Clearly yesterday was an awful day for Assad's ground forces who reportedly lost a number of battles--major and minor--yesterday in the Damascus area. Reports say all defenders were killed in the attack that seized one base. What's not clear to me is whether there is overlap in the reports below. That is, was the 22nd brigade at Harasta or East Ghouta?
--Several differerent reports say the base of the 22nd brigade fell yesterrday., That would be a huge blow to morale and would also add to rebel supplys.
--Many members of the 41st brigade have defected at Daheit Al Assad.
--Plumes of smoke are coming out of the Vehicles Administration Building after being taken by the FSA in Harasta.
--In fighting at Irbeen, southwest of Harasta, rebels captured a tank.
--Reports say rebels have captured a base in East Ghouta.
--EA notes that the rebels are within a few miles of Assad's chemical weapons storage factilities.
--An engineer based in Damascus reports the rebels are winning in their battle for the airport whose fall would undermine army morale and limit escapes for long-time regime supporters as well as Assad himself. In upscale districts, panic is growing and diplomats and the wealthy are fleeting abroad, especaill to Turkey and Egypt. Panic, of courses, induces more panic. Meanwhile prices of food, fuel and medicine continue to rise.
ALTERNATE POSSILITY RE: CHEMICAL WEAPONS: The proximity of intended rebels--rather than intended use --could account for movement there. Assad claims using them would be suicidal and has been told that Russia would also see it as a red line and drop support. So what's the point in doing it.
LINK TO MAP SHOWING CHEMICAL FACILITIES NEAR DAMASCUS; Sorry! I hoped to offer a link but that isn't possible yet on the new site. You can find a link to it at today's Enduring America roundup. EA says there is a second chemical facilities storage location to the southwest somewhat further from rebel lines. The bad news is that the base is isolated and may be easy to surround.
RUMORS OF ASSAD'S INTENDED FLIGHT: Assad is supposed lyseek exile in the region (where Iran seems the only possibility) or South America according to sources report that, including the Washington Post which also reports that Russia may be dropping support for Assad in the UN Security Council though it would still oppose military intervention barring use of chmical weapons.
EVALUATING THOSE RUMORS: The rapidly deteriorating military situation. is one thing giving credence to such rumors. The second is the rebel approach. Neither the West nor Putin would want those weapons to fall into jihadi hands and thus both are being pushed into pressuring him hard because the clock is running out.. Nevertheless, they insist Assad will be held to account for his mass crimes.
The UN general secretary has also gone on record against any immunity deal in contrast to Britain's prime minister. Even if Assad should get such a bonus, I suspect jihadis will hunt down him and his family.since he'll be dependent mainly on private bodyguards (a job I wouldn't want). Of course if the airport falls, the exile issue may become irrelevant.
ASSAD HAS TWO GOOD REASONS FOR RUMOR DENIAL: First, he obviously cannot take all his hard ine pals into refuge with him. Secondly, if the news were confirmed, how long would Assad's forces continue to fight? For obvious reasons, neither Assad nor those who despise him abroad would want immediate disintegration. I'd imagine they would be taking steps--by agreement with the regime--to protect those chemical wapons.
US MAY INTERVENE MILITARILY WITHIN DAYS! (Guardian UK). Obama has warned it will happen if Assad uses such weapons or appears ready to do so. I'd add a third "red line" as probable--Any situation such as the present involving the jihadi danger. Assad would likely accept intervention in return for exile though the latter may not include immunity.