Saturday, August 31, 2013

Exclusive: Obama Refused to Send Gas Masks to Syrian Opposition for Over a Year

Syrian opposition groups have been asking for gas masks and chemical-weapons protection gear for more than a year—and the Obama administration decided not to supply them, Josh Rogin reports exclusively.

The Daily Beast

"The Obama administration has refused to send gas masks and other chemical-weapons protection gear to Syrian opposition groups, despite numerous requests dating back more than a year and until the reported chemical-weapons attack that struck the Damascus suburbs August 21.
The residents of the Qaboun neighborhood were forced to make primitive gas masks using household items. (Syrian opposition sources)

Following the harrowing attack that left more than 1,300 dead and more than 3,000 injured in East Ghouta and other Damascus suburbs, the Obama administration is contemplating a strike on the regime of Bashar al-Assad. But Syrian civilians are still trying to cope with the tragedy and treat the wounded, who include scores of children caught sleeping when the gas was dispersed. The attack zone has a fatal shortage of gas masks, chemical-weapons protection gear, and the nerve agent antidote atropine; civilians and activists have been forced to resort to crafting makeshift masks out of everyday household items.

More chemical-weapons attacks could come, and there is now an urgent demand in rebel-held areas for gas masks and other gear. But there is also anger and frustration among opposition leaders that despite more than a year of requests to the U.S. government, the Obama administration did not send any gas masks or chemical-weapons protection gear to opposition-controlled areas.

“Almost three months ago, we received intelligence information that the regime forces may use chemical weapons in Homs,” said Abo Saleem, the directing commission secretary of the Council of Homs Province and a member of the political bureau of the Revolutionary Council of Homs, in an interview with The Daily Beast. “I forward the information to the State Department telling them we are afraid of the use of chemical weapons by the regime and we need gas masks and some training to prepare for such an attack. I got no response. Two weeks after that, the regime used chemical weapons in the old city of Homs, as we were expecting. We sent the State Department reports, but nothing happened.”

In a June email to several administration officials, viewed by The Daily Beast, Saleem begged the U.S. to provide gas masks in advance of further chemical-weapons attacks and warned that without them, the civil war in Syria would only result in more casualties......"



Obama Says U.S. Should Take Action In Syria, Will Seek Congress' Authorization For Use Of Force

Syria: US missile strikes could do more damage than west had believed

Analysts and defectors suggest war-weary troops and ageing equipment mean even limited strikes could have major effect

in Amman
The Observer,

Assad is a war criminal, but an attack will do nothing for the people of Syria

The west needs to concentrate on formally criminalising the Assad regime and turning its members into international pariahs

The Observer,


Al-Jazeera Video: حديث الثورة.. بروز "التيار الثالث" في مصر

"ناقشت الحلقة بروز التيار الثالث في مظاهرات جمعة "الشعب يسترد ثورته" وهتافهم بـ"لا للفلول ولا للإخوان ولا للعسكر" في تطور بارز في مسار الثورة.
تقديم: محمود مراد
الضيوف:محمود عباس، مختار كامل إبراهيم، محمد القدوسي


Syria Analysis: Giving Up is Worse than Carrying On

By Maysaloon

"When Cameron said yesterday that the Iraq invasion had poisoned the “well of public opinion” regarding action in Syria, he was right. But it had also retrospectively poisoned another well, that of the invasion of Afghanistan and the toppling of the Taleban. Most people today forget that public sentiment had little sympathy for the Taleban government of Afghanistan in 2001 and little time for conspiracy theorists demanding hard evidence that Osama Bin Laden had carried out the 9/11 attacks in New York. What happened in the British Parliament is what should have happened when Bush said he wanted to invade Iraq in 2003, it should not have happened yesterday.

Old Lessons: Past the Shadow of Iraq

The world needs to move beyond the Iraq invasion paradigm when speaking about humanitarian intervention, because a lot had been learnt during the post-cold war years, especially in Bosnia and Kosovo. One of the key lessons that should never have been forgotten was never to rely on the Russians. In spite of overwhelming evidence of mass murder, concentration camps and ethnic cleansing, the Russians backed their Serb allies to the hilt and foiled every attempt to bring the killing to a halt. Again, we should remember that this was a pre-9/11 world where the United States was not as demonized as it is now, and where public discourse was about how to address these new issues in a post-Cold War world. They mistakenly believed that Russia would be a friend, and they were wrong. Today Putin's Russia has played the spoiler for every attempt to bring Assad to heel, exactly as they did in the Balkans, and as with the Balkans, it took a decision to act independently and decisively in favour of what is right. If Russia wants to stop this then they can send their armies to Syria to fight the Americans, something they have already said that they will not do. In effect the US has called Putin's bluff.

The Dilemma in Doing what is Right

Now that the United States will act, the question is what will they do, and how will this impact the conflict in Syria? We know that the action is going to be limited and that the scope is to punish Assad in such a way as to deter him from using these chemical weapons again. Can they do it? Perhaps, but there is also the risk that the Assad regime will capitalise on the deaths of civilians, especially since his regime will be hiding behind them. There are tens of thousands of Syrian prisoners of conscience in Assad's prisons, and rumours amongst Syrians are already spreading that he has placed these prisoners in key locations that might be attacked. This, however, will unlikely  factor much in the decisions of the United States. Obama, as Commander in Chief of his country's armed forces, will likely have already taken the heavy decision that what is at stake here is the lives of tens of thousands more people who are at risk of death by chemical weapons and that it is intolerable to allow this precedent to take root. As terrifying as this prospect is, he is right. Syrians cannot afford to continue being gassed by Assad's nerve agents and other chemical weapons. The catastrophic death toll inflicted on them since the start of the revolution alone shows that the cost of not punishing Assad is far more terrifying.

What Does this Mean for Syria?

