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Man behind the Curtain for al-Qaeda in Syria is Assad

Friday, November 30, 2012

Syria comes back on-line as mystery flight leaves Damascus airport #SYR441



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The Assad government restored Internet and cell phone service to Damascus and most, but not all parts of Syria today after having pulled the plug for 48 hours.



Damascus Airport was also shut down at the same time and now a single plane [SYR441] has departed only hours ago amidst much speculation and rumors of high-profile passengers aboard.







Today we also have this report on Syria from EAWorldView:

1910 GMT: Syria. Reports are circulating of Syrian fire again crossing the border --- Turkish journlaist Mahir Zeynalov:

1841 GMT: Egypt. President Morsi has formally received the draft Constitution from the Constituent Assembly. He will soon address the body in a ceremony shown on State TV.

The Egypt Independent has posted an English translation of the proposed Constitution.

1741 GMT: Turkey and Syria. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has described the Syrian regime as an "armed militia" and a threat to the "well-being of the region". Speaking in Istanbul at a summit of Arab leaders, Davutoglu said:

[Syria] has turned into an armed militia power that resorts to all kinds of brutal methods just to stay in power.

The Syrian regime, which is a serious threat to the future of its own people and country, with each passing day increases the threat it poses to the well-being of our region, through its actions that target peace and security beyond its borders.

Turkey recently asked NATO for Patriot surface-to-air millies to secure its border with Syria. Formal approval from NATO is expected to come this week. NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said yesterday that "if the decision is taken it could take several weeks to deploy, rather than months.

1705 GMT: Syria. Cloudflare is tracking the gradual restoration of Internet connections.

1655 GMT: Syria. BBC journalist Lina Sinjab reports from Damascus on "daily life" during the 3-day internet blackout:

People are going back to the old ways of checking in on each other - landline phones or visiting each other door-to-door.


This has been the hardest time here - and we've seen the most intensive firing from government forces.

The bombardment of Damascus' suburbs, with MiG warplanes and helicopter gunships, has been unprecedented.

(...)

For now, basic supplies are not a pressing problem in Damascus - but every time you go to a store, there will be something missing from the shelves.

The capital is supplied by its suburbs but the violence and the shutdown of some of the factories there have caused shortages.

In addition, the prices of petrol and diesel, which many people use to heat their houses, have shot up.

1639 GMT: Syria. Despite claims by officials that Damascus International Airport has reopened and is returning to normal, most international flights scheduled for today appear to have been cancelled.

1609 GMT: Dr Sean Foley, a contributor to EA, confirms from a source in central Damascus that the Internet is up and running in central Damascus.

Residents also said that services had resumed in Homs and Hama after a blackout of more than 48 hours.

"All communication lines are back up in Damascus, after maintenance works were completed," State news agency SANA said.

After an earlier flutter that Virtual Private Networks and the anti-filtering, anti-surveillance system Tor might not be available, it appears they can be used:

1605 GMT: Iraq and Syria. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said today that his country is not able to search all Syrian-bound planes that fly through Iraqi airspace.

However, responding to accusations by the US that Iran is sending weapons bound for Damascus via Iraq, al-Maliki said that he is committed to preventing arms being shipped to Syria.

1559 GMT: Syria. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has accused Western states oof trying to advance democracy abroad through "iron and blood", as he reiterated Moscow's refusal to demand the exit of President Assad.

"Russia is not opposing Western influence or putting a stick in the spokes of Western-initiated projects out of spite," Lavrov said. "The fact is, advancing democracy through iron and blood just does not work, and this has been made clear in recent months --- the past year-and-a-half."

The Foreign Minister claimed that intervention "in most cases it produces the opposite reaction" and leads to "the strengthening of extremists and repressive forces, decreasing the chances of real democratic change".

1536 GMT: Lebanon/Syria. The Lebanese government has said it is investigating the deaths of Lebanese fighters who were reportedly killed by the Syrian army in the town of Tal Kalakh. There are conflicting reports about the incident and the number of dead. Yesterday, The Daily Star, citing a Lebanese security source, reported that "at least 20" men had been killed, however it is possible this number may be a lot less. The Lebanese Interior Minister, Marwan Charbel, told The Daily Star today that they have only been able to confirm three deaths.

We are trying to get information and what is available to us now is that there were some Lebanese who were killed, some kidnapped and others who escaped. But we cannot determine the exact number that were killed.

The picture is still unclear. We need at least 24 hours to understand what happened.

Future Movement MP Ahmad Fatfat described the dead Lebanese fighters as "marytrs", but he also called upon the government to better secure the border with Syria, adding that his party was against any larger military involvement.

1532 GMT: Syria. Multiple activists and news outlets are reporting that the internet is now back online in Damascus, as well as other parts of Syria.

1250 GMT: Syria. A couple of interesting notes in a Global Post overview, "Are Syria's Rebels About to Win?":

Ali, a 28-year-old Alawite living in Lattakia, the regional capital, said Alawite villages he recently visited had been nearly emptied of men after the regime enforced conscription for any member of the Alawite sect aged between 18 and 50....

“Every day there are 50 to 60 wooden coffins brought through Lattakia’s Bassel al-Assad Airport. There are funerals in most villages every day,” he said. “The regime’s media used to cover the martyrs’ funerals but in the last few months they stopped broadcasting news of dead soldiers.”

1230 GMT: Syria. As heavy fighting continues around the capital Damascus --- including along the road to the airport --- regime forces are reportedly shelling suburbs in an attempt to secure the perimeter. Areas hit include Douma, Darraya, and East Ghouta.

0615 GMT: Syria. Friday was testimony both to the efforts of the regime and the opposition to gain the upper hand at what appears to be a critical point in the 20-month Syrian conflict.

The Internet and large areas of mobile phone service were shut down for the second consecutive day, as the Assad forces tried to repel the gathering assault of the insurgents on the capital Damascus, following opposition advances throughout the country.

However, despite that effort, the opposition were able to bring out some news of fighting and defiance. While clashes continued near Damascus International Airport, shut down on Thursday and on limited service on Friday, a series of videos --- posted in EA's Friday coverage --- testified to opposition protests.

2121 GMT: Today is Friday, and while the world is focused on battles and meetings and organizations and diplomatic recognitions, on Friday there is always another story. Every Friday since March 2011, protesters have taken to the streets in Syria. Even in towns where bombs fall and bullets fly, somewhere close by it is possible to find an anti-government protest somewhere in Syria.

Also, every Friday has a theme, agreed upon by activists ahead of time by voting on Facebook. Today's theme does not translate well into English, but according to Zilal, it means roughly "the sign of victory over the palace" or "The Fingers of Victory over the palace." The meaning is clear --- the opposition believes it is winning, and is close to grabbing control from President Assad.

There were interesting twists this week. In Aleppo, some of the protests were more focused on the insurgency than the regime (one activist we spoke to said this was because the fall of the regime is taken for granted now). AFP reports:

"Free Army, go to the front lines," protesters in Aleppo's eastern district of Shaar shouted, criticizing FSA fighters who stay behind in rebel strongholds.

Civilians, particularly in northern Syria, have made accusations that some rebels take part in intimidation, extortion and vandalism in "liberated" areas of the country.

"[Members] of the Free [Syrian] Army are thieves, we want an Islamic army," the demonstrators chanted angrily as they marched through the streets.

What we did see were protests that demanded the revolution get back to its roots - helping the Syrian people improve their lot in life. But we didn't interpret this the way the AFP did - we saw it more as a criticism of the immorality of some of the fighters by people who are tired of having war in their backyards. Zilal explains:

Today there were protests in Anadan town and in the Shaar neighborhood of Aleppo during which protesters demanded to "purify" the FSA from elements that joined just to loot. They say what they think each time.

This video clearly shows protesters chanting, "the people demand the purification/cleansing of the revolution."


A large protest in Al Bab, Aleppo:


More protests in Aleppo:


Qalamoun, rural Damascus:


Yabroud, Damascus:


The people of Kafranbel bury one of their martyrs and share biting words of criticism for those countries, namely the US, whom they believe has not done enough to help the Syrian people defeat Assad:



1936 GMT: Journalist Felim McMahon shares some interesting information about our last post. He notes that he's found a video that was uploaded five hours earlier than our last video, perhaps taken from State media journalists (he notes it aired on Iranian linked Al Alaam TV). It shows Assad troops manning a checkpoint near the road, and it also shows the gunfire echoing over the same stretch of highway leading to the airport:

We should have noted, by the way, that these videos were both taken hours earlier, as it is now night in Syria. However, there are fresh reports of fighting near the airport. We likely won't know until dawn, however, what the result is.

Regardless, the airport is likely to be fought over for days - or longer - as both the Assad military and the opposition have marked it as a priority.

1916 GMT: Communications from the common person are hard to come by with the internet down. One of our sources, Zilal, says she's had difficulty getting news from the Damascus area tonight. However, there are many reports of fierce battles to the south, near the Damascus international airport. The FSA continues to try to take the road that leads to the airport, effectively shutting it off from the outside. It's unclear if they are militarily in a position to succeed, because the Assad regime is dedicating large amounts of firepower towards protecting the road. Still, videos showed FSA moving down parts of the road with little resistance, so it's clear that the regime is struggling.

