Saturday, 27 September 2014

The West’s Syria policy has been shaped by media missionaries

The West’s Syria policy has been shaped by media missionaries

"Cockburn eschews the bombastic judgments of his colleague Robert Fisk. Instead he uses references, analogies and elisions to mark the distribution of good and evil.
Superlatives are reserved exclusively for the opposition. They are depicted as “head choppers”, reminiscent of the Nazis. Their crimes are vividly described. To the extent that the regime’s misdeeds receive attention, they are described in general terms, often as preludes to another account of rebel barbarity.
Yet it is accounts such as these that are shaping opinion – and even policy. Syrians, who are already trapped between the regime and ISIL, have also to endure the slings and arrows of hack missionaries with ideological axes to grind."

Tunisia's president says IS, Syrian regime must go"The issue of the Syrian regime is of utmost concern, as it is the region’s most criminal regime, and we should want nothing from it except its downfall. Therefore, we must support any efforts leading to this end. In any case, today we face a choice between the plague and smallpox. But we must choose neither IS nor the Syrian regime; both must go, for the sake of a pluralistic democratic system."

Demos denounce failure to act against regime"Many supporters of the uprising are also incensed that the U.S.-led airstrikes have targeted the Nusra Front and claim they have extended, or will likely extend, to conservative Islamist militias such as Ahrar al-Sham and others.
While the hard-liners aren’t necessarily widely popular, supporters of the uprising are angry that these other groups are being lumped together with ISIS although they – unlike the notorious Al-Qaeda splinter group – have devoted much of their energy to battling regime forces.
In a village in Deraa, a protester held a sign questioning “if you believe Islamic groups are responsible for terror ... what about Hezbollah?” "

Friday, 26 September 2014

Cameron - Blair selfie

How Obama and Cameron set themselves up for a punch in the mouth from ISIS
To defeat the Sunni extremists in Syria, Patrick Cockburn tells us we need to link up with the sectarian murderers who have been massacring Sunnis in Syria. Yeah, that'll work. 
"If Isis is to be combated effectively, then the US, Britain and their allies need to establish a closer relationship with those who are actually fighting Isis, which currently include the Syrian Army, the Syrian Kurds, Hezbollah of Lebanon, Iranian-backed militias and Iran itself."

Syria, squeezed between the sides, falling through the cracks

Assad regime kills civilians bombing Damascus, 09 / 16 / 2014 Photo credit: Young Lens Dimashqi

 'Together, the FSA and the Coalition have the capability to neuter ISIS and eliminate their ability to control exposed areas (like oil fields), which will condemn them to a slow but unstoppable decline and eventually destruction at the hands of revolutionary Syrians, who actually have the support of the population. Will the US do this? There are serious doubts. But this should be the goal, and not ‘cosmetic’ attacks on ISIS “HQs”.'

US in Syria: nothing has changed but the enemy

A soldier loyal to Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad

 Simon Tisdall is typical of those claiming that the US is working for Assad, in the hope that it will come true, so it might bear a little deconstruction.

 "Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s reviled strongman."

  Supposedly this indicates that Tisdall doesn't like Assad, in reality it is a variation on Fisk's  "We have been told we have to hate Assad," making out that it is Western propaganda saying he's a bad man.

 "Assad remains accused of committing war crimes after last year’s chemical weapons attacks on civilians and other alleged atrocities."
 Yes he does, because he committed them, and still is. To call them accusations and allegations is again to indicate the opposite.

 "Nor are the claims of the Syrian propagandists entirely lacking in truth. The US has opened up indirect lines of communication with Damascus in recent weeks. It did not seek permission for this week’s air strikes, but it did inform Assad’s ambassador at the UN in advance of the attacks."
 It told the ambassador that there would be attacks, but not where or when, and stressed there would be no co-operation. Tisdall's claim that the Syrians are propagandists (who would then cease to be such terrible propagandists) is lacking in truth.

 “Since then, a great deal of water has passed under the bridge. Mr Cameron, whose grasp of Middle Eastern politics is negligible, has changed sides. Attacking President Assad is no longer his priority. He now wants to intervene on the side of the Syrian government, against that same murderous band of fanatics.”
 I'm not even going to check if there's any more to Peter Oborne's claim.

