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How The Assad Regime Benefited From Gassing Its Own People

 

Syria Chemical Weapons

REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

Victims of the August 21st, 2013 chemical weapons attack

On August 21st, 2013, the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad committed one of the most shocking war crimes of the 21st century, gassing nearly 1,500 people to death in Ghouta, outside of Damascus. Assad’s regime, which faced pockets of significant rebel resistance throughout western Syria and inside the capital, soon faced the prospect of imminent U.S. military strikes: days after the Ghouta attack, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry all but promised swift retribution for the chemical massacre.

Screen Shot 2014 08 21 at 2.01.14 PM

Reuters

Map demarcating control of Syria on August 6, 2013 — two weeks before the Ghouta attack

But Assad’s criminality paid off. Today, regime forces are closing in on Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and one of the secular revolutionaries’ last remaining strongholds. Assad warned as early as 2011 that his government was a bulwark against Islamist extremists threatening to unseat him; three years of killing have turned that false choice into a reality.Most importantly, Assad has a level of international respectability today that seemed unthinkable a year ago — and the Ghouta chemical weapons attack and its aftermath are part of the reason why.

Today, it’s clear that Assad gained from the attack, which proved that the international community wasn’t prepared to go after him even after a serious breach in international law, and that their only alternative was to adjust to the reality of his likely long-term survival.

Although the Ghouta attacks seemed to obligate U.S. action under President Barack Obama’s chemical weapons “red line,” there were early signs that Obama did not want to obligate himself to carrying out military strikes.

On August 31, Obama laid out the case that punishing Assad for his violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) was a vital national interest — but then left the use of force to a Congressional vote without calling for an emergency session of the body, which was then in an August recess.

On September 9, Kerry suggested that Assad could simply give up his chemical weapons and join the CWC in order to resolve the crisis. This is exactly what ended up happening. With the oversight of Assad’s allies in Moscow — a government with its own patchy record of semi-compliance with the CWC — Assad eventually disposed of 1,200 tons of chemical agents without a single U.S. tomahwak missile being fired.

But there were still costs. Practically, the deal required formal cooperation between the U.S. and the Middle East’s most violent, destabilizing, and isolated regime. The deal had some immediate consequences on the ground as well. As journalist Michael Weiss noted in January of 2014, Assad waged a scorched-earth campaign in order to clear the Damascus-to-Homs highway for the delivery of the weapons for eventual disposal, using the dealas cover for an increasingly brutal campaign against his opponents.

And Assad didn’t get bombed by the most powerful military on earth, or suffer any punishment or loss in status for his criminality.

The consequences of a U.S. attack against Assad is now a matter of speculation. They might have acted as a much-needed force multiplier for the beleaguered Free Syrian Army, which was fighting both ISIS and the Assad regime and was in a much stronger position than it is currently. A blow to a leading Iranian ally like Assad might have forced Tehran to redouble its efforts on propping the regime in Damascus — leaving it less capable of pursuing its disastrous and meddlesome policies in neighboring Iraq.

Airstrikes would have precluded a chemical weapons deal that turned Russia and Assad into the U.S.’s de facto security partners. Without the deal, Assad would never have been congratulated for his good citizenship while bombing his opponents into submission while stillretaining the infrastructure needed to re-start chemical weapons production if the tide of the conflict ever turned.

Nearly all of Assad’s calculations have paid off over the past year. His regime has beat a tactical retreat to Syria’s urban and coastal northwest, home to most of the country’s critical infrastructure and population centers. Jihadist groups oversee the country’s gas and oil fieldsand ensure that the secular rebels — who Assad has always considered his real enemies — are squeezed from both east and west.

International legitimacy

And the chemical weapons deal removed the international community’s main point of contention with Assad’s government, namely his continued violation of the CWC — never mind that there’s credible evidence of regime violations as recently as this past May.

The deal — and the attack that precipitated it — gave Assad the freedom and global legitimacy to win his country’s civil war.

Screen Shot 2014 08 21 at 2.03.23 PM

Reuters

Map of control of Syria from July 3, 2014

A year after one of the ghastliest war crimes in recent decades, Assad is even looking at how to use the ISIS threat to win Western countries back to his side, and may even find willing partners in the U.S. foreign policy establishment.The cost of Assad’s strategy has been high: 9 million refugees, 180,000 dead, repeated uses of chemical weapons, and the creation of a war zone stretching from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf.

But it’s working.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/how-assad-benefited-from-ghouta-2014-8#ixzz3B5odYP9R

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Syria’s chemical weapons

Brian Whitaker continues to follow the strange case of a widely circulated article alleging chemical weapons were used by Syrian rebels — one of whose alleged authors has been vainly trying to remove her byline.

Mint Press named the journalists who wrote the story as Dale Gavlak (an established freelance based in Jordan who has worked regularly for the Associated Press) and Yahya Ababneh (a young Jordanian who claims to have carried out journalistic assignments “in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Libya for clients such as al-Jazeera, al-Quds al-Arabi, Amman Net, and other publications”).

The story got more attention than it might otherwise have deserved because Gavlak’s relationship with the Associated Press gave it an air of credibility. Ababneh, on the other hand, is virtually unknown and Google searches for examples of his previous journalistic work drew a blank.

Yesterday, however, Gavlak issued a statement denying that she was an “author” or “reporter” for the article. “Yahya Ababneh is the sole reporter and author,” she said. It was a carefully-worded statement which did not specifically exclude the possibility that Gavlak had been involved in some other capacity in helping to produce the story.

Meanwhile the Sunday Telegraph publishes an interview with a former chemical weapons chief in the Syrian army:

Gen Sakat says he was ordered three times to use chemical weapons against his own people, but could not go through with it and replaced chemical canisters with ones containing harmless bleach.

He also insists that all such orders had to come from the top – President Assad himself – despite insistent denials by the regime that it has never used chemical weapons.

Now he also claims to have his own intelligence that the Syrian president is evading the terms of a Russian-brokered deal to destroy his chemical weapons by transferring some of his stocks to his allies – Hizbollah, in Lebanon, and Iran.

source

Our silence kills them

our-silence-kills-them

I hope that you receive this letter in good health. I also hope that you receive it while in a state of non-partisanship you promised during your election campaign and with the clarity of mind, determination to serve, and the zeal for the interest of our country and its values that we expect from you as a member of one of the two chambers of this August Body.

I am writing to you to concerning the upcoming vote on the authorization for President Obama to use military force in response to the abominable use of chemical weapons against women and children by the Assad regime of Syria. I will not tell you how to vote, because the moment you were elected by your constituents was a moment when a heavy historical burden was thrown on your shoulders. It is your job to weigh in the evidence, and it is your job to define what constitutes our national interests and to provide the executive branch with the means to assure that these interests are realized and not jeopardized by friends or foes. All I can do, Honorable, is to tell you a few things that I, as an American of Syrian roots what I believe and know.

Within hours of the Massacre, and before the regime's official denial. Facebook pages of the loyalists and members of the cyber-terrorist Assad Electronic Army were boasting that "finally the Syrian Chemical has been launched". Calls on regime to use chemical weapons were mounting including from some of the regime loyal singers and popular figures. Such is a standard operation procedure to emotionally charge loyalists and prepare them to go-with-the-flow.

A loyalist Facebook page boasts: “finally the Syrian chemical has been launched”. Calls on regime to use chemical weapons were mounting in weeks prior to the attack even from loyal singers and popular figures. Such is a standard operation procedure to emotionally charge loyalists and prepare them to go-with-the-flow.

I will not go at length on evidence concerning the regime’s unique capacity or its use of SARIN,  I am sure that what you have probably far exceeds what is available to me from non-classified releases or to an activist on the ground in Ghouta or elsewhere in Syria.  One piece of information, which disturbed me, was a report that came out yesterday concerning an intercepted radio communication between regional commanders of Assad’s army and an artillery captain who expressed initial reluctance to launch a chemical weapon attack, but yielded after having been threatened with execution. The outcome of that diabolical exchange was 27 chemical warheads launched within the span of 14 minutes leading to the death of more than 1400 civilians, with one third of those murdered being children. Syrians knew this was coming, so did the world months ago. But no one took action, and this is why we now face an emboldened habitual war-crime regime. The last two and a half years are full of stories in which Syrian soldiers and officers who tried to adhere to their oath to protect their nation and were executed on the spot by thugs loyal to Assad and willing to participate in his murderous plans to burn Syria for the survival of this thuggish and corrupt rule of the 23 million Syrians, of for that matter, those who may be left after he accomplishes his “Assad or we burn the country” genocidal plan against Syrians and their homeland.  This captain has failed the moral and human test, and he should, like his superiors be held liable for committing war crimes. But the main murderers remain Assad (in Arabic) and his inner circle of thugs and no one else.

The Debate

You will be debating war. A war in which our nation will be using missiles and bombs to punish the regime of a war criminal and to deter the war criminal from ever thinking of using chemical weapons again. I confess that the thought of one cruise or tomahawk missile missing its target and hitting a civilian area horrifies me. Likewise, I am also horrified by the thought of our soldiers placing themselves at grave risk, only to fire missiles at installations that were emptied of regime thugs and hardware and filled with innocent Syrians, moved from the numerous torture chambers in Assad’s dungeons of horror and murder, and placed in various chemical weapon production and storage facilities to become target of the free world’s strike. I am horrified by the word collateral damage, which I believe shouldn’t even exist in our dictionaries, other than as an archaic word. Like you, like any soldier, father, mother, sister, or child, war terrifies me.

I am also horrified and abhorred by all kinds of torture. My horror is real, for even though I have not been subjected to such torture, I have, however, met and talked to many wonderful Syrians who have been subjected to horrific torture at the hands of Assad thugs, and have barely avoided death by torture, unlike some of my other brilliant, wonderful, and civilized friends, who have lost their life at the hand of Assad torturers in one or another of the countless number of torture chambers perfected by the Assads over forty years of their murderous rule of my home of origin.

The Minaret of the Umayyad Mosque in Aleppo before and after regime's shelling.

The Minaret of the Umayyad Mosque in Aleppo before and after regime’s shelling.

Our nation is now finding an ever increased interest in our Natural Heritage as well as our historical heritage. Yet, part of our history and heritage as humanity, lies in Syria, where some of the oldest continuously inhabited cities like Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, and others are being demolished by the vicious and unending bombardment of missiles, barrels of death, and now mas murder internationally banned chemical weapons. The regime of Bashar Al-Assad is the culpable, we know it, and you too. These crimes against Syrians and their land resulted not only in murdering more than 100,000 Syrians, but also in the shameful destruction of Syria’s precious heritage of humanity with unparalleled levels of hate and vengeance. Thousands of years of history have been destroyed by Assad and his thugs in these cities. In most of these cities, more than 70% of the historical districts were destroyed by Assad bombs and rockets with the rest remaining under constant threat. Unfortunately UNESCO stands horrified and unable to stop such destruction despite of repeated calls to stop the carnage. This is a regime that stands against all what humanity holds dear, including our shared heritage. Its head and enforcers find it necessary to destroy the cultural and historical heritage of the place that gave birth to our alphabet and that shaped our earliest attempts to domesticate wild grains. It has bombed people standing in breadlines, one should not be surprised if it bombed and looted museums and cultural icons in its custody. There is no redeeming qualities in them, and especially in the head of the regime, his thuggish clan, and his henchmen in the web of “security-agencies” horrific organizations that form the core of this genocidal regime.

What Peace Movement?!!!

From your window you can probably see a group of people who just decided to get their “anti-war” attire out of dusty closets, and summoned the long dormant depths of their “anti-imperialist” hearts to decry the potential death Syrian children, presumably to be killed by a Free World’s punishment of Assad and his gang of thugs. They will try to convince and lobby you; “their eternal imperialist enemy”, and “lobbyists slave”; to vote as they tell you. If I may be informal with you, I am going to ask you to please look closely and to tell me whether you can see them marching next to those carrying the photos of thug Bashar Al-Assad with his smug smile and shouting his name as the “leader for eternity” and the hero of “anti imperialism”. These are no fools, useful idiots, may be, traitors; definitely not, but lying hypocrites would be applicable but insufficient adjective to describe them. I am of course proud of friends who stood with the Syrian People from the first day of their ordeal, but now do not agree that a military action is useful or helpful not out of fear for or attempts to protect Assad, his control over the army and security agencies and his lasting rule, but out of genuine fear for the Syrian People. As for the others, especially those beholden to fascist ideologies of the Baath and its like-minded atrophied but destructive parties,  I can only reiterate the question most free Syrians ask: Where were they when the barrels of death from Assad’s Russian made, Iranian supplied, and North Korean upgraded airplanes rained on the neighborhoods and villages of Syria? Where were they, when the best minds of Syria, and the hope of civil society emergence were tortured and murdered in Assad’s dungeons? And where were they when Assad thugs were forcing millions of Syrians into refuge, only to bombard them again in open air, or send thug-agents to poison the water supplies of their refugee camps erected like cities of misery in neighboring countries? I have not seen a single protest from these hypocrites for two and a half years of daily ongoing slaughter of Syrians and destruction of their country at the hand of Assad and his regime. As for Assad supporters, who are now protesting, i can only be disgusted at them because these pathetic characters continue to enjoy all the fruits of democracy and protection of law the free world offers. Yet, they continue to deny Syrians the least of these fruits, which is the right to say no to a thuggish, criminal and terrorist regime without being murdered, turned into refugees in their own country and beyond, and be traumatized by the continuous death, under most horrific torture of their best, most civilized, young men and women. Worst yet, these dictator’s loyalists have been constantly drumming the mantra of American conspiracy against the eternal leader and the dwindling list of like-minded tyrannical regimes. Whatever your decision is, their points of view is irrelevant, if not criminally culpable.

The killing of Syrians themselves as well as the vicious murder of their hopes of rejoining civilization after half a century of despotism is the punishment the Assad regime and its friends dealt and continue to deal to those who dared  to say yes to civility and no to perpetual murderous despotism. For the pretentious hypocrites marching and writing in defense of tyranny, the act of defying a tyranny causes them grave concern, for as tyrannies disappear and the world’s opportunity to become a safer and better place increases, they lose fame, exposure, and chances for self-righteous sophistry.

Me or my Chaos

Me or my chaos. The artist depicts what many Syrians know for a fact. The  Assad regime is the creator,  and nurturer of terrorist organizations he claims to fight against. The systematic targetting of non-violent protesters in the early days of the Syrian Revolution was intended to promote violent elements and to both depict the revolution as being dominated by terrorists as well as to exact revenge on those who dared to defy Assad.

Me or my chaos. The artist depicts what many Syrians know for a fact. The Assad regime is the creator, and nurturer of terrorist organizations he claims to fight against. The systematic targeting of non-violent protesters in the early days of the Syrian Revolution was intended to promote violent elements and to both depict the revolution as being dominated by terrorists as well as to exact revenge on those who dared to defy Assad.

Some, even if well-meaning analysts will warn of impending chaos upon the fall of this tyrant and his regime.  This, can also be disingenuous in the context of eliminating such a vicious hateful tyranny. Stability that comes at the expense of the human rights of citizenry was soundly rejected by our founding fathers who found it abhorring and unnatural.  I do understand your grave concerns about the spread of terrorism, and In fact I share much of these concerns.  I have a heightened sense of anxiety concerning terrorist gangs such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, Al-Nusra, and other Al-Qaida offshoots, which were brought in and nurtured by the Assad regime. I and most freedom yearning Syrians are very concerned should these terrorists be allowed to maintain a foothold in Syria, especially in economically viable areas in the north where they can continue to control both Syrian oil and the bread basket region of the country.  This would not be in the interest of Syrians nor in the interest of the United States or the free world.

I share with some analysts and bloggers, including some of those who were against the US intervention in Iraq, the belief that ridding the world of the Assad regime should be one of our priorities because such is in our national interest.  I will even go further to state that it was the Assad regime that funded and funneled terrorists, with their car bombs into Iraq killing our soldiers as well as innocent Iraqis. These terrorists are the same ones the regime has facilitated back in Syria to threaten the world with “me or chaos“. Let me assure you that even in their strongest of dens, these terrorists are facing daily challenges from normal Syrians in the liberated Areas. Syrians have rejected them, their weapons, their tactics as well as their ideological adventure into an era that never in reality existed in our history. The problem lies with the regime, which while claiming to fight terrorism, kept bombarding civilian areas with vengeance, but left its handmade terrorists unmolested. In many cases in the north of Syria, the regime even-handed the terrorists swaths of land to do the regime’s bidding. These regime-made terrorists are now focusing their terror campaigns of arrest, torture, murder, and intimidation against the same activists who were the primary targets of the regime. Members of these gangs are suspects of being regime informers and agents who simply grew a beard, changed to black attire, wore a mask, and imported terror-tourists from other countries for help. But they remain beholden to the regime as it is clear from their lack of interest in participating in real military activities against its forces that are shelling the cities and from their focus on replacing the regime hated security apparatus with their own draconian version of the “emirate of fears” serving by that the interests of the Assad regime and giving it, in the eyes of unknowing world an image of a regime fighting terrorism rather than the criminal terrorist regime it really is.

The Real War

Free Syrians, including both non-violent activists and members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are now fighting on two fronts. The first front is against the criminal Assad regime, and the other against the regime’s handmade branches of Al-Qaida. Both represent regressive societal and political traits. While it is nearly certain that the terrorists will be dealt a major blow with their benefactor regime gone, it is more than certain that things will not be easy when this regime collapses and its hand-made Al-Qaida branches are left without it. There will be car bombs (a trade mark of both the Assad regime and Al-Qaida terrorist operation), of assassination of their opponents, and plenty of counter-revolutionary anti-democratic violent groups. I believe that the Syrian people will find their way to kick these terrorists out and to reduce their threats to Syria, to the region and the World. They need help now, and they will need it in the future.  But that help will not come from the liar regime, or its defenders who created these terrorist groups in the first place.

A terrorist regime can not be trusted with combating terrorism or with establishing stability. Thinking otherwise will be unwise, suicidal, and detrimental to our national interests. The battle in Syria is not between the regime and Islamist terrorists, it is between freedom seeking Syrians on the one hand, and the regime and its hand-made, customized Jihadi terrorist groups, on the other hand. Any other depiction, such as the one being perpetuated by some academics is misleading at best, and purposely so, at worst. These academics would go at great length in describing the origin of these terrorist groups, but they would not venture into exploring the similarities between the regime and these terrorists, the intersection of their tactics, and their mutual avoidance of confronting one another. All of these issues, ignored by such academics, are now rather obvious to all freedom seeking Syrians, who speak loudly and clearly about the obvious connection between these terrorists and the criminal regime. Today, I read the story of a Kurdish father whose defecting son was murdered by the masked thugs of the Islamic State or Iraq and the Levant on his way to safety.  Syrian rebels, affiliated with any of the FSA multitude of groups would have welcomed the young man’s bravery and ensured that he reached safety. Likewise, only regime agents have an interest in the disappearance of the much revered and iconic figure of the revolution father Paolo dall’oglio.

The threat of these regime-made and/or facilitated terrorist organizations should not be considered independently of their founder. Its demise is the beginning of theirs. Fear from their actions should not inhibit our actions. If it does, Bashar Al-Asad, who expressed, in no uncertain terms in his interview in with the French LeFigaro magazine yesterday that the only way to deal with the opposition to his rule is to annihilate them, would have accomplished his goals. The fact that liar Assad claims that 80% to 90% of his enemies are Al-Qaida is sufficient for many Syrians to believe the opposite. Realities on the ground support the assertion that the terrorists are not his enemies, they are his agents, and their job is not merely to provide propaganda fodder and to tarnish the revolution, but to also exact his vengeful horrors on those who dared defy his sick rule.

Throughout its history of oppression, the Assad regime tried to appear as the mediator holding magic keys to many problems in the region. Whenever an American was kidnapped, the chief thugs of the regime tried to present themselves as “diplomats” resolving the issue. The reality has always been that they were behind these terrorist crimes. Many at time, our country had to pay dearly in precious blood and treasure to “cope” with the cheaply orchestrated terrorist acts of this regime and its appendages. It is a benefactor of terrorism, one of its principle planners and trainers. This regime is a threat to peace and stability and it will not reform, whether the next heir spends a year or a decade in the west. Annihilating all who protest their despotic rule is a family business as we have all witnessed in Hama, in 1982, in Lebanon, through 30 years of occupation, and over two and a half years of increasingly brutal crimes against humanity in Syria.

Needless to say, over decades of obstructionism, this regime has played its cards well. Hiding behind sovereignty that itself violated countless time, not the least of which during the theater of the absurd that led to the coronation of a spoiled, unethical child of privilege. That child of privilege is now known as Syria’s mass murderer and the head of the corrupt despotic clan. Attempts by the free world to “contain’ the “western educated doctor” failed miserably. The experience of the thirteen years of his reign shows that criminal thugs like Bashar Al-Assad can’t be rehabilitated and that they will turn out to be worse than their fathers.

Before I conclude this long letter, I must highlight that the Free Syrian Army is not a terrorist group and it does not belong to the same category of regime-made branches of Al-Qaida. Rather it has fought against those on many occasions. FSA is composed of Syrians from every walk of life. Some of whom believe in a plural democratic Syria, others hope to see a Syria with an emphasized Islamic identity that has nothing to do with the brutal image of an Islamic state nurtured by Al-Qaida and its affiliates. Syrians, much like most Americans do have faith. As Senator McCain stated earlier, like an American soldier does, an FSA fighter is likely to thank god, to pray, and to say “Allahu Akbar”, which means God is Great. Watch some of the You-Tube clips of real FSA fighters and you will find them doing that when they shoot, or when they succeed in capturing a regime point. In this case It is a sign of gratitude  as well as an affirmation of the righteousness of their cause (which should be true in the case of those fighting tyranny) . Watch another clip of people gathering around the wreckage of a building just demolished by one of Assad’s scuds or barrels of death, and you will hear the same phrase, it is in this case an appeal to God to exact punishment on those who intentionally ordered and executed such a cowardly act against civilians.

Leaderless, and in much need of honest and appropriate representation, the grass-root Syrian revolution is nonetheless alive and well and is creating its own leaders at local levels. It is not led nor dominated by terrorists as some academics and “regime-made” opposition have been trying desperately to hype it. Nor it is all armed. Non-violent and civil groups continue to emerge despite of the constant threats, assassination, kidnapping, and murder by the Assad regime and by its clients in the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant and their offshoots. A much longed for cadre of honest and effective civil servants is emerging in some liberated areas despite of the bullies. The Free Syrian Army is making progress, despite of the regime’s use of chemical weapons, and the regime is losing ground every day, again despite of the continuous supplies of weapons from Russia and the non-stoppable supplies of men and arms from Iran, Hezbollah and Iran’s agents in Iraq. I don’t want to paint a rosy picture, but the regime and its chaos can and should go to hell for Syria to have any chance of reconciliation and for the blood-letting to end. The administration of president Obama is right in stating that there should be no place for the Assads in future Syria. The longer they last in its present, the darker Syria’s future will be.

Vote your conscious, not mine. I trust that you will try your best to do the right thing.

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Al-Assad No Longer an Acceptable Negotiator

Hassan Haidar
Thursday 29 August 2013

The size and targets of the imminent Western military strike against the Syrian regime forces are linked to the main political message it will address, i.e. that Bashar al-Assad is no longer an acceptable party to negotiate over his country’s future during the Geneva 2 meeting. This means that the anticipated settlement conference might never take place if Al-Assad remains in power and abstains from surrendering it to another person or side.

An international ruling was issued to condemn Al-Assad and hold him responsible for the killing of hundreds of civilians using chemical weapons, which clearly implies his classification as a war criminal, who should be prosecuted and not negotiated with, and whose opinion in regard to the new Syria should not be heard.

The Western and Arab states waited a long time to achieve consensus inside the Security Council over the containment of the Syrian regime and the halting of the daily killings committed by its military machine, and after numerous initiatives and mediations – all of which failed to convince Al-Assad there was a popular opposition with which he should negotiate to stop the destruction of Syria as a country. It has now become necessary to undertake a military action from outside the United Nations to achieve that goal, thus paving the way before a settlement after the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

The world previously witnessed similar sanctions, through which major states decided to punish tyrants without a UN mandate. This was seen for example in the raids launched by the United States against the Bab al-Aziziya compound in Libya in 1986, after it held Muammar Gaddafi’s regime responsible for the bombing of the La Belle discotheque in Germany and the killing of American soldiers. But after these raids, Gaddafi remained in power until he was toppled by a popular uprising in 2011, despite his famous 2003 political turn which he thought would save him.

The current situation in Syria is different than the one which prevailed in Libya at the time due to the presence of an armed political opposition controlling more than half the Syrian territories and threatening Damascus and other main cities. However, the Western political and military planners should take into account the fact that Al-Assad’s stay in power following the intended strike would practically mean its failure, despite the repeated statements saying it does not aim to topple the regime. This is due to the fact that the limited military operation will not be enough in itself, if it does not undermine the system upon which Al-Assad is currently relying to preserve the loyalty of most of the Syrian regular army.

In other words, the American, British and French missiles and aircrafts should address well targeted and truly painful blows, thus leading to the subsequent fall of Al-Assad’s regime which will be responsible before the senior army officers for the great harm caused to their troops and for the pretext it provided for these strikes after it decided to use chemical weapons.

But what if this does not happen? What if the Syrian army – although exhausted – remains attached to its command? At this point, there would be no choice but to go back to the demands of the Syrian opposition ever since the regime started using violence against the peaceful demonstrators, before moving to heavy artillery and the targeting of areas outside its control with aircrafts and rockets, i.e. impose no-fly zones, establish safe corridors for relief purposes, and most importantly, relinquish the exaggerated Western reservations and adopt a decision to provide the opposition with weapons allowing it to fix the flaw affecting the balance of powers and win the battle by itself.

source

آخر تحديث:
Thursday 29 August 2013

Chemical Bachar (in French, Arab sub titles)

 

Why Do Some Countries Hate America?

Doing the Rounds

August 26, 2013 § Leave a Comment

familiarSo much lazy thinking. Here’s an agit-prop picture doing the rounds, the sort to appeal to the George Galloway crowd. And here’s my comment: “Except it isn’t familiar. In one case they wanted to invade and used chemical weapons as an excuse. There were no chemical weapons. In the other case a genocide has been going on for over two years, they don’t want to invade, don’t even want to arm the people resisting, they don’t have the economic power or pliant international scene to do so even if they wanted; and chemical weapons not only exist, they have been used on a vast scale. Oppose potential US air attacks against Assad bases if you like, but don’t insult the victims of genocide while you’re doing it.”

Another one doing the rounds is this supposedly very clever letter: short guide

A Short Guide to the Middle East. And here’s Idrees’s response to that:

“To the hundreds of people who’ve been passing this fatuous bit of village-idiocy around, let me explain a few things:

1) States, like individuals, balance competing and contradictory interests. Like you, after two of your friends brawl, they don’t disown one to please the other.

2) States are not unitary, self-aware entities, whose interests are constant and indivisible. Like you, they carry in them multiple impulses and their attitudes towards others change based which impulses predominate under a given circumstance.

3) You might resent the tendency to treat the east as somehow exceptional and throw words like “orientalism” around, but like bad breath, you only notice it when others others have it. (Or perhaps the US is really a middle eastern country since it treated Communism as the ultimate evil but allied itself with Stalin to defeat Hitler; and then with right-wing Germans to defeat Communism. It was allied with France, yet supported Algerian independence. And so on ).

4) You have very little regard for facts. (Obama is anti-Sisi and is backing the Muslim Brotherhood? Really?)

5) Since you expect that states should be as one dimensional as Ayn Rand characters, you are unfit to comment on the Middle East or international affairs.”

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Syrian chemical attack spurs finger-pointing inside Assad regime

Antakya, Turkey // United Nations weapons inspectors will today examine the site of a chemical weapons attack in Damascus that killed hundreds, as the first signs of finger-pointing inside the Assad regime began to emerge.

The Syrian government agreed yesterday to cease hostilities in the area while the team goes in and the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said inspectors were “preparing to conduct on-site fact-finding activities” on the outskirts of the capital.

The attack on Wednesday has galvanised international calls for action against the government of President Bashar Al Assad. Rebels say as many as 1,300 people were killed. One aid agency says thousands were affected and 355 died.

Amid universal acceptance that a chemical nerve agent has been used but disagreement over who used it, there were indications from Damascus that some of the army officers involved had tried to distance themselves from what happened, and insisted they were not told the rockets they were firing were loaded with toxins.

“We have heard from people close to the regime that the chemical missiles were handed out a few hours before the attacks,” said a source from a well-connected family, who has contacts with both the opposition and regime loyalists.

“They didn’t come from the ministry of defence but from air force intelligence, under orders from Hafez Maklouf . The army officers are saying they did not know there were chemical weapons. Even some of the people transporting them are saying they had no idea what was in the rockets – they thought they were conventional explosives.”

Hafez Maklouf, Mr Al Assad’s cousin, commands Syria’s air force intelligence, the most feared of all its secret police branches.

Another account of what may have taken place has been put forward by the opposition Syrian National Coalition, based on a timeline from residents inside the affected areas and information collected from sources inside the regime who leak information to the rebels.

The SNC said rockets loaded with chemicals were delivered to Gen Tahir Hamid Khalil and launched from an army base housing the 155 Brigade, a unit of the 4th Division, in the Qalamoon mountains north of Damascus.

Mahar Al Assad, the Syrian president’s brother, commands the 4th Division, an ultra-loyalist force with a key role in repressing the uprising since it began in March 2011, and, more recently, heavily involved in combat with rebels around Damascus.

After a night of fierce fighting on Tuesday in an area on the edge of Damascus known as Eastern Ghouta – once known for its clean natural water and lush orchards – regime troops moved back, leaving only aircraft overhead, the SNC said.

At 2.30am on Wednesday, regime forces under the command of Gen Ghassan Abbas began launching the rockets, 16 of which were aimed at the eastern suburbs of Damascus, and hit Zamalka and Ain Tarma, densely populated areas in the Eastern Ghouta.

As opposition emergency services responded to those initial chemical attacks, rockets armed with high explosive warheads were fired into the same area, hitting ambulance teams as they tried to help victims of the chemical strikes.

At 4.21am, 18 more missiles were fired into eastern Damascus by troops loyal to Mr Al Assad, the SNC said. Another two missiles were aimed at Moadamiya, to the south-west of Damascus, an area known locally as the Western Ghouta.

By 6am, dozens of people from Moadamiya had been taken to a local field hospital suffering from the effects of exposure to a still unidentified poison gas.

At least five poison gas rockets were fired, according to the SNC, four landing in the Eastern Ghouta and one in Moadamiya. Strong winds pushed the gases out from their impact area in Zamalka across to Erbin, a neighbouring district, where more people died.

According to the SNC’s account, loyalist forces close to the attack area were issued orders from a “high level” to wear gas masks in anticipation of the attacks.

Syrian state media and the insurgents have continued to wage a war of words over the chemical attacks.

After initially denying chemical agents had been released by either side, the Syrian authorities are now vigorously blaming rebel forces.

The rebels have posted videos online of hollow rocket tubes found in the eastern suburbs where the attacks took place. The missile casings, about two metres long, appear to match those used in previous strikes by regime forces.

Russia, a close ally of Mr Al Assad, said it welcomed the decision by Damascus to allow the UN inspection. The Russian government, like Syria’s other close ally Iran, does not dispute that chemical weapons were used in the Damascus suburb. They blame anti-government insurgents for the attacks.

In Washington, a US official said “there is very little doubt” that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians.

The Obama administration earlier accused the Assad government of delaying UN inspectors to allow the evidence to degrade.

The agreement by Syria to permit UN investigators to carry out a first-hand examination of a chemical weapons attack came as international pressure built for a retaliatory strike against the Assad regime. The US defence secretary, Chuck Hagel, said yesterday that the US military, which is repositioning its forces in the eastern Mediterranean to give President Obama the option for an armed strike, was ready to act if asked.

On Saturday, the humanitarian aid organisation Médecins Sans Frontières said 3,600 patients displaying “neurotoxic symptoms” had been admitted to Syrian hospitals it supports, and 355 of those patients had died.

psands@thenational.ae

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Airstrikes on Syria

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Let’s get one thing clear. Nobody is coming to help Syrians because they are getting killed. They are coming to help Syrians because nobody wants chemical warfare to become a norm and especially for countries like North Korea and Iran to start using them “because somebody else did it too”. In essence the behaviour of states in the international system is primitive and infantile, however thick the books on international relations may get. The basic rules of international relations are about as complex as the politics of siblings fighting over their toys. Possession is nine-tenths of ownership, what happens when the parents aren’t looking never happened, and the strongest will get to impose their will on the weakest unless they meet somebody stronger.

If we use this model to understand the behaviour of actors like the Syrian regime, we start to make much more sense of how they are reacting to the international community. Russia is not an innocent arbiter in this conflict, but the estranged parent who lets the errant brat do what they want to annoy the other parent. One parent cannot overstep the mark without risking an all out escalation with the other, and so a state of limbo lets the spoilt brat, Assad, throw his toys out of the cot and break everything. Yes it is probably too simplistic an analogy, but we need something, anything, to make sense of the stupid drama that has been unfolding in front of our eyes for the past two and a half years.

The Kosovo model for intervention is not perfect, but it stopped the bloodshed and today Kosovo is limping along and people are rebuilding their lives at least. Of course it is still not a recognised state thanks to Russia blocking its recognition, but the important thing is that militias are not slaughtering whole families and villages. The same thing needs to happen in Syria and the country must be given as much support as possible to get back on its own two feet. This is not because Syrians need the world’s charity, but because if that does not happen then Syria will become a Somalia on the Mediterranean and bordering Europe. It is in the world’s interest to stop this wound from festering, and it is in Syria’s neighbour’s interests – all of them – that this country not implode. Because when it implodes all of Assad’s toys are going to end up in the wrong hands, however “careful” the West is and however pervasive Israel’s intelligence tries to be. A poisoned atmosphere and water table is not something anybody in the region can afford. Syria is a big puddle that can splash a lot of people, Assad knows this and he has been using this to stay in power, but it does not mean he cannot be toppled.

This regime is powerful not inherently but in the positions it controls, like a spider in a web, and by hitting it strategically and in the places where it is most vulnerable, the various remnants of the Free Syrian Army might just be able to shred what’s left of it. I say might because at this stage there are only probabilities and worst case scenarios. It is not, for example, a question anymore of how many people might be killed accidentally in strikes against Assad but how many deaths can be avoided by crippling his ability to wage war. This kind of intervention should have happened a long time ago, and many more people would still be alive today if Assad was made to understand that mass murder is not acceptable, with chemical weapons or not. This is the real precedent that should have been set for all other tinpot dictators around the world.

Posted by Maysaloon at 7:44 pm  

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