Blog Archives

Discourse of War and Doublethink, the Example of Syria

Full Text : President Bashar al-Assad Speech Following the Swearing-in Ceremony 

Amnesty Report: Harrowing Torture, Summary Killings In Secret ISIS Detention Centers In Syria

Syria: US Sponsored Terrorists Commit a New Massacre in Hama

British government planned a 100,000-strong Syrian proxy force

The Syrian Vote: The People Reject Regime Change

Understanding Syria’s War 

Ukraine vs Syria: The Only Standards Are Double Standards

Unveiling “Western” Hypocrisy Russia Connects Syria And Ukraine

Syria’s Election – No U.S. Intervention

WPost Seeks US-Patrolled ‘Safe Zone’ in Syria   

Syria and Ukraine, Two Elections, Dodgy Diplomatic Moves, War Crimes, Arrest Warrants, Double Standards …

Aleppo is dying from lack of water

Amid diplomatic offensive against Syria, France presses for war

US-aligned Human Rights Watch indicts Syria for gas attack

The Liberation of Homs, Beginning of the End of the Aggression Against Syria

War Criminal Robert Gates: Assad is ‘Winning’

No Red Line Requiem for Dead Syrian Soldiers

US flies false flag for Syrian rebels

Foreign Jihadis In Syria Pledge Their Own 9/11

Sophisticated US Weapons for Al Qaeda Mercenaries in Syria

The Homs Ceasefire Is a Symbolic Blow to Syria’s Rebels

Democratic Elections in Syria

Syria Conflict: A Shift For Fading Insurgency  Foreign Backers Look to Reverse Months of Military Defeats

The removal of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief may signal an effort to reorganise the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad

By Patrick Cockburn

April 17, 2014 “ICH” – “The Independent” - The removal of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the architect of Riyadh’s efforts to overthrow the Syrian government over the last three years, shows frustration within Saudi Arabia – one of the biggest backers of the rebels – at the failure of his policies.

The royal decree announcing the removal of Prince Bandar, for 22 years the highly influential Saudi ambassador in Washington, said that he had stepped down at his own request and was being replaced in the job he has held since 2012 by his deputy General Youssef  al-Idrissi as “head of general intelligence.”

Western experts on Saudi Arabia had variously reported that Prince Bandar is genuinely ill or has been discredited by the failure of Syrian rebels to make headway against President Bashar al-Assad. What is clear is that his policy of funding and supplying the rebels fighting against Assad has failed to have a meaningful impact.

The uncertainty about developments in Riyadh shows that few outsiders know what is happening in the upper ranks of the Saudi royal family as it prepares the ground for a smooth succession to King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz who is believed to be aged about 90.

While Syria remains at the top of Saudi Arabia’s list of priorities, there have been many distractions over the past year that may have detracted from the effort in Syria. It has been feeling under threat from turmoil across the region since the Arab uprisings of 2011. It faces hostile governments in Syria, Iran and Iraq with the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki recently blaming Saudi Arabia and Qatar for funding making terror attacks in his country.

It is unpopular in Yemen which has long resented its northern neighbour, which has been deporting tens of thousands of Yemeni workers from the Kingdom. It is also at loggerheads with Qatar, from which it has withdrawn its ambassador, and it is critical of Oman’s friendly relationship with Iran.

The Saudi government has been clamping down on all signs of domestic dissent, and in February made it a serious offence – to be punished with sentences of three to 20 years – for Saudis to go to fight abroad as jihadists. Some 2,500 Saudi jihadists are estimated to be in Syria, some in leadership roles in groups like the al-Qa’i da-affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra.

The government is targeting almost all types of political activity by the Muslim Brotherhood which it has declared a terrorist organisation, as well as by Shia activists, liberal reformers and civil rights advocates, in what one activist was quoted as saying was an “undeclared state of emergency”. New decrees define terrorist crimes  as any act that “disturbs public order, shakes the security of society, or subjects its national unity to danger, or obstructs the primary system of rule or harms the reputation of the state”.

Perhaps the most important foundation for the support of Syria’s rebels and preserving the status quo in Saudi Arabia is its close alliance with the US. This has come under strain because of the refusal of the US to launch a military assault to overthrow President Assad last August when he is alleged to have used chemical weapons against his own people in Damascus.

Prince Bandar was particularly vocal in criticising the US administration while the US Secretary of State John Kerry privately expressed anger at Prince Bandar’s support for al-Qa’ida-type groups in Syria.

A two hour meeting between President Obama and King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia on 28 March, the first since 2009, did not warm up relations between the two countries. The Americans and Saudis speak of increasing aid to Syrian rebel groups hostile both to President Assad and to al-Qa’ida, but these movements, in so far as they exist, are very weak.

The US refuses to supply Manpad shoulder-fired ground-to-air missiles on the grounds that they might fall into the hands of jihadist fighters.

Some American-made anti-tank missiles have been seen in the hands of rebels in northern and southern Syria in recent days, going by on-line videos. It is unclear if these BGM-71 TOW anti-tank rockets shown in the videos were supplied directly by the US or via a US ally such as Saudi Arabia.

A Syrian rebel activist in south-east Turkey, who identified himself as Samer Muhammad, told Reuters news agency that a small moderate rebel group called Harakat Hazm received 10  anti-tank missiles from the US earlier this month near Aleppo and  Idlib, two cities torn by heavy fighting near the northern border with  Turkey. He said that Harakat Hazm had launched five of those rockets to destroy four tanks and win a battle in the Idlib suburbs of Babulin and Salheiya, and this was the first time American arms had figured in fighting in Syria.

The resignation of Prince Bandar together with the arrival of US-made weapons in Syria for the first time may signal an effort by rebel backers to reorganise the opposition. But it will take more than a few anti-tank rockets – or even anti-craft missiles – to give the divided factions of the opposition superiority in the battle for Syria.

Syrian government forces have recently been wiping out the last rebel strongholds along the border with Lebanon while the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant continues to fight an intra-rebel civil war with other factions.

As if to reinforce that point, it was reported today that Syrian army troops entered rebel-held neighbourhoods of the central city of Homs after laying siege to the districts for nearly two years. Government troops entered areas of the Old City in Homs that had been under rebel control throughout the siege.

“They have entered into one area, Wadi al-Sayeh, which lies between Juret al-Shiyah and the Old City,” said Abu Bilal, an activist trapped inside the blockade, who spoke to AFP news agency.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38263.htm

The Weaponization of Western “Aid” for Syria

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April 11, 2014 (Tony Cartalucci – NEO) – The UN and the United States have laid blame squarely on the Syrian government for blocking international aid convoys from reaching victims of Syria’s ongoing conflict. The BBC in its article, “Syria crisis: UN says no aid improvement despite vote,” claimed:

The UN has said that there has been no humanitarian improvement for millions of Syrians since the Security Council passed a resolution last month to increase aid deliveries.

UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said that much of the blame lay with President Bashar al-Assad’s government. She accused it of an arbitrary and unjustified refusal to grant aid convoys access to remoter areas. Baroness Amos said violence, including sexual violence, continued to increase.The Syrian government has yet to respond to her allegations but has consistently argued that it is doing its utmost to get food and medical supplies to people in less accessible areas. In February, the Security Council called on all parties to allow aid to cross conflict lines and borders.
However, what the UN and the US have both failed to mention is the disingenuous intentions, means, and methods behind these so-called “aid convoys” attempting to reach “people in less accessible areas.” These would be areas held by foreign-backed militants, including members of the US State Department designated terrorist organization, Jabhat Al Nusra – Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise and guilty of some of the worst atrocities carried out during the conflict real or imagined on either side.
To see how “arbitrary and unjustified” the Syrian government’s refusals are to grant access to remote areas controlled by terrorists by Western “aid convoys,” one must consider emerging evidence regarding the nature of these so-called convoys and the general practice of the West sending relief into a conflict of their own design.
Aid as “Trojan Horses”  

Turning Point in US-NATO “Covert War”: ‘Syrian Army in Control of 90% of Lebanon-Syria Border Area

Global Research, April 11, 2014

Syrian army’s gains against foreign-backed militant groups along Lebanon borders has left the insurgents with so little space to enter more forces and weapons through Lebanon supply routes, a new report says.

Head of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdul Rahman, has told the Saudi daily al-Sharq al-Owsat that with Hezbollah’s activities in securing the border, “They [the militants] are now facing difficulties moving forces [across the border]”.

He said, increased security on the Syrian side of the border would lead to greater security in neighboring Lebanon, which has been adversely impacted by the three-year-long charged-war in Syria.

Retired Lebanese Army Brig. Gen. Amin Hoteit, an expert on Lebanese military and strategic affairs, told the paper: “Lebanon has now been separated from the Syrian crisis. This comes after the rebels withdrew from Qalamoun, and before this Al-Qusayr, Homs and Al-Zarah.”

Regaining Qusayr from the militants in May 2013, was Syrian army’s first major victory against the foreign-backed militants which used the town as their most important bastion for entering backup.

Hoteit says, some 90 percent of the approximately 365 kilometers of the common borders between Syria and Lebanon is now under the control of the Syrian army.

He added the Syrian army is seeking to create a “buffer zone” along the Lebanese border, securing its presence in the border area in order to “separate Lebanon from the Syrian crisis.”

Lebanon is linked to Syria via five legal crossings, along with approximately 18 illegal crossing points and 15 difficult-to-traverse tertiary crossing points, he said adding that with latest changes the militants are only able to cross mainly via three mountainous passageways that vehicles cannot navigate.

Syrian army has been fighting numerous multi-national militant groups for three years, each one of them with their own foreign-supporters.
Turkey which is an open supporter of war in Syria, has widely been criticized by the Syrian government for leaving its borders open to terrorist groups and foreign militants to enter Syria and join the insurgency.

Jordan’s common borders with Syria are another route for the militant groups, mostly used by CIA-backed militants who are trained in US training camps to come and fight against the Syrian army.

Improvements in blocking foreign supply routes have been considerable along Lebanon borders, with the help of Hezbollah resistance group which stepped in to help secure Lebanon form infiltrating terrorist groups.

 http://www.globalresearch.ca/turning-point-in-us-nato-covert-war-syrian-army-in-control-of-90-of-lebanon-syria-border-area/5377524

 

Taking stock of Lakhdar Brahimi

After the failure of the Geneva 2 Peace Conference, the Special Envoy of the Secretaries General of the UN and the Arab League, Lakhdar Brahimi, has refrained from from setting a date for a new meeting. He pronounced accusations against Syria, which he blames for the war of which she is the victim. For Thierry Meyssan, Mr. Brahimi was not only judge and jury, but his mandate was to impose upon Syria what he had imposed on his own country: war.

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Posing as a Third World activist, Lakhdar Brahimi was the last person to host the Vice-President of the Tricontinental, Mehdi Ben Barka, before the latter was mysteriously kidnapped and murdered. Following the independence of Algeria, he was successively secretary-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador to Egypt, and the High Representative of the Arab League and of the UN worldwide. Recalled to Algeria, he served as Foreign Affairs Minister from 1991 to 1992.

The Geneva 2 Conference failed, first, because the United States decided to support the Saudi position rather than honor their signature on the Geneva 1 communiqué and, secondly, because it was chaired by Lakhdar Brahimi was not an impartial broker but served precisely Washington instead of seeking peace.

On the advice of Russia, Syria had accepted that the special envoy of Ban Ki-moon would chair the sessions. Moscow hoped at the time that Washington would keep its promises. Damascus remembered that twenty-five years earlier, at Taif, Brahimi had not been an opponent of Syria. However, the vote by the U.S. Congress granting funding to Al-Qaeda at a secret meeting [1], the lack of legitimacy and authority of the delegation of the Syrian opposition, the cancellation of the UN invitation to Iran on the eve of the conference and the keynote speech by Secretary of State John Kerry heaping all the responsibility on Syria [2], not to mention the hurdles put by the European Union to physically prevent the Syrian delegation from travelling to Switzerland [3] showed that Moscow had either miscalculated or been deceived.

The Montreux session was exclusively designed to put Syria in the dock, making it fall into a trap. Indeed, the United States had itself drafted the statement by the opposition and released two days earlier a supposedly independent report – actually a hoax sponsored by Qatar – comparing Syrian prisons to Auschwitz [4]. Though Walid al-Muallem reasonably addressed Syrian public opinion, John Kerry and his allies, for their part, spoke to the rest of the world to impose their propaganda.

The Geneva talks were an opportunity for Lakhdar Brahimi to frame Syria’s inflexibility and to blame her for the war of which she is the victim. Thus, in the eyes of the world, the victims became the executioners. He allowed talk about terrorism, while all the same time evoking the issue of transitional government. Then he accused Syria of not playing the game even though the discussion on terrorism had resulted in the clear endorsement of the “opposition” delegation of the abuses perpetrated by the jihadists.

Since the U.S. shieft, Lakhdar Brahimi has transformed himself into a relentless accuser of Syria. On March 14, before the United Nations General Assembly, he accused her of turning down international humanitarian aid and of starving her own people [5]. He presented the situation in Yarmouk Camp as Syria’s deliberate intent to starve the Palestinians, ignoring that the Palestinian Authority supports Syria and has thanked her for what she is doing in Yarmouk. Above all, he never ceased to assert that the conflict was between the government and some of its citizens and could not find a military solution. This is concealing the West’s ten-year involvement in prepararing for this war, the way in which they triggered it by sending snipers into Deraa and spreading disinformation about the torture of children. It is also ignoring the presence of foreign fighters, even though Mr. Brahimi had previously admitted they were at least 40,000. Even though this figure is three times lower than what it actually is, it is enough to indicate that this is a war of aggression comparable to that that suffered Nicaragua in the 80s.

In retrospect, it appears that Syria was wrong to follow Russia’s advice and trust Lakhdar Brahimi. His appointment was in itself a foreboding of the failure to come: while his predecessor, Kofi Annan, had resigned, saying the mission impossible due to the division of the Security Council, Brahimi himself had accepted it with a smile.

Then, Lakhdar Brahimi had combined his role as Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General with that of Special Envoy of the Secretary General of the Arab League, from which Syria was improperly excluded. He was therefore judge and jury.

At the time of Brahimi’s appointment in August 2013, I wrote an article about his past and submitted it to a major Syrian newspaper – I did not yet have the privilege of writing for Al-Watan. I reported his engagement in 1992 among the ten members of the Algerian High Security Council [6]. This so-called champion of democracy then annulled the results of democratic elections, forcing President Bendjedid to resign, placed janviéristes generals in power triggering a terrible decade of civil war, which the Algerian people still bear the scars and from which only the United States profited.

At the time, the leader of the Algerian Islamists, Abbasi Madani, took the pseudo secular Syrian, Bourhan Ghalioun (future president of the Syrian National Council) as a political advisor. The armed Islamist faction GSPC (renamed in 2007 Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) was trained in handling weapons alongside the Islamic Fighting Group in Libya (renamed in 1997 Al-Qaeda in Libya); most fighters of the two groups are today incorporated into the armed groups in Syria.

Very worried about the consequences of these revelations, some Syrian officials opposed their publication. According to them, the dissemination of such an article would have been interpreted, including by Russia, as a desire to break away on the part of Syria. So I published it in Algeria, on Mr. Brahimi’s turf, in El-Ekhbar, the country’s second daily [7]. It provoked a storm against him there.

Let’s observe today the legacy of Lakhdar Brahimi : even before taking part in triggering the Algerian civil war, he had negotiated the Taif Agreement (1989) for the Arab League which divided Lebanon along religious community lines and which, today, make it anything but a sovereign state. Mr. Brahimi is also the one who negotiated the Bonn Accords (2002), installing the Kabul Karzai clan in power on behalf of NATO. Finally, as for the famous report – to which he gave his name – of the UN Commission he chaired for the Peacekeeping Operations [8] dedicated to “humanitarian intervention”, the new name for colonialism. Above all, he endorses the drift of the Organization which invented interposition troops to impose the peace of the great powers instead of observers to monitor the application of a negotiated peace between the parties in conflict. He advocated to base this global governance on a doctrine of intervention and a supra-national intelligence service called “Decision Support”, which Ban Ki-moon entrusted … to NATO . ” [9].

Moreover, Mr. Brahimi has never been a “bargainer” or a “mediator” in the conflict. His mandate, signed by Ban Ki-moon, asks him to use his “talents and his extraordinary experience” to lead Syria to a “political transition, in accordance with the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people [10]. And “transition” here does not mean transition from war to peace, but from a sovereign Syria to an enslaved Syria without Bashar el-Assad.

Lakhdar Brahimi, who presents himself as a former Third World militant, has never served the people of the Third World – not even his own – and has never broken with the major powers. He does not deserve the respect that we have accorded him.

Translation
Roger Lagassé

Source
Al-Watan (Syria)

[1] “Les États-Unis, premiers financiers mondiaux du terrorisme“, by Thierry Meyssan, Al-Watan (Syrie), Réseau Voltaire, 3 February 2014.

[2] “John Kerry’s opening speech at the Geneva 2 Conference”, by John F. Kerry, Voltaire Network, 22 January 2014.

[3] “European Union attempts to sabotage Geneva-2”, Translation Alizée Ville, Voltaire Network, 22 January 2014.

[4] “Carter-Ruck’s accusations against Syria”, Translation Alizée Ville,Voltaire Network, 24 January 2014.

[5] “Briefing on Syria by Lakhdar Brahimi to the UN General Assembly”, by Lakhdar Brahimi, Voltaire Network, 14 March 2014.

[6Islam and democracy : the failure of dialogue in Algeria, by Frédéric Volpi, Pluto Press, 2003 (p. 55 and following pages).

[7] “The Brahimi Plan”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Michele Stoddard ,Information Clearing House (USA), Voltaire Network, 29 August 2012.

[8Comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects, United Nations, A/55/305–S/2000/809.

[9Déclaration commune sur la collaboration des Secrétariats des Nations Unies et de l’OTAN“, OTAN, Réseau Voltaire, 23 September 2008.

[10] “SECRETARY-GENERAL ANNOUNCES APPOINTMENT OF LAKHDAR BRAHIMI AS JOINT ARAB LEAGUE-UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR SYRIA, United Nations, 17 August 2012

Published April 8, 2014

http://www.voltairenet.org/article183178.html

Reports of Rebels with ‘Tank-busters’ Raises Questions of US Role in Syria

By Taimur Khan

April 09, 2014 “ICH” – “The National” - Videos of western-backed Syrian rebels using sophisticated anti-tank missiles indicate that Washington might have signed off on heavier weaponry being distributed to moderate groups.

The videos appeared online this week amid deep divisions between John Kerry’s State Department and the Pentagon over how much more the US should involve itself militarily in the Syrian civil war.

The videos of the US-made BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles were posted online by Harakat Hazm, a Free Syrian Army brigade of fighters in north-west Syria linked to former Supreme Military Council leader Selim Idriss. There have also been reports that the Syrian Revolutionary Front of Jamal Marouf also now have TOW, or tube-launched anti-tank missiles.

Even though both rebel groups are linked to the SMC, they are reportedly backed respectively by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, who have supported competing groups within the SMC. If the reports that both groups have the missiles are accurate, however, “then it’s likely that the US is either supplying the TOW missiles or allowing Saudi Arabia and/or Turkey and Qatar — to supply their own TOWs”, said Yezid Sayigh, a scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut.

The authenticity of the videos could not be verified and there was no immediate response from from National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan.

After peace talks between the Syrian Opposition Coalition and the Syrian regime ended in failure last month in Geneva, the US is reportedly considering supplying rebel fighters with more firepower to tip the balance of power on the battlefield as Bashar Al Assad’s regime gains momentum.

Mr Kerry and the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, have urged the White House to intervene more forcefully in Syria, while Pentagon officials have warned against further steps such as no-fly zones, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

In recent White House meetings, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Martin Dempsey and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel have pushed back against the State Department’s attempts to increase the US’s military role in Syria.

In the run-up to US President Barack Obama’s trip to Riyadh two weeks ago, US officials were reported as saying that they were on the verge of allowing portable anti-aircraft missiles through to vetted rebels. But those reports have proved to be premature and the statements were perhaps intended only to relieve pressure from angry Arabian Gulf allies who have urged Mr Obama to do more as the Syrian war engulfs the region.

