Syrian War UPDATE – Conflicting stories

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Divide, destroy, and rule with an iron fist

Assad will treat Syria, not as a nation; rather he will work to tear it apart. He will turn Syria into a swamp in a strategy of playing divisions to sow chaos. Assad’s strategy is to completely destroy Damascus and Aleppo rather than allow them to fall intact into the hands of his Sunni opponents.

Edited by Scott W. Winchell – Stand Up America

SUA has learned once again today that conflicting stories have emerged, in this case specifically regarding fighting inside the city of Aleppo. Conflicting reports seem to be the norm these days, and one must always look at the source to vet their reliability, and to see if there are ulterior motives and agendas.

Jamie Dettmer, “an independent foreign correspondent” who wrote for the London Times, Sunday Telegraph, Scotland on Sunday, and Irish Sunday Tribune, while writing for the Daily Beast, a left leaning American publication, reports the following:

A street in Salaheddin District of Aleppo

Overwhelmed and exhausted rebels retreat from Salaheddin to set up new defensive positions. Commanders insist the move is a tactical pullback, but fighters are unnerved as the government intensifies its Aleppo offensive.

Tank shells dropped about one a minute yesterday on the narrow streets of the battered Salaheddin district of Aleppo as exhausted rebel commanders finally conceded they no longer could contain a Syrian government offensive that’s built in intensity and firepower the past week, leaving hundreds dead and wounded, many of them civilians.

With shelling and sniper fire pursuing them, hundreds of insurgents lugged RPG7 rocket launchers, heavy machine guns, and their all-purpose AK47s out of the district and filtered into neighborhoods adjacent to Salaheddin to set up new defensive positions in buildings mainly to the north and east, and to await the next move of their better-equipped adversaries. (Read the rest here at the Daily Beast.)

In some measure, that account is true, yes there was a pull back, and yes there was vicious fighting, but our sources in the High Command of the FSA and SNC painted a much different story then the one related to us by Jamie Dettmer, and the quotes he reported as made by “rebel commanders”. It is important to note here that the link they provided above about “rebel commanders” brings you to a story they posted that contradicts high level sources. In fact, in that link, the following statement was posted:

“Over the past week, more than a dozen Syrians — chiefly Alawi and Christian, but also a handful of Sunnis — affirmed to me their determination to pick up arms to defend Assad.”

SUA sources from the Druze, Christian, and Sunni communities tell us that is bunk, pure and simple. They describe it as propaganda, and anyone who includes Alawite sources from the Shiite community must be dismissed out-of-hand. Propaganda, especially such that portrays radical extremists are taking charge in the FSA and the rebel forces overall is to be totally discounted. This comes directly from the Generals in charge, and several high-ranking SNC members.

Our sources told us that the opposition forces pulled a ruse to lure the regime forces in by vacating the Salaheddin district area under the pretense that they were out of ammunition and needed to reinforce defensive positions. Regime forces then rolled into the area and were quickly enveloped in a pincer movement and ambushed.

Al Jezeera reports further:

Ruins of Aleppo, Syria

Rebel commander Abu Zaher said fighters had taken several police officers prisoner and seized weapons and ammunition.

Other rebels said an estimated 20 civilians had been killed in the [neighborhood]. They say 50 of their fighters have been killed there in the last several days.

Rebels said earlier on Friday they had taken control of more than “50 per cent” of Aleppo.

The FSA claimed to have consolidated most of its control in the city’s east, while also maintaining a grip on central [neighborhoods] including Salaheddin and Bab al-Hadid.

This marries well to what we were told this morning, and in previous days. Coupled with the knowledge that the FSA prefers Al Jezeera to make official statements, and now also SUA, one can readily see that propaganda is being fed to western news sources, especially those who cater to a certain agenda.

Opposition leaders tell us that in the Salaheddin district, they destroyed four tanks and killed many regime soldiers. The regime soldiers lay dead in the streets all day as regime forces were pinned down and too afraid to retrieve their dead. The opposition forces quickly retook the entire area through guerrilla movements and tactics. Regime forces then made a hasty retreat.

It is becoming clear to most now, that set piece battles desired by the regime are simply not prevailing. All they are doing is destroying the cities, homes, and infrastructure, and civilians are being killed wantonly. Thousands of civilians are becoming refugees, not picking up arms to defend Assad. In fact, last night, a tank battle took place on the border with Jordan, as once again, Syrian Regime forces fired upon refugees.

Further proof that Syrians are not turning back to support Assad comes from the fact the refugees are willing to flee despite being fired upon by regime troops. The Daily Star of Lebanon reported:

The border clash broke out after Syrian refugees tried to cross into Jordan, a Syrian opposition activist who witnessed the fighting said.

