Saturday, 6 September 2014


"Deadly barrel bombs 'hit taxi stand' in Syria's Aleppo"*
The link has picture of bloodied body of child being carried. So here's a more pleasant thing about taxis.

The Funeral That Brought Syria's Revolutionaries to a Church with Red Roses


 "If the regime has stolen what’s left of my family, the revolution gave me a family that is capable of unconditional love. Anyone can talk about sectarian cheers, and make claims about the nature of the Syrian conflict, but, deep inside, I trust that this revolution pulled us all out of the thousands of shells we used to hide in. This grief has united us and reformed us in its essence.

 Great is the debt I owe them, deep is my gratitude for their compassion, and dear to me is every tear they shed with me, and long—so long—is the road we still need to cross together, with whomever is left."

Friday, 5 September 2014

Sorry, Sir Christopher Meyer, but America doesn't need Assad's help to strike Isil


 "Syria's pilots do go into action quite frequently. Day after day, they bomb their own people in defenceless towns and villages. The lesson is obvious: this is an air force which specialises in killing helpless civilians on the ground. The one and only task of which Assad's airmen are capable is murdering the very people they are supposed to defend."

The Case For an IS 'No Drive Zone' in SyriaAmerican Thinker appear to be anti-Clinton obsessives, but this beats the Let's Not Fight WW3 on behalf of al-Qaida and the CIA line that passes for analysis on parts of the left hands down. I'm not sure 'superiorly' is a proper word.
"Specifically, in addition to a beefing up provisions of sophisticated weaponry to the rebel opposition, the U.S. can rim rebel-IS fronts with ‘No-Drive zones’ that, enforced by UAVs and/or fix-winged attack aircraft, could: a) revitalize a frayed rebel-opposition that is beleaguered and outgunned by enemies on multiple fronts; b) compel IS to turn its barrels on the Assad regime, thereby detracting resources from their campaigns against the rebels and allowing the forgoing the breathing room to organize into more cohesive and capable fighting entity.
Incidentally, it is precisely in strategically vital Aleppo province that Syria’s revolution -- whipsawed and struggling to stay afloat against encroachments by superiorly armed enemies (i.e. the Syrian Arab Army [SAA] and IS) on multiple fronts -- is on the brink of collapse.
For some, such an outcome is ideal. With the rebels out of the picture, choosing sides becomes ostensibly easier; and external support for Assad’s ‘war on terror’-- if only tacit or ‘under-the-table’-- more forthcoming.
Unfortunately, political science says that a regime victory has dangerous implications. “Violent insurgencies”, writes MIT’s Roger Peterson, “often involve death, destruction, and desecration -- all of which can create powerful emotions” that are unlikely to disappear under any postwar Assad regime; especially not one that is likely to act as authoritarian, if not more so, than ever.
Some have retorted that it’s too late; that the opposition is way too fragmented and abounds with Islamic extremists for any Western-aided rebel victory to bear fruit. But, in what Wendy Pearlman describes as a “cruel irony”, it is Western inaction that “is a cause contributing to fragmentation in Syrian rebels’ ranks as much as it has been a reaction to that fragmentation.”
How rebels are expected to cohere while being subjected to incessant carpet-bombing and assaults from two superiorly equipped foes has never been properly articulated. And considering that the average duration of civil wars since 1945 is about 10 years -- Syria’s is going on 3.5 -- neither has the argument that it’s ‘too late’ to act.
Working to rehabilitate and empower the non-global-jihadist rebel camp (the IF included) is the only way forward. The delivery of advanced weaponry/supplies is a necessary step towards this end, but it must be coupled with a strategy that magnifies its effects."

Golan residents worried by Syrian terror threat

Fighting near the Israeli border. (Photo: EPA)

 'The Syrian government is "not our cup of tea," said Gabi Kuniel, an Israeli who tends vineyards recently damaged by mortar shells when the violence spilled over to the Israeli-held side of the strategic Golan Heights. 
But "we prefer that the Syrian army controls this region and not a group of radical al-Qaeda Muslim people." '

Why Did the Syrian Opposition Falter?

Demonstrations in Idlib

 "Would arming the FSA more adequately have allowed it to defeat the Assad regime, or prevented the emergence of the Islamic State? The evidence shows that, in the struggle between state and society in Syria, the FSA did not falter because it consists of [militarily untrained] “farmers and dentists,” as US President Obama famously argued. It faltered because US assistance to it was, at best, reluctant. By contrast, Russia, Iran, and Hizbullah provided the militarily superior Assad regime all the help it needed to survive, and then some. Had Washington equipped the FSA with the necessary military hardware, like anti-aircraft guns and anti-tank missiles, and had US airpower backed the FSA as it currently is the Kurdish “Peshmerga” in northern Iraq, the Assad regime would have collapsed long ago."