This video was taken near the road to the airport - you can hear some gunfire:



So much of our data, so many of our sources, point towards extreme regime military weakness. However, we accept that this data is incomplete. For this reason, it's good to know that the most ardent supporters of the regime are also under the impression that the Assad regime is in a state of collapse:


1830 GMT: More signs that this conflict is spreading beyond Syria - according to AFP, 17 Sunni Lebanese were killed by Assad forces in a town just on the other side of the Syrian border:

"Young Islamists from different parts of the city left Tripoli this morning [Friday] and were killed in an ambush in Tal Kalakh by regime forces," an Islamist leader in the city told AFP.

"According to our information, they were summarily executed and not killed in combat," he said.

A security source reported that shots were fired on Friday night from the mainly Sunni Bab al-Tebbaneh district toward the neighbouring Shiite district of Jabal Mohsen.

He added that the army had been heavily deployed along the aptly-named Syria street dividing the districts, whose traditional rivalry has sharpened over the uprising in Syria.

1804 GMT: Back from the road to find that the death toll is Syria has increased significantly. 106 people have been killed nationwide, according to the LCC:

48 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its suburbs; 18 in Aleppo; 17 in Daraa most of them in Tafas; 8 in Homs; 7 in Deir Ezzor; 7 in Idlb; and 1 in Hama.


See our note on the casualty figures published by the LCC.

Despite the earlier trends, the death toll is mostly increasing in Damascus where the violence has only intensified as the day has drawn on. 13 of those killed reportedly died in the southern districts of Babilla and Beit Sahm.

1552 GMT: An ugly video from Ras al Ain, in northern Syria. The insurgents, claiming to be from Jabhat al Nusra, have taken prisoners. One man, at the start of the video, is complaining, and he is then shot in the arm. The prisoners continue to be loud, at at one point a fighter appears to fire between them, in some sort of AK-47 version of the knife game "Five Finger Fillet." It does not appear that any are killed, but it's not clear:


1535 GMT: According to the Local Coordination Committees, 62 people have been killed so far today (as of an hour ago, this number does not include our latest update below):

18 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its suburbs; 17 in Daraa most of them in Tafas; 13 in Aleppo; 6 in Homs; 5 in Idlb; and 3 in Deir Ezzor.

See our note on the casualty figures published by the LCC.

Journalist and Syria Analyst Michael Weiss and I have been discussing this number. Considering the amount of violence, the number is not that high on the whole. However, in Damascus the conflict is focused around several areas that have been embattled for days - many residents have likely fled. Elsewhere, the numbers have been declining for some time because Assad's artillery and air forces have been focused on a smaller number of targets - in Damascus, Aleppo, and near Ma'arrat al Nouman in Idlib province. Some of this is also luck - sometimes explosions hit a full apartment building and kill 20, or other times they hit the one next door which may be empty.

However, particularly concerning is the high number in Tafas. this small town north of Daraa (map) has been the site of heavy fighting for days. Several days ago a large tank convoy besieged the town, and since then the Free Syrian Army has launched a counterattack to take the town back.

There are a few videos from the town today. One video claims to show the military (and "shabiha") withdrawing from the town, though this has not been confirmed. This one claims to show the damage in the center of the town:


According to an opposition Facebook page, 11 people were killed there - all by shelling or fire.

1459 GMT: In the past, when the regime was angriest at a town or village, the ugliest chapters of the Syrian conflict were written. Assad troops or their allies have committed many massacres - in nearly every area in the country - typically after a surge in protests, or a wave of insurgent military victories.

Now there are reports, coming from the LCC, that a massacre has been committed near Mayadin as Assad soldiers are pulling back in the area:

The regime committed a massacre in Al-Riz village, resulting in 7 martyrs thus far and may wounded after aerial shelling.

The LCC reports to verify all claims they publish, but we have not independently verified this report. Stay tuned.

1446 GMT: Despite the fact that the government has reopened the road to the Damascus International Airport, The Guardian finds this video which claims to show insurgents looting a government building stationed on the road:

Note - none of the material in the video is definitively military property - most of it appears to be in boxes.

1436 GMT: There have been more intense air raids and shelling campaigns against western Damascus and its suburbs. This livestream, which ended two hours ago (again, the internet shutdown isn't working) shows smoke rising from every corner of Darayya (map), as distant explosions and sounds of gunfire echo through the streets - note, the gunfire did not even stop for prayers:

Meanwhile, multiple sources report heaby bombing in Kafer Souseh (map). This video, posted by the LCC an hour ago, shows smoke rising, reportedly after bombs fell.


1425 GMT: After more clashes last night near the Damascus International Airport, it Egypt and the United Arab Emirates will probably not be flying to and from Damascus any time soon. The Guardian reports:

"Airlines are not operating to Damascus today," said a Dubai-based airline official. EgyptAir and Emirates suspended flights to Syria on Thursday.

A Damascus-based diplomat said he believed the escalation in fighting around the capital was part of a government offensive which aimed to seal off the state-controlled centre of the city from rebel-held rural areas to the south and east.

"We want to liberate the airport because of reports we see and our own information we have that shows civilian airplanes are being flown in here with weapons for the regime. It is our right to stop this," rebel spokesman Musaab Abu Qitada said.

However, the airport is not closed. According to SyrianAir, they are running flights out of the airport:

“Today after the road was secured, we sent a new telegram to inform them [airlines] that security was restored,” the source added. “For the moment, we have not had any arrivals, but the airport is operating normally.”

The director of SyrianAir, Ghida Abdul Latif, said a flight to the Saudi city of Jeddah via Aleppo had departed on Friday as had two domestic flights bound for Latakia on the coast.
Flights to Cairo and Khartoum were scheduled for later on Friday.

The SyrianAir director blamed Thursday’s interruption on a “technical problem on runway 23, which was quickly repaired”.


1412 GMT: Yesterday the big news was the shutting down of Syria's internet. Today, it has been down for more than 20 hours, and it will not likely be turned on for some time (perhaps not until this conflict is over). However, yesterday activists, sources, and our own analysis suggested that the internet slowdown would not stop the opposition from communicating. To be clear, all sense of normalcy in Syria is now gone. All internet commerce will have stopped, and Damascus, the business hub of the country since the war reached Aleppo, is now completely cut off from the outside world. Also, the average citizen in Syria will have no internet connection. However, it is perfectly clear that the opposition is not the average citizen. Opposition groups, like the LCCs, have been working with the United States since the start (or before) to prepare for this contingency, and Syrian activists have learned methods to communicate despite government interference from Iran's Green Movement, Egypt's revolution, and other online activism.

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. My email inbox is full of videos, eyewitness reports, and even streaming video from Syria. If the government thought they would stop the opposition from communicating, they were wrong. It will likely be tougher than normal to get information now, but it is clear that the mission to silence the opposition has failed.

1359 GMT: The regime has pulled out of the key oil fields east of Mayadin, near the border with Iraq (map). Al Jazeera reports:

Syrian troops withdrew from Omar oil field, one of the last regime positions east of Deir Ezzor city near the Iraqi border, a watchdog said Friday, adding that rebels now control the country's major fields.

"Government troops pulled back on Thursday from the Omar oil field north of the town of Mayadeen after having lost the Conoco gas reserve on November 27," the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

The insurgents took control of an oil field for the first time on November 4 when they overran Al-Ward, the most important in the province, the Observatory said.

After also losing control of Al-Jofra field also in November, the army now controls not more than five fields, all located to the west of Deir Ezzor city, the watchdog said.

This is significant for three reasons. First, the regime has now lost the majority of their oil fields, to say nothing of the trade routes they were using to smuggle the oil out. The financial implications are obvious, but if this conflict drags on the regime will also need the oil to power generators, power plants, tanks and other vehicles.

The second reason - the insurgents have already started to sell oil through Iraq and, by some accounts, Turkey. This influx of money will help fuel the revolution, as well as potentially provide revenue to buy more weapons. Speaking of weapons, many of the weapons in the east have already been purchased from Iraq, supplementing the weapons captured from the regime. This is not all about weapons, though. The insurgents, and the people under their care, need food, medicine, and other supplies - to say nothing of fuel for their own generators as winter threatens those affected by this crisis.

The last reason why this is important is that it is yet more confirmation of the regime's incredibly weak military standing in the east. The oil fields, and the Deir Ez Zor airport, are the remaining key locations in regime possession in this province, so if these oil fields have been abandoned it means that Assad's remaining forces know they are in a tactically unwinnable situation.

This was also one of the few locations south of Deir Ez Zor city that remained in regime hands. It seems the stage is now set for the insurgent forces to strike further north.

Once Deir Ez Zor falls, the insurgency will have uncontested access to hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of square kilometers of territory. With no significant threat to the east, the insurgents will be able to move to other locations. Their most likely path would bring them northwest, down the road that travels through Al Raqqag and on to Aleppo. If this road falls to insurgents, the Hassakaha governorate would be completely cut off from the rest of Syria, allowing the insurgents to quickly take that area as well.

James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us started today.

1250 GMT: The United Nations refugee agency has said conditions in Homs are desperate, with an assessment team finding half the city's hospitals shut down and "severe shortages of basic supplies ranging from medicine to blankets, winter clothes and children's shoes".

Spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said there are 250,000 people displaced in and around the city with thousands in unheated communal shelters and many children unable to attend school.

Fleming said the agency delivered nine trucks of quilts, blankets, mattresses and other supplies and more will be sent soon.

Fleming also said that Syrians have been shot at as they fled to Jordan.

1150 GMT: Iran's Press TV claims that a bomb has exploded near its office in Damascus, damaging six vehicles belonging to it and Iranian Arabic-language network Al-Alam. There were no casualties.

0935 GMT: An airline official in Dubai has confirmed that Damascus International Airport is not accepting flights today.

Two airlines based in the Gulf --- Air Arabia and flydubai --- normally operate flights to Damascus on a Friday.

Syria's Ministry of Information said on Thursday that the airport road was safe after security forces cleared it of "terrorists".

0930 GMT: Several US host companies have said they are taking down the websites of agencies linked to the Assad regime, such as State news agency SANA, the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the General Authority for Development, and the local government of Hama.

An executive order by President Obama prohibits US companies from providing Web hosting and other services to Syria without obtaining a license from the Treasury. On Thursday, State Department officials confirmed that providing the services was a violation of US sanctions: “Our policies are designed to assist ordinary citizens who are exercising their fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly and association.

0810 GMT: The Local Coordination Committees report 96 people killed on Thursday, including 51 in Aleppo Province amid regime shelling in and near Aleppo city.

0600 GMT: In a development which some --- including EA's James Miller in our analysis --- saw as a sign of regime desperation and others feared as an overture to an expansion of violence, the Internet was suddenly cut off on Thursday.

The country effectively disappeared from the Web at 12:26 local time (1026 GMT). Mobile phone services were also widely disrupted.

Officials insisted that the Government was not responsible, blaming either "terrorist" activity or technical malfunction, but examination of the cutoff pointed to a deliberate move by the regime.

The blackout followed news of insurgents closing on the capital. Fighting near Damascus International Airport forced the suspension of all flights, with some international carriers saying they were stoppoing flights indefinitely. Opposition fighters also advanced in Deir Ez Zor province, taking more regime armour and equipment, while Assad's warplanes attacked in and near Aleppo, killing at least 20 people and injuring 80 others with barrel bombs.

Here are my related diaries on Syria:
UPDATED: #Syria goes dark as "cleansing" begins in Damascus
BREAKING: #Assad's Troops Wipe Out a Playground Full of Children in #Syria
BREAKING: #Russia denies #Syria-n army on brink of collapse
BREAKING in Syria: Explosion rocks #Damascus as people use "Truce Day" to protest regime
We condemn Israel. So why the silence on Syria?
Norodom Sihanouk at his finest & more on Syria
Meet a Syrian who doesn't think both sides are equally bad and is betting her life on it!
Two statements about Syria
Syria Today: New videos from the revolutionary war
Syrian Defector: Assad behind "terrorist" bombs
How Assad fights "terrorism" in Syria
REVISITED: FSA says it killed Russian General in Syria
Turkey attacks Syria
Truth Out: How Assad helped France kill Qaddafi
Panetta: Unilateral U.S. Military Intervention in Syria Would Be a Serious Mistake
BREAKING: 305 Syrians slaughtered in bloodiest day yet
Syria: Secret source of rebel arms revealed
BREAKING: Amnesty on Syria - Assad Regime guilty on indiscriminate slaughter
Syrian Revolution Digest shows "disgusting" photos!
Syria: The Killing Field the World is Learning to Live With
Barack Obama's Courtship of Bashar al-Assad
LIVE VIDEO: “World Silence is Killing #Syria” Rally in #DC
Free #Syria responds to Robert Fisk
UPDATED: #Assad: "#Syria doesn't need a green light!"
#Obama opposes French support for #Assad's opposition in #Syria
BREAKING: Amnesty site hacked, Assad propaganda posted
BREAKING: 630 Slaughtered in new massacre in Syria
Special message from Syrian children to Obama
Assad's Redline and Obama's Greenlight!
General Meade at Gettysburg
Tell US gov't to stop endangering Syrian activists
UPDATED: #Obama "green lights" #Assad's slaughter in #Syria
Syria: Turning Battlegrounds into Playgrounds
BREAKING: Bashar al-Assad is alive as deaths in Syria reach 25,000
The Left and the Arab Spring
Iran increasing its intervention in Syria
Syria: Images from the Battle of Aleppo
Fears grow of WMD attack in Syria
UPDATED: FSA says it killed Russian General in Syria
BREAKING: Syria releases new images of Bashar al- Assad | Are they fakes?
NOT BREAKING NEWS: Just another massacre in Syria
UPDATED: Syrian prime minister defects
Syria: FSA says Iranian pilgrims really Republican Guard
Syria: Aleppo under Siege!
BREAKING: UN votes to condemn Assad Regime as Reuters posts false story on Syria
BREAKING: Kofi Annan resigns as envoy to Syria
Syria: Bashar al-Assad not heard from on Armed Forces Day!
BREAKING: Senior Syrian diplomat to Armenia defects
BREAKING: Big Explosion hits #Damascus #Syria
UPDATED: Syria's Charge D'Affaires Quits London Post
BREAKING: Ground assault on Aleppo begins!
BREAKING: Protests across Syria in spite of Assad regime violence
ALEPPO: Step outside the Matrix and witness the Horror
UPDATED: US fears massacre in #Aleppo, #Syria
BREAKING: Reports of clashes between Jordan Army & Assad's Syrian army
BRAKING: Obama stops Putin from re-arming Assad in Syria
Syria: Foreign meddling increases as crisis builds
BREAKING: Aleppo, Syria bombed with fighter jets
BREAKING: Syria issues a correction, it has no WMD to use
BREAKING: Arab League asks Assad to step down!
Bashar al-Assad: New images released as slaughter continues in Syria
no blood for oil
BREAKING: Activists report toxic gas attack in Deir ez-Zor, Syria
Glenn Greenwald sees Islamist Terrorism as main issue in Syria
Will Syria's Assad make a chemical attack in Damascus on Saturday?
BREAKING: I know where Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is!
BREAKING: Massive Fire near #Assad's Presidential Palace in #Damascus, #Syria
BREAKING: Is Syria's Bashar al-Assad dead or dying?
BREAKING: Damascus explosion kills Defense Minister, other key figures
The battle for Damascus is coming
BREAKING: General Strike in Damascus
BREAKING: Intense fighting reported in Damascus now!
BREAKING: Syrian defector spills beans as important new defection reported.
Does Syria's Assad have something on Kofi Annan?
Tremseh Massacre in Syria: What we know
BREAKING: ~227 reported massacred by Assad's forces in Tremseh, Syria today!
Syria: Is Assad regime on the verge of collapse?
BREAKING: Russian Warships reported in Syria
BREAKING: #Russia changing on #Assad but not as fast as conditions in #Syria
UN Observers say violence in Syria is ‘Unprecedented’
BREAKING: Defection of major Assad insider reported in Syria
BREAKING: WikiLeaks releases 2.4 million #Syria emails
When did "Never Again" become "Whenever?" | #Douma
BREAKING: Incredible mass rally in Aleppo, Syria today!
BREAKING: HRW releases torture report on Syria
BREAKING: Syrian General defects with 293 to Turkey
BREAKING: Items not in the MSM on Syria
My response to Phyllis Bennis: Where is the non-violent opposition in Syria?
BREAKING: Syrian Air Force attacks Douma, 10m from Damascus, thousands flee
BREAKING: As Syria Burns, UN Blows More Smoke
BREAKING: Kofi Annan to propose Syrian unity gov't sans Assad!
BREAKING: Douma, Syria under massive attack, another massacre feared
BREAKING: Another mass defection from Syrian army
BREAKING: #NATO says No War in #Syria shoot down of #Turkey jet
NATO meetup tomorrow as more defect from Syria
BREAKING: Turkey calls for NATO consult on downing of jet by Syria
BREAKING: Senior Syrian Officers Defect
UPDATED: Russia reported to be preparing to evacuate from Syria
BREAKING: Syria fighter pilot defects
BREAKING: Britain stops Russian ship carrying attack helicopters for Syria
BREAKING: Russian troops headed to Syria
Qaddafi forces Strike Back in Libya
BREAKING: UN suspends mission in Syria
Libya & Syria - two videos - no comment
BREAKING: Russia denies supplying Syria with NEW attack helicopters
Syrian people rise up against the massacre
Another "Houla style" massacre in Syria
Fake Houla Massacre Photo: Was the BBC set up?
Idlib, Syria protest today on anniversary of Kent State killings
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Syria is bleeding
Syria: Ceasefire faltering as mass protests breakout

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Stratfor files: British mercenaries trained rebels during Libyan Revolution!

"Female snipers are generally good -- they are much more patient then men"
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As a result of having entered into an investigative partnership with WikiLeaks, I was recently ables to gain access to certain emails obtain by WikiLeaks from the Stratford Global Intelligence Files that purport to be the report of a debriefing by a Stratford operative of a British mercenary of long experience who had just completed a 4 week training course for Libyan opposition fighters in the Western Mountains.

