Saturday, 12 July 2014

Two British men admit in court to planning terrorist acts

Mohammed Nahin Ahmed, left, and Yusuf Zubair Sarwar

 Fighting a dictator is a terrorist act.

 'He described the case as "grave", and told the court that together Ahmed and Sarwar had "carefully planned a journey from the UK to Turkey and on to Syria to join Islamist rebels fighting the regime of Bashar al-Assad".'

Friday, 11 July 2014

Obama caves to conventional wisdom on Syria

Fareed Zakaria is wrong. And it isn't the conventional wisdom, it was the elephant that hasn't got into the room for the last two years.
"The Obama administration’s decision to seek $500 million to train and fund elements of the Syrian opposition has been greeted with bipartisan support in Washington. The general consensus is that, if the administration had done this three years ago, the situation in Syria would not have turned into a sectarian civil war. But this conventional wisdom is wrong."
The proposal isn't to Do Something, it is a concrete proposal to arm the rebels.
"The administration is caving in to the classic Washington desire to “do something” in the face of a terrible situation without any clear sense as to whether it would improve things or make matters worse."
Radical Christians like John Brown and Thomas Jefferson have been the core of the American Revolution from the very beginning, centuries ago.
"In fact, radical Islamists have been the core of the opposition to the Assad regime from the very beginning, decades ago."
So the régime has always been quite murderous.
"An armed Islamist insurgency killed more than 300 supporters of the regime in Aleppo alone. Assad, in turn, ordered crackdowns that killed some 2,000 Islamist opponents."
So the régime has always been quite murderous.
“They opened the gates of a cell block for us. Six or seven of us entered and killed all those we found inside, some 60 or 70 people in all. I must have gunned down 15 myself. ... Altogether some 550 of those Muslim Brother bastards must have been killed.”
So the régime has always been quite murderous. The New York Times* gives figures of 90 dead and 135 injured for that Damascus bomb. Wikipedia** gives estimates of between 10,000 and 40,000 for the Hama massacre. I would think it more appropriate to call Assad's the terror campaign.
"The Islamists’ terror campaign spread, moving even to Damascus, where in November 1981 they exploded a car bomb in the city center that killed 200 people and wounded 500. Then, in 1982, came the uprising and the gruesome massacre in the town of Hama, where between 10,000 and 20,000 people — including women and children — were slaughtered by government troops."
Since then the régime has tortured, raped and murdered in exponentially increasing quantity as people have risen in revolt against it. The Muslim Brotherhood seemed to have given up the thought of armed resistance and came late to the revolution.
"Since then, the regime has organized itself for war against the Islamists and they, in turn, have been preparing for opportunities to wage war against the regime."
Divided by Orientalists who think Syrians can only be defined by their sect. There was no insurgency before 2011, so any opposition funding is a little irrelevant. There has been limited support for those fighting for their lives in Syria since then, nothing compared to the thousands of Iranians and Iraqis and shedloads of weaponry that have gone to support Assad's war on Syria.
"By the late 1970s, it was already divided into camps, largely defined by Islamism and sect. Outside powers in the Middle East — Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran — have been funding, arming and training militants on both sides."
Because there has been no reliable source of arms for the Free Syrian Army, it has been up to brigades to fend for themselves. There are tens of thousands of fighters who still see themselves as FSA, or belong to groups that are moderately Islamist, but these are invisible to Zakaria. There were none of the radical groups a couple of years ago, and if the FSA had got or does get the weapons it needs there would be no need for them now. And the foreign fighters with the Islamic state that isn't part of the rebellion against Assad are mixed in with the rest.
"Today, according to James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, there are about 1,500 separate insurgent groups in Syria, with between 75,000 and 115,000 insurgents. In addition, there are 7,500 foreign fighters from neighboring countries. The strongest groups are all radical Islamist — the Islamic State, Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra."
Remember that if the FSA doesn't get any arms, there is no way an exiled opposition is going to exercise influence over them, or over those looking for actual assistance in fighting Assad.
"Remember that neighboring powers, like the Turkish government, spent months trying to establish a moderate Syrian opposition. I met with some of its leaders in Istanbul in 2012. They were genuinely liberal and democratic people. Unfortunately these people barely had contact with, let alone influence over, the actual groups fighting in Syria."
Finding moderate insurgent groups is going fine so far.***
"But now, Washington is going to “vet” this vast, dispersed opposition of 1,500 groups and find moderates. Good luck."
Dumbass. The Islamic State doesn't fight against Assad. And a change in Damascus has been America's stated goal, but it actions have been far more to preserve Assad up to now.
"The complexity of Washington’s task can be seen in the American attitude toward the Islamic State. When the group battles the Maliki government in Iraq, it is a deadly foe and must be ruthlessly attacked. But when it crosses the (now-nonexistent) border between Iraq and Syria and battles the Assad regime, it is aligned with America’s stated goal of regime change in Damascus."
They fought Assad to a standstill, with light weapons against tanks and helicopters. Anti-aircraft weapons would have stopped the Syrian bombing, and meant there would not be millions of refugees. Only massive foreign assistance has saved the régime so far, it would be gone if there was any sort of equivalence in war materiel.
"With this history in mind, it is difficult to believe that three years ago a modest American intervention of arms and training would have changed the trajectory of events in Syria."
"But can anyone now believe that a modest American intervention is going to find genuine democrats in the maelstrom, help them win against Assad and also the radicals, and stabilize Syria?"
The help - the word intervention blurs the line between an invasion and empowerment through arms and training - might need to be greater now that America has sat on its hands for so long, but it is ironic to deny Syrians a future because you don't think they can be proper democrats.
"But can anyone now believe that a modest American intervention is going to find genuine democrats in the maelstrom, help them win against Assad and also the radicals, and stabilize Syria?"
"Or is Washington’s new activism more likely to throw fuel onto a raging fire?"

