The joint communique issued by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier this week regarding Syria has in retrospect raised eyebrows in the world press because it seems to adopt Russian, not American, rhetoric on the issue. The document called for an international conference on the crisis jointly sponsored by the US and Russia, and for a negotiated solution. The Russian insistence that there be no precondition of President Bashar al-Assad stepping down is implied. The abandonment of this precondition is a deal breaker for the Syrian opposition, who considers him a mass murderer for his brutal military assault on largely peaceful protesters, which pushed them into armed resistance. Although the Syrian crisis could have been resolved long ago if the ruling one-party Baath state would have been willing to move to free and fair elections, and to compete for parliamentary seats the way the Russian Communist Party does, there is no sign whatsoever of a willingness by top Baath officials to risk relinquishing power that way. The Baath bloody-mindedness has cost the country some 70,000 dead and 4 million displaced (in a population of 22 million) during the past two years.
Kerry’s sudden acquiescence in the Russian talking points is attributed to some by increasing US fears that the Syrian opposition in the north is increasingly being captured by the Nusra Front, a radical Muslim group that has declared allegiance to al-Qaeda. Likewise, President Obama appears to consider the charges of regime use of poison gas to be inconclusive.
The USG Open Source Center translated an outraged Italian commentary on the statement”
Italian Commentary on Kerry Rome Talks: Obama ‘First Big Loser’ in Syria War
Commentary by Gian Micalessin: “Obama’s Defeat: To Pacify Syria He Is in Cahoots With Putin — the Spring Is Over: No War on Al-Asad”
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Document Type: OSC Translated Text
The first big loser in the Syrian war is Barack Obama. A With a death toll of 70,000 and after two years of dithering, the White House is at a total loss as to what to do, so it is going into reverse gear and placing its fate in the hands of “enemy” (Russian President) Vladimir Putin. Thus as the Pentagon sets aside both its plans to arm the rebels and its plans for a potential direct operation, the Democratic Administration is adopting a softer approach with Moscow and it is seeking Russia’s cooperation on getting negotiations going between the government in Damascus and the armed oppositionists.
Obama’s great surrender was sealed precisely in Moscow on Tuesday (7 May) night. A There, after a meeting with President Vladimir Putin preceded by a humiliating two-hour wait, Secretary of State John Kerry announced, in the company of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, that a decision has been reached to hastily organize a negotiating conference with the participation of both regime and rebel representatives. A “We wish to convene it as soon as possible, as early as the end of this month,” Kerry explained, making it clear that Russia will be doing everything in its power to persuade its Syrian ally to agree to dialogue, while Washington will take care of propelling the insurgents toward the negotiating table.
In short, in the space of a mere 24 hours, John Kerry has overturned the political stance that the White House has been pursuing for the past two years, even reneging on what seemed to be that position’s nonnegotiable “red line,” namely refusal to negotiate with a regime led by (Syrian President) Bashar al-Asad. A “The alternative is letting Syria head straight toward the abyss, or if not the abyss, then chaos,” the Secretary of State explained by way of a justification. A But justifications are not enough to conceal the weight of a diplomatic defeat without too many precedents — a defeat triggered by the errors of judgment made by an administration which was convinced that it could trust Qatar, and which ended up finding itself treading the path mapped out by Doha and backing groups linked to the worst kind of Islamic radicalism.
In contrast, pro-Baath journalist and editor Abdel Bari Atwan reacted with glee to the joint statement, as translated by the USG Open Source Center from his editorial in al-Quds al-Arabi:
Article Discusses Proposed International Conference on Syria, US, Russian Stands on Syrian Situation
Article by Chief Editor Abd-al-Bari Atwan: a(euro)oeFrom the Red Line to the White Flaga(euro)
Al-Quds al-Arabi Online
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Document Type: OSC Translated Text
After marathon negotiations that lasted until late the night before last, US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart and host Sergey Lavrov announced that they agreed to call for convening an international conference on the Syrian crisis, to be attended by delegations from the regime and opposition, to reach a political solution based on the Geneva statement. This announcement could have been made only in the framework of a deal that has been reached between the foreign ministers of the world’s two superpowers at present.
It is obvious that the US Administration has made the biggest concession by adopting the Russian stand and the formula of a political solution that Russia proposes. Washington earlier announced its red lines and asserted that it would not revise its previous policies and stands on the Syrian crisis and added that it intends to supply the Syrian opposition with advanced modern weapons. But here it is now completely submitting to the Russian conditions and calling for a a(euro)oepeace conferencea(euro) that will recognize the Syrian regime’s “legitimacy” and will not repeat the standing phrase on the need for the Syrian regime to go as a condition for any negotiations with it.
There is absolutely no talk about “conclusive evidence” that the regime used chemical weapons against its people, nor is there a repetition of President Barack Obama’s favorite phrase that the Syrian regimea(euro)(TM)s days are numbered. Instead, the talk is about negotiations based on the Geneva statement that calls for the formation of a transitional government made up of a mixture of the regime’s men and oppositionists, without any mention of the future of the regime and its leader.
What is the secret word that caused this big change in the US stand and imposed this sudden retreat and shift from the military options that were put on the table before to diplomatic options to reach a political solution through negotiations between the rival parties that have resorted to weapons and bloody confrontations throughout the past two years?
This secret word is made up of seven letters, Israel, in addition to the fear for Israel’s existence within safe and stable borders, ridding it of the specter of war, removing the biggest danger that faces it, which is chaos, and the fear that Syria might become a base for Al-Qa`ida.
The Russian and US leaders might disagree over the regime of President Al-Asad and whether its continuation will be useful or not. However, they are in agreement on a common enemy, the jihadic Islam, which inflicted on them humiliating defeat in Afghanistan (the United States at the hands of Taliban and Al-Qa`ida and Russia at the hands of the Afghan mujahideen, and the United Statesa(euro)(TM) defeat in Iraq). And we should not forget Israel’s defeat in south Lebanon in 2006 and its failure to achieve victory in its war on the Gaza Strip late in 2008 because of the resistance factions’ steadfastness….
(Description of Source: London Al-Quds al-Arabi Online in Arabic — Website of London-based independent Arab nationalist daily with strong anti-US bias; URL: http://www.alquds.co.uk/)
There seems little doubt that the Obama administration took a big step back from the brink in Moscow this week, and that rumors of an American push to arm the rebels are, in the light of this diplomacy, overblown.
Meanwhile Syrian leader Bashar al-Asad’s decision to permit guerrilla attacks on Israel from Syrian soil was welcomed by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a small radical group with offices in Damascus. Whether the leftist group still has any significant operational capacity has yet to be seen.
The USG Open Source Center translates an article from Izvestia:
Russian Newspaper Claims Syria Planning To Attack Israel Through Palestinian Group
Report by Timur Khursandov and Konstantin Volkov: “Syria To Fight Israel With Palestinian Hands”
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Document Type: OSC Translated Text
On 7 May it became clear that statements emanating from Damascus to the effect that the recent Israeli Air Force attack on Syria would not remain unpunished were not just an idle threat. Izvestiya has learned that Syrian President Bashir al-Asad has decided to fight the Israelis with the hands of others — the task will be undertaken by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which is traditionally sponsored from Damascus and is essentially subordinate to it.
“We have received a clear signal — a green light to carry out operations in the Golan Heights,” the PFLP’s official spokesman Anwar Raja told Izvestiya. “There was no immediate direct discussion, but I think that there is no need for this, because for us, this is a natural decision.”
He added that the PFLP’s leadership plans to discuss the details of upcoming operations with the Syrian authorities soon.
“I do not rule out that we will discuss this directly with the Syrian authorities in the very near future,” Raja noted. “We welcome this decision, which is natural on the basis of the role that Syria plays in supporting the Palestinian resistance.”
Representatives of the Syrian authorities were unable for comments at the time that this issue was published.
Experts, in turn, believe that Al-Asad had to resort to the aid of the Palestinians because beggars cannot be choosers. In the words of Near East Institute President Yevgeniy Satanovskiy, the Syrians have no one else to send against Israel.
“Hamas does not want to go to war, nor does Hezbollah. Both groups fear that if combat operations begin, Israel will undertake them in earnest. It is for the same reason that Al-Asad does not wish to activate the Syrian Army against his neighbor either,” the expert explained to Izvestiya.
At the same time, in his opinion, PLFP operations are not dangerous for Israel.
“An attack by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine poses no threat to Israel,” Satanovskiy believes. “The latter is quite capable of liquidating terrorists.”
The expert, who is currently in the Golan Heights himself, noted that no panic is noticeable in the region.
“The Golan Heights are calm right now,” Satanovskiy says. “Heightened security measures have been introduced, the skies have been closed to flights by civilian aircraft, and therefore the airports situated in northern Israel are not functioning either.”
As for Al-Asad’s opponents in the various Sunni Muslim groups, according to Satanovskiy, they are in a state of confusion. It turns out that their perennial foe Israel is fighting on their side, and they are so far undecided as to how to react to this.
(Description of Source: Moscow Izvestiya Online in Russian — Website of large-circulation daily that is majority-owned by Yuriy Kovalchuk’s National Media Group and usually supports the Kremlin; URL: http://www.izvestia.ru/)
The Syrian response to Sunday’s Israeli air strike on Damascus, which killed 42, was twofold. Beleagured President Bashar al-Assad announced that soldiers manning the country’s anti-aircraft batteries may now fire at will (the Baath Party system is slow because subalterns have to ask permission for every battle action, and initiative on the ground is usually discouraged.). Translation: Civilian airliners should now stay far from Syrian airspace, lest they be mistaken by trigger happy soldiers manning the anti-aircraft batteries for Israeli jets. Al-Assad also encouraged Palestinian guerrilla groups to attack Israel from Syrian soil (this is bluster). Syrian forces appear to have lobbed mortars into the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights in reprisal on Monday.
In my view, the Israeli strikes are opportunistic and tactical, not a game changer. Tel Aviv has long been frustrated that Iran supplies munitions to lebanon’s Hizbullah through Syria, but was stymied from doing much about it by Syria’s extensive air defenses. Now Syria’s army is distracted by the civil war, and the Israelis are taking advantage. Hence the Israeli military assurance that ‘there are no winds of war’ — i.e. no larger Israeli war against Syria is in the offing.
Meanwhile, a top Iranian military official denied that the Israelis had hit an Iranian missile storage site in Damascus or that the missiles were intended for Hizbullah. He also threatened reprisals against regional powers de facto aligned with Israel against the Baath government of Syria (Turkey? Jordan? Saudi Arabia, Qatar?)
The USG Open Source Center translates:
FYI — Army Official Denies Existence of Iranian Weaponry at Israeli Strike Site in Syria
Monday, May 6, 2013
Document Type: OSC Summary
Tehran Al-Alam Television in Arabic at 1808 GMT on 5 May reported that Major General Mas’ud Jazayeri, the assistant to the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, has condemned the recent Israeli strikes on locations inside Syria and denied that the sites contained weapons provided from Iran.
Speaking in a 47-minute n interview with Al-Alam TV during its “From Tehran” program, Jazayeri said there was “no doubt about the Zionist entity’s aggressive trend” and added that “some countries in the region were (also) involved and one of these days will be held to account”.
Continuing to express little surprise over the strikes, he added: “We do not expect any different from Israel.”
The military official said that Israel was “intervening” in Syria and had previously “intervened in Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories, against Hamas of course.”
Speaking in Farsi with simultaneous Arabic translation, Jazayeri added that “unfortunately, there is a war between Arabs and Arabs, between Muslims and Muslims, under direction from the Americans and international Zionism”, adding that this was specifically occurring in Syria.
Asked about “Israeli and Western sources’” claims that the Syrian site targeted in Jamraya stored Iranian-made Fateh-110 missiles, Jazayeri said that the Syrian government and people currently had sufficient capability of their own “in terms of military, security, intelligence and psychological ability.”
He added that the Syrians “are not in need of Iranian weapons support, and therefore such news is denied.”
He also appeared to deny further reports that Iranian Fateh-110 missiles were supplied to Hezbollah, saying that groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah had also reached “self-sufficiency and do not need weapons from other countries.”
Jazayeri said that “the US and the other hostile countries, including some in the region, have done all they can against Syria… as well as to organize, fund and equip the opposition factions.”
He added: “Currently our region is unfortunately facing the largest kind of governmental terrorism in history”, saying that “the leader of this terrorism is the USA”.
Asked what the reaction to the strikes might be and if it may come from Hezbollah or the Syrian army, Jazayeri said that “the resistance (reference to groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas) will not allow the progression of the Zionist entity in the region”.