The period involved would have been late July through August 2011, so much nearer to the end than the beginning of the Libyan Revolution.

This military contractor with 25+ military experience was putting a group of opposition fighters through a special one month training course. He didn't think much of the opposition fighters and he didn't think much of Qaddafi's people either. Frank I think his whole testimony reeks of racism, but that is pretty much what I would expect from a British mercenary working in Africa.

But those looking for proof that Western intelligence or imperialists were running the opposition in Libya won't find it here. On the ground, at least, this military struggle was conducted by the Libyan revolutionaries on their own and this report is the exception that proves that rule.

I say this because this mercenary claims "his employer is the only known contractor in Libya" and while he does not give numbers, it is clear that they were only training a handful of would-be special forces rebels. When asked "How prevalent was Western intelligence and special operators -- particularly French, Italian, UK and US?", he reported that he didn't see any.

So here we have the report of a single month-long foreign backed training effort for the Libyan opposition. It doesn't sound like it did much good, either because the trainees were incompetent or because the trainer thought they were. It also doesn't sound like there was much else around in terms of western boots on the ground.

When asked about foreign fighters, source reported that there were many fighters from Chad and Somalia, as well as snipers from Serbia and female snipers from Colombia. Like him, they were all mercenaries, but they were fighting for Mummar Qaddafi.

We are given no clue who was behind this training effort but since it sounds like the kind of thing that could be bought for a few hundred thousand dollars, it could have been anyone from a wealthy Qatari businessman to a group of Libyan ex-pats in the UK. Or it could have been the C.I.A.

One question posed by the Stratfor agent, doesn't get answered:
Who was the sugar daddy funding the source's training efforts?

The email is dated 29 August 2011. by this time Tripoli had been liberated 10 days and the Libyan Revolution was well on it's way to final victory. It has the subject line:
Subject: Re: [alpha] INSIGHT - LIBYA/MIL/CT - Trainer of Libya rebels on the conflict - LY1000
The source is described as:
British national who is a military contractor with 25+ years of military / contractor experience / multiple combat experiences that trained rebels in Libya in small arms handling and basic infantry tactics for a private company based out of Britain; was training rebels and listening to colleagues who were in / near the front talk about how things were going.
With this added note:
SOURCE RELIABILITY: New source
ITEM CREDIBILITY: New source
SPECIAL HANDLING: Not for publication / cannot mention contractor, contractors or location of training facilities as his employer is the only known contractor in Libya (as far as he knows)
SOURCE HANDLER: Primo
Where were you training the rebels?

Western mountains for 5 weeks (source just got back this past Friday). The rebels received a 1 month training package from us.

How would you rate the rebels overall?

Completely lacking discipline - worse than the Afghanis. And these are the special forces operators that we were training. The emigre returnees were somewhat better at learning basics of infantry tactics however they were lazy just like the guys who didn't leave Libya for another country. For instance, they didn't want to fight because it was Ramadan. They didn't like training because it was demanding -- weak and low motivation to learn. Very undisciplined and unorganized. As a fighting force they had very limited command and control, lots of friendly fire KIAs. A big gaggle. When we were asking them to decide leaders among themselves, they picked a big lad who was intimidating -- but an idiot. They don't understand that you need a thinker to lead you in battle.

Do you think that some just joined the rebels cause it seemed they would beat Gaddafi?

No. They wanted to get rid of him. They were willing to get rid of Gaddafi -- the lot of them wanted to get rid of them. They would have had no chance in hell to defeat Gaddafi without NATO support. Apparently they tried in Bengazi a few years ago and were slaughtered.

How did they move about on the battlefield and in staging for the next battle?

Gaggle. Depended on how much oil they had for their vehicles. Very disorganized no tactical awareness or thought out planning.

What was the vetting process for the rebels -- how did you know they were not Islamists?

There was no vetting process.

What was the primary weapon of choice?

AK47. Libyan Specials had FAL's (*7.62 cartridge as well) but they didn't like them because they were "too heavy." AK47 was the weapon of choice for both sides.

How would you rate the government forces?

Shit as well. A former government soldier, who served a 4 or 5 year contract with the Libyan Army, showed up and wanted to be special forces. He couldn't fire worth shit and didn't know how to assemble and disassemble his weapon even after that many years in the Libyan Army. The government forces were worthless but had heavier fire power.

What was the presence of foreign fighters?

They were there. You would hear stories about them all the time. Many fighters from Chad and Somalia. There were apparently Colombian female snipers and 13 Serb snipers were captured in or on the border with Tunisia apparently. Female snipers are generally good -- they are much more patient then men -- just look at the Russians in WWII.

How prevalent was Western intelligence and special operators -- particularly French, Italian, UK and US?

Didn't see any intelligence operatives or troops from the west -- l was in the mountains with my company training these guys so I wasn't going around to the front lines. They were presumably working with rebels in Tripoli and painting targets and helping plan attacks.

Is there looting?

Yes -- but mostly of government officials homes and properties and government buildings.

Are there shortages of basic essentials?

Yes of everything -- food, water, electricity. Lots of food coming through from Tunisia but conditions aren't good (source lost over 10 kilos there).

How secure is the border with Tunisia?

Very secure. They were professional when we passed through and checked everything.

Do you think that MANPADS and other hardware is moving out of Libya?

The border with Tunisia seemed secure / border guards were checking things thoroughly. I don't know really.

What do you think the post-war will bring?

If Gaddafi isn't found there can be an insurgency because he does still have loyal people. They have a very poor infrastructure. I don't know how true, but apparently there are massive, natural underground water resources. Some Libyan emigre returnee from Dubai said that Libya could be the breadbasket of north Africa. I don't know what awaits.

What are Gaddafi's resupply options right now?

I don't know. Probably not much as the rebels have taken just about everything.

Are convoys moving towards Sirte?

I don't know.
WikiLeaks Can use Your Help

WikiLeaks Donations Now Tax Deductible EU Wide

Wau-Holland-Stiftung (WHS), named in memory of the German philosopher and net activist Wau Holland, has been collecting donations for WikiLeaks since 2009. In the immediate aftermath of WikiLeaks publication of the US diplomatic cables in 2010, not only did PayPal arbitrarily shut down the WHS donations account, but the tax-exempt status of the Foundation was challenged as well.

It took almost two years of negotiations with German tax authorities to strike a deal: Tax exemption (charitable status) will be granted again going forward and going back to 2011, but not for 2010. (See: "Taxing Transparency", Der Spiegel, 13 Nov 2012).

Therefore, citizens of EU member states will be able to donate to WikiLeaks operations through WHS and in addition, write the donation off from their income tax. This is because of a ruling of the European Court in 2009 (Decision C-318_07), which mandates that every member state must honour the tax exemption decision of any other member state.

And this is how you make a money transfer to support WikiLeaks:

Recipient: Wau Holland Stiftung
Bank: Commerzbank Kassel, Königsplatz 32-34, 34117 Kassel, Germany
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Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya

Syria goes dark as "cleansing" begins in Damascus

This just in from an Anonymous pastebin:
Syria completely cut off Internet access today...if you are in contact with someone over there, pass along these dial-up lines. Dial up Internet may still work with these providers:

- French free isp FDN (about 100 lines): +33172890150 (login/pass: toto/toto)
- German free Free.de (about 35 lines). +4923184048 (login/pass: telecomix/telecomix)
- Swedish isp Gotanet (about 30 lines atm, can expand services) :+46708671911 (login/pass: toto/toto)
Assad strikes while world attention is focused on Palestine bid at the UN.

Follow clayclai on Twitter
After seeing how well attempting to shutdown the Internet worked for Mubarak in Egypt and Qaddafi in Libya, the Assad regime has mostly left the Internet alone.

Today, Syria went off-line to a completely unprecedented degree amidst reports of massive killing of those opposed to the Assad regime in Damascus.

Earlier this week, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the death toll in the Syria conflict had reached the 40,000 mark, so this is a very bad sign.

From Slate we have this report today:
The research firm Renesys reported this morning that Syria’s international Internet connection effectively shut down starting at 12:26 p.m. local time (5:26 a.m. eastern time) Thursday. The firm earlier estimated that 92 percent of all routed networks in the country were offline. Its latest report, however, says that “all 84 of Syria's IP address blocks have become unreachable, effectively removing the country from the Internet.” The AP is reporting that a second U.S.-based Internet-monitoring firm, Akamai, also shows Syria entirely offline.

Meanwhile, scattered reports via Twitter suggest that some of the country’s landline and cell phone connections may also be experiencing problems, though that has not been confirmed. An AP report earlier this morning cited anti-government activists blaming the government for the shutdown. It noted that “the government has previously cut phone lines and Internet access in areas where regime forces are conducting major military operations.” But a total shutdown is unprecedented.
The Syrian Local Coordinating Committees has issued the following statement:
"Local Coordination Committees in Syria

In a move which raises fears that the regime is preparing for something, the criminal Syrian regime cut all communications (cellular networks, landlines and the internet service) in most areas of Damascus, which is the capital, and in its suburbs. In addition, communications were cut in most areas in the governorates of Hama, Homs, Daraa; in all areas in the governorates of Tartous and Swaida; and in some cities in Deir Ezzor and Raqqa.

