Friday, 31 July 2015

The Impossible Choices Syrian Refugees Have To Make To Help Their Children Survive

'"My son is too weak; my body doesn't produce milk (and) ... we can't afford buying milk," says Kutana al-Hamadi, whose 7-month-old son Almunzir suffers from malnutrition. "Our lives are miserable with no food, we only have this not-clean water to fill our stomachs with."
"We survived the barrel bombs in Syria but I'm afraid we won't survive the lack of health and food," she added.'

Syrian conflict: Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front abduct leader of US-backed rebels dealing blow to plans to build moderate opposition to regime

Image result for Syrian conflict: Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front abduct leader of US-backed rebels dealing blow to plans to build moderate opposition to regime

Patrick Cockburn this time starts his lies with the headline. The US isn't trying to build an opposition to the régime, but a mercenary force that will fight only ISIS. They've even insisted all recruits sign a pledge to only use US weapons against ISIS and not the régime.
"A Syrian activist and a second opposition source were quoted by agencies as saying that 54 fighters trained by the US were from Division 30."
All 54 of the fighters trained by the US, Cockburn omits to mention.
"The US has been frustrated by the lack of any moderate military leadership opposed to Mr Assad’s government in Damascus."
No, this is another lie. They have tried to get the moderates to fight ISIS and even Jabhat al-Nusra in preference to taking on the régime, without giving them any heavy weaponry, which are two reasons Syrians have seen more Islamist groups as more reliable.
"It has sought to re-brand itself as being less sectarian and less violent than Isis, saying that Alawites, Druze and other Syrian minorities would not be automatically massacred. But it still insists on their forcible conversion to its fundamentalist variant of Islam which is ideologically close to Saudi Wahhabism."
It's four months since the Army of Conquest took Idlib. If there were forced conversions, we'd have heard about it by now. If they were chopping heads off like ISIS, refugees would be streaming away. Cockburn doesn't feel the need for any evidence for his assertions.

"There are attempts to present Ahrar al-Sham, with between 10,000 and 20,000 fighters, as being anti-Isis, which it certainly is, and a more moderate alternative to the jihadis, which it is certainly not." Again, fact-free.

 "The US is eager not to allow Turkey to relabel Jabhat al-Nusra or its clones as suitable partners in an anti-Assad and anti-Isis front. In practice, it may be some time before any anti-Isis free zone is established because of these differences."So all other anti-Assad rebels are Jabhat al-Nusra clones. That saves the effort of knowing who these people are, they are all mad Muslims, stay away. If an ISIS-free zone is established, and it isn't only inhabited by the mad of the bad, I expect Cockburn will ignore his false prognosis as he usually does.
There's a more  informed discussion of this incident at EA Worldview*:

'A local activist summarizes the situation for the US-trained rebels:
Sending in the 54 and then bombing JAN a few miles away from their positions — implying the 54 acted as spotters for the US Air Force — looks like constructing a case that “See, all our well-meant support is hopeless”.
Good folks say the US was totally aware that the solely anti-Islamic State soldiers would find their butts in a Jabhat al-Nusra jail shortly after crossing the border.
There’s only disagreement about the motivation of US actions: evil intention vs. plain stupidity.'


Thursday, 30 July 2015

Iran will not compromise on Syria

Thomas Pierret

"For Iran, what is at stake in Syria is both huge and remarkably narrow: it is Hezbollah. For sure, the alliance with Damascus used to mean more than that for the Islamic Republic, namely, a significant foothold in an otherwise largely hostile Arab state system. Yet, as Syria turned into a failed state beyond repair, its status in regional politics shifted from that of key player to everyone’s battlefield. For Iran, therefore, the only value of those parts of Syria that remain controlled by Asad is that they constitute Hezbollah’s strategic depth. 
 There is no political solution in Syria without Iran, but the latter is unlikely to get on board in the foreseeable future. In practice, this leaves Western countries with two options: the first one is to alter the military balance on the ground so as to change Iran’s calculations by making its strategy unsustainable in the short term; the second one is to keep on uttering ritual calls for a negotiated solution during another decade of war."

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Has Syria Been “Sold” To Iran?


 'The truth of the matter is not so attractive. The United States and its P5+1 partners elected to set aside raising slaughter in Syria and Tehran’s decisive role in facilitating with Iran to avoid complicating and perhaps undermining the nuclear negotiations. 
 Western leaders, beginning with President Obama, grasp with total clarity the fact that Assad’s scorched earth survival strategy that has made Syria safe for ISIL. They understand with certainty that every barrel bomb, every chemical attack, and every child starved to death is a recruitment lifeline to ISIL, both within Syria and around the world. They fully get it that Tehran’s unconditional support for Assad regime lawlessness highlights the operational bifurcation of Iran’s objectives toward ISIL: kill it in Iraq, where it presents a security threat to Iran and its Iraqi allies; keep it alive in Syria, where it remains Bashar al-Assad’s opponent of choice; their client’s potential ticket back to polite society.
 To “sell” Syria to Iran would, therefore, be to deed much of the country to ISIL. Except when the regime finds itself sitting atop something ISIL wants—an oil field, an airbase, or a desert town filled with priceless antiquities—Assad and the pseudo-caliph find live-and-let-live far preferable to fighting each other. Instead, they focus their respective military energies on eliminating anyone offering an alternative to each. The caliph and Assad want to be the last two parties standing in Syria: Assad so he can confront the West with a “me or them” choice; the caliph so he can recruit around the world as the hero combatting the twin evils of Assad and Washington. The other big winner in such a scenario would be Iran: its ability to support Lebanon’s Hezbollah from a secure portion of Syria would be assured.
 Unlike the canard that the United States is behind the creation of ISIL, the selling of Syria thesis is at least understandable if one appreciates the experiences and perspectives of those willing to reach such a profoundly negative conclusion. Syrians both inside Syria and around the world have felt totally abandoned by the West. They see a senior US official mark the twentieth anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre by tweeting, with no sense of irony, “Remember—and never let it happen again.” They watch the Assad regime and Hezbollah do the political equivalent of a victory lap in celebration of what they think their Iranian masters have accomplished for their benefit.
 Mr. Obama has a war to win against ISIL and a vote to win in the US Congress. The common denominator in surmounting both challenges is Iran: specifically, its support of ISIL-sustaining mass murder by the Assad regime. Throwing sand in the gears of Assad’s mass murder mechanisms is essential to winning the fight against ISIL. It may also persuade some fence-sitting Democrats in the US Senate that the administration is not credulous when it comes to Iran.'

On Syria, words don't go far enough

"More than 11,000 barrel bombs have been dropped since October, according to an announcement for the Security Council meeting, which was called by France and Spain.
Bassam Alahmad from the Violations Documentation Centre in Syria said that 1160 civilians, 290 of them children, had been killed by barrel bombs since Security Council Resolution 2139 passed more than a year ago, calling for an end to these and other indiscriminate attacks.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denies that his forces have anything to do with these weapons, but Human Rights Watch says otherwise.
The government is the only party to the conflict with helicopters.
The rest of the world is still too divided about who is to blame to do anything to help."

Turkey-ISIS alliance uncovered

Turkey-ISIS alliance uncovered

' “The oil trade between the jihadis and the Turks was held up as evidence of an alliance between the two,” The Guardian reported on Monday.'
So the US have raided ISIS, and we are told third hand that their intelligence services have found evidence that they were exporting oil through Turkey with the connivance of some Turkish officials. Compared to the evidence that Assad has not only been buying oil and gas from ISIS, but co-ordinating with them in attacks on Syrian rebels, this seems like a poor attempt to blame Turkey for what is going on in Syria, just as we got the story that Saudi Arabia and Qatar supported ISIS - with the proof that Joe Biden said it - last year, and the year before it was John McCain who supported ISIS, there were pictures to prove it.

Monday, 27 July 2015

The self-government revolution that’s happening under the radar in Syria

Frederic C. Hof

'A young lawyer said something striking: “This is not just a revolution against Bashar al-Assad. It is a revolution for self-government. Replacing Bashar with someone else issuing decrees from Damascus — even someone much better than Bashar — is not acceptable.”
There are today hundreds of local councils throughout non-Assad parts of Syria. Some operate clandestinely in areas overrun by the so-called Islamic State. Some operate in areas where the Assad regime — with Iran’s full support — unloads helicopter-borne “barrel bombs” onto schools, hospitals and mosques. Some operate in neighborhoods subjected to Iranian-facilitated starvation sieges. These local councils are supported by a vast network of civil society organizations — the kinds of voluntary professional associations that undergird Western democracies. All of this is new to Syria. It is the essence of the Syrian Revolution.
The alternative to Assad is arising from Syria’s grass roots. That alternative needs to be nurtured and protected by the United States and its partners. And it needs to be connected to external structures recognized by the West as legitimate. Failure to do so to date accounts in part for bizarre concerns vocalized by Obama administration officials that Assad — the mass murderer — may fall too quickly. He cannot fall quickly enough. Yet those in governments who agonize about the seeming absence of alternatives have done far too little to nurture one. They have failed to connect the dots between would-be leaders in exile and those inside Syria who are leading a self-government revolution.'

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Out of Aleppo: Three Syrians take stock

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' “We consider ISIS and the regime the same, the regime used to cut the heads of people – what ISIS is doing is not new – the regime burned people and they drowned people. ISIS took the matter of horrific torture from the regime. It’s like they are defying together who is more horrific.”
Imminent threats led Amin to flee his life in eastern Aleppo, he explains, joining the conversation. Amin was working as a physiotherapist treating civilians and members of the Free Syrian Army when ISIS arrived before New Years Eve last year.
“Death. Death for everyone,” says Amin, describing what it was like when ISIS arrived in eastern Aleppo.
“When ISIS arrived all I wanted was to leave. Leave, leave, leave, I felt like my life was threatened and I knew they would condemn me for treating Free Syrian Army people because they had already killed some of my colleagues and medical staff because they used to treat Free Syrian Army, who they consider the enemy.”
The U.S.-led coalition could bomb ISIS in certain areas, muses J, but are afraid to because of the oil and gas. He says if the international community supported the Free Syrian Army from the beginning, ISIS wouldn’t have formed.
He also pointed to western media as a source that’s indirectly helping ISIS by repeatedly showing its propaganda in the news, and by neglecting to show the efforts of the Free Syrian Army, and the impact on civilians in Syria.'

In Syria, Chlorine Attacks Continue To Take A Toll

Civil defense workers wear gas masks near damaged ground in a village near the Syrian city of Idlib in May. Activists said there had been a chlorine attack.

"The chemical gas spreads for a few kilometers — not like barrel bombs that hit one house. People are afraid about the life of their children and their [own] life."

Mr. Assad Regrets

"This is Salah Tabbaa, Red Crescent aid worker from Damascus. He was detained for 4 months by the Syrian regime. Salah's tortured body was delivered to his family yesterday with an apology: we had the wrong guy with the same name."