The data was provided mostly by independent relief organizations working in Syria. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) received a detailed report in late May -- but, predictably, was not too keen on releasing it.
As Asia Times Online has been stressing for months, the Sunni business classes in Damascus and Aleppo are either neutral or pro-Assad. And most Sunnis now regard the gangs of foreign mercenaries weaponized by Qatar and the House of Saud as way more repellent than Assad.
And at a rally in Doha, perennial al-Jazeera star and Muslim Brotherhood icon Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi -- now pontificating at Al-Azhar in Cairo -- has called for a jihad of all Sunni Muslims against Damascus. As he also branded Hezbollah as "the party of Satan" and condemned Iran for "pushing forward arms and men to back the Syrian regime." He has in fact condoned a jihad of Muslims against Muslims, even though he insisted his call to fight Hezbollah is "not against all Shi'ites."
Still al-Qaradawi also said, "How could 100 million Shi'ites defeat 1.7 billion [Sunnis]?" Only because [Sunni] Muslims are weak." It's more than implied that Shi'ites are the enemy.
So who cares what the "Syrian people" might think? The Western "Friends of Syria" could not have found a more willing golden patsy to promote their usual, self-fulfilling Divide and Rule gambit -- the Sunni-Shi'ite divide. It's always handy to have dysfunctional GCC petro-monarchies posing as "liberators" so the West once again may conduct a proxy war "leading from behind."
In other news, where's Evelyn Waugh when you need him? It's Scoop all over again, with Syria replacing a "promising" war in the African Republic of Ishmaelia and every hack in the Western world doing a remix of the Daily Beast, proclaiming Assad's imminent demise because, well, we're with the rebels and we have decided they are going to win.
Those infidel missiles
As it stands, the Geneva II negotiations promoted by Washington and Moscow seem to be as good as six feet under (although they are getting together today to define the framework).
The European Union has lifted its arms embargo on Syria -- a move that was essentially a Franco-British delirium that went over the heads of reluctant EU members. It had to be Britain and France, of course, the two former imperial powers that almost a century ago carved up a line in the sand dividing the Levant and now want a redesign.
This would mean, in practice, that the EU has declared war on Damascus. Well, sort of. Under the EU agreement, no weaponizing will go on before autumn. And the belligerent Franco-British duo has to make sure any weapons are used only to protect civilians. Who will supervise this -- a bunch of Brussels bureaucrats in army fatigues? Well, they can always revert to default -- ask for American help. Every grain of sand in the Levant knows the CIA is "assisting" Qatar and Saudi Arabia to weaponize the "rebels."
And then there's the distinct possibility that Britain may have acted, once again, as an American Fifth Column inside the EU, paving the road for a possible Obama administration "all options are on the table" intervention.
Russian President Vladimir Putin checkmated the EU -- and the US -- in no time. Yes, those famous S-300 missile systems are coming to Damascus, and soon. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the missiles were a stabilizing factor in Syria that would dissuade schemes by "hotheads." He also stressed -- correctly -- that the EU may just have bombed the planned Geneva talks.
Former Russian Air Force General Anatoliy Kornukov told Interfax-AVN Online that Damascus would need at least 10 battalions of S-300 air defense missile systems to fully protect its territory from a possible NATO attack. In this case, there's no way a no-fly zone -- a Franco-British wet dream -- can be imposed.
Each S-300 surface-to-air missile system consists of a radar-equipped command post and up to six 5Zh15 missiles. It would take only a month to train Syrians to operate them. Kornukov observed, "Our systems can be deployed within five minutes." And they're almost impossible to jam.
What are the "Friends of Syria" going to do about that? Call another meeting? Time for al-Qaradawi to go on al-Jazeera and upgrade his jihad to include Russian missiles (after all these are infidel weapons). Why not set an example and volunteer himself to the front line?
1. See here.