Syria: Bashar al-Assad not heard from on Armed Forces Day!

Rest In Peace Gore Vidal - October 3, 1925 to July 31, 2012

I took this picture at the Arlington West Memorial Day commemoration in 2006. It was my great honor to know him through our common work in the Los Angeles peace movement and specifically the continuing Veterans for Peace project known as Arlington West, Santa Monica. He was an early supporter of my film project that became Vietnam: American Holocaust. He will be missed.

Follow clayclai on Twitter

The Syrian regime has "proven" that Bashar al-Assad is alive and well and on post for a third time since an explosive decapitation attempt in Damascus took out four of his top repression chiefs on July 18th. The first two were via undated video without audio. This latest pronouncement came via a written statement to the troops.

I woke up to news reports that quoted Assad's speech and I thought I would be writing a very different diary today. I knew that Bashar al-Assad was scheduled to address the troops today. It was Armed Forces Day in Syria and traditionally Assad gives a morale building speech to the troops on state TV. This would seem to be more important than ever today. Not just me, all the Assad watchers have been waiting for this day. Yesterday the twitter hash tag #assad was alive with anticipation.

I brought up Al Jazeera English Live even before I got out of bed and when I heard them quoting from Assad's speech, they didn't report that it was a written speech, not at first; I thought for sure the gig was up and I would have to write a diary saying that I was wrong and that Bashar al-Assad had clearly been proven to be among the living. But no, not yet!

Reuters is reporting:

Assad praises troops but his whereabouts are mystery
Wed, 1 Aug 2012 10:24 GMT
By Erika Solomon

Aug 1 (Reuters) - President Bashar al-Assad told his troops on Wednesday that their battle against rebels would determine Syria's fate but his written message gave no clues to his whereabouts two weeks after a bomb attack hit his inner circle.

Assad has not spoken in public since the bombing in Damascus on July 18 killed four of his close security aides although he has been seen on television.

His latest remarks - made as the two sides battled for control of Syria's commercial capital Aleppo - appeared in a statement in the military's magazine to mark armed forces day.

But it was not clear exactly when or where he was speaking, indicating heightened concern over his personal security in the wake of the bombing at the defence headquarters in the capital.

What I don't understand is why there aren't more voices in the major media expressing doubts about Assad's continued well being? For example, Reuters attributes the secrecy over Assad's whereabout to "heightened concern over his personal security" two week after the deadly explosion, but I have already proven that he swore in his new Defense Minister in the Presidential Palace in Damascus the day after the explosion, if the pictures and video (without audio) released by SANA are to be believed.

I know I often see things differently and so far, in every "proof" that has been offered by the Assad regime of his continued leadership and well being, proofs that seem to be accepted without question by the MSM, I see the opposite. I see further proof that all is not well in the house of Assad.

I mean come on! We have a regime with a proven track record of lying and photoshopping. It has been two weeks now since a massive explosion in a security building took out four of his top war planners at a meeting that Bashar, the CnC, would most likely have attended.

Since then, and at this critical phase in his nations history, when his personal leadership and authority could easily mean the success or failure of his cause, we have not heard from Bashar al-Assad. Why? Give me a good reason.

I'll give you one, the same one I gave the day after the explosion: Bashar al-Assad is either dead or seriously injured.

I think that the current extremely aggressive and bloody offensive by what remained of the Assad regime after that 18 July explosion, is a desperate attempt to consolidated some kind of hold onto power before that cat gets out of the bag. Further, I suspect that the MSM and the major intelligence services are now complicit in this cover-up because it also buys them time to work out some kind of "transition" that is acceptable to them. More than anything they fear the disorderly collapse of the Syrian state, and for that reason they are keeping silent on the fate of Bashar al-Assad, even if the silence leads to continue bloodshed in Syria.

If that turns out to be the case, there will be a heavy blood debt to pay in a number of capitals far from Damascus.

This just in from ABC News:
General Assembly to Ask Syria's Assad to Step Down
UNITED NATIONS August 1, 2012 (AP)

Arab countries pushed ahead Wednesday with a symbolic U.N. General Assembly resolution that tells Syrian President Bashar Assad to resign and turn over power to a transitional government. It also demands that the Syrian army stop its shelling and helicopter attacks and withdraw to its barracks. A vote is set for Thursday morning.

The draft resolution takes a swipe at Russia and China by "deploring the Security Council failure" to act. Moscow and Beijing have used their veto in the smaller, more powerful Council three times to kill resolutions that could have opened the door to sanctions on Syria.