The reports also could be seen as an attempt to “increase pressure on the regime by making public hints of things” but “without actually doing anything that in fact commits them in a meaningful way on anything”, Mr Sayigh said.

The US continues to only want the rebels to change Mr Al Assad’s calculations and bring him back to the negotiating table, not defeat his military.

“The White House is in all likelihood not ready to accept such a decisive shift which could, as they see it, hasten regime collapse in the absence of a viable alternative, possibly empowering extremist groups,” said Faysal Itani, resident fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East in Washington. The administration views the conflict primarily through this “narrow prism” and has a “profound indifference to its broader trajectory”.

The videos posted online this week by Harakat Hazm also showed fighters holding Russian-built SA-7 Manpads, but it is highly unlikely that they are part of any new assistance given a green light by Washington and were likely captured from Mr Al Assad’s Moscow-backed regime or purchased on the black market, analysts said.

The Wall Street Journal report stated that Pentagon officials may consider increased military assistance after Syria gives up all of its chemical weapons stockpiles, a process that is continuing. Over ninety per cent of its stockpile has either been given up or packed and awaiting removal, according to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, but Syria has so far refused to destroy any of its chemical weapons production sites, which officials have said they would like to convert for civilian use.

But the dispute over the chemical factories is unlikely to push Mr Obama to take further military action.

“One of the reasons they hesitate is because unlike most of the people who talk about this in public, the US does understand that each step will have a counter action” by Syria and its main international supporter Russia, Mr Sayigh said. This could include Syrian actions against regional US allies, he added.

“And unless they’re willing to go further, then they have to measure whether to take that first step.”

tkhan@thenational.ae

See also -

Turkey Provides Militants with Missiles: Diplomatic sources confirmed that Turkey has stepped up its support toward the Free Syrian Army by providing militants with sophisticated American weaponry in a new attempt to tip the balance in its favor and successfully depose Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38170.htm

“If Stones Could Weep”: Syria, Blair’s Plans and an Archbishop’s Son

Global Research, April 09, 2014

blairNot only is Middle East “Peace Envoy”, Catholic convert and Butcher of Baghdad, Tony Blair gunning for another overthrow and mass destruction in Syria, he has recruited the son of an Archbishop to help him.

Not any old Archbishop either, Blair’s latest recruit is son of Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of All England, who heads both the Church of England and the eighty million member Anglican Communion worldwide.

Blair has given Peter Welby “a key role” in his mega-funded Faith Foundation as: “a researcher for a new website … that will analyse the role of religion in conflicts around the world.”(1) Perhaps enjoining, as George W. Bush put it, a “Crusade” against majority Muslim countries might be an angle worth pursuing.

Twenty three year old Welby is clearly a faithful Blairite, having already hawkishly warned of President Putin’s “annexation” of the Crimea and that the British Government: “would be wise to consider reversing some defence cuts …” As a “researcher” he clearly has a bit to learn, since the Crimean referendum with a 83.1% turn out and near 97% vote to cede to Russia had clearly passed him by.

 He will surely fit well in his new post since the above exhibits a splendidly Blair-type mindset and abandonment scrutiny of facts – like weapons of mass destruction that can be unleashed “in forty five minutes.”

However, it is with Syria that he follows Blair’s line to the letter. The “Peace Envoy” embraces wars of aggression as a fish takes to proverbial water – courageously always traveling with an army of armed protection officers funded by the un-consulted British tax payer.

Blair’s determination to do for Syria what he did for Iraq is a litany, but here are a random four: Legality ditched again, he declared of President Assad: “He’s got to go …”   (CBS 19th April 2012.)

“We’ve got to look very carefully to what more we can do to ratchet up the pressure on Assad … “ (BBC “Today” Programme, 17th September 2012.)

There would be: “ ‘catastrophic consequences’ if the West fails to arm Syrian rebels to defeat the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.” (Daily Telegraph 19th June 2013.) Blair either missed or is cheering on, the unspeakable atrocities being committed by the (Western paid) foreign insurgents and terrorist groups.

As this was being written he popped up on the BBC’s “Today” Programme again, loftily attempting to justify the catastrophes of Afghanistan and Iraq in his “I’d do it all again” mode and saying of Syria that the strong opposition of the British people (he didn’t mention the “No” vote in Parliament) did not “invalidate” the need for action. As Stop the War put it: “We should invade Syria whether the British public want it or not.”

The cynic might ponder on whether, for a man for whom precious human lives lost in orders of magnitude are clearly very cheap indeed, there is an element of pay-back involved.

At the beginning of November 2001, three weeks after the invasion of Afghanistan, Blair went to visit President Assad: “the first ever visit to Damascus by a British leader, to enlist support for the bombing campaign. Instead he was subjected to a recital of … Western failures in the Middle East.”

 Rather than gather support for the bombing, he: “was forced to listen as the Syrian President heaped criticism on the killing of Afghan civilians.”

“We cannot accept what we see on television, the killing of innocent civilians, hundreds now dying every day”, Assad told Blair, adding that: “We are always against war” – and moreover, the West also placed little value on Arab lives.(2)

Whatever Blair’s motives, Peter Welby is firmly on side. On 31st March he wrote, in an article for the Faith Foundation’s website:

“Last week I went to a presentation by Emile Hokayem hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.” In a “fascinating” talk: “Hokayem argued that engagement with Assad is not the way to defeat jihadist forces in Syria – rather,engagement must be with rebels more favourable to Western interests …” (emphasis mine.) (3)

In a ramble about the complexities of terrorist groups in Iraq and their travels between Iraq and Syria, there is no mention that they were never there before in secular Iraq and Syria and, as mentioned previously, literally came in with Bush and Blair’s tanks, in their illegal invasion, which also left all borders wide open for all comers.

Hokayem, writes Welby unquestioningly, thought Assad’s victory “improbable”, but his money is basically on the thugs and: “peace is unlikely until one group is sufficiently dominant to take the others with it.”

No mention of countless beheadings, including children and of the numerous, unspeakable mediaeval atrocities meted out by these demonic, illegal immigrants.

 In fact, even the Washington Post is of the view that President Assad’s tide is turning and that: “He is in a stronger position than ever before to quell the rebellion” and indeed, to win a third term in the upcoming elections.(4)

Mr Welby’s temporarily absent researching skills have also perhaps missed that Mr Hokayem, who does not just lecture at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, but works for them, seemingly has a touching faith in Israel’s views, as evident in a recent tweet:

“Emile Hokayem __@emile_hokayem_ 34m Israeli intel reports recent Assad use of non-lethal chem agents. Before trashing news, remember: Isr intel was 1st to report CW use last yr”

Seymour Hersh’s latest meticulous piece (5) on the chemical weapons attack in Syria is summarily dismissed:

“Emile Hokayem __@emile_hokayem_ Apr 7

So, just as there was no reason to take his 1st LRB piece on Assad CW attacks seriously, there is no reason to do so with the 2nd one either

 Last year’s claim to which Hokayem refers, that Syrian government forces used chemical weapons at Ghouta has been widely discredited. Hersh’s piece seems to put the lid on any doubts.

 Perhaps, however, Peter Welby’s appointment by Blair is not so surprising. His father is seemingly a close friend of the self-styled “Vicar of Baghdad” Canon Andrew “I get most of my money from the Pentagon” White.

On Justin Welby’s appointment as Archbishop in November 2013 Andrew White commented: “What do you say when your friend and former colleague, the one who reopened St. George’s Baghdad with me, is announced as Archbishop of Canterbury?

“Bishop Justin Welby is a great and wonderful man of G-d. I count it as a great privilege to have had him as my closest colleague ever.”(6)

One man is incandescent about the appointment of Peter Welby and has written to his father in no uncertain terms.

Nicholas Wood is author of “War Crime or Just War? The Case Against Blair”, a meticulous legal compilation of just that. Wood, is also Secretary of the Blair War Crimes Foundation. He writes:

 The Archbishop of Canterbury.

Canterbury Cathedral.

Dear Sir,

I enclose my book on Blair, and also a letter to the Prime Minister on his criminality. Though quite why I bother to pay the postage I don’t know.

 I cannot comprehend that you are someone who is supposed to think every day of moral values but not realise that Blair is a very dangerous psychopath, who, as well as causing untold devastation and misery in Iraq, wishes to extend that violence into Syria and Iran to protect Israel.

If you read page 570 of his autobiography you might possibly see what I mean.”

Referring to Blair’s advisory position to various heads of State, including Uzbekistan, of which former Ambassador Craig Murray blew the whistle on mind numbing torture, he states: “ Your son will be benefiting, indirectly of coursei from money obtained from despots who boil their victims. This, under the guise of piety.

I was brought up as a child, a long time ago, to think of Thomas A Becket as a Saint, who resisted the power of a military state, and paid the price with his life. I cannot see you doing that.

I also was brought up to worship the medieval beauty of Canterbury, it’s stones and it’s stained glass. If stones could weep they would be weeping now.

 Yours faithfully,

Nicholas Wood, MA

Page 570 of Blair’s autobiography to which Wood refers contains a phrase which should surely grab the attention of any psychiatrist:

 “I had a vision for Britain. All the way I had believed I could and would persuade the country it was the right choice, the modern way, bigger than Iraq, bigger than the American Alliance, bigger than any one thing; a complete vision of where we should be in the early twenty first century; about how we finally overcome the greatness of our history to discover the full potential of our future.”

“Bigger than Iraq”? The nearing two million deaths since 2003? The five million orphans, million widows. five million displaced? On to Syria, Iran?

Nicholas Wood says in succinct understatement: “I suggest that such a  vision should be restrained before it is emulated and allowed free rein.”

 Notes

1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2594735/SEBASTIAN-SHAKESPEARE-Archbishop-Welbys-son-given-plum-job-Blair.html#ixzz2yCQeZ0QY

 2. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/1361190/Assad-hits-at-Blair-over-war-deaths.html

 3. http://www.tonyblairfaithfoundation.org/blogpost/syria’s-fragmented-extremists

4. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/on-third-anniversary-of-syrian-rebellion-assad-is-steadily-winning-the-war/2014/03/14/f189649a-bd1a-4c9e-9060-755984ea92c8_story.html

5. http://www.lrb.co.uk/2014/04/06/seymour-m-hersh/the-red-line-and-the-rat-line

6. http://www.breakingchristiannews.com/articles/display_art.html?ID=10743

http://www.globalresearch.ca/if-stones-could-weep-syria-blairs-plans-and-an-archbishops-son/5377266

US targets Syria for stepped-up aggression

By Jean Shaoul

8 April 2014

While media commentators claim that the Obama administration’s focus on Ukraine and Russia means a shift away from the Middle East and the ongoing civil war against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, the opposite is true.

Provocations that can be used as a suitable casus belli for an intervention against Syria are once again being planned by the United States and its regional allies.

The expulsion of opposition forces from Yabrud ends the last armed opposition presence in the Qalamoun region between Lebanon and Damascus and Homs. This brings to 70 percent the population under government control, concentrated along the western northwest corridor. But vast swathes of the less populated parts of the country are under the control of different Islamist groups made up of fighters from around the world battling against each other for supremacy. In other words, there are a series of wars within the wider proxy war that has broken up Syria into numerous entities and wrecked its economy.

On Friday, opposition forces made new claims about the use of poison gas by government forces in Jobar, a neighbourhood in the capital Damascus, with a video supposedly showing an unconscious man being treated by medics.

The allegation come just days after Syria’s United Nations envoy, Bashar Ja’afari, wrote to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN Security Council saying that his government had intercepted communications between “terrorists” that showed a man named Abu Nadir was secretly distributing gas masks in the rebel-held Jobar area. The letter said that this information “confirms that armed terrorist groups are preparing to use toxic gas in Jobar quarter and other areas, in order to accuse the Syrian government of having committed such an act of terrorism.”

Last December, a UN inquiry reported that sarin gas had probably been used in Jobar in August and in several other locations, including in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Ghouta, where hundreds of people were killed.

On Sunday, the London Review of Books published a lengthy article by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh that reported that the attack in Ghouta was carried out by Syrian “rebel” forces acting at the behest of Turkey, for the purpose of providing a pretext for a US attack on Syria. (See: “New exposé by Seymour Hersh: Turkey staged gas attack to provoke US war on Syria”)

The Obama administration had sought to use the incident as the basis for a planned military strike against Syria, but this was subsequently called off due to mass popular opposition and divisions both at home and among its allies in Europe.

According to the Washington Post, current US measures being used in Syria include doubling the number of fighters to be trained in US-run camps in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Henceforth the CIA, not the military, is to take charge. Its mission will be “counterterrorism”—apparently against the very groups it has sponsored for three years. The US is to allow Saudi Arabia to supply opposition forces with “manpads” anti-aircraft missile launchers. Washington will also provide more financial resources for opposition forces on Syria’s borders.

Officials say they have a plan for the “moderate opposition” to supply it with weapons and weaken extremist and terrorist forces that have turned up in Syria. Such support is to be channelled through Washington’s regional allies, whose function is to provide the necessary pretexts for military intervention against Syria.

Turkey has begun openly providing military support for the opposition along its southern border, despite the widespread hostility among the Turkish population to any involvement in Syria. According to the Israeli web site close to intelligence sources, DEBKAfile, Turkey is giving Syrian rebel forces, including the Al Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front, passage through its territory to attack the Syrian coastal area around Latakia, a stronghold of the Alawite sect to which many of the clique around Assad belong.

On March 23, Turkish air defences shot down a Syrian plane overflying the battle zone that Ankara claimed had entered Turkish air space. This was a blatant lie as the plane fell to the ground in Syria. At the very least, this suggests that Ankara is intent on establishing a de facto no-fly zone on its own over the Syrian border region in support of the rebel forces.

On March 30, during his local election victory speech, Prime Minister Racep Erdogan declared, “We are in a state of war with Syria.”

This follows revelations that Turkish officials have been planning an attack on their own forces to manufacture a pretext to attack Syria contained in a leaked audio recording, posted to YouTube, of a meeting between top Turkish diplomats and intelligence officials, including Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT). They discussed the possibility of organizing an attack from inside Syria across the Turkish-Syrian border, or on the Tomb of Suleiman Shah. Under the 1921 Treaty of Ankara between Turkey and France, then the colonial power in Syria, this tomb is a piece of sovereign Turkish territory inside Syria, guarded by Turkish forces. Ankara banned access to YouTube inside Turkey.

Leaked telephone calls make clear that this and other plans are false flag

operations being planned in order to provide the justification for Turkish military intervention against Syria and to deflect the mounting domestic opposition to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Turkey has already witnessed blowback, with armed clashes between the police and gunmen belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) on the streets of Istanbul, wounding three police officers, when counterterrorism units raided a house suspected of hosting an ISIS cell. Last year, an attack originally attributed to pro-Syrian regime forces in Hatay province that killed dozens was the work of anti-Syrian forces. These incidents indicate the scale of the reverberations of the prolonged Syrian war, which has already destabilised Lebanon and Iraq.

Israel too is upping its support for opposition forces. It has carried out several raids in Syria, ostensibly aimed at arms consignments to Hezbollah. It also operates field hospitals inside Syria and has brought—and returned—more than 600 opposition fighters into the Golan Heights, which Israel captured in 1967 and annexed in 1981, for treatment. Such an operation could not have been carried out without the Israeli army establishing communications systems and frequent contacts with local militias, as it did in southern Lebanon during the Lebanese civil war in the 1970s. With the Israeli army protecting their backs, these militias have battled Syrian regime troops based in the southwest of the country.

Jordan provides an “operations room” in Amman where Jordanian military and intelligence officers coordinate military assistance to local rebel groups alongside Saudi and Western advisors, protecting the rebels’ southern front.

Israel is said to be ready to pay compensation to Turkey for the eight Turkish citizens killed in the Mavi Marmara aid ship to Gaza in May 2010, paving the way for the resumption of diplomatic relations and military cooperation between the two countries.

Saudi Arabia issued a royal decree banning Saudi citizens from going to fight in Syria and designated a number of organizations—including ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra that it, along with Qatar, had earlier promoted—as terrorist groups. It is part of a broader move to re-brand the opposition forces as “moderates” and to prevent blowback at home.

Once again, the US is threatening to use the appalling plight of the Syrian people caught up in the fighting as the pretext for military action against the Assad regime. More than 150,000 have died, and at least a third of the country’s 23 million people have been forced to flee their homes. Nearly 2 million have fled to Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey.

Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, argued for a Security Council resolution that would have “meaningful consequences on the ground”—by which she meant one that could be used to justify the use of military force. Crucially, this pretext is particularly attractive to the pseudo-left layer that has been won to the cause of “humanitarian” imperialism over the past two decades. Danny Postel, a regular contributor to pseudo-left journals such as the Nation and In These Times, wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times with Nader Hashemi entitled, “Use Force to Save Starving Syrians.”

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/04/08/ussy-a08.html

Seymour Hersh Unearths More Lies on Syria

By Jonathan Cook

April 07, 2014 “ICH” - Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has a second fascinating essay that rewrites the official record of the sarin gas attack on Ghouta, near Damascus, in August last year. As usual, Hersh uses his sources in the US security establishment to throw light on what really took place. The bottom line: Turkey was almost certainly the party responsible for the attack, hoping it would force Obama to honour his threatened “red line” if Assad used chemical weapons. Was the Assad regime to be brought down by a US military campaign, Turkey assumed it would be able to turn Syria into a client state.

Like the earlier article, this one will probably gain very little attention. It is published in the obscure UK literary publication the London Review of Books. Presumably like last time, Hersh could not find a mainstream publication willing to take it – and I’m guessing that, like last time, these stunningly important revelations will be shunned by the liberal media. Instead, it will be consigned to the memory hole, along with so much other evidence of western crimes against humanity. Pundits and analysts will continue to tell us confidently that Assad carried out the Ghouta attack, oblivious to Hersh’s findings.

The reason the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Guardian have been studiously ignoring Hersh’s investigations on this, it seems to me, is that they show the Obama administration’s foreign policy is just as criminal as the previous Bush White House’s.

Here is a summary of Hersh’s main findings:

* Obama’s sudden climbdown on his threatened military strike against Assad was in part forced on him by a chemical analysis of samples of the sarin used in Ghouta, which showed that its signature did not match that of the stockpiles held by the Assad regime.

* Despite US claims, the White House knew that the Syrian rebels had developed chemical weapons production facilities. UN investigators thought the Syrian opposition were the most likely culprits behind earlier chemical weapons attacks, in April and May 2013.

The American and British intelligence communities had been aware since the spring of 2013 that some rebel units in Syria were developing chemical weapons. On 20 June analysts for the US Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page ‘talking points’ briefing for the DIA’s deputy director, David Shedd, which stated that al-Nusra maintained a sarin production cell.

* The military strike being prepared by the White House after the Ghouta attack was, far from small-scale, as secretary of state John Kerry intimated, modelled on the shock and awe campaign against Saddam Hussein.

Under White House pressure, the US attack plan evolved into ‘a monster strike’: two wings of B-52 bombers were shifted to airbases close to Syria, and navy submarines and ships equipped with Tomahawk missiles were deployed. ‘Every day the target list was getting longer,’ the former intelligence official told me. … The new target list was meant to ‘completely eradicate any military capabilities Assad had’, the former intelligence official said. The core targets included electric power grids, oil and gas depots, all known logistic and weapons depots, all known command and control facilities, and all known military and intelligence buildings.

* The US developed a back channel of weapons-smuggling to the Syrian rebels, known as the rat line, in cooperation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, using the “liberated” arsenals from Libya following the west’s ousting of Gaddafi.

The rat line, authorised in early 2012, was used to funnel weapons and ammunition from Libya via southern Turkey and across the Syrian border to the opposition. Many of those in Syria who ultimately received the weapons were jihadists, some of them affiliated with al-Qaida. … By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria. … The operation was run by David Petraeus, the CIA director who would soon resign when it became known he was having an affair with his biographer.

* The job of the US consulate in Libya – the one where ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed – was to provide logistical assistance with the rat line. That was the reason the consulate was attacked.