First UN report on children in Syria’s civil war paints picture of ‘unspeakable’ horrors
"Detailing the detention of children as young as 11 years old for alleged association with armed groups by Government forces in large-scale arrest campaigns, the report says they were ill-treated and tortured to extract confessions or humiliate them or pressure a relative to surrender or confess.

“Ill treatment and acts tantamount to torture reportedly included beatings with metal cables, whips and wooden and metal batons; electric shock, including to the genitals; the ripping out of fingernails and toenails; sexual violence, including rape or threats of rape; mock executions; cigarette burns; sleep deprivation; solitary confinement; and exposure to the torture of relatives.” "

Cultural offensive: on an English road trip with Syria’s artists, activists and exiles

Cultural offensive: on an English road trip with Syria’s artists, activists and exiles

Thursday, 10 July 2014

U.S. Ignored Warnings Before
 ISIS Takeover of a Key City

"The American-supported Free Syrian Army was forced to withdraw from a key city on the Iraq-Syria border last week after its pleas for help went unanswered by the United States."
Not that American-supported.
“[The U.S. officials] showed an understanding of the situation but there was no movement at all,” the commander of the FSA battalion near Der al Zour told The Daily Beast in an interview. “There’s no clear American position in that part of Syria. We told the Americans we are going to fight ISIS and ISIS is close to us, but they did nothing.”

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Today's example of Assad's
support for Islamic State

"Dawud Brigade swore allegiance to the İslamic State and conveyed the fighters and ammunition from the town of Sarmin in the countryside of Idleb province to IS- held areas in the province of Al Raqqa, where a military convoy of more than 50 vehicles were seen carrying fighters from Dawud Brigade and passing near the city of Saraqeb. The convoy was going towards the provice of Al Raqqa through the road located between the two towns of Athrayya and Khanaser which is held by the regime forces which were able to target the convoy and prevent it crossing the area but they did not do so."

