Saturday, 28 June 2014

Anti-Isis volunteer fighters in Baghdad's Sadr City

Bashar al-Assad's interests and
the west's coincide over Iraq

Orlando Bloom Visits Syrian Child Refugees as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador

Orlando Bloom Visits Syrian Child Refugees: 'They Have Witnessed Such Pain'

"He held his 4-year-old son's arm in the air and said, 'My son is going to fight for the revolution when he's old enough.' "

Iraq and Syria:
The struggle against the 'multi-sided' counterrevolution

Michael Karadjis

'In Syria, this consists of all the armed manifestations of the Syrian revolution, from the secular Free Syrian Army (FSA, based heavily among the Sunni but not entirely, including some Alawite and Christian brigades and officers), moderate Islamist groups like the Mujahideen Army in the north and the al-Ajnad Union in the south, the Islamic Front, a loose coalition ranging from moderate to hard-line Islamists, and Jabhat al-Nusra (JaN), the official wing of al-Qaida in Syria, which however is markedly less hard-line than ISIS since their split in May 2013. While a favourite western media discourse is “rebel in-fighting,” in reality this does not exist at all; rather, all these forces act in unison in their war against both the Assad regime and ISIS; it is the war of all of them against ISIS that wrongly gets labelled this way.
These two struggles are related but different. The Syrian struggle began as a multi—sect democratic uprising which however has tended to become more Sunni in composition largely due to the class realities in Syrian society; the Iraqi struggle is explicitly Sunni against an explicitly Shiite-sectarian regime, and evolved out of a nationalist resistance to US occupation. The more advanced sectors of the Syrian revolution still hope to win non-Sunni support for a rising against then regime, no matter how unlikely that may now be; by contrast, the Iraqi revolt only aims to liberate Sunni regions – the ISIS-led attempt to conquer Shiite-dominated Baghdad or any other Shiite region would by definition by a reactionary and sectarian action.'

Friday, 27 June 2014

US President Barack Obama (2nd-L) meets with Saudi King Abdullah (R) at Rawdat Khurayim, the monarchA hard sell
"Washington’s inclination is instructive when considering Syria. The longstanding White House position has been to call for preserving Syrian “state institutions” – meaning, the regime’s army and security services. That is because, as US officials have repeatedly made clear, they do not wish to see an outright rebel victory, as that would lead to a jihadist takeover. In fact, some voices, likely reflecting certain White House preferences, have even counseled pushing the rebels to partner with Assad to fight radical groups. In any case, the White House has insisted on a negotiated settlement with the regime, and that is because it does not see the opposition as a viable partner, even if only to take on jihadist groups, the administration’s only priority in Syria."

Zealous but untrained


 'Months into the revolution in Syria, for example, some of the Arab and international media started to alter the terminology used to describe the situation. Instead of referring to “revolutionaries” they started talking about the “armed opposition,” a term that may be thought to give some kind of legitimacy to the regime’s brutality as it equates the victims with the aggressor.

 The term “Syrian Revolution” has also sometimes disappeared from the international press, having been replaced by the “conflict in Syria,” another demotion in the ongoing campaign for freedom in the country. On more than one occasion, the international media, whose reportage has often been quoted extensively in the local media, has depicted the battles in Syria as a sectarian conflict – thus demeaning the original goals of the revolution.
Neutrality, as much as it is needed in all reporting, has been twisted in this way, allowing the brutality of the regime to turn into a run-of-the-mill battle against rebels intent on bringing down the system by force instead of through the peaceful means of the ballot box.'

White House requests $500 million to aid Syrian rebels

Rebels fighter stand on the images of the late Syrian president Hafez al-Assad (R) and his son present Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at the Kasab border crossing with Turkey, in the northwestern province of Latakia. (AFP Photo / Amr Radwan Al-Homsi)

"Since nearly the start of the Syrian civil war more than three years ago, hawkish Republicans in Congress have urged the White House to take action against Assad, with Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) going as far as to travel abroad to meet with rebel fighters overseas."
The bastard.
Brian Becker, national coordinator for the anti-war ANSWER Coalition, conflates the actual rebels in Syria with ISIS and openly defends the Assad government.
“They’re saying they demand unity in Iraq behind the central government, which is fighting what they call Islamic extremists from ISIL or ISIS, and yet, at the same time, they’re funding these same armed groups in Syria to take down an independent, nationalist and sovereign government in Syria.”

