Syrian Casualty Numbers Don’t Add Up

Posted: Jun 28, 2013 12:01 AM

Pakistan: Update. The News published an update on the government's action against Musharraf for "high treason."

The article quoted sections of the government's reply to a 24 June order by the Supreme Court. That reply said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has directed the interior secretary to order the director general of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to constitute a special team of senior officers to begin an investigation of the actions of "General (retd) Parvez Musharraf" on 3 November 2007 that might amount to "high treason." The FIA also was ordered to finalize as soon as possible the statement of the case to be pursued by the federal government before the special court to be constituted.

"On the completion of the investigation, the federal government shall file the requisite complaint under Section 5 of the Criminal Law Amendment (Special Courts Act, 1976) and take steps to constitute the special court in accordance with Section 4 of the said Act for the trial of the offence."

With respect to the legal requirements for a treason investigation, the government also submitted that the law entrusts the investigation of the offence of high treason to the FIA. In order to ensure a speedy completion of the FIA inquiry and investigation, the Prime Minister is also considering the constitution of a commission to oversee and monitor the progress of the proceedings.

The court will resume hearing in the instant case on Thursday, 27 June.

Comment: The government's submission today indicates strong determination to bring Musharraf to justice by creating new three agencies. First is the special investigation team within the FIA. Second is the special court that will receive the FIA's statement of the case. Third is the oversight commission.

The government submission is significant for what it did not state. It did not mention any charge of treason based on Musharraf's military coup in October 1999. In an apparent deal with or concession to the Pakistan Army, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has agreed to not pursue that case.

A government investigation of the 1999 coup would have implicated many senior, now retired, general officers who were following orders from the Chief of the Army Staff, Musharraf. Those generals would include most of the army corps commanders in 1999 and the Chief of the air staff, all of whom abetted Musharraf's ouster of then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

On the other hand, Musharraf's suspension of the constitution and arrest of some 60 judges in November 2007 had no Army involvement. By dropping the 1999 case, Nawaz Sharif apparently obtained the consent of the Army leadership to not intervene in the investigation and eventual trial of a former Chief of Army. The Army now will not be put on trial, only Musharraf and his political cronies.

The government concession on the charges avoids arguments that Nawaz Sharif was only seeking vengeance for having been overthrown by Musharraf in 1999.

Syria: Today Syrian Information Minister al-Zohbi replied to yesterday's rant by the Saudi Foreign Minister, Saud al Faisal. Al-Zohbi said, "The violence in Syria is being caused by Saudi arms, Saudi money and terrorists linked to Saudi Arabia." He also said that Saud al Faisal had blood on his hands.

Syria's Al-Baath newspaper said al Faisal is "crazy" and that "Faisal's statements... prove not only that he has become senile and out of touch with reality, but that the Wahhabi regime is falling apart."

Comment:  The Syrian Minister did not blame the West for the uprising, curiously,

In Feedback a Brilliant and perceptive Reader pointed out that the fighting in Syria is about power and regional leadership as much as it is about sectarian dominance. The Baath government in Damascus is the proxy for Iran. Its survival advances Iran's claim to be the regional hegemon and is a major setback to Saudi Arabia's claim.

The Syrian opposition is the proxy for Saudi Arabia which is determined to resist Iranian inroads in the Arab world as much as it resists the spread of Shiite Islam. Saudi Arabia is making a major commitment in Syria to block Iran and stands to lose much clout if the Baathist regime in Damascus lasts.

The Turks attempted to make the leadership power struggle triangular, but the demonstrations seem to have helped undermine the Turkish bid.

Special comment: International news outlets reported the latest casualty numbers estimated by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

According to the news reports, the group now estimates that 100,191 people have died in the last 27 months. That is an incredibly precise number for such a diffuse conflict. It claims that government forces and allies have lost far more men than the Syrian opposition and that civilian casualties account for more than a third of the total deaths.

The group's new estimate represents a mathematical average of 41 civilians died every day and nearly 100 soldiers and militants died daily. The fighting was not that intense in the first year so the daily numbers of civilian and combatant casualties in the last 12 months should be quite a bit higher.

It is difficult to accept the figures at face value for several reasons. If the total is close to accurate, then civilian casualties are too low considering the neighborhood nature of the fighting, featuring air attacks and frequent indirect weapons fire - mortars and artillery. Civilian casualties should be higher than combatant losses in a fight in which no one is using precision weapons or even good intelligence.

On the other hand, if the civilian figure is accurate, the combatant losses are too high, exceeding the likely replacement rate for either side.

A second problem is that the fighting does not involve large formations engaged in battle. It features sweeps, ambushes and meeting engagements. Western reporters seem able to move in and out of areas the rebels more or less control to provide interviews and anecdotal reporting. The Syrian government does not permit access to outside reporters.

The Syrian losses are tragic, but these numbers appear to be part of the propaganda campaign aimed at increasing western support for the opposition.

Feedback comments are invited.

Egypt: Security and hospital officials said that clashes between supporters and opponents of President Mursi resulted in one person killed and more than 200 injured. The violence occurred in the coastal city of Masoura, north of Cairo. It began Wednesday when opponents of President Mursi pelted his supporters with garbage as they gathered outside a mosque to stage a march in support of the president.

Comment: This limited clash is a portent of larger demonstrations and likely clashes this weekend. Mursi's opponents have become more militant and more organized in the past year of his presidency. His supporters are always on a hair trigger to use violence. For them, opposition to Mursi is immoral as well as political.

In a rambling two-hour speech today about his first year in office, Mursi admitted he made mistakes, but repeated his familiar theme that continuing protests threaten to paralyze the country. He equated opposition to him as sabotaging democracy. He also apologized for long gasoline lines, in which some people reportedly are waiting up to 24 hours to get gas, but spoke sharply against the political opposition, describing political disagreement as a personal affront.

He made several gestures to the opposition, including inviting members to participate in constitutional drafting committees. The opposition is boycotting the constitution drafting process because Islamists dominate the committees.

Egypt's military began deploying troops and armor to bases near cities to reinforce local security forces. The government is expecting large and violent protests by the opposition this weekend to try to force Mursi to resign. One news source claimed the US Ambassador advised the Pope of the Egyptian Coptic Church to encourage Coptic Christians to not join in the weekend opposition demonstrations. The Pope supposedly replied his concerns are spiritual.

Brazil: For the record. Demonstrations are continuing. Some 50,000 marched to the football (soccer) stadium in Belo Horizonte, during a match between Brazil and Uruguay in the tournament for the Confederations Cup. One of the complaints is that Brazil cannot afford to host the World Cup in 2014. Police fired tear gas to keep the crowd from breaking barricades near the stadium..

End of NightWatch


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