Western media excited about ‘new Iran revolution’, but polls tell a different story about protests

Sharmine Narwani

Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She is a former senior associate at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University and has a master’s degree in International Relations from Columbia University. Sharmine has written commentary for a wide array of publications, including Al Akhbar English, the New York Times, the Guardian, Asia Times Online, Salon.com, USA Today, the Huffington Post, Al Jazeera English, BRICS Post and others. You can follow her on Twitter at @snarwani

Western media excited about ‘new Iran revolution’, but polls tell a different story about protests

Reuters/WANA/Nazanin Tabatabaee

Data from two foreign polls tell a very different story about protests in Iran. The economy is tough, but a majority of Iranians back their government’s security initiatives and reject domestic upheaval.

On November 15, angry Iranians began pouring onto the streets to protest sudden news of a 50% fuel price hike. A day later, peaceful demonstrations had largely dissipatd, replaced instead by much smaller crowds of rioters who burned banks, gas stations, buses and other public and private property. Within no time, security forces hit the streets to snuff out the violence and arrest rioters, during which an unconfirmed number of people on both sides died.

Western commentators tried in vain to squeeze some juice out of the short-lived protests. “Iranian protesters strike at the heart of the regime’s legitimacy,” declared Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution. France 24 asked the question, is this “a new Iranian revolution?” And the LA Times slammed Iran’s “brutal crackdown” against its people.

They grasped for a geopolitical angle too: protests in neighboring Lebanon and Iraq that were based almost entirely on popular domestic discontent against corrupt and negligent governments, began to be cast as a regional insurrection against Iranian influence.

ALSO ON RT.COMIran has quashed ‘extensive & very dangerous conspiracy’ perpetrated by foreign enemies, Khamenei saysAnd despite the fact that the internet in Iran was disabled for nearly a week, unverified videos and reports curiously made their way outside to Twitter accounts of Iran critics, alleging that protestors were calling for the death of the Supreme Leader, railing against Iran’s interventions in the region and calling for a fall of the “regime.

Clearly, the initial protests were genuine – a fact that even the Iranian government admitted immediately. Reducing petrol subsidies on the cheapest fuel in the region has been an issue on Iran’s political agenda for years, one that became more urgent after the US exited the Iran nuclear deal last year and began to tighten the sanctions screws on Iran again.

To try and understand Iranian reactions in the past twelve days, let’s look at two opinion polls conducted jointly by the University of Maryland’s Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) and Toronto-based IranPolls in the immediate aftermath of the 2017/2018 protests/riots – and in May, August and October 2019, when the US “maximum pressure” campaign was in full gear.

What leaps out immediately from the earlier 2018 poll is that Iranians were frustrated with a stagnant economy – and 86% of them specifically opposed a hike in the price of gasoline, the main impetus for protests this November.

Ironically, this month’s gasoline price hike was meant to generate upward of $2.25 billion earmarked for distribution to Iran’s 18 million most hard-hit families. In effect, the government was softening the fuel subsidy reduction with payouts to the country’s neediest citizens.

The 2018 poll also lists respondents’ single biggest woes, ranging from unemployment (40%), inflation and high cost of living (13%), low incomes (7%),financial corruption and embezzlement (6%), injustice (1.4%), lack of civil liberties (0.3%), among others.

These numbers suggest the 2018 protests were overwhelmingly in response to domestic economic conditions– and not over Iran’s foreign policy initiatives or “widespread repression” that was heavily promoted by western media and politicians at the time.

The same Suzanne Maloney quoted above on this month’s protests, insisted in a 2018 Washington Post article:“The people aren’t just demonstrating for better working conditions or pay, but insisting on wholesale rejection of the system itself.”

In fact, in the 2018 poll, only 16% of Iranians agreed with the statement “Iran’s political system needs to undergo fundamental change,” with a whopping 77% disagreeing.

ALSO ON RT.COMIranian protesters should be angry at the regime in Washington, not Tehran

 

Like protests this month in Iran, the 2017-18 demonstrations also morphed into small but violent riots, and Iranian security forces hit the streets to stop the chaos. But in the aftermath of those events – and despite endless foreign headlines about the “brutality” of the security reaction – Iranians overwhelmingly sided with their government’s treatment of rioters.

Sixty-three percent of those polled in 2018 said the police used an appropriate amount of force, and another 11% said they used “too little force.” Overall, 85% of Iranians agreed that “the government should be more forceful to stop rioters who use violence or damage property.”

This Iranian reaction must be understood in context of Iran’s very insecure neighborhood, region-wide terrorism often backed by hostile states and a relentless escalation against Iranian interests after Donald Trump became US president. His “maximum pressure” campaign has only worsened matters, and Iranians consider themselves in a state of war with the United States – on constant guard against subversion, sabotage, espionage, eavesdropping, propaganda, border infiltration, etc.

Earlier this decade, the US military declared the internet an “operational domain”of war, and cyber warfare has already been widely acknowledged as the future battle frontier in conflicts. Iran was one of the early victims of this new warfare, when the suspected US/Israeli Stuxnet virus disrupted its nuclear program.

The US military has set up war rooms of servicemen dedicated to manipulating social media and advancing US propaganda interests. The British army has launched a “social media warfare” division, its initial focus, the Middle East. Israel has been at the online propaganda game forever, and the Saudis have recently invested heavily in influencing discourse on social media.

It should therefore come as no surprise that the Iranian government shut down the internet during this crisis. Expect this to become the new normal in US adversary states when chaos looms and foreign information operations are suspected.

The western media themes of corruption, violent repression, popular rejection of the Islamic Republic and its regional alliances have been consistent since the 2009 protests that followed contentious elections in Iran. They flared up briefly in early 2011, when western states were eager for an “Iranian Spring” to join the Arab Spring, and became popular narratives during 2017-18 protests when social media platforms adopted them widely.

This November, those narratives sprung to the surface again. So let’s examine what Iranians thought about these claims in October when CISSM/IranPolls published their latest, extremely timely survey.

Iran’s regional military activities

Sixty-one percent of Iranians support retaining military personnel in Syria to contain extremist militants that could threaten Iran’s security and interests. Polls taken since March 2016 confirm the consistency of this view inside Iran, with a steady two-thirds (66%) of respondents supporting an increase in Iran’s regional role.

Asked what would happen if Iran conceded to US demands and ended the US-sanctioned Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) activities in Syria and Iraq, 60% of Iranians thought it would make Washington demand more concessions – only 11% thought it would make the US more accommodating.

Moreover, the October 2019 report says negative attitudes toward the United States have never been higher in CISSM/IranPoll’s 13 years of conducting these surveys in Iran. A hefty 86% of Iranians do not favor the US, and those who say their view of the US is very unfavorable has skyrocketed from 52% in 2015 to 73% today.

They could care less that Washington has sanctioned the IRGC and its elite Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, who is the most popular national figure of those polled, with eight in ten Iranians viewing him favorably. If anything, a hefty 81% of Iranians said the IRGC’s Mideast activities has made Iran “more secure.

As for the IRGC’s role in Iran’s domestic economy – a favorite subject of western foes who cast the military group as a malign and corrupt instrument of the state – today 63% of Iranians believe the IRGC should be involved “in construction projects and other economic matters,” as well as continuing their security role. In times of crisis, they’re viewed as a vital institution: the IRGC and Iranian military scored top points with the public (89% and 90% respectively) for assisting the population during crippling floods last Spring, which displaced half a million Iranians.

Economy and corruption

Seventy percent of Iranians view their economy as “bad” today, a figure that has stayed surprisingly consistent over the past 18 months, despite the imposition of US sanctions last year. The majority blame domestic mismanagement and corruption for their economic woes, but a rising number also blame US sanctions, which is possibly why 70% of Iranians prefer aiming for national self-sufficiency over increasing foreign trade.

Asked about the “impact (of sanctions) on the lives of ordinary people,” 83% of Iranians agreed there was a negative impact on their lives. Oddly, since the US exited the JCPOA, economic pessimism has dropped from 64% in 2018 to 54% last month-mainly, the poll argues, because Iranians feel the US can’t realistically pressure Iran much further with sanctions. Accordingly, 55% of Iranians blame domestic economic mismanagement and corruption for Iran’s poor economy versus 38% who blame foreign sanctions and pressure.

The blame for much of this mismanagement and corruption is pinned on the administration of President Hassan Rouhani, whose favorability numbers dropped under 50% for the first time, to reach 42% this August. Fifty-four percent of Iranians think his government isn’t trying much to fight corruption.

In contrast, 73% believe the Iranian judiciary is much more engaged in fighting economic corruption, up 12% since May.

On the economic front, it appears that Iranians have largely been disappointed by the promises and vision of this administration, which could benefit its Principlist opponents in upcoming parliamentary elections. The fuel tax hike two weeks ago was a necessary evil and a brave move by Rouhani, despite the mismanagement of its public rollout. Unfortunately, Iranians, who have railed against subsidy removals for years, are unlikely to be forgiving anytime soon.

On the political front, Iranians appear to be largely in lockstep with their government’s foreign policy and military initiatives, viewing the IRGC’s activities – domestic and regional – very favorably, and supporting Iran’s involvement in neighboring Iraq and Syria, both for security reasons against terrorism and because they believe in an active regional role for Iran. In terms of support for their leaders, a majority of Iranians view favorably the IRGC’s Soleimani (82%), followed by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (67%) and Judiciary Head Ebrahim Raisi (64%), which covers an unexpectedly broad spectrum of political viewpoints in the country.

In light of these numbers, it is fair to say that there is no “second revolution” on Iran’s horizon, nor any kind of significant rupture between government and populace on a whole host of key political, economic and security issues. Foreign commentators can spin events in Iran all they want, but so far Iranians have chosen security and stability over upheaval every time.

*Poll numbers in this article have been rounded up or down to the nearest unit.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Voices from Syria’s Rukban Refugee Camp Belie Corporate Media Reporting

Global Research, July 05, 2019
MintPress News 4 July 2019

Eva Bartlett visited refugees in Syria escaping the horrid conditions in the Rukban Refugee Camp, a desolate outpost in the US administered deconfliction zone. What she found was very different than the ‘reality’ depicted by the Western press.

***

A little over a year ago — just after the Syrian army and its allies liberated the towns and villages around eastern Ghouta from the myriad armed jihadist groups that had waged a brutal campaign of torture and executions in the area — I interviewed a number of the civilians that had endured life under jihadist rule in Douma, Kafr Batna and the Horjilleh Center for Displaced People just south of Damascus.

A common theme emerged from the testimonies of those civilians: starvation as a result of jihadist control over aid and food supplies, and the public execution of civilians.

Their testimonies echoed those of civilians in other areas of Syria formerly occupied by armed anti-government groups, from Madaya and al-Waer to eastern Aleppo and elsewhere.

Despite those testimonies and the reality on the ground, Western politicians and media alike have placed the blame for the starvation and suffering of Syrian civilians squarely on the shoulders of Russia and Syria, ignoring the culpability of terrorist groups.

In reality, terrorist groups operating within areas of Syria that they occupy have had full control over food and aid, and ample documentation shows that they have hoarded food and medicines for themselves. Even under better circumstances, terrorist groups charged hungry civilians grotesquely inflated prices for basic foods, sometimes demanding up to 8,000 Syrian pounds (US $16) for a kilogram of salt, and 3,000 pounds (US $6) for a bag of bread.

Given the Western press’ obsessive coverage of the starvation and lack of medical care endured by Syrian civilians, its silence has been deafening in the case of Rukban — a desolate refugee camp in Syria’s southeast where conditions are appalling to such an extent that civilians have been dying as a result. Coverage has been scant of the successful evacuations of nearly 15,000 of the 40,000 to 60,000 now-former residents of Rukban (numbers vary according to source) to safe havens where they are provided food, shelter and medical care.

Silence about the civilian evacuations from Rukban is likely a result of the fact that those doing the rescuing are the governments of Syria and Russia — and the fact that they have been doing so in the face of increasing levels of opposition from the U.S. government.

A harsh, abusive environment

Rukban lies on Syria’s desolate desert border with Jordan, surrounded by a 55-km deconfliction zone, unilaterally established and enforced by the United States, and little else aside from the American base at al-Tanf, only 25 km away — a base whose presence is illegal under international law.

It is, by all reports, an unbearably harsh environment year-round and residents of the camp have endured abuse by terrorist groups and merchants within the camp, deprived of the very basics of life for many years now.

In February, the UNHCR reported that young girls and women in Rukban have been forced into marriage, some more than once. Their briefing noted:

Many women are terrified to leave their mud homes or tents and to be outside, as there are serious risks of sexual abuse and harassment. Our staff met mothers who keep their daughters indoors, as they are too afraid to let them go to improvised schools.”

The Jordanian government, home to 664,330 registered Syrian refugees, has adamantly refused any responsibility in providing humanitarian assistance to Rukban, arguing that it is a Syrian issue and that keeping its border with Syria closed is a matter of Jordan’s security — this after a number of terrorist attacks on the border near Rukban, some of which were attributed to ISIS and one that killed six Jordanian soldiers.

According to U.S. think-tank The Century Foundation, armed groups in Rukban have up to 4,000 men in their ranks and include:

Maghawir al-Thawra, the Free Tribes Army, the remnants of a formerly Pentagon-backed group called the Qaryatein Martyr Battalions and three factions formerly linked to the CIA’s covert war in Syria: the Army of the Eastern Lions, the Martyr Ahmed al-Abdo Forces, and the Shaam Liberation Army.”

Those armed groups, according to Russia, include several hundred ISIS and al-Qaeda recruits. Even the Atlantic Council — a NATO- and U.S. State Department-funded think-tank consistent in its anti-Syrian government stance — reported in November 2017 that the Jordanian government acknowledged an ISIS presence in Rukban.

The Century Foundation also notes the presence of ISIS in Rukban and concedes that the U.S. military “controls the area but won’t guarantee the safety of aid workers seeking access to the camp.”

Rukban

The Rukban camp, sandwiched between Jordan, Syria borders and Iraq, Feb. 14, 2017. Raad Adayleh | AP

Syria and Russia have sought out diplomatic means to resolve the issue of Rukban, arguing repeatedly at the United Nations Security Council for the need to dismantle the camp and return refugees to areas once plagued by terrorism but that have now been secured.

As I wrote recently:

The U.S. stymied aid to Rukban, and was then only willing to provide security for aid convoys to a point 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) away from the camp, according to the UN’s own Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock. So, by U.S. administration logic, convoys should have dropped their Rukban-specific aid in areas controlled by terrorist groups and just hoped for the best.”

The U.S., for its part, has both refused the evacuation of refugees from the camp and obstructed aid deliveries on at least two occasions. In February, Russia and Syria opened two humanitarian corridors to Rukban and began delivering much-needed aid to its residents.

Syria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Bashar al-Ja’afari, noted in May 2019 that Syria agreed to facilitate the first aid convoy to Rukban earlier this year, but the convoy was ultimately delayed by the United States for 40 days. A second convoy was then delayed for four months. Al-Ja’afari also noted that the U.S., as an occupying power in Syria, is obliged under the Geneva Conventions to provide food, medicine and humanitarian assistance to those under its occupation.

Then, in early March, the Russian Center for Reconciliation reported that U.S. authorities had refused entry to a convoy of buses intending to enter the deconfliction zone to evacuate refugees from Rukban.

According to a March 2019 article from Public Radio International:

[W]hen Syrian and Iranian forces have entered the 34-mile perimeter around the base, American warplanes have responded with strikes — effectively putting Rukban and its residents under American protection from Assad’s forces.”

Despite the abundance of obstacles they faced, Syria and Russia were ultimately able to evacuate over 14,000 of the camp’s residents to safety. In a joint statement on June 19, representatives of the two countries noted that some of the camp’s residents were forced to pay “militants” between $400 to $1000 in order to leave Rukban.

Media reports on Rukban … from abroad

While Rukban — unlike Madaya or Aleppo in 2016 — generally isn’t making headlines, there are some pro-regime-change media reporting on it, although even those reports tend to omit the fact that civilians have been evacuated to safety and provided with food and medical care.

Instead, articles relieve America and armed Jihadist groups of their role in the suffering of displaced Syrians in Rukban, reserving blame for Syria and Russia and claiming internal refugees are being forced to leave against their will only to be imprisoned by the Syrian government.

Emad Ghali, a “media activist,” has been at the center of many of these claims. Ghali has been cited as a credible source in most of the mainstream Western press’ reporting on Rukban, from the New York Times, to Al Jazeera, to the Middle East Eye. Cited since at least 2018 in media reporting on Rukban, Ghali has an allegiance to the Free Syrian Army, a fact easily gleaned by simply browsing his Facebook profile. He recently posted multiple times on Facebook mourning the passing of jihadist commander and footballer Abdul Baset al-Sarout. As it turns out, Sarout not only held extremist and sectarian views, but pledged allegiance to ISIS, among other less-than-noble acts ignored by most media reports that cite him.

Ghali ISIS

Ghali paid homage to ISIS commander Abdul Baset al-Sarout on his Facebook page

Citing Ghali as merely a “media activist” is not an unusual practice for many covering the Syrian conflict. In fact, Ghali holds the same level of extremist-minded views as the “sources” cited by the New York Times in articles that I reported on around the time Ghouta was being liberated from jihadist groups in 2018.

Four sources used in those articles had affiliations to, and/or reverence for the al-Qaeda-linked Jaysh al-Islam — including the former leader Zahran Alloush who has been known to confine civilians in cages, including women and children, for use as human shields in Ghouta — Faylaq al-Rahman, and even to al-Qaeda, not to mention the so-called Emir of al-Qaeda in Syria, the applauded Abu Muhammad Al-Julani.

Claims in a Reuters article of forced internment, being held at gunpoint in refugee centers, come from sources not named in Rukban — instead generically referred to as “residents of Rukban say”…

An article in the UAE-based The National also pushed fear-mongering over the “fate that awaits” evacuees, saying:

[T]here is talk of Syrian government guards separating women and children from men in holding centres in Homs city.There are also accusations of a shooting last month, with two men who had attempted an escape from one of the holding centres allegedly killed. The stories are unconfirmed, but they are enough to make Rukban’s men wary of taking the government’s route out.”

Yet reports from those who have actually visited the centers paint a different picture.

An April 2019 report by Russia-based Vesti News shows calm scenes of Rukban evacuees receiving medical exams by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, who according to Vesti, have doctors there every day; and of food and clean, if not simple, rooms in a former school housing displaced refugees from Rukban. Notably, the Vesti journalist states: “There aren’t any checkpoints or barriers at the centre. The entrance and exit are free.”

The Russian Reconciliation Center reported on May 23 of the refugee centers:

In early May, these shelters were visited by officials from the respective UN agencies, in particular, the UNHCR, who could personally see that the Syrian government provided the required level of accommodation for the refugees in Homs. It is remarkable that most of the former Rukban residents have already relocated from temporary shelters in Homs to permanent residencies in government-controlled areas.”

Likewise, in the Horjilleh Center which I visited in 2018 families were living in modest but sanitary shelters, cooked food was provided, a school was running, and authorities were working to replace identity papers lost during the years under the rule of jihadist groups.

Calling on the U.S. to close the camp

David Swanson, Public Information Officer Regional Office for the Syria Crisis UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs based in Amman, Jordan, told me regarding claims of substandard conditions and of Syrians being forcefully held or mistreated in the centers that,

People leaving Rukban are taken to temporary collective shelters in Homs for a 24-hour stay. While there, they receive basic assistance, including shelter, blankets, mattresses, solar lamps, sleeping mats, plastic sheets, food parcels and nutrition supplies before proceeding to their areas of choice, mostly towards southern and eastern Homs, with small numbers going to rural Damascus or Deir-ez-Zor.

The United Nations has been granted access to the shelters on three occasions and has found the situation there adequate. The United Nations continues to advocate and call for safe, sustained and unimpeded humanitarian assistance and access to Rukban as well as to all those in need throughout Syria. The United Nations also seeks the support of all concerned parties in ensuring the humanitarian and voluntary character of departures from Rukban.”

Hedinn Halldorsson, the Spokesperson and Public Information Officer for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) based in Damascus, told me:

We looked into this when the rumours started, end of April, and concluded they were unfounded – and communicated that externally via press briefings in both Geneva and NY. The conditions in the shelters in Homs are also adequate and in compliance with standards; the UN has access and has done three monitoring visits so far.”

Syria Rukban

Syrian Arab Red Crescent members unload food and water for Rukban’s evacuees. Photo | Eva Bartlett

Halldorsson noted official UN statements, including:

“Alleged mistreatment of Rukban returnees

  • The United Nations is aware of media reports about people leaving Rukban having been killed or subject to mistreatment upon arrival in shelters in Homs.
  • The United Nations has not been able to confirm any of the allegations.

Regarding the issue of shelters, Halldorsson noted that as of July 1st:

  • Nearly 15,600 people have left Rukban since March – or nearly 40 per cent of the estimated total population of 41,700.
  • The United Nations has been granted access to the shelters in Homs on three occasions and found conditions in these shelters to be adequate.”

Confirming both UN officials’ statements about the Syrian government’s role in Rukban, the Syrian Mission to the United Nations in New York City told me:

The Syrian Government has spared no effort in recent years to provide every form of humanitarian assistance and support to all Syrians affected by the crisis, regardless of their locations throughout Syria. The Syrian Government has therefore collaborated and cooperated with the United Nations and other international organizations working in Syria to that end, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 46/182.

There must be an end to the suffering of tens of thousands of civilians who live in Al-Rukban, an area which is controlled by illegitimate foreign forces and armed terrorist groups affiliated with them. The continued suffering of those Syrian civilians demonstrates the indifference of the United States Administration to their suffering and disastrous situation.

We stress once again that there is a need to put an end to the suffering of these civilians and to close this camp definitively. The detained people in the camp must be allowed to leave it and return to their homes, which have been liberated by the Syrian Arab Army from terrorism. We note that the Syrian Government has taken all necessary measures to evacuate the detainees from the Rukban camp and end their suffering. What is needed today is for the American occupation forces to allow the camp to be dismantled and to ensure safe transportation in the occupied Al-Tanf area.”

Given that the United States has clearly demonstrated not only a lack of will to aid and or resettle Rukban’s residents but a callousness that flies in the face of their purported concern for Syrians in Rukban, the words of Syrian and Russian authorities on how to solve the crisis in Rukban could not ring truer.

Very little actual coverage

The sparse coverage Rukban has received has mostly revolved around accusations that the camp’s civilians fear returning to government-secured areas of Syria for fear of being imprisoned or tortured. This, in spite of the fact that areas brought back under government control over the years have seen hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians return to live in peace and of a confirmation by the United Nations that they had “positively assessed the conditions created by the Syrian authorities for returning refugees.”

The accusations also come in spite of the fact that, for years now, millions of internally displaced Syrians have taken shelter in government areas, often housed and given medical care by Syrian authorities.

Over the years I’ve found myself waiting for well over a month for my journalist visa at the Syrian embassy in Beirut to clear. During these times I traveled around Lebanon where I’ve encountered Syrians who left their country either for work, the main reason, or because their neighborhoods were occupied by terrorist groups. All expressed a longing for Syria and a desire to return home.

In March, journalist Sharmine Narwani tweeted in part that,

the head of UNDP in Lebanon told me during an interview: ‘I have not met a single Syrian refugee who does not want to go home.’”

Of the authors who penned articles claiming that Syrians in Rukban are afraid to return to government-secured areas of Syria, few that I’m aware of actually traveled to Syria to speak with evacuees, instead reporting from Istanbul or even further abroad.

On June 12, I did just that, hiring a taxi to take me to a dusty stretch of road roughly 60 km east of ad-Dumayr, Syria, where I was able to intercept a convoy of buses ferrying exhausted refugees out of Rukban.

Merchants, armed groups and Americans

Five hundred meters from a fork in the highway connecting a road heading northeast to Tadmur (Palmyra) to another heading southeast towards Iraq — I waited at a nondescript stopping point called al-Waha, where buses stopped for water and food to be distributed to starving refugees. In Arabic, al-Waha means the oasis and, although only a makeshift Red Crescent distribution center, and compared to Rukban it might as well have been an oasis.

A convoy of 18 buses carrying nearly 900 tormented Syrians followed by a line of trucks carrying their belongings were transferred to refugee reception centers in Homs. Members of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent distributed boxes containing beans, chickpeas and canned meat — the latter a scarcity among the displaced.

Rukban evacuation

Buses transported nearly 900 refugees from Rukban Camp to temporary shelters in Homs on June 12. Photo | Eva Bartlett

As food and water were handed out, I moved from bus to bus speaking with people who endured years-long shortages of food, medicine, clean water, work and education … the basic essentials of life. Most people I spoke to said they were starving because they couldn’t afford the hefty prices of food in the camp, which they blamed on Rukban’s merchants. Some blamed the terrorist groups operating in the camp and still others blamed the Americans. A few women I spoke to blamed the Syrian government, saying no aid had entered Rukban at all, a claim that would later be refuted by reports from both the UN and Red Crescent.

Image on the right: An elderly woman recounted enduring hunger in Rukban. Photo | Eva Bartlett

Syria Rukban

An old woman slumped on the floor of one bus recounted:

We were dying of hunger, life was hell there. Traders [merchants] sold everything at high prices, very expensive; we couldn’t afford to buy things. We tried to leave before today but we didn’t have money to pay for a car out. There were no doctors; it was horrible there.”

Aboard another bus, an older woman sat on the floor, two young women and several babies around her. She had spent four years in the camp:

“Everything was expensive, we were hungry all the time. We ate bread, za’atar, yogurt… We didn’t know meat, fruit…”

Merchants charged 1,000 Syrian pounds (US $2) for five potatoes, she said, exemplifying the absurdly high prices.

I asked whether she’d been prevented from leaving before. “Yes,” she responded.

She didn’t get a chance to elaborate as a younger woman further back on the bus shouted at her that no one had been preventing anyone from leaving. When I asked the younger woman how the armed groups had treated her, she replied, “All respect to them.”

But others that I spoke to were explicit in their blame for both the terrorist groups operating in the camp and the U.S. occupation forces in al-Tanf.

An older man from Palmyra who spent four years in the camp spoke of “armed gangs” paid in U.S. dollars being the only ones able to eat properly:

The armed gangs were living while the rest of the people were dead. No one here had fruit for several years. Those who wanted fruit have to pay in U.S. dollars. The armed groups were the only ones who could do so. They were spreading propaganda: ‘don’t go, the aid is coming.’ We do not want aid. We want to go back to our towns.”

Mahmoud Saleh, a young man from Homs, told me he’d fled home five years ago. According to Saleh, the Americans were in control of Rukban. He also put blame on the armed groups operating in the camp, especially for controlling who was permitted to leave. He said,

“There are two other convoys trying to leave but the armed groups are preventing them.”

Image below: Mahmoud Saleh from Homs said the Americans control Rukban and blamed armed groups in the camp for controlling who could leave. Photo | Eva Bartlett

Syria Rukban

A shepherd who had spent three years in Rukban blamed “terrorists” for not being able to leave. He also blamed the United States:

“Those controlling Tanf wouldn’t let us leave, the Americans wouldn’t let us leave.”

Many others I spoke to said they had wanted to leave before but were fear-mongered by terrorists into staying, told they would be “slaughtered by the regime,” a claim parroted by many in the Western press when Aleppo and other areas of Syria were being liberated from armed groups.

The testimonies I heard when speaking to Rukban evacuees radically differed from the claims made in most of the Western press’ reporting about Syria’s treatment of refugees. These testimonies are not only corroborated by Syrian and Russian authorities, but also by the United Nations itself.

*

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Eva Bartlett is a Canadian independent journalist and activist. She has spent years on the ground covering conflict zones in the Middle East, especially in Syria and occupied Palestine, where she lived for nearly four years. She is a recipient of the 2017 International Journalism Award for International Reporting, granted by the Mexican Journalists’ Press Club (founded in 1951), was the first recipient of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism, and was short-listed in 2017 for the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. See her extended bio on her blog In Gaza. She tweets at @EvaKBartlett

Featured image:  An elderly women evacuated from Rukban complained of hunger due to extremely high food prices. Photo | Eva Bartlett

Hezbollah Is Not a Threat to America

Global Research, November 03, 2017

Featured image: Hezbollah’s supporters at Liberation Day, Bint Jbeil, Lebanon, 25 May 2014. (Source: Shutterstock/Gabirelle Pedrini)

Western-backed militants are in retreat, Bashar al-Assad remains president, Hezbollah has stretched its wings regionally, Israeli power is in decline, and Iran is on the rise. Not a pretty result for Washington’s multi-billion dollar investment in the Syrian conflict, especially if it was intended to change the map of the region to favor U.S. interests.

The Trump administration is therefore moving to hit its regional adversaries on alternative, non-military fronts—mainly, employing the sanctions tool that can cripple economies, besiege communities, and stir up public discontent.

The first step was to decertify the nuclear agreement struck between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1), which would open up a pathway to further U.S. sanctions against Iran.

The second step is to resuscitate the Hezbollah “threat” and isolate the organization using legal maneuvers and financial sanctions—what one pro-U.S. Lebanese Central Bank official calls “the new tools of imperialism.”

The U.S. listed Hezbollah as a “terrorist organization” 20 years ago this month. Most other states, as well as the United Nations Security Council, have not.

Two weeks ago, at a State Department briefing on the Hezbollah “threat,” National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas J. Rasmussen tried to paint a picture of an organization that was directing “terrorism acts worldwide” and posing a threat “to U.S. interests” including “here in the homeland.”

“Prior to September 11,” Rasmussen claimed, “I think everybody knows Hezbollah was responsible for the terrorism-related deaths of more U.S. citizens than any other foreign terrorist organization.”

This was news indeed.

A check with a State Department spokesperson confirmed that the “deaths of more U.S. citizens than any other foreign terrorist organization” claim was in reference to the following incidents:

“Hezbollah is responsible for multiple large scale terrorist attacks, including the 1983 suicide truck bombings of the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut; the 1984 attack on the U.S. Embassy annex in Beirut; and the 1985 hijacking of TWA flight 847, during which U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem was murdered,” explained the spokesperson in an email.

The 1983 attack on the Beirut barracks took the lives of 241 Americans. The 1983 U.S. embassy bombing killed 17 Americans, and the 1984 attack on the relocated embassy facilities killed two Americans.

Hezbollah has officially and consistently denied involvement in these suicide bombings and was not even established as an organization until 1985. Some write off this important discrepancy by arguing that the bombings would have been conducted by one of Hezbollah’s “precursor organizations,” albeit without providing evidence to prove the point. The U.S. secretary of defense at the time of the bombings, Caspar Weinberger, told PBS almost two decades later, in 2001:

“We still do not have the actual knowledge of who did the bombing of the Marine barracks at the Beirut Airport… and we certainly didn’t then.”

What was the U.S. reaction to the Beirut bombings in 1982? Did it retaliate against this phantom Hezbollah or its “precursor” organizations? No. In what was the heaviest shore bombardment by a U.S. naval vessel since the Korean war, the Americans retreating from Lebanon launched 300 missiles inland, killing hundreds of Druze and Shia non-combatants. In their book Best Laid Plans: The Inside Story of America’s War Against TerrorismDavid C. Martin and John Walcott write about the incident:

In a nine-hour period, the U.S.S. New Jersey fired 288 16-inch rounds, each one weighing as much as a Volkswagen Beetle. In those nine-hours, the ship consumed 40 percent of the 16-inch ammunition available in the entire European theater…in one burst of wretched excess.

It wasn’t until 2003 that Hezbollah was officially fingered in the embassy bombing. In a 30-page decision that resulted from a lawsuit filed by the victims’ families, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth said Hezbollah carried out the attack at the behest of Iran and its Ministry of Information and Security. This was based in part with an alleged Hezbollah bomber who said he was directed “to go forward with attacks” in Lebanon at that time. Critics have called this a “show trial,” comparing it to the 2016 U.S. trial that blamed Iran for the September 11 terrorist attacks, despite the fact that 15 Saudis (and no Iranians) were among the hijackers and the U.S. intelligence community has identified links between Saudi officials and some of the perpetrators.

Meanwhile, the Beirut barracks bombing targeted servicemen from the U.S. and France. This was in the context of Israel’s invasion and occupation of Lebanon in 1982. The Israeli military at the time had been heavily armed and outfitted by the United States. The victims were not non-combatants—they were military forces belonging to governments that were perceived by Lebanese as aiding the aggression against sovereign Lebanon.

Whatever the case and whomever the perpetrator, you don’t get to call such an action “terrorism.” It’s an irrational American narrative that time and time again confounds the Middle East: If the U.S. kills you, you are collateral damage. But if you shoot back, you are a terrorist.

Not Hezbollah

“It’s not really Hezbollah’s modus operandi,” mused former UK Ambassador Frances Guy about the massive car bomb that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri along Beirut’s seafront. We were discussing likely perpetrators during my visit to Beirut in 2010, and Guy told me that the Lebanese resistance group doesn’t really “do” high-octane car bombings in public spaces.

Nonetheless, four Hezbollah operatives stand accused of assassinating Hariri by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), a highly politicized UN investigative body that shifted its focus from one western political adversary to another, until finally settling on Hezbollah.

A revealing Wikileaks cable from 2008 shows the STL’s chief investigator begging the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon to provide the names of “leads” to pursue in Syria. “You are the key player,” he implores Ambassador Michele Sison, adding that the U.S. has “a big investment in the Tribunal.”

In a rare candid moment during an off-the-record meeting in 2011, another senior British official dropped this bombshell:

“The [UN] Tribunal is useful for us to keep the Iranians in line. We don’t have too many tools left to do that.”

Shortly after my meeting with Ambassador Guy in 2010, she was raked over the coals for a blog she posted on the passing of Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah—a Lebanese Shia cleric the U.S. has consistently, and many believe incorrectly, called “Hezbollah’s spiritual leader.” She wrote:

Frances Guy

When you visited him you could be sure of a real debate, a respectful argument and you knew you would leave his presence feeling a better person…The world needs more men like him willing to reach out across faiths, acknowledging the reality of the modern world and daring to confront old constraints. May he rest in peace.

Israelis were incensed by Guy’s admiration for the Hezbollah-supporting cleric, and her blog post was scrubbed. But the UK nevertheless sent an official to pay condolences at Fadlallah’s Hassanein mosque, followed by a procession of ambassadors from France, Belgium, Poland, and Denmark. The French and Spanish ambassadors and the UN secretary general sent condolences to Hezbollah too.

Foreign Policy magazine published a piece upon Fadlallah’s death, subtitled: “How the United States got Lebanon’s leading Shiite cleric dead wrong—and missed a chance to change the Middle East forever.” That cryptic sentence refers, of course, to the monumentally misguided off-the-books assassination attempt against Ayatollah Fadlallah organized by CIA Director William Casey in the aftermath of the barracks and embassy bombings—despite the fact that the U.S., per Weinberger’s claims, had no clue who did not.

According to an interview Casey gave to the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, the CIA chief arranged for Saudi funding for the covert operation using Lebanese militias to do the dirty work. Fadlallah escaped death, but 80 others died in the southern Beirut suburb that day, including the brother of a young Imad Mughniyeh, who went on to become a leader of Hezbollah’s security operations.

He had been only nine years old in July 1972, when the Israelis set off Beirut’s first car bomb near the southern suburb where he lived, killing Palestinian poet Ghassan Kanafani and others.

Mughniyeh, you may recall, was himself killed in a car bomb in Damascus in February 2008. In the immediate aftermath of that assassination, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell seemed to misdirect reporters:

“There’s some evidence that it may have been internal Hezbollah. It may have been Syria. We don’t know yet, and we’re trying to sort that out.”

No, it wasn’t Hezbollah and it wasn’t Syria. Seven years later, a series of orchestrated leaks to Newsweek and the Washington Post revealed that the Mughniyeh car bombing came courtesy of a joint operation by the CIA and Mossad.

No Threat to Americans

“Hezbollah is not plotting against us,” former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told a small group of anti-government Syrians on the sidelines of the UN’s General Assembly plenary session a year ago.

Kerry’s comments were caught on an audio tape acquired by the New York Times. Asked why the U.S. fights extremist Sunni groups and not Shia ones, he replied:

The reason for [airstrikes against the Sunni Extremists] is because they have basically declared war on us, and are plotting against us, and Hezbollah is not plotting against us— Hezbollah is exclusively focused on Israel, who they’re not attacking now, and on Syria, where they are attacking in support of Assad.

Now, a mere year later, Rasmussen wants us to believe:

“We in the Intelligence Community do, in fact, see continued activity on behalf of Hezbollah here inside the homeland.”

So which is it? Is Hezbollah targeting Americans or not? The evidence of this is extremely slim and is peppered with more use of qualifying terms—-“allegedly,” “reportedly,” “assessments,” “linkages”—than any objective journalist can comfortably swallow. So too are U.S. reports of Hezbollah’s “international terrorist activities.”

American investigative reporter Gareth Porter has done deep dives on various allegations of Hezbollah-linked “terrorism” in ArgentinaBulgariaWashington, DCIndiaSaudi Arabia and other places. The State Department lists many of these incidents as evidence of the “global threat” Hezbollah poses, but always, upon further scrutiny, the accusations ring hollow.

If there was compelling evidence of the Lebanese resistance group’s involvement in all these attacks, then why have so few nations clamored onto the Hezbollah-is-a-terrorist-organization bandwagon? Until the conflict in Syria kicked off, it was restricted to a smattering of western states and Israel. But relentless U.S. pressure, and the seismic battle currently underway in the Middle East between pro-U.S. states and pro-Iran states vying for hegemony, have produced a smattering few recent additions.

In early 2016, the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) designated Hezbollah a terrorist group, followed a few days later by the 21-member Arab League, with Lebanon and Iraq voting against the measure.