The Independent

Syria Speaks: Arts and culture from the frontline, ed by Malu Halasa, Zaher Omareen & Nawara Mahfoud"Four decades of rule by the Assad family has wreaked untold havoc on Syria and its people: dissidents describe horrific methods of torture and claim that the testing of chemical and biological weapons on political prisoners was routinely practised by Syria’s Air Force Intelligence."

Cameron's xmas message

Beware the game of shadows in Syria

"The Syrian regime has been playing a game of shadows in which this covert collusion with the growth of Isis has been used to undermine the democratic opposition and strengthen its own claim to be a bulwark against "terrorism". To accept Iran – and by implication Bashar al-Assad – as allies in the fight against Isis is to fall for this deception."

Caught Between ISIS and Assad

Molly Crabapple
The conflict in miniature, if 20,000 people starved by their government can be described
 as miniature. 
"Bab al Salam houses 20,000 refugees, mostly women and children.
 Under dusty tarps, these refugees live in horrid conditions. Barefoot kids play next to
 rivers of sewage. Preventable diseases flourish. The Turkish government gives out two
 meals a day, but the United Nations High Council on Refugees does nothing beyond
 providing some of the tarps. The Assad government has for
bidden them from giving aid
 to opposition areas.
The Saudis and the government of Qatar are showier, flaunting their generosity with
 branded tents. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's Gift to Humanity,” one read. The Gulf
 states fund fighters—their charity is marketing.
In this wasteland, young people like Yusuf are trying to cobble together a future. Before
 the war, Yusuf was a year into an engineering degree. When the revolution hit, his father,
 a higher-up in the Syrian army, defected. I asked Yusuf why he had joined the revolution.
 “They were killing women, killing children,” he said.
Yusuf works under the banner of the Islamic Front, an alliance of more or less religious fighting
 groups. The Islamic Front has successfully pushed ISIS out of much of northern Syria, including
 Azaz, where the Bab al Salam camp is located."

Barack Obama Swept Aside The Entire Free Syrian Army In One Sentence


 'As The Institute of the Study of War detailed last year, the FSA drew on Syrian Army defectors to create a clear structure that gave it “the potential to serve as a check on radicalization and help to assert a moderate authority.”

 The real problem, according to Tabler, was that “as assistance didn’t arrive, the defectors became disheartened so not sure where they all are at the moment.”

 For the last two years, the main criticism on Obama’s policy toward Syria has been that the “United States, rather than read the signals early on and arm the Syrian opposition when it was making substantial gains, allowed a vacuum to form and then fretted when that vacuum was filled by jihadists.” '

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Only If

Obama Seeks $500 Million to Arm Moderate Syrian Forces
Assad forces target civilians, avoid ISIL strongholds in Raqqa

Assad forces target civilians,
avoid ISIL strongholds in Raqqa

"At least 15 civilians were killed and several others were injured on Wednesday in the city of Raqqa during an unprecedented aerial bombardment by the Syrian air force.
The city is for more than a year controlled by the militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), however the strikes of the pro-Assad air force were only limited to residential neighbourhoods in the city.
Observers stress that the Assad regime avoids targeting ISIL strongholds in Raqqa."

Obama recently offered yet another justification for failing to arm the Syrian rebels,stating that teachers and farmers make bad soldiers. Which in the end just leaves us with these guys.

We Thought Obama Was a Neville Chamberlain.
He Turned Out to be Judas Iscariot

"It wasn’t circumstances that prevented Obama from helping the Syrian people against the regime’s genocidal slaughter; it was policy. A hidden policy in blatant contradiction to the Obama administration’s public statements and stated intentions. For years, Obama told America’s allies one thing, while deliberately planning something entirely different.
A British government does not lose their party members’ support for a three line whip without very dire consequences either for the government, or the rebellious party members. One or the other usually goes.
Except, apparently, on that vote on August 30th 2013, when a considerable number of Conservative MPs not only were absent from the vote, but actually voted against the government. The next day, it was business as usual.
What is in dispute is that David Cameron ever intended to win that vote. The aftermath of a defeat on a three line whip are usually dire for all concerned. But in retrospect, it would seem that Cameron got exactly the vote he wanted. The rest is history, and Bashar Assad was allowed to get away with the worst single atrocity of the 21st century.
It would be a waste of time to point out all the problems with Judas Obama’s statements that there was never a rebel force capable of overthrowing the regime (really Barry? then why does Bashar desperately need the help of his sectarian terrorist friend Hassan Nasrallah to mount any offensive), or that “teachers and dentists and farmers” make bad soldiers (then go disband your National Guards, and demobilize your men and women serving in the reserves. And eliminate your fucking Reserve Officer Training Courses you clueless community organizer)."

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

To Obama: Syria’s moderate
opposition is the only option

"Why haven't the moderate ones won the war, and why does Obama think they are incapable of defeating Assad? It's because they're deprived from everything - from obtaining advanced weapons, having safe border zones and from recruiting inside refugees' camps. In addition, Russia and Iran are helping their enemy, the Syrian regime, and are providing it with weapons, food, information and funds.
President Obama must accept the truth that Bashar al-Assad's regime is incapable of staying in power no matter how much support he receives from the Iranians, the Russians and others. Assad represents a very small minority. He's become wreckage breathing with an external lung."

On ISIS and Iran

Robin Yassin-Kassab:

"Now that ISIS has supposedly taken over vast swathes of northern Iraq (in reality, ISIS is a small minority of the Sunni Arab forces that have risen against the Malki government), the newspapers are full of articles telling us that the West should align with Iran to defeat the common foe. Of course, Iran’s sectarian and aggressively expansionist policy in both Iraq and Syria is a major contributor to the rise of ISIS and similar groups. Working with Iran against ISIS is as intelligent as working with Hitler against anti-Semitism. I discussed the issue with Hayder al-Khoi and Jeremy Paxman on the BBC’s Newsnight."
I don't think there should have been sanctions on Iran in the first place, but it does seem very upsetting that there is a rapprochement at this moment; when we have this problem with ISIS, which to a large extent has been caused indirectly by Iranian policy, both in Syria, where Iran has got militias on the ground, and it's supporting the régime which is slaughtering the people, and in Iraq itself, where it's encouraged the most sectarian instincts of the Maliki government.
What we've seen in Iraq is not the success of ISIS, which is a weak group, it's the failure of the Iraqi state, and of course the collapse of the Syrian state. Iran, along with other countries too, but Iran is very complicit in that collapse in both countries.
So I think it would be, maybe in the short term, beneficial, to deal with Iran. I can see why people want to, because Iran has an organised military, and it's an organised country, and they could go in , they could establish order if they wanted to in Iraq. In the medium and long term, it's a disaster, because Sunni Arab communities are going to be more enraged, and maybe the sectarian backlash will become bigger if they see Iran walking over Syrian and Iraqi sovereignty...
it's important to stress something that people don't normally realise, that since January - it was a grey area in Syria which side ISIS was on - since January there is no excuse for that greyness, because all of the Syrian opposition groups, the Free Syrian Army, the Islamic Front, even Jabhat al-Nusra (the Victory Front, which is al-Qaida linked, it is an extremist jihadist group); all of these groups have been fighting against ISIS. So ISIS is a common enemy of everybody, it seems, but it's been helping Bashar al-Assad, really.
he's been producing the chaos in which ISIS thrives. He's been following a scorched earth policy in Syria. Any part of the country he can't control, he's been devastating, from aerial bombardment, and other means, sieges and so on. That means there are massive refugee flows out of the country, it means there are no schools, no hospitals working, no economy going. Into this chaos, it is very easy for -and sometimes with the help of neighbouring states, we were talking about Turkey earlier - jihad tourists, psychopaths and nihilists to come in. They came into Mali, they were in Iraq before, the people drove them out, it's got so strained in Iraq they've now been able to come back in. These people come wherever there's a chaos. Bashar al-Assad has created a chaos in Syria by committing a near-genocide, and a massive ethnic cleansing. This revolution in Syria started, and for many people continues, as a revolution for democracy and freedom and freedom of expression. It wasn't sectarian for the whole of 2011, and then under the strain of Assad's war, it began to be...
I think making a deal with Iran is the wrong idea. certainly, pressure the Saudis and other Gulf countries, make them pressure the private donors, who may very often be important people, to stop donating, they're not helping the Syrians. Even the Syrian Islamists don't want these ISIS people there. They are obviously not helping the Iraqis, they're confusing the issue, and making it more difficult for Sunni Arabs to get their rights.
I'm happy to see Obama saying he's not going to take action until Maliki changes his approach on the Sunni Arab issue. I hope he's also leaning on the Iranians, ' OK, we need your military security help to face this monster that has just exploded', but the reason this monster has just exploded is because of the sectarianism of the - democratically elected - Iraqi government, and because of the genocide going on in Syria, which Iran is supporting, which is radicalising Sunni opinion around the world."

ISIS’s Violent Extremism Has No Place in Syria"The Free Syrian Army’s opposition to ISIS has not been matched by the Syrian regime. On the contrary, Assad and his loyalists have not merely ignored the threat posed by ISIS, they have actively exacerbated it."

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

MPs’ letter on Assad’s sham election, and on military aid to moderates
I met Kellie Strom over the weekend, and was very wary of him, as I'd seen him write stuff about the Middle East before that I disagree with to say the least*. But if the Syrian revolution has driven many who opposed the Iraq war into dishonesty and denial because they can't see a progressive movement that isn't against the US, it has left some coming from the opposite direction supporting a struggle that really is a people's uprising against a Russian and Iranian backed dictator. Good for these nine MPs.
'We commend the Friends of Syria for pledging to increase support not only for the Syrian Opposition Coalition, but also for its “Supreme Military Council and associated moderate armed groups”. The Assad regime will not countenance a political solution while it continues to believe it can win militarily. It is therefore vitally important that more military support, within the known constraints, is given to the Free Syrian Army (FSA), thereby forcing Assad and his backers to accept a political solution.'

Washington and London Ignored Warnings about the ISIS Offensive in Iraq

 'As the Syrian civil war intensified, the Assad regime that ISIS was supposed to be fighting adopted a strategy that actually helped spur the group’s extraordinary rise. When ISIS started gaining strength—along with a reputation for beheadings, crucifixion and other barbarities—the manipulative Assad was careful not to target it. ISIS also turned its guns on other less radical rebel groups.
 Meanwhile, indirect assistance from the Assad regime came in many forms—from buying oil from ISIS-controlled wells in eastern Syria to relatively mild air strikes against ISIS compounds in contrast to the pounding other rebels suffered.
 At the start of the uprising against his regime, Assad released hundreds of jihadist detainees from Syrian jails, a move that has prompted moderate Syrian insurgents to charge that ISIS is in league with Damascus and that the terrorist organization was “regime-made” and “inserted into the body of the revolution,” all part of an effort to poison the insurgency and allow Assad to argue he was fighting extremists.
 As the Syrian civil war intensified, the Assad regime that ISIS was supposed to be fighting adopted a strategy that actually helped spur the group’s extraordinary rise. When ISIS started gaining strength—along with a reputation for beheadings, crucifixion and other barbarities—the manipulative Assad was careful not to target it. ISIS also turned its guns on other less radical rebel groups.
 The West fell deeper into the trap benefiting both ISIS and Assad by refraining from assisting the moderates “even when the latter confronted the increasingly powerful ISIS on the battlefield,” argues Murhaf Jouejati, a Mideast expert at the National Defense University.'
Bogart Casablanca g 1024 Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Ukraine: what happens next in a world without framework?
Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Ukraine: what happens next in a world without framework?

Paul Mason
"We celebrate, today, the work of George Steer, who went into Guernica in 1937 and picked up fragments of white phosphorous bombs with German trademarks on them. We forget that, right up until the war, rival British newspapers and even MPs were claiming that the Spanish republicans had committed a war crime against themselves, much as was claimed – without corroborating evidence – after Assad gassed rebel-held areas of Damascus last August."

Monday, 23 June 2014

Kerry Says ISIS Threat Could Hasten Military Action

John Kerry: "A threat left unattended beyond our shores can have", I forget how he ended the sentence, some thing like 'appalling consequences'. Which is precisely what the Americans have done in Syria, however appalled Kerry started his remarks by insisting they are about the continuing chemical attacks, and retention of production facilities by Assad.
Syria Speaks

Syria Speaks

Art and Culture from the Frontline
I met Danny Postel at a Syria: Correcting The Narrative conference over the weekend, which helped with a few of the themes by which Syria's struggle for freedom and dignity is obscured.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

O'Donnell's good question
and Obama's bad answer
"From the very beginning the only military help the Syrian opposition needed or asked for was help with weapons, ammunition and supplies. They have been adamant that if they had the weapons they could do the fighting, no foreign boots needed, no thanks, and if they were allowed modern anti-aircraft defence systems, they could enforce their own 'no-fly' zone.
The capture of Raqqa by ISIS represented a turning point in this conflict. Even at that late date, had the moderate rebels received adequate support in their struggle against the ISIS for Raqqa it is likely they wouldn't be leading the capture of Mosul and threatening of Baghdad in Iraq today.
Obama's promise to attack Assad and failure to follow through was to weaken the FSA and to strengthen the Islamic extremists like ISIS."

All that remains of St Simeon Stylites' pillar in St Simeon's Basilica west of Aleppo, thanks not to the current fighting, but to Christian pilgrims harvesting 'souvenirs' across the centuries [DD]

Refutation of Mother Agnes Mariam’s narrative on #Syria"The view that ‘the majority of anti-Assad fighters in Syria are foreign’ is presented as ‘widely accepted’, yet all reputable media outlets like The Financial Times and the BBC regularly report that whilst there are indeed now many foreign fighters inside Syria, they began in small numbers and only started expanding a year after the uprising began. Even now they account for less than 25% of the total opposition. Assad himself has of course brought in far greater numbers of foreign fighters – from the Lebanese Shia group Hizbullah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard - to defend his own regime, but no mention is made of that."

Syrian air force jet. (AFP PHOTO)

Syria air raids kill 16 in
area seized by jihadists

 "Air raids killed 16 people in Syria's Deir Ezzor province Saturday, most of them people gathered at a mourning tent for rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) officers murdered by jihadists, an NGO said."Air raids by Assad's forces. Against the same Syrians ISIS has been fighting all year, while ISIS have been fighting against Assad not at all.

Image result for Obama: Notion that Syrian opposition could have overthrown Assad with U.S. arms a "fantasy"

Obama: Notion that Syrian opposition could have overthrown Assad with U.S. arms a "fantasy"What he actually did is get the CIA in Jordan and its Jordanian clients to stop heavy weapons getting to the Free Syrian Army. That's why they can't defeat Assad and ISIS, though they chased the latter out of Aleppo and fought the former to a standstill, so his disparagement of the FSA is uncalled for. It is telling a lie with the truth, if you just handed over water pistols, that wouldn't defeat Assad either. Hopefully this is a sign that there is pressure to actually arm the FSA.
"When you get farmers dentists and folks who have never fought before going up against a ruthless opposition in Assad," Mr. Obama continued, "the notion that they were in a position to suddenly overturn not only Assad but also ruthless, highly trained jihadists if we just sent a few arms is a fantasy. And I think it's very important for the American people - but maybe more importantly, Washington and the press corps - to understand that."

Iraq Crisis: ISIS Terrorists were Trained by US in 2012 for Syria Conflict

Image result for Iraq Crisis: ISIS Terrorists were Trained by US in 2012 for Syria Conflict

 And the bullshit begins:

 "As per several corroborated reports, hundreds of ISIS militia were indeed trained by US instructors for covert operations to destabilize Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government, though the training was strictly for Syria."

 What reports?
 What operations?
 Who was trying to restrict the training to Syria, and how did they hope to achieve this?

 "Back in February 2012, WND had reported that the US, with the help of Turkey and Jordan, was running a training base for Syrian rebels in the Jordan. German weekly Der Spiegel also confirmed in 2013 that the US was still training Syrian rebels in Jordan."

 Not actual reporting, just relaying the stories of spooks, possibly Syrian ones."Several knowledgeable Egyptian and Arab security officials claimed the U.S., Turkey and Jordan were running a training base for the Syrian rebels." And rebels, not ISIS.

 "The report noted that the organizers of the training wore US Marine uniforms, and the training focused on the use of anti-tank weaponry. The ISIS terrorists, who now hold almost the entire north of Iraq, have quite effectively neutralized most Iraqi tank battalions put against the invading forces."

 This must be it. Someone might have had some anti-tank training. ISIS, or someone in Iraq, stopped some tanks from an army that was running away from the . Bingo! It would be funny how pathetic this is if it wasn't important.

 "The German magazine had also reported that the US would be training a total of 1,200 members of the Free Syrian Army in two camps in the south and the east of Jordan."

 Again, the Free Syrian Army, not ISIS. Do all Arabs look alike to these writers?

 "A USA-ISIS tie-up is plausible, considering the fact how the CIA was responsible for the strengthening of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan."

 So the US has collaborated with radical Islamists, so we can infer anything. 9/11 an inside job? Entirely plausible. Kidnapping Nigerian schoolgirls? The CIA's fingerprints are probably all over it. I choose not to live in this conspiracy wonderland, however engaging and reassuring it might be.
Assad photos

How Syria’s Assad Helped Forge ISIS“From the first days of the revolution (in March 2011), Assad denounced the organisation as being the work of radical Salafists, so he released the Salafists he had created in his prisons to justify the claim ... If you do not have an enemy, you create an enemy.”