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Rime Allaf on Syria

No, actually, Syria is not an “again” but an absolute first. It is nothing like Bosnia or Rwanda or Chechnya or any other “never again” genocidal event in history. It is a macabre Truman Show, an uninterrupted 6-year long live reality TV program watched globally 24/7 on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, on Skype, WhatsApp and Viber.

“Never again” doesn’t apply to us, for what has been done to Syria has never been done before. Our tragic fate is to be the modern age’s “never before.”

Never before has the world been able to observe – in real time – the destruction of a nation and the extermination of a people who dared to demand freedom. Never before has a civilian population been filmed under attack with Scud missiles, barrel bombs and chemical weapons by its “own” illegitimate authorities. Never before have starvation sieges and old-fashioned barbaric massacres been so documented as they happened. Never before has mass torture been so evidenced. And never before has the world’s indifferent silence been so loud, save for perfunctory condemnations and erasable red lines.

Indeed, never before has the mightiest superpower the world has ever known shamelessly pretended to be impotent, and never before has it had the temerity of falsely pleading with the Syrian people’s executioners for grace and mercy, the same grace and mercy it denied Syrians by rejecting their desperate appeals for protection.

Never again? You mean never before. Hell of a legacy.

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Last Rebels in Aleppo Say Assad Forces Are Burning People Alive

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As the Syrian dictator’s coalition captures the last rebel-held neighborhoods, residents are bidding the world farewell and opposition media says mass atrocities have already begun.

MICHAEL WEISS

ROY GUTMAN

ALEX ROWELL

12.13.16 5:15 AM ET

Amid celebratory gunfire and cheers from Assad loyalists, foreign militias under Iranian command and troops loyal to the regime on Monday captured about 90 percent of the opposition-held areas of eastern Aleppo.

The last hope of the besieged rebels, most of whom seem to have withdrawn in the face of certain defeat, had been to receive reinforcements or resupplies from their counterparts in the southern and western suburbs. That option has now been foreclosed upon as these routes are completely interdicted by the regime.

read full article here

The Guardian view on Aleppo: the west’s grim failure

As Assad’s forces, backed by the Russians, make their final move on Syria’s second city, the world can only count the cost of a humanitarian and military disaster it failed to stop

Syrian residents flee the rebel-held eastern part of Aleppo, 30 November 2016. Photograph: George Ourfalian/AFP/Getty Images

Exhausted parents clutching terrified children in their arms, young people pushing the old in makeshift carts or wheelchairs and families pulling overstuffed suitcases: the scenes from east Aleppo are those of a new exodus. As Syrian government forces move on the last urban stronghold of the anti-Assad opposition, helped by Shia militias from Iraq, Iran and Hezbollah, hundreds of men have been rounded up and disappeared. Their relatives, as well as human rights activists, fear they may already be dead, or have become victims of Assad’s network of jails and torture centres where thousands have been murdered.

Aleppo families fear for 500 men seized by forces loyal to Assad
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The Syrian and Russian onslaught has been going on for weeks. But now it is at a new intensity, as it approaches what may be the end game. A strategy of indiscriminate bombing, terror and destruction, the UN was told, threatens to turn this part of Syria’s second city into a giant graveyard. Syrian army leaflets dropped on the city warn the inhabitants that they must flee, or face annihilation.

Rebel-held Aleppo seems condemned to utter destruction and defeat. Posted on social media, citizens’ desperate messages resemble final pleas, all hope gone. A UN representative has described the situation as a “descent into hell”. US Department of State officials have made it clear that nothing much can be done; western countries have convened an emergency security council meeting, but beyond words of condemnation and warnings of a humanitarian catastrophe in the making – France has spoken of “what could be the biggest massacres of civilian population since the second world war” – the powerlessness of UN institutions is obvious. In London, at prime minister’s questions , the SNP’s Angus Robertson at least got the Syrian crisis into the discussion. Labour again passed by on the other side.

Meanwhile, Russia’s propaganda machine is hard at work alongside the Syrian regime’s, trying to frame these events as the “liberation” of a population described as hostages of Islamic terrorists. This is as false as it is cynical. “Terrorists” is the label attached to the opposition to Assad ever since the outbreak of the 2011 street uprising against his dictatorship – a revolution that morphed into a full-on civil war after the Damascus government decided to deploy military power, including missiles, barrel bombs and chemical weapons, against its own population. By the summer of 2015, President Assad seemed on the verge of being overthrown. Then Russia launched its military intervention – all the while paying lip service to a diplomatic process the US administration pursued to no avail.

The battle for eastern Aleppo in maps: how rebel territory is shrinking
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Russia’s move was aimed at reversing the war’s dynamics and consolidating its beleaguered ally, President Assad. Entrenched in Syria, with powerful S-400 air defence systems installed, it took advantage of western reluctance to get embroiled in the conflict, at a time when Washington had made plain that its priority was fighting Islamic State (Isis), rather than putting an end to the massacres carried out by President Assad’s forces. Russia has not only turned a blind eye to these atrocities, it has assisted them. In Moscow, officials now indicate that the situation in east Aleppo will be “resolved” by the end of the year. Make no mistake, that means that the estimated 250,000 inhabitants still remaining at the start of this week will be forced either to leave, or face arrest or death.

The fate of rebel-held Aleppo spells the abject failure of the west’s contradictory and piecemeal policies. It is a humiliation for the UN. Its fall will be an unequivocal victory for Russian strategy. Aleppo will join an infamous list of cities whose names are synonymous with mass crimes committed while the world looked impotently on: Srebrenica, Grozny, even Guernica. Once again, it’s never again. The consequences, both for radicalisation and for the balance of power in the region, are hard to fathom exactly. But they will not be good.

 

Aleppo Under Siege with No Hospital, Food

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Notes towards a theory of Max Blumenthal

As half a million souls have evaporated into smoke, largely at the hands of the Assad regime, Max Blumenthal instructs his readers to be suspicious of the organizations dedicated to putting a lid on the suffering.

He performs this by making a few salient points about the problematic nature of NGOization, funding channels and influence of big powers which tend to haunt aid organizations everywhere, particularly those operating in desperate situations. He goes on to point out that those organizations are toeing the line of Washington’s foreign policy elites who are calling for an NFZ in order to overthrow the regime.  Of course, one needn’t wonder if maybe, just maybe, the countless barrel bombs, cluster bombs, chlorine bombs, thermite bombs and bunker busters may have anything to do with compelling one to calling for an NFZ.

I don’t have to rehearse the criticism made but you can read Scott Lucas’ forceful rebuttal to his piece here and others’ here.

What I’m interested in what went on in his head before he sharpened his pencils. What is the purpose of transforming aid organizations during the time of war and genocide into objects of scrutiny and suspicion? Who does that serve?

The task is made difficult once one recalls that Blumenthal, after all, used to be one of us—that is, on the side of Syria’s democrats and revolutionaries. In 2012, he resigned from al-Akhbar over what he called the “newspaper leadership’s pro-Assad tendency”, pointing out that:

Yet the mere existence of Western meddling does not automatically make Assad a subaltern anti-imperial hero at the helm of a “frontline resisting state,” as Ghorayeb has sought to paint him. Nor does it offer any legitimate grounds for nickel-and-diming civilian casualty counts, blaming the victims of his regime, or hyping the Muslim Threat Factor to delegitimize the internal opposition . . . Besides exploiting the Palestinian cause, the Assad apologists have eagerly played the Al Qaeda card to stoke fears of an Islamic takeover of Syria . . .In joining the Assad regime’s campaign to delegitimize the Syrian opposition by casting it as a bunch of irrational jihadis (ironically, they seem to have little problem with Hezbollah’s core Islamist values), Assad’s apologists have unwittingly adopted the “war on terror” lexicon introduced by George W. Bush, Ariel Sharon, and the neocon cabal after 9-11. Not only have they invoked the scary specter of The Terrorists (gasp!) to justify morally indefensible acts of violent repression . . . “

What bothers Blumenthal today isn’t the somewhat common silence or apologia for Assad and Putin in alt-journalism and left-wing circles, nor is it the ongoing intervention of Russia, Iran and sectarian militias on behalf of a brutal regime. What bothers him is a hypothetical regime change operation undertaken by the United States. These are classic, even caricatural, tropes that he railed against not too long ago.

Enquiring minds wish to know: how can someone who has stood on the side of justice consistently suddenly barbarize themselves this quickly?

“The great Indian disaster of 1947 has barely entered the public consciousness. Distance, and a sense of helplessness, presumably account nowadays for this seeming indifference, just as they account for the relative calm that greets the news from Nigeria. What can one do about it, and who cares about dead African babies anyway? Certainly not the New Left: its leaders have not uttered a sound on the subject. But then there is no political mileage to be got out of a conflict which opposes Africans (with some foreign backing) to each other. As for morality, we all know by now what the Realpolitiker of the New Left (not to mention the Old Right) think of such sickly bourgeois sentiments.”—George Lichtheim

If it has been said that the institution of slavery is war and can only be defeated by war, the same can be said about the Assad regime. No serious observer thinks that Assad will cede an inch of power to the opposition without military defeat or threat. The regime has made up its mind about a Final Solution a long time ago. “Assad or we burn the country” as a pro-regime graffiti encapsulates the logic.

Blumenthal is forcefully aware of all of this. In fact, he’s written about it and has likely concluded that the war of extermination will continue unabated unless there’s some limited form of foreign intervention.

But he’s grown torn between maintaining an internationalist commitment to Syrian democrats and the fear of being in the bad company of neocons. It’s clear that Blumenthal simply sees no other way—or lacks the confidence to do so—to appear to be in such bad company without compromising himself morally.

Knowing this, he inserts his head and hands into the pillory. Thinking to himself that only by earning the scorn of neoconseratives—whom he could represent as the spear of the backlash—can he turn himself into a victim deserving commiseration and, in his mind, self-exoneration from the guilt of silence. And here’s something he could really believe in. But what he doesn’t know is that in the process he has doubly compromised himself by turning the figure of the neocon into a straw man that can be hung over the head of the defenceless and their advocates in the West.

Hence why I don’t think what he wrote is journalism. It’s an exercise in a sort of secularized Catholic penance for the white man’s burden. In other words, he has contrived an all-too solipsistic performance of self-flaeggelation that has effectively shut Syrians’ voices out, hence why he didn’t interview a single Syrian for his piece. The issue isn’t what Syrians think, the issue is that John McCain happens to agree with some of their demands.

Blumenthal wants to have it both ways. He, and his contemporaries, think they can sustain a politics of Realpolitik while avoiding the impression that they are callous. He wants to maintain the commitment of refusing a compromise with U.S. imperialism in a world far from ideal (such virtue! such courage!) while avoiding an uneasy conscience. Why call for some form of limited intervention when it can fail and perhaps haunt your career forever? After all, it’s only dead Syrians.

“I was right to be wrong, while you and your kind were wrong to be right”—Pierre Coutrade

But he sees a bigger payoff with what he’s written. He’s banking on the likelihood that sooner or later the United States and its European allies will intervene to put a halt to the carnage that is tearing not just the Middle-East apart, but at the very fabric of European democracy. In other words, he wants the United States to intervene.

That is the only way he can be redeemed for what he wrote. And when that happens, he’d like to be there to tell us that despite his Machiavellian cynicism that was fiercely criticized, he was right all along. He has crucified himself on the cross, and like the Christ’s body, he carries within him the prospect of redemption. In his mind, he may be wrong but he’s wrong for the right reasons.

Cynical, right?

It is worth noting that Christopher Hitchens took such a gamble too when he decided to support the invasion of Iraq—betraying his own principles and friends in the process. Like Hitchens, he carries a violently contemptuous attitude towards his former comrades whom he derides for their naïveté, principle and “idealism.” Despite adopting the symbols of liberation and inverting the signs, Hitchens after all still considered himself a leftist, even a Marxist, as late as 2010. Because isn’t that an effective prophylactic against an uneasy conscience?

By attacking the only groups and individuals who are committed to the protection of civilians in Syria, Blumenthal has found a target to sublimate and project what he called his “anguish” at the carnival of apologia and conspicuous silence from those on the Left After all, we—those who stress political and arms support for Syria’s democrats—have been fighting a lost battle for the hearts and minds of progressives in the West. Not knowing how to help without committing the Great Apostasy of demanding that the liberal democracies pull their weight around Syria’s democrats, Blumenthal has come to be tired of the despair and discomfort of calling for help from the imperium—who wouldn’t? What he wants instead is to make sense of it all. He wants to give his life and its place in History meaning.

That’s why he thinks it’s 2003. Those were simpler times, when the world was divided between the Good and the Neocon. When opposing your government’s war assured you immunity from moral conundrums. And if you buy the thesis that history does indeed repeat itself, you can avoid ruminating on the constantly terrifying novelty of the present.

Such farce.

Shorn of all substance, all that remains is the affect and optics of interrogating imperialism. But if you look past the optics, you realize that the ontology at play remains deeply entrenched in a colonial unconscious. “We are the prime movers of History” is a fairly therapeutic thought amidst the chaos.

 

Rime Allaf on Syria

For every envious mad Max spewing lies as Noble men search for life under the rubble, for every acolyte unleashing on a valiant people vicious slander in a quixotic quest for relevance, for every electronic warrior sacrificing basic truths on a putrid altar of rejectionism to anything not revolving around them, for every opportunistic scribe poisoning minds as innocents gasp for breath in poisoned air, for every petty mercenary braying the empty slogans of a false resistance rotten to the core, for every accessory to crimes against humanity raking in the blood money of a people left abandoned to Russian roulette, for every pompous charlatan ignoring Assad’s barbaric butchery while fabricating pitiful conspiracies, for every such degenerate there are millions of Syrians who have lived and died by the inspirational words of a Declaration they never even had a chance to know. They deserve life, they deserve liberty.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

A Call to Stop the Bombing of Aleppo

Friends for a NonViolent WorldF N V W Calls for Stopping the Bombing of Aleppo

It is time for all peace organizations to speak out clearly.  We at FNVW since 2011 have supported both the Syrian nonviolent movement and nonviolent activists in their struggle for human rights and a democratic Syria for all Syrians without any group monopolizing power to impose its own agenda.

Throughout this struggle FNVW has opposed the United States as well as any other country or organization sending weapons and/or troops to any of the parties in the conflict. Friends for a NonViolent World affirmed that the United States must remain solely committed to diplomatic and humanitarian efforts to resolve this crisis.  And we have been outspoken in our opposition to the extreme Salafist groups in the armed opposition and any party in the conflict who have committed crimes against humanity.

Both the Guardian and the New York Times document what has been happening in Aleppo.

We at FNVW unequivocally condemn the crimes against the Syrian people and crimes against humanity, Russia and the Assad regime are perpetrating in Aleppo. The intentional killing of civilians is a war crime.  Putin’s and Assad’s brutal use of bunker busting bombs, thermobarbaric weapons, barrel bombs and phosphorus are resulting in devastating, unspeakable consequences for civilians. Government forces also have targeted the volunteer humanitarian group, the White Helmets, halting their rescue efforts.

The chart from the Violations Documentation Center in Syria answers the question of “Who kills civilians in Syria?”

These weapons do not distinguish between civilians and combatants.  Their goal is to terrorize into submission or displace people.  The use of this lethal weaponry is immoral and contravenes international law.

FNVW calls on both the Russian and Syrian governments to immediately halt their air strikes and war crimes in Aleppo.

Both the Guardian and the New York Times document what has been happening in Aleppo.

“‘Hell itself’: Aleppo reels from alleged use of bunker-buster bombs”, The Guardian

“Why So Many Children Are Being Killed in Aleppo”, New York Times

source

Against all odds, village republics take hold in Syria

 

Robin Yassin-Kassab

thenational.ae |

 

Destroyed buildings near a mosque in Daraya, Syria. AFP Photo
Destroyed buildings near a mosque in Daraya, Syria. AFP Photo

You may think Syrians are condemned to an unpleasant choice between Bashar Al Assad and the jihadists. But the real choice being fought out by Syrians is between violent authoritarianism on the one hand and grassroots democracy on the other.

Interviewing activists, fighters and refugees for our book Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War, we discovered the democratic option is real, even if beleaguered. To the extent that life continues in the liberated but heavilybombed areas – areas independent of both the Assad regime and ISIL – it continues because self-organised local councils are supplying services and aid.

For example, Daraya, a suburb west of Damascus now suffering its fourth year under starvation siege, is run by a council. Its 120 members select executives by vote every six months. The council head is chosen by public election. The council runs schools, a hospital,and a public kitchen, and manages urban agricultural production. Its office supervises the Free Syrian Army militias defending the town. Amid constant bombardment, Daraya’s citizen journalists produce a newspaper, Enab Baladi, which promotes non-violent resistance. In a country once known as a “kingdom of silence”, there are more than 60 independent newspapers and many free radio stations.

And as soon as the bombing eases, people return to the streets with their banners. Recent demonstrations against Jabhat Al Nusra across Idlib province indicate that the Syrian desire for democracy burns as fiercely as ever.

Where possible, the local councils are democratically elected – the first free elections in half a century. Omar Aziz, a Syrian economist and anarchist, provided the germ. In the revolution’s eighth month he published a paper advocating the formation of councils in which citizens could arrange their affairs free of the tyrannical state. Aziz helped set up the first bodies, in suburbs of Damascus. He died in regime detention in 2013, a month before his 64th birthday. But by then, councils had sprouted all over the country.

Some council members were previously involved in the revolution’s original grassroots formations. They were activists, responsible first for coordinating protests and publicity, then for delivering aid and medicine. Other members represented prominent families or tribes, or were professionals selected for specific practical skills.

In regime-controlled areas, councils operate in secret. But in liberated territory people can organise publicly. These are tenacious but fragile experiments. Some are hampered by factionalism. Some are bullied out of existence by jihadists.

Manbij, a northern city, once boasted its own 600-member legislature and 20-member executive, a police force, and Syria’s first independent trade union. Then ISIL seized the grain silos and the democrats were driven out. Today Manbij is called “Little London” for its preponderance of English-accented jihadists.

In some areas the councils appear to signal Syria’s atomisation rather than a new beginning. Christophe Reuter calls it a “revolution of localists” when he describes “village republics””such as Korin, in Idlib province, with its own court and a 10-person council.

But Aziz envisaged councils connecting the people regionally and nationally, and democratic provincial councils now operate in the liberated parts of Aleppo, Idlib and Deraa. In the Ghouta region near Damascus, militia commanders were not permitted to stand as candidates. Fighters were, but only civilians won seats.

In Syria’s three Kurdish-majority areas, collectively known as Rojava, a similar system prevails, though the councils there are known as communes. In one respect they are more progressive than their counterparts elsewhere – 40 per cent of seats are reserved for women. In another, they are more constrained – they work within the larger framework of the PYD, which monopolises control of finances, arms and media.

The elected council members are the only representative Syrians we have. They should be key components in any serious settlement.

In a post-Assad future, local democracy could allow polarised communities to coexist under the Syrian umbrella.

Towns could legislate locally according to their demographic and cultural composition and mood. The alternative to enhanced local control is new borders, new ethnic cleanings, new wars. At the very least, the councils deserve political recognition by the United States and others. Council members should be a key presence on the opposition’s negotiating team at any talks.

And the councils deserve protection. Mr Al Assad’s bombs hit the schools, hospitals, bakeries, and residential blocks that the councils are trying desperately to service. If the bombardment were stopped the councils would no longer be limited to survival. They could focus instead on rebuilding Syrian nationhood and further developing popular institutions.

As the US-led invasion of Iraq showed us, only the people themselves can build their democratic structures. And today Syrians are practising democracy, building their own institutions, in the most difficult of circumstances. Their efforts don’t fit in with the easy Assad-or-ISIL narrative, however, and so we rarely deign to notice.

Robin Yassin-Kassab is co-author of Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War

 

Omar Souleyman – Warni Warni (Official Video)

 

Warni Warni (Come to Me) English translation lyrics:
Come to me come to me
Oh beautiful, you charmed me with your dark complexion
You can have me and my love easily
You can have me and my love easily
Oh beautiful, you charmed me with your dark complexion
You can have me and my love easily
Oh beautiful, you charmed me with your dark complexion
They told me that we’ll get married, I cannot live without you
They told me that we’ll get married, I cannot live without you
You’re for me like the water and the air that I breathe that I cannot survive without
They told me that we’ll get married, I cannot live without you
They told me that we’ll get married, I cannot live without you
You’re like the water and the air that I breathe that I cannot survive without
Come to me come to me
Oh beautiful, you charmed me with your dark complexion
You can have me and my love easily
Oh beautiful, you charmed me with your dark complexion
May God punish who tries to separate you and me
May God punish who tries to separate you and me
When are we going to be together for you to hold me in your arms?
Come to me come to me
Oh beautiful, you charmed me with your dark complexion
You can have me and my love easily
Oh beautiful, you charmed me with your dark complexion

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