Saturday, 14 June 2014

Opening night of Syria Speaks tour at Rich Mix in London, Wednesday June 11, 2014. (Tam Hussein)

Syria Speaks"On the opening night of the tour at East London venue Rich Mix, one of the speakers, Robin Yassin-Kassab, a journalist and author of The Road from Damascus, is restive, and communicates despair at the way the conflict has developed."

Syria: New Opposition Umbrella Group in Aleppo

Syria: New Opposition Umbrella Group in Aleppo
“An independent, national revolutionary organization that constitutes a legal entity. It unites all the rebels in the city of Aleppo and the surrounding countryside who have taken part in the revolutionary movement since its inception and who have proved that they have not deviated from the principles and goals of the revolution.”
The document says the group’s objective is to “overthrow Assad’s regime and all its symbols, maintain the unity of the Syrian nation and territory and the Islamic identity of the state; and work on the application of tolerant Sharia law in all areas of life.”

"Assad is only protecting himself"

Syria's dictator Bashar al-Assad likes to present himself as a champion of his nation's religious minorities, in particular the Christians. But increasing numbers of Syrian Christians in exile are resisting this narrative. By Martina Sabra
"Belief in Christ is for us the source of support for the rebellion against the Syrian dictator and the basis for the battle for freedom and dignity. The regime of Bashar al-Assad was and can never be the guardian of Christian minorities. It only safeguards the interests of the dictatorship's mafia-style structures."

Friday, 13 June 2014

Image result for carnegie endowment What Do Syrian Rebels Want From the West?
What Do Syria's Rebels Want From The West?" While most people in our sample have favorable views of Turkey (78 percent) and Saudi Arabia (78 percent) and unfavorable views of Russia (91 percent) and Iran (92 percent), the public is divided on its support for the West."
I think this is the most reliable result in the survey. When the Assad government started killing a lot of people in 2012, the divide between the way Syrians felt, with deep hatred for the Russians and Iranians and gratitude for those that showed support for them, and the left, which continued to see the US as the real threat in the situation. When 65 percent strongly believe that Western powers deserve blame for the protracted conflict, it isn't because they've helped too much.
On the question of democracy, the time taken to complete the survey is important. Last year, when the only supporters of the Syrian revolution seemed to be those in the Gulf, the Front issued an Islamic charter that seemed to reject representative democracy. Now that it appears that such policies act as propaganda for Assad, and lessen the chance that the US would allow any proper weaponry to get through, they have issued a much more democratic covenant. I don't see this as cynicism, though a dose of that is good for anyone fighting a war against terrible odds, but as a sign that people change with the political landscape, and the sooner Syria achieves freedom the more likely armed groups are to follow the will of the population as regards the future political set-up rather than the other way round. This is also a simpler way of viewing the conflict, rather than asking who are the rebels, asking who they are fighting.

A Pre-emptive Strike

My Photo

 'Notice though that the only "intervention" that was seriously proposed was this - basically, hurling a bunch of cruise missiles at Damascus like some kind of expensive, more professional Hamas halal picnic day-out or something.'
 Notice that that was the only intervention Flying Rodent was prepared to acknowledge was proposed, the lying little prick.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