The Coordinating Committees hold the regime responsible for any massacres that would be committed in any Syrian cities after such a move was made. Also, they call upon the world to move quickly and to take practical steps to protect civilians from the regime's crimes."
The Syria government is saying the Internet was brought down by terrorist. We know that much is true because only Assad regime has that power.

Anonymous is in this fight too:






Helo attack in Damascus. One of the few images to emerge today



From yesterday while they still had Internet. So what do you think is happening today.

Can't get the sounds of him screaming out of my head. Little boy wounded in Aleppo. Syria









3:07 PM PT:


Message placed by Anonymous on hacked Syria Embassy website in English and Arabic. I have copied only the English here:
The Cartoon Syrian Army website has been hacked in response to the cyber bullying they're practicing supported by the governmental Syrian Computer Society and in the light of this defacement I'd like to address the world with few words

To our heros in the Free Syrian Army.. our hearts and souls are with you those of whom sacrificed their blood and lives for us, may Allah reward you all the good and I find no words enough to address you may Allah protect and be with you

To Bashar 'the duck' who lacks legitimacy and sanity do you see fathers crying their children? soon you will be in their shoes if Allah's will

To Asmaa, crazy president's wife. Do you see women crying their husbands? soon you will be in their shoes if Allah's will

To the islamic and arabic conscience and specially Muslims kings and presidents, our profit (pbuh) says « ?? ?? ???? ???? ????? ????? ?? ???? ????? ??? ????? ? ?????? ??? ?? ???? ? ??? ???? ???? ?? ???? ??? ??? ????? ? ??? ?? ???? ???? ????? ????? ?? ???? ????? ??? ?? ???? ?????? ??? ?? ????? ? ??? ???? ???? ?? ???? ??? ??? ????? » so those who let us down expect Allah's humilation if you don't support us

To United States and Europian countries, you claim that you protect the world, help the oppressed and claim democracy. But our revolution exposed your real faces and showed humanity that you are advocates of your own interests and that you don't have a humanitarian principle in what you claim, you only raise those banners to occupy nations, inslave their people and steal their treasures just like you did in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places, and maybe soon in Mali

To the neutrals in Syria: most of the Syrian neutrals are non-Mulims like our christian brothers and druze brothers and others from other communities, my message to them, Aren't we brothers? Aren't we fighting for our joint dignity and to make a better Syria for tomorrow and the most beautiful country in the world? Aren't you suffering oppression just like us? or your saying to your selves that if those win then we'll get our freedom without sweating for it? I ask not to share the revolution gain with any party that didn't come to its aid and stood aside, otherwise join the freedom and dignity's revolution

To the Alawite community: to the grandsons of Saleh Al-Ali, Bashar is abusing you, killing you and us just to save his precious occupied place, did Bashar claimed you kings in Syria? Are you living a better lives than us? The answer is clear, maybe you live worse than millions of Syrians, you are our brothers (except for the thugs and murderers among you) please abandon the regime now and join the revolution before it's too late and believe me if you don't join the revolution you will lose alot because you have crossed all the humanitarian and religious red lines against the Syrian people

- Syrian Anonymous
I remember Anonymous had Tunisian Anons two years ago when this whole thing kicked off.

The Internet Society has issued the following statement:
The Internet Society on Syria’s Internet Shutdown

29 November 2012

On behalf of Lynn St. Amour, President and CEO, and the Internet Society Board of Trustees:

Emerging reports from various organizations and individuals indicate that international Internet connectivity was shut off in Syria today. The Internet is an open, global medium for communication, idea exchange, empowerment, and innovation. Access to the global Internet is a crucial enabler of human rights.

As with previous actions to block Internet traffic in Egypt and Libya, the effect of cutting off Internet traffic – ceasing the flow of information in and out of the country – is a serious action. It harms not only the citizens of Syria, but also Syria's economy and society at large. The Internet Society stands with other organizations around the world in calling for Internet access to be restored with all due speed and cooperation so that vital services can continue to function and citizens won’t be further impacted.

First and foremost, the Internet Society joins with the rest of the world in its utmost concern about the safety and security of the Syrian people. Previous cases where such actions were deliberately taken have proven not only to be harmful, but to be ineffective. The Internet Society hopes that the volatile situation in Syria will come to a peaceful solution and that the citizens of Syria will soon be able to join the rest of the world in having their voices heard online.
Renesys Blog reports that only 5 networks on the Syrian link remain alive and that,
These five offshore survivors include the webservers that were implicated in the delivery of malware targeting Syrian activists in May of this year.

Here are my related diaries on Syria:
BREAKING: #Assad's Troops Wipe Out a Playground Full of Children in #SyriaBREAKING: #Russia denies #Syria-n army on brink of collapse
BREAKING in Syria: Explosion rocks #Damascus as people use "Truce Day" to protest regime
We condemn Israel. So why the silence on Syria?
Norodom Sihanouk at his finest & more on Syria
Meet a Syrian who doesn't think both sides are equally bad and is betting her life on it!
Two statements about Syria
Syria Today: New videos from the revolutionary war
Syrian Defector: Assad behind "terrorist" bombs
How Assad fights "terrorism" in Syria
REVISITED: FSA says it killed Russian General in Syria
Turkey attacks Syria
Truth Out: How Assad helped France kill Qaddafi
Panetta: Unilateral U.S. Military Intervention in Syria Would Be a Serious Mistake
BREAKING: 305 Syrians slaughtered in bloodiest day yet
Syria: Secret source of rebel arms revealed
BREAKING: Amnesty on Syria - Assad Regime guilty on indiscriminate slaughter
Syrian Revolution Digest shows "disgusting" photos!
Syria: The Killing Field the World is Learning to Live With
Barack Obama's Courtship of Bashar al-Assad
LIVE VIDEO: “World Silence is Killing #Syria” Rally in #DC
Free #Syria responds to Robert Fisk
UPDATED: #Assad: "#Syria doesn't need a green light!"
#Obama opposes French support for #Assad's opposition in #Syria
BREAKING: Amnesty site hacked, Assad propaganda posted
BREAKING: 630 Slaughtered in new massacre in Syria
Special message from Syrian children to Obama
Assad's Redline and Obama's Greenlight!
General Meade at Gettysburg
Tell US gov't to stop endangering Syrian activists
UPDATED: #Obama "green lights" #Assad's slaughter in #Syria
Syria: Turning Battlegrounds into Playgrounds
BREAKING: Bashar al-Assad is alive as deaths in Syria reach 25,000
The Left and the Arab Spring
Iran increasing its intervention in Syria
Syria: Images from the Battle of Aleppo
Fears grow of WMD attack in Syria
UPDATED: FSA says it killed Russian General in Syria
BREAKING: Syria releases new images of Bashar al- Assad | Are they fakes?
NOT BREAKING NEWS: Just another massacre in Syria
UPDATED: Syrian prime minister defects
Syria: FSA says Iranian pilgrims really Republican Guard
Syria: Aleppo under Siege!
BREAKING: UN votes to condemn Assad Regime as Reuters posts false story on Syria
BREAKING: Kofi Annan resigns as envoy to Syria
Syria: Bashar al-Assad not heard from on Armed Forces Day!
BREAKING: Senior Syrian diplomat to Armenia defects
BREAKING: Big Explosion hits #Damascus #Syria
UPDATED: Syria's Charge D'Affaires Quits London Post
BREAKING: Ground assault on Aleppo begins!
BREAKING: Protests across Syria in spite of Assad regime violence
ALEPPO: Step outside the Matrix and witness the Horror
UPDATED: US fears massacre in #Aleppo, #Syria
BREAKING: Reports of clashes between Jordan Army & Assad's Syrian army
BRAKING: Obama stops Putin from re-arming Assad in Syria
Syria: Foreign meddling increases as crisis builds
BREAKING: Aleppo, Syria bombed with fighter jets
BREAKING: Syria issues a correction, it has no WMD to use
BREAKING: Arab League asks Assad to step down!
Bashar al-Assad: New images released as slaughter continues in Syria
no blood for oil
BREAKING: Activists report toxic gas attack in Deir ez-Zor, Syria
Glenn Greenwald sees Islamist Terrorism as main issue in Syria
Will Syria's Assad make a chemical attack in Damascus on Saturday?
BREAKING: I know where Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is!
BREAKING: Massive Fire near #Assad's Presidential Palace in #Damascus, #Syria
BREAKING: Is Syria's Bashar al-Assad dead or dying?
BREAKING: Damascus explosion kills Defense Minister, other key figures
The battle for Damascus is coming
BREAKING: General Strike in Damascus
BREAKING: Intense fighting reported in Damascus now!
BREAKING: Syrian defector spills beans as important new defection reported.
Does Syria's Assad have something on Kofi Annan?
Tremseh Massacre in Syria: What we know
BREAKING: ~227 reported massacred by Assad's forces in Tremseh, Syria today!
Syria: Is Assad regime on the verge of collapse?
BREAKING: Russian Warships reported in Syria
BREAKING: #Russia changing on #Assad but not as fast as conditions in #Syria
UN Observers say violence in Syria is ‘Unprecedented’
BREAKING: Defection of major Assad insider reported in Syria
BREAKING: WikiLeaks releases 2.4 million #Syria emails
When did "Never Again" become "Whenever?" | #Douma
BREAKING: Incredible mass rally in Aleppo, Syria today!
BREAKING: HRW releases torture report on Syria
BREAKING: Syrian General defects with 293 to Turkey
BREAKING: Items not in the MSM on Syria
My response to Phyllis Bennis: Where is the non-violent opposition in Syria?
BREAKING: Syrian Air Force attacks Douma, 10m from Damascus, thousands flee
BREAKING: As Syria Burns, UN Blows More Smoke
BREAKING: Kofi Annan to propose Syrian unity gov't sans Assad!
BREAKING: Douma, Syria under massive attack, another massacre feared
BREAKING: Another mass defection from Syrian army
BREAKING: #NATO says No War in #Syria shoot down of #Turkey jet
NATO meetup tomorrow as more defect from Syria
BREAKING: Turkey calls for NATO consult on downing of jet by Syria
BREAKING: Senior Syrian Officers Defect
UPDATED: Russia reported to be preparing to evacuate from Syria
BREAKING: Syria fighter pilot defects
BREAKING: Britain stops Russian ship carrying attack helicopters for Syria
BREAKING: Russian troops headed to Syria
Qaddafi forces Strike Back in Libya
BREAKING: UN suspends mission in Syria
Libya & Syria - two videos - no comment
BREAKING: Russia denies supplying Syria with NEW attack helicopters
Syrian people rise up against the massacre
Another "Houla style" massacre in Syria
Fake Houla Massacre Photo: Was the BBC set up?
Idlib, Syria protest today on anniversary of Kent State killings
BREAKING: Massive protests in Syria following Friday pray
Syria is bleeding
Syria: Ceasefire faltering as mass protests breakout