‘The consulate’s only mission was to provide cover for the moving of arms,’ the former intelligence official, who has read the annex, said. ‘It had no real political role.’ … Washington abruptly ended the CIA’s role in the transfer of arms from Libya after the attack on the consulate, but the rat line kept going. ‘The United States was no longer in control of what the Turks were relaying to the jihadists,’ the former intelligence official said. Within weeks, as many as forty portable surface-to-air missile launchers, commonly known as manpads, were in the hands of Syrian rebels. On 28 November 2012, Joby Warrick of the Washington Post reported that the previous day rebels near Aleppo had used what was almost certainly a manpad to shoot down a Syrian transport helicopter. ‘The Obama administration,’ Warrick wrote, ‘has steadfastly opposed arming Syrian opposition forces with such missiles, warning that the weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists and be used to shoot down commercial aircraft.’

* By late 2012 the US had assessed that the rebels were losing the civil war, and started to downgrade their involvement in the rat line. That left Turkey’s Recep Erdogan the main loser.

The American decision to end CIA support of the weapons shipments into Syria left Erdoğan exposed politically and militarily. ‘One of the issues at that May summit was the fact that Turkey is the only avenue to supply the rebels in Syria,’ the former intelligence official said. … Without US military support for the rebels, the former intelligence official said, ‘Erdoğan’s dream of having a client state in Syria is evaporating and he thinks we’re the reason why. When Syria wins the war, he knows the rebels are just as likely to turn on him – where else can they go? So now he will have thousands of radicals in his backyard.’

* Erdogan therefore became focused on exploiting the “red line” Obama had set on Assad’s use of chemical weapons to force the US to attack Syria.

Erdoğan knew that if he stopped his support of the jihadists it would be all over. The Saudis could not support the war because of logistics – the distances involved and the difficulty of moving weapons and supplies. Erdoğan’s hope was to instigate an event that would force the US to cross the red line. But Obama didn’t respond [to the previous chemical weapons attacks] in March and April.’ … We now know it was a covert action planned by Erdoğan’s people to push Obama over the red line,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘They had to escalate to a gas attack in or near Damascus when the UN inspectors’ – who arrived in Damascus on 18 August to investigate the earlier use of gas – ‘were there. The deal was to do something spectacular. … Barring a major change in policy by Obama, Turkey’s meddling in the Syrian civil war is likely to go on.

Jonathan Cook is an award-winning British journalist based in Nazareth, Israel, since 2001.http://www.jonathan-cook.net

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38149.htm

New exposé by Seymour Hersh: Turkey staged gas attack to provoke US war on Syria

By Patrick Martin

7 April 2014

In a lengthy article published Sunday by the London Review of Books, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reports that the sarin gas attack on a Damascus suburb on August 21, 2013 was actually carried out by Syrian “rebel” forces acting at the behest of Turkey, for the purpose of providing a pretext for a US attack on Syria.

The gas attack killed many hundreds of people in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, and the Obama administration and the corporate-controlled US media immediately blamed the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad for the atrocity. The New York Times, in particular, published a lengthy analysis by its military “expert,” C. J. Chivers, which purported to show, based on rocket trajectories, prevailing winds and other technical factors, that the gas shells could only have been fired from Syrian army artillery positions.

For several weeks, the Ghouta attack became the pretext for a warmongering campaign by the White House and the US and European media. Obama threatened immediate air strikes, claiming that the Syrian government had crossed a “red line” against the use of chemical weapons, which he had laid down in 2012.

The US president then abruptly reversed himself and announced he would seek congressional approval first, only to call off any overt military action in favor of a deal brokered by Russian President Vladimir Putin in which Assad agreed to the supervised dismantling of his chemical weapons stockpiles.

By Hersh’s account, “Obama’s change of mind had its origins at Porton Down, the defence laboratory in Wiltshire. British intelligence had obtained a sample of the sarin used in the 21 August attack and analysis demonstrated that the gas used didn’t match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army’s chemical weapons arsenal. The message that the case against Syria wouldn’t hold up was quickly relayed to the US joint chiefs of staff… As a consequence the American officers delivered a last-minute caution to the president, which, in their view, eventually led to his cancelling the attack.”

The US military leadership also knew that White House claims that there could be no other source for the sarin gas than the Syrian army were false. “The American and British intelligence communities had been aware since the spring of 2013 that some rebel units in Syria were developing chemical weapons,” Hersh reports. “On 20 June analysts for the US Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page ‘talking points’ briefing for the DIA’s deputy director, David Shedd, which stated that al-Nusra maintained a sarin production cell…”

Hersh quotes extensively from this US government document, which the office of the US director of national intelligence now denies ever existed:

“Al-Nusrah Front’s relative freedom of operation within Syria leads us to assess the group’s CW [chemical weapons] aspirations will be difficult to disrupt in the future… Turkey and Saudi-based chemical facilitators… were attempting to obtain sarin precursors in bulk, tens of kilograms, likely for the anticipated large scale production effort in Syria.”

Hersh notes that members of al-Nusra were arrested in Turkey last May in possession of two kilograms of sarin. They were charged in a 130-page indictment with “attempting to purchase fuses, piping for the construction of mortars, and chemical precursors for sarin.” All have since been released pending trial, or had charges dropped altogether.

Those arrests followed chemical weapons attacks in Syria in March and April 2013, where a UN investigation found evidence implicating the Syrian “rebels.” One source told Hersh, “Investigators interviewed the people who were there, including the doctors who treated the victims. It was clear that the rebels used the gas. It did not come out in public because no one wanted to know.”

The “no one,” of course, was the US government, its European allies, and its UN stooges—as well as their political apologists in the media and the pseudo-left groups such as the International Socialist Organization that were either openly campaigning for military intervention in Syria or justifying it by portraying the US-financed “rebels” as the bearers of a democratic revolution.

When the August 21 attack took place, Obama ordered the Pentagon to draw up plans for bombing Syria, and, as a former intelligence official told Hersh, “the White House rejected 35 target sets provided by the joint chiefs of staff as being insufficiently ‘painful’ to the Assad regime.”

The US bombing plan ultimately envisioned “a monster strike” involving two wings of B-52 bombers equipped with 2,000-pound bombs, as well as Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from submarines and surface warships.

Hersh continues: “The new target list was meant to ‘completely eradicate any military capabilities Assad had,’ the former intelligence official said. The core targets included electric power grids, oil and gas depots, all known logistic and weapons depots, all known command and control facilities, and all known military and intelligence buildings.”

The bombing attack drawn up at the direction of the Obama White House would have itself constituted a war crime, causing thousands if not tens of thousands of casualties and crippling Syria as a functioning society.

Hersh then passes on to his most important revelation: that US officials believed the Turkish government, or its intelligence agencies, had instigated the gas attack in Ghouta.

He cites concerns among US military and intelligence leaders that “there were some in the Turkish government” who supported “dabbling with a sarin attack inside Syria—and forcing Obama to make good on his red line threat.”

This was reinforced by the British military intelligence finding on the type of gas used in Ghouta. This included a message to the Americans: “We’re being set up here.” This was followed by a further message about the Ghouta attack that “a senior official in the CIA sent in late August: ‘It was not the result of the current regime [i.e., Assad]’. UK & US know this.”

Hersh suggests that the bitter controversy over the attack on a US consulate and CIA mission in Benghazi, Libya in 2012, which killed four Americans including the ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, is directly linked to the infighting over Syria.

It has been widely reported that the CIA organized the shipment of Libyan weapons stockpiles from Benghazi to the Syrian rebels. Hersh cites a “highly classified annex” to the report of the Senate committee that investigated the Benghazi attack.

This document “described a secret agreement reached in early 2012 between the Obama and [Turkish] Erdogan administrations… By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria. A number of front companies were set up in Libya, some under the cover of Australian entities. Retired American soldiers, who didn’t always know who was really employing them, were hired to manage procurement and shipping. The operation was run by David Petraeus, the CIA director who would soon resign when it became known he was having an affair with his biographer.”

According to Hersh, after the Benghazi fiasco, the CIA was pulled out, but the Libya to Turkey to Syria pipeline continued, possibly including “manpads”—portable surface-to-air missile launchers, which the Obama administration had opposed supplying the rebels out of concern that they would be used to attack civilian airliners.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan tasked Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) with engineering a provocation that would give a pretext for direct US military intervention. Hersh quotes his source: “‘The MIT was running the political liaison with the rebels, and the Gendarmerie handled military logistics, on-the-scene advice and training—including training in chemical warfare,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Stepping up Turkey’s role in spring 2013 was seen as the key to its problems there… Erdogan’s hope was to instigate an event that would force the US to cross the red line. But Obama didn’t respond in March and April.’”

Two sources described to Hersh a working dinner during Erdogan’s visit to Washington in May 2013 in which Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon met Erdogan, foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu and MIT chief Hakan Fidan. Erdogan appealed for Obama to attack Syria, telling him “your red line has been crossed.” Obama then pointed at Fidan and said, “We know what you’re doing with the radicals in Syria.”

Hersh cites a “US intelligence consultant” who describes a classified briefing for Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, prepared before the August 21 gas attack. The briefing noted “the acute anxiety” in the Erdogan regime over the military setbacks for the Syrian rebels and warned that the Turkish leadership felt “the need to do something that would precipitate a US military response.”

In the period following the gas attack, Hersh’s former intelligence official source explained, communications intercepts and other data supported the suspicion that Turkey had organized the Ghouta attack. “We now know it was a covert action planned by Erdogan’s people to push Obama over the red line,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘They had to escalate to a gas attack in or near Damascus when the UN inspectors’—who arrived in Damascus on 18 August to investigate the earlier use of gas—‘were there. The deal was to do something spectacular. Our senior military officers have been told by the DIA and other intelligence assets that the sarin was supplied through Turkey—that it could only have gotten there with Turkish support. The Turks also provided the training in producing the sarin and handling it.’”

Only a week ago, evidence surfaced that supports the credibility of Hersh’s report. A video was posted on YouTube of a meeting of Turkish officials, including Fikan, in which the intelligence chief suggests that Turkish agents should mount an attack on a Muslim shrine inside Syria to provide a pretext for a Turkish invasion of the country.

Hersh’s account is his second long exposé in four months of the “false flag” gas attack in Damascus. Both articles were published in the British journal because no major US newspaper or magazine will any longer publish material from the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

Beginning with his reporting of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam for the New York Times, Hersh has specialized in developing sources in the US military and intelligence apparatus, frequently those with policy differences with the current administration in Washington. Hersh left the Times for Newsday, and then wrote for the New Yorker for many years.

Both the New Yorker and the Washington Post refused to publish his first report on the Ghouta gas attack, which charged that the sarin attack had been carried out by Syrian rebels in the al-Nusra Front, forcing Hersh to find a British publisher for his account. The US press was largely silent on that report, and it has so far blacked out the latest exposure.

The author also recommends:

Seymour Hersh exposes US government lies on Syrian sarin attack
[10 December 2013]

The war drive against Syria
[26 August 2013]

Syria chemical warfare claims aim to provoke Western intervention
[22 August 2013]

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/04/07/syri-a07.html

Media Manipulation: Seymour Hersh Unearths More Lies on Syria

Global Research, April 06, 2014

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has a second fascinating essay that rewrites the official record of the sarin gas attack on Ghouta, near Damascus, in August last year. As usual, Hersh uses his sources in the US security establishment to throw light on what really took place. The bottom line: Turkey was almost certainly the party responsible for the attack, hoping it would force Obama to honour his threatened “red line” if Assad used chemical weapons. Was the Assad regime to be brought down by a US military campaign, Turkey assumed it would be able to turn Syria into a client state.

Like the earlier article, this one will probably gain very little attention. It is published in the obscure UK literary publication the London Review of Books. Presumably like last time, Hersh could not find a mainstream publication willing to take it – and I’m guessing that, like last time, these stunningly important revelations will be shunned by the liberal media. Instead, it will be consigned to the memory hole, along with so much other evidence of western crimes against humanity. Pundits and analysts will continue to tell us confidently that Assad carried out the Ghouta attack, oblivious to Hersh’s findings.

The reason the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Guardian have been studiously ignoring Hersh’s investigations on this, it seems to me, is that they show the Obama administration’s foreign policy is just as criminal as the previous Bush White House’s.

Here is a summary of Hersh’s main findings:

* Obama’s sudden climbdown on his threatened military strike against Assad was in part forced on him by a chemical analysis of samples of the sarin used in Ghouta, which showed that its signature did not match that of the stockpiles held by the Assad regime.

* Despite US claims, the White House knew that the Syrian rebels had developed chemical weapons production facilities. UN investigators thought the Syrian opposition were the most likely culprits behind earlier chemical weapons attacks, in April and May 2013.

The American and British intelligence communities had been aware since the spring of 2013 that some rebel units in Syria were developing chemical weapons. On 20 June analysts for the US Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page ‘talking points’ briefing for the DIA’s deputy director, David Shedd, which stated that al-Nusra maintained a sarin production cell.

* The military strike being prepared by the White House after the Ghouta attack was, far from small-scale, as secretary of state John Kerry intimated, modelled on the shock and awe campaign against Saddam Hussein.

Under White House pressure, the US attack plan evolved into ‘a monster strike’: two wings of B-52 bombers were shifted to airbases close to Syria, and navy submarines and ships equipped with Tomahawk missiles were deployed. ‘Every day the target list was getting longer,’ the former intelligence official told me. … The new target list was meant to ‘completely eradicate any military capabilities Assad had’, the former intelligence official said. The core targets included electric power grids, oil and gas depots, all known logistic and weapons depots, all known command and control facilities, and all known military and intelligence buildings.

* The US developed a back channel of weapons-smuggling to the Syrian rebels, known as the rat line, in cooperation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, using the “liberated” arsenals from Libya following the west’s ousting of Gaddafi.

The rat line, authorised in early 2012, was used to funnel weapons and ammunition from Libya via southern Turkey and across the Syrian border to the opposition. Many of those in Syria who ultimately received the weapons were jihadists, some of them affiliated with al-Qaida. … By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria. … The operation was run by David Petraeus, the CIA director who would soon resign when it became known he was having an affair with his biographer.

* The job of the US consulate in Libya – the one where ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed – was to provide logistical assistance with the rat line. That was the reason the consulate was attacked.

‘The consulate’s only mission was to provide cover for the moving of arms,’ the former intelligence official, who has read the annex, said. ‘It had no real political role.’ … Washington abruptly ended the CIA’s role in the transfer of arms from Libya after the attack on the consulate, but the rat line kept going. ‘The United States was no longer in control of what the Turks were relaying to the jihadists,’ the former intelligence official said. Within weeks, as many as forty portable surface-to-air missile launchers, commonly known as manpads, were in the hands of Syrian rebels. On 28 November 2012, Joby Warrick of the Washington Post reported that the previous day rebels near Aleppo had used what was almost certainly a manpad to shoot down a Syrian transport helicopter. ‘The Obama administration,’ Warrick wrote, ‘has steadfastly opposed arming Syrian opposition forces with such missiles, warning that the weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists and be used to shoot down commercial aircraft.’

* By late 2012 the US had assessed that the rebels were losing the civil war, and started to downgrade their involvement in the rat line. That left Turkey’s Recep Erdogan the main loser.

The American decision to end CIA support of the weapons shipments into Syria left Erdoğan exposed politically and militarily. ‘One of the issues at that May summit was the fact that Turkey is the only avenue to supply the rebels in Syria,’ the former intelligence official said. … Without US military support for the rebels, the former intelligence official said, ‘Erdoğan’s dream of having a client state in Syria is evaporating and he thinks we’re the reason why. When Syria wins the war, he knows the rebels are just as likely to turn on him – where else can they go? So now he will have thousands of radicals in his backyard.’

* Erdogan therefore became focused on exploiting the “red line” Obama had set on Assad’s use of chemical weapons to force the US to attack Syria.

Erdoğan knew that if he stopped his support of the jihadists it would be all over. The Saudis could not support the war because of logistics – the distances involved and the difficulty of moving weapons and supplies. Erdoğan’s hope was to instigate an event that would force the US to cross the red line. But Obama didn’t respond [to the previous chemical weapons attacks] in March and April.’ … We now know it was a covert action planned by Erdoğan’s people to push Obama over the red line,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘They had to escalate to a gas attack in or near Damascus when the UN inspectors’ – who arrived in Damascus on 18 August to investigate the earlier use of gas – ‘were there. The deal was to do something spectacular. … Barring a major change in policy by Obama, Turkey’s meddling in the Syrian civil war is likely to go on.

www.lrb.co.uk/2014/04/06/seymour-m-hersh/the-red-line-and-the-rat-line

http://www.globalresearch.ca/seymour-hersh-unearths-more-lies-on-syria/5376863

The Red Line and the Rat Line

Seymour M. Hersh on Obama, Erdoğan and the Syrian rebels

By Seymour M. Hersh

April 06, 2014 “Information Clearing House – “LRB” -- - In 2011 Barack Obama led an allied military intervention in Libya without consulting the US Congress. Last August, after the sarin attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, he was ready to launch an allied air strike, this time to punish the Syrian government for allegedly crossing the ‘red line’ he had set in 2012 on the use of chemical weapons.

Then with less than two days to go before the planned strike, he announced that he would seek congressional approval for the intervention. The strike was postponed as Congress prepared for hearings, and subsequently cancelled when Obama accepted Assad’s offer to relinquish his chemical arsenal in a deal brokered by Russia. Why did Obama delay and then relent on Syria when he was not shy about rushing into Libya? The answer lies in a clash between those in the administration who were committed to enforcing the red line, and military leaders who thought that going to war was both unjustified and potentially disastrous.

Obama’s change of mind had its origins at Porton Down, the defence laboratory in Wiltshire. British intelligence had obtained a sample of the sarin used in the 21 August attack and analysis demonstrated that the gas used didn’t match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army’s chemical weapons arsenal. The message that the case against Syria wouldn’t hold up was quickly relayed to the US joint chiefs of staff. The British report heightened doubts inside the Pentagon; the joint chiefs were already preparing to warn Obama that his plans for a far-reaching bomb and missile attack on Syria’s infrastructure could lead to a wider war in the Middle East. As a consequence the American officers delivered a last-minute caution to the president, which, in their view, eventually led to his cancelling the attack.

For months there had been acute concern among senior military leaders and the intelligence community about the role in the war of Syria’s neighbours, especially Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan was known to be supporting the al-Nusra Front, a jihadist faction among the rebel opposition, as well as other Islamist rebel groups. ‘We knew there were some in the Turkish government,’ a former senior US intelligence official, who has access to current intelligence, told me, ‘who believed they could get Assad’s nuts in a vice by dabbling with a sarin attack inside Syria – and forcing Obama to make good on his red line threat.’

The joint chiefs also knew that the Obama administration’s public claims that only the Syrian army had access to sarin were wrong. The American and British intelligence communities had been aware since the spring of 2013 that some rebel units in Syria were developing chemical weapons. On 20 June analysts for the US Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page ‘talking points’ briefing for the DIA’s deputy director, David Shedd, which stated that al-Nusra maintained a sarin production cell: its programme, the paper said, was ‘the most advanced sarin plot since al-Qaida’s pre-9/11 effort’. (According to a Defense Department consultant, US intelligence has long known that al-Qaida experimented with chemical weapons, and has a video of one of its gas experiments with dogs.) The DIA paper went on: ‘Previous IC [intelligence community] focus had been almost entirely on Syrian CW [chemical weapons] stockpiles; now we see ANF attempting to make its own CW … Al-Nusrah Front’s relative freedom of operation within Syria leads us to assess the group’s CW aspirations will be difficult to disrupt in the future.’ The paper drew on classified intelligence from numerous agencies: ‘Turkey and Saudi-based chemical facilitators,’ it said, ‘were attempting to obtain sarin precursors in bulk, tens of kilograms, likely for the anticipated large scale production effort in Syria.’ (Asked about the DIA paper, a spokesperson for the director of national intelligence said: ‘No such paper was ever requested or produced by intelligence community analysts.’)