Both organizations are heavily dominated by the immensely wealthy and sectarian (read: anti-Shia) Saudis, financial patrons to many Sunni leaders in the region, and a country entrenched in existential proxy battles in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Bahrain (against Hezbollah ally and U.S. foe, Iran).

What stands out, instead, is the European Union’s fuzzy position on Hezbollah. Despite U.S. insistence that the group in its entirely is a terrorist organization, the EU lists only Hezbollah’s “military wing” as such—and that designation was made only in 2013, when the Syrian conflict exploded and nations started taking hard sides in the Middle East. The “military wing” caveat is a critical distinction that reveals there are more layers to this onion than we see in State Department sound bites.

For Lebanon, Hezbollah is more than just the first Arab force to militarily expel the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) from its territory permanently. In Lebanon, Hezbollah is a political party too, with members of parliament and seats in the cabinet. The group runs a remarkable array of social services across the country, from subsidized schools, hospitals and clinics, to agricultural centers and environmental programs.

Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan introduced a more nuanced image of the group to a Washington think tank audience in 2009:

Hezbollah started out as purely a terrorist organization in the early ’80s and has evolved significantly over time. And now it has members of parliament, in the cabinet; there are lawyers, doctors, others who are part of the Hezbollah organization … And so, quite frankly, I’m pleased to see that a lot of Hezbollah individuals are in fact renouncing that type of terrorism and violence and are trying to participate in the political process in a very legitimate fashion.

Furthermore, Hezbollah’s appeal is not limited to Lebanon’s Shia community. Since 2006, Hezbollah has been in a political alliance with the country’s largest Christian-based political party, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), whose leader, General Michel Aoun, is currently president of Lebanon.

Aoun’s close association with Hezbollah is an irritant to Washington, and so the Trump administration is pushing to tighten the sanctions noose on Lebanon, too. In September, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to strengthen the 2015 Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act. Congressmen claim the new measures won’t harm regular Lebanese civilians, but there is a dangerous trend underway to punish anyone who supports Hezbollah’s civic, social, and religious initiatives.

This concern by the Lebanese is fully justified if you listen to State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism Nathan A. Sales, who insists:

Money given to a terrorist organization, even for purportedly non-terroristic purposes, ends up assisting the group’s terroristic activities. If you give money to the so-called peaceful side of an organization, money is fungible. And so that frees up resources that can then be used for malign activities that have nothing to do with charitable work or other purposes that we might regard as legitimate. And so it’s important for us to maintain that distinction as false. The distinction between political and terroristic is false.

The Lebanese resistance was formed in reaction to Israel’s illegal invasion and occupation of Lebanon. As Kerry says, that’s where Hezbollah’s real fight is—with Israel.

Washington should leave it to the two to duke it out. This is not America’s fight. Hezbollah has saved Lebanon—and much of the Levant—not once, but twice, from bloody aggressions. In fact, maybe I’ll take them out to lunch in Beirut and pay the bill. I daresay that could be regarded as a financial contribution to Hezbollah, and that would make me a “terrorist,” too.

Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Mideast geopolitics, based in Beirut.

israel’s Geopolitical Gut Check, A once favorable balance of power has shifted, clipping Tel Aviv’s wings.

 

Israel’s Geopolitical Gut Check

A once favorable balance of power has shifted, clipping Tel Aviv’s wings.

Tel Aviv has had a bad few weeks. A once favorable regional balance of power has suddenly shifted in a direction that clips Israel’s wings—all while adversaries on its borders are making swift strategic gains.

At the core of the issue is Israel’s obsession with Iranian ascendancy in the region. The 2015 nuclear deal that ended the Islamic Republic’s isolation was a real setback for the Israeli establishment, but what really hit home this summer was a steady succession of political and military victories for the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad and his Iranian and Hezbollah allies.

So Israel’s power players headed to the United States and Russia to try to claw back some lost leverage on the ground.

They returned from Washington empty-handed, unable to wrest guarantees on keeping Iranian and allied troops out of southern Syria, where the U.S. and Russia in July established a de-escalation zone near Israel’s border.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s consultations with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi went nowhere too. Russian accounts of those talks describe a highly “agitated” and “emotional” Netanyahu who was told in no uncertain terms by a calm Putin: “Iran is Russia’s strategic ally in the Middle East.” To Netanyahu, Putin offered what must have comparatively felt like crumbs: “Israel is also an important partner of Russia in the region.”

The Israeli prime minister and other senior officials went on the offensive after that meeting, promising to “defend ourselves by all means” from Iran’s ambitions in Syria, and threatening military attacks on Assad’s “palace in Damascus.”

But the Russians clearly hadn’t forgotten that shortly after Netanyahu’s last encounter with Putin in March, Israel launched strikes against Russia’s Syrian ally, one of which came dangerously near Russian troops.

This time around, it seems Putin was set on drawing new red lines with Israel. In the aftermath of the Netanyahu meeting, the Russians announced the establishment of a unified air defense system with Syria, “capable of destroying targets within a range of up to 400 kilometers at an altitude of up to 35 kilometers.”

Yet the Israeli threats haven’t ceased. So, what explains the panic in Israel right now? And why has it escalated so suddenly?

Lebanon: Last week, Hezbollah, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) closed a chapter on the years-long occupation of eastern Lebanon by ISIS and the Al Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra terrorist groups. The three forces launched a stunning military offensive that took out al-Nusra in a mere six days and ISIS in nine—including time spent in negotiations.

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah dubbed the successful anti-terrorism operation “the Second Liberation”—the first being Lebanon’s liberation from Israeli occupation forces in 2000.

In the years leading up to this battle, Hezbollah and the LAF have been coordinating anti-terrorism efforts in Lebanon, an unprecedented collaboration that has outraged both Israelis and Americans. The U.S. provides training and weaponry for the LAF but considers the Lebanese resistance group a terrorist organization, even though Hezbollah is part of Lebanon’s cabinet and parliament.

The liberation of the strategic Lebanese-Syrian border area has not only freed up Hezbollah forces for deployment on other frontlines—including its southern border with Israel—but importantly, now represents the first full Syrian border reclaimed by the SAA from terrorists since the start of the Syrian crisis.

“The enemy [Israel],” announced Nasrallah after the fight, “is crying over its orphans and is acknowledging the defeat of its project and friends in Syria.”

Syria: The Hezbollah leader may have a point. Outside of ISIS’s stronghold in eastern Syria where it has lost thousands of square kilometers to the SAA and its allies, the terror group occupies one small remaining territory near the border of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. That area in southwestern Syria is also home to several other militant groups, most prominently al-Nusra, whose injured fighters have been tended to by Israeli medics for much of the conflict.

The Israelis, who have reportedly launched dozens of strikes against Syrian allied forces during this conflict, have rarely attacked al-Nusra or ISIS. Israel’s Defense Minister in 2016, Moshe Yaalon, made headlines when he said: “In Syria, if the choice is between Iran and the Islamic State, I choose the Islamic State.” Some in the Israeli policy community have supported this line—one recent report from an Israeli think tank entitled “The Destruction of Islamic State is a Strategic Mistake” advocates for keeping ISIS around to “hamper Iran’s quest for regional hegemony.” Given Israel’s fixation with keeping Iran’s influence contained, it’s perhaps no surprise that Syria’s recent spate of victories against ISIS have set off alarm bells in Tel Aviv.

To compound Israel’s setbacks, the U.S.-Russian southern de-escalation agreement has now halted the militants’ ability to fight Syrian allied forces around Quneitra (Syrian Golan), Daraa, and As-Suwayda—areas now policed by Syria’s Russian allies.

Jordan: In Amman, a joint de-escalation monitoring center for this southern zone has just been launched, which will likely force the Jordanians to secure and normalize their northern border with Syria. Earlier this summer, the Jordanians had been on board a Saudi-led (and Israeli-supported) alliance of mostly Sunni Muslim states that sought to squash Iran’s regional influence. At the time, Jordan had loudly insisted on the removal of Iranian-backed fighters from its border with Syria. But today, that “Arab NATO” alliance has collapsed amidst a heated inter-GCC dispute, and Jordanians appear to be recalibrating their regional stance to accept the “de-escalation zone” vision launched by Russia, Turkey, and of course, Iran.

The terms of the southern de-escalation agreement reached between the U.S. and Russia are secret, but the word is that there is no specific language that diminishes the role of Iran, Hezbollah and their allied militias in Syria.

This means Israel can no longer count on Islamist militants obstructing Syrian government control over the south. It also means that Jordan, which just last week re-opened its Trebil border crossing with Iraq, is now moving incrementally toward re-opening its Nasib border crossing with Syria. The commercial dividends of these two actions could contribute between $1-2 billion to Jordan’s depleted coffers—a healthy incentive for the Jordanians to play nice with Syria.

Turkey: Jordan’s political and security “diversification” comes directly on the back of a visit to Amman by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, once the most vocal regional critic of Bashar al-Assad, and a major supplier of weapons and Islamist fighters in the Syrian military theater.

Erdoğan is back in play with the Russians and Iranians after briefly toying with the Saudi “Arab NATO” project directed against Iran. Jordanian media reports even claim the Turkish president offered to coordinate mediation with Iran to smooth over Jordan’s lingering doubts about the de-escalation zone.

But what accounts for his transformation?

While Erdoğan has not explicitly embraced an Assad-ruled Syria or an active Iranian role south of his border, two urgent regional developments have softened his position and drawn him back into the Iranian-Russian orbit.

The first is the major political crisis engulfing the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, pitting Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain against Qatar. Like its Turkish ally, Qatar has been a leading supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and is pursuing a diversified foreign-policy agenda, which includes political and economic relations with Iran.

The GCC spat created a further divide within the region, which until recently consisted mainly of pro-Iran and pro-Saudi camps. Now, Turkey and Qatar form a third camp, and have sought to mitigate Saudi-UAE pressures by re-engaging with Iran and its allies.

The second impetus comes from Washington’s unrelenting support for the mostly-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters in the north of Syria. Erdoğan has beseeched the Americans to abandon their support for these Kurds, who are primarily Syrian affiliates of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey, a group considered a terrorist organization by both Ankara and Washington.

The Americans have ignored Erdoğan’s requests, even though the SDF has shown intent to occupy and federalize the entire north of Syria—from Iraq to the Mediterranean—an area spanning the length of the Turkish border.

On this issue, Ankara now shares common cause with Tehran, Baghdad, and Damascus—all are vehemently opposed to Kurdish national aspirations. This realignment takes place against the backdrop of a Kurdish referendum for independence in Iraq slated for late September, which all four capitals oppose. Israel, which has close ties to the Kurdish government in Erbil, is the only country to date that supports the referendum. Kurdistan is a matter of strategic interest for Tel Aviv. The establishment of Kurdish federal entities in Syria and Iraq, after all, would mean the partitioning and weakening of those Arab states. And importantly, Kurdish statelets in these areas can act as geographic buffers that impede Iran’s easy access to Israel’s borders.

So Turkey’s re-engagement with Iran and Russia not only contributes to the stability of the Syrian state, but also puts a spanner in the works of Israel’s goal of Kurdish independence.

Hamas: The “Resistance Axis” was once a club of four: Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas. But conflicting objectives in Syria drew Hamas out of the group—until now. New Hamas leadership has prioritized neutral relationships with all regional states, and has sought to reinstate relations and funding from the Islamic Republic.

Last week, Hamas’ politburo chief in Gaza, Yahya Senwar, announced: “Iran is the largest supporter of the Ezzedine al-Qassam brigades [Hamas’ military wing] in terms of financial support and support with weapons,” and expressed optimism that “the Syrian crisis shall end, which will open the horizons for restoring the relations with [Syria].”

For Israel, that means the rift between the Hamas-led Gaza Strip and Iran has ended, and weapons and aid will flow back to the Palestinian resistance group unimpeded.

Events on Israel’s western, northern and eastern borders have suddenly—in a few short weeks—scuttled the geopolitical balance that once favored Tel Aviv. Just a few years ago, Syria was disintegrating, Iraq was fragmenting, Lebanon was over-extended, and Gaza struggled alone.

Today, the likelihood of Iran enjoying a contiguous land corridor between its borders and the occupied Golan territory is greater than ever before. The Resistance Axis has gained tremendous military experience in the past six years in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon—and most importantly, has done so by coordinating troops, intelligence and battle plans from a single command center, for the first time in its history as an alliance. Furthermore, this axis now enjoys international political cover from two permanent UN Security Council members, Russia and China. The Russians now have significant military experience alongside three members of this axis, and the Chinese are eager to expand their economic vision into those West Asian states, with Iran as a key hub for oil and gas pipelines.

As these countries move forward to extinguish regional terrorism and reconstruct their infrastructure and societies, the Israelis will be left out in the cold. But while Israel’s options dwindle, its military plans seem to keep getting more attention. It’s the one option—the stick—that the Israelis gravitate to most easily, and a war of aggression against Lebanon and Gaza, or strikes against Syria, are not out of the question.

Hezbollah continues to demand the return of the remaining Israeli-occupied Lebanese territories, the Shebaa Farms and Kfarshuba hills, and Syria, once back on its feet, will do the same with the Golan. Both will do so from a strengthened position in this new Middle East. Yet the question remains: Does Israel recognize its new environment?

Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Mideast geopolitics, based in Beirut.

U.S. Buildup All About Iran

Requiring an American wedge between Syria and Iraq.

DAMASCUSAs the drive to push ISIS out of its remaining territories in Syria and Iraq rapidly advances, the U.S. and its allied forces have entrenched themselves in the southeastern Syrian border town of al-Tanaf, cutting off a major highway linking Damascus to Baghdad.

Defeating ISIS is Washington’s only stated military objective inside Syria. So what are those American troops doing there, blocking a vital artery connecting two Arab allied states in their own fight against terrorism?

“Our presence in al-Tanaf is temporary,” says Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the Combined Joint Task Force of Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS, via phone from Baghdad. “Our primary reason there is to train partner forces from that area for potential fights against ISIS elsewhere…and to maintain security in that border region.”

Dillon adds for emphasis: “Our fight is not with the (Syrian) regime.”

But since May 18, when U.S. airstrikes targeted Syrian forces and their vehicles approaching al-Tanaf, American forces have shot down two Syrian drones and fired on allied Syrian troops several times, each time citing “self-defense.” In that same period, however, it doesn’t appear that the al-Tanaf-based U.S.-backed militants have even once engaged in combat with ISIS.

Bouthaina Shaaban, political and media advisor to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is left bemused by that rhetoric:

“When asked what they’re doing in the south of Syria, they say they’re there for their ‘national security,’ but then they object to the movements of the Syrian army – inside Syria?”

She has a point. Under international law, any foreign troop presence inside a sovereign state is illegal unless specifically invited by the recognized governing authority – in this case, Assad’s government, the only Syrian authority recognized by the UN Security Council. Uninvited armies try to circumvent the law by claiming that Syria is “unable or unwilling” to fight ISIS and the threat to international security it poses. But “unwilling and unable” is only a theory, and not law, and since the Russians entered the Syrian military theater to ostensibly fight ISIS with the Syrians, that argument thins considerably.

Colonel Dillon acknowledges the point but argues that the Syrian army

“only just showed up recently in the area. If they can show that they are capable of fighting and defeating ISIS, then we don’t have to be there and that is less work for us and would be welcome.”

It’s not clear who made the U.S. arbiters of such a ruling. Syria’s fight against ISIS has picked up considerably in recent months, since four “de-escalation zones” were established during May negotiations in Astana among Russia, Turkey, and Iran. Reconciliation agreements among government forces and some militant groups in those zones – and the transfer of other militants to the northern governorate of Idlib – has meant that Syrian allied forces have been able to move their attention away from strategic areas in the west and concentrate on the ISIS fight in the east of the country.

An April 2017 report by IHS Markit, the leading UK security and defense information provider, asserts that the Islamic State fought Syrian government forces more than any other opponent over the past 12 months.

“Between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2017,” says the organization, “43 percent of all Islamic State fighting in Syria was directed against President Assad’s forces, 17 against the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the remaining 40 percent involved fighting rival Sunni opposition groups – in particular, those who formed part of the Turkey-backed Euphrates Shield coalition.”

In other words, during the period when IS territorial losses were most significant, Syrian forces fought ISIS more than twice as often as U.S.-backed ones.

An American Wedge Between Syria and Iraq

So what’s with the continued U.S. presence in al-Tanaf, an area where there is no ISIS presence and where the Syrian army and its allies have been making huge progress against their militant Islamist opponents?

The above map commissioned by the author.

If you look at the map commissioned by the author above, there are approximately three main highway crossings from major Syrian centers into Iraq. The northern-most border highway is currently under the control of U.S.-backed Kurdish forces who seek to carve out an independent statelet called Western Kurdistan.

The Homs-to-Baghdad highway in the middle of the map cuts through ISIS-besieged Deir ez-Zor, where up to 120,000 civilians have been protected by some 10,000 Syrian troops since ISIS stormed its environs in 2014. While that border point to Iraq is currently blocked by the terror group, Syrian forces are advancing rapidly from the west, north, and south to wrest the region back from ISIS control.

The Damascus-to-Baghdad highway in the south of the country, which allied Syrian forces have largely recaptured from militants, could have easily been the first unobstructed route between Syria and Iraq. Until, of course, U.S.-led forces entrenched themselves in al-Tanaf and blocked that path.

The Syrians cleared most of the highway this year, but have been inhibited from reaching the border by a unilaterally-declared “deconfliction zone” established by U.S.-led coalition forces.

“It was agreed upon with the Russians that this was a deconfliction zone,” says CJTF spokesman Dillon.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov begs to differ: “I don’t know anything about such zones. This must be some territory, which the coalition unilaterally declared and where it probably believes to have a sole right to take action. We cannot recognize such zones.”

Since regime-change plans fell flat in Syria, Beltway hawks have been advocating for the partitioning of Syria into at least three zones of influence – a buffer zone for Israel and Jordan in the south, a pro-U.S. Kurdish entity along the north and north-east, and control over the Syrian-Iraqi border.

But clashes with Syrian forces along the road to al-Tanaf have now created an ‘unintended consequence’ for the U.S.’s border plans. Syrian allied troops circumvented the al-Tanaf problem a few weeks ago by establishing border contact with Iraqi forces further north, thereby blocking off access for U.S. allies in the south. And Iraqi security forces have now reached al-Waleed border crossing, on Iraq’s side of the border from al-Tanaf, which means U.S.-led forces are now pinned between Iraqis and Syrians on the Damascus-Baghdad road.

When Syrians and Iraqis bypassed the al-Tanaf area and headed northward to establish border contact, another important set of facts was created on the ground. U.S. coalition forces are now cut off – at least from the south of Syria – from fighting ISIS in the northeast. This is a real setback for Washington’s plans to block direct Syrian-Iraqi border flows and score its own dazzling victory against ISIS. As Syrian forces head toward Deir ez-Zor, U.S.-backed forces’ participation in the battle to liberate that strategic area will now be limited to the Kurd-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from the north, while Syrian forces have established safe passage from the north, south, west – and potentially from the east, with the aid of allied Iraqi forces.

Why Washington Wants That Border

Re-establishing Syrian control over the highway running from Deir ez-Zor to Albu Kamal and al-Qaim is also a priority for Syria’s allies in Iran. Dr. Masoud Asadollahi, a Damascus-based expert in Middle East affairs explains: “The road through Albu Kamal is Iran’s favored option – it is a shorter path to Baghdad, safer, and runs through green, habitable areas. The M1 highway (Damascus-Baghdad) is more dangerous for Iran because it runs through Iraq’s Anbar province and areas that are mostly desert.”

If the U.S. objective in al-Tanaf was to block the southern highway between Syria and Iraq, thereby cutting off Iran’s land access to the borders of Palestine, they have been badly outmaneuvered. Syrian, Iraqi, and allied troops have now essentially trapped the U.S.-led forces in a fairly useless triangle down south, and created a new triangle (between Palmyra, Deir ez-Zor, and Albu Kamal) for their “final battle” against ISIS.

“The Americans always plan for one outcome and then get another one that is unintended,” observes Iran’s new envoy to Syria, Ambassador Javad Turk Abadi.

He and others in Damascus remain optimistic that the border routes long been denied to regional states will re-open in short order.

“Through the era of the Silk Road, the pathway between Syria, Iran, and Iraq was always active – until colonialism came to the region,” explains Turk Abadi.

In the same way that Western great powers have always sought to keep Russia and China apart, in the Middle East, that same divide-and-rule doctrine has been applied for decades to maintaining a wedge between Syria and Iraq.

“In the history of the last half century, it was always prevented for Syria and Iraq to get close, to coordinate. When (former Syrian president) Hafez al-Assad and (former Iraqi president) Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr almost reached a comprehensive agreement, Saddam Hussein made a coup d’etat and hung all the officers who wanted rapprochement with Syria,”says Shaaban, who has just published a book on Hafez Assad’s dealings with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Saddam then launched an eight-year war against the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the latter lost road access through Iraq for more than two decades.

In early 2003, U.S. troops invaded Iraq, deposed Saddam, and occupied the country for the next nine years. During that era, Iranian airplanes were often ordered down for inspections, instigated by U.S. occupation forces interested in thwarting Iran’s transfer of weapons and supplies to the Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah and other allies.

By the time U.S. troops exited Iraq in late 2011, the Syrian conflict was already under way, fully armed, financed, and supported by several NATO states and their Persian Gulf allies.

“When those borders are re-opened,” says Asadollahi, “this will be the first time Iran will have a land route to Syria and Palestine” – though others point out that the Iranians have always found ways to transport goods undetected.

“Our army is now almost at the border and Iraqis are at their border – and we are not going to stop,” insists Shaaban.

Syrian and Iraqi forces have not yet checkmated American forces operating in their military theaters. There is still talk of an escalation that may pit the United States against Syria’s powerful Russian ally, a dangerous development that could precipitate a regional or global war.

But in Baghdad, the U.S.-led coalition spokesman Colonel Dillon struck a slightly more nuanced tone from the more belligerent threats sounded in Washington:

“We’re not in Syria to grab land. If the Syrian regime can show they can defeat ISIS, then we’re fine with that. The Waleed border crossing is a good sign that shows these capabilities. We are open to secure borders both on the Syrian and Iraqi side. We’re not there with the intent to block anything, we’re there to defeat ISIS and train forces for that.”

The fact is, US-trained militants in the al-Tanaf garrison are not fighting ISIS today, and they suffered a “crippling defeat” in June 2016 when they last launched a major offensive against the terror group, 200 miles from al-Tanaf. Factoring in geography, balance of field forces and momentum, it is implausible that US troops and their proxies on the southern Syrian-Iraqi border can achieve their stated objectives. It is time for them to surrender their positions to the Syrian state.

Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Mideast geopolitics, based in Beirut.

Qatar: Center Stage in a World at War?

Doha, Qatar

[Ed note – An interesting analysis on the dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and its potential for engulfing the rest of the Middle East and exploding into World War III, has been posted by blogger Green Crow. The piece is written by “James” and reposted from his Winter Patriot blog. Qatar, in his analysis, sees US influence in the Middle East waning and is pivoting toward Iran, Syria, and Russia, and he notes that both Iran and Russia have sent food shipments to Qatar in order to break the blockade imposed by the Saudis. Turkey is now openly siding with the Qataris as well–and this also makes perfect sense. US support for the Kurds in Syria–with the US seemingly now moving in the direction of setting up a de facto Kurdish state–would of course have to be a major, MAJOR “red line” for Turkey. This of course puts two NATO allies, the US and Turkey, at odds with each other. Bottom line: there is a major shift in alliances occurring.

James, the writer, mentions a Cross Talk program which aired June 14 in which Sharmine Narwani was guest and gave some valuable perspectives on the situation. You can find that program here, but there is also a more recent Cross Talk Program, here, that features Alexander Mercouris, that also discusses the further evolving situation. The program, which aired June 23, is entitled “Rushing to War?” Basically, what it comes down to is that the ISIS proxies seem to be headed toward collapse. So what happens with the proxies are finally defeated with the major powers gathered in Syria left alone staring each other in the face? Does that make a major war more likely? This is the question explored on the show. ]

By Greencrow

There have been some very good analyses of the Qatar crisis on the Alternative Internet in the past few days. My instincts tell me that this crisis might just be the one that puts the globalist neocon ziofascist push towards WWIII, which has been stalled due to some genius “checkmating” by Russia, over the top.  In my opinion, Saudi Arabia and its allies are, just like the ISIS terrorists, acting as USrael’s proxy in the Middle East…just on a grander scale.  In the guest column below, James fromWinter Patriot Blog has a very comprehensive and well presented assessment of what is going on in Qatar. I have added bolding and emphasis, and will have more thoughts in comments to follow…

Continued here

Qatar Is Centre Stage In A World At War – UPDATED

Update at the foot of this article.

A few weeks ago, the Saudis exploded in their rhetoric against Qatar. They were apoplectic. What on earth could have caused this sudden flood of vitriol? Obviously, it was not the fact that Qatar was funding terrorists in Syria as this had been an open secret for years. Plus, it was also an open secret that the Saudi’s themselves are funding terrorism and even supplying many of the terrorists. The Qataris must have been threatening in a major way either or both of the two things the Saudis hold dear – their money and their political power. The former is increasingly dependent on the latter. Sharmine Narwani appeared on RT’s Crosstalk to talk about the Saudi/Qatar conflict. She was definitely the smartest one in the room but no one was really listening to her. In answer to Peter Lavelle’s first question, she revealed that the terror groups supported by the Qatar/Turkish alliance had gone very quiet in the last month and this had allowed the Syrian govt forces to concentrate on ISIS which is directly backed by the Saudis and the UAE. Consequently, ISIS is in disarray.

Clearly, to this writer at least, a deal had been done between Qatar, Turkey and Syria. Russia would have to be on-board, too. This has massive implications for the whole world. Narwani also thought that the Saudis were not above attacking Qatar and it might be imminent. One reason, as Sharmine Narwani states, may be the fact that Qatari backed terrorists in Syria have been fighting directly with Saudi backed jihadis. This benefits Turkey as well as Syria.

View the Crosstalk segment:

Turkey is pissed that the US is obviously trying to set up a Kurdish state in the north of Syria and barring Turkish military involvement. This evolving Kurdish state-let will inevitably threaten Turkish sovereignty. But what about Qatar?

QATAR

Qatar must be able to see which way the wind is blowing in the Syrian conflict and realise that they are not going to get their gas pipeline through Syrian territory after all. The LNG market, from which they get the bulk of their revenue from, is now oversupplied (from the US and Australian sources amongst others) and forcing prices downward. Qatar’s income is declining and it needs to pipe its gas to a major market to stay competitive. Piped gas is much cheaper to deliver and distribute than LNG. The only option is to talk to the Iranians. It also makes major business sense to do so.

Qatar and Iran share the largest gas field in the world and it is largely undeveloped. It makes sense to develop this field together and market the gas together as well. With Iran as a partner, the way is then open for Qatar to negotiate with the Russians and the Syrians concerning pipeline routes. The way is also open to ensure the future cash flow of the Qatari government and its royal household. Russian technology and Chinese finance will make it all happen. I would estimate that the gas sales will be denominated in Yuan and Rubles.

UNITED STATES

The Americans will get (are getting) their knickers in a bunch but they are rapidly losing influence in the Middle East, as Sharmine said. She was trying to elucidate that the Middle East countries are looking to rearrange their alliances and strategies to take this into account when she was cut off by Peter Lavelle.  The US is losing the battle to maintain the US dollar as the undisputed world currency and this deal will hasten its demise. The world wide supremacy of the US dollar is what their empire is based on. No dollar supremacy equals no US political supremacy and this will severely curtail their effective military supremacy.

The bankers that control the US, UK and Israel maintain their power by controlling energy supplies and indebting everybody to keep them relatively poor. Every other nation on earth will benefit from breaking this lock on power and enjoy growing industrialisation, trade and prosperity. This is being brought into stark contrast in the Middle East starting with Qatar. Qatar can stay with the US and slowly strangle itself economically or it can take a risk and make a break for economic freedom and prosperity.

SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi Arabia has ambitions of leading the Islamic world. It has used its gigantic income from oil sales to invest in religious indoctrination around the world and to bribe countries near and far. It has bought its way onto, if you can believe it, the UN Commission on the Status of Women and now heads the UN Human Rights Council. This is what money can do; but you need lots of money and a continuing supply of it. As the wealthiest oil exporter in the Middle East, it has dominated the Gulf Co-operation Council which, of course, includes Qatar.

Saudi Arabia’s income stream is declining and is needing to leverage what political power it has to gain more and to cover naked grabs of resources such as those in Yemen. But it needs the GCC to act as this lever. Qatar is undoing the Saudis dominance of the GCC. The Saudis future is at stake and with the Saudi royal house doubling down with the appointment of Mohammed bin Salman as Crown Prince, we can expect more military adventurism, i.e. wars, to hasten this decline and perhaps eventual demise.

TURKEY

There is the risk of an armed attack from the Saudis but Qatar has allies. Turkey is sending troops to Qatar. This is no small matter. Turkey has the largest military in the Middle East. Turkey is also making it clear that it has a major interest in the success of whatever deal Qatar is striking with Syria Iran and Russia. Iran and Russia have immediately sent food shipments to Qatar after the announcement of the blockade by Saudi Arabia and the UAE and Bahrain. It would seem from the co-ordinated response that the blockade was anticipated. Presumably, more is anticipated by this ad hoc alliance assisting Qatar.

With the original Qatar/Saudi pipeline dead in the water, Turkey would be amenable to a Qatar/Iran/Syrian pipeline going through Turkey. I’m sure their only demand would be that it not go through any Kurdish territory. Given that none of the other partners want the US/Israeli controlled and unreliable Kurds involved, that won’t be a problem. So the pipeline would have to go through the Aleppo corridor.

It would also need to go through south/eastern Syria where the US is now fighting at the risk of starting WW3 with the Russians. Now we see what the stakes are for the US and they are very high. If the gas pipeline goes through Turkey it will inevitably hook up with the Turkstream gas pipeline that will be Russian built and owned. Turkstream with travel through south eastern Europe; through the impoverished (thanks to the US and Germany) nations there. Turkey will become the gas hub between the suppliers in the Middle East, Russia and the Caucasus and on to the customers in Europe. Turkey has manoeuvred for a long time to be in this position. Much income and political influence to be gained and none of it dependent on the US!

EUROPE

Turkstream will be a lifeline to Serbia and Hungary. A branch line could easily extend to Greece and on to Italy. Europe’s prosperity will be massively enhanced with a secure, plentiful and cheap energy supplied from Iran, Qatar and Russia. German/EU and US dominance over southern and eastern Europe will evaporate as will US power. The Islamic mass migration may well stop, as well.

RUSSIA

In the immediate term, Russia will get what it has been aiming for and that is a ‘Gas OPEC’. Russia together with Iran and Qatar control the bulk of the world’s gas reserves and will set the price thereafter. Europe (Germany) will have to kick the US to the kerb and come to its senses regarding Russia and cease with the sanctions and resume normal bilateral trade arrangements. Peace and prosperity for Russia.

In the longer term, Russia will be able to see the back of the US in the Middle East and all the wars it brings with it and Russia will be left as the dominant power on its southern flank.

IRAN

Iran is being fast-tracked to join the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) which is a de-facto military alliance between Russia and China and now Pakistan and India. The window of opportunity to attack Iran is finally closing, if it has not already closed. Thus Iran will have the US and its bankers finally off its back and will be able to resume full trade with the rest of the world. No more sanctions and it can resume its path to peace and prosperity through selling oil and gas wherever it wants and relieve its population of the constant stress of the threat of imminent war.

PAKISTAN and CHINA

There are other players involved, too; China and Pakistan. There have been long term negotiations between Iran, Pakistan and China to pipe gas through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. No doubt, the Chinese would welcome Qatar as a partner in this project as it would also allow its influence to further spread into the other Gulf countries with their New Silk Road to follow.
Wherever the pipeline goes, so will roads and other infrastructure. The new infrastructure, together with the ready supply of energy, will assure development along the route and surrounding territory. This would be a massive boon for the Balochistan area and would quell the political unrest (sponsored by the CIA) that has cost both Pakistan and Iran, not to mention the Balochs. Exactly the same applies to the North-West Territories in the north of Pakistan.

No doubt the Pakistanis would like to be rid of the US which has bases on its territory and from which it launches aerial attacks against Pakistani territory at will. The list of benefits to multiple countries goes on and on but it won’t be smooth sailing. The US has been in decline for some years now but that hasn’t stopped it launching more wars and spreading terrorism and mayhem across the globe. This will continue. It is the nature of psychopathy to never give up; to always continue to do harm.

To get itself out of trouble over the centuries, the banking establishment, centered in London and New York, has started costly wars. They are now trying to do the same again in Syria and maybe soon in Qatar. We shall see soon enough.
Meanwhile I commend to you Pepe Escobar’s article at Sputnik where he talks about the implications of the SCO as well as the pipelines and the Qatari deal-

The West Can’t Smell What Eurasia is Cooking
https://sputniknews.com/columnists/201706161054701807-west-cannot-smell-…

Pepe is the ‘go-to’ man regarding pipelines. He was the first writer that I know of to seize their importance and ‘follow the pipelines’. He coined the term “Pipelineistan” and has written books about it.

UPDATE

Adam Garrie of The Duran has written an article outlining 13 demands that the Saudis have of Qatar. The list is not confirmed but “widely accepted” including by RT. Associated Press claims to have seen the document but AP is closely aligned with the Globalists, the Neocons and israel, but I repeat myself. So AP gives the list of demands credibility but because the Saudi govt has not confirmed it, it can shield itself from diplomatic criticism and back away from the “13 demands” at a later date if necessary.

Garrie notes that the demands are childish and he is right. This is what you get when you step on the toes big-time of psychopaths. They have the emotional maturity of 10 year olds. He also rightly notes that the demands cannot be complied with because they are extremely demeaning. This is intentional. Israel and the US routinely do the same when they want to start a war and this is precisely what Saudi Arabia is saying and wanting. ‘Either you stop with the alliance with Iran, Syria, Turkey and Russia or we will invade you. Israel and the US have to be onboard with this. And why wouldn’t they be? Their psychopathic dreams and political futures are equally at stake here as outlined above.”

***********************

So, there are a couple of deductions I would like to add to James’s excellent analysis.  He may have already made some of these points but I would like to emphasize the following in point form:

– Saudi Arabia and its allies are acting as proxies for USrael and the European Banksters that run their perpetual war for Profit global scam.

– They have definitely made the terms issued to Qatar “non negotiable“…to ensure a WWIII in the very short term…which will avoid their looming bankruptcy and (perhaps worse) geopolitical irrelevancy!

– Ultimately, just like everything else that has gone on in the Middle East for the past 15 years or more…this is aimed at Russia/China/Iran….but particularly Russia/Putin.  It will take every ounce of his chessmaster skills to outmaneuver the perps this time.  They’ve doubled down for “one final roll of the dice”…and Qatar is it.  Stay tuned.

Will U.S. Partition Syria?

Will U.S. Partition Syria?

By Sharmine Narwani

U.S. strategy seems to be shifting toward creating a buffer state between Iran and Israel.

May 13, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – BEIRUT—Given the rhetoric of most U.S. policymakers, one might conclude that the conflict in Syria is about establishing freedom and democracy in the Levantine state. But no genuine aspiration for democracy ever came from a line-up of allies that includes countries like Saudi Arabia, Israel, Qatar, and Turkey. Seen from the Middle East, American intervention here appears to be aimed at putting the last genuinely independent Arab state under Washington’s sphere of influence—and cutting off a key Iranian ally in the region.

Today, after six years of regime-change operations that failed to unseat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and install a compliant regime in Damascus, the west’s strategy seems to be shifting toward partitioning Syria. Specifically, the new U.S. policy would seek to sever the unimpeded geographic line between Iran and Israel by creating a buffer entity that runs through Iraq and Syria.

But here’s the twist: in Syria’s northeast/east and in Iraq’s northwest/west, where the Islamic State once occupied a vast swathe of territory, ISIS has helped to enable this U.S. goal by delineating the borders of this future buffer zone.

The only question is which U.S. “asset” will rule that buffer zone once it is liberated from ISIS. Would it be Sunni Arabs of the sectarian variety? A declassified 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency report seemed to suggest this option when it confirmed U.S. and Western support for the establishment of a “Salafist Principality” on the Syrian-Iraqi border.

Or will it be a Kurdish-ruled zone? U.S.-Kurdish machinations have, after all, borne a similar Shia-thwarting buffer on Iran’s western border with Iraq, with the creation of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) headed by the famously opportunistic and corrupt Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) leader Masoud Barzani.

Either way, what transpired is this: ISIS occupied the areas flanking Syria and Iraq’s northern border. The U.S.-led coalition has had a presence in these territories for several years, without impairing ISIS control. At the right time, under U.S. cover, Kurds are moving in to “recapture” them.

Kurds constitute a minority in all these governorates, which is how the presence of ISIS became a valuable U.S./Kurdish strategic asset. ISIS’s invasion of these areas is delineating the borders of the new entity and depopulating it—creating an opportunity for Washington to champion the Kurds as the primary “liberating” force within those borders, after which Kurds can claim this territorial bounty.

“This is conquest masquerading as liberation,” says Assyrian writer Max Joseph, who explains how KDP Peshmerga forces disarmed Assyrian Christians and Yezidis two weeks before ISIS invaded in August 2014, then retreated from their promise to protect those populations just as ISIS entered Sinjar and the Nineveh Plains.

In the immediate aftermath of the ISIS invasion, Reuters quoted a KRG official saying: “Everyone is worried, but this is a big chance for us. ISIL gave us in two weeks what Maliki couldn’t give us in eight years.”

“By disarming and disabling communities who live in territories the Kurdish leadership have designs on controlling, then letting a ready-made aggressive foreign force invade and uproot native communities, forcing them to flee, KRG forces backed by Western airstrikes will be seen as ‘retaking’ land never even theirs,” explains Joseph.

Two years later, in July 2016, the KRG’s Peshmerga ministry gave credence to those claims by announcing that “Peshmerga forces will not withdraw from areas they have recaptured from the Islamic State.”

This is nothing less than an attempt to establish “Kurdistan,” a nation for the historically stateless Kurds, which has long-envisioned swallowing up parts of Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Iran.

Some context helps explain the current situation. The KDP-ruled Kurdish entity in Iraq currently governs vast areas stretching from Iran’s western border to the Turkish border, stopping short east of Mosul and Kirkuk (an oil-rich city it openly covets). But the KDP has aspirations that run through Mosul to the western province of Nineveh—the historic home of a Christian Assyrian population—which would create a contiguous line across the north of Iraq to the Syrian border.

Last week, the “Kurdistan” flag was hoisted above all government buildings in Kirkuk—a move deemed unconstitutional and opposed by local non-Kurdish leaders and the Iraqi government alike.

A Syrian-Kurdish Entity?

In Syria, one can see a picture developing that mirrors Iraq’s experiences with the Kurds, Americans, and ISIS. Under U.S. patronage, areas occupied by the terror group are allowed to be “recaptured” by Kurdish forces, with a smattering of subordinate Arab Sunni forces to lend broader legitimacy.

Kurdish-controlled territory now traverses much of Syria’s three northern governorates where Kurds remain a minority—Hasakah, Raqqa, and Aleppo—and has earned the wrath of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has sent in troops and Arab proxies to break this “Kurdish corridor,” placing him in direct confrontation with the objectives of Washington, his NATO ally.

The Kurdish Nationalist Party (PYD) and its military wing. the People’s Protection Units (YPG), have unilaterally declared Hasakah a federal Kurdish state, a designation that is unrecognized by the Syrian government and other states. But Kurds barely make up 40 percent of the governorate’s population, which consists of Assyrians, Arabs, Armenians, Turkmen, and other ethnic groups as well. Likewise, in Aleppo, the most populous of Syria’s 14 governorates, where 40 percent of Syrian Kurds reside, Kurds make up only 15 percent of the population and are a majority only in Afrin and Ayn al-Arab (Kobane).

Meanwhile, Kurdish nationalists identify all of Hasakah and northern Raqqa/ Aleppo as “Rojova”—or Western Kurdistan—even though significant Kurdish populations live outside these areas and significant non-Kurdish populations live within them. Furthermore, many of these Kurds are not of Syrian origin, but fled Turkey last century after several failed uprisings against that state. The entire Kurdish population of Syria amounts to about 10 percent (although figures are slightly disputed both upward and downward). Hundreds of thousands of Kurds have since fled the conflict in Syria for safer shores. And there is not a single contiguous line of Kurdish majority-populated areas from the northeast to northwest of Syria.

Yet the U.S. is storming ahead with Project Buffer State, erecting military bases left, right, and center, in violation of Syria’s sovereignty and international law. Various news reports claim the Pentagon and its 1,000 or so troops in Syria have established up to six bases in the north of the country—in the Rmelan region near the Iraqi border, in Qamishli (Hasakah), Kobane (Aleppo), and now in Tabqa, several dozen kilometers west of the ISIS capital of Raqqa.

But the American plan to storm Raqqa has stalled due to Turkey’s refusal to be excluded, and its objection to Syrian Kurdish involvement. Washington wants its Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) allies to liberate the city, but this group consists mainly of YPG Kurds who are aligned with the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), a Turkish and U.S.-designated terrorist group. The U.S. pretends these Kurdish militias are the only fighting force that can defeat ISIS. Never mind that the Syrian army and its allied troops have been defeating ISIS and al-Qaeda-affiliated militants around the country for years.

The inconvenient fact is, besides the Kurds—not all of whom back the U.S. project on the Syrian-Iraqi border—no forces have fought ISIS and other terrorist groups more successfully than the Syrian army and its Iranian, Russian, and Hezbollah allies.

By contrast, ISIS actually expanded and strengthened after the U.S.-led coalition began its strikes against the terror group. Recall ISIS trekking in plain sight across the Syrian border from Iraq to capture Palmyra—or tankers filled with ISIS oil crossing over to Turkey with nary a U.S. strike. It wasn’t until the Russian air force entered the fray and shamed the U.S. coalition that ISIS began to suffer some defeats. Washington had only really contained ISIS within the borders it was shaping, not struck any serious blows to the group.

After all, it is Washington’s awkward alliance in the region—Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Britain, France, Israel—that has supported the growth of ISIS and like-minded extremists. U.S. President Donald Trump even went so far as to accuse his predecessor Barack Obama of being “the founder of ISIS.”

Certainly, Obama watched as his Turkish NATO ally allowed ISIS freedom of movement across its borders and purchased its stolen oil in bulk. We also now know via email leaks that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was aware that U.S. anti-ISIS coalition allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar were funding ISIS.

Why would Washington tolerate allied support of the very terrorist group it claims to want to destroy? By portraying ISIS as the worst of all terror groups, al-Qaeda and its affiliates—by far the most efficient fighting force against the Syrian army and its allies—were able to fly under the radar to fight for regime change. Furthermore, a globally demonized ISIS has also provided justification for direct Western action that might otherwise have been impossible after “humanitarian interventions” lost their allure, post-Libya. Finally, this supposedly very dangerous ISIS was able to invade and occupy, for great lengths of time, territories on the Syrian-Iraqi border that would create the boundaries for a buffer state that could eventually be “liberated” and led by Western-controlled proxies.

Stealing Syria

If the U.S. forges ahead with plans to lead its Kurdish allies into the Raqqa battle it will risk further alienating Turkey. Don’t expect ISIS to be defeated, however. Instead, expect ISIS to be driven southward toward Deirezzor and other eastern points along Iraq’s border, where the terror group’s presence can act yet again as a U.S. strategic asset—specifically, by moving the fight away from Washington’s Kurdish project in the north and hindering the ability of Iraqi militias to cross the border in aid of Syrian troops.

That’s not such a leap. Deirezzor is where U.S. fighter jets bombed the Syrian army for an hour straight last September, killing over 100 Syrian forces. The strikes enabled ISIS to capture several strategic points around Deirezzor airport, which the Syrian state was dependent on to protect populations in the ISIS-besieged area. The Pentagon swore it was an error, the Syrians and Russians swore it was not.

Meanwhile, in Syria’s south, U.S.-backed militants, aided by Jordanians, Saudis, and the usual Western suspects,  are rallying their forces to expand the ground battle inside Syria.

Why the sudden surge of activity? Mainly because the Syrian government and its allies have, since the liberation of East Aleppo in January, succeeded in pushing back terrorists in key areas, regaining strategic territory, and striking reconciliation and ceasefire deals in other parts of the state.

“Western states with the United States at their head interfere in favor of the terrorists whenever the Syrian Arab Army makes a significant advance,” Assad observed in a recent interview.

But the U.S. overestimates its capabilities. With few troops on the ground, radical militants as allies, and pushback from Syria, Iran, Turkey, Russia, and Iraq, Washington will face a steep climb ahead.

In fact, all U.S. gains could be abruptly reversed with this one Kurdish card. Nothing is more likely to draw Syrians, Iraqis, Turks, and Iranians together than the threat of a Kurdish national entity that will seek to carve itself out of these four states. And as the U.S. tries to establish “self-rule” by its allies in the northeast of Syria, it will once again be confronted with the same crippling infighting that comes from foisting an un-organic leadership onto populations.

Syria will become an American quagmire. Washington simply cannot manage its partition plans with so few troops on the ground, surrounded by the terror forces it so recently spawned, as able adversaries chip away at its project. Stealing Syria will not be an easy trick.

Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Mideast geopolitics, based in Beirut.

This article was first published by The American Conservative

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

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What’s Really Happening in Syria: Who Started the War, Who Can You Trust to Tell the Truth?

A Consumer Fraud Lawyer’s Mini-Primer

Global Research, January 23, 2017
New Cold War 2 January 2017

The U.S./NATO line

If you try to follow events in the mainstream media (MSM), you may have noticed that they routinely refer to Syrian president Bashar al Assad as a “brutal dictator”. Assad is supposed to have responded to peaceful protests with repressive violence and by “killing his own people”. The U.S., UK, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar continue to maintain that “Assad must go”.

I disagree with all of that, as I’ll explain in this article.

I spent 25 years prosecuting lies in commerce for the attorneys general of New York and Oregon. I prepared this primer to help you cut through the lies and get at the truth about Syria.

It’s still quite possible that a nuclear war could arise from careless U.S./NATO confrontations with Russia in Syria. President-elect Trump has indicated he favors a cooperative relationship with Russia, but he will face continuing pressure from the Deep State, neocons, and apparently, the media, to continue the New Cold War that was initiated in Ukraine. And the demonization of Russian president Putin and of Russia itself has been going on for some time and shows no sign of letting up.1 So in addition to the suffering of the Syrian people, which has been horrific and continues as I write, the conflict in Syria also poses a serious threat to all of us.

Apart from this introduction and some other brief statements of my own, most of this article is a string of excerpts from the excellent work of other people I’ve come to trust and citations or links to sources for further information and analysis.

International law, morality, and the sovereignty of the peoplesyria-obama 2

Since Syria has not threatened the United States in any way, let alone attacked us, our government has no right to try to overthrow the Syrian government. The UN Charter prohibits pre-emptive aggression against other sovereign states unless the UN Security Council authorizes it. The United States signed the UN Charter, so as a treaty, it is the “Supreme Law of the Land” under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution. So the U.S. attempt to overthrow the government of Syria violates U.S. as well as international law.page1image21488 page1image21648

The effort to overthrow the Syrian government is also immoral, because of the suffering and death it has caused and because of its destabilizing effect, which causes even more suffering and death and has assisted the rise of ISIS.

The effort to overthrow Assad is an arrogant interference with the sovereignty of the Syrian people, who have a right to choose their own government. In this case, they have chosen their government overwhelmingly: Syria’s president Bashar al Assad is not only the democratically elected leader of his country but has at all times, both before the violence began and throughout the conflict, been immensely popular within Syria. This popularity would be impossible to explain if the violence that began in March 2011 was initiated by the government. I try to show here that the violence was initiated by elements who pushed aside peaceful protestors and committed a great many murders and then managed, through manipulation of the big media, to blame that on the Syrian government.

The Syrian government

Although the effort to overthrow the Syrian government is unlawful, many Americans seem to feel it’s okay to interfere with foreign governments that are said to oppress their own people. I don’t claim that the Syrian government is perfect, but again, it’s up to the Syrian people to choose their government.

Washington has a history of undermining and overthrowing governments that don’t play ball with U.S./Western corporations and investors. And Islamic fundamentalists like the Muslim Brotherhood, al Qaeda, ISIS, and others pose continuing threats to stability in the Middle East. So I’ve come to believe that a government in the Middle East may have to be authoritarian to some degree in order to stay in power. And in Syria there is tolerance for different viewpoints, religions and ethnicities, such that a certain amount of what might be called “repression” of some forms of dissent seems to be a fair trade-off, and one that most Syrians clearly prefer.

In the years before the present conflict began in 2011, the Syrian government tried to institute constitutional reforms, thus becoming less repressive. But that effort has been undermined by the attempt to overthrow it by force and violence.

Sectarian vs. secular government; not a civil war

A basic conflict is between those who want a sectarian (religious) government, which would also be repressive, in different ways, and a secular (nonreligious) government, such as Syria now has. The conflict in Syria has never been a war between competing Islamic sects, or even a civil war. Rather, it is a war waged by some Syrian rebels and a great many foreigners, who want to overthrow the legitimate government and, with it, Syria’s secular, inclusive and tolerant society and to establish a radical Islamic government and society. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and the U.S. itself have been backing those extremists as part of their effort to dominate the Middle East and control its energy resources.

By the way, I’m now 70, but I still remember what it felt like to be 12 years old. Wait – what does that have to do with the war on Syria, and this article? My answer may be what it’s all about, from the viewpoint of Syrians, most of whom have remained in Syria, despite the war.

In late September, a U.S.-Russia agreement called for the supposedly “moderate rebels” in Syria to separate themselves from al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front (sometimes called al Qaeda’s Syrian “franchise”. (Al Qaeda, as you may recall, is the organization formerly led by Osama bin Laden that is said to have brought down the Twin Towers in New York). The U.S. and Russia would then cooperate in attacking the Nusra Front and ISIS (also known as ISIL, or Daesh).

Unless you’re a terrorist, what’s not to like about such an agreement? Well, the problem was that the “moderate rebels” refused to follow the U.S.-Russia agreement and separate from the terrorists, and instead renewed their alliance with them. In particular, Nour al-Din al-Zinki– reportedly one of the largest factions in Aleppo–said they were joining a broad alliance dominated by the Nusra Front.

If you’ve followed me this far, you’re probably stillwond ering what this has to do with remembering what it’s like to be 12 years old. The connection is this: Nour al-Din al-Zinki recently filmed themselves taunting and then beheading a 12-year-old boy.

I’ve seen one of the photos of the boy circulated by al-Zinki, and the image haunts me. He doesn’t even look 12 years old; I would guess 10 or 11. He has what looks like intra-venous tubing hanging from one arm; I understand he’d been receiving medical treatment when he was kidnapped. He was taunted by a group of men, who then laid him face-down in the back of a pickup truck, tied his hands behind his back, and as he whimpered, one of them ran a large knife across his throat and cut off his head.

I couldn’t make such a thing up, and I wouldn’t if I could. My nightmares are not that bad. But these al-Zinki guys – or should I say, monsters, or devils – not only did all this but made a video of themselves doing it and reveled in their atrocity.

Imagine, if you will, being captured, taunted and beheaded by demons two or three times your size. You can read about it, get a link to the group’s You Tube video, and see a screenshot from that at https://consortiumnews.com/2016/07/21/us-backed-syrian-moderates-behead-12-year- old/.

The photo that haunts me shows the boy closer up. It’s posted in CIA Rebels Behead Kid And Other U.S. Successes in Syria by Moon of Alabama, 19 July 2016, at http://www.moonofalabama.org/2016/07/cia-rebels-behead-kid-and-other-recent-us-successes- in-syria.html.

So here’s what I think: Most Syrians, as I mentioned, have stayed in Syria, seeking the protection of their government and army. They want to maintain their tolerant, secular society. But as that’s being shredded by jihadist violence and mayhem, they’re also terrified that their country will be taken over by ghouls like the al-Zinki jihadists who beheaded that boy, and that they and their families and loved ones will then face similar fates.

Some of them want government reform. But they don’t back the terrorists to get it. In fact, they’re glad to see those Russian planes in the sky, invited by their government, and they back the Syrian Arab Army and Bashar Assad. Many probably think Assad and the army are being a little too nice to the terrorist opposition that has invaded their country.  page3image28080

You won’t know what to make of this suggestion, if you think most Syrians are trying to get out of their country and go to Europe. Media sensationalism and inadequate reporting, or suppression of the truth, about the “immigrant crisis” faced by many European countries may give you that impression. But in fact, as reported by Tim Anderson (in The Dirty War on Syria, Chapter 14), most Syrians have chosen to remain in Syria under the protection of their government and Army:

… The online ‘war of maps’ miss this[:] When commentators [speak] of how much ‘territory’ one or other Islamist group controlled, they generally [do] not observe that the Government [has] maintained control of the great majority of the populated areas and most of the displaced population sought refuge in those government controlled cities. By 2015 blackouts and shortages were worse, but schools, health centres, sports facilities were functioning. While life was hardly normal, everyday life did carry on. People were surviving, and resisting. This reality was hardly visible in the western media, which has persistently spread lies about the character of the conflict. In particular, they have tried to hide NATO’s backing for the extremist groups, while trumpeting the advances of those same groups and ignoring the Syrian Army’s counter-offensives.
Fact check one: there never were any ‘moderate rebels’. A … genuine political reform movement was displaced by a Saudi-backed Islamist insurrection, over March- April 2011. … Years later ordinary Syrians call all these groups ‘Daesh’ (ISIS), ‘terrorists’ or ‘mercenaries’, not bothering with the different brand names. … Genocidal statements by ‘moderate rebel’ leaders underline the limited difference between the genocidal ‘moderates’ and the genocidal extremists. FSA leader Lamia Nahas wrote: ‘the more arrogant Syria’s minorities become I become more certain that there should be a holocaust to exterminate them from existence and I request [God’s] mercy upon Hitler who burned the Jews of his time and Sultan Abdul-Hamid who exterminated the Armenians’ (The Angry Arab 2015). … The genocidal fervour of these ‘moderates’ is no different than that of Nusra or ISIS. The character of the armed conflict has always been between an authoritarian but pluralist and socially inclusive state, and Saudi-style sectarian Islamists, acting as proxy armies for the big powers.

Fact check two: almost all the atrocities blamed on the Syrian Army have been committed by western-backed Islamists, as part of their strategy to attract more foreign military backing. Their claims are repeated by the western media, fed by partisan Islamist sources and amplified by embedded ‘watchdogs’, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The Syrian Army has indeed executed captured terrorists, and the secret police continue to detain and probably mistreat those suspected of collaborating with terrorists. But this is an army which enjoys very strong public support. Syrian people know their enemy and back their Army. The armed gangs, on the other hand, openly boast of their atrocities.

Then who started the war?

Determining how the initial disturbances occurred, in March 2011, and grew into the present conflict is complicated by the fact that at first, it was not always clear who was engaging in violence. The government tried to downplay the violence so as to maintain order and the morale of the Syrian Arab Army, as many of the first victims were Syrian soldiers.

Who can you trust to tell the truth?

All this raises the question of whom to believe. Those trying to overthrow the Syrian government have waged almost incredibly sophisticated and effective propaganda warfare right from the beginning, so there is conflicting “evidence” on many of the critical events. But I believe a great deal of the “evidence” dished out by the mainstream media was actually fabricated by the terrorists. More on that further below.

I have identified sources that seem to me credible, for example, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.; Australian professor Tim Anderson; commentator and analyst Sharmine Narwani (all, and others, quoted below); and Father Frans van der Lugt, a Dutch Jesuit priest who was murdered in Homs, Syria in early 2014.3 Father van der Lugt wrote in January 2012:

Most of the citizens of Syria do not support the opposition. Even a country like Qatar [which had spent billions to finance foreign terrorists in Syria] has stated this following an opinion survey. Therefore, you also cannot say that this is a popular uprising. The majority of people are not part of the rebellion and certainly not part of the armed rebellion. What is occurring is, above all, a struggle between the army and armed Sunni groups that aim to overturn the Alawite regime and take power.

“From the start the protest movements were not purely peaceful. From the start I saw armed demonstrators marching along in the protests, who began to shoot at the police first. Very often the violence of the security forces has been a reaction to the brutal violence of the armed rebels.4

Provocateurs

I’m also inclined to believe some of the evidence I rely on here because of the similarity with situations I know of elsewhere. For example, I studied the coup in Ukraine in some detail and am persuaded that the snipers firing in Maidan Square were provocateurs who shot both police and protesters in order to foment more violence. (I wrote about this, and the Ukraine situation more generally, at www.healingjustice.wordpress.com.) So when I see claims of similar conduct in Syria, it has a plausibility based in part on how it seems to follow the same pattern the U.S. has used to destabilize and overthrow governments in other countries.5

The current situation and articles reporting and discussing it, are presented at the end of this article. But first:

Background

U.S. interference in the domestic affairs of Syria began in 1949. The details are reported in an excellent article by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Mr. Kennedy provides a great many important facts and comments and also identifies many of his sources, which I skip here for the sake of brevity. I quote only a few paragraphs for historical background and context.

Mr. Kennedy is no fan of Bashar al Assad and refers to him in uncomplimentary terms. But he clearly explains the motives of the governments that want to overthrow the Assad government, mainly Assad’s refusal to allow the construction of a pipeline through Syria for the transport of natural gas to Europe, a project desired by Qatar and its Gulf and Western allies.

From Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, ‘Why the Arabs don’t want us in Syria’, March 1, 2016:6

In part because my father was murdered by an Arab, I’ve made an effort to understand the impact of U.S. policy in the Mideast and particularly the factors that sometimes motivate bloodthirsty responses from the Islamic world against our country.

… During the 1950s, President Eisenhower and the Dulles brothers — CIA Director Allen Dulles and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles — rebuffed Soviet treaty proposals to leave the Middle East a neutral zone in the Cold War and let Arabs rule Arabia. Instead, they mounted a clandestine war against Arab nationalism … particularly when Arab self-rule threatened oil concessions. …

The CIA began its active meddling in Syria in 1949. …Syrian patriots had declared war on the Nazis, expelled their Vichy French colonial rulers and crafted a fragile secularist democracy based on the American model. But in March 1949, Syria’s democratically elected president, Shukri-al-Quwatli, hesitated to approve the Trans-Arabian Pipeline, an American project … [I]n retaliation … the CIA engineered a coup replacing al-Quwatli with the CIA’s handpicked dictator, a convicted swindler named Husni al-Za’im. …

…The Syrian people again tried democracy in 1955, re-electing al-Quwatli and his National Party. Al-Quwatli was still a Cold War neutralist, but, stung by American involvement in his ouster, he now leaned toward the Soviet camp. That posture caused CIA Director Dulles to send his two coup wizards, Kim Roosevelt and Rocky Stone, to Damascus. …

But … CIA money failed to corrupt the Syrian military officers. The soldiers reported the CIA’s bribery attempts to the Ba’athist regime. In response, the Syrian army invaded the American Embassy, taking Stone prisoner. After harsh interrogation, Stone made a televised confession of his roles in the Iranian coup and the CIA’s aborted attempt to overthrow Syria’s legitimate government. The Eisenhower White House hollowly dismissed Stone’s confession as “fabrications” and “slanders,” a denial swallowed whole by the American press, led by the New York Times and believed by the American people. …

Of course, the Russians, who sell 70 percent of their gas exports to Europe, viewed the Qatar/Turkey pipeline as an existential threat. … In 2009, Assad announced that he would refuse to sign the agreement to allow the pipeline to run through Syria “to protect the interests of our Russian ally.”

… Soon after [that] … the CIA began funding opposition groups in Syria. It is important to note that this was well before the Arab Spring-engendered uprising against Assad.

Bashar Assad’s family is Alawite, a Muslim sect widely perceived as aligned with the Shiite camp. … Before the war started, according to [journalist Seymour] Hersh, Assad was moving to liberalize the country. … Assad’s regime was deliberately secular and Syria was impressively diverse. The Syrian government and military, for example, were 80 percent Sunni. Assad maintained peace among his diverse peoples by a strong, disciplined army loyal to the Assad family, an allegiance secured by a nationally esteemed and highly paid officer corps, a coldly efficient intelligence apparatus and a penchant for brutality that, prior to the war, was rather moderate compared to those of other Mideast leaders, including our current allies.

According to Hersh,


“He certainly wasn’t beheading people every Wednesday like the Saudis do in Mecca.”

… By the spring of 2011, there were small, peaceful demonstrations in Damascus against repression by Assad’s regime. … However, WikiLeaks cables indicate that the CIA was already on the ground in Syria. …

The idea of fomenting a Sunni-Shiite civil war to weaken the Syrian and Iranian regimes [and thus] to maintain control of the region’s petrochemical supplies was not a novel notion. … A damning 2008 Pentagon-funded Rand report … recommended using “covert action, information operations, unconventional warfare” to enforce a “divide and rule” strategy. …

… Two years before ISIL throat cutters stepped on the world stage, a seven-page August 12, 2012, study by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, obtained by the right-wing group Judicial Watch, warned that … “the Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood and AQI ([Al-Qaeda Iraq,] now ISIS), are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.”

Using U.S. and Gulf state funding, these groups had turned the peaceful protests against Bashar Assad toward “a clear sectarian (Shiite vs. Sunni) direction.” …

Not coincidentally, the regions of Syria occupied by the Islamic State exactly encompass the proposed route of the Qatari pipeline. (Emphasis added.)

… Beginning in 2011, our allies funded the invasion by AQI [Al-Qaeda Iraq] fighters into Syria. In April 2013, having entered Syria, AQI changed its name to ISIL. According to Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker, “ISIS is run by a council of former Iraqi generals. … Many are members of Saddam Hussein’s secular Ba’ath Party who converted to radical Islam in American prisons.” …

But then, in 2014, our Sunni proxies horrified the American people by severing heads and driving a million refugees toward Europe. …

Tim Anderson’s Book, The Dirty War on Syria

A professor in Australia has written a book that tells the whole story in depth. Tim Anderson’s The Dirty War on Syria: Washington, Regime Change and Resistance can be ordered at https://store.globalresearch.ca/store/the-dirty-war-on-syria-washington-regime-change-and- resistance-pdf/. You can read the introductory chapter and table of contents at http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-dirty-war-on-syria/5491859. Prof. Anderson’s book is short, clear, and illustrated with helpful poster-like issue summaries (one of which appears below), and develops a much more detailed analysis than I can provide here.

Summary/overview:

The U.S. effort to undermine Assad, and to overthrow his government and replace it with one more friendly to U.S. and Western investors, was to be the latest installment of the overall U.S. program, pursued consistently since the end of World War II, to control the world in the interests of U.S. elites, including the military-industrial complex, multinational corporations generally and their investors, and the hegemony-hungry political leadership.7

To summarize the situation briefly, this graphic is from Prof. Anderson’s preface to his book:8

Further excerpts from the preface of The Dirty War On Syria:

… The British-Australian journalist Philip Knightley pointed out that war propaganda typically involves ‘a depressingly predictable pattern’ of demonising the enemy leader, then demonising the enemy people through atrocity stories, real or imagined (Knightley 2001). Accordingly, a mild-mannered eye doctor called Bashar al Assad became the ‘new evil’ in the world and, according to consistent western media reports, the Syrian Army did nothing but kill civilians for more than four years. To this day, many imagine the Syrian conflict is a ‘civil war’, a ‘popular revolt’ or some sort of internal sectarian conflict. …

… After the demonisation of Syrian leader Bashar al Assad began, a virtual information blockade was constructed against anything which might undermine the wartime storyline. Very few sensible western perspectives on Syria emerged after 2011, as critical voices were effectively blacklisted…

Excerpts from chapter five of The Dirty War On Syria:

Bashar al Assad and Political Reform:

President Hafez al Assad [father of the current president, Bashar al Assad] had brought three decades of internal stability to Syria, after the turmoil of the 1960s. … There were substantial improvements in education and health, including universal vaccination and improved literacy for women. Between 1970 and 2010 infant mortality fell from 132 to 14 (per 1,000), while maternal mortality fell from 482 to 45 (per 100,000). … (Sen, Al- Faisal and Al-Saleh 2012: 196)9 Electricity supply to rural areas rose from 2% in 1963 to 95% in 1992 (Hinnebusch 2012: 2) Traditions of social pluralism combined with advances in education drove the human development of the country well ahead of many of the more wealthy states in the region.

Nevertheless, … the system built by Hafez al Assad … also remained an authoritarian one-party system …. U.S. intelligence observed that the crushing of the Muslim Brotherhood’s insurrections in the early 1980s was welcomed by most Syrians. (DIA 1982, vii) Yet, after that …‘The feared Syrian secret police’ were ever vigilant for Zionist spies and new Muslim Brotherhood conspiracies, but this meant they also harassed a wider range of government critics. (Seale 1988: 335) … On top of this, there was resentment at the corruption built on cronyism through Ba’ath Party networks. Bashar faced all this when he came to the top job.

… At the start of the millennium, Bashar al Assad … was widely seen as an agent of reform, but …[t]here were no dramatic political reforms, despite the widespread complaints of corruption (Otrakji 2012). However his socio-economic reforms involved giving new impetus to mass education and citizenship, with a controlled economic liberalisation which opened up new markets, yet without the privatisations that had swept Eastern Europe. He released several thousand political prisoners, mainly Islamists and their sympathisers (Landis and Pace 2007: 47) … Despite the market reforms, Syria maintained its virtually free health and education system. State universities also remain virtually free, to this day, with several hundred thousand enrolled students. …

With the rallies of February-March 2011 there was a further burst of political activity. …Most of the domestic opposition groups … did not support either armed attacks on the state or the involvement of foreign powers. Most remained in Syria and some … rallied to the government. Others, while not supporting the government, backed the state and the army. …

What became known in western circles as ‘the opposition’ were mostly exiles and the Islamists who had initiated the violence.

… Informed critics have observed that the violent conflict in Syria has always been between a pluralist state and sectarian Islamists, backed by the big powers. … (Ramadani 2012).

A Turkish poll in late 2011 showed Syrians … 91% opposed [to] (and 5% supportive of) violent protest (TESEV 2012). Ramadani reconciles these two trends by suggesting that, after the initial movement away from the Government in 2011, ‘popular support shifted back’ when Syrians saw the sectarians and the Saudi-Qatari cabal behind the violence (Ramadani 2012). …

… Despite their anti-Syrian bias, some western sources exposed other ‘false flag’ massacres.

[Examples omitted; see the original.] The August 2013 chemical weapons incident in East Ghouta was widely blamed on the Assad Government. Yet all independent evidence exposed this as yet another ‘false flag’. [10]

… Syria’s strongest secular tradition is embedded in the Army. With about half a million members, both regulars and conscripts, the army is drawn from all the country’s communities (Sunni, Alawi, Shiia, Christian, Druze, Kurd, Armenian, Assyrian, etc), which all identify as ‘Syrian’. …

[M]ost of the several million Syrians, displaced by the conflict, have not left the country but rather have moved to other parts under Army protection. This is not really explicable if the Army were indeed engaged in ‘indiscriminate’ attacks on civilians. A repressive army invokes fear and loathing in a population, yet in Damascus one can see that people do not cower as they pass through the many army road blocks, set up to protect against ‘rebel’ car bombs.

… Syrians know that their Army represents pluralist Syria and has been fighting sectarian, foreign backed terrorism. This Army did not fracture on sectarian lines, as the sectarian gangs had hoped, and defections have been small, certainly less than 2%.

The Syrian Election of 2014

[M]any western nations declared Syria’s [2014] elections ‘fixed’, before they were held. … These were the same governments trying to overthrow the Syrian Government (Herring 2014). The Washington-run Voice of America falsely claimed that Syria ‘would not permit international observers’ (VOA 2014). In fact, over a hundred election observers came from India, Brazil, Russia, China, South Africa, Iran and Latin America, along with non-official observers from the U.S.A and Canada (KNN 2014; Bartlett 2014). …

The international media recognised the massive turnout, both in Syria and from the refugees in Lebanon, with some sources grudgingly admitting that ‘getting people to turn out in large numbers, especially outside Syria, is a huge victory in and of itself’ (Dark 2014). Associated Press reported on crowds of tens of thousands, in a ‘carnival like atmosphere’ in Damascus and Latakia, with ‘long lines’ of voters in Homs (FNA 2014a). AP … concluded that President Assad had ‘maintained significant support among large sections of the population’ (FNA 2014b). …

Bashar al Assad won this election convincingly, with 88.7% of the vote (AP 2014). Hassan al Nouri and Maher Hajjar gained 4.3% and 3.2% respectively (Aji 2014). With a 73.4% turnout (or 11.6 million of the 15.8 million eligible voters), that meant he had 10.3 million votes or 64% of all eligible voters. Even if every single person who was unable to vote was against him, this was a convincing mandate. … Associated Press reasonably concluded that Assad’s support was not just from minorities, but had to do with his legacy of opening up the economy, his support for women, the real benefits in education, health and electricity and, last but not least, the President’s capacity to move decisively against the sectarian armed groups (AP 2014).

Eva Bartlett provides further details in Deconstructing the NATO Narrative on Syria, Oct 10, 2015:

Million Person Marches. On March 29, 2011 (less than two weeks into the fantasy ‘revolution’) over 6 million people across Syria took to the streets in support of President al-Assad. In June, a reported hundreds of thousands marched in Damascus in support of the president, with a 2.3 km long Syrian flag. In November, 2011 (9 months into the chaos), masses again held demonstrations supporting President al-Assad, notably in Homs (the so-called “capital of the ‘revolution’”), Dara’a (the so-called “birthplace of the ‘revolution’”), Deir ez-Zour, Raqqa, Latakia, and Damascus.

Mass demonstrations like this have occurred repeatedly since, including in March 2012, in May 2014 in the lead-up to Presidential elections, and in June 2015, to note just some of the larger rallies.

In May 2013, it was reported that even NATO recognized the Syrian president’s increased popularity. “The data, relayed to NATO over the last month, asserted that 70 percent of Syrians support” the Assad government. At present, the number is now at least 80 percent.

The most telling barometer of Assad’s support base was the Presidential elections in June 2014, which saw 74 percent (11.6 million) of 15.8 million registered Syrian voters vote, with President al-Assad winning 88 percent of the votes. The lengths Syrians outside of Syria went to in order to vote included flooding the Syrian embassy in Beirut for two full days (and walking several kilometres to get there) and flying from countries with closed Syrian embassies to Damascus airport simply to cast their votes. Within Syria, Syrians braved terrorist mortars and rockets designed to keep them from voting; 151 shells were fired on Damascus alone, killing 5 and maiming 33 Syrians…

The Syrian Constitution and the process of political reformpage11image25824 page11image25984 page11image26144 page11image26784

The following is taken from Stephen Gowans article, ‘What the Syrian Constitution says about Assad and the Rebels’, May 21, 2013. See the article for the sources cited in bracketed footnotes below, and for many additional details of the new Syrian constitution.

In response to protestors’ demands, Damascus made a number of concessions that were neither superficial nor partial.

First, it cancelled the long-standing abridgment of civil liberties that had been authorized by the emergency law. The law, invoked because Syria is technically in a state of war with Israel, gave Damascus powers it needed to safeguard the security of the state in wartime, a measure states at war routinely take. Many Syrians, however, chaffed under the law, and regarded it as unduly restrictive. Bowing to popular pressure, the government lifted the security measures.

Second, the government proposed a new constitution to accommodate protestors’ demands to strip the Ba’ath Party of its special status, which had reserved for it a lead role in Syrian society. Additionally, the presidency would be open to anyone meeting basic residency, age and citizenship requirements. Presidential elections would be held by secret vote every seven years under a system of universal suffrage.

Here was the multi-party democracy the opposition was said to have clamored for. A protest movement thirsting for a democratic, pluralist society could accept the offer, its aspirations fulfilled. The constitution was put to a referendum and approved. New parliamentary multi-party elections were held. Multi-candidate presidential elections were set for 2014. A new democratic dawn had arrived. The rebels could lay down their arms and enjoy the fruits of their victory.

Or so you might expect. Instead, the insurrectionists escalated their war against Damascus, rejecting the reforms, explaining that they had arrived too late. Too late? Does pluralist democracy turn into a pumpkin unless it arrives before the clock strikes twelve? Washington, London and Paris also dismissed Assad’s concessions. They were “meaningless,” they said, without explaining why. [7] And yet the reforms were all the rebels had asked for and that the West had demanded. How could they be meaningless? Democrats, those seeking a peaceful resolution to the conflict, and the Assad government, could hardly be blamed for concluding that ‘democracy was not the driving force of the revolt.’ [8]

Origins of the conflict

The above-quoted article by Eva Bartlett rebuts the U.S./NATO/MSM (mainstream media) version in some detail. Moving from the demonstration of President Assad’s continuing popularity, Ms. Bartlett’s article provides links to investigative reports by Professor Tim Anderson, Sharmine Narwani, and others, regarding the origins of the current conflict and the effort to discredit Bashar al Assad’s government. Excerpts of particular interest:

…From the beginning, in Dara’a and throughout Syria, armed protesters were firing upon, and butchering, security forces and civilians. Tim Anderson’s ‘Syria: how the violence began, in Daraa’ pointed out that police were killed by snipers in the March 17/18 protests; the Syrian army was only brought to Dara’a following the murder of the policemen. Additionally, a storage of protesters’ weapons was found in Dara’a’s al- Omari mosque.

Prem Shankar Jha’s, ‘Who Fired The First Shot?’ described the slaughter of 20 Syrian soldiers outside Dara’a a month later, ‘by cutting their throats, and cutting off the head of one of the soldiers.’ …

In ‘Syria: The Hidden Massacre’, Sharmine Narwani investigated the early massacres of Syrian soldiers, noting that many of the murders occurred even after the Syrian government had abolished the state security courts, lifted the state of emergency, granted general amnesties, and recognized the right to peaceful protest.

The April 10, 2011 murder of Banyas farmer Nidal Janoud was one of the first horrific murders of Syrian civilians by so-called “unarmed protesters.” Face gashed open, mutilated and bleeding, Janoud was paraded by an armed mob, who then hacked him to death.

Father Frans Van der Ludt—the Dutch priest living in Syria for nearly 5 decades prior to his April 7, 2014 assassination by militants occupying the old city of Homs—
wrote (repeatedly) of the ‘armed demonstrators’ he saw in early protests, ‘who began to shoot at the police first.’

May 2011 video footage of later-resigned Al Jazeera journalist Ali Hashem shows fighters entering Syria from Lebanon, carrying guns and RPGs (Hashem stated he’d likewise seen fighters entering in April). Al Jazeera refused to air the May footage, telling Hashem to ‘forget there are armed men.’ [See: Sharmine Narwani’s ‘Surprise Video Changes Syria “Timeline’ at http://english.al-akhbar.com/blogs/sandbox/surprise-video- changes-syria-timeline#_blank] Unarmed protesters?

