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Washington's Dilemma on a "Lost" Planet




Does the United States still have the same level of control over the energy resources of the Middle East as it once had?

The major energy-producing countries are still firmly under the control of the Western-backed dictatorships. So, actually, the progress made by the Arab Spring is limited, but it's not insignificant. The Western-controlled dictatorial system is eroding. In fact, it's been eroding for some time. So, for example, if you go back 50 years, the energy resources -- the main concern of U.S. planners -- have been mostly nationalized. There are constantly attempts to reverse that, but they have not succeeded.

Take the U.S. invasion of Iraq, for example. To everyone except a dedicated ideologue, it was pretty obvious that we invaded Iraq not because of our love of democracy but because it's maybe the second- or third-largest source of oil in the world, and is right in the middle of the major energy-producing region. You're not supposed to say this. It's considered a conspiracy theory.

The United States was seriously defeated in Iraq by Iraqi nationalism -- mostly by nonviolent resistance. The United States could kill the insurgents, but they couldn't deal with half a million people demonstrating in the streets. Step by step, Iraq was able to dismantle the controls put in place by the occupying forces. By November 2007, it was becoming pretty clear that it was going to be very hard to reach U.S. goals. And at that point, interestingly, those goals were explicitly stated. So in November 2007 the Bush II administration came out with an official declaration about what any future arrangement with Iraq would have to be. It had two major requirements: one, that the United States must be free to carry out combat operations from its military bases, which it will retain; and two, "encouraging the flow of foreign investments to Iraq, especially American investments." In January 2008, Bush made this clear in one of his signing statements. A couple of months later, in the face of Iraqi resistance, the United States had to give that up. Control of Iraq is now disappearing before their eyes.

Iraq was an attempt to reinstitute by force something like the old system of control, but it was beaten back. In general, I think, U.S. policies remain constant, going back to the Second World War. But the capacity to implement them is declining.

Declining because of economic weakness?

Partly because the world is just becoming more diverse. It has more diverse power centers. At the end of the Second World War, the United States was absolutely at the peak of its power. It had half the world's wealth and every one of its competitors was seriously damaged or destroyed. It had a position of unimaginable security and developed plans to essentially run the world -- not unrealistically at the time.

This was called "Grand Area" planning?

Yes. Right after the Second World War, George Kennan, head of the U.S. State Department policy planning staff, and others sketched out the details, and then they were implemented. What's happening now in the Middle East and North Africa, to an extent, and in South America substantially goes all the way back to the late 1940s. The first major successful resistance to U.S. hegemony was in 1949. That's when an event took place, which, interestingly, is called "the loss of China." It's a very interesting phrase, never challenged. There was a lot of discussion about who is responsible for the loss of China. It became a huge domestic issue. But it's a very interesting phrase. You can only lose something if you own it. It was just taken for granted: we possess China -- and if they move toward independence, we've lost China. Later came concerns about "the loss of Latin America," "the loss of the Middle East," "the loss of" certain countries, all based on the premise that we own the world and anything that weakens our control is a loss to us and we wonder how to recover it.

Today, if you read, say, foreign policy journals or, in a farcical form, listen to the Republican debates, they're asking, "How do we prevent further losses?" On the other hand, the capacity to preserve control has sharply declined. By 1970, the world was already what was called tripolar economically, with a U.S.-based North American industrial center, a German-based European center, roughly comparable in size, and a Japan-based East Asian center, which was then the most dynamic growth region in the world. Since then, the global economic order has become much more diverse. So it's harder to carry out our policies, but the underlying principles have not changed much.

Take the Clinton doctrine. The Clinton doctrine was that the United States is entitled to resort to unilateral force to ensure "uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources." That goes beyond anything that George W. Bush said. But it was quiet and it wasn't arrogant and abrasive, so it didn't cause much of an uproar. The belief in that entitlement continues right to the present. It's also part of the intellectual culture.

Right after the assassination of Osama bin Laden, amid all the cheers and applause, there were a few critical comments questioning the legality of the act. Centuries ago, there used to be something called presumption of innocence. If you apprehend a suspect, he's a suspect until proven guilty. He should be brought to trial. It's a core part of American law. You can trace it back to Magna Carta. So there were a couple of voices saying maybe we shouldn't throw out the whole basis of Anglo-American law. That led to a lot of very angry and infuriated reactions, but the most interesting ones were, as usual, on the left liberal end of the spectrum. Matthew Yglesias, a well-known and highly respected left liberal commentator, wrote an article in which he ridiculed these views. He said they're "amazingly naive," silly. Then he expressed the reason. He said that "one of the main functions of the international institutional order is precisely to legitimate the use of deadly military force by western powers." Of course, he didn't mean Norway. He meant the United States. So the principle on which the international system is based is that the United States is entitled to use force at will. To talk about the United States violating international law or something like that is amazingly naive, completely silly. Incidentally, I was the target of those remarks, and I'm happy to confess my guilt. I do think that Magna Carta and international law are worth paying some attention to.