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Syria Muslim Brotherhood Former Leader Bayanouni: Islamic State (IS) Major Threat to Syrian Revolution

Syria Muslim Brotherhood Former Leader Bayanouni: Islamic State (IS) Major Threat to Syrian Revolution"The international community's callous, even conniving stance led to the number of martyrs, missing persons, detainees and injured exceeding one million people, with the forced displacement of more than half of the entire Syrian people from their homes, towns and villages. It also led to the emergence of extremist groups, a strange and alien phenomenon in Syria, which is well-known for its tolerance and peaceful coexistence among all factions and segments of the society.
In spite of all this, the Syrian people are determined to pursue their revolution until they achieve their goals: freedom, dignity ousting the criminal regime, establishing a democratic pluralistic system of governance where all citizens determine their own future and participate in the rebuilding of their homeland.
The revolutionary battalions are not interested in foreign support attached to special agendas that, mostly, do not want the Syrian revolution to win. As a result, the last few months have seen remarkable progress for the revolutionaries on most fronts, although some of these are preoccupied with confrontations with the so-called Islamic State (IS), which has – for a number of reasons – become a major threat to the revolution."

Palmira Silva, 82, 'beheaded' in London garden

Residents at a cordon in Nightingale Road

 There are as many as five different wars going on in North London, but surely the greatest encouragement to such terrorist behaviour was the proposal by Hillary Clinton to arm the so-called 'moderate' rebels in Syria in 2012. Along with the tendency of rich Saudis, fully condoned by their government, to buy up property in Hampstead Garden Suburb, inflaming regional tensions. As Owen Jones said, we need to have a rational debate about whether we now have to work with Assad. After that we can have a rational debate about immigration, which also isn't code for playing on our fears to support the most illiberal policies.

By Yaser Abo Hamed

U.S. has no Syrian plan

 I was thinking yesterday about the number of air forces with the capacity to take out the ISIS headquarters in Raqqa, and no apparent inclination to do so so far. There's Assad's, Iran, the US, Israel; probably Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Turkey too.

 "Tuesday, the target was Jobar, in the Damascus suburbs, and Wednesday it was apparently a school bus in Deir al-Zor. And every day it is Aleppo, which is being pounded by barrel bombs, and other sites across the country, struck with a ferocity seemingly reserved for civilians and moderate rebels – for when the regime occasionally decides to strike ISIS, it does so rather mutely.

 Thankfully, it appears the U.S. and its partners have realized that even though they share a common enemy in ISIS, the Syrian regime cannot be trusted. But unfortunately it does not appear that they have any clear strategy to combat the threat posed by ISIS in Syria, and this is despite us knowing exactly where certain ISIS units are at any given time, as they constantly publicize their territorial gains. They are not an invisible enemy."

'Difficult to find relationship between Qatar and IS'

 "Does Qatar have any type of leverage with the 'Islamic State'? And if so, how does that tie in with rumors that Qatar is providing financial support for IS?

 The IS jihadists contacted Qatar to pay a ransom for James Foley. The amount was huge and Qatar said no - and Washington also said no. Qatar has good relations with Jabhat al-Nusra [an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria - ed.] and they are the enemy of the 'Islamic State' fighters. Qatar has had a good relationship with them since the beginning of the revolution in Syria. We have no evidence of IS funding."

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

13 civilians killed in bus attack in eastern Syria

Image result for washington post 13 civilians killed bus eastern syria

 "A Syrian government airstrike hit a bus carrying civilians in eastern Syria on Wednesday, killing at least 13 people, most of them children, opposition activists said."

The Unbearable Emptiness of a New York Times Op-Ed

A series of commonly perpetuated untruths, here purveyed by Peter Beinart.

"John McCain and Lindsey Graham want Obama to confront ISIS now. They don't specify how."
They do, just not in the paradigm Peter Beinart wants to impose on the conflict.
'It starts with a lie: that Obama said “we don’t have a strategy yet” to deal with ISIS. In fact, Obama was speaking solely about ISIS in Syria.'
And without a strategy to deal with them in Syria, there is no strategy.
"Last year, when George Washington University’s Marc Lynch surveyed scholars of civil wars, he found that “most contributors are … deeply pessimistic about the prospect for ending Syria’s civil war any time soon” because “Syria has among the worst possible configurations [of any civil war]: a highly fragmented opposition, many potential spoilers, and foreign actors intervening enough to keep the conflict raging but not enough to decisively end the war.” McCain and Graham don’t explain how to overcome all this."
Marc Lynch tells us, "The literature tells us", rather than analysis of what's going on in Syria. It isn't a serious counterblast to the reality that the FSA has been victorious against ISIS wherever it has received support.
"Any serious proposal for expanding American military involvement in Iraq into Syria must do one of two things. 1) Explain, in some detail, how bombing ISIS will strengthen the moderate Syrian opposition rather than other Sunni jihadist groups (for instance, al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s affiliate) and/or Bashar al-Assad. Or 2) explain why it’s worth bombing ISIS even if we strengthen other Sunni jihadist groups and/or Bashar al-Assad."
So setting to one side that arming the FSA properly would strengthen it in relation to all other groups, which would render the concern in 1) irrelevant. Beinart doesn't specify how bombing ISIS would strengthen their trading partner Assad, or suddenly convince the millions who have fled his rule in the last three years that he is a viable option. 
"They cite Jimmy Carter’s decision to abandon d├ętente with the Soviet Union after Moscow invaded Afghanistan, Bill Clinton’s decision to intervene in the Balkans, and George W. Bush’s decision to implement the “surge” in Iraq. What do these cases have in common? They’re the best examples McCain and Graham could find of when a president chose military escalation and it worked (sort of)."
I'd pick other examples which wouldn't appeal to the senators, such as the support the Soviet Union gave to liberation movements in Latin America in the sixties and seventies. Which highlights the problem that things could have been kept simple if the FSA had been allowed to overthrow Assad when there was no ISIS, and until they are, the inability of a genocidal government and a murderous caliphate to offer any future for Syria will continue to spiral the level of atrocities. Now it's more complicated. They had no interests to protect in Syria, whatever those who see geopolitical intrigue behind every revolution might say. Now the conflict has moved to Iraq where the do have influence, the chances that their fundamental interests in exploiting foreigners as much as possible will poison any intervention are that much greater.
Scott Lemieux* suggests that "the John McCain and Lindsey Graham Award For Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Wankery Goes To…John McCain and Lindsey Graham" for this, I wouldn't.
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2 weeks ago ISIS executed Syrian Muslim journalist Bassam Raies. The world didn't give a damn

The Guy Behind FSA Kittens Has Little Hope for Syria

 "I saw the cutest of cats as something that was directly challenging the narrative and showing that the Free Syrian army were human beings, they had the overwhelming support of civilians around them and were kind to animals. In contrast, Assad’s soldiers have machine-gunned livestock and donkeys and, in one case, swung a cat around on a chain. The regime actively tortures and kills opposition activists and shows the same cruelty towards animals.

 The Assad regime defector "Caesar" recently gave his report to Congress detailing, with 55,000 photographs, the industrial-scale torture and execution of opposition activists. It was little more than a footnote on CNN. Syria is old news, despite the fact that it’s ongoing. The coverage amounts to, “Well, there’s not a lot we can do and we’re not really sure who the good guys are.” People forget that the Syrian revolution is about pursuing freedom and that it started in a non-violent way.

 Whereas Assad forces have butchered and tortured both humans and animals alike, IS highlights their kindness to animals while simultaneously publicizing their extreme brutality to people they deem enemies or heretical. The actions of Assad forces can be explained by cruelty towards life in general. The paradoxical actions of IS can only be explained by religious extremism."


 "I will stand up for Gary Barlow, he does a lot of work for charity,"

 and that means it is secondary to his willingness to pay taxes. I couldn't believe Ian Ross then went for an even more corny Excuse of the Rich and Powerful, "80% of which you never hear about." Like with members of the Royal Family, until their lackeys have to fawn over them on breakfast TV. Ian Royce had earlier offered the observation that the Islamic State is "fighting everybody", which made me despair of the quality of political commentary on Sky, when nobody can be found to correct this comedian*, and point out that in Syria ISIS fight people of all faiths and none but mostly Sunni Muslims affiliated to the revolution, but not Assad so much. Also, Stephen Sotloff went to Syria to cover "humanitarian problems", because for Ian Royce it's easier to classify Syria as a humanitarian problem when you don't understand what the conflict is about. Much like those who won't show any meaningful solidarity with the fight against Assad and ISIS by the Free Syrian Army because that would be to invite "humanitarian" or "liberal" intervention by the UK and the US.
Assad's forces are attacking civilians with parachute bombs** in Jobar, one of the suburbs of Damascus he hit with chemical weapons last year, but it would be to get your head out of your arse to worry about that.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

