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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 It is also at loggerheads with Qatar, from which it has withdrawn its ambassador, and it is critical of Oman’s friendly relationship with Iran.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

Syria’s War Must End

By Stephen Hawking

February 16 2014 “Information Clearing House - “Washington Post” -  The Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that the universe had existed forever. The reason humanity was not more developed, he believed, was that floods or other natural disasters repeatedly set civilization back to the beginning.

Today, humans are developing ever faster. Our knowledge is growing exponentially and with it, our technology. But humans still have the instincts, and in particular the aggressive impulses, that we had in caveman days. Aggression has had definite advantages for survival, but when modern technology meets ancient aggression the entire human race and much of the rest of life on Earth is at risk.

Today in Syria we see modern technology in the form of bombs, chemicals and other weapons being used to further so-called intelligent political ends.But it does not feel intelligent to watch as more than 100,000 people are killed or while children are targeted. It feels downright stupid, and worse, to prevent humanitarian supplies from reaching clinics where, as Save the Children will document in a forthcoming report, children are having limbs amputated for lack of basic facilities and newborn babies are dying in incubators for lack of power.What’s happening in Syria is an abomination, one that the world is watching coldly from a distance. Where is our emotional intelligence, our sense of collective justice?When I discuss intelligent life in the universe, I take this to include the human race, even though much of its behavior throughout history appears not to have been calculated to aid the survival of the species. And while it is not clear that, unlike aggression, intelligence has any long-term survival value, our very human brand of intelligence denotes an ability to reason and plan for not only our own but also our collective futures.We must work together to end this war and to protect the children of Syria. The international community has watched from the sidelines for three years as this conflict rages, engulfing all hope. As a father and grandfather, I watch the suffering of Syria’s children and must now say: No more.I often wonder what we must look like to other beings watching from deep space. As we look out at the universe, we are looking back in time, because light leaving distant objects reaches us much, much later. What does the light emitting from Earth today show? When people see our past, will we be proud of what they are shown — how we, as brothers, treat each other? How we allow our brothers to treat our children?We now know that Aristotle was wrong: The universe has not existed forever. It began about 14 billion years ago. But he was right that great disasters represent major steps backward for civilization. The war in Syria may not represent the end of humanity, but every injustice committed is a chip in the facade of what holds us together. The universal principle of justice may not be rooted in physics but it is no less fundamental to our existence. For without it, before long, human beings will surely cease to exist.

Stephen Hawking is the author of “A Brief History of Time” and a former professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37664.htm

Chomsky: “US and Israel Don’t Want To Overthrow Assad!”

Video

Israel will be pretty happy to see Syrians kill each other.

Posted February 16, 2014

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37661.htm

Hunger As A Weapon How Not to Get Aid into Homs

By Franklin Lamb

February 16 2014 “Information Clearing House - “Counterpunch” - Al Nebek, Syria. -  When the true authorship of the recent 2/12/14, seemingly designed to fail, UN Security Council Draft Resolution on delivering urgent humanitarian aid into the Old City of Homs and other besieged areas in conflict-torn Syria comes to light, much may become clearer with respect to the cynical politicization of  the continuing civilian suffering.

According to a UN/US Congressional source who actually worked on rounding up Australia, Luxembourg, and Jordan to front for the US and its allies and introduce a UNSC Draft Resolution, not one of the three was happy about the raw and decidedly undiplomatic pressure they received from the office of the Obama administrations recently appointed UN Ambassador, Samantha Power.

When this observer inquired about how such a blatantly political, adversary bashing, poorly drafted, one sided draft resolution could ever see the light of day and actually be submitted for consideration by the UN Security Council, the reply he received was terse: “Ask Samantha.”

Suspicions are being raised in Geneva, Syria and among certain UN aid agencies in Homs and elsewhere that those they are trying to save from starvation, were ‘set-up’ to fail as a result of power politics and influences emanating from Washington and Tel Aviv.

This observer is not a big fan of conspiracy theories. No doubt it’s somehow related to a personal congenital defect of some sort that makes him want to hear at least a modicum of relevant, prohibitive, material, non-hearsay evidence to support some of the wilder and internet fueled claims ricocheting around the globe. However, it is becoming rather clear that what happened at the UNSC last week and why the specific language of the subject UNSC Draft Resolution.

Ms. Power, it has been claimed by two Hill staffers who monitor AIPAC, owes her position as UN Ambassador to Israeli PM Netanyahu who views her and her husband, AIPAC fund raiser, Cass Sunstein, as Israel-first stalwarts. Congressional sources claim the White House went along with her appointment so as not to provoke yet another battle with AIPAC’s Congressional agents and with the wider US Zionist lobby.  As part of her continuing gratitude for her “dream job” as she told an American Jewish Committee convention on 2/10/14 in New York, Ms. Power assured the AJC that the United States “strongly supports Israel’s candidacy for a seat on the UN Security Council, and we have pushed relentlessly for the full inclusion of Israel across the UN system.”  In private, Ms. Power is said to assured AIPAC officials in attendance that “one of Israel’s few survival reeds may be to grasp, in the face of rising anti-Semitism, a seat on the council.” Insisting that “there is growing and rampant hostility towards Israel within the UN, where a large number of member states are not democratic,” Ms. Power, continued” “I will never give up and nor should you.” Following the standing ovation from her adoring audience, she repeated, according to one eye witness:“We have also pushed relentlessly for the full inclusion of Israel across the UN system.”  What the Zionist regime still occupying Palestine knows, as does no doubt Ms. Power, is that the American public and increasingly even the US Congress is finally pulling back from the regime in favor of justice for Palestine. Thus the lobby’s strange reasoning that the UN system, where the American public is essentially absent, is increasingly important.

So what’s the problem with the Security Council Draft Resolution, spawned by the US mission at the UN and presented by three faithful allies?

For starters, presumably every high school or college student who has ever participated in the thousands of Model UN (MUN) sessions held in virtually every country and during which students participate as delegates to various UN Committees research and formulate political positions based on the actual policies of the countries, the US pushed draft is DOA.    Surely, many but probably most would cringe at the draft resolution aggressive language demanding that the UN Security Council immediatly take action to end the humanitarian crisis in Syria and in the first instance in the besieged areas such as Homs and Yarmouk camp by targeting only one claimed violator with yet more international sanctions. Another reason is that Moscow, with a UNSC veto that its ready to use, sees the US initiated draft as a bid to lay the groundwork for military strikes against the Syrian government and that it contains an ultimatum that if they don’t solve all this in two weeks then the Security Council will automatically introduce sanctions against the Syrian government.

As Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov told the media in Moscow on 2/10/14. “Instead of engaging in everyday, meticulous work to resolve problems that block deliveries of humanitarian aid, they see a new resolution as some kind of simplistic solution detached from reality.”  The draft resolution text, obtained by this observer from Reuters, expresses the intent to impose sanctions on individuals and entities obstructing aid and if certain demands in the resolution are not met within the next two weeks.

Predictably, Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov added to Moscow’s argument: “Its whole purpose and aim is to create grounds for future military action against the Syrian government if some demands it includes are not met.” “It is unacceptable to us in the form in which it is now being prepared, and we, of course, will not let it through,” One diplomat in Syria, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Churkin had told the Security Council on 2/11/14 that Russia did not like 30 percent of the original draft resolution, but did not specify what aspects he disagreed with. He added, “We’re not aiming for a Russian veto, we’re aiming for a resolution that everybody can agree. That is what we want.”  For his part, President Obama, speaking at a joint news conference in Washington with French President Francois Hollande, kept up the pressure for the Security Council to accept the US resolution. He insisted that there is “great unanimity among most of the Security Council” in favor of the resolution and “Russia is a holdout.”  Secretary of State John Kerry and others have “delivered a very direct message” pressuring the Russians to drop their opposition. Kerry is claiming that “it is not just the Syrians that are responsible” for the plight of civilians but “the Russians, as well, if they are blocking this kind of resolution. How you can object to humanitarian corridors? Why would you prevent the vote of a resolution if, in good faith, it is all about saving human lives?” he said.

Among international observers, the draft resolution is widely considered to be one-sided as it condemns rights abuses by Syrian authorities and demands that Syrian forces stop all aerial bombardment of cities and towns as well as the indiscriminate use of bombs, rockets and related weapons. It also, parenthetically and somewhat obliquely, condemns “increased terrorist attacks,” and calls for the withdrawal of all foreign fighters from Syria. The latter language is believed to be aimed mainly at Hezbollah. Sources in Syria claim that the draft heaps all the blame on the Syrian government without devoting the necessary attention to the humanitarian problems that are being created by the actions of the rebels.

These gratuitous draft elements are not only aggressive but frankly appear calculated to end serious discussion and to undermine a solution of the problem, but these provocative elements are unnecessary.

Being new on the job is one thing for Ms. Power, politicizing relief from starvation of the besieged civilian population, by focusing on blaming one side is quite another. And it violates a broad range of applicable mandatory international legal norms. If Ms. Power in vague on this subject and what the law requires,  the US Department of State’s Office of International Organization Affairs is not, or at least was not, when this observer interned there following law school, years ago.

Rather, language that would stand a much better chance of ending the siege of Homs, Yarmouk and areas should be draft text as drafted this week by a Syrian law student at the Damascus University Faculty of Law, a widely esteemed University that witnessed the death of 17 of its students on 3/28/13 and the serious injuring of more than 20 others when rebel mortar bombs targeted the canteen of the College of Architecture. Those responsible for the shelling later admitted that they were trained and armed by agents of the US government.

Embargoed for the time being, the DU Law Faculty students draft resolution on unfettered humanitarian aid into besieged areas of Syria will hopefully be widely discussed over the week-end at a news conference tentatively scheduled on campus. Perhaps the next draft resolution will reflect the student’s homework assignment.

The starving victims in currently besieged areas in Syria and all people of goodwill are demanding immediate non politicized humanitarian aid into Syria without further delay.  Among them virtually every American voter is in a position to pressure their Congressional representatives and they would possibly achieve much good by making the White House aware of their demands to end playing international ‘gotcha’ politics and cooperate to end the needless deaths by starvation continuing today.

Franklin Lamb is a visiting Professor of International Law at the Faculty of Law, Damascus University and volunteers with the Sabra-Shatila Scholarship Program (sssp-lb.com).

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37662.htm

Convicted Criminals Serve as “Freedom Fighters” in Syria: Saudi, Pakistani and Iraqi Prison Inmates Replenish Al Qaeda Ranks

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky

Global Research, February 16, 2014

militia-400x230Several hundred prisoners who escaped from carefully guarded prisons in Iraq have recently joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as well as the Al Qaeda affiliated rebel force, Jabhat Al Nusra.

According to the NYT: “the prison breaks also reflect the surging demand for experienced fighters [by the US an its allies], which led to a concerted effort by militant groups, particularly the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, to seek them in the one place where they were held en masse — Iraq’s prison cells. (Tim Arango  and Eric Schmitt, Escaped Inmates From Iraq Fuel Syrian Insurgency, NYT, February 12, 2014):

“American officials estimate, a few hundred of the escapees have joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, several in senior leadership roles.”

Acknowledged by the NYT, the prison breakouts are part of the recruitment of jihadists to serve in the Syrian insurgency. What is not mentioned, however, is that the recruitment of mercenaries is a covert operation, coordinated by NATO, Turkey and Saudi Arabia with the support of the Obama administration. Moreover, known and documented, most Al Qaeda affiliated forces are covertly supported by Western intelligence including the CIA, Mossad and Britain’s MI6.

The prison breaks in Iraq are part of a coordinated endeavor entitled  “Operation Breaking the Walls,” established in July 2012 by the ISIS. Acknowledged by an American counterterrorism official quoted by the NYT,

 “The influx of these terrorists, who collectively have decades of battlefield experience, probably has strengthened the group and deepened its leadership bench.”

US Occupation forces and military personnel in the prisons turned a blind eye to the breakouts.

Abu Aisha was originally arrested by the Americans and then released from Camp Bucca, the infamous American prison in southern Iraq, in 2008. He was rearrested by the Iraqis in 2010.

“Finally, they put me in Abu Ghraib, and I again met some of the leaders and fighters I knew, including princes from Al Qaeda — Iraqis, Arabs and other nationalities,” he said. “Most of them had been at Bucca as well.”

One night last summer, as Abu Aisha sat in his cell waiting, as he did each day, for his date with the executioner, explosions and gunfire erupted and a familiar prison guard opened the doors to his cell and told him to leave immediately. With hundreds of others, Abu Aisha ran through the prison’s corridors until he escaped through a hole that had been blasted through a wall. He hopped into a waiting Kia truck that took him to freedom — and back to the battlefield.

Abu Aisha said leaders of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria gave him a choice: leave and fight with them in Syria, or stay and fight in Iraq. (NYT, op cit, emphasis added)

Coordinated Program: Saudi Arabia

The recent prison breakouts have the hallmarks of a carefully planned covert operation requiring the complicity of Iraqi and US prison personnel.

The prison breakouts are not limited to Iraq. Planned prison escapes to join the jihadist insurgency have occurred simultaneously in several countries, indicating the existence of a coordinated recruitment program.

Saudi Arabia –which has played a central role in channeling weapons (including anti-aircraft missiles) to the jihadists on behalf of Washington– has been actively involved in the recruitment of mercenaries from the kingdom’s prisons.

In Saudi Arabia, however, there were no breakouts: criminals serving jail sentences were released from the kingdom’s prisons on condition they join the Syrian jihad.

A top secret memo sent by the Ministry of Interior in Saudi Arabia “reveals the Saudi Kingdom sent death-row inmates, sentenced to execution by decapitation, to Syria to fight Jihad against the Syrian government in exchange for commuting their sentences.”

According to an April 17, 2012 memo, Saudi Arabia recruited some 1200 inmates, “offering them a full pardon and a monthly salary for their families, who were to remain in the Kingdom, in exchange for “…training for the sake of sending to the Jihad in Syria.” 

Among those released from prison and recruited in Saudi Arabia were inmates from Yemen, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Jordan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan, Iraq, and Kuwait.

From Convicted Criminal to Freedom Fighter

What is at stake is the coordination of prison escapes/releases with recruitmenttraining of “Freedom Fighters” and the procurement of weapons to the insurgency:

  1. Release and/or escape of convicted criminals and fighters from prisons; 
  2. Paramilitary training  of the released prisoners, where applicable, in Saudi and Qatari training programs including religious indoctrination;
  3. Dispatching the jihadist rebels (former prison inmates) to Syria through the Al Qaeda network;
  4. The military equipping of the newly trained rebels (e.g. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar) and the delivery of military hardware to the insurgency on behalf of the US Administration.

The Insurgency’s Recruitment of Prison Inmates: Part of an Ongoing Process

Prison breaks occurred in Summer 2013 in Libya and Pakistan and Iraq in what appeared to be a carefully coordinated program. Those reported by the NYT are  a continuation of  an earlier project of prison breakouts.

On July 23, 2013, Abu Ghraib and Taji prisons were broken into in a carefully waged operation, leading to the escape of  500-1000 inmates, most of whom were recruited into the ranks of ISIS:

The attacks were allegedly carried out after months of preparations on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which is a merger between Al-Qaeda’s affiliates in Syria and Iraq.

Between 500 to 1,000 prisoners have escaped as a result of the attack, “most of them were convicted senior members of Al-Qaeda and had received death sentences,” said Hakim Zamili, a senior member of the security and defense committee in parliament.

Suicide bombers drove cars with explosives into the gates of the prison on the outskirts of Baghdad on Sunday night, while gunmen attacked guards with mortar fire as well as rocket propelled grenades. (Russia Today, July 2013)

On Saturday, July 26, at a maximum security prison in Benghazi, Libya, an almost identical prison break to the one that happened in Iraq occurred:

There were riots within the prison, with fires set. Suddenly gunmen flocked upon the prison and opened fire. About 1,200 of Libya’s most deadly inmates escaped.  Peregrino Brimah, Obama’s Syria Endgame: New Al Qaeda “Recruits” Dispatched to Syria, Global Research, September 4,  2013, emphasis added)

And midnight, July 29-30:

Taliban gunmen with rocket launchers and suicide bombers, wearing police uniforms attacked the largest jail in Dera Ismail Khan, in a northern Pakistani province, releasing over 300 inmates. They came well coordinated, with rocket-propelled grenades and freed top militants–some of the Taliban’s most deadly men. They used loud speakers to announce the names of the men they needed. According to an official (Reuters), only 70 of the 200 guards on duty were at work that fateful night, suggesting higher level security-government involvement. (Ibid, emphasis added)

http://www.globalresearch.ca/convicted-criminals-serve-as-freedom-fighters-in-syria-saudi-pakistani-and-iraqi-prison-inmates-replenish-al-qaeda-ranks/5369055

Syria’s First British Suicide Bomber

Video

A jihadist group released a so called “marytrdom video” of the last moments of the man suspected of being the first British suicide bomber in Syria.