 'Further evidence that Obama and Assad are now on the same team is evinced from this week’s simultaneous US air strike on the Khorasan group, part of the al-Qaida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra Front and Assad’s sworn foe. “Supporters of the Syrian government say hitting the Nusra Front is proof that the US has switched sides,” the New York Times reported. “‘Of course coordination exists,’ said a pro-government Syrian journalist speaking on the condition of anonymity. ‘How else do you explain the strikes on Nusra?’”'
 Of course Tisdall's Assadist contacts will say that. I'd explain the attacks, unco-ordinated with Assad, as down to America's dislike of al-Qaida style groups it fears might attack it, whether the intelligence turns out to be any good, or this Khorasan group turns out to be an invention.

 "Obama’s Arab allies, particularly Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar, are alarmed that the decision by Washington to dive into the middle of Syria’s civil war could let Assad off the hook. These countries have long demanded a bigger role for the US in ending the Syrian mayhem, but now they have got it, they worry that the Americans are prioritising counter-terrorism ahead of the removal of the Assad regime.

 Their hope in adding their military weight to the coalition is that the battle against Isis will morph into a bigger, broader push to end the Syrian civil war, pacify the country as a whole, and create a new, inclusive government in Damascus. Thus for the Gulf states, unlike Britain, France and the US, mission creep is both essential and desirable."

 These two paragraphs sit a bit oddly, as it cuts across the idea that the Americans have been gung-ho. But taking it in the direction that the Gulf states want to drag America into another war, rather than wishing they'd let the Syrian rebels get arms, keeps the narrative that we should be more scared of the US than Assad and ISIS.

 "News reports from Damascus say the Syrian army moved this week to take full control of a formerly insurgent-held area north-east of the capital. Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV said the area, Adra al-Omalia, was about 19 miles from central Damascus."
 'News reports'. Suddenly it's not propaganda, just news via the sectarian killers of Hezbollah. Dozens of Hezbollah were apparently killed in the Qalamoun today, but any Assad victory can be an indication that he's winning the war when that would more comfortably fit your expectations.

 "The advance could be the ominous first instalment of a new push against the pro-western rebels Obama has vowed to support but whose cause is now taking second place to the fight against Isis. The price of victory over Isis may be an Assad victory in Syria."
 So Assad isn't making a priority of the fight against ISIS? What a surprise.
One reason I could suggest that this analysis fails is that a final Assad victory over the rebels would destroy Obama's presidency, given the flak he's already getting for the failure to support the Free Syrian Army in 2012.

 "All the same, such distortions are to be expected, given the convoluted and confusing twists in American decision-making over the past year. Obama was ready to attack Assad in spring 2013, albeit reluctantly, and was only prevented from doing so by a vote against war in the British parliament."

 It's possible that a sub-editor replaced autumn 2013 with spring 2013, or that Tisdall can't get his basic facts right. I don't think there have been convoluted twists in American policy. They have been faced with a revolution in someone else's sphere of influence, so just as the Soviet Union did with revolts in America's allies, it has offered rhetorical opposition and a little practical support, to maintain influence with the opposition and because it reflects its ideology, but has been concerned to keep the conflict confined within the international state system, and that it takes as few risks with its own forces where its vital interests are not concerned.
Training the ‘moderates’

Training the ‘moderates’
"There is no shortage of opposition fighters in Syria, and some opposition members note that most of the moderate forces in the Syrian military opposition are former army officers and soldiers who have defected. Their number is perhaps close to 75,000.
Some 10,000 former policemen have also left Syria and are living in camps in Turkey and Jordan. None of these has been welcomed into the ranks of the existing armed groups, perhaps because their training contrasts with the haphazard ways of the militant outfits.
If the US really wants to see a moderate opposition army take form in Syria, it could call on the services of tens of thousands of well-trained professionals. To form such a force, all the US would have to do would be to find a way of providing quality weapons to former army and police personnel.
Syria also has an ample supply of Islamist and non-Islamist groups willing to fight both the regime and the extremists. Many of these groups have obtained valuable combat experience over the past few years, including the Hazm Movement, the Noureddin Zenki Brigade, the 13th Battalion, the 101st Battalion, the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, and others. Taken together, these groups contain some 50,000 men."

