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

 

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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):

 

PAKISTAN



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

 

YEMEN


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: thiscantbehappening.net Dave Lindorff

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Who is behind the violence in Syria?

According to investigative journalist Silvia Cattori, the barbaric bombing of Aleppo University on January 15 has been officially claimed by the terrorist group the Al Nousra Front. This confirmation should not come as a surprise to those who have been following closely events in the Levant since March 17, 2011, when unknown snipers opened fire in the Southern Syrian town of Deraa killing several policemen and innocent protestors.

Since then, snipers and jihadist death squads from Libya, Chechnya, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, and even France and the UK inter alia, backed by Nato intelligence and Gulf petro-monarch cash, have waged a genocidal non-conventional war upon the Syrian people which has relied heavily on a sophisticated international disinformation campaign in the corporate controlled press, whereby all crimes committed by the terrorists are systematically blamed on the Syrian government.

Eighty-two students in Aleppo University were murdered on Tuesday January 15 from a missile launched by the Western media’s beloved “FSA”: these gangs of convicts, drug-smugglers, rapists, child abusers, and common thugs presented to the gullible Western public as “revolutionaries.”

Since 2011, over 2000 schools and educational centres in Syria have been destroyed by the Western-backed jihadists, who are attempting to annihilate the Syrian state in order to construct a “New Middle East” that accords with Nato and Gulf state geopolitical objectives. When will this nightmare of terrorism end?

Meanwhile, there was an icy silence in Paris, London, and Washington, not a word of condemnation after last week’s Aleppo atrocity.

The callous silence of the Western governments at the massacre in Aleppo contrasted sharply with the strong and unequivocal condemnations that came from Brazil, Venezuela, Russia, and China. The emerging powers in the world are bearing witness to the self-destruction of Western civilization through an excess of hubris, greed and megalomania.

There are no words in any language to describe the atrocities NATO‘s contras are committing against the people of Syria. But the world is looking on in horror and outrage. Large parts of Latin America know what is going on. Large parts of Asia and Russia too, know who is behind the violence in Syria. The truth will out in time. The balance of power in the world is shifting and sooner or later, the criminals behind these neo-colonial wars and their vast network of collaborators will be brought to justice. There are signs that Jordan may realign itself with Iraq, Iran, and Syria after signing new energy deals with Iraq on January. This could be fatal for the terrorists in Western Syria, as Jordan has hitherto been used as a base for the terror campaign. The Syrian state is strong enough to survive. The spirit of the Syrian people is indomitable. The illusions of the Arab Spring have faded. No one can argue now that the Arab Spring was about democracy and human rights. The Muslim Brotherhood have taken power in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya with Western support. No one can pretend any more that the conflict in Syria is about democracy.

The French military-industrial-media complex is currently buzzing with orgiastic delight as French troops re-conquer mineral and gas-rich Mali, under the pretext of fighting terrorism, while French Special Forces train and facilitate Al Qaeda affiliated terrorists in Syria — a geopolitical theatre of the absurd worthy of Ionescu!

France is one of the most culturally and politically literate civilizations in the world, and has a long and militant left-wing tradition. Yet, the only cause that rallies the official “left-wing” intelligentsia in Paris today is gay marriage. The French “left” are due to march on the streets of Paris soon in support of a new law permitting gay marriage. The French government bombed and destroyed two African countries in 2011. France is engaged in an endless colonial war in Afghanistan, while the “patrie de droits de l’homme” has been conducting a covert war in Syria since last year and is now attempting to bomb its way back into Mali with a view to destroying Algeria. Uranium-rich Niger will be next. In short, neo-colonial aggression by the French government has led to the deaths of thousands of innocent people and has ruined the lives of millions of others; it is complicit in war crimes and crimes against humanity and is leading us closer to world war, yet the French “left “are only concerned about gay marriage rights! Furthermore, domestic repression in France is on the increase with more and more troops being brought out onto the streets of Paris to “protect” the population from potential “Islamists” the French government’s Gulf friends are financing, while France’s African and Magreb immigrant minorities are constantly stopped and harassed for no reason by the police. But who cares, as long as homosexuals can marry!