Monday, November 26, 2012

Bani Walid Revisited

It has been a month since pro-Libyan government forces took the pro-Qaddafi stronghold of Bani Walid by force of arms. This slight return to armed struggle in the Libyan Revolution has spun alternative narratives about what really happened there and what it means about the Libyan Revolution.

Not without reason, the different narratives on what happened in Bani Walid coincided with a split in the Left over support for the Libyan Revolution that emerged strongly as soon as NATO intervened on the side of the people Qaddafi was trying to kill. This split in the Left has only ripened and sharpened with time, and has become especially acute as Assad's mass murder in Syria drags on.

The same forces on the Left that supported Qaddafi in Libya, support Assad in Syria, and for much the same reasons. Now the anti-interventionists that opposed the no-fly zone over first Libya and now Syria, have Syria, with maybe 40,000 dead and counting and an estimated 700,000 refugees by the end of the year, as an example of what happens when their policy rules the day.

Under these circumstances, they are under great pressure to show that in hindsight, intervention in Libya was a bad thing. Their current narrative on Syria requires them to demonstrate that Libya is a complete mess now, much worst off than under Qaddafi, worst or at least as bad as what is happening now in the non-interventionist success story - Syria.

Once they predicted NATO boots on the ground would follow NATO air support. They painted the Libyan Revolution as a US orchestrated grab for oil and the National Transitional Council as a CIA organized puppet government. They said we've been through this movie before. They said it was just like Iraq.

Well, it didn't work out like that and now they are at great pains to ignore reality and create an alternative one in which things worked out the way they dreamed they would.

They really haven't had much to work with, but the final rooting out of Qaddafi loyalists, a task that ultimately needed to be done through armed struggle, gave them and excellent opportunity to show the revolutionaries in the role of the aggressor and the Qaddafi remnants as the underdogs. Hence, their narrative around Bani Walid has taken on a particular significance.

In any case, i thought it would be useful to revisit Bani Walid a month after the controversial events to see what hindsight can tell us. This is the most recent report on Bani Walid that I have found, it is from Magharebia and published in English at AllAfrica.com:
Libya: Bani Walid Returns to Normal

By Essam Mohamed, 20 November 2012
Tripoli — Security improvements in Bani Walid reassure citizens that it is now safe to resume their normal activities.

Less than one month ago, the Libyan desert town of Bani Wali looked like a war zone. It is now coming back to life.

"Every day is better than the previous one and steadily improving. The security committee controls all the intersections of the city, which is protected by the national army and the security forces," Local Governance Minister Mohamed al-Hrari told Deutsche Welle.

Troops loyal to the Libyan government captured the flashpoint city on October 24th. Hundreds of loyalist fighters reportedly entered the town and hoisted the national flag atop abandoned buildings.

In the month since then, several grocery stores have opened, as well as fruit and vegetable markets. Cars circulate in the streets.

Some 500 homes were burned in the city during recent clashes between Libyan government-controlled forces and former Kadhafi loyalists.

"We have tasked a committee drawn from four engineering offices to fully survey damaged homes and dwellings in the city. Victims will have their rents covered for three months," Dr. al-Hrari said.

The army is in control of the city and the population is now less worried, according to Mouin Chernam, Director of the Political Section of the United Nations Mission in Libya. He also noted that displaced people were returning to schools and hospitals were becoming fully functional. More...
A 7 November article in the Libya Herald put the death toll from the attack at 30, most of them being civilians:
Bani Walid: complacency from the authorities, resignation from the population
By Mathieu Galtier.
The government says that Bani Walid will be back to a normal in a week or so, with the local authorities taking charge. However, locals are fatalistic; they know it will take months to erase the scars of the siege and the attack of their city.

General Hussein Abdullah, the chief of the temporary military council in Bani Walid, is proud to list all the achievements since the army’s successful attack on Bani Walid.

“The security is good, eighty percent of electricity and water supplies are back, schools will re-open in three or four days, the hospital has been replenished with drugs and equipment and the roads are largely open.”

According to Bani Walid hospital, the attack [Bani Walid Operation -- A Necessary Evil?], which happened just before Eid, killed 30 people, most of them civilian Warfallah, with 50 injured.

After the military operation, on 24 October, the government created three committees for Defence, Public Services and the Return of Refugees. These committees report to General Abdullah.

“I hope to leave Bani Walid in less than one week” he told Libya Herald. “The local police will take over when we leave.”

Abderhaman El Ahmari had just returned to Bani Walid to fulfil his own mission : to rebuild his family’s new life and home. On 25 October, he discovered that his two-storey house was burnt.

“I used to live in this house with my wife and my five children. They stole my gold worth LD 180.000, which I kept in a strongbox. I don’t know who has done this, but they as Muslims, they showed a lack of respect. I still believe the situation will improve in the country but not now, maybe after this government”, he told Libya Herald sadly. At the moment, he and his family are living with relatives in Bani Walid.

The smell of burning, the black smoke-stained walls and the sound of glass cracking underfoot are the same in Al-Adj’s family house. Back from Taruna, on 27 October, the nine members of the family saw their home was totally destroyed.

“My mother cried when she saw it burnt. Now, all of us are living in the same room, which is independent from the house” Hussain, one of the sons, explained. In the corridor, one message is written on the dust of a mirror : “Allahu Akbar” (God is great).

As far as Libya Herald could check, many of the destroyed homes were in the Darah area of the town. But in a community as tight as the 80,000 Warfallah in Bani Walid, it seems almost everyone knows someone who has been hit with disaster. Libya Herald noted dozens of shops had been looted and many others are still closed. The normal daily life is coming back slowly [Inside Bani Walid].

Nevertheless, Bani Walid is not like the largely-deserted town of Tawagha.
...
Most of the 25,000 Bani Walid inhabitants who, according to the International Red Cross, fled before the final attack, have now returned from Taruna or Tripoli. More...
Days before that, Reuters reported:
Life slowly returns to former Gaddafi stronghold
By Ghaith Shennib
BANI WALID, Libya | Sun Nov 4, 2012 4:41am EST
Hundreds of cars filled with families took advantage of the quiet lull after the Muslim holiday of Eid to return to their homes after a siege around the former Gaddafi stronghold of Bani Walid was lifted.

A week earlier, a similar stream of cars carrying the same people headed the other way. Families loaded with belongings fled attacks from militiamen aligned with the government who said they were wresting control of a city that remained anti-revolution.

Fighters captured the town on October 24 amid chaotic, vengeful scenes that demonstrated the weakness of the new government's hold over militiamen who owe it allegiance but largely do as they please. More...
There is no doubt that the vengence taken out on Bani Walid by some of the government authorized militias was excessive and criminal, even if most of it was against buildings after the people had fled. Many homes were destroyed. As reported in the Daily Star of Lebanon in an article titled "Libyan town wracked by political score settling":
"What does burning down homes have to do with searching for criminals of the former regime?" asked Saad, a father of five, after appraising the damage and concluding there was no alternative but to pitch a tent in the garden.
But it is also apparent that reconstruction efforts began as soon as the fighting stopped, as exampled by this 31 October report of an electricity maintenance team heading to Bani Walid.

The Alternate Universe

The picture of Bani Walid presented by these reports is one of the real world but there is another one from an alternate universe that is being presented by various friends of the defeated regime. I have already noted the spurious charges of white phosphorous and nerve gas made by RT, the mouthpiece formerly known as Russia Today, in my last diary on Bani Walid.

