Warning

Warning: This site contains images and graphic descriptions of extreme violence and/or its effects. It's not as bad as it could be, but is meant to be shocking. Readers should be 18+ or a mature 17 or so. There is also some foul language occasionally, and potential for general upsetting of comforting conventional wisdom. Please view with discretion.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Baniyas Ambush of Syrian Soldiers, April 10 2011

July 2, 2015
major edits July 7
(added to AFP/Al-Arabiya Version and Rahman Mosque)

This is a fascinating incident I heard about early on and only just now decided to revisit. It's from the first weeks of the Syrian "Arab Spring" uprising that began on March 15, 2011. And it was in Baniyas, Tatrous province - an area that - following a brief flash here at the start - remained fairly calm and secure up until the present, by the standards of death and destruction most of the rest of Syria has witnessed.

A Loss in the Family: Landis Reports
Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies and a professor at the University of Oklahoma, is recognized as one of the top expert on Syria in the US. It was noteworthy, but little-noted, when he posted on April 11, 2011:
Lt. Col. Qash'ur's widowed wife Rudayna, at the funeral

The Syrian revolution struck home yesterday. My wife, Manar Qash`ur [Kachour], burst into tears last night as she read the Facebook page that has kept her updated on events in her hometown, Latakia. Lt. Colonel Yasir Qash`ur, who was Manar’s cousin and 40 years old, was shot in Banyas on Sunday. He was one of two Lt. Colonels and 10 military personnel killed – more were wounded. Yasir’s funeral was held in the village this morning – Monday. My brother-in-law, Firas, and father-in-law, Shaaban, both attended.
He then cites a lower (correct) death toll in this article from al-Watan (the Nation), a pro-government paper (in Arabic - auto-translated and hopefully corrected right)
"Nine died, including two officers .. and to raise the status of a martyr, and 46 wounded from the army, police and civilians, some seriously wounds. This outcome of the real battle witnessed by the Banias city yesterday in which a large number of militants barricaded raised the slogan "jihad", and used explosives, grenades, machine guns, those interested in making the Banias an arena for chaos and murder under the Freedom lid and under financial cover have been arrested to explain that arms were financed by Abdel-Halim Khaddam (exiled Sunni opposition leader from Baniyas, linked to Hariri in Lebanon) and a man named Mohammed Ali Biasi aka Ahmed Musa, is prominent for securing weapons coming from Lebanon and distributing shipped guns to "rebels" ...
He doesn't say that's the true story, just passes it on. (Mr. Biassi likely refers to  "Abu Ali" Biassi, defense minister of an embryonic Islamist "emirate" in Baniyas - see here

The activist-informed mainstream news of the attack broke quickly - the "Assad regime" sent its troops to "crackdown" on Baniyas after Friday protests (April 8) allegedly got out of hand or violent. Then nine soldiers were killed by their own side for disobeying orders to kill innocents (see below). This spurred Landis to a second report two days later; on April 13, he declared Western Press Misled:  Who Shot the Nine Syrian Soldiers in Banyas? Not Syrian Security Forces (Eurasia Review mirror) In this he cites an alleged survivor - "colonel `Uday Ahmad, brother-in-law of Lt. Col. Yasir Qash`ur" - who describes the attack so:
Uday Ahmad was sitting in the back seat of the truck which Yasir was driving when he was shot dead on the highway outside Banyas. Uday said that shooting was coming from two directions. One was from the roof of a building facing the highway and another from people hiding behind the cement median of the highway. They jumped up and shot into the two trucks carrying Syrian troops, killing 9. Col. Uday survived. Here is video of the shooting shown on Syrian TV sent by my brother-in-law, Firas, who lives in Latakia.
Below is that Ad-Dounia video of the attack, seeming to show both alleged angles of fire, occupied by armed me seen running around. At this resolution, the action isn't really clear, but it's analyzed below anyway.


Location, Geo-Location, Incident Analysis
This is in Baniyas, a city in Syria's coastal Tartous province (governorate), a major port city north of Tartous city and bordering on southern Latakia province. Tartous is Alawite-majority, like Latakia, but Baniyas is historically more Sunni, although fairly mixed today. Ras al-Nabi ( راس النبع ) ("head of the spring") on Wikimapia is a southeast district of the city - it would also be the site of the infamous and brutal 2013 Baniyas Massacre of perhaps hundreds of people we know very little about - the only one of its kind to ever occur in the city.

A bridge near Ras al-Nabi is specified. Here's a bridge it's near but labeled un-clearly - I suppose it means the overpass into the city proper: this is like a "gate" local rebels want to control. But I was easily able to geo-locate the spot, for whatever it's worth, to a different bridge just north of that where the highway itself bridges over the (??) river into the Baniyas harbor. First, a composite from the Addounia video's main view. This is a low-resolution copy - I might've hunted for better, but it seems to suffice.



A satellite dish (off-frame here) pointing roughly left means that's approximately south, and this view is partly west-facing, across a partly north-south highway. The stretch of highway through Ras al-Nabi is the best fit for this (below, left). Then a second, more distant view (below, lower right inset), makes it clear the trucks are on a bridge over a river when attacked, and about in the middle of it. The combined clues point to only one spot, as indicated (red circle) just at the northern edge of the district. That's a good spot to spring an ambush - it left them no cover to run to unless they wanted to leap into the river.

They were driving in from the northeast. It seems the shooters were on the roof of the black-circled building, at the edge of Ras al-Nabi. The other shooters were at about the yellow circle. (Orange marks the smaller bridge just northwest, green the taller trees that way. The white-circled building is just for reference.)  

Orders to Kill Protesters, and Objectors?
The widely-reported opposition claim - taken as fact by the most prominent news media to ever consider this event - is much different from the narrative suggested by the video or the survivor accounts cited above. The Guardian, most prominently, reported Syrian soldiers shot for refusing to fire on protesters. That report was filed by Katherine Marsh – a pseudonym that's not "Gay Girl" – in Damascus.
"Syrian soldiers have been shot by security forces after refusing to fire on protesters, witnesses said, as a crackdown on anti-government demonstrations intensified. ... Human rights monitors named Mourad Hejjo, a conscript from Madaya village, as one of those shot by security snipers. “His family and town are saying he refused to shoot at his people,” said Wassim Tarif, a local human rights monitor."
An AFP report passes on about the same story, adding the claim of Yasser, a shopkeeper, that "Security forces were responsible for killing soldiers in Banias because they had refused to attack the city." Commentators were practically giddy at the obvious implication - the Syrian government was unable to enforce its brutal will without brutalizing its own enforcers. That was clearly unsustainable, and the system would surely crack soon at this rate.

It seems the city was not attacked, whether that was ever planned or not - it's hard now to prove. But the opposition Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria (VDC) lists zero civilian "martyrs" from Tartous province on the 10th, or even in the span April 8 to 12 (local civilians would start dying soon, 16 of them between April 16 to May 18, real circumstances unclear). But on the 10th, it seems not one soldier followed up on this alleged order to the tune of even one unarmed protester killed.

AFP's report added "a crackdown on demonstrators on the weekend ... left at least 30 people dead in Banias and another flashpoint town, Daraa." Did they have to combine two areas to get a newsworthy number? Apparently. If you check the VDC for the whole weekend, Friday to Sunday, nationwide you'll see 15 martyrs total - 7 in Deraa, none in Tartous, 8 between  Homs, Damascus, Dier Ezzour...

... and one officer from Aleppo killed April 10, unclear where. martyr #166 Rami Qattash, Lieutenant Colonel. Notes: "He was martyred for refusing to open fire at the residents" He's the only non-civilian "martyr" listed for all of Syria that day - and the only martyr at all. According to this Arabic list of "Assad victims" he's #323, "ninth battalion, third-execution in banias, for refusing to hit the demonstrators 10/4/2011." So he's part of this story, and the second Lt. Colonel.

