Saturday, 4 April 2015

Louie Louie

 Son of Holocaust survivors fights to save Syrian refugees

 'The human catastrophe that continues in Syria echoes the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis, warns the wealthy philanthropist son of Holocaust survivors, who had family members perish in Auschwitz.

 "I see incredible similarities. The world is sitting on the sideline, thinking this is going to go away and it’s not going to go away," warns Yank Barry, the co-founder of a charity that is helping Syrian refugees, Global Village Champions Foundation, and former lead singer of the 1960s group "The Kingsmen."

 "I've been watching this for four years now and it's just getting worse." '

Palestinian Network Of Civil Society In Syria Appeal For Yarmouk

Friday, 3 April 2015

“A Necessary, If Still Unpalatable, Potential

"Remember these words the next time the New York Times runs a pious editorial decrying—with a spurious combination of selective facts and distorted law—some morally complicated aspect of U.S. counterterrorism policy.
Remember them the next time the New York Times runs an editorial invoking the great moral authority of the paper of record on, well, just about anything.
Remember them because the quotation, which appears in the last paragraph of today’s editorial, “The Crimes of Terrorists,” is—astonishingly, really—how the New York Times editorial page describes the genocidal Syrian dictator, Bashar Al-Assad.
It doesn’t merely tacitly accept that our actions may bolster his position. It regard him as an ally—albeit an ally with some modifying adjectives like “unpalatable” and “potential” attached. In truth, however, the only adjective that really matters here is the first one: “necessary.” The others are just palliatives to make the editorial board feel better about its moral choice to align itself with a man responsible for an estimated 200,000 dead Syrians, the physical destruction of one of the world’s oldest civilizations, and the world’s largest refugee crisis.
It’s a good thing the Times is keeping the faith about the dangers of NSA surveillance, the moral necessity of closing Guantanamo, the crucial importance of accountability in drone strikes, and the urgency of a laser-like focus on CIA interrogations that took place more than a decade ago.
After all, some principles, even if not genocide, brook no compromise."

Urgent solidarity needed with the city of 

Salamieh under the threat of a massacre by 

the Islamic State

The city of Salamieh is surrounded and has been suffering a total blockade for several days by the ultra reactionary movement of the Islamic State threatens to commit a massacre against the local population.

They shall not pass.

No to the criminal Assad regime and no to the reactionary and fundamentalist forces.

All power and wealth to the people.

Revolutionary Left Movement in Syria

This Tuesday, on April 7 let’s send a signal to Planet Syria. Let’s tell thousands of nonviolent Syrian activists that we’ve heard them, that we stand with their efforts to make peace.

What are you doing? It doesn’t have to be big, you can hold a sign up and take a picture if you don’t have much time -- but let’s make sure Planet Syria hears from every corner of our world.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Assad on the back foot

"It is unlikely that these victories for the rebels will spur America to increase its modest support for them, especially around Idleb, where Jabhat al-Nusra is the strongest force. The southern rebels have received more help, since they have fewer jihadists in their ranks and are less fragmented. But an American plan to train and equip 5,000 vetted men has still to get going. On March 27th Turkey said that the Americans had delayed their plans to start training there, for unspecified reasons.
So Syria’s fate may depend ever more on how well Mr Assad’s regime hangs together—and on Iran. His army and paramilitary forces often clash. Hizbullah men talk of Syrian soldiers firing on them. Syrian soldiers, in turn, are annoyed by Iranian and Hizbullah checkpoints set up to ensure that they stay in line. Syrian soldiers have long found understandings with rebels; sometimes they agree not to fight, while the rebels sometimes buy ammunition from the soldiers. Overall, Mr Assad’s position is being hollowed out. “The regime is in charge of administrative matters,” says the same Damascus man. “But Iran is ever more in control militarily.”
That could pave the way to negotiations, since it still seems unlikely that either side will win militarily. Iran’s rulers may be more pragmatic than Mr Assad, who wants to cling to power at any cost. There are signs that they see him as a burden; Hizbullah certainly does. If nuclear talks with Iran come good, some Syrians hope for a solution in their own country. “We’ll get rid of Mr Assad at some point,” says a Hizbullah commander. “I think Iran is just waiting until the right time.” "

What Happened in Homs

"The people still believed that song, dance, slogans, and prayer were stronger than fear and bullets. They were wrong, of course, and their illusions would soon drown in a river of blood.
America, traumatized by two useless and disastrous wars to the point of forgetting its own founding myth—that of a people rising against tyranny with their hunting guns, helped only by indomitable spirit and idealism—stood back and watched, petrified. Europe, weakened by economic crisis and self-doubt, followed suit, while the regime’s friends, Russia and Iran, occupied every inch of the political space thus made available. And geopolitics is always written with the blood of the people. The day after I left Homs, on February 3, a series of mortar shells targeted the neighborhood of al-Khalidiya, where I had spent so much time, killing over 140 civilians. As Talal Derki, the Syrian director and narrator of the magnificent documentary Return to Homs, comments at that point in his film, this mass murder was the turn of the revolution: “The dream of a revolution with songs and peaceful protests ended.”
Mani and I were able to document what seems to have been the first deliberate sectarian massacre of the conflict, the murder with guns and knives of an entire Sunni family in the Nasihin neighborhood on the afternoon of January 26, 2012. Many more would follow, first of other families, then of entire Sunni communities in the village belt surrounding Homs to the West, in the foothills of the Jabal an-Nusayriyah, the so-called “Alawite mountain” from which the regime continues to draw its main support. Up to that point, as all our interlocutors kept repeating to us and as we witnessed in the demonstrations, the revolutionaries were doing everything in their power to prevent the descent into sectarian warfare; the FSA response to this massacre was not to slaughter an Alawite family, but to attack the army checkpoints from which the murderers had come."

The regional quagmire traps Hezbollah

"The fall of Idlib last week raised worrying questions for Hezbollah. The city was held principally by the Syrian army and pro-Assad militias, and their lamentable performance appeared to show that the military effectiveness of the Syrian regime is near its end. That means that the burden of fighting will continue to be shifted onto the shoulders of Iran and Hezbollah, as well as Shiite militias from Iraq and even Afghanistan.
Now Hezbollah must consider what to do in Qalamoun, where it has been planning an attack for months. Everything suggests the party will go ahead with an operation, for several reasons: to reverse the sense of collapse prevailing in pro-Assad ranks; to show that the neutralization of the border region with Lebanon can succeed, even if this failed in the north and south; and to inflict a defeat on the Nusra Front, when the group’s central role in the takeover of Idlib has given it a great lift among Syrians opposed to the regime. Hezbollah does not want Nusra to gain strength at the expense of ISIS, whom many Syrians accuse of undermining their revolution.
However, Hezbollah should be very careful. Qalamoun is a thankless place, and any military reversal there for the party, in light of those in recent weeks, would be devastating for Iran and the Assad regime. Hezbollah has to be sure that it can win in Qalamoun.
The Syrian army and militias will be essential to this. Yet after their mediocre presentation in Idlib, Hezbollah must have doubts about them, particularly if corruption on the Syrian side is exploited by the rebels to allow reinforcements."

Some thoughts on Syria …

Leila Al Shami

"There was nothing inevitable about what happened in Syria. The regime’s supporters from the beginning made clear their intentions, they scrawled them on walls across Syria: “Al-Assad or we burn the country”. As Russia and Iran gave unlimited economic and military support to the regime to crush the opposition, the democratic Free Syrian Army received little in the way of weapons or support. Islamists were released by Assad from prison in 2011 (they went on to head the main Islamist brigades) and were given support (financial and military), mainly by Gulf States. They came to dominate the military struggle. Sectarianism was carefully nurtured by the regime’s policies and political calculations- such as by sending Alawi death squads into Sunni civilian neighbourhoods. Syria’s political opposition elites in exile were hijacked by Gulf or Western influence, and anyway never had any real relevance on the ground. Worst of all, Syria’s civil revolutionaries were abandoned, including by much of the international left which slandered them as fools, barbarian jihadists or agents of the West."

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Civilians In Syrian Rebel-Controlled Idlib Pay For Freedom From Assad With Barrel Bombs, Al Qaeda


 "Since Sunday, JN fighters have kidnapped a priest and killed two Christians liquor vendor, according to the New York Times.
 But according to others, those incidents are isolated events and there has been no Sharia law imposed in Idlib. Women are dressing normally, Abu Yazidi said. “There’s been nothing like the rule that ISIS enforced.”
 Despite the rebel coalition’s promises of an inclusive government, residents are worried that hardliners might hijack their first chance at freedom after four years of civil war.
 “We will try to stop them,” Khder said. “We want a civil state and will not allow anyone to impose its laws on us.”
 Al-Homsi echoed that sentiment. “I am afraid for no one,” he said. “It’s the people’s revolution, we are one people. The Christians are our brothers.” "
Fighters loyal Jabhat al-Nusra and its allies smash a statue of late Syrian president Hafez al-Assad, father of current President Bashar al-Assad on 28 March 2015 in the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib. (AFP/Sami Ali)

ISIS is crumbling in Syria: here’s why

There is a report in the Lebanese Daily Star* that ISIS had seized parts of the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus. I've also seen a report that the rebels have beaten them back. The Daily Star says ISIS are opposed to Assad, but I don't believe his forces will have done anything to impede this attack on his real enemies.

"Four, recent military gains made by the rebels with support from Jabhat al-Nusra are a fatal blow to both Bashar al-Assad and ISIS. The Islamic State has long accused the rebels and Jabhat al-Nusra of betraying Islam and claimed that they could never defeat Assad. However, the fact that Jabhat al-Nusra reached an understanding with Syrian rebel factions and their subsequent achievements in Idlib are a big loss for the Islamic State. “ISIS fears Nusra and the Salafist groups more than Assad and the international coalition—those groups have taken away its religious legitimacy,” says Sharia graduate Sheikh Qassem. “They have proved that there is another Islamist project that is not at odds with the goals of the Syrian revolution, or that it can achieve harmony with the revolution during the current period at least. In fact, they have proved that it is wrong to monopolize religion and use it for political reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with religion itself.” "

A Hezbollah supporter fixes a Palestinian flag over a poster of Al-Aqsa mosque and under a giant picture on 19 October 2006 in the Lebanese city of Nabatieh. (AFP/Mustapha Mahmoud)

In the name of Palestine

"Nasrallah completely ignored the Palestinian refugee camp in Syria—Yarmouk—which has been under siege by Assad’s forces since December 2012. The Palestinians trapped in Yarmouk have been without water, food or basic services for 300 days. According to the Action Group for the Palestinians in Syria, Assad has tortured 357 Palestinians to death, and at least 819 are reportedly detained. At least 2,679 Palestinian deaths in Syria have been documented.

Yeah, all this in the name of Palestine.

If Hezbollah dropped Palestine from its rhetoric, people might realize that what Nasrallah is really telling them is to drop their lives and families and join Iran’s army to kill Sunnis in the region. That wouldn’t work, would it?"

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Regime pounds Idlib city after rebel takeover

"One of the strikes destroyed the Syrian Red Crescent hospital, while airstrikes also targeted nearby villages in Idlib province.

An anti-regime news outlet also posted video footage of Civil Defense personnel evacuating a woman wounded in one of the strikes, from Idlib’s small Christian community, wounded in one of the strikes."

Monday, 30 March 2015

Huthaifah and revolutionary flag

The special shoes
'By the spring of 2012 the optimism of the uprising was already disintegrating into the horror of civil war. Huthaifah saw protesters shot in the street by snipers. He saw bodies dumped outside a barracks by soldiers of the regime. "Every day walking on that street we saw a lot of people beside the garbage, dead. They killed them, and then they just threw them beside the garbage." '
That's a funny definition of civil war.

Imprisoned and Tortured in Syria—

and Then Rejected by Washington

Assad’s victims are being denied U.S. visas to come testify about their experiences—and one who did make it to D.C. for an award left in disgust at what she saw as U.S. indifference.
“I want to talk to the average American and tell them about Syria and the revolution, and the great and high ideals which the Syrian people came out to demand. And how the Syrians were completely abandoned.”
Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 11.59.48 AM

Al Qaeda and allies form coalition

to battle Syrian regime in Idlib

"This is not the first time Al Nusrah has advertised its use of American-made weapons. In December of last year, the group posted a video and pictures of its 
fighters using a TOW missile in Idlib. It is likely the weapons were captured from Western-backed groups, which have received some American-made arms."
So if weapons supplied to the FSA end up with Jabhat al-Nusra, there is a real danger that they will use fight Assad.
Duplicity at the core of US policy on IS

Duplicity at the core of US policy on IS

'The US does not consider the FSA an ally worthy of air or ground support, and at the same time, it cannot stop providing Kuds with supplies and reinforcements. This even though the FSA was the first to fight months-long successful battles against IS, which had targeted it for more than a year, killing thousands of its leaders, fighters and loyalists.

IS has also fought off the FSA from most liberated areas in northern and central Syria, forcing it into an unequal war on two fronts: IS and the Syrian regime.

In addition, IS adopted fighting methods that led to the infiltration of the FSA, targeting its fighters and seizing its weapons through intimidation, bribery, ideological corruption or beheadings.

During this period, which lasted nearly a year and a half, the US did not notice the battle between the FSA and IS, and it did not want to support the moderates fighting this battle.

Eventually, the White House argued it feared US weapons would fall in the hands of terrorists.

Thus, the US used this excuse to stop supporting the "moderates" instead of increasing their support to enable them to continue their fight against terrorism as a common enemy.