But if the action is going to be limited to stopping Assad from using chemical weapons, that still leaves him in charge of a killing machine that is raining death on the country. My view is that the blow inflicted on him will be just enough to give the rebels the strategic advantage to accept political negotiations – with the West hoping this would lead to the revival of the much ridiculed Geneva 2 talks. The limited scope of this action will also show the Russians that the West means business, and shake Assad's confidence just enough to make him realise that he is already on borrowed time. Whilst far from ideal, this might be the best deal that Syrians will get from the United States. This means that the Syrian opposition must drop its traditional stubbornness and be prepared to appear ready for concessions even if they know Assad will never sit and negotiate. 

In spite of the West's hopes of reviving the political process, there is a deep rooted understanding amongst many Syrians that negotiations are a dead end. It is perfectly clear at this stage that the return of peace to Syria, however imperfectly, will destroy the Assad regime faster than any munitions, and for that this peace will never be realised until his last bunker is surrounded and destroyed. Syrians on the ground, especially those who have borne the brunt of Assad's killing machine, know they are dealing with an ideology that will never surrender and never negotiate. They have already tasted his wrath in the eighties, and will now do everything in their power to ensure that neither he nor any other Alawite will rule over them again. The Alawites have been just as much a victim of Assadism as their Sunni brethren, but unfortunately the sectarian cat is out of the bag and it is doubtful we will see an end to this in our generation's life time. 

In spite of Assad's propaganda, this revolution is not a second round in his father's vendetta with the Muslim Brotherhood, and whilst the opposition is overwhelmingly Sunni, many are not involved with the Brotherhood and will therefore not be as ideologically biased against Alawites or other minorities. This part of the opposition have been marginalised by both Assad's allies and the Western media, but in the wake of an albeit slow and painful victory over Assad, it is these people who will have a better chance at leading national reconciliation. 

A Final Word on Iran and Hezbullah

Whilst Russia will not go to war over Syria, Iran and Hezbullah will. If they fight within Syria then they will be the opposition's problem, but if they retaliate against the United States or Israel, then they will be somebody else's. There is not much more to say about this from a Syrian perspective. Of particular note is that Hezbullah is not trumpeting its presence in Syria the way it was before the fall of Qusair in Homs. A few months ago the conquest of Qusair was being portrayed by Hezbullah as a turning of the tide and a fulfilment of their oath of loyalty for Assad, in appreciation of his significant support. Today that victory seems a distant memory. In fact the only thing their presence in Syria tells us is that Assad does not have the means to defeat the Syrian rebels alone and his use of chemical weapons near Damascus could also be another sign of this desperation. It is here that a punitive strikes against Assad for his war crimes could be the straw that breaks the camel's back – unless they are done recklessly and without regard for civilian life. Amnesty International have already published an excellent set of guidelines and decision makers in Washington and the Pentagon would do well to study these and apply them. 

What the US strikes against Assad are definitely not is a silver magic bullet for the opposition, but with proper planning and wise, creative politiking it could just be enough to crack through this bloody and vicious stalemate. There is still no guarantee that they will even be the ones governing if and when Assad's fingers are pried off of Syria. The only thing that is certain is that whilst the road ahead for all Syrians remains extremely dangerous and difficult, the only thing worse than carrying on would be to give up."

Friday, August 30, 2013

Al-Jazeera Video:سيناريوات متعددة للضربة المقبلة على سوريا

Hit Him Hard

Economist print edition

Present the proof, deliver an ultimatum and punish Bashar Assad for his use of chemical weapons

Because doing nothing carries risks that are even bigger (see article). If the West tolerates such a blatant war crime, Mr Assad will feel even freer to use chemical weapons. He had after all stepped across Mr Obama’s “red line” several times by using these weapons on a smaller scale—and found that Mr Obama and his allies blinked. An American threat, especially over WMD, must count for something: it is hard to see how Mr Obama can eat his words without the superpower losing credibility with the likes of Iran and North Korea.
And America’s cautiousness has cost lives. A year ago, this newspaper argued for military intervention: not for Western boots on the ground, but for the vigorous arming of the rebels, the creation of humanitarian corridors, the imposition of no-fly zones and, if Mr Assad ignored them, an aerial attack on his air-defence system and heavy weaponry. At the time Mr Assad’s regime was reeling, most of the rebels were relatively moderate, the death toll was less than half the current total and the conflict had yet to spill into other countries. Some of Mr Obama’s advisers also urged him to arm the rebels; distracted by his election, he rebuffed them—and now faces, as he was repeatedly warned, a much harder choice........

So Mr Obama should focus on the third option: a more limited punishment of such severity that Mr Assad is deterred from ever using WMD again. Hitting the chemical stockpiles themselves runs the risk both of poisoning more civilians and of the chemicals falling into the wrong hands. Far better for a week of missiles to rain down on the dictator’s “command-and-control” centres, including his palaces. By doing this, Mr Obama would certainly help the rebels, though probably not enough to overturn the regime. With luck, well-calibrated strikes might scare Mr Assad towards the negotiating table....

And before the missiles are fired, Mr Obama must give Mr Assad one last chance: a clear ultimatum to hand over his chemical weapons entirely within a very short period. The time for inspections is over. If Mr Assad gives in, then both he and his opponents will be deprived of such poisons—a victory for Mr Obama. If Mr Assad refuses, he should be shown as little mercy as he has shown to the people he claims to govern. If an American missile then hits Mr Assad himself, so be it. He and his henchmen have only themselves to blame."

Gas Head

Bill Day, Cagle Cartoons

U.S. Prepares to Strike Syria Over Alleged Chemical Weapons as British Vote Not to Back Int’l Action

Democracy Now!