Those Syrian Arab Army soldiers presented by the VDC as defecting, or killed for trying, are usually put on the "martyrs" list. But Lt. col. Qattash is the only one here. There are many soldiers listed by the VDC as killed on April 10, explicitly or probably in Banyas - but they're listed as regular "regime forces," usually meaning 'bad guys' killed by rebel fighters - which didn't officially exist at this time. And none of them aside from martyr Qattash is noted as for refusing that order. Perhaps the usual system just wasn't decided on this early, or perhaps the VDC is being more "credible" here and acknowledging the obvious - to some degree.

See  27 regime forces fatalities "from" Baniyas (meaning from unknown and killed there?) plus 4 from other areas killed in Baniyas, another that fits, (killed on Latakia-Tartous highway) and another - Murad Hajjo - killed in Deraa, it says, but everyone else says in Baniyas. Including martyr Qattash, it's apparently 34 soldier total that were killed. That number is higher than any reports I've seen would explain; the ambush story only supports about nine or ten killed. The VDC entries' scant details add a separate "explosion" perhaps. Do they reflect other unreported attacks? Or is this a padded record, for whatever reason? For example, did some 20 rebel fighters they couldn't acknowledge wind up getting killed in the clash, and swept under this rug? Is AFP's line "left at least 30 people dead in Banias and another flashpoint town, Daraa" actually an understatement?

The list of 27 includes Landis' cousin-in-law by name: Yaser Ahmad Qashour Lieutenant Colonel, from Tartous  Qadmous - Beit Marij, age 43, Martyrdom location Tartous - Banyas. Notes: "in an ambush that targeted army equipment in Banyas near Ras Nabie bridge." As we've seen, it was actually on the bridge. But this seems to bear out everything else we've seen, although the VDC doesn't attribute blame clearly for this whole large batch, and suggests the same as other opposition sources.
    
So there was an alleged order to kill demonstrators, and then there was something of a one-sided fight between the Army's members sent in for that reason - a fight over this important and controversial order. Some were so upset by it they refused, probably despite threats. Others were so gung-ho about it they'd kill the Sunni protesters plus their own soldiers. The ones refusing apparently lost this fight, and those willing to kill innocents must have won. But then it seems no one wound up acting on the order. So... what was so important about it to begin with?

Logic aside, activists would allege a paper copy of the order to kill dissenting soldiers was found by them before April 13 - somehow intercepted by unarmed activists, and smeared with blood. Landis called it clearly fake (same second link - I'd love to have a picture of that but the old link there doesn't seem to have it anymore).

And further, the first reports already contained hints that rebels themselves knew this story might fall apart. The Guardian's "Marsh" report added "Activists said not all soldiers reported dead or injured were shot after refusing to fire. "We are investigating reports that some people have personal weapons and used them in self-defence," said Tarif," the "human rights monitor." That was the only credible thing he heard remotely similar: improvised, individual "self-defense" ... against an army allegedly too busy killing itself to have killed anyone else. One wonders how that investigation came out. It probably just didn't. 

The Tell-All Soldier
At the time, opposition and mainstream media sources they wrote the news for had published this video (Arabic dialog, no subtitles):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3nveUVbSPk - description:
اعتراف الجندي الذي جاء إلى بانياس أنه مغرر بهم من قوادهم وأن إطلاق النار كان من خلفهم من قوات الأمن بتاريخ
"The soldier who came to Banias that deluded them of their leaders and that the fire was behind them of the security forces on recognition"

So, one of the soldiers shot by his own side in the back, then left around for these unarmed activists ... to find and ... get medical help for. That in itself makes fairly little sense. He was probably captured, by the attackers, who were them. Anyway, in their custody, they say he explains how he was shot in the back after he refused the alleged order. Considering how duress exists, he just might say that. People generally accepted that he did. But it was hard to be sure - it's all in Arabic.

Then Joshua Landis had a look, and published that in his second article Western Press Misled - already cited above - which focused largely on this video. He contended, after reviewing the dialog - that is, what's said - that it had been "completely misconstrued," and "the Guardian irresponsibly repeats a false interpretation of the video provided by an informant."
"The soldier denies that he was ordered to fire on people. Instead, he says he was on his way to Banyas to enforce security. He does not say that he was shot at by government agents or soldiers. In fact he denies it. The interviewer tries to put words in his mouth but the soldier clearly denies the story that the interviewer is trying to make him confess to.  In the video, the wounded soldier is surrounded by people who are trying to get him to say that he was shot by a military officer. The soldier says clearly, “They [our superiors] told us, ‘Shoot at them IF they shoot at you.’
The interviewer tried to get the wounded soldier to say that he had refused orders to shoot at the people when he asked : “When you did not shoot at us what happened?” But the soldier doesn’t understand the question because he has just said that he was not given orders to shoot at the people. The soldier replies, “Nothing, the shooting started from all directions”.  The interviewer repeats his question in another way by asking, “Why were you shooting at us, we are Muslims?” The soldier answers him, “I am Muslim too.”  The interviewer asks, “So why were you going to shoot at us?” The soldier replies, “We did not shoot at people. They shot at us at the bridge.”
Landis' analysis clearly wins over that of "Katherine Marsh." S/He never explains how it was decided the soldier actually said "he was shot in the back by security forces." Clearly, he didn't - activists said he did, and tried to get him to, but he didn't say that.  He said, instead, what all credible evidence does.

Consider how the Hariri-linked Now Lebanon panned Landis in September 2011 as the Professor of Propaganda: "To read Landis’ commentary about Syria over the past half year is to track the development of Baath propaganda." For example, "Landis has persisted in his denial of the claim, in the face of mounting evidence compiled over a series of months, that the Syrian regime has carried out a policy of killing soldiers who refuse to fire on unarmed civilians." They would love to share any debunk of that one video analysis, but there apparently was none - the author skipped to newer allegation, mostly verbal claims by successfully defected soldiers - that is, anti-government, and largely Sunni extremist partisans. He also failed to mention the blood-smeared paper copy that was once supposed to prove the order.

Indeed, defector and "desperate regime collapsing" claims in 2011 went well beyond this one case, including others like the alleged regime killing of over 100 rebelling soldiers in Jisr al-Shughour next to Turkey, weeks later. Do note, it's shady too, with Islamist eye-gouging and a real FSA defector behind it that even the Turks  - if not the ruling ones - sent back to Syria to stand trial (see ACLOS page). Whatever one makes of those, the one claim at least remains pretty clearly fake, concocted to obscure a covert pattern of armed mayhem to destabilize the state. (see also: Peter Lee, Counterpunch, Sharmine Narwani, al-Akhbar English)

AFP/Al-Arabiya Version and Rahman Mosque
Interestingly, there's another account of the day's violence that might be an abortive early version of the rebel story where the dead weren't soldiers at all, but mosque-oriented   "people" - implicitly protesters. In this report of April 10 (Arabic text - app. video version here) from al-Arabiya (Saudi Arabian-owned) unnamed activist told AFP that:
"security forces fired on the perimeter of the Al-Rahman mosque in the outskirts of Baniyas that resulted in at least four dead and 15 wounded ... Activists said that the connections to mobile and landlines with Baniyas were cut off completely. As reported by activists fired on the mosque of Abu Baker al siddique in the city, what resulted in the injury of 5 people." 
The five injured story seems to be at a different place - perhaps "mosque Abu Bakr, may Allah curse" as currently labeled in Arabic here on Wikimpaia. But the 4 dead story near "Rahman mosque" is what matters; as we've seen, there were no protesters killed that the record still show, and the only people to die in numbers of "at least 4" were the ambushed soldiers. But they didn't die at the perimeter of Rahman mosque. Or did they? That's locatable, by labels anyway, here on Wikimapia, 300 meters northwest of the bridge where the ambush happened, with a clear line of sight to see how far away that is - too far to be relevant, unless ... it's close enough that perhaps a sniper in its minaret could have provided a third angle of fire no one noticed at the time.

And this seals the location that the video and everyone agrees on, and that clarifies the activists were talking about the same batch of "people" shot by "security forces."