In the war on terrorism, only al-Qa'ida thrives

Image result for In the war on terrorism, only al-Qa'ida thrives

"Of course, the hypocrisy does not end there. For all his triumphalism over the turnout in Syria, Assad's way of dealing with parts of Syria not under his control is to shell them and drop barrel bombs on them. Nor is the opposition much better when it comes to targeting civilians, except that its means of destruction are much less than that of the state."
The hypocrisy starts here. The opposition hasn't engaged in the mass murder of civilians. Anyone not looking at the conflict through thick ideological glasses can see the difference. But Assad is an official enemy of the West , so his crimes could only be an excuse for western crimes, so can't be that bad.
"A reporter in Aleppo, who writes under the name of Edward Dark for the online magazine al-Monitor, mentions a case that "clearly illustrates the ludicrous nature of this inhumane conflict that happened to the Sheikh Maksud neighbourhood in Aleppo". He relates how, when this district was held by Assad's forces, it was regularly shelled by the rebels who said it was full of pro-government militiamen. When the rebels stormed and captured Sheikh Maksud in March 2013, it was the Syrian army that blazed away indiscriminately into the civilian houses that were still standing."
The opposition tried to kill the shabiha, the murder and rape gangs that have filled the gaps in Assad's terror, the Syrian Army targeted civilian dwellings. I don't see the equivalence.
"The Syrian war has turned into a Syrian version of the Thirty Years War in Germany four centuries ago. Too many conflicts and too many players have become involved for any peace terms to be acceptable to all."
Assad goes, major problem solved. ignoring that the demand of the revolution is for an end to Assad's police state, that he clears civilian areas because there can be no compromise on that demand, is of no consequence to Cockburn.
"Saudi Arabia and Qatar are arming and training a new "moderate military opposition" that will supposedly fight Assad and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) along with other al-Qa'ida-type groups. But it is not clear that the "moderate" military opposition really exists except as tightly controlled cats' paws of foreign powers."
It is not clear to Cockburn because he has been denying that there are any revolutionary forces in Syria, or pretending that those out of arms give no support to those that fight Assad. The fewer the strings on arms supplies the better, the credit for their supply inevitable, but this seems much more like a fear that this will happen than a fear it will fail. It is the flipside of the assumption that any weapons will end up with al-Qaida, how anti-aircraft weapons placed in the hands of those determined to protect Syria from Assad will remain hamstrung or get out of control I really can't see, and all seems like an excuse to get away from the lack of support being the cause of the Syrian disaster.
"So long as the Syrian civil war continues, it benefits groups such as Isis, which wants to create its own state and not just get rid of Assad, because fanatical armed groups, with fighters prepared to be killed, always benefit from conflict. By the same token, moderates lose out or are marginalised as the situation becomes more and more militarised and Syrian public opinion counts for little."
Hypocrite. He doesn't care about the vast majority of Syrians who want Assad out.

Why is Jabhat al-Nusra no longer useful to Turkey?

 One of the commonest untruths used to support arguments by those supposed to be on the Left against the Syrian revolution is that Turkey has been supporting Jabhat al-Nusra, an extreme Islamist group with ties to al-Qaida, though not as extreme as the Assad-collaborating ISIS, which crucified some people recently and is now rampaging across Iraq. We get this from the loony end like Seymour Hersh, who claims Turkey got al-Nusra to launch the chemical weapons attack in Damascus in August, but also from those who are meant to be a bit better like Owen Jones. When I saw Eamonn McCann repeat this in his piece defaming the opposition as possible sarin users, it was obvious that he had swallowed this titbit without any attempt to verify it. It is sad to see Ireland's greatest Trotskyist turn into a gullible fool.

 Turkey had a military government for years, that ruthlessly defended a secular nationalism particularly against Islamists, Communists and Kurds.

 The military is still there, these days co-operating with an extremely moderate Islamist government. The idea that they would choose al-Nusra as a proxy in Syria is ludicrous, when there are so many brigades with a more amenable way of thinking. In fact al-Nusra thrived in Northern Syria was the US was effective in stopping any flow of heavy weapons to the Free Syrian Army or to spontaneously formed rebel brigades.

 Who does fund al-Nusra? I can't precisely say. I understand that it is wealthy donors in the Gulf. What I am fairly sure is that if Turkey was supporting them, some evidence would come out of weapons shipments and the like - the Americans would be the first to blow the whistle - as there is nothing, I think this can be taken to be as much of a fantasy creation as the WMDs in Iraq.

 So here is the statement of the Turkish foreign minister, which I think can be taken at face value.

 “Jabhat al-Nusra is the result of the quagmire there. Continually referring to it is having the effect of making it loom large. While they were a controllable group comprising 500-600 people initially, today they number 5,000-6,000. In other words, declaring them a terrorist organization has resulted in more harm than good. Otherwise, we see Jabhat al-Nusra the way we see al-Qaeda.”

 A false reading of "controllable" would see it as an admission that Turkey is controlling al-Nusra. But I think he's saying that Syria is a mess, and that al-Nusra wasn't the most serious problem. Turkey has the Syrian army to worry about, and any penetration into Turkey of Assad's forces to worry about, and concentrating on weeding out a force that is fighting against Assad was not a priority.

 If Turkey had really been supporting al-Nusra, and getting them to launch chemical attacks, we'd get to hear about that now that turkey is calling them terrorists. But we won't.

 There are a number of distortions in this article I thought I might go through individually.

 "The Erdogan government has no choice at this point but to also accept that as far as the United States and Europe are concerned, the emphasis in Syria has shifted from toppling Assad to combating the al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadist groups in that country."

 There never was an emphasis on toppling Assad.

