Saturday, 21 June 2014

High Altar Detail

SIR – We are concerned over the use of the acronym Isis, used for the militia called the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria. This is likely to form an inadvertent association in the minds of hearers between Sunni jihadists and followers of the goddess Isis.
The Fellowship of Isis, a worldwide organisation with thousands of members, and other pagan followers of the goddess could be caught up in unintended fallout.
Mike Stygal 
President, The Pagan Federation 
London WC1

Syria dispatch: from band of brothers to princes of war

Syria's descent into a Somalia-style failed state

"The Free Syrian Army has been left to fight both Isis and the Syrian army unaided.""President Bashar al-Assad got what he wanted from the cruel farce of UN peace talks. Refugee camps are now bombed by the Syrian army, while the Free Syrian Army has been left to fight both Isis and the Syrian army without help."
Usual stupidity in the comments:
"Brian Devlin takes the simplistic view that bombing a country and killing lots of people on the side of Islamist militants will force the country into peaceful loving western style democracy."

UK + Irish Leftists Form Syria Solidarity
 Movement, Fight for Syrian Refugees

"While phony anti-imperialist forces like Stop the War Coalition have done fuck all for Syrian refugees since 2011 except support the regime that is wiping them out by vigorously opposing U.S. airstrikes against their oppressors, this series of protests on their behalf was SSM’s first major action!
Below is a reprint of International Socialist Network/Left Unity member 
Luke Cooper’s report on the day of protests."

Friday, 20 June 2014

In this photo taken on Tuesday June 10, 2014, Mohammed Meslamani, center, a player of Syrian opposition team, made up of former professional and national you...

Ex-Syrian players form
opposition team in exile
"Now my dream is much bigger," Saadeldeen said. "I want these guys to become really strong and proud players, so that one day we become the national team and we raise the revolutionary flag in a game that the whole world will be watching."

 " The Steadfastness of Ghouta in Damascus Needs Support"   "Eastern Ghouta does not dismiss you, so don't dismiss it."

Syria: Friday demo 06/20/2014

The Will to Heal: Syrian Doctors-Turned-Refugees Working with MSF

“When Al-Safirah was attacked with barrel bombs there were body parts and blood all over the streets. I would work into the night. Vegetable carts piled full of men, women, and children would arrive at my clinic, some with their hands gone, their legs gone, their eyes gone. We had very basic surgical capabilities, no general anesthetic, and we were just three doctors, myself and two pediatricians, but the neighbors were very helpful.”

We should intervene to stop ISIS atrocities in Iraq
I don't agree with the language of intervention. It enables one of the narrative-determining untruths of Assad's war on Syria, that empowering the FSA with the weapons to stop Assad's attacks would be a rerun of the Iraq invasion. Indeed that is the point, the willingness to allow Assad to drag Syria further over the brink is what has caused region-wide instability and sectarianism, which in turn rehabilitates the idea that the West should sort things out. 
"The crisis in Iraq is a direct consequence of the disaster which has engulfed Syria for the last three years. In the aftermath of war crimes committed by the Assad regime, including the widespread use of chemical weapons and ‘barrel bombs’, the West at large – unlike me – remained unmoved by the suffering of the Syrian people, despite the fact that their plight was transmitted to millions of TV screens daily and dominated internet news around the clock.
Regardless of that, intervention was spurned by the British and American people, with consistent polls demonstrating a public consensus against the use of military force to alleviate the effects of the awful civil war.
After that, support for more extreme groups, such as ISIS, grew. Pro-Western rebels, such as the fairly moderate FSA, were usurped by assorted Islamists and radicals. Suffering tends to push political opinion towards the fringes, and the Syrian people have suffered more than anyone would wish upon them."

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Bashar al-Assad

Iraq, Syria and the rise of the Islamic militants

Brian Slocock: "For the past nine months it has not been the Syrian regime but the Syrian opposition that has been fighting Isis. Its armed forces, in alliance with Kurdish fighters, had managed to defeat Isis in several areas by February, and in April the courageous people of Manbij called a general strike to demand the withdrawal of Isis from their city. If western governments want real allies in a fight against Isis this is where they should be looking for them."

No end in sight for SyriaThere is also a review of Thomas Pierret's Revolution and State In Syria, but that bit is hidden behind the paywall.
"In displaying contempt for his people, their self-esteem and their demands, the President was setting the pattern for the regime’s response to the uprising.
The result thus far of this brazen refusal to compromise has been the loss of an estimated 160,000 lives and the ascendance of jihadist Islam in large areas of what was a staunchly secular state. The appearance and success of the Islamists, Raphaël Lefèvre explains in Ashes of Hama: The Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, is attributable in part to the policies of the Assad regime itself – first under Hafez al-Assad and then his son Bashar. In a compact and compelling account, the author describes in detail the build-up to an Islamist uprising in the city of Hama in February 1982. The regime’s draconian response, in a foretaste of events after 2011, left tens of thousands of people dead and areas of the city flattened."