The al-Arabiya report also mentions, as less credible, "according to the official authorities one officer was killed and another wounded in an ambush of a Syrian military unit in the region of Baniyas." So both of these competing stories sound like early and incomplete reports of the same thing - one was less informed of the death toll (1/9 known) but correct on circumstances, and the other was more aware of the death toll (at least 4 dead, couldn't get a full count yet - 15 or so injured anyway...) but fudging the details, quite badly as we can see. 

To add: Original AFP report cited by al-Arabiya, via Muscat Daily)
"Syrian security forces have been firing for the last two hours in the (Sunni) neighbourhood of Ras al-Nabee where there is the Al-Rahman mosque," a focal point of demonstrations, two witnesses said by telephone. "At least three were killed and dozens wounded," they said, providing the names of the casualties and referring to the violence as "a real massacre with snipers shooting to kill."
The gunfire, according to both witnesses, came from the Alawite neighbourhood of Al-Quz. A third witness, a rights activist, said the shots were aimed at the mosque and left "four dead and 15 wounded." All of the witnesses and activists who spoke to AFP requested anonymity, citing security concerns. 
(Another version via Saudi Gazette)
Syrian government forces killed at least four people and wounded 17 when they strafed a residential area of the coastal town of Banias with gunfire for hours Sunday, witnesses told AFP.
A Syrian security officer was later killed and another was wounded when their patrol was ambushed in the northwestern coastal town, the official SANA news agency reported.
Digesting all of this: I cannot locate this "al-Quz district" on Wikimapia. In fact Ras al-Nabi is the only set aside and marked district I see. I have no clue but this what any other districts are even named. This IRIN article on increasing sectarian segregation explains how Alawi tend (more so now) to live in the north and Sunnis in the south of Baniyas. The mosque is not in Ras al-Nabi, as labelled, but there is no other match for Rahman mosque in Baniyas, and for no Rahman anything inside the district. Shooting towards both would best be done from the north.

But then I remembered I've heard of this Rahman mosque before. In connection with the Khaddam-backed Baniyas emirate mentioned above, it's interesting that, as I summarized some time ago:
A confession aired on May 23 claimed one "Abu Ali" Biassi was the "defense minister" of an "emirate" planned for Baniyas in these first days. The "emir" was a local, Sheikh Anis' (? - انس ) Aarot. All were paid and provided weapons from outside, explosives, rifles and pistols from Lebanon. Rahman Mosque was their warehouse. There was a plan of minister Biassi's to rig explosives at the Baniyas refinery and the thermal station, to be blown up on the orders of the ministers. They had the explosives, the captive driver says, but this was apparently where they were busted instead.
See, again, here - needing update now or here, already updated partly. Sheikh Anas Ayrout was later "a member of the Syrian National Coalition who is from the coastal city of Banias,"who praised the massacres of hundreds of Alawi civilians and seizure of hundreds more in Latakia province, August 2013, for bringing a "balance of terror" against Syria's Alawi citizens and in the rebellion's favor.

Anyway, here's the scene and the claims. One can guess why they dropped the first story and decided "okay, it was soldiers killed, and not at the mosque, but..."

Bad Blood Between Neighbors
And note how this first and fakest story blamed shooting from an "Alawite neighborhood" ... they were getting blamed for a reason. Was it to justify some premeditated punishment? Or just to terrify people with that possibility? It never played out fully, because security forces and the city at large came together, shut down the terror cells, and kept the peace there, at least until the infamous massacres two years later.

As for those, the May 2013 al-Bayda and Baniyas massacres: in both cases, rebels said Alawites has slaughtered hundreds of innocent Sunnis on purely sectarian grounds. The first one targeted the family of a government-loayalist Imam after a deadly ambush of soldiers, in a purely Sunni town. So we know the "Alawite Shabiha" were targeting Sunnis, as virtually everyone has dutifully noted. But the second massacre with a murkier death toll happened in Ras al-Nabi, not rebel-held but accessible at least, of use in the case of a new surge of fighters sneaking in from the al-Bayda direction. And it's fairly near a lot of Alawite civilians - like the ones in al-Quz - who can be kidnapped in times of chaos.

A Civilian Death After All
Back to April 10, 2011... what else happened in Baniyas on this bloody day of the peoples' peaceful uprising against the "Alawite dictatorship"? One civilian at least was killed - 30-year-old Nidal Jannoud - an Alawi farmer who had the sense to not even live in Banyas, but in a village outside the city. But he did pass through that day, April 10, and was accosted by a group of lively Sunni "activists" before he could get back home.

It may be a hard rock hit or, more likely, a blade they used to split or slice his cheek open badly. That left him pouring blood as he apparently tried to carry on, to calmly get away to somewhere safe. But he was captured on video continually hounded by the mob in a city street in broad daylight. The inset shows one view, with Mr. Jannoud threatened with both a rock and a pistol by these vanguards of Syria's "dignity revolution." Shortly after these scenes and off-camera, the farmer died of a gunshot, after what other abuse is not fully clear (see here at ACLOS)

Some reports say the rebels had actually blamed Janoud's murder on "Assad's" security forces. But it's also said that "Omar Ayrout and Yahya Al Rayes confessed later that they killed Janoud. Their confessions appeared on the Syrian TV." (source) Omar Ayrout is the protest leader in Baniyas, and quite likely related to would-be Baniyas emir and Alawi massacre cheerleader, Anas Ayrout. 

Perhaps the VDC didn't want a list of just a murdered Alawi farmer for civilian deaths in Tartous that day. For whatever reason, he was shifted to regime forces, rank: civilian, and martyrs (civilian) were left at zero. The revolution was clearly winning in Baniyas that day, and we can see what that looks like, as it would look later but on a bigger scale; soldiers killed, security upended, exposed Alawites or other civilian enemies butchered, "Assad" blamed anyway, and outside help against the "Alawite regime" pleaded for on that fake moral basis.

Rousing Conclusion
The corporate and controlled media at the time failed to fill us in on any of these details. All we heard was there was an order to kill and soldiers killed for refusing it, and then a widely-decried crackdown. The increase in civilian shootings, we were told, meant the activists would have to take up arms and form a "Free Syrian Army" to get all these defectors safely into and start protecting the people of Syria.

And now here we are, more than four years after this little-understood event, and probably over 400,000 people of all kinds killed, often horribly like Mr. Jannoud. It's gotten so insanely bad with all of Syria's empty desert in Islamist hands and the North in other Islamist hands, there are increasing claims - still as horribly wrong as ever - that Syria has passed some tipping point it can't survive, at least in one piece; maybe the best thing to do now is accelerate the inevitable end.

But that in fact still depends on a lot. I think we can keep on this course another three years - or an accelerated one for 18 months - and still debate ending the project finally before we hit the dreaded mark of one million dead. And Syria would still survive, if maimed. It is not too late to turn this thing back and leave it at "badly injured."

We - the actual international community with no specific leaders or recognized powers - should work towards that frustrated end. Let's spread the truth so more people can see the wisdom of that. Late is far, far better than never.  

1988: Iran Air 655 - Casus Belli Behind Lockerbie Bombing?

Caustic Logic
July 4, 2015

Note, July 4, 2015: I'm simply re-publishing this post from another of my blogs (original posting from March 15, 2010) to mark the 27th anniversary today of this horrific and dubious incident that seems to have sealed the fate of Pan Am 103 later in the year (see whole site connected to that post).

The USS Vincennes and the Downing of IA655:
Iran Air Flight 655 was a scheduled 28-minute flight from Bandar Abbas airport to Bahrain, on July 3 1988. An Airbus A300B2 flown by Capt. Mohsen Rezaian, IA655 left the ground at 10:17 am local time to cross the Straits of Sidra. It seems the plane was talking normally with ground control on open frequencies, was listed in flight registries, flying well within an established civilian air corridor, and transmitting the right civilian transponder code that clearly means something like the car window sign "Baby on Board." [1]

As IA655 steadily climbed to cruising altitude (14,000 feet for this short journey), it was suddenly struck with two powerful SM2 missiles fired from an American ship in Iranian waters below. The 290 passengers and crew (including 66 children) were all killed, either in the explosion and breakup, or after a three mile fall to the Persian Gulf below.

