Friday, September 13, 2013

Morning Links -- September 13

For those who keep track of such things, today is not only a Friday Thirteenth but the last day of Rosh Hashanah, so after sundown today will be the start of Yom Kippur. I'm not superstitious but I do have a healthy respect for all types of religious observances. Reflecting on the deeper meanings of life, remembering the past and renewing our determination not to repeat those mistakes are good exercises. 

This first link is a grim reminder that we still face horrible challenges and some of the ugliest human behavior.
This 14 page pdf document from HRW documents in detail two deliberate massacres in Syria by regime forces. 
“No One’s Left”
SEPTEMBER 13, 2013

In the morning of May 2, 2013, Syrian government forces and pro-government militias clashed with a group of opposition fighters in the town of al-Bayda, a village of about 7,000 residents ten kilometers from the coastal city of Baniyas. The clashes erupted when security forces, most likely acting on information obtained from a recently detained local activist, attempted to raid a house where some army defectors were hiding. 
Around 1 p.m., the local opposition fighters retreated and government and pro-government forces entered the village and proceeded to search the houses. Over the next three hours, a familiar pattern repeated itself in most parts of al-Bayda: government and pro-government forces entered homes, separated men from women, rounded up the men of each neighborhood in one spot, and executed them by shooting them at close range. 
Some executions took place inside people’s homes, others outside a building or at the village main square. Many women and children were spared, but others were not; Human Rights Watch documented the execution of at least 23 women and 14 children, including some infants. In many cases, pro-government forces burnt the bodies of those they had shot. In one particularly gruesome case, security forces piled up at least 25 bodies in a cell phone store on the village square and set them on fire, according to witness statements and video evidence reviewed by Human Rights Watch. 
Working with survivors and local activists, Human Rights Watch compiled a list of 167 names of people who were killed on that day (see Annex 1). Based on the witness statements and the video evidence reviewed, the overwhelming majority were summarily executed after the end of the military confrontations in the village, making the killings in al-Bayda one of the deadliest instances of mass executions in Syria’s increasingly bloody conflict. The evidence gathered by Human Rights Watch indicates that all those executed were civilian non-combatants who posed no threat to the security forces. According to two opposition fighters who took part in the confrontations in al-Bayda, the opposition fighters either escaped to neighboring agricultural areas or were killed in the confrontations.
Government and pro-government forces did not just kill residents: they burnt and looted a number of homes and intentionally destroyed property, according to multiple witnesses and video footage filmed by government or pro-government forces and by local residents showing burning homes and cars. According to the evidence Human Rights Watch gathered, much of the looting and burning happened on May 3, the day after the killings, when pro-government forces returned to al-Bayda. 
On the same day as the clashes in al-Bayda, on May 2, fighting erupted in nearby Ras al-Nabe`, a Baniyas neighborhood approximately ten kilometers from al-Bayda. According to five local residents, government troops shelled the neighborhood on May 2 and entered the neighborhood the next day. In a pattern closely resembling events in al-Bayda, witnesses told Human Rights Watch that government forces executed a number of residents after storming the neighborhood and set certain homes on fire.
The killings, lootings, and burnings in al-Bayda and Baniyas further escalated sectarian tensions in Syria. Al-Bayda is predominantly inhabited by Sunni Muslims with a small Christian minority. Together with certain neighborhoods in Baniyas, notably Ras al-Nabe`, the area is considered a Sunni anti-government enclave within the largely Alawite and pro-government Tartous governorate. According to local witnesses, government and pro-government forces only killed Sunnis and burned Sunni homes. Two Christian residents of al-Bayda told Human Rights Watch that pro-government forces did not commit any killings or looting in their part of town. 

Right now, Assad's got the upper hand in Syria's civil war. The U.S. could change that in two ways. One is directly bombing Assad's military assets. The other is aggressively training and arming the opposition — something we're really only just beginning to do.

The discussion around the Syria disarmament deal has mostly focused on defusing the U.S.'s threat to bomb Assad. But what Assad is saying here is that's not good enough: The U.S. also needs to stop arming his enemies. That means the real cost of destroying Assad's chemical weapons is watching him crush the opposition and retain power.

So far, the White House has argued that these policies are separate — that they can pursue disarmament on one track while also working against Assad's victory on another. But it's hard to believe that Assad will cooperate in the destruction of his weapons even as the U.S. is seriously arming the people trying to overthrow him.

A lot of people have wondered why Russia and Syria seem to be working to throw the Obama administration a lifeline. But the answer is clear: Assad only cares about his chemical weapons insofar as they help keep him in power. Sacrificing them to end the threat the U.S. poses to his regime is more than worth it to him.

(Rouhani is Iran's newly elected president. His Twitter account only "follows" four others but has some thirty-eight thousand followers.) 

Yom Kippur is a day of forgiveness only for sins committed against God. It is customary to dedicate the eve of Yom Kippur to apologies for sins committed against fellow human-beings. However, an apology or compensation are not sufficient if they do not elicit an expressed forgiveness by the injured person. One should not be selfish, and therefore one is commanded to invite transgressors to participate in Yom Kippur services.

►Note that earlier link about KSA sending fighters to Syria in return for escaping the death penalty. 
Just saying...

Before I forget, this video is one for the books. 
Looks like the man who wrote the book on winning hearts and minds is having a hard time putting theory into practice.  

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