"Pentagon officials say the U.S. Navy has moved five destroyers equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles into the eastern Mediterranean Sea to prepare for a possible strike on Syria. This comes as the British Parliament voted Thursday not to back international action against Syria following the Assad regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons last week. This comes as a team of U.N. inspectors, who spent the week traveling to rebel-controlled areas in search of proof of a poison gas attack, is set to give its preliminary findings to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday. As the United States continues to try to build an international coalition, we speak with Bassam Haddad, director of the Middle East Studies Program at George Mason University and co-founder of “The United States in Iraq has actually used nerve agents, mustard gas, and/or white phosphorus in Fallujah and beyond, left depleted uranium all over the country in Iraq, ruined and destroyed the lives of generations as a result, and now claims that it needs to do this to protect Syrian civilians — which is exactly the opposite of what will happen in any invasion or any strike on Syria, which is not possible to happen in the surgical manner that is being discussed right now,” Haddad says. “You have a regional environment that is also in many ways opposed to this, including of course the allies of Syria in the region, and we have a possibility of this becoming something much more than what many envisioned.”...."

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

Do you support a military strike against Syria by the West?

With about 600 responding so far, 61% said yes.

Real News Video: The Most Sought After Chess Piece

Larry Wilkerson: With Saudi Arabia heavily funding the opposition and Iran backing Assad, the Syrian civil war has spiraled into a global struggle for power with the potential for greater catastrophe

More at The Real News

News Summary

Here is a news summary for today:

Arabs kill Arabs; Muslims kill other Muslims.

If you want details, scroll down. It will be the same tomorrow, the day after and the day after.

Will the Arabs ever develop and evolve? I doubt it.

Syrian officer, 4 others charged over n. Lebanon blasts

The Daily Star
An elderly man reacts outside one of two mosques hit by explosions in Tripoli, Friday, Aug. 23, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
"BEIRUT: Lebanon charged five people Friday, including one Syrian intelligence officer and two sheikhs, over the twin Tripoli bombings that killed 47 people last week.
Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr filed charges against sheikhs Ahmad Gharib and Hashem Minqara as well as informant Mustafa Houri, a judicial source said. The source said Saqr charged two Syrians, including an intelligence officer, in absentia. The Syrian suspects were identified as Capt. Mohammad Ali Ali, an officer in the Syrian Intelligence, and Khodr Lutfi al-Airouni.
Saqr charged Gharib and Houri in his court documents with tasking the two Syrians to set up a “monitor and planning cell to carry out terrorist acts in Lebanon, particularly in the north, by preparing bombs and booby trapping cars and putting them in specific areas, including religious institutions with the aim of killing and assassinating political and religious figures.”
The two Syrians were charged with “rigging two cars with explosives and placing them, through the help of other individuals, outside al-Taqwa and Al-Salam mosques in Tripoli that left hundreds killed or wounded.”
At least 47 people were killed and 500 wounded in the dual car bombing last week in front of two mosques.
Minqara, the head of a pro-Assad Islamist group in Lebanon who was detained by police for interrogation Thursday, was charged with withholding information about the Tripoli cell’s terrorist activities.
Gharib was known to be a close associate with Minqara while Houri, who worked with Gharib, tipped the police off about the bombing plot before it occurred....."

Ahhh, the "New" Egypt: Egypt fires at Palestinian fishermen off Gaza: medics. Do They Take Turns with Israeli Gunboats?

"Reuters) - Egyptian naval police shot and wounded two Palestinian fishermen and detained five off the Gaza Strip on Friday, medics said, an incident that hinted at increased tension between Gaza's Islamist Hamas rulers and Cairo.
Fishermen from Gaza have often brought in catch from Egyptian territory to sidestep restrictions imposed by Israel's naval blockade of the enclave. But Egypt has grown less tolerant of this practice since Islamist president Mohamed Mursi was toppled by the military almost two months ago.
The group of seven Palestinian fishermen were sailing west of the southern Gaza border town of Rafah towards Egyptian waters when the forces opened fire at them, Gaza hospital officials said. Egyptian authorities had no immediate comment.
The wounded pair avoided arrest and were only lightly hurt, hospital officials in Gaza said.
Relations between Hamas and Egypt have deteriorated markedly since Mursi was removed by the Egyptian military on July 3 after weeks of mass unrest against his Islamist rule. Hamas is an offshoot of Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood......

Israeli forces have regularly shot at Gaza boats seen as trying to breach the blockade, but there was no previous record of the Egyptians opening fire.
Gaza fishermen say that the limited fishing zone imposed by Israel is not big enough to meet the demands in the enclave and have often brought fish back from Egypt, either by boat or through smuggling tunnels.
Since Mursi's ousting, Egyptian authorities have warned Gaza fishermen against entering Egyptian territorial waters.
It could not be confirmed whether the fishermen shot at on Friday were attempting to cross into Egyptian waters."

Footage has emerged of a horrific incident in northern Syria

The Guardian

Note: See the BBC video in the second post below.

Footage has emerged of a horrific incident in northern Syria which reportedly shows the aftermath of an incendiary bomb being dropped on a school playground, leaving scores of children with napalm-like burns over their bodies.
Witnesses told a team from the BBC's Panorama programme that a fighter jet had repeatedly flown overhead, as if searching for a target, before dropping the bomb. The attack killed more than 10 pupils and left many more seriously injured, the BBC said.
Footage showed adults and children, their clothes burned from their bodies, being treated on the floor of a basic hospital. Many had burns to more than 50% of their bodies, it was claimed.
Many were badly burned, shaking uncontrollably and left caked in a white substance, injuries which the BBC said suggested the bomb contained something like napalm or thermite.
The headmaster told reporters:
This was the most horrific thing. We have seen images on TV, we have heard many stories, but we have never seen anything like this before. The worst thing in life is watching someone die right in front of you and you can't do anything.
There were dead people, people burning and people running away, but where to? Where would they go? It is not safe anywhere. That is the fate of the Syrian people.
 A British medic, Dr Rola, who was in Syria with the charity Hand In Hand, treated the victims at the hospital. She said:
It is just absolute chaos and carnage here. We have had a massive influx of what looks like serious burns, seems like it must be some sort of, not really sure, maybe napalm, something similar to that. But obviously within the chaos of the situation it is very difficult to know exactly what is going on.
Mohammed Abdullatif, who witnessed the attack, had a message for the United Nations:
Dear United Nations, you are calling peace, you are calling for peace. What kind of peace are you calling for? Don't you see this, don't you see this? What do you need to see?
We are just human beings, we want to live. It is our right to live."