Officially, the crew of the USS Vincennes, which had opted to fire the missiles at that plane, had simply gotten confused in the thick of a separate naval battle they'd gotten into. After missing IA655's listing in the 'do not shoot' registry, misreading its transponder code as of military origin, and erring on its speed, heading/location, and altitude profile, the crew had decided the airbus was a fighter jet swooping down towards them for the attack, as all their misreadings jointly suggested. [2]

The troubling details and explanations of this bizarre accident are worth covering elsewhere, but ascribing the best intentions, the Vincennes fired in what seemed clear-cut self-defense, while they happened to be within Iranian waters. As such they fully earned their later commendations, like the responsible air-warfare coordinator, who won a navy medal for "heroic achievement [...] under fire." [3]

End of the War
At the Iraq-Iran war's commencement in 1980, the United States had sanctioned the bloodshed, so long as Iraq was on top. By the latter 1980s, the situation had shifted. Increased U.S. assistance and even direct shooting reflected fears that Iraq might lose forever the territory Iran was gaining. By the end of 1987, “we became,” a senior U.S. officer told ABC News, “forward air controllers for the Iraqi air force.” [4]

Operation Praying Mantis responded to Iranian mining of the Gulf with escalated U.S. attacks on Iranian gunboats, oil platforms, and tankers in April. [5] Immediately, protection of "neutral shipping" was also expanded; it was to enforce this protection that the Vincennes had been called to the Gulf. 

At the same time, Washington and thence the UN Security Council was calling, with Resolution 598, for the war to simply end with past borders restored. Both sides had to see the benefit of an end to the grueling war, but after their own heavy sacrifices had improved their odds, Iran was reluctant to concede on the West's terms and timetable.

Along with a renewed Iraqi air and chemical offensives into Iran's cities in the spring and summer of 1988, the bizarre accident of IA655 had to have hastened  Iran’s effective surrender a few weeks later. The precise role it played – minor, major, or peripheral - cannot be known for sure. However, an Iranian scholar stated at a conference hosted by the Woodrow Wilson Center [paraphrased]
"A turning point in Iran's thinking came with the shooting down of an Iranian passenger plane in July 1988 by the American cruiser USS Vincennes. That incident apparently led Ayatollah Khomeini to conclude that Iran could not risk the possibility of U.S. open combat operations against Iran and he decided it was time to end the conflict." [6]
There is every reason to believe that’s just what the Americans wanted to get across, after the tragedy if not shortly before as well. Aside from unapologetic "regret” over the loss of innocent life, and blaming Iran for the warship's mistakes, the American message was best put by White House media handler Marlin Fitzwater in putting the accident in context:
Only an end to the war, an objective we desire, can halt the immense suffering in the region and put an end to innocent loss of life. Our goal is peace in the Gulf and on land. We urge Iran and Iraq to work with the Security Council for an urgent comprehensive settlement of the war pursuant to Resolution 598. Meanwhile, United States forces will continue their mission in the area, keenly aware of the risks involved and ready to face them. [7] 
That is, as the Iranians likely read it, "we’ll keep on shooting at anything that might possibly be a threat as long as we “have to” hang around there, which is until Iran surrenders." About seven weeks after IA655 was torn down, an agreement was reached and hostilities between Iraq and Iran were officially and physically ended on August 20 1988. No territory was lost, but nearly a million people were. 

But even after the cease-fire, one more battle loomed. It would be just as one-sided as the battle of IA-655, just about as deadly, and just as unacknowledged. Again, the perpetrators would go unpunished as innocents paid the price for others' crimes.  

Revenge Pronouncements / Connective Tissue
Only in 1996 was a comprehensive legal agreement over the incident settled between Iran and America. Officially Iran accepted the accident story and took a small settlement $132 million and no acceptance of any guilt, exactly as offered by the US eight years earlier. [8] "Official" acceptance doesn't always mean that much; especially when the blood was fresh and tempers hot, Tehran never bought the bland American statements that the shoot-down was purely accidental. It's not even an unreasonable suspicion on their part - it's their apparent response I can't agree with.

Researcher Ludwig De Braeckeleer has assembled a useful compendium of Iranian death threats following the supposed accident. By this, various officials and ambassadors accused the United States of ''a barbaric massacre'' and an "act of terrorism." They pledged to launch "an appropriate response," to the "American crime," to "avenge the blood of their martyrs," and mete out "punishment to prevent further occurrence or recurrence of such unfortunate incidents." Most pointedly, hardliner Ali Akbar Mohtashemi (alt Mohtashemi-Pur), widely believed to have headed up the "appropriate response" planning, publicly "swore that there should be a "rain of blood" in revenge." [9]


This wasn't just hardcore posturing for the Iranian street, but something representing a real danger; everyone in the know expected retaliation, and likely in-kind - the Iranians would seek to now kill American civilians on an airplane and see how we liked it.  While uncertainty persists with no adequate investigation, the supposed payment was $10 million to the Ahmed Jibril's PFLP-GC. An early 1991 report, prepared by the National Security Agency for Gulf War intelligence use, stated:
"Mohtashemi is closely connected with the Al Abas and Abu Nidal terrorist groups. He is actually a long-time friend of Abu Nidal. He has recently paid $10 million in cash and gold to these two organizations to carry out terrorist activities and was the one who paid the same amount to bomb Pan Am Flight 103 in retaliation for the US shoot-down of the Iranian Airbus." [10]
The revenge moved swiftly, it seems, perhaps starting before the cease-fire even. It was in early October that the GC cell in Neuss, West Germany was set up, October 13 that bomb maker Khreesat arrived and set to work, and October 26 when the cell was busted up in Operation: Autumn Leaves. Most have always suspected their goal had been to destroy an American airliner on Iran's instruction and with support from Syria, using the type of radio-disguised altimeter bomb found in the car with Khreesat.

Three other such bombs were missed in the first raid and only found later, and one bomb at least was never intercepted. Vincent Cannistraro, who headed the CIA's Lockerbie probe, was interviewed for a program Shadow Over Lockerbie:
"[Cannistraro] says authorities focused on the likelihood that Marwan Khreesat's fifth bomb had blown up the Pan Am 747 over Lockerbie. "The immediate feeling was: we've missed someone. That someone in that cell had escaped with one of the explosive devices and succeeded in planting it on Pan Am 103." [11]  
In other words, the terror tree was shaken and the "Autumn Leaves" had fallen and scattered, but they weren't all raked up neat. One may have drifted into the belly of PA103.

Obvious, Then Nothing
When the other shoe fell, the horror and carnage clearly mirrored IA655 with a mid-air explosion leaving 259 to deal with five miles of pure gravity however they did before dying against the cold winter soil of Scotland. To clarify the issue, just hours after the attack, two phone calls were placed from London to the Associated Press and UPI declaring in broken English:
"We, the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, are undertaking this heroic execution in revenge of blowing the Iran Air plane by America a few months ago." [12]
A CIA memo of the following day listed this first among a short list of responsibility claims. Among Islamic Jihad, the Ulster Defense League, and Mossad, the report said "we consider the claim from the Guadians of the Islamic Revolution as the most credible; previous attacks claimed by this group suggest it is pro-Iranian." It then listed several, with responsibility usually called in by an anonymous man: two assassination attempts on exiled Shah era leaders in exile, a plane hijacking a plane to secure the release of said assassins, and killing by car bomb a German businessman accused of selling missiles to Iraq while the war was on. [source]

Avenging the killing of 290 innocent Iranians by a US gunship seems in-line with the Guardians' philosophy, or perhaps some other Iranian agency, and most likely with technical help of the altimeter-triggered kind. Investigators, media reports, and the whole public mind went that way at first for at least a year, from no later than this ABC News broadcast of Feb 16 1989. Behind the suspicions of the PFLP-GC cell and its Khreesat bomb "a senior source overseeing the investigation" revealed that  "some hard-line members of the Iranian revolutionary guard" may have arranged for the attack through these suspects. "Revenge for the shooting down of the Iranian Airliner by the USS Vincennes in the Persian Gulf last summer was their motive," said reporter Brian Dunsmore in Lockerbie.  [13]

And still in early 1990 Steve Emerson and Brian Duffy wrote in The Fall of Pan Am 103 how sponsorship ran with Syrian supports up to Tehran, driven by revenge for IA655, "shot down for the Fourth of July holiday, the Mullahs believed, to celebrate America's independence." [14] To repay these expensive 4th of July fireworks with an early Black Christmas present, followed by a Body Boxing Day and a few more, might be a potent signal.