I merely mention that to illustrate that in the intellectual culture, even at what's called the left liberal end of the political spectrum, the core principles haven't changed very much. But the capacity to implement them has been sharply reduced. That's why you get all this talk about American decline. Take a look at the year-end issue of Foreign Affairs, the main establishment journal. Its big front-page cover asks, in bold face, "Is America Over?" It's a standard complaint of those who believe they should have everything. If you believe you should have everything and anything gets away from you, it's a tragedy, the world is collapsing. So is America over? A long time ago we "lost" China, we've lost Southeast Asia, we've lost South America. Maybe we'll lose the Middle East and North African countries. Is America over? It's a kind of paranoia, but it's the paranoia of the superrich and the superpowerful. If you don't have everything, it's a disaster.

The New York Times describes the "defining policy quandary of the Arab Spring: how to square contradictory American impulses that include support for democratic change, a desire for stability, and wariness of Islamists who have become a potent political force." The Times identifies three U.S. goals. What do you make of them?

Two of them are accurate. The United States is in favor of stability. But you have to remember what stability means. Stability means conformity to U.S. orders. So, for example, one of the charges against Iran, the big foreign policy threat, is that it is destabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan. How? By trying to expand its influence into neighboring countries. On the other hand, we "stabilize" countries when we invade them and destroy them.

I've occasionally quoted one of my favorite illustrations of this, which is from a well-known, very good liberal foreign policy analyst, James Chace, a former editor of Foreign Affairs. Writing about the overthrow of the Salvador Allende regime and the imposition of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in 1973, he said that we had to "destabilize" Chile in the interests of "stability." That's not perceived to be a contradiction -- and it isn't. We had to destroy the parliamentary system in order to gain stability, meaning that they do what we say. So yes, we are in favor of stability in this technical sense.

Concern about political Islam is just like concern about any independent development. Anything that's independent you have to have concern about because it might undermine you. In fact, it's a little ironic, because traditionally the United States and Britain have by and large strongly supported radical Islamic fundamentalism, not political Islam, as a force to block secular nationalism, the real concern. So, for example, Saudi Arabia is the most extreme fundamentalist state in the world, a radical Islamic state. It has a missionary zeal, is spreading radical Islam to Pakistan, funding terror. But it's the bastion of U.S. and British policy. They've consistently supported it against the threat of secular nationalism from Gamal Abdel Nasser's Egypt and Abd al-Karim Qasim's Iraq, among many others. But they don't like political Islam because it might become independent.

The first of the three points, our yearning for democracy, that's about on the level of Joseph Stalin talking about the Russian commitment to freedom, democracy, and liberty for the world. It's the kind of statement you laugh about when you hear it from commissars or Iranian clerics, but you nod politely and maybe even with awe when you hear it from their Western counterparts.

If you look at the record, the yearning for democracy is a bad joke. That's even recognized by leading scholars, though they don't put it this way. One of the major scholars on so-called democracy promotion is Thomas Carothers, who is pretty conservative and highly regarded -- a neo-Reaganite, not a flaming liberal. He worked in Reagan's State Department and has several books reviewing the course of democracy promotion, which he takes very seriously. He says, yes, this is a deep-seated American ideal, but it has a funny history. The history is that every U.S. administration is "schizophrenic." They support democracy only if it conforms to certain strategic and economic interests. He describes this as a strange pathology, as if the United States needed psychiatric treatment or something. Of course, there's another interpretation, but one that can't come to mind if you're a well-educated, properly behaved intellectual.

Within several months of the toppling of [President Hosni] Mubarak in Egypt, he was in the dock facing criminal charges and prosecution. It's inconceivable that U.S. leaders will ever be held to account for their crimes in Iraq or beyond. Is that going to change anytime soon?

That's basically the Yglesias principle: the very foundation of the international order is that the United States has the right to use violence at will. So how can you charge anybody?

And no one else has that right.

Of course not. Well, maybe our clients do. If Israel invades Lebanon and kills a thousand people and destroys half the country, okay, that's all right. It's interesting. Barack Obama was a senator before he was president. He didn't do much as a senator, but he did a couple of things, including one he was particularly proud of. In fact, if you looked at his website before the primaries, he highlighted the fact that, during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006, he cosponsored a Senate resolution demanding that the United States do nothing to impede Israel's military actions until they had achieved their objectives and censuring Iran and Syria because they were supporting resistance to Israel's destruction of southern Lebanon, incidentally, for the fifth time in 25 years. So they inherit the right. Other clients do, too. 

But the rights really reside in Washington. That's what it means to own the world. It's like the air you breathe. You can't question it. The main founder of contemporary IR [international relations] theory, Hans Morgenthau, was really quite a decent person, one of the very few political scientists and international affairs specialists to criticize the Vietnam War on moral, not tactical, grounds. Very rare. He wrote a book called The Purpose of American Politics. You already know what's coming. Other countries don't have purposes. The purpose of America, on the other hand, is "transcendent": to bring freedom and justice to the rest of the world. But he's a good scholar, like Carothers. So he went through the record. He said, when you study the record, it looks as if the United States hasn't lived up to its transcendent purpose. But then he says, to criticize our transcendent purpose "is to fall into the error of atheism, which denies the validity of religion on similar grounds" -- which is a good comparison. It's a deeply entrenched religious belief. It's so deep that it's going to be hard to disentangle it. And if anyone questions that, it leads to near hysteria and often to charges of anti-Americanism or "hating America" -- interesting concepts that don't exist in democratic societies, only in totalitarian societies and here, where they're just taken for granted.

By Noam Chomsky





Contradiction in the policy of the British government

On Wednesday afternoon in the British Parliament, near the end of question time for British Prime Minister David Cameron, a short though incredibly revealing exchange occurred between Cameron and Respect Party MP George Galloway. Whatever one's preexisting views might be of either of these two polarizing figures is entirely irrelevant to the points and facts raised here about this incident.

Galloway stood to ask Cameron about a seeming contradiction in the policy of the British government (one shared by the US government). He wanted to know why it is that the British government is so intent on fighting and bombing Islamic extremists in Mali, while simultaneously arming and funding equally brutal Islamic extremists in Syria (indeed, although it was once taboo to mention, it is now widely reported in the most establishment venues such as the New York Times that, Islamic extremists, including ones loyal to al-Qaida, are playing a major role in the war against the regime). The same question could have been posed regarding Libya, where NATO-supported rebel factions were filled with fighters with all sorts of links to al-Qaida.

There certainly are reasonable answers to Galloway's point, but whatever one's views might be on those points, there's no denying it's a reasonable question. It is simply the case that the British government, along with its NATO allies including the US, were -- in both the wars in Syria and Libya -- on the same side as, and even arming and funding, the very extremists, "jihaidists," and even al-Qaida-supporting fighters they claim pose the greatest menace to world peace.

In lieu of addressing the substance of the question, Cameron unleashed a 10-second snide attack on Galloway himself. "Some things come and go," proclaimed the Prime Minister, "but there is one thing that is certain: wherever there is a brutal Arab dictator in the world, he will have the support of [Galloway]."

The more important point here is that of all the people on the planet, there is nobody with less authority to accuse others of supporting "brutal Arab dictators in the world" than David Cameron and his NATO allies, including those in the Obama administration. Supporting "brutal Arab dictators in the world" is a perfect summary of the west's approach to the Arab world for the last five decades, and it continues to be.

In January of last year, Cameron visited the region's most repressive dictators, the close British allies in Saudi Arabia. In Riyadh, he met King Abdullah and Crown Prince Nayef in order, he said, to "broaden and deepen" the UK-Saudi relationship. That "relationship" was already quite broad and deep, as "Saudi Arabia is the UK's largest trading partner in the Middle East with annual trade worth 15bn a year."

Moreover, "a Saudi official told the BBC the leaders would discuss sales of the latest technology and weaponry, and making Britain a major part of a massive Saudi military expansion." Indeed, as the Guardian noted in 2012, "during the third quarter of last year Britain exported arms valued at more than 1m to Saudi Arabia, including components for military combat vehicles and turrets." In June, Cameron again visited Saudi Arabia as well as the UAE, and the Huffington Post UK reported at the time: "Cameron has been open about his desire to sell arms to the Saudis, the UAE and Oman."

In November -- just two months before yesterday's attack on Galloway -- Cameron again traveled around to several tyrannical Gulf states -- including his close ally Saudi Arabia as well as the United Arab Emirates -- in order to sell British fighter jets and other military hardware to those regimes. As Amnesty International UK's head of policy and government affairs Allan Hogarth said: "Saudi Arabia has been the recipient of record-breaking arms deals involving the UK." Indeed, as the Guardian noted during this trip: "In 2009 the Saudi air force used UK-supplied Tornado fighter-bombers in attacks in Yemen which killed hundreds -- possibly thousands -- of civilians."

Then there was that charming incident in May, 2011, when -- at the height of the violent crackdown by the Bahraini regime on democratic protesters -- Cameron welcomed Bahrain's Crown Prince to 10 Downing Street and posed for photographers shaking hands with the tyrant. Former Labour foreign minister Denis MacShane protested that Cameron should not be "rolling out the red carpet for Bahrain's torturer-in-chief."

In August, Cameron met with Bahrain's King in London. While the Prime Minister's office claimed he pressed the King to implement greater political reforms, the Guardian noted that the King was "given red carpet treatment in Downing Street."

Just last year, it was reported that -- despite a temporary suspension of licenses -- "Britain has continued to sell arms to Bahrain despite continuing political unrest in the Gulf state." Indeed, "several licences were granted for arms exports, including in February and March 2011, and during the height of the violence." Specifically:

"According to the figures the government approved the sale of military equipment valued at more than  - 1m in the months following the violent crackdown on demonstrators a year ago. They included licences for gun silencers, weapons sights, rifles, artillery and components for military training aircraft.

"Also cleared for export to Bahrain between July and September last year were naval guns and components for detecting and jamming improvised explosive devices."

As Maryam Al-Khawaja of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights said: "The US, UK and France attack Russia for providing weapons to Syria, but that's exactly what they are doing for the Bahrain government; Russia is criticized for a naval base in Syria, but the US has one here." Of course, Bahrain wasn't the only close UK ally to violently attack democratic protesters in the kingdom. "During last year's uprising, Saudi Arabia sent forces to Bahrain in British military trucks."

Then there's Britain's long-standing support for the Mubarak dictatorship, and Cameron's personal support for Mubarak as the protest movement unfolded. In January, 2011, as tens of thousands of Egyptians assembled to demand an end to their dictatorship, he sat for an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, who asked him whether Mubarak should resign. Cameron said: "What we support is evolution, reform, not revolution." As Egyptian police were killing protesters, this exchange then occurred:

"ZAKARIA: Is Mubarak a friend of Britain?

"CAMERON: He is a friend of Britain. Britain has good relations with Egypt."

The following month, as Mubarak's crackdown intensified, "the British government refuse[d] to say whether it would follow the example of Germany and France and suspend exports of arms and riot control equipment to Egypt." In 2009, Britain sold 16.4m worth of arms to the regime in Egypt.

In 2010, the UK granted licenses for the sale of arms to Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, the UAE and Yemen. In July of that year, shortly after Cameron assumed office, "the Scrutiny of Arms Exports report by the Parliamentary Committee on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) show[ed] that there are still 600 existing arms exports licences in place for the sale of goods including assault weapons, ammunition, and surveillence equipment, to Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen." In 2011, Der Spiegel reported:

"Britain exported over 100 million ($142 million) in weapons to Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi in the last two years alone. Included in those shipments are sniper rifles that may currently be in use against the Libyan opposition. Furthermore, Gadhafi's terror police are British-trained."

So who exactly is it that is guilty of supporting every "brutal Arab dictator in the world"? At the top of any honest list, one would find David Cameron, along with the leaders of most leading NATO countries, beginning with the US. Indeed, as Der Spiegel noted in April 2011 about yet another of Cameron's trips to visit Arab tyrants: "Cameron flew on to Kuwait, where he got down to the real purpose of his trip: selling weapons to Arab autocrats."

Cameron's so-called "slapdown" of Galloway was predictably celebrated in many precincts. The reality, though, is that it was quite cowardly: he refused to answer Galloway's question, then smeared him, knowing that he could not reply, then simply moved on to the next questioner. Galloway was able to respond afterward only by posting an open letter on his website, noting the multiple Arab dictators steadfastly supported not by Galloway but by his accuser, David Cameron.

The more important point here is that this so perfectly reflects the central propagandistic self-delusion amazingly sustained throughout the west. The very same western countries that snuggle up to and prop up the planet's worst dictators are the same ones who strut around depicting themselves as crusaders for democracy and freedom, all while smearing anyone who objects to their conduct as lovers of tyranny. That's how David Cameron can literally embrace and strengthen the autocrats of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Yemen and so many others, while accusing others with a straight face of lending support "wherever there is a brutal Arab dictator in the world."

In the most minimally rational universe, Cameron's act of extreme projection would provoke a sustained fit of mocking laughter. In the propaganda-suffused western world, it all seems perfectly cogent and even inspiring.

The Hillary Clinton version

The outgoing US Secretary of State on Wednesday unleashed this bizarre description of the Egyptian people: "It's hard going from decades under one-party or one-man rule, as somebody said, waking up from a political coma and understanding democracy." As As'ad AbuKhalil astutely replied: "The US and not the Egyptian people were in denial about the true nature of the Sadat-Mubarak regime. No, in fact they were not in denial: they knew full well what they were doing against the Egyptian people."

Indeed, it was Hillary Clinton -- not the Egyptian people -- who proclaimed in 2009: "I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family. So I hope to see him often here in Egypt and in the United States." In sum, any list of those lending support "wherever there is a brutal Arab dictator in the world" must begin with the leaders of the US and the UK in order to have any minimal credibility.

The guardian-Glenn Greenwold


Africa must exploit its own resources: ECA boss

African countries must not look to the United Nations system or other countries and institutions for development and instead fully exploit their own resources, particularly in the extractive industries  sector, to improve the standards of living of the citizenry. This was said by Dr Adam Elhiraika, who heads the Economic Analysis Section of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) at the regional launch of the 2013 World Economic Situation Prospects (WESP) here last Friday.

Dr Elhiraika said foreign conglomerates were benefiting much from Africa’s natural resources while the people of the continent lived in abject conditions, according to The Herald – Zimbabwe.

“Big companies from industrialised countries are extracting mineral resources from Africa but their activities don’t have any linkage to domestic economies,” he said.

Dr Elhiraika said African countries must beneficiate resources internally instead of exporting raw materials.

“We tell them to process the raw materials because in that way we can diversify African economies, create more jobs for Africans and increase intra-regional trade that would eventually reduce the continent’s vulnerability to external shocks.”

He said the continent should not rely on UN agencies or any other outsiders to improve the returns from the minerals sector.

The WESP report is an annual production by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the UN Conference for Trade and Development and the UN’s five economic commissions, which include ECA.

According to WESP, Africa will again largely be immune to the global economic malaise and register a growth rate higher than the global average.

“Despite the global slowdown, Africa’s economic growth rate (excluding Libya) will see a visible rebound to 4,5 percent in 2013 compared to 3,4 percent on 2012.

“The upward trend is expected to continue in 2014, with growth reaching 5 percent.

At a meeting of NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee afterwards, ECA Executive Secretary Mr Carlos Lopes called for greater mobilisation of domestic resources for Africa’s development.

He said Africa could unlock internal resources to finance infrastructure and social development instead of waiting on aid.

Mr Lopes said most infrastructure projects would cost between US$50 million and US$100 million, money that could be raised through the African Development Bank, regional lenders/financiers and private equity funds.

For instance, he noted, the Africa Infrastructure Development Fund was created to supplement investment in national and regional infrastructure projects, particularly the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa, but it was not being optimally exploited.

Mr Lopes pointed out that Africa had a thriving private equity industry, currently valued at US$30 billion held by 38 private equity funds with interests in satellite communications/technologies, roads, dams, and airports.

He further called for establishment of an African Bonds Market after noting that international bonds recently floated by countries like Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia had been massively oversubscribed.

“To make Africa’s bonds perform better, there is a need to ensure superior returns, low borrowing costs, appropriate fiscal incentives, and credit guarantee facilities to protect against default,” he said.

Mr Lopes said more should be done to tap into money that Diasporan Africans could unlock for development, citing the example of the African Export-Import Bank which arranged for Ghana to borrow US$40 million secured by Western Union transfer remittances.

“There is an enormous resource base for all these instruments to thrive in Africa such as pension funds, which are growing at a staggering pace,” he added.

Lopes emphasised the need for better tax administration in Africa, while urging countries to do more to stem illicit financial flows from the continent.

An ECA report and another by Global Financial Integrity both indicate Africa loses US$50 billion a year through illicit financial flows.


Qatar will fund the terrorists in Syria to use chemical weapons

Leaked documents from a UK-based defense contractor has revealed a Qatari proposal to the firm to counterfeit a plan to claim that Syria has given the go-ahead for the use of chemical weapons in the country.

The document, which was allegedly hacked from the UK-based company Britam Defence’s website, disclosed Qatar’s proposal to the contractor in return for a large sum of money, Lebanese Al-Manar TV reported on Tuesday.

An email exchange between two senior officials at Britam suggested that the scheme was approved by Washington, explaining that Qatar would fund the terrorists in Syria to use chemical weapons. “We’ve got a new offer. It’s about Syria again. Qataris propose an attractive deal and swear that the idea is approved by Washington,” a part of the leaked email read. According to the documents, Qatar also suggested smuggling chemical warheads and rockets from Libya to the Syrian city of Homs.

Qatar apparently asked the British company to employ and film a Ukrainian person speaking and pretending to be Russian as part of “evidence” against Syria. The new development comes as the head of Syria’s opposition coalition, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, recently announced that Qatar has pledged USD 20 million to the coalition.

The recent scheme is devised at a time when the Syrian army forces have managed to clear the capital, Damascus and its surrounding areas of the militants and restore security to northwestern mountainous regions, including Idlib.

Source: press tvB.N

President Assad: We Regained the Upper Hand

Alakhbar – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told visitors that the Syrian army "regained the initiative on the ground to a very high degree and achieved important results, which will come to light soon."

"Externally funded armed groups received several hard blows recently," Assad added.

"The US is not ready for a solution in the time being." He believed that Russia will remain his ally. "It is defending itself, not the regime in Syria," he continued, stressing that "we will not budge from the articles of the Geneva agreement."

These positions were relayed to Al-Akhbar by Arab visitors to the Syrian presidential palace who were interested in seeing the inner workings of Syrian decision-making first hand, specifically when it comes to the president himself.

Syria, which paid dear from the pockets and savings of its impoverished people in support of the Palestinian resistance, will not bend on this support. One of those visitors sat with Assad for more than three hours. He told Al-Akhbar that despite not being too influenced by anti-Assad propaganda, he was surprised at what he saw and heard. The Syrian president holds regular meetings in al-Rawda Palace in Damascus. His team follows up on his work as usual. On the personal level, the man seems calm and in control. His confidence level stands out.

From the personal to the political, president Assad surprised his guests "by his intricate reading of the situation in this phase." This comment was repeated by several people who saw him recently. He speaks about "the minutest details in the Syrian provinces. His information encompasses a street here and the news of a small neighborhood there. The reports he receives are comprehensive."

According to his visitors, " president Assad was thoroughly aware of the international efforts to solve the crisis in Syria.” Some remark by saying, “If it was not so, the state would not have been able to survive for this long, the Syrian Arab Army would not have maintained its cohesion.”

President Assad, as his visitors told Al-Akhbar, maintained that “the army has regained the initiative on the ground to a large extent, achieving important results, in addition to what it had achieved in the last 22 months. It stopped fighters from controlling whole governorates, limiting their playground to border zones with Turkey mainly, and Jordan and Lebanon to an extent. There are also some pockets in the capital’s countryside, which are being dealt with by the army. The capital Damascus is in a better situation. Its strategic points – despite all the attempts by the militants – remained safe, especially the airport road.”

Stopping at what happened at the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp outside Damascus, Assad says that camp has its symbolism, which led the Syrian leadership not to take the decision to confront the militants that occupied a part of it. The solution of the Yarmouk predicament was left to the Palestinian factions, to provide initiatives for a solution, which the Syrian official side agreed to.

The Syrian president was asked by his visitors about what he said in the Opera House about “refusing to let Syria become a hotel resort.” He answered by saying that he does not want to dwell on that debate, but “I was hurt by those who should have been witness that our dealings with the Palestinian factions were never based on religion or confession.”

The externally-funded armed groups received strong blows recently which will be followed by further measures that will lead to wiping out this al-Qaeda branch altogether.“Instead, they became false witnesses claiming that the Syrian state is acting in a sectarian manner. Logic says that we should expect them to tell the truth. We understand the circumstances of some of them, and we would have accepted their silence if they had been unable to be rightful witnesses.”

The Syrian president said that despite the positions adopted by leaders of some Palestinian factions “Syria, which paid dear from the pockets and savings of its impoverished people in support of the Palestinian resistance, will not bend on this support.”

President Assad asserted that “what the Syrian army achieved in the last few weeks will come to light soon.” He shared some details, which can be taken as an indicator of “a real change of the situation on the ground. For example, there were 15,000 citizens who returned voluntarily to Homs. The Syrian people are fed up already with all these deviants that destroyed their streets, homes, and commercial shops.”

The president said that “closing the Syrian borders to the weapons and smugglers could resolve the issue in two weeks, since the sources of money and arms will be destroyed.”

He told his visitors that “the externally-funded armed groups received strong blows recently. This development intersects with an international move, most prominently the inclusion of al-Nusra Front on the terrorism list, which will be followed by further measures that will lead to wiping out this al-Qaeda branch altogether.”

He believed that the US is not ready for a solution in the time being ,and he confirmed that Russia will continue to support him. “It is protecting itself, not the Syrian regime,” he explained, stressing that “we will not budge on the articles of the Geneva agreement.”

He stressed that Syria will continue to cooperate with the Arab-International envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, although “the latter seemed in his latest visit to Damascus to be somehow influenced by the media campaign against Syria.”

The president's visitors maintained that Brahimi suggested  the president steps down in the transitional phase on the basis that any president will not have serious powers in such a period. But the Syrian president “blocked him and explained to him in his special way that what will solve the crisis in Syria is the situation in the field, which is getting better every day in favor of the regime.”

Today, according to his visitors, president Assad is following the news about the war taking place in his country. In his opinion, he was able to surpass the most difficult stages and things will be clear soon. He stressed the need for “logistical arrangements for the next phase. There is a plan to return the refugees to their districts and homes, which will be announced in due time and there are other plans for reconstruction.”



Obama, in new interview, seems to lean away from Syria intervention

President Obama gave an exclusive interview to The New Republic’s editor, Franklin Foer, and its new owner, Chris Hughes, which the magazine published  as part of its re-launch. They mostly discussed domestic policy – his comments on gun control have already made news – but the last question, from Hughes, was about Syria.

“I wonder if you can speak about how you personally, morally, wrestle with the ongoing violence there,” Hughes, a Facebook co-founder and former Obama adviser, asked. Obama’s careful response didn’t break any news, but it seemed to strongly suggest that his current thinking is that a military intervention would be too costly or counterproductive.

Obama framed the question on what to do about Syria as one of “where and when can the United States intervene or act in ways that advance our national interest, advance our security and speak to our highest ideals and sense of common humanity.”

This is the really telling part: Obama listed some of the smaller questions that guide his thinking on Syria, all of which seem designed to weigh the potential downsides of an intervention in Syria, rather than the upsides or even how he would go about executing it. Here’s that section of his answer:

And as I wrestle with those decisions, I am more mindful probably than most of not only our incredible strengths and capabilities, but also our limitations. In a situation like Syria, I have to ask, can we make a difference in that situation? Would a military intervention have an impact? How would it affect our ability to support troops who are still in Afghanistan? What would be the aftermath of our involvement on the ground? Could it trigger even worse violence or the use of chemical weapons? What offers the best prospect of a stable post-Assad regime? And how do I weigh tens of thousands who’ve been killed in Syria versus the tens of thousands who are currently being killed in the Congo?

It’s hard to imagine how any of those questions could lead Obama to support an armed intervention; the implicit message of each one seems to be, “Wouldn’t intervening have catastrophic downsides that outweigh any upside?”

Were Obama actively considering an intervention at this point, you might expect him to be pondering questions about execution: How do we prevent Russia and China from vetoing any United Nations Security Council resolution? Who can the U.S. partner with in Syria? What are the lessons of Libya, where the U.S. supported an intervention, rather than of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it has not?

The answers to those questions might still auger against intervention, but they’d at least suggest an interest in figuring out whether it was possible or how to do it. It seems likely that Obama was asking those questions at some point, but at the moment of this interview at least, he’s not vocalizing them.


Source: The Washingtonpost/ Posted by Max Fisher



Obama! How Many Kids Have You Killed Today?

I personally found the president’s inaugural speech not just insipid, but disgusting. It reached its gut-churning nadir near the end where he said:

“We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war...We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully – not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear...And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice – not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes:  tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.”

As he spoke these uplifting phrases, US factories were cranking out, under the terms of billion-dollar Pentagon contracts, fleets of drone aircraft that daily are raining explosives down on innocent men, women and children in countries that the US is not even at war with. Most of those drone attacks are personally approved by our Nobel Peace Laureate president, who has claimed the right -- unchallenged by either Congress or the Judiciary -- to order the liquidation of anyone he deems to be a terrorist (including American citizens), as well as those, even children, who happen to be in the vicinity of such a person. Of the 362 drone strikes in Pakistan to date, 310 were launched during the period Obama has been commander in chief.

The result of this policy of state terrorism has been a wretched, criminal slaughter of children -- a slaughter that has been hidden from view, and denied wholesale by the Pentagon and the president. Over 3000 people have been killed, the vast majority of them non-combatant "collateral damage" deaths. Over 172 of these have reportedly been children.

 To borrow from the president’s own style-book, "We the People" have been complicit in ignoring this wretched slaughter. "We the People," who cringe in horror at the slaying of 20 innocent first graders in Newtown, Connecticut, don’t spare a thought or a tear for the thousands of innocent children killed in our name by our “heroic” forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya,Somalia and elsewhere, by our Presidentially-targeted drone aircraft in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, and by our weapons in the hands of allies and terrorist fighters in places like Syria,and the war on Gaza, and the West Bank of Palestine, and elsewhere.

Just to try and make this monstrous crime by this president clear, here is a partial list, compiled by the organization DronesWatch, of children, some as young as 1 and 2 years old, who have been documented as killed by US drones (they are listed by name, age and sex in that order):



Noor Aziz | 8 | male

Abdul Wasit | 17 | male

Noor Syed | 8 | female

Wajid Noor | 9 | male

Syed Wali Shah | 7 | male

Ayeesha | 3 | female

Qari Alamzeb | 14| male

Shoaib | 8 | male

Hayatullah KhaMohammad | 16 | male

Tariq Aziz | 16 | male

Sanaullah Jan | 17 | male

Maezol Khan | 8 | female

Nasir Khan | male
Naeem Khan | male

Naeemullah | male
Mohammad Tahir | 16 | male

Azizul Wahab | 15 | male

Fazal Wahab | 16 | male

Ziauddin | 16 | male

Mohammad Yunus | 16 | male

Fazal Hakim | 19 | male
Ilyas | 13 | male

Sohail | 7 | male

Asadullah | 9 | male

khalilullah | 9 | male

Noor Mohammad | 8 | male

Khalid | 12 | male
Saifullah | 9 | male

Mashooq Jan | 15 | male

Nawab | 17 | male

Sultanat Khan | 16 | male

Ziaur Rahman | 13 | male

Noor Mohammad | 15 | male

Mohammad Yaas Khan | 16 | male

Qari Alamzeb | 14 | male

Ziaur Rahman | 17 | male

Abdullah | 18 | male

Ikramullah Zada | 17 | male

Inayatur Rehman | 16 | male

Shahbuddin | 15 | male

Yahya Khan | 16 |male

Rahatullah |17 | male

Mohammad Salim | 11 | male

Shahjehan | 15 | male

Gul Sher Khan | 15 | male

Bakht Muneer | 14 | male

Numair | 14 | male

Mashooq Khan | 16 | male

Ihsanullah | 16 | male

Luqman | 12 | male

Jannatullah | 13 | male

Ismail | 12 | male

Taseel Khan | 18 | male

Zaheeruddin | 16 | male

Qari Ishaq | 19 | male

Jamshed Khan | 14 | male

Alam Nabi | 11 | male

Qari Abdul Karim | 19 | male

Rahmatullah | 14 | male

Abdus Samad | 17 | male

Siraj | 16 | male

Saeedullah | 17 | male

Abdul Waris | 16 | male

Darvesh | 13 | male

Ameer Said | 15 | male

Shaukat | 14 | male

Inayatur Rahman | 17 | male

Salman | 12 | male

Fazal Wahab | 18 | male

Baacha Rahman | 13 | male

Wali-ur-Rahman | 17 | male

Iftikhar | 17 | male

Inayatullah | 15 | male

Mashooq Khan | 16 | male

Ihsanullah | 16 | male

Luqman | 12 | male

Jannatullah | 13 | male

Ismail | 12 | male

Abdul Waris | 16 | male

Darvesh | 13 | male

Ameer Said | 15 | male

Shaukat | 14 | male

Inayatur Rahman | 17 | male

Adnan | 16 | male
Najibullah | 13 | male

Naeemullah | 17 | male
Hizbullah | 10 | male

Kitab Gul | 12 | male

Wilayat Khan | 11 | male

Zabihullah | 16 | male

Shehzad Gul | 11 | male

Shabir | 15 | male

Qari Sharifullah | 17 | male

Shafiullah | 16 | male

Nimatullah | 14 | male

Shakirullah | 16 | male

Talha | 8 | male



Afrah Ali Mohammed Nasser | 9 | female

Zayda Ali Mohammed Nasser | 7 | female

Hoda Ali Mohammed Nasser | 5 | female

Sheikha Ali Mohammed Nasser | 4 | female

Ibrahim Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 13 | male

Asmaa Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 9 | male

Salma Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 4 | female

Fatima Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 3 | female

Khadije Ali Mokbel Louqye | 1 | female

Hanaa Ali Mokbel Louqye | 6 | female

Mohammed Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye | 4 | male

Jawass Mokbel Salem Louqye | 15 | female

Maryam Hussein Abdullah Awad | 2 | female

Shafiq Hussein Abdullah Awad | 1 | female

Sheikha Nasser Mahdi Ahmad Bouh | 3 | female

Maha Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 12 | male

Soumaya Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 9 | female

Shafika Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 4 | female

Shafiq Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 2 | male

Mabrook Mouqbal Al Qadari | 13 | male

Daolah Nasser 10 years | 10 | female

AbedalGhani Mohammed Mabkhout | 12 | male

Abdel- Rahman Anwar al Awlaki | 16 | male

Abdel-Rahman al-Awlaki | 17 | male

Nasser Salim | 19|male

There are more lists and more children, these are just examples of you horrible crimes.

Source: Dave Lindorff