Chalk and cheese is the policy, with practices and outcomes that raise serious doubts and fears.'
Rebel forces set the Syrian flag alight. Idlib is the second provincial capital to be seized from central government control. (Image: AFP/File)

'Army of Conquest' rebel coalition
establishes operations base in Idlib

"  “The Syrian provisional government will strive to make the free city of Idlib an example to the entire world about what Syrians want for the future of their country. It will begin sending its [government bodies] to work inside the city, along with the local council for the province of Idlib, to begin coordinating with its partners and with the [militias] and influential forces to make the city a headquarters for administering liberated regions of Syria.”
he head of the powerful Ahrar al-Sham militia Sunday issued a statement denying that any “Islamic emirate” was in the works.

The militias, according to Hashem al-Sheikh, “have not come to create for themselves a local power base or an emirate.”
He urged residents of Idlib to take part in a “civilian administration” that would take over running local affairs in the vacuum created by the regime’s departure."

The Syrian Revolution struggles on

Demonstration in London, 14 March 2015

 'Despite reports to the contrary, the Syrian revolution is not over. Its flame is kept alive by the Syrian diaspora, who from Brazil to Romania, Germany to Malaysia, Michigan to London, keep actively supporting the Syrian revolutionaries struggling for freedom in terrible conditions.

The revolution stills burns brightly in those parts of Syria which have remained liberated from Assad and Da‘esh (ISIS). In Idlib, the only province largely liberated from Assad, demonstrations occurred in many towns and villages to mark the start of the revolution. In Free Aleppo, threatened by siege and surrounded on three sides by the regime and Da‘esh, rallies were held accompanied by the traditional dancing and singing which has been ahallmark of the revolution from the start.'

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Syria is blocking aid to thousands of its civilians, UN is warned

 'Lady Amos said, "The authority of this Council is being undermined. People trapped in besieged locations are becoming more and more desperate." '

 That's the key to all this. Lady Amos' urgency isn't because of the depth of the suffering, it's that the international community risks losing control. The liberation of Idlib by a force spanning al-Nusra and the FSA, but mainly led by the more Islamist forces, leaves the UN needing to be seen to make an effort to stop Assad's multiple crimes against humanity. Hopefully the improvement in the situation will make al-Nusra grow up a bit, you can't go around kidnapping and killing other revolutionaries, and associating with al-Qaida, and then expect anyone to care if Assad and the US combine to bomb you to shit. And now the Syrian people now have a window where there is the option for better, at least until the UN tries to force a shoddy deal on them that leaves Assad in place, trying to persuade people to their sort of Islamism might be a better strategy than looking like the barbarians of ISIS.

There is a false equivalence in the claim that a UN Security Council resolution passed last year demanding humanitarian aid access to civilians caught in the war has been "flagrantly ignored by all fighting parties". The figure of 'as many as 185,500 people are trapped by the government', may be a severe underestimate*. And we'll wait and see if there's any action over yet another use of chemical weapons, "The attack on Sarmin came 10 days after the United Nations Security Council condemned the use of chlorine as a weapon in Syria and threatened to take action if such arms are used again in the conflict."
Report says nearly 650,000 besieged in Syria

Iran losing in Yemen will give us advantage over Assad

Iran losing in Yemen will
give us advantage over Assad

"The fight in Idlib against the regime began as Ahrar Ash-Sham, al-Nusra and the FSA joined their forces. This is a serious strategic gain because this will break the siege in Aleppo as well. This will result in the total control of the north of the country. The region will be cleansed of Iranian paramilitary and al-Assad forces. Of course, we will have to face ISIS; however, for the time being, al-Assad forces will be losing ground. We have seen that ISIS comes into the play when al-Assad forces are retreating.

Since Kobane, ISIS has suffered a psychological collapse. They started to move their emplacements from Aleppo to ar-Raqqah. ISIS is still there, but with low morale. There were conflicts in ar-Raqqah and Deir ez-Zor. Due to the collapsed morale, they are not able to wage war. This is an advantage for us in the manner of controlling the region and fighting against regime forces."

The Need to End Impunity and Move to Accountability


 "There is no doubt that the Syrian Military, Security and Intelligence Forces under the command of Bashar al-Assad have and continue to commit to act with absolute impunity. Their conduct over the course of the last four years that include arbitrary arrest, detention, torture, mass starvation, extra-judicial killings, use of prohibited weapons and means of warfare constitute the gravest forms of international crimes on a scale not seen since the Holocaust. It has deliberately and indiscriminately bombed civilian areas and used indiscriminate methods and means of war – such as cluster bombs, barrel bombs and chemical weapons– that has massacred civilian populations with the sole intent of destroying any opposition to its dictatorial rule."