The UN Farce

View image on Twitter

Video: Syria crisis: Incendiary bomb victims 'like the walking dead'

"A BBC team inside Syria filming for Panorama has witnessed the aftermath of a fresh horrific incident - an incendiary bomb dropped on to a school playground in the north of the country - which has left scores of children with napalm-like burns over their bodies.

Eyewitnesses describe a fighter jet dropping the device, a low explosion, followed by columns of fire and smoke.

Ian Pannell and cameraman Darren Conway's report contains images viewers may find extremely distressing."

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Obama and Assad

Patrick Chappatte, Cagle Cartoons, The International Herald Tribune

Syria – from horror to farce

International response to chemical attacks falls into disarray

By Brian Whitaker

"Bashar al-Assad can relax now, at least for a while. What should have been a clear international response to one of the most dreadful crimes imaginable – the mass slaughter of civilians with poison gas – has descended into confusion and even farce.
The British parliament meets today – urgently recalled from its summer siesta – for a debate about Syria that won't actually decide anything, because the prime minister has been out-manouevred.

Prime minister Cameron had come under pressure from his own Conservative MPs to recall parliament if military action was contemplated before normal parliamentary business resumes next week. After a brief hesitation, Cameron agreed to that and signalled, by implication, that military action was imminent.

His problem now is that if he seeks approval for such action he may well lose the vote [That has already happened!].....
In terms of British politics, though, the real issue here is not Syria but the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and Tony Blair's con trick over non-existent weapons. The British public are resentful of having been hoodwinked then and the result now is extreme scepticism about any form of military intervention. While scepticism is usually healthy, some of this is so extreme as to be perverse. I have met people who simply refuse to believe the Assad regime has chemical weapons, even though the regime itself has said it does.....
These developments in Britain will probably force President Obama to put his plans on hold. He doesn't want the US to act unilaterally in Syria and although he has other allies, acting without Britain at his side is almost inconceivable. Britain's absence would be exploited politically by his critics.....
So, as things now stand, it looks as if nothing much will happen, either in the Security Council or the British parliament, until the UN weapons inspectors issue their report. At present, nobody knows when that will be......
Reuters reported yesterday that Assad's forces appear to have already evacuated "most personnel from army and security command headquarters in central Damascus".....

As a result, if airstrikes do eventually go ahead, Obama may have to choose between bombing empty military buildings or new military positions where the risk of civilian casualties will be far higher."

Al-Jazeera Video: ما وراء الخبر.. حملات الملاحقة والتشهير في مصر

قائد إيراني: الضربة الأمريكية لسوريا ستؤدي لزوال إسرائيل


قائد الحرس الثوري الايراني محمد علي جعفري
قائد الحرس الثوري الايراني محمد علي جعفري

دبي- (رويترز): نقلت وكالة أنباء ايرانية عن محمد علي جعفري قائد الحرس الثوري الايراني قوله إن أي هجوم عسكري أمريكي على سوريا سيؤدي إلى “زوال اسرائيل قريبا” كما ستكون سوريا “فيتنام أخرى” للأمريكيين.

وتساند إيران الشيعية الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد في مواجهة معارضة أغلبها من السنة تحاول الاطاحة به منذ عامين ونصف.

وألقت إيران باللوم على مقاتلي المعارضة في هجوم بأسلحة كيماوية فيما يبدو يوم 21 أغسطس آب أسفر عن مقتل المئات من المدنيين. ويحمل نشطاء المعارضة قوات الأسد المسؤولية وتؤيدهم واشنطن فيما ساق الرئيس الأمريكي باراك أوباما المبررات لشن ضربة عسكرية محدودة ضد سوريا ردا على الهجوم الكيماوي.

وقال جعفري في مقابلة مع وكالة تسنيم الايرانية في وقت متأخر الأربعاء إن أي ضربة أمريكية لن تكون في مصلحة اسرائيل.

وأضاف “إشعال أمريكا للحرب في المنطقة سيؤدي الى زوال إسرائيل قريبا”.

ونشرت وسائل الاعلام الايرانية مقتطفات من المقابلة اليوم الخميس. وتقول تسنيم التي تأسست عام 2012 على موقعها الالكتروني انها تسعى إلى “الدفاع عن الجمهورية الاسلامية ضد الدعاية الاعلامية السلبية”.

ونقلت الوكالة عن جعفري تحذيره للولايات المتحدة من أنها تجازف بالتورط في صراع مكلف وطويل ان هي تدخلت في سوريا.

وأضاف “ستضحى سوريا مقبرة للغزاة و معرکة أکثر خطورة من فيتنام بل ستضحى فيتنام ثانية للامريکان”.

Fire of military action against Syria will burn Israel, Iranian commander says
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (C) chats with military personnel during his visit to a military site in the town of Daraya, southwest of Damascus, on the 68th anniversary of army day, in this handout photograph distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA on August 1, 2013. REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters

The Rabbit Sticks His Head Out of the Rabbit Hole for a Photo Op.

I Wonder How Many of his "Tough" Commanders Will Defect After the Missiles Start Hitting?

Syria Debate: Does U.S. Have the Evidence and Authority to Hit Assad for Alleged Chemical Attack?

Democracy Now!

