Saturday, 15 August 2015

Dateline London - 15/08/2015

Mina al-Oraibi: "Assad's forces are pulling back, not because of Daesh (ISIS), it's actually Nusra, so al-Qaida affiliates, and other Turkish-backed and Western-backed groupings of fighters. There's a lot going on in Syria, as there is in Iraq a lot going on, that's actually independent of ISIS. The problem is, that what is going on, especially in the West, is that everyone looks at the Middle East now through the prism of ISIS, which is kind of what they want you to do. They want to claim victories that are actually not their own. They are fighting in a way that is much more guerrilla warfare, but not strong guerrilla warfare. They're not able to hold ground, like they used to be. There are current fights in Syria that they are just keeping out of, and letting others fight among themselves.
   The air campaign will never win, and everybody knows that. What you're going to need is governance on lands they control now, and that is the big problem in Syria, and that is the problem in Iraq. Iraq has been witnessing protests for over a week, where people are going out onto the streets and calling for secularism, in eleven provinces. That's how you will fight ISIS, that you will call for a secular, or let's say a government for all its citizens regardless of religion. The fact that you have people braving the heat of Iraq, and also braving the possibility of bomb attacks on them, and braving a security force that is not always predictable inside of Iraq. To go out and protest, and call for a secular government, that's how you will defeat ISIS in the end, not by air bombing. And you can actually support those sort of movements.
   And the same could be said of Syria. Syria, all sorts of strange groupings are actually being supported at the moment. Some that are al-Qaida affiliated, and it's almost like it's OK, as long as they're not ISIS, we can live with them. No, we can't live with them. That shouldn't be the low bar that we have. The only way this region will get out of the rut it's in now, is to say, hang on, there are values we will fight for, because that's what the people of the region actually want. And these aren't slogans, that's the reality. So the air campaign can go on infinitely. There's very dubious reporting about who is actually being killed in these airstrikes. We don't know, we're only taking what the government feeds to us, whether it's the US government or governments in the GUlf. Journalists are attacked by ISIS, and it's become very convenient on all sides not to have journalists telling us what's going on on the ground. So, in a nutshell, the air campaign will never succeed, but there are some promising signs on the ground, Syria we've seen some very interesting diplomacy, with Kerry, Lavrov, and the Saudi foreign minister. So there's some movements on the ground, but it has to be coupled with a political solution that doesn't just mean that as long as it's not ISIS it's acceptable."

For Syria, August is the cruelest month

"For Syrians, August may be the cruelest month. Two years ago at night, President Assad’s grim reapers in the form of rockets laden with chemical warheads visited Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus and claimed the lives of 1400 civilians, mostly women, children and babies. Once again the Syrians experienced the tragic meaning of ‘the smallest coffins are the heaviest.’
The world was horrified and looked for the sole superpower to exact retribution but that was not meant to be. The President of the United States of America after unsheathing his sword for the battle, took a walk with his White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and returned with the sword sheathed, fearing maybe that a strong military slap at Assad’s lisping mouth will not poll well with his political base. Four Augusts ago, President Obama (along with European leaders) explicitly called for Assad to resign, after months of bloody crackdown on civilian protesters. ‘For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside’ Obama said in a written statement. In the following years, Syrian skies have been constantly raining barrel bombs, ravaging bodies and souls, and cutting deep scars in Syria’s landscape and collective psyche."

The statement of the people of Zabadani about the agreement being drafted in Turkey

السلطة الرابعة : هـــــام : بيان أهالي الزبداني حول الاتفاق الذي يجري صياغة تفاصيله في تركيا !

This is an offer by Iran to exchange two Shi'ite villages in Idlib province that have served as barracks for Hezbollah's occupying forces now surrounded by rebels, for the evacuation of Zabadani, thus legitmising the sectarian partition and occupation of Syria.
"We, the sons of Zabadani who fought and will fight the Iranian regime and the forces of occupation in every inch and every house do not accept any Syrian citizen to come out of their homes, and do not accept that we go out of our homes. All we ask is to live in freedom and dignity in our country or die honorably defend them ..."

