Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Attacks On Pro-Government TV Station Highlight Assad's Troubles

Bashar al Assad's regime is continuing to come under attack, both in the halls of diplomatic centers and in Damascus itself. Today, there are conflicting reports over what happened at a pro-government television station. An attack apparently damaged the station and resulted in several deaths, but who was behind the attack differs depending on the account.
Syria said Wednesday that rebels stormed a pro-government television station in a Damascus suburb, killing employees and blowing up the station in an audacious predawn assault, but rebels said the attackers were defectors from the elite Republican Guard, considered to be the most loyal core defenders of President Bashar al-Assad.

If the rebel claim is confirmed, the attack would constitute a significant breach of security for the inner circle of President Assad, who said on Tuesday that Syria was now in a state of war — a markedly different description of a conflict he had previously characterized as a crime wave by foreign-backed terrorists. The attack on the television station also came against the backdrop of increasingly bold and organized rebel assaults in the Damascus area and an increased pace of high-level military defections.

It also came as Kofi Annan, the special envoy to Syria from the United Nations and the Arab League whose peace plan has been paralyzed since he announced it more than two months ago, said he would convene a ministerial-level meeting on Saturday in Geneva representing what he has called countries of influence in the conflict, including the five permanent members of the Security Council and representatives from the Arab League and Turkey. But the list of invitees conspicuously omitted Iran, Syria’s most important regional ally, which Mr. Annan had wanted to include. The United States had expressed strong objections to Iran’s participation, contending that it has aided and abetted the Syrian leader’s harsh repression in the 16-month-old conflict.


The attack on al-Ikhbaria began before dawn when assailants “planted explosive devices in the headquarters of al-Ikhbaria following their ransacking and destroying of the satellite channel studios, including the newsroom studio, which was entirely destroyed,” the official Syrian news agency, SANA, reported.

The news agency referred to the assailants as terrorists — the usual official language to denote armed opponents of Mr. Assad’s government. While initial reports from SANA said three employees were killed, a subsequent official estimate put the death toll at seven.

The station, privately owned but strongly supportive of the government, is in the town of Drousha, around 14 miles south of Damascus.

The Associated Press quoted one of its photographers who visited the compound as saying five portable buildings used for offices and studios had collapsed, with blood on the floor and wooden partitions still on fire. Some walls had bullet holes, the photographer said.

Hours later, The A.P. said, the station was able to broadcast a rally in Damascus’s main square against the attack on its premises.

Col. Malik Kurdi, a spokesman in Turkey for a rebel commander, Riad al-Assad of the Free Syrian Army, said the attack was the result of the defection of a group of Republican Guards who had decided to change sides and attacked other guards at the station who had remained loyal.
Meanwhile, everyone is essentially conceding that Kofi Annan's efforts have failed and that the country has lurched into a civil war whose body count continues escalating.

Well, most folks realize that it's a civil war - a few are still splitting hairs and calling this an insurrection even though rebel groups are holding and gaining territory at the expense of the regime.

In fact, the number killed since Annan began his efforts to enact the Arab League peace plan has accelerated at a frightening pace - in part because the rebel forces have grown more audacious in their efforts and the regime's crackdown has become even more brutal.

What's clear is that civilians are being purposefully targeted by Assad's regime - a textbook definition of crimes against humanity and war crimes. That cannot be allowed to stand.

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