Saturday, 3 January 2015

Mideast Iraq
Rebels: Obama administration ignored early plan to stop Islamic State"The plea for immediate financial support for moderate forces in the east, backing for a rebel offensive in Aleppo that would divert Islamic State forces, and relief and medical supplies in the east went unanswered.
“Two or three million dollars would have changed the whole thing, but we never heard back from them.”
“Unfortunately, the current strategy being implemented results in the increase of terrorism,” said Bahra, the businessman who heads the Syrian Opposition Coalition. “Some battalions are not being supplied with anything: food, clothing, fuel, what they need for survival. You are pushing them to be the prey to any extreme terrorist organization that offers assistance. But no one is listening.”

Syria Daily, Jan 3: Protests from Homs to Aleppo

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"Video from Friday points to protests in Syria from Homs to Aleppo, demanding a lifting to regime sieges and expressing support for insurgents."
I was also looking at this* from March 2013, about what a shit Tariq Ali has become, and how the central issue remains the same.
"Former leftist icon Tariq Ali spoke on Russia Today of “Russia and China resisting attempts by the West to take Syria over.” Russia is resupplying the Assad regime with the materiel with which to slaughter the Syrian people, making Ali’s performance on Russia’s satellite as unedifying, and as distant from reality, as that of a commentator telling Fox News that Palestinian resistance is simply an Iranian attempt to take over Israel.
Syrians need weapons to finish Assad before the crater of this disaster is too deep to climb out of. Commentators who claim that more weapons will just make things worse, that neither side can win the fight, should acknowledge that vast swathes of the country have already been liberated. This was achieved despite the commitment of the regime’s sectarian hardcore, the success of its divide and rule tactics, and its fundamental weapons advantage, for the simple reason that al-Assad has long lost legitimacy in the eyes of the vast majority of Syrians. Any uptick in weapons supply therefore immediately translates into the liberation of new territories, as seen recently in Dara’a province and the Damascus suburbs."

If Only They Would Leave

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 In which Patrick Cockburn brings the same lies to the situation in Iraq that he has to Syria.
Why do Sunni Muslims in Iraq tolerate or support ISIS? Because of the sectarian massacres of the Iranian-supported Shia government and its militias. Cockburn agrees formally that the government is the problem, but the Iranians are completely whitewashed. 

 "They now have American and Iranian help, which is an advantage."

 And so Cockburn makes more minor features the central problem. The Iraqi army is corrupt, the Kurdish forces couldn't defend Mount Sinjar, Sunni leaders who claim they would resist ISIS are living in five-star hotels - just as Cockburn reduces the Free Syrian Army to generals living in five-star hotels in Istanbul, and the complaints about inefficiency and corruption displace the major worry of the forces, ISIS or Iranian-backed, that are massacring them. His crocodile tears for the Sunni Arabs do not impress.
A boy walking in a street in Bab Amr, Homs. Daniels and 3 other journalists were holed up for days is behind the building at right

Black Holes and Media Missionaries
"Foley and Satloff aren’t the only journalists IS has killed: there have been many more—Iraqis and Syrians—whose names remain unknown to the world. And IS isn’t the only force in Syria killing journalists and aid workers: Bashar al Assad’s regime has been doing it far longer.
The regime killed Marie Colvin of the Sunday Times along with the French photographer RĂ©mi Ochlik when, in the first major escalation of the war, it used artillery on the Baba Amr district of Homs. A month before that it had killed Gilles Jacquier of France 2. Damascus has tried to control the narrative by making it too dangerous for journalists to report from Syria—unless they embedded with the regime.
In Syria, the hack reporter’s need for balance has created a misleading picture of the conflict. One often hears the bien pensant liberal lament how “both sides” in the conflict are just as bad as the other. But “both sides” in the conflict are not equal. One side is a state with its hierarchies, chains of command and coercive apparatus intact; the other side is a diffuse, uncoordinated and disorganized opposition. The crimes of the former reflect policy; those of the latter only reflect on the group or individual perpetrating them. The regime’s crimes have been sustained and wholesale; the crimes of the opposition are retail and sporadic.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Syrian conflict has claimed 76,000 lives in deadliest year yet, say monitors

Bashar al-Assad

 This wasn't on the frontline, the guy on the right has his safety catch on. Why is Assad pictured and quoted, and nobody from the opposition is? The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has been questionable in some of its reporting often omitting to mention Free Syrian Army involvement on the rebel side, and I think it accepts exaggerated figures for government losses, allowing Patrick Cockburn to claim in 2013, while calling the SOHR pro-opposition, that the rebels were killing more people than Assad. I can't find any more details about this on their website, but clearly the Guardian doesn't care to divide the groups according to whether they fight Assad or not, and give any idea who 'the rebels' are.

 "More than 15,000 rebel fighters were killed, as were nearly 17,000 militants from jihadi groups, including Islamic State and al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate."

Syria's children behind bars

Syria's children behind bars

 'Marwan Abdulsalam, a former detainee at the Military Intelligence Branch, told al-Araby al-Jadeed that "there were more than 30 children there; some of them were younger than ten". There were times when the children were beaten with a flexible silicon rod," he said. "They were in pain and screamed, but the interrogators didn't stop beating them to get more information out of them, about their families and relatives."

