Yesterday, Reuters reported that Obama had authorized covert assistance to the Syrian rebels:
Obama's order, approved earlier this year and known as an intelligence "finding," broadly permits the CIA and other U.S. agencies to provide support that could help the rebels oust Assad. This and other developments signal a shift toward growing, albeit still circumscribed, support for Assad's armed opponents – a shift that intensified following last month's failure of the U.N. Security Council to agree on tougher sanctions against the Damascus government. The White House is for now apparently stopping short of giving the rebels lethal weapons, even as some U.S. allies do just that.
Today, Kofi Annan quit his job as the UN and Arab League's peace envoy for Syria, citing "finger pointing and name calling" in the Security Council. Meanwhile, Juan Cole catches us up on the battle for Aleppo:
The BBC speaks of a ‘stalemate’ in Aleppo, with the regime so far unable to oust the rebels from key neighborhoods. I was told by a young activist from Aleppo, in telephone contact with family & friends, that the rebels were taking new neighborhoods and police stations. That these actions were being taken mid-week was confirmed from Aleppo by Kim Sengupta. The fighters appear to hope to take and keep Aleppo, which can be resupplied easily with arms via the Turkish border.
Massacres are occuring on both sides. Earlier this week, rebels in Aleppo executed some leaders of a local Alawite ghost brigade death squad. [Human Rights Watch] warned them that this kind of thing could get them charged with war crimes. On Thursday, the regime was accused of carrying out executions of rebels as it went door to door in Damascus, where it killed dozens.
James Miller passes along the following video, which is said to be of families grieving over the bodies of those killed in that massacre:
The Guardian has more details about the situation in Aleppo, including analysis of a video that purports to show the Free Syrian Army (FSA) executing regime combatants. The newspaper also just built a remarkable tool to help understand the escalating death toll in Syria, while Aj Jazeera has their own tool to track regime defections. Food is running out inside Syria as well, and the nation's banks are coming to a standstill. Meanwhile, the composition of the anti-regime forces continues to be of great concern, as foreign jihadists and Al-Qaeda are clearly operating in Syria. Two kidnapped journalists were rescued by the FSA last week after being mistakenly led into a jihadist camp and captured:
The jihadist group is believed to have arrived in the area only days earlier and is believed to be made up solely of men who identify with a salafist jihadist world view, a more puritanical version of Islam."There wasn't a Syrian present," [journalist Jeroen] Oerlemans said. "They were all youngsters from other countries, African countries, Chechnya. They said they thought we were CIA agents. But then it quickly became apparent they wanted to trade us for ransom."
(Photo: Rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters capture two policemen who the FSA allege are "Shabiha" or pro-regime militiamen, on July 31, 2012, as the rebels overran a police station in Aleppo. A watchdog said that rebels killed 40 officers and seized three police stations during the pivotal battle for the commercial capital. By Emin Ozmen/AFP/Getty Images)