In the case of Daraa, and the attacks that moved to Homs and surrounding areas in April 2011, the clearly stated aim was once again to topple the secular or “infidel-Alawi” regime. The front-line U.S. collaborators were Saudi Arabia and Qatar, then Turkey.11

From Sharmine Narwani, How narratives killed the Syrian people:12 (from RT.com, March 23, 2016)

… How words kill
Four key narratives were spun ad nauseam in every mainstream Western media outlet, beginning in March 2011 and gaining steam in the coming months. – The Dictator is killing his “own people.”

– The protests are “peaceful.”
– The opposition is “unarmed.”
– This is a “popular revolution.”

… With the benefit of hindsight, let’s look at these Syria narratives five years into the conflict:
We know now that several thousand Syrian security forces were killed in the first year, beginning March 23, 2011. We therefore also know that the opposition was “armed” from the start of the conflict. We have visual evidence of gunmen entering Syria across the Lebanese border in April and May 2011. We know from the testimonies of impartial observers that gunmen were targeting civilians in acts of terrorism and that “protests” were not all “peaceful”.

The Arab League mission conducted a month-long investigation inside Syria in late 2011 and reported:

“In Homs, Idlib and Hama, the observer mission witnessed acts of violence being committed against government forces and civilians that resulted in several deaths and injuries. Examples of those acts include the bombing of a civilian bus, killing eight persons and injuring others, including women and children, and the bombing of a train carrying diesel oil. In another incident in Homs, a police bus was blown up, killing two police officers. A fuel pipeline and some small bridges were also bombed.”

… Furthermore, we also now know that whatever Syria was, it was no “popular revolution.” The Syrian army has remained intact, even after blanket media coverage of mass defections. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians continued to march in unreported demonstrations in support of the president. The state’s institutions and government and business elite have largely remained loyal to Assad. Minority groups – Alawites, Christians, Kurds, Druze, Shia, and the Baath Party, which is majority Sunni – did not join the opposition against the government. And the major urban areas and population centers remain under the state’s umbrella, with few exceptions.

A genuine “revolution,” after all, does not have operation rooms in Jordan and Turkey. Nor is a “popular” revolution financed, armed and assisted by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the U.S., UK and France.

From Prem Shankar Jha, Who Fired the First Shot?: (Hands Off Syria Sydney, Feb 27, 2014)

Who Fired the First Shot?

… Syrians whom I interviewed in October 2012 in Damascus … [told this] story[:] Assad had sincerely wished to start the transition to democracy a decade earlier, but was forced to postpone the changeover repeatedly by the growing turmoil in Syria’s neighbourhood —the U.S.’ invasion of Iraq in 2003; the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri and the concerted bid to force Syria out of Lebanon in 2004; Washington’s decision to break diplomatic relations with Damascus in 2005; Israel’s attack on Lebanon in 2006, its blockade of Palestine in 2007, and its bombing of Gaza in 2009. Faisal Al Mekdad, Syria’s vice minister for foreign affairs and its former permanent representative at the UN, summed up Assad’s dilemma as follows: “Each of these events reminded us of the need for unity in the face of external pressures and threats, and forced us to postpone democratization for fear of setting off fresh internal conflicts and forcing adjustments when we could least afford them’.

Was there a spontaneous protest and was it peaceful? … Syrians I talked to in October 2012, and resident diplomats concurred, that there had been no spontaneous popular upsurge against the regime in Syria, and that the civil war was a fructification of plans for regime change that had been hatched much earlier and brought forward because the opportunity provided by the ‘Arab Spring’, and western liberals’ ecstatic response to it, was too good to miss.

Damascus first became aware of the conspiracy when trouble broke out on March 18, 2011 in Dera’a, a small city astride the Syria – Jordan border. A peaceful demonstration demanding some political changes in the local administration and lowering of diesel prices turned violent when shots were fired killing four persons. The international media, led by the Qatar-based Al Jazeera, and the Riyadh-based Al Arabiya television channels immediately accused Assad’s forces of firing into the crowd to disperse it.

The Syrian government’s version of what had happened was entirely different. The first shots, it claimed, were fired on March 18 … by armed men who had infiltrated the procession and, at a pre-determined moment, begun to shoot at the security police. That is why, of the four persons killed on that day, one was a policeman. However, according to Dr Mekdad, what convinced the government that the Dera’a uprising was part of a larger conspiracy was what happened when the police sent for reinforcements. Armed men ambushed one of the trucks as it entered Dera’a and killed all the soldiers in it. [Emphasis added.]

The Syrian government chose not to publicise this for fear of demoralizing its soldiers. But … [i]ncontrovertible confirmation came a month later when ‘peaceful protesters’ stopped an army truck outside Dera’a and again killed all the 20 soldiers in it. But this time they did so by cutting their throats. This was the sanctified method of killing that the ‘Afghanis’, as the Afghanistan-returned Jihadis were called in Algeria, had used to kill more than ten thousand villagers during two years of bitter insurgency after the First Afghan war. It was to be seen over and over again in Syria in the coming months.

The Syrian government again chose to remain silent, and the only whiff of this event in the media was a rebel claim that they had captured and burnt an armoured personnel carrier. But in Damascus the U.S. Ambassador, Robert Ford, told a group of Ambassadors that included the Indian ambassador, that the Syrian insurgency had been infiltrated by Al Qaeda. He had come to this conclusion because, in addition to cutting throats, the insurgents had cut off the head of one of the soldiers. …

… [T]he insurgents, now labeled and recognized by the west as the “Free Syrian Army” followed a set pattern of attack: This was to descend without warning on small towns, Alaouite villages and small army and police posts in hundreds, overwhelm them. After they surrendered, the insurgents would kill local officials, civilians they deemed to be pro-Assad and soldiers who would not desert to them, and claim that these were in fact deserters whom the government forces had executed after a successful counter attack. Two such episodes captured worldwide attention in 2011.

In Jisr al Shugour, a medium sized town in the northern border province of Idlib, the international media reported, based upon rebel claims, that the government had brought in not only tanks but also helicopters to bomb the town from the air – the first resort to air power against ‘protestors’. When some soldiers, who were disgusted by the indiscriminate carnage, attempted to defect the Syrian troops killed them. The indiscriminate firing forced civilians to flee to nearby villages. Some crossed over to Turkey. [Emphasis added.]

This claim captured the headlines in the western media for days, but the story pieced together by a diplomat whom the Syrian government took to Jisr-al Shugour when the town had been recaptured, was however very different. In the beginning of June 2011 some five to six hundred fighters of the Free Syrian Army suddenly laid siege to the town for 48 hours. When the army sent in reinforcements the rebels, who had mined a bridge on the approach road blew it up as a truck was passing over it, killed the soldiers and cut the only access to the town by road. Two days later, when they overwhelmed the garrison, instead of taking them prisoner they killed all of them, many by cutting their throats, threw their bodies into the Orontes river, and later posted videos claiming that these were army defectors whom the Syrian forces had killed.

This was corroborated two months later by a resident of the town who came the Indian embassy to get a visa. According to him between 500 and 600 rebels had descended upon the town from Turkey. On the way they stopped a bus, shot six of its passengers and spread the word that army had done it. Many people believed them, were enraged and stood by as the hunt for fleeing soldiers and supporters of the government began. Some joined in the hunt. In all, he said, the number of soldiers and government supporters killed and dumped in the Orontes was not 120 but close to 300. This was the first of dozens of similar war crimes by the FSA.

From Sharmine Narwani, Syria: The hidden massacre RT.com, May 7, 2014

http://on.rt.com/052xod

Just recently a Tunisian jihadist who goes by the name Abu Qusay, told Tunisian television that his “task” in Syria was to destroy and desecrate mosques with Sunni names (Abu Bakr mosque, Othman mosque, etc) in false-flag sectarian attacks to encourage defection by Syrian soldiers, the majority of whom are Sunni. One of the things he did was scrawling pro-government and blasphemous slogans on mosque walls like “Only God, Syria and Bashar.” It was a “tactic” he says, to get the soldiers to “come on our side” so that the army “can become weak.” …

A member of the large Hariri family in Daraa, who was there in March and April 2011, says people are confused and that many “loyalties have changed two or three times from March 2011 till now. They were originally all with the government. Then suddenly changed against the government – but now I think maybe 50% or more came back to the Syrian regime.”

The province was largely pro-government before things kicked off. According to the UAE paper The National, “Daraa had long had a reputation as being solidly pro-Assad, with many regime figures recruited from the area.”

… HRW [Human Rights Watch] admits “that protestors had killed members of security forces” but caveats it by saying they “only used violence against the security forces and destroyed government property in response to killings by the security forces or…to secure the release of wounded demonstrators captured by the security forces and believed to be at risk of further harm.”

We know that this is not true – the April 10 shootings of the nine soldiers on a bus in Banyas was an unprovoked ambush. So, for instance, was the killing of General Abdo Khodr al-Tallawi, killed alongside his two sons and a nephew in Homs on April 17. That same day in the pro-government al-Zahra neighborhood in Homs, off-duty Syrian army commander Iyad Kamel Harfoush was gunned down when he went outside his home to investigate gunshots. Two days later, Hama-born off-duty Colonel Mohammad Abdo Khadour was killed in his car. And all of this only in the first month of unrest. [Emphasis added.]

In 2012, HRW’s Syria researcher Ole Solvag told me that he had documented violence “against captured soldiers and civilians” and that “there were sometimes weapons in the crowds and some demonstrators opened fire against government forces.”

But was it because the protestors were genuinely aggrieved with violence directed at them by security forces? Or were they “armed gangs” as the Syrian government claims? Or – were there provocateurs shooting at one or both sides?

[More on provocateurs:] … Discussion about the role of provocateurs in stirring up conflict has made some headlines since Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet’s leaked phone conversation with the EU’s Catherine Ashton disclosed suspicions that pro-west snipers had killed both Ukranian security forces and civilians during the Euromaidan protests.

Says Paet: “All the evidence shows that people who were killed by snipers from both sides, among policemen and people from the streets, that they were the same snipers killing people from both sides…and it’s really disturbing that now the new (pro-western) coalition, they don’t want to investigate what exactly happened.”

A recent German TV investigation the sniper shootings confirms much about these allegations, and has opened the door to contesting versions of events in Ukraine that did not exist for most of the Syrian conflict – at least not in the media or in international forums. …

Since early 2011 alone, we have heard allegations of “unknown” snipers targeting crowds and security forces in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Ukraine. What could be more effective at turning populations against authority than the unprovoked killing of unarmed innocents? By the same token, what could better ensure a reaction from the security forces of any nation than the gunning down of one or more of their own? …

An alternative approach, from Stephen Gowans:

I have presented here a somewhat detailed account of direct evidence, including eye-witness accounts, and analysis from sources I find credible, regarding the violence that began in March 2011. By identifying what I take to be the actual sources of that violence, I try to show that it did not arise from any widespread dissatisfaction with the government or “revolutionary distemper,” and was not initiated by the Syrian government, but by violent Islamists who tried to and failed to incite a popular uprising. Stephen Gowans draws a similar conclusion but from a different angle, arguing that there simply was no widespread dissatisfaction from which the current conflict could have grown, or as Gowans puts it, “The Revolutionary Distemper in Syria … Wasn’t.” A brief excerpt illustrates Gowan’s approach:

There is a shibboleth in some circles that … the uprising in Syria ‘began as a response to the Syrian government’s neoliberal policies and brutality,’ and that ‘the revolutionary content of the rebel side in Syria has been sidelined by a hodgepodge of Saudi and Qatari-financed jihadists.’ This theory appears, as far as I can tell, to be based on argument by assertion, not evidence.

[An impressive photo of a huge demonstration in 2011 supporting Syria’s secular Arab nationalist government that appears in Gowans’ article is omitted here.]

A review of press reports in the weeks immediately preceding and following the mid- March 2011 outbreak of riots in Daraa—usually recognized as the beginning of the uprising—offers no indication that Syria was in the grips of a revolutionary distemper, whether anti-neo-liberal or otherwise. On the contrary, reporters representing Time magazine and the New York Times referred to the government as having broad support, of critics conceding that Assad was popular, and of Syrians exhibiting little interest in protest. At the same time, they described the unrest as a series of riots involving hundreds, and not thousands or tens of thousands of people, guided by a largely Islamist agenda and exhibiting a violent character.

Time magazine reported that two jihadist groups that would later play lead roles in the insurgency, Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, were already in operation on the eve of the riots, while a mere three months earlier, leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood voiced “their hope for a civil revolt in Syria.” The Muslim Brothers, who had decades earlier declared a blood feud with Syria’s ruling Ba’athist Party, objecting violently to the party’s secularism, had been embroiled in a life and death struggle with secular Arab nationalists since the 1960s, and had engaged in street battles with Ba’athist partisans from the late 1940s. (In one such battle, Hafez al-Assad, the current president’s father, who himself would serve as president from 1970 to 2000, was knifed by a Muslim Brother adversary.) The Brotherhood’s leaders, beginning in 2007, met frequently with the U.S. State Department and the U.S. National Security Council, as well as with the U.S. government-funded Middle East Partnership Initiative, which had taken on the overt role of funding overseas overthrow organizations—a task the CIA had previously done covertly.

https://gowans.wordpress.com/2016/10/22/the-revolutionary-distemper-in-syria-that-wasnt/

What about the sarin gas attack?

It remains commonplace to accuse Assad of the sarin gas attack of August 2013 (as recently as the December 22, 2016 issue of The New York Review of Books, discussed below under “The current situation”), even though it has been shown that the attack was most likely a “false flag” attempting to frame Assad for the work of terrorist rebels aided by Turkey. (See Seymour Hersh, The Red Line and the Rat Line: Obama, Erdoğan and the Syrian rebels, London Review of Books Vol. 36 No. 8 · 17 April 2014, pp 21-24, online: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n08/seymour- m-hersh/the-red-line-and-the-rat-line.) There are further discussion and citations on this topic above, text at endnote 7. Seymour Hersh provided further information last April, in an interview tied to Hersh’s new book, The Killing of Osama Bin Laden. The following is taken from that interview, which is posted at AlterNet http://www.alternet.org/world/exclusive-interview- seymour-hersh-dishes-saudi-oil-money-bribes-and-killing-osama-bin-laden:

Let me talk to you about the sarin story [the sarin gas attack in Ghouta, a suburb near Damascus, which the U.S. government attributed to the Assad regime] because it really is in my craw. In this article that was this long series of interviews [of Obama] by Jeff Goldberg…he says, without citing the source (you have to presume it was the president because he’s talking to him all the time) that the head of National Intelligence, General [James] Clapper, said to him very early after the [sarin] incident took place, “Hey, it’s not a slam dunk.”

You have to understand in the intelligence community—Tenet [Bush-era CIA director who infamously said Iraqi WMD was a “slam dunk”] is the one who said that about the war in Baghdad—that’s a serious comment. That means you’ve got a problem with the intelligence. As you know I wrote a story that said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs told the president that information the same day. I now know more about it.

The president’s explanation for [not bombing Syria] was that the Syrians agreed that night, rather than be bombed, they’d give up their chemical weapons arsenal, which in this article in the Atlantic, Goldberg said they [the Syrians] had never disclosed before. This is ludicrous. Lavrov [Russia’s Foreign Minister] and Kerry had talked about it for a year—getting rid of the arsenal—because it was under threat from the rebels.

The issue was not that they [the Syrians] suddenly caved in. [Before the Ghouta attack] there was a G-20 summit and Putin and Bashar met for an hour. There was an official briefing from Ben Rhodes and he said they talked about the chemical weapons issue and what to do. The issue was that Bashar couldn’t pay for it—it cost more than a billion bucks. The Russians said, ‘Hey, we can’t pay it all. Oil prices are going down and we’re hurt for money.’ And so, all that happened was we agreed to handle it. We took care of a lot of the costs of it.

Guess what? We had a ship, it was called the Cape Maid, it was parked out in the Med. The Syrians would let us destroy this stuff [the chemical weapons]… there was 1,308 tons that was shipped to the port…and we had, guess what, a forensic unit out there. Wouldn’t we like to really prove—here we have all his sarin and we had sarin from what happened in Ghouta, the UN had a team there and got samples—guess what?

It didn’t match. But we didn’t hear that. I now know it, I’m going to write a lot about it.

Guess what else we know from the forensic analysis we have (we had all the missiles in their arsenal). Nothing in their arsenal had anything close to what was on the ground in Ghouta. A lot of people I know, nobody’s going to go on the record, but the people I know said we couldn’t make a connection, there was no connection between what was given to us by Bashar and what was used in Ghouta. That to me is interesting. That doesn’t prove anything, but it opens up a door to further investigation and further questioning.

The current situation (as of December 27, 2016):

I’ve outlined “from the ground up,” so to speak, my reasons for disbelieving the basic U.S. government line on Syria and much or all of what I see in the mainstream media. Of course, events continue to unfold, and so does the useful commentary.

As I write, the Syrian Government has reportedly driven the terrorists from Aleppo, but ISIS has meanwhile recaptured Palmyra. While President-elect Trump has indicated he would cooperate with Russia in combating terrorism – and presumably, abandon the U.S. effort to unseat Bashar al Assad – pressure continues from influential quarters to maintain opposition to Assad.

For example, an item has just appeared in The New York Review of Books, arguing that both Russia and Syria have committed war crimes in the ongoing conflict, and that the Trump administration should increase pressure on Russia to curtail what the article calls Assad’s atrocities. (Kenneth Roth, “What Trump Should Do In Syria,” December 22, 2016 issue.) A detailed response would take up too much of my time and yours, but some answer seems warranted. Suffice it to say that the NYRB article is written by Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch (HRW) and that in my view, from having followed the Syrian conflict and related stories for some time, neither HRW nor Amnesty International has the credibility with me that they used to have. In particular, the NYRB piece trots out and repeats the old sarin gas story, now thoroughly debunked. Beyond that, I would point to this entire primer/essay as refutation of the work of that other man named Roth (no relation of mine, I’m glad to say). See especially the narrative immediately above, the interview with Paul Larudee immediately below, and the narrative and sources cited in endnote ix.

For another indication of the continuing nature of the U.S. threat to Syria, see Patrick Henningsen, ‘New Obama Executive Action Opens Door to Unlimited Arms for Salafi Terrorists in Syria’, December 8, 2016, http://21stcenturywire.com/2016/12/08/breaking-new-obama-executive-order-opens-door-for-unlimited-arms-to-islamist-terrorists-in-syria/; and for further indication of the continuing terrorist threat and the need for responsive action, see ‘Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Introduces Legislation to Stop Arming Terrorists], December 8, 2016 Press Release, at https://gabbard.house.gov/news/press-releases/video-rep-tulsi-gabbard-introduces- legislation-stop-arming-terrorists.

Here are some further excerpts from some of the most useful and informative recent materials:

* From Paul Larudee, ‘The reporting on Syrian conflict is unusual for the extent of fabricated information’ (August 31, 2016),

http://www.muslimpress.com/Section-opinion-72/105721-the-reporting-on-syrian-conflict-is-unusual-for-the-extent-of-fabricated-information

Muslim Press: How do you analyze the operation to liberate Aleppo?

Paul Larudee: … Of course, it’s possible to carpet bomb East Aleppo into oblivion, but there is still a large civilian population there, so the Syrian government is not doing that, and they set up three areas for the civilians to leave the area. This is how the Syrian army has retaken most areas, such as Homs, Ghouta, Qalamoun, etc. It’s why they have one of the lowest civilian/combatant casualty ratios of any war, even though the number of total casualties over five years is a great tragedy. …

MP: What’s your take on the media outlets that report the Syrian conflict? Do they portray a true image of the war with concrete facts and evidence?

Paul Larudee: More than 2500 years ago, the Greek playwright Aeschylus wrote, “In war, truth is the first casualty.” This has not changed. As usual, the media are being used as instruments of war, and even the NGOs are providing false and biased information according to the source of their funding. However, I must say that the reporting on Syria is unusual for the extent of fabricated information, including photos and videos that are no more than theater or are real but from totally different origins than reported. Some are reused from other places and sometimes not even Syrian. Caveat emptor! [Emphasis added.]13

MP: Syrian Army has been accused of starving out the residents, using barrel bombs and chemical weapons against civilians. What could you say about this?

Paul Larudee: This is war. We have to be realistic. The Syrian government makes every effort to get civilians to leave a war zone, and offers support services to those who do. But some of them still don’t leave, either because they are afraid of what might happen to their homes or because the terrorists use them as “human shields” and prevent them from leaving, or for their own reasons. In this case it is not unusual for government forces to besiege the area. This is less dangerous to the civilian population and to the soldiers (whose lives are also important) than sending the army in to fight door to door. Under these circumstances it is often difficult for the population to get supplies. In some situations, the starvation has been real, as in Ghouta and the last days of Homs before liberation, but it has also been fabricated or exaggerated, as in Madaya. Keep in mind that the anti-government fighters do the same, as with the sieges of the towns of Foua and Kafarya, which have lasted for years.

The difference is that they often do not end with respect for the lives of the captured population. By contrast, when most of the civilian population has left, the government tries to end the siege peacefully, often by offering amnesty to the fighters. Those who refuse are then often attacked by aerial bombardment and other weapons of war that are most likely to spare the lives of the soldiers. This usually ends in surrender.

“Barrel bombs” are just simple gravity bombs that are made in Syria. They are not fundamentally different from other bombs dropped from aircraft except that they are much less expensive to produce and use, and must be dropped from helicopters because they would be less accurate from jet aircraft. The western media and governments hypocritically argue that “barrel bombs” are inhuman. Their governments use different bombs that are just as destructive or even more so, but they can demonize “barrel bombs” because they do not use them…

* From “Standing By Syria,” by Margaret Kimberley,

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/09/16/standing-by-syria/

reposted from the Freedom Rider column for Black Agenda Report:

Focusing on Assad’s government and treatment of his people may seem like a reasonable thing to do. Most people who call themselves anti-war are serious in their concern for humanity. But the most basic human right, the right to survive, was taken from 400,000 people because the American president decided to add one more notch on his gun. Whether intended or not, criticism of the victimized government makes the case for further aggression.

The al-Nusra Front may change its name in a public relations effort, but it is still al Qaeda and still an ally of the United States. The unpredictable Donald Trump may not be able to explain that he spoke the truth when he accused Obama and Clinton of being ISIS supporters, but the anti-war movement should be able to explain without any problem. Cessations of hostilities are a sham meant to protect American assets whenever Assad is winning. If concern for the wellbeing of Syrians is a paramount concern, then the American anti-war movement must be united in condemning their own government without reservation or hesitation.

* From AP Exclusive: Assad blames U.S. for collapse of Syria truce (September 22, 2016),

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/48f66e4501a945b69bc5ec3c0066d964/ap-exclusive-assad-blames- us-syria-truce-collapse:

The war has been defined by gruesome photos and video posted in the aftermath of bloody attacks or documenting the plight of children in particular. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, and once-thriving cities have been ravaged, with entire blocks reduced to rubble. The images have galvanized public opinion worldwide — but [Syrian president Bashar] Assad, while acknowledging that the war had been “savage,” said the accounts should not be automatically believed.

“Those witnesses only appear when there’s an accusation against the Syrian army or the Russian (army), but when the terrorists commit a crime or massacre … you don’t see any witnesses,” he said. What a coincidence.” …

Assad dismissed the U.S. account [of the U.S. attack on Syrian government troops], saying the attack targeted a “huge” area for more than an hour.

“It wasn’t an accident by one airplane… It was four airplanes,” Assad said. “You don’t commit a mistake for more than one hour.” …

Asked about … the use of indiscriminate weapons, Assad said there’s no difference between bombs: “When you have terrorists, you don’t throw at them balloons, or you don’t use rubber sticks. … You have to use armaments.”

A full transcript of this AP interview with Syrian president Assad is at

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/c6cfec4970e44283968baa98c41716bd/full-transcript-ap-interview- syrian-president-assad

* How might the war end?

Mr. Assad believes the war could end quickly if foreign governments supporting the terrorists would withdraw their support. Responding to a question about when … Syrians who fled the war can return, Assad said:

If we look at it according to the internal Syrian factors, I would say it’s very soon, a few months, and I’m sure about that, I’m not exaggerating, but when you talk about it as part of a global conflict and a regional conflict, when you have many external factors that you don’t control, it’s going to drag on and no-one in this world can tell you when but the countries, the governments, the officials who support directly the terrorists. Only they know, because they know when they’re going to stop supporting those terrorists, and this is where the situation in Syria is going to be solved without any real obstacles.14

* More from “Why the Arabs don’t want us in Syria” by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, quoted above:

What is the answer? … Using the same imagery and language that supported our 2003 war against Saddam Hussein, our political leaders led Americans to believe that our Syrian intervention is an idealistic war against tyranny, terrorism and religious fanaticism. … But … only when we see this conflict as a proxy war over a pipeline do events become comprehensible. … The million refugees now flooding into Europe are refugees of a pipeline war and CIA blundering. …

… Let’s face it; what we call the “war on terror” is really just another oil war. We’ve squandered $6 trillion on three wars abroad and on constructing a national security warfare state at home since oilman Dick Cheney declared the “Long War” in 2001. The only winners have been the military contractors and oil companies that have pocketed historic profits, the intelligence agencies that have grown exponentially in power and influence to the detriment of our freedoms and the jihadists who invariably used our interventions as their most effective recruiting tool. We have compromised our values, butchered our own youth, killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people, subverted our idealism and squandered our national treasures in fruitless and costly adventures abroad. …

… Over the past seven decades, the Dulles brothers, the Cheney gang, the neocons and their ilk have … deployed our military and intelligence apparatus to serve the mercantile interests of large corporations and particularly, the petroleum companies and military contractors that have literally made a killing from these conflicts.

It’s time for Americans to turn America away from this new imperialism and back to the path of idealism and democracy. We should let the Arabs govern Arabia and turn our energies to the great endeavor of nation building at home. We need to begin this process, not by invading Syria, but by ending the ruinous addiction to oil that has warped U.S. foreign policy for half a century.

* From Tim Anderson, The Dirty War on Syria, Chapter 14, “Toward A New Middle East”:

‘No foreign officials might determine the future of Syria, the future of Syria’s political system or the individuals who should govern Syria. This is the Syrian peoples’ decision.’- Bashar al Assad, 2015

… Washington and its minions have been obsessive and intransigent in their aim to isolate and exclude President Assad from a future Syrian Government. … This futile demand really illustrates how little respect Washington has for international law. [Emphasis added.] [T]he Geneva agreements of 2012 … stress that ‘It is for the Syrian people to determine the future of the country’ (TASS 2015; UN 2012). That is a simple but fundamental point that Washington does not want to understand. Russian President Putin is generally diplomatic to his western ‘partners’, however on one occasion he said: ‘Rise above the endless desire to dominate. You must stop acting out of imperialistic ambitions. Do not poison the consciousness of millions of people, like there can be no other way but imperialistic politics’ (Putin 2015). …

Washington’s ‘Plan B’ for Syria has been a weakening and eventual dismemberment of the country. This is helpfully spelt out by a Brookings Institute paper of June 2015 (O’Hanlon 2015). This plan quite brazenly calls for Washington to break its ‘Syria problem’ into ‘a number of localised components … envisioning ultimately a more confederal Syria made up of autonomous zones rather than being ruled by a strong central government’ (O’Hanlon 2015: 3). …

… Russia, legally invited to Syria, repeatedly requested U.S. cooperation, thus calling Washington’s bluff. Washington … had pretended not to own ISIS, failed to attack the terrorist group when Syrian towns were assailed and falsely pretended there was a fundamental difference between ISIS and the other ‘moderate rebels’. However Russia agreed with Syria that all the anti-government armed groups were sectarian terrorists. The U.S. refused to identify any of their ‘moderate rebel’ groups, so Russia [beginning in late September 2015] … attacked them all. In face of this, the U.S. protested that their ‘moderates’ were being targeted, or that the Russians were ‘killing civilians’. …

… Syrians, including most devout Sunni Muslims, reject that head-chopping, vicious and sectarian perversion of Islam promoted by the Gulf monarchies. This is no sectarian or Shia-Sunni war, but a classical imperial war, using proxy armies.

* On the battle for Aleppo

Mainstream media coverage of Syria has lately focused on what the U.S. calls “war crimes” in the battle for Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. But most Western media never get any closer to Aleppo than Beirut, which is not even in Syria. For their information, these media often rely on the U.S. government or groups like the White Helmets, who get funding from the U.S. and others attempting to overthrow the Syrian government. As veteran journalist Patrick Cockburn points out:

Unsurprisingly, foreign journalists covering developments in east Aleppo and rebel-held areas of Syria overwhelmingly do so from Lebanon or Turkey. A number of intrepid correspondents who tried to do eyewitness reporting from rebel-held areas swiftly found themselves tipped into the boots of cars or otherwise incarcerated.

Experience shows that foreign reporters are quite right not to trust their lives even to the most moderate of the armed opposition inside Syria. But, strangely enough, the same media organisations continue to put their trust in the veracity of information coming out of areas under the control of these same potential kidnappers and hostage takers. They would probably defend themselves by saying they rely on non-partisan activists, but all the evidence is that these can only operate in east Aleppo under license from the al- Qaeda-type groups.

It is inevitable that an opposition movement fighting for its life in wartime will only produce, or allow to be produced by others, information that is essentially propaganda for its own side. The fault lies not with them but a media that allows itself to be spoon-fed with dubious or one-sided stories.

For instance, the film coming out of east Aleppo in recent weeks focuses almost exclusively on heartrending scenes of human tragedy such as the death or maiming of civilians. One seldom sees shots of the 10,000 fighters, whether they are wounded or alive and well.” Patrick Cockburn, “Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong,” December 2, 2016 (posted at http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/12/02/why-everything-youve-read-about-syria-and- iraq-could-be-wrong/.)

However, photo-journalist Vanessa Beeley recently traveled to Syria, including Aleppo, and has issued a two-part report, both exposing the so-called “White Helmets” and interviewing members of Syria’s real civil defense, that you can see and read at

http://www.mintpressnews.com/journey-to-aleppo-exposing-the-truth-buried-under-nato-propaganda/220563/ and

http://www.mintpressnews.com/journey-aleppo-part-ii-syria-civil- defense-aleppo-medical-association-real-syrians-helping-real-syrians/220817/.

More than 1.5 million civilians live in government-held western Aleppo, including 600,000 who fled eastern Aleppo. The Aleppo Medical Association estimated that about 200,000 were living in terrorist-occupied eastern Aleppo, including 50,000 so-called “rebels” and their families, before the Syrian Army and its allies recently recaptured the whole of the city.

Government forces could have flattened eastern Aleppo long ago, but held back out of concern for civilians. Assad recently offered readjustment help to civilians leaving eastern Aleppo, and even to Syrian fighters who lay down their arms. But the insurgents continued pounding western Aleppo daily with weapons, including “hell cannons” firing gas canisters packed with explosives, glass, shrapnel and even chemicals. The terrorist bombardment of western Aleppo with such weapons caused horrific harm to civilians there, including children, but was seemingly invisible to the mainstream media.

* Analyst Pepe Escobar concludes that the U.S. is managing the siege of Mosul in such a way as to allow jihadists to escape Mosul so they can join the Islamic State fighters in Syria. Pepe Escobar, The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle,

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/10/21/the-aleppo- mosul-riddle/ October 21, 2016).

***

The myth of the “moderate rebels,” Assad’s continuing support in Syria, the real reasons for U.S. intervention in Syria, delusions still prevailing in official Washington and parroted by mainstream media, the ordeal of the Syrian people, and the risks the continuing conflict poses for world peace. Additional materials on these topics and others are listed here in chronological order by date of publication.

Eva Bartlett, Liberated Homs Residents Challenge Notion of “Revolution,” July 8, 2014, http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/liberated-homs-residents-challenge-notion-of-revolution/

Eva Bartlett, Western corporate media ‘disappears’ over 1.5 million Syrians and 4,000 doctors, https://www.sott.net/article/325238-Western-corporate-media-disappears-over-1-5- million-Syrians-and-4000-doctors, August 14, 2016

Prof. Tim Anderson, Why Syrians Support Bashar al Assad, Global Research, September 30, 2014, http://www.globalresearch.ca/why-syrians-support-bashar-al-assad/5405208.

Mike Whitney, Everything You Needed to Know About Syria in 8 Minutes, October 30, 2015, http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/10/30/everything-you-needed-to-know-about-syria-in- 8-minutes/.

Prof. Tim Anderson, Syria: ‘Moderate Rebel’ Massacres and Everyday Propaganda, December 16, 2015, Telesur;

http://www.syriasolidaritymovement.org/2016/01/03/syria- moderate-rebel-massacres-and-everyday-propaganda/January 3, 2016.

Mairead Maguire | (Inter Press Service), Syrian Peace Groups: This is not a Civil War, it is a Set of Foreign Invasions, January 5, 2016,

http://www.juancole.com/2016/01/syrian-peace- groups-this-is-not-a-civil-war-it-is-a-set-of-foreign-invasions.html and

http://peacenews.org/2016/01/05/syrian-peace-groups-this-is-not-a-civil-war-it-is-a-set-of- foreign-invasions/.

Stephen Gowans, U.S. Role as State Sponsor of Terrorism Acknowledged in U.S. Congressional Research Service Report on Syria Conflict, Global Research, January 11, 2016, what’s left 10 January 2016.

Bouthaina Shaaban, The Rise of ISIS and Other Extremist Groups: the role of the West and Regional Powers,” Jan 29, 2016, Counter Punch, http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/01/29/the- rise-of-isis-and-other-extremist-groups-the-role-of-the-west-and-regional-powers/

Philip Giraldi, Delusions on Syria prevail in official Washington, February 2, 2016, http://www.unz.com/article/an-improbable-solution/.

‘Russian operation in Syria is our salvation’ – top Syrian Catholic bishop to RT, Published time: 18 Feb, 2016 21:25, http://on.rt.com/74vu

Stephen Kinzer, The media are misleading the public on Syria, February 18, 2016,

http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2016/02/18/the-media-are-misleading-public- syria/8YB75otYirPzUCnlwaVtcK/story.html?event=event25

Vanessa Beeley, Syria: Aleppo Doctor Demolishes Imperialist Propaganda and Media Warmongering, June 15, 2016,

http://21stcenturywire.com/2016/06/15/syria-aleppo-doctor- demolishes-imperialist-propaganda-and-media-warmongering/

Alexander Mercouris, Washington does the unthinkable, kills Syrian troops and helps ISIS, September 18, 2016,

http://theduran.com/as-moscow-complains-about-us-foot-dragging- washingtons-throws-a-tantrum-bombs-syrian-troops-and-helps-isis/

Finian Cunningham, Syria Shows U.S. Under Military Rule, September 20, 2016, https://sputniknews.com/columnists/20160920/1045507773/syria-shows-us-under-military- rule.html

Mike Whitney, Rogue Mission: Did the Pentagon Bomb Syrian Army to Kill Ceasefire Deal?, September 20, 2016,

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/09/20/rogue-mission-did- the-pentagon-bomb-syrian-army-to-kill-ceasefire-deal/

Vanessa Beeley, Journey To Aleppo: Exposing The Truth Buried Under NATO Propaganda, September 20, 2016,

http://www.mintpressnews.com/journey-to-aleppo-exposing- the-truth-buried-under-nato-propaganda/220563/ (Part I) and

http://www.mintpressnews.com/journey-aleppo-part-ii-syria-civil-defense-aleppo-medical- association-real-syrians-helping-real-syrians/220817/ (Part II).

Alexander Mercouris, Making up the news: How the Western media misreported the Syrian convoy attack, September 21, 2016,

http://theduran.com/making-news-western-media- misreported-syrian-convoy-attack/

Felicity Arbuthnot, Syria: Attack on Aid Convoy Kills Twenty, Destroys Aid, And Obliterates U.S. War Crimes in Support of ISIS-Daesh Terror Group?, September 21 2016,

http://www.globalresearch.ca/syria-attack-on-aid-convoy-kills-twenty-destroys-aid-and- obliterates-us-war-crimes-in-support-of-isis-daesh-terror-group/5547059

Vanessa Beeley, The REAL Syria Civil Defence Expose Nato’s ‘White Helmets’ as Terrorist-Linked Imposters, September 23, 2016,

http://21stcenturywire.com/2016/09/23/exclusive-the-real-syria-civil-defence-expose-natos- white-helmets-as-terrorist-linked-imposters/

RT.com, Sunday, Sept 25, 2016, West still arming Al-Nusra in Syria, peace almost impossible, Russia’s UN envoy tells Security Council mtg

James W Carden, How Libyan ‘Regime Change’ Lies Echo in Syria,

https://consortiumnews.com/2016/09/25/how-libyan-regime-change-lies-echo-in-syria/

Consortium News, September 25, 2016 (The mainstream U.S. media has largely ignored a U.K. report on the West’s lies used to justify the Libyan “regime change,” all the better to protect the ongoing falsehoods used in Syria.)

Robert Parry, New ‘group think’ for war with Syria/Russia, Consortium News, Oct 5, 2016

Diana Johnstone, Destroying Syria: A Joint Criminal Enterprise,

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/10/04/overthrowing-the-syrian-government-a-joint-criminal- enterprise/ (October 4, 2016),

and On Assad and Syria: a Reply to a Reader,

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/10/06/on-assad-and-syria-a-reply-to-a-reader/ (October 6, 2016).

Mike Whitney, Obama Stepped Back From Brink, Will Hillary? (October 12, 2016),

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/10/12/obama-stepped-back-from-brink-will-hillary/ .

Although this piece was written before the recent presidential election, I include it here because in it Mike Whitney develops what I think is a useful analogy:

The American people need to understand what’s going on in Syria. Unfortunately, the major media only publish Washington-friendly propaganda which makes it difficult to separate fact from fiction. The best way to cut through the lies and misinformation, is by using a simple analogy that will help readers to see that Syria is not in the throes of a confusing, sectarian civil war, but the victim of another regime change operation launched by Washington to topple the government of Bashar al Assad.

With that in mind, try to imagine if striking garment workers in New York City decided to arm themselves and take over parts of lower Manhattan. And, let’s say, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decided that he could increase his geopolitical influence by recruiting Islamic extremists and sending them to New York to join the striking workers. Let’s say, Trudeau’s plan succeeds and the rebel militias are able to seize a broad swath of U.S. territory including most of the east coast stretching all the way to the mid-west. Then– over the course of the next five years– these same jihadist forces proceed to destroy most of the civilian infrastructure across the country, force millions of people from their homes and businesses, and demand that President Obama step down from office so they can replace him with an Islamic regime that would enforce strict Sharia law.

I would take issue with only one point: My understanding, largely from Steve Gowans’ terrific piece, is that the original March 2011 protesters were some combination of Muslim Brotherhood jihadists and terrorists imported from Libya. So the jihadists were not sent later, but were already there from the start, and many were not indigenous to Syria; so I don’t really think that combination of domestic and imported extremists can be fairly compared with hypothetical striking NYC garment workers. But if we clarify that point about the origin of the conflict, the analogy holds, and is highly illuminating.

Rick Sterling, The ‘White Helmets’ controversy in Syria (October 23, 2016),

https://consortiumnews.com/2016/10/23/the-white-helmets-controversy/

John Laforge, U.S. Uranium Weapons Have Been Used in Syria (October 28, 2016),

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/10/28/us-uranium-weapons-have-been-used-in-syria/

Dan Glazebrook, Syria: the U.S. Will Never Separate Its Fighters from Al Qaeda Because It Depends on Them (November 7, 2016),

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/11/07/syria-the-us- will-never-separate-its-fighters-from-al-qaeda-because-it-depends-on-them/ (originally appeared in RT.com)

Roger Annis, No to Western intervention in Syria and Ukraine, no to its left-wing apologists (November 12, 2016),

http://rogerannis.com/no-to-western-intervention-in-syria-and-ukraine-no- to-its-left-wing-apologists/

Alexander Mercouris, Here’s why reports of intentional hospital bombings in Syria are false (November 21, 2016),

http://theduran.com/heres-why-reports-of-intentional-hospital-bombings- in-syria-are-false/

Patrick Cockburn, Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong (December 2, 2016),

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/12/02/why-everything-youve-read- about-syria-and-iraq-could-be-wrong/

Robert Parry, How War Propaganda Keeps on Killing (December 7, 2016), http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article45988.htm

Aleppo Liberation Exposed Mainstream Media and Their Lies About Syria (December 16, 2016) (Radio Sputnik interview with Vanessa Beeley, investigative journalist and peace activist, who had just returned from the city),

https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201612161048664425- aleppo-liberation-media-lies/

Patrick Cockburn, There’s more propaganda than news coming out of Aleppo this week (December 17, 2016),

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/aleppo-crisis-syrian-war-bashar-al- assad-isis-more-propaganda-than-news-a7479901.html

‘I saw no evidence of executions in Syria as reported by White Helmets & MSM sources’

(interviews with Vanessa Beeley and Rick Sterling) (18 Dec, 2016), http://on.rt.com/7y0e

Mainstream Media on Syria and Russia; “Fake News,” By Joe Clifford, Global Research (December 18, 2016),

http://www.globalresearch.ca/mainstream-media-on-syria-and-russia-fake- news/5563257

Dennis J Bernstein, Extracting Aleppo from the Propaganda (interview with photojournalist Eva Bartlett) (December 20, 2016),

https://consortiumnews.com/2016/12/20/extracting-aleppo- from-the-propaganda/

Vanessa Beeley, Dr Bouthaina Shaaban’s Message to the West, ‘Corporate Media has Caused Death and Destruction in Syria’ (interview) (December 20, 2016), 21st Century Wire,

http://21stcenturywire.com/2016/12/20/syria-dr-bouthaina-shaabans-message-to-the-west- corporate-media-has-caused-death-and-destruction-in-syria/

Vanessa Beeley, East Aleppo Video Diaries: Hanano Testimonies that Shatter Corporate Media Propaganda Myths (December 22, 2016),

http://21stcenturywire.com/2016/12/22/east- aleppo-video-diaries-hanano-testimonies-that-shatter-corporate-media-propaganda-myths/

Resources to follow up and keep track:

Events are unfolding with such rapidity and complexity that it’s hard to keep up in your spare time, as I have been. Maybe it takes a “fire in the gut” to be motivated to even try. And I think it’s fair to say that I do have that fire. I feel compelled to track what’s happening as best I can, in part because I’m still afraid U.S. aggression and recklessness may lead to World War III and with it, the end of the world as we know it; and partly because I now feel for the Syrian people and the horrific ordeal they’re being put through, largely by “my own” (U.S.) government and its allies, including the UK, France, Australia, and Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which I understand are among the most repressive regimes on Earth.

I wrote this article to help you develop your own understanding of the situation, independently of the mainstream media that are dominated by the U.S. perspective. To track developments going forward, I’d suggest looking for more from the authors of the articles I’ve cited, whose work is excellent. I’ve never met any of them, but have come to trust their work and with some, I’ve had communication via email. In addition, many of the articles appear on websites that may be useful places to look for continuing updates.

I would especially recommend www.newcoldwar.org, as it covers well a variety of topics, including the continuing conflict in Ukraine as well as material on Syria, and other issues related to what I believe is already a New Cold War, and the threat of escalation that poses.

Regarding Syria, an extensive list is provided as Chapter 15 of Tim Anderson’s book, The Dirty War on Syria, which as I mentioned is available at

https://store.globalresearch.ca/store/the-dirty- war-on-syria-washington-regime-change-and-resistance-pdf/.

Notes:

1 While I don’t know as much as I hope to learn about the Deep State or “shadow government,” I use those terms to refer to a collection of individuals and structures that appear to have had substantial influence on the policies of several administrations, and to be in part responsible for the continuity of U.S. foreign policy from one administration to the next, especially since the Reagan administration. For an elaborate discussion and analysis, see Mike Lofgren, Anatomy of the Deep State (February 21, 2014), at http://billmoyers.com/2014/02/21/anatomy-of-the-deep- state/. Ron Paul’s much briefer statement regarding pressure on Trump from the Deep State and “shadow government” seems to me right on the money; see “Trump should resist neocon & shadow gov’t influence to justify people’s hopes – Ron Paul to RT” (11 Nov, 2016), at http://on.rt.com/7upw. (By the way, I take the recent efforts to discredit RT.com as a credible source of useful news and information to be disinformative, part of the larger effort to discredit Russian president Putin and apparently, Russia itself.) And although I don’t necessarily endorse every word of it, perhaps in part, again, because I don’t as yet know as much as I hope to, Paul Larudee’s 4-page piece on the neocons (short for “neoconservatives,” although their policies are anything but consistent with what has traditionally been called conservatism) is word-for-word the most informative I’ve seen, including identification of the neocons, a short summary of their history, and their linkages with a number of so-called “think tanks.” See “The Neocon in the Oval Office” (August 31st, 2016), at http://dissidentvoice.org/2016/08/the-neocon-in-the-oval- office/.

The hysterical allegations of Russian hacking to interfere with the recent U.S. election are a prime example of the baseless demonization of Russia. An organization of intelligence veterans who have the expertise to know point out that U.S. intelligence has the capability of presenting hard evidence of any such hacking and has not done so. Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity state bluntly: “We have gone through the various claims about hacking. For us, it is child’s play to dismiss them. The email disclosures in question are the result of a leak, not a hack.” They then explain the difference between leaking and hacking. See U.S. Intel Vets Dispute Russia Hacking Claims (December 12, 2016), https://consortiumnews.com/2016/12/12/us-intel-vets-dispute-russia-hacking-claims/.

2 See, for example, ‘Russian operation in Syria is our salvation’ – top Syrian Catholic bishop to RT, Published time: 18 Feb, 2016 21:25, http://on.rt.com/74vu. By the way, Nour al-Din al- Zinki, the group responsible for the atrocity I describe, is part of the U.S.-backed Revolutionary Command Council and has received TOW anti-tank missiles courtesy of the CIA.

3 Full disclosure: In my youth I was trained in critical thinking and other skills in part by Jesuit priests at Fordham University in New York.

4 Father Frans on the Syrian Rebellion: The “Protestors” Shot First http://www.trans-int.com/wordpress/index.php/2014/04/14/father-frans-on-the-syrian-rebellion- the-protestors-shot-first/. Posted by John Rosenthal

5 I’ve just read an article that illustrates this point, about similar U.S. strategies in different countries, in greater detail. The countries involved are Libya and Syria, and the article is James Carden, How Libyan ‘Regime Change’ Lies Echo in Syria, September 25, 2016, posted at https://consortiumnews.com/2016/09/25/how-libyan-regime-change-lies-echo-in-syria/.

6 http://www.politico.eu/author/robert-f-kennedy-jr/. This article has been updated to identify Robert Kennedy as U.S. Attorney General. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is the president of Waterkeeper Alliance. His newest book is Thimerosal: Let The Science Speak.

7 See, for example, Noam Chomsky, “The Right Turn in U.S. International and Security Policy,” University of Colorado at Boulder (October 22, 1986), available from Alternative Radio, www.alternativeradio.org (1-800-444-1977); Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival, (2003).

8 As I was finalizing this draft, I came across an article that does such a terrific job of reviewing the facts and evidence that I want to mention it here. My approach in this article is to review in some detail eye-witness and other accounts that show how the violence occurred, but for another insightful analysis taking a different approach, see Stephen Gowans, The Revolutionary Distemper in Syria That Wasn’t https://gowans.wordpress.com/2016/10/22/the-revolutionary- distemper-in-syria-that-wasnt/ (October 22, 2016). There’s a great deal more in the article, but one of the main things it does is to argue that the violence that began in March 2011 was not a popular uprising, as there is absolutely no evidence of widespread dissatisfaction with the Assad government in Syria at that time. I’m very much looking forward to Gowans’ book, Washington’s Long War on Syria, forthcoming in April 2017.

Another useful overview and analysis that has just appeared is by Gary Leupp, An Urgently Necessary Briefing on Syria, http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/10/14/an-urgently-necessary- briefing-on-syria/ (October 14, 2016).

9 In his book Prof. Anderson provides abbreviated citations in parentheses to sources that support the text, then at the end of each chapter, provides a detailed listing of each source. In this article I provide only the abbreviated citations; to get the full citation, please see the book, which is now available in both pdf and hard copy.

10 In reality, the Damascus sarin gas attack was carried out by an opposition group with the goal of forcing the U.S. to directly attack the Syrian government. Soon after the event, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity issued a statement reporting “the most reliable intelligence shows that Bashar al-Assad was NOT responsible for the chemical incident”. Later on, Seymour Hersh wrote two lengthy investigations pointing to Jabhat al Nusra with Turkish support being culpable. Investigative journalist Robert Parry exposed the Human Rights Watch analysis blaming the Syrian government as a “junk heap of bad evidence”. [https://consortiumnews.com/2014/04/07/the-collapsing-syria-sarin-case/; see further, https://consortiumnews.com/2014/01/21/human-rights-watchs-syria-dilemma/;
https://consortiumnews.com/2016/09/08/un-team-heard-claims-of-staged-chemical-attacks/.] In the Turkish parliament, Turkish deputies presented documents showing that Turkey provided sarin to Syrian “rebels”. A detailed examination and analysis of all fact based stories is online at whoghouta.blogspot.com. Their conclusion is that “The only plausible scenario that fits the evidence is an attack by opposition forces.” Rick Sterling, http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/09/06/socialists-supporting-nato-and-us-empire-a-response- to-ashley-smith/. There is some further information toward the end of this article.

11 This last statement is taken from History of U.S.-NATO’s “Covert War” on Syria: Daraa March 2011, Chapter 4 of Tim Anderson’s book, which is posted at http://www.globalresearch.ca/history-of-us-natos-covert-war-on-syria-daraa-march- 2011/5492182.

12 http://on.rt.com/77za Published time: 23 Mar, 2016 17:27 Edited time: 23 Mar, 2016 19:58. Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She is a former senior associate at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University and has a master’s degree in International Relations from Columbia University. Sharmine has written commentary for a wide array of publications, including Al Akhbar English, the New York Times, the Guardian, Asia Times Online, Salon.com, U.S.A Today, the Huffington Post, Al Jazeera English, BRICS Post and others. You can follow her on Twitter at @snarwani.

13 Regarding the fabrication and falsification of evidence, Rick Sterling did an exhaustive examination and analysis of one of the most famous items, the so-called “Caesar” photos. He summed it up this way: “The most highly publicized accusation of rampant torture and murder by Syrian authorities is the case of ‘Caesar’. The individual known as ‘Caesar’ was presented as a defecting Syrian photographer who had 55,000 photos documenting 11,000 Syrians tortured by the brutal Assad dictatorship. At the time, among mainstream media only the Christian Science Monitor was skeptical, describing it as ‘a well timed propaganda exercise’. In the past year it has been discovered that nearly half the photos show the opposite of what is claimed. The Caesar story is essentially a fraud funded by Qatar with ‘for hire’ lawyers giving it a professional veneer and massive mainstream media promotion.” Mr. Sterling’s full report, The Caesar Photo Fraud that Undermined Syrian Negotiations: 12 Problems with the Story of Mass Torture and Execution in Syria, can be viewed at http://www.syriasolidaritymovement.org/2016/03/03/the-caesar-photo-fraud-that-undermined- syrian-negotiations/. However, be forewarned, the report contains and reviews a great many ghastly photographs.

14 From ALL OUT FIGHT FOR ALEPPO BEGINS – SAA Major Offensive – complete report, Fort Russ News, J. Flores with collated and original sources, posted at http://www.fort- russ.com/2016/09/breaking-all-out-fight-for-aleppo.html.

 

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Dear USA: There Will Be No Partition in Syria

Western pundits and politicians are revving up their narratives on the territorial division of Syria. But they do not understand one thing: the partition of Syria – like the removal of Assad – has always been a HARD red line for the Syrian government and its Iranian, Russian and other allies. Fragmentation of states always leads to a power vacuum that is quickly filled by terrorists. We have seen this clearly in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Libya. So why try to do what clearly doesn’t ever work? If the west continues to advance its Syria partition goal, my bet is the blowback will fragment Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Jordan instead…

1-syria-partition
Sharmine Narwani


RT OpEdge

East Aleppo is liberated, and regime-change has lost its luster. It’s no surprise Syria’s foes are ready to promote the next big goal: partition. Like most Syrian conflict predictions, of which few have materialized, the ‘partition’ of Syria is not going to happen.

In February, when East Aleppo was still bulging with Western-trained, Al Qaeda-allied militants, Syrian President Bashar Assad was asked the question: “Do you think that you can regain control over all Syrian territory?” 

Well, yes, said Assad: “This is a goal we are seeking to achieve without any hesitation. It makes no sense for us to say that we will give up any part.”

Western politicians were having none of that.

First up was US Secretary of State John Kerry who coyly informed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Obama administration may have a Plan B up its sleeve for Syria: “it may be too late to keep it as a whole Syria if we wait much longer.”

First up was US Secretary of State John Kerry who coyly informed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Obama administration may have a Plan B up its sleeve for Syria: “it may be too late to keep it as a whole Syria if we wait much longer.”

Next, James Stavridis, former NATO Supreme Commander and head of the US European Command penned an article for Foreign Policy entitled “It’s time to seriously consider partitioning Syria” where he claimed“Syria as a nation is increasingly a fiction.”

Then, CIA Director John Brennan joined the chorus: “There’s been so much blood spilled, I don’t know if we’re going to be able to get back to [a unified Syria] in my lifetime.”

But now the stinging defeat of Western-backed militants in East Aleppo has turned up the dial on the idea of breaking up Syria. Frantic neocons and liberal interventionists are piling in on the ‘partition’ punditry – with nary a backward glance to their five failed years of “Assad will fall” prognostications.

But Assad understands something that Western analysts, journalists and politicians cannot seem to grasp. Syria’s allies in this war – Iran, Hezbollah, Iraq, Russia, China – have maintained only two hard red lines throughout the conflict:

The first is that Assad can only be removed from office in a national election, by a Syrian majority.

The second is that Syria must stay whole.

Their logic was simple. Regime-change, remapping of borders, mercenary proxy armies, divide-and-rule…the old tricks of Western hegemons needed to stop in Syria. Otherwise, they would aggressively find their way to Moscow, Beijing and Tehran.

In short, a new world order would need to emerge from the ashes of the Syrian conflict, and for that to happen, allies would need to thoroughly defeat NATO-GCC objectives and maintain the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Syrian state at all costs.

middle-east-terror-map
A calculated shift in the balance of power

By 2013, one could already predict the formation of a new security-focused Mideast alliance to combat the jihadi threat raging in Syria and its neighborhood. (see map above)

It was clear by then that the irregular wars waged by jihadists and their powerful foreign backers were going to force four states – Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran – to cooperate militarily and politically to defeat Wahhabi-influenced terror groups in their midst. A ‘Security Arc’ would thus form to protect the territorial integrity of these four countries, and with it, a converging worldview that would set the stage for a new Mideast security structure.

Today, Lebanon and Iran have secure borders flanking either side of Syria and Iraq. Fighters and military advisers, intelligence, weapons transfers from all four states are in play, with increased, successful coordination on the ground and in the skies.

Russia and China have provided ‘great power’ cover for this new development – whether at the UN Security Council or via military, financial or diplomatic initiatives. Furthermore, galvanized by the ferocity of the fight over Syria, Tehran, Moscow and Beijing have advanced the new multilateral order they seek – bolstering their own regional security, deepening global alliances, forging new ones, and crafting political, security and financial institutions to compete with Western-dominated ones.

As the Security Arc succeeded in beating back extremist groups, it would be necessary for three critical neighboring states to gravitate toward participation in this new regional security architecture – Egypt, Turkey and Jordan – each for different reasons.

But the new adherents would be drawn to the security zone primarily because of the realization that a weakened central government and the fragmentation of Syria would blow back into their states and create the same conditions there: chaos, instability, terrorism.

Egypt: Under the rule of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt has drawn away from its Saudi patrons who have, alongside Qatar and Turkey, been major sponsors of extremism in both Syria and Iraq. Earlier this year, Sisi began to pivot away from Egypt’s traditional Western and regional allies and opened the door to further political, military and economic engagement with Syria, Iran, Russia and China.

SAIS-Johns Hopkins University Fellow Dr. Christina Lin explains: “Unlike Washington, Sisi sees Assad as a secular bulwark against Islamic extremism in the Levant. If Assad falls, Lebanon and Jordan would be next, and Egypt does not want to end up like Libya with the Brotherhood and other Islamists carving up the country.” 

In the past few months, Egypt has pursued a diplomatic thaw with Iran, military cooperation with Syria, and publicly squabbled with Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, Sisi has been invited to sit at the Syrian peacemaking table by Iran and Russia, while in the background, China launches plans for a $60 billion infrastructure investment in cash-strapped Egypt.

Turkey: No state has been a bigger thorn in Damascus’ side than Turkey – financier, enabler, and mastermind of the militancy flowing across its southern border into war-torn Syria. But the Syrian conflict has crippled and exhausted Turkey, in turn, unleashing terror attacks in its cities, reviving its ‘Kurdish’ conflict, isolating its unpredictable President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, squeezing its economy, and triggering widespread domestic political strife.

So when the Russians reportedly tipped off Erdogan to an ill-fated coup attempt this summer – which Turks believe to be US-inspired – the Turkish president’s political orientation began to waver, and he began to inch toward a series of compromises with Iran and Russia on the Syrian conflict.

Erdogan’s first grand gesture to Tehran and Moscow was to peel away a layer of militants from embattled Aleppo, allowing the Syrian-allied forces to focus their military might on the Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups remaining in the eastern enclave. In the aftermath of Aleppo’s liberation, the Turks, Iranians and Russians met again to hammer out their next set of objectives, including a nationwide ceasefire – a move that sidelined Erdogan’s Western allies and highlighted the fact that nobody actually needs the US, UK or France at the Syrian negotiating table.

Jordan: For much of the Syrian conflict, Jordan’s interests were subverted by powerful patrons who turned the Hashemite Kingdom into a covert operations hub for Western special forces, GCC intel operatives and ‘rebel’ training centers. But in recent years, Jordan’s King Abdullah has been forced to disentangle his financially-strapped country from the consequences created by a huge influx of Syrian refugees and a terrifying surge in domestic radicalism. Consequently, Jordan has been quietly sharing intelligence with Syrian authorities to weaken the militancy in southern Syria and has effectively shut down their shared border.

screen-shot-2017-01-08-at-04-20-27

The king himself has been engaging in some frenzied shuttle diplomacy with Russia and China to gain investment and political relevance, so Jordan is well-positioned to follow the lead of its larger neighbors when the regional balance of power shifts decisively in Syria’s favor.

Victors map the future, not the vanquished

The liberation of East Aleppo from Al-Qaeda-allied militants is a significant turning point in the war against Syria. All the major population/infrastructure areas that define the north-to-south western side of the country are now primarily in government hands.

Moreover, East Aleppo’s liberation serves as an important launching pad to cut off the vital Turkey-to-Mosul corridor that has funneled fighters, supplies and weapons to ISIS for years. Syrian troops and their allies will now be able to move east of the city to the Euphrates to sever this Turkish-ISIS lifeline.

With western Syrian hubs secured and militants severely crippled in the south, only the north-eastern areas present a challenge – but those are areas largely occupied by ISIS, where the final battles will be waged to rout the terror group.

So, what exactly do Americans want to partition – and why?

screen-shot-2017-01-08-at-04-24-11

Recent wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Libya demonstrate clearly that a weak central authority only creates a political and security vacuum that extremists rush in to occupy. US President-Elect Donald Trump has himself said he prefers the rule of strongmen, rather than the instability that prevails with regime-change conflicts.

Any partition of Syria would, therefore, benefit ISIS and Al-Qaeda primarily – and all the parties know this.

The Security Arc states and their allies can ably eradicate the terrorism in their midst. Turkey and the United States still remain key irritants, each still vying, against their own security interests, to lay claim to north-eastern swathes of territory that hold some strategic interest.

Funnily enough, these interests pit the two NATO allies against each other. The US’ ‘Kurdish project’ has sent Erdogan fleeing toward the Iranians and Russians for help. It is ironic indeed that the West’s longtime efforts to sow discord between regional actors, sects, and ethnicities could now be reversed in one fell swoop by the US’ support for Kurdish nationalism.

There is nothing more guaranteed to create common cause between Arabs, Iranians, and Turks than the unifying prospect of Kurdish statehood. Not even ISIS does that.

In the aftermath of the Aleppo victory, Assad once more addressed talk of partition: “This is the Western – with some regional countries – hope… If you look at the society today, the Syrian society is more unified than before the war… There’s no way that Syrians would accept that – I’m talking now about the vast majority of the Syrians… After nearly six years I can tell you the majority of the Syrians wouldn’t accept anything related to disintegration – on the contrary, as one Syria.”

He is right. For the more than 70 percent of Syrians living in government-controlled areas, the appetite for further conflict is nonexistent – and that’s what partition would mean: conflict. Furthermore, not just Syrians, but the whole of the Security Arc and their global allies are now hell bent on protecting themselves by destroying the terrorism that dwells in the remaining pockets of occupied territory. Like Assad – and much of Europe today – they know that you will never remove the security threat if you don’t rout them all and preserve the state.

In this security context, partition is out of the question. In the military context, a forced partition would require the commitment of troops stronger than the armies of Syria, Iran, Russia, Iraq, Egypt and Hezbollah combined – and that doesn’t exist. In the political context, the international appetite for an ‘imposed’ partition is nil.

So no, there will be no partition of Syria.

****

Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She is a former senior associate at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University and has a master’s degree in International Relations from Columbia University. Sharmine has written commentary for a wide array of publications, including Al Akhbar English, the New York Times, the Guardian, Asia Times Online, Salon.com, USA Today, the Huffington Post, Al Jazeera English, BRICS Post and others. You can follow her on Twitter at @snarwani

READ MORE SYRIA NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Syria Files

From religion to politics, Saudi Arabia feeling chill of isolation

Sharmine Narwani
Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She is a former senior associate at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University and has a master’s degree in International Relations from Columbia University. Sharmine has written commentary for a wide array of publications, including Al Akhbar English, the New York Times, the Guardian, Asia Times Online, Salon.com, USA Today, the Huffington Post, Al Jazeera English, BRICS Post and others. You can follow her on Twitter at @snarwani
15 Sep, 2016 11:06

From religion to politics, Saudi Arabia feeling chill of isolation

At the end of August, a meeting of Muslim clerics and scholars convened in the Chechen capital of Grozny to forge a consensus on the subject of ‘who constitutes a Sunni.’

Sunnism, the 200 or so Sunni clerics from Egypt, South Africa, India, Europe, Turkey, Jordan, Yemen, Russia warned, “has undergone a dangerous deformation in the wake of efforts by extremists to void its sense in order to take it over and reduce it to their perception.”

The Muslim world is currently under a siege of terror, led by a deviant strain that claims religious authority and kills in the name of Islam. So the Grozny participants had gathered, by invitation of the Chechen president, to make “a radical change in order to re-establish the true meaning of Sunnism.”

If their final communique was any indicator, the group of distinguished scholars had a very particular message for the Muslim world: Wahhabism – and its associated takfirism – are no longer welcome within the Sunni fold.

Specifically, the conference’s closing statement says this:

“Ash’arites and the Maturidi are the people of Sunnism and those who belong to the Sunni community, both at the level of the doctrine and of the four schools of Sunni jurisprudence (Hanafi, Hanbali, Shafi’i, Maliki), as well as Sufis, both in terms of knowledge and moral ethics.”

In one fell swoop, Wahhabism, the official state religion of only two Muslim countries -Saudi Arabia and Qatar – was not part of the majority Muslim agenda any longer.

The backlash from the Saudis came hard and fast, honing in on the participation of Egypt’s Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb of Al Azhar, the foremost center for Sunni theological study in the Islamic world.

Saudi Arabia has, after all, subsidized the flailing Egyptian economy to the tune of billions of dollars in the past few years, alongside its Wahhabi neighbor Qatar, which has in turn bank-rolled the Muslim Brotherhood – a group also excluded from the Grozny meeting.

While Tayeb did not single out the Saudis in his conference speech, his elevated position in the global Sunni hierarchy lent a great deal of weight to the proceedings. And Al Azhar’s prominence in the Sunni world is rivaled only by the relatively new role of the Al Saud monarch as the custodian of the two holy sites, Mecca and Medina.

Just last year – in Mecca, no less – Tayeb slammed extremist trends during a speech on terrorism, lashing out at “corrupt interpretations” of religious texts and appealing to believers “to tackle in our schools and universities this tendency to accuse Muslims of being unbelievers.”

It is Wahhabism that is most often accused of sponsoring this trend globally.

The radical sect, borne in the 18thcentury, deviates from traditional Sunni doctrine in various ways, most notably sanctioning violence against nonbelievers – including Muslims who reject Wahhabi interpretation (takfirism).

Saudi Arabia is the single largest state contributor to tens of thousands of Wahhabi-influenced mosques, schools, clerics and Islamic publications scattered throughout the Muslim world – many of them, today, feeders for terrorist recruitment. By some accounts that figure has reached almost $100 billion in the last three decades or so.

In Grozny, conference participants made reference to this dangerous trend, and called for a “return to the schools of great knowledge” outside Saudi Arabia – in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen.

Saudi officialdom took to social media to express their outrage. Saudi royal, Prince Khalid al-Saud, warned that the event represented “a conspiracy that openly targets our country and it’s religious standing, specifically.”

بالأمس القريب ، واليوم
..
مؤامره على المكشوف تستهدف بلادنا، و مكانتها الدينية ” تحديداً ” …

And Adil al-Kalbani, the imam of Riyadh’s King Khaled Bin Abdulaziz mosque, ominously cautioned:“The Chechen conference should serve as a wake-up call: the world is getting ready to burn us.”

ليكن منبِّها لنا بأنَّ العالَمَ يَجمع الحطبَ لإحراقنا!

For the Saudis, the bad news kept on coming. On Friday, at the start of the annual 5-day Hajj pilgrimage, Lebanese daily Al Akhbar published online a shocking database from the Saudi Ministry of Health.

The leaked documents list, in painstaking detail, the names of 90,000 pilgrims from around the world who have died visiting Mecca over a 14-year period. If there was ever any question about the authority of the Saudi king as “custodian” of Islamic holy sites, this revelation should have opened those floodgates.

But even before these documents became public, calls for the Saudis to relinquish their administration of the Hajj were coming from Iran and elsewhere. Exactly one year ago, a stampede in Mina became the deadliest disaster in the history of the Hajj. Instead of tending to the dead and wounded as their utmost priority, the Saudi authorities went into lock down – concealing casualties, downplaying the death toll, blocking international efforts to investigate, forcing Hajj families to pay for the retrieval of bodies, denying wrongdoing and refusing to apologize for the disaster.

According to official Saudi government figures at the time, the total casualty toll stood at 769 dead and 934 injured. The leaked database now shows those numbers to be false. According to the Ministry of Health’s own statistics, the Mina death toll was in reality more than 10 times higher, with over 7,000 killed.

Iranians, who appeared initially to have suffered disproportionate losses – including from the collapse of a crane 12 days earlier at the Grand Mosque in Mecca where 107 died – lost around 500 citizens. Included in that number was senior foreign ministry official, Dr. Ghazanfar Roknabadi, Iran’s former ambassador to Lebanon and a key figure in regional geopolitical affairs. Saudi authorities initially denied he was even in the country and then took months to identify and repatriate his body.

But most disturbing of all was the manner in which the Saudis treated the dead and injured. Pictures that emerged from Mina in the aftermath of the disaster showed authorities shoveling up bodies in digger-like vehicles, then dumping them in piles as if they were sacks of sand. There appeared to be no care taken to even ascertain whether the victims were dead or alive.

The Iranians were justifiably outraged, but the Saudis politicized that reaction and turned it into an affront to Sunni authority by a Shia authority in Tehran. The Al Akhbar stats, however, tell another story. It was mostly Sunnis who were killed in Mina – from Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia and other countries – with victims from some states surpassing even the Iranian death toll.

One year on, Iran is not letting this issue lie. The Iranians have boycotted the Hajj this year, claiming that Saudi Arabia was unprepared to assure them of basic security requirements during lengthy negotiations between the two nations.

In his most confrontational address to the Saudi state yet, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei last week – during his annual Hajj message – railed against the injustice:

“The heartless and murderous Saudis locked up the injured with the dead in containers — instead of providing medical treatment and helping them or at least quenching their thirst. They murdered them…Because of these rulers’ oppressive behavior towards God’s guests, the world of Islam must fundamentally reconsider the management of the two holy places and the issue of hajj.”

And then Khamenei went to the heart of the matter:

“The fitna-promoting rulers who by forming and arming wicked takfiri groups, have plunged the world of Islam into civil wars, murdering and injuring the innocent and shed blood in Yemen, Iraq, the Levant, Libya and other countries.”

In one short month, the Saudis have been challenged by Islam’s two mainstream sects – by the Sunni and by the Shia, equally – striking out at the religious authority claimed by the Saudi state and challenging the destructive, divisive, violent sectarianism of their Wahhabi faith.

Geopolitical losses

As if to prove Khamenei’s point – and the Grozny consensus – Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Abdulaziz Al Sheikh shot back, describing Iranian leaders as nonbelievers: “We have to understand that they are not Muslims. … Their main enemies are the followers of Sunnah (Sunnis).”

But, with that last sectarian sling, it seems the Saudis may have finally hit their limit. Within days of his statement, citing “health reasons,” the Mufti was removed from delivering the Hajj sermon he has delivered for 35 years straight.

Why stop now? It isn’t like the Saudis don’t have the appetite for a fight with the Iranians.

That fight has been playing out throughout the Middle East and beyond, in various battlefields and media outlets, to the detriment of millions.

What may have started off as Riyadh’s desire to thwart the success of a populist Islamist revolution that dethroned a neighboring king – Iran, circa 1979 – has spiraled into an existential Saudi battle to claw onto hegemony and legitimacy in every sphere.

The Saudis have long lost the ability to engage in cold, hard calculation, and have thrown themselves headfirst into ‘winning by all means.’ This has meant releasing the demons of takfirism throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Wahhabi funded and enabled jihadi foot soldiers have sprung up in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and any other place where Saudis and their fellow co-religionists/ideologues have sought out hegemonic interests.

And the lack of coherent strategy has drawn the Saudis into a number of unnecessary quagmires that have now encircled their borders (Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen), wiped out their strategic depth and emptied the state coffers.

What was meant to be a swift aerial blow to Yemeni rebels for daring to defy Saudi authority, has morphed into an entrenched, 18-month-long, money-pit of a war, with 10,000-plus deaths, war crimes accusations, proliferation of jihadist terror and enemy encroachment into Saudi territory.

Riyadh’s leading role in the destabilization of Syria and Iraq has unleashed sectarian mass murder that has gutted the Muslim world, unmasked Saudi complicity, and galvanized its adversaries into historic cooperation.

These wars have drawn in powerful benefactors like Russia and China as buffers against Saudi overreach, and has reshuffled the balance of power in the region – against Saudi interests.

All of which has chipped away at Saudi political, economic and religious clout on the international stage.

In 2010, Saudi Arabia was crossing borders peacefully as a power-broker, working with Iran, Syria, Turkey, Qatar and others to troubleshoot in regional hotspots. By 2016, it had buried two kings, shrugged off a measured approach to foreign policy, embraced takfiri madness and emptied its coffers.

The hundreds of thousands dead in the wake of this ‘Saudi madness’ are mostly Muslim and mostly Sunni. As the Muslim world wakes up to this atrocious state of affairs, like the Sunni scholars of Grozny, they will not look to censure Tehran, but to disengage with Riyadh.

And to write the final chapter on an aberrant sect called Wahhabism.

Wahhabi

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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Op-Edge US presidential elections: A view from the Middle East

Sharmine NarwaniSharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She is a former senior associate at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University and has a master’s degree in International Relations from Columbia University. Sharmine has written commentary for a wide array of publications, including Al Akhbar Eng

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton © Scott Audette, Javier Galeano
Although the era of US global hegemony is coming to a close, the Middle East – more than most regions – is still reeling from the nasty last jabs of that Empire in decline.

It is little wonder, then, that the US presidential election season is scrutinized carefully in all corners of the Mideast.

Over here, the debate over the likely victor is less about economic, political and social projects than it is about which candidate is least likely to launch wars against us.

Anecdotally, there seems to be a consensus that Hillary Clinton would be the worst for the region, though of course – like in the United States – that perception changes dramatically when the conversation is with regional elites and ‘liberals.’

And just like their American counterparts, Middle Easterners get bogged down in arguments about Donald Trump’s ‘racism,’ Bernie Sanders’ ‘viability’ and Clinton’s ‘hawkishness.’ Media, after all, has never been more uniform in its pronouncements – we all, universally, receive the same talking points.

Read more

Police in riot gear arrive to break-up a demonstration outside of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign rally in Costa Mesa, California April 28, 2016. © Mike Blake

But US Presidential Election 2016 means a lot more than US polls in decades past. From the Levant to the Persian Gulf to North Africa, borders have never been so frayed, terrorism so pervasive, security and resources so threatened.

The Middle East is a wretched mess. And at the heart of each and every one of these quagmires stands the United States, imposing itself, its military ‘expertise’ and its humanitarian ‘do-gooding’ into our suffering. Ironically, perhaps, there are few problems in the Mideast that have not been caused or exacerbated by the destructive hand of US foreign policy.

The last playground

The Middle East is the last global playground where the US can act with impunity. Part of the reason for this is that most of the two dozen states that make up the region are still headed by US-backed dictators and monarchs – American proxies that prioritize Washington’s interests over those of its citizenry. The US plays hard in this region because it wishes to maintain this remarkably favorable status quo, which it has lost virtually everywhere else.

Even as the Cold War was drawing to a close – vanquishing the old Soviet bloc proxy leaders in the Mideast and replacing them with US-friendly ones – the 1979 Iranian Revolution flipped the region once more, ushering in a new framework for independence from the ‘Anglo imperialist.’

In the aftermath of Iraq’s war with Iran, which had placed Iranian aspirations on hold for eight long, destructive years, Tehran began to forge regional relationships that formed the underpinnings of a new Axis of Resistance to US and Western hegemonic ambitions.

The US expanded its military role in the Middle East mainly to eradicate this ‘Shia’ thorn in its side – but it has not only failed to do so with each consecutive US administration, it has willfully unleashed the well-contained demons of sectarianism to achieve this goal.

Hello, Sunni Wahhabi fundamentalism. Hello, Al Qaeda. Hello, ISIS.

Read more

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign event in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States, April 27, 2016 © Jim Young

Why even get into this recent history? It’s important for one main reason. Even as the US now turns its guns on the Frankenstein monster it created from its invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now its intervention in Syria… Washington also has its guns aimed at Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and other entities that are fighting this very terrorism.

When Trump debuted his foreign policy vision earlier this week, he pointed out that current US policy was “reckless, rudderless and aimless”“one that has blazed the path of destruction in its wake.”

It’s all we’ve heard in recent years – certainly since the start of the Arab ‘uprisings’ – with pundits and commentators alike scratching their heads in confusion over US goals in the region.
American policy is not confused – it is very deliberate. Get your head around this: Washington seeks to thwart the Iranian-led axis by unleashing sectarian, Wahhabi-influenced extremists into parts of the region viewed as Iran’s strategic depth, AND it seeks to counter the proliferation of these extremists by reaching out to Iran, tactically – hence the sudden P5+1 nuclear deal in the midst of all this conflict.

This is what I call America’s “strategic dissonance” – playing both sides to engineer protracted conflict in an effort to gradually drive the two sides into extinction.

Only problem is the unpredictability of it all – and the ensuing chaos, destruction and terrorism that has now poured over these borders into Europe and beyond.

Mr. America versus Ms. Beltway

It is clear that this strategic dissonance has once more led to an American “unintended consequence.” It is equally clear that it will take nothing less than a sledgehammer to alter the destructive bent of US foreign policy.

What’s interesting about this election year is that voters have put their backs behind unlikely candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, mostly, it seems, to buck the establishment.

The two long-shot candidates have delivered scathing reviews of Beltway politicos and the ‘interest groups’ that prop them up – foreign and domestic, both.

Trump calls Israel only true democracy in Middle East, critical of Obama policy. WATCH: http://bit.ly/1VCrUkf 

 By contrast, Hillary Clinton – the ‘deserving’ establishment candidate who was a shoo-in until a few short months ago – has had to fight for every vote in her contests with Democratic Party newcomer Sanders.

And the easiest blows against Clinton have been in the foreign policy arena, where the Beltway hawk has a long record of backing the wrong plan – in Iraq, in Libya, in Syria.

In the Mideast, Clinton’s militaristic leanings scuttle any goodwill one would otherwise have for a Democratic Party candidate. Egyptians lobbed tomatoes, shoes and water bottles at her motorcade when the then-secretary of state made an appearance after the ousting of longtime US ally President Hosni Mubarak.

It was under her stewardship at the Department of State when “foreign hands” began to make their marks on the Arab uprisings – none to the benefit of the Arab masses.

Her support for the ill-conceived US invasion of Iraq, which led to the establishment of Al Qaeda in that country, is a constant refrain here in the Mideast – much as it is in the United States. And her refusal to acknowledge the disastrous consequences of US military intervention in Libya remain proof that she never learned from Iraq.

Like him or not, Clinton’s maniacal laughter over Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s violent death as she sanguinelydeclared“We came, we saw, he died,” has been forever imprinted on our collective memories.

We have since learned that US President Barack Obama’s decision to militarily intervene in Libya came down to her vote. Libyan blood cannot be washed off those hands.

And now Clinton wants to escalate in Syria by carving out a “safe zone” – which is how her Libyan adventure started.

If Clinton suffers from a likeability problem in the US, she is downright reviled in the Mideast – except among the usual suspects which include dictators, monarchs and other super-wealthy elites who have either contributed to the Clinton Foundation or are desperate to maintain their cushy positions within a US-dominated region.

Then there’s Trump

The highly controversial billionaire businessman Donald Trump has been roundly bashed in this region for his prejudicial comments against Muslims, but there’s a quiet parade of thinkers in the Mideast – from Arab nationalists to progressives to intellectuals – who have been casting coy second glances his way.

This was a serious foreign policy speech by Trump. It is worth reading and thinking about. It will be ridiculed by Washington elites.

 “Trump can turn the system upside down,” says a leading Lebanon-based Arab nationalist. “He’s his own man, he will not be dragged into the trappings of the deep state,” says an influential writer.

“Who else is willing to put the brakes on NATO, disengage from lousy alliances, hook up with Putin and others to fight terrorism the right way, prioritize diplomacy over military options? Not Clinton, no way,” a college student rants.

There is that.

Unlike Clinton, there’s not much we know about Trump. He has no foreign policy record, except of course his non-stop reminder that he opposed the US invasion of Iraq and warned that it would be a “disaster.”

But if you’re going to take a chance on a candidate – if you’re going to try to read between the lines of campaign promises – I suggest taking the unconventional, risky declarations more seriously than predictable, voter-friendly platitudes like “I support the state of Israel unconditionally.”

GREATEST FOREIGN POLICY SPEECH SINCE WASHINGTON’S FAREWELL ADDRESS.

 And Trump has some doozies.

On key US ally Saudi Arabia, arguably ground zero for the militant extremism rampant in the region – and a country that former Defense Secretary Robert Gates says was prepared to “fight the Iranians to the last American” – Trump warns that he might halt purchases of Saudi oil unless Riyadh commits ground troops to the ISIS fight. His comments mirror those of Gates – as disclosed in a 2010 Wikileaks cable – who said of the Saudis that it “is time for them to get in the game.”

“If Saudi Arabia was without the cloak of American protection, I don’t think it would be around,” suggests Trump, quite correctly.

On Russia, Syria and US support of rebels: “Putin does not want ISIS. The rebel groups… we have no idea who these people are. We’re training people, we don’t know who they are… we’re giving them billions of dollars to fight Assad… If you look at Libya, look what we did there, it’s a mess. If you look at Saddam Hussein, with Iraq, look at what we did there, it’s a mess…”

In what seemed like a swipe at US support of questionable militants in Syria and elsewhere, Trump says: “We need to be clear sighted about the groups that will never be anything other than enemies. And believe me, we have groups that no matter what you do, they will be the enemy. We have to be smart enough to recognize who those groups are, who those people are, and not help them.”

Asked if the Mideast would be more secure if Saddam and Gaddafi were still around and Assad were stronger, Trump boldly declares: “It’s not even a contest…Of course it would be.”

And this: “I like that Putin is bombing the hell out of ISIS. Putin has to get rid of ISIS because Putin doesn’t want ISIS coming into Russia.”

Hillary PAC spending $1m to ‘forcefully correct’ social media trollshttp://on.rt.com/7atc 

 In short…

Trump is an unknown quantity, but he is delivering some home truths to restive voters in an unconventional election year.

Clinton is the quintessential establishment candidate, the sure-thing that voters wish they could like, who is running for president at the wrong time for a beltway insider.

Trump has defied all the odds thus far, and there is no reason he can’t continue to do that all the way to the White House. Whether or not he can keep surprising once he is there is anyone’s guess. Will he become co-opted by the system? Will he strike down entrenched Washington dogmas with his trademark arrogance? Nobody knows.

If Trump runs against Clinton, his campaign mantra has to be “Clinton: tons of experience, no judgment.” It’s pretty much the only way he can compete with a seasoned politician who is sure to throw his inexperience back in his face at every opportunity.

For the Mideast, this is not the time to pick the ‘devil we know.’ We know how that story ends every single time: destabilization, chaos, terrorism.

Trump is definitely the lesser evil, whichever way one looks at it. He simply cannot be worse than her.

But there is one solitary upside to a Clinton presidency. If Hillary Clinton is the next president of the United States… we will see the world shift decisively into a new multi-polar order. The battle over Syria became a red line for the Russians, Chinese and Iranians, and they placed protective arms around key states, in turn forging closer relations with each other – some of these, military dimensions – and with a number of other ‘middle powers’ that threatened to up-end US hegemonic ambitions once and for all.

Imagine then, the reactions of Russia, China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa and other states irked by US-backed destabilizing campaigns, if a hawk like Clinton is ensconced in the White House.

We’ll slip into a new world order faster than you can say ‘Goldman Sachs.’

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

lish, the New York Times, the Guardian, Asia Times Online, Salon.com, USA Today, the Huffington Post, Al Jazeera English, BRICS Post and others. You can follow her on Twitter at @snarwani

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton © Scott Audette, Javier Galeano
Although the era of US global hegemony is coming to a close, the Middle East – more than most regions – is still reeling from the nasty last jabs of that Empire in decline.

It is little wonder, then, that the US presidential election season is scrutinized carefully in all corners of the Mideast.

Over here, the debate over the likely victor is less about economic, political and social projects than it is about which candidate is least likely to launch wars against us.

Anecdotally, there seems to be a consensus that Hillary Clinton would be the worst for the region, though of course – like in the United States – that perception changes dramatically when the conversation is with regional elites and ‘liberals.’

And just like their American counterparts, Middle Easterners get bogged down in arguments about Donald Trump’s ‘racism,’ Bernie Sanders’ ‘viability’ and Clinton’s ‘hawkishness.’ Media, after all, has never been more uniform in its pronouncements – we all, universally, receive the same talking points.

Read more

Police in riot gear arrive to break-up a demonstration outside of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign rally in Costa Mesa, California April 28, 2016. © Mike Blake

But US Presidential Election 2016 means a lot more than US polls in decades past. From the Levant to the Persian Gulf to North Africa, borders have never been so frayed, terrorism so pervasive, security and resources so threatened.

The Middle East is a wretched mess. And at the heart of each and every one of these quagmires stands the United States, imposing itself, its military ‘expertise’ and its humanitarian ‘do-gooding’ into our suffering. Ironically, perhaps, there are few problems in the Mideast that have not been caused or exacerbated by the destructive hand of US foreign policy.

The last playground

The Middle East is the last global playground where the US can act with impunity. Part of the reason for this is that most of the two dozen states that make up the region are still headed by US-backed dictators and monarchs – American proxies that prioritize Washington’s interests over those of its citizenry. The US plays hard in this region because it wishes to maintain this remarkably favorable status quo, which it has lost virtually everywhere else.

Even as the Cold War was drawing to a close – vanquishing the old Soviet bloc proxy leaders in the Mideast and replacing them with US-friendly ones – the 1979 Iranian Revolution flipped the region once more, ushering in a new framework for independence from the ‘Anglo imperialist.’

In the aftermath of Iraq’s war with Iran, which had placed Iranian aspirations on hold for eight long, destructive years, Tehran began to forge regional relationships that formed the underpinnings of a new Axis of Resistance to US and Western hegemonic ambitions.

The US expanded its military role in the Middle East mainly to eradicate this ‘Shia’ thorn in its side – but it has not only failed to do so with each consecutive US administration, it has willfully unleashed the well-contained demons of sectarianism to achieve this goal.

Hello, Sunni Wahhabi fundamentalism. Hello, Al Qaeda. Hello, ISIS.

Read more

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign event in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States, April 27, 2016 © Jim Young

Why even get into this recent history? It’s important for one main reason. Even as the US now turns its guns on the Frankenstein monster it created from its invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now its intervention in Syria… Washington also has its guns aimed at Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and other entities that are fighting this very terrorism.

When Trump debuted his foreign policy vision earlier this week, he pointed out that current US policy was “reckless, rudderless and aimless”“one that has blazed the path of destruction in its wake.”

It’s all we’ve heard in recent years – certainly since the start of the Arab ‘uprisings’ – with pundits and commentators alike scratching their heads in confusion over US goals in the region.
American policy is not confused – it is very deliberate. Get your head around this: Washington seeks to thwart the Iranian-led axis by unleashing sectarian, Wahhabi-influenced extremists into parts of the region viewed as Iran’s strategic depth, AND it seeks to counter the proliferation of these extremists by reaching out to Iran, tactically – hence the sudden P5+1 nuclear deal in the midst of all this conflict.

This is what I call America’s “strategic dissonance” – playing both sides to engineer protracted conflict in an effort to gradually drive the two sides into extinction.

Only problem is the unpredictability of it all – and the ensuing chaos, destruction and terrorism that has now poured over these borders into Europe and beyond.

Mr. America versus Ms. Beltway

It is clear that this strategic dissonance has once more led to an American “unintended consequence.” It is equally clear that it will take nothing less than a sledgehammer to alter the destructive bent of US foreign policy.

What’s interesting about this election year is that voters have put their backs behind unlikely candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, mostly, it seems, to buck the establishment.

The two long-shot candidates have delivered scathing reviews of Beltway politicos and the ‘interest groups’ that prop them up – foreign and domestic, both.

Trump calls Israel only true democracy in Middle East, critical of Obama policy. WATCH: http://bit.ly/1VCrUkf 

 By contrast, Hillary Clinton – the ‘deserving’ establishment candidate who was a shoo-in until a few short months ago – has had to fight for every vote in her contests with Democratic Party newcomer Sanders.

And the easiest blows against Clinton have been in the foreign policy arena, where the Beltway hawk has a long record of backing the wrong plan – in Iraq, in Libya, in Syria.

In the Mideast, Clinton’s militaristic leanings scuttle any goodwill one would otherwise have for a Democratic Party candidate. Egyptians lobbed tomatoes, shoes and water bottles at her motorcade when the then-secretary of state made an appearance after the ousting of longtime US ally President Hosni Mubarak.

It was under her stewardship at the Department of State when “foreign hands” began to make their marks on the Arab uprisings – none to the benefit of the Arab masses.

Her support for the ill-conceived US invasion of Iraq, which led to the establishment of Al Qaeda in that country, is a constant refrain here in the Mideast – much as it is in the United States. And her refusal to acknowledge the disastrous consequences of US military intervention in Libya remain proof that she never learned from Iraq.

Like him or not, Clinton’s maniacal laughter over Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s violent death as she sanguinelydeclared“We came, we saw, he died,” has been forever imprinted on our collective memories.

We have since learned that US President Barack Obama’s decision to militarily intervene in Libya came down to her vote. Libyan blood cannot be washed off those hands.

And now Clinton wants to escalate in Syria by carving out a “safe zone” – which is how her Libyan adventure started.

If Clinton suffers from a likeability problem in the US, she is downright reviled in the Mideast – except among the usual suspects which include dictators, monarchs and other super-wealthy elites who have either contributed to the Clinton Foundation or are desperate to maintain their cushy positions within a US-dominated region.

Then there’s Trump

The highly controversial billionaire businessman Donald Trump has been roundly bashed in this region for his prejudicial comments against Muslims, but there’s a quiet parade of thinkers in the Mideast – from Arab nationalists to progressives to intellectuals – who have been casting coy second glances his way.

This was a serious foreign policy speech by Trump. It is worth reading and thinking about. It will be ridiculed by Washington elites.

 “Trump can turn the system upside down,” says a leading Lebanon-based Arab nationalist. “He’s his own man, he will not be dragged into the trappings of the deep state,” says an influential writer.

“Who else is willing to put the brakes on NATO, disengage from lousy alliances, hook up with Putin and others to fight terrorism the right way, prioritize diplomacy over military options? Not Clinton, no way,” a college student rants.

There is that.

Unlike Clinton, there’s not much we know about Trump. He has no foreign policy record, except of course his non-stop reminder that he opposed the US invasion of Iraq and warned that it would be a “disaster.”

But if you’re going to take a chance on a candidate – if you’re going to try to read between the lines of campaign promises – I suggest taking the unconventional, risky declarations more seriously than predictable, voter-friendly platitudes like “I support the state of Israel unconditionally.”

GREATEST FOREIGN POLICY SPEECH SINCE WASHINGTON’S FAREWELL ADDRESS.

 And Trump has some doozies.

On key US ally Saudi Arabia, arguably ground zero for the militant extremism rampant in the region – and a country that former Defense Secretary Robert Gates says was prepared to “fight the Iranians to the last American” – Trump warns that he might halt purchases of Saudi oil unless Riyadh commits ground troops to the ISIS fight. His comments mirror those of Gates – as disclosed in a 2010 Wikileaks cable – who said of the Saudis that it “is time for them to get in the game.”

“If Saudi Arabia was without the cloak of American protection, I don’t think it would be around,” suggests Trump, quite correctly.

On Russia, Syria and US support of rebels: “Putin does not want ISIS. The rebel groups… we have no idea who these people are. We’re training people, we don’t know who they are… we’re giving them billions of dollars to fight Assad… If you look at Libya, look what we did there, it’s a mess. If you look at Saddam Hussein, with Iraq, look at what we did there, it’s a mess…”

In what seemed like a swipe at US support of questionable militants in Syria and elsewhere, Trump says: “We need to be clear sighted about the groups that will never be anything other than enemies. And believe me, we have groups that no matter what you do, they will be the enemy. We have to be smart enough to recognize who those groups are, who those people are, and not help them.”

Asked if the Mideast would be more secure if Saddam and Gaddafi were still around and Assad were stronger, Trump boldly declares: “It’s not even a contest…Of course it would be.”

And this: “I like that Putin is bombing the hell out of ISIS. Putin has to get rid of ISIS because Putin doesn’t want ISIS coming into Russia.”

Hillary PAC spending $1m to ‘forcefully correct’ social media trolls http://on.rt.com/7atc 

 In short…

Trump is an unknown quantity, but he is delivering some home truths to restive voters in an unconventional election year.

Clinton is the quintessential establishment candidate, the sure-thing that voters wish they could like, who is running for president at the wrong time for a beltway insider.

Trump has defied all the odds thus far, and there is no reason he can’t continue to do that all the way to the White House. Whether or not he can keep surprising once he is there is anyone’s guess. Will he become co-opted by the system? Will he strike down entrenched Washington dogmas with his trademark arrogance? Nobody knows.

If Trump runs against Clinton, his campaign mantra has to be “Clinton: tons of experience, no judgment.” It’s pretty much the only way he can compete with a seasoned politician who is sure to throw his inexperience back in his face at every opportunity.

For the Mideast, this is not the time to pick the ‘devil we know.’ We know how that story ends every single time: destabilization, chaos, terrorism.

Trump is definitely the lesser evil, whichever way one looks at it. He simply cannot be worse than her.

But there is one solitary upside to a Clinton presidency. If Hillary Clinton is the next president of the United States… we will see the world shift decisively into a new multi-polar order. The battle over Syria became a red line for the Russians, Chinese and Iranians, and they placed protective arms around key states, in turn forging closer relations with each other – some of these, military dimensions – and with a number of other ‘middle powers’ that threatened to up-end US hegemonic ambitions once and for all.

Imagine then, the reactions of Russia, China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa and other states irked by US-backed destabilizing campaigns, if a hawk like Clinton is ensconced in the White House.

We’ll slip into a new world order faster than you can say ‘Goldman Sachs.’

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Fundamentalism on the rise: a Sunni-Jewish Convergence

by Ghassan Kadi

In an article published in the Lebanese daily Assafir on 12th of March 2016 under the title of “Saudi Arabia paves the way for an Israelis war on Lebanon”, (1) the political editor sarcastically and mockingly made a comment to the effect that after the Arab League declared Hezbollah a terrorist organisation, it may formally ask Israel to engage in a war against it.

As a matter of fact, this is not a far-fetched possibility and more so, is increasingly becoming a geo-political “necessity”.

In December 2013, prominent analyst Sharmine Narwani, predicted that a “Security Arc” was on the rise (2). Taking all other outstanding articles that she has written into account, this one possibly stands out as her masterpiece thus far. I was privileged that I was asked by the author to translate it into Arabic. In that article, Sharmine predicted that the empire and its allies will sooner or later face a rising new alliance to counter their conspiracies in the region. She predicted that Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon (as represented by Hezbollah and allied forces) were going to eventually form a military alliance that will stand against terrorism, jihadi fundamentalism and the American/Israeli roadmap.

Clearly, we can see this prediction coming to fruition. What Sharmine perhaps did not foresee was the Russian intervention in the manner and extent that we see today. In hindsight and in fairness, the magnitude of the Russian intervention was highly unforeseeable.

A lot has changed since the term “Security Arc” was coined, and the head of the serpent has already taken a jump and a skip.

Ever since ISIS took over Mosul and self-financed, it became clear to myself and many other analysts that we were seeing a major shift in the course of events. Whilst many others continue to promote the idea that ISIS is totally and entirely an American pawn that answers to American masters, the events on the ground clearly show that there has been at least a partial American–Jihadi divorce akin to the previous Bin Laden–American divorce. This time however, America seems to be wiping its hands clean and walking right out of this quagmire.

In his recent interview with Jeffrey Goldberg (3), President Obama made a scathing attack on his Saudi allies and other “free loaders” who want to drag America into regional wars that it is not at all interested in, in order for them to settle their own scores. Obama went further and bragged his decision not to attack Syria after all the bravado that followed the East Ghouta chemical attack of August 2013 and which was framed onto the Syrian Army. In reading in between the lines Obama is saying it for the first time to his Middle Eastern allies; when it comes to your sectarian vendettas, you’re on your own.

Certainly the issue of Israeli security will always be a soft spot for American foreign policy makers. At this stage however, the security of Israel per se is not an issue and any decisions made around it will be made independently.

As I have been reiterating for quite some time now, the “Anti-Syrian Cocktail” is a group of nations and organisations that were united only by their hatred for Syria and its President. Apart from that they had very diverse interests and goals. Given that America was unable to achieve its objective of toppling President Assad, it has no interest left in that war when it sees that the major players there have their own agendas. Also given that America clearly sees that the warring factions have scores that are centuries old and each party wishing to settle them on his own terms, America is literally walking out on many of its regional allies. The Iran nuclear deal was a part, a huge part, of this new understanding and revelation. It was not surprising then that soon after the Iran nuclear deal, Saudi Arabia pulled its own sleeves and went into Yemen; albeit to get bogged in. Obama must be gleefully saying thank God we didn’t get involved in that one as well.

In all of the above, Turkey was not mentioned.

Even though Turkey is a NATO member it was not allowed to free load and use its NATO-based clout to settle its scores with either the Kurds or what is sees as its Shia rivals.

Where does this leave Saudi Arabia, Turkey and to a lesser extent Qatar and the UAE? Without the direct support of America and NATO, those states that are run by Sunni zealots are going to find themselves out in the cold and hung out to dry. They will be in a desperate need to assert their military and regional geo-political superiority against the “Security Arc”. With America pulling out of the scene, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Turkey will have to, sooner or later, find a way to fill the void and forge a new alliance with a new partner, and there is none that fits the bill other than Israel. Only Israel shares their concerns and fears about the same regional opponent.

Saudi Arabia has been systemically talking about a forthcoming Shiite threat. Its involvement in the “War On Syria” is in essence instigated by this vision, and so is its more recent war against Yemen.

For at least a decade now Saudi and Qatari funds have been flooding Sunni power bases and different media with anti-Shiite and anti-Hezbollah propaganda. From a popularity high after the July War of 2006 when Hezbollah banners were flown in major Sunni cities all over the Middle East, something that was seen as a serious threat by the Saudi royals back then, the Saudi royals have been able to brainwash and sway the minds of a significant percentage of the Sunni street.

In unprecedented speed and determination, the Arab nations have finally blacklisted Hezbollah. First, during an Arab Foreign Minister’s meeting in Jeddah in February 2016, followed by Arab Interior Minister’s meeting in Tunis in March 2016 and then last but not least, an Arab League Meeting that has formally declared Hezbollah as a terror organisation.

As mentioned in a previous article, the Palestinian Authority has endorsed the first two decisions, and since then has endorsed the third.

The Beginning of the End for AbbasIt is highly likely that the PA will finally receive its consolation prize and be given token statehood over a very tiny fraction of Palestine, thereby selling out Palestine, the Palestinian people and the right of return, in part of a bigger deal that will make Saudi Arabia appear to be the liberator of Jerusalem and the leader of the Sunni world in the hope that this will bolster its leadership and guise it with grandeur and might.

The Saudi camp Arabs have finally reached common ground with Israel.

The fundamentalist Sunni mind that Saudi and Gulf money has forged is one that sees Iran and Hezbollah as a bigger regional threat than Israel. The ground is becoming more fertile for a fundamentalist Sunni-Israeli alliance. The strategic “need” is already overwhelming, and the support of the masses is not very far away. Jihadi preachers will not find the task of providing “evidence” that Jews are closer to Sunnis than Shia a hard task to achieve. The fundamentalist Sunni street is quite ready for such a push. The formalisation of this alliance is only a question of time before it is overtly announced and before officials from both sides of the Abrahamic divide exchange visits, gifts, kisses and Ambassadors and before their armies fight together in the same trenches. In reality, however, this alliance is already in existence.

1 http://assafir.com/Article/480900

2 http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/17989

3 http://www.theatlantic.com/personal/archive/2016/03/the-obama-doctrine-the-atlantics-exclusive-report-on-presidents-hardest-foreign-policy-decisions/473151/

Interview: Mideast alliances shift as regional balance alters

iran-russia_big

In January, I was interviewed by the conservative Iranian publication Javan about the shifting balance of power in the Levant and Persian Gulf. We looked at Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Russia and the many moving parts of US foreign policy. The interview was published today, one month later, in Farsi here.

I must note that Javan edited my response to one part of the interview, which is why I am publishing the full version in English here (western media edits, in my personal experience, are far more brutal). A big thank you from me to Ali Etemadi for the opportunity to be heard in major Iranian media.

Q: How are regional geopolitical shifts developing in the areas of competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia? What are the arenas in which Iran and Saudi Arabia have a competition? 

SN: Nations generally compete in the areas of economy, geopolitical influence, military strength and the ability to project their power. As such, I don’t really see much of an apples-to-apples comparison between Iran and Saudi Arabia – at least,  not in terms of real and self-realized capabilities. Both states are rich in energy resources and have used this rentier wealth to advance their national goals, albeit with vastly differing results. Iran’s economy is focused on diversification away from the energy sector, developing self-sufficiencies and becoming a net exporter – Saudi Arabia is import-focused. Iran spends $15 billion per annum on its military – compared to Saudi’s $80 billion – yet has one of the most competent military forces in the region and builds its own hardware. The Iranian political system is constitution-based, diverse, and representative, with loudly competing political blocs that come with their own media and constituencies. The Saudi monarchy is based entirely on the rule of one family, with no meaningful elections or contesting political bodies, and little freedom of expression in the media. In terms of power projection, Iran favors the soft power tools of diplomacy, trade, and alliance-building based on common worldviews/objectives, whereas the Saudis have expanded their influence far and wide by funding the introduction of Wahhabi doctrine in schools, mosques, media and other institutions globally – and by blatantly buying the loyalty of allies.

Today, we can see clearly how Iran and Saudi Arabia’s nation-building approaches have affected the success of their geopolitical strategies. Both states have experienced existential fears and threats in recent years, and their respective alliances have now confronted each other on a few battlefields. Today, Iran is in ascendency within West Asia whereas even powerful Saudi allies like the United States are questioning the longevity of the Saudi regime and state. Iran has approached the matter of its strategic depth carefully and built alliances with partners that genuinely share the common values of independence, self-determination and resistance against imperialism. The Saudis, on the other hand, have forged their external alliances with hegemony or dominance as the primary objective – irrespective of the divergent interests and values of allies. There really is little contest – one side is going from strength to strength in the region, whilst the other flails about with unreliable alliances, propped up by petrodollars and all the strategic brilliance of a sledgehammer.

Q: Do you think that the last 5 years of developments in Middle East has made a game change in the regional balance of power? If so, which side does it favor?

SN: Absolutely. The so-called ‘Arab Spring’ really hastened the arrival of a seismic shift in the regional balance of power. When they first kicked off, the uprisings were exclusively taking place in Arab states led by western proxy governments. One and all, these were nations where there was little or no connection between populations and their governments. Then suddenly, the uprisings veered toward two unlikely candidates – Libya and Syria. Say what you want about Mummer Gaddhafi and Bashar al-Assad, but they both represented very independent and defiant foreign policy worldviews – ones that resonated heavily with their populations. In that sense, the connection between populace and government was intact – unlike, say, Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Jordan, Yemen, where uprisings were well underway or starting to boil in early 2011.

Regime-change in Libya almost happened too quickly for people to understand what was really going on. But in Syria, as months stretched into years, the two geopolitical blocs in the region – let’s call them the neocolonial (US) and post-colonial (Iran) blocs for now – came into direct and prolonged confrontation. Syria became an existential fight for elements of both blocs, which drew in two great powers, Russia and China, that had until now stood on the sidelines of Mideast power struggles. This is when the game changed entirely. Not only did Russia and China put their arms around the Resistance Axis in the region, but that action in itself moved us from a unipolar world into a multilateral one. It broke the hold the United States had enjoyed since the end of the Cold War on the global community, it removed the ability for the US to use the UN Security Council as a rubber stamp for its military adventurism, it created an opening for a new international political and economic order in which middle states could carve out new directions.

Of course the Middle East balance of power shifted alongside these global developments. We are by no means out of the woods yet, and the old order still dominates somewhat, but just a few years ago we could not have imagined that the US would bypass its traditional allies Israel and Saudi Arabia to avidly pursue a nuclear agreement with Iran that would propel the Islamic Republic to the big table, where it is now being relied on as the one rational, stable player in the region that can put out the most dangerous fires. Could you even write that script five years ago?

Q: Some Iranians believe that despite the advantages in the field, Iran doesn’t use all its capacities in the areas of media war and public opinion? What’s your point of view about that?

SN: For all the talk about Iranian ‘propaganda’ in the west, Iran is really dreadful at this. The word ‘propaganda’ has taken on very negative connotations – mostly because governments lie so much – but all it really means is the dissemination of information from a particular viewpoint to shape understanding in order to achieve consensus. Clearly, over the past few decades, Iran has failed to propagate its value propositions successfully, as it has been vilified globally, with little or no understanding of the state’s actual intentions. Iran’s adversaries do the propaganda thing very, very well, and it is a real failing of the Islamic Republic that it does not understand the absolute importance of savvy communications as a cornerstone of its national security strategies. In the west, they not only understand the value of communications, they employ it aggressively in the form of ‘information warfare.’  All their recent military interventions begin first with ‘scene-setting’ that prepares and grooms the public into accepting – and even supporting – whatever battle lies ahead.

I would like to see Iranians and Arabs begin to invest in public diplomacy more proactively, but not just to emulate what the west does. Part of the Iranian problem is that they are active participants in the West’s ‘discourse’ about this region – Iranians are the ‘rejectionists’ in that discourse, and they actually strengthen it by ‘rejecting’ it. The Resistance Axis and its allies need to begin afresh by developing homegrown narratives that reflect their own political, economic and social priorities. Don’t participate in the west’s telling of OUR story – let’s construct our own. The west will immediately reject our goals, our vision, our version of the narrative – for a change, they will become the ‘rejectionists’ in our game.  In this region, we need to take control over our own narratives before someone else comes in to fill that void. This needs to be a national security priority – not an afterthought by a communication staff member.

Q: Do you think Saudi Arabia’s aggressive actions against Iran are in coordination with the United States? Or do you think, as some believe, Riyadh is acting on its own without Washington’s consent?

SN: The Saudis and Americans have been in business together for decades because they share an interest in dominating this region – and as different as they are, they have struck a bargain not to get mired in these differences. Riyadh has acted as a convenient regional fig leaf and cheerleader for US objectives throughout the Middle East, and since Afghanistan, has provided the Americans with money and foot soldiers to wage its wars in this region. But we did start seeing some divergences in interests around 2012 in Syria. The quick ‘Libya model’ of intervention in Arab uprisings wasn’t taking hold in Syria, and the Saudis, under the direction of the newly-rehabilitated Prince Bandar bin Sultan, launched an escalation of political violence that threatened to spill well beyond Syria’s borders. The US, which happily used this kind of Saudi-backed violence in Afghanistan and Iraq, suddenly became wary of uncontrolled chaos on Israel’s borders, and so it began looking for an exit of sorts. Which is when the Obama administration secretly reached out to the Ahmadinejad government and waved a series of incentives to jump-start nuclear talks in earnest.

I think the United States is not uniform in its thinking about the Middle East – there are multiple centers of influence in Washington alone. I also think the US – unlike its European counterparts – is far enough away from this region that it can afford to play multiple strategies at once. Yes, the American interests have diverged from the Saudis, but there is still a big field in which the two can and will play. They are at one on the issues of Israel, regional hegemony, containing Iranian influence, trading in weaponry, destroying the Resistance, and so forth. But these are not necessarily existential things for the Americans – while they have become so for the Saudis. So, on Yemen, for instance, let’s imagine for a moment that the Obama administration was not so keen about Riyadh’s military intervention. But on the other hand, this would be an opportunity to sell more weapons, gain another ‘card’ against the Iranians in Syria, heighten Shia-Sunni tensions throughout the region, etc. Washington doesn’t think too hard about the dangers of playing two games at once. They seek advantages and they ‘manage’ conflict – there’s no real urgency to actually resolve the problems as long as they can be ‘contained.’ But now there is too much conflict in too many places and they can see their Saudi ally is over-extended and unable to achieve its goals. They understand too that Riyadh – in it zealousness – could not only blow up the whole region, but could also disintegrate in that heat, which would take out a major US ally and create disastrous consequences for all its proxy monarchies in the region.

I suspect we will continue to see a divergence in interests between the two allies, although we have not really yet seen it become publicly contentious yet. Behind the scenes, I am certain that the Saudis are taking actions which make the Americans uncomfortable. I also suspect that the Americans are wary about drawing too many red lines for Saudi behaviors as this may trigger even worse actions from an increasingly unhinged Riyadh. For sure it is a very delicate time between the two allies right now.

Q: Despite the fact that western officials (Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service) confessed about Saudi Arabia’s destabilizing foreign policy, it seems the west is still deliberately ignoring the fact and supporting Saudi Arabia. To what extent is the West prepared to cover for the Saudis? 

SN: It doesn’t really help that the Saudis have become this belligerent at the same time western economies have stagnated. Even if the US – or the UK and France, for the matter – decided to try to rein in Saudi actions, would they do so at the expense of ‘economy?’ The Saudi defense budget is straining toward a robust $100 billion per year – will the west ignore that in favor of ‘principle?’ These countries have demonstrated that they choose interests over values every time, and I don’t think that will change today.

But the expansion of the jihadist and extremist threat has become a huge problem at the same time as the west is facing down multiple crippling issues of economy, refugees, potential EU disintegration, loss of popular legitimacy, etc. I do think they will draw a line on Saudi actions at some point. It may be a sly, calculated line, however. Look at Syria today, for instance – Washington has basically handed the Syrian ‘solution’ over to the Russians and Iranians. The nuclear deal helped with that. It allowed for the US and Iran to operate in the same military theaters (Syria and Iraq) without the danger of being goaded into a direct confrontation by Israel and Saudi Arabia. Look how quiet the US has been about the massive Syrian-Russian-Iranian gains against militants in the past few months. Meanwhile, Washington’s coalition launches only a handful of airstrikes and pretends it is still active in that military theater. This is perhaps how the US will extricate itself from complications in the region without facing any confrontations with their Saudi ally – or losing out on some much-needed petrodollars. They can have their cake and eat it too.

Q: One of the most important developments in Syria is the direct participation of Russia in coordination with Iran. To what extent has the alliance of Tehran and Moscow been able to achieve its objectives? What challenges does this alliance face?

SN: Despite the fact that the Russians and Iranians have both been on the receiving end of US hostilities, it really has been the Syrian crisis that has brought the two countries together in a constructive way. From what we hear, they have been working closely at the highest levels in Syria’s military command centers, and are instrumental in developing the ground strategies there. It is expected that the synergies learned in the field will translate into common objectives elsewhere: the development of a new multipolar order, oil and gas policy, pipelines and economy, defense cooperation, establishment of global institutions under new frameworks, and so forth.

They are clearly able to work efficiently together – Russian airpower has been well-coordinated with the ground efforts of the Syrian army, the Iranians, Hezbollah and other fighting forces to wrest back key territory in the north and west of Syria, now moving into southern fronts too. And all this in just a few short months.

On the political front we are also seeing a growing consensus between Iran and Russia – both countries are in agreement on the inclusion of President Assad in a national unity government, the centrality of elections in determining Syria’s political future, defeating terrorism on the ground, inhibiting the transit of jihadists through the Turkish border, working in tandem with neighboring Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan to stem the extremism, protecting minorities in these areas, halting global financial assistance to terrorists – among other goals. Importantly, during contentious Syria negotiations, Russia and Iran have together managed to hold their ground on these vital issues – in part because they are no longer doing so alone.

A few months ago, these two critical Syrian allies were working on common goals from different corners. Today, we are seeing them work from the same room, in lockstep. I suspect over the course of this year, we are going to see coordination and cooperation improve inside Syria – it will be vital to gain more and more military ground in order to achieve a favorable political settlement, if one is even possible.

This interview was initially published in Farsi in Javan on February 27, 2016. You may follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.

Sharmine Narwani talks to RT International on Turkey’s claims Syrian Kurds are behind the attack in Ankara

 

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Will Geneva talks lead right back to Assad’s 2011 reforms?

Sharmine Narwani
Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She is a former senior associate at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University and has a master’s degree in International Relations from Columbia University. Sharmine has written commentary for a wide array of publications, including Al Akhbar English, the New York Times, the Guardian, Asia Times Online, Salon.com, USA Today, the Huffington Post, Al Jazeera English, BRICS Post and others. You can follow her on Twitter at @snarwani
Published time: 10 Feb, 2016 09:37
RT
Syria's President Bashar Assad. © SANA
Syrian peace talks have already stalled. The opposition refused to be in the same room as the government delegation, while the latter blamed opposition ‘preconditions’ and the organizers’ inability to produce a ‘list of designated terrorists’.

The UN’s special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has now promised talks will reconvene on February 25, but how will he achieve this?

So much has shifted on the global political stage and in the Syrian military theater since this negotiation process first began gaining steam.

In just the past few weeks, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies have recaptured key areas in Latakia, Idlib, Daraa, Homs and Aleppo, and are making their way up to the Turkish border, cutting off supply lines and exits for opposition militants along the way.

While analysts and politicians on both sides of the fence have warned that a ‘military solution’ to the Syrian crisis is not feasible, the SAA’s gains are starting to look very much like one. And with each subsequent victory, the ability for the opposition to raise demands looks to be diminished.

Already, western sponsors of the talks have as much as conceded that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will continue to play a role in any future government – a slap in the face to the foreign-backed Syrian opposition that have demanded his exit.

And the long list of deliverables in peace talks yet to come – transitional governance, ceasefires, constitutional reform, and elections – are broad concepts, vague enough to be shaped to advantage by the dominant military power on the ground.

The shaping of post-conflict political landscapes invariably falls to the victor – not the vanquished. And right now, Geneva looks to be the place where this may happen, under the watch of many of the states that once threw their weight – weapons, money, training, support – behind the Syrian ‘opposition.’

Russian strategic bombers target ISIS near Deir ez-Zor as jihadists prep to storm key city http://on.rt.com/72p1 

So here’s a question: As the military landscape inside Syria continues to move in the government’s favor, will a final deal look very much different than the 2011 reforms package offered by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad?

Assad’s 2011 reforms

In early 2011, the Syrian government launched a series of potentially far-reaching reforms, some of these unprecedented since the ascendance of the Baath party to power in 1963.

Arriving in Damascus in early January 2012 – my third trip to Syria, and my first since the crisis began – I was surprised to find restrictions on Twitter and Facebook already lifted, and a space for more open political discourse underway.

That January, less than ten months into the crisis, around 5,000 Syrians were dead, checkpoints and security crackdowns abounded, while themes such as “the dictator is killing his own people” and “the protests are peaceful” still dominated western headlines.

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A picture shows courthouse that was torched a day earlier by angry protesters in the southern town of Daraa, 100 kms (60 miles) south of Damascus, on March 21, 2011 following a demonstration demanding

Four years later, with the benefit of hindsight, many of these things can be contextualized. The ‘protests’ were not all ‘peaceful’ – and casualties were racking up equally on both sides. We see this armed opposition more clearly now that they are named Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and ISIS. But back in early 2012, these faces were obfuscated – they were all called “peaceful protestors forced to take up arms against a repressive government.”

Nevertheless, in early 2011, the Syrian government began launching its reforms – some say only to placate restive populations; others saw it as an opportunity for Assad to shrug off the anti-reform elements in his government and finish what he intended to start in 2000’s ‘Damascus Spring.’

Either way, the reforms came hard and fast – some big, some small: decrees suspending almost five decades of emergency law that prohibited public gatherings, the establishment of a multi-party political system and terms limits for the presidency, the removal of Article 8 of the constitution that assigned the Baath party as “the leader of state and society,”citizenship approval for tens of thousands of Kurds, the suspension of state security courts, the removal of laws prohibiting the niquab, the release of prisoners, the granting of general amnesty for criminals, the granting of financial autonomy to local authorities, the removal of controversial governors and cabinet members, new media laws that prohibited the arrest of journalists and provided for more freedom of expression, dissolution of the cabinet, reducing the price of diesel, increasing pension funds, allocating housing, investment in infrastructure, opening up direct citizen access to provincial leaders and cabinet members, the establishment of a presidential committee for dialogue with the opposition – and so forth.

But almost immediately, push back came from many quarters, usually accompanied by the ‘Arab Spring’ refrain: “it’s too late.”

But was it?

Western governments complained about reforms not being implemented. But where was the time – and according to whose time-frame? When the Assad government forged ahead with constitutional reforms and called for a nationally-held referendum to gain citizen buy-in, oppositionists sought a boycott and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the referendum “phony” and “a cynical ploy.”

Instead, just two days earlier, at a meeting in Tunis, Clinton threw her significant weight behind the unelected, unrepresentative, Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Syrian National Council (SNC): “We do view the Syrian National Council as a leading legitimate representative of Syrians seeking peaceful democratic change.”

And when, in May 2012, Syria held parliamentary elections – the first since the constitution revamp – the US State Department called the polls: “bordering on ludicrous.”

But most insidious of all the catch-phrases and slogans employed to undermine the Syrian state, was the insistence that reforms were “too late” and “Assad must go.” When, in the evolution of a political system, is it too late to try to reform it? When, in the evolution of a political system, do external voices, from foreign capitals, get to weigh in on a head of state more loudly than its own citizens?

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© Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation

According to statements made by two former US policymakers to McClatchy News: “The goal had been to ‘ratchet up’ the Syria response incrementally, starting with U.S. condemnation of the violence and eventually suggesting that Assad had lost legitimacy.”

“The White House and the State Department both – and I include myself in this – were guilty of high-faluting rhetoric without any kind of hard policy tools to make the rhetoric stick,” confessed Robert Ford, former US Ambassador to Syria.

An analysis penned by veteran Middle East correspondent Michael Jansen at the onset of the talks in Geneva last week ponders the point: “The Syrian crisis might have been resolved in 2011 if US president Barack Obama had not declared on August 18th that year that his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad had to ‘step aside.’”

Were the additional 250,000 Syrian deaths worth those empty slogans? Or might reforms, in Syrian hands, have been worth a try?

Domestic dissent, Assad and reforms

The story inside Syria, within the dissident community, still varied greatly during my January 2012 trip. But with the exception of one, Fayez Sara, who went on to eventually leave the country and join the SNC, Syrian dissidents with whom I met unanimously opposed sanctions, foreign intervention and the militarization of the conflict.

Did they embrace the reforms offered up in 2011? Mostly not – the majority thought reforms would be “cosmetic” and meaningless without further fundamental changes, much of this halted by the growing political violence. When Assad invited them to participate in his constitutional reform deliberations, did these dissidents step up? No – many refused to engage directly with the government, probably calculating that “Assad would go” and reluctant to shoulder the stigma of association.

But were these reforms not a valuable starting point, at least? Political systems don’t evolve overnight – they require give-and-take and years of uphill struggle.

Aref Dalila, one of the leaders of the ‘Damascus Spring’ who spent eight years in prison, told me: “The regime consulted with me and others between March and May and asked our opinion. I told them there has to be very serious reforms immediately and not just for show, but they preferred to go by other solutions.”

Bassam al-Kadi, who was imprisoned for seven years in the 1990s, managed to find one upside to reforms:

Speaking about the abolishment of the state security courts in early 2011, Kadi said: “Since 1973 until last May, it was actually a court outside of any laws and it was the strong arm of the regime. All trials held after abolishing this court have taken place in civilian courts. Sometimes the intelligence apparatus intervenes but in most cases the judge behaves according to his or her opinion. Hundreds of my friends who were arrested in the past few months, most were released within one or two weeks.”

BREAKING: Turkish artillery shells Syrian territory – Russian military http://on.rt.com/73ai 

This reform, by the way, took place a mere few months before Jordan’s constitutional reforms added another security layer – the state military courts – for which it was promptly lauded.

Hassan Abdel Azim, head of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) which included 15 opposition parties, took a different view: “Our point of view is that such reforms can only take place when violence stops against protestors…But since the regime tries to enforce its reforms, the result will only be partial reforms that enhances its image but not lead to real change.”

The NCC went on to have a short-lived alliance with the foreign-based SNC which fell apart over disagreements on “non-Arab foreign intervention.”

Louay Hussein who headed the Tayyar movement and spent seven years in prison when he was 22 (and recently as well), told me that January: “We consider Assad responsible for everything that’s happened but we are not prepared to put the country in trouble…In March, we wanted what the regime is giving now (reforms). But when the system started using live bullets we wanted to change it and change it quickly. But after all this time we have to reconsider our strategy.”

And the list goes on. The views ranged from dissidents who “like Assad, but hate the system” to those who wanted a wholesale change that was arrived at through a consultative process – but definitely not foreign intervention. Eighteen months later when I revisited some of these people, their views had transformed quite dramatically in light of the escalation of political violence. Even the ones who blamed the government for this escalation seemed to put their arms around the state, as nationalists first and foremost.

Had the conflict not taken on this stark foreign-backed dimension and become so heavily militarized, they may have expended their energies on pushing at the limits of reforms already on the table.

How can Geneva transform Syria?

First on the table in Geneva is the establishment of a transitional process that gets the two sides working on common governance. On a parallel track, demilitarization is on the menu – which basically consists of organizing ceasefires throughout Syria. The transitional team will then work on hammering out a new constitution, with elections to be held within 18 months.

That sounds a bit like the process already underway in Syria in 2011 and 2012.

Certainly, the opposition believes it has a stronger hand today than back in 2011, supported as it is by the UN-sponsoredGeneva process. But the difficulties will start the moment decisions need to be made about which opposition participates in the transitional body, if they can even manage to convince the Syrian government – now racking up military victories every week – that it needs to relinquish a chunk of its authority to this new entity.

It is the kind of ‘opposition’ that eventually enters the transitional process that will help ultimately determine its outcome. Look for some Riyadh- and Turkish-backed opponents to be tossed by the wayside during this process.

With the introduction of Russian air power and qualitative military hardware last autumn, the Syrian army and its allies have gained critical momentum in the field.

So why would the Syrian state backtrack on that momentum to give up authority in Geneva? Even the expectation of this is illogical.

There is a growing consensus among Syria analysts that the Americans have ceded the Syrian theater to the Russians and Moscow’s allies. Washington has barely registered any meaningful objections to Russian airstrikes over the past months, apart from some sound bites about hitting ‘moderate rebels’ and not focusing enough on ISIS.

Part of the US problem is that, without any clear cut Syria strategy, it has found itself neck-deep in this crisis without any means to extricate itself from the uncomfortable dependencies of thousands of rebel militants, and the demands of increasingly belligerent allies like Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

They Russians offer that opportunity – like they did in 2013 by taking the Syrian chemical weapons program off the table – and it looks like Washington is grabbing it with both hands right now. It is likely that Moscow waited to intervene in the Syrian quagmire only when it was absolutely sure the US needed an exit – any earlier, and the Americans were still playing both sides and all cards.

For Geneva to move forward, the participants are going to have to make some awkward commitments. Firstly, the batch of Islamists-for-hire that currently makes up the opposition will need to be finessed – or torn apart – to include a broad swathe of Syrian ethnic groups, sects, political viewpoints and… women.

Secondly, all parties to the talks need to agree on which militants in the Syrian theater are going to make that “terrorist list.” This was a clear deliverable outlined in Vienna, and it hasn’t been done. This all-important list will make clear which militants are to be part of a future ceasefire, and which ones will be ‘fair game.’

After all, there can be NO ceasefires until we know who is a designated terrorist and who can be a party to ground negotiations.

I suspect, however, that this terrorist list has been neglected for good reason. It has spared western rebel-sponsors the discomfort of having to face the wrath of their militants, while allowing time for the Russians and Syrians to mow these groups into the ground. Hence the stream of recent victories – and the accompanying timid reaction from Washington.

As the balance of power shifts further on the ground, we may see a much-altered ‘Geneva.’ Will it genuinely beget a political process, will the players at the table change, will the ‘political solution’ be entirely manufactured behind the curtains… only to be offered up to an unsuspecting public as a victory wrenched from a ‘bad regime?’

Because, right now, Syria would be fortunate to have those 2011 reforms on that table, the rapt attention of the global community encouraging them forward, weapons at rest. A quarter million Syrians could have been spared, hundreds of towns, cities and villages still intact, millions of displaced families in their own homes.

Perhaps Geneva can bring those reforms back, wrapped in a prettier package this time, so we can clap our hands and declare ourselves satisfied.

In France, a whiplash from rotten Syria policy

 Syria

Nov 23, 2015

Considering the fact that “Armed moderates” are practically non-existent in Syria, France announced in 2012 that it was delivering “lethal weapons” to Syrian rebels. French Arms deals were also with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar; states at the forefront of supporting Salafi networks.

 By Sharmine Narwani*

Let’s not beat around the bush.

The terror attacks in Paris last Friday shook the globe, even in countries where these acts are sadly the norm. Europe hasn’t seen carnage on this scale, with this degree of planning, for decades. But was this political violence entirely unexpected?.

Perhaps not. When French commentators railed against the perpetrators for “an attack on our values, our way of life” they couldn’t have been more wrong.

The Paris attacks had one source only and that was the Syrian conflict. True, the alleged terrorists, ISIS, were able to recruit angry, young, European Muslims to the task because of years of disenfranchisement and voicelessness in the heart of their continent.

But there would have been no calling, no urgency, no engine driving the recruitment frenzy, out of context of the Syrian storyline.

Nearly five years ago, several regional and western states utilized the larger-than-life symbols of the Arab Uprisings to create regime change in Syria. Syrians had already hit the streets in small numbers, galvanized by the fearlessness of their fellow Arabs to demand political and economic reforms. But it was only when shots rang out and Syrians fell dead that demands turned to rage and larger numbers mobilized.

With the benefit of time and disclosure, we have since learned that Syrian security forces were also being killed from the earliest days – 88 soldiers in the first month – and that there were armed elements shooting at both sides, to stir up conflict for the explicit purpose of effecting regime change in Syria. (1)

In a 2015 report on ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the US-think tank Brookings Institution wrote:

“Presented with an opportunity to inject violence into what had been a peaceful revolt, Baghdadi sent one of his Syrian operatives to set up a secret branch of the Islamic State in the country that year. The branch, later known as the Nusra Front, initially followed the Islamic State’s playbook by attacking civilians as part of a clandestine terror campaign to sow chaos.”

And chaos they sowed.

Chaos, of course, is a goal for radical, Salafist, militant groups. It creates a political and security vacuum that they are well-equipped to fill.  These practices and experiences were honed at the expense of Afghans three decades ago, when the Saudi-funded and CIA-trained Mujahedeen learned how to create, then exploit, power vacuums.

The US-led invasion of Iraq, however, was the pivitol event that began the seeding of these extremist terror networks far and wide. Baghdadi is an Iraqi and ISIS is borne from Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) which then merged into the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), the precursor to ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham).

During the course of the Syrian conflict, we have seen the ease of movement between extremist groups. Free Syrian Army (FSA) members join ISIS, Ahrar al Sham militants join Jabhat al-Nusra, they fight with each other, they break up and re-form under new leadership – avowed enemies fighting on one front form security pacts when fighting on another. And thousands of these western-backed rebels have fought alongside ISIS and Al-Nusra, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.

“Armed moderates” are practically non-existent in Syria, despite countless efforts by western media, analysts and politicians to whitewash the “rebels” and pretend ignorance on the radical character of the militants they armed and assisted. Former US Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn admitted in August that his government and western allies had taken a “willful decision” to support the establishment of a “Salafist principality in Eastern Syria” – the same area now controlled by ISIS. (2)

At the forefront of the foreign intervention that has supported, financed, armed and assisted militants in Syria are three western states, the US, UK, France, and three main regional states, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar (UAE too).

In August 2012 when the Syrian conflict ratcheted up to a whole new level of armed political violence, I visited Zaatari Camp in Jordan, near the border with Syria where refugees were encamped. Right outside the camp entrance was a French military hospital, which I was told was providing emergency medical assistance to civilian refugees.

Later, we learned that the French facility was involved in patching up rebel fighters who would then return to the Syrian military theater. These were still early days in the Syrian conflict – around 10,000 dead compared to the 250,000-plus death toll today. (3)

But by the end of 2012, the proactive French role inside Syria was clearly detectable. British daily The Guardian wrote in December 2012:

“France has emerged as the most prominent backer of Syria’s armed opposition and is now directly funding rebel groups around Aleppo as part of a new push to oust the embattled Assad regime. Large sums of cash have been delivered by French government proxies across the Turkish border to rebel commanders in the past month, diplomatic sources have confirmed. The money has been used to buy weapons inside Syria and to fund armed operations against loyalist forces.” (4)

At this point, an EU arms embargo on Syria was in effect, but direct French weapons shipments to rebels were also secretly taking place.  According to the 2015 book “In the corridors of French diplomacy,” French President Francois Hollande told author Xavier Panon, a diplomatic and military specialist, that France’s “services” were delivering “lethal weapons” to Syrian rebels in the second half of 2012. These arms shipments included canons, machine guns, rocket launchers and anti-tank missiles, and were, according to Hollande, ostensibly earmarked only for vetted FSA militias.

France and the UK teamed up to push through a lifting of EU weapons sanctions on Syria in May 2013, and the following month, at a ‘Friends of Syria meeting’, Paris committed to further increasing military aid to rebel groups. Furthermore, the French government was arguably the biggest cheerleader for launching airstrikes against Syria in August 2013 – efforts that were ultimately thwarted by widespread public pressure against military intervention in the US and UK.

We know that French funds ended up in the hands of Islamist militant groups like Liwa al-Tawhid for the purchase of ammunition and undoubtedly other military necessities. We also know that a slew of other weapons connected to France have shown up in the Syrian military theater, whether directly or indirectly. These include MILAN anti-tank missiles, Russian Igla anti-air missiles (reportedly transferred to Syria via Libyan Al Qaeda members who claim they were trained by the French), APILAS anti-tank weapons, SNEB rockets, FAMAS assault rifles and others lethal arms.

And just this month, photos of the APILA rocket launcher originally supplied to rebels were spotted in ISIS’ possession. (5)

Why were the French so determined to pursue a policy of military escalation in Syria – given that the proliferation of weapons in the Syrian theater was clearly leading to massive casualties, widespread destabilization and the exacerbation of a humanitarian crisis?

One need only to look at another of Hollande’s foreign policy and economic initiatives to understand his Syria policy.

To bolster a lagging economy, the French president dove headfirst into a series of mega arms deals with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Persian Gulf states – selling sophisticated weaponry to despotic, sectarian regimes neck-deep in dealings with jihadi and Salafist networks spanning the Middle East and North Africa.

Last year, US Vice President Joe Biden exposed the dangerous game being played by some of these states – he names Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE in these comments:

“They were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad except that the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.” (6)

While Hollande was raking in the Euros from arms deals with these very states, he was turning a blind eye to their activities in Syria.

France’s weapons exports in 2014 were just over 8 billion Euros. By May of 2015 alone, that number had skyrocketed to 15 billion Euros, primarily due to a $7 billion sale of military hardware to Qatar. The French ministry of defense claimed that 30,000 jobs would be created by this one sale – but at what cost?

And last month, the French inked an additional $12 billion in contracts with the Saudis, including major military hardware and parts.

France isn’t alone in these arms sales – the UK and US are right alongside competing for Persian Gulf petrodollars. Never mind that one of the biggest recipients of weapons is Saudi Arabia (today the number one weapons importer in the world), which has instigated the horrific carpet-bombing of Yemen that has killed thousands and decimated the already impoverished country. Worse yet, the main beneficiaries of the Yemeni bombing campaign appear to be Al Qaeda, who are de facto allies of the Saudis against the Houthis, and have used the chaos to move into new territory throughout the south of the country.

On Monday, the US White House announced a further $1 billion sale to the Saudis of air-to-land munitions for their Yemeni campaign – under the guise of “counter-terrorism” no less – ironic, given that Al Qaeda gains each time the Saudis drop a bomb.

Two years after the September 11 terrorist attacks that claimed almost 3,000 victims in the United States, the US Senate’s Judiciary Committee held hearings on terrorism and its connection to Wahhabism (state religion of Saudi Arabia and Qatar). During the hearings, Saudi Arabia was called the “epicenter” of terror funding for “principally Al Qaeda but many other recipients as well.” The Saudis, according to Senate transcripts, had contributed a whopping $70 billion over 25 years to the funding of “what they call Islamist activities.” (7)

In 2009, a secret US State Department cable signed off by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claims: “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide…Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, LeT (Laskhar-e Taiba), and other terrorist groups…It has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority.”

Hollande’s government is hooked on the profits derived from its Persian Gulf allies. But this relationship has also made him hostage to short-term rewards – in exchange for turning France’s foreign policy into a subservient arm of Saudi-Qatari geopolitical objectives.

The Paris attacks were surely undeserved, but never unexpected. Over the past three decades we have seen, over and over again, that Salafist extremists bite the hand that feeds its ranks. While mentor states enjoy the fact that militants are convenient foot soldiers and proxies who can fight their foreign battles, they do not yet see the inevitable blowback as a deterrence. Rather, they hunker down when a terror attack heads their way, cut off further civil liberties under the guise of fighting “terrorism,” drop a few bombs and scapegoat an ethnic or religious minority group until the anxiety fades. Then it is back to old business.

In Paris, on Friday, the perpetrators – whether ISIS or another radical Salafist group – had little to lose and much to gain. Chaos is their game, and their goals, operations and cells are easily shifted. Not so France.

Hollande reacted by declaring war, stomping his feet in outrage…and dropping some bombs on Syria. He is not a visionary, but a cog in a business wheel. Under his governance and prior to the Paris attacks, France had conducted all of five airstrikes in their “war on ISIS” in Syria. And collected a lot of cash for it.

No, ISIS/Al Qaeda/Nusra Front/Whomever doesn’t give a fig about French “values” and “way of life.” The terror in Paris is due entirely to France in Syria.

References

1. https://www.rt.com/op-edge/157412-syria-hidden-massacre-2011

2. http://levantreport.com/2015/08/06/former-dia-chief-michael-flynn-says-rise-of-islamic-state-was-a-willful-decision-and-defends-accuracy-of-2012-memo/

3. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MID-01-081113.html

4. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/dec/07/france-funding-syrian-rebels

5. https://twitter.com/MuradoRT/status/662723467737886720

6. http://mideastshuffle.com/2014/10/04/biden-turks-saudis-uae-funded-and-armed-al-nusra-and-al-qaeda/

7. https://www.rt.com/op-edge/256561-sunni-threat-middle-east-stability/


* Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She is a former senior associate at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University and has a master’s degree in International Relations from Columbia University. Sharmine has written commentary for a wide array of publications, including Al Akhbar English, the New York Times, Russia Today, the Guardian, Asia Times Online, the Huffington Post and others.


The views, opinions and positions expressed on Op-Ed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of Khamenei.ir .

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Deconstructing the NATO Narrative on Syria

 Via

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Deconstructing the NATO Narrative on Syria


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Over the past five years, the increasingly ridiculous propaganda against President al-Assad and the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has ranged from the scripted (OTPOR fomented -“revolution“) “peaceful protesters under fire” rhetoric, to other deceitful lexicon like “civil war,” and “moderate rebels.”

As the intervention campaigns continue with new terrorist and “humanitarian” actors (literally) constantly emerging in the NATO-alliance’s theatre of death squads, it is worth reviewing some of the important points regarding the war on Syria.

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Million Person Marches

On March 29, 2011 (less than two weeks into the fantasy “revolution”) over 6 million people across Syria took to the streets in support of President al-Assad. In June, a reported hundreds of thousands marched in Damascus in support of the president, with a 2.3 km long Syrian flag. In November, 2011 (9 months into the chaos), masses again held demonstrations supporting President al-Assad, notably in Homs (the so-called “capital of the ‘revolution’”), Dara’a (the so-called “birthplace of the ‘revolution’”), Deir ez-Zour, Raqqa, Latakia, and Damascus.

Mass demonstrations like this have occurred repeatedly since, including in March 2012, in May 2014 in the lead-up to Presidential elections, and in June 2015, to note just some of the larger rallies.

In May 2013, it was reported that even NATO recognized the Syrian president’s increased popularity. “The data, relayed to NATO over the last month, asserted that 70 percent of Syrians support” the Assad government. At present, the number is now at least 80 percent.

The most telling barometer of Assad’s support base was the Presidential elections in June 2014, which saw 74 percent (11.6 million) of 15.8 million registered Syrian voters vote, with President al-Assad winning 88 percent of the votes. The lengths Syrians outside of Syria went to in order to voteincluded flooding the Syrian embassy in Beirut for two full days (and walking several kilometres to get there) and flying from countries with closed Syrian embassies to Damascus airport simply to cast their votes. Within Syria, Syrians braved terrorist mortars and rockets designed to keep them from voting; 151 shells were fired on Damascus alone, killing 5 and maiming 33 Syrians.

For a more detailed look at his broad base of popular support, see Professor Tim Anderson’s “Why Syrians Support Bashar al Assad.”

A handout picture released on July 26, 2015 by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows President Bashar al-Assad waving to the crowd following a speech in the capital Damascus. (AFP Photo)

The Reforms

Prior to the events of March 2011 Syrians did have legitimate desires for specific reforms, many of which were implemented from the beginning of the unrest. In fact, President al-Assad made reforms prior to and following March 17, 2011.

Stephen Gowans noted some of those early reforms, including:

  • Canceling the Emergency Law;
  • Amending the the constitution and putting it to a referendum [8.4 million Syrians voted; 7.5 million voted in favour of the constitution];
  • Scheduling, then holding, multi-party parliamentary and presidential elections

The constitution, according to Gowans, “mandated that the government maintain a role in guiding the economy on behalf of Syrian interests, and that the Syrian government would not make Syrians work for the interests of Western banks, oil companies, and other corporations.”

It also included:

  • “security against sickness, disability and old age; access to health care; free education at all levels”
  • a provision “requiring that at minimum half the members of the People’s Assembly are to be drawn from the ranks of peasants and workers.”

Political commentator Jay Tharappel further articulated:

The new constitution introduced a multi-party political system in the sense that the eligibility of political parties to participate isn’t based on the discretionary permission of the Baath party or on reservations, rather on a constitutional criteria….the new constitution forbids political parties that are based on religion, sect or ethnicity, or which are inherently discriminatory towards one’s gender or race. (2012: Art.8)

No surprise that NATO’s exile-Syrian pawns refused the reforms and a constitution which ensures a sovereign Syria secure from the claws of multi-national corporations and Western banks.

In his article, “Decriminalising Bashar – towards a more effective anti-war movement,” writer Carlos Martinez outlined Syria’s positives, including its anti-imperialist, socialist policies; its secularism and multiculturalism; and—poignantly—its continued support for Palestinians and anti-Zionist stance.

These are all points that contradict the lies spewed over the past nearly five years, and shatter the feeble justification for continuing to wage war on Syria.

Twisting the Numbers to Serve the War Agenda

The number and nature of Syrians killed varies depending on which list one consults. Many talking heads draw from one sole source, UK-based SyrianRami Abdulrahman of the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights(SOHR) (run out of his home and based on information provided largely by unnamed “activists”). Abdulrahman hasn’t been to Syria for 15 years, and, as Tony Cartalucci noted, is “a member of the so-called ‘Syrian opposition’ and seeks the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.” Further, Cartalucci explained, “Abdul Rahman’s operation is indeed funded by the European Union and a “European country” he refuses to identify.” So not an impartial source.

In her February 2012 “Questioning the Syrian Casualty List“, political analyst Sharmine Narwani laid out the logistical difficulties of collating the number of deaths, including:

  • Different casualty lists and difficulty confirming accuracy of any of them.
  • Lack of information on: how deaths were verified and by whom and from what motivation.
  • Lack of information on the dead: civilian, pro or anti government civilians; armed groups; Syrian security forces?”

She found that one early casualty list included 29 Palestinian refugees “killed by Israeli fire on the Golan Heights on 15 May 2011 and 5 June 2011 when protesters congregated on Syria’s armistice line with Israel.”

Jay Tharappel looked at two of the other prime groups cited regarding casualties in Syria: the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) and the Violations Documentation Center (VDC).

He noted that neither of the groups “are ‘independent’ in the sense that they function merely to provide facts, they’re all open about their agenda to overthrow the Syrian government…and for the imposition of a no-fly zone on behalf of the ‘moderate rebels’, whoever they are.”

Further, according to Tharappel, “the SNHR doesn’t provide any evidence to substantiate its assertions about the numbers killed by government forces. They claim to have ‘documented [victims] by full name, place, and date of death,’ however none of these can be found on their website.”

Regarding the VDC, he wrote, “there are good reasons to believe the VDC is listing dead insurgents as civilians, as well as mislabeling dead government soldiers as FSA fighters.”

One example he cited was the listing of a Jaysh al-Islam militant, ‘Hisham Al-Sheikh Bakri’, killed by the SAA in Douma (infested with Jaysh al-Islam terrorists), in February 2015, which al-Masdar News reported. The VDC alsolisted ‘Hisham Abd al-Aziz al-Shaikh Bakri’, “however this one is listed as an adult male civilian and not a Jaish Al-Islam fighter,” Tharappel wrote.

Even embedded war reporter Nir Rosen, Tharappel recalled, in 2012 wrote:

Every day the opposition gives a death toll, usually without any explanation of the cause of the deaths. Many of those reported killed are in fact dead opposition fighters, but the cause of their death is hidden and they are described in reports as innocent civilians killed by security forces, as if they were all merely protesting or sitting in their homes.

It would be an understatement to say there are considerable, and intentional, inaccuracies in the lists of these groups. In fact, most of the aforementioned groups fail to note what commentators like Paul Larudee did:

The UN estimates 220,000 deaths thus far in the Syrian war. But almost half are Syrian army soldiers or allied local militia fighters, and two thirds are combatants if we count opposition fighters. Either way, the ratio of civilian to military casualties is roughly 1:2, given that the opposition is also inflicting civilian casualties. Compare that to the roughly 3:1 ratio in the US war in Iraq and 4:1 in the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2008-9. (The rate of Palestinian to Israeli casualties was an astronomical 100:1.)

“Leftists” Keeping the Myths Alive

Public figures like Owen Jones, and pro-Palestinian sites like the Middle East Eye and the Electronic Intifada, have a following for their more palatable (and safe) solidarity stance on Palestine, but routinely spew rhetoric against Syria, which is then echoed by their well-intentioned, if very misinformed, followers.

Much of grassroots “Leftists”’ anti-Syria propaganda is as poisonous as corporate media. Routinely, at ostensibly anti-war/anti-Imperialist gatherings, the anti-Syria narrative is predominant.

For example, at the March 2015 World Social Forum in Tunis, some Syria-specific panels spun the fairy tale of “revolutionaries” in Syria, one panel alleging: “The protests in Syria were peaceful for almost six or seven months; 6-7000 unarmed people were killed; only then did ‘rebels’ eventually take up arms.”

Yet, it is known that from the beginning, in Dara’a  and throughout Syria, armed protesters were firing upon, and butchering, security forces and civilians. Tim Anderson’s “Syria: how the violence began, in Daraa” pointed out that police were killed by snipers in the March 17/18 protests; the Syrian army was only brought to Dara’a following the murder of the policemen. Additionally, a storage of protesters’ weapons was found in Dara’a’s al-Omari mosque.

Prem Shankar Jha’s, “Who Fired The First Shot?” described the slaughter of 20 Syrian soldiers outside Dara’a a month later, “by cutting their throats, and cutting off the head of one of the soldiers.” A very “moderate”-rebel practice.

In “Syria: The Hidden Massacre” Sharmine Narwani investigated the early massacres of Syrian soldiers, noting that many of the murders occurred even after the Syrian government had abolished the state security courts, lifted the state of emergency, granted general amnesties, and recognized the right to peaceful protest.

The April 10, 2011 murder of Banyas farmer Nidal Janoud was one of the first horrific murders of Syrian civilians by so-called “unarmed protesters.” Face gashed open, mutilated and bleeding, Janoud was paraded by an armed mob, who then hacked him to death.

Father Frans Van der Ludt—the Dutch priest living in Syria for nearly 5 decades prior to his April 7, 2014 assassination by militants occupying the old city of Homs—wrote (repeatedly) of the “armed demonstrators” he saw in early protests, “who began to shoot at the police first.”

May 2011 video footage of later-resigned Al Jazeera journalist Ali Hashem shows fighters entering Syria from Lebanon, carrying guns and RPGs (Hashem stated he’d likewise seen fighters entering in April). Al Jazeera refused to air the May footage, telling Hashem to ‘forget there are armed men.’ [See: Sharmine Narwani’s “Surprise Video Changes Syria “Timeline””] Unarmed protesters?

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The Sectarian Card: Slogans and Massacres

What sectarianism we see in Syria today was delivered primarily by the Wahabi and Muslim Brotherhood (MB) regimes of Saudi Arabia and Qatar and by Turkey, with NATO’s blessing and backing. The cross-sect make-up of both the Syrian State and the Syrian army alone speaks of Syria’s intentional secularism, as well as the prevalent refusal of average Syrians to self-identify along sectarian lines.

On the other hand, from the beginning, the West’s “nonviolent protesters” were chanting sectarian slogans, notably, “Christians to Beirut, Alawis to the grave.” Other popular chants included: calling for the extermination of all Alawis; pledging allegiance to Saudi-based extremist Syrian Sheikh Adnan Arour and to extremist MB supporting Egyptian Sheikh, Yusuf al-Qardawi.

Qatar-based Qaradawi advocates killing Syrian civilians: “It is OK to kill one third of the Syrian population if it leads to the toppling of the heretical regime.” The inflammatory Arour said about Syria’s Alawis: “By Allah we shall mince them in meat grinders and feed their flesh to the dogs.”

The NATO alliance’s terrorists have committed numerous massacres of Syrian civilians and soldiers, many of which were intended to sow sectarianism, including:

  • The June 2011 Jisr al Shugour, Idlib, massacre of up to 120 people (soldiers and civilians) by between 500-600 so-called FSA terrorists; blamed on the SAA as having killed “military deserters”. [see Prem Shankar Jha’s  article“Syria – Who fired the first shot?”]
  • The Houla massacre of over 100 civilians on May 25, 2012, which only 2 days later the UN claimed—without an investigation— had been committed by the Syrian Army. [See Tim Anderson’s detailed rebuttal, “The Houla Massacre Revisited: “Official Truth” in the Dirty War on Syria” In the same article, Anderson also looked at the August 2012 Daraya massacre of 245 people and the December 2012 Aqrab massacre of up to 150 villagers.
  • The August 2013 massacre of at least 220 civilians (including a fetus, many children, women, elderly) and kidnapping of at least 100 (mostly women and children) in villages in the Latakia countryside.
  • The December 2013 massacre of at least 80 residents (many “slaughtered like sheep”, decapitated, burned in bakery ovens) in Adra industrial village.
  • The continued terrorist-mortaring of civilian areas and schools; the repeated terrorist-car-bombing of civilian areas and schools. [see: “The Terrorism We Support in Syria: A First-hand Account of the Use of Mortars against Civilians”]

Yet, in spite of outside forces attempts to sow sectarianism in Syria, the vast majority of Syrian people refuse it. Re-visiting Syria in July 2015, Professor Tim Anderson recounted that Latakia alone “has grown from 1.3 million to around 3 million people – they come from all parts, not just Aleppo, also Hama, Deir eZorr, and other areas.” He also visited Sweida, a mainly Druze region, which has accommodated “135,000 families, mainly from Daraa – others from other parts”. Mainly Sunni families.

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The Syrian “Civil War”?!

Given that:

  • At least 80,000 terrorists from over 80 countries are fighting as mercenaries in Syria;
  • Israel has repeatedly bombed Syria [examples herehere and here];
  • Israel is treating al-Qaeda terrorists in their hospitals and enabling their transit back and forth into Syria, as well as arming them—even Israeli media have reported that Israel is providing aid to al-Qaeda terrorists; even the UN has reported on Israeli soldiers interacting with Jebhat al-Nusra in the occupied Syrian Golan;
  • Turkey is not only arming and funneling terrorists into Syria but also repeatedly co-attacks Syria;
  • the whole crisis was manufactured in imperialist think tanks years before the 2011 events;

…“Civil war” is the absolute last term that could be used to describe the war on Syria.

In 2002, then-Under Secretary of State John Bolton added Syria (and Libya, Cuba) to the “rogue states” of George W Bush’s “Axis of Evil,”…meaning Syria was on the list of countries to “bring democracy to” (aka destroy) even back then.

Anthony Cartalucci’s “US Planned Syrian Civilian Catastrophe Since 2007” laid out a number of pivotal statements and events regarding not only the war on Syria but also the events which would be falsely-dubbed the “Arab Spring.”

Points include:

  • General Wesley Clark’s revelation of US plans to destroy the governments of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran.
  • Seymour Hersh’s 2007 “The Redirection” on NATO and allies’ arming and training of sectarian extremists to create sectarian divide in Lebanon, Syria and beyond.

The 2009 Brookings Institution report, “Which Path to Persia?”, on plans to weaken Syria and Lebanon, to later attack Iran.

Further, Stephen Gowans reported:

  • U.S. funding to the Syrian opposition began flowing under the Bush administration in 2005.
  • Since its founding in October 2011, the Syrian National Council has received $20.4 million from Libya, $15 million from Qatar, $5 million from the UAE.

Former French Minister for Foreign Affairs, Roland Dumas, in a June 2013 TV interview spoke of his meeting (two years prior) with British officials who confessed that:

Britain was organizing an invasion of rebels into Syria. This operation goes way back. It was prepared, preconceived and planned.

More recent evidence of the NATO-alliance plot against Syria includes a June 2012 NY Times article noting the CIA support for “rebels” in Syria, including providing and funneling “automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons” from Turkey to Syria.

The article said:

A small number of C.I.A. officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government, according to American officials and Arab intelligence officers.

In October 2014, Serena Shim, a US journalist working for Press TV, was killed in a highly suspicious car crash near Turkey’s border with Syria shortly after reporting she had been threatened by Turkish intelligence. Shim hadpreviously reported she had photos of “militants going in through the Turkish border…I’ve got images of them in World Food Organization trucks.”

Similar statements have been made. For example, testimony of a Turkish driver explaining “how vehicles would be accompanied by MİT agents during the trip, which would start from the Atme camp in Syria and end at the border town of Akçakale in Şanlıurfa Province, where the militants and cargo would reenter Syria.”

In July, 2015, Press TV reported that terrorists caught in Aleppo confessed to receiving training by US and Gulf personnel in Turkey.

As I wrote, “in a November 2014 report, the Secretary-General mentioned the presence of al-Nusra and other terrorists in the ceasefire area ‘unloading weapons from a truck,’ as well as a ‘vehicle with a mounted anti-aircraft gun’ and Israeli ‘interactions’ with ‘armed gangs.’”

Given all of this, and America’s plan to train up to 15,000 more “rebels” over the next three years, it is beyond ridiculous that the inappropriate term “civil war” continues to be propagated.

DA’ESH and Other Moderates

In June, 2015, Anthony Cartalucci wrote about a recently-released 2012 Department of Defense document which admitted that the US foresaw ISIS’ establishing a “Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want….”

He outlined the flow of weapons and terrorists from Libya to Syria, via Turkey, “coordinated by US State Department officials and intelligence agencies in Benghazi – a terrorist hotbed for decades,” as well as weapons from Eastern Europe.

Earlier “moderates” include the Farouq Brigades‘ (of the so-called “FSA”)organ-eating terrorist “Abu Sakkar,” and those numerous “FSA” and al-Nusra militants who committed the massacres listed above, to name but a portion.

“Human Rights” Front Groups Promoting War Rhetoric

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Avaaz, Moveon, and lesser-known, newly-created groups like The Syria Campaign, The White Helmets, and Action Group for Palestinians in Syria, are complicit in war-propagandizing and even calling for a (Libya 2.0) no-fly-zone bombing campaign of Syria.

On HRW, geopolitical analyst Eric Draitser noted:

Human Rights Watch is undeniably an appendage of US foreign policy. It is in many ways part of the ‘soft power’ arm of US power projection, a means of delegitimizing, demonizing, and otherwise destabilizing countries that do not play ball with the US…

Vigilant Twitter users have called out HRW’s lying Ken Roth for tweeting a photo he claimed to be Aleppo’s destruction from “barrel bombs” but which was, in fact, Ayn al-Arab (Kobani) post-Da’esh attacks and US-coalition bombs. In another outrageous case, Roth tweeted a video of the flattened al-Shuja’iyya neighborhood of Gaza, devastated by Israeli bombing in 2014, purporting it to be Aleppo.

Again, he was called out, forcing a weak retraction. Post-retraction, he tweeted yet another image of destruction, again claiming it to be from “Assad’s barrel bombs” but which was according to the photo bylineHamidiyeh, Aleppo, where “local popular committee fighters, who support the Syrian government forces, try to defend the traditionally Christian district” against ISIS.

On Amnesty International, Anthony Cartalucci wrote:

Amnesty does take money from both governments and corporate-financier interests, one of the most notorious of which, Open Society, is headed by convicted financial criminal George Soros (whose Open Society also funds Human Rights Watch and a myriad of other “human rights” advocates). Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, for instance, was drawn directly from the US State Department…

Highlighting just one instance of AI’s slick maneuvering, Rick Sterling, in hisMay 2015 “Eight Problems with Amnesty’s Report on Aleppo Syria” outed Amnesty for not only normalizing sending weapons to terrorists in Syria but suggesting how to do so in an underhand means.

He emphasized:

This is an amazing statement, effectively sanctioning the supplying of arms to insurgents who agree to follow ‘humanitarian’ rules of war.

Sterling further noted that Amnesty:

  • relied on groups “either based in, or receiving funds from, Turkey, USA or one of the other countries heavily involved in seeking overthrow of the Damascus government.
  • did not seek testimonies from the “two-thirds of the displaced persons in Syria INSIDE Syria…people who fled Aleppo and are now living in Homs, Latakia, Damascus or in Aleppo under government control.”

In “Humanitarians for War on Syria” Sterling elaborated on the intervention campaign:

The goal is to prepare the public for a “No Fly Zone” enforced by US and other military powers. This is how the invasion of Iraq began. This is how the public was prepared for the US/NATO air attack on Libya.

The results of western ‘regime change’ in Iraq and Libya have been disastrous. …Avaaz is ramping up its campaign trying to reach 1 million people signing a petition for a “Safe Zone” in Syria.

Sterling wrote on the  “White Helmets”, “created by the UK and USA in 2013. Civilians from rebel controlled territory were paid to go to Turkey to receive some training in rescue operations. The program was managed by James Le Mesurier, a former British soldier and private contractor…” He noted the ties between WH and anti-Syria actors, including Jabat al-Nusra. One example of their propaganda: “Video of the recent alleged chlorine gas attacks starts with the White Helmet logo and continues with the logo of Nusra. In reality, White Helmets is a small rescue team for Nusra/Al Queda (sic).”

Vanessa Beeley’s “‘White Helmets’: New Breed of Mercenaries and Propagandists, Disguised as ‘Humanitarians’ in Syria” further flushed out the propaganda elements of the WH operation and their parroting of the MSM/HR industry anti-Syrian rhetoric.

The list of “humanitarian” actors is long, and the list of their war-propagating lies even longer. [see: “Human Rights” front groups (“Humanitarian Interventionalists”) warring on Syria]

The Yarmouk Card

A district of Damascus formerly housing over one million residents, of whom 160,000 were Palestinian refugees, according to the UN, the rest Syrians, the plight of Yarmouk neighbourhood has been used by “humanitarian” campaigners to pull at heartstrings and to further confuse supporters of Palestine on the subject of Syria and the State’s treatment of Palestinians. In fact, Syria has been one of Palestine’s greatest advocates and friends, providing Palestinian refugees in Syria with a quality of life equal to that of Syrians, including free education, health care and other social services. The same cannot even remotely be said of any of Palestine’s neighbouring countries, where Palestinian refugees languish in abysmal refugee camps and are denied the right to professional employment, and affordable and quality health care and education, much less dignity.

The United Nations, the HR industry, and the media obfuscate on Yarmouk, ignoring or whitewashing both the presence of various terrorist groups and the role of some Palestinian factions in enabling these groups entry, as well as fighting alongside them against the Syrian government. Talking heads also pointedly ignore the Syrian government-facilitated evacuations of Yarmouk residents to government, community, and UN provided shelters.

They likewise ignore the documented repeated and continuous terrorists attacks on government and other aid distribution within the neighbourhood, as well as on anti-terrorist demonstrations held by Yarmouk residents.

One such demonstration occurred in May 2013, with UK-media Sky News’ Tim Marshall present as demonstrators came under so-called “rebel” fire.

He reported:

…Some screamed at us: “Please tell the world the truth! We don’t want the fighters here, we want the army to kill them!”… About 1,000 people were in the demonstration. …The shooting began almost immediately. A man went down, followed by others. …As they passed us a man stopped and shouted that he was sure the fighters were not Syrians but men paid to come to Damascus and kill people…

In his April 2015 “Who Are the Starving and Besieged Residents of Yarmouk and Why Are They There?” Paul Larudee asked:

Who are the remaining civilians and why are they refusing to evacuate to outside shelter like so many others? Local humanitarian relief supervisors report (personal communication) that some of them are not from Yarmouk and some are not Palestinian. They include the families of Syrian and foreign fighters that are trying to overthrow the Syrian government by force of arms, and some of them came from districts adjacent to Yarmouk, such as the Daesh stronghold of Hajar al-Aswad.

Larudee’s article further addressed the issues of:

  • the Syrian government allowing food aid into the district: “…it has allowed the stockpiling of supplies on the edge of the camp and it has permitted civilians from inside to collect and distribute the aid….”
  • the Syrian military’s siege tactic (combined with evacuation of civilians): “The objective is to remove the civilians from the area as much as possible and then attack the enemy or provoke surrender…”

Analyst Sharmine Narwani observed:

The Syrian government has every right to blockade the border areas between Yarmouk and Damascus to prevent extremist gunmen from entering the capital. I have been in Yarmouk several times, including last year, and have talked to aid workers inside the camp, including UNRWA. The Syrian government, in their view, assists in getting aid and food to refugee populations inside the camp – contrary to western narratives and those activists like the EI activists…most of whom appear not to have set foot inside Yarmouk since the early days of the conflict.

Although the figure of 18,000 remaining Palestinians in Yarmouk may have been accurate in October 2013, today, after the evacuation of thousands, anti-Syria publications continue to cite 18,000. Journalist Lizzie Phelan, who visited Yarmouk in September 2015, says the number remaining is around 4,000.

Most media and HR groups are not reporting that there are Palestinian fightersfighting alongside the SAA, in Yarmouk and other parts of Syria, against the NATO-alliance’s fighters.

Al Masdar News reported in June 2015:

…ISIS originally launched a successful offensive at the Yarmouk Camp District in the month of March; however, after a joint counter-assault by the PFLP-GC, Fatah Al-Intifada, the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA), and members of Aknef Al-Maqdis; ISIS was forced to withdrawal to the southern sector of the district, leaving only the southern axis under their control.

Sharmine Narwani’s “Stealing Palestine: Who dragged Palestinians into Syria’s conflict?” is essential reading, to understand the current situation in Syria vis-a-vis its Palestinian refugees. As for Palestinians themselves, the Syria Solidarity Movement published a statement which emphasized that “more than 1101 Palestinian groups and individuals declare their solidarity with the Syrian people and the Syrian state.” Signatories include Jerusalem’s Archbishop Atallah Hanna, the Palestinian Popular Forum, Yarmouk, and other Palestinian Yarmouk residents.

Serial Chemical Offenders Remain at Large

Israel has on more than one occasion used prohibited chemical and other weapons on the locked-down nearly 2 million Palestinians of Gaza. During the 2008/2009 Israeli massacre of Gaza, the Israeli army rained white phosphorous on schools sheltering displaced Palestinian families, on homes, and on hospitals (of which I gathered video, photo and witness evidence at the time). Israel also used DIME on the Palestinians of Gaza. Yet, Israel remains unpunished, and receives ever increasing billions of dollars and new weaponry every year. Nor has the US ever been held accountable for its widespread criminal use of CW, such as on the people of Vietnam, of Iraq.

The US and HR actors have repeatedly—and without evidence—accused Syria of using Sarin gas, then Chlorine, accusations which have been amply refuted.Seymour Hersh’s probe on the sarin attacks was so damning US mainstream media wouldn’t print it.

In rebuttal to the May 2015 accusation of chlorine attacks — as always followed with human rights groups’ calls for a No-Fly Zone —Stephen Gowans wrote:

As a weapon, chlorine gas is exceedingly ineffective. It is lethal only in highly concentrated doses and where medical treatment is not immediately available. It is far less effective than conventional weapons. Why, then, would the Syrian army use a highly ineffective weapon, which is deplored by world public opinion, and whose use would provide the United States a pretext to directly intervene militarily in Syria, when it has far more effective conventional weapons, which are not deplored by world public opinion, and whose use does not deliver a pretext to Washington to intervene? (See also Gowans’ “New York Times Complicit in Spreading False Syria Allegations”)

Tim Anderson investigated the August 2013 Ghouta attacks, pointing out:

  • UN investigator Carla del Ponte had testimony from victims that ‘rebels’ had used sarin gas in a prior attack
  • Turkish security forces sarin in the homes of Jabhat al Nusra fighters.
  • Evidence of video manipulation in the Ghouta attacks.
  • “Parents identified children in photos as those kidnapped in Latakia, two weeks earlier.”
  • “CW had been supplied by Saudis to ‘rebel’ groups, some locals had died due to mishandling.”
  • “Three of five CW attacks were ‘against soldiers’ or ‘against soldiers and civilians’.”

The Interventionalists have tried repeatedly to accuse the Syrian government of CWs usage; yet the real criminals remain at large.

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Against Incitement, For Peace

Syria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Dr. Bashar al-Ja’afari, in May, 2015, said that spreading incitement and lies on Syria is a blatant violation of UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution No. 1624 for 2005 and of journalism ethics if any, SANA reported.

Syrian media, which attempts to report the reality of Syria under attack, has been repeatedly targeted, something the MSM refuses to acknowledge (See:Media Black-Out on Arab Journalists and Civilians Beheaded in Syria by Western-Backed Mercenaries).

As the NATO-alliance pushes for a “safe zone”…meaning a “no-fly zone” for the purpose of bombing Syria, anti-war activists and journalists must denounce the lies of anti-Syria governments and “human rights” groups, and must share the truth of Syria’s war against terrorism.

Asma-mets-martirs-mothers

Since drafting this lengthy Syria-101 overview, there have been major shifts in Syria’s war against foreign-backed terrorism, namely Russia’s recent airstrikes against Da’esh and co. This increase in Russian support for Syria—with Russian planes destroying more Da’esh and other western-backed terrorists and their training camps in just a few days than the US coalition has over the past year—is a turning point in the war on Syria. Predictably, corporate media are pulling all the stops to demonize Russia‘s involvement, although Russia was invited by the Syrian government to do precisely what it is doing.

Those following Syria closely have echoed what Syrian leadership has said for years and continues to say: the way to stop ISIS and all its brethren terrorist factions, and to bring security to the region, is to cease arming, financing, training and funneling terrorists and weapons into Syria, silence the sectarian indoctrination coming from Gulf extremist sheikhs, and support the Syrian army and allies in their fight for security and stability in Syria.


Eva Bartlett is a Canadian freelance journalist and activist who has lived in and written from the Gaza Strip, Syria, and Lebanon. Follow her work on her blog ingaza.wordpress.com.

Eva-Bartlett-event-Sept-10b


SOURCES:
Eva Bartlett - DissidentVoice
Submitted by SyrianPatriots 
The real SyrianFreePress.NETwork at:
https://syrianfreepress.wordpress.com/2015/10/24/fake-nato-narrative/

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  

 

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

Sharmine Narwani interview with RT International

Sharmine Narwani, commentary writer and political analyst covering Middle East geopolitics talks with RT about the Iran nuclear negotiations.

As Iran nuclear deadline passes, narrative battle heats up (Op-Ed)

Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She tweets @snarwani
Published time: June 30, 2015 15:00
 
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman (2nd L) meet Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (2nd R) at a hotel in Vienna, Austria June 30, 2015. (Reuters / Carlos Barria)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman (2nd L) meet Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (2nd R) at a hotel in Vienna, Austria June 30, 2015. (Reuters / Carlos Barria)

It’s D-Day in Vienna, and the parties sitting across the negotiating table still haven’t ironed out terms to settle a 12-year standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. Expect this deadline to be missed. And prepare for a lot of hot air to fill its space.

The “hot air” is calculated narrative-spin from a range of players that seek to 1) scuttle a deal, 2) increase pressure/create leverage at the negotiating table, or 3) frame an upcoming agreement in language favorable to one
side.

And the Western media serves as a willing handmaiden in this petty game. Journalists thought nothing of casting a global question mark over Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s pre-arranged one-day detour to Tehran – even though his six P5+1 counterparts were also off “seeing to business.”


READ MORE: Iran, P5+1 extend interim nuclear deal until July 7 to win more time for talks

Western pundits weighed in en masse after Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s June 23speech, accusing him of rejecting key provisions of the Lausanne framework agreement and walking back from earlier promises.

“It’s not true at all,” says one senior foreign ministry official, appearing perplexed – if not skeptical – at these  charges. “Iran is under severe pressure from Western media,” he insists, adding: “It’s not a fair trend. No one seems to care about what Iran is doing, what’s on the table. We just want a fair reflection of what is going on at these negotiations.”


If anything, the Iranians charge that the US team “seems to have experienced buyer’s remorse after Lausanne,” and backtracked on, or revisited, some already ‘resolved’ issues.

According  to various sources, at this late date, US negotiators are opening up discussion points that Iran thought they’d already dealt with. These include access to Iranian military sites (which Iran has already rejected), some technical issues around the Fordo nuclear facility, research and development parameters, and the critical issue around the timeline established for staged sanctions relief.

Clearly, for the Iranians, one of the main objectives of these negotiations is the removal of all international sanctions related to the Islamic Republic’s nuclear file.

An official explains: “The sanctions-lifting is not a day’s job – we don’t expect this. The US needs to do some preparatory work to change the culture of sanctions. They have to inform the companies and financial institutions and remove the political and cultural bias/fear of doing business with Iran – the Americans refer to this as the ‘psychological effect of sanctions’ – and this needs at least six months of hard, hard work, including a lot of legal work.”

But the Iranians want the US to work in parallel and simultaneously on sanctions-removal alongside Iran as it undertakes
its physical task of disassembling agreed-upon aspects of its nuclear program. Based on technical calculations from official sources, it will take Iran a maximum of three months to implement these steps.

The most significant setback at this stage of negotiations is in fact the insertion of the US Senate into the process. Post-Lausanne, the Senate passed a bill that demanded oversight over the Iran nuclear deal and so Congress gets approximately 52 days to fiddle with whatever gets approved in Vienna.

“It’s a massive setback,” says an Iranian official. “Even if there is an agreement on June 30, we have nothing until the Senate approves it. If Iran had passed a similar bill, do you think the media would be so silent about this development?”


“If we want to be fair, the sanctions removal process should start together, in parallel with Iran’s work, to establish trust. It’s doable within three months. Otherwise – what? We destroy the heart of the Arak (hard water) reactor and then the US changes its mind?” This is a sentiment heard from many Iranians interviewed.

What do the Americans say about this, I ask? “The US is saying we’re still thinking about this.”

The
same lack of definition surrounds the much-hyped issue of access to Iran’s military facilities. In the past few months, Western media has highlighted this storyline ad nauseum – to the annoyance of the Iranians at the negotiating table today.

“We never accepted this military site access. Ayatollah Khamenei’s recent speech never established this as a ‘new’ red line – it was one of our biggest problems with the US fact sheet after Lausanne. The Americans created a problem for themselves by saying this repeatedly.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (C) laughs during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (not pictured) at a hotel in Vienna, Austria June 30, 2015. (Reuters / Carlos Barria)

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (C) laughs during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (not pictured) at a hotel in Vienna, Austria June 30, 2015. (Reuters / Carlos Barria)

Iran has agreed in principle on IAEA access based on the ‘Additional Protocol’ which leaves it up to the individual member-state to decide on whether to provide access to requested sites.

The protocol specifically states that “it is permissible not to allow” access – and that inspectors can only use this access for “local environmental sampling,” which the Iranians know full well can be done from outside a facility’s perimeters.

“Even the US demands ‘managed access’ of the IAEA when it does its US inspections,” says a source familiar with the nuclear organization’s procedures.

Says an Iranian close to negotiators: “This issue of ‘access’ is really more an issue that speaks to the integrity of the American position at the negotiating table.”


The thing about Vienna on D-Day is that it is packed to the rafters with journalists of every stripe, straining for the tiniest tidbit of information to get a reading on what is happening at that table.

They congregate until well past midnight in the hotel lobby where most of them stay…or inside the large white tent erected outside the Palais Coburg – site of the talks – next door.

Information is the currency of the media, and when the stakes are this high and on-the-record news is so scarce, every bit of information becomes “newsworthy” – never mind that much of it is purposefully flogged by various parties for gain inside the deal-making room.

It is driving the Iranians nuts. “At this stage we still have joint common interests otherwise we couldn’t sit at the table,” says one. “But the sense outside the negotiating room is that there is a crisis.”


And the media fuels it.

Just last night, for instance, an Iranian official shot down an Agence France Press (AFP) report on the Islamic Republic’s readiness to allow inspections of its military sites. He insists the article, which is based entirely on the claims of a
‘senior US official’, “deliberately distorted information to influence the negotiations.”

“We will never allow anyone to inspect military sites because they are not relevant to the IAEA inspections.” He added: “We have serious doubt about the intentions of those who are pushing for access to our defense installations.”


The Iranian government has, on two separate occasions in 2005, “voluntarily provided access” to the IAEA to inspect a single “suspected site” called Parchin. According to an official source, “we did it because we wanted to close – once and for all – the issue of the ‘potential military dimension’ (PMD), even though we know it’s a fabricated story and we knew the US knew it was fabricated.”

“These (the PMD) are not real issues. They are more a matter of the US trying to prove the credibility of past claims. It was wrong, they knew they were wrong, but they have a need to stick to the script…Kerry himself has said the PMD issue has been distorted ‘a little bit’ – to put it mildly.”


“We don’t care how much they want to be tough on the PMD,” says the source. “It is a security case that doesn’t have any end,” which is why Iran’s top leadership has drawn a firm ‘red line’ under matters that have no reasonable or logical relevance to the IAEA’s task at hand.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz (L), U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (C) and U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman meet Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (not pictured) at a hotel in Vienna, Austria June 30, 2015. (Reuters/ Carlos Barria)

U.S.  Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz (L), U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (C) and U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman meet Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (not pictured) at a hotel in Vienna, Austria June 30, 2015. (Reuters/ Carlos Barria)

Iran’s few red lines are there for good reason.

Prompted by the IAEA’s suspicions, in 2008, the Islamic Republic provided information on their EBW (Exploding Bridgewire) program to the nuclear agency. One of the authors of this study was Darioush Rezaeinejad, a postgraduate electrical engineering student. “The IAEA said this has dual-use applications,” says an Iranian familiar with the case. “Darioush was one of five Iranian scientists assassinated later, in front of his family – the knowledge that he had got him killed.”

“We are not afraid of our past so we are ready to do any kind of activity to clarify this for the whole world,” he explains. “But only within a process that would not lead to the death of our scientists.”

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EXPOSED: US Mayor Mohamed T Khairulla, Kenan Rahmani & Company Behind the Destruction of Syria with ISIS Lies & US Tax Dollars

fsa to isis

EXPOSED: US Mayor Mohamed T Khairulla, Kenan Rahmani & Company Behind the Destruction of Syria with ISIS Lies & US Tax Dollars

By NevaehWestSyrianFreePress.NETwork ~ 28 May 2015

Lets understand when we share news, there is a BIG difference between an “allegation” and a “fact.” An allegation is NOT back by facts, this is why we call it an allegation. A perfect example of this is a statement like this: “A Syrian activist claims…” Everyone should be aware of stories they read, and news they share when they make such claims within them, or have NO proof to back them up.

As in Muslim countries, there are different TYPES of Muslims. They are as different as the countries they represent. I wont go too much about this, as a great reporter, Sharmine Narwani does that job for me. She was a senior associate for an Oxford University college, reported for Al-Akhbar, was a Huffington Post Blogger, and studied at Columbia University. Many of her stories appear on RT News as well. She knows her facts. This is her story making the explanations of the difference. http://rt.com/op-edge/256561-sunni-threat-middle-east-stability/

She can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/sharmine.narwani

mayor

The US mayor Mohamed Taher Khairullah of Prospect Park New Jersey is a relentless thorn in the side of Syria and the Americans themselves. Why the Americans? Because he has masked himself and imbedded himself in the political ring knowing he is laying in wait to strike when the time is ripe. While Americans are watching their distractions like Dancing With the Stars, Muslims are taking their oaths on the Quran as fast as they can. The problem is, whatTYPE of Muslims are they?

This brings us to a country called Saudi Arabia. Although they can barely call themselves Arabs because they act more like the west, they can barely call themselves Muslims! I have to give credit to the true Muslims who live within. However, the Kingdom of Al-Saud is more like a kingdom of the Americas, not the Arabs. Within their Kingdom are supporters of the Wahhabi tribes. This is the corrupt NATO type of military created to murder at will, create chaos, and bring about “regime changes” in countries they (the US), wish to control. They call this military the Islamic State, ISIS, ISIL, FSA, “Moderate Rebels” etc) These cannon fodder dummies are nothing but paid mercenaries willing to blow themselves up for the cause they have been suckered into, forced into or drugged into.

Mayor Mohamed Taher Khairullah claims to have been born in Aleppo Syria in 1975, but moved to Saudi Arabia in 1980 at the age of 5. He lived in Saudi until 1991 when he was 16, then moved to the US. His father was Mohamed Basheer Khairullah, who died in 1995 at the age of 48 in the US. He states on his facebook, he is engaged to Mona Obaid since 29 March 2015. He has been previously married at least once to Marwa Homsi, possibly twice to a woman whose last name is Kabbani. The mayor was allegedly involved in a “domestic violence” act (aggravated assault), against his wife and father-in-law in 2002. Might explain why he isnt married, or at least doesnt live with his wife today. Although, his financial statement to the State of New Jersey Department of Education School Ethics Commission Personal Disclosure Statement dated 30 January 2015 states he is married. He now resides in Prospect Park New Jersey, where he is the mayor.

State of New Jersey Department of Education School Ethics Commission Personal Disclosure Statement

Dept of Education

Enter the Muslim Brotherhood… This is a video of a speech delivered by Hafez al-Assad, Bashars father. He speaks about the Muslim Brotherhood, and how they murder in the name of Islam. Its a 3 minute video. I suggest you watch so you can understand why it was important for him to rid Syria of them in the 1980s from place in Hama Syria.

According to Syrian media, anti-government rebels (Muslim Brotherhood), initiated the fighting, who “pounced on our comrades while sleeping in their homes and killed whomever they could kill of women and children, mutilating the bodies of the martyrs in the streets, driven, like mad dogs, by their black hatred.” Security forces then “rose to confront these crimes” and “taught the murderers a lesson that has snuffed out their breath.” Some called it a crime, while others considered it a necessary move to counter the exact events which are happening today. Its the same story, except its a different year. This time, the Muslim Brotherhood has the backing of many American politicians and news media outlets. Thats no surprise really considering the majority of American television is owned by Israel.

brotherhood documents

The Mission of the Muslim Brotherhood is a bit different as well. You see, they are infiltrating the US Congress, Senate, and other political entities because this will afford them the greatest power possible to fight who they consider an enemy. Anyone who is NOT of their beliefs IS considered an enemy, an infidel. This means, if not stopped, Americas future could be controlled by Sharia Law. Of course, there are a lot of Americans who own guns, so it will be a fierce battle if they try. They are very very patient, and dont mind taking the time to gain the positions they need to hold in order to influence those they need to influence. Here are some examples:

Here is the mayor pictured with Governor Corzine in 2009. Before the the conflict.

Untitled 16723

Here is the mayor with Bill Clinton, former US president and Anderson Cooper.

In his comment, he praises Anderson Cooper as “the most honorable man in media when it comes to the Syrian situation, after the taping of Danny Abdel Dayem segment.” Although video came out showing that what Anderson Cooper and Danny Dayem were reporting was a BIG FAT LIE, and this following video proves the fact.

mayor with public figures

EXPOSED: Danny Abdul-Dayem & CNN Lying… Again

“Iftar tonight was at Governor Christies mansion”

Iftar

As hard as they try, the politicians have been working with the media to paint a picture of Syria, and her president Bashar al-Assad as a nation that started killing its own people just for the hell of it. After thousands of years of all sects living in harmony in Syria, all the sudden the Syrian president is just going to start massacring the very people who love him enough to hang his photos on their very walls inside their homes. Makes a lot of sense doesnt it? It does if you are a Muslim Brotherhood who is pissed because your family was killed or thrown from Syria in 1980s! They dare to pick up on the same fight they started years ago.

Mayor has come to know the art of deception, and practice it well. He is behind the Syrian Revolution 100%, and maintains the lies they tell. Everyone understands that the youtube channel “Syria Archives 2013″ (there are many youtube channels associated with this name),  tried to “expose” crimes of the “Assad regime” from the beginning of this proxy war against Syria. However, they have been called out many times, and exposed many times, by me included. One reason is the picture below. At the same time the mayor was pushing for America to “strike the Syrian regime,” Syria Archives 2013 put out a video claiming random Syrians were also asking for America to do the same. I find it MORE than a coincidence that one of the random men (“man 2″) is also a friend of the said mayor. Coincidence??? I think NOT!

mayor knows fsa

Here is the mayor with the random “man 2.”

mayor with rebel

I dont want you to forget the reason Hafez al-Assad fought against the Muslim Brotherhood. Its very inportant to understand that they wanted to turn a Syria, that was already free for so many sects to live in peace among each other without the hatred the Muslim Brotherhood stood to implement in Syria. If they have their way, Syria will turn into the next Saudi Arabia. Where women have NO rights and will have to be covered head to toe, Bibles will be banned as will Christianity, Shiites and Alawiites will be killed alongside their Sunni neighbor who will not follow their hatred (This has been happening already in all rebel held areas). Nothing will exist except radical Islam.NOTHING! The country will look like Iraq or Libya does now. No difference at all!

A special interest for the Americans to pay a great deal of attention to… This is a picture of Mayor Mohamed T Khairullah, the mayor of an American city. Here he is pictured with his relative Yassin Khairullah. In the insert photo, I added a photo of the mayor with another person in the crowd he knows. Notice VERY CAREFULLY, what the sign reads next to his male relative Yassin…

Yassin

“WAIT FOR US WHITE HOUSE! BLACK FLAG IS COMING SOON!!!”

mayor m k

So, heres what I think. I think the whole ISIS, Islamic State cry in Syria is all bullshit. Oh, there are terrorists, but NONE that pose a threat to the United States as that is their pay master. I think when these people (the mayor and company), tried to FAKE a chemical weapons attack in August of 2013 by “regime forces” and it FAILED (and we know it did by Mother Agnes Mariam report, Carla del Ponte from the UNs investigation, and the USs own MIT study), then the United States with the help of the mayor and company decided to create a larger entity ISIS that would be far worse than the weak Free Syria Army (and scare the shit out of some Americans that would cry for fear they would come to the United States). You know the old trick… Create the problem, and happen to have the “fix” for it?

We call it manipulate the masses through the media!

Guess what Americans, THEY ARE ALREADY HERE! You would THINK youMUST fight an entity that wants to hang an ISIS flag on the White House, correct?

The Free Syria Army wouldnt have survived a month against the Syrian Arab Army. So they began working closely with Al-Qaeda and Al-Nusra (which makes sense since all were pissed the US labeled Al-Nusra a “terrorist organization”). Clinton & Ambassador Stevens (perhaps) had weapons flowing from the US controlled Libya to the FSA through US controlled Turkey. Knowing the Free Syria Army gets weapons from the west as well as Saudi and they are funneled into Syria via Turkey then sold to the stronger Al-Qaeda and Al-Nusra because their fighters are more experienced, the whole picture comes into focus much clearer, and these photos I have shared from a longinvestigation PROVES it!

Its either that, OR, the Muslim Brotherhood does plan on taking over the United States as they are infiltrating many areas of the government and politics already. Either way, the citizens Syria are paying for this with their very blood, literally, and thats not fair. Not to mention, the citizens of America are paying for it with the intentions of helping Syrians. Little do they know their money is directly helping to fund all aspects of this proxy war against Syrians.

mayor with kenan and sharrief

watan

kenan

facebook profile: https://www.facebook.com/kenanrahmani

Linkedin Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kenanrahmani

Kenan Rahmani (as pictured above with the mayor), studies law at the American University, Washington College of Law in Washington DC. Im not sure how considering the fact that he is never there. He also works for Watanusa.org as the Co director. On his linkedin page, he brags of his accomplishments such as:

Delivered a Syrian survivor & witness of Assad regime crimes to the United Nations Security Council to vicariously share his eyewitness testimony during the UNSC vote on the ICC referral via US Ambassador Samantha Power.” (This was Caesar, the infamous photographer who allegedly took pictures of tortured Syrians at the hands of the Syrian military). All bullshit. Many of the pics came from tortured Palestinians from Israel, and Syrians tortured by the mayor and company supported gangs in Syria (but thats another story).

He also claims he “Worked with Coalition for a Democratic Syria to pressure US to restrict Syria’s Ambassador to United Nations to 30 mile radius.” This was the very unfair and unjust restriction of Bashar Jaafari. He did this because Jaafari was also speaking to TRUE Syrians in the United States, and he doesnt want them organizing against his fake so called Syrians. He knew the power of Jaafari.

Organized national awareness campaign exposing a regime propagandist Mother Agnes Mariam with evidence, as confirmed by media sources; also mobilized communities to demand cancellation of her Congressional Hearing.” This was also done from the spreading the TRUTH from Syria to the United States. “Whats the matter Kenan, afraid someone might believe her story?”

Established myself as a commentator on Syria, speaking on numerous media such as BBC, CNN, Aljazeera, FOX, New York Times, and others; also spoke at major universities.” Well this explains the many lies reported from these news outlets.

Coordinated meetings with leading US politicians including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senator Richard Lugar, Rep. Keith Ellison, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Rep. Dennis Kucinich and others.” This doesnt surprise me either. It does explain a great deal of why the US is so heavily involved in the destruction of Syria. It does show a greater plan for Syria “IF” they were to be successful.

Kenan has a LONG list of so-called accomplishments he claims for the Syrian people, however NONE of them are a representation of the TRUE Syrian people. His list of what he claims are accomplishments represent the Muslim Brotherhoods wishes against Syria, and the Americans plans to fulfill them, nothing more, nothing less. Click on his links, see for yourself.

Listen to Kenan speaking to the BBC. He thinks he speaks for Syrians across Syria! Thats a joke Kenan! Its all clear EXACTLY who you speak for!!!

Mayor Khairullah also gets many funds from the organization Watanusa.org (he is wearing a watan shirt in the photo above), in which they all poor out an outcry to the Americans about how horrible Syrians are being treated (which they are, but not at the hands of the Syrian Military or Syrias president). However, the funds they collect ONLY go to A) fund their own trips around the globe and 2) care for the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS supported groups in the camps located in rebel controlled areas, or in camps located mostly in Allepo, Idlib and Turkey. ZERO, again, ZERO of the money goes to the average Syrian. Especially those who support their president. Dont be fooled. Look up Watan, its meaning, and where it originates. This particular organization in the US is only collecting Americans money to continue the “revolution” against a country that supports their president (minus the Muslim Brotherhood supporters Americans are feeding and clothing).

Blocked

The mayor knows I am on to him and his company of impostors. It might explain why he has banned me from the twitter page of the Syrian Coalition (imagine that). Because he runs that as well. Know that the Syrian Coalition consists of Americans posing as Syrians. They dont give 2 shits about the “people of Syria” as they claim, they care ONLY about the removal of the president Bashar al-Assad, so they can plant their American puppets in his place. These people represent, are friends with and support those puppets. Make NO mistake, they do NOT represent the people of Syria at all!

Note to the mayor and company, the Syrian Coalition or whoever you want to be called at this given minute. “IF” and I do emphasize “IF,” you were to have Bashar al-Assad removed from power, you and all your coalition will not survive the wrath of the Syrian people. You will not know when your time is coming, but it will… sooner or later.

The mayors facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/mohamed.t.khairullah

The mayor pictured with Shiekh Mohamed Qatanani (a major Muslim Brotherhood)

mayor and qatanani

I call upon everyone who reads this to report this mayor to the IRS, to the State of New Jersey Department of Education School Ethics Commission, to their state representatives and to anyone else you can think of. I urge you to share this report on all your social media pages as this needs to be shared with everyone to bring the proper attention to it.

I urge it to be shared in all countries across the globe. All leaders who may need to know this information. These filthy people need to be exposed for EXACTLY who they are and what they are doing. What we all can do if we do this, is destroy their reputations, destroy their chances ofEVER thinking they have a foot in Syrian politics, and cut off their money supplies from Americans who think they are helping Syrian people.

And Americans who think this mayor is “honorable?” Know he will most likely twist the knife once he plants in your back like his ISIS friends do to the Christians and minorities in Syria! Please do this… its important for the REAL Syrians survival.

hospital

PS: The mayor is now begging for money to help fund an underground “field hospital.” This is a hospital for terrorists (aka ‘foreign mercenaries’, SFP) and those who fight against the president and Syrians who support the president. The only medical staff that are fleeing Syria are the ones who didnt come from Syria, and are in “field hospitals” ran for Jihadis and THEIR families. Real Syrian medical staff are still employed at Syrian hospitals that are still open and running (at least the ones Jihadis havent blown up yet). So, why would the mayor be begging for funds to build a new one when Syria already has them? And guess what, its Watan USA collecting the funds! Surprised? Me either!

Thank you,

NevaehWest
28 May 2015

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In Yemen, and Middle East, U.S. Needs to Learn When to Quit

SOURCE

Sharmine Narwani
Sharmine Narwani is a writer and political analyst covering Middle East geopolitics and a former senior associate at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University. She is on Twitter.
UPDATED APRIL 1, 2015, 5:25 PM
Six years before the Arab Spring, a group of rural highlanders in Yemen called the Houthis rose up against an autocratic government and its foreign patrons to demand their rights.
Fast forward to 2015, and the Houthis are still fighting to redress their domestic grievances, but within a much-altered region where geopolitical rivalries between two global axes have come to a dangerous boil.

While the American instinct may be to back up its Gulf allies, Washington would be a lot wiser to rein in Saudi involvement in this civil war.

  Last week, the Saudi-led coalition of mainly Gulf Cooperation Council states and other monarchies launched airstrikes against Yemen in an aggressive bid to maintain their primacy in this fast-changing Middle East. But they cannot expect to achieve this after having sustained heavy political losses from interventions in Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Libya, Egypt and elsewhere.

Historically, Yemen has been military quicksand for invaders and interventionists, both. The country, after the course of six recent wars, is rife with weaponry and battle-hardened constituents.

So, why would the United States slip deeper into yet another Middle Eastern quagmire, in Yemen, especially after having already failed at containing Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula there?

Washington is already propping up the war effort from behind, providing military assistance and reconnaissance drones, which pick off Yemeni targets for Saudi bombers. In anticipation of this scenario, Congress approved – in the first year of the Arab Spring no less — $67 billion in weapons sales to the Saudis, including aircraft, helicopters, missiles, missile launchers, bombs and around $640 million in cluster munitions, most of which are now coming into play in this Yemeni theater.

So far the United States is operating quietly, offering neither “objectives” nor “plans” for its Yemeni adventure. But Americans need to be wary: Just yesterday, President Obama was hailing Yemen as a “counterterrorism” success. Today all bets are off, and we know through this gaff that Washington has read Yemen wrong all along.

In striving to preserve its hegemony in the region, the United States has consistently backed the wrong horse – courting wealthy and powerful autocrats and monarchs, and isolating itself from popular sentiment in the region. Nuclear talks with Iran promised a new direction: It suggested that Washington was looking to expand its relationships with regional actors capable of stemming the jihadi tide sweeping the Mideast.

In Yemen today, the United States would be wise to pursue this new path, and break with its old trajectory of militarization and confrontation alongside unsavory allies. Because this Saudi thrust for primacy is the same one that gave birth to the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, Jabhat al Nusra in Syria, AQAP in Yemen and the Islamic State everywhere.

Picking a fight with the Houthis – who have helped contain AQAP on the ground for years – instead of sitting across a table to negotiate with them, will free up extremists to run amok in the Persian Gulf.

While the American instinct may be to back up its allies, Washington would be a lot wiser to rein in the Saudis, push for diplomatic solutions, and focus on the other, infinitely more threatening conflicts at hand in the region. At the rate the Saudis are escalating, any full-on war in Yemen will cripple the entire Arabian Peninsula, and that would be a disaster for all key U.S. policy interests in the region.

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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!
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