Officially, Iran denies involvement in the bombing, but some, like suspected mastermind Mohtashemi, have claimed a leading role on candid occasions. In 1995, an Iranian magazine ran an interview where "Mohtashami-Pur said that he would soon reveal the "Lockerbie files" to the readers." The report was quashed from above and the magazine closed down. [15] Former Iranian president Abdulhassan Bani Sadr also has admitted proudly, in the 1990s, that “Iran ordered the attack and Ahmed Jibril carried it out,” [16] a claim he repeated to deBraeckeleer in 2008. [17]

As these statements were made and as of late 1991 the U.S. was officially and exclusively pursuing Libya for the crime, freeing some Persian tongues to confess with impunity, it seems. And yet, the U.S. says, there was no Iranian revenge. The faint possibility of Tehran's involvement in Libya's atrocity has been whispered, but never clarified or pursued in the slightest. [see: Iranian vs. Libyan Role in the Lockerbie Bombing]

Iranian leaders had planned to take down an American plane (at least one), had paid for it and had bombs built and ready to go. With hard cash, glory, and blood vendetta driving them, Mohtashemi and and his contractors must have given up after the Germany bust. This is just what the FBI, CIA, USG, Scottish Police, Camp Zeist judges, and others claim to find most likely. And then just as precisely as item 8849 from Malta replaced the Bedford suitcases in the luggage container's deadliest corner, the Libyans took their own incidentally identical revenge at just that time. 

It's never been decided which motive drove the Libyans, but it's widely presumed to be the nearly three-year-old Operation: Eldorado Canyon bombings by U.S. forces. For the death of his adopted toddler daughter and a few dozen other Libyans, he ordered the Lockerbie bombing, while the level-headed Iranians waited for the court settlement and reparations after IA-655.  


At least, that's what the FBI's SCOTBOM evidence strongly illustrates. A desperate defector, an amazingly resilient timer fragment, a bizarre unverifiable printout, and a pliable soon-to-be-millionaire witness, all prove the Libyans did it through Malta, however much sense that makes. And nothing solid implicating Iran or Syria or the PFLP-GC was found anywhere in there. Move along, nothing to see here - the real Lockerbie bomber was behind bars for a while.  
---Sources: 
[1] Ghasemi, Shapour. “Shooting Down Iran Air 655 [IA655]” Iran Chamber Society: History of Iran. 2004. http://www.iranchamber.com/history/articles/shootingdown_iranair_flight655.php
[2], [3] Charles, Roger. "Sea Of Lies: The Inside Story Of How An American Naval Vessel Blundered Into An Attack On Iran Air Flight 655 At The Height Of Tensions During The Iran-Iraq War-And How The Pentagon Tried To Cover Its Tracks After 290 Innocent Civilians Died." Newsweek. July 13 1992. http://www.newsweek.com/id/126358
[4]  "The USS Vincennes: Public War, Secret War" ABC Nightline, Aired July 1 1992. Full Transcript, with extensive notes. ...
http://homepage.ntlworld.com/jksonc/docs/ir655-nightline-19920701.html
[5] Operation Praying Mantis. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Praying_Mantis
[6] Steinberg, Dana. "The 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War: A CWIHP Critical Oral History Conference." http://wilsoncenter.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=news.print&news_id=90411&stoplayout=true 
[7] See [1]
[8] Wikipedia. Iran Air Flight 655. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran_Air_Flight_655
[9] DeBraeckeleer, Ludwig. "Tehran: 'The Blood of Our Martyrs Will Be Avenged' [Diary of a Vengeance Foretold] Part 2." Oh My News International. July 4 2008.
http://english.ohmynews.com/articleview/article_view.asp?menu=c10400&no=383015&rel_no=1
[10], [15], [17] DeBraeckeleer, Ludwig. "Former Iranian President Blames Tehran for Lockerbie." http://www.thetorah.tv/misc/Former%20Iranian%20President%20Blames%20Tehran%20for%20Lockerbie.htm
[11] Biewen, John and Ian Ferguson. Shadow Over Lockerbie. 2000, American Radio Works. http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/lockerbie/story/printable_story.html 
[12]  Emerson and Duffy p 56
[13] ABC News. Feb. 16, 1989: Pan Am 103 Flight Investigation. "A bomb hidden in a cassette player brought down Pan Am 103 in December 1988." Anchor, Ted Koppel. Reporter, Barry Dunsmore, Lockerbie. Video currently viewable at:
http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=9443717 
[14] Emerson and Duffy, p 59.
[16] The Maltese Double Cross. Produced, written, and directed by Allan Francovich, Hemar Enterprises, released November 1994. 2 hours, 36 minutes. Quote at 34:00 mark. Google Video 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Syria: Wadi al-Mawla Massacre

June 28, 2015
(incomplete)
last edits June 30

SNHR report (review - PDF) includes Homs government-facilitated sectarian massacre #21 of 22: Wadi al-Mawla, a Friday in November (date missing) 2013: government forces shelled the town with tanks and mortars, raided, gathered victims and killed them. SNHR documented 21 dead, incuding 8 children and 7 women, one pregnant.

Location:  Wadi al-Mawla on Wikimpaia, labeled in Russian as Ваади-эль-Мовла. It's right on the Oudeen valley (Lebanon) border - 4.5 km north of Mshierfa (see Mshierfa bus massacre, January 2013)
 
The VDC  lists 6 victims from Talkalakh: Wadi al-Moula killed by Detention - Execution on Friday, November 15. We'll consider the entries below. This must be the date; a Syrian coalition press release on the 16th calls it a horrible massacre, mainly women and children against one family - holds the international community partly responsible - calls for FSA to protect this and other towns "isolated from the outside world." 

Another opposition account in Arabic was found in a comment beneath this short article, with the apparent original on Facebook, by Mohammed Issa, November 15 (California time):
Homs village of Wadi al-Mawla (the valley of the sire/given)||15/11/2013 
"The massacre started when security broke into the house of Nasser Ahmed Rajab to arrest him and when they broke into the house, he appeared to them, his brother, and they just push him shot immediately and killed him and they killed everyone in the house then they asked of the tanks surrounding the village to the shelling of the village began shelling by tanks والشيلكا guns 23.
And then they killed those listed below, and they arrested all of the remaining sons of Rajab present in the city, and appeared in front of them, not sons of Rajab they (burned?) fields, destroyed and burned all the houses in the village وسرقوها (ou-s-r-q-ou-ha?) and burned the cars and everything that appeared in their way.
The reason for this hatred of the Al-Rajab is they were one of the first who started to peaceful revolutionary movement in the city of tal kalakh واشتهروا (WaM typed wrong?)  in the region of their activity the revolutionary peaceful demonstrations, and made martyrs of the abductees detained in the storming of the first army to the city, dated 16/5/2011
Victim list below. Alleged motive then is to stop peaceful behavior. Possible suspects, if true: an insane regime pushing people into armed rebellion, or armed anti-government factions known to encourage non-peaceful activism. Note it specifies their involvement in opposition activisties in 2011, and doesn't mention anything about 2012 or 2013. Continuing to support the anti-government armed rebellion would be a good theing to mention, but they don't. This suggests the local Rajabs had stopped supporting the rebellion by the time not-rebels killed them - according the rebels. This might be a clue.