On a more positive note, there are some encouraging signs of increasing political dissent emanating from the more moderate officials of French imperialism. It would appear that the US strategy of chaos, the nihilistic policy of supporting Islamic terrorists in order to destroy one state while claiming to fight them in another is becoming impossible to ignore. Former French foreign minister Dominique De Villepin told radio France Inter on January 18 that the cause of the destabilisation in Mali was Nato’s war on Libya in 2011. De Villepin conceded that Libya is now overrun by jihadist militia.

Responding to a question from a caller concerning Qatar’s role in funding Islamist groups, De Villepin seemed to indicate that it was possible that “certain Gulf states” were financing Islamist extremist groups in Mali and Syria. It is unfortunately impossible to reproduce De Vilepin’s exact response to the question concerning Qatar’s role in Syria and Mali as France Inter edited this from their podcast version. They also edited out De Villepin’s highly significant suggestion that France should enter into negotiations with Russia in an effort to resolve the geopolitical impasse in Syria. In short, the three most important contributions by the former French foreign minister wereedited out by the war propagandists running France’s state radio. In these strange, belligerent times even the voices of moderate imperialism are anathema to the roaring dogs of war.

Qatar’s financing of Islamist terror in Mali, Libya, Syria, and elsewhere and the incestuous relationship between the absolutist Gulf emirate and the Quai d’Orsay is now no secret to the more informed sections of the French public. Marine Le Pen, president of France’s far right party Front National toldFrance Info on January 18: “I would like to point out an incoherence here. We are allies of Qatar, a country which is arming terrorists all over the world.” As I pointed out in previous articles, the absence of a genuine, anti-imperialist Left is opening the door to far right opportunism. Marine Le Pen is a clever operator. She understands that a significant portion of the French public are baffled by Quai d’Orsay’s love affair with the Gulf despots. Le Pen alludes to this but does not explain the real reasons for this relationship. The real reasons for the French elite’s love affair with gulf despotism has to do with the convergence of class interests. The Gulf despots support neo-liberal capitalism. They are authoritarian and neo-feudal. There is nothing Western capitalists love more than authoritarian regimes who comply with western economic interests and crush all dissent. For example, Qatari poet Mohammed Al-Ajami was imprisoned for life recently for the crime of criticizing the Emir of Qatar.

The Far Right will never explain the class basis for the West’s alliance with Wahhabite terrorism. That is because the Far Right represents the same class as their “moderate” Right and “Centre” Left opponents. Therefore, Le Pen will use her access to mainstream media to hoodwink disaffected French citizens into supporting her candidacy for the next presidential election. By then, the chaos wrought by Hollande’s government in the Middle East and throughout Africa will set the stage for Le Pen’s fascist programme to “restore order.” Once in power, the true nature of the Front National’s tyranny will be unleashed on what is left of genuine left-wing opponents in France.

As in the 1930s, a weak “social democracy” paves the way for the ascendance of the Far Right. Only this time there is no communist party to fight them.

Instead there are farcical characters such as Jean-Luc Mélanchon, leader of the “left-wing” coalition known as Front de Gauche. Mélanchon also spoke toFrance Inter on January 18, where he simple expressed reserve at the legitimacy of the French intervention. However, when asked if he agreed with ultra-conservative Gisgard d’Estaing’s comment that the French intervention was “neo-colonialism,” Mélanchon said he would not use such terms. One should not forget that Mélanchon supported France’s bombing of the Libyan people in 2011 and also supports France’s covert war on Syria. Yet, this is a man who claims to be “left-wing” and an admirer of genuine anti-imperialist leaders such as Hugo Chavez of Venezuela! Cherchez l’erreur!

This is not the first time Qatar’s funding of Islamic terrorism has been admitted by the mainstream French media. The widely read satirical journalLe Canard Enchainé published an article in June 2012 confirming the fact long exposed by the alternative media that France’s closest “partner” in the Middle East was in fact a state-sponsor of Islamist terrorism. Alain Chouet, the former chef de service of the French intelligence agency has alsoconfirmed the role of Qatar in financing Islamic terrorism in Syria and Mali. It is now becoming impossible to ignore the horrible reality behind France’s foreign wars, as more and more officials and mainstream journalists are exposing the French government’s complicity in terrorism. Using the Special Forces and terrorist groups of the petro-monarchies to destabilize resource rich nations and attain geo-political objectives; only fools and simpletons could fail to see the devastating reality of this insane quest for global hegemony.