America created the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria? Meet the ISIS 'truthers'I'd go a bit further.
'Cockburn says that by fighting ISIS in Iraq and supporting its objectives in Syria (toppling President Bashar al-Assad), the U.S. "has created a situation in which ISIS can survive and may well flourish." But Cockburn also accuses the U.S. of arming ISIS — not just because U.S. weapons and vehicles given to Iraq's army fell into ISIS's hands, but because it armed other militias in Syria, some of which were known to be allied with jihadists.
Cockburn also says the U.S. enabled the rise of al Qaeda, ISIS, and other Islamist groups because it didn't take on allies Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, "the two countries that fostered jihadism as a creed and a movement."
Still, while the facts may be correct, the chain of causation in this theory seems a little weak.'

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Why I Decided War Reporting Was No Longer Worth the Risk

Image result for Why I Decided War Reporting Was No Longer Worth the Risk

Now, of course, the same people who form opinions without bothering to find anything out about Syria, would take from this that there is no 'moderate' resistance in Syria any more.
' “I’m a journalist covering Syria.” 
Without hesitation, she bore in: “So, is your reporting truthful?” She inserted the question the way someone might confront a WWE wrestler about whether what happens in the ring is real. We all know it’s made up. Just admit it. 
She continued to press, telling me she was certain the media wasn’t giving her the whole story. She wanted to know why. She knew that President Bashar al-Assad was bad, but who exactly were the people in the opposition? (This was the December 2012, when moderates still held sway in the Syrian resistance.)I met Jim Foley once or twice working in the Middle East, but knew him mostly by his reputation: A friendly, laidback guy who could make people laugh even in the most dire situations. Now that he’s gone, I wish I could believe that such an extraordinary person died striving to inform an American public yearning to know the truth. It’s harder to accept what really happened, which is that he died while people eagerly formed opinions on his profession and the topics he covered without bothering to read the stories he put in front of them.' 

Syria's Silent War Crime: Systematic Mass Rape

 Evidence is piling up that the Damascus regime has used rape - of daughters in front of fathers, wives in front of husbands - as a targeted weapon.

 ' “Compared to this, Abu Ghraib must have been paradise,” she says with a faint smile, alluding to the American prison in Iraq. “I’ve been through everything! I’ve been battered, flogged with steel cables, had cigarette butts in the neck, razor blades all over my body, electricity in my vagina. I’ve been raped while blindfolded every day by several men who stank of alcohol and obeyed their superior’s orders, who was always there. They shouted: “You wanted freedom? Well here it is!” Many of the women, she explains, in addition to their pain, thought their families might kill them if they found out what had happened to them. Her determination to enroll in the Free Syrian Army became only stronger. When she was released, she became one of the rare women to lead a battalion, at the head of 20 men, before being seriously injured and evacuated by her fellow rebels.

 As early as spring 2011, he says, campaigns of rape by militias were organized inside homes, while families were still there. Daughters were raped in front of their fathers, wives in front of their husbands. Men became crazy with anger and yelled that they would defend themselves and avenge their honor. “I used to think we had to do everything we could to avoid getting into a militarized phase, and that arming the revolution would multiply the number of dead by 100,” Ghalioun said. “But the use of rape decided otherwise. And I think Assad wanted it this way. Once the revolutionaries were armed, he could easily justify the massacres of those he already called ‘terrorists’.”

 Yes, she does have stories to tell, says Sema Nassar. Specific cases, with dates. Dozens of them. Like this young girl from Hama, currently a refugee in the United States, who was at home with her three brothers when soldiers burst in and told the three men to rape their sister. The first refused; they decapitated him. The second refused; he suffered the same fate. The third accepted; they killed him on the girl, whom they then raped.

 Or, there is the story that another Syrian woman has recounted, of being brought to a house in the suburbs of Homs in the summer of 2012, along with around 20 other women. They were tortured and gang raped in front of a camera. The videotape was then sent to her uncle, a prominent sheik, television preacher and member of the opposition.

 “This practice is very frequent during raids on villages and systematic in secret service detention centers,” the head of the Syrian League for Human Rights Abdel Karim Rihaoui told . Currently living in Cairo, he estimates that over 50,000 women have been raped in Bashar al-Assad’s prisons since the beginning of the revolution.'