Image result for 13th Division firing TOW
The Resilience of Moderate Syrian Rebels
 Felix Legrand
"The best strategy to defeat ISIS in Syria was successfully tested in Idlib 
province and Aleppo city in early 2014. Sunni-led moderate groups supported by the local population managed to remove ISIS from these areas. Their success was largely due the fact that they are solidly embedded in the local communities. 
The most dangerous strategy for defeating ISIS in Syria would be to rely on the Syrian regime and their allied Shia militias to fight ISIS. This would stoke the flames of sectarianism and play into the hands of ISIS, increasing their recruitment capacity and zealousness."
Still from US defence department footage of missiles being fired at Syria from the USS Arleigh Burke on Tuesday of this week

Say no to war on Syria and Iraq
I don't think this is true. Most of the opposition has opposed the airstrikes or called them counter-productive without support for the fight against Assad. The second line tends to confirm the belief that the revolutionary left has written off the actual movement for revolution in Syria, counterposing a mass movement of the future when all the Islamists and American proxies have gone away. This is the actual revolutionary left, not those who all along wanted to leave the Syrian people to Assad's mercies in the name of anti-imperialism, which makes it more of a shame.
"Ghayath added that there is a “consensus” among rebel groups to welcome the West.
“The regime and sections of the opposition are competing to become the most effective US ally in the battle against Islamic State,” he said.
“Only a popular mass movement is capable of confronting it and the authoritarian regimes.” "

Stumblin' In

 Norman Smith, BBC political correspondent: "We are fighting alongside Assad against the people we would have been allied with last year."

 That Norman mixes up ISIS with the rebels against Assad should disqualify him from pontificating for a news broadcaster, but there you are.

Alaa, an ambulance driver, feeds cats in Masaken Hanano, Aleppo, Sept. 24, 2014. Alaa buys about $4 of meat everyday to feed about 150 abandoned cats in Masaken Hanano, a neigborhood in Aleppo that has been abandoned because of shelling from forces loyal to Syria's president Bashar Al-Assad on it. Alaa said that he has been feeding and taking care of the cats for over 2 months.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

8 reminders of how horrible Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been to his people"When it comes to Assad's thugs, it seems that no person is too young to be tortured. One in five detainees is a minor, says HRW. 
GlobalPost spoke with some of the children tortured and imprisoned by the regime. Their stories are horrifying."

'There's no hope left': the Syrian refugee camp that is becoming a township

Winter in Atmeh … the camp is still growing fast.

 Robin Yassin-Kassab talking about the ISIS threat back in February.

 "Six months ago, when I last visited, I was able to travel deep into liberated Syria – as far as Kafranbel in the south of Idlib province – with nothing to fear from the Free Army fighters manning checkpoints. This time I didn’t dare go as far as Atmeh village, sitting on the nearby hilltop, because it was occupied by the al-Qa’ida franchise the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). In June the camp’s residents referred derisively to the mainly foreign jihadists as ‘the spicy crew’. Now they are a real threat – abducting and often murdering revolutionary activists, Free Army fighters, and journalists. This development contributes greatly to the gloom of the camp’s residents. (At the time of writing the Free Army and more mainstream Islamic battalions are finally striking back at ISIS, fighting and arresting its cadres.)"
What Woman Was Ever Born to Such Misfortune
What Woman was Ever Born To Such Misfortune?"It was Saturday; we were told that the secret police were randomly raiding houses in Homs.... There had been incidents of rape and kidnapping, so my older brother ... drove us to Al Bayyada. We were seven women and 25 children. It was a pickup truck.... It was raining heavily on us and the children were screaming and crying."
Republicans Shouldn’t Stoke International Revolution
Republicans Shouldn’t Stoke International Revolution
I'm against any deployment of Ryan Shawcross*, but I wouldn't mind if they provided the Free Syrian Army with an arsenal.

Shock and Awe versus Dentists, Farmers and Students

Robin Yassin-Kassab

"A sensible answer to Nusra would be to provide weapons and funds to Free Army forces who would then be in a position to gradually draw men from the organisation, slowly making it irrelevant (most men don’t care about the ideology of their militia’s leadership; they care about food and ammunition). But the Americans are allergic to working with the people on the ground most immediately concerned by the outcome, and bomb from the air instead. Nusra is now abandoning front line positions (in some areas the regime may be able to take immediate advantage). One Nusra leader has already spoken of an alliance with ISIS against the Americans."

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

'We were like guerrilla filmmakers': U.S. filmmaker on Syria

 "Red Lines" will be screened in the UK at the Rich Mix cinema in east London on Sept. 25.

 Mouaz, now a U.S. citizen, was also warning the U.S. authorities: "if they don't support the moderate opposition and give them the support they need, they are going to be overrun and subsumed by the extremists. He was saying this three years ago," Kalin recalls.

 For Kalin, the true revolution in Syria is the gradual change in women's roles in a traditional society. She attended women's governance courses in Turkey organized by Razan, who told her there were no women on the Aleppo local council before the uprising.

 Razan and fellow activists hoped that by encouraging women to work in politics, they would contribute more and have a bigger say in building civil society. Many women made the hazardous trip across the border to join the training sessions.

 “For me, the strongest moment in the filmmaking was ... watching women being trained in the electoral process. The setting was bleak, a typical hotel room, with Disney stickers on the wall, and they used a ‘ballot’ box made from a cardboard box for wine glasses,” said Kalin.'


Three MonstersRobin Yassin-Kassab"In the name of disengagement the West not only refused to arm and supply the democratic Syrian opposition – even as Assad launched a genocide against the people – the United States actually prevented other states from providing the heavy weapons and anti-aircraft weaponry the Free Army so desperately needed. It was obvious what would happen next. The Free Army – and the Syrian people – were increasingly squeezed between Assad and the ISIS monster. And now the Americans are bombing both Iraq and Syria. This is where ‘disengagement’ and ‘realism’ has brought us."

Image result for John Kerry’s rhetoric on Isis insults our intelligence and conceals the reality of the situation in Syria

John Kerry’s rhetoric on Isis insults our intelligence and conceals the reality of the situation in Syria
Robert Fisk can't seem to make up his mind about the moderate opposition either, to be or not to be?

" Corrupted, disillusioned, murdered or simply re-defected towards Isis or some other al-Qaeda outfit, the old “Free Syrian Army” is now a myth as ridiculous – and as potent for the Kerrys of this world – as Mussolini’s boast that the Italian army could defeat the British in North Africa. Any Syrian soldier will tell you that they are happy to fight the FSA because these warriors of the “moderate opposition” always run away."*
But what is this two days later? How do you fund and train a myth? And just as lethal as Assad? Fisk is a liar or a fool, though you can't exclude the combination.
"Since the US has decided to fund and train the so-called “moderate opposition” to fight Isis and the Syrian regime, why should it not bomb both sets of enemies? And how will Syrians who support whatever is left of these “moderates” react to the American bombs in Idlib which killed their fellow civilians rather than Assad’s forces – bombs, indeed, which appear to have been just as lethal as the munitions dropped on them by Assad’s aircraft?"**

Image result for Syria air strikes: President Obama undergoes Damascene conversion as Isis forces America to change tack
Syria air strikes: President Obama undergoes Damascene conversion as Isis forces America to change tack

As if it ever were. There were negotiations over the chemical weapons, and no airstrikes, no attempt at removal. Cockburn is just offering smoke and mirrors. There have been a lot of these stories that America is realising they have to work with Assad, and they all seem to emanate from sources that wish it to be true. That the non-arming of the Syrian rebels in 2012 has come back to be an issue this year suggests that a similar failure will not be as easy to get away with. I think the truth is that the priority for the US is to risk as little as possible, and to act in a way that respects the international system of states it sits atop if it can, but that propping up Assad isn't going to help the US, so they are going to make less effort to preserve it, not more.
"It is evident that Washington is no longer giving priority to removing President Bashar al-Assad from power. This means the US is shifting away from its policy of the past three years when it insisted that no negotiations were possible except about his removal."
So do these moderate rebels exist or not?
"The US is going to train and arm a “third force” of supposedly moderate Syrian rebels in a camp in Saudi Arabia, but past attempts to develop such a force have foundered."
I don't know what he's on about in the next sentence.
"It is in the interests of the US that the “moderate” rebels do not fight each other, a confrontation that would only benefit Isis."
Image result for Nothing will stop Isis except a Syrian truce

Nothing will stop Isis except a Syrian truce

Patrick Cockburn, bullshit merchant. For two years he's been saying that there are no moderate rebels, now they can save Assad. And the US would be able to arrange a ceasefire between Assad and those he is committing genocide against? Patrick Cockburn it is who lives through the looking glass.
"US policy has an Alice in Wonderland absurdity about it, everything being the opposite of what it appears to be. The so-called “coalition of the willing” is, in practice, very unwilling to fight IS, while those hitherto excluded, such as Iran, the Syrian government, Hezbollah and the PKK, are the ones actually fighting. A truce between the government and moderate rebels in Syria would enable both to devote their resources to fighting IS, as they need to do quickly if they are to avoid defeat."