While the 193-member General Assembly has no legal mechanism for enforcing a resolution, an overwhelming vote can carry moral and symbolic power. Voting is by simple majority, and there is no veto.

A very good little documentary about the Free Syrian Army:

Today from EAWorldView on Syria we have these reports:

Syria Live Coverage: Aleppo --- This Does Not Look Like Regime "Victory"
Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 11:42 Scott Lucas

1730 GMT: Syria. Back from a break to find the Syrian National Council has criticised Tuesday's executions by insurgents of members of the Barri clan in Aleppo.

Khalid Saleh, a member of the group's executive committee, said, "The persons executed were well known to be responsible for many deaths on Aleppo. Nonetheless, we firmly believe everyone deserves a just trial even in the case of field trials."

1340 GMT: Syria. Mona Mahmood, who spoke earlier with a the head of the Free Syrian Army's Military Council (see 1255 GMT), has now obtained parallel claims from Basheer al-Haji, the spokesman of the Tawheed ("Unification") Brigade in Aleppo.

Al-Haji said the Brigade, made up of 3500 fighters, was formed by the Free Syrian Army to fight in the city. He claimed insurgent advances:

We are in control of nine neighbourhoods which are at the eastern part of the city and three others at the western part of the city.

By controlling these neighbourhoods at the eastern side of the city, we are in full control of the civilian airport.

We extended our control of the western side of the city to al-Rawsa neighbourhood where the artillery college is. This is the base used by the regime to fire against the city.

On Tuesday's execution of members of the pro-regime Barri clan, reportedly carried out by the Brigade, al-Haji said:

We were in a truce with the Berri clan, which are shabiha clan. We asked them to stay at home and not to support any part of the fight but they did not comply to the truce.

We were attacking one of the police stations in the city and Berri clan began shooting against us from behind. They killed 15 members of the FSA. We were in big clashes with them and were able to kill 20 of them and arrest another 50.

Then we held a field trial for them. We have judges and lawyers who are in the opposition. They found that seven of the Berri clan were involved in killing and they decided to execute them. Others are kept for trial after the collapse of the regime.

We are keeping a lot of prisoners for trial after the collapse of the regime as long as their hands are clean of the Syrian people's blood, otherwise we kill them immediately.

1315 GMT: Turkey. The Turkish military has carried out a drill with about 25 tanks in the southeast of the country near the Syrian border.

The manoeuvres occur after Turkey has sent three convoys of tanks, weapons, and ground-to-air missile batteries to the border.

1312 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of a house set ablaze by shelling of the Khamidiya section of Homs:

1255 GMT: Syria. Mustafa al-Sheikh, the head of the Free Syrian Army's Supreme Military Council, has spoken to The Guardian from "the Syrian-Turkish border". He claimed insurgents hold 70% of Aleppo, where the humanitarian situation is "a disaster": "There is no wheat at all, we live on lentils and groats stored by people at their homes, we get water from wells, power comes and goes."

Al-Sheikh not only defended Tuesday's execution of members of the pro-Assad Barri clan but predicted further incidents:

The Barri clan...have a long history of being pro-regime shabiha and they have been involved in a lot of killing in Aleppo.

The regime used to provide them with light weapons and knives and gather them in schools to go and launch their attacks against civilians. Just before they left one of the schools they were caught by the FSA and killed.

In this war in which we left alone to fight such a vicious regime, everything is possible and legitimate and as long as the international community keeps looking at Syria in such carelessness, you will see more of that and even worse.

Al-Sheikh also said the Free Syrian Army could accept the presence of foreign fighters in Syria:

Al-Qaida are now in different places in Syria, they work separately, they are even in Aleppo. We do not work with them. They have Syrian and Arab fighters and they have their own targets and weapons.

They are different hardline groups. We do not deal with them but we do not mind their work anywhere in Syria.

1245 GMT: Syria. Activist "The_47th" has an ominous assessment of the aftermath of Tuesday's execution of members of the pro-Assad Barri clan in Aleppo:

1125 GMT: Libya. A bomb has shaken the Department of Military Intelligence in Benghazi early Wednesday, damaging the building.

There were no injuries. The identity of the attackers is unknown.

A bomb was defused outside the iconic Tibesti hotel on Sunday, while a hand grenade hit the appeals court and a rocket punctured the outside wall of the main prison last Friday.

1025 GMT: Syria. The United Nations mission in Syria says its observers have witnessed regime fighter jets opening fire on insurgents in Aleppo.

Spokeswoman Sausan Ghosheh also said the UN had confirmation that the insurgents now have heavy weapons of their own, including tanks.