Muslim Brotherhood: The People Will Ultimately Triumph
Muslim Brotherhood: The
People Will Ultimately Triumph
"We also see the effects of this in hesitant and wavering attitudes in the face of the ugly killing machine of the Baathists in Syria, who did not hesitate to use even internationally banned chemical weapons in the killing of Syrians. Those Syrians who – even if they escape the chemical weapons and explosive barrels, fall into a painful death from hunger and homelessness, all while the so-called international community watches without moving a finger, justifying this cowardly inaction by feeble claims of extremist elements being present among the ranks of Syrian resistance."
President Barack Obama meets (from left) Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in the Oval Office of the White House

Iraq crisis: President Obama
can 'bypass Congress
"Last year, the president abandoned plans for punitive military strikes in Syria following a deadly chemical weapons attack once it became clear that Congress would not give its backing."
Or he went to Congress for a vote so that he would have an excuse for not helping the Syrian people at all. Along with never spelling out what these punitive strikes would be, enabling supporters of doing nothing about Assad to paint the most lurid picture of what they would amount to.'

Bush, Barack & Bashar BFF to Islamic
Extremists in Iraq & Syria

"The only force that is doing it right, the only force on the ground that
is actually fighting ISIS and winning is the Free Syrian Army and its
allies and the best course of action for those concerned about the rise of
the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham is to see that they get the arms and
supplies they need to defeat both ISIS and the Assad regime and set Syria on the road to a democratic future."

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

ISIS apparently breaching Syria Iraq border

Isis breach of Iraq-Syria border merges
two wars into one 'nightmarish reality'
I'd go for the SNC's explanation as the straightforward one. "Take them more seriously" ignores the evidence that he simply wasn't taking them on at all.
'Last weekend the Syrian air force staged its first raids on Isis bases in Raqqa, Hassakeh and Deir al-Zor. That was noteworthy because Assad's enemies have often accused him of tolerating Isis or tacitly cooperating with it in order to split rebel ranks and present himself as a secular bulwark against al-Qaida and jihadi fanaticism.
According to reports from Raqqa, Isis fighters inexplicably left their barracks 24 hours before the attack. In Deir al-Zor, planes seemed to fly in and out of Iraqi airspace, perhaps suggesting collaboration with Baghdad.
The Syrian National Coalition, the main western-backed opposition group, quickly dismissed the raids as "a ridiculous decoy". Assad, it claimed, "aims through this fake air strike against limited Isis administrative centres to send a message to the international community and to rebuild trust with it, after its close relationship with Isis was exposed".
Another more straightforward explanation, however, could be that developments in Iraq have forced the Syrian president to take the jihadis far more seriously than he appears to have done so far.'

Geneva Media Unit


Owen Jones has just been claiming on Channel 4 News that leaving Syrians at Assad's mercy has done nothing to strengthen ISIS, here's why he's wrong.

"This memo is just a small sample of testimony from FSA fighters that describe events on the ground where regime forces have been protecting and assisting this group. Accounts go further, saying that regime forces are intimately intertwined with this group, whose objectives are one and the same: to destroy moderate Opposition forces and establish control over as much of Syria as possible. Accounts of this kind are so widespread, most Opposition fighters can add their own personal accounts to this collection. We would encourage those interested to independently reach out to Syrians inside the country to hear their testimonies first-hand."

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Street scene in Qaboun

Syria conflict: Defiance inside
Damascus rebel suburb
"My wife is an Alawite. We want a state of justice and after that eventually to be like Turkey or Malaysia. We'd like the war to finish. We don't like killing and we don't want to be killed."
There are a couple of good quotes in this piece, though Jeremy Bowen still finishes with the Assad version. I saw recently analysis that opposition support in Syria has risen from 50% to 60%, while that for the régime has fallen from 17% to 9%. Even that underestimates, while the threat of government terror is a reality, a reluctance of those who might find themselves ruled by Assad again to admit their feelings, and is a tribute to a people unwilling to be bombed and starved into submission.
"This is our home, our country. We have no other place. God willing, the rebels are going to win. The regime is unjust and unfair. History shows that injustice doesn't last."


 "Increasing support to the FSA may be the most likely Western response, rather than cosying up to Assad."

