1946 GMT: Syrian Media, SANA, now reports that three different explosions resulted in "martyring of a number of people and the injuring of others" at the Interior Ministry in Damascus. SANA does not say whether any officials have been injured, though rumors are flying, rumors which State TV has already denied. They have posted several pictures, two of which we post here (click for full size):
Entries in Bashar al-Assad (260)
2040 GMT: The US decision to place Al Nusra Front on the terrorist watch list will have complicated repercussions. Since we've started covering this conflict, we've been very impressed with both McClatchy and The Institute for the Study of War. As such, we're not surprised that experts from both organizations have, even before the decision was announced, condemned the move because it will complicate the realities on the ground in Syria and potentially isolate Washington from the Syrian rebels:
Some experts warned that declaring Nusra a foreign terrorist organization was likely to hurt the anti-Assad uprising by fueling tensions between the group and other opposition units. The designation could disrupt the coordination behind recent rebel advances and even risk clashes among rebel groups.
“I’m not saying they aren’t a terrorist group. But given the circumstances and given their cooperation with the opposition as a whole, designating them now would be disastrous,” said Elizabeth O’Bagy, an analyst with the Institute for the Study of War who recently returned from touring rebel-held areas to research Nusra and other Islamist groups.
Anti-regime protest in Binnish in Idlib Province today
See also Syria Audio Feature: Why US and Russia Suddenly Met Thursday --- Scott Lucas with Monocle 24 br>
Syria Opinion: "The US Must Act Soon" --- James Miller in The American Prospect br>
Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Morsi Defies Protesters and Warns "Infiltrators" br>
Thursday's Egypt, Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Protests and Fighting at the Presidential Palace
Lattakia: Faranlaq: Fierce clashes between the FSA and regime forces amid attempts by the regime forces to storm the district and the FSA is blocking it.
What's interesting is that we did not know where Faranlaq was, nor were we able to find it on a map. The reason - Faranlaq is not a town or district, but a forest, only 5 milometers north of Lattakia city (approximate location on map).
Usually, fighting in "Lattakia" is in the mountains to the east, many miles from the city, often considered a stronghold of the Assad regime. However, this fighting is located between the city and an important naval base.
How "fierce" are the clashes? We don't know. We have also not independently confirmed the news. If true, it is becoming clear, however, even Assad's strongholds are not immune from the insurgent advance.
A poster showing President Assad standing against the enemy militaries of the US, France, Britain, Turkey, and Arab States
See also Syria Analysis: A Threatened Regime Cuts the Internet br>
Palestine, Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Statehood for the Palestinians, A Constitution for Morsi br>
Thursday's Syria Live Coverage: Insurgents Take More Bases as Damascus Hit by Bombs
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.
David Sanger and Eric Schmitt write for The New York Times:
The Obama administration, hoping that the conflict in Syria has reached a turning point, is considering deeper intervention to help push President Bashar al-Assad from power, according to government officials involved in the discussions.
While no decisions have been made, the administration is considering several alternatives, including directly providing arms to some opposition fighters.
The most urgent decision, likely to come next week, is whether NATO should deploy surface-to-air missiles in Turkey, ostensibly to protect that country from Syrian missiles that could carry chemical weapons. The State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said Wednesday that the Patriot missile system would not be “for use beyond the Turkish border.”
But some strategists and administration officials believe that Syrian Air Force pilots might fear how else the missile batteries could be used. If so, they could be intimidated from bombing the northern Syrian border towns where the rebels control considerable territory. A NATO survey team is in Turkey, examining possible sites for the batteries.
Another source suggests that this base is the headquarters of the 608 regime, though that is unclear. Still, there are plenty of videos that have been posted in the last few hours:
Another major victory? There's also a trend. The FSA is targeting relatively small anti-aircraft bases, capturing equipment that can be used against the Assad regime, but also looking for ways to confront the Assad airforce. Furthermore, there is a suspicion that they may have received encouragement to specifically target anti-aircraft bases, as this removes a threat to any foreign aircraft that could potentially engage in a no-fly zone.
For weeks, we have reporting on insurgent advances across Syria. Reviewing that coverage, we ask, "Are we at the point where President Assad's military is crumbling?"
Answer: "We are not ready to declare that, but we are now past the point where the regime has any prospect of a successful counter-attack to regain control. Assad and his forces now have to rely on holding on to major cities."
RT: There are many people who were convinced a year ago that you would not make it this far. Here again you are sitting in a newly renovated presidential palace and recording this interview. Who exactly is your enemy at this point?
BA: My enemy is terrorism and instability in Syria. This is our enemy in Syria. It is not about the people, it is not about persons. The whole issue is not about me staying or leaving. It is about the country being safe or not. So, this is the enemy we have been fighting as Syria.
President Assad, in an interview with Russia Today, warns against foreign military intervention
1807 GMT: Bahrain. A source shares with us a video reportedly taken yesterday in Bilad Al-Qadeem. It appears to show men in plainclothes armed with tear gas launchers, firing them in the direction of what we are told was a march by protesters.
The men arrive in two vehicles, fire several shots, then drive off. It is unclear if they are civilians or members of the security forces.
Syrian opposition leaders of all stripes will convene in Qatar next week to form a new leadership body to subsume the opposition Syrian National Council, which is widely viewed as ineffective, consumed by infighting, and little respected on the ground.
The State Department has been heavily involved in crafting the new council as part of its effort oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and build a more viable and unified opposition. In September, for instance, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with a group of Syrian activists who were flown in to New York for a high-level meeting that has not been reported until now.