 "Looked at in retrospect, these groups have posed the most important obstacle to Ankara’s policy of pushing for international military action against Assad. They have also prevented the Syrian opposition from being armed with the necessary weapons to fight the Syrian army."

 The last sentence is true, and re-states the implausibility of al-Nusra as a Turkish front. It doesn't help that JAN has grown, especially when lifting the obstacles the West has placed on the rebels getting weapons has impeded the fight back against the massively armed rĂ©gime. For a long time more secular revolutionaries took the view that with the fight against Assad a life-and-death one, and no support coming from anywhere in the world, stopping the growth of extreme Islamism was too much for them. When the Islamists were getting arms denied to more secular groups and with Assad armed to the teeth, there wasn't any option. ISIS has shown itself to be no part of the revolution at all, and so real rebel groups have been forced to attack it, far more succesfully than the Iraqi army in the last couple of days, which tells you who the real bulwark against al-Qaida is. JAN is a more complicated question, along with that of the Islamic Front, leaders of which are responsible for kidnapping the activists, the Douma 4* and the involvement of Saudi Arabia. Some revolutionaries think they are reactionary forces who are as equally unwelcome in Syria, which is a position that I think lacks nuance. In the Spanish Civil war the Russian secret police had its own murderous spree on the Republican side, but that didn't make sense to demand that the Soviet Union stop supplying arms. The shift in policy against JAN will only work if it is accompanied by real support to the rebels in Syria.

 "The United States and some Western countries, like France, were not averse at first to arming the Syrian opposition with sophisticated weapons. These countries even appeared willing to start a bombing campaign against Assad’s forces after chemical weapons were used in that country."

 Two untruths. A lot of people fell for the second one.

 "They pulled back, however, not only because it could not be established conclusively who used the chemical weapons, but also because of the fear that jihadist groups could fill the political vacuum left by the Assad regime if it were to be ousted by a military intervention."

 The first is rubbish, we know when and where Assad's forces used their rockets, and when Assad falls, we will hear in detail from those who did it. The second does reflect the fears of Western policy analysts, the truth is that the idea that this was a Sunni sectarian rebellion was always propaganda by the government, and that it is the lack of support for secular opposition forces that let the jihadis thrive.

 "The idea of providing the Syrian opposition with heavy and sophisticated weapons was also overridden by fears that these could fall into the hands of radicals and be turned against the West in the future."

 It was untrue, and there were such weapons in the hands of America's enemies already, but it became a convenient excuse for doing nothing about the mass chemical attack.

 "The main attack of this sort, which concentrated Turkish minds and turned the public even more against the government’s Syria policy, was the Reyhanli twin car bombing on May 11, 2013, which left at least 50 dead. Although the government was quick to blame Assad loyalists, the opposition in Turkey still insists that it was jihadist groups that carried out the attack."

 I think it was Assad loyalists**. Why would jihadists groups do it?

 "Meanwhile, the so-called “Sunni Axis” against Syria, comprising Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, fell apart without having influenced the course of events against Assad."

 There never was a Sunni axis. When it melts into air so easily, it never was a bloc in the first place. It is Assad who created the sectarian conflict, torturing prisoners until they blasphemed against their Sunni beliefs, getting brigades of Iranians into the country to commit sectarian massacres under cover of claiming to protect Shi'ite shrines. The countries of the region have helped the Syrian revolution sparingly and in ill-coordinated fashion. If they hadn't been monarchies liberal and reactionary or moderately Islamist capitalists they might have been more help, but if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

 "Turkey’s banning of Jabhat al-Nusra is vindication, not just for Iran but also for Russia, of course. Both countries, which support the Assad regime, have been arguing from the start that Syria is under threat from radical terrorist groups that are being aided by outside powers."

 Assad's forces have started dropping a second barrel bomb thirty minutes after a first, in order to kill survivors. That's terrorism, and the radical groups are strengthened by Assad's destruction and the weakness of a real alternative, things will get worse while he stays, unimaginable as that is.

 "All that is left for Turkey to do at this state is therefore to cooperate with the United States and other allies against these groups, and to “ramp up support for those in the Syrian opposition who offer the best alternative to terrorists,” to use Obama’s words. There is, however, no guarantee that this will expedite Assad's demise, which Erdogan clearly dreams of."

 Supplying anti-aircraft weapons will stop low-tech attacks from helicopters. I don't think Syrians need a guarantee to go for that.