"The Obama administration appears to be pressing ahead with military strikes on Syria despite new obstacles at home and abroad. On Wednesday, an informal meeting of the United Nations Security Council failed to reach an agreement after Russia and China opposed any authorization of force in response to last week’s alleged chemical attack by Assad forces in Ghouta. After domestic pressure, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced he will seek parliamentary authorization for using force against Syria, and only after U.N. inspectors complete their current mission. And in Washington, the White House plans to brief lawmakers today following growing calls that President Obama seek congressional backing for any use of force. The administration is expected to make public soon some of its intelligence, but skeptics say there remains no smoking gun implicating the Assad regime. We host a debate on military intervention in Syria between Tariq Ali of the New Left Review and Steven Clemons of The Atlantic....."

Al-Jazeera Video: حديث الثورة.. تداعيات الضربة المحتملة على سوريا

Al-Jazeera Cartoon: A "Punitive" Strike

كاريكاتير: ضربة تأديبية

Uncle Sam: "Bombard, Kill, Destroy,  ..... but Don't Use Chemical Weapons!"كاريكاتير: الضربة الأميركية

Life loses value in the Middle East

By Ramzy Baroud
Asia Times
"The death of innocent civilians in protests and wars, from Egypt to Syria and from Palestine to Iraq, has been cheapened to the point that lives simply become political and religious fodder for opposing factions. Damascus with its gory chemical warfare allegations is now the epicenter of the blame game, with reactions to the slaughter demonstrating the diminished sanctity of human life......

"The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic," Joseph Stalin, the communist leader of the Soviet Union once said. In another version, it was "...when thousands die, it's statistics." Either way, it seems as if there is a threshold number after which a tragedy seems less tragic......."

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Al-Jazeera Video: احتمالات توجيه ضربة عسكرية للنظام السوري

The Broader Stakes of Syrian Crisis

By Ray McGovern

"August 28, 2013 "Information Clearing House - Amid the increased likelihood that President Barack Obama will cave in to pressure from foreign policy hawks to “Libya-ize” Syria and to accord Syrian President Bashar al-Assad the same treatment meted out to Libya’s Col. Muammar Gaddafi, the main question is WHY? Obviously, there is concern about the human rights catastrophe in Syria, but is the main target Syria’s main ally, Iran, as many suspect?
Surely, the objective has got to be more than simply giving Secretary of State John Kerry a chance to brag, in the manner of his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, regarding Gaddafi, “We came, we saw, he died.” And, there is little expectation – however many Cruise missiles the United States fires at Syrian targets in a fury over disputed claims about chemical weapons – that lives are likely to be saved.

So, what are Iran’s new leaders likely to see as the real driving force behind Obama’s felt need to acquiesce, again, in a march of folly? And why does it matter?

Iran’s leaders need not be paranoid to see themselves as a principal target of external meddling in Syria. While there seem to be as many interests being pursued – as there are rag-tag groups pursuing them – Tehran is not likely to see the common interests of Israel and the U.S. as very complicated. Both appear determined to exploit the chaotic duel among the thugs in Syria as an opportunity to deal a blow to Hezbollah and Hamas in Israel’s near-frontier and to isolate Iran still further, and perhaps even advance Israel’s ultimate aim of “regime change” in Tehran.

In the nearer term, are the neocons in Washington revving up to nip in the bud any unwelcome olive branches from the Iran’s new leaders as new talks on nuclear matters loom on the horizon?

The Not-So-Clean Break

A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” a policy document prepared in 1996 for Benjamin Netanyahu by a study group led by American neocons, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, laid out a new approach to solving Israel’s principal security challenges. Essentially, the point was to shatter the frustrating cycle of negotiations with the Palestinians and instead force regime change on hostile states in the region, thus isolating Israel’s close-in adversaries.

Among the plan’s features was “the containment of Syria by engaging in proxy warfare and highlighting their possession of ‘weapons of mass destruction.’” The following “Clean-Break” paragraph is, no doubt, part of the discussion in Iran’s leadership councils:

Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq – an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.” [See’s “The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”]

Against this background, what is Iran likely to think of the two-year old mantra of Hillary Clinton, repeated by Obama that “Assad Must Go?” Or what to think of Obama’s gratuitous pledge a half year later, on Super Bowl Sunday 2012, that the U.S. will “work in lockstep” with Israel regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Assuming they checked Webster’s, Iran’s leaders have taken note that one primary definition offered for “in lockstep” is: “in perfect, rigid, often mindless conformity or unison.”......"

Martin Rowson on Barack Obama and Syria – cartoon

The Guardian,

حول أسباب التدخل في سوريا وأهدافه


من المؤكد أن استخدام الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد للسلاح الكيمياوي لم يكن غير ذريعة للتدخل العسكري الأميركي الغربي في سوريا، ولو كانت القضية الأخلاقية هي التي تحرك الغرب لكان قتل أكثر من مائة ألف سوري كافيا ليتحرك ضد النظام، فضلا عن أن يشمل ذلك عددا كبيرا من المذابح التي تشيب لهولها الولدان.

واللافت هنا أن الغرب لم يكن يكتفي بعدم التدخل في سوريا، بل يضيف إلى ذلك بعدا بالغ الأهمية يتعلق بالضغط المستمر لمنع حصول الثوار على السلاح النوعي، وهو سلاح لو حصلوا عليه لكان بوسعهم أن يحسموا المعركة قبل أكثر من عام.

ونكرر أننا نتحدث عن الضغط على الآخرين لمنع السلاح النوعي، وليس تزويد الثوار به مباشرة، كما يمكن أن يتبادر إلى ذهن البعض.

