Saturday, 28 March 2015
" “Let me tell you - right - let me tell you”, he explained in response to Paxman’s accusation he wouldn’t stand up to Vladimir Putin. “In the summer of 2013 this government proposed action in Syria. The bombing of Syria, right? I was called into a room by David Cameron and Nick Clegg, because president Obama had been on the phone - the leader of the free world, right? I listened to what they said, and over those days I made up my mind, and we said no, right? I think standing up to the leader of the free world shows a certain toughness I would say.”
It was a lie. A total, and utter misrepresentation of what Ed Miliband did, and did not do, over the Syria vote. He knows it’s a lie, the shadow cabinet know it’s a lie, Labour MPs know it’s a lie.
This is the truth about what Ed Miliband did over Syria. He did indeed walk into “a room” to meet David Cameron – it was the Prime Minister’s study in Downing Street. He told David Cameron that he would be prepared to support military action in Syria. He said that the Labour party would need some persuading over the issue, and because of that he would need to win some concessions that he could present to his MPs.
Over the following days the nature of these concessions changed. First Miliband told Cameron he would need to publish legal advice showing military action was legitimate. Cameron agreed. Then Miliband told Cameron he would need to publish the intelligence showing the Assad regime had used chemical weapons. Cameron agreed. Then he said Cameron would need to demonstrate military action had UN approval. Again Cameron agreed, and confirmed he would be submitting a motion to the P5 to that effect. Then Ed Miliband said a vote would have to await the formal publication of the UN weapons inspectors reports into the attacks. Cameron agreed. Finally, Miliband said there would have to be not one but two Commons votes before action could be authorised. And again, the Prime Minister agreed.
Maybe it doesn’t matter any more. The dead of Syria can’t be brought back. The opportunity to draw red lines against Assad’s use of chemical weapons has gone for good. And Ed Miliband has an election to win. Those depending on food banks, or worried about the NHS, or worried about the cost of living crisis won’t mind a bit of historical revisionism. Nor will Labour MP and activists buoyed by their leader’s combative performance.
But the fact still remains. When asked to present his strongest case for being entrusted with the highest office in the land, Ed Miliband chose to build it upon a lie."
"Cockburn vastly exaggerates Western support of the Syrian opposition, when the Americans’ main role was to prevent Arab states from sending the heavy weaponry Syrians so desperately needed to resist Assad’s blitzkrieg. One justification given by commentators for the failure to support the Free Army early on was that Islamists might benefit. Of course, the opposite happened – starved for funds, guns and ammunition, the moderate leadership was unable to win loyalty, or establish central control and discipline. Many of its fighters either despaired and left the country or gravitated towards the much better-funded Islamist brigades. Unhindered, Assad’s barrel bombs and scuds implemented a scorched earth strategy, traumatising Syrians and producing a vacuum in which jihadism flourished.
“There is no alternative to first-hand reporting,” he nevertheless opines; and “journalists rarely fully admit to themselves … the degree to which they rely on secondary or self-interested sources”. Which brings us to the question of Cockburn’s reliability. In the book he states, in early 2014, “I witnessed [Nusra] forces storm a housing complex … where they proceeded to kill Alawites and Christians.” This alleged massacre was reported by Russian and Syrian state media (Russia is Assad’s imperial sponsor, providing his weapons and defending him at the Security Council); yet international organisations have no record of it. But Cockburn’s original report of the incident, in a January 28, 2014 column for The Independent, states that, rather than witnessing it, he was told the story by “a Syrian soldier, who gave his name as Abu Ali”.
Because Cockburn’s a much-awarded, veteran correspondent, his opinions are echoed and magnified until they attain the status of fact, even amongst those who should know better. A group of Syrian leftist revolutionaries invited to meet Noam Chomsky in Beirut were astounded to hear the great man explain that their cause was doomed. Chomsky knew because his friend Patrick had told him, and “Patrick knows what’s happening in Syria better than anybody”.
Increasingly a deluded ‘realism’ calls for cooperation with Assad against the greater jihadist enemy. It was precisely in order to provoke these calls that Assad did his utmost to create a jihadist threat, and why – until June 2014, when ISIS became a threat to his regime – he refrained from bombing the organisation. Even today, when the Free Army and ISIS fight, Assad bombs the Free Army. Former State Department official Fred Hof describes the unofficial ISIS-Assad collusion like this: “Their top tactical priority in Syria is identical: destroy the Syrian nationalist opposition.” "
Friday, 27 March 2015
Breaking free in the great Syrian prison
"When we are engulfed by monumental events, no matter how horrifying, sentiments of euphoria can accompany those of revulsion. One has a feeling of having lived an overpowering, grand experience, an exhilarating wave of hyperreality.
This force, allowing psychological rebirth, will harden the spirits of Syrians against the depravities of Assad rule. It is why Assad’s enemies refuse to surrender, even as their conflict takes myriad turns into darkness. And it is why Iran will likely never triumph in Syria. In their search for emancipation, for a second childhood, Syrians will suffer, but they will also struggle against suffering."
"Some buses in Aleppo, Syria, have been reconverted to serve as protection from snipers loyal to the country’s embattled President Bashar Assad."
Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale add nothing to our understanding of Syria. They make three references to the armed opposition to Assad, and they are all woefully wide of the mark.
"Saudi Arabia, and various small gulf states, backed various right wing Sunni Islamist rebel groups against Assad’s Syrian government."
No, they have mostly backed the FSA, and all the groups they have supported have been defending Syrians against a murderous government; not the problem here. Complaining about the Islamist character, quite mistakenly in their formulation, could be seen as part of the anti-Muslim prejudice the authors claim to be opposing.
"Assad’s Syrian government is fighting the Islamic State."
As little as they possibly can, as their strategy all along has been to fight jihadis as little as possible, in the hope that they will eclipse the secular opposition and Assad will appear the better option. So they have been engaging in a major offensive, mostly carried by their Iranian and Lebanese foreign fighters, against the moderate opposition in southern Syria, but the only advance in the north-east where ISIS has done a runner.
"The revolt that began in 2011 united a broad range of Islamist and secular groups in resistance, and mixed local alliances. But by 2014 ISIS, a right wing Islamist group, was the largest army opposed to the governments of Syria and Iraq.
This does not mean the secular left was unimportant. But it does mean that for a generation now Islamists have been the strongest force in mass movements against American power and against the dictatorships."
The broad range of Islamist and secular groups are still fighting Assad, and now have to deal with ISIS too. ISIS are not opposed to the government of Syria, but to the Sunni Muslim communities they are parasites upon. To say that there is now just a battle between the US and "dictatorships" and Islamists, in which the important reality is US bombing, ignores the struggle against Assad's genocide.
"At this point (thereabouts, memory a bit hazy) you could see he got riled and things really escalated (they were always going to), when he said ‘actually what you’re doing is a typical form of imperialist policy where you’re expecting the West to come in to sort out your problems’.
Now that was the particular button which he pushed which I was waiting for which he shouldn’t have, and at this point I let loose (to be fair, I was already itching for it), and said:
‘My point isn’t whether I ‘want’ Western intervention or not, that’s always been irrelevant since I’ve long said and continue to say that the West do not want to intervene, that they are happy with the situation and would be happy ultimately with Assad coming out on top of a destroyed country, and that’s exactly the point. The whole point is that those Western governments that you have forever portrayed as ‘itching’ to intervene (to topple Bashar) simply don’t want to, seen by the simplest measures they didn’t take such as arming rebels with anti-aircraft weaponry or arming rebels in anyway properly at all beyond 16-bullet per fighter (don’t know if you saw that article) crumbs off the table, mostly supplied anyway through Arab countries.’My problem was that his organisation, Stop the War Coalition, were portraying the Syrian resistance constantly as mere puppets, terrorists, and the reason for what is happening in Syria. My problem was that they were not talking at all about what the Syrian government was doing, who you, Rees, seem to have forgotten the history of ‘imperialism’. That with all their rhetoric they had become simply ‘progressive neoconservatives’ (don’t think I used that term in particular to him though, used others). He then said that my anger was actually typical of ‘emigre politics’ — I said ‘What?’ (as in the Egyptian sense, ‘eih?’ – don’t comprehend). The irony was great (it was a convenient opening for a few things which I was already going to say re: identity politics). It seems he thought I was born and raised in England or something, when I lived all my life in the Middle East before going to university here. I told him that I was getting shot at by Sisi in January of that year, so don’t talk to me about ‘emigre politics.’ He responded that he was at Tahrir Square during the 18 days (I wasn’t surprised by that; incidentally, it was never the point), so don’t talk to me about not taking risks – etc etc . I said ‘fine you were at Tahrir, but that’s irrelevant innit, it wasn’t me who said anything about emigre politics’."
Wednesday, 25 March 2015
Aliah Ajamoughli: A proud Syrian
“One of my family members stood out on a platform on a mosque, asking for people to donate blood, and was shot by a sniper,” Ajamoughli said. “The news segment was a YouTube video that they were showing. Early on in the revolution, when the protests were peaceful, the people captured the deaths of protesters and put it on YouTube. They thought by doing this they could show the world the terrible things of Assad, but they quickly found out the world didn’t care about Assad killing his people.”
"The Assad regime now controls only 28 percent of Syrian territory, a military control that does not imply loyalty to it. This percentage continues to shrink daily - as in the governorates of Homs and Hama - the revolution’s most important strongholds. Neutral sources estimate that only 10% of the population remain in support of Assad. This limited control of territory, void of real governance or legitimacy, is maintained through the assistance of blood thirsty sectarian extremist militias, imported from Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan, and led by Iranian commanders who issue orders, and roam Syrian from Aleppo to Dara’a. The opposition forces have become increasingly aware of the need to put their differences aside in favor of unity and integration. There is also an increasing certitude of victory as the revolution has shown a tremendous ability to adapt to changing challenges and efficiently coordinate revolutionary, political and military efforts. We are ready and willing to engage in any political process that achieves freedom and dignity for our people. We continue to work to unite all components of our society under one national umbrella and to ensure that all Syrians play a role in the transitional period. The transitional process will preserve institutions - particularly the army and security apparatuses - initiate civil peace and transitional justice projects, and begin the reconstruction of Syria."
Tuesday, 24 March 2015
"As to the rampancy of rape, mostly by Assad's soldiers and paramilitary thugs known as Shabbiha, a recent study reported "compelling findings" indicting the regime in this regard.
The study was conducted by Women Under Siege, along with Columbia University epidemiologists, the Syrian-American Medical Society, and Syrian activists and journalists, who spent the past year documenting and mapping incidences of sexual violence in the war-ravaged country
According to the study, Assad's forces have carried out 56 percent of all acts of rape. But, the study says, if you include pro-regime Shabbiha perpetrators, the number is closer to 80 percent.
The study adds: "When it comes to men (who were the victims in 20 percent of the cases tracked by Women Under Siege), the figures are even more staggering. 90 percent of the reported sexualized violence against men was committed by government forces, possibly due to the fact that these tend to occur in detention facilities. Meanwhile, the Free Syrian Army has only carried out 1 percent of the documented sexual attacks."
The Assad regime is a cancer upon the conscience of humanity. That is why it is an expression of criminal hypocrisy and evil moral duplicity to bomb IS in Syria and Iraq while keeping the Assad regime fully immersed in this orgy of evil."
'The armed opposition factions announced the campaign to capture the city of Idlib in a message posted online Tuesday. They tell residents the rebels "are at the walls of Idlib" and "have decided to liberate this good town." '
"Already now many Sunnis in the region perceive their lives as less important than the lives of members of minority groups in the eyes of the West. Most victims of regime brutality are Sunnis. The fact that they have received hardly any support against Assad, that the international community however now is even considering him a potential partner against ISIS, could amplify the perception of a Western-Shiite conspiracy against Sunnis. As uncertain as the gain through a co-operation with the regime in the battle against ISIS would be, as certain is that such a co-operation would trigger an influx of new fighters for ISIS – not for reasons of conviction, but simply because Sunnis could turn to no one else for protection against the regime."
Sunday, 22 March 2015
"Assad has other plans. With an offensive in the South supported by Iran and Hezbollah, he is currently trying to weaken the national resistance and drive moderate rebels into the arms of al-Nusra and IS. Then he can declare his merciless war on Syria's civilian population to be a fight against terror in this region too.
Instead of simply concentrating on IS in Syria, as it has been doing since the summer of 2014, the West should stop neglecting the origins of the radicalisation: Assad's brutal reign. This goes for the South in particular, where the MOC has long had contact with the counterparts it has been asking for and who are in a position to combat the jihadists.
However, if they are to do this, they must do one thing above all else: they must lead the fight against Assad. Only as the spearhead of the resistance will the FSA pull the rug from under the radicals' feet. Only when they can do without military support from the al-Nusra Front will the latter lose its significance and attraction."