Answering a question about Western military exercises and mine-sweeping operations in the region, he said that “the administration of the Straight of Hormuz is in the hands of Iran and measures of this kind are made by the Americans to reassure their friends,’ and igniting what he called “Iranphobia” and “Shiitephobia”. He said the exercises included nothing new, adding that Iran was monitoring the issue and possessed “very notable information about the exercises”, while stressing that it was “a very ordinary exercise.”
Remaining on the topic of the Strait of Hormuz, he said that Iran has repeatedly announced that the Strait will remain open but that at the same time, the presence of foreign troops “has often led to tension and violations in this crucial case.”
On regional differences, Jazayeri said that in Syria “we are not seeing a war between the Sunnis and Shiites; there are groups that in reality are not Sunni, or Shiite, or even Muslim”.
More generally, he said that there were efforts to “exploit differences” between societies that came back to “sedition with a historic precedent,” saying that “the specialist in enflaming this sedition and prompting differences and tensions between states and societies is actually Britain.”
Jazayeri added that the US was now “stepping into this position,” before continuing to sharply criticize some regional states and accusing them of allying themselves with Israel and the US.
(Description of Source: Tehran Al-Alam Television in Arabic — 24-hour Arabic news channel, targeting a pan-Arab audience, of Iranian state-run television, officially controlled by the office of the supreme leader)
Israel and Lebanon’s Hizbullah, who fought a war in 2006, are increasingly being drawn into a proxy war in Lebanon. Hizbullah supports the Baath regime of Bashar al-Assad. The Israeli government, after a long period of neutrality, seems increasingly to have decided that the Baath must go. Israel on Sunday bombed what it said were trucks transporting missiles from Syria to Lebanon:
Meanwhile, Hizbullah stands accused of increasing its military support of the Syrian regime. It is not that the Israelis and Hizbullah are in any direct conflict, but they are gradually both becoming more active in Syria on opposite sides. It is an open question how long this process can continue before the conflict does become direct. Hizbullah fears that if it loses its Syrian land bridge with Iran, it will lose the possibility of rocket resupply. Then, its leaders fear, the Israelis will be able again to invade and annex southern Lebanon, stealing the land, water and resources of its Shiites. (Israel planned on doing to southern Lebanon what it has done to the West Bank, occupying it 1982-2000, but Hizbullah’s resistance made that too costly.)
The USG Open Sourve Center translates from the London pan-Arab daily, Al-Sharq al-Awsat, for May 5:
As the shelling of the Jawbar, Barzah, and Al-Yarmuk Camp neighborhoods of Damascus resumed yesterday, a large part of the suspended bridge in Dayr-al-Zawr province, east of Syria, collapsed when an explosive device went off. Also, Al-Bayda in Rif Baniyas was the scene of fighting and tank shelling.
According to the Syrian Revolution General Commission (SRGC), the ongoing fighting in various Syrian provinces has continued, as two people were killed and several others were wounded by shells fired by Lebanese Hizballah fighters in the farm areas around Al-Qusayr, in Rif Homs. A The same SRGC sources also said the (regime’s) warplanes carried out a number of raids on Al-Buwaydah al-Sharqiyah and Al-Salumiyah in the south of RifA Homs, setting fire to many farm areas.
Sham News network reported that the regime forces have used heavy artillery to shell a number of neighborhoods of Homs, including Bab-al-Durayb, Al-Qusur, and Al-Khalidiyah, killing or wounding a number of people and destroying a large part of the infrastructure as well as government offices.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) confirmed that Iranian officers and Hizballah elements, supported by elements of the so-called National Defense Forces, are involved in the control of a large part of the Wadi-al-Sayih neighborhood, which will “enable the regular army to isolate the besieged old neighborhoods of Homs from the besieged Al-Khalidiyah neighborhood.”
SOHR Director Rami Abd-al-Rahman said, in a contact with Al-Sharq al-Awsat, “Iranian and Hizballah officers are running the operations room in the battle for Homs and are controlling the army operations in the city, particularly the street battles.” He warned of “massacres against the Sunni community living in the besieged areas if the army captures these areas.”A The SOHR believes that the aim of the current campaign is to tighten the siege around these areas and bring them under control before pointing out that “the lives of about 800 families, who have been under siege for nearly a year now, including the lives of hundreds of wounded people, will be at serious risk from sectarian revenge if these areas fall.”
The SOHR described last month (April) as “the worst month, as far as death under torture and children’s deaths are concerned.” A In its monthly bulletin, the SOHR gave the death toll in Syria as “3,313 citizens shot dead by the regular forces, that is, an average of 138 people per day,A at the rate of six citizens per hour.A Moreover, 377 children were killed, that is 13 children per day; and 176 were killed under torture, at the rate of six people per day.”
Julie Poucher Harbin presents an interview with Peter Feaver via Islamicommentary
According to an assessment signed by White House director of the office of legislative affairs Miguel Rodriguez, which was sent to lawmakers on Thursday (April 25) ”Our intelligence community does assess, with varying degrees of confidence, that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically, the chemical agent sarin.” (BBC reported)
However the letter also said: “Given the stakes involved, and what we have learned from our own recent experiences, intelligence assessments alone are not sufficient – only credible and corroborated facts that provide us with some degree of certainty will guide our decision-making.”
Speaking to reporters in Abu Dhabi on Thursday (April 25), U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said the use of sarin “violates every convention of warfare.”
The White House’s belief that Syria has used chemical weapons on its own people could be a game-changer for President Obama’s policy toward that nation.
Eric Ferreri, with Duke’s Office of News & Communications, spoke to Peter Feaver — Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at Duke University and Director of the Triangle Institute for Security Studies — about this latest development.
“The Obama approach to the region has been premised on the claim that the tides of war are receding and that there will be no more Iraqs on his watch. The president has tried strenuously to avoid intervening decisively in the Syrian conflict, but has also established a red line regarding chemical weapons. Now Obama has acknowledged that there is substantial intelligence establishing that chemical weapons have been used in the Syrian conflict,” said Feaver.
Added Feaver, an expert in U.S. policy and international relations who has also served in both the George W. Bush and Bill Clinton presidential administrations: ”There are enough ambiguities in the intelligence to leave Obama some wriggle room, and the original red line was vague enough to supply still more wriggle room, but that room is narrowing. The White House announcement sets in motion a process that could end soon in a game-changing decision: whether to enforce the red line and thus sacrifice the Middle East strategy or whether to leave it un-enforced and thus sacrifice U.S. credibility.”
The official stance of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of Israel toward the Syrian civil war has been one of announced “neutrality.” Netanyahu’s position contrasts with that of his political ally, Avigdor Lieberman, an East Bloc Neoconservative who has been arguing for supporting the rebels.
There are some signs, however, that Israel may be rethinking its neutrality and perhaps preparing to join in an effort to arm one of the rebel factions, the “moderates” of the south. The latter are already receiving support from Jordan and Saudi Arabia, who have been alarmed by the rise of the Nusra Front, a radical self-proclaimed al-Qaeda affiliate. On his trip to the UK last week, Netanyahu for the first time admitted the possibility that Israel might arm some of the rebels.
Jordan and Saudi Arabia are allegedly attempting to build up a non-fundamentalist guerrilla group in the Deraa region, in hopes it can take over Damascus and marginalize the fundamentalist Nusra Front.
Then on Tuesday, Brig. Gen. Utai Brun, the country’s top military analyst, alleged that the Syrian state had deployed poisonous sarin gas on more than one occasion in mid-July last year. The Israelis are aware that President Obama designated chemical weapons use as a red line that would trigger a US intervention.
Israel’s primary concerns in Syria are not Syria but Iran and Hizbullah in Lebanon. Israel fears that Syria will find a way to transfer chemical weapons to Hizbullah in Lebanon. Israeli military leaders typically attempt to prevent developments that might limit their freedom of action. a Hizbullah armed with chemicals might deter Israeli military action against the Shiite party-militia.
Meanwhile, Hizbullah has openly joined Syrian government troops in the campaign to take Qusair near Homs away from the rebels. Aljazeera English reports:
Even as Israel may be turning against the Damascus regime of President Bashar al-Assad, a fundamentalist Sunni preacher in Sidon has called on Lebanese Sunnis to fight a holy war against the Baath regime in Syria. Young Sunni men were said to be signing up on Tuesday, even as many Lebanese Shiites continue to support Bashar al-Assad.
Hizbullah is the most effective Arab fighting force still hostile to Israel. It is allied with Iran, which the Israeli leadership says is their country’s chief enemy.