 According to SNHR, children are subject to almost the same torture methods employed on adults, including sexual violence.'

Two female Italian aid workers who ignored their parents’ pleas and snuck into Syria have been kidnapped by Islamist militants

Abducted: Vanessa Marzullo, 21 (left) and Greta Ramelli, 20, (right) were working on humanitarian projects in Syria, the Italian foreign ministry said, admitting that contact with the women is 'impossible'

 You can see from the Free Syrian flag they're wrapped in that they aren't just aid workers, but revolutionaries. Supporters of an uprising that has been going on in Syria against Bashar al-Assad since he had schoolkids tortured for anti-government graffiti in 2011. Unlike those who have bought into the Russian and Iranian propaganda that those fighting Assad were Muslim terrorists, often recycled in the Western media in a six of one half a dozen of the other OMG it's all so confusing manner, they could see that Assad was waging a war on the Syrian people, and it would be an act of solidarity to provide aid, to limit Assad war strategy of forcing those he couldn't control out of Syria by bombing and starvation. So it is wonderful news that they are safe and well. I assumed for the longest time that they were dead, as they would have been in an ISIS beheading video by now.

 The bad news is that they are being held by Jabhat al-Nusra, the Victory Front, the most extreme of the Islamist militias that is fighting to overthrow Assad, not like ISIS simply wishing to take advantage of the chaos to set up their own caliphate. Not as RT* claim today, "They are believed to be currently held either by the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front or their fearsome allies, Islamic State." Granted they aren't as opposed to ISIS as the Free Syrian Army. Where they have had power, they have sometimes been intolerant of opposition, but nothing like the wankmag version of the seventh century you see with ISIS, or Assad's equal brutality. Which is why it makes sense for supporters of the revolution in Syria to demand that al-Nusra release the women unconditionally, because Nusra are supposed to be in the same fight. And it is only supporters of the revolution who do have the authority to make such a demand. It would be good if the Italian government were to do everything in its power to get the women released. If al-Nusra get a large ransom, and they use it to buy weapons to use against Assad, still shame on them for kidnapping innocent supporters of the Syrian revolution, but not the worst outcome. If the West had done the right thing, and given the Free Syrian Army a fraction of the weaponry Russia has given to Assad, we wouldn't have any of these problems. But instead the world has been happily seduced by scares of America as the warmonger in Syria. Something only really believed in Syria by Jabhat al-Nusra, who have been bombed by the Americans, on the bullshit pretext that they had some Khorosan group (which I suspect comes from a Clash song) at their heart. Not a pretext that I recall the conspiracy theorists of the left who post pictures of John McCain claiming he's a supporter of ISIS bothering to examine too closely, because it didn't fit the agenda of only being opposed to bombing if it was by the Americans on Assad, which was the great hoax of last year that denied solidarity to Syrians in the wake of the chemical attacks.

 Al-Nusra gain support among those who see the Americans as the enemy, and when the Americans have done so little to dislodge Assad but are happy to attack his enemies, it's easy to see why. On the other hand, as I said at the time, if you're going to declare allegiance to al-Qaida, you are asking to have the Americans bomb you, and that goes double when you kidnap revolutionaries.


Charlie Brooker's Wipe 2014 - Adam Curtis

"In Syria, we are told that President Assad is the evil enemy, but then his enemies turn out to be even more evil than him."
This is not true, and Adam Curtis has fallen into exactly the trap he says he is trying to expose. Assad has committed enough crimes to be dragged before the International Criminal Court a dozen times over, yet nothing is done, because he is not an enemy the West is trying to get rid of as the dominant media narrative would have us believe. The narrative has gone along with his propaganda that he is fighting terrorists, so despite the fact that it has been the Free Syrian Army that has battled ISIS while Assad has done deals with them, ISIS are still labelled as his enemy.
Turned round, Curtis' analysis could help us see the holes in the anti-Syrian narrative of the world's media. The way in which the Russian state has provided aid for the opposition to discredit it when the funding is exposed, is like the way the Syrian opposition is condemned for accepting weapons from the Gulf states and the US, ignoring the vastly disproportionate arming of Assad by Russia and Iran.

Besieged Aleppo residents turn to farming

 "Al-Maysar neighborhood’s story is the same as all other eastern Aleppo neighborhoods, from which more than 80% of its citizens were displaced due to the military campaign of the regime on the city and the barrel bombing, which started around a year ago.

 Aleppo was the most populated city in the country before the outbreak of war, counting around 2.3 million people. A worker at the relief office in the local council affiliated with the opposition told Al-Monitor in October that only about 300,000 people live in the part of the city that is under the rebels’ control today."

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Damascus’ stifled voice from the left

The Syrian Revolutionary Youth symbol graffitied on a Damascene wall.