Increased vigilance: US intelligence officials are concerned that al-Qaida is trying to develop a new and improved bomb that could go undetected through airport security
Airports face chaos after America bans
UNCHARGED mobiles or laptops from
US-bound flights over bomb fears
"The Islamist Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate involved in fighting with Syrian rebels to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, is also thought to be plotting an airliner attack, according to intelligence reports."
I doubt this. Who would benefit from such an attack? Bashar al-Assad, who has always tried to present those fighting him as terrorists, not those trying to see the back of him. I noticed a terrorism expert repeat this on the BBC just now, so it seems like mainstream opinion.
Mahmoud Abbas with Bashar Al Assad

Palestinians and the Assad regime: for history and generations to know
"Even the craziest of the extremists will not be able to torture a human being every day for twenty years just for being a Baathist and follower of the party in Baghdad; or for being a young Muslim Brotherhood member; or a communist belonging to the Riad Al-Turk group; or a Christian of the "Arab Socialist Democratic Union" headed by Hassan Abdel Azim; or any of the others who represent all of the political spectrum in Syria.
On what basis does Bashar Al-Assad's regime deserve and get praise from Palestinians? The answer may be overly naïve and tested by events: it is, we are told, to protect Palestinians in Syria. This is flawed reasoning; exempting Palestinians from being killed like their Syrian brothers is not a solution for the situation in Palestine. In any case, look at what has happened to the Palestinians in Yarmouk refugee camp and in the regime's prisons where they were killed. Despite the huge tragedy of the Palestinians, some attributed the atrocities, or their causes, to the existence of armed opposition in the camp, even when it was clear that Assad's army was behind them. Discussions with Palestinians displaced from Yarmouk or any other refugee camp reveal the truth, while those who are sympathetic with the regime back its version of events even though they know that it lies about everything."

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

[The Abounaddara Logo. Image from Author]]

ABOUNADDARA’s Take on Images in the Syrian Revolution: A Conversation between Charif Kiwan and Akram Zaatari (Part One)"If you consider tragedy as showing dead people, you betray; you give the viewer a very poor idea of tragedy. Take the Holocaust – if you remember the first images of the camps – those images don’t tell us anything else. We see corpses piled up. Our memories as viewers are saturated with those images, and we cannot imagine the scale of the tragedy if we just see those images. But if I give you a testimony– if you see the tragedy through the eyes of a child – for example, we filmed children telling stories about massacres – then you can feel how big the tragedy was."

Monday, 7 July 2014

Big A gets to grips with a weapon

On the frontline in Syria: the Danish gangster who turned jihadi"We have to stop the Syrian army or we'll have more massacres like in Daraya."

U.S.: Assad’s ‘Machinery of Death’
Worst Since the Nazis
“There is a point when you just can’t look the other way.”

Let's not follow 'Syria model' in Iraq"Speculation varies from direct, if limited, US intervention in Iraq and remote support for government institutions and their security services to confront terrorism, maintain security and stability in the country and avert regional war.
Strangely enough, these options didn't come up following the ISIS attacks in Syria. No one offered to support the Free Syrian Army (FSA) against ISIS even when the FSA battled and pursued ISIS, which was expelled from vast regions in northern Syria only to make up for it by occupying other Syrian regions. All these events occurred in plain view of the West, and the United States in particular. Even more strangely, this terrorist organization is not regarded as dangerous in our country even though its circumstances in Syria and Iraq are similar, perhaps even more favorable to it in Syria than in Iraq."

Russian Syrian Secrets

 "A year ago it was believed that the Syrian Air Force was in very bad shape. It had suffered major losses since 2012, as the aircraft and helicopters were unleashed on rebels (and civilian supporters) and took a beating from the rebels.

 Desperate times demand desperate measures and in the by early 2013 even the MiG-29 fighters were seen dropping bombs. These are the most modern aircraft Syria has and their pilots were trained to fight Israeli jets, not bomb civilians. But a village or city neighborhood is hard to miss, even for a rookie.
 All Syrian aircraft are showing their age, except for the MiG-29s, which were relatively new and now we know that the Russians were refurbishing them. Lack of money has meant few flying hours for air force pilots and not enough money to keep all aircraft flyable even before the revolution began in 2011. Fuel and spare parts were even more expensive after that (because of sanctions) and the air force had a hard time dealing with the payroll and the expense of running (and defending) its bases. But all that seems to have changed in the last year and that is largely because of massive Russian assistance to the Syrian Air Force. In addition to fuel and spare parts, the Russians appear to have put technical people into Syria to help with maintenance, upgrades and training. A number of Syrian Air Force personnel were sent to Russia for training. A year ago it was not the beginning of the end for the Syrian Air Force but the start of a Russian financed and supplied revival."