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Former US ambassador: There won't be peace in Syria without prosecution of Assad

 'The expression “no justice, no peace” is usually associated these days with US demonstrations against police killings of African-Americans. But it also applies to Syria, according to Stephen Rapp, who has just stepped down as US ambassador at large and chief of the State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice.
 “You can’t even get to peace unless a justice process is developed that’s going to give people confidence that the authors of mass rape and killing are going to be held to account,” Rapp said in the Aug. 11 interview. “Anything else won’t last.”
 Mohammad Al Abdallah, executive director of the Syria Justice and Accountability Center, praised Rapp for reaching out to Syrian opposition groups, providing technical advice and encouraging President Barack Obama and his administration “to do more than depositing the Caesar photos with the FBI.”
But Abdallah told Al-Monitor that “without a comprehensive policy from the administration” on Syria, Rapp’s contributions were welcome but insufficient.
“The less push for accountability, the more tendency to be violent,” Abdallah said of the Syrian conflict. “People would say that nobody cares.” '

Assad Walls Off the Besieged Damascus Suburb He Gassed in 2013

' “Let’s be clear about what the Assad regime is doing [in] Moadamiyah,” said Chris Harmer, a Syria analyst at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for the Study of War. “They are besieging and starving to death tens of thousands of innocent civilians. This is just the latest example that when it comes to U.S. policy toward Syria there are no actual red lines that the Assad regime can cross. With the rise of the Islamic State American policy in action has essentially said the Assad regime can do whatever it wants without any consequences whatsoever.” '

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Defeating Isis in Syria is essential to prevent catastrophe

men carry casualty damascus

Frederic C Hof
 "Islamic State (Isis) is the catastrophic consequence of political illegitimacy in Iraq and Syria. In Syria the vacuum’s creator is Bashar al-Assad – with the enthusiastic backing of Iran, he pursues a political survival strategy of collective punishment, featuring mass homicide focused on civilians. 
  Assad is the cause of Syria’s legitimacy crisis. Isis, aside from the humanitarian catastrophe spawned by Assad, is the principal effect. Assad’s barrel bombs and starvation sieges are gifts of incalculable value to Isis. And Isis’s subjugation of eastern Syria is essential to sustain the group’s military operations in Iraq.
 Key near-term aims could be to introduce regional ground forces into eastern Syria to rout Isis and stand up a new Syrian government, while stopping Assad regime barrel bombs and strikes on residential areas in western Syria. If the desired end in Syria is a negotiated political solution, Isis must be beaten militarily and the regime atrocities stopped. Otherwise there is no basis for talks.
 Legitimate governance for all of Syria – and for that matter all of Iraq – is a long way off. Defeating Isis in Syria – where its lack of a popular base makes it most vulnerable – is the essential first step. Time is of the essence. The Assad-abetted Isis malignancy makes time the enemy."

Regime committing war crimes in besieged Syria area: Amnesty

Regime committing war crimes in besieged Syria area: Amnesty

'For many in Eastern Ghouta life "has become a prolonged experience of hardship and suffering," said Said Boumedouha, acting director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa programme.
 "By repeatedly bombing heavily populated areas in a series of direct, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks as well as by unlawfully besieging civilians, Syrian government forces have committed war crimes and displayed a sinister callousness towards Eastern Ghouta's civilians."
 Amnesty said it documented at least 60 aerial attacks on Eastern Ghouta in the first half of 2015 that killed around 500 civilians.
 "The timing and location of these attacks appear deliberately orchestrated to maximise damage or civilian casualties in a gruesome attempt by the Syrian government forces to terrorise the population." '

Syria, Daraya, the regime uses napalm

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Daraya after being shelled by missiles filled with napalm

 August 11, 2015
Also, from Monday, demonstration in Aleppo with Free Syrian flags,

"A demonstration in the city yesterday hailed definitely free army demanded al-Nusra front out of town and the release of detained in prison."

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Syrian hard-line faction backs US-Turkey plans for safe zone

"The ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham group says such a zone is "vital" and serves the interests of the Syrian people."
Jabhat al-Nusra
¹ hasn't been quite so positive, but seems to be staying out of the way, rather than trying to undermine the arrangement. Elsewhere, régime fronts seem to be collapsing in Hama², and now Daraa³. There are fears of a new régime massacre in the Damascus suburb of Moademiyah, one more way in which local truces have not been a way to bring peace, but "just facilitating the entry of people – the only benefit they received was returning to their destroyed homes to be placed under siege again."This seems like a reasonable view of the recent anti-Turkish campaigns by Kurdish groups, supported by much of the international left, leading one Syrian to exclaim, "Honestly - fuck western leftists who continue to fetishize rojava/kurdistan; fuck western leftists who organize and mobilize against the turkish government and ISIS, without also organizing against the syrian regime... fuck your hypocrisy, fuck your conditional solidarity, and fuck your unnuanced politics. tfou."
¹[] []
"The PKK and HDP wasted a historic opportunity for the sake of this unrealistic plan and chose to fight instead. They vastly overrated themselves and underestimated Turkey. Now in a panic, they are trying to portray themselves as victims so that the process can begin again. However, they are the ones who killed people in front of their families or while sleeping in their beds. And 80 percent of the Turkish public supports the operations against ISIS and the PKK." []

If Barack Obama ever had a strategy for Syria, it’s been turned on its head

Bill Bragg illustration: a Syrian barrel bomb

"One of the most puzzling aspects of this new phase of American involvement is that it is in no way expressly intended to provide protection for civilians. Yet it is precisely because civilians are not being protected that Isis has been able to grow.
 It is hard, these days, to find any strong American high-level language denouncing the slaughterhouse that Bashar al-Assad has brought down on his own people. Nor is there any talk of an international tribunal that might deal one day with these crimes. Of course Russia would veto any of this, but why not at least expose Moscow’s complicity by raising the question of mass atrocities – not just chemical weapon use – in the UN security council?
 In the case of Syria, a whole body of international norms meant to counter state-sponsored massacres of civilians has been put aside, including the notion of the “responsibility to protect” which was voted in the UN 10 years ago.
 Obama’s apparent indifference to the plight of Syrian civilians – not just the fact that he failed to work out a solution – will be part of his legacy."

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Will the Syrian regime triumph?

File photo of the wreckage of a Syrian Air Force plane, that went down in the Eriha district of Idlib killing 35 people on August 3rd 2015

"There is no doubt that any bets on the possibility of Al-Assad's regime surviving in Syria are a delusion because the survival of the regime poses more of a disaster to its supporters than to its opposition. This is because it has become a black hole that absorbs all of its supporters' resources and credibility while giving nothing in return. The Iranian government was sectarian and politically exposed and it lost the support of the people in the region due to its support of the regime's atrocities. Iran also lost Hezbollah by involving it in the quagmire. If the regime survives, it will only behave worse, thus increasing financial and moral cost for Tehran. This will only make Tehran drown, just as the Soviet Union sunk in the Afghanistan quagmire.
The continuation of the current situation in Syria would be impossible without Western support, and it will not continue since there is no desirable benefit in exchange for this support. The dangers that resulted from the survival of the Syrian regime and its policies did not occur due to a lack of support, but rather from the magnitude of the support for it. More support will only drag the West into the regime's quagmire without actually lessening the harms of its survival. It will only mean more displacement for Syrians (and perhaps even the Lebanese as well) who will head towards the coasts of Europe and contribute to the destabilisation of the area.
Whatever the case, the issue was decided with the launch of Turkey's equivalent of Saudi's Operation Decisive Storm which aims to seize areas under Daesh's control and hand them over to the moderate Syrian opposition. It also aims to create safe zones for both the opposition and the civilians. This will lead to creating conditions conducive to hastening the process of overthrowing the Syrian regime and secure a suitable alternative. Therefore, the "end game" will mean the end of the Assad regime. The wise in Russia and Iran understand this and are trying to turn this catastrophe into a gain before it is too late."