0959 GMT: Syria. CNN's Ivan Watson and Raja Razek report from a school converted into an insurgent-run prison in Aleppo Province. They say there were signs that captured shabiha militia were beaten, while regular regime military were treated better.

0954 GMT: Syria. Al Jazeera English's Jane Ferguson reports on the Free Syrian Army's announcement that it will re-use regime land mines against President Assad's forces:

0948 GMT: Syria. In a written statement for Armed Forces Day, President Assad has commented on the insurgency, "The fate of our people and our nation, past, present and future, depends on this battle," as he praised the "heroic" armed forces as "heroic" as the defender of "just causes".

0913 GMT: Syria. Amnesty International has posted a report, based on the observations of one of its staff in Aleppo in May, which harshly criticises the regime:

Scores of demonstrators and bystanders, most of them young men and boys but including several children and older men, have been shot dead and hundreds injured in the city by security forces and the notorious shabiha, the armed militias working alongside government forces. Some of the victims were bystanders who were not taking part in the demonstrations.

Families of demonstrators and bystanders shot dead by security forces have been pressured to sign statements saying that their loved ones were killed by “armed terrorist gangs”.

Wounded people risk arrest and torture if they go to hospital. Doctors, nurses and first-aiders who provide life-saving medical treatment to injured demonstrators in makeshift secret “field hospitals” have themselves been arrested, tortured and even killed by government security forces.

Activists organizing protests and those suspected of participating in demonstrations, making or distributing anti-government leaflets or opposition flags, or otherwise supporting protesters are often arrested and detained arbitrarily without access to their families or lawyers. Detainees are routinely tortured, in some cases to death. Some have been subjected to enforced disappearance; their families have been unable to obtain any information about their fate and whereabouts since their arrest.

0908 GMT: Syria. US NBC News has reported that insurgents have acquired a small supply of surface-to-air missiles for the first time.

A Western official did not dispute the claim.

NBC said the Free Syrian Army had obtained nearly two dozen missiles, also known as man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADs) delivered via Turkey.

0816 GMT: Syria. An opposition website has posted this explanation of Tuesday's execution of captured members of the Barri clan (see 0642 GMT):

When the uprising began, the Barris started to show off their “patriotism”. The regime provided them with a list of prisoners the Barris had asked for to help them in attacking protesters. Their leaders financed Aleppo’s Shabiha [pro-regime militia]....

Al Barris would go to mosques to attack protesters using knifes etc. The majority of Aleppo’s martyers were killed by Al Barris.

When the FSA [Free Syrian Army] arrived in Bab Al Nairab and besieged it, the two sides agreed a truce on Monday. Al Barris had proposed it. One of the Al Barris’ conditions was to keep the picture of Bashar al Assad posted on their premises. The rebels agreed, although they had the upper hand to avoid clashes.

Today, the Barris killed one of the rebels in Al Marjah district. The FSA then entered the Barri's stronghold. They captured the clan’s leaders. They killed some of those who resisted, families and children were allowed to leave the neighbourhood.

0642 GMT: Syria. The Brown Moses blog summarises Tuesday's capture and execution of members of the Barri clan, accused by activists of drug and gun dealing and of the killing of Free Syrian Army members. In this video in Arabic, a Free Syrian Army commander puts forward the circumstances of the execution of the Barri men:

0635 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees report 87 people were killed on Tuesday by security forces, with 22 of the deaths in Aleppo Province.

0530 GMT: Syria. In its only brief reference to Aleppo this morning, State news agency SANA declares, "Armed forces continued chasing the fleeing terrorist groups in the area of Ard al-Sabbagh in Salah Eddin neighborhood in Aleppo, killing and injuring a large number of terrorists, some of them holding Arab and African nationalities."

The website does not attempt the line, as it did days ago, that regime forces had cleared the insurgents out of Syria's largest city. That's understandable --- information and video from other sources indicated that, far from pushing the insurgents out of neighbourhoods like Salaheddin and Sakhour, President Assad's forces were facing continued resistance and that the Free Syrian Army was able to bring in reinforcements.

Indeed, there were two dramatic episodes that pointed to the ascendancy of the insurgents in parts of the city. The Free Syrian Army attacked three police stations, occupying them for part of the day and reportedly causing dozens of casualties. Then last night footage emerged of the capture of the Barri clan, well-known supporters of the Assad regime and --- according to their critics --- renowned for their violent, criminal activity. Further video testified that the head of the family, Zaino Barri, and other members were executed.

Here are my related diaries on Syria:
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 breakout12:38 PM PT: