Posts Tagged ‘bashar al assad’

May 22nd, 2013

 “We have failed over and over again in our attempts to pull the strings of Middle Eastern politics.”

In an extremely disappointing vote, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on Tuesday voted 15-3 to authorize the president to—among other things—arm and train the rebels in Syria who are fighting the government forces of President Bashar al-Assad.

This bill is terrible, and should be rejected by the Senate.

Yet, even amid this committee vote, there were a few bright spots in the form of Sens. Chris Murphy, Tom Udall, and Rand Paul, who were the three who voted no. Their vote wasn’t just correct, but their assessment of the situation should be heeded by the Obama administration and the full Senate as both consider what should be done, if anything, in Syria.

Once we introduce weapons, we have zero control over them. Udall, a New Mexico Democrat, was correct when he said the United States “could turn over the weapons we’re talking about and next day they end up in the hands of al-Qaida.”

Yes, the legislation mandates that any groups who receive weapons are thoroughly investigated and vetted. But as long as groups are fighting together, they will exchange arms. And as long as groups need funding, they’ll be open to sell arms. Where those arms end up, no one really knows.

But as Udall noted, some of these groups are reportedly affiliated with al-Qaida. “It’s impossible to know who our friends are,” said Paul, adding that any of the rebels could turn their arms over to terrorist-affiliated groups.

Our next concern should focus on Syria’s neighbor to the East. We could end up killing the very Iraqi Army our troops died building and reignite the Iraqi Civil War.

Some of the so-called Syrian rebels are reportedly tied to Sunni insurgents from Iraq. Those same Sunni insurgents used terror attacks to try to kill Americans and destabilize the Iraqi government that was permitting us to operate there.

I helped train the Iraqi Army during my second tour in Iraq and still have contacts there. So, when I read a couple of months ago that violence had spilled over into the Iraqi border, and that nine Iraqi troops lost their lives, I called a colonel in the Iraqi Army to hear more about it.

When I asked about the Free Syrian Army, he replied: “What Army? You mean the terrorists?” That said it all in a nutshell. The Iraqi Army doesn’t consider them rebels or freedom fighters or anything of the sort. Their concern is that many of the anti-Assad forces are the same terrorists they’ve fought before and who still are targeting the Iraqi Army. Days after the attacks in Iraq by Syrian rebels, al-Qaida claimed responsibility.

It is astounding to me that Sen. John McCain of Arizona voiced strong support for arming the rebels. This is the same John McCain who said it was worth billions of dollars and thousands of American lives to get the Iraqi government and Army on its feet. Now, he’s for arming those who would seek to destroy it.

Moreover, there is no winning scenario when we get involved in other nations’ civil wars and proxy wars.

On this point, Sen. Murphy said it best: “We have failed over and over again in our attempts to pull the strings of Middle Eastern politics.”

It would be nice if this was a clean, simple conflict. But it isn’t. Sometimes the enemy of your enemy can also be your enemy.  Not only are there a wide array of groups involved, but the introduction of Iranian and Hezbollah forces combined with support from Russia, provide a strong center of gravity for Assad regime support, eliminating the possibility of UN action. The insurgents aren’t organized, and even with weapons, would have a difficult time conducting decisive combat operations in what looks like a stalemate.

If our view is that by arming rebels, the new Syrian government would be friendly to the US, then I would say that would happen anyway. A new Syrian government would need to reach out to the nations of the world for support—including the United States. Look no further than Egypt for proof. We didn’t arm anti-government forces there, and yet, Mohammed Morsi immediately assured us that Egypt’s treaties would remain in place and relations with the United States would remain normalized.

The Senate bill that passed committee is misguided and dangerous.  Thankfully, three brave Senators bucked the group-think and laid out a strong case for the bill’s defeat. In an era where nearly every single piece of legislation dies in the Senate, this one is worthy of that fate.

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March 1, 2013

The long-term US funding of anti-government programs in Syria has raised questions about the types of groups being supported, and the benefits and arms supplied to militant groups; establishing political stability requires considered dialogue.

It appears that the US State Department under John Kerry will soon shift its focus to helping the rebels establish a full-fledged alternative government on Syrian territory and recognize it as the legal government of Syria. Such a move would legitimize the transfer of heavy weaponry and would allow the US to directly employ air strikes or Patriot anti-missile batteries against Assad’s forces.

Some would argue that these moves could help to marginalize the notable al-Qaeda presence among rebel forces. Pumping more arms and heavier weapons into Syria is unconscionable at this point, and continuing to do so will inevitably bolster the muscle and reach of jihadi and Salafist fighters. The argument that the US and its allies have only armed the “moderate” rebels is a deeply flawed one; weapons are in high demand by all rebel factions and there is little means to effectively prevent arms from gravitating toward hardcore Al-Qaeda fighters.

In his famous 1962 description of irregular warfare operations, US President John F. Kennedy alluded to “another type of warfare,” one that is “new in its intensity, ancient in its origin—war by guerrillas, subversives, insurgents, assassins; war by ambush instead of by combat, by infiltration instead of aggression, seeking victory by eroding and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him. It preys on unrest.”

After two harrowing years of division, senseless killing and civil war, the scared Syrian nation and its people are well acquainted with these unconventional methods of warfare denounced over 50 years ago.

Yet Western and Gulf states have proven their double standards by enabling radicals elsewhere – lest we forget the presence of Libyan military commander Abdulhakim Belhadj, former leader of the militant Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (officially designated as a terrorist organization by the US State Department), who was sent to Syria to aid the Free Syrian Army on orders of the entity formerly known as the Libyan National Transition Council (NTC). The track record of allied Western and Gulf states shows that they are more interested in enabling terrorism for their own purposes rather than preventing it.

Since the eruption of violence in March 2011, Syria has endured targeted assassination campaigns, ceaseless suicide bombings and shelling, and massacres where infants have had their throats slit to the spine – the time has come for the opposition to engage the Assad government in dialogue and finally bring about a ceasefire and the total cessation of violence and insurgency.

From the reports of third-party sniper-fire targeting both protesters and security personnel in the southern city of Daraa at the very onset of the conflict, to the horrendous attacks on the students of Aleppo University in January 2013 – those who have critically monitored the situation from the beginning are under no illusions – the influx of armament and mercenary elements from abroad into Syria has brought the situation to where it is today. Western capitals have provided logistics, coordination, political support, and non-lethal aid, Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar have openly provided weapons and monthly salaries for rebel fighters, and Turkey has allowed rebel fighters to receive training and arms from the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the southeastern part of the country, allowing militants to pass into Syria freely.

There are those who say that Syria is the subject of an internal revolution that is brutally repressed by a malicious dictator, and those who say instead that Syria is being attacked by foreign powers who have deployed mercenaries and extremist fighters from abroad to engage in the destruction of infrastructure and conduct targeted assassinations to bring about an end to the Assad regime.  Despite Washington’s concerns of heavy weapons falling into the hands of Al-Qaeda-linked militants, the US-backed campaign to coax regime change in Damascus has from the very onset enabled militants who justify their acts of terror in the name of a perverted interpretation of Islam. Reports in the Washington Post indicate that US support for anti-government groups in Syria began in 2005, transcending two presidential administrations:

“The U.S. money for Syrian opposition figures began flowing under President George W. Bush after he effectively froze political ties with Damascus in 2005. The financial backing has continued under President Obama, even as his administration sought to rebuild relations with Assad. Syrian authorities ‘would undoubtedly view any U.S. funds going to illegal political groups as tantamount to supporting regime change,’ read an April 2009 cable signed by the top-ranking U.S. diplomat in Damascus at the time. ‘A reassessment of current U.S.-sponsored programming that supports anti-[government] factions, both inside and outside Syria, may prove productive,’ the cable said. The cables report persistent fears among U.S. diplomats that Syrian state security agents had uncovered the money trail from Washington.”

The article describes how Washington funnelled about $12 million to anti-government programs in Syria between 2005 and 2010 to recipients affiliated with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. Israel, which is now illegally conducting exploratory drilling in the occupied Golan Heights, and the US view the toppling of Damascus as a means of extinguishing the critical conduit between Iran and Hezbollah, the political and militant Shi’a organization centered in Southern Lebanon, in addition to helping isolate the Palestinian resistance.

The non-violent route: Laying aside differences

Both the incumbent Syrian authorities and the opposition must find strength to come to a mutually acceptable compromise. These parties have no other option than to search for a solution, lay down an agreeable constitutional basis for elections, and face each other in international monitored polls once the situation stabilizes. The Syrian people must not have democracy imposed on them, and the victor of this war should not be decided on the battlefield, but by the ballot box.

To gain the confidence of the electorate, election observers from the US, Qatar, Russia, and Iran could be sent to monitor the transition process – if the people of Syria want Assad to remain in power, then the rule of majority must be honored. Militant groups comprised of mostly hard line foreign fighters such as Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamist Ahrar al-Sham cannot be expected to participate in a ceasefire, so the true test of a short-term alliance between Assad and the SNC would be in its ability to cooperate in quelling radical militants and restoring stability – such is a perquisite for any kind of transition.

Former US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton once threatened Russia and China that they would “pay a price” for their position on the Syrian issue. It should be noted that these powers maintained a balanced approach throughout and advocated dialogue from the start, in addition to stringently adhering to former UN Envoy Kofi Annan’s six point peace plan. Iran should also be given due credit for hosting an International Consultative Conference in August 2012, which brought together representatives of thirty nations to call for ending the flow of foreign arms into terrorist hands inside Syria, proposals to broker a meaningful ceasefire, the coordination of humanitarian aid, and support for Syrian people’s right to reform without foreign interference.

Accommodating diversity in Syrian society

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted in the Washington Post stating, “Syrian society is a beautiful mosaic of ethnicities, faiths and cultures, and it will be smashed to pieces should President Bashar Assad abruptly fall. The idea that, in that event, there would be an orderly transition of power is an illusion. Abrupt political change without a roadmap for managed political transition will lead only to a precarious situation that would destabilize one of the world’s most sensitive regions.” It is clear that the Assad government is more stable than many Western states anticipated, and it continues to enjoy popular support.

Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah recently warned against sectarian infighting in Lebanon related to the Syrian civil war, arguing that outsiders are pushing Lebanon “toward civil and religious strife, and specifically Sunni-Shia strife.” Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki also warned that a victory for rebels would “create a new extremist haven and destabilize the wider Middle East.” The Syrian regime will not imminently collapse but if it is brought down by military intervention, the consequences could lead to a highly unpredictable situation where match and tinder can meet at any moment with debilitating consequences for the region. It is time for both parties to convene. It is time to end this war.

Selective support

Reports published in 2007 in the New Yorker by veteran journalist Seymour Hersh detail how the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia supported a regional network of extremist fighters and terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda with the aim of stomping out Hezbollah and Syria’s Assad in a bid to isolate Iran, who is viewed as an existential threat to the US and its allies in the region. A principal component of this policy shift was the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups, hence the ever-deepening sectarian nature of the Syrian conflict:

“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”

While the CIA has purportedly claimed to distribute arms only to “secular” and “moderate” rebel forces, Washington insiders from various academic and think-tank circles have openly endorsed bizarre positions in favor of integrating terrorists into Syria’s rebel forces. “Al-Qaeda’s Specter in Syria,” penned by Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Ed Husain, argues in favor of Al-Qaeda terrorists and their inclusion in the Free Syrian Army, stating, “The influx of jihadis brings discipline, religious fervour, battle experience from Iraq, funding from Sunni sympathizers in the Gulf, and most importantly, deadly results. In short, the FSA needs al-Qaeda now.” Foreign Policy’s, “Two Cheers for Syrian Islamists,” penned by Gary Gambill of the heavily neo-conservative Middle East Forum, argues in favor of Al-Qaeda, “Islamists — many of them hardened by years of fighting U.S. forces in Iraq — are simply more effective fighters than their secular counterparts. Assad has had extraordinary difficulty countering tactics perfected by his former jihadist allies, particularly suicide bombings and roadside bombs.”

While many Western media outlets once likened Syria’s rebels to pro-democracy freedom fighters, it has become more challenging to view them as anything other than Salafist radicals – the former’s existence was amplified specifically to provide cover and legitimacy for the violence and subversion of the latter. As a result of a foreign-backed insurgency, the Assad regime resorted to tactics of shelling and conducing air strikes on rebel strongholds, which were mostly in densely populated urban areas. It should not be denied that these heavy-handed tactics have also led to a substantial and regrettable loss of life.

The Friends of Syria group recently convened in Rome, where the US State Department has pledged $60 million to help the opposition maintain “the institutions of the state” in areas under their control, such as establishing terms of governance, the rule of law, and police forces. Reports have also claimed that the US is also deliberating more open engagement in Syria under newly appointed US Secretary of State John Kerry, however Washington has stopped short of openly providing arms and military training. American and western officials have told the New York Times that Saudi Arabia has recently financed a large purchase of infantry weapons from Croatia and funnelled them to Syrian rebel groups. Although the United States is not credited with providing arms to rebel forces, the New York Times has reported the presence of CIA operatives in southern Turkey since June 2012, who are distributing weapons with the Obama administration’s blessing. US spokesperson Jay Carney was quoted as saying, “We will continue to provide assistance to the Syrian people, to the Syrian opposition, we will continue to increase our assistance in the effort to bring about a post-Assad Syria.”

In early March 2013, the Syrian National Council (SNC) will meet in Istanbul to form a provisional government that would oversee rebel-held areas of the country. This wouldn’t be the first time the SNC has attempted to form a government; previous attempts in January 2013 fell apart, with many factions refusing to consider a prime ministerial nominee. SNC President Moaz al-Khatib has angered several factions for proposing his readiness to negotiate with the Assad government, a position that many in the opposition refuse to accept.

The Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari has urged the Friends of Syria states to convince the Syrian opposition to sit down for an unconditional national dialogue, which al-Khatib has expressed his willingness to take part in. One could surmise that al-Khatib’s shift toward dialogue indicates that the SNC is feeling less secure and more wary of a possible military defeat or rivalry with radical factions. Such a dialogue would undoubtedly represent a step in the right direction. Despite political differences and two years of deep conflict, these two parties must establish a genuine ceasefire and partnership to restore a climate of normality throughout the country. In this context, both parties must be able to agree on coordinating aid distribution to all parts of the country.

International recognition of a provisional SNC government would only create further divisions at a time when national unity is most needed. Although rebel-held areas are badly isolated and in need of humanitarian supplies, the delivery of aid must be facilitated through direct talks and partnership between Moaz al-Khatib’s Syrian National Council and Bashar Al-Assad’s government.

25 January 2012

The current news coverage concerning Iran is depicting a series of incidents, but when placed in the context of the events of the past few years – as I have done in my book The Next War – The attack on Iran – A preview as well as in this DeepJournal series – it is clear that all the pieces are being put into place for a war against Iran. It is a long-term project demanding many years worth of preparation, and the ultimate goal is getting closer all the time. One component of this preparation is the covert arming of Syrian rebels.

Syrische rebellen [jpg]A weakening of Syria is a weakening of Iran. ‘President Barack Obama’s National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, speaking a day after the United States announced new measures against Iran over its nuclear program, said that “end of the Assad regime would constitute Iran’s greatest setback in the region yet—a strategic blow that will further shift the balance of power in the region against Iran.”‘ Speaking last November on the unstable situation in Syria, Obama’s Secretary of State said: ‘I think there could be a civil war with a very determined and well-armed and eventually well-financed opposition […] something that we hate to see because we are in favor of a peaceful protest and a nonviolent opposition’. The first part of Hillary Clinton’s remark seemed more an expression of hope than the warning it tried to be, as made clear by the fact that NATO and the U.S. are currently supplying the Syrian rebels with Libyan weapons.

Covert Western weapons shipments to Syrian rebels
Opponents of the regime of Syrian President Assad are being secretly armed by the West. Unmarked airplanes belonging to NATO countries are landing at Turkish military bases close to the Syrian border. These flights deliver weapons originating from the arsenals of the late Muammar Gaddafi. The airplanes also contain volunteer fighters from the Libyan transitional council, ‘experienced in pitting local volunteers against trained soldiers, a skill they acquired confronting Gaddafi’s army’. Also the next step has been taken. ‘French and British special forces trainers are on the ground, assisting the Syrian rebels while the CIA and U.S. Spec Ops are providing communications equipment and intelligence to assist the rebel cause, enabling the fighters to avoid concentrations of Syrian soldiers’, writes the well-informed former CIA officer Phil Giraldi.

The road to Tehran runs through Damascus
The strategy of reaching Tehran through Damascus also seems to have been embraced by Saudi Arabia: ‘The King knows that other than the collapse of the Islamic Republic itself, nothing would weaken Iran more than losing Syria’, said a Saudi source speaking to Foreign Policy magazine in August of last year. Since that time there has been no let-up in developments. The Syrian situation is being eyed with suspicion by the Russians, who don’t see it quite as sentimentally as the Western public does: ‘The West is putting pressure on Syria because the country refuses to break off its alliance with Iran and not for repressing the opposition, said [Nikolai] Patrushev, who served with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in the Soviet-era KGB. “This time, it won’t be France, the U.K.Iran Assad Ahmadinejad [jpg]and Italy that will provide the main strike forces, but perhaps neighboring Turkey, which was until recently on good terms with Syria and is a rival of Iran with immense ambitions,” Patrushev said.’

Syrian power vacuum filled by Islamic interests
Russia is worried about the future: ‘Russia, which has a naval base in Syria and sells weapons to the Middle Eastern country, is more concerned that Islamic radicals may come to power, said Irina Zvyagelskaya, a Middle East analyst at the Academy of Sciences in Moscow. “Our fear is that Syria could collapse and extremist Islamic forces will seize control that no one will be pleased about,” Zvyagelskaya said in a phone interview today. “This could destabilize the entire region.”’ Phil Giraldi would agree with this analysis. He writes: ‘In the United States, many friends of Israel are on the Assad regime-change bandwagon, believing that a weakened Syria, divided by civil war, will present no threat to Tel Aviv. But they should think again, as these developments have a way of turning on their head. The best organized and funded opposition political movement in Syria is the Muslim Brotherhood.’ Hillary Clinton: ‘Look, Assad’s going to be gone; it’s just a question of time.’

Intelligence professionals warn Obama
Phil Giraldi has been warning of the coming war against Iran for years now, which in his opinion could lead to WWIII. ‘As professionals with collectively hundreds of years of experience in intelligence, foreign policy, and counterterrorism, we are Syrië Damascus kaartje [jpg]concerned about the gross misrepresentation of facts being bruited about to persuade you to start another war.’ This is the first sentence from a letter sent to President Obama from Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, signers of which include Giraldi. The group of intelligence specialists warns him not to launch a war against Iran. ‘We are seeing a replay of the “Iraq WMD threat.”’ It’s a sound argument, and one that I expand on in my book The Next War. This group of experts concludes the letter with this sentence: ‘We are currently winding down what you labeled a “dumb war;” we should not undertake another dumb war against a country almost three times larger than Iraq, that would set off a major regional war and create generations of jihadis. Such a war, contrary to what some argue, would not make Israel or the U.S. safer.’

Clinton: Al Qaeda, U.S., Helping Syrian Rebels

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has admitted that Al-Qaeda and other groups on the State Department’s terror list are on the same side as the United States in Syria and that they are aiding opposition rebels.

In an interview with BBC News (watch video), Clinton states, “We have a very dangerous set of actors in the region, Al-Qaeda, Hamas, and those who are on our terrorist list, to be sure, supporting – claiming to support the opposition [in Syria].”

Clinton’s admission that Al-Qaeda is supporting the armed insurrection in Syria dovetails with reports that the same Al-Qaeda terrorists who helped overthrow Colonel Gaddafi in Libya were airlifted into Syria by NATO forces.

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri’s has also publicly expressed support for Syrian rebel forces.

These terrorists have been blamed for bloody attacks that have killed both Syrian regime officials and innocent civilians, including a bombing earlier this month in Syria’s second city of Aleppo which killed 28 people.

The recent Arab League report, which was almost universally ignored by the mainstream media, also concluded that both sides of the conflict were responsible for indiscriminate violence and that terrorist groups were helping the rebels carry out attacks.

Despite the admission that terrorists are aiding opposition forces in Syria, the establishment media has attempted to pour cold water on the issue, primarily through mouthpieces like ‘Syria Danny’ – an “activist” who has been afforded ample time by the corporate press to beg for a military invasion.

“It is richly ironic that the unelected fundamentalist Sunni regimes of the Persian Gulf are supporting Al Qaeda affiliated groups within Syria purportedly to “bring about democratic reforms,” writes Professor Michel Chossudovsky. “This is the same dynamic that prevailed in Libya where the overthrow of that country’s government by Western and Gulf Arab powers has now led to a collapse in human rights and social conditions.”

Despite claims to the contrary, a general in the Free Syria Army, the opposition militia, has told journalists that the rebels are being armed with anti-aircraft missiles by the United States and France.

“In Homs on Tuesday, a general claiming to be from the rebel group appeared on camera and told a journalist from Reuters news agency that “French and American assistance has reached us and is with us.” When asked to elaborate on the nature of the assistance he added, “We now have weapons and anti-aircraft missiles and, God willing, with all of that we will defeat Bashar [President Assad],” reports RT.

Former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds also reported that US troops landed on the Jordanian and Syrian border back in December for the purpose of training militants to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

It was also revealed earlier this month that British Special Forces are already on the ground in Syria advising and directing the rebel army.

US President Barack Obama’s renewed warning against Syria this week, that any use of chemical weapons by Syrian government forces is a red line triggering direct military assault on the country, can be seen as the Western powers moving towards their endgame of “regime change.”

After 21 months of international conspiracy, the American-led propaganda war on Syria seems to be moving towards the endgame of providing the political cover for direct Western military attack on that unfortunate country.
This is, of course, outrageously criminal. But it is entirely predictable from the bigger picture strategic agenda of Washington and its allies: to roll over the anti-imperialist Syrian enemy, install a pliable pro-Western regime, and then pave the way for the next round of war in the region – against Iran.

Washington first raised the specter of Syrian chemical weapons several months ago and warned then that it would be forced to act militarily in order to “secure” such alleged stockpiles.

Now the American president and his officials are rekindling fears of this contingency, with the added alleged development that the Syrian government of President Bashar Al Assad has become so desperate to survive that it is preparing to mobilize chemical warheads.

Speaking in Washington, Obama upbraided the Syria government that “the world is watching” and that there would be “consequences” for any such deployment.

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton echoed the warning and described the use of these weapons as “a red line.” Tellingly, she added that if there is “any evidence” that the Syrian military had begun to use chemical warheads then “we are certainly planning to take action.”

Various Western media reported that American officials have over the past week stepped up contact with counterparts in other Western states to formulate a military response. This is said to include limited air strikes and the dispatch of thousands of ground forces.

Previously, the US and other Western governments had declined to commit military forces to Syria, as they had done in Libya last year, preferring the covert option of proxy forces, including Persian Gulf Arab weapon suppliers and mercenary fighters. That calculus seems to be now changing.

The first point to note from above is that the allegations of Syria mobilizing chemical weapons are stemming from unnamed and unverifiable American military intelligence sources, who have been busily briefing, anonymously, the major news media organizations, including CNN and the New York Times. These “reports” are then amplified by other Western media outlets, such as the Washington Post, BBC, Financial Times and Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

This is the same process of disinformation that set Iraq up for an illegal nine-year war of aggression, beginning in 2003 – with over one million people killed – over that country’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

It is the same scurrilous, criminal process that has set up Iran up for crippling – and illegal – economic sanctions over unfounded allegations of nuclear weapons, which are in turn fuelling tensions towards a possible all-out war on the Islamic Republic.

That’s why Obama and Clinton’s latest warning words to Syria are ominous. “The world is watching… for any evidence of chemical weapons.” In other words, the world is being prepared for a “shocking revelation” by American and Western spy agencies and ventriloquist media, who are about as trustworthy as a nest of scorpions and rattlesnakes.

The second point to note is that the Syrian government has repeatedly denied possession of chemical weapons and that if it had such munitions it would not deploy them against its own citizens.

Apart from the CIA and other anonymous secret service agents doing their best through trusty media outlets to whip up hysteria about sarin, VX, mustard gas and other horrors, the other tactic by Western forces is to portray the Damascus government as increasingly panicky and therefore sufficiently under duress that it would resort to such weapons.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told media, “We believe that with the regime’s grip on power loosening, with its failure to put down the opposition through conventional means, we have an increased concern about the possibility of the regime taking the desperate act of using its [alleged] chemical weapons.”

Well, a big part of the reason unmentioned by the White House for why the Syrian military is failing to put down the opposition is because of the criminal, massive flow of weapons, funds, logistics, mercenaries and covert personnel that the American government and its Western allies and regional proxies have been funneling into Syria.

There is no doubting that after 21 months of unrelenting violence, the Western-backed insurgents and foreign mercenaries are taking a heavy toll on Syrian society and the Damascus government’s control.

Reports of recent significant military gains by the foreign-backed militants have indeed intensified efforts by the government to maintain its authority over the ravaged country.

In particular, American-made surface-to-air missiles, reportedly supplied by Qatar and also possibly Saudi Arabia, appear to have lately given the anti-government militants crucial extra firepower and important tactical and territorial advantages.

Western military sources are reportedly of the view that the Syrian national army and air force retain the upper-hand and are too strong to be seriously threatened with defeat.

Nevertheless, with the Western-fomented havoc wreaking Syria – up to 700,000 refugees, five million displaced, 30-50,000 dead out of a population of 20 million – it is all too easy to portray and perceive an atmosphere of doom and desperation, which is then cited by the White House and its anonymous media agents as a “tipping point” for the imminent deployment of alleged chemical weapons of mass destruction.

To this end, there seems to be a concerted effort in the past few days to convey the image of a country falling apart.

Turkish officials have disclosed that it was fears that Syria may use chemical weapons against opposition militants on its border areas that prompted Ankara to request the supply of Patriot anti-missile systems in the coming weeks.

Both the UN and the European Union are reported as closing down activities in Syria on grounds of “security concerns” and both organizations are said to be preparing for the imminent evacuation of all staff from the country.

Regional airlines, including Egypt Air and Dubai’s Emirates Airline, have this week cancelled regular services to Syria on the basis of “safety concerns”. Both countries, it should be noted, are firmly in the Western geopolitical camp of demanding Assad’s overthrow.

Last weekend, the Syrian population was cut off from telecommunications in a three-day blackout that was blamed on sabotage. That too is serving to heighten an atmosphere of duress that the Western powers can cite as “evidence” that the Syrian authorities are “preparing to use chemical weapons”.

November 6, 2012

After 20 months from the outset of the Syrian crisis, the US eventually decided to dismiss the main opposition leader and replace him with its own selected council.

The reactions by some of the leaders of the so-called Syrian National Council (SNC) indicate that they have not been aware of the decision before the news was announced.

Syria

Syria

For the past few months, there have been reports of US efforts to unite the opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and holding a broad meeting for them in the Qatari capital, Doha. But no one expected the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to suddenly announce just a few days ahead of the meeting that the SNC does not represent the Syrian nation and to sarcastically say that many of them have “not been in Syria for 20, 30, or 40 years.”

Has Clinton just noticed that former Chairman of the SNC Burhan Ghalioun and the faction’s incumbent leader, Abdulbaset Sieda, have been teaching at French and Swedish universities for decades? Or has something new come up to prompt the US secretary of state to evict the SNC?

The killing of the US ambassador to Libya has probably had a major impact on the change in Washington’s view. The North African country has not formed a comprehensive ruling system yet and Tripoli has become the scene of confrontations among rival militant groups on a daily basis. Moreover, the fall of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi has prepared the ground for the rise of al-Qaeda and Wahhabis in Libya, Morocco and their southern neighbors. The chaos in Mali and the seizure of its northern regions by pro-al-Qaeda groups is a clear instance of that trend. Meanwhile, Algeria and Morocco feel a greater danger in this regard.

The so-called Free Syrian Army does not exist in Syria and the name is an umbrella for all the disparate groups conducting operations in the country. The US is concerned that if the Syrian ruling system collapses, and those separate groups become rival factions, a Libya-like situation will be created in Syria. Moreover, Washington has overtly expressed concern over the growth of extremist Salafis in Syria’s armed conflicts.

Former US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, and prominent Syrian dissident Riad Seif have devised the plan for the new formation of the opposition groups and their unity. A 50-member council is also scheduled to form another committee to serve as an interim government or a transitional council for Syria. Riad Seif expects the new so-called government to be recognized by more than 100 countries.

The formation of the new opposition council is scheduled to be announced after the US presidential election. In other words, any US administration will continue Washington’s policy of interference in Syria, and will recognize the new opposition council.

The SNC has had such a disappointing performance for the US and West that Washington itself was compelled to take the initiative directly and, as Clinton said, it has selected the members of the new council beforehand. Such an authoritarian and coup like attitude from the US was Washington’s last resort to unite the Syrian opposition. The EU has no independent initiative either, and — like the Palestine crisis — it is waiting for the US scenarios to follow suit. Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia are in a far worse predicament, compared with Europe. Ankara has realized that all its efforts to bring the SNC to power have been in vain.

The reason behind the confusion is that neither the US nor its allies in the so-called Friends of Syria group had a clear understanding of the Syrian crisis at the outset and thought that, like the former Tunisian and Egyptian regimes, the Syrian government will be toppled within a few weeks or, like the former Libyan government, it will collapse with foreign military intervention. The resistance of Assad and the Syrian army, continuation of the crisis, weakness of the opposition, emergence of allegedly unwanted elements (al-Qaeda) and likelihood of the spillover of the crisis into the neighboring countries were the realities that Washington gradually accepted.

While, a quick scan of the Middle Eastern newspapers unmasked the wrong policy of the US and the West, it’s not clear what the West’s colossal research centers, CIA, the US Department of State, and US National Security Council had been busy doing.

Despite the fact that Washington dismissed the SNC with such a disrespectful manner, the opposition group has no option but to participate at the Doha meeting, hoping to gain control over at least one-third of the new council. The new council will be very docile as it will vanish overnight in the absence of the US and its allies. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood will hold control over the next council, as it was the case in the previous one. The movement does not scruple to forge ties with anyone in an attempt to come to power.

The major characteristic of this new phase in Syria will consist a more serious and blatant interference in the country. Military, financial, and political assistance will rise. Efforts will be made to stop Qatar and Saudi Arabia to strengthen Wahhabis, and to make sure that the sent weapons do not reach al-Qaeda.

Another characteristic of the US’s plan will be focusing on the two main sustaining pillars of the Syria’s administration, the Syrian army and the General Security Directorate, in order for the challenges of the post-Saddam Iraq not to recur. France has also reacted to this and agreed to upholding the Syrian Army.

After all, some of the opposition wings inside Syria are not ready to attend the Doha meeting. Abdulbaset Sieda says the SNC has been pressured to negotiate with the Syrian government. Objecting to US’s disrespectful manner, some of the members of the council also say that the Doha meeting aims to pave the way for negotiations with Assad.

During the next days, more news will be published about the insurgents’ military attacks, their seizure of an oilfield, or crash of a fighter aircraft belonging to the Syrian army. However, the idea that Syrian army retreats from some regions to create the space for rival groups to clash, emerges gradually.

Syrian rebels are reportedly receiving British intelligence on regime troops’ whereabouts, as fighting in the country continues.

19 August 2012

Forces loyal to President Bashar al Assad have reportedly used helicopter gunfire and mortars in the battle for Aleppo, amid fresh claims British intelligence is helping rebel fighters to oust the Syrian leader.

According to an opposition official, information on Syrian troop movements is helping rebels launch successful attacks on regime forces in the second city, where both sides have been locked in fierce fighting for weeks.

“British intelligence is observing things closely from Cyprus,” the official told The Sunday Times.

“It’s very useful because they find out a great deal.

“The British are giving the information to the Turks and the Americans and we are getting it from the Turks.”

Protesters against the Assad regime in Idlib

Protesters against the Assad regime in Idlib

The newspaper quoted the official as saying British authorities “know about and approve 100%” intelligence from their Cyprus military bases being passed through Turkey to the rebel troops of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

“The British monitor communications about movements of the government army and we got information about reinforcements being on their way to Aleppo,” the official continued.

“We hit at the government troops in Idlib and Saraqib (southwest of Aleppo), with success.”

It is the first indication that British intelligence is playing a covert role in the anti-regime revolt.

Aleppo – the country’s commercial centre – has become the focus of the 17-month conflict, partly because of its strategic location near the Turkish border.

President Assad at a mosque in Damascus (Pic: Syrian state TV)

President Assad at a mosque in Damascus (Pic: Syrian state TV)

Meanwhile, Christians in Damascus have been telling Sky Foreign Affairs Editor Tim Marshall of their fears for the future as bloodhshed threatens the country’s secular society.

The patriarch of a Greek Catholic church in the Syrian capital says some Christians fear they could be forced out of the country after a civil war, as has happened in other countries touched by Arab Spring unrest.

Syrian state TV has aired footage of President Assad at a mosque in Damascus.

In his first public appearance since the beginning of July, Mr Assad attended a prayer service to mark the start of Eid.

On Saturday, opposition fighters clashed with Syrian troops close to the city’s airport.

Also, Syria denied reports that Mr Assad’s deputy, vice-president Farouq al Shara, had defected.

More than 18,000 people have died in the bloodshed so far and around 170,000 have fled the country, according to the United Nations.