Saturday, 25 April 2015

Raed ShekhFares - The Syrian Revolution - From Kafranbel

Rustom Ghazaleh. (AFP/Louai Beshara)

Feared Syrian security chief dead

Robin Yassin-Kassab: "The monsters are eating each other, signs of the approaching end."

"Al-Quds al-Araby reported that Ghazaleh refused to turn over his house in his Daraa hometown to Iranian and Hezbollah forces so they could set up artillery and tanks in it that would have been used to strike opposition fighters near the village.

“He then openly defied orders and released a video of his house being blown up to send a clear message that no foreign forces would ever enter it,” the report added.

The pan-Arab daily added that Shehadeh then proceeded to call Ghazaleh and question his manhood, after which the latter said he “would prove his manhood by coming into Shehadeh’s office in [Damascus’] Kfar Souseh and stomping on his head.”

As soon as he arrived Ghazaleh was intercepted by eight of Shehadeh’s guards. They proceeded to beat him severely, and then he was dragged bleeding into the office where Rafiq Shehadeh spat on him and ordered his guards to take Ghazaleh to a hospital, the paper also said."

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Nusra advances in Idlib as Jolie rips Security Council

"We cannot look at Syria and the evil that has arisen from the ashes of indecision and think this is not the lowest point in the world's inability to protect and defend the innocent."
The rebel coalition seems now to have entirely taken Jisr al-Shugour, cutting Assad's supply route to his home province of Latakia. All his foreign mercenaries may not be able to save him now. It was the town where Assad's lies about the revolution started, when it was claimed that 175 members of the Syrian Army were massacred by terrorists in June 2011, in an improbable lie, like all the improbable lies since reported as equally valid to the accounts of real massacres by Assad in the mainstream Western media.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Why Syria's Devout Oppose ISIS, as Told by a Cleric That Fled Their Rule

Umar Farooq Headshot

"The Free Syrian Army and the other Islamist groups [like al-Qaeda's Jabhat al-Nusra], even when you disagree with them on some points, they understand very well that you are a Syrian, they understand the society is multicolored.
The Islamist groups, for example, they don't like smoking. They consider it a sin, but they understand very well that in this Syrian society, people smoke, so they don't want to be harsh in making people quit smoking. They believe through advice they can make you quit this bad behavior.
So where is the problem with ISIS? [Jabhat al] Nusra or the Islamists or the FSA, they believe in the idea of citizenship in Syria, they believe those people are citizens of Syria, and they have rights. The concept of Syria as a country is clear for them. Even when they say "we want an Islamic system," they are talking about an Islamic system inside Syria only.
ISIS did not understand when the Syrians started this revolution against Bashar al Assad, they did not stand up because he was an Alawite [a minority sect], but only because he was an oppressor. ISIS thinks the Syrians started the revolution because Assad was an Alawite. This is proof they do not understand the nature and culture of the Syrian people.
I participated in the revolution to get my rights and dignity, and not to be ruled by a stranger that does not know the nature of the society, or the value of citizenship. More importantly, the people who want to rule us, they are already not welcome in their own countries. If they were honest about their goals, why didn't they establish the Caliphate in their own countries?"

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Atrocities in Syria: Who Will Be Left to Speak for Me?

"It is often said that the reason for this silence is because the problem is too complex and that the voices of moderates have been lost. This implies that Syria is now a nation of extremists or that the notion of “moderate” cannot apply to anyone who chose and chooses to defend his or her family and community against atrocities. These Syrians—the moderate opposition, including everyday Syrians protecting themselves—are often erased from the Western narrative for choosing to live rather than be slaughtered by the regime, ISIS, Hezbollah, and other foreign mercenaries, in a situation Western commentators have never been in and hope never to find themselves in.

The barrel bombs must end. The use of chemical weapons, rape, and starvation as weapons of war must end. The torture of tens of thousands of innocent people in regime jails must end. The Syrian people need the international community more than ever. When the Syrian war ends, and it will as all things do, the world will likely count the costs of its inaction. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "The ultimate tragedy [will be] not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people." If world leaders continue to ignore the problem, hoping that it will die or fade, eventually each of us will have to ask ourselves, Who will be left to speak for me?"
Mohammed Alaa Ghanem Headshot

The Iran Deal Is Hurting the ISIS Fight

"Because Iran supports Assad, an U.S.-approved Iranian foothold in Syria as a result of the nuclear deal would push thousands of Syrians toward ISIS. It would also fail, because the strongest anti-ISIS actor in Syria today is the "farmers or dentists" that President Obama derides. Just look at military developments since February:

In the north, a new hardline rebel coalition stormed the last northern city under full regime control and captured it in just five days. Rebels resoundingly defeated Iran-backed foreign fighters near Syria's largest city, then breached regime defenses inside the city for the first time in three years. In the south, rebels repulsed a major Iran-backed offensive by inflicting heavy casualties. They then seized a strategic town and the main border crossing into Jordan before resuming their gradual advance toward the capital.

President Obama recently stated, "Our core interests are...that children are not having barrel bombs dropped on them." He also asked why "we can't have Arabs...fighting against what Assad has done." But only he can answer this question. In February 2014, when Assad launched his fiercest barrel bombings of the entire war on civilians who had evicted ISIS, Saudi Arabia sought to transfer anti-aircraft weapons to the opposition. President Obama vetoed the transfer."

Zahran Alloush is in Turkey: Where are Razan, Samira, Wael and Nazem?

Razan Zeitoune, Samira al-Khalil, Wael Hamadeh and Nazem Hammadi were kidnaaped in Douma on 9 December 2013. (image via

 "Turkey, which has shown more support to the various sections of the Syrian opposition and provided better options for Syrian refugees than all other countries in the world, must work to ensure the release of Samira, Razan, Wael and Nazem. The same applies to officials dealing with matters related to Syria in other countries that support the opposition, and officials within the opposition itself, some of whom have been living in Turkey for a long time. They must show Alloush and people like him that the kidnapping of defenseless civilians and activists with a long and unwavering history of standing up to Assad is a crime."

Eamonn McCann: Syria kidnapping was not what it seemed

‘On December 13th 2012, a news team from the US network NBC was kidnapped by armed men in northern Syria.’ Above,  the aftermath of an artillery mortar shell attack  in  Aleppo, on December 3rd, 2012.  Photograph:  Javier Manzano/AFP/Getty Images

Eamonn McCann used to be a journalist and a revolutionary, now he's an apologist for Assad's genocide. The idea that the involvement of Iran and its proxy militias in Syria is the invention of right-wing plotters in the US is belied by the tens of thousands of them fighting there, as evidenced by capture and funerals, and the areas that have been taken over, particularly in Damascus, after the ethnic cleansing of Sunni Muslims, for their families to settle in. 

The New York Times, which has been noticeably hostile to the Free Syrian Army, may claim it is involved in these shenanigans, but all I can see from the NBC report is that a criminal gang kidnapped Mr. Engel, and he was freed after the intervention of the local leader of Ahrar al-Sham. A group that has been bombed by the Amercians, under the impression that any group with Islamic leanings must be al-Qaida, told by the same people who claimed Saddam was behind al-Qaida, the same people behind Seymour Hersh's claim that the rebels used chemical weapons on themselves to provoke a US response. Never mind that the group suggested to have been doing this are opposed to any American involvement in Syria, never mind that the Syrian government has bombed civilians with chemical weapons many times over since, and there has still been no response to the demand, not for American intervention, but for Syrians to get the means to free themselves from rape, torture and murder. 

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Sunnis flee Ramadi west of Baghdad this month. The Iraqi city is at risk of falling under Isis control.

'It's God's gift.' Islamic State fills
coffers with Iraqi government cash

Not God but Bashar.

"Crucial to its revenue is income derived from oil produced from large fields in eastern Syria, some of which it then sells on to its arch enemy, the Syrian government, according to an informed source on the ground and a senior US official in Washington.
“Much of the oil goes to the Assad regime,” said Danny Glaser, assistant secretary for terrorist financing at the US treasury. “There’s a business opportunity, there’s a need for both of them. The Assad regime needs the oil, Isis needs the cash and they’re willing to do business even as they’re fighting each other.” "
Ally rather than arch-enemy, co-ordinating attacks on Syrian rebels more than fighting each other.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Drowning of hundreds is no accident—it's racist murder

There's some nonsense at the end about how chaos in Libya is due to Western hijacking of the revolution, and the article just blames the West's wars for the crisis, and ignores how the lack of support for the fight against Assad and the demonisation of those who do so as all being al-Qaida has fed the racist anti-migrant mood. But this points to the reality:

"Mohammad, a refugee from Daraya near the Syrian capital Damascus, told Socialist Worker why he had risked his life to make the journey.
“I did it because I had no choice,” he said. “I had to leave my country because of the war.
 “In August 2012 the regime massacred more than 700 people in my home town over four days, including my aunt and her husband. I am a doctor. The regime targeted me because I treated civilians.” "


 "This road movie portrays the perilous journey of well-known intellectual Yassin al-Haj Saleh and young photographer Ziad Homsi through Syria, at a time when the country edges towards the brink.

 Yassin (53), who spent 16 years in prison for belonging to the Syrian left, goes underground in 2011 to serve Syria’s popular uprising, while Ziad (24) - occasionally fighting with the rebels - takes photographs in his hometown Douma. In this Damascene suburb – where Yassin and his wife Samira Khalil found shelter - the two men meet and become friends."

 Available online until May 3rd.

Monday, 20 April 2015

The nail in the coffin for ‘local ceasefires’ in Syria

 'On Sunday, residents of Moadamiya, a town that lies just outside the Syrian capital, received a draconian ultimatum from Hassan Gandour, a former resident of Moadamiya and the regime's chief negotiator for the town.

The ultimatum demands that Moadamiya be "evacuated of all inhabitants, including civilian residents." It warns that unless a farcical "ceasefire initiative" circulated by Gandour is enacted within fifteen days, "anyone within the town takes his life into his own hands." Finally, it levels a chilling threat at Syrian opposition members: "This war is not yet over. By God, I swear over the anguished cries of our women, children, and fellow residents that we will take revenge."

Multiple foreign policy analysts have supported "local ceasefires" by claiming that they could reduce conflict, restore humanitarian aid, and promote broader reconciliation. Now we see the truth: Moadamiya's "local ceasefire" has culminated in a renewed siege and regime vows that the "war is not yet over." Only this time, residents are less able to defend themselves after ceding weapons in the previous ceasefire.

The experience of Moadamiya shows a general pattern: Assad uses "local ceasefires" as diplomatic companions to his military sieges. He surrounds a town, starves its residents, then offers a "local ceasefire" in exchange for food. After residents surrender weapons or other strategic advantages, Assad resumes the siege and locals are less able to defend themselves. Unfortunately, De Mistura's initiative matches this pattern.

On February 17, 2015, de Mistura announced that he had persuaded Assad to stop shelling Aleppo, while Assad-allied forces backed by Iran cut the last large Aleppo supply line. Assad was exploiting the U.N. ceasefires proposal to legitimate his "local ceasefires" strategy. His message to the rebels: accept my "local ceasefire," which is backed by the U.N. this time, or starve like your compatriots in Moadamiya. Rebels chose a third option. They launched a fierce counterattack, repulsed regime forces, and rejected the deal.

On Tuesday, the Moadamiya local council called for U.N. monitors to enter the town and observe Assad's violations of the ceasefire. De Mistura should work to meet this demand, in Moadamiya and in all towns that have been starved into bogus "local ceasefires." While this is no substitute for Syria-wide democratic transition talks, it is an important step toward putting diplomatic pressure where it really belongs, on Bashar al-Assad.'

From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

Image result for From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

 "Tony Blair is still pilloried for the decisions he took over Iraq. David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging."

It took me two looks at this to see that Patrick Cockburn not only wants to blame Cameron for things he hasn't done, but actually exonerate Tony Blair for taking us into the Iraq War.
 "Tony Blair is still pilloried for the decisions he took over going to war in Iraq in 2003. Focus on the decisions taken in the lead-up to the invasion has become a national obsession in which Blair is a scapegoat, as if most of the British establishment and popular opinion did not support him at the time."

 I suppose this is due to Cockburn's adoption of Blair's belief in the War on Terror and love of dictators. His claim they we forget the destruction thereafter is further nonsense of the mistakes were made, but you have to accept that he acted in good faith even if the intelligence was wrong, defence that Blair himself deploys. It is also untrue, every opponent of the war I ever heard precisely pointed to the continuing violence as proof that Bush and Blair's war was not one of liberation.
 "A problem about this obsession with the events of 2002 and 2003 is that they have led to amnesia about what happened subsequently in Iraq and Afghanistan."

 So to Libya.

Few recall that David Cameron led Britain into one war in Libya that overthrew Gaddafi, but was disastrous for most Libyans. Without this conflict, the drowned bodies of would-be emigrants to Europe would not be washing up in their hundreds on Libyan beaches."

 The emigrants are coming from Syria and Eritrea, and points further south. If Gaddafi's police state were still in place, that would just have made their journey more perilous. And as Clay Claiborne has pointed out*, the NATO bombing only killed 75 civilians, so can barely be described as a war, let alone the cause of Libya's current ills. There is every reason to believe that the "
militias battling in streets and buildings shattered by shellfire," are due to lack of support for Libya's new government, not the reverse.

Another scene worth revisiting via YouTube is the House of Commons on 29 August 2013, when Cameron lost the vote which would have opened the door to British military intervention in Syria. Ostensibly this was in response to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government in Damascus, but would have had an effect only if it had turned into a Libyan-type air campaign to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. There is every reason to believe that al-Qaeda-type movements would have filled the vacuum and Syria would have descended even deeper into anarchy."

 He lost the vote, so even before I point out that he made no attempt to win it, not putting on a three-line whip, it is only because Cockburn is struggling to build his case that something Cameron didn't do is supposed to matter so much. Ostensibly the world has promised to stop such crimes against humanity as the use of chemical weapons, but that's not a concern for Cockburn. We've already dealt with the Libyan-type air campaign, the greatest amount of bombing suggested was by John McCain who proposed the bombing of Assad's airfields, no more, which might have stopped the two years of barrel bombing, leaving Assad without a feasible strategy to hang on. There is reason to believe that al-Qaida would have filled the vacuum that Assad left, if you assume that Syrians naturally hate freedom and love extremism, and ignore the growth in support for extremism has gone along with Assad's destruction, as Cockburn's opponents have predicted, and it has been encouraged by Assad, as Cockburn has always denied.

True, British aircraft are carrying out strikes against Islamic State (Isis) in Iraq, but this is a largely symbolic involvement, as a glance at a list of airstrikes carried out by the RAF in March shows. The strikes are few in number and may involve eliminating a single bunker or vehicle."

 This is a useful reminder than Britain is hardly involved in a war in the Middle east now, which Cockburn doesn't like.

The Conservative government escapes blame for recent debacles in the Middle East because few in Britain want greater military involvement. But we cannot ignore the region because, while we may not go to the Middle East, the Middle East and its crises will come to us."

 So we need to befriend Assad and Iran, and crush any opposition which might involve Sunni Muslims. I hope it's inevitable that people see this is wrong.


Regime heeds Grand Mufti’s call

Genocide is another name for it.

"The attacks come in the wake of Grand Mufti Ahmad Hassoun’s demand for the “annihilation” of areas used to launch attacks on regime positions in Aleppo city last Friday via state television and a widely circulated audio clip.  
SNHR called the Mufti’s demands a “deliberate crime” and noted that following Hassoun’s fatwa would result in the deaths of millions of people. Nearly 90 percent of the people killed in this week’s attacks have been civilians."

The defense of inaction in Syria

 " “During every visit I was asked the same thing: Why has the world abandoned us? Why does nobody care?”

 The fashionable Washington answer to those questions today is that the world is doing nothing because nothing can be done. Muslims will kill Muslims, Sunni will hate Shia, and the civilized world must watch regretfully from the sidelines until the fever burns itself out.

 When Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad began waging war against what started as a peaceful movement for democracy, Obama could have authorized training for a moderate, multi-sectarian resistance. When Assad began dropping shrapnel-filled barrel bombs on apartment buildings full of children — the signature weapon of his war, as machetes were to the Rwandan genocide — Obama could have destroyed Assad’s helicopters or given the resistance the weapons to do so. He could have, with allies, offered air cover for a safe zone in northern Syria where people at least could find some refuge from Assad’s attacks.

 At each turn, many people, including his own advisers, warned that a failure to act would allow extremists to extend their sway. Now the fulfillment of those warnings — the presence of extremists — provides one more pretext for inaction.

 What’s different about Obama is his assertive defense of inaction. Shortly after his reelection, in an interview with the New Republic, he asked, “And how do I weigh tens of thousands who’ve been killed in Syria versus the tens of thousands who are currently being killed in the Congo?” Later in 2013, speaking to the United Nations, he defended U.S. reticence in Syria by asserting that defense of democracy and human rights was not a “core interest” of the United States — unlike, for example, ensuring “the free flow of energy.”
 Some may welcome this dry-eyed realism; after all, what good did Clinton’s admission of fault do the Tutsis? Better that people know not to await a U.S. rescue that is never going to come."

A Crime Against Humanity

'Our work to find witnesses took us out into the desert. The refugees we found were on the run from the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Millions of Syrians have fled the country into desolate refugee camps like this one and over a period of weeks we have been able to find more survivors of the nerve gas attack. These people asked us to not show you their faces or tell you their names because they have family back in Syria and they are quite certain the dictatorship would hunt them down. Even at that, they told us some risks have to be taken to tell this story.

This man told us, "Assad gassed people. He killed people. He's killing women.

What he did could not be done by any other human being. He killed everything, even the trees." '

Sunday, 19 April 2015

UN envoy to start talks in May on new Syria initiative

"In late March, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon ordered Staffan de Mistura to flesh out elements of the tentative plan for a Syrian political transition adopted at a meeting in Geneva on June 30, 2012.

The proposal starts with the establishment of a transitional governing body but there has been no agreement on how to implement it."