وللبحث في السبب الكامن خلف هذا الموقف الغربي، فليس هناك سوى الموقف الإسرائيلي الذي يحرك الموقف الأميركي، وتبعا له أكثر المواقف الغربية، بل يؤثر على الموقف الروسي أيضا.
ألم ترَ كيف امتنع بوتين عن تزويد النظام السوري بمنظومة صواريخ أس300 حين طلب منه نتنياهو ذلك؟
لا أحد يمكنه التكهن بما يمكن أن يحدث من مفاجآت قد تتراجع احتمالاتها إذا أحيط الروس وإيران ومعهم النظام بحدود العملية، وهو ما سيفعله الأميركان على الأرجح
نعم، كان التحرك الجديد نتاج طلب إسرائيلي كما تقول أكثر الوقائع، وما كان لأوباما أن يتخذ القرار لو كان الصهاينة في الولايات المتحدة يريدون غير ذلك، ونعلم أن أوباما لم يكن أبدا متحمسا للضربة، ولا لأي تدخل عسكري جديد في المنطقة، لكن الأجواء الإعلامية التي صنعها له القوم في الداخل الأميركي هي التي اضطرته إلى ذلك.

كان واضحا أن الاستنزاف الطويل هو الذي يشكل مصلحة إسرائيلية، وهو كان كذلك بالفعل، إذ دمَّر البلد واستنزف إيران وحزب الله وتركيا وربيع العرب، وخلق فتنة سنية شيعية كما نردد دائما، لكن تطور الوضع على الأرض خلال الأسابيع الأخيرة لم يكن مريحا بالنسبة لتل أبيب.
ورغم أن المعركة لم تكن في وارد الحسم القريب، إلا أن الثوار بدؤوا يتقدمون من جديد، ولو على نحو بطيء، فيما تتصاعد قوة الجماعات الجهادية، وهذا هو البعد الأهم، ما ينذر بمخاطر كبيرة في حال سقوط النظام وشيوع الفوضى، أو حتى سيطرة تلك الجماعات على مواقع أكبر، وهي التي تسيطر وبعض القوى الثورية على حوالي 60% من التراب السوري.

هناك بالطبع حاجة الإسرائيليين إلى تدمير بعض مخزونات الأسلحة الكيمياوية خشية وقوعها لاحقا بيد جماعات لا يمكن السيطرة عليها، كما يرددون دائما، وهو ما تعجز تل أبيب عن القيام به منفردة، ليس فقط بسبب التداعيات البيئية المحتملة لذلك، بل ربما خشية ردة فعل من قبل النظام، وردود الفعل الدولية.

وإلى جانب الأسلحة الكيمياوية، هناك مخزون الصواريخ بعيدة المدى ومنصات إطلاقها، فضلا عن الصواريخ المضادة للطيران.

من هنا تبدو الضربة شكلا من أشكال الخدمة للصهاينة في الاتجاهين (النظام والجماعات الجهادية)، إذ سيحدد الإسرائيليون كما بدا واضحا "بنك الأهداف" الذي يريدون التخلص منه، وبالطبع لأنهم المصدر شبه الكامل للمعلومات الاستخبارية بالنسبة للطرف الأميركي والغربي.

أما الذي لا يقل أهمية، فيتمثل في استهداف بعض مواقع القوى الجهادية بهدف إضعافها، لاسيما إذا شملت العملية تقدما لبعض القوى الأخرى من جهة الشمال والجنوب، بحيث تسيطر على معظم المواقع التابعة للثوار، أو التي تخضع عمليا لسيطرتهم، أو سيسيطرون عليها بعد ذلك.
من يحدد بداية المعركة قد لا يحدد نهايتها ونتائجها بالضرورة، إذ يمكن لمفاجآت معينة أن تغير المسار، لاسيما إذا رد النظام أو بعض حلفائه على نحو يستفز الطرف الصهيوني

هنا يأتي السؤال المتعلق بإسقاط النظام، أو بحدود الضربة إذا شئنا الدقة، وهنا نقول إن متابعة الصحافة الإسرائيلية، وبعض ردود الفعل والإشارات الرسمية، لا زالت تؤكد وجود إجماع على أن الضربة العسكرية لن تقترب من حدود إسقاط النظام في دمشق، والأهم من ذلك أنها ستكون مجرد "عقوبة" و"ردع" كما ذهب أحد المحللين الإسرائيليين، وهما نفس المصطلحين اللذين نقلتهما واشنطن بوست عن مسؤولين أميركيين، لكأنهم يقرؤون من كتاب واحد! بل إن بعض المصادر الإسرائيلية لم تتردد في وصف الضربة بأنها "رمزية".

هنا تأتي المرحلة التالية من العملية، فإما أن يكتفي الإسرائيليون بالجزء الذي ذكرنا، ويدعموا بعد ذلك استمرار لعبة الاستنزاف التي كانوا مرتاحين لها.
أما الخيار الثاني، فهو أن يميل الإسرائيليون وتبعا لهم الأميركان إلى مجاملة القوى الأخرى المؤيدة للعملية والممولة لها، أعني الدول العربية، ويذهبوا نحو تغيير ميزان القوى شيئا ما بحيث يدفعون نحو مفاوضات مع الروس يتوصلون من خلالها إلى حل سياسي يضع البلد في ظل حكومة جديدة خاضعة للسيطرة ولن تشكل إزعاجا، لا للممولين والداعمين العرب (عرب الاعتدال المناهضين للثورات وربيع العرب تحديدا)، ولا للكيان الصهيوني، بل إن حكومة كهذه ستكون ذات فائدة كبيرة للكيان الصهيوني، إذ ستدعم مسار المفاوضات الجارية حاليا، والتي يمكن أن تفضي إلى تسوية مرحلية أو نهائية تريحه إلى حد كبير.

هذه هي السيناريوهات الأكثر ترجيحا، ويبقى أن أحدا لا يمكنه التكهن بما يمكن أن يحدث من مفاجآت، وهي مفاجآت قد تتراجع احتمالاتها إذا أحيط الروس وإيران ومعهم النظام بحدود العملية، وهو ما سيفعله الأميركان على الأرجح، وكذا الإسرائيليون الذين يتمتعون بعلاقة ممتازة مع موسكو.

ولا قيمة هنا لكل التهديدات التي يطلقها الإيرانيون وحلفاؤهم، لاسيما أنهم يطلقونها لكي لا يفكر الأميركان في تطوير العملية نحو إسقاط النظام.