The phone call between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin after the Boston Marathon bombers were identified as Chechens, in which Obama thanked Putin for Russia’s cooperation on counter-terrorism and promised more such collaboration, was probably the most cordial exchange the two countries have had for some time. The thaw was occurring as Syrian troops were accused of committing a massacre of hundreds civilians as they advanced on Judaydat al-Fadl in the hinterland of Damascus. In other developments, Lebanon’s Hizbullah Shiite militia appeared to have been drawn more explicitly than ever before into the fighting in Syria near the Lebanese border.
It should be realized that from Aleppo in northern Syria, where the radical Jabhat al-Nusra is active, to Grozny, the capital of Chechnya in Russia, is only about 960 miles through Turkey and Georgia, about a 20 hour drive. In Chechnya, the nationalist Chechen forces of secularists, Sufis and other non-fundamentalists have since 1999 fought the radical Caucasus Emirate Islamic Insurgency, more or less an al-Qaeda affiliate, with Putin’s backing. Ramzan Kadyrov and Putin do not want a resurgence in the area of Muslim radicalism, and so hate the idea of the Syrian Jabhat al-Nusra defeating the secular Baath Party. (The secular-fundamentalist split in Chechnya, by the way, is mirrored in the Tsarnaev family. Anzor Tsarnaev married a daughter to a policeman working for Kadyrov, according to AP, while his son, Tamerlan, became a radical fundamentalist. See my “Fathers and Sons and Chechnya.”
Although Putin’s reasons for backing al-Assad are mostly geopolitical, having to do with reasserting Russia’s great power status, the two are also allied in opposing Sunni Muslim religious nationalism, especially the radical sort.
But Putin is not alone. The rise of Jabhat al-Nusra and of Sunni radicalism in northern Syria is alleged to be one reason the Obama administration declines to support the rebels militarily. They fear repeating the mistake of the Reagan administration, which encouraged the radical fundamentalists to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and created an atmosphere in which al-Qaeda could be founded in Afghanistan.
But frankly, after the bombing of Boston, the likelihood of US intervention in Syria, never very high, has plummeted toward zero. The Obama administration will not want to take a chance on ensconcing another radical hirabi (terrorist) organization in the Middle East, which might one day strike at the US. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry continue to plump for a diplomatic solution, perhaps involving Bashar al-Assad stepping down, and a joint Baath-rebel government that would move to elections. This scenario, resembling what happened in Yemen, where the ruling party allowed the opposition to join the government after the president was forced out, couldn’t be more unlikely in Syria. The Baath government has killed tens of thousands of people, and is just not any longer acceptable to most Syrians. But the US says it wants talks between the sides.
Even as the US kept hands off except for civilian aid, the situation on the ground in Syria became more dire. The pro-Sunni, anti-Baath Lebanese newspaper al-Mustaqbal reports on a massacre in Rif Dimashq, the region southwest of the capital of Damascus. Syrian troops loyal to the Baath government of President Bashar al-Assad have been fighting in Judaidat al-Fadl for five days, and finally took it on Sunday. But when the smoke cleared, there were some 560 dead, many of them women and children (according to rebel sources quoted by CNN). Al-Mustaqbal accuses the Alawi Shiite militias loyal to the regime, the Shabiha (Specters) of having summarily killed the villagers as an object lesson to the other residents of Rif Dimashq that they would be unwise to join the rebellion.
The newspaper sees this massacre as an act of sectarian ethnic cleansing, i.e. of Shiites intending to terrorize Sunnis.
In other news, the city of Qusair in Syria is on a notorious smuggling route that you could use to supply Homs from Lebanon. It and its hinterland, however, had fallen into the hands of the rebels. On Saturday, the Sunni Syrian rebels sent mortar fire on Hermel, across the border in Lebanon– a Shiite, Hizbullah stronghold. It was the farthest into Lebanese territory that Syrian munitions have fallen. A Hizbullah fighter was also killed in Zita a Shiite town on the Syrian side of the border.
Alarabiya reported that Hizbullah fighters assisted the Syrian army on Sunday in a counter-offensive in the hinterland villages between the Lebanese border and Qusair. These, Arab wire services alleged, fell one by one back into Government hands. They include al-Burhania, al-Ridwaniya, and Tel al-Nabi Mandu (the latter is strategic in being higher and allowing whoever holds it to dominate the surrounding villages). The Jordanian al-Dustur reported that the rebels now expect the Syrians to attempt to take back Qusayr itself.
If this report is true, it is the most direct attested intervention of Hizbullah in the Syrian civil war yet.