 From Newsnight intro. Robin Yassin-Kassab is in the studio.
Violence in Syria 44

To Save Iraq, Look to Syria

I'd only argue with the description 'Sunni' applied to rebel groups. They didn't make this a sectarian war, Assad did.
"Syria’s mainstream Sunni rebel groups – and not the Assad regime – are already fighting and dying in a war on ISIS, with little U.S. support and against tremendous odds, including the regime’s siege and starvation campaigns. 
Only Syrian moderates can stop ISIS. While Maliki deserves his fair share of the blame, ISIS' success in Iraq resulted directly from its control of territory and resources in Syria. Unless Syrian moderates receive more robust U.S. support, including funding, arms and training, ISIS will win in Syria. Its rivals also desperately need relief from constant air strikes by the Assad regime, which make it impossible for them to fight the jihadists effectively."

Syria: Only 24 Syrian refugees allowed to enter Britain, government accused of dragging feet

Luke Cooper, of the Syria Solidarity Movement, said: “This confirms our worst fears about the Government programme. It has been extremely reluctant to reveal these figures and now we know why: they are embarrassingly low and contradict Britain’s supposed support for the relief effort. The Home Office response to this catastrophe is quite disgraceful, especially seen in the context of the generous programmes of the United States, Germany, and others.”

Monday, 16 June 2014

Barrel bombs in Syria leave at least 36 dead

"The Syrian Revolution General Committee said in a statement that the regime's helicopters attacked a market place where many women and children were among those killed.

The opposition said that civil defense teams are continuing their rescue operations but the regime's helicopters have bombed other regions of the city too.
Meanwhile, the Local Coordination Committee of Syria, reported that Syrian warplanes have destroyed a hospital in Tell Rifaat district, in the north of Aleppo, but they did not give casualty numbers." 

Beast of Burden

Stargate SG1 S05E07 Beast of Burden"They know what freedom is and are willing to fight for it. They deserve a chance."
Slightly dodgy link that opens new window.

James Brokenshire MP
The Syria Solidarity Movement, Movement Against Xenophobia and No One Is Illegal have called a protest at the Home Office for 6.30pm on Monday 16th June
It can make you angry when people suggest that the problem in Syria is the funding of th
e 'Western-backed' opposition, rather than the lack of support that allows Assad to kill with impunity. And then such liberal commentators will claim that there is an irony between that support and the closed door to refugees, a further insult to Syrians who can see the lack of support in both cases, especially the ones legally settled in the UK or the US who get stopped as suspected terrorists when they travel outside those countries. The lie that the struggle against Assad is a jihadi quagmire we need to run and hide from is what has left the conflict to fester, and as could be predicted, that has rehabilitated demands for straightforward use of American force because something must be done about ISIS. Wouldn't have this problem if all the whining about how the chemical attacks were just a story to drag us into another Iraq stopped any debate about empowering Syrians to overthrow Assad and rid the country of ISIS.
The refugee thing also shit in Canada. Pretty much all over if you're a Syrian.
"The war in Syria has forced more than 2.5 million refugees to flee their homes, and Canada has promised to make room for 1,300. So far, three years into the conflict, only a handful have arrived.
After repeated attempts to get the exact number as to how many Syrians have arrived in Canada under the program, our conversation with the Minister was interrupted abruptly when he appeared to hang up on us."

ISIS’ Iraq offensive could trigger
Hezbollah to fill gap left in Syria
"With the Syrian army decimated by desertions and exhaustion, the regime relies heavily on its allies, chiefly Hezbollah as well as Iraqi paramilitaries. It is estimated that there are around 5,000 Hezbollah fighters in Syria at any one time and the party represents the main offensive force in launching operations backed by Syrian airpower and artillery to recapture territory. There were an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Iraqi Shiite fighters serving in Syria before the ISIS offensive in northern Iraq."

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Iraq: three kinds of blowback and the threat of war stoked by western meddling

US air force ready to strike

John Rees

"The most consistent element of Western policy has been support for the Free Syrian Army (FSA). This has been diplomatic, strategic, monetary and military, though the arms supply has not included heavy weaponry."

