Foreign Media Portrayals of the Conflict in Syria are Dangerously Inaccurate

World View: It is naive not to accept that both sides are capable of manipulating the facts to serve their own interests
By Patrick Cockburn
June 30, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “The Independent“— Every time I come to Syria I am struck by how different the situation is on the ground from the way it is pictured in the outside world. The foreign media reporting of the Syrian conflict is surely as inaccurate and misleading as anything we have seen since the start of the First World War. I can’t think of any other war or crisis I have covered in which propagandistic, biased or second-hand sources have been so readily accepted by journalists as providers of objective facts.
A result of these distortions is that politicians and casual newspaper or television viewers alike have never had a clear idea over the last two years of what is happening inside Syria. Worse, long-term plans are based on these misconceptions. A report on Syria published last week by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group says that “once confident of swift victory, the opposition’s foreign allies shifted to a paradigm dangerously divorced from reality”.
Slogans replace policies: the rebels are pictured as white hats and the government supporters as black hats; given more weapons, the opposition can supposedly win a decisive victory; put under enough military pressure, President Bashar al-Assad will agree to negotiations for which a pre-condition is capitulation by his side in the conflict. One of the many drawbacks of the demonising rhetoric indulged in by the incoming US National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and William Hague, is that it rules out serious negotiations and compromise with the powers-that-be in Damascus. And since Assad controls most of Syria, Rice and Hague have devised a recipe for endless war while pretending humanitarian concern for the Syrian people.
It is difficult to prove the truth or falsehood of any generalisation about Syria. But, going by my experience this month travelling in central Syria between Damascus, Homs and the Mediterranean coast, it is possible to show how far media reports differ markedly what is really happening. Only by understanding and dealing with the actual balance of forces on the ground can any progress be made towards a cessation of violence.
On Tuesday I travelled to Tal Kalakh, a town of 55,000 people just north of the border with Lebanon, which was once an opposition bastion. Three days previously, government troops had taken over the town and 39 Free Syrian Army (FSA) leaders had laid down their weapons. Talking to Syrian army commanders, an FSA defector and local people, it was evident there was no straight switch from war to peace. It was rather that there had been a series of truces and ceasefires arranged by leading citizens of Tal Kalakh over the previous year.
But at the very time I was in the town, Al Jazeera Arabic was reporting fighting there between the Syrian army and the opposition. Smoke was supposedly rising from Tal Kalakh as the rebels fought to defend their stronghold. Fortunately, this appears to have been fantasy and, during the several hours I was in the town, there was no shooting, no sign that fighting had taken place and no smoke.
Of course, all sides in a war pretend that no position is lost without a heroic defence against overwhelming numbers of the enemy. But obscured in the media’s accounts of what happened in Tal Kalakh was an important point: the opposition in Syria is fluid in its allegiances. The US, Britain and the so-called 11-member “Friends of Syria”, who met in Doha last weekend, are to arm non-Islamic fundamentalist rebels, but there is no great chasm between them and those not linked to al-Qa’ida. One fighter with the al-Qa’ida-affiliated al-Nusra Front was reported to have defected to a more moderate group because he could not do without cigarettes. The fundamentalists pay more and, given the total impoverishment of so many Syrian families, the rebels will always be able to win more recruits. “Money counts for more than ideology,” a diplomat in Damascus told me.
While I was in Homs I had an example of why the rebel version of events is so frequently accepted by the foreign media in preference to that of the Syrian government. It may be biased towards the rebels, but often there is no government version of events, leaving a vacuum to be filled by the rebels. For instance, I had asked to go to a military hospital in the al-Waar district of Homs and was granted permission, but when I got there I was refused entrance. Now, soldiers wounded fighting the rebels are likely to be eloquent and convincing advocates for the government side (I had visited a military hospital in Damascus and spoken to injured soldiers there). But the government’s obsessive secrecy means that the opposition will always run rings around it when it comes to making a convincing case.
Back in the Christian quarter of the Old City of Damascus, where I am staying, there was an explosion near my hotel on Thursday. I went to the scene and what occurred next shows that there can be no replacement for unbiased eyewitness reporting. State television was claiming that it was a suicide bomb, possibly directed at the Greek Orthodox Church or a Shia hospital that is even closer. Four people had been killed.
I could see a small indentation in the pavement which looked to me very much like the impact of a mortar bomb. There was little blood in the immediate vicinity, though there was about 10 yards away. While I was looking around, a second mortar bomb came down on top of a house, killing a woman.
The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, so often used as a source by foreign journalists, later said that its own investigations showed the explosion to have been from a bomb left in the street. In fact, for once, it was possible to know definitively what had happened, because the Shia hospital has CCTV that showed the mortar bomb in the air just before it landed – outlined for a split-second against the white shirt of a passer-by who was killed by the blast. What had probably happened was part of the usual random shelling by mortars from rebels in the nearby district of Jobar.
In the middle of a ferocious civil war it is self-serving credulity on the part of journalists to assume that either side in the conflict, government or rebel, is not going to concoct or manipulate facts to serve its own interests. Yet much foreign media coverage is based on just such an assumption.
The plan of the CIA and the Friends of Syria to somehow seek an end to the war by increasing the flow of weapons is equally absurd. War will only produce more war. John Milton’s sonnet, written during the English civil war in 1648 in praise of the Parliamentary General Sir Thomas Fairfax, who had just stormed Colchester, shows a much deeper understanding of what civil wars are really like than anything said by David Cameron or William Hague. He wrote:
For what can war but endless war still breed?
Till truth and right from violence be freed,
And public faith clear’d from the shameful brand
Of public fraud. In vain doth valour bleed
While avarice and rapine share the land.

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Syria, The Faces Behind The Terror

Building for Armageddon?
By Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich
June 29, 2013 “Information Clearing House – In her extraordinarily bold and direct speech addressed to the Irish Parliament, Clare Daly (TD, Dublin North) called Obama a “war criminal”and “hypocrite of the century”.
In describing the fawned reception of Obama in Ireland akin to pimping and prostituting of that nation, Ms. Daly hit the nail on the head. Sadly, America dwarfs Ireland and elsewhere in the undignified category of prostitution – the 29 standing ovations from Congress in May 2011 for war criminal Benjamin Netanyahu attests to this tragic fact.
While Daly was quite right in censuring Obama for his criminal policies, including aiding terrorists in Syria, it is worthwhile noting that Obama is merely a willing instrument; the faces and factors behind his handlers and the policies merit greater scrutiny and exposure.
Backing and arming the so-called Syrian opposition distracts from the threat posed by Israel and its expansionist agenda by internalizing the enemy in order to weak the State. As former Israeli Intelligence Chief, Amos Yaldin told the audience at the Israel Policy Forum in February 2013:
“And this military [Syrian], which is a huge threat to Israel , is now also weakening and, in a way, disintegrating. We still have risk from Syria– a risk of being an AlQaeda country, a Somalia-type country — but from military point of view, each one of these are less dangerous than the Syrian regular army.”
Perpetuating adversaries to kill each other is a time-tested tactic – one which was used during the bloody eight year Iran-Iraq war; a war which according to Leon Wieseltier[i]was a “distraction” when Israeli boots were on the ground in Southern Lebanon. In that war, the United States was providing arms and intelligence to both sides. When asked what the logic was in aiding both sides in the bloody war, a former official replied: “You had to have been there”[ii]. But why Syria ?
The Need for Water
The primary goal of the early Zionist leadership was to control and secure the region’s waters. At the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, Chaim Weizmann declared that ‘it was of vital importance not only to secure all water resources feeding the country, but to control them at the sources – and the development of these waters became the primary aim of the Yishuv as a whole[iii]. This policy remained in place. As Israel ’s third Prime Minister Levi Eshkol put it, water was “the blood flowing through the arteries of the nation”.
As previously stated (Here and Here), the chaos we witness in Syria today has been in the making for years with the aid and backing of Israel-firsters in order to accommodate Israel’s agenda – expansion and control of regional water supplies while weakening its adversary/ies.
Israel faced one of its worst droughts in 1990-91. A second more serious drought in 1998, forced it to turn to water rich Turkey . Turkey and Israel engaged in serious negotiations starting in May 2000 to import 50 billion cubic meters of fresh water from Turkey using tanker ships, but using tankers was not cost effective for the transport of water. Alternate plans were suggested.
In September 2000, the same year that young Bashar-al Assad succeeded his father as President of Syria, a strategy paper entitled “The Geopolitics of Water” by the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (IASPS) opined that “Since extensive water planning proposals will necessitate the establishment of pipelines and energy grids stretching across borders, a political and military structure that can ensure the safety and security of the carriers will be the prerequisite to effective water sharing” ….. “But an effective regional system would require political-military cooperation against Syria ”.
How to achieve this?
Israeli-Firsters to the rescue
Media mogul Haim Saban became involved in politics in the mid 1990’s with a view to support Israel . Saban professes that his greatest concern is the“protection” of Israel . At a conference in Israel , Saban described his method of influencing American politics : ‘Make donations to political parties, establish think tanks, and control media outlets’. (Saban penned an opinion piece in The New York Times in support of President Obama in his 2012 re-election bid).
It was no surprised therefore that in 2002, Saban pledged $13 million to start a research organization at the Brookings Institution called the Saban Center for Middle East Policy. Saban Center would play an important role in propping up Syrian opposition (as it did in fermenting unrest post-2009 Iran elections with their June 2009 publication titled: “Which Path to Persia ? Options for a New American Strategy Towards Iran “[1]). In 2006, Time Magazine revealed that that the US had been agitating, funding, and supporting “opposition” in Syria . According to the Time, the U.S. was “supporting regular meetings of internal and diaspora Syrian activists” in Europe . The document bluntly expresses the hope that “these meetings will facilitate a more coherent strategy and plan of actions for all anti-Assad activists.”
It is worthwhile mentioning here that America ’s support of the so-called “opposition” which includes criminals, terrorists, and foreign fighters to effect regime change underscores America ’s stark hypocrisy. According to 18 USC § 2385 -Advocating overthrow of Government (Cornell Law), advocating the overthrow of the government, ‘organizing or help or attempt to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of the government of the United States or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence’bears serious consequences including fines and prison sentence of up to 20 years.
What is most revealing about the abovementioned Time Magazine piece of 2006 is that America ’s efforts to aid the opposition and undermine Assad were run through a foundation operated by Amar Abdulhamid, a Washington-based member of a Syrian umbrella opposition group known as the National Salvation Front (NSF). Abdulhamid was a visiting Fellow at the Saban Center (2004-2006) before moving on to the Neocon-run National Defense of Democracies.
When in 2008, Israel-firster Dennis Ross met with the “opposition” to discuss “Syria in Transition”, Saban’s fellow – Amar Abdullhamid was present. In February 2009, Dennis Ross joined the Obama Administration team. In April 2009, the US funded, London-based Baraada TV started its anti-Assad propaganda into Syria (The epicenter of the uprisings’ was Baraada over water distribution). Baraada TV’s chief editor, Malik al-Abdeh, is a cofounder of the Syrian exile group Movement for Justice and Development headed by Anas al-Abdah who was in attendance at the 2008 meeting with Dennis Ross.
It came as no surprise that John McCain who was a member of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI) formed to rid Iraq of Saddam Hossein, and a cheerleader for the Libya intervention, the Egyptian opposition to Mubarak, for bombing Iran, and so on…..visited Syrian “opposition” (via Turkey) in order to encourage more bloodshed. And expectedly, he was de-briefed — not at the White House, but at the Saban Center!
Soon after McCain’s presentation at the Saban Center , the White House disputed UN’s account and claimed that that Syria had crossed the ‘red line’ and used chemical weapons.
It is not the intention of this article to exclude the plethora of other individuals, think tanks, forums, and media pundits who have institutionalized Israel’s policies and promoted them as ‘America’s interests’; these are too numerous to mention here. However, a notable other Israel supporter must be named.
The Evangelical Factor
While various groups in Washington perpetuate and support Israel ’s aggressive and expansionist policies — at a cost to America , non have the zeal and the zest of the Evangelicals who support Israel to death. According to the dispensational model, a time of turmoil lies ahead, but believers will be “raptured” away before it begins. This period of tribulation will culminate in the final battle at Armageddon, a valley northwest of Jerusalem .
The close association between American evangelicals and Israel has been a clear goal of Israeli politicians, especially those in the Likud party. According to Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum of AJC, “the evangelical community is the largest and fastest-growing bloc of pro-Jewish sentiment in this country”[iv]. Israel and Jewish organizations continue to rely on the support of Evangelicals to justify Israel ’s occupation of Arab land even as Christian Zionists zest for evangelizing Jews remains a point of tension.
For example, within days of the June 1982 invasion of Lebanon (with a green light from Reagan), full-page ads appeared in leading papers requesting Evangelical support for the invasion[v]. In 1998, when Benjamin Netanyahu visited Washington , he met with Jerry Falwell and numerous fundamentalist Christians before meeting with President Clinton. Similarly, as recently as April 2013, Pat Robertson warned that brokering peace between Israel and Palestine would bring punishment on America.
It has been alleged that funds raised in America by right wing Christians is funneled to West Bank settlements. The mayor of Ariel on the West Bank had estimated that two thirds of all Jewish settlements were funded by Christian Zionists.[vi]
Building for Armageddon?
While Evangelicals (not all) are rupture-ready and encourage Israel ’s expansionist agenda, Israeli politicians are not yet Armageddon-ready; at least, not yet.
In March 2013, Business Insider revealed that the United States is spending hundreds of millions of dollars building bunkers in Israel due to be completed 900 days from February 13, 2013. The project called Site 911 “will have five levels buried underground and six additional outbuildings on the above grounds, within the perimeter. At about 127,000 square feet, the first three floors will house classrooms, an auditorium, and a laboratory — all wedged behind shock resistant doors — with radiation protection and massive security. Only one gate will allow workers entrance and exit during the project and that will be guarded by only Israelis”.
Each door of the facility will have a detailed description of the mezuzahs written in“in-erasable ink”.
This should be heartwarming news to Americans whose taxes are spent on such projects while the bridges at home are crumbling.
The Future
The political establishment and the media has pimped out the nation. The list of conflicts awaiting us is long and bloody.
Syria will not be the last conflict. This has been a brief and incomplete overview of what drives our nation, and where we are headed, the handlers and the willing instruments (in the words of Clare Daly, pimps and prostitutes).
We continue to sink our head in sand and hope for a hero – for ‘something to happen’. There is only one hope for the future, and the only one power that can alter this destructive path: “We, The People”.
Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich is an independent researcher and writer with a focus on U.S. foreign policy and the role of lobby groups in influencing US foreign policy.
Notes
[i] Wieseltier , Leon ,“ Israel meets Iran in Lebanon ; The Wrong War”, The New Republic, Apr 8, 1985
[1]Chapter 6 reads: “The United States could play multiple roles in facilitating a revolution. By funding and helping organize domestic rivals of the regime, the United States could create an alternative leadership to seize power. As Raymond Tanter of the Iran Policy Committee argues, students and other groups “need covert backing for their demonstrations. They need fax machines. They need Internet access, funds to duplicate materials, and funds to keep vigilantes from beating them up.” Beyond this, US-backed media outlets could highlight regime shortcomings and make otherwise obscure critics more prominent. The United States already supports Persian language satellite television (Voice of America Persian) and radio (Radio Farda) that bring unfiltered news to Iranians (in recent years, these have taken the lion’s share of overt US funding for promoting democracy in Iran). US economic pressure (and perhaps military pressure as well) can discredit the regime, making the population hungry for a rival leadership……”
[ii]Stephen R. Shalom, The United States and Iran-Iraq War, citing Stephen Engelberg, “Iran and Iraq Got ‘Doctored Data, U.S. Officials Say,” New York Times, 12 Jan. 1987, pp. A1, A6.
[iii]Jan Selby, “Water, Power & Politics in the Middle East ; The Other Israeli-Palestinian Conflict”, Palgrave Macmillan, 2003
[iv]Donald Wagner, “Evangelicals and Israel : Theological roots of a political alliance”, The Christian Century, Nov. 4, 1998).
[v]Donald Wagner, “Evangelicals and Israel : Theological roots of a political alliance”, ibid
[vi]Colin Shindler, “Likud and the Christian Dispensationalists: A Symbiotic Relationship”, Israeli Studies, March 31, 2000

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Washington ships arms to Al Qaeda-linked forces in Syria

By Chris Marsden 
29 June 2013
The United States is to officially begin arms shipments to Syria, after months of doing so through third parties, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
A story placed with the Wall Street Journal cited CIA sources relating plans to start supplying arms directly to the opposition Free Syrian Army “within a month.”
The CIA has already begun shipping weapons to a secret network of warehouses in neighbouring Jordan, in an operation backed by European and Arab powers. It will provide training to forces that are supposedly “moderate” and “separate” from Al Qaeda-linked forces such as the Al Nusra Front.
The shipments will fuel an August offensive against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
The Obama administration cited unsubstantiated US and French claims that pro-Assad forces have used chemical weapons such as sarin on ten separate occasions to claim that a “red line” has been crossed justifying an open policy of arming the opposition.
Vast quantities of weaponry have already been sent via Saudi Arabia to Islamist groups. Washington now claims that weapons sent to “moderates” are the best means of ensuring that Al Nusra’s dominant role can be challenged. This is supposed to be guaranteed by CIA oversight and training by US special operations forces. But the CIA will spend a mere two weeks vetting and training an initial group of fighters.
The US already has 1,000 troops in Jordan providing training.
France is considering sending arms “to balance” the military aid received by the Assad regime from Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, according to Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
In Britain, there is substantial domestic political opposition to sending arms, including within the ruling Conservative Party and its Liberal Democrat coalition partners. This has forced Prime Minister David Cameron to promise a vote in parliament on the issue that might make him dependent upon the opposition Labour Party.
Labour Leader Ed Miliband was invited Wednesday to discuss Syria at the National Security Council in 10 Downing Street. He was last invited to attend a National Security Council meeting in 2011, to sign off on the government’s decision to take military action against former Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
Cameron has also said the government reserves the right to act in the national interest without parliamentary assent.
Washington’s reliance on Saudi Arabia to arm the opposition gives the lie to all claims that it is seeking to prevent Al Qaeda securing weapons, given Saudi intelligence agencies’ close ties to far-right Islamist forces throughout the region.
On Tuesday, speaking alongside US Secretary of State John Kerry, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said that Saudi Arabia would help the Syrian opposition fight in an “invaded country” that was facing “genocide” in “the most effective way we can.”
Saudi Arabia and Qatar will provide heavy weaponry, including hand-held surface-to-air missiles.
Kerry said, “We share a belief with Saudi Arabia and many countries that … this next period of time is an important period of time where decisions could be made that could affect the region for years to come.”
His only caveat on supplying weapons was that “we want to make sure that’s being done in a coordinated way.”
Reinforcing the demand for arms shipments, a team of United Nations inspectors are in Turkey, supposedly to gather information about the possible use of chemical weapons, headed by Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom. He is expected to deliver an interim report in July, without any basis for doing so other than to justify a predetermined course of action and, in particular, the military offensive planned to begin in August.
A Turkish official admitted that it is not possible to establish anything conclusively, “As [Sellstrom] cannot travel to Syria.” All he will have will be intelligence and interviews provided by Turkey and alleged victims.
In Saudi Arabia, Kerry made the appropriate noises about seeking a negotiated solution and denied that there were any US or Saudi troops “on the ground” in Syria, because he is formally committed to a peace conference in Geneva—that again will not take place until after the planned military offensive.
Russia is an ally of the Assad regime and is insisting that it will be represented at the Geneva talks alongside Iran. The US also faces opposition from its allies including Italy and Germany to arming the opposition.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that Russia is committed to arranging a peace conference, but other countries and groups are trying to set preconditions. “The opposition, which is supported by the West, and other countries in the region, announced they are not going to the conference as long as the regime doesn’t agree to capitulate,” he said.
On Wednesday, outgoing US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice attacked Russia and China for vetoing action against Syria, calling the UN Security Council’s inaction “a stain” on its reputation. “The council’s inaction on Syria is a moral and strategic disgrace that history will judge harshly,” she pontificated. Rice is set to become President Barack Obama’s national security adviser.
Russia this week announced that it has withdrawn all its military and non-diplomatic civilian personnel out of Syria, including an evacuation of the 70 people at its naval supply station in the Mediterranean port of Tartus. The move does not affect Russia’s ability to operate militarily in either the Mediterranean or in Syria, as Cyprus has agreed the use of its ports. A 16-ship naval task force is still in the eastern Mediterranean.
Politically, however, it indicates an assumption that an escalation of the war is imminent.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a diplomatic but nevertheless firm statement that Berlin would not supply weapons to the opposition. Speaking in parliament Thursday, she said that “The hardship of the people of Syria is immeasurably great, their situation is unbearable” and that “anyone with a heart” would want to help them.
“In this desperate situation, which is increasingly threatening the entire region, surely each of us can understand that our friends and partners the US, Britain and France are considering helping parts of the Syrian opposition with weapons shipments,” she said, but added, “Whether this approach can succeed is an entirely different question.”
“The risks, in my view, would be almost impossible to assess,” she said. At the G8 summit in Northern Ireland, she continued, “I made it unmistakably clear that Germany for legal reasons sends no weapons into civil war zones, including Syria.”
Washington, Berlin, London and Paris all face majority domestic opposition to their warmongering in Syria, with only the various pseudo-left groups such as the US International Socialist Organisation, Germany’s Die Linke, Britain’s Socialist Workers Party and France’s New Anti-capitalist Party still denying the obviously sectarian character of the opposition militias.
This week and last, new videos have emerged on YouTube of opposition fighters beheading and shooting Syrian civilians, including two women. Two men, beheaded with a small knife before a cheering crowd, were accused of aiding Assad and were reportedly a priest and another Christian.
On Thursday, four people were killed in a suicide blast in a Christian neighborhood in the Syrian capital, Damascus. The blast took place near the Greek Orthodox Virgin Mary Church in Bab Sharqi. Several people were wounded.

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Horrific Video of Beheading Raises Questions of Arms Supply to Syrian Rebels

Video Report By RT

Another act of brutal violence reportedly by Syrian rebels has appeared on the web. Unverified video shows the beheading of 3 supposed government supporters. The title of the graphic footage suggests an orthodox Christian bishop was among the victims, although other reports claim he’d been shot dead in an assault on a monastery

Posted June 28, 2013

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Russian Advanced Weapons for Syria: Report

By Dam-Press. (Translated from the Arabic)
June 22, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “Dam Press” – During his recent visit to London and meeting with British Prime Minister Cameron, President Putin passed on a message to the US and France in response to their recent announcement that they will arm the [Al Nusrah] fighters in Syria.
As Russia is a sovereign nation dealing with the sovereign, legitimate government of Syria, some new arms which have never left Russia before [never previously deployed in Syria] will be delivered to the Syrian military.
The Patriot Missiles will be hit and repealed with S 300 SAM [already installed in Syria]Putin also threatened to deliver the more advanced S400 anti-aircraft missiles (see image below) far superior to the Patriot missiles and ranked as the World’s most advanced air defense system.
He added that Russia will also supply Syria with state-of –the-art 24-Barrell rocket launchers which have a range of 60 km ranked as the most developed artillery weapon of its kind.(see video below)
 

ТОС-1А Буратино на репетиции парада 4.5.2010.jpg
He added that Russia will supply 400 of these launchers which will be able to destroy all targets around Syria’s borders.

Barrel 24 Launchers
A British intelligence report stated that Putin went to London bringing his own Russian cooked food and did not consume anything from Britain including water as he even brought his own water with him reportedly because he had concerns of being poisoned.
 
The British intelligence site stated that Putin threatened to send other secret Russian made weapons to Syria which would tip the balance of power even further in favour of Syria and re-iterated that these weapons will not be used against Israel on condition that Israel will not participate in the war within Syria and neighbouring countries. {Lebanon, Jordan]
 
Reportedly, the British PM’s response was very weak in relation to Putin’s threats.
Putin’s response came just over 24 hours after Obama’s statement on Saturday that he was going to arm the Syrian resistance.
Putin clearly stated that the Middle East is going to witness a significant change.  Syria will be armed with weapons that have never been seen before [in the Middle East] including computer guided smart missiles that never miss their target.
He also added that Russia will supply Syria with Skean 5 ground -to-sea missiles that are capable of hitting and sinking any target up to 250 km off the Syrian coast. 
This article was originally published at Global Research

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No Proof Who Used Chemical Weapons In Syria: UN

By AAP 
June 22, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “AAP” – THE head of a UN human rights investigation on Syria said it was still impossible to tell for sure who has used chemical weapons in the country’s devastating conflict.
Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the investigation committee, said he would not comment on evidence sent by the United States, Britain and France to UN experts which they say shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have used chemical arms.
“We are not able to say who has used chemical agents or chemical weapons and we are very much worried about the chain of custody of the substances,” Pinheiro told reporters after an informal meeting with UN Security Council ambassadors.
A team of experts set up by the UN has also said that it needs access to Syria to determine where chemical arms have been used. The Syrian government has however refused to give the UN experts access to the country.
Pinheiro’s commission said in a report issued this month that there was “reasonable grounds to believe that chemical agents have been used as weapons” in the 25-month-old conflict.
“Allegations have been received concerning the use of chemical weapons by both parties,” said the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, which added that “the majority concern their use by government forces.”
Pinheiro said a new “diplomatic surge” was needed to end the conflict, which the UN says has left more than 93,000 dead.

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Exclusive: U.S. Secretly Providing Training For Syrian Rebels

Since late last year, CIA and U.S. military operatives have been teaching Syrian rebels how to use anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns at bases in Jordan and Turkey, according to U.S. and rebel sources.
By David S. Cloud and Raja Abdulrahim 
June 21, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “LA Times” — WASHINGTON — CIA operatives and U.S. special operations troops have been secretly training Syrian rebels with anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons since late last year, months before President Obamaapproved plans to begin directly arming them, according to U.S. officials and rebel commanders.
The covert U.S. training at bases in Jordan and Turkey, along with Obama’s decision this month to supply arms and ammunition to the rebels, have raised hopes among the beleaguered opposition that Washington ultimately will provide heavier weapons as well. So far, the rebels say they lack the weapons they need to regain the offensive in Syria’s bitter civil war.
The tightly constrained U.S. effort reflects Obama’s continuing doubts about getting drawn into a conflict that already has killed more than 100,000 people and the administration’s fears that Islamic militants now leading the war against President Bashar Assad could gain control of advanced U.S. weaponry.
The training has involved fighters from the Free Syrian Army, a loose confederation of rebel groups that the Obama administration has promised to back with expanded military assistance, said a U.S. official, who discussed the effort anonymously because he was not authorized to disclose details.
The number of rebels given U.S. instruction in both countries since the program began could not be determined, but in Jordan, the training involves 20 to 45 insurgents at a time, a rebel commander said.
U.S. special operations teams selected the trainees over the last year when the U.S. military set up regional supply lines to provide the rebels with nonlethal assistance, including uniforms, radios and medical aid.
The two-week courses include training with Russian-designed 14.5-millimeter anti-tank rifles, anti-tank missiles, as well as 23-millimeter anti-aircraft weapons, according to a rebel commander in the Syrian province of Dara who helps oversee weapons acquisitions and who asked his name not be used because the program is secret.
The training began last November at a new American base in the desert in southwest Jordan, he said. So far, about 100 rebels from Dara have attended four courses, while rebels from Damascus have attended three courses, he said.
“Those from the CIA, we would sit and talk with them during breaks from training and afterward, they would try to get information on the situation inside” Syria, he said.
The rebels were promised enough armor-piercing anti-tank weapons and other arms to gain a military advantage over Assad’s better-equipped army and security forces, said the Dara commander.
But arms shipments from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, provided with assent from the Americans, took months to arrive and included less than the rebels had expected.
Since last year, the weapons sent through the Dara military council have included four or five Russian-made heavy Concourse anti-tank missiles, 18 14.5-millimeter guns mounted on the backs of pickup trucks and 30 82-millimeter recoilless rifles. The weapons are all Soviet or Russian models but manufactured in other countries, he said.
“I’m telling you, this amount of weapons, once they are spread across the province [of Dara] is considered nothing,” the rebel commander said. “We need more than this to tip the balance or for there to even be a balance of power.”
U.S. officials said the Obama administration and its allies may supply anti-tank weapons to help the rebels destroy armored vehicles used by Assad forces. They are less likely to provide portable anti-aircraft missiles, which the rebels say they need to eliminate Assad’s warplanes. U.S. officials fear those missiles would fall into the hands of the Al Nusra front, the largest of the Islamist militias in the rebel coalition, which the U.S. regards as an Al Qaeda ally.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry is heading to Qatar on Saturday and will talk with other governments backing the rebels. A senior State Department official told reporters Friday that the talks would include discussions about coordinating deliveries of military aid.
CIA and White House officials declined to comment on the secret training programs. Other U.S. officials confirmed the training, but disputed some of the specific details provided by rebel commanders.
Brig. Gen. Yahya Bittar, who defected as a fighter pilot from Assad’s air force last year and is now head of intelligence for the Free Syrian Army, said training for the last month or so has taken place in Jordan.
The training, conducted by American, Jordanian and French operatives, involves rockets and anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry, he said.
Between 80 and 100 rebels from all over Syria have gone through the courses in the last month, he said, but training is continuing. Graduates are sent back across the border to rejoin the battle.
Bittar complained that sufficient weapons had yet to arrive for the rebel forces and said the Americans have not yet told them when they can expect to receive additional arms.
“Just promises, just promises,” he said.
Cloud reported from Washington and Abdulrahim reported from Los Angeles.

david.cloud@latimes.com

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Syria Is Becoming Obama’s Iraq

By Shamus Cooke 
June 19, 2013 “Information Clearing House – In perfect Bush-like fashion, President Obama has invented a bogus pretense for military intervention in yet another Middle East country. The president’s claim that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons — and thus crossed Obama’s imaginary “red line” — will likely fool very few Americans, who already distrust their president after the massive NSA spying scandal.
Obama has officially started down a path that inevitably leads to full-scale war. At this point the Obama administration thinks it has already invested too much military, financial, and diplomatic capital into the Syrian conflict to turn back, and each step forward brings the U.S. closer to a direct military intervention.
Much like Obama’s spying program, few Americans knew that the United States was already involved, neck deep, with the mass killings occurring in Syria. For example, Obama has been directly arming the Syrian rebels for well over a year. The New York Times broke the story that the Obama administration has — through the CIA — been illegally trafficking thousands of tons of guns to the rebels from the dictatorships of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. If not for these Obama-trafficked guns, thousands of deaths would have been prevented and the Syrian conflict over.
But even after the gun trafficking story broke, the mainstream media largely ignored it, and continued “reporting” that the U.S. has only been supplying the Syrian rebels with “non-lethal aid,” a meaningless term in a war setting, since all military aid directly assists in the business of killing.
The U.S. media also buried the truth behind the ridiculous chemical weapons claims by the Obama administration, which, like Bush’s WMDs, are based on absolutely no evidence. Having learned nothing from Iraq, the U.S. media again shamelessly regurgitates the “facts” as spoon-fed to them by the government, no questions asked. In reality, however, a number of independent chemical weapons experts have publicly spoken out against Obama’s accusations.
The U.S. media also refuses to ask: on what authority does the United States have to determine the usage of chemical weapons in other countries? This is the job of the UN. What has the UN said on the matter?
“According to the testimonies we have gathered, the [Syrian] rebels have used chemical weapons, making use of sarin gas.”
Again, the “rebels” have used chemical weapons, not the Syrian government, according to the UN representative. Many analysts have pointed out the obvious fact that the Syrian government would have zero military or political motive to use chemical weapons, especially when they have access to much more effective conventional weapons. Obama’s Bush-like lies are too familiar to the American public, who overwhelmingly do not support military intervention in Syria, or giving direct military aide to the Syrian rebels.
What has the UN said on giving military aid to the rebels?
UN chief Ban Ki-moon has called the Obama’s decision “a bad idea” and “not helpful.” This is because pouring arms into any country where there is a conflict only increases the bloodshed and risks turning the conflict into a broader catastrophe.
But like Bush, Obama is ignoring the UN, and there’s a logic to his madness. Obama has invested too much of his foreign policy credibility in Syria. His administration has been the backbone of the Syrian rebels from the beginning, having handpicked a group of rich Syrian exiles and molded them into Obama’s “officially recognized” government of Syria, while pressuring other nations to also recognize these nobodies as the “legitimate Syrian government.” Assad’s iron grip on power is a humiliation to these diplomatic efforts of Obama, and has thus weakened the prestige and power of U.S. foreign policy abroad.
More importantly, Obama’s anti-Syria diplomacy required that diplomatic relations between Syria and its neighbors — like Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey — be destroyed. These nations have peacefully co-existed for decades with Syria, but have now agreed — under immense U.S. pressure — to sever diplomatic relations while helping destroy the Syrian government by funneling guns and foreign fighters into the country, further destabilizing a region not yet recovered from the Iraq war. Obama’s Syria policy has turned an already-fragile region into a smoldering tinderbox.
If Obama were to suddenly tell his anti-Syria coalition that he’s realized his efforts at regime change have failed and that he would instead pursue a peaceful solution, his allies and Middle East lackeys would be less willing in the future to prostitute themselves for the foreign policy of the United States; and the U.S. would thus find it more difficult in the future to pursue “regime change” politics abroad. If Obama doesn’t back up his “Assad must go” demand, the U.S. will be unable to make such threats in the future; and U.S. foreign policy is heavily dependent on this type of political bullying.
Furthermore, Obama’s anti-Syria puppet coalition is taking tremendous political risks when it shamelessly follows in Obama’s footsteps, since the U.S. is terribly unpopular throughout the Arab world. This unpopularity is further proof that the “official” Syrian opposition that is asking for U.S. intervention has zero credibility in Syria, since very few Syrians would like to invite the U.S. military to “liberate” their country, especially after the “successful” liberations of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.
Obama, too, is worried about domestic politics in his own country over Syria. He knows that Americans are sick of Middle East wars, while the American public is also worried that arming the Syrian rebels would mean giving guns to the very same people that America is supposedly fighting a “war on terror” against.
In response to this concern Obama has said that the U.S. will only give arms to “moderate” rebels. A European Union diplomat mockingly responded:
“It would be the first conflict where we pretend we could create peace by delivering arms… If you pretend to know where the weapons will end up, then it would be the first war in history where this is possible. We have seen it in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Weapons don’t disappear; they pop up where they are needed.”
In Syria U.S. weapons will thus end up in the hands of the extremists doing the majority of the fighting. These are the people who will be in power if Syria’s government falls, unless a full U.S. invasion and Iraq-style occupation occurs. It’s difficult to decide which outcome would be worse for the Syrian people.
It’s now obvious that President Obama is escalating the Syrian conflict because his prized rebels have been beaten on the battlefield. Obama has thus chosen the military tactic of brinksmanship, a risky strategy that involves intentionally escalating a conflict in the hopes that either your opponent gives in to your demands (regime change), or your opponent gives you an excuse to invade.
“President Obama’s decision to supply small arms and ammunition to the rebels is a step, possibly just the first,toward direct American intervention. It raises risks for all parties, and especially for Mr. Assad, who knows that he cannot prevail, even with Russian and Iranian military aid, if the United States becomes fully engaged. We used a similar strategy against the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic in Kosovo in 1999, where I commanded American forces, and showed that NATO had the resolve to escalate.
“The risk of going beyond lethal aid to establishing a no-fly zone to keep Mr. Assad’s planes grounded or safe zones to protect refugees — options under consideration in Washington — is that we would find it hard to pull back if our side began losing. Given the rebels’ major recent setbacks, can we rule out using air power or sending in ground troops?
“Yet the sum total of risks — higher oil prices, a widening war — also provide Syria (and its patrons, Iran and Russia) a motive to negotiate.” [emphasis added]
Clark’s innocent sounding “no-fly zone” is in fact a clever euphemism for all-out war, since no-fly zones require you destroy the enemy’s air force, surface to air missiles, and other infrastructure.
In Libya Obama swiftly turned a no-fly zone into a full-scale invasion and regime change, in violation of international law. A no-fly zone in Syria would also immediately turn into an invasion and “regime change,” with the possibility that the U.S. or Israel would exploit the “fog of war” to attack Iran.
All of this madness could be stopped immediately if Obama publicly announced that the Syrian rebels have lost the war — since they have — and will be cut off politically, financially, and militarily by the U.S. if they do not immediately proceed to negotiations with the Syrian government. But this peaceful approach will instead be ignored in favor of untold thousands more dead, millions more made refugees, and a broader regional fracturing of Middle East civilization.
About author Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action. He can be reached atshamuscook@gmail.com.

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The FUKUS Bully-Boys How The G8 Joint Statement Should Read

By Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey
June 19, 2013 “Information Clearing House – Suppose the G8, for once, suppose the G20, for once, suppose the United Nations Organization, for once, came clean and told us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but, without the verborrea, without the pompous verbosity which hides the fact that our world is as uncivilized as ever, while cloaked in a sinister cloud of pretense.
So let us for once spell out the truth and be done with it, let us for once face the facts and not continue to play games of musical chairs; let us once and for all face the music, tell it exactly how it is and not bother to elaborate further on the status quo of humanity until we have evolved into something worthwhile mention. Suppose the G8 statement read like this:
The fact of the matter is that Humankind has allowed itself to fall under the yoke of a corporatist elite which have managed to implant their system on the huge majority of the members of the international community, after spending decades investing trillions of dollars in sabotaging socially progressive models, which without a total internationalization programme, rendered themselves vulnerable.
For decades, an evil clique of nations controlled by the corporate elite whose goal was and is hegemony over the world’s resources – its capital – either installed governments or else closed ranks around them, neutering any socially progressive vectors by nipping them in the bud. As it did so, it forged and assumed a false identity as sinister as it is cynical, skillfully manipulating public opinion, claiming the high moral ground.
As it did this, it was actively engaged in subversion, sabotage, terrorism, assassination attempts and acts of murder while blaming the socially progressive world (the Soviet Bloc and the countries it liberated from Imperialism) for the same thing, forcing Governments to become paranoid about their own security and adopt strategies to protect the State. It then accused the model it was fraught on destroying of being a police state.
With the leaders of the socially progressive model convinced that the market economy was the only way forward, this evil clique of corporatists then went on the rampage, shifting the frontiers of NATO eastwards after promising the contrary, starting energy wars outside the auspices of the United Nations Organization (the only valid causus belli against Iraq would have been if it posed an immediate threat to the USA and its allies, as they claimed, the problem being it did not).
The media barrage serving as a smokescreen with active soundbites ringing in the ears of a dumbfounded population brought up on tasty tidbits of corporatist controlled disinformation, fed Big Brother type reality shows daily to massify and exponentially magnify idiocy so that the end result is an ignorant world population unable to discern the truth from fiction, one by one the enemies were targeted.
“Evil dictator” living in a “compound” “holding down his people”, “brutalizing them” and ruling through an “evil regime” were the lexica used, synonymous in fact with “enlightened defender of a socially progressive model of government who educated his people, send them abroad to study but dared to challenge the authority of the corporate elitists and to deny them the possibility of milking his nation’s resources dry”.
This evil clique of nations, loosely denominated NATO, focused on the FUKUS Axis (France-UK-US), former Imperialist powers and including the only one to have practiced an act of nuclear terrorism, twice, continues to push eastwards after a sortie into Africa’s most progressive nation and the one with the highest Human Development Index (Libya). Afghanistan was the first piece in the puzzle, Iraq the next, Syria follows and then there is Iran. The last stops on the station are Russia’s Siberia region and the People’s Republic of China.
The corporatist elitist model cannot tolerate a successful nation which calls itself Communist, now, can it?
For those who doubt the veracity of these lines, does anyone seriously doubt that the FUKUS Axis will attack Syria anyway, using cynical word-crafting in documents as justification, especially now with its special forces massed in Jordan? And why should they stop in Syria?
Syria is the line in the sand. It is a Syrian conflict for the Syrian people, to be solved by the Syrian people, who should choose what they want to do and how. Nobody else, not Qatar, not Saudi Arabia, certainly not the FUKUS Axis. If the unofficial weapons-selling channels are supplying lethal arms to bloodthirsty Islamist fundamentalist terrorists are already operating then it is only logical that the legitimate Government of Syria under international law, that of President Bashar al-Assad, should be supported by forces which counter the corporatist elitists and their FUKUS bully-boys.

This article was originally published at
 Pravda

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Report: Russia to Send Marines to Syria

By Vladimir Isachenkov
The Associated Press
June 18, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “AP” — MOSCOW — Two Russian navy ships are completing preparations to sail to Syria with a unit of marines on a mission to protect Russian citizens and the nation’s base there, a news report said Monday. The deployment appears to reflect Moscow’s growing concern about Syrian President Bashar Assad’s future.
The Interfax news agency quoted an unidentified Russian navy official as saying that the two amphibious landing vessels, Nikolai Filchenkov and Caesar Kunikov, will be heading shortly to the Syrian port of Tartus, but didn’t give a precise date.
The official said the ships will carry an unspecified number of marines to protect Russians in Syria and evacuate some equipment from Tartus, if necessary.
Each ship is capable of carrying up to 300 marines and a dozen tanks, according to Russian media reports. That would make it the largest known Russian troop deployment to Syria, signaling that Moscow is becoming increasingly uneasy about Syria’s slide toward civil war.
Interfax also quoted a deputy Russian air force chief as saying that Russia will give the necessary protection to its citizens in Syria.
“We must protect our citizens,” Maj.-Gen. Vladimir Gradusov was quoted as saying. “We won’t abandon the Russians and will evacuate them from the conflict zone, if necessary.”
Asked whether the air force would provide air support for the navy squadron, Gradusov said they will act on orders.
The Defense Ministry had no immediate comment, and an official at the Black Sea fleet declined to comment.
Asked if the Pentagon is concerned about the plan, officials in Washington said it depends on the mission. They had no comment on the stated goal of protecting Russian citizens and the Russian military position there, something the U.S. would do in a foreign country if in a similar situation.
“I think we’d leave it to the Russian Ministry of Defense to speak to their naval movements and their national security decision-making process,” said Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, adding that it’s not the business of the U.S. Defense Department to “endorse or disapprove of an internal mission like that.”
What would greatly concern the U.S., he said, is if the Russian naval ships were taking weapons or sending people to support the Assad regime in its crackdown.
“The secretary of defense (Leon Panetta) remains concerned about any efforts by external countries or external organizations to supply lethal arms to the Syrian regime so that they can turn around and use those to kill their own people,” Kirby said.
Tartus is Russia’s only naval base outside the former Soviet Union, serving Russian navy ships on missions to the Mediterranean and hosting an unspecified number of military personnel.
Russian officials have said that other Russian navy ships that have called at Tartus this year also had marines on board, but it has remained unclear whether they rotated the troops at Tartus or simply protected the ships during their mission and returned home.
Russia also has an unspecified number of military advisers teaching Syrians how to use Russian weapons, which make up the bulk of Syrian arsenals.
Syria is Russia’s last remaining ally in the Middle East, and has been a major customer of Soviet and Russian weapons industries for the last four decades, acquiring billions of dollars worth of combat jets, helicopters, missiles, armored vehicles and other military gear.
Russia has shielded Assad’s regime from international sanctions over its violent crackdown on protests. Moscow also has continued to provide Syria with arms, despite Western calls for a halt in supplies.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton issued a harsh reprimand of Russia last week, when she said that Moscow “dramatically” escalated the crisis in Syria by sending attack helicopters there. The State Department acknowledged later the helicopters she accused Moscow of sending were actually refurbished ones already owned by the Assad regime, but Russia was clearly annoyed, and the spat further fueled tensions ahead of President Barack Obama’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Mexico on Monday.
Opposition groups say more than 14,000 people have been killed since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011 with mostly peaceful protests against Assad’s autocratic regime. But a ferocious government crackdown led many to take up arms, and the conflict is now an armed insurgency.
Russia has criticized Assad for slow reforms and heavy-handed use of force, but has strongly opposed any sanctions or foreign interference in Syrian affairs.
Pauline Jelinek contributed to this report from Washington

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Fighting Terrorism by Arming Terrorists

The Syrian intervention John McCain and the Clintons want would be a war for Islamism, not democracy.
By W. James Antle III
June 17, 2013 “Information Clearing House – The Obama administration appears to be moving toward arming rebels in Syria, though the White House has only publicly confirmed an increase in the “scope and scale” of its military support.
By one estimate, seven of nine key rebel combatant groups are Islamist. “As the civil war has dragged on, the rebels have become more Islamist and extreme,” the Economist reports. Thus the administration’s decision to arm only the non-Islamist rebels may soon resemble O.J. Simpson’s search for the “real killers.”
Arms shipments approved by the Obama administration have already ended up in the hands of jihadists in Libya. “The weapons and money from Qatar strengthened militant groups in Libya,” reported the New York Times, “allowing them to become a destabilizing force since the fall of the Qaddafi government.”
Operation Fast and Furious meets American foreign policy.
In his apparent Syria about-face, the president has been egged on by the Clintons. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had already proposed arming the Syrian rebels, only to see cooler heads prevail. Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, has also clamored for greater U.S. involvement.
Upon reports that President Obama was reconsidering his position, Bill Clinton patted his successor on the head. “It looks to me like this thing is trending in the right direction,” he told MSNBC. He urged Obama to ignore opinion polls showing massive public opposition to any Syria intervention beyond humanitarian assistance.
“What the American people are saying when they tell you not to do these things, they’re not telling you not to do these things,” Clintonsaid, according to Politico. “They hire you to win … to look around the corner and see down the road.”
The Clintons’ foreign-policy views are aligned with those of Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Hawks of a feather flocked together in support of the bipartisan Mendendez-Corker bill, which contains a provision for arming Syrian rebels and easily passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The only Republican to vote against the bill rebuked his colleagues. “This is an important moment,” Rand Paul said. “You will be funding, today, the allies of al-Qaeda. It’s an irony you cannot overcome.”
Yet the Senate Foreign Relations Committee may be the only place where Paul stands alone among Republicans on this issue. “We have entire Christian villages slaughtered, women and children, by the Syrian rebels,” Laura Ingraham said on Fox News. “The idea that were going to send arms to these people who are slaughtering Christians, and have one goal, which is to establish an Islamic caliphate throughout the Middle East—and, if they get their way, throughout Africa as well—is ludicrous.”
The Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein argues, “It’s hard to believe that the same administration that brought us Benghazi would have such perfect information about which rebel groups in a bloody war-torn country are completely free of Islamist links, let alone have the logistical ability to ensure the weapons don’t end up in the hands of bad actors.”
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that only 11 percent of Republicans favored arming Syrian rebels while just 15 percent backed U.S. military involvement. Republicans and independents were more likely than Democrats to want to take no action at all. AGallup poll found that Democrats, Republicans, and independents were all opposed to the United States entering Syria’s civil war by majorities greater than 60 percent.
For years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, conservatives who spoke out against U.S. wars in the Middle East were smeared as apologists for Islamic terror. But the evidence is mounting that these wars and “kinetic military actions” have done much to unleash the very forces they were launched to combat, leaving militant Islamists on the march from Iraq to Mali.
Foreign aid dollars are being spent where Americans are reviled. U.S. troops are dying in countries that don’t seem to be trendingtoward liberal democracy.
Syria may be the clearest case yet of how an intervention against an indisputably brutal dictator could cut against American national interests. Even with promises of no boots on the ground, it may be the Clinton-McCain contingent’s toughest sell.
Perhaps they have already closed the deal with Obama. But the perpetual hawks are losing the American people, left, right, and center.
W. James Antle III is editor of the Daily Caller News Foundation and author of Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped?

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Iran to Send 4,000 Troops to Aid President Assad Forces in Syria

Fact Or Fiction?
World Exclusive: US urges UK and France to join in supplying arms to Syrian rebels as MPs fear that UK will be drawn into growing conflict
By Robert Fisk
June 16, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “The Independent” — Washington’s decision to arm Syria’s Sunni Muslim rebels has plunged America into the great Sunni-Shia conflict of the Islamic Middle East, entering a struggle that now dwarfs the Arab revolutions which overthrew dictatorships across the region.
For the first time, all of America’s ‘friends’ in the region are Sunni Muslims and all of its enemies are Shiites. Breaking all President Barack Obama’s rules of disengagement, the US is now fully engaged on the side of armed groups which include the most extreme Sunni Islamist movements in the Middle East.
The Independent on Sunday has learned that a military decision has been taken in Iran – even before last week’s presidential election – to send a first contingent of 4,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad’s forces against the largely Sunni rebellion that has cost almost 100,000 lives in just over two years. Iran is now fully committed to preserving Assad’s regime, according to pro-Iranian sources which have been deeply involved in the Islamic Republic’s security, even to the extent of proposing to open up a new ‘Syrian’ front on the Golan Heights against Israel.
In years to come, historians will ask how America – after its defeat in Iraq and its humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan scheduled for 2014 – could have so blithely aligned itself with one side in a titanic Islamic struggle stretching back to the seventh century death of the Prophet Mohamed. The profound effects of this great schism, between Sunnis who believe that the father of Mohamed’s wife was the new caliph of the Muslim world and Shias who regard his son in law Ali as his rightful successor – a seventh century battle swamped in blood around the present-day Iraqi cities of Najaf and Kerbala – continue across the region to this day. A 17th century Archbishop of Canterbury, George Abbott, compared this Muslim conflict to that between “Papists and Protestants”.
America’s alliance now includes the wealthiest states of the Arab Gulf, the vast Sunni territories between Egypt and Morocco, as well as Turkey and the fragile British-created monarchy in Jordan. King Abdullah of Jordan – flooded, like so many neighbouring nations, by hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees – may also now find himself at the fulcrum of the Syrian battle. Up to 3,000 American ‘advisers’ are now believed to be in Jordan, and the creation of a southern Syria ‘no-fly zone’ – opposed by Syrian-controlled anti-aircraft batteries – will turn a crisis into a ‘hot’ war. So much for America’s ‘friends’.
Its enemies include the Lebanese Hizballah, the Alawite Shiite regime in Damascus and, of course, Iran. And Iraq, a largely Shiite nation which America ‘liberated’ from Saddam Hussein’s Sunni minority in the hope of balancing the Shiite power of Iran, has – against all US predictions – itself now largely fallen under Tehran’s influence and power. Iraqi Shiites as well as Hizballah members, have both fought alongside Assad’s forces.
Washington’s excuse for its new Middle East adventure – that it must arm Assad’s enemies because the Damascus regime has used sarin gas against them – convinces no-one in the Middle East. Final proof of the use of gas by either side in Syria remains almost as nebulous as President George W. Bush’s claim that Saddam’s Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
For the real reason why America has thrown its military power behind Syria’s Sunni rebels is because those same rebels are now losing their war against Assad. The Damascus regime’s victory this month in the central Syrian town of Qusayr, at the cost of Hizballah lives as well as those of government forces, has thrown the Syrian revolution into turmoil, threatening to humiliate American and EU demands for Assad to abandon power. Arab dictators are supposed to be deposed – unless they are the friendly kings or emirs of the Gulf – not to be sustained. Yet Russia has given its total support to Assad, three times vetoing UN Security Council resolutions that might have allowed the West to intervene directly in the civil war.
In the Middle East, there is cynical disbelief at the American contention that it can distribute arms – almost certainly including anti-aircraft missiles – only to secular Sunni rebel forces in Syria represented by the so-called Free Syria Army. The more powerful al-Nusrah Front, allied to al-Qaeda, dominates the battlefield on the rebel side and has been blamed for atrocities including the execution of Syrian government prisoners of war and the murder of a 14-year old boy for blasphemy. They will be able to take new American weapons from their Free Syria Army comrades with little effort.
From now on, therefore, every suicide bombing in Damascus – every war crime committed by the rebels – will be regarded in the region as Washington’s responsibility. The very Sunni-Wahabi Islamists who killed thousands of Americans on 11th September, 2011 – who are America’s greatest enemies as well as Russia’s – are going to be proxy allies of the Obama administration. This terrible irony can only be exacerbated by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s adament refusal to tolerate any form of Sunni extremism. His experience in Chechenya, his anti-Muslim rhetoric – he has made obscene remarks about Muslim extremists in a press conference in Russian – and his belief that Russia’s old ally in Syria is facing the same threat as Moscow fought in Chechenya, plays a far greater part in his policy towards Bashar al-Assad than the continued existence of Russia’s naval port at the Syrian Mediterranean city of Tartous. 
For the Russians, of course, the ‘Middle East’ is not in the ‘east’ at all, but to the south of Moscow; and statistics are all-important. The Chechen capital of Grozny is scarcely 500 miles from the Syrian frontier. Fifteen per cent of Russians are Muslim. Six of the Soviet Union’s communist republics had a Muslim majority, 90 per cent of whom were Sunni. And Sunnis around the world make up perhaps 85 per cent of all Muslims. For a Russia intent on repositioning itself across a land mass that includes most of the former Soviet Union, Sunni Islamists of the kind now fighting the Assad regime are its principal antagonists.
Iranian sources say they liaise constantly with Moscow, and that while Hizballah’s overall withdrawal from Syria is likely to be completed soon – with the maintenance of the militia’s ‘intelligence’ teams inside Syria – Iran’s support for Damascus will grow rather than wither. They point out that the Taliban recently sent a formal delegation for talks in Tehran and that America will need Iran’s help in withdrawing from Afghanistan. The US, the Iranians say, will not be able to take its armour and equipment out of the country during its continuing war against the Taliban without Iran’s active assistance. One of the sources claimed – not without some mirth — that the French were forced to leave 50 tanks behind when they left because they did not have Tehran’s help.
It is a sign of the changing historical template in the Middle East that within the framework of old Cold War rivalries between Washington and Moscow, Israel’s security has taken second place to the conflict in Syria. Indeed, Israel’s policies in the region have been knocked askew by the Arab revolutions, leaving its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, hopelessly adrift amid the historic changes.
Only once over the past two years has Israel fully condemned atrocities committed by the Assad regime, and while it has given medical help to wounded rebels on the Israeli-Syrian border, it fears an Islamist caliphate in Damascus far more than a continuation of Assad’s rule. One former Israel intelligence commander recently described Assad as “Israel’s man in Damascus”. Only days before President Mubarak was overthrown, both Netanyahu and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called Washington to ask Obama to save the Egyptian dictator. In vain. 
If the Arab world has itself been overwhelmed by the two years of revolutions, none will have suffered from the Syrian war in the long term more than the Palestinians. The land they wish to call their future state has been so populated with Jewish Israeli colonists that it can no longer be either secure or ‘viable’. ‘Peace’ envoy Tony Blair’s attempts to create such a state have been laughable. A future ‘Palestine’ would be a Sunni nation. But today, Washington scarcely mentions the Palestinians.
Another of the region’s supreme ironies is that Hamas, supposedly the ‘super-terrorists’ of Gaza, have abandoned Damascus and now support the Gulf Arabs’ desire to crush Assad. Syrian government forces claim that Hamas has even trained Syrian rebels in the manufacture and use of home-made rockets.
In Arab eyes, Israel’s 2006 war against the Shia Hizballah was an attempt to strike at the heart of Iran. The West’s support for Syrian rebels is a strategic attempt to crush Iran. But Iran is going to take the offensive. Even for the Middle East, these are high stakes. Against this fearful background, the Palestinian tragedy continues.
© independent.co.uk

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Israel and U.S. Coordinating How to Target Assad’s Arsenal

By Karl Vick
June 16, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “Time” — 52 days after an Israeli general publicly declared that Syria has used chemical weapons against rebels, the Obama administration reached the same conclusion, and used the finding to justify announcing it would send small arms to the side of the victims. “I will not say ‘We told you so,’ only, okay, the proof is there, so there’s no more question about it,” says Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor, taking with a smile the easy part of the equation now laid before Israel. As for the hard part: “Now, what should be done? It’s not for Israel to say, because the international involvement in this should not include Israel. Israel follows very closely developments there. It’s very concerned about activity on its borders. But we’re not aspiring to be involved in any action about what’s happening in Syria.”
In fact, of course, Israel is closely involved already, and in more ways than they are acknowledged publicly. Israeli military officials tell TIME that American intelligence had the same information that Brig. Gen. Itai Brun cited in his April 23 presentation to a public conference – video footage showing victims foaming at the mouth, and other indicators that made it clear that sarin had been used on the battlefield more than once. “We are sharing,” one Israeli intelligence official said at the time. “We have our cards on the table with the Americans for a long time. They’ve had all this information.”
Though the speech embarrassed President Obama, who had repeatedly called use of chemical weapons “a game changer” in his Syria policy, it was officially inadvertent. No one in Israel’s political echelon knew of Brun’s remarks in advance, and officials from both countries spent several days publicly repairing the impression that Israel was trying to force Obama to intervene. At an operational level, cooperation between the two countries has been exceptionally close — and growing closer as Washington publicly ramps up its military involvement in the Syrian conflict.
“Things are happening behind the scenes,” says one Israeli official. “Things are really happening.”
Earlier this month, the Pentagon announced it was sending F-16s and Patriot missile batteries to Jordan, ostensibly for an exercise (“Eager Lion”), but which would remain in the Hashemite Kingdom afterward.
“It’s a clear, purposeful, presence of a strike force near the border of Syria,” the Israeli official noted. “I think it’s a message, a clear message.” The message is also meant to be legible to Iran, which is arming Syria and the Lebanese militia Hizballah by air, as well as testing the resolve of Western powers who threaten to strike its nuclear program. “It’s only a short leap to the Gulf,” the official said.
Patriot batteries went into Turkey last year, under the banner of NATO. And the chief of Mossad, Israel’s overseas intelligence agency,traveled to Ankara this week to meet with Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization, known by its Turkish initials MIT. As opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad organize themselves to assist the rebels opposing him, Israel feels obliged to lay low. Though closely aligned with Washington, and maintaining diplomatic relations with Jerusalem, countries like Jordan and Turkey have majority Muslim populations who would not welcome overt military cooperation with Israel. “If this is to hold water, this cannot involve Israel,” the Israeli official said.
Behind the scenes, however, Israeli and U.S. military officials are coordinating how to target and destroy Assad’s arsenal of unconventional weapons under assorted scenarios, Israeli military and intelligence officials tell TIME. One scenario would be the sudden removal of Assad from the scene, be it by flight, death or if he simply disappears. That would prompt the allies to launch operations on the estimated 18 depots and other sites where WMDs are stored, the officials said. Search and destroy operations would also be launched if the weapons appeared to be about to fall into the hands of the rebels, which include Islamist extremists aligned with al-Qaeda.
The Israeli officials emphasized that it had not been decided whether both Israeli and U.S. forces would act, or who would do what. But the U.S. plans called for deploying forces on the ground as well as waves of airstrikes, to assure that the chemical and biological components are neutralized, according to the Israeli officials.
Israel already has struck by air inside Syria three times this year, targeting advanced weapons systems such as anti-aircraft batteries and highly accurate Russian-made missiles that officials said were being transferred to Hizballah, something Israeli officials repeatedly had warned would prompt discreet, surgical action intended only to safeguard its military advantage over the Lebanese militia, which is sponsored by Iran and supported by Syria (where Hizballah recently sent troops to help Assad).
“The main arms of concern to us are the arms that are already in Syria — these are anti-aircraft weapons, these are chemical weapons and other very, very dangerous weapons that could be game changers,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the BBC in April, in remarks the Israeli foreign ministry said remained operative in the wake of Obama’s decision to arm the rebels. “They will change the conditions, the balance of power in the Middle East. They could present a terrorist threat on a worldwide scale. It is definitely our interest to defend ourselves, but we also think it is in the interest of other countries.”
Aaron J. Klein contributed reporting from Tel Aviv
Karl Vick has been TIME’s Jerusalem bureau chief since 2010, covering Israel,the Palestine territories and nearby sovereignties. He worked 16 years at the Washington Post in Nairobi, Istanbul, Baghdad, Los Angeles and Rockville, MD.

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Ron Paul on Obama’s Syria WMD Claim

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Obama moves to escalate Syrian slaughter

15 June 2013
The announcement that the US is moving to directly arm the Islamist militias and other armed gangs laying waste to Syria represents a further descent into crisis and outright criminality by the Obama administration.
US and other Western officials report that the Pentagon has also provided the administration with plans to impose a no-fly zone to carve out a swathe of Syrian territory at least 25 miles deep along the Jordanian border for the purpose of massing, training and arming proxy forces to invade Syria.
These measures, which will be taken in alliance with Britain and France, the two former colonial overlords of Syria and the surrounding region, are part of a war of aggression aimed at subjugating an oppressed, former colonial country to the strategic and profit interests of Washington and its closest NATO allies.
The White House claim that this military escalation is a US response to the regime of Bashar al-Assad crossing Obama’s “red line” and violating “international norms” by using chemical weapons against the so-called “rebels” is an insult to the intelligence of the people of the United States and the world.
The drive toward direct intervention has nothing to do with any desire to protect human life in Syria. The provision of new and more powerful weaponry will result only in a proliferation of sectarian massacres by Sunni Islamist “rebels” like the one that claimed the lives of at least 60 people, most of them women and children, in the eastern Syrian village of Hatlah earlier this week. As for a no-fly zone, its preparation would entail massive bombings of Syrian air defenses in densely populate areas, threatening thousands of additional deaths.
No evidence whatsoever has been made public substantiating charges that the Assad regime used sarin gas “on a small scale,” a highly improbable action which would make absolutely no military, much less political, sense. The statement issued by Obama’s deputy national security adviser Thursday even acknowledged that the alleged evidence of the use of sarin gas “does not tell us how or where the individuals were exposed or who was responsible for the dissemination.”
Last month, Carla Del Ponte, lead investigator for the UN’s international commission of inquiry on Syria, told the media that evidence indicated chemical weapons had been “used on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities.”
The White House reported that it had shared its “evidence” with the Russian government. Yury Ushakov, foreign policy adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, said of the US briefing, “I will say frankly that what was presented to us by the Americans does not look convincing. It would be hard even to call them facts.”
Like the allegations of “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq more than a decade ago, the chemical weapons charge against Syria is a bald-faced lie. The Obama administration, following in the footsteps of the Bush White House, is trying to drag the American people into a predatory war based on phony pretexts and fabricated intelligence.
The immediate impetus for the turn by the Obama administration to more direct intervention is the growing recognition that following the fall of the “rebel” held town of Qusair to Syrian troops backed by Lebanese Hezbollah militiamen, the melange of Al Qaeda and other militia forces that Washington has used as its proxy troops in the war for regime-change is facing defeat.
In the aftermath of the 2011 US-NATO war against Libya, Washington believed it could easily pursue a similar strategy of hijacking popular protests and fomenting a sectarian civil war to topple Assad and impose a US puppet government. What it thought two years ago would be a cakewalk, however, has gone to hell.
The fundamental reason for this debacle is not a lack of weapons—which Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have poured into the country under the CIA’s supervision—or the brutality of the Assad regime, but the fact that the majority of the population, however much they might dislike Assad, hate the Islamist “rebels” even more.
There is a palpable element of desperation in the latest turn by the Obama administration, which the White House left to a junior aide to announce. It is responding not only to the failure of its previous policy, but also to enormous pressure from within the ruling political establishment for war.
This found sharp expression in the remarks Tuesday by former Democratic President Bill Clinton, who warned that Obama would look like a “wuss” and “total fool” if he stopped short of “dropping a few bombs.” Clinton solidarized himself with Republican Senator John McCain, whose own reckless militarism makes him a candidate for either a war crimes tribunal or a mental facility.
This was the culmination of a steadily escalating campaign by politicians of both parties, the media, the Washington think tanks and sections of the military and intelligence apparatus for a more direct military intervention.
Serving as adjuncts in this campaign are pseudo-left groups such as the International Socialist Organization in the US, the New Anti-capitalist Party in France and the Left Party in Germany, which promote the Islamist militias and mercenaries in Syria as “revolutionaries” and fashion twisted political alibis for imperialist intervention. All of them have blood on their hands.
Nonetheless, there are evidently deep divisions within the state over a war that poses the threat of drawing the entire region as well as powers with interests in Syria, particularly Iran and Russia, into the maelstrom.
After the bitter experiences of Afghanistan and Iraq, there is virtually no support among the American people for US intervention in Syria. US imperialism’s pretense to be championing democracy in Syria is further shattered by the revelations of its police state spying operations against the people of the United States and the world, and the vicious witch-hunt it has launched against Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who has exposed these crimes.
Despite two years of media propaganda vilifying the Assad regime and casting the Al Qaeda-linked militias as crusaders for democracy, an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll released this week showed that barely 11 percent of the US public supports even arming the “rebels.”
The entire political setup in the US proceeds with indifference to these popular sentiments. The hackneyed statements of the Democratic and Republican politicians have nothing to do with convincing anyone to support the war, while the corporate media churns out “news” that resembles Orwellian propaganda.
It will be the working class, both in the US and internationally, that pays the price for intervention in Syria. Under conditions where it is universally proclaimed that there is no money for jobs or vital social programs, not a word is raised about what the military options being considered by Obama will cost. More fundamentally, there is an inexorable logic to a US escalation in Syria, which points toward military confrontation with Iran and potentially Russia, threatening the lives of millions.
The struggle against war, opposed by the pseudo-left groups that once led the official “anti-war” movement and now back Obama and imperialism, can be prosecuted only on the basis of the independent political mobilization of the working class against the Obama administration and the capitalist system that is the source of militarism.
Bill Van Auken

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The End of Syria as We Know It?

Why Obama is Declaring War on Syria
By Franklin Lamb
June 15, 2013 “Information Clearing House – (Beirut) – The short answer is Iran and Hezbollah according to Congressional sources. “The Syrian army’s victory at al-Qusayr was more than the administration could accept given that town’s strategic position in the region. Its capture by the Assad forces has essentially added Syria to Iran’s list of victories starting with Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq, as well as its growing influence in the Gulf.”
Other sources are asserting that Obama actually did not want to invoke direct military aid the rebels fighting to topple the Assad government or even to make use of American military power in Syria for several reasons. Among these are the lack of American public support for yet another American war in the Middle East, the fact that there appears to be no acceptable alternative to the Assad government on the horizon, the position of the US intelligence community and the State Department and Pentagon that intervention in Syria would potentially turn out very badly for the US and gut what’s left of its influence in the region. It short, that the US getting involved in Syria could turn out even worse than Iraq, by intensifying a regional sectarian war without any positive outcome in sight.
Obama was apparently serious earlier about a negotiated diplomatic settlement pre-Qusayr and there were even some positives signs coming from Damascus, Moscow, and even Tehran John Kerry claimed. But that has changed partly because Russia and the US have both hardened their demands. Consequently, the Obama administration has now essentially thrown in the towel on the diplomatic track. This observer was advised by more than one Congressional staffer that Obama’s team has concluded that the Assad government was not getting their message or taking them seriously and that Assad’s recent military gains and rising popular support meant that a serious Geneva II initiative was not going to happen.
In addition, Obama has been weakened recently by domestic politics and a number of distractions and potential scandals not least of which is the disclosures regarding the massive NSA privacy invasion. In addition, the war lobby led by Senators McClain and Lindsay Graham is still pounding their drums and claim that Obama would be in violation of his oath of office and by jeopardizing the national security interest of the United States by allowing Iran to essentially own Syria once Assad quells the uprising.” Both Senators welcomed the chemical weapons assessment. For months they have been saying that Obama has not been doing enough to help the rebels. “U.S. credibility is on the line,” they said in a joint statement this week. “Now is not the time to merely take the next incremental step. Now is the time for more decisive actions,” they said, such as using long-range missiles to degrade Assad’s air power and missile capabilities. Another neo-con, Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) said the opposition forces risk defeat without heavier weapons, but he also warned that may not be enough. “The U.S. should move swiftly to shift the balance on the ground in Syria by considering grounding the Syrian air force with stand-off weapons and protecting a safe zone in northern Syria with Patriot missiles in Turkey,” Casey said.
According to some analysts, Obama could alternatively authorize the arming and training of the Syrian opposition in Jordan without a no-fly zone. That appears unlikely according to this observers Washington interlocutors because the Pentagon wants to end the Syrian crisis by summers end, the observer was advised “rather than working long term with a motley bunch of jihadists who we could never trust or rely on. The administration has come to the conclusion apparently that if they are in for a penny they are in for a pound, meaning would not allow Iran to control Syria and Hezbollah to pocket Lebanon.”
Secretary of State Kerry had meetings with more than two dozen military specialists on 5/13/13. The Washington Post is reporting that Kerry believes supplying the rebels with weapons might be too little and too late to actually flip the balance on the Syrian ground and this calls “for a military strike to paralyze Al-Assad’s military capacities.” A Pentagon source reported that the USA, France, and Britain are considering a decisive decision to reverse the current Assad momentum and quickly construct one in favor of the rebels” within a time period not exceeding the end of this summer.
Shortly after the meetings began, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia quickly returned to Saudi Arabia from his palace at Casa Blanca, Morocco after receiving a call from his intelligence chief, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan. Bander reportedly had a representative at the White House during the meetings with President Obama’s team. King Abdullah was reportedly advised by Kerry to be prepared for a rapid expansion of the growing regional conflict.
What happens between now and the end of summer is likely to be catastrophic for the Syrian public and perhaps Lebanon. The “chemical weapons-red line” is not taken seriously on Capitol Hill for the reason that the same “inclusive evidence” of months ago is the same that is suddenly being cited to justify what may become essentially an all-out war against the Syrian government and anyone who gets in the way. Hand wringing over the loss of 125 lives due to chemical weapons, whoever did use them, pales in comparison to the more 50,000 additional lives that will be lost in the coming months, a figure that Pentagon planners and the White House have “budgeted” as the price of toppling the Assad government.
“We are going to see a rapid escalation of the conflict”, a staffer on the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee emailed this observer: “The president has made a decision to give whatever humanitarian aid, as well as political and diplomatic support to the opposition that in necessary. Additionally direct support to the (Supreme Military Council), will be provided and that includes military support.” The staffer quoted the words of Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes to the media on 5/13/13 to the same effect.
A part of this “humanitarian assistance” the US is going to established in the coming weeks a “limited, humanitarian no-fly zone, that will begin along several miles of the Jordanian and Turkish borders in certain military areas into Syrian territory, and would be set up and presented as a limited bid to train and equip rebel forces and protect refugees. But in reality, as we saw in Libya a Syrian no fly zone would very likely include all of Syria.
Libya’s no-fly zones made plain that there is no such thing as a “limited zone”. Put briefly, a “no-fly zone” means essentially a declaration of all-out war. Once the US and its allies start a no fly zone they will expand it and intensify it as they take countless other military actions to protect its zones until the Syrian government falls. “It’s breathtaking to contemplate how this in going to end and how Iran and Russia will respond,” one source concluded.
The White House is trying to assuage the few in Congress as well as a majority of the American public that it can be a limited American involved and that the no-fly zone would not require the destruction of Syrian antiaircraft batteries. This is more nonsense. During the no-fly zone I witnessed from Libya in the summer of 2011 the US backed it up with all manner of refueling, electronic jamming, special-ops on the ground and by mid-July a kid peddling his bike was not safe. Over the 192 days of patrolling the Libyan no-fly zones, NATO countries flew 24,682 sorties including 9,204 bomb strike sorties. NATO claimed it never missed its target but that was also not true. Hundreds of civilians were killed in Libya by no-fly zone attack aircraft that either missed their targets and emptied their bomb bays before returning to base while conducting approximately 48 bombing strikes per day using a variety of bombs and missiles, including more than 350 cruise Tomahawks.
At a Congressional hearing in 2011, then US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates got it right when he explained which discussing Libya “a no-fly zone begins with an attack to destroy all the air defenses … and then you can fly planes around the country and not worry about our guys being shot down. But that’s the way it starts.”
According to the accounts published in American media, Obama could alternatively authorize the arming and training of the Syrian opposition in Jordan without a no-fly zone. That appears unlikely because the Pentagon wants to end the Syrian crisis by summers end, the observer was advised “rather than working long term with a motley bunch of jihadists who we could never trust or rely on. The administration has come to the conclusion apparently that if they are in for a penny they are in for a pound.”
In response to a question from this observer about how he thought event might unfold in this region over the coming months, a very insightful long-term congressional aid replied: “Well Franklin, maybe someone will pull a rabbit out of the hat to stop the push for war. But frankly I doubt it. From where I sit I’d wager that Syria as we have known it may soon be no more. And perhaps some other countries in the region also.”
Franklin Lamb is doing research in Syria and Lebanon and can be reached c/o fplamb@gmail.com

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Sarin Gas Use Doubted

Experts Don’t See Evidence
By Matthew Schofield 
McClatchy Washington Bureau
June 15, 2013 “Information Clearing House – —– WASHINGTON — Chemical weapons experts voiced skepticism Friday about U.S. claims that the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad had used the nerve agent sarin against rebels on at least four occasions this spring, saying that while the use of such a weapons is always possible, they’ve yet to see the telltale signs of a sarin gas attack, despite months of scrutiny.
“It’s not unlike Sherlock Holmes and the dog that didn’t bark,” said Jean Pascal Zanders, a leading expert on chemical weapons who until recently was a senior research fellow at the European Union’s Institute for Security Studies. “It’s not just that we can’t prove a sarin attack; it’s that we’re not seeing what we would expect to see from a sarin attack.”
Foremost among those missing items, Zanders said, are cellphone photos and videos of the attacks or the immediate aftermath.
“In a world where even the secret execution of Saddam Hussein was taped by someone, it doesn’t make sense that we don’t see videos, that we don’t see photos, showing bodies of the dead, and the reddened faces and the bluish extremities of the affected,” he said.
Other experts said that while they were willing to give the U.S. intelligence community the benefit of the doubt, the Obama administration has yet to offer details of what evidence it has and how it obtained it.
White House foreign policy adviser Benjamin Rhodes gave dates and places for the alleged attacks — March 19 in the Aleppo suburb of 
Khan al-Assal; April 13 in the Aleppo neighborhood of Shaykh Maqsud; May 14 in Qasr Abu Samrah in Homs province, and May 23 in Adra, east of Damascus. But he provided no details of the fighting that was taking place or the number of dead.
“Ultimately, without more information, we are left with the need to trust the integrity of the U.S. intelligence community in arriving at its ‘high confidence’ judgment,” Greg Thielmann, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Arms Control Association, said in an email. While he said that “my guess is they have it right,” he also noted that the White House statement was “carefully and prudentially worded” and acknowledged the lack of a “continuous chain of custody for the physiological samples from those exposed to sarin.” 
“It does not eliminate all doubt in my mind,” he said.
Philip Coyle, a senior scientist at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington, said that without hard, public evidence, it’s difficult for experts to assess the validity of the administration’s statement. He added that from what is known, what happened doesn’t look like a series of sarin attacks to him.
“Without blood samples, it’s hard to know,” he said. “But I admit I hope there isn’t a blood sample, because I’m still hopeful that sarin has not been used.”
Even a proponent of the United States providing military assistance to the rebels raised doubts about the possible motive for announcing the chemical weapons conclusion.
In a passionate argument for U.S. involvement in Syria, Anthony Cordesman, a security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, wrote Friday that “the ‘discovery’ that Syria used chemical weapons might be a political ploy.” The phrase was in an article that described strong strategic and humanitarian reasons for involvement in the crisis, particularly the recent involvement of the Lebanese group Hezbollah on the side of Assad.
Chemical weapons have been a focus of discussion in Syria ever since the day in August 2012 when President Barack Obama announced that the use of such weapons was a “red line” that would trigger possible U.S. military involvement. Since then, rebels have reported the likely use of chemical agents on dozens of occasions with varying degrees of credibility.
Only one detailed independent report of a chemical attack has surfaced in that time, however — a lengthy report in the French newspaper Le Monde last month that triggered both French and British letters to the United Nations.
Zanders, however, said that much about that report bears questioning. Photos and a video accompanying the report showed rebel fighters preparing for chemical attacks by wearing gas masks. Sarin is absorbed through the skin, and even small amounts can kill within minutes.
He also expressed skepticism about the article’s description of the lengthy route victims of chemical attacks had to travel to get to treatment, winding through holes in buildings, down streets under heavy fire, before arriving at remote buildings hiding hospitals.
Zanders, who also has headed the Chemical and Biological Warfare Project at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and was director of the Geneva-based BioWeapons Prevention Project, noted that had sarin been the chemical agent in use, the victims would have been dead long before they reached doctors for treatment.
Zanders also said he’s skeptical of sarin use because there have been no reports of medical personnel or rescuers dying from contact with victims. Residue from sarin gas would be expected to linger on victims and would infect those helping, who often are shown in rebel video wearing no more protection than paper masks.
Le Monde reported that one doctor treated a victim with atropine, which is appropriate for sarin poisoning. But that doctor said he gave his patient 15 shots of atropine in quick succession, which Zanders said could have killed him almost as surely as sarin.


(c)2013 
McClatchy Washington Bureau

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"There Will Be A Regional War" US Decision to Arm Syria Rebels ‘Will be Greeted with Horror in Russia':

Video By The Telegraph
“Ultimately the US has decided the rebels must win, that means this is pretty much an opened ended commitment.
 
Posted June 14, 2013

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article35278.htm

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Turkey, Syria and the hypocrisy of US imperialism

14 June 2013
From the Bush administration’s launching of the war of aggression against Iraq in 2003 through to the Obama administration’s backing of a war for regime change in Syria a decade later, Washington has continuously draped its predatory policies in the Middle East in the false banners of “human rights” and “democracy.”
Such claims have been thoroughly refuted, in the first instance, by the immense human suffering and oppression wrought by US militarism in the region. It is estimated that the US “liberation” of Iraq cost a million lives, turned millions more into refugees and lay waste to the country’s infrastructure and social institutions. In Syria, the promotion of a sectarian civil war by US imperialism and its allies has claimed more than 80,000 lives, while again producing millions of refugees and ravaging an entire society.
Equally revealing is the collection of allies upon which Washington depends to pursue its strategic and profit interests in the Arab world. They are overwhelmingly reactionary monarchies that ruthlessly suppress any opposition within their own country: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan. These US-allied champions of democracy employ beheadings, torture, arbitrary imprisonment and religious obscurantism and persecution to sustain their parasitic dynasties.
Now, the social upheavals in what is arguably Washington’s most important regional ally have torn to shreds the phony democratic pretenses and exposed the hypocrisy of US policy in the region.
The Obama administration has lent tacit support to the brutal repression unleashed by the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan against hundreds of thousands of young people, workers, professionals and other Turkish citizens who have taken to the streets of Istanbul, Ankara and scores of other cities across Turkey. The crackdown has left at least five people dead, sent some 5,000 people to the hospital and resulted in the arrests of thousands more.
The White House and the State Department maintained a discrete silence in the wake of the brutal assault on peaceful demonstrators in Taksim Square on June 11. As heavily armed riot police unleashed tear gas, water cannon and stun grenades against the protesters, injuring hundreds, no one in the Obama administration uttered a word about human rights or democracy.
A week earlier, the White House spokesman Jay Carney had issued a mealy-mouthed statement affirming Washington’s platonic commitment to “freedom of expression and assembly,” while warning protesters against “provoking violence.”
After making it clear that Obama would make no statement nor would he speak to Erdogan about the repression, the spokesman concluded: “Turkey is a very important ally. And look, all democracies have issues that they need to work through … I think that we continue to work with Turkey on a range of issues—as a NATO ally and as a key player in the region—and we look forward to doing that.”
In calling Turkey a “key player in the region,” Carney was obviously referring to its role as a safe haven and forward base for the Islamist militias that Washington has unleashed on Syria. Foreign fighters from as far away as Chechnya, the Balkans and Western Europe are funneled across the Turkish border; Turkey also hosts a CIA station that coordinates the flow of billions of dollars in money and arms provided by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to fuel the slaughter across the border.
Washington thus hypocritically claims that its war for regime change in Syria is driven by its horror at Assad’s repression of armed Islamist opposition groups, but supports Erdogan’s repression of peaceful protests that could interfere with US war plans.
None of this gives pause to the collection of pseudo-left organizations—from the International Socialist Organization in the US to the New Anti-Capitalist Party in France and the Left Party in Germany—who have lent their support to the imperialist war on Syria, proclaiming it a “revolution.”
The events in Turkey and Syria, however, are intimately connected. Erdogan’s participation in the US-led war against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is immensely unpopular with the Turkish people. Polls indicate that between 70 and 80 percent of Turkish citizens oppose this intervention.
There is widespread concern that the war being promoted by Erdogan in Syria will engulf Turkey itself. Twin car bombs killed 50 people in the town of Reyhanli on the Turkish border last month, followed by the arrest in the same region of 12 members of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front, who initial reports said had a quantity of deadly sarin gas.
The Turkish government’s war policy is particularly unpopular among Turkey’s major religious and ethnic minorities, such as the Alevis. Erdogan’s backing for Al Qaeda-linked Sunni Islamist fanatics in Syria is an extension of his domestic policy of imposing Islamist social policies in Turkey. His decision to name a new bridge over the Bosporus Strait after a 16th century Ottoman sultan who slaughtered tens of thousands of Alevis heightened these concerns.
In a more fundamental sense, the Turkish developments mirror those within the United States itself, with the turn towards militarism and intervention abroad feeding the growth of attacks on democratic rights and police state measures at home. In both countries, both foreign and domestic policies are pursued in the interest of ruling corporate and financial cliques at the expense of the broad masses of working people.
The moral charades performed by the Obama administration and its pseudo-left assets about “human rights” and “democracy” in Syria are, as the case of Turkey makes clear, completely hypocritical. They are designed to deceive the public about the criminal nature of Washington’s escalating campaign of military aggression to secure US hegemony over the oil-rich regions of the Middle East and Central Asia—a campaign that threatens to drag the people of Turkey, the entire region and beyond into a bloody conflagration.
The struggle for the democratic and social rights of working people in Syria, Turkey and throughout the planet can be conducted only on the basis of the independent political mobilization of the working class in struggle against imperialism and the capitalist profit system.
Bill Van Auken

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Who Killed the Syrian Peace Talks?

By Shamus Cooke
The long awaited Syrian peace talks — instigated by power brokers Russia and the United States — had already passed their initial due date, and are now officially stillborn.
The peace talks are dead because the U.S.-backed rebels are boycotting the negotiations, ruining any hope for peace, while threatening to turn an already-tragic disaster into a Yugoslavia-style catastrophe…or worse.
The U.S. backed rebels are not participating in the talks because they have nothing to gain from them, and everything to lose.
In war, the purpose of peace negotiations is to copy the situation on the battlefield and paste it to a treaty: the army winning the war enters negotiations from a dominant position, since its position is enforceable on the ground. 
The U.S.-backed rebels would be entering peace talks broken and beaten, having been debilitated on the battlefield. The Syrian army has had a string of victories, pushing the rebels back to the border areas where they are protected by U.S. allies Turkey, Jordan, and northern Lebanon. Peace talks would merely expose this reality and end the war on terms dictated by the Syrian government. 
A rebel leader was quoted in The New York Times revealing this motive for the rebel’s abandonment of peace talks:
“What can we [rebels] ask for when we go very weak to Geneva [for peace talks]?… The Russians and the Iranians and the representatives of the [Syrian] regime will say: ‘You don’t have any power. We are controlling everything. What you are coming to ask for?’”
This is the reality as it exists in Syria, and realistic peace talks would recognize the situation in Syria and end the conflict immediately. 
But first the rebel’s supporters — the United States and its lackeys Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar — must acknowledge this reality and demand that the rebels forge ahead with peace talks, on threat of being cut off politically, financially, and militarily.
If this happens, war is over. 
But if the war ended tomorrow, Syrian President Bashar Assad, would still be in power, and President Obama has said repeatedly, “Assad must go.” Obama would be further humiliated by his Syria policy if he had to again recognize Assad as president after spending a year recognizing a group of rich Syrian exiles as “the legitimate government of Syria” and after his administration repeatedly announced that the Assad regime had ended over a year ago.
More importantly, if Assad stayed in power, U.S. foreign policy would appear weak internationally, which is one main reason that the U.S. political establishment wants to go “all in” for regime change in Syria: super powers must back up their threats, since otherwise other nations might choose to challenge the United States.
This is the real reason peace talks will not be held. The U.S. and its European allies want regime change in Syria, and they are prepared to allow many more people to die to make it so. This was made clear by the Obama administration. The New York Times reports:
“[Syrian] President Bashar al-Assad’s gains on the battlefield have called the United States’ strategy on Syria into question, prompting the Obama administration to again consider military options, including arming the rebels and conducting airstrikes to protect civilians and the Syrian opposition, administration officials said on Monday.”
The above quote mentions “conducting airstrikes to protect civilians.” This is the infamous language of the UN resolution that allowed U.S.-NATO to intervene in Libya; but Obama immediately overstepped “protecting civilians” and quickly jumped into “regime change,” a gross violation of international law and a Bush-like war crime.
The UN — though especially China and Russia — have learned from the Libya example and will doubtfully ever again approve of a “protect civilian” UN resolution. If the U.S. intervenes in Syria, it will do so with a Bush-style “coalition of the willing,” i.e. U.S. allies.
Obama’s dream of having a post-Assad Syria is further complicated by the fact that Assad is apparently more popular than he has ever been.
Many Syrians that didn’t previously support Assad now do, having concluded that Assad in power is better than their country being obliterated in an Iraq-style invasion, or being dominated by Islamic extremists, as the majority of the Syrian rebel groups are.
Further helping Assad’s popularity is that Israel has bombed Syria recently on multiple occasions, while Syrians watch the unpopular United States funnels massive amounts of weapons to the rebels. As a result, Assad can now successfully portray himself as a defender of Syria’s sovereignty against foreign aggression. 
But, Obama will not be deterred. After it became clear that the rebels were losing the war, the U.S. and its European allies removed the remaining legal barriers to further arming the rebels, while the religious leaders of Saudi Arabia and Qatar — both U.S. allies —assisted in the war effort by calling for Jihad against the Syrian government (the same week the leader of al-Qaeda did). 
Behind this frenzy of rebel support lies the sick logic that, in order for successful peace negotiations to take place, the rebels need to be in a stronger battlefield position. Arm the rebels to the teeth for peace!
In response to this twisted logic, Oxfam International — a disaster relief coalition — responded by saying
“Sending arms to the Syrian opposition won’t create a level playing field. Instead, it risks further fueling an arms free-for-all where the victims are the civilians of Syria. Our experience from other conflict zones tells us that this crisis will only drag on for far longer if more and more arms are poured into the country.”
Ultimately, the Syrian rebels would have already been defeated — and thousands of lives spared — if they had not been receiving support from the U.S. and other countries. The U.S.-backed rebels have said that a pre-condition for peace is “Assad must go;” but this demand does not coincide with the reality on the ground: the rebels are in no position to demand this, and the U.S. is using this unrealistic demand to artificially lengthen an already-bloody war. 
Obama can either use his immense influence to end this bloody conflict now by withdrawing support to the rebels, or he can extend the conflict and further tear to shreds the social fabric of the Middle East, while risking a multi-nation war that history will denounce as an easily preventable holocaust.
Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org). He can be reached at shamuscook@gmail.com

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US Officials Start Talks on Arming Syria’s Rebels

By BRADLEY KLAPPER
June 11, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “AP” — WASHINGTON — The Obama administration began discussing Monday whether the Assad regime’s rapid military advance across the heart of Syria necessitates a drastic U.S. response, with officials saying a decision on arming beleaguered rebels could happen later this week.
Top aides from the State and Defense Departments, the CIA and other agencies were gathering for a “deputies meeting” at the White House on Monday afternoon. There, they’ll seek to lay the groundwork for a meeting that President Barack Obama will hold with his senior national security staff, planned for Wednesday, said U.S. officials, who weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the closed-doors talks and demanded anonymity.
Moved by the Syrian regime’s rapid advance, officials say the administration could approve lethal aid for the rebels in the coming days. The president and his advisers also will weigh the merits of a less likely move to send in U.S. airpower to enforce a no-fly zone over the civil war-wracked nation, officials said.
The White House meetings are taking place as Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government forces are apparently poised for an attack on the key city of Homs, which could cut off Syria’s armed opposition from the south of the country. As many as 5,000 Hezbollah fighters are now in Syria, officials believe, helping the regime press on with its campaign after capturing the town of Qusair near the Lebanese border last week.
Opposition leaders have warned Washington that their rebellion could face devastating and irreversible losses without greater support.
Secretary of State John Kerry postponed a planned trip Monday to Israel and three other Mideast countries to participate in White House discussions, officials said. He may travel to the region later in the week.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday that internal administration discussions were focused on “helping the Syrian opposition serve the essential needs of the Syrian people and hasten a political transition.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama’s Syria policy was under constant review to find “what policy tools will help achieve our goal, which is a transition in Syria to a post-Assad government that respects the rights of the Syrian people and that gives that country a chance for a better future, a democratic future and an economically prosperous future.”
While nothing has been concretely decided, U.S. officials said Obama was leaning closer toward signing off on sending weapons to vetted, moderate rebel units. The U.S. has spoken of possibly arming the opposition in recent months but has hesitated because it doesn’t want groups that are linked to al-Qaida and other extremists fighting alongside the anti-Assad militias to end up with the weapons.
Obama already has ruled out any intervention that would require U.S. military troops on the ground. Other options such as deploying American air power to ground the regime’s jets, gunships and other aerial assets are being more seriously debated, officials said, but they cautioned that a no-fly zone or any other action involving U.S. military deployments in Syria were far less likely right now. The U.S. can provide weapons without sending soldiers into Syria, either by sending materiel to rebels in neighboring Turkey and Jordan or working with regional allies.
The president also has declared chemical weapons use by the Assad regime a “red line” for more forceful U.S. action. American allies including France and Britain have say they’ve determined with near certitude that Syrian forces have used low levels of sarin in several attacks, but the administration is still studying the evidence. The U.S. officials said responses that will be mulled over in this week’s meetings concern the deteriorating situation on the ground in Syria, independent of final confirmation of possible chemical weapons use.
U.S. lawmakers, particularly in the Senate, are clamoring for greater action.
In a letter to Obama on Monday, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, urged the president to start providing lethal aid as soon as possible to “shift momentum away from radical Islamist groups, the Assad regime and its militias toward more moderate elements.”
But Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a member of House Intelligence committee, said the U.S. shouldn’t get drawn into the conflict. “We have a poor track record of intervening in sectarian civil wars,” he said. “We need to be mindful of limitations in our ability to shape the outcome and very resistant to being pulled in in a way that we cannot later extricate ourselves very easily.”
Any intervention could have wide-reaching ramifications for the United States and the region. It would bring the U.S. closer to a conflict that has killed almost 80,000 people since Assad cracked down on protesters inspired by the Arab Spring in March 2011 and sparked a war that has since been increasingly defined by interethnic clashes between the Sunni-led rebellion and Assad’s Alawite-dominated regime.
And it would essentially pit the United States alongside regional allies Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar in a proxy war against Iran, which is providing much of the materiel to the Syrian government’s counterinsurgency and, through Hezbollah, more and more of the manpower.
Syria’s precarious position in the heart of the Middle East makes the conflict extremely unpredictable. Lebanon, across the western border, suffered its own brutal civil war in the 1970s and the 1980s and is already experiencing increased interethnic tensions. Iraq, to Syria’s east, is mired in worsening violence. And Israel to the southwest has seen shots fired across the contested Golan Heights and has been forced to strike what it claimed were advanced weapons convoys heading to Hezbollah, with whom it went to war with in 2006.
At the same time, it’s unclear how Washington could fundamentally change the trajectory of a conflict that has increasingly tilted toward Assad in recent months without providing weapons to the opposition forces or getting involved itself.
If the regime seizes control of Homs, it would clear a path for it from Damascus to the Mediterranean coast and firm up its grip on much of the country.

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During Quneitra Clashes, Israel Threatened to Attack Syrian Forces, UN Peacekeeping Chief Says

At special UNSC session, Herve Ladsous said that Assad regime military tanks entered Golan Heights demilitarized buffer zone during clashes at Quneitra border post, and IDF threatened to respond.Israeli defense officials deny threat of attack.
By Barak Ravid 
June 08, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “Haaretz” – UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said at a closed emergency session of the UN Security Council on Friday night that Israel threatened to attack President Bashar Assad’s troops near the border with Syria, during clashes Thursday between rebels and the Assad regime. 
During the meeting with 15 members of the Security Council in New York, Ladsous said that the Israel Defence Forces and Syrian military were on the verge of the most direct military clash between the neighboring countries on the Golan Heights front in the past 40 years.
Blogger Nabil Abi Saab published a UN document on his blog UN Report, which contains most of what Ladsous said at the New York meeting. The document, titled “Note on developments in UNDOF,” said that after the rebels’ conquest of Quneitra, the Syrian military put five tanks and five armored personnel carriers in the demilitarized buffer zone in the Golan.
This extraordinary Syrian step jolted the IDF troops in the area, and even reached the office of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. “The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) informed the UNDOF Force Commander that should the movement of SAAF tanks continue, the IDF would take action,” the document states. “Subsequently, the UNDOF Force Commander conveyed the message to the Senior Syrian Arab Delegate (SSAD), UNDOF’s main interlocutor on the Bravo side.”
The Syrian response was quick to arrive, according to the document. “The SSAD informed the UNDOF Force Commander that the presence of the tanks was solely for the purpose of fighting the armed members of the opposition and asked that the IDF not take action.” 
Israel defense officials said on Saturday that Israel did pass warnings to Syria through UNDOF, but that these were only about violations of the May 1974 disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria, and did not contain the threat of attack. 
Ladsous told the UNSC meet that, at the time of the meeting, the Syrians had four tanks and three armed personnel carriers in the demilitarized zone, a breach of the May 1974 disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria. He added that Israel informed the UNDOF commander that it had given medical treatment to 16 armed Syrian opposition members, all of whom were returned to the Syrian side of the border after treatment. 
Worries over the aftermath of Austria’s withdrawal of its some 300 troops from the 1-000 strong UNDOF force were also discussed at Friday’s UNSC session 
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, president of the Security Council this month, told reporters after the session that the council is examining the possibility of changing the force’s mandate, in a way that would strengthen its abilities to function under the current regional climate.
Grant stated that on the 26 of June, a vote will take place on extending the forces’ presence by six months. Before the referendum, UNDOF will present the Security Council with various possibilities for reworking the peacekeeping force’s mandate.
The British Ambassador also stated that in the meantime, the Security Council has approached the Austrian government with a request to put off recalling the Austrian troops for as long as possible, in order to provide more time for an alternative solution to be found. Grant pointed out that UNDOF also approached India and the Philippines with requests to send additional troops to complement the forces those nations have already provided. A similar request was made to Fiji, which too provides a small contingent of soldiers to UNDOF.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, amid the escalated fighting in Syria and the questionm marks over the UN’s peacekeeping force at the Israel-Syria border. The conversation took place shortly after Putin offered to beef up the United Nations’ presence along the border. The offer was declined by the United Nations.
The Kremlin spokesman who announced that the conversation took place said Netanyahu and Putin discussed the situation in Syria, but did not provide further details as to the content of their conversation.
© Haaretz Daily Newspaper Ltd. All Rights Reserved

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US Zionist Lobby Reels From Resistance al-Qusayr Victory

By Franklin Lamb 
June 07, 2013 “Information Clearing House – Beirut – Although al-Qusayr may not be the decisive battle for Syria, it is irrefutably an important turning point in the crisis which has given the regime much sought military momentum. Plenty of adjectives and some clichés are being bandied about from Washington to Beirut to describe the al-Qusayr battle results and significance. Among them are game-changer, mother of all battles, a new regime approach to fighting, altered balance of power, critical turning point in the civil war, and so on.
It does appear that the victory of the Syrian government forces at al-Qusayr, is a strategic achievement, if also a humanitarian disaster for the civilian population still waiting for the ICRC and SARCS, (Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society) emergency help. Al Qusayr is located in Homs province, an area central to the success of the Syrian government’s military strategy. It is situated along the southern route from Damascus to the coast, at a juncture where regime forces have struggled to maintain control. Rebel control of al-Qusayr had disrupted the regime’s supply lines from Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley and it was open for the cross-border movement of Gulf and Libyan arms to rebels.
Government control of al-Qusayr re-establishes the regime’s line of communication from Damascus to the coast while cutting off access to cross-border weapons supplies to the rebels from Lebanon and provides a ground base for the Assad government to now move to retake control of the north and east of Syria. This cross-roads city just 6 miles from the Lebanese border has many strategic ramifications. ranging from breaking the oppositions 18 month control of much of Homs province, facilitating government forces momentum generally across Syria, to psychological– by raising the morale of exhausted Syrian forces, while energizing the Assad government and its allies to finish the conflict and focus on long promised reforms and try to heal Syria from the past nearly 27 months of hell for its people.
Perhaps less appreciated here in Beirut are al-Qusayr’s effects on the Zionist occupiers of Palestine and their currently traumatized US lobby.
Conversations and emails with former colleagues at the Democratic National Committee, on which this observer served as National Committeeman, elected from Oregon, during the Carter administration, as well as with Congressional insiders, a picture of nearly debilitating angst is sketched among those who are committed, above all else, to propping up the faltering apartheid state in the face of truly historic changes in this region that have only just begun to re-shape the region.
The reactions from various elements of the pro-Israel lobby range from the Arabphobic Daniel Pipes’ in denial fantasy essay in the Washington Times this week, entitled “Happy Israel” to Netanyahu’s increased threats issued from Tel Aviv about what Israel might do if his three UN cartoon presented “ red lines” are breached, to layering more pressure on the White House via Israel’s agents in Congress who are demanding that Obama act immediately to undo “the major damage done at Qusayr”.
Several aspects of “the Qusayr rules and results” are being discussed at the HQ of the racist anti-Defamation League (ADL) which has summoned an emergency gathering of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, to craft a solution to the problem.
The tentative and remarkable agenda reportedly includes for discussion and action the following:
The twin defeats at al-Qusayr and at Burgas, Bulgaria. The latter should not be underestimated, according to one AIPAC activist who works on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, given that it substantially knocks out the props from the lobby’s project to get the European Union to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization thus interfering with Islamist party’s fundraising. The lobby is reacting angrily to Austria’s Chancellor Werner Fayman and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger’s statement about that country’s decision to withdraw its 380 peacekeeping troops, more than one-third of the 1000 United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, (UNDOF) contingent, from the Golan Heights.
The lobby is claiming that Austrian move constituents an existential threat to Israel because it opens the Quneitra crossing, the door to the Golan, for the Syrian civil war to spill over the border into Israel. At the same time it is being argued that al Qusayr lifts pressure off Hezbollah, Iran, Syria as well as the Palestinian resistance and gain all more fighters who sense victory for the current regime and major gains for all in the political dynamics of the region.
The Israel embassy in Washington has chimed in with a statement that the Austrian withdrawal threatened the role of the UN Security Council in any future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, while at the same time encouraging Hezbollah to move into the Golan.
Israel stalwart, Eric Cantor (R-Va) told a ‘brown bag’ lunch gathering in the House Rayburn Building cafeteria late this week that the “fall of al Qusayr, will facilitate the Assad regimes advance on areas north of Homs province and will likely return to Damascus control important rebel-held areas in the north and the east. Cantor claims that the Assad regime victory effectively cuts off an important supply route to the rebels who will leave the armed opposition even more weakened and scattered. Israel is demanding an immediate US supported counter-offensive consistent with the demands made by US Senators John McClain and Lindsay Graham. The apartheid state also is demanding that the White House scrap Geneva II, claiming that Assad is now too strong for the US/Israel to benefit from such a dialogue. “If the international community is serious about seeking to enforce a negotiated settlement, they will have first to do something to decisively change the balance of power on the ground ahead of any serious negotiations”, he added.
When asked about giving US aid to Lebanon, Cantor reportedly sneered, as he expressed his shock that Hezbollah had so many troops and would be very difficult for Israel, without US boots on the ground to defeat, he reportedly replied, “Forget about Lebanon, it never was a real country anyway, just call the whole place over there Hezbollah and let’s send in the marines to finish the job.”
One congressional staffer who attended the meeting winced at the thought of US marines again being sent to Lebanon given their previous experience there nearly 30 years ago.
The Lobby is also concerned about the fact that the Arab League and the Gulf countries might be softening in their ardor to confront Syria and Hezbollah, who they view as now being in this crisis as full partners. A media source at the Saudi Embassy in Washington has complained that the six member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has spent more than a billion dollars on the opposition and have, to date, little to show for their “investment.” Nor does Israel have much to show to date for its deepening role in the crisis given that its air strikes are widely viewed in Washington and internationally as being counterproductive and helping to unite Muslims and Arabs in the face of their common global enemy.
The ADL reportedly wants the White House to act fast “to do something” in light of a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released on 5/5/13, the day of the Syrian government’s victory at al Qusayr, showing that only 15% of Americans polled advocated taking military action, and only 11% supported providing the rebels with arms. A quarter of respondents – 24% — favored taking no action, similar to the White House current position. Abe Foxman, ADL’s President for Life, and inveterate anti-Semite tracker, myopically sees antisemitism, and surely not Israel’s decades of crimes against humanity as the cause for other “anti-Semitic” polls released this week that included the recent one commissioned by the BBC. That poll confirmed that Israel is not only ranked second from the bottom of 197 countries, including as a danger to world peace, and just about the world’s most negatively viewed country, but its support globally continues to evaporate. Views of Israel in Canada and in Australia remain very negative with 57 and 69 per cent of their citizens holding unfavorable views. In the EU countries surveyed, views of Israeli influence are all strongly negative with the UK topping the list with 72 per cent of the population viewing Israel negatively.
As Ali Abunimah noted this week, “ The persistent association of Israel with the world’s most negatively viewed countries will come as a disappointment to Israeli government and other hasbara officials who have invested millions of dollars in recent years to greenwash and pinkwash Israel as an enlightened, democratic and technological “Western” country.
With the 6/5/13 National Lebanese Resistance victory at al-Qusayr, coming as it does 97 years to the month after the Triple Entente’s (UK, France & Russia) May 1916 secret Asia Minor Agreement, generally known as Sykes-Picot , the scheme to control the Middle East following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, has furthered crumbled.
Its ‘Rosemary’s baby’ progeny, the colonialist Zionist occupation of Palestine, is condemned increasingly by history to an identical fate.
According to a growing number of US and European officials and Middle East analysts, as well as ever more public opinion polls, it is solely a matter of time until, like al-Qusayr, Palestine is returned to her rightful inhabitants.
Franklin Lamb is doing research in Syria and Lebanon and is reachable c/o fplamb@gmail.com
This article was originally published at Counterpunch -

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Syria’s Fake Sectarian War

By Shamus Cooke 
June 07, 2013 “Information Clearing House – The fate of Syria and the broader Middle East balances on a razor’s edge. The western media is giving dire warnings of an impending sectarian war between Sunni and Shia Muslims, a war that could drown the Middle East in a flood of blood.
Such a war would be completely artificial, and is being manufactured for geo-political reasons. When the most influential Sunni figures in Saudi Arabia and Qatar — both U.S. allies — recently called for Jihad against the Syrian government and Hezbollah, their obvious intentions were to boost the foreign policy of Saudi Arabia and its closest ally, the United States, by destroying Iran’s key ally in the region.Will Sunni Muslims in Syria — who are the majority — suddenly begin attacking their Shia countrymen and the Syrian government? Unlikely. A compilation of data from humanitarian workers in and around Syria compiled by NATO suggests that:
“…70 percent of Syrians support the Assad regime. Another 20 percent were deemed neutral and the remaining 10 percent expressed support for the rebels.”
The pro-Assad 70 percent is mostly Sunni. This data flies in the face of the constant barrage of western media distortion about what’s happening in Syria. Previous polling compiled last year by Qatar had similar results, and was likewise ignored by the western media.
The above article quoted a source familiar with the data:
“The Sunnis have no love for Assad, but the great majority of the community is withdrawing from the revolt… what is left is the foreign fighters who are sponsored by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. They are seen by the Sunnis as far worse than Assad.”
Syrian Sunnis are likely disgusted by the behavior of the foreign extremists, which include a laundry list of war crimes, ethnic cleansing, as well as the terrorist bombing of a Sunni Mosque that killed the top Sunni Cleric in Syria — along with 41 worshipers and 84 others injured. The Sunni Cleric was killed because he was pro-Assad.
The recent calls for Jihad by the Saudi and Qatari Sunni leaders are likely in response to the Syrian government scoring major victories against the rebels. The rebels are now badly losing the war, in large part because they’ve completely lost their base of community support.
There are other key rebel supporters now taking urgent action to bolster the flagging rebel war effort. The leader of al-Qaeda, for example, made a recent plea for Sunnis to support the rebels against the Syrian government, while U.S. politician John McCain journeyed into Syria to meet with rebels — later identified as terrorists — to further commit the U.S. to the rebel side.
Meanwhile, The New York Times confirmed that the CIA had increased its already-massive arms trafficking program into Syria, while the European union agreed to drop the Syrian arms embargo, so that even more arms could be funneled to the rebels.
And to top it off, France now says it has proof that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against the rebels — a UN representative has suggested that just the opposite is the case — while the rebels are desperately trying to incite war between Syria and Israel by attacking the Syrian government on the border of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Also relevant is that the pro-Jihad religious leaders of Qatar and Saudi Arabia are taking a giant gamble in their recent anti-Hezbollah proclamations, and risk triggering political instability in their own already-shaky regimes, which are hugely dependent on the religious leaders for support.
Hezbollah is still revered throughout the Muslim world for its military defeat of Israel in 2006; and most Muslims will likely be uninterested in waging Jihad in Muslim majority Syria. Also, attacking the Syrian government and Hezbollah would mean allying with Israel and the United States, not an ideal situation for most jihadists.
It’s very possible that the Syrian tinderbox could drag the surrounding Middle Eastern countries into a massive regional war, with Russia and the United States easily within the gravitational pull.
The Syrian conflict could end very quickly if President Obama rejected U.S. support for the rebels and demanded his U.S. allies in the region do the same. Obama should acknowledge the situation in Syria as it exists, and respect the wishes of the Syrian people, who do not want their country destroyed.
Instead, the U.S. is considering arming the rebels even more.
U.S. Senator John McCain revealed the unofficial U.S. government policy for Syria when he said that he would tolerate an extremist takeover of Syria if it weakened Iran.
At this point an extremist takeover of Syria will cost tens of thousands of more lives, millions more refugees, while exploding the region into a multi-country orgy of violence.
The media will blame such genocide on Islamic sectarian violence, and ignore the obvious political motives.
Hopefully, the social movement in Turkey will force the Turkish government out of the western-controlled anti-Syrian alliance, while empowering other Middle Eastern countries to do the same.
Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org) He can be reached at shamuscooke@gmail.com
Sources

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Syria: UN Report Reveals Opposition Crimes as Imperialist Powers Push For Intervention

By Johannes Stern
June 06, 2013 “Information Clearing House – A United Nations (UN) report presented yesterday by the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria (ICIS) in Geneva sheds light on the increasing brutality of the Syrian war and its potential to trigger a major international crisis.
The contents of the report are a devastating indictment of the imperialist powers in the United States and Europe and their regional allies, who have fueled a sectarian-based civil war in Syria for more than two years to topple the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
According to the report, 6.8 million people are “trapped in conflict-affected and opposition-held areas.” The number of internally-displaced Syrians is now 4.35 million, and 1.6 million Syrians have been forced to flee the country. On May 15, the UN estimated that 80,000 people had died in the war.
“Syria is in free fall,” Paulo Pinheiro, the chairman of a commission of inquiry investigating the hostilities in Syria, said at the news in Geneva. He added, “Crimes that shock the conscience have become a daily reality. Humanity has been the casualty of this war.”
The report points to the international dimension of the conflict, stating that “the current political impasse and military escalation are the by-product of the regional and international stand-off between the Government’s backers and its opponents, translating into arms consignments and political backing to both sides by their respective allies.”
The report refers to the “European Union’s decision to allow a ban on weapon deliveries to the Syrian opposition to lapse on June 1, and Russia’s announced shipment of S-300 missile batteries to the Government.” It also points to the increasingly sectarian nature of the conflict and warns that it “even became more complex as violence spilled over into neighboring countries, threatening regional peace and stability.”
Recently, the report says, “Hezbollah fighters are openly supporting the Syrian military during operations” near the key strategic town of al-Qusayr along the Lebanese border “while members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command have done the same around Yarmouk camp in Damascus.”
Describing “new levels of cruelty and brutality” the report admits that the opposition in Syria is dominated by violent Islamist elements responsible for horrific crimes against the Syrian population.
“The on-going violence has accelerated radicalisation among Anti-Government fighters, allowing radical groups, in particular Jabhat al-Nusra, to become more influential.” The report identifies Al Nusra as the opposition’s military backbone against Assad, indicating that it received increasing “external support… in terms of recruits and equipment” with “foreign fighters with jihadist inclinations, often arriving from neighboring countries.”
While the report claims that the opposition’s crimes did not “reach the intensity and scale” of those committed by the Assad regime, the facts it reports suggest otherwise. The report depicts the rebels as ruling the areas it controls through murder and despotic terror.
“Anti-Government armed groups have committed war crimes, including murder, sentencing and execution without due process, torture, hostage-taking and pillage. They continue to endanger the civilian population by positioning military objectives in civilian areas,” the report explains. It describes how “civilians and hors de combat [i.e., disarmed] Government soldiers – were sentenced and executed without due process” in the governorates of Aleppo, Damascus, Dara’a, Idlib, Dayr Al-Zawr and Al-Raqqah.
The report refers to some of the numerous massacres and executions committed by the rebels, documented in graphic videos posted on YouTube. In Dayr Al-Zawr, an infamous leader of Jabhat Al-Nusra, Qassoura Al-Jazrawi, executed at least eleven men “who were kneeling in front of him, hands tied and blindfolded.” In another incident, “video footage emerged showing a child participating in the beheading of two kidnapped men.” The report estimates that “following investigation, it is believed that the video is authentic.”
While the reported crimes are only a small portion of the atrocities committed by the Syrian opposition, they explode the lies that the United States and the European powers are fighting for democratic government in Syria. In fact, the imperialist powers are backing oppressive Islamist forces to overthrow Assad and install a pro-Western regime in Syria.
However, during the past weeks, the Syrian government—increasingly supported by the Lebanese Hezbollah militia—has been beating back the rebels on the ground.
On Tuesday the Saudi-owned, pro-opposition news channel Al-Arabiya admitted that “Syrian troops advanced toward the center of the strategic town of Qusayr near the border with Lebanon and chased rebels from another key district on the edge of Damascus.” A government official in Homs province said that the Syrian army is “approaching victory” in Qusayr. Last week, Assad declared in aninterview that that “the balance of power [in Syria] is now with the Syrian army.”
As the Western-backed rebels—lacking any significant support amongst the Syrian population—face a crushing defeat, the imperialist powers are seizing upon the UN report to argue for military intervention, based on lies and unsubstantiated claims about weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Ten years after bogus claims about WMD were used as a pretext for the criminal US war in Iraq, similar “big lie” techniques are being mobilized to threaten war with Syria.
The report claims that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that chemical agents have been used as weapons.” However it adds that “the precise agents, delivery systems or perpetrators could not be identified.” At the news conference in Geneva, the ICIS demanded of the Syrian government that the UN investigation commission be “granted full access to Syria” to test samples taken directly from the victims and the sites of alleged attacks.
The report’s assessment clearly contradicts earlier statements by a well-informed member of the ICIS. Last month Carla del Pontestated that Sarin gas used in Syria was fired by the opposition, not the Assad regime.
After the UN report was presented in Geneva, the imperialist powers immediately intensified their propaganda, with France—the former colonial power of Syria and Lebanon—leading the campaign. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius claimed that tests carried out on samples in Paris showed that “there is no doubt that it’s the regime and its accomplices” who were responsible, he told France 2 TV.
Fabius said that the test results had been handed over to the UN and “all options are on the table.” That “means either we decide not to react or we decide to react including by armed actions targeting the place where the gas is stored.”
Washington is joining its French ally. Asked about Fabius’ statements, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she is familiar with the reports, adding that the US is “seeking more information.” For “the time being, I would refer you all to the French government,” she said.
White House press secretary Jay Carney stressed the need “to establish a body of information that can be presented and reviewed, and upon which policy decisions can be made.”
He added, “I can assure you that we are working very diligently as an administration with our allies and the Syrian opposition on this matter.”
Last summer US President Barack Obama declared the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government would cross a “red line” and provoke a US attack.
Copyright © 1998-2013 World Socialist Web Site

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NATO Data: Assad Winning the War for Syrians’ Hearts and Minds

Special to World Tribune 
June 04, 2013 “Information Clearing House – LONDON — After two years of civil war, support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad was said to have sharply increased.
NATO has been studying data that told of a sharp rise in support for Assad. The data, compiled by Western-sponsored activists and organizations, showed that a majority of Syrians were alarmed by the Al Qaida takeover of the Sunni revolt and preferred to return to Assad, Middle East Newsline reported.
“The people are sick of the war and hate the jihadists more than Assad,” a Western source familiar with the data said. “Assad is winning the war mostly because the people are cooperating with him against the rebels.”
The data, relayed to NATO over the last month, asserted that 70 percent of Syrians support the Assad regime. Another 20 percent were deemed neutral and the remaining 10 percent expressed support for the rebels.
The sources said no formal polling was taken in Syria, racked by two years of civil war in which 90,000 people were reported killed. They saidthe data came from a range of activists and independent organizations that were working in Syria, particularly in relief efforts.
The data was relayed to NATO as the Western alliance has been divided over whether to intervene in Syria. Britain and France were said to have been preparing to send weapons to the rebels while the United States was focusing on protecting Syria’s southern neighbor Jordan.
A report to NATO said Syrians have undergone a change of heart over the last six months. The change was seen most in the majority Sunni community, which was long thought to have supported the revolt.
“The Sunnis have no love for Assad, but the great majority of the community is withdrawing from the revolt,” the source said. “What is left is the foreign fighters who are sponsored by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. They are seen by the Sunnis as far worse than Assad.”
This article was originally published at World Tribune -

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John McCain and the Desperate Flailing of Syrian Oppositionists’ External Supporters

By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett
June 03, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – Much was made last week about the infiltration of Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) into Syria for a brief photo op with various anti-Assad “rebels”—who, it turns out, have allegedly been involved in kidnapping Lebanese Shi’a pilgrims. (Senator McCain claims that none of the individuals with whom he was photographed identified themselves by names of those accused of kidnapping Shi’a pilgrims; his spokesman says it would be “regrettable” if the Senator had been photographed with people accused of committing such acts.) Speaking at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, another GOP Senator, Rand Paul of Kentucky, noted acidly, “They say there are some pro-Western people and we’re going to vet them. Well, apparently we’ve got a senator over there who got his picture taken with some kidnappers, so I don’t know how good a job we’re going to do vetting those who are going to get the arms.” 
In a blog post provocatively titled “Did John McCain Provide Material Support for Syrian Terrorists?”, see here, the Cato Institute’s Doug Bandow wrote that a recent Supreme Court ruling (Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, issued in 2010) “upheld the [U.S.] government’s broad reading” of the statute that criminalizes “material support” for terrorism. In this reading, “coordinated political advocacy”—that is, advocacy coordinated with groups engaged designated by Washington as terrorist organizations—counts as material support. Those engaged in such “coordinated political advocacy” can be federally prosecuted; if convicted, they might go to jail for ten years. 
In his post, Doug points to a number of cases where U.S. government’s expansive definition of material support for terrorism—now largely ratified by the Supreme Court—has produced disturbing legal outcomes. He argues that “lawmakers who approved the law should be subject to the same legal risks. Consider Sen. John McCain, who has been campaigning for war in Syria, just as he previously promoted war most everywhere else around the globe.” 
After examining press reports on Sen. McCain’s trip to Syria—and on the activities of some of the rebels McCain met there—Doug concludes that Sen. McCain “would seem to have provided ‘material support’ to terrorists.” After all,
“Having his photo taken with Islamic extremists could reasonably be interpreted as an endorsement, which, based on past cases, could be seen as providing ‘material support’ for terrorism. Presumably that isn’t what Sen. McCain intended. But the law’s application is not based on intent. 
To be fair to the rest of us, the Justice Department should investigate…[A]s much as I oppose vague and ambiguous criminal enactments by the federal government, I would enjoy seeing Senator McCain in the dock, It would be cosmic justice for his support of the catastrophic invasion in Iraq and endless occupation of Afghanistan.” 
After his drive-by photo op in “liberated” Syria, Sen. McCain apparently traveled to Yemen. We were struck by the Yemen Post’s report on his visit, see here; we also append the story below: 
“According to several Yemeni-based local newspapers, US Senator John McCain, who briefly visited Yemen earlier this week to offer his support to the coalition government and discuss political and security developments is rumored to have directly urged President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi to facilitate the transfer of Jihadists to Syria. 
As the Free Syrian Army is struggling to secure its advances against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose lists of supporters while thin remains mighty in military might, Washington and its allies in the region are said to be looking at ways to swell the ranks of the opposition by allowing foreign fighters to enroll against Assad regime. 
In a move which analysts have already qualified as dangerous given the repercussions a similar policy led to in the 1980s, when Jihadists where send to fight off Russian troops in Afghanistan, security experts are worry al-Qaeda will use this opportunity to increase its recruitment pool while offering precious ground experience to its militants, which experience would be use later on against Yemen central government. 
A source told several newspapers, ‘Senator McCain’s visit was to drum up support for Jihadist groups fighting Bashar al-Assad regime.’
While the government has so far refused to comment on the issues, quite understandably since its military is still locked in an on-going military struggle against Islamic operatives in its southern provinces, all the while preparing for the return of some Gitmo terror prisoners. Yemeni officials would have a difficult time reconciling the idea of Jihad in one place while fighting off the same rhetoric in its own backyard.” 
If true, the Yemen Post report could be construed as another piece of evidence against the apparently terrorist-supporting Sen. McCain. For, according to this story, McCain lobbied the Yemeni government to send more jihadi fighters to Syria, in order to swell the ranks of groups engaged in terrorist activity—representatives of which the Arizona senator had met with immediately before traveling to Yemen. 
What all of this suggests is the mounting desperation that advocates of using Syrian oppositionists—whether Syrian or not—to overthrow the Assad government must now be feeling. Their project has failed. But, rather than accept this failure, many, like Sen. McCain, want the United States to double down on their unsuccessful pseudo-strategy—to provide still more support the opposition forces, and even to become directly involved militarily (through no-fly zones, etc.).
Fifty-two years ago, the United States foolishly tried to overthrow Fidel Castro’s government by invading Cuba with a force of anti-Castro rebels. When that force, unsurprisingly, got into trouble almost immediately upon landing in Cuba, there were those who wanted President John F. Kennedy to order U.S. air support for the rebels. While Kennedy made a huge blunder by proceeding with the invasion in the first place, he was at sufficiently astute at least not to compound his mistake by taking the United States into an overt, aggressive war against Cuba (certainly a covert campaign of aggression was already underway). 
Similarly, President Obama has made egregious blunders in his policy toward Syria since March 2011. Let’s hope he doesn’t compound them by listening to John McCain and others desperate to hold on to delusions of American empire in the Middle East. 
Flynt Leverett served as a Middle East expert on George W. Bush’s National Security Council staff until the Iraq War and worked previously at the State Department and at the Central Intelligence Agency. Hillary Mann Leverett was the NSC expert on Iran and – from 2001 to 2003 – was one of only a few U.S. diplomats authorized to negotiate with the Iranians over Afghanistan, al-Qaeda and Iraq. They are authors of the new book, Going to Tehran. Direct link: http://goingtotehran.com

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Syrian opposition fighters arrested with chemical weapons

By Bill Van Auken 
1 June 2013
In a series of raids in the capital of Istanbul and in the southern provinces of Mersin, Adana and Hatay near the Syrian border, Turkish police rounded up 12 members of Syria’s Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Nusra Front along with chemical weapons materials.
The Turkish media initially reported that police recovered four and a half pounds of sarin, the deadly never gas which had earlier been linked to chemical weapons attacks inside Syria.
While widely reported in the Turkish press, the arrests Wednesday have been virtually blacked out by the corporate media in the US. Newspapers like the New York Times, which have openly promoted a US intervention in Syria, citing alleged chemical weapons use by the regime of Bashar al-Assad as a pretext, have posted not a word about the raids in Turkey.
The daily newspaper Zaman reported that “the al-Nusra members had been planning a bomb attack for Thursday in [the Turkish city of] Adana but that the attack was averted when the police caught the suspects. Along with the sarin gas, the police seized a number of handguns, grenades, bullets and documents during their search.”
The city of Adana, approximately 60 miles from the Syrian border, has a sizable Alawite Arab population that is sympathetic to the Syrian government and hostile to the Sunni Islamist forces that have waged the US-backed war for regime change on the ground in Syria.
The Al Nusra Front, which has formally declared its allegiance to Al Qaeda, was declared a foreign terrorist organization by the US State Department last December. The United Nations Security Council added the group to the body’s Al Qaeda sanctions blacklist Friday.
The Syrian government had requested that the group be subjected to sanctions as a terrorist organization last month, but the action was initially blocked by Britain and France. Finally, an agreement was reached to declare Al Nusra an alias for Al Qaeda in Iraq.
The Al Nusra Front has been universally acknowledged as the most effective fighting force of the so-called rebels seeking the Assad government’s overthrow. Both Britain and France recently succeeded in overturning a European Union ban on arms exports to Syria, clearing the way for them to ship weapons to the “rebels.”
None of the arrested suspects have been identified. Turkish media reported that five of them were released late Thursday, and seven are still being held for questioning. The government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which has provided extensive material support for the Syrian opposition, has given no public explanation of the police actions.
Adana provincial governor Huseyin Avni Cos denied on Thursday that sarin had been recovered in the raids but did allow that unknown chemicals had been found and were being analyzed.
The arrests come little more than two weeks after twin terrorist car bombings claimed the lives of 52 people in the Turkish city of Reyhanli in southern Hatay province near the border with Syria. The Erdogan government seized upon the incident to blame the Syrian government and call for international intervention to topple Assad. It simultaneously imposed an unprecedented gag order on the Turkish press to prevent reporting on the extensive evidence that the attacks were the work of Syrian opposition groups, which use Reyhanli as a supply base and who have free movement across the Turkish-Syrian border.
Subsequently, authorities arrested an army private on charges of “crimes against the state” for allegedly leaking top secret cables that indicated the government’s prior knowledge that the bombings were being planned by the Al Qaeda-linked forces in Syria. RedHack, the Turkish hacker group which made the cables public last week, denied that it had any contact with the arrested private, who was identified as Utku Kali.
The Adana daily Taraf reported Thursday that police are mounting road blocks and conducting searches in the area for a vehicle loaded with explosives that is believed to have been sent to the area by the US-backed anti-Assad forces.
The discovery of sarin or some other lethal chemical weapons materials in the hands of Al Nusra Front operatives in Turkey prompted calls by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for an immediate investigation. He condemned the continuing failure to send a United Nations inspection team to Syria to investigate a chemical weapons incident last March outside of the city of Aleppo.
“We are highly disappointed that because of the political games, the UN Secretariat failed to respond to that request swiftly,” Lavrov told reporters.
These “political games” refer to demands by Washington and its allies that any UN team be given carte blanche to inspect any and all Syrian facilities and interrogate anyone it chooses, along the lines of the inspection regime created in Iraq in the run-up to the US invasion of 2003.
The Assad government has charged that the March attack, which killed 26 people, 16 of them government soldiers, was carried out by the Western-backed forces.
The Obama administration has repeatedly declared the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government to be a “red line” or “game changer” that would trigger unspecified US intervention. At the same time, Washington and its European NATO allies have turned a blind eye to evidence of chemical weapons use by the Islamist militias.
There have been repeated claims by the Syrian opposition groups, as well as by the British and French governments, of chemical weapons use by the regime. Last month, however, Carla del Ponte, a leading member of the UN commission of inquiry on Syria, stated that the bulk of the evidence indicated chemical weapons use by the rebels.
The latest development in Turkey suggests that the Western-backed Islamist militias were preparing to launch another chemical weapons attack, apparently against a Turkish civilian population, with the aim of producing mass casualties that would be blamed on the Syrian regime and create the conditions for a US-led intervention.
The silence of the US media on the incident only demonstrates that it is prepared to play the same role that it did in Iraq, working to sell a war based upon lies to the American public. The experience of the past decade of unending war, however, has made this task more difficult.
A Gallup poll released on Friday found that more than two out of three Americans (68 percent) oppose any US military intervention in Syria if “diplomatic efforts fail to end the civil war in Syria.”

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Imperialist powers threaten to escalate intervention as Assad beats back opposition

By Johannes Stern 
30 May 2013
The Syrian war is developing into a major international crisis, as Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime beats back the Western-backed Islamist opposition and plans for so-called “peace talks” brokered by Russia and the imperialist powers break down.
Yesterday on Al-Manar TV, which is affiliated to the Lebanese Shia militia Hezbollah, Assad announced that “the Syrian army has scored major victories against armed rebels on the ground, and the balance of power is now with the Syrian army.”
In recent weeks, the Syrian army supported by Hezbollah has launched an offensive to recapture the key strategic town of Qusayr, close to the Lebanese border, and driven back the rebels in other parts of the country.
Assad said there is “a world war being waged against Syria and the policy of [anti-Israeli] resistance … [but] we are very confident of victory.” He threatened “to retaliate for any Israeli aggression next time,” and suggested the possibility of renewed fighting in the Golan Heights, the border region between Syria and Israel occupied by Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967.
Assad warned that there is “is clear popular pressure to open the Golan front to resistance,” and that the Syrian government had received “many Arab delegations wanting to know how young people might be enrolled to come and fight Israel.”
Israel already targeted Syria with three air strikes over the last month—allegedly destroying Iranian missiles destined for Hezbollah that is backing Assad—and threatened more strikes against Syria if Russia deploys a S-300 air defence system to the country.
Asked about Russian weapons deliveries to Damascus, Assad answered that “Russia is committed with Syria in implementing these contracts. What we agreed upon with Russia will be implemented, and part of it has been implemented over the recent period, and we are continuing to implement it.”
There is much speculation in the Western media and amongst security officials over whether the delivery of the first shipment of S-300 air defence missiles has already had taken place.
On Tuesday, Russian Deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov had announced at a press conference in Moscow that Russia would go ahead with the delivery of the S-300 system to Syria, after the decision by the European powers to lift the arms embargo against Syria on Monday. The decision allows each European country to directly arm opposition forces.
The British Guardian quoted a high-ranking Israeli official: “There’s big confusion here – some people say the missiles are already there [in Syria], others are expected them to arrive at any moment. We are trying to find out exactly what the situation is but currently we just don’t know.” However, the official added, “this move will certainly change the whole dynamic [of Israeli involvement in the Syrian conflict]. This is mostly as a result of the EU’s reckless decision to lift the arms embargo.”
Major General Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser, added that strikes against the S-300 system threaten not only an Israeli war with Syria, but also with Russia: “If we do something soon after the transfer, we might have business not only with Syria but with the Russians. This is a real hot potato.”
Recently, Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon had warned that if the shipments “do arrive in Syria, God forbid, we’ll know what to do.”
As the Syrian “rebels” lose ground, US-imperialism is reiterating its threats to install a “no-fly-zone” in Syria and increase its military support. At a press briefing on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney welcomed “the EU action” to lift the arms embargo against Syria, stressing that “the possibility of a no-fly-zone remains on the table.”
Amid this escalating crisis, plans for talks on Geneva over Syria have collapsed. The Western-backed opposition announced that it would not participate in the Geneva conference—a joint US-Russian initiative for talks between the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad and the opposition, scheduled for mid-June.
“The National Coalition will not take part in any international conference or any such efforts so long as the militias of Iran and Hezbollah continue their invasion of Syria,” the head of the opposition umbrella Syrian National Coalition (SNC), George Sabra, declared Thursday in Istanbul.
Pointing to the military advances by the Syrian army against the “rebels,” Sabra added that “in light of this savagery, any talk of an international conference or a political solution in Syria is just meaningless chatter.”
Assad, for his part, agreed “in principle” to participate in the so-called “Geneva peace conference”
“The only condition is that anything to be implemented will be submitted to Syrian public opinion and a Syrian referendum,” he added.
Defying calls by the imperialist powers and the Western-backed opposition to step down he vowed to stay in power until the next presidential elections in 2014 and announced that he “will not hesitate to stand again” if “there is any need” for his candidacy.
Facing a military defeat in Qusayr and without any significant support amongst the Syrian population, the “rebels” are issuing desperate appeals to their imperialist backers to escalate their intervention.
In a statement on Wednesday the SNC called on the EU to “solidify” its words by action and supply the Free Syrian Army (FSA) with “specialized weaponry to repel fierce attacks” by the regime forces.
The leader of the FSA, former Syrian general and defector, Salem Idris, made an appeal to the imperialist powers to intervene. On the BBC World Newshour program he declared: “We are dying. Please come and help us.” He warned of a possible “massacre” if the US and its allies did not intervene to assist him.
In reality, opposition forces are responsible for horrific crimes against the entire Syrian people. Earlier this week, UN high commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay stated that accounts gathered by a UN monitoring team “suggest that armed groups have apparently used civilians as human shields and that abductions are increasing.” Other accounts “include allegations that certain opposition groups have forced young women and minor girls to marry combatants” and “reports of anti-government groups committing gruesome crimes such as torture and extrajudicial executions.”

Syria’s Opposition Won’t Attend International Peace Talks

“Rebels” Don’t Want Peace


NBC – Video

The best hope yet for ending Syria’s civil war has suffered a serious setback. The main opposition group said it would not take part in talks in Geneva in the coming weeks. President Assad says he would send negotiators, but he did not talk up the prospects for peace in a TV interview this evening. He says Russia is still supplying him with weapons. ITV’s Bill Neely reports.

Posted May 31, 2013
 

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President Bashar Al-Assad full interview with the Lebanese al-Manar TV

Video and Transcript
May 31, 2013 “Information Clearing House” Israel’s support of the terrorists was for two purposes. The first is to stifle the resistance; the second is to strike the Syrian air defense systems. It is not interested in anything else.
Following is the full text of the interview: May 30,2013
Al-Manar: In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful. Assalamu Alaikum. Bloodshed in Syria continues unabated. This is the only constant over which there is little disagreement between those loyal to the Syrian state and those opposed to it. However, there is no common ground over the other constants and details two years into the current crisis. At the time, a great deal was said about the imminent fall of the regime. Deadlines were set and missed; and all those bets were lost. Today, we are here in the heart of Damascus, enjoying the hospitality of a president who has become a source of consternation to many of his opponents who are still unable to understand the equations that have played havoc with their calculations and prevented his ouster from the Syrian political scene. This unpleasant and unexpected outcome for his opponents upset their schemes and plots because they didn’t take into account one self-evident question: what happens if the regime doesn’t fall? What if President Assad doesn’t leave the Syrian scene? Of course, there are no clear answers; and the result is more destruction, killing and bloodshed. Today there is talk of a critical juncture for Syria. The Syrian Army has moved from defense to attack, achieving one success after another. On a parallel level, stagnant diplomatic waters have been shaken by discussions over a Geneva 2 conference becoming a recurrent theme in the statements of all parties. There are many questions which need answers: political settlement, resorting to the military option to decide the outcome, the Israeli enemy’s direct interference with the course of events in the current crisis, the new equations on the Golan Heights, the relationship with opponents and friends. What is the Syrian leadership’s plan for a way out of a complex and dangerous crisis whose ramifications have started to spill over into neighboring countries? It is our great pleasure tonight to put these questions to H. E. President Bashar al-Assad. Assalamu Alaikum, Mr. President.
President Assad: Assalamu Alaikum. You are most welcome in Damascus.
Al-Manar: Mr. President, we are in the heart of the People’s Palace, two and a half years into the Syrian crisis. At the time, the bet was that the president and his regime would be overthrown within weeks. How have you managed to foil the plots of your opponents and enemies? What is the secret behind this steadfastness?
President Assad: There are a number of factors are involved. One is the Syrian factor, which thwarted their intentions; the other factor is related to those who masterminded these scenarios and ended up defeating themselves because they do not know Syria or understand in detail the situation. They started with the calls of revolution, but a real revolution requires tangible elements; you cannot create a revolution simply by paying money. When this approach failed, they shifted to using sectarian slogans in order to create a division within our society. Even though they were able to infiltrate certain pockets in Syrian society, pockets of ignorance and lack of awareness that exist in any society, they were not able to create this sectarian division. Had they succeeded, Syria would have been divided up from the beginning. They also fell into their own trap by trying to promote the notion that this was a struggle to maintain power rather than a struggle for national sovereignty. No one would fight and martyr themselves in order to secure power for anyone else.
Al-Manar: In the battle for the homeland, it seems that the Syrian leadership, and after two and a half years, is making progress on the battlefield. And here if I might ask you, why have you chosen to move from defense to attack? And don’t you think that you have been late in taking the decision to go on the offensive, and consequently incurred heavy losses, if we take of Al-Qseir as an example.
President Assad: It is not a question of defense or attack. Every battle has its own tactics. From the beginning, we did not deal with each situation from a military perspective alone. We also factored in the social and political aspects as well – many Syrians were misled in the beginning and there were many friendly countries that didn’t understand the domestic dynamics. Your actions will differ according to how much consensus there is over a particular issue. There is no doubt that as events have unfolded Syrians have been able to better understand the situation and what is really at stake. This has helped the Armed Forces to better carry out their duties and achieve results. So, what is happening now is not a shift in tactic from defense to attack, but rather a shift in the balance of power in favor of the Armed Forces.
Al-Manar: How has this balance been tipped, Mr. President? Syria is being criticized for asking for the assistance of foreign fighters, and to be fully candid, it is said that Hezbollah fighters are extending assistance. In a previous interview, you said that there are 23 million Syrians; we do not need help from anyone else. What is Hezbollah doing in Syria?
President Assad: The main reason for tipping the balance is the change in people’s opinion in areas that used to incubate armed groups, not necessarily due to lack of patriotism on their part, but because they were deceived. They were led to believe that there was a revolution against the failings of the state. This has changed; many individuals have left these terrorist groups and have returned to their normal lives. As to what is being said about Hezbollah and the participation of foreign fighters alongside the Syrian Army, this is a hugely important issue and has several factors. Each of these factors should be clearly understood. Hezbollah, the battle at Al-Qseir and the recent Israeli airstrike – these three factors cannot be looked at in isolation of the other, they are all a part of the same issue. Let’s be frank. In recent weeks, and particularly after Mr. Hasan Nasrallah’s speech, Arab and foreign media have said that Hezbollah fighters are fighting in Syria and defending the Syrian state, or to use their words “the regime.” Logically speaking, if Hezbollah or the resistance wanted to defend Syria by sending fighters, how many could they send – a few hundred, a thousand or two? We are talking about a battle in which hundreds of thousands of Syrian troops are involved against tens of thousands of terrorists, if not more because of the constant flow of fighters from neighboring and foreign countries that support those terrorists. So clearly, the number of fighters Hezbollah might contribute in order to defend the Syrian state in its battle, would be a drop in the ocean compared to the number of Syrian soldiers fighting the terrorists. When also taking into account the vast expanse of Syria, these numbers will neither protect a state nor ‘regime.’ This is from one perspective. From another, if they say they are defending the state, why now? Battles started after Ramadan in 2011 and escalated into 2012, the summer of 2012 to be precise. They started the battle to “liberate Damascus” and set a zero hour for the first time, the second time and a third time; the four generals were assassinated, a number of individuals fled Syria, and many people believed that was the time the state would collapse. It didn’t. Nevertheless, during all of these times, Hezbollah never intervened, so why would it intervene now? More importantly, why haven’t we seen Hezbollah fighting in Damascus and Aleppo? The more significant battles are in Damascus and in Aleppo, not in Al-Qseir. Al-Qseir is a small town in Homs, why haven’t we seen Hezbollah in the city of Homs? Clearly, all these assumptions are inaccurate. They say Al-Qseir is a strategic border town, but all the borders are strategic for the terrorists in order to smuggle in their fighters and weapons. So, all these propositions have nothing to do with Hezbollah. If we take into account the moans and groans of the Arab media, the statements made by Arab and foreign officials – even Ban Ki-moon expressed concern over Hezbollah in Al-Qseir – all of this is for the objective of suppressing and stifling the resistance. It has nothing to do with defending the Syrian state. The Syrian army has made significant achievements in Damascus, Aleppo, rural Damascus and many other areas; however, we haven’t heard the same moaning as we have heard in Al-Qseir.
Al-Manar: But, Mr. President, the nature of the battle that you and Hezbollah are waging in Al-Qseir seems, to your critics, to take the shape of a safe corridor connecting the coastal region with Damascus. Consequently, if Syria were to be divided, or if geographical changes were to be enforced, this would pave the way for an Alawite state. So, what is the nature of this battle, and how is it connected with the conflict with Israel.
President Assad: First, the Syrian and Lebanese coastal areas are not connected through Al-Qseir. Geographically this is not possible. Second, nobody would fight a battle in order to move towards separation. If you opt for separation, you move towards that objective without waging battles all over the country in order to be pushed into a particular corner. The nature of the battle does not indicate that we are heading for division, but rather the opposite, we are ensuring we remain a united country. Our forefathers rejected the idea of division when the French proposed this during their occupation of Syria because at the time they were very aware of its consequences. Is it possible or even fathomable that generations later, we their children, are less aware or mindful? Once again, the battle in Al-Qseir and all the bemoaning is related to Israel. The timing of the battle in Al-Qseir was synchronized with the Israeli airstrike. Their objective is to stifle the resistance. This is the same old campaign taking on a different form. Now what’s important is not al-Qseir as a town, but the borders; they want to stifle the resistance from land and from the sea. Here the question begs itself – some have said that the resistance should face the enemy and consequently remain in the south. This was said on May 7, 2008, when some of Israel’s agents in Lebanon tried to tamper with the communications system of the resistance; they claimed that the resistance turned its weapons inwards. They said the same thing about the Syrian Army; that the Syrian Army should fight on the borders with Israel. We have said very clearly that our Army will fight the enemy wherever it is. When the enemy is in the north, we move north; the same applies if the enemy comes from the east or the west. This is also the case for Hezbollah. So the question is why is Hezbollah deployed on the borders inside Lebanon or inside Syria? The answer is that our battle is a battle against the Israeli enemy and its proxies inside Syria or inside Lebanon.
Al-Manar: Mr. President, if I might ask about Israel’s involvement in the Syrian crisis through the recent airstrike against Damascus. Israel immediately attached certain messages to this airstrike by saying it doesn’t want escalation or doesn’t intend to interfere in the Syrian crisis. The question is: what does Israel want and what type of interference?
President Assad: This is exactly my point. Everything that is happening at the moment is aimed, first and foremost, at stifling the resistance. Israel’s support of the terrorists was for two purposes. The first is to stifle the resistance; the second is to strike the Syrian air defense systems. It is not interested in anything else.
Al-Manar: Mr. President, since Israel’s objectives are clear, the Syrian state was criticized for its muted response. Everyone was expecting a Syrian response, and the Syrian government stated that it reserves the right to respond at the appropriate time and place. Why didn’t the response come immediately? And is it enough for a senior source to say that missiles have been directed at the Israeli enemy and that any attack will be retaliated immediately without resorting to Army command?
President Assad: We have informed all the Arab and foreign parties – mostly foreign – that contacted us, that we will respond the next time. Of course, there has been more than one response. There have been several Israeli attempted violations to which there was immediate retaliation. But these short-term responses have no real value; they are only of a political nature. If we want to respond to Israel, the response will be of strategic significance.
Al-Manar: How? By opening the Golan front, for instance?
President Assad: This depends on public opinion, whether there is a consensus in support of the resistance or not. That’s the question. Al-Manar: How is the situation in Syria now?
President Assad: In fact, there is clear popular pressure to open the Golan front to resistance. This enthusiasm is also on the Arab level; we have received many Arab delegations wanting to know how young people might be enrolled to come and fight Israel. Of course, resistance is not easy. It is not merely a question of opening the front geographically. It is a political, ideological, and social issue, with the net result being military action.
Al-Manar: Mr. President, if we take into account the incident on the Golan Heights and Syria’s retaliation on the Israeli military vehicle that crossed the combat line, does this mean that the rules of engagement have changed? And if the rules of the game have changed, what is the new equation, so to speak?
President Assad: Real change in the rules of engagement happens when there is a popular condition pushing for resistance. Any other change is short-term, unless we are heading towards war. Any response of any kind might only appear to be a change to the rules of engagement, but I don’t think it really is. The real change is when the people move towards resistance; this is the really dramatic change.
Al-Manar: Don’t you think that this is a little late? After 40 years of quiet and a state of truce on the Golan Heights, now there is talk of a movement on that front, about new equations and about new rules of the game?
President Assad: They always talk about Syria opening the front or closing the front. A state does not create resistance. Resistance can only be called so, when it is popular and spontaneous, it cannot be created. The state can either support or oppose the resistance, – or create obstacles, as is the case with some Arab countries. I believe that a state that opposes the will of its people for resistance is reckless. The issue is not that Syria has decided, after 40 years, to move in this direction. The public’s state of mind is that our National Army is carrying out its duties to protect and liberate our land. Had there not been an army, as was the situation in Lebanon when the army and the state were divided during the civil war, there would have been resistance a long time ago. Today, in the current circumstances, there are a number of factors pushing in that direction. First, there are repeated Israeli aggressions that constitute a major factor in creating this desire and required incentive. Second, the army’s engagement in battles in more than one place throughout Syria has created a sentiment on the part of many civilians that it is their duty to move in this direction in order to support the Armed Forces on the Golan.
Al-Manar: Mr. President, Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel would not hesitate to attack Syria if it detected that weapons are being conveyed to Hezbollah in Lebanon. If Israel carried out its threats, I want a direct answer from you: what would Syria do?
President Assad: As I have said, we have informed the relevant states that we will respond in kind. Of course, it is difficult to specify the military means that would be used, that is for our military command to decide. We plan for different scenarios, depending on the circumstances and the timing of the strike that would determine which method or weapons.
Al-Manar: Mr. President, after the airstrike that targeted Damascus, there was talk about the S300 missiles and that this missile system will tip the balance. Based on this argument, Netanyahu visited Moscow. My direct question is this: are these missiles on their way to Damascus? Is Syria now in possession of these missiles?
President Assad: It is not our policy to talk publically about military issues in terms of what we possess or what we receive. As far as Russia is concerned, the contracts have nothing to do with the crisis. We have negotiated with them on different kinds of weapons for years, and Russia is committed to honoring these contracts. What I want to say is that neither Netanyahu’s visit nor the crisis and the conditions surrounding it have influenced arms imports. All of our agreements with Russia will be implemented, some have been implemented during the past period and, together with the Russians, we will continue to implement these contracts in the future.
Al-Manar: Mr. President, we have talked about the steadfastness of the Syrian leadership and the Syrian state. We have discussed the progress being achieved on the battlefield, and strengthening the alliance between Syria and the resistance. These are all within the same front. From another perspective, there is diplomatic activity stirring waters that have been stagnant for two and a half years. Before we talk about this and about the Geneva conference and the red lines that Syria has drawn, there was a simple proposition or a simple solution suggested by the former head of the coalition, Muaz al-Khatib. He said that the president, together with 500 other dignitaries would be allowed to leave the country within 20 days, and the crisis would be over. Why don’t you meet this request and put an end to the crisis?
President Assad: I have always talked about the basic principle: that the Syrian people alone have the right to decide whether the president should remain or leave. So, anybody speaking on this subject should state which part of the Syrian people they represent and who granted them the authority to speak on their behalf. As for this initiative, I haven’t actually read it, but I was very happy that they allowed me 20 days and 500 people! I don’t know who proposed the initiative; I don’t care much about names.
Al-Manar: He actually said that you would be given 20 days, 500 people, and no guarantees. You’ll be allowed to leave but with no guarantee whatsoever on whether legal action would be taken against you or not. Mr. President, this brings us to the negotiations, I am referring to Geneva 2. The Syrian government and leadership have announced initial agreement to take part in this conference. If this conference is held, there will be a table with the Syrian flag on one side and the flag of the opposition groups on the other. How can you convince the Syrian people after two and a half years of crisis that you will sit face to face at the same negotiating table with these groups?
President Assad: First of all, regarding the flag, it is meaningless without the people it represents. When we put a flag on a table or anywhere else, we talk about the people represented by that flag. This question can be put to those who raise flags they call Syrian but are different from the official Syrian flag. So, this flag has no value when it does not represent the people. Secondly, we will attend this conference as the official delegation and legitimate representatives of the Syrian people. But, whom do they represent? When the conference is over, we return to Syria, we return home to our people. But when the conference is over, whom do they return to – five-star hotels? Or to the foreign ministries of the states that they represent – which doesn’t include Syria of course – in order to submit their reports? Or do they return to the intelligence services of those countries? So, when we attend this conference, we should know very clearly the positions of some of those sitting at the table – and I say some because the conference format is not clear yet and as such we do not have details as to how the patriotic Syrian opposition will be considered or the other opposition parties in Syria. As for the opposition groups abroad and their flag, we know that we are attending the conference not to negotiate with them, but rather with the states that back them; it will appear as though we are negotiating with the slaves, but essentially we are negotiating with their masters. This is the truth, we shouldn’t deceive ourselves.
Al-Manar: Are you, in the Syrian leadership, convinced that these negotiations will be held next month?
President Assad: We expect them to happen, unless they are obstructed by other states. As far as we are concerned in Syria, we have announced a couple of days ago that we agree in principle to attend.
Al-Manar: When you say in principle, it seems that you are considering other options.
President Assad: In principle, we are in favour of the conference as a notion, but there are no details yet. For example, will there be conditions placed before the conference? If so, these conditions may be unacceptable and we would not attend. So the idea of the conference, of a meeting, in principle is a good one. We will have to wait and see.
Al-Manar: Let’s talk, Mr. President, about the conditions put by the Syrian leadership. What are Syria’s conditions?
President Assad: Simply put, our only condition is that anything agreed upon in any meeting inside or outside the country, including the conference, is subject to the approval of the Syrian people through a popular referendum. This is the only condition. Anything else doesn’t have any value. That is why we are comfortable with going to the conference. We have no complexes. Either side can propose anything, but nothing can be implemented without the approval of the Syrian people. And as long as we are the legitimate representatives of the people, we have nothing to fear.
Al-Manar: Let’s be clear, Mr. President. There is a lot of ambiguity in Geneva 1 and Geneva 2 about the transitional period and the role of President Bashar al-Assad in that transitional period. Are you prepared to hand over all your authorities to this transitional government? And how do you understand this ambiguous term?
President Assad: This is what I made clear in the initiative I proposed in January this year. They say they want a transitional government in which the president has no role. In Syria we have a presidential system, where the President is head of the republic and the Prime Minister heads the government. They want a government with broad authorities. The Syrian constitution gives the government full authorities. The president is the commander-in-chief of the Army and Armed Forces and the head of the Supreme Judicial Council. All the other institutions report directly to the government. Changing the authorities of the president is subject to changing the constitution; the president cannot just relinquish his authorities, he doesn’t have the constitutional right. Changing the constitution requires a popular referendum. When they want to propose such issues, they might be discussed in the conference, and when we agree on something – if we agree, we return home and put it to a popular referendum and then move on. But for them to ask for the amendment of the constitution in advance, this cannot be done neither by the president nor by the government.
Al-Manar: Frankly, Mr. President, all the international positions taken against you and all your political opponents said that they don’t want a role for al-Assad in Syria’s future. This is what the Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faisal said and this is what the Turks and the Qataris said, and also the Syrian opposition. Will President Assad be nominated for the forthcoming presidential elections in 2014?
President Assad: What I know is that Saud al-Faisal is a specialist in American affairs, I don’t know if he knows anything about Syrian affairs. If he wants to learn, that’s fine! As to the desires of others, I repeat what I have said earlier: the only desires relevant are those of the Syrian people. With regards to the nomination, some parties have said that it is preferable that the president shouldn’t be nominated for the 2014 elections. This issue will be determined closer to the time; it is still too early to discuss this. When the time comes, and I feel, through my meetings and interactions with the Syrian people, that there is a need and public desire for me to nominate myself, I will not hesitate. However, if I feel that the Syrian people do not want me to lead them, then naturally I will not put myself forward. They are wasting their time on such talk.
Al-Manar: Mr. President, you mentioned the Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faisal. This makes me ask about Syria’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, with Qatar, with Turkey, particularly if we take into account that their recent position in the Arab ministerial committee was relatively moderate. They did not directly and publically call for the ouster of President Assad. Do you feel any change or any support on the part of these countries for a political solution to the Syrian crisis? And is Syria prepared to deal once more with the Arab League, taking into account that the Syrian government asked for an apology from the Arab League?
President Assad: Concerning the Arab states, we see brief changes in their rhetoric but not in their actions. The countries that support the terrorists have not changed; they are still supporting terrorism to the same extent. Turkey also has not made any positive steps. As for Qatar, their role is also the same, the role of the funder – the bank funding the terrorists and supporting them through Turkey. So, overall, no change. As for the Arab League, in Syria we have never pinned our hopes on the Arab League. Even in the past decades, we were barely able to dismantle the mines set for us in the different meetings, whether in the summits or in meetings of the foreign ministers. So in light of this and its recent actions, can we really expect it to play a role? We are open to everybody, we never close our doors. But we should also be realistic and face the truth that they are unable to offer anything, particularly since a significant number of the Arab states are not independent. They receive their orders from the outside. Some of them are sympathetic to us in their hearts, but they cannot act on their feelings because they are not in possession of their decisions. So, no, we do not pin any hopes on the Arab League.
Al-Manar: Mr. President, this leads us to ask: if the Arab environment is as such, and taking into account the developments on the ground and the steadfastness, the Geneva conference and the negotiations, the basic question is: what if the political negotiations fail? What are the consequences of the failure of political negotiations?
President Assad: This is quite possible, because there are states that are obstructing the meeting in principle, and they are going only to avoid embarrassment. They are opposed to any dialogue whether inside or outside Syria. Even the Russians, in several statements, have dampened expectations from this conference. But we should also be accurate in defining this dialogue, particularly in relation to what is happening on the ground. Most of the factions engaged in talking about what is happening in Syria have no influence on the ground; they don’t even have direct relationships with the terrorists. In some instances these terrorists are directly linked with the states that are backing them, in other cases, they are mere gangs paid to carry out terrorist activities. So, the failure of the conference will not significantly change the reality inside Syria, because these states will not stop supporting the terrorists – conference or no conference, and the gangs will not stop their subversive activities. So it has no impact on them.
Al-Manar: Mr. President, the events in Syria are spilling over to neighboring countries. We see what’s happening in Iraq, the explosions in Al-Rihaniye in Turkey and also in Lebanon. In Ersal, Tripoli, Hezbollah taking part in the fighting in Al-Qseir. How does Syria approach the situation in Lebanon, and do you think the Lebanese policy of dissociation is still applied or accepted?
President Assad: Let me pose some questions based on the reality in Syria and in Lebanon about the policy of dissociation in order not to be accused of making a value judgment on whether this policy is right or wrong. Let’s start with some simple questions: Has Lebanon been able to prevent Lebanese interference in Syria? Has it been able to prevent the smuggling of terrorists or weapons into Syria or providing a safe haven for them in Lebanon? It hasn’t; in fact, everyone knows that Lebanon has contributed negatively to the Syrian crisis. Most recently, has Lebanon been able to protect itself against the consequences of the Syrian crisis, most markedly in Tripoli and the missiles that have been falling over different areas of Beirut or its surroundings? It hasn’t. So what kind of dissociation are we talking about? For Lebanon to dissociate itself from the crisis is one thing, and for the government to dissociate itself is another. When the government dissociates itself from a certain issue that affects the interests of the Lebanese people, it is in fact dissociating itself from the Lebanese citizens. I’m not criticizing the Lebanese government – I’m talking about general principles. I don’t want it to be said that I’m criticizing this government. If the Syrian government were to dissociate itself from issues that are of concern to the Syrian people, it would also fail. So in response to your question with regards to Lebanon’s policy of dissociation, we don’t believe this is realistically possible. When my neighbor’s house is on fire, I cannot say that it’s none of my business because sooner or later the fire will spread to my house.
Al-Manar: Mr. President, what would you say to the supporters of the axis of resistance? We are celebrating the anniversary of the victory of the resistance and the liberation of south Lebanon, in an atmosphere of promises of victory, which Mr. Hasan Nasrallah has talked about. You are saying with great confidence that you will emerge triumphant from this crisis. What would you say to all this audience? Are we about to reach the end of this dark tunnel?
President Assad: I believe that the greatest victory achieved by the Arab resistance movements in the past years and decades is primarily an intellectual victory. This resistance wouldn’t have been able to succeed militarily if they hadn’t been able to succeed and stand fast against a campaign aimed at distorting concepts and principles in this region. Before the civil war in Lebanon, some people used to say that Lebanon’s strength lies in its weakness; this is similar to saying that a man’s intelligence lies in his stupidity, or that honor is maintained through corruption. This is an illogical contradiction. The victories of the resistance at different junctures proved that this concept is not true, and it showed that Lebanon’s weakness lies in its weakness and Lebanon’s strength lies in its strength. Lebanon’s strength is in its resistance and these resistance fighters you referred to. Today, more than ever before, we are in need of these ideas, of this mindset, of this steadfastness and of these actions carried out by the resistance fighters. The events in the Arab world during the past years have distorted concepts to the extent that some Arabs have forgotten that the real enemy is still Israel and have instead created internal, sectarian, regional or national enemies. Today we pin our hopes on these resistance fighters to remind the Arab people, through their achievements, that our enemy is still the same. As for my confidence in victory, if we weren’t so confident we wouldn’t have been able to stand fast or to continue this battle after two years of a global attack. This is not a tripartite attack like the one in 1956; it is in fact a global war waged against Syria and the resistance. We have absolute confidence in our victory, and I assure them that Syria will always remain, even more so than before, supportive of the resistance and resistance fighters everywhere in the Arab world.
Al-Manar: In conclusion, it has been my great honor to conduct this interview with Your Excellency, President Bashar al-Assad of the Syrian Arab Republic. Thank you very much. President Assad: You are welcome. I would like to congratulate Al-Manar channel, the channel of resistance, on the anniversary of the liberation and to congratulate the Lebanese people and every resistance fighter in Lebanon.
Al-Manar: Thank you.

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Western States Pouring Fuel on The Syrian Crisis

By Finian Cunningham
May 31, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – How to describe the actions of Britain and France towards Syria and by extension, the wider Middle East and Africa regions?
This week, the insane British and French mis-rulers gave notice that they intend pouring fuel on the Syrian crisis – a crisis that they largely instigated – by openly sending more heavy weapons to the Western-backed mercenaries tearing that country apart. 
It should be patently obvious that the murderous rampage against Syrian civilians that is entering its third year could not be sustained if it were not for the relentless Western government and media support. Now this Western remote-control killing machine is to be fitted with a higher murderous gear, thanks to the diplomatic engineering of Britain and France in removing the European arms embargo on Syria. 
This is the conduct of arsonists who rush to a fire that they have started, and while claiming to be firefighters, these same protagonists are laden with more inflammable material undeterred by the sound of screaming voices. 
The truly insane thing about these criminal European regimes is that the evil fruit of their nefarious work is rampant not just in Syria, but contemporaneously across the Middle East and Africa. 
London and Paris finally got their way in goading the European Union to officially lift the arms embargo on Syria, paving the way for Britain and France to begin funneling weapons to the Al Qaeda-linked militants doing the West’s bidding to sabotage the government of President Bashar al Assad and effect the long-held objective of regime change in Syria. 
Britain and France are cynically maintaining the ridiculous fiction that this increased weapons supply will bring peace to Syria – in the face of overwhelming evidence that such a move will do the exact opposite. 
Moreover, the increased British and French firepower to myriad self-styled jihadist brigades in Syria threatens to escalate sectarian bloodshed across the entire Middle East, pulling Lebanon, Iraq and other countries into an all-out internecine conflagration. 
This is not a prediction. It is a description of what is already happening as a result of the criminal foreign policies of London, Paris, Washington and their regional allies.
On Tuesday, the day after Brussels lifted its arms embargo on Syria, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was in the West African country of Niger warning about the perils of “international terrorism” and how the North and West African states must “pull together to defeat this threat.” Fabius (and Britain’s Hague) should be renamed “minister for foreign arson.
Last week, Niger was the scene of a deadly twin suicide attack in which 35 people, including 10 militants, were killed. The attacks on a Niger army barracks in the city of Agadez and a French-owned uranium mine in Arlit are believed to the first such terrorist incidents in that country since its independence from the former colonial ruler, France, in 1960. 
Fabius claimed that the militants behind the twin assaults launched their attacks from southern Libya. This was also the view of Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou. Despite a denial by the Libyan government of any such link, it is plausible that the militant groups behind the attacks in Niger have at least been materially galvanized by the various NATO-backed jihadist brigades that overthrew the Libyan government of Muammar Gaddafi at the end of 2011. 
The double bombings last week in Niger were claimed to be a joint operation by the Movement for Oneness and Justice in West Africa (MUJWA) and the Signed in Blood group led by Moktar Belmoktar. Both organizations are self-declared affiliates of Al Qaeda in the Maghreb and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). 
The latter led the NATO regime-change operation, starting in early 2011, against Libya’s Gaddafi with weapons and money supplied by NATO powers and their Persian Gulf Wahhabi allies of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. NATO also provided the seven-month aerial bombardment campaign that was crucial for the Libyan jihadists’ defeat of Gaddafi. This is the same nefarious nexus that is ripping Syria asunder.
NATO’s regime-change operation in Libya has since created a lawless country overrun by fractious militia, where even the former Western sponsors of the militia are no longer safe. The killing of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Benghazi in September 2012 is perhaps the most graphic indicator of the mayhem that the NATO powers have unleashed on Libya, formerly one of Africa’s most developed states. Since then, British and French consular sites and personnel have also come under attack and their staff have had to be withdrawn from that North African country.
This is a foretaste of the kind of chaos that will escalate in Syria and the wider region now that Britain and France have opened the floodgates for arming the like-minded Wahhabi mercenaries in Syria. President Assad predicted this very outcome several months ago, and he was derided for it by the Western regimes and their propaganda media. 
It is credibly reported that the Libyan jihadists have been major suppliers of NATO and Wahhabi Arab weaponry into Syria. They have also sent fighters to join the estimated 10,000-20,000 foreign mercenaries marauding in Syria. 
The NATO-Arab weapons supplied to Libya to oust Gaddafi have also found their way to the ideologically similar groups that span the vast Maghreb, Sahel and Sahara terrains. It was these arms and fighters that energized the Islamist MUJWA and Ansar Dine that took over northern Mali early last year. 
France mounted a full-scale troop invasion and aerial bombing campaign in Mali on 11 January this year allegedly to defeat “Islamist extremists” threatening the sovereignty of its former Malian colony. Securing the rich uranium and other mineral resources of Mali, as in Niger, are of course the real Western agenda. 
The same groups, along with Belmoktar’s Signed in Blood, were involved in the deadly siege of the Amenas gas plant in Algeria in January earlier this year, in which 37 workers were killed. That siege was said to be in retribution for France’s military intervention in Mali “to liberate the northern territory.” 
Now these same groups are behind the twin bombings in Niger, which destroyed a central part of the uranium mine owned by French company, Areva. The attackers said it was also revenge for the ongoing French military operations in neighboring Mali.
How clear does it have to get before the European public start to connect the criminal reality of their political rulers? These so-called governments in London and Paris are nothing but a gang of arsonists, setting whole countries on fire with explosive repercussions – all fuelled by reckless imperialist self-interest.
Like the fire-bombing tactics of cities during the Second World War by Western criminal regimes, these present-day terrorist fires in the Middle East and Africa, once unleashed, are becoming self-reinforcing and out of control. What’s more, through unremitting economic austerity, these mis-rulers are, in effect, extorting public welfare money from workers, unemployed, the elderly and sick to pay for their criminal conflagration abroad.
Finian Cunningham is a prominent expert in international affairs. The author and media commentator was expelled from Bahrain in June 2011 for his critical journalism in which he highlighted human rights violations by the Western-backed regime. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism. He is based in East Africa where he is writing a book on Bahrain and the Arab Spring. He co-hosts a weekly current affairs programme, Sunday at 3pm GMT on Bandung Radio

This article was originally published at Press TV

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Lifting the Fake EU Arms Embargo

By Stephen Lendman
May 30, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – On May 27, the so-called one-year EU arms embargo on Syria’s opposition ended. Officially it does so on June 1. EU nations agreed to end what never existed.
Since Washington’s war on Syria began in early 2011, arms flowed freely. Western-enlisted death squads get them. At issue is replacing Assad with a subservient pro-Western puppet. 
Syria’s being ravaged in the process. Washington, key NATO partners, Israel and rogue Arab state allies bear full responsibility.
War rages ahead of Geneva II. Planned peace talks are pretense. Syrians genuinely want it. So does Russia going all out to achieve it. Other nations urge peace.
America prioritizes conflict and instability. It does so for unchallenged dominance. Peaceful conflict resolution is illusory. Previous efforts fell short. Expect Geneva II to fare no better.
Permanent war is official US policy. The business of America is war. Obama’s waging multiple direct and proxy ones. He’s got more death and destruction in mind.
CIA and Britain’s MI 5 operatives, as well as Western special forces actively aid so-called “rebels.” They’ve been doing so throughout most of the conflict.
On February 8, 2012, Infowars headlined “British Special Forces Enter Syria to Aid Rebels,” saying:
They’re “directing rebel fighters in a repeat of how Libyan rebels were aided” to oust Gaddafi. Qatari special forces are also involved. Very likely others are.
Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists who fought US troops in Iraq and helped NATO powers overthrow (Gaddafi) were airlifted into Syria (to) topple (Assad) in November last year.
More come in regularly. They supplement existing ranks or replace elements Syria’s military eliminated. No end of conflict looms. 
Appalling atrocities are committed. Assad’s wrongfully blamed for foreign death squad crimes. He’s falsely accused of using chemical weapons. 
On May 28, Reuters headlined “Syria fighting rages, more chemical attacks reported,” saying:
“(F)urther reports surfaced of chemical weapons attacks by (Assad’s) forces on rebel areas.” These allegations and previous ones are spurious.
On May 24, Voice of Russia headlined “Russian journalists have proof Syrian insurgents used chemical weapons,” saying:
They have video proof. They gave it to the UN Secretariat. They show “chemical weapons attacks allegedly committed by opposition fighters in the vicinity of Aleppo on March 19.”
This was confirmed by the spokesman for the Deputy Secretary General Farhan Haq.
RTR journalist Anastasia Popova confirmed toxic substances use. Eyewitness accounts supplemented video evidence. Nonetheless, spurious anti-Assad accusations persist.
On May 27, the UN News Centre headlined “UN rights chief urges end to ‘intolerable’ suffering in Syria.”
Navi Pillay addressed the 23rd Human Rights Council session. She stopped short of pointing fingers the right way. She consistently blames Assad for Western-backed death squad crimes.
“A humanitarian, political and social disaster is already upon us,” she said, “and what looms is truly a nightmare.”
Civilians bear the brunt of this crisis in which human rights violations have reached horrific dimensions. 
Confronted with the flagrant disregard of international law and human life on every side, I feel utter dismay. 
I am extremely concerned at current reports suggesting that hundreds of civilians have been killed or injured, and thousands may remain trapped, by indiscriminate shelling and aerial attacks by Government forces in Al Qusayr.
She admitted that anti-government forces also commit human rights violations. She consistently blames Assad most of all. She avoids explaining Washington’s war on Syria.
She’s a reliable imperial tool. She’s been so in previous capacities. She suppresses truth. Responsible major powers are absolved. 
Victims are blamed for their crimes. She did it before. She’s doing it now. She aids and abets lawless aggression. She facilitates human rights abuses in the process.
On May 27, the Human Rights Council (HRC) convened its 23rd session. President Remigiusz Henczel addressed a days earlier request to debate deteriorating conditions in Syria.
Qatar claimed Syrian forces were massacring their people. A May 16 Financial Times report headlined “Qatar bankrolls Syrian revolt with cash and arms.”
(I)t spent as much as $3bn over the past two years supporting the rebellion in Syria, far exceeding any other government, but is now being nudged aside by Saudi Arabia as the prime source of arms to rebels.
Washington orchestrates everything. Turkey’s its main attack dog. CIA elements operate in its territory near Syria. They facilitate cross-border weapons shipments.
Syria’s representative addressed the HRC session. He objected to debate on his country. Turkey and Qatar requested it. 
He said they’re directly responsible for what’s going on. They’re encouraging terrorist attacks on Syrian soil. They’re arming and training insurgent elements.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague called ending the so-called arms embargo the right decision. He led efforts to do so. He suggested Britain would go it alone otherwise.
He claimed ending the embargo “is part of supporting the diplomatic work to bring about the political solution.” It’s “necessary and right,” he said.
Doing so will “protect civilians,” he added. Tory MP John Baron disagreed, saying:
It beggars belief, the idea that pouring more arms into this conflict could not or would not escalate the violence. Of course, its not going to do that. 
But it could do something more dangerous. That is it could escalate the conflict beyond Syria’s borders. That is why it could be a mistake of historic proportions.
Oxfam’s Anna Macdonald said supplying more weapons “add(s) fuel to the fire. We are concerned that supplying arms to the opposition won’t level the playing field. In fact, it will fuel a deadly arms race that will have even worse consequences for civilians.”
The millions of people suffering in Syria right now don’t need more arms. They need aid.
Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander asked “how does supplying weapons help to secure a lasting peace?”
Supplying them in greater numbers assures more death and destruction. Doing so complies with Washington’s longstanding agenda. 
The road to Tehran runs through Damascus. Replacing independent governments with pro-Western ones is prioritized.
Twenty-one EU nations are NATO members. It’s an alliance for war, not peace. It’s for offense, not defense. It’s a killing machine. America runs it.
Britain, France, Germany and other EU nations partner in its imperial wars. Doing so ravages one country after another.
Last October, Nobel Committee members awarded EU nations their Peace Prize. They claimed doing so reflected their decades long contribution “to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.”
They ignored their role in Eurasian conflicts and beyond. They turned a blind eye to NATO’s global ambitions. It’s part of Washington’s full spectrum dominance agenda. 
It’s potentially catastrophic if not stopped. It assures greater wars on humanity. Global war is possible. Washington controls NATO policy. Its so-called Partnership for Peace is a thinly veiled pro-war agenda.
War is peace reflects longstanding US policy. Syria’s conflict potentially could spin out of control. The entire region and beyond could become embroiled. 
During last year’s pre-election campaign, Republicans stressed “American exceptionalism.” Democrats countered saying:
We also understand the indispensable role that the United States must continue to play in promoting international peace and prosperity.
In 1996, Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal coined the term “indispensable nation.” Clinton used it as justification for NATO’s Bosnia intervention.
In several speeches, Obama stressed American exceptionalism and the term indispensable nation. Most others disagree. They do so for good reason.
America prioritizes war, not peace. Permanent war is longstanding policy. One country after another is ravaged. Millions perish. Millions more remain vulnerable. 
Where this ends who knows. Humanity may not survive the onslaught.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. His new book is titled How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening. http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/

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Let’s Be Clear: Establishing a ‘No-Fly Zone’ Is an Act of War

The term is a euphemism that obscures the gravity of what its advocates are suggesting — a U.S. air attack on Syria.
By Conor Friedersdorf
May 30, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – Kudos to Josh Rogin for breaking the news that “the White House has asked the Pentagon to draw up plans for a no-fly zone inside Syria.” But wouldn’t it be a more powerful story without the euphemism?
Relying on the term “no-fly-zone” is typical in journalism. But that is a mistake. It obscures the gravity of the news.
Here’s how an alternative version of the story might look: “The White House has asked the Pentagon to draw up plans for bombing multiple targets inside Syria, constantly surveilling Syrian airspace alongside U.S. allies, and shooting down Syrian war planes and helicopters that try to fly around, perhaps for months.”
The term “no-fly-zone” isn’t analytically useless. It’s just that folks using it as shorthand should make sure everyone reading understands that, as Daniel Larison put it right up in a headline, “Imposing a No-Fly-Zone in Syria Requires Starting a New War.” That becomes clearer some paragraphs later in Rogin’s article, when he discussed Senator John McCain’s advocacy for a “no-fly-zone.” “McCain said a realistic plan for a no-fly zone would include hundreds of planes, and would be most effective if it included destroying Syrian airplanes on runways, bombing those runways, and moving U.S. Patriot missile batteries in Turkey close to the border so they could protect airspace inside northern Syria,” he wrote.
The article also quotes Robert Zarate, policy director at the hawkish Foreign Policy Initiative. His euphemisms of choice: “No doubt, the United States and its like-minded allies and partners are fully capable, without the use of ground troops, of obviating the Assad regime’s degraded, fixed, and mobile air defenses and suppressing the regime’s use of airpower.”
Does anyone think he’d describe Syrian planes bombing a U.S. aircraft carrier as “obviating” our naval assets? The question before us is whether America should wage war in Syria by bombing its weapons, maintaining a presence in its airspace, and shooting at its pilots if they take off. On hearing the phrase “no-fly-zone,” how many Americans would realize all that is involved?
I trust “start a war against Syria” would poll poorly.
That’s why advocates of that course hide the consequences of what they propose behind a euphemism. If only there were a deliberative body that the Constitution charged with declaring war, so that it would be impossible to start any wars of choice without the voice of the people being heard.
This article was originally published at The Atlantic -

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Syria and the Middle East: Our Greatest Miscalculation Since the Rise of Fascism

By helping to destroy secular politics in the Middle East, the west has unleashed the Shia/Sunni conflict now tearing it apart
By Simon Jenkins 
May 30, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“The Guardian” – There could no more dreadful idea than to pour more armaments into the sectarian war now consuming Syria. Yet that is precisely what Britain’s coalition government wants to do. The foreign secretary,William Hague, seemed on Monday to parody his hero Pitt the Younger by demanding “how long must we go on allowing … ?” and “what we want to see is …”. Who is this we? But even Pitt would never be so stupid as to declare war on Syria, which is the only morally sound outcome of Hague’s rhetorical mission creep.
For two years pundits have proclaimed the imminent fall of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. High on Arab spring, they declared he would fall from the logic of history. Or he would fall because western sanctions would bring him down. Or he would fall because the media, as in the novel Scoop, were with the rebels and had decided they would win.
Assad has not fallen. He is still there, locked in the lethal Muslim schism that resurfaced with the demise of the region’s secularist dictators. These have now almost all gone: the shah in Iran, Najibullah in Afghanistan, Saddam in Iraq, Mubarak in Egypt, Gaddafi in Libya. They had faults in abundance, but they succeeded in suppressing religious discord, instilling rudimentary tolerance and keeping the region mostly in order. This was in the west’s interest, and the rulers, like those in the Gulf, were supported accordingly.
Turning turtle and abetting their downfall may yet prove the most disastrous miscalculation of western diplomacy since the rise of fascism. Prior to the Iraq war, Saddam persecuted the Shias, but their shrines were safe and intermarriage was common. After the war, Sunni and Shia are torn asunder, with a death toll of ghastly proportions. Similar agony may soon be visited on the Afghans. Libya’s Tripoli is more unstable now the west has toppled Gaddafi, its fundamentalist guerrillas spreading mayhem south across the Sahara to Algeria, Mali and Nigeria.
These upheavals might have occurred without western intervention. The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt were largely self-starting. Islamist parties often came to power, because they offered an alternative discipline to the existing regimes. But the west’s sudden zest for “wars of choice”, its meddling in the politics of Pakistan and its sabre-rattling in Iran have created a cause on to which neoconservative Islamism could fasten.
Al-Qaida was in 2000 a tiny group of fanatics. America and Britain have portrayed it as an all-powerful enemy, apparently lurking in support of every anti-secularist rebellion. Cameron calls it “an existential terrorist threat… to inflict the biggest possible amount of damage to our interests and way of life”. Yet stabbings and bombings do not constitute an “existential threat”. The UK is a stronger culture than Cameron appears to believe. There is no threat to its existence, while the chief damage being done to its way of life comes from the incompetence of its government.
Syria is at present certainly a claim on the world’s humanitarian resources, to be honoured by supporting the refugee camps and aid agencies active in the area. Assad’s suppression of revolt has been appallingly brutal, but he was Britain’s friend, as was Saddam, long after his regime began its brutality. That is how things are in this part of the world. The west cannot stop them. To conclude that “we cannot allow this to happen” assumes a potency over other people’s affairs that “we” do not possess.
Pouring arms into Syria will no more topple Assad or “drive him to the negotiating table” than did two years of blood-curdling sanctions. Hague knows this perfectly well, as he knows there is no way arms can be sent to “good” rebels and not to bad ones. He knows that if you want one side to win a civil war, the only honest way is to fight on its side. We did that in Kosovo and Libya. In Syria, Hague has fallen back on Kipling’s “killing Kruger with your mouth”.
The differences between Sunni and Shia, now tearing at nations in the Middle East, are deeply embedded in Islam. As the scholarMalise Ruthven has pointed out, outsiders preaching tolerance are no use. These disputes are intractable “since the acceptance of pluralism relativises truth”. For Sunni to accept Shia and vice versa is for each to deny the faith.
Christianity, after centuries of similar bloodshed, has learned religious tolerance (though in Northern Ireland, Britain can hardly talk). Much of Islam has not. The one antidote lay in the rise of secular politics. This is the politics that Britain destroyed in Iraq and Libya, in the belief that it was bringing democracy and peace. It has brought chaos.
Britain’s military judgment is no more coherent than its political. It thinks it can conquer Syria – which is what toppling Assad would require – by proxy. But sending weapons cannot make a difference, and will merely entice Britain into promising troops, unless it wishes to desert the rebels. Like American backing for the Taliban in the 1990s, the idea that “my enemy’s enemy must be my friend” could yet see British special forces fighting alongside al-Qaida in Syria.
War holds a terrible appeal for democratic leaders. Most of Europe’s rulers have other matters on their hands, but Britain and France, two nations whose ancient empires carved up the Levant between them, cannot keep out of it. They see national interest and danger where none exists. They cannot relieve Syria’s agony, yet hope some vague belligerence might bring relief.
The reality is they hope that belligerence might draw attention from political troubles back home. That is the worst reason for going to war.

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European powers lift embargo, move to arm Syrian opposition

By Johannes Stern 
28 May 2013
On Monday the foreign ministers of the European Union (EU) met in Brussels and agreed not to renew the arms embargo against Syria. This will allow each European country to directly arm the Syrian opposition fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which was previously forbidden under the terms of a one-year EU embargo which is about to expire on Friday.
Europe’s former colonial powers in the Middle East, Britain and France, are leading the offensive to directly arm the Syrian rebels.
British foreign secretary William Hague cynically sought to present European plans to arm the rebels as part of a “political solution” to the conflict in Syria. He claimed that, “in the end there is only a political and diplomatically supported solution,” adding that amending the EU arms embargo was “part of supporting the diplomatic work.”
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius resorted to making bogus charges that Syria has used chemical weapons in order to push for arming the Syrian rebels and pave the way for direct military intervention.
“There is increasingly strong evidence of localized use of chemical weapons,” Fabius claimed. “We are consulting with our partners to see what concrete consequences that we are going to draw from this.”
US President Barack Obama has repeatedly threatened to treat the use of chemical weapons in Syria as a “red line” or a “game changer” that would trigger an aggressive response.
Hague vowed to seek “common ground” with the other EU member states on arming the Syrian rebels, but indicated that Britain would do it anyway if no agreement is reached. He stressed that, “doing the right thing for Syria” is “more important than whether the EU is able to stick together on every detail of this.”
Austria, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Finland claimed to oppose arming the Syrian rebels. Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger declared: “We just received the Nobel Peace Prize, and to now go in the direction of intentionally getting involved in a conflict with weapon deliveries, I think that is wrong.”
Such comments are an example of the utterly cynical character of European imperialism. The war against Syria is precisely showing that Europe is not a power for peace and that last year’s awarding of the Nobel peace prize to the European Union was a farce.
In fact, the EU has backed the Syrian opposition from the start, collaborating closely with US, Turkey and the Gulf States who are arming Islamist opposition fighters in Syria to the teeth and stationing Patriot anti-ballistic missile systems near Turkey’s border with Syria.
The EU recently lifted its Syrian oil sanctions to help fund the Syrian opposition including al-Qaeda linked rebel groups such as Al Nusra Front that have committed horrific crimes against the Syrian population. (See also: “European powers fund Al Qaeda looting of Syrian oil”)
After the wars against Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya—which were partially criticized by some European states—the European powers have lined up behind the war strategy of US imperialism to plunder the vast, resource-rich regions of the Middle East and Central Asia. Like the US, the European powers regard the Alawite-dominated Assad regime in Syria and its main regional ally Shiite Iran as the main obstacles to securing their interests.
Germany is seeking to rally the “dissident” EU member states behind a more aggressive policy against Syria. “Disagreement in the EU, that would be the wrong signal,” Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle declared. “The more cohesive Europe acts, the more influence we will have on overcoming the current violence in Syria.”
According to a report in Der Spiegel published the same day, Berlin has decided that Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) will resume sending so-called “medipacks”—consisting of medical supplies and hundreds of bulletproof vests—to the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA). Only months ago, the German Foreign Office had forced the BND to stop, Der Spiegelwrote.
Turkey and the pro-Western Syrian opposition—the most aggressive forces pushing for direct military intervention in Syria—urged the EU to ease the embargo. “I definitely support the lifting of the arms embargo against the Syrian people,” said the Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who attended the talks in Brussels.
In Istanbul, Khaled al-Saleh, spokesman of Syria’s main opposition National Coalition declared: “It is the moment of truth that we’ve been waiting for for months.”
Without any broader support in the Syrian population, the Sunni Islamist opposition is rapidly losing ground against the Syrian army, which is now supported by fighters of the Lebanese Shia Hezbollah militia. In recent days, the Syrian government has been launching an offensive to recapture the key-strategic town of Qusayr, close to the Lebanese border.
Against this background and the Syrian war spreading to Lebanon and Iraq, the imperialist powers are escalating their intervention in Syria and the entire Middle East. A US delegation consisting of US Secretary of State John Kerry and Senators John McCain and Bob Menendez threatened a Libyan-style intervention on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Jordan last Saturday.
Mc Cain, a member of the US senate armed services and foreign relations committees, told the Jordan Times: “We are prepared to take every step to protect the Jordanian regime’s stability, its people and its territory; the provision of Patriot missiles comes under this protection.”
He explained that the missiles’ dispatch may be the “first step” to the establishment of no-fly zone within Syria. “With the use of Patriot missiles we can enforce and sustain a no-fly zone to allow the opposition an opportunity to organize and change the tide of the conflict as we did in Libya,” he said.
Yesterday, McCain reportedly also briefly traveled into Syria from Turkey, accompanied by FSA Supreme Military Council chief General Salem Idris, to meet with 18 opposition militia leaders from across Syria. They reportedly told McCain they wanted increased US support, heavy weapons, and US air strikes in Syria.
Together with the Gulf sheikhdoms of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is one of imperialism’s key strategic allies for its offensive in the region. According to a report in theJewish Chronicle, a senior Jordanian official close to Jordanian King Abdullah has confirmed that Jordan is allowing Israel to operate unmanned drones over its air space to monitor the situation in Syria.
He also said that, if the need arose, “of course we will allow Israel to use Jordanian air space for another attack on Syria”.
In the past month, Israel already launched three direct strikes on Syria and is preparing a far bigger intervention.
On Monday, Israel staged a massive military drill focusing on coping with chemical weapons. It was part of a week-long nationwide exercise, code-named “Home Front Eitan 1,” preparing the civilian population, the military and emergency services for a war in which large numbers of missiles could hit Israel.

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Hezbollah and the Syrian Pit

Why Washington and Tel Aviv Want Hezbollah to Keep Fighting in al-Qusayr
By Franklin Lamb 
May 26, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – Homs Province, Syria. – During a tour of some of the neighborhoods in Homs, Syria’s third largest city after Aleppo and Damascus, with a pre-conflict population of approximately 800,000 (nearly half Homs residents have fled over the past two years) located maybe about 22 miles NE of the current hot-spot of al-Qusayr, this observer engaged is a few interesting conversations. More accurately labeled diatribes–with some long bearded Sunni fundamentalists who claimed they came from Jabhat al Nusra, aka Jabhat an-Nuṣrah li-Ahl ash-Shām, “Front of Defense for the People of Greater Syria”), and were preparing to return to al Qusayr to fight “the deniers of Allah”!
It is the strategic crossroads town of al-Qusayr, and its environs, which whoever controls, can block supplies and reinforcements to and from Damascus and locations north and east. For those seeking the ouster of Syria’s government, including NATO countries led by Washington, were their “allies” to lose control of al-Qusayr it would mean the cutting off of supplies from along the Lebanese border, from which most of the local opposition’s weapons flow and fighters have been smuggled over the past 26 months. If the Assad regime forces regain control of the city, Washington believes they will move north and conquer current opposition positions in Homs and Rastan, both areas being dependent on support from Lebanon and al-Qusayr. Some analysts are saying this morning, with perhaps a bit of hyperbole that as al-Qusayr goes so goes Syria and the National Lebanese Resistance, led by Hezbollah.
If government forces can retake the city it will put an end to the Saudi-Qatari green light, in exchange for controlling al-Qusayr, of the setting up a Salafist emirate in the area which would constitute a threat to the nearly two dozen Shia Lebanese inhabited villages of the Hermel region. If the Syrian army re-takes al-Qusayr, it would also avoid the likelihood of a full-fledged sectarian war on both sides of the border.
Meeting with a few self-proclaimed al Nusra Front militiaman last week, in Homs, one who spoke excellent British English they had plenty to say to this observer about current events in al Qusayr to which they planned to return the next day to fight enemies “by all means Allah gives us”. One added, when asked if they had confronted Hezbollah: “Of course but Hezbollah can’t defeat us. Eventually they will withdraw from Syria on orders from Tehran. But first enshallah we will bleed Hezbollah with thousands of cut throats”, he boasted raucously as nearby kids cheered and gave V for victory signs, smiles, giggles and cackling all around.
Such Jihadist rants are music to more than a few US congressional and White House ears these days, as once more in this region, a major US-Israeli carefully calibrated regime change project, appears to be falling short.
This week, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted overwhelmingly to arm elements of the Syrian opposition with a recommendation to “provide defense articles, defense services, and military training” directly to the opposition throughout Syria, who naturally, will “have been properly and fully vetted and share common values and interests with the United States”. History teaches that the vetting part would not happen if the scheme is implemented, despite only a few in Congress objecting.
Perhaps lacking some of his father Ron Paul’s insights into US hegemonic plans for this region, Senator Rand Paul did object to the measure and he fumed at his colleagues: ”This is an important moment. You will be funding, today, the allies of al Qaeda. It’s an irony you cannot overcome.”
According to the Hill Rag weekly, veteran war-hawks Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham, flashed a knowing smile but gave no rebuttal, perhaps realizing that Senator Paul is a bit untutored on the reality of current Obama Administration policy in Syria generally, and for al-Qusayr, in particular.
Contrary to the shock and anger expressed by Senator Paul, American policy in Syria is to de facto assist allies of al Qaeda including the US “Terrorist-listed” Al-Nusra Front as well as anti-Iran, anti-Shia and anti-Hezbollah groups gathering near al-Qusayr. These groups currently include, but not limited to, Ahl al-Athr Brigade, Ahrar al-Sham, Basha’ir al-Nasr Brigades, Commandos Brigades, Fajr al-Islam Brigades, Independent Farouq Brigades, Khalid bin al-Waleed Brigade, Liwa al-Haq, Liwa al-Sadiq, Al-Nour Brigade, Al-Qusayr Brigade, Suqur al-Fatah, Al-Wadi Brigades, Al-Waleed Brigades and the 77th Brigade among the scores of other Jihadist cells currently operating in, near, or rushing to, al-Qusayr.
Their victory according to US Senate sources would be a severe blow and challenge to Iran’s rising influence in the region and Iran’s leadership of the increasing regional and global resistance to the Zionist occupiers of Palestine in favor of the full right to return of every ethnically cleansed Palestinian refugee.
While Congress was considering what else to do to help the “rebels”, on 5/22/13, no fewer than 11 so-called “World powers” foreign ministers, including Turkey and Jordan, met in Amman to condem, with straight faces, even, tongues in cheek, the “flagrant intervention” in Syria by Hezbollah and Iranian fighters.” They urged their immediate withdrawal from the war-torn country. In a joint statement, the “Friends of Syria” group called “for the immediate withdrawal of Hezbollah and Iranian fighters, and other regime allied foreign fighters from Syrian territory.”
Not one peep of course, about the Salafist-Jihadist-Takfuri fighters from more than 30 countries now ravaging Syria’s population. The truth of the matter is that the governments represented by their foreign ministers this week in Amman, will follow the US lead which means they will assist, despite some cautionary public words, virtually any ally of al-Qaeda whose fighting in Syria may be seen as weakening the Assad government and its supporters in Iran and Lebanon.
According to one long-term Congressional aid to a prominent Democratic Senator from the West Coast, while the Amman gathering described Hezbollah’s armed presence in Syria as “a threat to regional stability”, the White House could not be more pleased that Hezbollah is in al-Qusayr.” When pressed via email for elaboration, the Middle East specialist offered the view that the White House agrees with Israel that al-Qusayr may become Hezbollah’s Dien Bein Phu and the Syrian conflict could well turn into Iran’s “Vietnam”. ..Quite a few folks around here (Capitol Hill) think al-Qusayr will remove Hezbollah from the list of current threats to Israel. And the longer they keep themselves bogged down in quick-sand over there the better for Washington and Tel Aviv. Hopefully they will remain in al-Qusayr for a long hot summer and gut their ranks in South Lebanon via battle field attrition and Israel can make its move and administer a coup de grace.”
The staffer followed up with another email with only one short sentence and a smiley face:
“Of course the White House and its concrete wall-solid ally might be wrong!”
The dangers for Hezbollah are obvious – that it may be drawn ever deeper into a bottomless pit of conflict in Syria that could leave it severely depleted and prey to a hoped for death-blow from Israel.
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah and other party officials have dismissed that possibility.
The next few weeks may tell.
Franklin Lamb is doing research in Syria and Lebanon and is reachable c/o fplamb@gmail.com

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The Only Way To Bring Peace to Syria

By Mairead Maguire
May 26, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – After a 10 days (1-11 May, 2013) visit to Lebanon and Syria, leading a 16 person delegation from 8 countries, invited by Mussalaha Reconciliation Movement, I have returned hopeful that peace is possible in Syria, if all outside interference is stopped and the Syrians are allowed to solve their own problems upholding their right to self-determination.
An appeal to end all violence and for Syrians to be left alone from outside interference was made by all those we met during our visit to Syria. We have tried to forward it to the International community in our Concluding Declaration.
During our visit we went to refugee camps, affected communities, and met religious leaders, combatants, government representatives, opposition delegations and many others, perpetrators and victims, in Lebanon and Syria.
1. Visits to refugee camps: In Lebanon we visited several refugee camps, hosted by Lebanese or Palestinian communities. One Woman said: “before this conflict started we were happy and had a good life (there is free education, free healthcare, subsidies for fuel, in Syria,) and now we live in poverty”. Her daughter and son-in-law (a pharmacist and engineer) standing on a cement floor in a Palestinian refugee camp, with not even a mattress, told us that this violence had erupted to everyone surprise and spread so quickly they were all still in shock, but when well-armed, foreign fighters came to Homs, they took over their homes, raped their women, and killed young males who refused to join their ranks, so the people fled in terror. They said that these foreign fighters were from many countries like Libyans, Saudis, Tunisians, Chechens, Afghanis, Pakistanis, Emiratis, Lebanese, Jordanians, Turkish, Europeans, Australian, and these gangs are financed and trained by foreign governments. They attach suicide vests around peoples’ bodies and threaten to explode them if they don’t do what they are told. One refugee woman asked me ‘when can we go home’? (To my great delight a few days later in Damascus I met a woman working on a government programme which is helping refugees to return to Syria and over 200 have returned to date).
Religious and government leaders have called upon people not to flee Syria and it is to be hoped many will heed this call, as after seeing so many Syrian refugees living in tents and being exploited in so many ways, including sexually, I believe the best solution is the stability of Syria so its people feel safe enough to stay in Syria. If refugees continue to flee Syria then surrounding countries could be destabilized, causing the domino effect and destabilizing the entire Middle East.
Many people have fled into camps in surrounding countries like Turkey, Jordan, or Lebanon, all of which are trying to manage the huge influx of Syrian refugees. Although the host countries are doing their best to cope they are overwhelmed by refugee numbers. (UNHCR’s official figure of refugees is one million). Through our meetings we have been informed that Turkey invites Syrian refugees into the country and forbids them to go back home. It is documented that Syrian refugees in Turkey and Jordan are mistreated. Some young Syrian refugee girls are sold for forced marriage in Jordan. From OHCHR reports we know that more than 4 million Syrians are displaced inside their own country, living in great need.
A representative from Red Cross, told us that there is freedom to do their work throughout Syria for all NGO and the Syrian Red crescent in co-ordination with the Ministry of Social affairs and under such dire circumstances, they are doing their best, providing services to as many people as possible. However there is a great shortage of funds for them to cope with this humanitarian tragedy of refugees and internally displaced population. The economic sanctions, as in Iraq, are causing great hardship to many people and all those whom we met called for them to be lifted. Our delegation called for the lifting of these illegal US-led sanctions that target the Syrian Population for purely political reasons in order to achieve regime change.
2. Hospitals: We visited the hospitals and saw many people injured by shootings, bombings, and armed attacks. A moderate Sunni Imam told me how he was abducted by jihadists, who tortured him, cut off his ear, tried to cut his throat, sliced his legs, and left him for dead. He said when he goes back to his mosque they will slaughter him. He told us “these men are foreign fighters, jihadists from foreign countries, well-armed, well trained, with money, they are in our country to destroy it. They are not true Muslims but are religious extremist/fundamentalists terrorizing, abducting, killing our people”. The government spokesman also confirmed that they have in detention captured foreign fighters from 29 countries, including Chechens, Iraqis, and many others. The Ministry of Health showed us a documentary on the terrible killings by Jihadists and the terror caused by these foreigners with the killing of medics and destruction of medical infrastructure of the Syrian State which has made it difficult to answer the needs of the population.
3. Meeting with Opposition: Our delegation participated in an open forum with many representatives of internal opposition’s parties. One political opponent who was in prison 24 years under the Assad regime, and has been out for 11 years, wants political change with more than 20 other internal opposition components, but without outside interference and the use of violence. We met with ‘armed’ opposition people in a local community who said they had accepted the government’s offer of amnesty and were working for a peaceful way forward. One man told me he had accepted money from Jihadists to fight but had been shocked by their cruelty and the way they treated fellow Syrian Muslims considering them as not real Muslims. He said foreign Jihadists wanted to take over Syria, not save it.
The 10th May a part of our delegation headed to Homs, invited by the opposition community of Al Waar city where displaced families from Baba Amro, Khalidiyeh and other rebel’s strongholds seek refuge. The Delegation saw all the conditions of this city and is studying a Pilot Project for Reconciliation and peaceful reintegration between this community and the surrounded non rebel communities (Shia and Alaouites) with whom 15 days ago an agreement of non-belligerence has been signed through the auspices of Mussalaha.
4. Meeting with Officials: Our Delegation met, and spoke, at the Parliament, and also with the Governor, Prime Minister and 7 other Ministries. We were given details of the new Constitution and political reforms being put in place, and plans for elections in 2014. Government Ministers admitted that they had made mistakes in being slow to respond to legitimate demands for change from civil community but these were now being implemented. They told us when the conflict started it was peaceful for change but quickly turned into bloodshed when armed men killed many soldiers.
In the first days soldiers were unarmed but when people started asking for protection the government and military responded to defend the people and in self-defence.
When we enquired from the Prime Minister regarding the allegation that the Syrian Government had used Sarin gas, he told us that as soon as news came from Aleppo that allegedly gas had been used, his government invited immediately the UN to come in to investigate, but heard nothing from them. Most recently however, a UN investigator, High Commissioner Carla Del Ponte, has confirmed that it was rebels, not Syrian government, who used Sarin gas. During meeting with Justice Minister, we requested that a list of 72 non-violent political dissidents currently detained be released. The Justice Minister said after checking those listed were indeed non-violent political dissidents, he would, in principal, agree to the release of these nonviolent detainees. He also informed us they do not implement the death penalty and it is hoped that when things settle in Syria they will move to have the death penalty abolished. We also asked the Justice Minister (an international lawyer) about Syrian Government’s Human rights abuses, namely the artillery shelling into no-go areas being held by jihadists and armed opposition. The Minister accepted those facts but alleged that the Government had a duty to clear these areas. We suggested there was a better way to deal with the problem than artillery shelling but he insisted that the government had responsibility to clear the areas of rebel forces and this was the way in which they were doing it.
The Ministers and Governor said that President Assad was their President and has their support. There were many people we spoke to who expressed such sentiments. However, some young people said they support the opposition but in order to protect the Unity of Syria from outside destruction, they will support the government and President Assad, until the election next year and then they will vote for the opposition. They said the Doha Coalition in Qatar does not represent them and that no one outside Syria has a right to remove President Assad but the Syrian people through the elections next year. The journalists in Syria are in great danger from the religious extremist/fundamentalists, and during my visit to a television station a young journalist told me how his mother was killed by jihadists and he showed me his arm where he had been shot and almost killed.
5. Meeting with religious leaders: We attended in the Omayyad Mosque in Damascus a prayer gathering led by the Grand Mufti of the Syrian Arab Republic, Dr. Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun and the Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham with the delegate of Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X Yazigi, and clerics of all traditions. The Assembly prayed for the peace and unity of Syria and the non-interference of outsiders in their country. They stressed the conflict in Syria is not a religious conflict, as Muslims and Christians have always lived together in Syria, and they are, (in spite of living with suffering and violence much of which is not of their own making), unified in their wish to be a light of peace and reconciliation to the world. The Patriarch said that from the Mosque and Christian churches goes out a great movement of peace and reconciliation and asked both those inside and outside Syria, to reject all violence and support the people of Syria in this work of dialogue, reconciliation and peacemaking.
The Muslim and Christian Spiritual Leaders are very conscious if the religious extremist/fundamentalists gain momentum and control Syria, the future of those who are not supportive of fundamentalists like moderate Muslims, Christians, minorities, and other Syrians is in great danger. Indeed the Middle East could lose its precious pluralistic social fabric with the Christians, like in Iraq, being the first to flee the country. This would be a tragedy for all concerned in this multi-religious, multi-cultural secular Syria, once a light of peaceful conviviality in the Arab world.
Overview
Following many authorized reports in the mainstream Media and our own evidence, I can stress that the Syrian State and its population are under a proxy war led by foreign countries and directly financed and backed mainly by Qatar which has imposed its views on the Arab League. Turkey, a part of the Lebanese opposition, and some of the Jordan authorities offer a safe haven to a diversity of jihadist groups, each with its own agenda, recruited from many countries. Bands of jihadists armed and financed from foreign countries invade Syria through Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon, crossing porous frontiers in an effort to destabilize Syria. There are an estimated 50,000 foreign jihadist fighters terrorizing Syria. Those death squads are destroying systematically the Syrian State infrastructures (Electricity, Oil, Gas and water plants, High Tension Pylons, hospitals, schools, public buildings, cultural heritage sites and even religious sanctuaries). Moreover the country is submerged by snipers, bombers, agitators, bandits. They use aggression and Sharia rules and hijack the freedom and dignity of the Syrian population. They torture and kill those who refuse to join them. They have strange religious beliefs which make them feel comfortable even perpetrating the cruellest acts like killing and torture of their opponents. It is well documented that many of those terrorists are permanently under stimulants like Captagon. The general lack of security unleashes the terrible phenomenon of abduction for ransoms or for political pressure. Thousands of innocents are missing, among them the two Bishops, Youhanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi, many priests and Imams.
UN and EU economic sanctions as well as a severe embargo are pushing Syria to the edge of social collapse. Unfortunately the international media network is ignoring those realities and is bent on demonizing, lying, destabilizing the country and fuelling more violence and contradiction.
In summary: the war in Syria is not as depicted a civil war but a proxy war with serious breaches of International laws and the Humanitarian International laws. The protection of the foreign fighters by some foreign countries among the most powerful gives them a kind of an unaccountability that pushes them with impunity to all kind of cruel deeds against innocent civilians. Even war conventions are not respected resulting in many war crimes and, even, crimes against Humanity.
Conclusion
During our visit to Syria, our delegation was met with great kindness by everyone and I offer to each one who facilitated or hosted our Delegation my most sincere feelings of gratitude. We witnessed that the Syrian people have suffered very deeply and continue to do so. The entire population of 23 million people are under tremendous threat of continued infiltration by foreign terrorists. Many are still stunned by the horrors and suddenness of all this violence and worried their country will be attacked and divided by outside forces, and are all too aware that geopolitical forces are at work to destabilize Syria for political control, oil and resources. One Druze leader said ‘if westerns want our Oil – both Lebanon and Syria have oil reserves – let us negotiate for it, but do not destroy our country to take it’. In Syria memories of next door Iraq’s destruction by US-UK-NATO forces are fresh in people’s minds, including in the minds of the one and a half million Iraqis who fled Iraqi’s conflict, including many Christians, and were given refuge in Syria by the Syrian Government.
The greatest hope we took was from Mussalaha, a non-political movement from all sections of Syrian society, which has working teams throughout Syria and is proceeding through dialogue to building peace and reconciliation. Mussalaha mediates between armed gunmen and security forces, helps get release of many people who have been abducted, and brings together all parties to the conflict for dialogue and practical solutions. It was this movement which hosted us, under the leadership of Mother Agnes-Mariam, Superior of Saint James’ Monastery, supported by the Patriarch Gregory III Laham, head of the Catholic Hierarchy of Syria.
This great civil community movement building a peace process and National Reconciliation from the ground up, will, if given space, time, and non-interference from outside, help bring Peace to Syria. They recognize that there must be an unconditional, all inclusive political solution, with compromises and they are confident this is happening at many levels of society and is the only way forward for Syrian peace.
I support this National Reconciliation process which, many Syrian believe, is the only way to bring Peace to SYRIA and the entire Middle East. I am myself committed to this peaceful process and hope that the International Community, the Religious and Political Leaders, as well as any person of good will, will help Syria to bypass violence and prejudice and anchor in a new era of Social peace and prosperity. This cradle of civilizations where Syria occupies the heart is an enormous spiritual heritage for humanity, let us strive to establish a non-war zone and proclaim it an OASIS of Peace for the Human Family.
Mairead Maguire, Nobel peace laureate. Spokesperson for Mussalaha International – peacepeople.com

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US and allies step up war preparations against Syria, Lebanon, Iran

By Chris Marsden 
25 May 2013
The United States and its allies continue to escalate their military aggression against Syria, behind the smokescreen of a proposed international peace conference scheduled for June in Geneva.
In official public discourse, the conference is seeking a political solution to end Syria’s civil war, involving a negotiated settlement between the Ba’athist regime and the Islamist-dominated opposition forces that are funded and armed by the US, Turkey and the Gulf States.
Russia’s foreign ministry has endorsed the conference and has persuaded the Syrian government, “in principle”, to attend in the hope of shaping the outcome in its interests.
Based on the final communiqué of the United Nations-backed Action Group for Syria meeting in Switzerland in June 2012, the stated aim of “Geneva II” is to secure a ceasefire, paving the way for a transitional regime charged with ensuring a “democratic and pluralist” Syria in which the “people” will “determine the future of the country.”
All of which is transparent nonsense.
Some leading representatives of the Syrian regime are being offered a place in a new political constellation that includes Islamist and other bourgeois opposition groups and which will be dictated and determined by Washington and its allies and to some extent by Moscow. The alternative to doing so—as has been made abundantly clear—is stepped up aggression up to and including direct military intervention.
Of the two options, a negotiated agreement is by far the least likely. Every day brings fresh indications of preparations for war against not only Syria, but also Lebanon and Iran, threatening a region-wide conflagration that could yet involve Russia and China.
On Thursday, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces began a three day meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, to discuss its possible participation in the Geneva conference. Much was made of a proposal for a transition tabled by the coalition’s previous leader, Sheik Moaz al-Khatib.
Its 16 points included absolving all combatants in “legal military action” from prosecution and allowing Assad, 500 people of his choosing and their families to seek refuge in any country willing to welcome them. Assad would hand power to Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa or Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi within 30 days of accepting the plan. The current government would then continue to govern for 100 days, restructure the security and military apparatus, and release political prisoners.
However, there is little or no support for this proposal in the fractured opposition group, let alone more broadly in Syria.
A better indication of what is planned was provided by the attendance of the conference’s most important guest, US Secretary of State John Kerry. He threatened Thursday that if Assad was not prepared to make “a commitment to find peace in his country,” Washington and its allies would consider increasing backing for his opponents.
The US has been arming the opposition from the start, channelling weapons and money through Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and other regional allies. The US and the European Union have in addition stationed Patriot anti-ballistic missiles in Turkey. But what Kerry is threatening is something far bigger, as indicated by the decision of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to support directly arming opposition militias. In line with this decision, Kerry has spent the past week lobbying for escalating military involvement in Syria by Europe and the Middle East powers.
On Wednesday, May 22, the Friends of Syria group held a meeting in Amman, Jordan again attended by Kerry. Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague was particularly bellicose in Amman, but only because he was acting as a frontman for Kerry. Speaking at a press conference Tuesday with his Jordanian counterpart Nasser Judeh, he warned: “we must make clear that if the regime does not negotiate seriously at the Geneva conference, no option is off the table.”
Iran and Hezbollah were “propping up” Assad and thereby “increasing the threat to regional stability,” he added, calling on the European Union to put Hezbollah’s armed wing on its list of terrorist organisations.
A spokesman for German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle publicly stated support for the proposal.
The Friends of Syria meeting formally backed the call for a transitional government, but opposed any negotiation with Assad unless it was about him giving up power.
Immediately after the meeting, the 11-member Arab Ministerial Committee on Syria decided to assign the current head of the Arab League, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim, to represent it at the mooted Geneva conference. Qatar is among the states most implicated in militarily backing Islamist fighters and will represent the foreign ministers of Qatar, Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Oman, Iraq, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The foreign ministers denounced Iran and Hezbollah’s support for the Assad regime as a threat to regional stability.
In Europe, Kerry has been lobbying hard for European states to drop their opposition to Britain and France’s plan to lift legal restrictions on arming the opposition. So far, Italy and Spain have backed the lifting of the arms embargo, while Germany has effectively done so, taking a “neutral” stand.
Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo spoke cynically of allowing the delivery of “defence material for people’s protection” that apparently includes arms and anti-aircraft batteries. He even spoke at a joint press conference with Mouaz al-Khatib.
A decision will be taken on lifting the embargo on Monday, May 27.
Israel too is becoming increasingly involved in the conflict, with three direct strikes on Syria so far this month.
The Israeli media has been discussing the advisability of establishing a new buffer zone on the Syrian side of the 43-mile cease-fire line established in 1973, following an attack on an Israeli military vehicle that had crossed the line in the disputed Golan Heights. To do so would require a full-scale invasion. There are also reports of efforts to establish a proxy force, based upon the minority Druze population near the border.
On May 23, Major General Amir Eshel, commander of the air force, warned that unrest in the Middle East could result in Israel becoming involved in a “surprise war” with Syria. He cited the possibility of Islamist forces gaining control of chemical and other weapons as a casus beli for “having to act on a very broad scale.”
War with both Syria and Lebanon could be imminent, he said. “It’s not as if we can say we have two weeks to prepare. I am not sure we have two weeks to prepare,” he added, given that advanced Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missiles are on their way to Syria.
The previous day, Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz warned Assad that he would “bear the consequences” in the event of further attacks on Israeli forces. “If Assad destabilizes the Golan Heights, he will pay a heavy price,” he said. “He needs to know that we will know how to defend ourselves and we will respond should the need arise.”
Paralleling the denunciations of the Assad regime, a key aide to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Minister Yuval Steinitz, warned that Iran’s nuclear industry was “many times larger than that of either North Korea or Pakistan.” He said that Tehran was intent on becoming a “nuclear superpower.”

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Hezbollah Opens ‘Historic Wounds’ in Qusair

By Hussein Dakroub, Niamh Fleming-Farrell
May 25, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“Daily Star” — BEIRUT: Joining the fight in Syria may be part of Hezbollah’s strategy to defend the resistance, political analysts have told The Daily Star, but the party’s involvement, regardless of the outcome of the conflict there, is likely to alter Sunni-Shiite relations in Lebanon irreversibly. Analyst Qassem Kassir contends Hezbollah has a clear strategic goal, in line with its larger objectives, in joining the fight in Syria.
“The fighting in Qusair is not a gamble by Hezbollah. The party considers it is fighting a strategic battle in Qusair to defend the resistance,” Kassir, an expert on Islamist movements, told The Daily Star.
“Hezbollah has a strategic vision which says that what is happening in Syria is an international battle for Syria’s position. Hezbollah considers protecting Syria similar to protecting the resistance and the party’s arms supply route,” he continued. “Hezbollah is fighting to foil attempts to take Syria to the American-Israeli axis.”
For a fifth consecutive day Thursday, Syrian government troops backed by elite Hezbollah fighters fought rebels in the strategic Syrian town of Qusair just 10 kilometers from the Lebanese border.
Thus far, the party’s losses have been heavy, with bodies returning to hometowns in Lebanon’s north, Bekaa Valley and south.
Kamel Wazne of the Center for American Strategic Studies believes Hezbollah’s participation in Syria is part of a “calculated gamble.”
He contends that the war currently playing out in Syria between Iran and its allies and the U.S.-Israeli axis is one that would eventually have come to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“The war that is taking place in Syria is the war that should be happening in Lebanon,” Wazne said. “They [Hezbollah] took the fight to Syria to battle it out.”
But, while in Wazne’s estimate, Hezbollah is “preventing the war from moving to Lebanon,” other analysts say even though widespread civil strife is not imminent on Lebanese soil, lasting repercussions from Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah’s party’s involvement in Syria will eventually be felt.
Hilal Khashan, a political science professor at the American University of Beirut, agreed that Hezbollah’s actions in Syria have “created a lasting wedge between them and Lebanese Sunnis.”
“Irrespective of the outcome of the Syrian conflict, Sunni-Shiite relations in Lebanon will never be the same again,” he said. “Historical wounds have been opened.”
Even though sectarian clashes in the northern city of Tripoli had Thursday morning killed 16 since Sunday, Hisham Jaber, a retired Lebanese Army general and the current director of Beirut-based think tank the Middle East Center for Political Studies and Research, told The Daily Star he does not think the present divisions will develop into a military conflict.
“Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria will further fuel sectarian divisions,” Jaber admitted, explaining that “Lebanon is sharply divided between Sunnis who are against the Syrian regime and Shiites who support it.”
But, he continued, “I don’t think that this division will escalate into a military conflict.”
Jaber and other analysts contend the appetite for larger scale strife in Lebanon is curbed on a number of levels, with both local and international political actors committed to avoiding any large scale escalation at present.
Wazne pointed out that “at this moment there is agreement between [Lebanon’s] political parties to keep the security situation under great care,” while Paul Salem of the Carnegie Center, Beirut, said Lebanon’s big international patrons are keen to maintain stability here.
Jaber elaborated on this: “There is an international decision to prevent a civil war in Lebanon for now and to keep the status quo as long as the war is raging in neighboring Syria,” he said, adding that Saudi Arabia and Iran, which wield great influence in Lebanon, have no interest in the outbreak of strife in the country.
Meanwhile Talal Atrissi, a Lebanese University Lecturer with expertise on Iran and the Middle East explained to The Daily Star: “Saudi Arabia has no interest in seeing the situation in Lebanon spiral out of control or slide into Sunni-Shiite strife. A sectarian strife in Lebanon will affect the kingdom where there is a Shiite population.”
“Despite Hezbollah’s participation in the Syrian fighting, particularly in Qusair, there are no fears of an outbreak of Sunni-Shiite strife in Lebanon because there is a regional and international decision against destabilizing Lebanon,” Atrissi added.
And while analysts generally don’t deem civil war in Lebanon an immediate threat, they do express concern over the repercussions of the outcome of the Syria conflict on Lebanon.
Should the Assad regime collapse, Jaber, the retired army general, cautioned that civil war will result in Lebanon and other countries.
“If the [Assad] regime falls and the opposition and jihadist groups take control of most of the country, a civil war will erupt in Syria that would lead to the country’s partition,” Jaber said. “The civil war would spread to Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. The situation would be out of control.”
However, if Assad prevails in Syria, Khashan warned that the “the 21st century might become the golden age of Hezbollah.”
“Should Asad’s regime prevail in Syria, Hezbollah’s preponderance in Lebanon will consolidate and it would become virtually impossible to contest it,” Khashan said. “Such a development would place Hezbollah one good step forward toward the installation of an Islamic state in Lebanon.”
He added that the party had never disavowed this objective.
Meanwhile, Carnegie’s Salem wondered if the only fault line likely to be drawn by this latest Hezbollah action was between Sunnis and Shiites.
Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria may also, he speculated, have an impact within the Shiite community in Lebanon, which is now being “asked to fight a different war on a different territory, in a different situation” to that which it traditionally committed to.
So far, Salem said, the Shiite community has absorbed Hezbollah’s decision to become involved in Syria, but he questioned how long their tolerance can endure.

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What is the U.S. REALLY Doing in Syria?

By Stephen M. Walt 
May 23, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“Foreign Policy” – – Permit me to indulge today in a bit of speculation, for which I don’t have a lot of hard evidence. As I read this article yesterday on Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian civil war, I began to wonder whether U.S. involvement in that conflict isn’t more substantial than I have previously thought. And then I did a bit of web surfing and found this story, which seemed to confirm my suspicions. Here’s my chain of reasoning:
1. The Syrian conflict has become a proxy fight between the opposition and its various allies (Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Turkey, etc.) and Bashar al-Assad’s regime and its various outsider supporters (Iran, Russia, Hezbollah).
2. For Washington, this war has become a golden opportunity to inflict a strategic defeat on Iran and its various local allies and thus shift the regional balance of power in a pro-American direction.
3. Israel’s calculations are more complicated, given that it had a good working relationship with the Assad regime and is concerned about a failed state emerging next door. But on balance, a conflict that undermines Iran, further divides the Arab/Islamic world, and distracts people from the continued colonization of the West Bank is a net plus. So Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won’t object if the United States gets more deeply engaged.
4. Consistent with its buck-passing instincts, Barack Obama’s administration does not want to play a visible role in the conflict. This is partly because Americans are rightly tired of trying to govern war-torn countries, but also because America isn’t very popular in the region and anyone who gets too close to the United States might actually lose popular support. So no boots on the ground, no “no-fly zones,” and no big, highly visible shipments of U.S. arms. Instead, Washington can use Qatar and Saudi Arabia as its middlemen, roles they are all too happy to play for their own reasons.
5. Since taking office, Obama has shown a marked preference for covert actions that don’t cost too much and don’t attract much publicity, combined with energetic efforts to prosecute leakers. So an energetic covert effort in Syria would be consistent with past practice. Although there have been news reports that the CIA is involved in vetting and/or advising some opposition groups, we still don’t know just how deeply involved the U.S. government is. (There has been a bit of speculation in the blogosphere that the attack on Benghazi involved “blowback” from the Syrian conflict, but I haven’t seen any hard evidence to support this idea.)
6. In this scenario, the Obama administration may secretly welcome the repeated demands for direct U.S. involvement made by war hawks like Sen. John McCain. Rejecting the hawks’ demands for airstrikes, “no-fly zones,” or overt military aid makes it look like U.S. involvement is actually much smaller than it really is.
To repeat: The above analysis is mostly speculative on my part. I have no concrete evidence that the full scenario sketched above is correct, and I don’t know what the level of U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war really is. But that’s what troubles me: I don’t like not knowing what my government is doing, allegedly to make me safer or to advance someone’s idea of the “national interest.” And if you’re an American, neither should you. If the United States is now orchestrating a lot of arms shipments, trying to pick winners among the opposition, sending intelligence information to various militias, and generally meddling in a very complicated and uncertain conflict, don’t you think the president owes us a more complete account of what America’s public servants are or are not doing, and why?
Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.
©2013 The Foreign Policy Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Syria: Turning Point in the Battle of Qusayr

By Radwan Mortada
May 22, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“Al-Akhbar” – After weeks of reinforcing their positions around Qusayr near the Lebanese border, Syrian government forces stormed the strategic town early on Sunday. Many opposition fighters fled, accusing their commanders of betrayal.
Both opposition and army sources on the ground in Qusayr agree that the town – taken by opposition fighters early on in the Syrian crisis – will be in the hands of the regime in a matter of days.
For weeks now, government forces have been conducting military operations around the strategic town, which is located to the southwest of Homs, a few kilometers from the northern tip of Lebanon.
After securing nearly all the villages in the surrounding area, the Syrian army entered Qusayr Sunday morning under heavy fire power, killing 90 opposition fighters and injuring hundreds, according to opposition sources inside the besieged town.
Many fighters managed to break the government siege and escape through a secret route that led to Josiah and the Qalamoun Mountains to the south. But, according to opposition sources, the regime found out about the escape route nearly a week ago and blocked it, killing and injuring around 30 fighters in the process.
Starting around two years ago, the opposition started to gather a large number of fighters in the town, estimated to range between 6,000 and 10,000. They built a network of bunkers and trenches in some neighborhoods in preparation for any attack by government forces.
But all talk of a Grozny-like scenario if the regime dared enter Qusayr melted away as the Syrian army – assisted by Hezbollah fighters, according to opposition sources – stormed the town and reached the central market within a few hours. It will, however, take a few more days before government troops have full control.
The turning point in the battle of Qusayr came six days earlier, when regime forces managed to take the strategic area of al-Tal, which overlooks the town and much of the surrounding area.
Opposition sources claim that the Tal area “was sold out to Hezbollah by some of our leaders, who then fled the fighting,” adding that this “betrayal” cost the two main opposition groups who control Qusayr – the Salafi Farouk and Wadi Brigades – heavy losses. Some of the fighters on the ground even named several commanders, whom they accused of buying their way out of Qusayr at the last minute.
Regime forces used heavy fire power, including air strikes, in addition to the element of surprise to break through opposition defenses in the city. “We mobilized our forces to the north to repel an expected attack by the Syrian army and Hezbollah,” a local commander told Al-Akhbar, “but we were surprised when they entered from the south, east, and west.”
Opposition sources say that they were expecting the military to attempt to retake those villages that were still not under its control before trying to enter Qusayr. Instead, an opposition fighter explains, they were surprised by an attack “that was launched from the Shia villages to the west of the Assi river…with Hezbollah fighters descending on us from the Tal area.”
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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Syrian Rebels in Trouble: German Intelligence Sees Assad Regaining Hold

Not even a year ago, German intelligence predicted Syrian autocrat Bashar Assad’s regime would soon collapse. Now, the agency instead believes the rebels are in trouble. Government troops are set to make significant advances, it predicts.
By Matthias Gebauer 
May 22, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“Spiegel” – Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), has fundamentally changed its view of the ongoing civil war in Syria. SPIEGEL ONLINE has learned that the BND now believes the Syrian military of autocrat Bashar Assad is more stable than it has been in a long time and is capable of undertaking successful operations against rebel units at will. BND head Gerhard Schindler informed select politicians of the agency’s new assessment in a secret meeting.
It is a notable about-face. As recently as last summer, Schindler reported to government officials and parliamentarians that he felt the Assad regime would collapse early in 2013. He repeated the view in interviews with the media.
At the time, the BND pointed to the Syrian military’s precarious supply situation and large numbers of desertions that included members of the officer core. German intelligence spoke of the “end phase of the regime.”
Since then, however, the situation has changed dramatically, the BND believes. Schindler used graphics and maps to demonstrate that Assad’s troops once again possess effective supply lines to ensure sufficient quantities of weapons and other materiel. Fuel supplies for tanks and military aircraft, which had proved troublesome, are once again available, Schindler reported. The new situation allows Assad’s troops to combat spontaneous rebel attacks and even retake positions that were previously lost. The BND does not believe that Assad’s military is strong enough to defeat the rebels, but it can do enough to improve its position in the current stalemate.
Severing Rebel Supply Lines
The assessment appears to be consistent with recent reports from Syria, where government troops have been able to regain the upper hand in the region stretching from Damascus to Homs, including coastal areas near Homs. Furthermore, fighters loyal to Assad have expelled rebel fighters from several districts on the edge of Damascus and cut off their supply lines to the south. Currently, the regime is in the process of severing rebel supply lines to the west.
Meanwhile, the BND believes that rebel forces, which include several groups of Islamist fighters with ties to al-Qaida, are facing extreme difficulties. Schindler reported that different rebel groups are fighting with each other to attain supremacy in individual regions. Furthermore, regime troops have managed to cut supply lines for weapons and evacuation routes for wounded fighters. Each new battle weakens the militias further, the BND chief said.
Should the conflict continue as it has in recent weeks, says Schindler, government troops could retake the entire southern half of the country by the end of 2013. That would leave only the north for insurgent fighters, where Kurdish rebels have tighten control over their areas.
Lowering Expectations
Schindler’s report on the state of the rebel groups allows little room for hope that serious talks between the insurgents and the Assad regime will take place soon. The BND says there is no functional chain of command between opposition leaders abroad and the militias inside of Syria. The fighters on the ground simply don’t recognize the political leadership, says the BND.
The United Nations is currently doing all it can to encourage both sides to engage in peace talks in Geneva, though no date has been set. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is once again travelling to the Middle East on Wednesday to plan for such negotiations.
At a meeting of the “Friends of Syria” in the Jordanian capital of Amman, Westerwelle is set to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry among others. But over the weekend, he sought to lower expectations, saying that it isn’t clear yet whether the Assad regime is even prepared to engage in talks.

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Syria Has No Reason To Use Chemical Weapons

World View: After the fiasco over Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, people around the world are rightly sceptical about claims of gas attacks
By Patrick Cockburn
May 20, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“The Independent” – ‘I am not afraid of anything except for God and poison gas,” said an Iraqi officer who had fought in the Iran-Iraq war. “It’s like a ghost. You have no defence against it.” Though not a target of poison gas as a member of the army using it, he knew what it did to its victims.
Poison gas is a terrifying weapon. People are still dying in Iran from the effects of ingesting it a quarter of a century ago. It is one of the few weapons to be banned with partial success between its first use on a mass scale in the First World War and again by Saddam Hussein with even greater intensity against Iranians and Kurds in the 1980s.
It is right, therefore, that the alleged attack by the Syrian armed forces using chemical weapons against Saraqeb, a rebel-held town south-west of Aleppo on 29 April, should be carefully investigated. Doctors told the BBC’s Ian Pannell that after an artillery bombardment they treated eight people with breathing problems, some of whom were vomiting and others who had constricted pupils.
One woman named Maryam Khatib later died. Her son Mohammed said: “It was a horrible, suffocating smell. You couldn’t breathe at all. You’d feel like you were dead. I couldn’t see anything for three or four days.” Videos taken by local people show a helicopter dropping an object which appears to leave a trail of white vapour.
My experience of trying to report allegations of the deployment or use of such weapons over the years makes me cautious. Local people, including local doctors, are often sincerely convinced that some exotic weapon has been used against them, but they may not have past experience of either conventional or chemical attack.
For instance, doctors in Fallujah west of Baghdad suspect that non-conventional weapons must have been used against the city when it was stormed by US forces in November 2004. This might explain why so many malformed babies have been born since. It is impossible not to sympathise or suppress a feeling of rage over the sufferings of these people.
But, in blaming non-conventional weapons, people may underestimate what conventional munitions can do. In two weeks’ fighting in Fallujah in 2004, US marine artillery units fired an average of 379 high-explosive 155mm shells a day into this small city. In addition, American jets flying overhead dropped 318 bombs and, together with helicopters, fired 391 rockets and missiles.
At the time, the Iraqi government of Iyad Allawi made the unlikely claim that just 200 buildings in Fallujah had been destroyed or damaged. A recently published book, The Endgame: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Iraq from George W Bush to Barack Obama by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor, from which the above figures are taken, reveals that the US marines “estimated that out of about 50,000 residences in the city, their operations had destroyed between 7,000 and 10,000, as well as 60 mosques”. Perhaps this vastly excessive use of firepower is sufficient explanation for the appalling birth defects.
Allegations about the use of poison gas in Syria are made under the shadow of the notoriously false claims about Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction made to justify the Iraq war. Not surprisingly, this has made the public everywhere in the world dubious about stories about the possession or use of WMD being used to hoodwink them into supporting another war.
Of course, it is much against the interests of the Syrian government to use chemical weapons because this might provoke foreign military intervention. The Syrian army has no need to use it as a terror weapon because artillery, aerial bombardment and death squads are quite enough to frighten people into taking flight. There are already 1.5 million refugees outside the country.
Journalists bear a large measure of responsibility for giving credence to the stories peddled by Iraqi defectors, intelligence services and government about Saddam’s WMD. In that case, it should have been self-evident that Iraqi defectors with juicy stories, and the opposition parties that promoted them, wanted to tempt the US into military action against Saddam. When it comes to chemical weapons, the Syrian opposition has similar and wholly understandable motives.
As for the credibility of Western government claims about WMD, it is worth recalling that they tolerated Saddam using poison gas on a mass scale. And they did more than just turn a blind eye. Joost Hiltermann, in his book A Poisonous Affair: America, Iraq and the Gassing of Halabja, writes that Western powers “sent repeated signals to Iraq that the regime could continue, and even escalate, chemical weapons use – which it did, with the Halabja attack [when thousands of Kurdish civilians died] as climax”.

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The YouTube War: Online Videos Spread Fear in Syria: – Video – Aryn Baker discusses how fighters on both sides of the war post videos of beatings, torture and executions to incite fear. Posted May 20, 2012

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Syria Ready to Unleash Missiles on Israel

By Uzi Mahnaimi, Tel Aviv 
May 19, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“The Times- SYRIA has put its most advanced missiles on standby with orders to hit Tel Aviv if Israel launches another raid on its territory.
Reconnaissance satellites have been monitoring preparations by the Syrian army to deploy surface-to-surface Tishreen missiles.
An Israeli official told The New York Times that Israel, which has launched three recent attacks on Syria, was considering further strikes and warned President Bashar al-Assad that his government would face “crippling consequences” if he hit back at Israel.
The deployment of the Syrian-made Tishreen missiles, each of which can carry a half-ton payload, marks a significant escalation of tension in a region in which the United States and Russia appear to be preparing for a Cold War-style stand-off.
In a signal of its continued support for Assad, Russia last week sent a dozen warships to patrol the eastern Mediterranean close to its Syrian naval base in Tartus, its only naval outpost outside the former Soviet Union.
“This very much resembles the Cold War days when the Russian navy was patrolling the Mediterranean alongside the US Sixth Fleet,” said a Middle East analyst.
Talks between the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, failed to win any assurances last week that Israel would stop its raids.
In turn, Netanyahu was unable to extract a promise from Putin to stop shipments of Yakhont P-800 Oniks anti-ship missiles to Syria. The missiles, described as “ship killers”, would deter western powers from any direct assistance to the rebels from the sea.
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, described Russia’s recent supply of the missiles to Assad as “ill-timed and very unfortunate” and said it risked prolonging a war that has already killed more than 80,000 Syrians.
Russia also appears ready to supply the regime with state-of-the-art S-300 anti-aircraft missiles. “Missile defence systems are delivered to protect the country that buys them from airstrikes,” said Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister.
All parties fear hostilities spreading beyond Syria’s borders. Faisal al-Miqdad, Syria’s deputy foreign minister, said last week that the Israeli airstrikes represented “a declaration of war”.
Amid growing tension, John Brennan, the CIA director, met Tamir Pardo, the head of Mossad, Israel’s external espionage agency, and Moshe Ya’alon, the defence minister. According to Israeli press reports, Brennan’s mission was to “cool down” the Israelis over their Syrian raids.
Some Israeli defence experts believe that if Israel strikes again, Assad will have little choice but to retaliate.
“The Tishreen missiles are extremely accurate and can cause serious harm,” said Uzi Rubin, Israel’s leading missile expert.
He said Syria had large stocks of Tishreens. Referring to Israel’s main international airport, he said: “Even if they don’t hit Ben-Gurion directly, they would halt all commercial flights out of the country.”
© Times Newspapers Ltd 2013

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Brinkmanship in Syria Boosts Risk of Regional War with Israel

By Nicholas Blanford
May 19, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“Daily Star“- BEIRUT: The dangerous brinkmanship pitting Israel against the alliance of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah has brought the region closer to war than at any time since the end of the July-August 2006 conflict.
A combination of bellicose rhetoric, aggressive acts, warnings and threats set against the backdrop of Syria’s grueling civil war and its critical implications for the Middle East has revived the era of miscalculation after nearly seven years of calm and restraint, with potentially disastrous consequences, diplomats and observers say.
In the past two weeks, Israel has confirmed its unprecedented policy of airstrikes against suspected Hezbollah arms caches in Syria with two more attacks in swift succession after the inaugural bombing in January. Syria has warned of an “automatic response” should Israel stage a fourth strike.
Israel, while not directly claiming responsibility for the air attacks, has signaled that it will continue destroying consignments of “game changing” weapons destined for Hezbollah.
Indeed, Israel upped the stakes by using Thursday’s edition of the New York Times to deliver a clear warning to Syrian PresidentBashar Assad that he would “risk forfeiting his regime” if he fulfilled the vow of retaliation to any further airstrikes. That same warning was delivered by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon to CIA Director John Brennan Thursday.
Added to the mix is the strategic decision of Iran and Hezbollah to devote substantial resources to assist the Assad regime in crushing the rebellion. And the reported transfer of more Yakhont anti-ship missiles from Russia to Syria and the possibility of Russian S-300 air defense system also being delivered to Damascus in the coming weeks has merely added to the tensions.
The irony is that the Lebanon-Syria-Israel theater now finds itself in the uncomfortable and uncertain position that the players on both sides have strenuously sought to avoid for the past nearly seven years.
In the 2006 war, Hezbollah humiliated the Israeli army on the battlefields of south Lebanon and denied the Israeli government any of its stated war goals. But it came at a huge cost in the suffering of Hezbollah’s core constituency, the premature exposure of the underground bunker and tunnel networks, tactics and weapons systems.
Following the end of the war, Hezbollah abandoned the periodic “reminder operations” in the Shebaa Farms and the subtler war of attrition along the Blue Line that defined the conflict with Israel in the 2000 to 2006 period to avoid giving Israel any excuse for another rampage through Lebanon. Similarly, Israel has shown no interest in renewing direct hostilities with Hezbollah in the knowledge that the next war between these two foes will be on a substantially larger scale than in 2006.
However, Israel has sensed a window of opportunity opened by the war in Syria to attack Hezbollah arms supplies stockpiled in Syria, calculating that there will be no reaction while the Assad regime is fighting for its existence.
This is an unprecedented act. Since the late 1990s, Israel has watched Hezbollah’s rocket and missile arsenal grow in size and quality but never risked targeting the caches in Syria in case it sparked an escalation.
So far, Israel’s calculation has paid off. But the tolerance threshold grows a little closer with each fresh airstrike.
The Syrian authorities have warned that orders have been given to the army to launch an “automatic” – if unspecified – retaliation should the Israelis launch another airstrike into Syria.
The question, however, is what form would such a retaliation take. Any response would have to be sufficiently powerful to make Israel think twice about mounting any future bombing operations inside Syria, but not to overreach to the extent that it could trigger an escalation leading to a war that neither the Assad regime, Iran, Hezbollah nor Israel want.
The options would appear to be limited. The launching into Israel or the Golan Heights of a Katyusha rocket or two anonymously or under the claim of a previously unheard of group would be more suggestive of impotence than an act of retaliation.
A more forceful direct attack on Israeli troops in the Shebaa Farms or the Golan Heights – such as a roadside bomb ambush or mortar bombardment – would carry more weight. However, it would also risk a counter-retaliation by Israel possibly against the Syrian army, as suggested by the New York Times report.
Destroying weapons set aside for Hezbollah’s use is inconvenient but it does not hamper the Assad regime’s efforts to crush the rebels.
If the Israelis were to begin attacking Syrian military bases, however, it could undermine the regime’s ability to fend off the opposition challenge and survive.
Then again, Israel’s defense establishment appears to be torn between wanting to see Assad gone as this would deliver a blow to Iran and Hezbollah and wanting Assad to remain in power because the potential alternative to the present regime could be militant Islamists.
Another option is to attempt to shoot down an Israeli jet in Lebanese airspace. All three Israeli airstrikes against sites west of Damascus were conducted from the Lebanese side of the border using long-range standoff missiles. The Israeli Air Force used a similar technique in October 2003 when it attacked the Ain es-Saheb training camp for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command which was located 20 kilometers east of the Lebanese border and in the same general area as the more recent strikes.
Syria has an extensive arsenal of antiaircraft missiles concentrated mainly around Damascus, the Golan Heights, the Homs-Aleppo corridor and along the coast. But most of the systems, particularly the longer-range missiles, are obsolete and pose a limited threat against modern Israeli jets.
Following the Israeli air raid against the suspected nuclear reactor near Deir al-Zor in 2007, Syria received newer missiles from Russia, mainly short- to medium-range systems such as the Pantsir S1 and the Buk-M2. Syria is currently seeking to acquire the long-range S-300 system from Russia. Reports suggest that Syria has been paying for the missiles and that they could be delivered in the coming three months.
Syria’s existing stock of antiaircraft missiles have sufficient range to hit targets in Lebanese airspace. Indeed, there have been several reports in recent months of antiaircraft missiles being launched against unspecified targets along the Lebanon-Syria border area.
If an Israeli jet was shot down over Lebanon, the Lebanese can argue with justification that Israel repeatedly breaches Lebanese sovereignty with its illegal overflights (so far this year at a rate roughly double the same period in 2012).
Israel does not hesitate to shoot down any aircraft deemed hostile that breaches Israeli airspace, so why should Lebanon not do the same, either directly by Hezbollah (if it possesses the capabilities) or with the assistance of Syrian air defense units?
On the other hand, the downing of an Israeli jet would shatter Israel’s long-standing “red line” concerning the use of advanced antiaircraft weapons in Lebanon.
It is customary at this time each year for Lebanese to ponder whether the coming summer will witness the “next war with Israel.”
On the positive side, there is no World Cup this year. (The 1978 and 1982 Israeli invasions and the 2006 war all coincided with the World Cup).
On the other hand, the elements are falling into place for one side to overreach and miscalculate the intentions of the other, potentially triggering a dangerous escalation that could lead to a war that nobody wants but nobody knows how to avoid
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 18, 2013, on page 2

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Mystery Sponsor Of Weapons And Money To Syrian Mercenary "Rebels" Revealed

By Tyler Durden
May 17, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“Zero Hedge“- Previously, when looking at the real underlying national interests responsible for the deteriorating situation in Syria, which eventually may and/or will devolve into all out war with hundreds of thousands killed, we made it very clear that it was always and only about the gas, or gas pipelines to be exact, and specifically those involving the tiny but uber-wealthy state of Qatar.
Needless to say, the official spin on events has no mention of this ulterior motive, and the popular, propaganda machine, especially from those powers supporting the Syrian “rebels” which include Israel, the US and the Arabian states tries to generate public and democratic support by portraying Assad as a brutal, chemical weapons-using dictator, in line with the tried and true script used once already in Iraq.
On the other hand, there is Russia (and to a lesser extent China: for China’s strategic interests in mid-east pipelines, read here), which has been portrayed as the main supporter of the “evil” Assad regime, and thus eager to preserve the status quo without a military intervention. Such attempts may be for naught especially with the earlier noted arrival of US marines in Israel, and the imminent arrivalof the Russian Pacific fleet in Cyprus (which is a stone throw away from Syria) which may catalyze a military outcome sooner than we had expected.
However, one question that has so far remained unanswered, and a very sensitive one now that the US is on the verge of voting to arm the Syrian rebels, is who was arming said group of Al-Qaeda supported militants up until now. Now, finally, courtesy of the FT we have the (less than surprising) answer, which goes back to our original thesis, and proves that, as so often happens in the middle east, it is once again all about the natural resources.
The tiny gas-rich state of Qatar has spent as much as $3bn over the past two years supporting the rebellion in Syria, far exceeding any other government, but is now being nudged aside by Saudi Arabia as the prime source of arms to rebels. 
The cost of Qatar’s intervention, its latest push to back an Arab revolt, amounts to a fraction of its international investment portfolio. But its financial support for the revolution that has turned into a vicious civil war dramatically overshadows western backing for the opposition. 
In dozens of interviews with the FT conducted in recent weeks, rebel leaders both abroad and within Syria as well as regional and western officials detailed Qatar’s role in the Syrian conflict, a source of mounting controversy.
Just as Egypt and Libya had their CIA Western-funded mercenaries fighting the regime, so Qatar is paying for its own mercenary force.
The small state with a gargantuan appetite is the biggest donor to the political opposition, providing generous refugee packages to defectors (one estimate puts it at $50,000 a year for a defector and his family) and has provided vast amounts of humanitarian support. 
In September, many rebels in Syria’s Aleppo province received a one off monthly salary of $150 courtesy of Qatar. Sources close to the Qatari government say total spending has reached as much as $3bn, while rebel and diplomatic sources put the figure at $1bn at most. 
For Qatar, owner of the world’s third-largest gas reserves, its intervention in Syria is part of an aggressive quest for global recognition and is merely the latest chapter in its attempt to establish itself as a major player in the region, following its backing of Libya’s rebels who overthrew MuammerGaddafi in 2011.
That, sadly, is not even close to half the story. Recall from Qatar: Oil Rich and Dangerous, posted nearly a year ago, which predicted all of this:
Why would Qatar want to become involved in Syria where they have little invested? A map reveals that the kingdom is a geographic prisoner in a small enclave on the Persian Gulf coast. 
It relies upon the export of LNG, because it is restricted by Saudi Arabia from building pipelines to distant markets. In 2009, the proposal of a pipeline to Europe through Saudi Arabia and Turkey to the Nabucco pipeline was considered, but Saudi Arabia that is angered by its smaller and much louder brother has blocked any overland expansion. 
Already the largest LNG producer, Qatar will not increase the production of LNG. The market is becoming glutted with eight new facilities in Australia coming online between 2014 and 2020. 
A saturated North American gas market and a far more competitive Asian market leaves only Europe. The discovery in 2009 of a new gas field near Israel, Lebanon, Cyprus, and Syria opened new possibilities to bypass the Saudi Barrier and to secure a new source of income. Pipelines are in place already in Turkey to receive the gas. Only Al-Assad is in the way. 
Qatar along with the Turks would like to remove Al-Assad and install the Syrian chapter of the Moslem Brotherhood. It is the best organized political movement in the chaotic society and can block Saudi Arabia’s efforts to install a more fanatical Wahhabi based regime. Once the Brotherhood is in power, the Emir’s broad connections with Brotherhood groups throughout the region should make it easy for him to find a friendly ear and an open hand in Damascus. 
A control centre has been established in the Turkish city of Adana near the Syrian border to direct the rebels against Al-Assad. Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Saud asked to have the Turks establish a joint Turkish, Saudi, Qatari operations center. “The Turks liked the idea of having the base in Adana so that they could supervise its operations” a source in the Gulf told Reuters. 
The fighting is likely to continue for many more months, but Qatar is in for the long term. At the end, there will be contracts for the massive reconstruction and there will be the development of the gas fields. In any case, Al-Assad must go. There is nothing personal; it is strictly business to preserve the future tranquility and well-being of Qatar.
Some more on the strategic importance of this key feeder component to the Nabucco pipeline, and why Syria is so problematic to so many powers. From 2009:
Qatar has proposed a gas pipeline from the Gulf to Turkey in a sign the emirate is considering a further expansion of exportsfrom the world’s biggest gasfield after it finishes an ambitious programme to more than double its capacity to produce liquefied natural gas (LNG). 
“We are eager to have a gas pipeline from Qatar to Turkey,” Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the ruler of Qatar, said last week, following talks with the Turkish president Abdullah Gul and the prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the western Turkish resort town of Bodrum. “We discussed this matter in the framework of co-operation in the field of energy. In this regard, a working group will be set up that will come up with concrete results in the shortest possible time,” he said, according to Turkey’s Anatolia news agency. 
Other reports in the Turkish press said the two states were exploring the possibility of Qatar supplying gas to the strategic Nabucco pipeline project, which would transport Central Asian and Middle Eastern gas to Europe, bypassing Russia. A Qatar-to-Turkey pipeline might hook up with Nabucco at its proposed starting point in eastern Turkey. Last month, Mr Erdogan and the prime ministers of four European countries signed a transit agreement for Nabucco, clearing the way for a final investment decision next year on the EU-backed project to reduce European dependence on Russian gas. 
“For this aim, I think a gas pipeline between Turkey and Qatar would solve the issue once and for all,” Mr Erdogan added, according to reports in several newspapers. The reports said two different routes for such a pipeline were possible. One would lead from Qatar through Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq to Turkey. The other would go through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey. It was not clear whether the second option would be connected to the Pan-Arab pipeline, carrying Egyptian gas through Jordan to Syria. That pipeline, which is due to be extended to Turkey, has also been proposed as a source of gas for Nabucco.
Based on production from the massive North Field in the Gulf, Qatar has established a commanding position as the world’s leading LNG exporter. It is consolidating that through a construction programme aimed at increasing its annual LNG production capacity to 77 million tonnes by the end of next year, from 31 million tonnes last year. However, in 2005, the emirate placed a moratorium on plans for further development of the North Field in order to conduct a reservoir study. It recently extended the ban for two years to 2013.
Specifically, the issue at hand is the green part of the proposed pipeline: as explained above, it simply can’t happen as long as Russia is alligned with Assad.
So there you have it: Qatar doing everything it can to promote bloodshed, death and destruction by using not Syrian rebels, butmercenaries: professional citizens who are paid handsomely to fight and kill members of the elected regime (unpopular as it may be), for what? So that the unimaginably rich emirs of Qatar can get even richer. Although it is not as if Russia is blameless: all it wants is to preserve its own strategic leverage over Europe by being the biggest external provider of natgas to the continent through its own pipelines. Should Nabucco come into existence, Gazpromia would be very, very angry and make far less money!
As for the Syrian “rebels”, who else is helping them? Why the US and Israel of course. And with the Muslim Brotherhood “takeover” paradigm already tested out in Egypt, it is only a matter of time.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tracks arms transfers, Qatar has sent the most weapons deliveries to Syria, with more than 70 military cargo flights into neighbouring Turkey between April 2012 and March this year.
Perhaps it is Putin’s turn to tell John Kerry he prefer if Qatar was not “supplying assistance to Syrian mercenaries”?
What is worse, and what is already known is that implicitly the US – that ever-vigilant crusader against Al Qaeda – is effectively also supporting the terrorist organization:
The relegation of Qatar to second place in providing weapons follows increasing concern in the West and among other Arab states that weapons it supplies could fall into the hands of an al-Qaeda-linked group, Jabhat al-Nusrah.
Yet Qatar may have bitten off more than it can chew, even with the explicit military Israeli support, and implicit from the US. Because the closer Qatar gets to establishing its own puppet state in Syria, the closer Saudi Arabia is to getting marginalized:
But though its approach is driven more by pragmatism and opportunism, than ideology, Qatar has become entangled in the polarised politics of the region, setting off a wave of scathing criticism. “You can’t buy a revolution,” says an opposition businessman. 
Qatar’s support for Islamist groups in the Arab world, which puts it at odds with its peers in the Gulf states, has fuelled rivalry with Saudi Arabia. Qatar’s ruling emir, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, “wants to be the Arab world’s Islamist (Gamal) Abdelnasser,” said an Arab politician, referring to Egypt’s fiery late president and devoted pan-Arab leader. 
Qatar’s intervention is coming under mounting scrutiny. Regional rivals contend it is using its financial firepower simply to buy future influence and that it has ended up splintering Syria’s opposition. Against this backdrop Saudi Arabia, which until now has been a more deliberate backer of Syria’s rebels, has stepped up its involvement. 
Recent tensions over the opposition’s election of an interim prime minister who won the support of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood has also driven Saudi Arabia to tighten its relationship to the political opposition, a job it had largely left in the hands of Qatar.
What Saudi Arabia wants is not to leave the Syrian people alone, but to install its own puppet regime so it has full liberty to dictate LNG terms to Qatar, and subsequently to Europe.
Khalid al-Attiyah, Qatar’s state minister for foreign affairs, who handles its Syrian policy, dismissed talk of rivalry with the Saudis and denied allegations that Qatar’s support for the rebels has splintered Syria’s opposition and weakened nascent institutions. 
In an interview with the Financial Times, he said every move Qatar has made, has been in conjunction with the Friends of Syria group of Arab and western nations, not alone. “Our problem in Qatar is that we don’t have a hidden agenda so people start fixing you one,” he says.
Sadly, when it comes to the US (and of course Israel), it does have a very hidden agenda: one that involves lying to its people about what any future intervention is all about, and the fabrication of narrative about chemical weapons and a bloody regime hell bent on massacring every man, woman and child from the “brave resistance.” What they all fail to mention is that all such “rebels” are merely paid for mercenaries of the Qatari emir, whose sole interest is to accrue even more wealth even if it means the deaths of thousands of Syrians in the process.
A bigger read through of the events in Syria reveals an even more complicated web: one that has Qatar facing off against Syria, with both using Syria as a pawn in a great natural resource chess game, and with Israel and the US both on the side of the petrodollars, while Russia and to a lesser extent China, form the counterbalancing axis and refuse to permit a wholesale overthrow of the local government which would unlock even more geopolitical leverage for the gulf states.
Up until today, we would have thought that when push comes to shove, Russia would relent. However, with the arrival of a whole lot of submarines in Cyprus, the games just got very serious. After all the vital interests of Gazprom – perhaps the most important “company” in the world – are suddenly at stake.
Finally, one wonders just what President Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan were really talking about behind the scenes.

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Cannibalizing Syria: The West To Blame

By Finian Cunningham
May 17, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – The latest shocking video to emerge from Syria – showing a militant commander carving out the internal organs of a dead regime soldier and proceeding to eat them in front of the camera – has prompted a telling reaction from the Western corporate-controlled news media.
The Western media have cranked into damage-limitation mode in a pathetically servile bid to spare Western governments being implicated in involvement or responsibility for such violence. This response is especially urgent as these governments are now trying to justify sending weapons overtly to Syrian militants, and as these same powers try to force the sovereign government of President Bashar Al Assad into negotiations with cut-throats and car bombers in an upcoming so-called peace conference next month. 
More perplexing, perhaps, there is strong suspicion that if it were not for the latest “cannibal video” haphazardly surfacing and going viral on the internet, the Western media would not be reporting on it – that is, would have suppressed the horror from reaching public awareness – even though they knew of the video’s existence.
First though, note how the Western media’s expressions of horror and disgust – there could be hardly anything less over such depravity – are nevertheless immediately qualified in its reportage with ample denunciations of the macabre incident by the so-called Free Syrian Army. The reaction by the Western mainstream media is evidently one of trying to isolate the mutilation video as the behavior of an aberrant extremist group that is outside the control of the “reasonable”, “civilized” militants. 
Rather than just reporting on the barbarous activity in the video, the Western media show an unseemly haste to limit the publicity damage that would otherwise stem from this obvious fact: that this is the nature of sickening violence that Western governments have been sponsoring in Syria for more than two years. And if US President Barack Obama, Britain’s David Cameron and France’s Francois Hollande get their way with plans to openly supply mercenaries in Syria with even more weaponry, then the bloodbath in that country will escalate. 
In the light of the latest ghoulish video behavior – in which Syrian militant commander Khalid Al Hamad, also known by his nom de guerre Abu Sakkar, declares himself as the bloodcurdling perpetrator of cannibalism – Western media feign to ask naively: how can Western governments ensure that their support for the Syrian “opposition” does not fall into the wrong hands? 
This dichotomy of “good rebels” whom the West presumes to support and “the bad rebels” whom the West is allegedly trying to isolate is, of course, illusory and cynical. The truth is that the Western governments have unleashed the dogs of war on Syrian society for the past two years, which has resulted in wholesale carnage and destruction, with as many as 80-90,000 total deaths. Some one-fifth to a quarter of the population in this once stable, pluralist and prosperous Mediterranean Arab country has been displaced from their ruined homes to eke out a miserable existence in refugee campsites. 
Such Western-fuelled violence has resulted in countless massacres and atrocities, from no-warning car bombs in urban neighborhoods to the latest “cannibal video”. No doubt there have been atrocities committed by pro-government forces, as is part and parcel of war. There are credible, although unconfirmed, reports of heinous acts of violence against civilians in Baniyas in Tartus Province by pro-government forces. 
But the central fact is that Syria’s mayhem would not have reached the cataclysm that is has if it were not for the pernicious accelerator of violence and destruction provided by Western governments and their regional allies: Israel, Turkey and the Persian Gulf dictatorships of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. All we have to do is follow the flow of arms and blood-money to identify the sources of carnage and crimes in Syria. 
Now when such a vile spectacle of just one incident of this violence emerges, the Western media scramble to pretend that it has nothing to do with their governments’ policies of pushing Syria over the abyss. 
Worst than that, there is evidence that the Western media tried to cover up this latest spectacle of barbarism. These media are only now reporting on the shocking video after it emerged over the past weekend on the internet, posted apparently by a pro-Syrian government source. 
In a bizarre admission, US-based Time magazine reveals that it first saw the video of Abu Sakkar’s sacrificial cannibalism several weeks ago, but it did not report on it back then. Here is Time on 14 May trying to rationalize its way out of suppressing that important information: 
The publication states: “Two Time reporters first saw the video in April in the presence of several of Abu Sakkar’s fighters and supporters, including his brother. They all said the video was authentic. We later obtained a copy. Since then, Time has been trying to ensure that the footage is not digitally manipulated in any way – a faked film like this would be powerful propaganda for the regime, which portrays the rebels as terrorists – and, as yet, Time has not been able to confirm its integrity.” 
We can be sure that if Time had obtained video footage purporting to show atrocities committed by the Syrian government forces of Bashar Al Assad, it would have screamed headlines about it with wall-to-wall coverage, as the Western media have done routinely in the past even when many of those videos have turned out to be fake. 
So what Time’s response appears to indicate is that it chose to suppress the cannibal video. But, when the video went viral on the internet over the weekend, only then did Time feel obliged to disclose its prior knowledge of it, probably to save itself from accusations of outright cover-up. 
Another Western media outlet, France 24, also reported this week with “shock, horror” the cannibal video. But, tellingly, the national 
French broadcaster declined to provide a link to the video in its reports. Yet, France 24 regularly runs unconfirmed videos out of Syria purporting to show regime violence and violations. In its latest report, France 24 perversely spins the macabre video as evidence of the “regime’s crackdown brutalising people”. 
Incongruously, Time magazine quotes Brigadier General Salim Idriss, leader of the self-styled Free Syrian Army (FSA), whom, it is claimed, controls “over 90 per cent of rebel forces”. He condemned the actions of the militant human-butcher in the video and said: “If there is evidence that fighters from the FSA are doing something against human rights or international law, they will be brought before the court.” 
Well, if the FSA general is in control of 90 per cent of rebel forces, as the Western media try to make out and whom the Western governments would like to openly ply with weapons, why is it that such depraved violations by Syrian militants keep on surfacing with such prevalence and regularity? 
Recall a few: the video showing militants coercing a young boy to decapitate a captured combatant. Recall the video of militants throwing victims off a multi-storey building. Recall the video of captives begging for their lives moments before they were shot dead in cold blood; or the footage of bodies dumped along the roadside shot in the head execution-style; or the more than 90 corpses washed up on the banks of the Queiq River in the militant-held Al Bustan area of Aleppo. Not to mention the countless car bombs that have ripped through civilian districts, schools and hospitals of Damascus and Aleppo. 
The fact cannot be concealed by the Western media propaganda machine that Abu Sakkar, the videoed butcher, is commander of the Farouq Brigade, which is one of the FSA’s mainstay fighting units based in Homs City. Just like the Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front, the West similarly also tries to pretend that this outfit is somehow fringe to the state-sponsored sabotage of Syria. 
The grotesque video depicting the cannibalism by one man is really a vignette of the bigger picture of cannibalism that the Western regimes have unleashed on the entire Syrian people – a monstrosity of state terrorism that Western media are guilty of covering up.
Finian Cunningham, originally from Belfast, Ireland, was born in 1963. He is a prominent expert in international affairs. The author and media commentator was expelled from Bahrain in June 2011 for his critical journalism in which he highlighted human rights violations by the Western-backed regime. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For many years, he worked as an editor and writer in the mainstream news media, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. He is now based in East Africa where he is writing a book on Bahrain and the Arab Spring.He co-hosts a weekly current affairs programme, Sunday at 3pm GMT on Bandung Radio

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Video shows US-backed opposition fighter cannibalizing Syrian soldier

By Alex Lantier 
16 May 2013
A gruesome video posted on YouTube shows Khalid al-Hamad, the leader of the opposition Farouq Brigade, desecrating the corpse of a Syrian soldier, cutting out his internal organs and biting into one of them.
The video makes clear the barbaric character of the Sunni Islamist militias Washington has mobilized in its proxy war against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The video was made to terrorize Syria’s Shiite Alawite community, from which most of the Assad government is drawn, and to encourage donations from the Farouq Brigade’s financial backers in the Persian Gulf oil sheikhdoms.
While desecrating the Syrian soldier’s body, an action that legally is a war crime, Hamad screams: “I swear we will eat from your hearts and livers, you dogs of Bashar… Look at the heroes of Baba Amr, slaughtering the Alawites and eating their hearts.”
Founded as the Syrian war began in mid-2011, the Farouq Brigade has been active around the Baba Amr area of the city of Homs, an early center of armed Islamist opposition to Assad. There are varying reports of its strength, ranging from a few thousand to 20,000 men.
Hamad contacted Time magazine on Tuesday to confirm that he had indeed bitten one of the dead soldier’s organs, as shown in the video.
He then called for a sectarian genocide of Alawites, telling Time: “Hopefully we will slaughter all of them. I have another video clip that I will send to them. In the clip, I am sawing another shabiha [pro-Assad militiaman] with a saw, the saw we use to cut trees. I sawed him into small piece and large ones.”
Hamad, also known as Abu Sakkar, has also been videotaped indiscriminately firing rockets into Lebanon and posing with the corpses of fighters of Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite militia allied with Assad. Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch said, “Abu Sakkar is a very significant commander—he’s in charge of one of the most important battles happening in Syria right now.”
Significantly, Western officials speaking to the BBC described the Farouq Brigade as a “moderately Islamist” tendency inside the US-backed opposition, as compared to supposedly more extremist forces like the Al Nusra Front, which is affiliated to Al Qaeda.
This shows that current proposals in Washington to only arm “moderate” opposition forces, presented as an alternative to arming the entire opposition, including Al Nusra, are a cynical fraud. In either case, Washington and its European allies are arming war criminals calling for sectarian mass murder.
While Hamad’s video is particularly gruesome, numerous graphic videos posted by the US-backed opposition have made its bloody, sectarian character clear from early on. To name only a few, such videos include Sunni Sheikh Adnan al-Arour’s July 2011 threat to run Syrian Alawites through a “meat grinder,” and 2012 videos of opposition fighters beheading a prisoner and another forcing a child to do so.
The anti-Assad militias have all along enjoyed the support of governments, political parties and the media. The Obama administration has continued funding them to the tune of $500 million—as its Persian Gulf allies also poured money and thousands of tons of weapons into the opposition—even after Washington formally designated Al Nusra as a terrorist group last December.
As reports of Hamad’s video broke in the British press on Monday, British Prime Minister David Cameron said that he might sanction direct military intervention in Syria to back the opposition, citing claims that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons. Allegations of chemical weapons use by Assad had already been refuted by UN investigator Carla del Ponte, who said that these weapons, used in March, were fired by the opposition.
The Syrian war has been enthusiastically supported by reactionary pseudo-left groups such as France’s New Anti-capitalist Party, Germany’s Left Party, and the American International Socialist Organization (ISO). Hamad’s cannibalistic video is yet another refutation of the ISO’s claim that the Syrian proxy war is a “people’s revolution for freedom and dignity.” (See “The International Socialist Organization and the imperialist onslaught against Syria”)
These parties have functioned as a key barrier to the development of popular opposition to the Syrian war and to its continuous promotion in the media.
As part of this pro-war agitation, the media has largely sought to divorce Hamad’s video from the US-led war, or to present it as an isolated incident posing a vexing obstacle to attempts by Washington and its allies to escalate the war.
Thus, while discussing Hamad’s video, the BBC asked: “It is a reminder of the horror and bestiality of warfare—especially civil warfare, waged within a society. But does it tell us anything more than that?”
It also complained that “key governments in the West are trying to clarify their approach and push for a more active engagement on the side of the rebels. A man ripping out the heart out of a dead opponent—isolated episode or not—makes this task much harder.”
In reality, the promotion of bloody sectarian war by the US-backed opposition—both the so-called “moderate” and extremist elements—is not a coincidence, but a reality reflecting the essential character of the opposition and of US imperialist strategy.
The war is fought to topple an Alawite-led regime in Syria, which is supported by the Shiite regime in Iran and the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon. Both of these are targets of US military intervention: oil-rich Iran is the main obstacle to US strategic hegemony in the Persian Gulf and thus the world oil trade, while Hezbollah is the main obstacle to Israeli domination of the Near East.
For this reason, Washington has sought to mobilize sectarian Sunni forces tied to its right-wing Persian Gulf allies, such as Saudi Arabia, to topple Assad. Hamad’s gruesome video is the outcome of these reactionary politics.

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