Victims, Dead and Missing 
VDC lists 6, 5 men and a boy. Notes: Massacre of civilians, were (field executed) by regime's forces
Naser Ahmed al-Rajeb Detention - Execution 
Samer Ahmed al-Rajeb Field Execution 
Thaer Ahmed al-Rajeb Field Execution 
Hassan Muhmood al-Rajeb   Field Execution 
Khaled Muhmood al-Rajeb  Field Execution 
Ahmad Rajab al-Rajab    Child - Male  Detention - Execution
Implied: 3 brothers whose father is an Ahmed Rajab, two sons of Mahmoud Rajab, and an implied child son of an un-listed Rajab al-Rajab, most likely Rajab Ahmed al-Rajab - so the boy would be a nephew to the three men.

Any more listed under regimes forces? No. Missing? No. If they're missing, VDC isn't looking for them. Women and children numbering 15 in a total of 21 means 6 men. VDC listing 5 and only one boy suggests they mainly listed the men but not the women and children. This could be consistent with just the men actually killed, and usable females and re-claimable children taken - listed as dead and forgotten in some reports.
From photos with VDC entries, left-to-right: 
Hassan Mahmoud Rajab, Thaer Ahmed Rajab, Nasser Ahmed Rajab

From Mohammed Issa's Facebook post:
Final tally was documented with the name of the martyrs are :
(Arabic original list):

ناصر أحمد الرجب
 سامر أحمد الرجب وزوجته وأطفاله 2 بنات
 ثائر أحمد رجب
سليمان رجب ( مات خنقا داخل منزله الذي احترق نتيجة القصف )
حسان محمود الرجب
((سحر رجب وأطفالها 3
أمل رجب واطفالها 3
أماني الرجب حامل بالشهر 6 )) ( ماتوا حرقا )
أم ناصر الرجب أمون السيدو
 عامر علي الكردي ( تلكلخ )
سميح علي حوري
 أم باسل من الرستن واولادها:
ياسمين عظاظة
 سوسن عظاظة
 هشام عظاظة
 خالد نصر الدين الحسين الملقب وريدي ( اعدام ميداني رصاصة في الرأس )
ايمان أحمد رجب مفقودة مع 3 بنات أطفال
 والعدد راجح للزيادة بسبب اعتقال باقي أبناء آل الرجب وغيرهم من أبناء القرية واقتيادهم إلى أماكن مجهولة
 منقول”

Translated/transliterated, with VDC matches noted:
1 Nasser Ahmed Rajab - VDC
2 Samer Ahmed Rajab - VDC
3 his wife and
4 children
5 (2 girls)
6 Thaer Ahmed Ragab - VDC
7 Solomon Rajab (died of asphyxiation inside his house, which burned down as a result of the bombing)
8 Hassan Mahmoud Rajab - VDC
9 Saher Rajab
10 and their children
11 (3)
12
13 Amal Rajab
14 and her kids
15 (3)
16
17 Amani Al Ragab (6 months pregnant ) ( burnt to death )
18 Um Nasser Al Ragab Amon Alsido
19 Amer Ali Kurdi (Talkalakh)
20 Semih Ali houry
21 Um Basel of Al-rastan and her children:
( عظاظة = H-za-a-za-h = Hzazah - does not appear in VDC martyrs database)
22 Jasmine Hzazah
23 Sawsan Hzazah
24 Hisham Hzazah
25 Khalid Nasr-el-DIN Hussein, ( وريدي = ou-r-ya-d-ya - VDC does  al-Wraidi here) ( field execution )

Missing, by the same post:
Eman Ahmed ragab missing with 3 kids girls
Number Rajeb (likely to) increase due to the arrest of the rest of the sons of Rajab and others from the village were rounded up and taken to unknown locations

Correlated: The two non-matched VDC entries probably add one victim to the above list. The child Ahmed is probably included among those numbered. adult Khaled Mahmoud, implied brother of Hassan Mahmoud, isn't clearly on that list, so he adds one. Total by that: 26 confirmed dead, including 6 women and 11 children, 12 including one unborn (or less - children don't say kids forever, and ages aren't give - unnamed children may include a few adults), Further, it's said 6+ people were abducted, upper range unknown, including at least one woman and 3 children. These may wind up dead, or suffering fates that are arguably even worse.

However, it's implied these were Sunni Muslims (the crime is "sectarian" per VDC where 98% of killings are by the Alawite regime and Alawite militia allies). If rebels are using the  kill and capture paradigm with fellow Sunnis, it's an extension of their adherence to the "Alawite regime."

Speculation on Solomon and Amani 
(added June 30) Consider these two unique victims listed above:
7 Solomon Rajab (died of asphyxiation inside his house, which burned down as a result of the bombing)
17 Amani Al Ragab (6 months pregnant ) ( burnt to death )

Only these two died in a burning home instead of getting executed. One is an apparently young woman - no other kids listed killed, just pregnant. The other is a man in his house. Chances are it's the same unusual house that wound up burning from the shells, not allowing them to escape. Everyone else was detained and then deliberately executed.

One imaginative possibility is this young man was heavily armed to protect his wife and child. The attackers - rebels I suspect  came in to get them too but he shot at them so heavily they they couldn't come near. So they left that scene and set the house on fire, possibly by or along with some mortar shells. They wouldn't likely know who died of what - burning to death is unusual in a fire, asphyxiation more common. Saying she and baby were burned alive might be an insult to dad's choice to go out that way.

Others, possibly related, November 14
The day before the reported massacre, these 3 died with some possible relation by name or proximity.

101238 Malak Heidr Adult - Female, from Zara, Homs. Died by Shooting Notes "Martyred by Shilka 's gunfire from the checkpoint in the village, called Em Radwan." (photo - head completely gone) Zara is 15 km west of Wadi al-Mwala, across valley, north of Talkalakh.
101092 Nabeil Aref al-Shweti AM civilian, with rifle in military clothes, twice - Talkalakh 11-14 by detention torture martyred under torture in the regime’s prisons, called al-Wazeir
101193 Minhel Abd al-Kafi al-Rajb AM civilian Hula, shelling 11-14 Hula edge of the martyr Abdul-kafi al-Rajab. Active video: left armpit and shoulder torn up (RPG from behind?) lower lip cut down to the chin.




Monday, June 29, 2015

Syria Massacres: Reviewing "The Societys Holocaust"

June 22, 2015
(incomplete)
last edits July 3

The Society’s Holocaust
A report by the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), a UK-based anti-government group, June 16, 2015. Report download page - PDF report direct download link. It's called "the society's holocaust," I guess because it's the world community's fault and responsibility to stop it. Thesis: ISIS ("Daesh"), JaN, and Kurdish militias have committed some sectarian massacres, the government's forces have done more than all those combined by far, killing 98% of massacred civilians, and the moderate FSA rebels have committed zero sectarian massacres.

Dettmer Article
The report was headlined in a June 19 article by Jamie Dettmer (a self-proclaimed Zionist, FWIW), for the Daily Beast: "A Damning Indictment of Syrian President Assad’s Systematic Massacres: A new report sorts through the record of sectarian carnage and leaves little doubt who are the worst offenders." This hails the anti-government group's report capable of leaving "little doubt" of their anti-government narrative.
The report outlines true facts, Dettmer feels, "making a mockery of the Syrian leader’s frequent claim to foreign broadcasters that his soldiers would never harm their own people deliberately as a matter of policy." No, these crimes, authored by whoever, clarify that Assad is just as evil and sectarian as the Sunni insurgents always said. He's been doing this from the beginning, and has the audacity to claim they're the ones doing it, just to make him look bad?
Some errors in Dettmer's report:
* "In fact, three days before Assad sat down with the BBC for an especially chilling interview last February (actually was Feb. 10 this year) and lamented how war, alas, causes casualties, government-aligned militiamen stormed the As-Sabil neighborhood in the Syrian city of Homs and slaughtered three Sunni families, including four children and five women." Actually that was February 7, 2012 - three years and three days before that interview. That one is covered, not proven rebel work but likely.
* The report lists "56 major massacres displaying obvious sectarian or ethnic cleansing traits." Actually it's 59 - 56 sectarian massacres, and 3 ethnic massacres, being (Sunni) Kuds against Sunni Arabs (and not any clear vice-versa cases). 49 of the 59 are attributed - by the info SNHR received from its anti-government contacts and rebel fighters - to government or allied forces. I contest all of these, some with direct evidence-based reasons, others just based (so far) on that pattern.

