artillery barrages continue today. Britain and France are pushing for more assistance to the Syrian resistance.
"We cannot bring about a Syrian revolution ... if the Syrian revolution does not make an effort to rally together and organize so that we can better help them," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in Paris.

He insisted, however, that "the revolution will not be brought about from outside, it will be brought about from the inside."

British Prime Minister David Cameron, at Sarkozy's side after meetings Friday, said Britain and France are working "to see what more we can do" to help the Syrian opposition.

On Thursday, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accused the Syrian regime of committing "almost certain" crimes against humanity. The U.N. General Assembly also overwhelmingly voted for a resolution that strongly condemns human rights violations by Syrian President Bashar Assad's government. According to the U.N., more than 5,400 people have been killed since March in the regime's bloody crackdown.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said shells were slamming into the Homs neighborhoods of Baba Amr, Bayadah, Khaldiyeh and Inshaat on Friday.

Syrian troops have been [ed: began?] attacking the neighborhoods on Feb. 4. Amateur videos showed at least one tank shelling Baba Amr from a close distance.
The fight against Assad is attracting foreign fighters from around the region, and complicating factors even further is that the resistance may have been infiltrated by al Qaeda, and that's an ongoing concern for both the Arab League and Western countries. Indeed, the US has warned that a series of bombings against Syrian military and intel facilities was the work of al Qaeda.
Last week, CNN's Barbara Starr reported that the United States had intercepted communications of operatives of al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) who are now in Syria. U.S. intelligence suggests a small groups of AQI operatives have been "pushed into Syria" by their commanders and are able to carry out intelligence and reconnaissance against Syrian targets and subsequent bombing attacks.

In describing the opposition, Clapper said it is very fractured, "not a national movement," comprised of both those from the local population and "exiles and the like." The director of national intelligence said the Free Syrian Army is feuding internally about who will lead it and in "another disturbing phenomenon," has been infiltrated by al-Qaida. He said the Free Syrian Army is made up of disparate groups with no centralized "command and control."

"The opposition groups in many cases may not be aware they (al-Qaida operatives) are there," Clapper told the committee. He said recent bombings in Aleppo and Damascus against security and intelligence buildings "had all the earmarks of an al-Qaida-like attack."

"We believe that al-Qaida in Iraq is extending its reach into Syria. Complicating all of this is -- and this is another contrast with Libya, where we had one or two or three sites that had chemical warfare components -- is a much more complex issue in Syria, which has an extensive network of such installations," Clapper observed.
There are also concerns that with the deteriorating security situation in Syria that al Qaeda may come into possession of chemical weapons that Assad is known to possess. It's a possibility, but US and other foreign intel services are monitoring those facilities from satellite and other reconnaissance data.

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