Last May, more than ten members of the al-Nusra Front were arrested in southern Turkey with what local police told the press were two kilograms of sarin. In a 130-page indictment the group was accused of attempting to purchase fuses, piping for the construction of mortars, and chemical precursors for sarin. Five of those arrested were freed after a brief detention. The others, including the ringleader, Haytham Qassab, for whom the prosecutor requested a prison sentence of 25 years, were released pending trial. In the meantime the Turkish press has been rife with speculation that the Erdoğan administration has been covering up the extent of its involvement with the rebels. In a news conference last summer, Aydin Sezgin, Turkey’s ambassador to Moscow, dismissed the arrests and claimed to reporters that the recovered ‘sarin’ was merely ‘anti-freeze’.

The DIA paper took the arrests as evidence that al-Nusra was expanding its access to chemical weapons. It said Qassab had ‘self-identified’ as a member of al-Nusra, and that he was directly connected to Abd-al-Ghani, the ‘ANF emir for military manufacturing’. Qassab and his associate Khalid Ousta worked with Halit Unalkaya, an employee of a Turkish firm called Zirve Export, who provided ‘price quotes for bulk quantities of sarin precursors’. Abd-al-Ghani’s plan was for two associates to ‘perfect a process for making sarin, then go to Syria to train others to begin large scale production at an unidentified lab in Syria’. The DIA paper said that one of his operatives had purchased a precursor on the ‘Baghdad chemical market’, which ‘has supported at least seven CW efforts since 2004’.

A series of chemical weapon attacks in March and April 2013 was investigated over the next few months by a special UN mission to Syria. A person with close knowledge of the UN’s activity in Syria told me that there was evidence linking the Syrian opposition to the first gas attack, on 19 March in Khan Al-Assal, a village near Aleppo. In its final report in December, the mission said that at least 19 civilians and one Syrian soldier were among the fatalities, along with scores of injured. It had no mandate to assign responsibility for the attack, but the person with knowledge of the UN’s activities said: ‘Investigators interviewed the people who were there, including the doctors who treated the victims. It was clear that the rebels used the gas. It did not come out in public because no one wanted to know.’

In the months before the attacks began, a former senior Defense Department official told me, the DIA was circulating a daily classified report known as SYRUP on all intelligence related to the Syrian conflict, including material on chemical weapons. But in the spring, distribution of the part of the report concerning chemical weapons was severely curtailed on the orders of Denis McDonough, the White House chief of staff. ‘Something was in there that triggered a shit fit by McDonough,’ the former Defense Department official said. ‘One day it was a huge deal, and then, after the March and April sarin attacks’ – he snapped his fingers – ‘it’s no longer there.’ The decision to restrict distribution was made as the joint chiefs ordered intensive contingency planning for a possible ground invasion of Syria whose primary objective would be the elimination of chemical weapons.

The former intelligence official said that many in the US national security establishment had long been troubled by the president’s red line: ‘The joint chiefs asked the White House, “What does red line mean? How does that translate into military orders? Troops on the ground? Massive strike? Limited strike?” They tasked military intelligence to study how we could carry out the threat. They learned nothing more about the president’s reasoning.’

In the aftermath of the 21 August attack Obama ordered the Pentagon to draw up targets for bombing. Early in the process, the former intelligence official said, ‘the White House rejected 35 target sets provided by the joint chiefs of staff as being insufficiently “painful” to the Assad regime.’ The original targets included only military sites and nothing by way of civilian infrastructure. Under White House pressure, the US attack plan evolved into ‘a monster strike’: two wings of B-52 bombers were shifted to airbases close to Syria, and navy submarines and ships equipped with Tomahawk missiles were deployed. ‘Every day the target list was getting longer,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘The Pentagon planners said we can’t use only Tomahawks to strike at Syria’s missile sites because their warheads are buried too far below ground, so the two B-52 air wings with two-thousand pound bombs were assigned to the mission. Then we’ll need standby search-and-rescue teams to recover downed pilots and drones for target selection. It became huge.’ The new target list was meant to ‘completely eradicate any military capabilities Assad had’, the former intelligence official said. The core targets included electric power grids, oil and gas depots, all known logistic and weapons depots, all known command and control facilities, and all known military and intelligence buildings.

Britain and France were both to play a part. On 29 August, the day Parliament voted against Cameron’s bid to join the intervention, the Guardian reported that he had already ordered six RAF Typhoon fighter jets to be deployed to Cyprus, and had volunteered a submarine capable of launching Tomahawk missiles. The French air force – a crucial player in the 2011 strikes on Libya – was deeply committed, according to an account in Le Nouvel Observateur; François Hollande had ordered several Rafale fighter-bombers to join the American assault. Their targets were reported to be in western Syria.

By the last days of August the president had given the Joint Chiefs a fixed deadline for the launch. ‘H hour was to begin no later than Monday morning [2 September], a massive assault to neutralise Assad,’ the former intelligence official said. So it was a surprise to many when during a speech in the White House Rose Garden on 31 August Obama said that the attack would be put on hold, and he would turn to Congress and put it to a vote.

At this stage, Obama’s premise – that only the Syrian army was capable of deploying sarin – was unravelling. Within a few days of the 21 August attack, the former intelligence official told me, Russian military intelligence operatives had recovered samples of the chemical agent from Ghouta. They analysed it and passed it on to British military intelligence; this was the material sent to Porton Down. (A spokesperson for Porton Down said: ‘Many of the samples analysed in the UK tested positive for the nerve agent sarin.’ MI6 said that it doesn’t comment on intelligence matters.)

The former intelligence official said the Russian who delivered the sample to the UK was ‘a good source – someone with access, knowledge and a record of being trustworthy’. After the first reported uses of chemical weapons in Syria last year, American and allied intelligence agencies ‘made an effort to find the answer as to what if anything, was used – and its source’, the former intelligence official said. ‘We use data exchanged as part of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The DIA’s baseline consisted of knowing the composition of each batch of Soviet-manufactured chemical weapons. But we didn’t know which batches the Assad government currently had in its arsenal. Within days of the Damascus incident we asked a source in the Syrian government to give us a list of the batches the government currently had. This is why we could confirm the difference so quickly.’

The process hadn’t worked as smoothly in the spring, the former intelligence official said, because the studies done by Western intelligence ‘were inconclusive as to the type of gas it was. The word “sarin” didn’t come up. There was a great deal of discussion about this, but since no one could conclude what gas it was, you could not say that Assad had crossed the president’s red line.’ By 21 August, the former intelligence official went on, ‘the Syrian opposition clearly had learned from this and announced that “sarin” from the Syrian army had been used, before any analysis could be made, and the press and White House jumped at it. Since it now was sarin, “It had to be Assad.”’

The UK defence staff who relayed the Porton Down findings to the joint chiefs were sending the Americans a message, the former intelligence official said: ‘We’re being set up here.’ (This account made sense of a terse message a senior official in the CIA sent in late August: ‘It was not the result of the current regime. UK & US know this.’) By then the attack was a few days away and American, British and French planes, ships and submarines were at the ready.

The officer ultimately responsible for the planning and execution of the attack was General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs. From the beginning of the crisis, the former intelligence official said, the joint chiefs had been sceptical of the administration’s argument that it had the facts to back up its belief in Assad’s guilt. They pressed the DIA and other agencies for more substantial evidence. ‘There was no way they thought Syria would use nerve gas at that stage, because Assad was winning the war,’ the former intelligence official said. Dempsey had irritated many in the Obama administration by repeatedly warning Congress over the summer of the danger of American military involvement in Syria. Last April, after an optimistic assessment of rebel progress by the secretary of state, John Kerry, in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee that ‘there’s a risk that this conflict has become stalemated.’

Dempsey’s initial view after 21 August was that a US strike on Syria – under the assumption that the Assad government was responsible for the sarin attack – would be a military blunder, the former intelligence official said. The Porton Down report caused the joint chiefs to go to the president with a more serious worry: that the attack sought by the White House would be an unjustified act of aggression. It was the joint chiefs who led Obama to change course. The official White House explanation for the turnabout – the story the press corps told – was that the president, during a walk in the Rose Garden with Denis McDonough, his chief of staff, suddenly decided to seek approval for the strike from a bitterly divided Congress with which he’d been in conflict for years. The former Defense Department official told me that the White House provided a different explanation to members of the civilian leadership of the Pentagon: the bombing had been called off because there was intelligence ‘that the Middle East would go up in smoke’ if it was carried out.

The president’s decision to go to Congress was initially seen by senior aides in the White House, the former intelligence official said, as a replay of George W. Bush’s gambit in the autumn of 2002 before the invasion of Iraq: ‘When it became clear that there were no WMD in Iraq, Congress, which had endorsed the Iraqi war, and the White House both shared the blame and repeatedly cited faulty intelligence. If the current Congress were to vote to endorse the strike, the White House could again have it both ways – wallop Syria with a massive attack and validate the president’s red line commitment, while also being able to share the blame with Congress if it came out that the Syrian military wasn’t behind the attack.’ The turnabout came as a surprise even to the Democratic leadership in Congress. In September the Wall Street Journal reported that three days before his Rose Garden speech Obama had telephoned Nancy Pelosi, leader of the House Democrats, ‘to talk through the options’. She later told colleagues, according to the Journal, that she hadn’t asked the president to put the bombing to a congressional vote.

Obama’s move for congressional approval quickly became a dead end. ‘Congress was not going to let this go by,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Congress made it known that, unlike the authorisation for the Iraq war, there would be substantive hearings.’ At this point, there was a sense of desperation in the White House, the former intelligence official said. ‘And so out comes Plan B. Call off the bombing strike and Assad would agree to unilaterally sign the chemical warfare treaty and agree to the destruction of all of chemical weapons under UN supervision.’ At a press conference in London on 9 September, Kerry was still talking about intervention: ‘The risk of not acting is greater than the risk of acting.’ But when a reporter asked if there was anything Assad could do to stop the bombing, Kerry said: ‘Sure. He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week … But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done, obviously.’ As the New York Times reported the next day, the Russian-brokered deal that emerged shortly afterwards had first been discussed by Obama and Putin in the summer of 2012. Although the strike plans were shelved, the administration didn’t change its public assessment of the justification for going to war. ‘There is zero tolerance at that level for the existence of error,’ the former intelligence official said of the senior officials in the White House. ‘They could not afford to say: “We were wrong.”’ (The DNI spokesperson said: ‘The Assad regime, and only the Assad regime, could have been responsible for the chemical weapons attack that took place on 21 August.’)

*

The full extent of US co-operation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in assisting the rebel opposition in Syria has yet to come to light. The Obama administration has never publicly admitted to its role in creating what the CIA calls a ‘rat line’, a back channel highway into Syria. The rat line, authorised in early 2012, was used to funnel weapons and ammunition from Libya via southern Turkey and across the Syrian border to the opposition. Many of those in Syria who ultimately received the weapons were jihadists, some of them affiliated with al-Qaida. (The DNI spokesperson said: ‘The idea that the United States was providing weapons from Libya to anyone is false.’)

In January, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on the assault by a local militia in September 2012 on the American consulate and a nearby undercover CIA facility in Benghazi, which resulted in the death of the US ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three others. The report’s criticism of the State Department for not providing adequate security at the consulate, and of the intelligence community for not alerting the US military to the presence of a CIA outpost in the area, received front-page coverage and revived animosities in Washington, with Republicans accusing Obama and Hillary Clinton of a cover-up. A highly classified annex to the report, not made public, described a secret agreement reached in early 2012 between the Obama and Erdoğan administrations. It pertained to the rat line. By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria. A number of front companies were set up in Libya, some under the cover of Australian entities. Retired American soldiers, who didn’t always know who was really employing them, were hired to manage procurement and shipping. The operation was run by David Petraeus, the CIA director who would soon resign when it became known he was having an affair with his biographer. (A spokesperson for Petraeus denied the operation ever took place.)

The operation had not been disclosed at the time it was set up to the congressional intelligence committees and the congressional leadership, as required by law since the 1970s. The involvement of MI6 enabled the CIA to evade the law by classifying the mission as a liaison operation. The former intelligence official explained that for years there has been a recognised exception in the law that permits the CIA not to report liaison activity to Congress, which would otherwise be owed a finding. (All proposed CIA covert operations must be described in a written document, known as a ‘finding’, submitted to the senior leadership of Congress for approval.) Distribution of the annex was limited to the staff aides who wrote the report and to the eight ranking members of Congress – the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, and the Democratic and Republicans leaders on the House and Senate intelligence committees. This hardly constituted a genuine attempt at oversight: the eight leaders are not known to gather together to raise questions or discuss the secret information they receive.

The annex didn’t tell the whole story of what happened in Benghazi before the attack, nor did it explain why the American consulate was attacked. ‘The consulate’s only mission was to provide cover for the moving of arms,’ the former intelligence official, who has read the annex, said. ‘It had no real political role.’

Washington abruptly ended the CIA’s role in the transfer of arms from Libya after the attack on the consulate, but the rat line kept going. ‘The United States was no longer in control of what the Turks were relaying to the jihadists,’ the former intelligence official said. Within weeks, as many as forty portable surface-to-air missile launchers, commonly known as manpads, were in the hands of Syrian rebels. On 28 November 2012, Joby Warrick of the Washington Post reported that the previous day rebels near Aleppo had used what was almost certainly a manpad to shoot down a Syrian transport helicopter. ‘The Obama administration,’ Warrick wrote, ‘has steadfastly opposed arming Syrian opposition forces with such missiles, warning that the weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists and be used to shoot down commercial aircraft.’ Two Middle Eastern intelligence officials fingered Qatar as the source, and a former US intelligence analyst speculated that the manpads could have been obtained from Syrian military outposts overrun by the rebels. There was no indication that the rebels’ possession of manpads was likely the unintended consequence of a covert US programme that was no longer under US control.

By the end of 2012, it was believed throughout the American intelligence community that the rebels were losing the war. ‘Erdoğan was pissed,’ the former intelligence official said, ‘and felt he was left hanging on the vine. It was his money and the cut-off was seen as a betrayal.’ In spring 2013 US intelligence learned that the Turkish government – through elements of the MIT, its national intelligence agency, and the Gendarmerie, a militarised law-enforcement organisation – was working directly with al-Nusra and its allies to develop a chemical warfare capability. ‘The MIT was running the political liaison with the rebels, and the Gendarmerie handled military logistics, on-the-scene advice and training – including training in chemical warfare,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Stepping up Turkey’s role in spring 2013 was seen as the key to its problems there. Erdoğan knew that if he stopped his support of the jihadists it would be all over. The Saudis could not support the war because of logistics – the distances involved and the difficulty of moving weapons and supplies. Erdoğan’s hope was to instigate an event that would force the US to cross the red line. But Obama didn’t respond in March and April.’

There was no public sign of discord when Erdoğan and Obama met on 16 May 2013 at the White House. At a later press conference Obama said that they had agreed that Assad ‘needs to go’. Asked whether he thought Syria had crossed the red line, Obama acknowledged that there was evidence such weapons had been used, but added, ‘it is important for us to make sure that we’re able to get more specific information about what exactly is happening there.’ The red line was still intact.

An American foreign policy expert who speaks regularly with officials in Washington and Ankara told me about a working dinner Obama held for Erdoğan during his May visit. The meal was dominated by the Turks’ insistence that Syria had crossed the red line and their complaints that Obama was reluctant to do anything about it. Obama was accompanied by John Kerry and Tom Donilon, the national security adviser who would soon leave the job. Erdoğan was joined by Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, and Hakan Fidan, the head of the MIT. Fidan is known to be fiercely loyal to Erdoğan, and has been seen as a consistent backer of the radical rebel opposition in Syria.

The foreign policy expert told me that the account he heard originated with Donilon. (It was later corroborated by a former US official, who learned of it from a senior Turkish diplomat.) According to the expert, Erdoğan had sought the meeting to demonstrate to Obama that the red line had been crossed, and had brought Fidan along to state the case. When Erdoğan tried to draw Fidan into the conversation, and Fidan began speaking, Obama cut him off and said: ‘We know.’ Erdoğan tried to bring Fidan in a second time, and Obama again cut him off and said: ‘We know.’ At that point, an exasperated Erdoğan said, ‘But your red line has been crossed!’ and, the expert told me, ‘Donilon said Erdoğan “fucking waved his finger at the president inside the White House”.’ Obama then pointed at Fidan and said: ‘We know what you’re doing with the radicals in Syria.’ (Donilon, who joined the Council on Foreign Relations last July, didn’t respond to questions about this story. The Turkish Foreign Ministry didn’t respond to questions about the dinner. A spokesperson for the National Security Council confirmed that the dinner took place and provided a photograph showing Obama, Kerry, Donilon, Erdoğan, Fidan and Davutoglu sitting at a table. ‘Beyond that,’ she said, ‘I’m not going to read out the details of their discussions.’)

But Erdoğan did not leave empty handed. Obama was still permitting Turkey to continue to exploit a loophole in a presidential executive order prohibiting the export of gold to Iran, part of the US sanctions regime against the country. In March 2012, responding to sanctions of Iranian banks by the EU, the SWIFT electronic payment system, which facilitates cross-border payments, expelled dozens of Iranian financial institutions, severely restricting the country’s ability to conduct international trade. The US followed with the executive order in July, but left what came to be known as a ‘golden loophole’: gold shipments to private Iranian entities could continue. Turkey is a major purchaser of Iranian oil and gas, and it took advantage of the loophole by depositing its energy payments in Turkish lira in an Iranian account in Turkey; these funds were then used to purchase Turkish gold for export to confederates in Iran. Gold to the value of $13 billion reportedly entered Iran in this way between March 2012 and July 2013.

The programme quickly became a cash cow for corrupt politicians and traders in Turkey, Iran and the United Arab Emirates. ‘The middlemen did what they always do,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Take 15 per cent. The CIA had estimated that there was as much as two billion dollars in skim. Gold and Turkish lira were sticking to fingers.’ The illicit skimming flared into a public ‘gas for gold’ scandal in Turkey in December, and resulted in charges against two dozen people, including prominent businessmen and relatives of government officials, as well as the resignations of three ministers, one of whom called for Erdoğan to resign. The chief executive of a Turkish state-controlled bank that was in the middle of the scandal insisted that more than $4.5 million in cash found by police in shoeboxes during a search of his home was for charitable donations.

Late last year Jonathan Schanzer and Mark Dubowitz reported in Foreign Policy that the Obama administration closed the golden loophole in January 2013, but ‘lobbied to make sure the legislation … did not take effect for six months’. They speculated that the administration wanted to use the delay as an incentive to bring Iran to the bargaining table over its nuclear programme, or to placate its Turkish ally in the Syrian civil war. The delay permitted Iran to ‘accrue billions of dollars more in gold, further undermining the sanctions regime’.

*

The American decision to end CIA support of the weapons shipments into Syria left Erdoğan exposed politically and militarily. ‘One of the issues at that May summit was the fact that Turkey is the only avenue to supply the rebels in Syria,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘It can’t come through Jordan because the terrain in the south is wide open and the Syrians are all over it. And it can’t come through the valleys and hills of Lebanon – you can’t be sure who you’d meet on the other side.’ Without US military support for the rebels, the former intelligence official said, ‘Erdoğan’s dream of having a client state in Syria is evaporating and he thinks we’re the reason why. When Syria wins the war, he knows the rebels are just as likely to turn on him – where else can they go? So now he will have thousands of radicals in his backyard.’

A US intelligence consultant told me that a few weeks before 21 August he saw a highly classified briefing prepared for Dempsey and the defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, which described ‘the acute anxiety’ of the Erdoğan administration about the rebels’ dwindling prospects. The analysis warned that the Turkish leadership had expressed ‘the need to do something that would precipitate a US military response’. By late summer, the Syrian army still had the advantage over the rebels, the former intelligence official said, and only American air power could turn the tide. In the autumn, the former intelligence official went on, the US intelligence analysts who kept working on the events of 21 August ‘sensed that Syria had not done the gas attack. But the 500 pound gorilla was, how did it happen? The immediate suspect was the Turks, because they had all the pieces to make it happen.’