In a more recent article on their website, The Final Call, the Nation of Islam, the African-American group, takes this even further, comparing the siege of Bani Walid to the killing fields of Cambodia:
NATO’s henchmen are attacking their own people with bombs and chemical weapons, injuring and killing scores of civilians. Women, children and old people lie maimed or dismembered on the side of the roads, many of them buried in the rubble.

Residents tell stories of bombs filled with burning toxic gases and white phosphorous raining down from missiles. Scorched victims of the constant shelling are proof of the sinister nature of the Islamist militias and the fascist government forces which have been ordered to use “all necessary means to deal with Bani Walid.” Where is the “international community” condemnation? Where is Amnesty International? And where is NATO? Why has the Security Council not called an emergency session to address this atrocity? Where is the “humanitarian intervention?” Russia finally put forward a draft statement to the UN Security Council calling for “a peaceful resolution to the ongoing crisis”—a lukewarm response to a “killing fields” scenario and even this was blocked by the U.S. This is the freedom sanctioned by NATO in Libya—accept the mark of the beast or die.
...
the siege of Libya and Bani Walid, which can easily be compared to the “killing fields” of Cambodia, is unfolding before their eyes. There is no question that the Islamist militias that have surrounded Bani Walid are certainly on a par with the Khmer Rouge.
Of course, the Nation is Islam did receive millions of dollar from the Qaddafi regime to promote their politics in the US.

It is certainly no accident that all those howling about mass murder in Bani Walid are supporters of the Qaddafi regime and coincidently, supporters of the Assad regime in Syria. In fact I think we may find that their efforts at propaganda around Bani Walid are actually more related to current events in Syria than they are to events in Libya.

There are also others on the Left that seek to use the experiences in Bani Walid as an example of how the Libyan people are worst off now than under the Qaddafi regime. When an edited version my Daily Kos diary, Bani Walid, was published by The North Star under the title "The Fall of Bani Walid and Libya’s Counter-Revolution" on 17 November 2012, one of commenter had this to say:
Distasteful trash.

The whole article is shamelessly justifying and glorifying the death and destruction inflicted on the residents of Bani Walid, home to the largest tribe in Libya.

‘Rebels’ from Misrata cut off water, food and medicine to Bani Walid for four weeks as they indiscriminately shelled the city. After entering Bani Walid ‘Rebel’ forces undertook a policy of shelling, burning and looting homes, businesses and public buildings including hospitals. The city is now in complete and utter ruins with many residents unable to return. It’s not hard to find evidence for this devastation if you had looked beyond your strange obsession with Russia Today.
He then goes on to list two [1], [2], YouTube videos from RT source GRN Live, before he goes on to trash the Libyan people's efforts with another set of convenient, if unrelated, charges:
Racism was prevalent in Libya particularly in the East of the country. In Dec 2000 anti-black pogroms which started in Benghazi led to the deaths of 100 migrant workers. The whole NATO-backed rebellion in Libya was characterised by a relentless racist campaign of ethnic cleansing, lynching, torture and incarceration of black Libyans and migrant workers which began within days of the rebellion and continues today. Misrata was home to a particularly heinous brigade who were self-titled ‘The Brigade for Purging Black Skin, Slaves’ Misrata forces ethnically cleansed the entire town of Tawergha of its 30,000 inhabitants.
Finally, he ends my making his preference for Libya under Qaddafi clear:
Libya has transformed from a stable country with by far the highest standard of living in Africa (despite decades of crippling sanctions) into a failed state ravaged by insecurity, death squads and human rights abuses on an unprecedented scale.
Then there is a link to Global Civilians for Peace in Libya, a group that opposed NATO intervention and was "granted unique access" by the Qaddafi regime on numerous visits to Libya, for documentation that Qaddafi's opposition was racist to the core.

Again on racism in Libya

Since this gratuitous and distasteful charge that the whole anti-Qaddafi opposition is racists was, and often is, thrown in for good measure, I will address it first. I have already spoken to his points in greater detail elsewhere, I would refer the reader especially to Racism in Libya and Helter-Skelter: Qaddafi's African Adventure for more on the history of racism in Libya and Qaddafi's contributions to it.

The commenter is absolutely correct to point out that racism was prevalent in Libya after more than 30 years of Mummar Gaddafi's rule. but he is wrong to imply that it is a disease of Eastern Libya and I believe he has his dates wrong because the racist pogrom against blacks in Libya in 2000 took place in September not December and involved the whole country AFAIK.

This piece post 12 October 2000 in The Economist gives us a picture of the times:
PLANELOADS of bodies, dead and alive, flew back to West Africa from Tripoli this week, after Libya’s worst outbreak of anti-foreigner violence since the expulsion of Italians and Jews in Muammar Qaddafi’s coup in 1969. Survivors told of pogroms.

Emeka Nwanko, a 26-year-old Nigerian welder, was one of hundreds of thousands of black victims of the Libyan mob. He fled as gangs trashed his workshop. His friend was blinded, as Libyan gangs wielding machetes roamed the African townships. Bodies were hacked and dumped on motorways. A Chadian diplomat was lynched and Niger’s embassy put to the torch. Some Nigerians attacked their own embassy after it refused refuge to nationals without proper papers—the vast majority.

Libyans sheltering Africans were warned that their homes would be next. Some of Libya’s indigenous 1m black citizens were mistaken for migrants, and dragged from taxis. In parts of Benghazi, blacks were barred from public transport and hospitals. Pitched battles erupted in Zawiya, a town near Tripoli that is ringed with migrant shantytowns. Diplomats said that at least 150 people were killed, 16 of them Libyans. The all-powerful security forces intervened by shooting into the air.
Later, when the regime itself was the target, these same forces would not hesitate at shooting into the crowds.
African migrants, unfairly blamed for the disaster, were detained en masse. They once numbered over 1m but diplomats say that they have now mostly disappeared from the streets, and are in hiding or in camps pending expulsion. Over the past fortnight, hundreds of thousands of black migrants have been herded into trucks and buses, driven in convoy towards the border with Niger and Chad, 1,600km (1,000 miles) south of Tripoli, and dumped in the desert.
This was Mummar Qaddafi's policy, his government organized the rounding up, transport and dumping of hundreds of thousands of African immigrants in the desert.
Migrants from countries without land links to Libya, including 5,000 Nigerians and nearly the same number of Ghanaians, are being airlifted out. Hundreds more are languishing in three scrubland camps ringing Tripoli airport waiting for flights. There is no medical care for the black Africans, many of whom have broken limbs or stab wounds.
This article also gives us more on background:
Anti-black violence had been simmering for months, fired by an economic crisis. Colonel Qaddafi heads Africa’s richest state in terms of income per person. This year oil will earn him $11 billion. But Libyans, feeding their families on monthly salaries of $170, see the money squandered on foreign adventures, the latest of which is the colonel’s pan-Africa policy. As billions flowed out in aid, and visa-less migrants flowed in, Libyans feared they were being turned into a minority in their own land. Church attendance soared in this Muslim state. So did crime, drugs, prostitution and reports of AIDS.

A history of racism fanned the flames. Libyans were slave-trading until the 1930s and, under Italian colonial rule, they saw themselves as Mediterranean, calling Africans chocalatinos. Black-bashing has become a popular afternoon sport for Libya’s unemployed youths. The rumour that a Nigerian had raped a Libyan girl in Zawiya was enough to spark a spree of ethnic cleansing. More...
And all this happened more than a dozen years ago, under Colonel Mummar Qaddafi's leadership.

So racism is not a new problem in Libya. It did not arise with the movement to overthrow Qaddafi, nor will it be vanquished overnight. I aim my writings on this subject at the Libyan revolutionaries with an eye to contributing towards a solution.

Not so these anti-interventionists turned counter-revolutionaries. They see in Libyan racism, a chance to attack the revolution so they go to great lengths to paint a picture of racism whenever they can. For example, it is an unfortunate feature of Arabic that the word for Black[the race] and the word for slave are the same, so the name of this brigade, as translated by someone looking to make a point, might be misleading.

And while it is true that almost everyone was run out of Tawergha, a town of 30,000 that played a particularly cruel role in the months long bloody siege of Misrata, I don't think it fair to call it ethnic cleansing or to attribute the targeting of people from Tawergha to racism and not revenge. Black townships generally have not been targeted and Tawergha itself was not ethnically cleansed, everyone was run out, Black and Arabic alike.

Racism and the Libyan Revolution

In historic-political terms, what the Libyans are doing is carrying forward the bourgeois democratic revolution against a tribal based regime with many feudal remnants and a "socialist" facade. US history has clearly shown that victory over racism is no prerequisite for carrying forward the democratic revolution. In fact, just the opposite is the case.

So those that seek to condemn and disavow the democratic processes taking place right now in post-Qaddafi Libya, in the name of fighting racism, are really missing the point.

Like far too many on the Left, I believe that this commentator is one who fell for Qaddafi's "socialist" and "anti-imperialist" facade many years ago. Then when the Arab Spring came to Libya, the Colonel started to do an Assad on the protesters and NATO uncharacteristically came to their aid, these same leftists, so use to opposing whatever NATO does, doubled-down on their support for Qaddafi and opposed the popular uprising against his dictatorship,

They became "anti-interventionists" with regards to the Libyan conflict and we can see in Syria, for the past year, what they wished was still happening to the Libyan people.