Tuesday, 10 June 2014

"For three distinct but interrelated reasons—rooted in basic ethics, global security and normative political values—the conflict in Syria profoundly matters for our world today. In the absence of global leadership that prioritizes this crisis, the conflict will continue to destabilize the broader Middle East and its ramifications will be felt far and wide for years to come.
The international community should commit itself to a plan for economic reconstruction and transitional justice in Syria. But in order to get to a point where this peace plan can be implemented, the battlefield conditions will have to change.
This must involve a serious program to arm and support the moderate Syrian rebels. While doing so by itself will not topple the Al-Assad regime, it might, as the Economist has argued, turn “the tide of the fighting [and it] might shift the negotiations… If the regime is under pressure on the battlefield, it may be more willing to negotiate a proper ceasefire, or even, if people are tired of war, Mr. Al-Assad’s departure.” "

What’s happened to Syria’s protesters?There is an untruth that has been running round the world for a couple of years ago, that there was a good peaceful uprising in Syria in 2011, but all those people have been displaced by Islamic jihadis. See the phrase 'rebel-held areas'. Those are the places where Assad has been forced out by force of arms, and will only stay that way if the rebels get some fraction of the support Assad gets from Russia and Iran.
"Although they are almost invisible to most of us outside of Syria, they continue to oppose the government – and extremist Islamist militia groups who now control parts of the country – and they want a part in leading the country once the fighting is over, she told me while on a recent visit to London.
Since those days on the streets, the same protesters have been running local services in rebel-held areas. They have kept the schools open, organised health care, distributed water, resettled hundreds of thousands of displaced people, run bakeries, collected garbage."

Image result for Return to Aleppo: 'We are in hell' cnn

Return to Aleppo: 'We are in hell'"The bombers now drop one device and then wait 10 to 30 minutes. Then they drop another. The aim is to ensure that those who flooded in to the scene to rescue the victims are then killed.
The barrel bombing -- with all its random callousness -- is a tactic with a goal, it appears. The regime is moving to clear the remaining parts of Aleppo of rebels and their supporters, of all human life it seems, because human life here is opposed to them by ideology or just association. Barrel bombs are an effective way of doing that."

Right Said Fred Song For Bashar al-Assad

                                                       # You're too awful for this Earth #

Monday, 9 June 2014

Image result for the guardian logo

Sorry - this page has been removed

Not a peace envoy, that Lakhdar Brahimi. An envoy for the international system of capitalist states that is always concerned with preserving its order over justice. Syria already is a failed state run by a vicious warlord Assad. It is to enable Assad to hang on that the conflict has been spread, the millions of refugees destabilising the neighbouring countries are down to his bombs; because he cannot hang on otherwise he has dragged in foreign armies from Lebanon, Iran and Iraq; because he needs to present himself as fighting foreigners Assad's forces have engaged in provocations against the Turks. When he says that Arab rulers have supported "the war effort instead of the peace effort", he would prefer they had bullied the rebels into submitting to more torture and murder, rather than providing a fraction of the support that Russia has given to Assad. It is if Assad stays that the country will look more like Somalia, though the idea that the Syrian opposition are all Islamic radicals has obscured the fact that many of them are never going to want that.

A quick break to note the false editorialising, common to Western media, that equates the tiny efforts in support of the Syrian people with support for their oppression. In a line about events at the UN, you would assume that Western powers had been pressing for military action against Assad, rather than trying to get basic legal protections of civilians respected. "Assad's western foes have pressed for action against Syrian authorities, but Russia and China have vetoed draft resolutions against Syrian authorities."
Brahimi's comparison to Afghanistan only makes sense if you see the world divided into good states and bad non-state actors. The valid lesson I can see is that if a country needs sorting out, sending in ground troops and taking over the country is not the answer, which is why nobody has proposing that for Syria, and those who claimed we were being dragged into a war there went along with a lie.
And then, despite the evidence that only those with access to the government's stockpile of chemical weapons could have done so, accuses the rebels of one of the earlier chemical attacks. You might have thought that the government bunging chlorine bombs out of helicopters might make the denialists realise that it was Assad all along, but they'll probably carry on saying it long after Assad's henchmen appear on TV ridiculing the West's gullibility in falling for Assad's lies. If we can't be sure of anything, we can be sure that we know absolutely nothing.
It is nice to see this morning that Owen Jones is now clear on the August gas attacks, "Last year, days after the Assad regime's heinous gas attacks had killed hundreds"*, though he's still peddling nonsense about the opposition being foreign backed sectarian forces last time I looked.