Syrian troops fired across the frontier and fighting ensued, a Jordanian said. No one was reported killed on Jordan’s side.

[Armored] vehicles were involved in the clash in the Tel Shihab-Turra area, about 80 km (50 miles) north of the Jordanian capital Amman, the Syrian activist said.

Jordanian troops have fired near the border in the past to stop Syrian forces shooting at fleeing refugees.

Al Jazeera also reports:

Al Jazeera’s Ahmad Zeidan, reporting from Aleppo, said the Free Syrian Army is gaining ground, despite intensifying attacks from Syrian forces.

“I would say last night has been the heaviest in terms of bombardment faced in Aleppo,” he said on Saturday morning, adding there was prominent use of artillery and the use of helicopter gunships.

He also said according to FSA contacts on the ground, they have broken into the television and radio station based in Aleppo.

Syria state TV, however, reported a large number of fatalities from the FSA who were killed while raiding the TV and [radio] station.

The Syrian army has reinforced its positions in and around Aleppo over the past two weeks, while conducting daily artillery and aerial bombardments of rebel forces in the city.

Fighting in Aleppo has focused on the Salaheddin district, seen as a gateway to the city for the Syrian army, which uses it to send reinforcements.

Fighters told Reuters journalists inside Aleppo on Friday that they had captured a large police station after days of clashes.

Further reports:

In another raid by opposition forces, high on the Mountain of the Turkmen, rebels ambushed a convoy of regime vehicles, seizing many, destroying others, and killing 12 regime troops. Again, opposition loses were light as another fighter was lost and one was wounded. The opposition forces captured an Alawite Lieutenant.

As the battles continue, it is becoming clear that despite regime propaganda, they are not succeeding in putting down the revolution, in fact, they are losing. Heavy shelling and air assaults on Aleppo may look very bad, but the regime is not gaining ground. The regime paints a bold picture of shock and awe, but they are trying to “liberate” Aleppo by destroying it, but that is only appearance.

Secretary of State Clinton and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey

If reports from Debka are true – “Turkey has sent the Syrian rebels fighting in Aleppo their first shipment of shoulder-carried, anti-air FIM-92 Stingers, debkafile’s military sources report.” – then the end is indeed near.

DEBKAfile’s US, Turkish and Israeli intelligence sources are taking into account that Bashar Assad will view the supply of Stingers to the rebels as a game changer that threatens to tip the balance of the war against him and respond with chemical warfare against the rebels, Turkey, Israel and Jordan.

Meanwhile, the US and Turkey are planning for worst-case scenarios in Syria. The Associated Press is reporting:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Turkey‘s foreign minister said Saturday that their countries are creating a formal structure to plan for worst-case scenarios in Syria, including a possible chemical weapons attack on regime opponents.

Clinton and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said their two nations would set up a working group to respond to the crisis in Syria as conditions there deteriorate. They said the group will coordinate military, intelligence and political responses to the potential fallout in the case of a chemical attack, which would result in medical emergencies and a likely rise in the number of refugees fleeing Syria.

Clinton was also quoted in a video the following paraphrased at the Guardian:

Speaking in Istanbul, the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, says the United States and Turkey are looking at all measures to help bring [an] end to the violence in Syria. Clinton stresses the importance of setting up contingency plans in the event of chemical weapons being used in the Syrian conflict, making it clear that use of such weapons is a red line for the world.

In a related story, the German spy chief declares that the end of the regime is near – reported by Reuters:

Germany’s spy chief said Syria President Bashar al-Assad’s government appeared to be in its final phase because its army had been depleted by casualties, deserters and defectors to the opposition.

Gerhard Schindler, head of Germany’s BND intelligence agency, said Assad’s once 320,000-strong army had lost about 50,000 troops since the uprising against his rule began 17 months ago.

Smaller, flexible rebel units were sapping the strength of the army with guerrilla tactics, he told Die Welt newspaper in an interview published on Saturday.

“There are a lot of indications that the end game for the regime has begun,” said the president of the Bundesnachrichtendienst agency.

“That (army losses) includes those who have been wounded, deserted and about 2,000 to 3,000 who have defected to the armed military opposition,” he said. “The erosion of the military is continuing.”

While Assad’s grip on the country has been loosened as the uprising has gathered momentum, his forces have overwhelming firepower advantage against lightly armed rebels.

However, Schindler said small rebel units were offsetting that by using their speed and maneuverability to strike quickly in ambushes.

“Because of their small size, they’re not a good target for Assad’s army,” he said. “The regular army is being confronted by a variety of flexible fighters. The recipe of their success is their guerrilla tactics. They’re breaking the army’s back.”

Assad is fighting to crush a rebellion that aims to end his family’s four decades in charge of Syria.

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