SNHR Report, General Observations:

* Recommendations (from the final page 33), summarized: Everyone they've blamed should have sanctions placed on them. Iran should be stopped from supporting Syria's government. "All necessary measures" should be taken to implement UNSC resolutions 2042 and 2139. The world should team up to get rid of Assad, and all extremist groups. The UN Security Council should do this. The people of the world should "support the Syrian people," mainly by pushing the UNSC to the above recommendations, and by getting Syria referred to the International Criminal Court.  These are all measures towards the destruction of the Syrian government and a replication of the Libya scenario.

* They're totally incorrect to report as clear fact that the government and its allies are responsible for the first, worst, and most massacres, taking 98% of massacred civilian lives. That's about right by lodged opposition activist reports. But those reports, time and again, pale next to the weight of combined logic and evidence. This is best shown on a case-by-case basis, and will be below, in other posts, wherever there's enough room and whenever there's enough time.

* The report lists massacre 32, At-Trymsa (Hama) 12 July, 2012 - tens killed, 67 civilians confirmed, including 6 children killed and one woman. We'd better hope not.  Rebels announced a one-sided, unprovoked massacre by government forces of over 250 people, mostly men. Government said rebels had massacred some locals, including a woman and her children executed in the city square. They were set to kill more, but the Army arrived and killed over 100 in the following battle, with very few losses of their own. Mainstream reports, even the New York Times, followed closely enough to decide in this case the government story was "closer" to the truth (no one wanted to say it was true) - there was no massacre, just a big battle the rebels lost. (see Wikipedia Battle of Tremseh (changed from massacre) and ACLOS left-ambiguous Tremseh Massacre) To hear SNHR, none of that happened - the 250 rebels just weren't confirmed here, maybe left in that vague "tens" - and they do not say here - as they do in some cases - that the killings "involved only government forces." (meaning, there was some aspect of rebel fighting and dying involved - here, the evidence suggests that was the vast bulk of the dead.)

The battle was clearly the main event, but there was also talk of a massacre, and some clues always said there was, just cut short. Were 67 civilians killed? Might be, worth some review.
* When the report acknowledges a crime by a non-Daesh anti-government group as actually being by them (that is, it became impossible to blame the "regime" - it happens occasionally), it tends to preface it with what the loyalists did to provoke it. All government-supporter massacres were totally unprovoked, to read this report. And that helps clarify the supposed sectarian motive behind each of these crimes.
* Page 32: The SNHR received reports of a Kurdish YPG massacre from Sunni locals, but YPG denied it, saying those locals were known pro-Daesh liars. SNHR had heard this kind of protest many times, published its report blaming the YPG anyway, still includes it here as an "ethnic cleansing massacre." But they note "On the next day, YPG issued a statement accusing SNHR of working to further their supporters' agenda and trying to incite national strife and promoting chaos." Ah, NOW the anti-government Kurds get it - this is what the massacres and the stories told about them were all about from day one!

* "It is clear that the Syrian authority is trying to provoke the other party to commit such crimes in light of the lack of any form of accountability on the International Community's part or the Security Council's willingness to stop these massacres... " (p. 5)

* They use  the term "local militias" "instead of Alawite or Shi'ite" - because "we have no knowledge of its hierarchy and its leaders' sectarian affiliations." Not sure what to make of that. (p. 5)

* They do know 90% of the listed massacres were done with the help of government forces, and of course killed Sunnis, and they know "90% of the security branches and military teams are Alawites." (p. 5)

Special Focus: Aqrab, December 11, 2012
I don't suppose this is the most representative example, but it is a real one. They really put this "massacre" in their report when most now know to simply say "what massacre?"
Government forces' local militias besieged Aqrab village in Hama suburbs. Consequently, the village residents agreed to form a committee in order to negotiate with the militias and end the siege. The local militias killed the members of the delegation which were six civilians according to SNHR. This incident details a pattern of killing based on sectarian backgrounds. SNHR published a statement regarding this incident: "even mediation committees are being killed."
Wow is that missing some parts. The link gives me a chance to check what their supporting info is in this case. That's one of their points - each one is backed up (many are) with detailed investigations. There it says
D When the militias and government forces siege become severer on the people of Aqrab village in Hama countryside, a group of the village young men went to the government forces trying to reach an agreement to end the siege, but the militias surrounding the village arrested the group and executed them in cold blood.
It lists the men, names I recognize: Omar Walid Bakeer, Saeed Hamash, Shaker Akash, Yahia Al Hussein, Ali Al Sarah, Ali Al Omar. The linked full PDF report is the same short thing, with a big logo below. That's literally all they show.

Abdulsalam Daoud, per VDC, killed by regime
shelling or regime sniper, in Aqrab Dec. 3.
His family inside were all killed by shelling.
Okay, so what's missing?  The besieging Alawite militias (unspecified) in a Sunni town is presumably what makes it sectarian to them. Problem is, Aqrab was a half-Alawite town until rebels attacked the (much smaller) Alawite half in the west on December 2, herded 500 captives into a building, whole families, killing some in the process (deaths listed as government shelling - see inset). They exchanged some Alawites with the government for rebel prisoners. It somehow became a standoff, or there was some resistance from the captives, unclear - the besieging Alawite men were inside the house with family, causing some problem. They reportedly had food and water cut off, smoke from burning tires poured into the house, with the deal reported as endure or surrender - men will be executed, women and children will not be killed, but taken back to rebel-held al-Houla. Some were reportedly massacred ahead of time; one smoke-stained girl of about 7 I think was one of these - skull sliced open by a sword, shown on rebel video as a shelling victim in Houla, on December 9.
Then, there was a delegation of local Sunnis - six - sent in on the 10th, apparently to talk the Alawites into accepting the deal. It seems they were then taken hostage by the hostages and eventually killed, probably by them, probably for being part of that sick demand. Next, unclear. Rebels say the Shabiha blew up their family with grenades and either fled or committed suicide. Then the army shelled the house, and the air force bombed it. The admittedly besieging rebels said about 200 remained in the house, only a few lived, and they were helping the survivors in Houla. That was the first-reported Aqrab Massacre. Alawites were expected to rise up against Assad now that he was killing them.
 
The house Alex Thomson filmed, intact
A couple days later Channel 4's Alex Thomson filmed the house hostages say they were held in - intact but with smoke coming out of some blacked-out windows. People freed in exchanges told their story to him, reporters from al-Mayadeen, and Syrian networks. It's not known if rebels actually killed those people, quietly released them, kept them as slaves, or most likely some combination of these.  But everyone who supported the rebellion tried to just drop that story and move on. (see CIWCL, ACLOS and a rare tweet from Alex Thomson confirming this work "seems to bear out what I reported from Aqrab at the time") Which is:

So kudos to SNHR for bringing it up again, and in such a splendidly twisted manner. They report only the killed delegation, and in the context of a storyline almost completely inverted from reality. This leaves little doubt that, at least in some cases - wow, holy shit are they atrociously unreliable. Rebels killed or enslaved probably over 200 Alawites, used others to get their friends freed, and displaced all 2,000 there were. The few who caused some friction on the way are now attackers, killing anyone who speaks peace. Apologies for the unprofessional language here, but ... holy shit they got this one wrong.
Massacre Coverage, Theirs vs. Ours
The report is password-protected so I can't copy any text from it. So I'll cite sparingly. But for reference, I needed to make this list of the 22 massacres in Homs province they cover, 1,032 victims, to compare with my own research into that area (see Monitor summary post here - overall about 57 events covered, app. 1,400-1,900 dead).