أما تهديدات النظام فلا تبدو مثيرة بالنسبة للبعض، وقد نقلت القناة العاشرة في التلفزيون الإسرائيلي عن خبراء عسكريين قولهم إن النظام السوري بعد عامين من الحرب قد استُنزف ولن يتمكن من فعل الكثير كرد على الهجمات.
لا يمكن أن نؤيد الضربة لأن سببها الصهاينة، ولا تمت بصلة لمصلحة الشعب السوري، لكننا في المقابل نتفهم ترحيب السوريين بها تحت وطأة القتل اليومي والمذابح

على أن من يحدد بداية المعركة قد لا يحدد نهايتها ونتائجها بالضرورة، إذ يمكن لمفاجآت معينة أن تغير المسار، لاسيما إذا رد النظام أو بعض حلفائه على نحو يستفز الطرف الصهيوني، أو دخلت على الخط مفاجآت أخرى في حال جرى استهداف الجماعات الجهادية.

خلاصة القول هي أننا إزاء عملية لا يمكن أن نؤيدها، ليس بسبب موقفنا المبدئي الرافض للتدخل الدولي، بل لأنها عملية سببها الصهاينة، وهم أنفسهم من خططوا لها، وحددوا بنك الأهداف وقدموا المعلومات الاستخبارية، وهي لا تمت بصلة إلى مصلحة الشعب السوري، لكننا في المقابل لا نملك إلا أن نتفهم ترحيب السوريين بها تحت وطأة القتل اليومي والمذابح.

ويبقى أن الشعب السوري وقواه الثورية ليسوا في وارد الاستسلام مهما طالت الحرب وكثرت التضحيات، وما يخطط له الآخرون لن يكون قدرا بالضرورة، فللشعب إرادته الحرة أيضا.

أمن السلطة يقمع مسيرة في رام الله ضد المفاوضات والتنسيق الأمني


قمعت قوات مكافحة الشغب التابعة للسلطة الفلسطينية، مساء اليوم، مسيرة خرجت في مدينة رام الله رفضًا للمفاوضات والتنسيق الأمني، ما أسفر عن وقوع بعض الإصابات في صفوف المتظاهرين.

وكانت المسيرة  قد انطلقت من دوار الساعة في رام الله بمشاركة ما يقارب الـ 300 متظاهر، وسارت شارع الإرسال باتجاه مقر الرئاسة الفلسطينية "المقاطعة"، وقد حمل المشاركون فيها نعوشًا رمزية لشهداء مخيم قلنديا الذين سقطوا برصاص جيش الاحتلال صباح الاثنين الماضي، ونعشا رمزيا رابعا للقتيل أمجد عودة، الذي سقط يوم أمس برصاص جهاز الأمن الوقائي في مخيم عسكر. 

ضد المفاوضات ومطالبة بإسقاط أوسلو

وهتف المتظاهرون ضد المفاوضات، مطالبين بإسقاط اتفاقية أوسلو، وكانت هناك هتافات من بعض المشاركين تطالب بإسقاط الرئيس محمود عباس.

وقد اعترضت قوات مكافحة الشغب المسيرة بالقرب من قصر الحمراء، وحصل تدافع بين المتظاهرين وأفراد الأمن، ليقوم أفراد الأمن بالاعتداء بعد ذلك بالهراوات على المتظاهرين، وقد أصيب نتيجة ذلك 4 شبان، 3 منهم أصيبوا بالوجه، عرف منهم الناشط الشبابي باسل الأعرج. 

اعتداء عنيف

بدوره، اتهم الشيخ خضر عدنان،  الذي كان مشاركًا في المسيرة عبر "فضائية فلسطين اليوم"، قوة مكافحة الشغب بضرب المتظاهرين بشكل عنيف.

وذكر شهود عيان أن قوات الشرطة الفلسطينية قامت بتوزيع زجاجات المياه على المتظاهرين في محاولة لثنيهم عن إكمال مسيرتهم، إلا أنهم رفضوها.

وأفاد مشاركون في المسيرة أن قوات أمنية بلباس مدني تواجدت في المكان، وأن أفرادها قاموا باعتقال أحد المتظاهرين.

As Strikes on Syria Loom, Is U.S. Ignoring a Diplomatic Track That Could Prevent More Violence?

Democracy Now!

"Britain is set to introduce a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing military action in Syria as the United States and allies gear up for expected strikes on the Assad regime. The resolution condemns the Syrian government for allegedly using chemical weapons and authorizes "necessary measures for protecting civilians." Russia and China are expected to issue a veto, raising the prospect that a U.S.-led bombing could come through NATO. The Obama administration says military action in Syria would be aimed at responding to chemical attacks, not seeking regime change, but critics say similar claims were made at the outset of the NATO intervention in Libya. "There is no military solution," says Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies. "Extra assaults from the United States are going to make the situation worse, put Syrian civilians at greater risk, and not provide protection."...."

Syria and Egypt

Rick McKee, Cagle Cartoons, The Augusta Chronicle

Real News Video: Bennis: There is No Military Solution to Syria

Phyllis Bennis: US policy should emphasize direct diplomacy to negotiate a ceasefire with all sides including Syrian President Bashar Assad, but direct military intervention will lead to more bloodshed and Obama fighting on the side of an Al-Qaeda affiliated organization

More at The Real News

There are no easy answers in Syria

Accountability needed for killings in Israeli raid on West Bank refugee camp

"Evidence strongly suggests that three men who were shot dead with live ammunition during an arrest raid on a Palestinian refugee camp in the occupied West Bank on Monday were unlawfully killed by Israeli forces, Amnesty International said today. 

Another 19 people, including six children, were injured by live ammunition fired during the raid on Qalandia refugee camp, the highest number of casualties in a single Israeli operation in the West Bank this year. Five of those wounded, including three children, had injuries to the upper body.

