Satellite Images Show Syrian Army Siege of Houla (BBC)

The UN is debating whether to withdraw its observers from Syria, given that there is no point in deploying observers if they are just going to witness the violence. The point of the observers was to enforce a cease-fire by moral suasion, but there is no ceasefire. Meanwhile, the UN has found evidence of a further massacre, this time at Deir al-Zor, with 15 bodies surfacing, executed as though by criminal gangs.

The BBC has obtained satellite photographs of the central Syrian town of Houla at the time of its siege by Syrian artillery. Analysts confirm that the Syrian positions are consistent with their being in control of the scene. The artillery likely gave cover to the Shabiha paramilitary thugs deployed by Damascus, who infiltrated the town and massacred the inhabitants with knives. Others were killed by punitive artillery strikes. The faintly absurd denunciations of the massacre by the Baath spokesman as the work of ‘armed gangs’ are given the lie by the photographs. How likely is it that armed gangs could operated with impunity under the nose of the Syrian artillery corps?

As I predicted, the Houla massacre knocked some Syrians off their fence. Earlier this week, Sunni merchants of some quarters of Damascus staged a general strike, declining to open their shops. These Sunni merchants are a backbone of the regime, and they were risking government contracts by this protest. The regime is losing more and more of the country.

A dark cloud on the horizon is the possibility of direct intervention in Syria, or on the Lebanon-Syrian border, by Israel. Any such Israeli action would destroy the uprising, making it impossible for Syrians on the fence to oppose the Baath regime, since that would make them de facto allies of Israel.

Posted in Syria | 12 Responses | Print |

12 Responses

  1. Absolutely an example of true Terrorism. Terrorism, that is not so much different then what the United States it self, has rained down upon our own (self-declared) enemies, as Iraq. Fallujah Iraq 2004 (2X), etc. …

    If only we could isolate the area in order to enforce a weapons and munitions embargo. I know that, that is a naive concept, way to much money to be made in these conflicts.

    On another train of thought, it would be interesting to study how much Greenhouse gases are emitted during our (US/NATO et al.) training and bombing campaigns. Could they be a factor in pushing our World to an ´╗┐Early Eocene Atmospheric condition?

  2. Dear Professor Cole

    I note that Jerusalem Post and Daily Telegraph are making waves about Syrian Chemical Weapons.

    link to

    Chemical Weapons are notoriously difficult to use effectively, particularly if you don’t have effective delivery sytems. There is a great danger of blowback hitting your own forces.

    Syrian Chemical weapons is a story that resurfaces every couple of years since 2004.

    Great care should taken to avoid subscribing to press hysteria.

    • I agree. With the current momentum of apparent events this would be the sort of allegation you would anticipate hearing.

  3. That JP article is rather odd. Isn’t it well known that Iran has been supplying weapons to Hezbollah through Syria since forever? Where else does Hezbollah get its weapons? Why would the IDF suddenly feel compelled to try to sever this connection now, and why are they talking about needing new intelligence to prove it? Of course it’s going on. But so what? Hezbollah already has a huge inventory of rockets.

    Not intending any implication about who ought to do what or who is or is not evil, just pointing out what as far as I know are the facts.

  4. Israel intervene???? Israel is nothing if not opportunistic, but this would be bat-s**t crazy, even if it is something they’d cynically want to do at some level.

    Sourcing the JPost may explain this a bit. The report looks more like a spontaneous piece of sensationalism for reasons of readership.

  5. Why are so many Muslims constantly at war with each other, if the Quran commands them to kill only infidels? “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves.”

  6. Your posting illustrates a question not being asked much: If the US has such high and mighty surveillence gear, why does it not simply report exactly what is going on in Syria. End Assad’s claims that it is always the other guys. Respecting sovereign airspace is now a non-functional excuse because the US really doesn’t care. Perhaps the US military doesn’t really have the abilities it likes to say it has. Most likely someone does know and doesn’t want to say, for their own reasons, while the killing goes on. But Assad’s argument that it’s always the other guy and never him is getting old, and the lack of countering claims by concerned nations is becoming more than a little suspicious.

  7. Just as we witness US msm and others proclaiming an “Almost” nuclear weapons program in Iran that the USreal must STOP….there are reasons to suspect completely what ‘news’ is revealed/photoshopped or misrepresented as there are more fish to fry, I suspect. Perhaps hearing too many sanctimonious claims about “humanitarian interventions” (in Libya, Iraq, Kosovo) where GBU d/u bombs were used and thousands of civilians were killed..(that’s liberation?)…I am just too cynical any longer to believe the words that fall from State Dept mouthpieces, or UN or anyone else at the disposal of Empire telling us once again of the need to intervene…more than has already taken place by arming and funding the opposition in Syria… just recently BBC was forced to admit that once again they failed to properly vet an image taken in Houla…to be another war entirely…OOPS. Here’s that latest apology from BBC…I’d be hard pressed to ‘trust” the Beeb for their next “breaking news” items.
    link to

  8. Juan,

    I’m wondering if you could say something about this . . . something I haven’t had time to research yet . . .

    What is the Russian’s dog in this fight ?

    They’re wanting to push back against further western influence/footholds in the Levant ?

    They want to maintain their own influence/footholds in the Levant ?

    They just don’t seem to have a moral position on this, only strategic.

    The other day I believe it was the Russian foreign affairs minister that I heard stating that it didn’t make sense that the Syrian govt. was responsible for the atrocities at Houla. The proof ? : It would be stupid for a govt. to do something like that right before a visit by Kofi Annan.
    That was the sole proof.
    We’re really supposed to accept such disingenuity ?
    As if no govt. had every acted stupidly in times previous.

    I’m not a Russian hater by any means, but I really don’t see them taking taking up a cause on the right side of anything these days – more the support of both internal and externally bullies.

    How long can they be allowed such moral iniquity ?

    • Naval base at Tartous, their only one on the Mediterranean; revival of Soviet-era ties of clientelage; Great Power sphere of influence politics; arms & other sales to Syria; rivalry with US and NATO; revenge for NATO expansion to east.

    • Russia lost a major strategic ally when Iraq was invaded by Allied forces in 2003 and Syria is currently Russia’s most prominent ally in the Middle East.

      The base at Tartous is invaluable to Russia.

      Look for Russia to try to broker some peace deal that will allow them to maintain their presence in Syria.

  9. The link to the article on possible Israeli military intervention alludes to the Assad govenment acting as a conduit for Iranian-supplied weaponry to Hezbollah operatives inside Lebanon.

    It would not surprise me if Israel was directly or indirectly giving aid to the Free Syrian Army just like they have been alleged to aiding anti-government rebels inside Iran – the MEK. Israel may perceive that a post-Assad government blocking the flow of arms to Hezbollah may be an ideal situation.

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