I could not sleep last night due to the number of calls from sources inside Syria and Lebanon.  Due to the ringing of the telephone, I had to sleep downstairs and watch Syrian and Iranian television while calls kept pouring in about developments in the north of Syria.  Here’s what we received:

Any talk about a unification of purpose by former Col. Riad Al-As’ad and former Maj. Gen. Mustapha Al-Sheikh is pure hooey.  Wael in Latakia says that Al-As’ad has been rejected by his former troops for reasons having to do with unstable moods and a depressive disorder the diagnosis of which has spread among the ranks of his deserter units.  He seems to be a name only; something recognizable without any real substance.  While it was reported by Turkish sources that he has left his base in Guvecci to command forces in Idlib, all reports now indicate he remains in Turkey under house arrest.  Wael says he isn’t sure about whether Al-As’ad ever made it to Idlib because no one mentions any such appearance.  His last impression from friends in Iskenderoun is that he is in Adana under some kind of restriction.  Who knows?

Both Wael and Riad (In Aleppo) tell me that Al-As’ad has no troops to command and is being forced to make pronouncements for the press.  Riad says Al-As’ad is very upset about the involvement of the Arabians in arming a clutch of Salafists from North Africa with whom the former Colonel shares nothing. 
He is also unhappy with NATO’s shunning of his forces, whoever they may be. 

This photo of Al-As’ad, purportedly taken five days ago somewhere in Turkish-occupied Syria (Hatay), discloses a different Al-As’ad – bearded with a look of despair on his face.  He will soon be giving a command performance at his public hanging.

Former Maj. General Mustapha Al-Sheikh is in a worse situation.  His claim to have entered Syria to command his forces is belied by numerous reports proving he is still in Turkey.  Garabed says Al-Sheikh  wants to move his “office” to Lebanon but has been denied any permission or laissez-passer by Lebanese General Security.  He is known to be frustrated by Turkish meddling; Anglo-German bungling and Arabian arming of “oddball elements from Afghanistan”.   عناصر غريبة من افغنستانHe is also viewed by the Turks as a “second rate officer” with no actual combat experience.  Like Al-As’ad, he is known to have harbored anti-minoritarian views although he is not known for any Islamist tendencies.  His announcement of a “unified command” has fallen on deaf ears.  He is an empty suit.  

 Looking completely puzzled in this official photo, Al-Sheikh is in reality as stupid as he looks.

In this photo, Maj. Gen. Al-Sheikh says “Jibni” for a pretty camerawoman.  He is known for being quite a lady’s man.  Monzer says that all Al-Sheikh ever did in the military was play backgammon.  He has the avuncular mien of a retired dirty old man.

The city of Ma’arat Al-Nu’man is the birthplace and resting place of one of the Arabic language’s greatest poets and writers – the Pre-Shavian Freethinker: Abu-Al-Alaa Al-Ma’arri (died ca. 1058 C.E.).  His works include masterpieces such as Risaalat Al-Ghufran (the inspiration for Dante’s “Divina Commedia“) and my favorite collection of poems: “Luzum Ma La Yalzam“.  To think that this city, which gave Abu-Al-Alaa his toponymic “nisbah“, is now infested with scads of mephitic fly larvae from Libya, Qatar, Turkey and Afghanistan, (not by limitation) is sacrilege!!   That our army is now purging Ma’arra’s streets of the noisome, foul, despicable dregs from societies existing at only one remove from their simian tribal origins, is testament to the self-indulgent crass stupidity of dipsomaniacal German and English hog-pizzles sitting so smugly in their Turkish bath houses, as their Islamist terrorist factotums drop like plague-carrying mayflies.

Ma’arrat Al-Nu’man can be seen just north of Idlib and sits astride an important intersection which Syrian armor and fighter-bombers are now clearing.   

Wael says that units from the 4th Mechanized Armored Division commanded by Brig. General Maher Al-Assad is taking the lead in cleansing the town.  Moreover, Syria is now using its special forces much more liberally after a “deep-immersion” training course in anti-insurgency techniques in Damascus Province.  Air power is mostly Hind helicopters providing cover for infantry and militia while a variety of aircraft fire missiles at confirmed concentrations of terrorists.  Wael says the battle should be over in two days.

Riad says Syrian Military Intelligence has intercepted numerous wireless communications indicating the killers are demanding reinforcements.  Whoever has been responding to these entreaties consistently tells them to “hold on to the rope of God for he will give you victory”.  In Arabic that’s like saying: “Let’s get together for lunch sometime.”  The Syrian army has cut off any escape route to the West by installing militia forces south of Diwaniyya and at Al-Awja.  Many of the terrorists inside Ma’arra are foreign and have little knowledge of the terrain.  They do know one thing quite well, however:  if captured they will be executed, so they fight tenaciously in the hope that this business about 72 virgins in the afterlife is true.  We, at SyrPer, have our doubts but encourage them to die anyway.    

All we can say is that they had better not desecrate the grave of Abu-Al-Alaa.  Throughout history his readers have visited the tomb to pour wine into the soil as a gesture of appreciation for his genius.  I will do that again soon when I visit the site after the army clears out the garbage.