"As the uprising went through its gradual transition towards militarization, the Syrian Revolutionary Youth attempted to sustain the peaceful side of the uprising, maintaining that peaceful activism and armed struggle can go hand in hand. While generally supporting the Free Syrian Army, they frequently held banners criticizing what they considered violations by the armed opposition groups and insisted on defending national unity and rejecting sectarianism. 
The Palestinian flag was lifted alongside the Syrian revolutionary flag; chants in solidarity with Palestine, and Gaza in particular, were chanted alongside slogans in solidarity with besieged and rebellious Syrian towns and cities; the names of Palestinian martyrs were mentioned in protests alongside the names of Syrian martyrs; young women and men protested and sang side-by-side; and calls for bread, gasoline and a dignified life for all were inseparable from their calls for the downfall of the regime, and the achievement of civil liberties and political freedom.
This December 30 marks one year since the arrest of seven of the collective's activists from a Rukneddine home by Syrian security forces. Their arrest remained largely unpublished with the families of the detainees demanding anonymity out of fear for their children’s well-being. Anonymity did not help. All but one of the seven detainees taken during that night raid have been reportedly killed under torture as confirmed by their cellmates."

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The South Will Rise Again

The South Will Rise Again

"Bashar al-Assad is well aware that the relative endurance of rebel rule in Daraa challenges his narrative that the West must choose between his regime and the terrorists. In the coming months, it is likely that the regime will try to retake Daraa to prevent just this sort of a secular, nationalist alternative from emerging. Therefore, any international efforts to “freeze” the conflict in areas such as Aleppo should take into account that the regime may use any freed-up forces and assets in order to turn its firepower southward. Freezes in fighting in the north should not come at the expense of those in the south, where rebel rule is providing one of the few blueprints for how Syria could emerge from this crisis."

ISIS line dancing class

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Monday, 29 December 2014

In response to “Selling ‘Peace Groups’ on US-Led Wars”

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"The real crime of CISPOS is not advocating “regime change” in Syria but calling attention to the genocidal policies of the Baathist tyranny. It is quite depressing that people on the left can stoop so low as to sweep its crimes under the rug but a lot of this has to do with Islamophobia. As the term phobia implies, there is fear and hatred of the Syrian poor who invoke Islamic rhetoric in a desperate struggle to keep their spirits up in a war that has cost 200,000 lives. If Syria were as populous as the USA, this would equate to 3 million dead, all within four years."


Andrew Scott Berman: "Nothing better describes this descent into dogmatism and betrayal of solidarity than the tragic attitude of many who call themselves “anti-imperialist” towards the people of Syria. For 50 years the Assad family and its cohorts have ruled that nation with a tyranny that rivals the worst in human history. All opposition is crushed with the iron fist of massacre and industrial-level torture.
And while the situation in Syria has indeed been made complex by the intervention of many outside forces with contending interests, the base of the conflict, a popular rebellion against tyranny, remains.
Today, there are some, but not enough, US peace groups that recognize this and stand, in the best tradition of the US peace movements, stand in solidarity with the Syrian people’s quest for a just society. Far too many, totally ignorant of Syria’s proud history, see the conflict only in terms of the role of the US, with meaningless slogans like “No US War on Syria”, while by far the greatest death and destruction in Syria is now caused by the despotic Assad regime, armed to the teeth with Russian and Iranian supplied weapons."
Andy Berman
US Peace Corps, 1967-69
US Army, 1971-73
VFP Chapter 27

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Broadcasting House

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BBC Radio 4

Maureen Lipmann has been an apologist for the Israeli government for many years, see her dig about descending rooftops (as the IDF kills families) in Gaza here. It is the abandonment of Syria by many of those who see themselves as pro-Palestinian and by the liberal media that have made this a propaganda coup for supporters of Israel, because it's true.
"My story is the seven million Syrian refugees, that's going to run, and run, and run, and we're not doing anything about it at all. I think we're taking ninety people, ninety refugees, and we have to somehow look at history, and say, this is exactly what happened in 1938, when they wouldn't take any refugees from Germany, and it resulted in the Holocaust; and just because we're frightened of Assad, another military dictator, it doesn't mean we shouldn't help.
I have seen no pictures, I've seen nothing on 24-hour news. I am well accustomed to seeing every rooftop that descends in Gaza, because that's where all the reporters are, in the same hotel, all chatting away, and swapping photos; but as far as Syria's concerned, they're absolutely petrified to do anything or report on anything."
Angela Rippon: "That was picked up on one of your sister programmes on Radio 4, on PM, when Eddie Mair did that amazing programme where he gave over half the programme to Dr. David Nott, who is a surgeon who has spent the last twenty years going to places of conflict around the world, to help as a surgeon; and he's now spent six weeks of the last two years in Syria, and he was making precisely that point. He did a brilliant interview where he said the terrible injuries he as a surgeon was seeing, in that hospital, but the point that he was making, was that the reason why nobody is taking any interest there any more was that the journalists are not there because it is too dangerous, and therefore it has fallen off the news agenda."

Escaping Assad’s Rape Prisons: A Survivor Tells Her Story

"During one session, the commander tied her legs apart and they beat a male detainee viciously in front of her with his head jammed between her spread legs."