The intentional lethal use of firearms – such as firing live ammunition at individuals’ upper bodies – is only permissible if strictly unavoidable to protect life,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

The loss of life and high number of casualties in this incident raise serious questions as to whether heavily armoured Israeli troops acted according to international standards.”

Rubin ‘Abd al-Rahman Zayed, a 34-year-old employee of UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, was among those killed when he was shot in the chest by Israeli troops from a military vehicle as it was exiting the camp after the raid......"

Obama's "Red Line," by Emad Hajjaj

Click on the Cartoon to send it to a friend!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

On Interventions and the Syrian Revolution

by DarthNader

The Syrian revolution is a revolution that began as a struggle for self-determination. The Syrian people demanded to determine their own destiny. And, for more than two years, against all odds, and in the face of massive repression and destruction from the Assad regime, they persevered.
In the course of the revolutionary process, many other actors have also appeared on the scene to work against the struggle for self-determination. Iran and its militias, with the backing of Russia, came to the aid of the regime, to ensure the Syrian people would not be given this right. The jihadis of the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham and others, under the guise of “fighting the Assad regime,” worked against this right as well. And I feel the same way about any Western intervention.
Some would argue that we have come a long way from that, that it isn’t even about self-determination anymore, but rather, simply stopping the killing. This is a position I cannot support. If it was simply about stopping the killing, then I would’ve supported the jihadis when they came in, because, no one can deny, they were the best armed and the best equipped to challenge the Assad regime. But I didn’t, and many others didn’t, because we knew that despite their ability to challenge the regime, that they did not share the goals of the Syrian people. They wanted to control the Syrian people, and stifle their ability to determine their own destiny. Because of this, they were counter-revolutionaries, even if they were fighting against the regime.
And now in the face of a possible Western intervention in Syria, I hold the same position. Many would say I’m being ideological, and that I should just focus on stopping the killing; but those people are ignoring that, even on pragmatic terms and within their own line of reasoning, their argument holds no sway, after repeated US insistence that “these will only be punitive strikes” and they “do not intend to topple the regime.” What indication is there that these strikes will do anything to stop the killing, or “solve” the Syrian crisis?
I don’t care about sovereignty. Syria has become a land for everyone but Syrians nowadays. The myth of Syrian sovereignty is not why I oppose Western intervention. Neither is the prospect of the destruction of Syria, for it has already been destroyed by this criminal regime. I oppose Western intervention because it will work against the struggle for self-determination, that is, against the Syrian revolution.
Assad used chemical weapons against his own people. I have no doubt about this. And this could have been prevented if the Syrian resistance was actually given weapons that could have tilted the balance against the regime. But foreign powers sat on their hands, not wanting Assad to win, but not wanting the resistance to win either. They couldn’t give weapons to the Syrian people to defend themselves, they said, who knows whose hands they might end up in? They might accidentally end up in, say, the hands of Syrians who wanted to determine their own destiny despite foreign interests!
So we’ve come full circle. No one armed the Syrian resistance, so they were killed by the regime, or forced to put up with jihadi infiltration. So Assad used chemical weapons against the Syrians, and the West wants to respond to teach Assad a lesson, a response that still guarantees that Syrians have no say in the matter of their future. And the regime will probably live through any “punitive” Western intervention, and the killing will probably not stop.
But despite all that, the Syrian revolution, and, at its heart, the Syrian people’s struggle for liberation and to determine their own destiny, will live on.

Syria's elite join compatriots to flee country fearing western air strike

Well-heeled of Damascus also quit for safety across border in Lebanon as expectation of west's intervention grows

in Beirut, and
The Guardian,

Is it Time Yet? I don't Think so.

Cartoon by Ali Farzat

Egypt's Revolution, by Khalil Bendib

Obama and Aid to Egypt

Daryl Cagle,

The Prince: Meet the Man Who Co-Opted Democracy in the Middle East

By Robert Scheer

"Now that the Arab Spring has been turned into a totally owned subsidiary of the Saudi royal family, it is time to honor Prince Bandar bin Sultan as the most effective Machiavellian politician of the modern era. How slick for this head of the Saudi Intelligence Agency to finance the Egyptian military’s crushing of that nation’s first-ever democratic election while being the main source of arms for pro-al-Qaida insurgents in Syria. 

Just consider that a mere 12 years ago, this same Bandar was a beleaguered Saudi ambassador in Washington, a post he held from 1983 to 2005, attempting to explain his nation’s connection to 15 Saudi nationals who had somehow secured legal documents to enter the U.S. and succeeded in hijacking planes that blew up the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. How awkward given that the Saudi ambassador had been advocating that U.S. officials go easy on the Taliban government in Afghanistan, where those attacks incubated......

That big chunk of cash, $12 billion from the UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, is not aimed at stopping terrorism, if by that we mean the sort of attacks associated with 9/11 and al-Qaida. As the Journal story reminded, “A generation ago, Prince Bandar, in a role foreshadowing his current one on behalf of Syrian opposition, helped the CIA arm the Afghan rebels who were resisting occupation by Soviet troops.” That’s how the Saudi bin Laden came to be in Afghanistan. Earlier, Bandar had been involved in the CIA’s effort to deliver arms from Iran to the Contras in Nicaragua.

Can you imagine the blowback from the prince’s current efforts to get the United States to once again meddle madly in a region that we don’t care to comprehend? Why not ask Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham who, according to the Journal, met with Bandar in September to urge the Saudis to provide the Syrian rebels with more potent weapons. 

Or ask Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who was among those courted by Bandar. As the Journal described the Saudi junket by members of the congressional intelligence committees, “They [the Saudis] arranged a trip for committee leaders to Riyadh, where Prince Bandar laid out the Saudi strategy. It was a reunion of sorts, officials said, with Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) warmly scolding Prince Bandar about his smoking.”....."

Watch Bandar:

Bandar: We Are Corrupt; So What!