SNHR's 22 massacres in Homs
C=covered (will have a link in time), N = new to me, N = was new, covered now, ? = will need to check (ACLOS page and all of Shoutwiki has been down badly for a few days - some may be covered under another name, etc.). Select notes - doc= documented dead, ch=children, w=women, report title search words (useless, use PDF links)

C Zahraa Dec. 6, 2011 - 19 documented killed, 8 from one family
C Az-Zaitoun, January 26 - local militias raided, killed 2 families 19 doc 6 w 10 ch stab wounds seen (covered as Bahader-Akkra Family Massacre, At least 13-17 civilians executed in Karm al-Zaytoun (KaZ) or Nazeheen)
3 C Sebil 7 Feb 14, 5 women, 4 children report "sectarian-cleansing massacre ... As-Sabil neighborhood"
4 C Ar-Refa'ie Al-Adawiya, and Karm Az-Zaitoun March 9, 11 - 224 dead, 44 children, 48 women
5 C Deir Baalba 2 and 9 April  200 dead, 21 children, 20 women report "Der Ba'lba massacre in April"
6 C first Ash-Shamas, 15 May 11, including imam of a mosque
7 C al-Houla 97 civilians, 10 rebels
N Eastern Buweida Massacre May 31  - 12 dead, workers, fertilizer factory, bus hijacked report "fertilizer factory massacre..."
N Qal't Al-Hesn, June 28 Dr. Ahlam Emad home, 6 doc, 3 w report "...slaughtered in Qal't Al-Hesn"
10 Shammas 2, 11 August 22 civilians, 3 ch 2 w
11 N Tasnien 5-6 Jan 105 dead or missing, bodies in Assi river
12 N Mshierfa 6 January - 11 dead 1 woman, 3 Christians 
13 C Haswiya, 15 Jan - 100 dead, 20 women, 25 children "killing based on sectarian backgrounds" "involved only government forces."
14 C Abel 25 March, 2013 - rebels chase out loyalists, who massacre on the way out - 14 doc 6 w 4 ch
15 C  Burj, Talkalkh 31 March - 10 dead, 2 w 4 ch
16 C Baba Amrou Massacre, March 2013 - No exact date! after opp. withdrew, killed tens, burned home 58 doc, 21 w
17 C Khirbet at-Tin 10 April  10 dead, 7 ch 1 w
18 N Malouk Family 17 May - 2 families, looted, burned bodies, in Wa'er 13 doc, 9 children, 3 women, one man
19 N Haswiya 2 - Al-Mazarea Al-Mohammad At-Tayyar families, mutilated, 18 doc, 9 ch 3 w 
20 As-Sakhna 22 July 18 doc, 2 w
21 N Wadi al-Mawla, a Friday in November - 21 doc, 8 ch 7 w, one pregnant
22 N (last Homs) Ash-Shniya 23 July, 2014 - killed 20 soldiers trying to flee Qabou to Houla, heads tossed in al-Assi village 

So a number of these - at least 8 - are ones I had missed before. And this isn't even all massacres, just sectarian ones, by their definition. My study is even less complete than I thought. I'm looking at Tasnin now, interesting stuff.
After more checking, I eliminated the ? - I had caught 13, with 9 being new. All of those were then covered.

27 in other provinces: Aleppo: 8 - Hama: 7 - Damascus: 5 -  Tartous: 2 - Idlib: 2
Daraa: 2 - Deir Ezzour: 1

Of these, some at least we've covered (using continuous numbering up to 49)
28 Al-Mazr'a 21 June 2013 (near Khnasser, below)
29 Khnaser 22 Feb 2014 (with three other area massacres, app. 104 total reported dead)
31 Qbeir, 6 June - 50 civilians
32 At-Trymsa 12 July - 67 civilians, 6 ch
39 Douma June 2012 (and another Douma massacre in October)
40 Jadedat Al-Fadl 16-23 April, 2013
42 Nabak November 2013 (SNHR says it lasted into late December and claimed the lives of 361 civilians
43 Banyas 2-4 May, 2013 covered as Al-Bayda Massacre and Baniyas Massacre "SNHR documented by name 459 civilian victims, including 92 children and 71 women."
44 Banyas 21 July, 2013 (Fattouh family massacre)

New Massacres, Covered
June 22: Tasnin massacre of Jan 2013. That was pretty quick work. Turns out mostly from rebel sources this was a mixed village with many Alawites and many loyalists that had sat out the revolution, trying to take neither side. The Alawites and loyalists all ran away when the other Alawites ("local militias" - some from Tasnin) and loyalists attacked. That's why they're gone now. The non-loyal Sunnis stayed, and were killed and abducted. By loyalist sources, terrorists attacked, abducted and killed, but were cut short by a swift army response and fled - maybe with captives. Some rebel fighters from Houla and Rastan are listed by opposition sources as massacred along with the locals; VDC lists 4 of these, plus 32 civilians they confirmed as executed - 23 men, 5 women, 2 boys and 2 girls. Is that because useful women and children were kept? That all supports that there was a sectarian aspect like they say. See Aqrab above for that parallel.

June 23: Eastern Buweida, May 31, 2012, covered. This one I was aware of, and I know there's way more info on it around. But this quick start is enough for now...
June 24: Qal't Al-Hesn, June 28 - professor Ahlam and family, and perhaps distant family, covered here. That's 3 of 8 now covered.
June 24: Second Shammas massacre August 11 or actually August 12, 2012 - covered in the same day (quick job though).
June 26: Mshierfa Jan. 6 covered, partly
June 27: Mallouk family May 2013
June 27:  Sukhna, July 2013  
June 28: Wadi al-Mawla Nov. 15, 2013
June 29: Shinya Massacre of July 23, 2014

Some Other Sectarian Massacres SNHR never covered and never will
(list to be filled-in/improved in time)
Tellawi family, April 17, 2011  (Alawi)
Asheera bakery, Jan. 2012 (Christians)
Sultaniya, March (4-8 Melhems killed, likely Alawi)
Houla Massacre, May 25, 2012 (Shia converts, allegedly - app. 85) (see also possible May 22 sectarian bus hijacking link and the next entry)
Shumeriyeh Homa May 25, 2012 - 10 killed (Alawi)
Joseyeh bus attack June 2012 - 9 killed (Alawi)
Jandar resort  (16 Alawi and Christian workers)
Ghassaniya-Haidariya September 30, 2012 (Christians)
Al-Shaddadi Petroluem Company, Hasaka, Feb. 2013 (Shia)
Aqrab  (Alawi, number unknown)
Maan Dec. 24 2012 23 killed (Alawi)
Duvair 40+ minimum (Christians)
Marmarita Aug. 17, 2013 - app. 15 killed(Christians)
Jabourin bus bombing Sept 19, 2013 -19 killed (Alawi)
Khunayfis Hama Nov 2013 (Alawi)
Adra (right after Nabak, ignored - many Christians killed)
Maan Feb 9, 2014  (Alawi)
Zara (near Khalet al-Hosn) Feb. 17, 2014 (Alawi)
Zanuba Hama June 2014  (Alawi)
Ishtabraq Idlib April 2015  (Alawi)
Qalb Lawzah, May 2015 (Druze, but forcibly converted, so arguably not sectarian at all - and this may be a wave of the future - motive elimination)

Note: any number of other massacres may have sectarian aspects and it's just not totally clear. For example one with arguably enough evidence to include is Karm al-Zaytoun, March 2012 (reports say clerics blessed the slaughter, and rebels refer to the victims as "sheep," non-humans, likely not Sunni). Khalidiya the month before has less reliable suggestions of the same (Mother Agnes says the hostages killed were local Christians and Alawi). Other massacres have varying circumstantial indicators.

If the Jabourin bus bombing counts, so would the car bombing of a school in the Homs city Alawite-majority district of Zahra, many shelling attacks on Alawiye villages, Christian districts of Aleppo, the Shiite vilages of Nubol and Zahraa (Aleppo) and things of that sort. So that should probably be stricken from the list. Done.