Sparks of hope and rage in the tragedy
“In 2011 the Arab world exploded out of any possibility of Orientalist stereotyping,” Yassin-Kassab remarks in his otherwise perceptive essay, “the image of the Arab as a pawn, a passive victim of religion or empire, necessarily collapsed.”
If the worst thing to be said about Syria Speaks is that it exudes residual optimism, that's no bad thing.
To stop ISIS, help the Syrian rebels that America has forsaken

To stop ISIS, help the Syrian rebels that America has forsaken
Mohammed Ghanem: "Though more outgunned than ever, these rebels rely on motivation — that secret weapon of Syrian farmers, dentists and students — to bring victory despite impossible odds. They shouldn’t have to.
President Obama recently announced a $500 million “train-and-equip” program for moderate Syrian rebels, and this is most welcome. But rebels might be long gone from eastern Syria before the program clears Congress. Commanders tell me that the weapons most needed are what the United States has already provided on a very limited basis, such as TOW missiles.
If the president is serious about stopping ISIS, let alone aiding moderate Syrian rebels, he should use his executive authority to get these weapons now to the farmers, dentists, and students of eastern Syria."

Juan Cole turns to the Dark Side

Clay Claiborne:

 'Even when the regime answered the people's demands with gunfire and they formed up for self-defense under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, it was formed as a national revolutionary army not a sectarian militia.

 Just as the revolutionaries know that sectarian divisions deny them a progressive future, the regime knows that emphasizing and inflaming these divisions is the key to its victory. So at the same time that state TV was saying that the protests were organized by religious fundamentalists and foreign infiltrators, the regime was paying as much as $500 a month to those posting sectarian graffiti. “The Christians to Beirut, the Alawites to the grave” was one of the more common ones. As Assad was claiming his enemies were all terrorists, he was letting jihadists out of jail so they could form the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. He needs jihadists as his arch-enemies. In the beginning Syria had none, so the Assad regime helped to create them by giving amnesty to terrorists, supplying them, funding them, failing to attack them, and sending state security officers to lead them. You should be aware, if you aren't already, that Bashar al-Assad plays a mean underhanded game. Not everything that appears to be from the opposition is from the opposition.

 As the body-count climbs and conflict drags on, the regime's attempts to inflame sectarian passions has met with some success and as a result the prospects and morale of the revolutionary forces have been greatly eroded. This does not mean the main struggle in now between Assad and ISIS because they are flip sides of the same coin, secular vs. fundamentalist fascist dictatorship. ISIS arose out of Assad regime and NATO-Russian-Iranian imperialist policies. Their whole existence and operations have been in support of the Assad regime. It is not surprising that Assad gave them safe-haven in Raqqa and refused to attack them for so long. Now Juan Cole has fallen so completely into Assad's trap that he would have us believe that the main thing is to not let ISIS win. Not so. ISIS can only make gains within the chaos of this war and with the connivance of the regime. The main task of the Syrian people remains the one they set for themselves in 2011, the downfall of the regime. The Assad regime must be swept away entirely before freedom and justice can reign in Syria.

 Juan Cole doesn't say much about this struggle for freedom and justice. He prefers to frame the struggle in Assad-friendly sectarian terms. His piece is peppered with phrases like "moderate Sunni oppositionists", "Sunni Syrian fighters", and "Sunni opponents". He never speaks of a non-sectarian or non-Sunni opposition to Assad. He begins:

 The Obama administration’s fruitless search for effective Sunni “moderate” fighters in Syria continues, with the announcement of a $500 million grant to them for training and weaponry.
This begs the question of whether they have really been looking for fighters to support and it also introduces another of Juan Cole's repetitive themes, namely that the current struggle for a democratic Syria is hopeless. He is a total defeatist with regards to a positive outcome for Syria in the near term. He is resigned to a Syria run by war criminals, either the jihadists or the fascists and in that case he favors Assad. He sees "no moderate Sunni oppositionists" and what he does see is "highly unlikely to defeat ISIS." '