As intercepts and other data related to the 21 August attacks were gathered, the intelligence community saw evidence to support its suspicions. ‘We now know it was a covert action planned by Erdoğan’s people to push Obama over the red line,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘They had to escalate to a gas attack in or near Damascus when the UN inspectors’ – who arrived in Damascus on 18 August to investigate the earlier use of gas – ‘were there. The deal was to do something spectacular. Our senior military officers have been told by the DIA and other intelligence assets that the sarin was supplied through Turkey – that it could only have gotten there with Turkish support. The Turks also provided the training in producing the sarin and handling it.’ Much of the support for that assessment came from the Turks themselves, via intercepted conversations in the immediate aftermath of the attack. ‘Principal evidence came from the Turkish post-attack joy and back-slapping in numerous intercepts. Operations are always so super-secret in the planning but that all flies out the window when it comes to crowing afterwards. There is no greater vulnerability than in the perpetrators claiming credit for success.’ Erdoğan’s problems in Syria would soon be over: ‘Off goes the gas and Obama will say red line and America is going to attack Syria, or at least that was the idea. But it did not work out that way.’

The post-attack intelligence on Turkey did not make its way to the White House. ‘Nobody wants to talk about all this,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘There is great reluctance to contradict the president, although no all-source intelligence community analysis supported his leap to convict. There has not been one single piece of additional evidence of Syrian involvement in the sarin attack produced by the White House since the bombing raid was called off. My government can’t say anything because we have acted so irresponsibly. And since we blamed Assad, we can’t go back and blame Erdoğan.’

Turkey’s willingness to manipulate events in Syria to its own purposes seemed to be demonstrated late last month, a few days before a round of local elections, when a recording, allegedly of Erdoğan and his associates, was posted to YouTube. It included discussion of a false-flag operation that would justify an incursion by the Turkish military in Syria. The operation centred on the tomb of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of the revered Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire, which is near Aleppo and was ceded to Turkey in 1921, when Syria was under French rule. One of the Islamist rebel factions was threatening to destroy the tomb as a site of idolatry, and the Erdoğan administration was publicly threatening retaliation if harm came to it. According to a Reuters report of the leaked conversation, a voice alleged to be Fidan’s spoke of creating a provocation: ‘Now look, my commander [Erdoğan], if there is to be justification, the justification is I send four men to the other side. I get them to fire eight missiles into empty land [in the vicinity of the tomb]. That’s not a problem. Justification can be created.’ The Turkish government acknowledged that there had been a national security meeting about threats emanating from Syria, but said the recording had been manipulated. The government subsequently blocked public access to YouTube.

Barring a major change in policy by Obama, Turkey’s meddling in the Syrian civil war is likely to go on. ‘I asked my colleagues if there was any way to stop Erdoğan’s continued support for the rebels, especially now that it’s going so wrong,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘The answer was: “We’re screwed.” We could go public if it was somebody other than Erdoğan, but Turkey is a special case. They’re a Nato ally. The Turks don’t trust the West. They can’t live with us if we take any active role against Turkish interests. If we went public with what we know about Erdoğan’s role with the gas, it’d be disastrous. The Turks would say: “We hate you for telling us what we can and can’t do.”’

4 April

ISSN 0260-9592 Copyright © LRB Limited 2014

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38142.htm

How Media Watch lost its teeth, backing the war on Syria

A turn to reactionary politics is nowhere more clearly seen than in a formerly independent voice moving away from criticism of the high and mighty towards attacks on little people. That is precisely what happened when Media Watch (the media watchdog of Australia’s public broadcaster, the ABC) bought into the propaganda war on Syria.

By Tim Anderson

Media Watch had gained a reputation for making corporate monopolies squirm when their lies and manipulations were exposed. This was best done by lawyer Stuart Littlemore, who started and presented the show for much of the 1990s. Since then the program, run by ABC journalists, became tamer and more sensitive to political criticism.

The ABC itself was subject to a witch-hunt style inquiry in 2003, after the Howard Government accused it of biased reporting of the Iraq invasion. That inquiry upheld 17 of the government’s 68 complaints. Several management reshuffles and a fair degree of self-censorship later and the ABC is much less likely to ‘rock the boat’ over any new Washington-led war.

Nevertheless, it was surprising to see the near compete turn-around in ‘A Syrian Homecoming’ (Media Watch), ostensibly the critique of a story about a young Syrian-Australian woman’s visit to Syria, published in the Good Weekend magazine (‘Cry my father’s country’). In practice this was a savage personal attack on a young woman who opposed the foreign-backed war.

he Good Weekend story profiled Reme Sakr, who visited Syria last December both to see her father and to participate in an Australian solidarity delegation to Syria. This writer was also part of that 11 member group. Freelance journalist Chris Ray, who accompanied the delegation, wrote several articles on matters that emerged from our meetings with political, religious and community leaders; but the Good Weekend article was commissioned as a personal profile.

This long and well written piece covered Reme and her journey to visit her father in the Druze area of Sweida, after her work with the delegation. Reme had gone to school there and her father had returned home from Australia, after he retired. She was worried about him and Sweida, after hearing of attacks on Sweida by the western-backed al Qaeda groups.

The story therefore humanised a young woman and her family in the context of a war which has been characterised by many well-publicised atrocities by the western backed ‘rebels’, and a series of highly contested accusations of war crimes by the Syrian Army.

Media Watch researcher Emily Watkins asked Reme, Chris and the Good Weekend several questions before the program, but the narrative by veteran journalist Paul Barry, was one-eyed and relentless. Unusually, he focussed on subject of the story much more than the journalist, attacking Reme for her support of the Syrian Government.

Paul Barry, a journalist who made a fair amount of money on the side writing tame books on Australian media moguls Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Packer, seemed keen to re-ingratiate himself with the Murdoch stable. He quoted The Australian and Prime Minister Tony Abbott, as authority figures who had condemned Reme and her fellow travellers.

The program inexplicably attacked her for her minority Druze origins, falsely claimed she had received special favours from the Syrian Government, falsely claimed the story had covered up her active opposition to the war on Syria, and falsely claimed she was part of a group which was personally committed to President Assad and had covered up war crimes.

Media Watch also criticised the Good Weekend story for ‘sidestepping’ the alleged crimes of the ‘Syrian regime’ and for ignoring the ‘moderate Syrian opposition’. However author Chris Ray responded in a letter: “I wrote about and identified rebel groups who attacked Malek Sakr’s district and the road between Damascus and Druze territory in Sweida. Should I have written about other rebels who did not attack Druze territory? … Who is the moderate opposition anyway? The rebellion is dominated by Islamists who differ mainly in the extent of their sectarian intolerance.”

Outraged by the misrepresentations of the story, Reme wrote a two page reply to Media Watch; at the time of writing this letter was not posted on their website.

 To the disgrace of the ABC, in the course of trying to de-humanise Reme and re-assert the western media line on Syria, presenter Paul Barry told several lies.

1. Barry said: “A couple of things seemed not right. The father turned out to be a leader of the minority Druze community”. This was both false and an ethnic slur. As Reme said in her letter ‘It is simply not true – and a complete fabrication on your part – to claim my father is a leader of the Druze. He is a religious man, an ‘Uqqal’ … [but] in no way is he a community leader … And why does belonging to the Druze, a religious minority, seem “not quite right” to you? Does it devalue my family’s story or our position regarding the conflict in Syria?’

2. Paul Barry said: “Reme Sakr clearly received special favours on her trip”, referring to a letter of safe passage she had from the government, when travelling to Sweida. This ‘special favour’ claim was untrue; and the Media Watch researcher didn’t even bother to ask Reme about it. In fact, as her Syrian ID card had expired, she needed a temporary identity document to travel through areas with many army checkpoints. Providing her with such a travel document and assisting with her safety, in these circumstances, is a duty that governments owe to their citizens.

3. The Media Watch presenter said Reme was “a leading light in Hands off Syria, which backs President Assad, refuses to admit he’s used chemical weapons.” This was another deception. Reme has publicly spoken out against the war on Syria and the Good Weekend story noted that her delegation had met with several Syrian ministers, including the Prime Minister and the President. Reme responded: “Since when did speaking out in support of a cause we believe in ever make us … less deserving to have our stories told?” The false suggestion was that Reme or the story had somehow covered up her anti-war activism.

Hands off Syria for its part, has always made it clear that it supports the Syrian people and their nation, not any particular political leader. Barry repeatedly misrepresented Hands off Syria and the delegation as “backing Assad” or expressing “solidarity with Assad”. Reme responded: “While many Syrian-Australians do back President Assad, Hands off Syria as an organisation supports principles rather than personalities – especially the principle that Syria has the right to self-determination free from aggressive interference by foreign powers and foreign-backed terrorists.” That distinction was lost on Media Watch.

4. In an effort to back up its claim that Hands off Syria and Reme “paint the popular uprising as a foreign invasion”, Media Watch showed three video clips of Reme speaking at rallies and referring to “foreign militants” and “foreign militants who are destroying the country of my mother and father”. The evidence presented does not support the deceptive claim that she suggested a Bush-style “invasion” was underway. Further, no evidence was cited to back the claim that the sectarian Islamist groups were part of a “popular uprising”. Indeed analysts for NATO, after more than two years of war, said President Assad probably had 70% support. The sectarian groups themselves have admitted that they have little popular support. Paul Barry’s claim that there was a “popular uprising” was baseless war propaganda.

5. Barry twice claimed that President Assad and his government had used chemical weapons, and that Hands off Syria and Reme had tried to cover this up. He cited a UN report from February 2014. This is highly misleading. While it is true that UN investigators (in most case conducting interviews from outside Syria) have “accused both sides of war crimes”, they have not accused individuals nor have they moved into any prosecutions. Further, no UN body has accused the Syrian Government of using chemical weapons. Indeed the available evidence is quite the reverse. It was the Syrian Government that first invited UN inspectors to visit and investigate chemical weapon use in Syria, after several attacks on Syrian soldiers and civilians. The NATO-backed groups tried to turn that around with the East Ghouta incident, launching an attack precisely when the inspectors were in Damascus. The UN’s report of December 2013 was not mandated to allocate blame, but did conclude that 3 of the 5 attacks were “against soldiers” as well as civilians – that is, they were attacks carried out by opponents of government soldiers. The February 2014 report said: “In no incident was the commission’s evidentiary threshold met with respect to the perpetrator”.

The independent evidence, which Media Watch ignores, was stronger. With the exception of the Washington-based Human Rights Watch (in lock step with the Washington establishment, as regards Syria), almost all independent reports on chemical weapon attacks in Syria tell a very different story. Gavlak and Ababneh (MINT PRESS, 29 Aug) reported that residents in East Ghouta blamed the Saudis for providing chemical weapons to untrained ‘rebels’. The ISTEAMS group led by Mother Agnes-Mariam provided a 17 September report which analysed video evidence of the attacks and said the massacre videos preceded the attack, and that staged and fake images were used. Seymour Hersh, the famous US journalist, wrote on 19 December that US intelligence was fabricated “to justify a strike” on Syria. The Peace Association and Lawyers for Justice group in Turkey issued a report in December saying that “most of the crimes” against Syrian civilians, including the East Ghouta attack, were committed by “armed rebel forces in Syria”. The New York Times in December retreated from its telemetry evidence claims, admitting the earlier vector analysis was ‘speculative’; and MIT investigators Lloyd and Postol reported on 14 January that sarin gas “could not possibly have been fired … from government controlled areas”. In its zeal to back the war on Syria, Media Watch covered up all these reports.

The scale of independent reporting which undermines claims against the Syrian Government stands in stark contrast to the open and boastful publicity given to atrocities (beheadings, mutilations, public executions including executions of children for blasphemy, launching of chemical canisters on rockets, attacks on civilian airliners, bombing of hospitals, destruction of mosques and churches) committed on an almost daily basis by the western backed terrorist groups.

6. Finally Paul Barry, who quoted The Australian to label the Syrian President “dictator and accused war criminal Bashar al-Assad”, took it one step further. He wrapped up by saying that the Syrian President was “a man the UN has branded a war criminal”. This is false and must be a deliberate lie. No UN body has “branded” President Bashar al Assad “a war criminal”. This may be wishful thinking, but dishonest journalism.

In her unpublished letter, Reme Sakr concludes:

“Contrary to what you tried to imply, I have no ulterior agenda in supporting one side or another in this war, but unlike you … I see Syria being pillaged and burnt to the ground by foreign-sponsored terrorists, I see my family fearing for their lives every time they leave their homes, and I see young women, just like me, being raped and made to watch as their fathers and brothers are beheaded.”

If Reme and Hands off Syria really have served as “useful propaganda for the Syrian Government” then, equally, Paul Barry and Media Watch have served as useful propaganda for the al Qaeda groups, which boast of their atrocities, often blaming them on the Syrian Government.

There was no hint of any controversy over the atrocity claims, in the Media Watch polemic. Given their experience and the time they had to investigate, we can safely conclude that Paul Barry lied repeatedly, as an exercise in war propaganda which served to cover up the crimes of western-backed al Qaeda style forces.

Far from the action of a media watchdog, this was the pits of tabloid, propaganda journalism. Rupert Murdoch’s media dynasty will be well pleased to see that the ABC’s former ‘watchdog’, on this particular dirty war, has pulled its own teeth.

References

Cosimer Marrina (2003) ABC loses points in Alston’s ‘bias’ plea, SMH, online:http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/10/10/1065676163446.html

Chris Ray (2014) ‘Cry my father’s country’, 1 March, online: http://www.smh.com.au/national/cry-my-fathers-country-20140224-33b69.html

Media Watch (2014) A Syrian Homecoming (and see the published responses), ABC, 24 march online:http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s3970590.htm

Paul Barry (2013) Breaking News: Sex, lies and the Murdoch succession, Allen and Unwin

Peace Association and Lawyers for Justice in Turkey (2013) War Crimes Committed Against the People of Syria, December, online: http://www.barisdernegi.org/en/war-crimes-committed-against-people-syria-report-peace-association-turkey-and-lawyers-justice

Human Rights Watch (2013) ‘Attacks on Ghouta: Analysis of Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria’, 10 September, online: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2013/09/10/attacks-ghouta-0

Robert Parry (2013) ‘NYT Backs Off Its Syria-Sarin Analysis’, Global Research, 30 December, online:http://www.globalresearch.ca/nyt-backs-off-its-syria-sarin-analysis/5363023

ISTEAMS (2013) ‘Independent Investigation of Syria Chemical Attack Videos and Child Abductions’, 15 September, online:http://www.globalresearch.ca/STUDY_THE_VIDEOS_THAT_SPEAKS_ABOUT_CHEMICALS_BETA_VERSION.pdf

Seymour M. Hersh (2013) ‘Whose Sarin?’, London Review of Books, Vol. 35 No. 24, 19 December, 9-12, online: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n24/seymour-m-hersh/whose-sarin

Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh (2013) ‘EXCLUSIVE: Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack’, MINT PRESS, August 29, online: http://www.mintpressnews.com/witnesses-of-gas-attack-say-saudis-supplied-rebels-with-chemical-weapons/168135/

Richard Lloyd and Theodore A. Postol (2014) ‘Possible Implications of Faulty US Technical Intelligence in the Damascus Nerve Agent Attack of August 21, 2013′, Jan 14, online:http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/01/15/214656/new-analysis-of-rocket-used-in.html

http://english.pravda.ru/world/asia/03-04-2014/127265-media_syria-0/

Syria’s Victory, Setback For US-NATO, Turning Point For Western Global Hegemony

Global Research, March 31, 2014

usukflagSince 2011, Syria has been the target of an attempted foreign-backed regime change. Riding on the momentum of the US-engineered “Arab Spring,” protesters took to the streets across Syria, serving as cover for armed militants the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia – on record – had been preparing since at least as early as 2007.

It was in Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh’s 2007 article, The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefiting our enemies in the war on terrorism?” that prophetically stated (emphasis added): 

“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”

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Syria’s destabilization was ongoing alongside other Arab nations, including Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. In Tunisia and Egypt, the fallout was political, with limited street violence. In Libya, the fallout was absolute – the nation utterly decimated by so-called “freedom fighters” later revealed as Al Qaeda militants of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). 

The West’s blitzkrieg across North Africa and the Middle East took many nations by surprise. Their inability to respond effectively to orchestrated “color revolution” have resulted in 3 years of regional destabilization, regime change, and even war.

In Syria however, the government and the people held on, and then, began fighting back.

It was clear by January 2013 that Syria’s security forces had turned the tide against the foreign-backed militants who had for 2 years been flowing across their border and sowing deadly chaos across the Middle Eastern nation. Irreversible gains were being made everywhere from the north near Syria’s largest city Aleppo, all along the Lebanese border, and particularly in the southern city of Daraa, the so-called “birthplace” of  the “uprising.” 

The Western media continued portraying the situation in Syria as fluid, with the Syrian government teetering and their militant proxies on the verge of making a breakthrough. In reality, desperation had set in across Washington, London, Riyadh, and Tel Aviv. Attempts to provoke a wider war with direct Israeli attacks on Syrian territory were carried out but with no effect, and by August of 2013, the West had grown so desperate to directly intervene to salvage their floundering proxy forces, they even staged a false-flag chemical attack on the outskirts of Damascus. Much to the West’s dismay, the false-flag attack not only failed to provide them with the pretext needed for direct intervention, it severely and perhaps irreparably hobbled their credibility and international standing.

Syria’s Triumph Hidden No More

Recent gains by Syria against the West’s proxy militant invaders could be seen most clearly in Yabroud this month, 80 kilometers northwest of Damascus and a strategic city for militant campaigns carried out against both Syrians and Lebanese across the nearby border. The city of Yabroud was considered firmly in the hands of militants throughout the duration of conflict. With the restoration of order in Yabroud, and with militant factions folding en masse, it appears that large-scale military operations against Syria have largely drawn to a close and are shifting instead toward a low-intensity terrorist campaign.

The West is unable to portray their militant proxies as a viable opposition force, politically, socially, and now strategically. Syrian forces have pushed the militants to the very borders of Syria.

Just today, Turkey resorted to firing on, and claims to have shot down a Syrian warplane as Syrian forces battled militants along the border. In the southern city of Daraa near the Syrian-Jordanian border, the so-called “Southern Front” comprised of allegedly 49 militant factions and claiming to have up to 30,000 fighters in its rank, had doubt cast on it even from Western sources calling the force, “an alliance on paper.”

242341The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace provided a disturbing report of continued military support for terrorists flooding into Syria from Jordan, armed and funded by the United States and Saudi Arabia – even as both feigned chastisement recently of Qatar for doing the very same. In its report titled, “Does the “Southern Front” Exist?” it claimed: 

According to several sources, there has still been an uptick in support to rebels in the south since late February, with large amounts of money spent on rebel salaries and Saudi trucks moving cargo toward the Jordan-Syria border. But without a major increase in support and, probably, the addition of qualitative weapons like antiair missiles, it is hard to imagine that the rebels can advance very far—or that they will be able to unite around a single leadership.

It appears to be the last desperate push by a depleted force against a well entrenched and capable Syrian military. While the West is no doubt still trying to fuel unrest in Syria, it appears that gains by the Syrian military have reached a tipping point that no amount of indirect support can turn back. Short of direct large-scale military intervention by Western forces, the proxy war has been effectively lost.

What Syria’s Victory Means for Western Hegemony

The modern pursuit of Western hegemony stems back to the end of the Cold War when Wall Street and London believed it was possible to reorder the planet under their control in the absence of any significant opposing superpower. Color revolutions across Eastern Europe, the plundering of Russia in the 1990′s, the first Iraq War, and the breakup of the Balkans seemed to suggest this reordering was well underway. However, Russia, China, India, and other developing nations sprung back too quickly and the West’s ambitions were slowly put in check.

Today, with the West ousted from Iraq, mired in Afghanistan, its machinations revealed in Libya as marauding aggressors, and confounded in both Syria and Ukraine, not only does it seem Western ambitions are in check, but may in fact be in danger of being reversed altogether.

The failure of the West in Syria sends a message to other targets of Western meddling. There is no need to compromise nor negotiate, nor any need to pander to the conventions the West has put in place to tie the hands of their intended targets. In fact, by doing so, a nation only makes itself more vulnerable as they attempt to adhere to rules the West insists others follow but willfully violates itself.

While the West compounds its growing impotence globally by insisting on the continued pursuit of its failed unipolar model built on achieving global hegemony, nations like Russia and China insist on mutual partnerships with other nations in a multipolar world – neither dictating nor violating the sovereignty of any nation beyond its borders.

The West’s failure in Syria is an indicator that its power and influence is on the decline and provides a modern illustration of the dangers historically faced by empire as it overreaches. Even if the West was able to overturn its failures in Syria, its reputation and legitimacy has been hobbled to such a degree that any geopolitical push beyond Syria would be all but impossible.

The West’s columnists and policy scribes lament over the “retreat” of Western primacy – but it is only in “retreat” because it chooses to be a belligerent in the first place. A nation playing a positive, constructive role internationally can still be influential if it respects those it is interacting with and effects change by setting an appealing example. For the West and its centuries of subjugating others, this concept is not only alien, but apparently less preferable than the collapsing order they are currently presiding over.

Syria’s emerging victory means that while the West may despoil other nations in the near and intermediate future, the vector sum of its power and influence will be perpetual decline.

For Syria and other nations facing the same potential destabilization within their own borders, a costly lesson has been learned about attempting to appease and accommodate Western ambitions. Establishing the moral high-ground early on, and having the means through domestic media targeting international audiences like Iran’s Press TV or Russia’s RT to tell their side of the story to the world, allows a targeted nation the ability to stand its ground, and if necessary, fight back. Attempting to use the very system the West put in place to achieve global primacy – including the UN, its human rights racket, and the international media – is to play the West’s game, by their rules, and entirely on their terms at a clear and immense disadvantage.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”

http://www.globalresearch.ca/syrias-victory-setback-for-us-nato-turning-point-for-western-global-hegemony/5376001

Saudi Arabia And Pakistan Are Paying A Political Price For Leading The Talibanization of Syria

By Saman Mohammadi

March 29, 2014 “Information Clearing House - “The Excavator“- This photo is from a protest in Pakistan against US attacks on Syria that was held last September. Since then, Pakistan’s government has provided weapons and training to the foreign terrorists in Syria who are kidnapping innocent people and massacring peaceful villagers because of their religious beliefs, or lack thereof, and their ethnicity.
The governments in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are controlled by the dumbest, and most short-sighted leaders in the Middle East. Naturally, they won’t survive much longer. Their policy of supporting international Jihadist terrorism and religious extremism in Syria will backfire. Syria will not be another Afghanistan. Here are three simple reasons: the people of Syria are more educated, Syria is led by semi-competent leaders, and history is at a different point than it was in the 1980s. So Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are investing time, money, energy, and political capital in a losing cause. But, hey, it’s a free world, so go for it. But a price will be paid.

Read the articles below for concrete information and analysis about the support for Jihadist terrorists in Syria by the governments of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

An excerpt from, “Saudi Arabia woos Pakistan with $1.5 billion grant. Why now?” by Taha Siddiqui, The Christian Science Monitor, March 28, 2014: 
Pakistan announced last week that it received a $1.5 billion grant from Saudi Arabia, which it termed a “friendly gift” and an “unconditional grant.”

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have long had warm ties, but the no-strings-attached gift sparked immediate concern from Pakistani journalists, security experts, and opposition politicians, who question whether the grant is part of a behind-the-scenes deal for Pakistan to provide weapons for Syrian rebels.

“There are no free lunches in foreign diplomacy,” says Baqir Sajjad, a journalist at Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, which has published articles questioning the deal. 
An excerpt from, “The Saudis and Pakistan’s strategic shift on Syria” by Ahmed Rashid, Financial Times, March 5, 2014: 
“At the behest of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan has made a strategic shift from its so far neutral position on Syria’s civil war – to one that portends to back the Syrian rebels and even provide them with arms through Riyadh.

Media reports say that the Saudis would buy small arms from Pakistan’s arms industry and that it would recruit more Pakistani retired soldiers and policemen for the Gulf state of Bahrain that has been facing long months of unrest as Shia protests against the Sunni ruling family have escalated.The Sharif government has denied these reports, but western diplomats say the shift in Pakistan’s policy is real. Islamabad has maintained a policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of Muslim countries, which makes any intervention in the Syrian conflict on the side of Saudi Arabia hugely controversial.

All the major opposition parties have already slammed the government for what its leaders called “a policy about-turn”’ and there is uproar that the government refuses to outline its intentions.”  An excerpt from, “The Talibanization of Syria” by Kevin Truitte, Global Security And International Policy, November 14, 2013: 
There is a real threat that Syria will become the next Afghanistan. Sunni extremists from across the world have streamed into Syria to mix with Syrian rebels and fight in what they believe to be a holy struggle against an “apostate” Shiite/Alawite dictator.This has played right into the hands of al-Assad, validating his claims of rebels as “terrorists” and “thugs,” even though these were initially untrue and used to discredit the opposition. Syria is in the throws of a war that has no signs of slowing down and has extreme elements on both sides throwing money and weapons into their side’s survival. With Iran and Hezbollah fighting and financing the regime and its allied militias, and with Sunni Gulf States’ citizens funding al-Qaeda affiliated groups on the other, the violence and level of bloodshed will inevitably increase, and the country will continue to see strife and civil war.An excerpt from, “For Pakistan, Siding With the Saudis on Syria Is a Bad Idea” by Saim Saeed, The American Interest, March 15, 2014:
Pakistan has a habit of renting itself out to other powers. But its latest transaction, supporting Saudi efforts to remove Bashar al-Assad in Syria, could be the most dangerous foreign policy “sale” the state has made yet.

Pakistan as a state has pretty much been available for rent since 1947, thanks to the conviction of its security establishment that only vast quantities of foreign money can buy an adequate defense against India. But the country’s latest transaction, supporting the Saudi effort to topple Bashar al-Assad in Syria, is potentially much more dangerous than previous instances of the old rental policy.Via http://disquietreservations.blogspot.co.uk/

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38097.htm

NATO’s Proxy Offensive Continues in Northern Syria

Fighting continues in northern Syria – as NATO-backed Al Qaeda militants desecrate churches, displace local population, and impose “Sharia law.”

March 28, 2014 (Mimi Al Laham) – Fighting on the Syrian-Turkish border near the northwestern Syrian town of Kassab between AlQaeda insurgents Jabhat Al Nusra and the Syrian military continues for the fifth day.

Insurgents are shelling the towns near Kassab in Latakia province while the military is returning fire on their positions.
Point 45, a strategic hilltop overlooking Latakia’s countryside and Kassab, was regained by the Syrian army, initially lost to the mlitants flooding in from the Turkish side of the border.
Meanwhile the insurgents are reported to have moved through Kassab village reaching the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

No Response from the Predictably Silent United Nations

The Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations, Bashaar al Jaafari, has sent an official letter to the UN Security Council regarding Turkey’s support of the Al Qaeda offensive in Syria. Early in the battle Turkey shot down a Syrian jet firing at Al Qaeda targets flooding in from the Turkish border. In turn Russia proposed a UN Security Council statement on Al Qaeda’s shelling of Latakia province.

Armenians gathered Wednesday outside UN Commission headquarters in the Armenian capital Yerevan to protest what they saw as a Turkish-led Al Qaeda attack on the Armenian village in Kassab. Thousands of Armenians settled in Syria after the genocide of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire in 1915. The Attack on Kassab resulted in thousands of Armenians fleeing the area.

Image: infographic from Armenian media Emedia.

“We condemn UN silence over this crime and believe that it is a tacit approval of Turkey’s conduct,” the protestors told journalists.

Protesters handed the UN Commission a letter that condemned the attack, describing it as a violation of international law and a breach of international commitments.

The Armenian president thanked the Syrian government for protecting Armenians in Kassab in a press conference, while on Wednesday members of Armenian parliament visited Latakia and met with Kassab Armenians to report on the situation.

Image: Armenians protest the United Nations silence on AlQaeda’s attack in Yervan


Churches Desecrated

The Al Qaeda affiliated insurgents launching the offensive have ransacked churches (as they have in other areas of Syria), removing all crosses and removing the faces from many statues. The insurgents also began seizing and destroying alcohol citing that it is now contraband under their version of “Sharia law.” Early signs of the Sharia courts have been seen in other rebel held areas in the country.

Images: AlQaeda militants tweet that they have removed all crosses from churches and that alcohol is now contra ban.

The War Party At Work In Syria: Another Nation Destroyed, More Blood On America’s Hands 

By David Stockman

March 24, 2014 “Information Clearing House - Just in the nick of time last fall, the American people finally put their collective foot down, and took away Obama’s keys to the Tomahawk Missile batteries. Yet just because the planned missile barrage has been silenced does not mean that destruction has abated. In fact, the carnage wrought by what is described in the main stream press as Syria’s “civil war” rages on. The death count is now in the hundreds of thousands; the flow of desperate refuges is in the millions; everywhere civil order, food and fuel supplies, buildings, streets, homes are in ruins; and the barbaric jihadists who now dominate the so-called opposition sack much of the land outside of areas controlled by the government.

Undoubtedly, the brutal 40-year regime of the Assad family sowed the seeds of discontent and uprising—especially among Syria’s majority Sunni population—-that manifested themselves three years ago. But what started as Anderson Cooper’s latest televised ”uprising” did not become today’s cauldron of civil war and unspeakable violence by the equivalent of immaculate conception.

Another Middle East nation has been destroyed because the “opposition” was provoked, supplied, trained, armed and financed by the West and the Persian Gulf sheiks. Whatever its legions of sins, the Assad regime has been no more brutal, tyrannical, decadent or self-serving that the House of Saud or the Al Thani rulers of Qatar. So the “civil war” is not about better government for the Syria’s suffering population because it is no longer a civil war at all—if it ever was.

Its a proxy war–pure and simple. The aim yet again is ”regime change”, and not because the Assad’s are so bad; its because in the imaginations and propaganda of the neo-con War Party, the rulers of Iran are so evil. The real purpose of the US-Saudi sponsored civil war is to eliminate the Syrian link in Iran’s alleged arc of influence thru the Levant and Hezbollah.

So two things are clear. First, if Washington had a clear-eyed, sober view of the Iranian regime, it would not be demonized as an implacable enemy of civilization; we would resolve our differences–including on the nettlesome nuclear issue—in conference rooms, not thru proxy wars.

Secondly, the Syrian civil war and carnage can stop any time our peace-candidate President gets up enough gumption to tell the War Party to take a hike.  In the insightful post below, Eric Margolis makes clear that this is the essence of the matter:

 By Eric Margolis

March 22, 2014

As Syria lies dying, western media cries, “we must save Syria’s suffering children.” Indeed so,  among Syria’s nine million internal and external refugees,  some 450,000 are children.

All civil wars are bloody and cruel, but Syria’s strife has reached new extremes of violence and mass civilian suffering as the US and Saudi Arabia use this once beautiful, bountiful nation as a proxy battleground against Iran.

I extensively covered Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war; its  ghastly memory still makes me shudder. In the 14 wars I’ve reported on, Lebanon holds top ranking for barbarity and sadism. One friend of mine, the owners of women’s boutiques, became a paramilitary Rambo and went from selling perfume to cutting off and collecting the ears of Muslims.

A similar madness has descendent on Syria as its many ethnic and religious groups tear one another’s throats. Syria’s 630,000  Palestinian refugees have suffered frightfully, caught between the warring parties.

But as we lament the plight of Syria’s  refugees, let’s remember that this brutal war was begun by the Western Powers and Saudis, is financed by them, and could be stopped at anytime if Washington and Riyadh give the order.

In 2011,  fighting erupted after demonstrations against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Many Syrians were fed up with the brutal, 40-year Assad dynastic dictatorship and domination by Assad’s Alawi minority.

Western intelligence used techniques developed in Georgia, Ukraine,  Iran, Libya, Turkey (unsuccessfully) and Egypt to convert public anger into demonstrations. The Assad government’s typically heavy-handed response turned a local problem into spreading civil war.

Most of the uprising against Damascus began on the borders with Lebanon and Jordan, from where  US, British, French and Saudi intelligence services organized, trained, and financed anti-Assad groups. Turkish intelligence, MIT,  also fuelled the uprising in the north.

This writer strongly believes Western special forces armed with the latest anti-tank weapons covertly supported anti-government forces – just as in the western-organized overthrow of Libya’s leader, Muammar Gadaffi.

France has long aspired to re-establishing some sort of French-led Levant protectorate over Lebanon and Syria. Curiously, France’s socialists are even more imperial-minded than its conservatives. French intelligence – formerly SDECE, today DGSE – plays a key role in supporting Lebanon’s anti-Syrian and anti-Hezbollah factions.

Interestingly, even Russia has never fully given up its 19th-century pretensions as defender of the Levant’s Christians. Moscow remains Syria’s most important ally.

Today, Syria is in ruins. It joins Afghanistan and Iraq  who also defied the will of the United States, and paid the price. Three years into the war, the Assad government appears to be slowly winning the conflict, aided by Iran, Russia, and, to a modest degree, Hezbullah.

While Damascus gains military momentum, Syria’s western-backed rebel factions are rent by confusion and rivalries. They are unable to come up with representative leadership. Meanwhile, increasingly radical Islamists – perhaps 100,000 – have taken over much of the fighting. These wildmen are a loose cannon that frightens their Western patrons even more than Damascus. No one is able to control or organize them.

Ironically,  these jihadis should be enemies of the West while the secular Assad regime an ally. Hatred of Iran does funny things.

The United States showed its frustration with the war it began, but cannot win, by just breaking diplomatic relations with Syria, a low IQ act that is totally counter-productive and often indicates war is imminent.

More disturbingly, Israel launched another attack on Syria last week after one of its patrols likely hit an old landmine. Israel and its US supporters are determined to crush the Assad regimes as the first step in overthrowing Iran.

Given the failure of the anti-Assad rent-a-jihadis, Israel may soon intervene to destroy Assad’s air force and armored formations. Israel is getting ready to massively attack Hezbullah in Lebanon in yet another attempt to eradicate the Shia resistance movement.

The US almost openly entered Syria’s war last fall until Russia’s deft diplomacy pulled the rug out from beneath Washington’s feet. But powerful factions in the US are still urging air and naval attacks on Syria.

Ukraine and Crimea temporarily distracted the US. The cautious Obama administration seeks to avoid conflict, but America’s pro-Israel neocons and Republican hawks are pushing hard for war – and mid-term elections come this fall.

Copyright © 2014 Conyers LLC . All Rights Reserved

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38050.htm

Media ‘Staged’ Syria Chemical Attack 

Video

BBC ‘total fabrication from beginning to end’ of Syria ‘atrocity. CIA caught infiltrating CNN, and Operation Mockingbird is back.

The Truthseeker interviews, UK Member of Parliament George Galloway; Illinois University Professor of International Law Francis Boyle; investigative reporter John Helmer and ordinary Syrians.

Posted March 24, 2014

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38047.htm

Syria’s Recent Victories Betray Last Year’s WMD Lies

By Tony Cartalucci

March 20, 2014 “Information Clearing House - “Land Destroyer“- Since the beginning of 2013, Syrian troops had begun an irreversible push to take back territory overrun by foreign-backed militants, including along Syria’s borders with Lebanon and Jordan. Today, cities long lost to these militants once again have the Syrian flag waving above them, their people liberated, and the deadly toll of occupation finally being tallied before the global public.

The strategic turn in Syria’s favor was noted by geopolitical analysts long before the Damascus chemical weapons attack in the summer of 2013. When Western nations used “desperation” as a motive for the attack, which they squarely blamed on the Syrian government, those watching Syria’s systematic victories against the West’s proxy militants immediately suspected a false flag attack – one that was carried out by either the West, or one of its regional collaborators.

The now fully discredited 4 page White House “intelligence assessment” regarding the attacks, claimed specifically:

The Syrian regime has initiated an effort to rid the Damascus suburbs of opposition forces using the area as a base to stage attacks against regime targets in the capital. The regime has failed to clear dozens of Damascus neighborhoods of opposition elements, including neighborhoods targeted on August 21, despite employing nearly all of its conventional weapons systems. We assess that the regime’s frustration with its inability to secure large portions of Damascus may have contributed to its decision to use chemical weapons on August 21.

The Washington Post, in its usual role disseminating and reinforcing official fabrications, claimed in its article, “More than 1,400 killed in Syrian chemical weapons attack, U.S. says,” that (emphasis added):

The document proposes a possible motive for the attack — a desperate effort to push back rebels from several areas in the capital’s densely packed eastern suburbs — and also suggests that the high civilian death toll surprised and panicked senior Syrian officials, who called off the attack and then tried to cover it up.

Of course, even at face value, nothing about the White House’s “assessment” nor the Washington Post’s analysis adds up, including why the Syrian government would attack “densely packed eastern suburbs” and then be “surprised” by a high civilian death toll. More logically, those seeking to incriminate the Syrian government picked packed suburbs specifically to exact a high civilian death toll.

Now with the Western media incapable of covering up Syria’s tactical and strategic gains against even the most entrenched militant strongholds, the tenuous nature of August 2013′s lies spun by the West, including citing “desperation” as a motive, are more apparent than ever.

Lessons Learned?

As the West pursues a dangerous confrontation with Russia via the Eastern European nation of Ukraine and the newly independent region of Crimea, the global public must recall how events like the August 2013 Damascus “chemical attack” were insidiously executed, lied about, and eventually buried when their political capital was spent.

With snipers attacking both Crimean and Ukrainian troops in Crimea, seeking a pretext for the West to further intervene in the standoff, the public must draw from a much longer collective memory, or once again blindly grope from one crisis to the next with habitual, practiced deceivers holding their hands.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38015.htm

Israel air strikes on Syrian military raise Mideast tensions

By Patrick Martin 

20 March 2014

Israeli warplanes struck Syrian military positions on the Golan Heights Wednesday, killing one soldier and wounding seven, in the bloodiest attack by Israel since the civil war in Syria broke out three years ago. The attacks hit an army training facility, an army headquarters and artillery batteries.

Officials in Jerusalem portrayed the action as retaliation for a roadside bombing Tuesday in the Israeli-occupied portion of the plateau, which wounded four soldiers. Israeli artillery opened fire on Syrian targets immediately after that attack.

No group claimed responsibility for planting the roadside bomb, but Israel routinely affixes blame on the Syrian government for anything that takes place on the Golan Heights. In addition to Israeli and Syrian army troops, several groups of Syrian “rebel” guerrillas and fighters from Hezbollah, who are allied with the Syrian regime, reportedly operate there.

A statement from the Syrian military branded the Israeli airstrikes a “desperate attempt to escalate and worsen the situation,” and a response to battlefield advances by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, which recently captured a key opposition base near the Lebanese border.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, in a statement broadcast on Israeli Army Radio, that “jihadi elements and Hezbollah” were both active along the Israel frontier with Syria, adding “this presents a new challenge to the state of Israel.” Netanyahu’s reference to “jihadi elements” embraces virtually all those groups engaged in fighting against the Assad regime, most of which are armed and financed by the United States, Saudi Arabia and various Gulf sheikdoms.

The twin strikes Tuesday and Wednesday across the Israeli-Syrian border on the Golan Heights bring to nine the number of attacks in the past month along or across various borders of the state of Israel. These include:

February 24: Israeli warplanes attacked an alleged Hezbollah supply convoy in northeastern Lebanon, killing at least one official of the Shiiite Muslim group. It was the first direct Israeli attack on a Hezbollah target in Lebanon since the abortive 2006 Israeli invasion of south Lebanon.

March 4: Israeli troops on the Golan Heights fired at two suspected Hezbollah militants near the border with Lebanon, near the Druse village of Majdal Shams.

March 5: Navy commandos boarded and seized a merchant ship in the southern Red Sea, more than 1,000 miles south of Israel, and Israeli officials claimed they had captured an Iranian shipment of weapons en route to Palestinians in Gaza. The ship was escorted to the Israeli port of Eilat for a media event to display the alleged weapons cache. US officials confirmed both the seizure and alleged Iranian provenance of the weapons.

March 10: An Israeli soldier shot to death a Jordanian judge of Palestinian birth at the Allenby Bridge, at the border between Jordan and the West Bank

March 11: Israeli airstrikes in the southeastern Gaza Strip killed three Palestinians whom IDF officials said had fired a mortar round at Israeli troops.

March 12: After Palestinian militants fired 60 rockets at southern Israel in retaliation for the previous day’s air strikes, Israeli jets carried out widespread airstrikes at 29 separate sites across the Gaza Strip. No one was reported injured by either the rockets or the bombs, but the exchange of ordnance was the most intense since November 2012.

March 15: Israel forces shelled several villages in southern Lebanon, allegedly in response to a roadside bomb placed along the Lebanon-Israel border.

While the United States and the European Union portray the Russian movement of troops into Crimea—with little or no violence—as an unprecedented breach of international law, they have been generally supportive of the actions of Israel, which effectively disregards all international borders in its war against the Palestinian people and other opponents in the Middle East.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/03/20/isra-m20.html

On The March With Syria’s Army: ‘Unusually, the Syrian army took rebel prisoners. Ominously, I saw none’

In the first dispatch from Syria, Robert Fisk reports from the town of Yabroud – reoccupied at the weekend by government forces – and witnesses the destruction and trauma caused by a brutal civil war

By Robert Fisk

March 18, 2014 “Information Clearing House - “The Independent“- The battle for Yabroud is over, but its Greek Catholic church has been savagely vandalised by its former rebel occupants, its streets carpeted with cartridge cases, its houses smashed with shell holes. Syria’s soldiers – along with a host of Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon – watched General Badi Ali raise the government flag on Monday, too late to save the beautiful frescoes slashed into ribbons by the men of the Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic Front in Syria’s oldest church.

The Greek Catholic Church of Our Lady is a place of shame, of burnt copies of the New Testament, paintings slashed with knives – many were lying in strips of gold and red fabric beside the altar’s broken cross – and mosaics chiselled from the walls. Sceptics may ask if the regime performed this act of sacrilege – for the benefit of cameras – but it must have taken weeks to have wrecked this place of worship with its ancient columns and to have gouged out the eyes of the mosaic saints.The Islamists had attacked a mosaic of St George and the Dragon – and had even gouged out the dragon’s eyes as well as those of the unfortunate knight. You cannot call such sacrilege an infamy. But you have to ask how Syria can ever repair relations between its Muslims and Christians after such vandalism. Perhaps the answer is never, although in an act of immense courage, the Muslim civilians of this ancient town protected their Christian neighbours to the end.

As for Syria’s soldiers, they poured into the town in their thousands. There were no corpses left – though there were rotting animals aplenty – but the men I talked to yesterday were tough fighters, their faces burnt by the mountain air after 13 days of fighting. So were the Hezbollah members who stared with amazement at the English reporter, demanding that their photographs not be taken but cheerfully agreeing that they had come from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, on the other side of the mountain range above Yabroud.

Their equipment was new, including their sniper rifles and radios. No ragtag army this. The Syrian army and Hezbollah appeared to be operating semi-independently of each other and kept apart in the streets, though they shared their food and stood to watch two new  Russian-made tanks drive into the main square.

How can you record the history of the past 13 days – or indeed the story of the little boy who had lived all of his 15 months under the rule of Islamists – when no one save those who live here and the rebel fighters among them were witnesses to the more than two years Yabroud has endured?

The road into the town was torn up, its buildings, shops and stores ransacked, its people hiding in fear. I found one woman only in a street of Ottoman houses so old that their walls were made of clay and water. She still kept cows in her basement. Um Qusai – hers was the little boy – talked of how she and up to 70 other women staged a demonstration in the street against the Jabhat al-Nusra fighters, some of whom did not even speak Arabic.

“They threatened us and surrounded us and told us we could not demonstrate.  They said we were not to use the name of Bashar al-Assad but we said we wanted no foreigners in Syria. Then we had another demonstration and there were only 10 of us and they surrounded us with 200 of their fighters. Then the fighters staged their own demonstration. And they made a tape and played it on their radio, claiming the leader of our demonstration was a government agent. They put a gun to her head. But the tape was fake.”

There were other comments which were deeply disturbing. Um Qusai claimed that the Jabhat al-Nusra fighters – who like her were Sunni Muslims – forced the people in the town to pay high prices for the food they brought in. The Christians had to pay even higher prices as a tax because of their religion.  And much of the food, she said, was UN humanitarian aid from across the border in Lebanon – presumably from the refugee camps in which supporters of the rebels have sought safety.

At the corner of one street, I came across the Syrian army field commander who had battered his way into Yabroud, Colonel Median Abbadeh. He described a two-stage battle – the shellfire was still banging away in the foothills above us as we spoke – which will inevitably now move on to the town of Rankous, where Jabhat al-Nusra is still holding out. But of one thing he was insistent: the Lebanese town of Arsal – from which the rebels had brought so much ammunition into Syria – was now cut off behind the Lebanese border. Another blow to Assad’s opponents.

Abbadeh’s soldiers had been fighting for two days without sleeping but they looked like men who believed they were winning – and that may indeed be the truth. Unless they lose Yabroud – as they did Maaloula last year after recapturing it for the government – the Syrian army looks set on staying here.  Hence the flag-raising and all the references to “victory”, “courage” and “heroism”. General Ali’s speech went on and on – why do all generals make the same speeches? – but the old posters still remained on the walls.

One was entitled “The People’s Liberation Party of Yabroud”. It read: “If you are patient and you are devoted to God, the cunning of your enemies will not harm you.”  But a lot of harm did come to the rebels in Yabroud. Unusually the Syrians took prisoners.  Ominously, I saw none.

The Syrians officers said they had found Egyptian and Emirates passports in the town. They were real, they said, and were taken from the corpses of their dead owners – they could, alas, not produce them for me to see – although they had names.

Abdul-Rahman Mehrez was the commander of the Ahrar al-Sham brigade. And there was a Tunisian called Mahmoud Osman al-Barsha. Mohamed al-Qudaini, leader of the Maghawiral-Qalamoun brigade. Omar Sulieman Khaznah, leader of the Fajr al-Islam brigade. The list went on and on.

Yabroud is – or was – a rich town. Its many families who left Syria include that of President Carlos Menem of Argentina, who revisited his home town on 23 November 1994. There’s even a monument to the event, covered in the green, white and black flag of the rebels. Perhaps those families will pay to rebuild this town. But who will pay to rebuild Syria?

Yabroud now looks like much of Syria. Trashed, gutted, fought over, rubbled. And it will, no doubt, be counted a famous victory.

 

© independent.co.uk

Syria: The US, UN, wannabe regime changers

52362Syria: The US, UN, wannabe regime changers, petty restrictions and more double standards

Another day, another stitch up. On 6th March Syria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, the eloquent and elegant Mr. Bashar al- Ja’afari and the Syrian UN Mission had restrictions placed on them by the US State Department, limiting their travel to no further than twenty five miles from New York’s Columbus Circle intersection.

Felicity Arbuthnot

The UN Secretary General – representing the world organization avowed: “to practice tolerance and live together with one another as good neighbours … to develop friendly relations among nations … to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations … based on the principle of sovereign equality of all its Members” – is predictably silent.

Predictably not silent is the self-declared Coalition for a Democratic Syria (1) a pro-insurgent Syrian-American group who declared that Mr al-Ja’afari was engaged in: “a series of propaganda tours across the United States”, according to Reuters.

These cheerleaders for military intervention, in a “Call to Action” to “Contact your Congress Members”, last September urged US involvement in Syria and has adopted a “Policy Brief” which is: “used to brief members of the US government on the crisis in Syria … and delineates a comprehensive strategy for the US government to pursue.” Impossible not to be reminded of Ahmed Chalabi’s mega CIA-funded Iraq National Congress who peddled stories of non-existent weapons of mass destruction and invaders being greeted with “sweets and flowers.” There is, however no indication of the source of sources for the funding for the Coalition.

Last year they urged: “ON APRIL 11, CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES AND  SENATORS AND TELL THEM:

“I am calling to voice my support for the Free Syria Act of 2013 (HR 1327) or the Syria Democratic Transition Act of 2013.” On 25th April it was “Mark Your Calenders …Come to Washington and directly lobby House and Senate offices to support the Syrian revolution.”

The Free Syria Act :

“Provides funding and other assistance for a peaceful, stable, and organized political transition to a democratic, inclusive government …”(2) which, incidentally, makes President Nobel Obama and John Kerry’s current protestations regarding the sanctity of “sovereignty and territorial integrity”, regarding Russia’s legitimate (and shot free) concerns in the Crimea duplicitous in the extreme. Terrorism is, after all, whether in Iraq, whose special forces the US is currently training in Jordan to “attack their own people”, Libya, Syria or Ukraine, is “achieving political ends by violent means.”

No doubt the sort of “propaganda” that Mr al-Ja’afari is charged with spreading in the US is what he so reasonably told the world’s media at the “Peace Summit” in Geneva last month. That each item for discussion was vitally interconnected, complex and could not be rushed: “We insisted on considering each item separately in the dialogue within the draft agenda, to reach an agreement on each of them, because such an accord would reflect positively on other items.”

Further: “They want to make ‘the transitional government’ a priority because the side utilizing terrorism has not finished yet, those who allege desire of ceasing violence should accept the item of counterterrorism.”

He also explained: ” The USA looming military escalation has encouraged the coalition delegation to show intransigence and foil this round. We are ready to return to Geneva after agreeing a date for the next round, stemming from our belief in the importance of the political solution … We came for reaching a political solution according to Geneva, but no solution could begin while the Syrian people are living under terrorism”.(3)

That terrorism in addition to beheadings, chopping of hands, in the last days has extended to executing children and elderly men, shown in another stomach churning, graphic video.

In a supreme irony, Mr. Al-Ja’affari’s assertions are endorsed in no uncertain terms by the man who moved heaven and earth to destabilize Syria as US Ambassador there until he fled in 2011, Robert Ford.

On March 1st, in a speech at Tufts University, Ford stated:”You have one Al Qaeda faction fighting another Al Qaeda faction. That’s how fractured this is. One sharp sliver, fighting another sharp sliver. I bring no good news to you tonight about Syria. The Syrian opposition itself has done a miserable job distinguishing itself from the Al Qaeda elements. There are some really bad people in Syria right now, on the opposition side. Can the opposition show that it is willing to reach out and figure out a way security-wise and politics-wise to reunify across that sectarian divide?”

Ambassador Al-Ja’afari, a man who does not duck from inconvenient truths, also warned on 3rd September on CNN: “You can repeat the same mistakes that the previous American administrations did, many times, during (the) Vietnam War, during the Cuban Crisis or the Iraqi War with Colin Powell in the Security Council”, referring to the pack of outright lies on which Powell based the case for the invasion.

But the petty restrictions by the US and the silence of the US’ safe pair of hands at it’s helm in the UN’s eighth Secretary General, Ban-Ki-moon (“who has sought to be a bridge-builder” and support “countries facing crisis or instability”) mirrors exactly what happened to Iraq’s Mission when the country was repeatedly bombed, eventually invaded and, as Syria, strangulatingly embargoed. Kofi Annan, Ban’s predecessor was equally mute, even taking nearly a year to declare the ultimate invasion illegal.

Iran and North Korea also share Syria’s travel restrictions in the “Land of the Free.”

Syria is a founding Member of the UN, signing on the day of the launching of its Charter on 24th October 1945.

Meanwhile, Israel, subject of seventy seven UN Resolutions against the State -1955-2013 – (4) was elevated last week, by the US to a “status above any other country”, which is likely to include visa waivers and status as a “major strategic ally.”

Included are “measures that would encourage enhanced cooperation such as missile development, energy and security. No other state has ever got this status. US weapons reserves stockpiled in Israel are to be expanded.”(5)

Pondering on the country that has the honour to host the United Nations,  thus the chance to truly be a bridge builder, with the potential to make peace around the globe, it is despair making to watch just, blundering, bigotry, venom, violence, ignorance, even plummeting to the pettiest of  restrictions on home soil.

1. http://www.coalitionforademocraticsyria.org/

2. http://syriantaskforce.org/index.php/about-us/setf-blog/36-advocacy-day-2013

3. http://syrianfreepress.wordpress.com/2014/02/15/geneva-2-bashar-al-jaafari-no-solution-while-syrians-are-suffering-under-terrorism-eng-fra3videos/

4. http://www.ifamericansknew.org/stat/un.html

5. https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/10152-us-upgrades-israel-to-status-above-any-other-country

http://english.pravda.ru/world/asia/10-03-2014/127080-regime_changers-0/

The Nature of War has Changed, Which is Bleak News for Syria’s Minorities

World View: Once the vicious forces of sectarian strife are unleashed, it is nearly impossible to keep them in check

By Patrick Cockburn

March 04, 2014 “Information Clearing House - “The Independent” - A new kind of war is developing. It is very different from the mass conflict of the First World War when governments mobilised millions of men and vast industrial resources. Wars have got smaller, but are equally and, on occasions, more vicious than in the past. Not all are identical, but armed conflicts in Chechnya, Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya have many traits in common and not only because people in these countries are largely Muslim, with the exception of the Balkans.

Straightforward invasions of another country have become less common, the last being the US and British invasion of Iraq in 2003. Its disastrous outcome has made it more difficult to repeat such ventures even when governments want to. Witness the unexpected but irresistible wave of public hostility in the US and UK last September to armed intervention in Syria. In both cases the political and military establishments were split on the wisdom of engaging in another war in the Middle East.

Wars these days are proxy wars to a greater or lesser degree, and this trend may increase if only because it is more saleable to voters back home. A prime example of this was the overthrow of Gaddafi in Libya in 2011 by a Nato-backed campaign in which the Libyan rebel militiamen, who dominated the television screens, acted as a mopping-up force in the wake of devastating air attacks.

Human rights abuses have become a standard justification for foreign interventions and accounts of these abuses may well be true. But media reporting of them tends to be unbalanced, often misleading and occasionally fabricated. In Libya, the well-publicised story of mass rape by the Libyan army was exposed as a fake by human rights organisations. The original excuse for Nato air intervention was to prevent Gaddafi’s forces from massacring the opposition in Benghazi. But former rebels, now members of all-powerful militias, really did massacre demonstrators on two different occasions in Benghazi and Tripoli without foreign governments showing more than a flicker of interest.

In Syria, there should likewise be wariness in dealing with atrocity allegations. Clearly, the Syrian government forces are systematically devastating and depopulating rebel-held areas with artillery fire, aerial bombing and bulldozers. They are besieging and starving civilians in rebel-held enclaves such as Yarmouk Camp, the Old City of Homs and elsewhere.

All this is true. The government is probably killing far more civilians than the rebels. But this may be largely because the government’s means of death and destruction are greater than the opposition’s. The al-Qa’ida type Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (Isil) recently showed its intentions by posting a video on YouTube of its gunmen stopping trucks on a road, asking the drivers to prove their familiarity with Sunni rituals and shooting them dead when they fail the test. The killers never ask the drivers if they are Alawites, Shia, Christians, Druze or Ishmaili; simply not being Sunni gets a death sentence.

The jihadi groups that now dominate the armed opposition automatically kill non-Sunnis, who make up some 25 per cent of Syria’s population. In other words, at least five million Syrians have good reason to fear that they will be slaughtered if the rebels win the civil war. In fact, the number is even higher because Isil and other jihadis have a record of killing Sunni Kurds, another 10 per cent of the population, as well as Sunnis who are civilian employees of the government.

The atrocities of the rebels do not exculpate the government or vice versa. But when politicians such as William Hague and the US Secretary of State demonise only government actions, they give a false picture of what is happening in Syria. The uprising of 2011 against President Bashar al-Assad was started by civil activists seeking an end to a cruel and corrupt authoritarian regime and the creation of a secular, legal and democratic society. But this option has long since disappeared, and for Western governments to pretend otherwise is to foster civil war rather than seeking to end it. Keep in mind that if the rebels do win, the immediate result will be another five or six million Syrians fleeing the country.

Why has the outcome of revolutions that started with such high hopes been so toxic? Since 1999, I have covered Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, and in each case the armed opposition has progressively undergone criminalisation and what might be called “Talibanisation”. The circumstances are not identical, but the similarities are striking.

A reason for the Talibanisation is that only Islam appears capable of mobilising people prepared to fight to the death. This is important because wars are determined not by the number of people supporting a cause, but by the number prepared to die for it. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, national causes were often led by communists, who might begin as a small minority, as they did in the Spanish Civil War, but rapidly expanded because of their organisation and fanatical commitment.

In the Middle East, there is a failing common to beleaguered regimes and their secular opponents that weakens them both. The old nationalist rulers of Egypt, Syria, Libya and Iraq from Nasser on justified their monopoly of political and economic power by claiming that only thus could they make national self-determination a reality. In the early stages they had their successes: Nasser triumphed over Britain and France in the Suez crisis in 1956; Gaddafi took over and raised the price of Libya’s oil in 1973, and Hafez al-Assad successfully confronted Israel in Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s. By 2011, however, these governments had turned into self-serving cliques whose nationalist slogans were long discredited and whose corruption delegitimised the nation state.

The mistake of civic activists and non-sectarian revolutionaries in 2011 was not to see that emphasis on human and civil rights did not mean much unless a strong nation state could be regenerated. Nationalism may be out of fashion, but without it gluing society together, the alternative is sectarianism, tribalism and foreign domination. As paymasters, the Sunni oil states of the Gulf set the agenda and it is a deeply reactionary one. It is hypocritical and absurd for Western powers to pretend that they are seeking to build secular democracies in alliance with theocratic absolute monarchies in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.

The future does not look bright. Once sectarian furies are released they become next to impossible to contain. For all the turmoil in Turkey, it is more of a complete nation state than elsewhere in the region. But then that is partly because a fifth of the Turkish population was Christian in 1914 and, following the Armenian massacres and the expulsion or exchange of the Greeks, the proportion fell to about 1 per cent 10 years later.

People ask why the revolutions in Eastern Europe at the time of the fall of communism were so much less violent than in the Middle East. A less than comforting answer is that the East European minorities had been murdered, expelled or forced to flee during or shortly after the Second World War. The same fate could be waiting for the minorities of Syria.

© independent.co.uk

Hezbollah Leader Nasrallah: ‘Stop the War on Syria’

Video – (English Subtitles)

Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah: ‘Stop the War on Syria, We’ll Withdraw Thereafter’

Posted March 01, 2014

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37807.htm

A New Neocon Push for Syrian War

By Coleen Rowley

February 25, 2014 “Information Clearing House - The propaganda that continues to flourish for war on Syria shows many Americans fail to understand the problems posed by “U.S. Empire-building” believing it to be an altruistic force, toppling other governments and starting wars for the good of all mankind.

Two recent articles in the New York Times: “Use Force To Save Starving Syrians” and “U.S. Scolds Russia as It Weighs Options on Syrian War“ are typical of the concerted efforts underway to ramp up U.S. military intervention despite overwhelming opposition voiced by Congress and the American public thwarting Obama’s plan to bomb Syria announced in late August last year.

The “U.S. Weighs Options” news piece is easier to expose since it employs an obviously twisted and one-sided reporting lens that puts the primary blame on Russia for the violent conflict in Syria. It was apparently fed to Michael R. Gordon and his NYT colleagues by anonymous Administration officials as well as the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the neocon think tank nefariously founded by the Israeli American Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to deceptively appear to be independent of its parent. (AIPAC has been revealed by scholars as the most powerful force in recent decades on U.S. foreign policy, repeatedly pushing the U.S. into wars for Israel.)

It should be recalled that Gordon himself is the same NYT reporter who gave a big assist back in 2002 to Judith Miller, notoriously collaborating with Vice President Dick Cheney’s aide Scooter Libby and other neoconservatives to gin up war on Iraq by writing false front page stories about Saddam’s WMD.

Unfortunately Gordon never was held accountable (in contrast to Miller who was eventually forced out of the NYT and even did some jail time for refusing to testify about one of Libby’s other illegal leaks). It’s therefore not surprising that Gordon and others continue to carry water and blatantly skew the facts for AIPAC and the neocons.

The other push for increased military intervention in Syria, however, could be categorized as “neo-lib.” The “Use Force…” op-ed by long-time advocates of “Right to Protect (R2P)” who want Syrian regime change, Danny Postel and Nader Hashemi, current heads of the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies, is even more insidious. As Professor Rob Prince explains in his insightful counterpoint, “Military Humanitarian Intervention: the Shock Doctrine Applied to Syria:”

“In calling for military intervention in Syria — something not even the U.S. military itself is particularly enthusiastic about — Hashemi and Postel cozy up, as they have before on Iran in 2009 and Libya in 2011, with the likes of AIPAC, along with this country’s band of intrepid and misdirected neoconservatives. These are the same elements that pushed this country into invading Iraq and continue to push the Obama Administration to intervene militarily in Syria.”

Close examination of the facts – rather than shock doctrine emotion – is indeed required because R2P is based on a form of ends-justify-the means, concocted utilitarianism, i.e. Orwellian-type propositions that killing can save lives, that war can bring human rights, democracy and peace. It’s not different from the prevalent argument that torture can be justified as saving lives or “we must destroy the village to save it,” designed to prey on people’s emotions instead of facilitating critical thinking based on actual facts or research.

These two writers urging U.S. military force admit “political interests” typically lie behind R2P interventions.  But they fail to recognize how their own long-standing political interest in toppling the current Syrian government undercuts their own claimed morality mantel. It also casts doubt on their suggestion that such force and aerial bombardment would be used evenhandedly against both Syrian regime forces and/or rebel militias, upon whichever side blocks the delivery of food and humanitarian supplies.

Any “humanitarian” proposal emanating from Obama and Kerry who similarly announced “Assad must go” from early on would naturally face equal skepticism.  Russia and China certainly remember how they were deliberately misled in UN Security Council discussions to not veto what then U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice sold as a limited “no fly zone” humanitarian mission to protect Libyans in Benghazi but which morphed within days of that vote into thousands of NATO bombing sorties over six months to take out Qaddafi and force regime change upon Libya.

In the case of Libya, a right to “protect” turned out to mean the right to destroy. That probably explains why Postel-Hashemi do not point to Libya as their precedent for R2P success but, rather bizarrely, to Somalia and “Black Hawk Down.”

It’s long been observed that “truth is the first casualty of war.” So fact-checking is needed when these R2P-regime change proponents point to the “humanitarian nightmare in Syria — replete with refugee flows, sarin gas, barrel bombs, and ‘industrial-scale’ killings and torture, (which have) horrified the world.”

Facts are inherently scarce in the fog of war enveloping Syrian atrocities. Eventually truth may emerge. But for starters, very little solid evidence exists as to who was responsible for the sarin attack on Ghouta on Aug. 21, 2013. Despite John Kerry’s initially bold claims that the U.S. possessed “undeniable” evidence that Assad’s forces were responsible “beyond any reasonable doubt,” Seymour Hersh and other investigative journalists have reported that U.S. intelligence was never conclusive. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Deceiving the US Public on Syria.”

Evidence does exist of a few hundred Syrians dying in the August chemical attack but the (overly precise) figure the U.S. cited of 1,429 victims is now widely viewed as exaggerated since it stemmed from a sloppy, rushed counting of shrouded images in various videos by U.S. intelligence agencies.

The U.N. too has already backtracked on several of its original key findings about this sarin attack. Whatever bits of intelligence the U.S. does possess remain classified and secret to this day so it’s hard to assess but, at very least, the trajectory “vector  analysis” – referred to by the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and relied upon by the NYT and Human Rights Watch (HRW) – has been significantly discredited.

The NYT had to print a retraction of its initial map showing trajectories of sarin-loaded missiles traveling 9 kilometers after it was determined the range of the actual missiles used was no more than 2.5 kilometers. The NYT's and HRW's concocted maps were further undercut by the fact that no sarin was found at the site of the supposed missile landing in Moadamiya, south of Damascus. The only rocket tested and found to be carrying sarin was the one that landed in Zalmalka/Ein Tarma, east of Damascus.

HRW’s errors and, even worse, their failure to admit these errors when they knew their map was being relied upon to justify U.S. bombing of Syria, also calls their agenda into question.  HRW’s hypocrisy using human rights as a pretext for military intervention and its directors’ conflicts of interests is documented elsewhere.

In late January 2014, two weapons experts challenged the ballistic data, concluding ”that under no circumstances can Syria be held accountable for the massacre” (see Flawed US intelligence on Ghouta massacre based on MIT report: “Possible Implications of Faulty US Technical Intelligence in the Damascus Nerve Agent Attack of August 21, 2013″)

War crimes should, of course, always be brought to light and prosecuted. But the recent “smoking gun” report accusing Assad and conveniently made public just when the Geneva II peace negotiations were getting underway is suspicious on many levels. Reportedly commissioned and funded by Qatar, a country arming and funding Syria’s rebels, the report lacks independent, unbiased sources and omits evidence of war crimes being committed by rebel factions in Syria. (Also see “Is Syrian peace conference laying the foundation for war?“)

It’s no secret that the U.S. has a long history of toppling governments that it doesn’t like, even democratically elected ones. And Syria is not the only place right now where the official goal is regime change! The coup orchestration department is working overtime these days with reports of U.S. attempts to topple governments in Venezuela and Ukraine.

(U.S. meddling in the latter, despite the complexity of the situation — see here and here, was recently confirmed through interceptions of Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, formerly Dick Cheney’s principal deputy foreign policy advisor and married to neocon Robert Kagan, co-founder of the Project for the New American Century.)

The use (abuse) of human rights law as justification for orchestrating such “regime changes” in Syria and around the world exemplifies a dangerous form of hypocrisy as it serves to deprive these international principles of legitimacy.

As retired CIA analyst Paul Pillar recently wrote, it is a mistake to see “the United States as an omnipotent global savior or policeman. We ought to bear this principle in mind in contemplating policy about problems anywhere on the globe. It certainly should be borne in mind with the Middle East, where there is a still fairly recent history of forceful U.S. action doing more harm than good…”

Coleen Rowley is a retired FBI agent and former chief division counsel in Minneapolis. She’s now a dedicated peace and justice activist and board member of the Women Against Military Madness and works with the Veterans for Peace chapter in Minneapolis, Minnesota. [This story previously appeared in Foreign Policy in Focus and the Veterans for Peace newsletter.]

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37757.htm

Is Washington Considering a Full-Scale Drone War over Syria?

By Timothy Alexander Guzman

Global Research, February 21, 2014

Will the Obama administration launch a full scale drone war over Syria in the coming months ahead? Public support for Washington to order a direct military intervention against the Syrian government because it is accused of using chemical weapons against civilians is at the lowest level in 20 years according to a Gallop Poll conducted on September 2013.

More than 51% of Americans oppose military action and 13% are unsure if military action is practical.

In February 2013, US Press Secretary Jay Carney stated to the public, the ethical and “wise” use of drones that can pinpoint targets without of course killing innocent civilians is legal:

We have acknowledged, the United States, that sometimes we use remotely piloted aircraft to conduct targeted strikes against specific al Qaeda terrorists in order to prevent attacks on the United States and to save American lives. We conduct those strikes because they are necessary to mitigate ongoing actual threats, to stop plots, prevent future attacks, and, again, save American lives. These strikes are legal, they are ethical and they are wise. The U.S. government takes great care in deciding to pursue an al Qaeda terrorist, to ensure precision and to avoid loss of innocent life

Washington did consider launching drone strikes in the same year as reported by the Los Angeles Times ‘CIA begins sizing up Islamic extremists in Syria for drone strikes’:

The CIA has stepped up secret contingency planning to protect the United States and its allies as the turmoil expands in Syria, including collecting intelligence on Islamic extremists for the first time for possible lethal drone strikes, according to current and former U.S. officials.

President Obama has not authorized drone missile strikes in Syria, however, and none are under consideration

Obama’s speech on his drone policy had concerns on the public’s attitude towards another war in the Middle East. Obama said the following on the use of drones in foreign land:

Any U.S. military action in foreign lands risks creating more enemies and impacts public opinion overseas. Moreover, our laws constrain the power of the President even during wartime, and I have taken an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States. The very precision of drone strikes and the necessary secrecy often involved in such actions can end up shielding our government from the public scrutiny that a troop deployment invites. It can also lead a President and his team to view drone strikes as a cure-all for terrorism

In a recent meeting between French President Francois Hollande and President Obama to discuss issues in the Middle East and Africa, Obama was asked about the situation in Syria:

 I’ve said throughout my presidency that I always reserve the right to exercise military action on behalf of America’s national security interests. But that has to be deployed wisely. And I think that what we saw with respect to the chemical weapons situation was an example of the judicious, wise use of possible military action

The Obama administration refers to the use of military action and how it is deployed as a “wise” option.  Is he talking about the use of drone warfare? He later continued his statement saying that the Syrian situation is “Fluid”:

Whether we can duplicate that kind of process when it comes to the larger resolution of the problem, right now we don’t think that there is a military solution, per se, to the problem. But the situation is fluid, and we are continuing to explore every possible avenue to solve this problem, because it’s not just heartbreaking to see what’s happening to the Syrian people, it’s very dangerous for the region as a whole, including friends and allies and partners like Lebanon or Jordan that are being adversely impacted by it

The Obama administration can possibly launch a full scale drone war on Syria without involving ground troops since the public is opposed to another direct military intervention in the Middle East. Washington still has its hands tied with troops remaining in Afghanistan. Relations with President Hamid Karzai are strained. President Karzai refused to sign a security pact allowing 10,000 US troops to stay in Afghanistan for counter-terrorism purposes and training Afghan forces beyond 2014. Karzai also wants limited NATO troops in Afghanistan. With US and Israeli troops in preparation for a possible confrontation with Iran if nuclear talks fail, the use of drones would be a viable option for Washington since it would strike a delicate balance with the international community and the American public concerning their attitudes towards a new war using ground troops. A full-scale drone war launched by Washington would seem like a low-intensity war to the public, meaning that a drone war is not really a “major war” involving US troops on the ground, as President Obama said in his 2013 drone policy speech “such actions can end up shielding our government from the public scrutiny “.

Washington would hope that the American public and the international community would not organize anti-war protests regarding America’s 21st century drone war against President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian people involving so-called “precision” strikes. War is war, regardless of what some people in power may think. The public wants no war against Syria, but will Washington and its allies listen? That is a good question.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/is-washington-considering-a-full-scale-drone-war-over-syria/5370020

Saudis Agree to Provide Syrian Rebels With Mobile Antiaircraft Missiles

U.S. Giving Fighters Millions of Dollars for Salaries

By Maria Abi-Habib and Stacy Meichtry

February 17 2014 “Information Clearing House - “WSJ” - AMMAN, Jordan—Washington’s Arab allies, disappointed with Syria peace talks, have agreed to provide rebels there with more sophisticated weaponry, including shoulder-fired missiles that can take down jets, according to Western and Arab diplomats and opposition figures.

Saudi Arabia has offered to give the opposition for the first time Chinese man-portable air defense systems, or Manpads, and antitank guided missiles from Russia, according to an Arab diplomat and several opposition figures with knowledge of the efforts. Saudi officials couldn’t be reached to comment.

The U.S. has long opposed arming rebels with antiaircraft missiles for fear they could fall into the hands of extremists who might use them against the West or commercial airlines. The Saudis have held off supplying them in the past because of U.S. opposition. A senior Obama administration official said Friday that the U.S. objection remains the same. “There hasn’t been a change internally on our view,” the official said.

The U.S. for its part has stepped up financial support, handing over millions of dollars in new aid to pay fighters’ salaries, said rebel commanders who received some of the money. The U.S. wouldn’t comment on any payments.

The focus of the new rebel military push is to retake the southern suburbs of Damascus in hopes of forcing the regime to accept a political resolution to the war by agreeing to a transitional government without President Bashar al-Assad.

But if the Manpads are supplied in the quantities needed, rebels said it could tip the balance in the stalemated war in favor of the opposition. The antiaircraft and Russian Konkurs antitank weapons would help them chip away at the regime’s two big advantages on the battlefield—air power and heavy armor.

“New stuff is arriving imminently,” said a Western diplomat with knowledge of the weapons deliveries.

Rebel commanders and leaders of the Syrian political opposition said they don’t know yet how many of the Manpads and antiaircraft missiles they will get. But they have been told it is a significant amount. The weapons are already waiting in warehouses in Jordan and Turkey.

Earlier in the conflict, rebels managed to seize a limited number of Manpads from regime forces. But they quickly ran out of the missiles to arm them, the Western diplomat said.

Rebel leaders say they met with U.S. and Saudi intelligence agents, among others, in Jordan on Jan. 30 as the first round of Syrian peace talks in Geneva came to a close. That is when wealthy Gulf States offered the more sophisticated weapons.

At the meeting, U.S. and Gulf officials said they were disappointed with the Syrian government’s refusal to discuss Mr. Assad’s ouster at the talks and suggested a military push was needed to force a political solution to the three-year war.

President Barack Obama this week acknowledged that diplomatic efforts to resolve the Syrian conflict are far from achieving their goals.

“But the situation is fluid and we are continuing to explore every possible avenue,” Mr. Obama said.

The weapons will flow across the border into southern Syria from the warehouses in Jordan and across the northern border from Turkey, the Western diplomat said. Rebel leaders said the shipments to southern Syria are expected to be more substantial because opposition fighters are more unified in that area and there is a lower risk the weapons will fall into the hands of al Qaeda-inspired groups—a big concern for the U.S.

With the rebels still deeply divided and infighting growing, the new aid is aimed squarely at the more moderate and secular rebels of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) that the U.S. has always favored.

The plan coincides with the reorganization of rebel forces in the south, where 10,000 fighters have formed the Southern Front. The new front aims to break the government’s siege of the southern suburbs of Damascus.

Last month, rebels in the north unified into the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, turning their weapons on the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the most deadly al Qaeda-inspired rebel faction. The SRF, along with other groups, forced ISIS to retreat from key territories across the north. Both the northern and southern forces are technically under the FSA’s umbrella.

Western and Arab support for the new groups won’t go to the Islamic Front, an alliance of conservative, religious rebel factions that is helping the northern front rebels fight the more radical ISIS.

The Southern Front is under the leadership of Bashar al-Zoubi, who has a direct line to Western and Arab intelligence agencies in a military operations room in Amman, rebels say.

The operations room hosts officials from the 11 countries that form the Friends of Syria group, including the U.S., Saudi Arabia, France and the U.K. Mr. al-Zoubi was also among a select group of rebel commanders who joined the political opposition in Geneva for the latest round of peace talks.

The Southern Front has captured a string of government-held areas and military bases since it launched its first offensive in late January.

But any push toward the capital from the south faces formidable challenges. An arc south of the capital is the domain of the army’s Fourth Division, elite troops led by Maher al-Assad, the president’s brother. Closer to the capital, Syrian forces are fortified by elements of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia from Lebanon.

The regime has been ruthless in snuffing out any hint of escalation by rebels in the south.

“The Saudis and Emiratis at the same meeting said that their priority is to lift the siege on the entire southern area of Damascus,” said an aide to a rebel leader who attended the meeting in Amman on Jan 30. Once we reach this stage, it will become political pressure and Assad will have to listen to the international demands,” the aide said.

At the meeting between leaders of the Southern Front and Western and Arab intelligence agencies last month, rebel leaders said they were given salaries for their fighters and equipment such as military rations and tents.

Rebels said the U.S. spent $3 million on salaries of fighters in the Southern Front, delivering the payments in cash over two meetings in Jordan—one on Jan. 30 and the other late last year.

The opposition will also ask Congress next week for weapons to help rebels fight al Qaeda. That mandate would give the opposition a better shot at securing arms than previous requests for support to topple the regime.

Congressional aides confirmed there are scheduled meetings with opposition leaders next week to discuss their request for more advanced weapons. But Congress remains sharply divided about the conflict in Syria. Some lawmakers favor stepped-up support to moderate opposition groups, but others question the wisdom of providing heavy weapons.

“We’re trying to assure the international community that they can support moderates without the threat of arms falling into the hands of al Qaeda,” said Oubai Shahbandar, a senior adviser to the Syrian opposition.

Sam Dagher and Suha Ma’ayeh contributed to this article.

Real Or Propaganda? New Weapons To Syrian Mercenaries

By Moon Of Alabama

February 17 2014 “Information Clearing House - I am not sure what to think about this Wall Street Journal piece. Its alternative headline is Saudis Agree to Place Large Holes in El Al Planes at Some Future Date:

AMMAN, Jordan—Washington’s Arab allies, disappointed with Syria peace talks, have agreed to provide rebels there with more sophisticated weaponry, including shoulder-fired missiles that can take down jets, according to Western and Arab diplomats and opposition figures.

Saudi Arabia has offered to give the opposition for the first time Chinese man-portable air defense systems, or Manpads, and antitank guided missiles from Russia, according to an Arab diplomat and several opposition figures with knowledge of the efforts.

I am unsure if this is just scaremongering or real. I doubt that the United States, which largely controls the weapons flow at least to south Syria, as well as its waging tail Israel would ever agree to such. All weapons in Syria can change hands in unpredictable ways.

The U.S. pays and thereby probably believes to control the mercenaries on the ground:

The U.S. for its part has stepped up financial support, handing over millions of dollars in new aid to pay fighters’ salaries, said rebel commanders who received some of the money.

It is dubious that the rather loose string of being a replaceable money source gives much control at all.

The Israeli and U.S. plan is to create a buffer zone in the South to enable a further Israeli land grab in the Golan. That is the reason why Israel is supplying and supporting the fighters there.

There are now new threats from Obama to “apply new pressure” on Syria because the second round of the Geneva II talks ended inconclusive. That “new pressure” will be the new weapon supplies. But the WSJ piece makes clears these new supplies have nothing to do with the Geneva II round but were planned much earlier:

Rebel leaders say they met with U.S. and Saudi intelligence agents, among others, in Jordan on Jan. 30 as the first round of Syrian peace talks in Geneva came to a close. That is when wealthy Gulf States offered the more sophisticated weapons.

The U.S. is not letting up from its “regime change” aim. I have long favored some action in Jordan and Turkey to discourage those countries from their support roles for the mercenaries and insurgents. One wonders why the Syrian services seem unable to provide such. Could Russia help?

This article was originally published at Moon Of Alabama -

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37671.htm

Geneva 2 peace talks suspended

The Geneva 2 Peace Conference adjourned without reaching any result, announced disappointed chairman Lakhdar Brahimi. No date for a third round of talks has been set.

Member governments of the Friends of Syria readily denounced the “deadlock,” pinning the responsibility on the “regime”’s delegation.

Western news agencies have reported that the Syrian delegation wished to discuss terrorism, while the representatives of the “opposition” wanted to focus on the formation of the Transitional Government Body.

In reality, the two delegations had agreed to negotiate on the basis of the Geneva 1 Final Communiqué [1]. The discussion was supposed to unfold section by section. But the first discussion item stipulates: “All parties must re-commit to a sustained cessation of armed violence in all its forms and implementation of the six-point plan immediately and without waiting for the actions of others.” Now, it is the delegation of the “opposition” – abetted by the U.S. threats of military escalation – that refused to touch on the question of armed violence. In the circumstances, it would have been impossible for the Damascus delegation to start negotiations on the formation of the Transitional Governing Body while the fighting still continues.

In violation of their own signature, the United States adopted in mid-January a plan to rearm the opposition until 30 September 2014. They had nevertheless committed themselves in the final communiqué of Geneva 1 “to work urgently and intensively to bring about an end to the violence and human rights abuses.” The Pentagon is currently organizing an airlift and taking part in the transportation of jihadists and equipment to Jordan to attack Syria again. According to the Wall Street Journal of 16 February, Saudi Arabia has allegedly provided the rebel army with the antiaircraft missiles that Washington had refused to deliver. [2].

[1] “Action Group for Syria Final Communiqué”, Voltaire Network, 30 June 2012.

[2] “Saudis Agree to Provide Syrian Rebels With Mobile Antiaircraft Missiles”, by Maria Abi-Habib and Stacy Meichtry, The Wall Street Journal, 16 February 2014.

http://www.voltairenet.org/article182224.html

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