Saturday, 29 August 2015

A Syrian Photographer Survives to Show His Country's Destruction

'Aleppo has "completely changed," he says. "The city's neighborhoods are devastated because of daily shelling and the use of barrel bombs by the Assad regime." Amid the horror of the war, Basha also focused on the White Helmets, a group of volunteer rescuers who tunnel into bombed-out buildings to save the people trapped inside. He also turned his lens to children, who "have lost all kinds of fun and happiness in childhood" but still have "big dreams after the end of the war." '

Editorial: Refugee crisis grows

'Here’s one factoid from that most recent horror in Austria to contemplate: Some of the dead carried Syrian travel documents. They were fleeing the violence and the turmoil, which our own nation and the international community have done nothing to curtail — not after President Obama’s “red line,” not after the proof of sarin gas attacks, not after pleas by rebels for something more lethal than meals-ready-to-eat.
European governments are arresting the human traffickers who prey off the fear and the misery of these refugees. But they cannot stop this tide. Only regime change in Syria can do that — but our own nation and the world seem to have given up on that.'

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Dream On

From a Syrian on Facebook today:
"What we need now is only 20-30 anti-aircraft missiles, and I can assure you that we can force a no-fly zone over all Syria."

Syria Feature: Facing Military Difficulties, Assad Puts Blame on Israel in TV Interview


Two things we might want to note about this. Firstly, the Assad régime and its friends in Russia and Iran are the main source of the conspiracy theories that Israel is behind the Syrian rebels. When you see the same being propagated by conspiracy theorists or self-styled leftists, it's not some counter-narrative to imperialism, but a concoction of the imperialism that is destroying Syria. Secondly, when Assad says things will go back to the way they were, he isn't going to accept any partition of the country, but will kill every Syrian if he gets the chance in the vain attempt to hold onto the whole country.
 "Today, the main Israeli tool that is more important than that aggression are the terrorists in Syria, meaning that what they do is much more dangerous than what Israel does from time to time to support them. They are the basis of the problem.
So, if we want to confront Israel, first we have to face its tools within Syria. You cannot confront an external enemy when you have an internal enemy. This matter must be resolved within Syria, and then things will be back to the way they were, and no-one would dare act against Syria; not Israel nor anyone else."

Monday, 24 August 2015

Syrians in Turkey keep revolution alive

Leila and Mustafa in Antakya

 'The decisive event for the FSA brigade's relationship with IS came in June 2013, when the Islamist group shot their commander, Kamal Hamami, also known as Abu Basir, the man who had so readily welcomed Leila into the brigade.
"It was a turning point in the history of the revolution. Before that we couldn't see that IS was a serious threat to the Syrian revolution. After this we took a decision to fight them."
Aboud, Mustafa and Leila reminisce together about the early days of the revolution - the hope and euphoria. That doesn't mean the future Syria they envision the same. Mustafa is a committed Salafist, while Aboud is clear that he wants a secular state. But there is much they all share.
"Mustafa and I have had very different points of view," Leila says. "But in the end we don't want all of Syria to think the same way. This is the point of the revolution. I can have my opinion and he can have his. If you're a socialist, a liberalist, an Islamist, it's okay so long as you're not hurting anybody. That's my hope since the beginning and still is now. For everyone to have the right to express their views."
 "If you want to get back on track to fight for what we initially fight for, you have to take away IS," Leila says. "It's as simple as that. We haven't forgotten what we are fighting for. We cannot forget. But let's be honest. We cannot fight Assad only." '
 Maybe Robert Fisk should talk to these people, instead of writing bullshit like, "We can – we must – spend far more time investigating the links between Isis and their Islamist and rebel friends (Nusrah, Jaish al-Islam, even the near-non-existent Free Syria Army) and the Saudis and Qataris and Turks, and indeed the degree to which US weapons have been sent across the border of Syria almost directly into Isis hands."

Faction Guide of the Syrian war – Part 2 – Syrian Opposition


 "Many Syrian soldiers deserted to join the FSA. By June 2013, the estimated number of soldiers who had defected to the FSA was about 40,000, but the manpower increased to 80,000 because many civilians also decided to pick up arms and join the FSA. Later in late 2013 many fighters defected FSA to join other opposition armed groups and Jihadist groups for ideological and military reasons which decreased the manpower of the FSA to 45,000 fighters.
 FSA operates throughout Syria, both in urban areas and in the suburbs, they are present in the northwest (Idlib, Aleppo), the central region (Hama, and Rastan), in the coast (around Latakia suburbs) and in the south (Daraa and Houran). They get external support from MOC [Military Operation Co-operation] it’s a military operation room that’s was created in 2013 by “Friends of Syria” countries like USA, UK, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jordan. The objective of this military operation room is to train the Syrian opposition fighters and to support them constantly in their fronts. This operation room is headquartered in Amman, Jordan."
Three things might be added. Many of those who defected at the end of 2013 did so because, the world, specifically President Obama, promised to do something if Assad used chemical weapons, and did nothing when he did exactly that. It's a lie, when those like Patrick Cockburn tell us the FSA doesn't exist. The"Friends of Syria" give a minimal amount of support to the FSA (though not in the deluded imagination of many leftists, al-Qaida or ISIS), in order to be able to restrict its advances:
"A local translator of US-rebel talks is claiming that the Americans have put restrictions on the rebel offensive to take Daraa city, near the Jordanian border in southern Syria.
The translator, who has been reliable in the past, says three conditions have been set on the Southern Front rebel coalition: 1) it cannot move in the al-Mahata area of Daraa; 2) it cannot advance north to the key town of Sasa; 3) rebels cannot link up to units in the West Ghouta area near Damascus.
Daraa, where the uprising against the Assad regime began in March 2011, has been split between the rebels and Syrian military for years.
The translator did not give a reason for the restrictions, but other EA sources have said that the Americans fear a sudden collapse of Assad forces — and a “vacuum” in power — if the rebels advance through Daraa city and province."


Sectarian Re-Engineering of Syria’s Demography Followed by Cease-Fire

Middle East Briefing

 I think this is overly pessimistic. What remains of the Assadist ideology besides the death cult and fear of torture if you step out of line, is the idea that is a unifying factor that pulls all Syrians together. Once areas of Syria are accepted as permanently lost, the mask covering its reduction to an instrument to keep Assad in place and Iranian interests protected falls away even further (thus I also have my doubts about the Iranian ability to dump the Assads, but I might be proved wrong on that). Assad and Iran have lost ground when they had the legitimacy of sovereignty and the opposition did not, that isn't likely to get better for them if they lower their ambitions to holding what they have, in fact is likely to convince those trapped under the régime that its future is limited.
 So rather than the opposition having no strategy, its commitment to resist partition has become easier to keep to with recent advances. There was distrust around the negotiations over Zabadani, but it quickly became obvious that Ahrar al-Sham weren't backing the Iranian proposal. Confusion at first may have led other groups to thinking they were selling out Zabadani, which may have been what led to the early renewal of hostilities. There may be a problem with warlordism among opposition groups, but I don't see evidence for it being the problem here.
 But I don't have any doubt that the rate of Iranian/Assadist massacres will increase, for the reasons set out. This is what happens when a people are abandoned in the face of a desperate tyranny, and told that no amount of bombing is a more serious threat than the chimera that the Americans are trying to overthrow Assad.

 "The recent intensity of attacks by Assad forces and their backers in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah in Syria reveals what could be expected to follow soon. We will witness two consecutive phases in the next few months:

1- Ruthless military attacks by IRGC, Syrian army and Hezbollah to cleanse selected areas – deemed strategic and unnegotiable – of the opposition or the Sunnis or both. This will be done under a barrage of soft talks about diplomacy and political solutions, but no serious moves other than the funny Russian initative. All the while, Moscow will keep the diplomatic road opened and oiled with its right hand, and continue giving Assad military hardware with its left hand.

2 – At one point, and after controlling all the strategic areas required, Iran will say that is ready to go as far as convincing Assad to leave Damascus. International calls for “immediate” cease fire will become louder, pressures on relevant parties will intensify and the trilateral alliance will suddenly assume the role of the dove. This will be introduced by this alliance to the world as a genuine love for peace and sincere feelings for the suffering of Syria’s civilians. But in return, the trio will want to institutionalize the status quo, that is to make its areas recognized by the new regime constitutionally the same way the situation in the South of Lebanon is institutionalized as the land of Hezbollah. Tehran is already building the Syrian Hezbollah under the command of the former prisoner in Israel Samir Al Qentar.

 The whole Syrian war would have ended with the expansion of Hezbollah and Iran on a larger stretch of territory than what they control already in the south of Lebanon and in addition to keeping the coastal west of Syria. Not bad. Not bad at all. What is the counter-plan of the opposition? None. it is not obvious that the Syrian opposition has a unified parallel plan, either to abort the trilateral partitioning intentions or to wage a meaningful counter-attack.
 For example, during the Istanbul talks between the Iranians and Ahrar Al Sham, and while the cease fire around Kafraya and Foua’a was enacted, some opposition groups around the two Shia villages deliberately broke the cease fire to embarrass Ahrar Al Sham.
It is a structural problem in the Syrian opposition that we find warlordism mixed with legitimate political opposition groups. While it is possible to overcome political differences between legitimate opposition groups by reaching a joint political platform, warlordism is not political to start with."

Sunday, 23 August 2015

How Barack Obama betrayed the Syrian people

How Barack Obama betrayed the Syrian people

 "In late July, the Syrian president gave his first public speech in a year and acknowledged that his regime was depleted and had ceded territory to "the terrorists" - referring to anyone who has joined the insurgency.  Assad's public concessions came at a time when both United States President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin were worrying about the Assad regime's possible collapse.
 Since the beginning of the Syrian uprising in 2011, the Obama administration has publicly called for Assad to step aside, while doing everything in private to foreclose that possibility, and in effect, tacitly endorsing the Assad regime.
 Obama said that the opposition was "disorganised, ill-equipped, ill-trained". He stated that the moderate opposition was made up of "farmers or dentists", among others, who all lacked fighting experience, and that it was "magical thinking" to believe that an earlier US involvement could have led to a peaceful transition. All of these points contain partial truths, but they also contain self-serving myths. The Syrian opposition was disorganised and ill-equipped because it was not externally supported the way al-Qaeda was. Much of the moderate opposition consisted of civilians firing guns for the first time, but it also included thousands of Syrian army defectors and civilians who had once been conscripted.
 Obama's refusal to confront Assad and support the opposition allowed the Syrian president to set in place a motion of events that gave rise to ISIL.  Assad released Islamist militants from prison to flood the opposition with battle-hardened religious fanatics.  His sectarian militia, the shabihaopenly cleansed Sunnis from their villages, driving them into the arms of jihadist groups for protection. Assad reportedly bought oil from ISIL, ignored them on the battlefield, and was even accused by the US state department of being ISIL's air force. The conditions that gave rise to ISIL's terrorist state were, therefore, supplied by Assad's military strategy and Obama's lack of one.
 History will not be kind to those whose actions and inaction led to the Syrian people's ruin. And while this generation may be lost to the squalor of the refugee camp and terror of daily bombardment, a future generation will remember what was done as their fathers and mothers met the most undignified of ends."