The video above from Channel4 News shows Majeed looking stressed and nervous as he prepared with Russian caucasus fighters aligned with Jabhat al-Nusra to drive a heavily armoured dump-truck asked with explosives towards the walls of Aleppo prison to try and break out the rebel fighters held within.

Posted February 15, 2014

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37646.htm

Obama Revisits Military Option on Syria

By Melkulangara BHADRAKUMAR

February 15 2014 “Information Clearing House - “SCF” -  The United States’ narrative on Syria dramatically changed during the past fortnight. President Barack Obama has publicly discussed the military option on Syria.

An unseen hand would seem to have stealthily reshuffled the order of the heap of Syrian files stacked up on his desk in the Oval Office and brought to the fore the «all-options-are-open» file dated August 31 last year, which was when Obama stalled on his plan to launch a «limited» attack on Syria and took the detour to seek approval from the US Congress for use of military force to «deter, disrupt, prevent and degrade» the potential for chemical attacks in Syria.

In two highly publicized testimonies by US spy chiefs at two senate hearings during the past fortnight, the Obama administration worked on the American public’s awareness of the Syrian situation. Simultaneously, it also disclosed through media leaks that with Congressional approval, the US has been supplying weapons to Syrian rebels.

Between the two Senate hearings, the Obama administration sized up the al-Qaeda problem in Syria. The National Intelligence Director James Clapper assessed that the strength of the Syrian opposition fighting inside Syria is estimated at anywhere between 75000 to 115000 fighters out of which «somewhere in the neighborhood of between 20000 and maybe up to a top range of 26000 we [US intelligence] regard as extremists. And they are disproportionately influential because they are among the most effective fighters on the battlefield».

The message to the American public was three-fold:

• Al-Qaeda is making Syria its main operational base.

• The «homeland security» is threatened insofar as extremists are being trained in camps with specific plans to attack America and its allies.

• The Syrian conflict threatens to be a protracted one posing grave dangers to international security and the US’ vital interests.

Besides, certain allegations were also made at the senate hearings: a) Syrian government is dragging feet in implementing the accord on chemical weapons; b) an «apocalyptic disaster» (to use Clapper’s expression) threatens Syria in terms of the humanitarian crisis and appalling level of civilian casualty; and, c) in Clapper’s «professional opinion», Syrian government has committed large scale atrocities.

Clapper assessed that any expectations out of the Geneva 2 conference need to be «pretty modest» and prospects for a long-term political solution to the three-year-long conflict remain «problematic».

He highlighted that among foreign fighters present in Syria, there are al-Qaeda veterans from Afghanistan and Pakistan who aspire to attack Europe and the US. In sum, the Senate hearings served to flag in the domestic opinion the imperative need for the US to act on Syria.

Clearly, the synergy that has developed between the Obama administration and the Capitol on Syria found reflection on the visit of the French President Francois Hollande to Washington this week. What emerges is that Obama would see Hollande as just the right man at the moment to take on the kind of risks in Syria (or Lebanon) that, say, British Prime Minister David Cameron or German Chancellor Angela Merkel would want to avoid. Indeed, Hollande has piled up a good track record on military interventions abroad – Libya, Mali and the Central African Republic.

The French interventions seem to impress Obama who is reluctant to engage militarily in overseas conflicts because of a tightening budget and the war-weariness among the American public. When it comes to Syria, Hollande also happens to be a close ally of Saudi Arabia and France claims it to be a historical legacy – and an obligation – to play a lead role in the affairs of the Levant. Needless to say, French commercial interests are very substantial, too.

In sum, France has overnight become the US’ best ally in Europe «at least as seen through the prism of crisis management and military cooperation,» as the prominent French pundit Frederic Bozo sardonically noted. Indeed, Obama can be a very charming man if he wants to.

He ensured the whole works for Hollande knowing how much the French love pomp – a warm reception with Michelle Obama by his side on the White House lawns (although Hollande is a confirmed bachelor), ceremonial guard of honor, gala state dinner attended by 300 invitees, a rare ride on Air Force One, conducted tour of Thomas Jefferson’s plantation estate outside Charlottesville, Virginia, and an effusive welcome speech where Obama said, «What I do believe, is that the US-French alliance has never been stronger, and the levels of cooperation that we’re seeing across a whole range of issues is much deeper than it was, I think, five years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago».

Put differently, the lengthy references to the Syrian conflict at the joint press conference by Obama and Hollande following the bilateral talks on Tuesday carry great resonance and must be noted carefully.

Obama conveyed four things. First and foremost, he marked a distance between the US and Russia on the Syrian problem. He differentiated the US stance and put the onus on Russia to ensure Syrian government’s compliance with the chemical weapons accord. He implied that Russia has been blocking humanitarian aid from reaching beleaguered Syrian communities caught up in the crossfire. Obama used exceptionally harsh words, «Russia a holdout. And Secretary [of State John] Kerry and others have delivered a very direct message to the Russians».

Secondly, Obama expressed skepticism whether the Geneva 2 process adds up to anything. He reiterated Washington’s resolve to «strengthen the moderate [Syrian] opposition». Thirdly, Obama claimed a US-French concord on Syria: «It is bad for global security that there are extremists who have moved into the vacuum in certain portions of Syria in a way that could threaten us over the long term. So this is one of our highest national security priorities, and I know that Francois [Hollande] feels the same way».

Finally, Obama discussed the moribund military option in Syria. He underscored his «enormous frustration» over the Syrian stalemate and said, «I always reserve the right to exercise military action on behalf of America’s national security interests. But that has to be deployed wisely… right now we don’t think 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».

The Washington Post newspaper has since reported quoting US officials that there are «internal discussions» going on within the Obama administration as to the «extent of the president’s powers to use lethal force against terrorist organizations» in Syria. It quoted the Pentagon’s press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby insisting that the US military «currently has the necessary authority, under domestic and international law, to meet the threat posed by al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations».

However, it seems improbable that the US can ever secure a mandate from the UN Security Council to undertake a direct military intervention in Syria. Nor is it likely that such an intervention is on Obama’s mind at the moment.

What, then, is the game plan? One explanation could be that Washington hopes to apply maximum pressure on the Syrian regime to step aside and make way for a transitional set-up in Damascus with President Bashar al-Assad simply doing the right thing by walking into the sunset. According to Obama’s version, his threat of a limited strike on Syria only prompted Moscow and Damascus to scramble and produce the accord on chemical weapons last year. He probably hopes for a repeat performance.

On the other hand, a very good case is also being made by the Obama administration through the past fortnight before the US domestic audience, which continues to be war-weary, that some sort of intervention in Syria is becoming necessary because national security is in the crosshairs.

It is entirely conceivable that Obama may order US drone strikes on targets in Syria at some stage. Which, of course, will begin with al-Qaeda targets but could always be extended incrementally to tilt the military balance in favor of the wider agenda of regime change…

This is where Hollande’s recent visit to Turkey, the first by a French leader in the past 22 years, becomes significant. To be sure, all indications are that the Obama administration is switching back to muscular diplomacy on Syria.

Melkulangara BHADRAKUMAR, Former career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. Devoted much of his 3-decade long career to the Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran desks in the Ministry of External Affairs and in assignments on the territory of the former Soviet Union. After leaving the diplomatic service, took to writing and contribute to The Asia Times, The Hindu and Deccan Herald. Lives in New Delhi.

© Strategic Culture Foundation

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37653.htm

Exclusive: Syrian opposition presents plan for post-war Syria

By Reuters

February 12, 2014 “Information Clearing House - “Reuters” - - The Syrian opposition called on Wednesday for a transitional governing body to be set up that would oversee a total ceasefire under U.N. monitoring, and be empowered to drive out foreign fighters deployed on both sides of the civil war.

The confidential paper, seen by Reuters, was presented to international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi and a Syrian government delegation at a joint session held at peace talks in Geneva.

It made no mention of the fate of President Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but opposition forces said that he had been ignored on purpose to make clear he had no role.

The Syrian government delegation said on Wednesday that negotiations must focus first on fighting terrorism and rejected parallel track talks on the opposition’s priority of a transitional government as a “fruitless” idea.

“The Transitional Governing Body (TGB) will prepare and oversee a total ceasefire by taking immediate measures to stop military violence, protect civilians and stabilise the country in the presence of U.N. observers,” the five-page document said.

It calls on all parties to “cooperate with the TGB in stopping the violence including the complete withdrawal of troops and tackling the issue of decommissioning the weapons of armed groups and demobilizing its members or integrating them into the army or civil public sectors”.

The Damascus delegation did not reply to the proposal, opposition spokesman Louay Safi told reporters. “At this point we have not heard any response…I would like to hear some positive response.”

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Geneva and Erika Solomon in Beirut; writing by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Jon Boyle)

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37626.htm

Russia Says Syria Aid Resolution Creates ‘Grounds For Future Military Action’

By Hurriyet Daily

February 12, 2014 “Information Clearing House - “Hurriyet Daily” -  Russia said on Feb. 12 it would veto a U.N. resolution on humanitarian aid access in Syria in its current form, denouncing the draft as an effort to lay a foundation for military strikes against President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

Moscow had already dismissed the Western-Arab draft debated in the Security Council on Feb. 11 as a non-starter, but a senior diplomat’s unequivocal condemnation indicated Russia would seek major changes before dropping its opposition.

“Its whole purpose and aim is to create grounds for future military action against the Syrian government if some demands it includes are not met,” Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said in Geneva, according to state-run news agency RIA.

“It is unacceptable to us in the form in which it is now being prepared, and we, of course, will not let it through.”

At the United Nations on Feb. 11, French Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters that Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the council Moscow was prepared to work on some kind of resolution on aid access, but not the present draft.

Obama warns Russia

Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama warned Feb. 11 that Russia would be to blame for keeping aid from desperate Syrian civilians if it blocked the U.N. resolution designed to lift the siege of Homs.

Obama also heaped pressure on the Kremlin as U.S. concern grows about the pace of Syrian compliance with a deal to hand over its chemical weapons stocks for destruction.

He branded the Kremlin as a “holdout” against a Security Council resolution which would allow the delivery of food, shelter, medical aid and water to Homs and other cities where thousands of civilians are trapped by fighting.

“There is great unanimity among most of the Security Council on this resolution,” Obama said.

He said Secretary of State John Kerry had told Russia that “they cannot say that they are concerned about the well-being of the Syrian people when they are starving civilians.” “It is not just the Syrians that are responsible, the Russians (are) as well if they are blocking this kind of resolution,” Obama said at a White House press conference with French President Francois Hollande.

Western states want Russia to back a draft resolution which calls on all parties to “immediately end the sieges of the Old City of Homs” and other Syrian cities.

“Syria must meet its commitments and Russia has a responsibility to ensure that Syria complies,” Obama said.

Since the civil war began in Syria in 2011, Russia and China have vetoed three Western-backed Security Council resolutions condemning Assad’s government and threatening it with sanctions. Moscow has adamantly opposed any Western military intervention.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37627.htm

Media Disinformation. British Citizens Fighting for Al Qaeda in Syria involved in “Executions and Acts of Torture”

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky

Global Research, February 12, 2014

syriaA report by Sky News TV (text and video)  quoting social media suggests that British citizens operating within Al Qaeda affiliated rebel forces are “involved in acts of torture in Syria.”

The report should be analyzed carefully. By omission, it inserts several misleading concepts: 

-

  1. The presence of British jihadists in Al Qaeda formations is portrayed in relation to individual and isolated cases. The Brits are not being recruited in an organized fashion. Their numbers are limited.
  2. The rebels are not sponsored by foreign governments. There is no mention of recruitment of jihadists in the UK.
  3. The Sky News report tends to deny that the rebels are torturing Syrian civilians. The victims of British Al Qaeda operatives in Syria are not civilians, they are other rebels.

Rebels Torturing Rebels

What the report portrays with authority quoting Shiraz Maher, a senior research fellow from King’s College, are “rebels torturing rebels”:

“The footage is quite remarkable, it shows the torture of an individual who is himself a Syrian rebel. So this is rebel-on-rebel violence, which is something we’ve been hearing quite a bit about, but we’re seeing the involvement, allegedly at least, of British citizens for the first time.”

Other British fighters, thought to be friends with the man who posted the video, also use social media to send updates from Syria.

One man, also believed to be from London, recently tweeted a photograph showing three blindfolded and handcuffed men.”

This rebel-on rebel torture narrative based on “academic expert opinion” and unconfirmed social media is shear media disinformation. It denies the conduct of atrocities by a rebel force which is sponsored and financed by the Western military alliance including the British government.

How convenient: US-NATO cannot be held responsible for “rebel-rebel violence”.

The report conveys the illusion that Al Nusra and  the FSA are separate entities and that the British jihadists are fighting the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Until the demise of the FSA in November, Al Nusra was supported directly by the FSA High Command in liaison with Washington.

Let us be under no illusions, Al Nusra is controlled by Washington and its allies. It is integrated by highly trained professional Western Special Forces, acting as military advisers to the terrorists. Most of the atrocities committed by Al Nusra have been directed against civilians. 

The Sky News report also suggests mistakenly that al Nusra, which is supported covertly by the Western military alliance “is the only jihadi outfit operating on the ground in Syria that is explicitly endorsed by al Qaeda’s global leader”:

Videos and images posted on social networks by fighters who have traveled to the country from the UK suggest they may have taken part in beatings and even executions.

The material was uploaded onto the accounts of two men from London, thought to be fighting in Islamist rebel groups that have some links to Jahbat al Nusra.

-

A facebook post 

The description of a video posted on Facebook-

-

Jahbat al Nusra is the only jihadi outfit operating on the ground in Syria that is explicitly endorsed by al Qaeda’s global leader.

One video, apparently taken on a mobile phone, was posted to Facebook on January 30 this year .

It shows a prisoner, apparently from the Free Syrian Army, being beaten for insulting Allah.

The FSA prisoner is heard shouting his innocence as he is bound to a car tyre and beaten across the legs with what appears to be a metal baton.

As he writhes around on the floor, one of the men stamps on his head.

Repeatedly he cries in Syrian Arabic dialect that he is not a “kuffar”, a non-believer, and that he is a “mujahid” – a Muslim fighter like them.

As the beating continues he begs them not to kill him.

Towards the end of the video, the baton breaks in half, and is held up to the camera by one of the captors.

Hand-cuffed men in Syria 

A Brit fighting in Syria is believed to have tweeted this image

-

The Facebook video post is accompanied by a chilling description by the British citizen who uploaded it.

The social media account has been verified as belonging to a British citizen by experts from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) at King’s College London, a leading research unit on foreign fighters in Syria.

For further details including the video, access complete report at

http://news.sky.com/story/1209106/brits-involved-in-syria-executions-and-torture

British Jihadists

This Sky News report stylizes British involvement based on unconfirmed (fabricated?) social media postings. It tends to focus on individual cases based on anecdotal “evidence” from Facebook and Twitter.

While it confirms what is already known and documented regarding British involvement in the Syria insurgency, it fails to mention  that the British government has from the outset supported the recruitment of British jihadists in coordination with NATO.

The report has racial overtones: it intimates that the British jihadists are also a threat to national security in the U.K., which should be promptly addressed by the British government.

Moreover, the Sky News report tends to dismiss the significance of British paramilitary presence among Al Qaeda affiliated rebel forces. Without supporting evidence, it points to the presence of some 40 Brits in rebel formations, when in fact the numbers are much larger. It fails to acknowledge that British SAS forces have been on the ground in Syria from the outset in March 2011.

British MI6 operatives and UKSF (SAS/SBS) personnel have reportedly been training the rebels in urban warfare as well as supplying them with arms and equipment. US CIA operatives and special forces are believed to be providing communications assistance to the rebels.” Elite Forces UK, January 5, 2012 (emphasis added)

According to data provided by Scotland Yard (quoted by the London Evening Standard)  “the total number of British participants in the conflict is estimated to be in the “hundreds”.

The Scotland Yard figures are consistent with those contained in a recent Turkish government report which was sent in December to the governments of EU member countries. The report confirms that Turkish police arrested and deported 1,100 E.U. citizens “who came to Turkey in 2013 to join al-Qaeda-linked groups fighting in Syria”.

We are not dealing with an isolated event involving a handful of British jihadists as conveyed by Sky News. What the official Scotland Yard figures suggest the existence of an organized recruitment process in the U.K, which has the tacit support of HM’s government.

“The British government of Prime Minister David Cameron has blood on its hands.It is acting in defiance of its own [anti-terrorism] legislation.”  (Should David Cameron be Prosecuted for Recruiting Brits to Fight in Al Qaeda Ranks in Syria? By Prof Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research,  February 05, 2014

http://www.globalresearch.ca/media-disinformation-british-citizens-fighting-for-al-qaeda-in-syria-involved-in-executions-and-acts-of-torture/5368129

Obama renews threats as Syrian talks remain deadlocked

By Mike Head 

12 February 2014

As this week’s second round of talks in Geneva remained at an impasse, US President Barack Obama yesterday renewed talk of possible military intervention against Syria, on the cynical pretext of “humanitarian” concern for the Syrian people.

Accompanied by French President Francois Hollande at a joint media conference in Washington, Obama declared there was “enormous frustration here” over the situation in Syria. While he discounted military intervention, for now, he ratcheted up the pressure on the Syrian and Russian governments to accept the removal of Syria’s Assad regime.

“Right now we don’t think that there is a military solution per se to the problem,” Obama stated. “But the situation’s fluid, and we are continuing to explore every possible avenue to solve this problem.”

His remarks underscore the reality that the US and its allies remain committed to an agenda of regime change. If the current talks, brokered by Russia, do not achieve that soon, then a military attack remains an option, as previously carried out in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

Obama emphasised: “I always reserve the right to exercise military action on behalf of America’s national security interests,” adding only, “That has to be deployed wisely.” He underscored Washington’s insistence on the removal of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, describing it as “crumbling.” Obama said the conflict was “one of our highest national security priorities.”

The US president also sought to intensify the pressure on Iran to prevail upon its Syrian ally to accede to Washington’s dictates. Having initiated talks with Tehran in recent months, partly with a view to securing the US agenda in Syria, Obama declared that his administration would come down like “a ton of bricks” on firms that violated the still crippling sanctions imposed on Iran.

Five months ago, Obama and Hollande were on the brink of bombing Syria on the basis of utterly false allegations, later exposed by a UN report, that the Assad regime used chemical weapons in towns near Damascus. Confronted by popular opposition, and with differences in US ruling circles over a new Middle Eastern war, Obama pulled back, seeking to create more favourable conditions for pursuing Washington’s predatory interests in the Middle East and elsewhere, notably against China and Russia.

During the first round of the Geneva talks, which ended in failure last month, the US provocatively renewed US arms shipments to the Syrian “rebel” forces, but they have suffered further setbacks on the ground and there is intensifying fighting occurring between the Islamist militias themselves.

At yesterday’s press conference, during which the two presidents hailed their two countries’ “exceptionally” close alliance, Hollande also spoke of other “choices” if the Geneva negotiations did not result in Assad’s removal. Hollande bluntly stated that the “only purpose” of the Geneva talks was to “make political transition possible.”

This exposes the pretence that the Geneva talks are about “peace.” The Western-backed Syrian National Coalition delegation in Geneva warned on Monday it would not return for a third round of talks if the Syrian government representatives did not agree to Assad’s ouster as a pre-condition for negotiations. UN convenor Lakhdar Brahimi announced that the talks were proving just as “laborious” and unsuccessful as the previous round.

Hollande also revealed the aggressive agenda behind his and Obama’s hypocritical claims to be dismayed by the plight of the Syrian people—whose suffering is the direct result of the nearly three year US-instigated war for regime-change. Hollande denounced the Russian government for opposing a proposed Western-sponsored US Security Council resolution to supposedly increase aid access to people trapped in the conflict. “How can you object to humanitarian corridors, why would you prevent the vote of a resolution if in good faith, it is all about saving human lives?” he declared.

Such demands for military “corridors” and “no-fly zones”—ostensibly to protect civilians—have provided the trigger for repeated imperialist interventions over the past two decades, including the 2011 US-NATO war of aggression that ousted Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya. The draft UN resolution reportedly includes the threat of punitive sanctions. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday described the resolution as “absolutely one-sided” and “unacceptable” because it contained “an ultimatum for the government that if they don’t solve all this in two weeks then we automatically introduce sanctions.”

While the Western media has focussed sole attention on the plight of 1,100 war refugees trapped in besieged opposition-held areas of Homs, the responsibility for the humanitarian disaster in Syria lies above all with the “rebel” militias. Spawned and funded by the US and its collaborators, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, they are carrying out massacres and laying siege to towns and villages, while engaged in ferocious in-fighting for territorial control. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is locked in battles with another coalition of Islamist militias led by the al-Nusra Front, which swears allegiance to Al Qaeda.

Even as the Geneva talks resumed on Monday, Islamist forces killed 20 civilians—including women and children—and 20 local fighters during an attack on the Alawite village of Maan in the central Syrian province of Hama. There were also reports that ISIL forces had been forced to withdraw from Syria’s oil-rich eastern province of Deir al-Zor after days of heavy fighting against its Islamist rivals. ISIL reportedly alienated the province’s population by imposing harsh rulings against dissent, such as beheadings, in areas it controlled.

The chemical weapons issue, temporarily downplayed after a Moscow-brokered disarmament pact was reached last September, is also being brought back to centre stage, with the Obama administration accusing the Assad government of stalling in meeting deadlines for the destruction of its stockpiles. The agency supervising the agreement, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), reported that a third shipment of chemicals was exported on Monday from the port of Latakia, despite the fighting raging in the country. Nevertheless, OPCW director general Ahmet Uzumcu warned against “further delays” in meeting the “concrete schedule” laid down in September.

In the US, two items in the New York Times signalled a shift to a more aggressive posture. A February 10 editorial backed the proposed UN resolution, declaring that the UN Security Council had “failed to respond to the bloodshed” in Syria, “largely because of Russia’s slavish allegiance to President Bashar al-Assad.”

Yesterday, the newspaper published an op-ed piece by two academics, Danny Postel and Nader Hashemi, accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “geostrategic calculations” and Assad’s “coldblooded recalcitrance” of standing in the way of “thousands of Syrian civilians eating.” Invoking the UN’s “responsibility to protect” doctrine, adopted in 2005 to sanctify imperialist interventions against targeted states, they declared: “And if a multinational force cannot be assembled, then at least some countries should step up and organize Syria’s democratically oriented rebel groups to provide the necessary force on the ground, with air cover from participating nations.”

This call for military intervention, and a confrontation with Russia, would no doubt find support from the pseudo-left groups, such as the US International Socialist Organisation and the French New Anti-capitalist Party, that have adopted similar appeals in acting as cheerleaders for the imperialist operations in Libya and Syria. Such demands for action in the name of humanitarianism have become vehicles for the continuing drive by the US to assert hegemony over the resource-rich and strategically critical Middle East and Central Asia.

The author also recommends:

The catastrophe unleashed by US imperialism in the Middle East
[14 January 2014]

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/02/12/syri-f12.html

The Corporate Media’s Dubious Syria Coverage

By James F. Tracy

Global Research, February 11, 2014

news1Western news media reportage on the rampant criminal activities of foreign-backed paramilitary groups operating within Syria still relies heavily on unreliable sources frequently referred to as “activists.” Such spokespersons routinely claim the Syrian military are committing atrocities against the Syrian population. The reports are often disputed by the Bashar al-Assad government and proven suspect or false when additional information is unearthed by independent researchers and alternative news media.

In July 2012 UK journalist Charlie Skelton reported that Western news outlets remain willing accomplices in a propaganda campaign being carried out by public relations practitioners. According to Skelton, “the spokespeople, the ‘experts on Syria’, the ‘democracy activists’ … The people who ‘urge’ and ‘warn’ and ‘call for action’” against the Assad regime are themselves part of a sophisticated and well-heeled propaganda campaign to allow NATO forces to give Syria the same medicine administered to Libya in 2011. “They’re selling the idea of military intervention and regime change,” Skelton reports,

and the mainstream news is hungry to buy. Many of the “activists” and spokespeople representing the Syrian opposition are closely (and in many cases financially) interlinked with the US and London – the very people who would be doing the intervening. Which means information and statistics from these sources isn’t necessarily pure news – it’s a sales pitch, a PR campaign.[1]

One needn’t look far for current examples of such uncertain reportage and sourcing from eminent news organizations. For example, a prominent February 8, 2014 story from Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency, titled, “Aleppo Bombings Kill 23, Activists Say,” carries the lead, “At least 23 people have been killed as a regime helicopter dropped barrel bombs on an opposition-controlled district in Syria’s largest city Aleppo on Saturday, activists said.”[2]

The New York Times reports, “Rebel and government groups have each been accused of massacring civilians, and the government has stepped up air attacks on Aleppo with barrages of improvised ”barrel bombs” packed with high explosives that activists say have killed more than 200 people.[3]

Similarly influential papers such as the Washington Post also remain unabashedly forthright in their reliance on such sourcing. A recent Associated Press piece carried in the paper, titled, “Activists: Syrian Forces Launch New Aleppo Strikes,” quotes the Aleppo Media Center, a self-described “anti-Bashar Assad activist group.” Post readers are assured the entity “has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting.”[4]

Likewise, in November 2013 the BBC, whose Syria coverage tilts strongly toward “activist” observations, cites the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights to break the story of Syrian government air strikes “kill[ing] dozens in Aleppo.“ As Skelton noted in his 2012 exposé, “The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is commonly used as a standalone source for news and statistics” which are taken at face value and parroted by corporate media. While SOHR sounds like a credible and non-partisan human rights outfit, “’They’ are Rami Abdulrahman (or Rami Abdel Rahman), who lives in Coventry,” Skelton observes. In 2011 Reuters reported that when Abdulrahman “isn’t fielding calls from international media, [he] is a few minutes down the road at his clothes shop, which he runs with his wife.”[5]

The analysis suggests how despite the fact that those regularly quoted as authorities on Syria are often far-removed from what is transpiring on the ground and thus involved in a more far-reaching disinformation program to confuse the public on the calculated murder and chaos being carried out throughout Syria by Western-financed mercenary forces.

With the foreign-backed destabilization of Syria now well over two years old, major corporate-owned and government-backed news media, perhaps amazingly, continue to rely on such questionable entities as sources. Indeed, a Google search of “activists say” and “Syria” yields 919,000 results.

A more careful LexisNexis database search for “Syria,” “Assad,” “government” and the phrases “activists say” or “activists report” in the subject headings or text of news items for conventional print outlets indexed for June 1, 2012 to February 7, 2014 yields a data set consisting of close to 2,000 pieces—1,638 newspaper articles, 205 BBC broadcast transcripts, and 148 web-based articles.[6] A total 134 articles appeared in the New Zealand Herald, 52 in the Washington Post, 38 in the New York Times, 30 in the Financial Times, and 28 in the International New York Times.

The following table breaks down the news outlets that, based on the above search parameters, appear to have used so-called “activists” as sources 20 or more times since June 1, 2012.

News Outlet News Articles / Transcripts Referencing “Associated Press”
British Broadcasting Corporation 205
New Zealand Herald 134 43
Belfast Telegraph Online 97  –
Washington Post 52 26
Daily Star (Lebanon) 38  –
New York Times 38 5
Today’s Zaman (Turkey) 36  –
The National (UAE) 34 21
Anadolu Agency 32  –
Bismarck Tribune 30  –
Financial Times 30 15
Scotsman 29  –
Guardian 28  –
International New York Times 28 8
The Capitol (Annapolis MD) 26 13
McClatchey Tribune 26  –
Times of Oman 26  –
Salt Lake City Tribune 25 23
Times & Transcript 24 5
Times (London) 23  –
The Mirror 22  –

About 13.5% of the sample (270) either reference the Associated Press as a source or are AP wire stories. A search for “Associated Press” within the search results yields 270 articles, including a significant number appearing in the New Zealand Herald (43), the Washington Post (26), The National (21), the Bismarck Tribune (15), and the International New York Times (8). A far smaller number of the overall sample (33) reference “Reuters.”

Combined with an acquiescent news media that are arguably complicit in such deception, the end result amounts to sheer propaganda selling the “Syrian revolution” and further conditioning world public opinion for the inevitability of gradual regime change or even more direct military intervention.

After over two decades of phony atrocity stories and tall tales involving Middle Eastern bogeymen and their legion hordes—from babies being thrown out of incubators in Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait to bin Laden’s alleged 9/11 attacks, Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, and Muammar Gaddafi’s fabricated “crackdown” on his people—the public should well understand that much of corporate news media merely function as a well-oiled propaganda machine where “special interests” pull the strings. This is particularly the case when the true powers that be seek to undermine sovereign governments and carry out programs of wholesale terrorism and destruction against their populations.

Notes

[1] Charlie Skelton, “The Syrian Opposition: Who’s Doing the Talking?” Guardian, July 12, 2012.

[2] “Aleppo Bombings Kill 23, Activists Say,” Anadolu Agency, February 8, 2014.

[3] Anne Barnard and Mohammad Ghannam, “Dozens Are Killed in Syrian Violence, Even Amid Preparations for Peace Talks,” New York Times, December 23, 2013, 12.

[4] “Activists: Syrian Forces Launch New Aleppo Strikes,” Associated Press / Washington Post, February 1, 2014.

[5] Skelton, “The Syrian Opposition”; “Coventry: An Unlikely Home to Prominent Syria Activist,” Reuters, December 8, 2011.

[6] A search including the past tense phrases “activists said” or “activists reported” would have likely retrieved an even larger sample.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-corporate-medias-dubious-syria-coverage/5368188

Syria: The Battle For Homs:

No relief in sight for Syrian city where neither side wants to hand the other a victory

By Patrick Cockburn

February 05, 2014 “Information Clearing House - “The Independent” - The intensity of the fighting in the battered city of Homs, which began unexpectedly on Monday evening, was greater than anything the people here had experienced in months.

The city is one of the centres of the original uprising and has seen some of the most destructive fighting. Even when there is no fighting the city is tense. The streets clear as soon as darkness falls, unlike Damascus where the shops say open late and heavy traffic in the government-held centre does not subside until after 8pm.

A few hours before the shooting intensified, I spoke to Captain Mohammed, who said his frontline position in the Bab al-Sebaa district was 30 metres from where the rebels were dug in. “We are completely surrounding them. There is fighting every day but they can’t get out.” He guessed that the rebels – whom the government side invariably refers to as “terrorists” – numbered over 1,000 fighters.

Contrary to what Captain Mohammed said there are occasional pauses in hostilities. We were standing in a dark, deserted street in the early evening in the Bab al-Sebaa district of Homs, but I did not hear more than a few shots fired in over an hour. But marks of total destruction are everywhere since this is one of Homs’s “ghost districts” where the buildings have been torn apart by shell fire and their walls are pock-marked with bullets so they look as if they had been gnawed by enormous rats. Where buildings survive, their doorways and windows are boarded up and they look abandoned.

Captain Mohammed said he had been fighting in Homs for two-and-a-half years and turned up his right trouser leg to show where he had been wounded by a sniper’s bullet. He thought the enemy was penned into the warren of streets that make up the Old City but they had made use of tunnels to get access to the outside world. He said that “some months ago they came through a tunnel that came out behind where our men were positioned and attacked them from behind, but we killed them all.” He claimed that for all the international furore about starvation in the Old City “they are not short of food, but weapons and ammunition”.

Whatever the Syrian government, under increasing international pressure to allow humanitarian aid into Homs, may want, army commanders on the spot like Captain Mohammed are reluctant to allow their enemies, whom they have been fighting for years, off the hook. Contrary to his belief, aid officials are convinced that people in the Old City are starving.

Sectarianism explains much about the new geography of the city and its hinterland. Homs City and province are much like Lebanon in the number and diversity of their religious sects and ethnic groups including Sunni, Allawi, Christians, Shia, Yazidi, Kurds, Armenians and many other communities. Allawites, the backbone of the National Defence Force militia, are accused of moving into formerly Sunni neighbourhoods. Sunni from the Old City and the “ghost districts” who have not fled to Lebanon or elsewhere in Syria have moved mostly to the al-Wa’ar district of Homs where 400,000 people have taken refuge. Al-Wa’ar is blockaded and subject to intermittent gunfire. On the main road near Homs oil refinery I saw a tank manoeuvre to position itself facing al-Wa’ar and then fire its cannon towards the modern apartment blocks which are common in the district. I has asked the governor’s office if I could visit a military hospital on the edge of al-Wa’ar and they said the road was very risky. They added that I could go by myself “but we frankly can’t get anybody to go with you there because it is so dangerous.”

Sectarian dividing lines and animosities have overlaid the democratic ambitions of those who led the original uprising in 2011. Many of the 1.7 million people in Homs governorate are on the move and fighting for survival. The local head of Unicef, Godfrey Ijumba, says that there are 600,000 internally displaced persons in Homs governorate, adding that “Unicef has distributed winter clothes for half a million of them”.

Violence is frequent and the reasons for it not always obvious. I was looking for soldiers wounded in fighting at al-Zaraa, west of Homs, when I came across a wounded man called Ahmed Mohammed in Tal Kalakh hospital. He had been shot through the hand and the upper leg. I asked him who had shot him. Gasping with pain from a leg wound that doctors were examining, he said: “I don’t know who shot me. I was milking cows in a field near my village when somebody shot me and killed an old man.”

The siege of the Old City of Homs became an international issue at the Geneva II peace conference due to reconvene on 10 February. Ending or at least alleviating the siege has become a test case of whether or not the negotiations could succeed in de-escalating the Syrian conflict. The effort seemed several times to be on the verge of success, but neither government nor opposition wants to hand the other side a real or symbolic victory.

The governor of Homs, Talal al-Barazi, told The Independent that the government will “receive all people from the Old City as refugees who are women, children and old men and they are free to go anywhere.” He says the government will give those who stay what they want. The “terrorists” who are Syrians can give up their weapons and also go.

All this sounds good, but the besieged fighters in the Old City do not want to surrender after so long a struggle. The defence of the Old City has become a heroic symbol of their resistance. And those fighters who do want to surrender may well wonder just how far they can trust the Syrian government once they have given up their arms.

There are 30 different armed groups in the Old City, making any agreement with them a problem. But diplomats familiar with the talks say that there are not many jihadis or foreign fighters there, making negotiations at least possible. Mr Ijumba of Unicef in Homs says that “the main stumbling block is that the 30 groups want guarantees that the aid will still be delivered to the Old City once the civilians are evacuated.”

Syrian government forces on patrol in the devastated district of al-Khalidiyah (Getty)

Syrian government forces on patrol in the devastated district of al-Khalidiyah (Getty)

Complications are piled on complication. Nobody knows how many civilians and fighters are besieged, so how much food should go in after an evacuation? The government does not want to feed armed opponents. At the same time the Syrian government is feeling the international negative publicity from its strategy of besieging and blockading rebel enclaves across Syria. A less obvious difficulty, say diplomats, is that the rebel negotiators in Geneva have never had much connection with the rebels inside the Old City and the diplomats have to bring the two supposed allies together.

The fighters in the Old City are the defenders of the last bastion of the rebellion in Homs and their determination has a symbolic value for the opposition. Almost all the rest of the city has fallen or was always controlled by the Syrian army or is, like al-Wa’ar, quite literally under the gun. But, given the level of hatred and fear in Homs, the UN is quite right to believe that a negotiated solution here might open the door for compromise elsewhere in Syria.

© independent.co.uk

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37557.htm

Turkey Supports Al Qaeda in Syria. Complicit in the Kidnapping of Syrian Orthdodox Bishops

By Global Research News

Global Research, February 04, 2014

By Dikran Ego

On April 22, 2013 Bishops Yuhanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazici were kidnapped in Syria. During the kidnapping their driver was murdered. A fourth person in the car, Fuad Eliya, was released. Bishop Yuhanna Ibrahim is of the Syriac Orthodox Church and was considered the strongest candidate to succeed the current Patriarch. Bishop Paul Yazici is of the Greek Orthodox Church, he is the brother of the current patriarch.

bishopsassyrian

The Bishops left the Turkish border on April 22, heading towards Aleppo. In the silver coloured Kia Sorrento was also Fuad Eliya and Bishop Ibrahim’s driver, Fathallah Kabud. Bishop Paul Yazici was on his way home to Aleppo after an overseas trip. To get home safely to Syria he asked Bishop Ibrahim to pick him up at the Bab El-Hawa border crossing. 20 kilometers from the border crossing the car stopped at a checkpoint controlled by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and passed without incident. About two kilometers from this checkpoint, at 3:45 PM, the car was stopped by eight heavily armed men.

According to Fuad Eliya, the only survivor of the kidnapping, the perpetrators were not Syrians, but seemed to be people who came from Caucasus. Their clothes were similar to Taliban attire. One of the kidnappers forced the driver out of the car and put himself behind the wheel, another armed man sat in the backseat of the car, and they drove behind the kidnappers’ blue truck. The cars changed direction and drove back to Bab El-Hawa. This is where the Bishops were last seen.

The Chaos In Syria And Turkey’s Role In The Conflict

Since the war broke out in Syria, Turkey has played an active role in the conflict. The Syrian opposition’s headquarters are in Istanbul. The Free Syrian Army runs its operations virtually from refugee camps in Turkey that are placed along the Syrian border. Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have supported and financed the Syrian opposition, helping with logistics and weapons. But Turkey has played an ever more active role and has successively increased weapons deliveries to the opposition. Even the more radical groups, such as Al-Nusra and many more which are associated with Al-Qaeda, have received weapons from Turkey. The chaos in Syria has attracted jihadist groups from many countries in the region. The 900 kilometer border between Turkey and Syria has becpme a gateway to Syria for jihadist groups.

Russia has supported the regime in the Syrian civil war. Russia’s support has evoked reactions from Muslims in the Caucasus region, which have been drawn to the Jihad in Syria. Jihadists from the Caucasus have two reasons to engage in the “holy war” in Syria, to help their Sunni co-religionists and to exact revenge on Russia, which according to the jihadists has been oppressing them in the Caucasus. But these jihadist groups have rarely participated in any real battles, instead they prefer to amuse themselves by plundering and murdering innocent civilians. Often they commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. This propaganda video is one of many examples showing how brutally these terrorists act. Those who watch the video can see that these terrorists are from the Russian Caucasus. The “holy war” — Jihad — has united many extremists from Chechnya, Dagestan, Azerbaijan, Turkey, the Balkans and many other Muslim countries. They have been able to move inside Turkey unhindered, along the Syrian border.

It has been generally known that Turkey has helped these extremists with weapon and logistics. But in the last few months Turkey has been caught red-handed several times. Turkish media that slipped past Turkish state censorship reported the following:

  • A truck loaded with armour-piercing rockets was stopped outside Adana, close to the Syrian border. It was heading to the rebels in Syria but was stopped at the police check point.
  • In early January, 2014 a police roadblock stopped a truck headed to Syria. The police began searching the truck but were stopped by the Turkish secret service, MIT, who escorted the truck to Syria. According to the Turkish ministry of interior, the cargo consisted of clothes, medicine and other emergency care for Turkmens in Syria. But the question is why a load of “emergency care” was being escorted by Turkish secret agents, which report directly to Prime Minister Erdogan. A couple of days later the Turkmens organizations denied that they had received any emergency care from Turkey.

As a result of Turkey’s involvement and to the active support for the extremist groups, eleven Syrian civil opposition organizations decided to take Turkey to the court for Human Rights in Europe.

The Caucasus “Holy War” in Syria

The extremist group which consists of many different ethnicities from the Caucasus was founded in 2006 under the name “Caucasus Emirate” during the Chechen war against Russia. This Caucasian mobilization is now also in Syria. The terrorists from the Caucasus excel in their brutality. Abu Omar the Chechen, who founded the Hattab brigade very quickly made a name for himself. Several small groups that came from the Caucasus announced their allegiance to Abu Omar the Chechen. In Syria these groups were called the “Turkish Brothers.” The Caucasus Emirate has at various times been allied with the Free Syrian Army and Al Qaeda. Lately the group has joined the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Jihadist groups which are terrorising the population of Syria along the Turkish border are well known to Turkey. These jihadists are provided with weapons and communications equipment such as walky-talkies by the Turkish secret service MIT.

One of these jihadist groups is lead by Abu Amer el-Kuwaiti, who controls his operations in the Aleppo area from the Turkish border city of Antakya. Abu Amer el-Kuwaiti is assisted by a person from Dagestan by the name of Magomed Abdurrakhmanov, who uses the code name Abu Banat (in Turkish Ebu Benat). It is this person who is suspected of kidnapping the Bishops. We will return to this shortly.

During the summer of 2013 a video clip appeared on YouTube showing a person brutally cutting off the heads of three men. People in the video, including the killer, speak Russian. You can also hear a Turkish voice that says “sit down, sit down” so that there is a clear view of the slaughter. The person who is performing the decapitation in the video is Magomed Abdulrakhmanov, a.k.a. Abu Banat. The brutal slaughter drew the ire of many in many different parts of the world. When these horrible pictures appeared in the media there was speculation about who this man is. Information about Abu Banat’s real identity appeared on several Russian websites and forums (hereand here). When his identity was disclosed it was learned that he was a police officer in Dagestan who had found his way to Jihad in Syria.

In the beginning of 2013 Abu Banat’s group established itself close to the village El-Meshed, which is only five kilometers away from the border crossing at Bab El-Hawa. He married a woman from the village of El-Meshed. Abu Banat wanted to show his authority through brutality. He terrorized the villagers and murdered a villager to set an example. He instituted harsh Sharia laws, such as those who smoke would lose a finger and those who drink alcohol will be punished. News of about Abu Banat’s brutality spread. His group engaged in raids and terrorized the surrounding areas.

The group’s activities drew attention and rumors started to circulate about a “fantasy camp” with lots of weapons, money, valuables and jihadists who played video games on PlayStations. News of the group’s raids and brutality reached the Free Syrian Army, which sent a group of soldiers to investigate. The FSA claims the group never participated in the war against the Syrian regime but devoted itself exclusively to looting. A battle occured between the FSA and Abu Banat’s group which resulted in the dissolution of the group.

Abu Banat Is Detained In Istanbul

On April 23, 2013 the police stopped a car outside the city of Konya. In the car they found a Syrian woman and three other persons of Chechen origin. All were missing valid ID documents. The Turkish magazine Radikal reported this event with the headline Orthodox Bishops’ murderer arrested in Konya. The magazine also wrote that because these persons did not have valid ID documents they were deported to their home countries.

But that was not so. The police released all of them after they received a residential address in a suburb of Istanbul where the group lives.

With the memory of the brutal decapitation video fresh in his mind, one of the police officers recognized one of the persons in the car. He reported to the police in Istanbul about his suspicions of the group. A local magazine in Konya intercepted the police report and the news spread throughout Turkey. Several magazines wrote that the Bishops’ murderer had been arrested in Konya. When the police searched the house at the given address they found weapons and grenades. The group was arrested for violation of the Arms Act and preparation for terrorist attacks. The group has been in police custody since the summer of 2013, in the Maltepe prison in Istanbul.

When the news about the group that was suspected of kidnapping of the Bishops spread, the authorities stated the group had been deported. Why was this stated when in reality the persons where in police custody in Istanbul? The answer was discovered after access to the police investigation report was gained. According to the report, Abu Banat is known to the Turkish secret service MIT, who have supplied him with equipment.

The Turkish Government’s Handling of the Events

When the news about the arrest of the suspected murderer of the Bishops spread in Turkey, Bishop Yusuf Cetin of the Syriac Orthodox Church contacted the Turkish government. Secretary of State Ahmet Davutoglu had on several occasions commented on the kidnapping case. In a meeting with Syriac Orthodox Church Bishops, Davutoglu said that he had received intelligence reports that the Bishops were still alive and that Turkey is doing everything to save them. Secretary of State Davutoglu had given the impression that they have knowledge of who the kidnappers are. Prime Minister Erdogan also made similar statements when he visited Stockholm and met Assyrian representatives in the beginning of November, 2013. As late as last Christmas the former Turkish attorney general Sadullah Ergin said to the Greek Orthodox Church in Hatay the government was working on saving the Bishops. These and many other statements were been given by Turkish officials despite the fact that the Bishops’ suspected murderer was in police custody in Istanbul. All indications point to the fact that Turkey had a hand in the Bishops’ kidnapping and has therefore done everything to hide the truth about the suspected murderer.

On September 29th, 2013 investigative journalist Erkan Metin published a long article on www.suryaniler.com. During his investigation, Mr. Metin discovered that Abu Banat’s is Magomed Abdurkhmanov from Dagestan and that he might be in custody. Mr. Metin contacted the police and confirmed that they were holding a person named Magomed Abdurakhmanov — contrary to press and government reports that he and his group had been deported. Abu Banat’s group was in police custody at the Meltepe prison in Istanbul.

Upon further investigation Mr. Metin discovered a link between Abu Banat’s group and the kidnapping of the Bishops. A website (www.kavakazcenter.com) that belongs to the “Caucasus Emirate” featured on July 3, 2013 the headline Russian footsteps in Syria, and claimed that it was the group led by Abu Banat that was behind the kidnapping of the Bishops. The website also stated that Abu Banatis a Russian agent. The website said that according to its sources in Syria, the Bishops had been killed by an explosive belt strapped to their backs (this method is often used by the Taliban in Afghanistan).

But why would Abu Banat, who is a member of the Caucasus Emirate, be disavowed by being identified as a Russian agent?

According to Erkan Metin, the video of the decapitation on YouTube was the breaking point. The Caucasus Emirate wanted to distance itself from a group that had drawn negative attention to itself. This was also confirmed by the Turkish police interrogation of Abu Banatabout the decapitation. According to the transcript of the hearing, which was published officially in December 2013, Abu Banat said the following:

It was I who decapitated these three persons. It was the first time I had decapitated a human. But I don’t understand why these came up on the Internet. It was something we did every Friday after we sentenced people in the Sharia court. I executed the punishment by decapitation.

When the report of the investigation of Abu Banat’s group was released publicly the results of of Erkan Metin’s investigation were corroborated — that the group was responsible for the kidnapping of the Bishops. The following are key findings from the report:

  • The police made a superficial hearing and avoided going deeper into the events. No questions were asked about the kidnapping of the Bishops.
  • Abu Banat confessed that is was he who decapitated the persons the YouTube video.
  • Abu Banat said that he had received walkie-talkies from a person by the name Abu-Cahfer from the Turkish secret service.
  • Abu Banat and his companion were injured, probably in the battle with the FSA, and fled from Syria.
  • Secret documents which were published during the investigation showed that on April 26th 2013, four days after the kidnapping of the Bishops, the Turkish secret service MIT wrote a report to the state department in Ankara. In this report it described how the Bishops had been taken and moved between different locations before they were finally brought to the village Mashad Ruhin (also called el-Meshad) outside Aleppo. This information tied Abu Banat to the kidnapping of the Bishops. Since his group was using Turkish walkie-talkies, the Turkish secret service MIT monitored the conversations and mapped their activities and movements carefully.
  • Abu Banat acknowledged that he had committed both war crimes and crimes against humanity. The ministry of justice refused to file charges on the grounds that this was a Syrian matter.

 Questions to Prime Minister Erdogan

Erol Dora, an Assyrian member of the Turkish Parliament, submitted a written question to Prime Minister Erdogan about Turkey’s involvement in the kidnapping of the Bishops and the country’s relationship to the suspected killer. Erol Dora also asked the justice minister Bekir Bozdag why the ministry refused to try a person who had admitted that he decapitated people in Syria. According to Erol Dora, who is a lawyer, the Turkish constitution says such crimes do not necessarily have to occur in Turkey for the perpetrator to be tried.

Conclusions

Turkey is supporting the Syrian opposition, allowing jihadist to pass through its territory to Syria. Evidence strongly indicates that Turkey knew about the jihadist group lead by Abu Banat, and this group had kidnapped the Bishops. The Turkish secret service, MIT,

Dikran Ego is freelance Journalist living in Sweden; he regularly writes on Assyrian matters and is editor at Assyria TV.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/turkey-supports-al-qaeda-in-syria-complicit-in-the-kidnapping-of-syrian-orthdodox-bishopss/5367369

After failed Geneva talks, US steps up threats against Syria

By Bill Van Auken 

3 February 2014

In the wake of last week’s failed talks in Geneva, Washington and its allies are escalating pressure on Syria over chemical weapons and professed “humanitarian” concerns.

The shift toward a more aggressive posture toward the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad only underscores the fact that the Western powers remain committed to an agenda of regime change, whether by means of United Nations-brokered talks or outright military aggression.

UN envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi was compelled to admit last Friday, after the final round of talks, “We haven’t made any progress to speak of.”

The reason for the collapse of the negotiations was clear. The talks began with a ceremonial session in which US Secretary of State issued an ultimatum that the Syrian regime had to accept the removal from power of President Bashar al-Assad and the installation of a puppet of Washington’s choosing. Throughout the rest of the talks, the Western-backed “rebels” of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) followed Washington’s script, insisting on the ouster of Assad as a pre-condition for any agreements, while the negotiators of the Syrian regime insisted on a common declaration calling for an end to violence and terrorism.

The negotiations only underscored that the SNC, composed of exile politicians, represents no one outside of the US State Department and various Western intelligence agencies. In discussions on prisoner exchanges, it insisted it could not speak for the Islamist-dominated militias that have abducted civilians, while on the issue of humanitarian aid to Homs, it allowed that it had no influence over the armed factions fighting government troops there.

On the ground in Syria, the major “rebel” forces are divided between those led by the Al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and another coalition of Islamist militias led by the al-Nusra Front, an opposing faction that also swears allegiance to Al Qaeda. All of them opposed the Geneva talks and threatened deadly reprisals against anyone who attended.

In the final days of the talks, Washington staged a deliberate provocation by revealing that it has resumed arms shipments to the “rebels,” and that the US Congress recently approved secret legislation providing aid and funding for the anti-regime forces through September. This aid supplements the billions of dollars’ worth of arms and funding being funneled into Islamist militias by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, with the CIA’s collaboration.

Much of the maneuvering by the SNC and its Western backers has appeared to be aimed at securing Russia’s support for a “transition” that includes Assad’s removal from power. Both Moscow and Washington are agreed that regime change should maintain the basic institutions—most critically the security forces—intact. Russia, however, fears that the imposition of a US-backed regime in Damascus will undermine its strategic interests throughout the region.

Following the collapse of the Geneva negotiations, Washington has engaged in renewed saber-rattling against Syria, particularly over the chemical weapons disarmament agreement reached last September. This deal, brokered by Moscow, provided the means for the Obama administration to back down from its threat to launch direct military strikes on Syria, an intervention that failed to garner the support of the Congress and even the closest US ally, Britain, and which was overwhelmingly opposed by the American people.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the implementing body of the international chemical weapons treaty, which is supervising Syria’s disarmament, issued a statement Friday acknowledging that the shipment of two consignments of deadly chemicals out of Syria represented “a start” of the process, but added that the need “to pick up the pace is obvious.”

The US delegate to the OPCW, Robert Mikulak, claimed that the disarmament effort had “languished and stalled” resulting in only 4 percent of Syria’s total arsenal of 530 metric tons of poison gas being shipped out.

Damascus has said that it is working on the OPCW timetable, but that it has faced challenges moving the poison gas under threat of attack by the Western-backed Islamists as well as difficult weather conditions. The deal providing for the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons set a timetable that was unprecedentedly short, even for countries not in a state of civil war.

The Syrian government also has insisted that the international agency is satisfied with its cooperation, but that Washington is attempting to seize on delays as a pretext for aggression.

“We now know that the Assad regime is not moving as rapidly as it promised to move the chemical weapons out of Syria,” Kerry said on Friday.

He insisted that Security Council Resolution 2118, which instituted the chemical disarmament process, “makes it clear that if there are issues of non-compliance, they will be referred to the Security Council for Chapter 7 compliance purposes.”

Chapter 7 of the UN charter allows for military action to “restore international peace and security.” It was the invocation of Chapter 7 in relation to Libya that provided the legal fig leaf for the 2011 US-NATO war of aggression that toppled the regime of Muammar Gaddafi.

Meanwhile, the US, Britain, other major NATO powers and Washington’s allies among the Arab monarchies are reportedly preparing another UN resolution laying the groundwork for intervention on the grounds of humanitarianism.

The West and its Syrian puppets have indicted the Syrian regime for attempting to starve areas held by the Islamist militias into submission, including parts of the western city of Homs.

The plight of around 800 families besieged in the old city of Homs became an issue in the Geneva talks, with the West and its proxies in the SNC demanding the opening of “humanitarian corridors,” a ploy that was also used to prepare intervention in Libya. Syrian government negotiators countered with an offer to let all women and children out of the area, but this was rejected by the “rebels.”

Ignored in the West’s “humanitarian” concerns is the far larger population—an estimated 45,000 people trapped in the predominantly Shia towns of Zahraa and Nubl outside Aleppo—which is on the brink of starvation after being placed under siege by the Islamist Sunni “rebels” for the past year and a half.

Among the worst starvation has taken place in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp on the southern outskirts of Damascus, which elements of the Al Qaeda-linked Islamists seized at the end of 2012 and turned into a free-fire zone. While most of the residents fled, some 18,000 people trapped there have undergone severe hunger, with dozens starving to death. Attempts to deliver humanitarian aid were repeatedly turned back both by the army’s siege and by gunfire from the US-backed armed opposition. The UN was able to deliver two shipments late last month.

UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos is set to convene a conference on Syria in Rome today, which will likely lay the groundwork for the Western powers to push for a resolution designed to further their campaign for regime change.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/02/03/syri-f03.html

‘Human Rights Watch’ on Syria: relentless war propaganda

02.02.2014

'Human Rights Watch' on Syria: relentless war propaganda. 52064.jpeg

The Washington-based group ‘Human Rights Watch’- controlled by the US foreign policy elite – has released another volley in its campaign to back the ‘humanitarian war’ being waged against the independent nation of Syria.

 This is not the first or second fabrication against Syria run by Human Rights Watch. The group was amongst the first to falsely blame the Syrian government for the East Ghouta chemical weapons incident of August 2013. The ‘moral panic’ from that accusation almost sparked a major escalation of the war.

By Tim Anderson and Mazen al-Akhras

Several reports have since proven that the accusation was a fraud. A group led by Catholic nun Mother Agnes Mariam produced a report showing the video evidence of the incident had been manipulated and staged; US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh showed that US intelligence implicating the Syrian Government had been fabricated; and the New York Times retracted its support for speculative telemetry evidence, which they had claimed implicated the Syrian Army. On the other side, Syrian witnesses, a Jordanian reporter and a Turkish human rights group (‘Peace Association and Lawyers for Justice in Turkey’) implicated Saudi-backed terrorists. Further, the last UN report on the incident says that, in most instances, chemical weapons were used ‘against soldiers’; that is, against the government. HRW has neither retracted nor apologised for its role in this scam.

The latest HRW story (‘Razed to the Ground’, 30 Jan) is that the Syrian Government over 2012-13 demolished residential buildings in seven areas of Hama and Damascus as ‘punishment’ for certain neighbourhoods supporting ‘the rebels’. Thousands of families lost their homes in this way, yet there have been ‘no similar demolitions in areas that support the government’.

HRW said it ‘has not documented that anybody was injured or killed in the process.’ Nevertheless, the use of home demolition as punishment was ‘a violation … of the laws of war’ and amounts to a war crime. HRW ‘calls on the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court’.

Of course, this claim will go nowhere, as previous more serious provocations have failed at the UNSC. Yet the HRW report adds to a poisoned climate of vilification and intervention, appearing to add moral logic to arming the sectarian groups. Yet propaganda for war is a war crime, in itself.

Syrian NDF soldier and political analyst Mazen al-Akhras points out that videos associated with the HRW report show the presence of anti-government ‘militants’ as witnesses (just as in East Ghouta), tainting the story at the outset. The HRW report does not observe that areas like Tadamon had been crowded with illegal constructions and, when they were damaged during the conflict, the government decided it mor efficient to demolish and rebuild.

HRW does not mention that the government took the decision, many months ago, to compensate ‘all citizens whose houses were damaged or totally destroyed by the conflict’. Al-Akhras says HRW ignores the compensation already paid, and then pretends to ‘demand’ compensation. His full commentary is below.

The BBC, which has played a key role in relaying and amplifying propaganda for war on Syria, promoted this ‘Razed to the Ground’ story. An earlier notable contribution by the BBC was to help cover up the terrorist murder of Syria’s most senior Muslim cleric, Sheikh Mohamad al Bouti. He and fifty others were murdered inside the al Iman mosque on 21 March 2013 by a suicide bomber from the al Qaeda-linked and Saudi-backed Jabhat al Nusra.

Because Sheikh Bouti had always opposed salafist sectarians, the armed sectarian gangs (‘takfiris’) said he was ‘not a real Sunni’ and called for his death. After they murdered him they celebrated and then, in typical fashion, blamed the Government.

Jim Muir of the BBC picked up the al Nusra scam, based on the fact that the Sheikh did not die instantly, to run claims that he had been killed by some other means. Nevertheless, in December 2013, five members of al Nusra confessed on Syrian television to the murders. Al Nusra cleric, Samir al-Ordoni, had given them religious permission to enter the mosque and kill other Muslims.

The BBC also gave full prominence to a more recent stunt put on by the oil monarchy of Qatar, a major funder of sectarian Islamist fighters. On the eve of the Geneva 2 peace talks, they promoted a report by three British lawyers, hired by Qatar, which pronounced the Syrian Government guilty of ‘torture and 11,000 executions’. The lawyers had gone to Qatar to interview one man, who said he had not witnessed any torture or murder, but gave them thousands of photos of dead bodies. They examined some of these photos and made some extravagant statements. Yet with such tainted evidence, who knows where the bodies came from or who killed them?

Human Rights Watch has been a key player in the manufacture of propaganda for war and foreign intervention. It gets most of its funds from a variety of US foundations, in turn funded by many of the biggest US corporations.  HRW Middle East reports often rely on and acknowledge grants from pro-Israel foundations.  The group is tightly linked to the US Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a virtual ‘Who’s Who’ of the US foreign policy elite.

HRW has ‘soft-pedalled’ on US-compliant regimes such as Colombia, the worst human rights abuser in Latin America as shown by the murder of trade unionists, journalists and other social activists. By contrast, HRW repeatedly attacked the government of the late Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

The group has always had a political agenda. According to José Miguel Vivanco, director of the group’s Americas division, its December 2008 report on Venezuela (‘A Decade under Chavez’), was written ‘because we wanted to demonstrate to the world that Venezuela is not a model for anyone’.  That report was roundly criticized by more than a hundred academics for not meeting ‘even the most minimal standards of scholarship, impartiality, accuracy of credibility’.  Rather than a careful report on human rights, it was an attempt to discredit a government, mainly on the basis of allegations of ‘political discrimination’ in employment and the judiciary.  The evidence was poor and the approach anything but systematic.  HRW disregarded this criticism.

—————–

Mazen al-Akhras from Damascus comments on ‘Razed to the Ground’

‘Before we were evacuated due to the military conflict in November 2012 I was a resident of Harasta, one of the eastern suburbs of Damascus, and the closest to Duma, which in turn, is the stronghold of the anti-government forces in the outer suburbs of Damascus.

‘Harasta is adjacent to the freeway connection Damascus to the north (Damascus-Aleppo freeway), and can be seen by eye while travelling, and it can be also monitored by Satellite images. And like many other towns around Damascus, Harasta had its share of demonstrations and battles. And although it was considered the second stronghold for the anti-government forces in the eastern Ghouta, Harasta has not witnessed anything similar to the accusations in HRW’s report.

‘There are several other examples of the same situation around Damascus like Al-Tal, Zabadani and Qudsaia, and if one goes a bit further to the north, such alleged demolitions mentioned in HRW’s report did not take place in Nabk, or in Qara (Kara).

Even in Qussair, demolitions were limited to the results of the battles that happened there, and once the fighting stopped, there was no act of demolition or destruction. Quite the opposite, the government rushed to restore electricity and water and other public services to the city, while putting reconstruction works into action where they were possible.

‘One might need to be reminded that Qussair was not just a city that opposed the government, it was also the strongest stronghold for the militias opposing the Army in mid-west Syria.

‘All these examples and many others are actual real-life proof that the government is not “punishing” areas for supporting the insurgency like HRW’s report claims.

Now, to the videos, they show no sign or indication of the places they were filmed, and one can argue many details about the ID of the militants showing in the second part of the video.

‘While HRW’s report maliciously wonders why other areas of illegally-constructed residences have not been demolished, and assuming (with the same malicious ill-will) that it’s because the areas are Pro-Assad, they fail to mention that these areas already provide shelter and refuge for thousands of families who have evacuated their areas because of still ongoing battles, including those areas that are being demolished. So, in other words, they are simply wondering why the Syrian government doesn’t kick those refugees (again) from the safe areas, along with thousands more of families who were originally in these areas. Of course such wondering is acceptable for them because doubling the numbers of homeless families inside Damascus (or any other city in Syria) poses no discomfort on their dead consciences.

‘Any resident of Damascus knows that Tadamon (among many other areas) is a crowded area of illegally constructed residences, and that the Syrian government has been trying for years to organize it, and now with all the battles-caused destruction, it is very difficult and expensive to just renovate the area, making it easier and cheaper for the government to bring down the rest of the area and then reconstruct it in an organized way, eventually guaranteeing the residents to go back to healthier and better shaped area.

‘That itself is something else HRW’s report failed to mention, and this time it’s not by mistake, they deliberately chose to ignore the simple fact that the Syrian government had already decided and announced they would be compensating all citizens whose houses were damaged or totally destroyed in the conflict, and that was many months before HRW made their report and “demanded” what the Syrian government had already granted.

‘Mashaa Al-Arbaeen in Hama (as anyone can inquire and verify) is nearly the same as Tadamon, only with worse official documentation of property.

‘So, to sum it all up: many areas, towns and cities are a living proof that the government is not “punishing” anybody. Yet, HRW issues a report about a governmental plan of reorganizing some areas of illegally-constructed residences that are already damaged because of the battles, then HRW twists that plan into an alleged “punishment”, because the plan does not – yet – include other areas (although those areas were not in the conflict and were not damaged, and demolishing them now will double the numbers of homeless families in Damascus, which will also include the families that were evacuated the first time), and to add insult to the injury, HRW ignores the compensations granted and promised by the government to the Syrian citizens and choses to “demand” those compensations.’

———————————————————

  

References

Tim Anderson (2010) ‘How Credible Is Human Rights Watch on Cuba?’, MRZine, Feb, online:http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2010/anderson160210.html

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

Rodolfo Acuña et al (2008) ‘More Than 100 Experts Question Human Rights Watch’s Venezuela Report’, online: https://nacla.org/news/more-100-experts-question-human-rights-watchs-venezuela-report

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

Human Rights Watch (2014) ‘Razed to the Ground’, 30 Jan, online:http://www.hrw.org/reports/2014/01/30/razed-ground

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

BBC (2014) ‘Syria accused of torture and 11,000 executions’, 21 January, online:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-25822571

http://english.pravda.ru/opinion/columnists/02-02-2014/126740-syria_propaganda-0/

Is Syrian “Peace” Conference Laying the Foundation for War?

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers

January 31 2014 “Information Clearing House - The Geneva II “peace” conference has all the indicia of a sham. Those opposed to war in Syria better get ready to prevent war again.

The Geneva II conference, which claims to be seeking to end the war in Syria, seems designed to fail and instead to provide an excuse for military intervention by the United States and its allies. Human rights activist Ajamu Baraka describes the negotiations as an “Orwellian subterfuge” designed to provide justification for war and a lot of facts support his view.

The negotiations are destined to fail because of the way they have been set up and the preconditions the United States and its allies in the Syrian opposition have made – demanding that President Bashar al-Assad agree to leave government before negotiations go forward.

The set-up for failure begins with the limited participation. The rigged nature of the negotiations was demonstrated when, at the demand of the United States and the Syrian opposition, the UN had to rescind an invitation to Iran to participate. Iran is a close ally of Syria, and keeping Iran out of the negotiations is an effort to weaken and isolate Syria. It is an indication of a desire by the United States for a preordained conclusion rather than a fair negotiation between the parties.

The exclusion of Syrian civil society from these negotiations, beyond the militant fighters, is especially egregious. Many of these groups were working for transformation of Syria before the terrorism and war began. One example is the exclusion of women, although women from across Syria have been meeting and put together a Syrian Women’s Charter for Peace, their request to be included in the talks has been denied. Women and children make up the majority of the millions who have been internally displaced or forced to flee the country. And they have suffered in horrible ways.

Only one opposition group is included, the Syrian National Coalition, one favored by the United States but rejected by 13 key rebel groups in Syria. There are scores of others involved in the bloodshed in Syria, but these on-the-ground fighters are not included. How can peace, even a partial peace like a cease-fire, be negotiated if those involved in the fighting are not participating?

In fact, an agreement by the participants to stop fighting would entrap Assad. Groups not included in the negotiations will continue to fight, and Assad will respond. When Assad responds to attacks, he will be accused of violating the peace agreement. This will provide an excuse for outside military intervention. The United States and its allies will claim: “Assad is violating the peace agreement; there is no other choice than to enforce the agreement with military force.”

The second and most important problem with the negotiations is the precondition of the United States and the Syrian National Coalition that Assad must agree to step down before negotiations can begin. The United States and its allies falsely claim that the removal of Assad already has been agreed to the “Geneva communiqué” signed by Syria’s ally, Russia. As Shamus Cooke points out, the communiqué does indeed call for a negotiated political transition, but nowhere does it state that such a transition must exclude Assad.

Secretary of State John Kerry kicked off the conference by demanding the removal of Assad from power. And this has become the central issue in the discussions so far, leading to a stalemate. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem accused the United States and its Middle East allies, particularly Turkey and Saudi Arabia, of supporting terrorist groups seeking to destabilize Syria and working to put forward their own plans for a new government. The Syrians put forward their own plan that would begin with ridding the nation of foreign terrorists. They argue it is up to the Syrian people to decide who their leaders are and what type of government they want.

The kickoff of the conference coincided with a propaganda campaign. A report funded by Qatar claimed the Assad government had tortured and killed 11,000 prisoners. There has been a history of torture in Syria; in fact, the United States sent people to be tortured in Syria as part of its rendition program, so on its face the claim does not seem far-fetched. But did they prove the case?

Reporter Dan Murphy of the Christian Science Monitor points out some of the problems with the report. He writes it is “a single source report, from an unidentified man, who is related by marriage to a similarly unidentified member of the ‘Syrian National Movement.’ ” The Syrian National Movement is an opposition group funded by Qatar that has been trying to remove Assad since 2011. Further, the report was rushed to publication; the source was “interviewed on Jan. 12, 13 and 18 of this year. The report was provided to reporters yesterday, Jan. 20.” This resulted in no thorough examination of the photographs. Further, Murphy reports the document actually indicates 835 individual cases were examined, not all of the purported victims were shown to have been killed or tortured, and the 11,000 figure that made headlines was an extrapolation.

Yet, this has been trumpeted in the media as fact. A Washington Post editorial published January 22, 2014, treated the 11,000 killed and tortured by Saddam without any doubt. It quotes Kerry saying the report shows Syria conducting “systematic torture and execution of thousands of prisoners.” The editorial revealed how the peace process could lead to war: “Mr. Obama probably could force the measures Mr. Brahimi is seeking [i.e. Assad resigning] by presenting Mr. Assad with the choice of accepting them or enduring U.S. airstrikes.” It is notable that The Post is putting military strikes on the agenda now – even before the negotiations fail or a peace agreement is violated.

The US media had been pushing for war with Syria during the last run-up to war, when Obama decided to send the decision to Congress. Thanks to opposition across the political spectrum in Congress and among the American people, the war was prevented. Russia’s intervention, which put forward a compromise that rid the Syrian government of chemical weapons, provided a face-saving escape for the Obama administration.

Since then, doubt about the claims that Sarin gas was used by the Syrian government from Syrian-held territory has intensified. The New York Times, Human Rights Watch and others who favored a US attack had claimed the rockets came from Syrian territory, based on a vector analysis of the angle of the rockets. But this fell apart when experts concluded the rockets did not have the range to reach the targets. The Times was forced to quietly distance itself from a front-page story making these claims.

We already are seeing a media drum beat for war. The media is consistent in repeating several liesabout the Syrian negotiations and constantly blaming Assad for refusing to abide by nonexistent requirements of the Geneva communiqué. We can expect the hawkish US media to escalate the drumbeat and put forward war propaganda as the failure of the peace negotiations continues.

And Reuters reports that weapons aid to Syrian “rebels” has been “secretly” approved by Congress. Weapons approved include anti-tank weapons and small arms. Reuters writes “The weapons deliveries have been funded by the U.S. Congress, in votes behind closed doors, through the end of government fiscal year 2014, which ends on September 30. … ” How does Congress have secret votes to approve war-making actions? According to Reuters, “Congress approved funding for weapons deliveries to the Syrian rebels in classified sections of defense appropriations legislation, two sources familiar with the matter said.”

So, on one hand the United States claims to be seeking peace, and with the other it is fueling war with weapons. In public, the Congress opposed war with Syria. But in secret votes, it provides funding for weapons for the Syrian war.

Americans who oppose war better get prepared now. There has been a long-term agenda to remove the Assad family from power in Syria and the US foreign policy establishment has not given up on that goal, nor have US allies Israel and Saudi Arabia. This seems to be one more time when peace negotiations are a likely prelude to war unless the people of the United States see through these actions and prevent it.

Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers are participants in PopularResistance.org; they direct It’s Our Economy and co-host “Clearing the FOG.” Their twitters are @KBZeese and @MFlowers8.

This article was originally published at Truthout

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37514.htm

Syria sends letters to the United Nations and the UNSC about Saudi Arabia’s Terrorist Operations

By Global Research News

Global Research, January 29, 2014
Syrian Arab News Agency 29 January 2014

Syria_UNThe Foreign and Expatriates Ministry on Wednesday sent two identical letters to the Head of the UN Security Council and the UN Secretary-General on the terrorist acts of the armed terrorist groups and the Saudi involvement in supporting these acts.

The Ministry said that Saudi Arabia has sponsored an armistice among the armed terrorist groups of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, al-Mujahiden Army, Jabhet al-Nusra and others in an attempt to foil the political solution to the crisis in Syria.

The Ministry stressed that this act reveals Saudi Arabia’s insistence on adherence to violence and terrorism, adding that Saudi Arabia has sought to provide all financial, military and logistic capabilities as to unify the armed terrorist groups against the Syrian state.

The statement stipulated that the Saudi regime has tasked Saudi Sheikh Abdullah Bin Sulieman al- Mohaisany, who is one of the religious reference which the “jihadist” groups respond to, with launching an initiative called “nation’s initiative” on reaching an immediate armistice among all terrorist groups in all the Syrian areas.

The initiative was based on consultations with many of so-called “nation’s scholars”, including Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was called by Sheikh al- Mohaisany’s initiative as the “wise man of the nation”.

The Ministry said that the “Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham” responded to the initiative, which was planned by the Saudi authorities, along with Abu Mohammad al- Joulani, leader of “Jabhet al-Nusra” and the terrorist groups of “al-Mujahiden Army” and the “Islamic Front”.

The Ministry stressed that the patronage of the Saudi authorities to this initiative and its harmony with the calls of leader of Al Qaeda for unifying the terrorist groups which are supported and backed by KSA and the Al Qaeda-linked terrorist groups in Syria indicates that the role of Saudi Arabia has moved from the stage of secret support to public support to Al Qaeda and its affiliated terrorist groups, which constitutes a flagrant and unprecedented violation of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, particularly resolution No 1373 for the year 2001 that prevents any kind of covert or public support to any entity or persons that are involved in terrorist acts.

The Ministry said that the Syrian government calls on the UN Security Council’s sub-committees charged with combating terrorism to list the “Islamic front” and “al-Mujahiden Army” as terrorist entities with links to Al Qaeda as with the “Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham” and “Jabhet al-Nusra, whihc are listed as terrorist organizations.

The Ministry highlighted that Syria also asks for activating the relevant UN Security Council resolution regarding the importance of international cooperation in combating terrorism in all means through preventing KSA from providing any kind of overt or covert support to the groups which are involved in terrorist acts that endanger the lives of Syrians across the country, adding that Al Qaeda-linked groups are committing terrorist acts in Syria with overt or covert support by some countries in the region and abroad, on top of which is Saudi Arabia.

The Ministry concluded its messages by saying that Syria highlights that “Not confronting terrorism could foil the ongoing efforts to achieve a political solution and will cause terrorism to spread to other countries, particularly the neighboring countries that are providing training, havens and safe crossing for terrorists to enter Syria through their lands.”

http://www.globalresearch.ca/syria-sends-letters-to-the-united-nations-and-the-unsc-about-saudi-arabias-terrorist-operations/5366707

US Congress Secretly Approves Sending Small Arms to ‘Moderate’ Syrian Rebels

By Russia Today

Global Research, January 29, 2014

capitol4Congressional lawmakers have quietly authorized sending small arms, an assorted variety of rockets, and financial backing to so-called “moderate” rebels fighting in Syria’s civil war, according to a new report.

American and European security officials told Reuters that the US will provide anti-tank rockets, but nothing as deadly as shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles (known as MANPADs), which can be used to bring down military or civilian aircraft.

Legislators voted in closed-door meetings to fund the opposition forces through September 30, the end of the US government’s fiscal year. The decision is an about-face from congressional debates last year, in which the same committees were reluctant to supply arms over concerns that American weapons would wind up in the hands of radical Islamists fighting in the region, the Al-Qaeda-backed Al-Nusra being the most well known.

A destroyed street is seen in the Salaheddin neighbourhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo as clashes continue between forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and opposition fighters on January 27, 2014. (AFP Photo / Shahba Press) A destroyed street is seen in the Salaheddin neighbourhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo as clashes continue between forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and opposition fighters on January 27, 2014. (AFP Photo / Shahba Press)

Now, though, those concerns appear to have lessened. Exactly when Congress approved the funding is not known, yet the sources speculated that it was signed in a classified section of a defense appropriations bill that was approved in December.

The Syrian war is a stalemate,” said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst and current foreign policy advisor to US President Obama with the Brookings Institution. “The rebels lack the organization and weapons to defeat Assad; the regime lacks to loyal manpower to suppress the rebellion. Both sides’ external allies…are ready to supply enough money and arms to fuel the stalemate for the foreseeable future.”

A boy rides on a tricycle along a damaged street in the besieged area of Homs (Reuters / Yazan Homsy)A boy rides on a tricycle along a damaged street in the besieged area of Homs (Reuters / Yazan Homsy)

Despite the uncertainty remaining around the conflict, Western officials have asserted in recent weeks that “moderate” rebels have strengthened their positions in the south of Syria and have begun excluding Al-Qaeda sympathizers. Extremists are known to be in control of rebel forces in the north and east, however.

US and British officials temporarily suspended “non-lethal aid” (a category that includes communications equipment and transportation vehicles) in December, although officials now say they hope to resume providing assistance to the Supreme Military Council (SMC), which oversees rebel forces favored by the West.

We hope to be able to resume assistance to the SMC shortly, pending security and logistics considerations,” one source told Reuters. “But we have no announcement at this time.”

News of the funding comes as the Syrian government and the external opposition in Geneva have reached an agreement that would see humanitarian aid enter the besieged city of Homs, and would allow women and children to leave its war-ravaged areas.

What makes the deal dubious, however, is that it’s not yet clear how it will be implemented on the ground. Currently, the Syrian government is promising – voiced on Sunday by Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad – that women and children can leave Homs safely. Another question is how rebels inside the city besieged by the army will react.

If the armed terrorists in Homs allow women and children to leave the old city of Homs, we will allow them every access. Not only that, we will provide them with shelter, medicines and all that is needed,” he said, as cited by Reuters. “We are ready to allow any humanitarian aid to enter into the city through the arrangements made with the UN.”

US State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said that an evacuation is not a legitimate option because of how dire the need for aid is.

We firmly believe that the Syrian regime must approve the convoys to deliver badly needed humanitarian assistance into the Old City of Homs now,” Vasquez said. “The situation is desperate and the people are starving.”

The results of a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland – where government officials sat across the negotiating table from representatives of the opposition on Monday – is so far unclear. Each side pledged its willingness to continue discussions, though progress so far has been nearly nonexistent.

United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi told reporters after the meeting Monday that even though the talks “haven’t produced much,” another session was scheduled for Tuesday.

Once again, I tell you we never expected any miracle, there are no miracles here,” he said in a news conference. “My expectation from this conference is that the unjust war will stop. But I know this is not going to happen today or tomorrow or next week.”

http://www.globalresearch.ca/us-congress-secretly-approves-sending-small-arms-to-moderate-syrian-rebels/5366620

Geneva II Diplomatic PR Stunt

By Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

Global Research, January 25, 2014

Geneva-IIThe Geneva II conference is not what is important about the Syrian crisis and the talks are “merely a diplomatic public relations stunt”, said a senior political analyst.

In an online correspondence with Nasim, Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, an expert at Canada’s Centre for Research on Globalization, asserted that importance lies in the continuing negotiations behind the curtains and the communication channels that the conference in Switzerland will initiate.

“There should be no illusions about it, the Syrian delegation went to the conference to talk to the foreign masters of the so-called Syrian opposition directly,” he posited adding that Iran attending such a worthless conference would have made no meaningful difference.

He added that the US and countries like Israel and Saudi Arabia merely did not want Iran invited to the conference as a means to avoid acknowledgement that Iran is the main regional power in the Middle East. By not inviting Iran they merely aimed to belittle Tehran’s international status. Not inviting the Iranian government is also one of the few victories they can achieve right now after failing to conquer both Syria and Lebanon in the last few years.

He also commented on US dishonesty in the public when it reneges on its private promises during talks, and said, “the US tells its public that Iran is not allowed to enrich uranium, but accepts it in private. There is a possibility that during closed door negotiations over Syria that the US will secretly withdraw its demands that Bashar Al-Assad be removed from the presidency.”

Elsewhere in the correspondence, Nazemroaya underscored Iran sanctions by the US, saying the US knows that it needs to talk to Iran and the language of force or threats will not go anywhere. “Even the sanctions are not just hurting only Iran. They are having bad effects on the economies of the European Union, East Asia, and Turkey. The tempo for the outcome will be set in the next six months, but we will have to wait at least a whole year before we can clearly see the road that the US will take in its relations with Iran.”

http://www.globalresearch.ca/geneva-ii-diplomatic-pr-stunt/5366267

“You Think the U.S. Is Any More Democratic Than Syria?”

Video

President Assad’s media advisor appeared on CNN and asked where John Kerry gets the right to tell the Syrian people who can and cannot be their leader.

She encouraged the media to come to Syria so “you will find out for yourself who is the criminal; who is kidnapping people, who is raping people.” She said that “most of what’s circulated in the media has nothing to do with what’s in Syria.”

Posted January 25, 2014

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37471.htm

Top Three Media Lies About the Syrian Peace Talks

By Shamus Cooke

January 24, 2014 “Information Clearing House -  The media spin machine is again kicking into high gear, perfectly timed to accompany the “Geneva II” Syria peace talks. The lies are necessary to give the Obama administration an upper hand in the peace negotiations, which are not being used to pursue peace, but instead, to accomplish the Obama administration’s longstanding goal of Syrian regime change. Here are the top three Western media lies about the Syrian peace talks.

1) The removal of Syrian Bashar al-Assad was an agreed upon “precondition” for the Geneva II peace talks.

This lie has been repeated over and over by government and media alike. It has zero basis. The Obama administration claims that this precondition was expressed in the “Geneva communiqué,” which was a road map agreement meant to guide the Geneva II peace talks, agreed upon by some of the major parties of the negotiations, including Russia.

The communiqué does indeed call for a negotiated political transition, but nowhere does it state that such a transition cannot include President Assad. Such a condition would have been outright rejected by Russia.

In fact, the Geneva communiqué includes this crucial statement:

“[a transition government] could include members of the present [Syrian] government and the opposition and other groups and shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent.” Nowhere does it specifically mention or imply President Assad would have to leave power first.

The Los Angeles Times recently stepped out of line and exposed this lie:

“[John] Kerry regularly cites the “Geneva communiqué,” a kind of peace road map hammered out in June 2012 during a United Nations-organized summit. But the document does not explicitly call for Assad’s ouster.”

The Obama administration’s constant repeating of this lie only causes divisions in the peace process, undermining the chances that the peace process will succeed.

The Obama administration is especially adamant about this “Assad must go” precondition because it knows that, if free and fair elections were held tomorrow in Syria – as part of a UN-backed “transitional process” – President Assad would likely win. This is the result of the ethnic and religious minorities in Syria that have rallied behind President Assad, since they’ve witnessed the consistent religious sectarian atrocities committed by the U.S.-backed rebels (which the U.S. media loves to ignore or minimize).

Assad would probably win an election since there is also simply no one else on the government side or the opposition side with his name recognition or popularity. The U.S.-backed rebel war in Syria has vastly strengthened Assad’s political hand, but you wouldn’t know it from the Western, anti-Syrian media.

Demanding Assad’s ouster also does not reflect the situation on the ground. The U.S.-backed rebels have never controlled more than one Syrian city, namely Raqaa, which is dominated by al-Qaeda and is governed under a Taliban-style interpretation of Islamic law, which includes a strict ban on music. Thus, the rebels don’t have the ground power that would even enable them to make the demand that “Assad must go”.

2) The U.S.-backed rebel militias are “moderate” Islamic groups.

The fact that this lie can even be uttered publicly without encountering ridicule is a major success of Western media propaganda. The media narrative paints the U.S.-backed “good” rebels fighting both the Syrian government and the “bad” al-Qaeda linked rebels.

But the “good” rebels in the U.S.-backed Islamic Front share the same vision for Syria’s future as the al-Qaeda rebels: a fundamentalist version of Sharia law, where women live in virtual house arrest and where religious minorities are second class citizens (non-Sunni Muslims would simply be butchered, as they are on a regular basis in Syria, which is again minimized or ignored in the Western media.)

The “moderate rebel” lie was further exposed recently when a top leader in the most powerful militia, Ahrar al Sham, within the Islamic Front declared Ahrar al Sham to be the “real” representative of al-Qaeda in Syria, as opposed to the rival al-Qaeda faction that the Islamic Front had recently begun fighting.

Ahrar al Sham has long been known to be an al-Qaeda type Islamist extremist group; the Western media simply chose to ignore it. But when it was recently made official, the US media chose to continue its ignoring stance, since actually reporting on it would destroy their “moderate rebel” lie. The Western media also continues to ignore the fact that the “moderate” U.S.-backed Islamic Frontissued a joint statement that aligned itself to the extremist views of Ahrar al Sham, the “real” al-Qaeda.

3) New Evidence of Syrian government “industrial scale” torture.

The Western media recently blasted the “breaking news” of brand new evidence showing massive “Nazi-like” torture and murder by the Syrian government, released at the beginning of the Syrian peace talks. This may or may not be true, but the lie here is that the Western media promoted the “evidence” as being unquestionably true, when the story doesn’t reach first base when it comes to evidence-based journalism.

All we really know is that there are hundreds of pictures of dead people that a “trusted source” says were killed by the Syrian government. The trusted source was designated as such by pro-Western intellectuals, who have earned professional “credibility” by helping convict war criminals in the International Criminal Court [ICC]. But as author Diane Johnstone pointed out in her excellent book “Fools Crusade,” about the war against Yugoslavia – as well as in other articles – the ICC has long been used by western powers as a tool to create a pretext for war, or a tool to justify a war after the fact.

The evidence of the “NAZI-like” atrocities was written in a study paid for by the government of Qatar, which has long funneled cash, guns, and Jihadis to Syria in aid of the anti-government rebels.

Again, we don’t know if the story is true or not. But such an important investigation should be conducted by the UN or another more objective institution. The same biased dynamic occurred in relation to the infamous chemical weapons attack, where no real evidence was provided, though an unending string of “experts” were quoted in the Western media, testifying to the guilt of the Syrian Government. But when Pulitzer prizewinning journalist Seymour Hersh reported that the Obama administration lied about the rebels not having the capacity to perform such an attack, the Western media simply ignored the legend of journalism. The wrench in the propaganda machine was simply dislodged.

How do these lies become such permanent fixtures in the Western media? An excellent article in the Guardian newspaper recently discussed in depth the principal sources the Western media has used to understand the Syrian conflict.

The article exposed the incredible bias of some of the most important Western media sources on Syria, which is why they were handpicked in the first place to be “expert” sources: they had political agendas that were aligned with the US government’s foreign policy decisions. The other side of the conflict was completely ignored, except when it was targeted for ridicule. Thus, Americans and Europeans have a completely one-sided, if not fantasy-based perspective of what is happening in Syria. This has been systematic since the beginning of the conflict, as happened with the Yugoslav, Afghan, Iraq, and Libya wars.

The result of this media-led ignorance could result in yet more unnecessary deaths in a country that now has millions of refugees and over a 100,000 dead. Obama seems like he intends to exploit these peace talks with the intention of blaming the Syrian government for their failure. Having failed to defeat Assad on the battlefield in a proxy war, the Obama administration is trying to win the propaganda war. And once peace talks have failed, talk of war will resume, since “all other options have failed.”

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action. He can be reached at shamuscooke@gmail.com

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37458.htm

Syria after Geneva 2: More ‘Dirty War’ but also Some Hope

By Prof. Tim Anderson

Global Research, January 24, 2014

syriadamscusdome1While little of substance seemed to come from the Geneva 2 peace conference and the dirty war against Syria seems set to continue, this does not mean the process has not advanced.

John Kerry still mouths the 2011 mantra ‘Assad must go’, but it is much less convincing. Remember, Washington put great pressure on the rag-tag National Coalition to attend Geneva and speak directly, for the first time, to the Syrian Government.

Combined with the US backdown last September, in face of Russian resistance, this represents a strong message to exile and all other anti-Assad groups: we will not send in our air power, whatever new ‘humanitarian intervention’ stunts you may pull; we may allow the Saudis to keep providing arms but you must fight your own fight, including diplomacy.

While tens of thousands of foreign-backed sectarian fighters still assail Syria’s cities, many western analysts concede that the Assad government has reached 2014 in a stronger position – even though the conflict is not close to an end.

Joshua Landis, in Al Jazeera, said the Syrian Government delegation at Geneva spoke from a position of strength, due to the loyalty of the Syrian Army, its superior weapons and the ‘fragmentation and radicalization of rebel fighting forces’. However Landis (like David Cortright of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies) also adopts the misleading sectarian theme that the conflict is Sunni Muslims versus the rest.

Ayham Kamel, of the London-based Eurasia group, says after the failure to remove the Syrian Government by force, ‘we are in a different world, where an Assad ouster is no longer realistic in the near term’.

Several of the more critical analysts remain cynical, given the duplicity of the US and its unaltered ambition for ‘regime change’ in Syria, as the next step towards a Washington-shaped ‘New Middle East’.

For example Ajamu Baraka (Black Agenda Report, ‘The Obama Administration’s Orwellian Subterfuge’) correctly points to the ‘astonishing hypocrisy of US policies’, in claiming to back ‘democracy, pluralism and the human rights of the Syrian people’, while supporting al Qaeda groups. Similarly, Pepe Escobar (RT: ‘Syria and the Geneva 2 Charade’) calls the Geneva process a ‘pitiful charade even before it started’, lamenting the inept management by Ban Ki-Moon and poking fun at stories about the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ al Qaeda.

Yet cynicism alone does not help chart the progress of and challenges for Syrian resistance, and a range of factors are slowly shifting the balance in favour of Syria.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Geneva 2 had gone ‘as expected’, praising the ‘breakthrough in relations’ between the Syrian government and exile ‘opposition’. In typically understated terms he called the decision by UN Secretary-General Ban to invite and then ‘univite’ Iran ‘a mistake but not a catastrophe’. Importantly, Lavrov flagged the future role in talks of ‘other domestic opposition groups’, including the Kurdish committees.

It takes a little patience to find hope in the ashes. Geneva 2 did not achieve any real cessation of hostilities, in particular it did not stop the outside support for tens of thousands of sectarian killers (takfiris), mostly foreigners from 83 countries and mistakenly called ‘rebels’. Indeed, the new pattern emerging is that the US has withdrawn to play ‘good cop’, urging protection of the Syrian people from a horrendous ‘regime’, while its partner-in-crime the ‘bad cop’ Saudis fund various al Qaeda styled groups.

However these takfiri ‘rebels’ have made no strategic advances on the ground in many months, they are deeply divided to the point of serious internecine warfare and their main achievement in recent months (e.g. with the Adra massacre) has been to show that they can ‘bleed’ Syria. Every day they kill people, attack infrastructure, including power lines, hospitals and schools. Yet they are also killed and wiped out in entire groups, by the Syrian Arab Army.

If there is no immediate relief from these daily attacks, demoralising as they are for the Syrian people, the longer terms disadvantages rest more heavily on the NATO-aligned ‘rebels’.

First, their fragmentation continues to work against them. Lack of unity is the main reason why Washington dumped the Syrian National Council (more tightly controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood) in favour of the ‘National Coalition’, now led by Saudi nominee Ahmad Jarba. Yet this Coalition is also divided and, crucially, cannot speak on behalf of the sectarian fighters, almost all of whom rejected Geneva 2.

Second, there is a domestic political agenda, driven by the Syrian constitution which demands a Presidential election by mid-2014. Yet the ‘National Coalition’ has effectively locked itself out. The Syrian Government was open to constitutional change, but none was seriously proposed at Geneva. Jarba said that a transitional government which excludes Bashar al Assad ‘is the only topic for us’. Yet there are at least ten Syrian political parties (1), other than the ruling Ba’ath Party, saying they will participate. Indeed the constitutional reforms voted in in early 2012 have facilitated their participation.

Some western governments will label these parties ‘dupes of the regime’, and will continue to ignore them when a Syrian ‘opposition’ is spoken of. However that will influence neither Iran nor Russia, who recognise the civil opposition and insist on ‘normal elections’. This normalisation process will be appealing to the BRIC countries, the Latin Americans, Africans and some of the Europeans. Even dithering, pro-Washington UN officials like Ban Ki-Moon may feel obliged to respond reasonably.

The abstentionist position of the Jarba-led National Coalition will work against them. They have failed to remove Bashar militarily, have little credibility with the takfiri armed groups (except as arms suppliers), and have lost all hope of direct US intervention. Their problem is that the civil opposition within Syria will gradually displace them, in the international arena.

This reminds me of the US-backed opposition to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, during the National Assembly elections of late 2005. They refused to participate, calling the elections a sham, no doubt hoping for another US-backed military coup. It never came. The result was this opposition excluded itself from national politics for several years.

Takfiri and Muslim Brotherhood groups in Syria face two additional hurdles. The Syrian constitution maintains its ban on political parties based on ‘religious’ or ‘sectarian’ grounds (Article 8.4), and presidential candidates must have been resident in Syria for the previous ten years (Article 84). The only opportunity to challenge this, and to call for change through a referendum, was at Geneva 2. Whatever might have been possible, that moment has passed.

So what are the future possibilities?

It is certainly true that the US maintains its ‘regime change’ preference, but it is also flexible. Any great power develops options, or back-up plans. Direct regime change by dirty war or direct intervention has failed; balkanisation of the country also seems highly unlikely. However Washington may settle for a third option: allowing the Saudis (driven by their own fear of Iran and a supposed regional Shia conspiracy) to keep funding the takfiri armies for years, so as to weaken Syria. Israel might also settle for this. Presidential adviser Dr Bouthaina Shaaban says the destruction of Syrian institutions (e.g. hospitals, schools, power supply) was a key objective, from the beginning of the conflict.

But how sustainable is this third option? It is true that the Saudis have virtually unlimited money, dozens of television channels that spew out sectarian messages and they enjoy access to an almost unending international supply of poorly educated religious fanatics.

However these same groups will face exhaustion with no strategic advances and constant death in face of the militarily superior, better organised and much larger Syrian Arab Army. Moreover, being mostly foreign and overwhelmingly sectarian, they maintain very little popular support, not least from the Sunni Muslim communities they claim to represent. Syrian society, whether pro-government or not, remains strongly nationalist and proud of the country’s deep pluralist traditions.

Nevertheless, there seems no rapid end to the conflict unless Russia succeeds in some decisive move against Riyadh, the chief sponsor of terrorism in the region. The likelihood of this increased significantly when Moscow linked the Saudis to the recent terrorist bombing in Volgograd. President Putin has long known of Saudi support for sectarian attacks in Chechnya, as also the Chechen sectarian Islamists in Syria. He probably does not want to further inflame things on the eve of the Winter Olympics, and is very conscious of US backing for Riyadh. However he is not a person to sit back when Russia is attacked.

Geneva 2 marked a turning point in the crisis. We can expect more attempts at pulling proverbial ‘rabbits out of the hat’, like the Qatari stunt of releasing pictures of masses of dead bodies on the eve of the conference. However the balance has shifted away from the ‘regime change’ gang and back towards an independent Syria.

Note

1. Syrian ‘civil opposition’ political parties, other than the Ba’ath Party include: Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Unified Syrian Communist Party, Arab Socialist Union Party, National Pact Party, Unionist Socialist Democratic Party, Arab Democratic Union Party, Democratic Vanguard Party, Popular Will Party, Solidarity Party, and National Democratic Party

http://www.globalresearch.ca/syria-after-geneva-2-more-dirty-war-but-also-some-hope/5366134

“The West Publicly Claims to Be Fighting Terrorism, Whilst It Is Covertly Nourishing It.”

January 23, 2014 “Information Clearing House -  Syria Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, who headed his country’s official delegation to Geneva II, called at the opening session of the conference on a collective confrontation against terrorism and on starting a national dialogue in Damascus, SANA reported.

By Walid al-Moallem – Syria Foreign Minister

Minister al-Moallem said at the opening Moallemsession of the conference

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Syrian Arab Republic, SYRIAN – steeped in history for seven thousand years. ARAB – proud of its steadfast pan-Arab heritage despite the deliberate acts of aggression of supposed brotherly Arabs. REPUBLIC – a civil state that some, sitting in this room, have tried to return to medieval times. Never have I been in a more difficult position; my delegation and I carry the weight of three years of hardship endured by my fellow countrymen – the blood of our martyrs, the tears of our bereaved, the anguish of families waiting for news of a loved one – kidnapped or missing, the cries of our children whose tender fingers were the targets of mortar shelling into their classrooms, the hopes of an entire generation destroyed before their very eyes, the courage of mothers and fathers who have sent all their sons to defend our country, the heartbreak of families whose homes have been destroyed and are now displaced or refugees.

Al-Moallem: My delegation and I carry the hope of a nation for the years to come

My delegation and I also carry the hope of a nation for the years to come – the right of every child to safely go to school again, the right of women to leave their homes without fear of being kidnapped, killed or raped; the dream of our youth to fulfill their vast potential; the return of security so that every man can leave his family safe in the knowledge that he will return.

Finally, today, the moment of truth; the truth that many have systematically tried to bury in a series of campaigns of misinformation, deception and fabrication leading to killing and terror. A truth that refused to be buried, a truth clear for all to see – the delegation of the Syrian Arab Republic representing the Syrian people, the government, the state, the Army and the President – Bashar al-Assad.

It is regrettable that seated amongst us are representatives of countries that have the blood of Syrians on their hands

It is regrettable, Ladies and Gentlemen, that seated amongst us today in this room, are representatives of countries that have the blood of Syrians on their hands, countries that have exported terrorism along with clemency for the perpetrators, as if it was their God given right to determine who will go to heaven and who will go to hell. Countries that have prevented believers from visiting holy places of worship whilst abetting, financing and supporting terrorists. Countries that gave themselves the authority to grant and deny legitimacy to others as they saw fit, never looking at their own archaic glasshouses before throwing stones at acclaimed fortified towers. Countries that shamelessly lecture us in democracy, in development and in progress whilst drowning in their own ignorance and medieval norms. Countries that have become accustomed to being entirely owned by kings and princes who have the sole right to distribute their national wealth granting their associates whilst denying those who fall out of favor.

They lectured Syria – a distinguished, virtuous, sovereign state, they lectured her on honour whilst they themselves were immersed in the mud of enslavement, infanticide and other medieval practices. After all their efforts and subsequent failures, their masks fell from their quivering faces, to reveal their perverse ambitions. A desire to destabilize and destroy Syria by exporting their national product: terrorism. They used their petrodollars to buy weapons, recruit mercenaries and saturate airtime covering up their mindless brutality with lies under the guise of the so-called “ Syrian revolution that will fulfill the aspirations of the Syrian people.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, how is what has happened and continues to plague Syria, meeting these aspirations? How can a Chechen, Afghani, Saudi, Turkish or even French and English terrorists deliver on the aspirations of the Syrian people, and with what? An Islamic state that knows nothing of Islam except perverse Wahhabism? Who declared anyway that the Syrian people aspire to live thousands of years in the past?

In Syria, the wombs of pregnant women are butchered and their fetuses killed

In Syria, Ladies and Gentlemen, the wombs of pregnant women are butchered and their fetuses killed; women are raped, dead or alive, in practices so heinous, so vile and repulsive that they can only be attributed to their perverse doctrine. In Syria, Ladies and Gentlemen, men are slaughtered in front of their children in the name of this revolution; worse still, this is done whilst the children of these foreign perpetrators sing and dance. In Syria, how can so-called revolutionaries cannibalize a man’s heart and claim to promote freedom, democracy and a better life?

Under the pretext of the “Great Syrian Revolution,” civilians, clergymen, women and children are killed, victims are indiscriminately blown up in streets and buildings regardless of their political views or ideologies; books and libraries are burned, graves are dug up and artifacts stolen. In the name of the revolution, children are killed in their schools and students in their universities, women are extorted in the name of jihad al-nikah and other forms, mosques are shelled whilst worshipers kneel at prayer, heads are severed and hung in the streets, people are burned alive in a true holocaust that history and many countries will deny without being accused of anti-Semitism.

In the name of a revolution, “to free the oppressed Syrian people from the regime and to spread democracy,” does a father blow himself up with his wife and children to prevent foreign intruders from entering his home? Most of us in this room are fathers – I ask you then, what would compel a man to kill his own family to protect them from freedom fighting monsters. This is what happened in Adra, a place that most of you have not heard of but where the same alien monsters attacked: killing, looting, beheading, slaughtering, raping and burning people alive. You have heard nothing of this brutality for sure, yet you have heard of other places where the same heinous crimes were committed and where the same blood soaked finger was pointed at the Syrian Army and government. And when these flagrant lies were no longer credible, they stopped spinning their web of deceit.

This is what their masters ordered them to do, these countries that spearheaded the war against Syria, trying to increase their influence in the region with bribes and money, exporting human monsters fully soaked in abhorrent Wahabi ideology, all at the expense of Syrian blood. From this stage, loud and clear, you know as well as I do that they will not stop in Syria, even if some sitting in this room refuse to acknowledge or consider themselves immune.

Ladies and Gentlemen, everything you have heard would not have been possible, had our border sharing countries been good neighbours during these challenging years. Unfortunately they were far from it; with backstabbers to the North, silent bystanders to the truth in the West, a weak South accustomed to doing the bidding of others, or the tired and exhausted East still reeling from the plots to destroy it along with Syria.

Mimsery and destruction, which has engulfed Syria, has been made possible by the decision of Erdogan’s government

Indeed, this misery and destruction, which has engulfed Syria, has been made possible by the decision of Erdogan’s government to invite and host these criminal terrorists before they entered into Syria. Clearly, oblivious to the fact that magic eventually turns on the magician, it is now beginning to taste the sour seed it has sown. For terrorism knows no religion, and is loyal only unto itself. Erdogan’s government has recklessly morphed from a zero problems with its neighbours policy to zero foreign policy and international diplomacy altogether, crucially leaving it with zero credibility.

Nevertheless, it continued on the same atrocious path falsely believing that the dream of Sayyid Qutb and Mohammad Abdel Wahab before him was finally being realized. They wreaked havoc from Tunisia, to Libya, to Egypt and then to Syria, determined to achieve an illusion that only exists in their sick minds. Despite the fact that it has proven to be a failure, they nevertheless are still determined to pursue it. Logically speaking, this can only be described as stupidity, because if you don’t learn from history, you will lose sight of the present; and history tells us: if your neighbor’s house is on fire, it is impossible for you to remain safe.

Some neighbours started fires within Syria whilst others recruited terrorists from around the globe – and here we are confronted with shockingly farcical double standards: 83 nationalities are fighting in Syria – nobody denounces this, nobody condemns it, nobody reconsiders their position – and they impertinently continue to call it a glorious SYRIAN Revolution! While when a few scores of young resistant fighters supported the Syrian Army in a few places, all hell broke loose and it suddenly became foreign intervention! Demands were made for the departure of foreign troops and the protection of Syrian sovereignty and for it not to be violated. Here I affirm, Syria – the sovereign and independent state, will continue to do whatever it takes to defend herself with whatever means it deems necessary, without paying the least bit of attention to any uproar, denunciations, statements or positions expressed by others. These have been and always will be Syria’s sovereign decisions.

They imposed sanctions on our food, our bread and our children’s milk

Despite all of this, the Syrian people remained steadfast; and the response was to impose sanctions on our food, our bread and our children’s milk. To starve the population, pushing them into sickness and death under the injustice of these sanctions. At the same time, factories were looted and burned, crippling our food and pharmaceutical industries; hospitals and healthcare centers were destroyed; our railroads and electricity lines sabotaged, and even our places of worship – Christian and Muslim – were not spared their terrorism.

When all of this failed, America threatened to strike Syria, fabricating with her allies, Western and Arab, the story about the use of chemical weapons, which failed to convince even their own public, let alone ours. Countries that celebrate democracy, freedom and human rights regrettably only choose to speak the language of blood, war, colonialism and hegemony. Democracy is imposed with fire, freedom with warplanes and human rights by human killing, because they have become accustomed to the world doing their bidding: if they want something, it will happen; if they don’t, it won’t. They have heedlessly forgotten that the perpetrators who blew themselves up in New York follow the same doctrine and come from the same source as those blowing themselves up in Syria. They have heedlessly forgotten that the terrorist that was in America yesterday is in Syria today, and who knows where he will be tomorrow. What is certain, however, is that he will not stop here. Afghanistan is an ideal lesson for anyone who wants to learn – anyone! Unfortunately, most do not want to learn; neither America nor some of the ‘civilized’ western countries that follow its lead, starting from the city of lights to the kingdom over which “the sun never set,” in the past; despite the fact that they have all felt the bitter taste of terrorism in the past.

And then suddenly they became “Friends of Syria.” Four of these ‘friends’ are autocratic, oppressive monarchies that know nothing of a civil state or democracy, whilst others are the same colonial powers which occupied, pillaged and partitioned Syria less than one hundred years ago. These so called ‘friends’ are now convening conferences to publicly declare their friendship with the Syrian people, whilst covertly facilitating their hardship and destroying their livelihoods. They openly express their outrage over the humanitarian plight of Syrians whilst deceiving the international community of their complicity. If you were truly concerned about the humanitarian situation in Syria, you would remove your strangle hold on her economy by lifting the sanctions and the embargo, and by partnering with her government in tightening security by fighting the influx of weapons and terrorists. Only then can we assure you that we will be well as we once were, without your deep concern for our wellbeing.

Some of you may be asking yourselves: Are foreigners the sole manufacturers of the happenings in Syria? No Ladies and Gentlemen, Syrians amongst us here, having been legitimized by foreign agendas, have played a contributing role as facilitators and implementers. They did this at the expense of Syrian blood and the people whose aspirations they claim to represent, whilst they themselves were divided hundreds of times and their leaders on the ground were fleeing far and wide. They sold themselves to Israel becoming her eyes on the ground, and her fingers on the trigger for Syria’s destruction; and when they failed, Israel intervened directly to reduce the capabilities of the Syrian Army and thus ensuring the continued implementation of her decades old plan for Syria.

Our people were being slaughtered while opposition figures legitimized by foreign agendas were living in five star hotels

Our people were being slaughtered while they were living in five star hotels; they opposed from abroad, met abroad betraying Syria and selling themselves to the highest foreign bidder. And yet, they still claim to speak in the name of the Syrian people! No, Ladies and Gentlemen, anyone wishing to speak on behalf of the Syrian people cannot be a traitor to their cause and an agent for their enemies. Those wishing to speak on behalf of the people of Syria should do so from within her borders: living in her destroyed houses, sending their children to her schools in the morning not knowing if they will return safe from mortar shelling, tolerating the freezing cold winters because of the shortage in heating oil and queuing for hours to buy bread for their families because sanctions have prevented us from importing wheat when we were once exporters. Anyone wanting to speak in the name of the Syrian people should first endure three years of terrorism, confronting it head on, and then come here and speak on behalf of the Syrian people.

Syrian has welcomed hundreds of international journalists and facilitated their mobility

Ladies and gentlemen,

the Syrian Arab Republic – people and state, has fulfilled its duties. It has welcomed hundreds of international journalists and facilitated their mobility, security and access; and they in turn have reflected the stark and horrific realities they witnessed to their audiences, realities that have perplexed many Western media organizations who couldn’t bear their propaganda and narrative being exposed and contradicted. The examples are too many to count. We allowed international aid and relief organizations into the country, but the clandestine agents of certain parties sitting here, obstructed them from reaching those in dire need of aid. They came under terrorist attack several times, whilst we, as a state, did our duty in protecting them and facilitating their work. We issued numerous amnesties and released thousands of prisoners, some even members of armed groups, at the anger and dismay of their victim’s families; these families though, like the rest of us, ultimately accepted that Syria’s interests come before anything else, and hence we must conceal our wounds and rise above hatred and rancor.

What have you done, you who claim to speak on behalf of the Syrian people. Where is your vision for this great country? Where are your ideas or your political manifesto? Who are your agents of change on the ground other than your armed criminal gangs? I am certain that you have nothing and this is only too apparent in the areas that your mercenaries have occupied or to use your words “liberated.”

In these areas, have you freed the population or have you hijacked their moderate culture to enforce your radical and oppressive practices? Have you implemented your development agenda by building schools and health centers? No, you have destroyed them and allowed polio to return after it had previously been eradicated in Syria. Have you protected Syria’s artifacts and museums? No, you have looted our national sites for your personal profit. Have you demonstrated your commitment to justice and human rights? No, you have enforced public executions and beheadings. In short, you have done nothing at all except muster the disgrace and shame of begging America to strike Syria. Even the opposition, over which you are the self-appointed masters and guardians, do not acknowledge you or the methods in which you manage your own affairs, let alone the affairs of a country.

A country they want to homogenize; not in the sectarian, ethnic or religious sense, but rather in a warped ideological sense. Anyone against them, whether Christian or Muslim, is an infidel; they killed Muslims of all sects and targeted Syrian Christians with severity. Even nuns and bishops were targeted, kidnapping them after they attacked Ma’loula, the last community that still speaks the language of Jesus Christ. They did all this to force Syrian Christians to flee their country. But little did they know, that in Syria we are one. When Christianity is attacked all Syrians are Christians, when mosques are targeted all Syrians are Muslims. Every Syrian is from Raqqa, Lattakia, Sweida, Homs or the bleeding Aleppo when any one of these places is targeted. Their abhorrent attempts to sow sectarian and religious sedition will never be embraced by any levelheaded Syrian. In short, Ladies and Gentlemen, your “glorious Syrian revolution” has left no mortal sin uncommitted.

There is another side to this dark gloomy picture. A light at the end of the tunnel shinning through the Syrian people’s determination and steadfastness, the Syrian Army’s courage in protecting our citizens and the Syrian state’s resilience and perseverance. During everything that has happened, there are states that have shown us true friendship, honest states that stood on the side of right against wrong, even when the wrong was clear for all to see. On behalf of the Syrian people and state, I would like to thank Russia and China for respecting Syria’s sovereignty and independence. Russia has been a true champion on the international stage strongly defending, not only with words but also with deeds, the founding principles of the United Nations of respecting the sovereignty of states. Similarly China, the BRICS countries, Iran, Iraq and other Arab and Muslim countries, in addition to African and Latin American countries, have also genuinely safeguarded the aspirations of the Syrian people and not the ambitions of other governments for Syria.

The Syrian people, like other people of the region, aspire to more freedom, justice and human rights

Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Syrian people, like other people of the region, aspire to more freedom, justice and human rights; they aspire to more plurality and democracy, to a better Syria, a safe, prosperous and healthy Syria. They aspire to building strong institutions not destroying them, to safeguarding our national artifacts and heritage sites not looting and demolishing them. They aspire to a strong national army, which protects our honour, our people and our national wealth, an army that defends Syria’s borders, her sovereignty and independence. They do not, Ladies and Gentlemen, aspire to a mercenary army ‘Free’ to kidnap civilians for ransom or to use them as human shields, ‘Free’ to steal humanitarian aid, extort the poor and illegally trade in the organs of living women and children, ‘Free’ to canibalise human hearts and livers, barbequing heads, recruiting child soldiers and raping women. All of this is done with the might of arms; arms provided by countries, represented here, who claim to be championing “moderate groups”. Tell us, for God’s sake, where is the moderation in everything I have described?

Where are these vague moderate groups that you are hiding behind? Are they the same old groups that continue to be supported militarily and publicly by the West, that have undergone an even uglier face-lift in the hope of convincing us that they are fighting terrorism? We all know that no matter how hard their propaganda machine tries to polish their image under the name of moderation, their extremism and terrorism is one and the same. They know, as we all do, that under the pretext of supporting these groups, al-Qaeda and its affiliates are being armed in Syria, Iraq and other countries in the region.

This is the reality, Ladies and Gentlemen, so wake up to the undeniable reality that the West is supporting some Arab countries to supply lethal weapons to al-Qaeda. The West publically claims to be fighting terrorism, whilst in fact it is covertly nourishing it. Anyone who cannot see this truth is either ignorantly blind or willfully so in order to finish what they have begun.

Is this the Syria that you want? The loss of thousands of martyrs and our once cherished safety and national security replaced with apocalyptic devastation. Are these the aspirations of the Syrian people that you wanted to fulfill? No, Ladies and Gentlemen, Syria will not remain so, and that is why we are here. Despite all that has been done by some, we have come to save Syria: to stop the beheadings, to stop the cannibalizing and the butchering. We have come to help mothers and children return to the homes they were driven out of by terrorists. We have come to protect the civil and open-minded nature of the state, to stop the march of the Tatars and the Mongols across our region. We have come to prevent the collapse of the entire Middle East, to protect civilization, culture and diversity, and to preserve the dialogue of civilizations in the birthplace of religions. We have come to protect tolerant Islam that has been distorted, and to protect the Christians of the Levant. We are here to tell our Syrian expatriates, to return to their home country because they will always be foreigners anywhere else, and regardless of our differences we are all still brothers and sisters.

We have come to stop terrorism as other countries that have experienced its bitter taste have done, whilst affirming loudly and consistently that a dialogue between Syrians is the only solution; but as with other countries that have been struck by terrorism, we have a constitutional duty to defend our citizens and we shall continue to strike terrorism that attacks Syrians regardless of their political affiliations. We have come to hold those accountable, for as long as particular countries continue to support terrorism, this conference will bear no fruit. Political pluralism and terrorism cannot coexist in the same landscape. Politics can only prosper by fighting terrorism; it cannot grow in its shadow.

We are here as representatives of the Syrian people and the state; but let it be clear to all, – and experience is the best proof – that nobody has the authority to grant or withdraw legitimacy from a president, a government, a constitution, a law or anything else in Syria except Syrians themselves; this is their constitutional right and duty. Therefore, whatever agreement is reached here will be subject to a national referendum. We are tasked with conveying our people’s desires, not with determining their destiny; those who want to listen to the will of the Syrian people should not appoint themselves as their spokesperson. Syrians alone have the right to choose their government, their parliament and their constitution; everything else is just talk and has no significance.

Finally, to all those here and everyone watching around the world: in Syria we are fighting terrorism, terrorism which has destroyed and continues to destroy; terrorism which since the 1980’s Syria has been calling, on deaf ears, for a unified front to defeat it. Terrorism has struck in America, France, Britain, Russia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan; the list goes on and it continues to spread. Let us all cooperate to fight it, let’s work hand in hand to stop its black, horrifying and obscurantist ideology. Then, let us as Syrians stand united to focus on Syria and start rebuilding its social fabric and material structures. As I said, dialogue is the foundation to this process, and despite our gratitude to the host country, we affirm that the real dialogue between Syrians should in fact be on Syrian soil and under Syrian skies. Exactly one year ago, the Syrian government put forward its vision for a political solution; think of how much innocent blood we would have saved had some countries resorted to reason instead of terrorism and destruction. For a whole year, we have been calling for dialogue, but terrorism continued to strike at the Syrian state, her people and institutions.

Today, in this gathering of Arab and Western powers, we are presented with a simple choice: we can choose to fight terrorism and extremism together and to start a new political process, or you can continue to support terrorism in Syria. Let us reject and isolate the black hands and the false faces, which publicly smile but covertly feed terrorist ideology, striking Syria today, but ultimately spreading to infect us all. This is the moment of truth and destiny; let us rise to the challenge.

Thank you .

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