But since they failed in their bid to keep the beloved Brother Leader in power, they have turned their fire on every effort by the people to create a new Libya.

They like to portray the developing revolutionary government as a "failed state" or something similar, so when the newly elected government finally moved decisively to crush the armed pro-Qaddafi counter-revolutionaries in Bani Walid, they screamed bloody murder.

What happened in Bani Walid?

I believe there was necessary violence used in Bani Walid and there were excesses. I also believe that only reaction is served by applying hyperbole and exaggeration, not to mention outright fabrication, to this unfortunate situation in an attempt to tar the whole Libyan Revolution.

In his final paragraph, this commenter indicates that he would probably also endorse the view of the Nation of Islam that what took place in Bani Walid in October was as bad as the Khmer Rouge "killing fields" of Cambodia because he says that Libya today is "ravaged by insecurity, death squads and human rights abuses on an unprecedented scale."

The odd thing to me is that this commentator thinks himself a Marxist and since that is the case, let us look at these questions from the perspective of Marxism.

State & Revolution

While Mummar Qaddafi called himself "Brother Leader", said he had no formal state power and claimed his Libya Jamahiriya was some new kind of "green" socialism, the reality was that the economic system was capitalism and the political system was much more of a throwback to an earlier epoch than an advanced example for the future.

The system he developed relied heavily on ancient tribal rivalries and loyalties that parceled out favors and power along family lines. It had much more in common with the feudal dictatorships of the pre-capitalist world everywhere than with the bourgeois republics native to capitalism. Qaddafi ruled like a king and his family lived like royalty. The proof is that he was grooming his son to succeed him.

Therefore the principal task of the current revolution in Libya is the completion of the bourgeois democratic revolution. This must be done before they can move forward to the next stage. For Libya, the road to real socialism flows through the establishment of a democratic republic.

This has been the task of the "Arab Spring" revolutions generally; completing these long stalled national bourgeois democratic revolutions.

There are those on the Left that have poo-pooed these revolutions because they haven't had socialism as their immediate goal, but that has not been their mission.

These have not been proletariat revolutions in the Marxists sense, even though it has principally been the workers of the MENA [Middle East\North Africa] countries that have pushed them forward. The demands for democracy and an end to these family dictatorships are still demands of the bourgeois democratic revolution. The demand for economic justice pushes the envelope.

Speaking generally, in these countries the bourgeois democratic revolutions that began with the end of formal colonialist after WWII were stalled by imperialist suppression so that state organization never moved over completely to some form of democratic republic but instead ossified for 20, 30, 40 years as a tribal and family based holdover from feudalism, formally with kings in Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia and defacto with Assad & son, Mubarak & son, Ben Ali & son, and Qaddafi & son in others.

Capitalism develops the best with the modern bourgeois democratic state but the fact that these MENA countries were throwing off colonial oppression rather late, in a period of socialist revolution, and the fact that the masses continued to face heavy imperialist exploitation, made the extension of anything like full democratic rights to the masses rather risky.

So, using tribal, religious and ethnic differences to divide and conquer, a variety of neo-feudal regimes consolidated their power in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq and Syria. The monarchies already in place in Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia made a few cosmetic democratic concessions. And that is how MENA rolled -- until recently.

"Remnants of the old, surviving in the new, confront us in life at every step, both in nature and in society" wrote the great Russian Marxist V.I. Lenin in his profound work on the nature of government under capitalism, socialism and communism, The State and Revolution.

All of these MENA governments had proven themselves completely corrupt and incapable of change. They were incapable of meeting the mass demand for democracy and that made the demand for democracy revolutionary. In every case, it necessarily morphed into a demand for an end to the old regime.

This is what the Arab Spring became in every country.

But the people didn't face the same situation in every country.

Now, looking at the first three countries to succeed in casting out a dictator in North Africa, we can see that while Ben Ali was forced out in Tunisia and Mubarak was forced out in Egypt, and without a lot of violence, much of the machinery of state remained intact. Most significantly, the security forces of the old regime have survived largely intact. That makes these very dubious revolutions so far, if indeed, they have earned that title at all. The people of those countries still have a lot of work to do before they can claim their liberation from the old regimes.

In Egypt, Morsi is reaping the world-wind for attempting to do just that.

Matters are quite different in Libya where the regime's army was completely defeated on the field of battle, abet with NATO air support, and all of the existing state institutions had to be completely destroyed or abandoned. In point of fact, the Qaddafi way of doing things left them little to work with in any case. Everything has to be rebuilt from scratch.

The thoroughgoing nature of the revolution in Libya should make it of special interest to Marxist-Leninists, it is such a shame to see so many turning their backs to it. Of all the uprisings of the Arab Spring, only the one in Libya meets two of the major requirements for the liberation of the oppressed as Lenin described them in State & Revolution:
if the state is the product of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms, if it is a power standing above society and “alienating itself more and more from it", it is clear that the liberation of the oppressed class is impossible not only without a violent revolution, but also without the destruction of the apparatus of state power which was created by the ruling class and which is the embodiment of this “alienation”. (my emphasis) As we shall see later, Marx very explicitly drew this theoretically self-evident conclusion on the strength of a concrete historical analysis of the tasks of the revolution.
The year since the fall of the Qaddafi regime has been a most exciting and interesting one in Libya. To defeat Qaddafi's organs of state violence, it was necessary for the Libyan people to form what Lenin would have called "the population organizing itself as an armed force" or "a self-acting armed organization of the population." This necessarily led to a post-overthrow landscape of hundreds of armed groups all over the country that mostly cooperated but occasionally competed with tragic consequences.

The National Transitional Council [NTC] was also necessarily an body cobbled together on the fly. It could never be entirely representative, democratic or open in its functions. It was designed to bring the Libyan Revolution out of the shadows and in that it succeeded.

In the past year, the war was won and civil institutions started to be reconstituted. The NTC created the High National Election Commission [HNEC] which, over a period of months, organized national elections in which 1.7 million Libyans elected a 200 member General National Congress.

This election was a particularly interesting exercise in democracy because at every step, every feature had to be created anew, Qaddafi allowed no open political life, it all had to be created anew. Now political parties and publications of all sort abound but there are no petrified parties like the Republicans or Democrats to hog the limelight, in fact 60% of the positions were only open to independents. And there weren't a bunch of foreign NGOs or advisors telling them how to run the show. This was a truly Libyan election resulting in a democratically elected government.

Another critical part of this revolution has been the struggle to consolidate all armed forces into one national force controlled by the elected government and to extend that control to every part of Libya. The conflict over Bani Walid must be viewed in that larger context.

And the revolutionary struggle to form a new government in Libya continues unabated. With the GNC in place and most of the key government posts filled, the country is preparing to write a new constitution and that is sparking lively discussion. Monday 26 November 2012 Shabab Libya [Libyan Youth Movement] is carrying the following piece:
The Libyan publics role in drafting the constitution

Source- George Grant for the Libya Herald via the Saudi Gazette
NEW YORK CITY – Over the past week, the General National Congress (GNC) has turned to the question of who should draft the new constitution. The question is whether drafters should be selected as originally planned in the August 2011 Constitutional Declaration or its amendment immediately prior to the 7 July elections. The debate raises the question of the role the public should play in drafting the constitution.

At the core of modern democracy is the idea of popular sovereignty. It is generally thought that governments are more just and legitimate when the law emanates from the people by their election of lawmakers. Yet democracy extends beyond voting law-creators into power. The people can and should participate in law creation itself when possible and advisable. Especially in the creation of the fundamental law of the country: the constitution.

Substantively, public participation in constitution-making will likely yield a constitution that better ensures rights and protections for the people and will be more reflective and inclusive of those people. More...
Too few on the Left have been carefully following these developments in Libya, some have even long ago written off the Libyan revolutionaries as tools of western imperialism and NATO and refuse to look back. Some feel that they can't come to any meaningful results simply because they lack socialist leadership, but that is not their fault. Consider how little respect the Left has given their heroic efforts so far, and how little guidance.

Remember, the Paris commune also lacked the leadership of a vanguard party.

And while what they are building in Libya is not yet socialism or the dictatorship of the proletariat, possibly it is the next best thing. Consider Lenin's assessment of the significance of the establishment of the democratic republic, again from State & Revolution:
Engels realized here in a particularly striking form the fundamental idea which runs through all of Marx's works, namely, that the democratic republic is the nearest approach to the dictatorship of the proletariat. For such a republic, without in the least abolishing the rule of capital, and, therefore, the oppression of the masses and the class struggle, inevitably leads to such an extension, development, unfolding, and intensification of this struggle that, as soon as it becomes possible to meet the fundamental interests of the oppressed masses, this possibility is realized inevitably and solely through the dictatorship of the proletariat, through the leadership of those masses by the proletariat.
Libya remains a country with a small population that is rich in oil revenues. That means it is possible to meet the fundamental interests of the oppressed masses now and the current struggle for democracy in Libya can easily and organically lead to socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya