Saturday, 24 May 2014

Put in his place

Image result for Syrian cell phone war doc humbles Cannes

Syrian cell phone war
doc humbles Cannes

In 'Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait, which Mohammed said took about 12 month to film, a young teenage protestor stripped to his underpants is forced to kiss the boots of an army officer before he is raped. "I don't know how the soldiers feel," said Mohammed. "They are also the victims of this horrible, corrupt and barbaric regime." 
In another image in the film, a father recounts how his son's finger nails were pulled out after he was caught writing anti-government messages on a wall. "Nobody knows what the coming days will bring us," said Bedrixan, who was in Cannes for the film's screening.'


Despite Assad’s assertions, civil war is not over
'The Assad regime bears the majority of the blame for turning a beautiful country into a war zone. But there is much blame to go around. The Washington Post asked the question squarely: “Why did we allow Syria to become a hell on Earth?” That is true. Inaction by the United States has allowed Mr Al Assad to gain the upper hand. It is only because of the tenacity of the rebels that there is still a revolution to speak of.
Syria is already a hell on Earth. The only question now is how long must it remain so before the international community involves itself in a meaningful way?'

U.S. inaction on Syria helped
make it a hell on earth
"For more than three years, President Obama has resisted advice from inside and outside his administration to abandon his passivity and do something to help Syria — not to send ground troops, the straw man his spokesmen regularly erect to fend off criticism, but rather to train and equip the rebels or to help patrol a safe zone for them to evade Mr. Assad’s depredations. Mr.Obama’s excuses have varied: Mr. Assad’s downfall was inevitable with or without U.S. involvement; the rebels weren’t deserving of U.S. help; anything the United States did would make things worse.
But without U.S. involvement, the worst-case predictions are coming true: More than 160,000 people have been killed, more than 9 million have been displaced from their homes, and terrorists allied with al-Qaeda are establishing safe zones from which they can attack Europe and the United States."

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Syria video shows chlorine gas floating in streets: Activists
'A freelance photographer told Reuters he arrived at the scene of the attack an hour after a helicopter dropped the bomb.
"The smell of chlorine was very obvious. It smelt like vinegar, or bleach. I started to cough and hyperventilate. My eyes were burning," he said.'
Palestinians from the besieged al-Yarmouk camp receive food aid from UNRWA, south of Damascus
Leading provider of aid in Syria told by Assad officials not to operate in opposition-held areas in defiance of UN resolution
"Humanitarian relief has become so politicised because it was a big step for the Syrians to acknowledge that they could no longer control the whole country and for Russia to acknowledge that those who were suffering were real people, not terrorists. It defied both their narratives."
It also disrupts the narrative of those "anti-imperialists" for whom there is no suffering if it is at the hands of a non-Western backed dictator, there aren't really any rebel-held areas, there is no genocidal policy by the régime.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Russia blocks ICC action on Syria, heightening 'anti-war' contradiction


'The "anti-war" left is simply getting everything backwards this time—essentially serving as the propaganda arm of a fascistic one-family regime that continues even now to use chemical weapons against its own people.
While ultimately, I suppose I share Anderson's position of supporting the Syrian revolution while opposing US military intervention, I can't merely state "Against US attacks!" and "Against the Assad regime!" (with exclamation points), as if there were no contradiction there. The Syrian left-opposition groups that oppose Western intervention, like the Revolutionary Left Current, are now a fairly marginal force within the civil resistance movement—which has itself been significantly sidelined by the armed insurgent groups. And the notion that anti-imperialist principles mean we must oppose even intervention against a genocidal regime strikes me as hardly less problematic than supporting intervention. I see this as a genuine moral dilemma. But I'm clear on this: We, as "anti-war" voices in the West must put solidarity with the Syrian revolution front and center—not opposing purely hypothetical military adventures (as opposed to Assad's extremely real ones), or imaginary "destabilization" campaigns.'

'The Chilcot inquiry was published, and David Miliband’s own vote for the war was scrutinised.'

For those who think Labour chose the wrong Miliband …Owen Jones' scenario for what would have happened if David Miliband had been leader of the Labour Party shows what a wanker Owen Jones is.
"Labour's support for the disastrous US-British bombing of Syria brought back bad memories of Blair and Iraq. And as well as triggering regional conflict, the intervention appeared to shore up Syrian support for President Assad. The west was now portrayed as the new allies of al-Qaida. As the tide turned in favour of the dictator, every time a rebel-held town fell to the regime, the misjudged western bombing campaign was blamed."

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Image result for daniel-nisman-the-west-must-stay-the-course-in-southern-syria

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A number of untruths about weaponry in Syria have been designed to discourage support for the Syrian rebels. One of the more transparently baseless was that whatever weaponry was provided by the West or their puppets/puppet-masters in the Persian Gulf, the Russians would simply provide more to Assad in retaliation, without making it clear how bombing the shit out of more civilian neighbourhoods would help him win the war or be acceptable blackmail to give in to. And as it turned out the Russians have continued to fight the Syrian war on the cheap, letting the Iranians and Hezbollah make themselves unpopular by doing the actual murdering in Syria. And there were every possible variety of Don't You Know You'd Only Be Creating A Level Killing Field? by those casting this as a civil war with roughly equal support to both sides, rather than a revolution where only those committed to the régime don't want it gone, with only its massive firepower advantage keeping it on life support. But rather than Assad being an eternal feature, as the war drags on, more people in the government held areas will wonder if the only way for it to end is for Assad to go, which will cause the torturers and murder gangs that are the government forces to crack down on any indication of dissent what soever, creating an intolerable situation with revolution the only tolerable answer. If Assad does persist, there is going to be exactly the opposite result to that the realists suggest, not a calming of the situation, but an increase in all the indicators of instability. It will be hard to see how the régime will be able to present itself as at all legitimate when it gets to force more than half the population out of the country entirely, but may stagger on if it can't be knocked over. Again in contrast to the realists, the evidence of the last three years is that it is the lack of support to those most interested in a striaghtforward revolution that has encouraged the growth of extreme Islamism. If Assad pesists, the entire country isn't going to turn into an al-Qaida support group, but it will be far more messed up than it ever had the need to be. 
There is quite an accurate assessment of the size of the rebel forces, but much less understanding of the relationship between them, by another pro-Israeli analyst here*, whose analysis falls short because he looks at all the groups through the focus of their expressed attitude towards Israel, rather than the struggle in Syria they are actually engaged in. The piece is worth reading though, and I might get back to it at some point.
"As an extremist group which owes its existence to the West’s reluctance to act in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra’s behavior in Deraa is a clear sign of desperation. The aging US-made TOW anti-tank missiles which recently appeared in the hands of approximately 12 FSA units have already boosted American credibility in both northern and southern Syria.
The Assad regime and jihadist rebels are undoubtedly pinning their hopes on the West’s track record of abandoning Syria’s moderates at the most inopportune times
In its efforts to discredit Western involvement, Nusra will likely spare no effort to get its hands on some of these systems. As this media-savvy group is surely aware, videos of their fighters with these weapons appearing on American television screens will deter the Obama administration from transferring even more potent arms into the coffers of Syria’s rapidly-rebounding moderates. With President Obama weighing a request by Syrian National Coalition leader Ahmed Jarba to provide anti-aircraft missiles to selected rebel units, Nusra’s window of opportunity is closing."

Abu Assad, rebel commander of Aleppo's tunnel forces

Aleppo's most wanted man - the rebel leader behind tunnel bombs

"If Assad had bombed your family and friends, I'm pretty sure anyone with the nads and know-how would have done the same."

How the West reports the Syrian news


Noted Syrian writer and former political prisoner Yassin al-Haj Saleh explains how the West reports the news in Syria - and imagines what coverage would emerge if Britain suffered an equivalent crisis:

 "I believe that if what’s happened to us over the past three years happened in Britain, and if Tony Blair had destroyed a quarter of Birmingham, for example, and had already killed 25,000 of its inhabitants in a previous generation, then passed on the rule of the United Kingdom to his son who had studied medicine in Syria, and when a revolution broke out against Blair Jr., he carried out massacres in scores of British towns, and attacked Bradford with chemical weapons, and destroyed Sheffield with war planes, and launched Scud missiles on Manchester, and killed 11,000 Britons with torture and starvation in the prisons of his security forces….if something approaching this happened, the British would behave in a very similar manner to the way Syrians are acting today. We’d see the appearance of narrow-minded extremists, and maybe Blair Jr. would secretly fund some extremist groups so that he could say he’s fighting against terrorism, etc., etc..
 And maybe some Syrian journalists who knew a few words of English would attribute, in their media coverage, all of the violence and brutality to the nature of Britain and the religion of her inhabitants, or to a conspiracy by India, Egypt and France against the Blair Jr. government, which opposes Indian imperialism!"

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Searching for a ‘realistic’ solution in Syria has inflamed the conflict

Searching for a ‘realistic’ solution in Syria has inflamed the conflict

Idrees Ahmad: "If neoconservatism is an ideology of intervention, realism sustains the status quo – sometimes to equally disastrous effect.
Syria is once again testing the limits of realism.
The US could have potentially played a constructive role in Syria. Instead, it offered hot rhetoric and minimal support. Indeed, it placed restrictions on the supply of weapons to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) for fear that they might be turned on its ally, Israel.
Starved for arms, the FSA withered and the vacuum was filled by the hardline Jabhat Al Nusra and the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – the latter with the tacit approval of the regime. For Mr Al Assad, the jihadists were a boon. He could cite them to launder his repression as a war against terrorism.
The rhetoric played well in Washington – especially with realists. Just as realists had justified support for some of the more odious regimes during the Cold War on “national interest” grounds, some are now arguing for a rapprochement with Mr Al Assad to thwart terrorists.
“Do we really want the alternative” – Mr Crocker asks, for example – “a major country at the heart of the Arab world in the hands of Al Qaeda?” Mr Al Assad may be bad, he says, but the alternative “is something worse”. Former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden echoes this assessment.
This is a false choice. True, Mr Al Assad is winning, but that is only because he has complete impunity. His air force bombs at will; his armour is impenetrable to most of the rebels’ rudimentary arms; he even gets away with using chemical weapons.All of this could change if his air force were made vulnerable. This could be achieved either by arming the rebels with more anti-aircraft weapons or by imposing a no-fly zone."
Russian Civil Activists, 1st May 2014 Moscow. The activsts were arrested and sentenced to fines and 10 days in prison.

UKRAINE: Excuse Me Mister: How Far Is It From Simferopol To Grozny?
“You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.”
- Ursula Le Guin
Writing on (the lack of) solidarity towards the Syrian revolution, Arab Queer Transfeminist Anarchist Leil Zahra Mortada wrote: “Solidarity and support in the face of injustice should never be measured by how much you agree or disagree with the individual suffering the injustice. You can still disagree with them, be against their politics, and still refuse and fight the injustice they are suffering. You can fight them, and still fight the discrimination they are facing.”

Humanizing a crisis: Blogging the Syrian conflict

Syrian blogger Razan Ghazzawi

 Razan Ghazzawi:

I feel that the West has a lot of experience in telling stories. For example, 9/11. I can now think and share and relate to the pain of 9/11 because of stories, because of how people reported about it. The lives of people, who were they, their faces. But this is not how they deal with our pain. It’s numbers, it’s bodies, it’s people cutting heads. It’s very dehumanizing. It feels like we’re not humans being killed, we’re just Third World people being killed.”

McClatchy DC
Syrian Islamists’ call for a free state likely directed at West

“The Syrian revolution . . . is based on morals and values with the objective of achieving freedom, justice and security to the entire Syrian society with its diverse multi-ethnic and multi-sectarian social fabric,” the statement says. “The Syrian people aim to establish a state of law, freedom and justice without any pressure or dictations.”

Monday, 19 May 2014

Syrian soccer goalie-turned-rebel becomes icon
"He is one of the true revolutionaries who never strayed from the goal of this uprising, which is bringing down this regime."

Assad election poster in Damascus

Syria war: Air defence chief Gen Hussein Ishaq killed"The air defence forces' headquarters is in a fiercely contested area of the current fighting around Damascus, AFP news agency reports.
The rebels do not have an air force, the agency adds, so forces under Gen Ishaq's command have rarely been deployed for air defence."
The Argentinian air force used to take rebels and suspected rebels and drop them tied and blindfolded into the Atlantic, the Syrian airforce is too lazy, or has too many people to kill, to do that.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Image result for Turkey: Deterrence failing, Ukraine crisis partly result of Syria inaction

Turkey: Deterrence failing, Ukraine
crisis partly result of Syria inaction

'The United States, and the West at large, has appeared reluctant to become entangled in the Syrian civil war.
President Barack Obama set a “red-line” for the Assad regime – the use of chemical weapons – but when that line was crossed he opted for a Russia-brokered diplomatic deal with the Syrian regime, rather than forceful intervention.'
Invading Syria and doing nothing are not the only options here.

A bread cart amid the rubble following an airstrike in Aleppo

The war on bread: how the Syrian regime
is using starvation as a weapon

“Did you ever see a starving person? I hope you never may,” wrote an American college professor, almost a hundred years ago, in the country then known as Greater Syria. “No matter how emaciated a person may be from disease he never looks exactly like the person suffering from pangs of hunger. It is indefinable but when you have once seen it you can never mistake it, nor ever forget it.”

In the Syrian Prison: Disconnected and Desubjectified

"According to the testimonies of many survivors, there are growing numbers of detainees, arrested for involvement in peaceful demonstrations or relief work, who may have perished in detention and their bodies buried in secret mass graves. The testimonies of survivors frequently point to how detainees face a crushing limited space and excessive overpopulation in the place of detention. The extreme conditions of torture become routine. Violence and inhuman degradation are not confined to interrogation sessions, but appear to be part and parcel of the life of an inmate in a Syrian detention center."

Not all fighters going to Syria are extremists, says former UK minister Shahid Malik

"Countries like Australia and the UK need to be alert to these possibilities but panic and alarm is not the solution": Former UK minister Shahid Malik.

 ' ''The point I was making is that we should not jump to conclusions that the young people who want to fight are extremists,'' he said.'
 The point I might make is that extremism in defence of liberty is no vice, a point first made by Barry Goldwater when running for the US presidency, though in his case I think by liberty he meant racism.
 Shahid Malik was saying this while a guest of the Qatari government, so those who would rather nothing was done about Assad would say this is him trying to get in with them, and they are probably right. But it is still much preferable to politicians who label the fight for Syria's freedom as jihad.
Image result for This spread of 'holy fascism' is a disaster

This spread of 'holy fascism' is a disaster

"The result is deepening sectarianism as Shia are targeted as non-Muslims, and non-Muslims of all descriptions are forced to flee, so that countries such as Iraq and Syria are being emptied of Christians who have lived in them for almost 2,000 years."
Oh, that's why there are nine million refugees from Syria, not because Assad has bombed them to Hell. I bet the Saudis wish they'd supported the Iranians in killing lots of Sunni Muslims in Syria instead.
"There are signs that the Saudi rulers may now be coming to regret giving quite so much support to the jihadis trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. In the past few days, they have invited the Iranian foreign minister to visit the kingdom. But it may be too late: having had their government denounce Mr Assad as the root of all evil in Syria, Saudi jihadis will see it as a betrayal and the height of hypocrisy if the state now threatens them with prison terms when they return home."
If they are fighting to overthrow Assad, they are not simply jihadis. The Saudis are the most unreliable of friends, but their alleged rapprochement with Tehran doesn't invalidate the Syrian struggle. Assad is the root of the evil in Syria.
Fascism is an over-used term. The Decent Left applied it to Saddam Hussein, so that we would forget about American imperialism, then to Islam in general, so that we would think that liberal intervention would sort out Afghanistan. Now it is being used by Patrick Cockburn to say we should prefer Assad to revolution.