The consistent element is not giving them weapons to fight Assad and ISIS.
"The FSA and their political representatives have been duly supplicatory, repeatedly making pro-American statements, attending the imperial-generated Syrian conferences, in the hope of gaining more aid from the US and its allies."
They asked for weapons to defend themselves.
"The problem with the FSA strategy has been that it undermined their standing inside Syria. The fact that leaders of the FSA often had less standing with Syrians than with the US government undermined their credibility. The fact that they were so cravenly pro-Western further eroded support in Syria where the population, as in many Arab countries, historically contains a wide swathe of anti-colonial sentiment (indeed this is one of the ideological reserves of the Assad regime)."
This strategy was undermined, because the Americans stopped any heavy weaponry getting through, while Assad's supplies of weapons and foreign troops were unabated. Rees has consistently tried to appropriate the anti-imperialist feeling of those who want to fight Assad with the régime's narrative that it is anti-US.
"It was this hollowing out of the FSA, a direct result of Western nomination of ‘acceptable’, ‘moderate’ forces in Syria, which created a vacuum which was filled by various Islamic forces, including the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS).."
It was the lack of support to moderate forces that left the more extreme to fill the gap, and the very extreme to take advantage of the vacuum.
"The arms supplies from the Saudis to ISIS and others may not have been enough to defeat Assad"
ISIS has made no attempt to attack Assad, let alone defeat him. The Saudi government has not supported ISIS. Even Rees' link to Robert Fisk, who may be reliable these days in his misreporting, talks only of " the Saudi Wahhabis and Kuwaiti oligarchs". The Saudi government have their own reactionary kingdom, they don't want some idiot to mess up raking it in from oil sales by establishing their own caliphate. That's why the Saudis fight al-Qaida, even though many of us might have trouble telling the difference.
"Bombing will kill civilians, and so worsen the detestation of the West and produce more terrorists."
Assad's bombing of civilians has unsurprisingly killed many civilians, and caused millions to flee. This has worsened the detestation of the western left for refusing to support any action against it, and denying revolution is taking place at all.

 'I miss Damascus': Jay Abdo pictured in Berlin.

Jay Abdo, Syrian actor: how I changed my name from Jihad to Jay and (eventually) conquered Hollywood' "Jihad", although not an uncommon first name in the Middle East, tends to denote militant Islam in the west, particularly in America. "You can't explain to everyone that this name doesn't mean the concept and that originally it was a Christian name," says Abdo.
He grew fed up with telling every person he met that he and Afashe are secularists who respect all faiths and follow none. So Jihad became Jay and after a long and fruitless search for acting work, including more than 100 failed auditions, he found a job: working in a flower shop.'


World Cup: Qatar Goes to Penalties

"Its most controversial stance – alarming the White House and infuriating its Arab neighbours – is its continued support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt."
So it is opposed to the military régime that has killed thousands since the coup? Good.
Likewise we get a couple of pieces of bullshit about Qatar and Syria, where only the arms it has provided to more secular groups have prevented the extreme jihadis and Assad displacing them entirely.
“It wants to do its own thing, not to be pushed around. Its support for the Brotherhood reflects its preference for Islamist parties rather than military dictators, as demonstrated in Libya. But it is in danger of over-reaching itself and giving succour to extremists, particularly in Syria...
It is supportive of Islamists, from Hamas and Hezbollah to rebel groups in Syria. But how much money it channels to which groups and where it draws the line is murky.”

Understanding a Revolutionary Syria: Rebellions, Uprisings, and the Persistence of Tyranny'As army defections increased and people clamored for weapons to defend themselves with the non-violent resistance suffered one serious blow after another. Two hundred soldiers joined the Free Syria Army within the first three weeks of June. Alawite security forces who harassed civilian Alawites for joining the anti-
government demonstrations began to refer to them as “Jews” and “Zionist traitors.” The Syrian people did not expect mainstream allegedly pro-Arab solidarity outlets in the English speaking world to remain sinfully silent even in the face of such gruesome evidence, and they definitely did not expect the likes of staunch Republican John McCain to be the one to reveal these photos to his colleagues on the senate floor, demanding the West to step up to plate and intervene constructively. The American leftist community places itself on a humanitarian pedestal, yet it
could not have been less interested in stopping the Ba‟athist killing machine.
The basics of Syrian history and the long trail of Muslim victims who have perished at the hands of Russian imperialism are unknown to them, whether they be Crimean, Chechnya, or Syrian. The Syrian diaspora in the US who had marched against American aggression in Iraq in 2003 found themselves berated at various liberal gatherings. Syrian, Russian, and Iranian state propaganda was spewed back out
at them by bourgeoisie hipsters who had zero awareness of Syria‟s history, people, and their seemingly never-ending struggle against Ba‟athist tyranny.'

Are people really this fucking dumb or do they like to play dumb? alex thomson
Chief Correspondent and Presenter, Channel 4 News.
"So it comes that the US now considers bombing anti- Assad rebels months after it considered bombing Assad."