After the repression of the Paris Commune in 1871, the reactionary French government of Adolphe Thiers promoted the Catholic religion in education as a means of deflecting the desires of the French working class away for social justice towards piety and obedience to the bourgeois state. A similar policy was adopted in Ireland by the British imperial state after the failure of the Young Irelander uprising of 1848. Catholic seminaries proliferated and Irish workers were told to put up with their fate in this life in order to secure deliverance in the next. This is the current policy of many European governments, who are allowing the feudal monarchies of the Gulf to take control of their Muslim populated, proletarian suburbs. Thus Qatar is now the chief foreign investor in France’s poor suburbs where young, ignorant Muslims are indoctrinated in neo-feudalist obscurantism, thereby deflecting them from the path of class struggle and social liberation.

The absurdity of current French foreign policy becomes glaringly apparent when one considers the fact that secular, Syria, more than any other country in the Middle East, has deep cultural ties with France. Until last year, French tourists flocked to Syria’s hundreds of breath-taking historical and archeological sites. The Syrian government has always been a keen promoter of French culture. Syria is one of the few Arab countries where books by atheist authors are widely read. Secularism is as fundamental to modern Syria as it is to France.

In this sense, Bachar Al-Assad’s Syria is ironically the most pro-Western country in the Middle East and France could have no greater ally against Islamist terrorism than the Syrian Arab Republic, yet Paris backs the Islamists! Both the Syrian president and the Syrian UN Ambassador Dr. Bashar Ja’afari speak French. In spite of this, Dr. Ja’afari has never been invited to speak on French TV or radio. Not once has the Syrian government been allowed to present its side of the story to the French public. Paris’s corrupt elites are only interested in talking to the semi-literate thugs of the Gulf States who keep their own people in ignorance, while promoting the most barbaric form of anti-Islam around the world. After all, the state of bondage which subjects of these countries experience represents a model society for the degenerate transatlantic oligarchs.

Notwithstanding the efforts of some of France’s most authoritative Arabists such as world-renowned Franco-Syrian scholar Bassam Tahhan to inform the French public about the true nature of events in Syria, the French ruling elite continues to mask its crimes in palid pronouncements on human rights and democracy. Blogger Alain Jules puts it eloquently when he writes:

Storm and fury lurk behind a kneaded facade of goodness. The permanent refusal to shake hands, the dictat, the violence and the perpetual, morbid and mortifying logos.

Describing the French political scene in Paris during the 1930’s, Micheal Jabara Carley writes: “This was the “Republic of Pals” where “rigorously honest men were on good terms with fairly honest men who were on good terms with shady men who were on good terms with despicable crooks.”1

Despicable crooks are still running this world and as Malcolm X understood too well, their media servants in all languages work over time to make us love the crooks and hate their victims.

Source: infowarsusa

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The Zionist and American elections: no war against Iran

 

 

 

The call for early elections brought Benyamin Netanyahu a Pyrrhic victory. The Israeli voters made it clear that his dreams are not up to the sky. Netanyahu and his right-wing partner Avigdor Lieberman scored a heavy defeat.  They lost 25 percent of their seats in the Knesset; they downsized from 41 to 31 seats. Both camps, the right-wingers and the so-called Zionist left, are in a dead heat.

Netanyahu has two options: either he forms a purely right-wing government that encompasses the lunatic fringe in Israel, which would lead Israel into total international isolation, or he includes some of the other more reasonable parties from the so-called Zionist left into the new government. There is also a chance for the “progressive” parts of Israeli society to form a government that would include the Sephardic Shas party and United Thorah Judaism; both are only interested to serve their clients.

The main massage that comes out of this election is that the Israelis don’t want to go to war with Iran. The American people have sent a similar message by reelecting Barack Obama. The nomination of John Kerry as Secretary of State and Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary has sent a clear signal to Netanyahu. When rumors of Hagel’s nomination began circulating in December, the neoconservative war party together with the lunatic fringe of the US-American “Israel Lobby” started a smear campaign against Chuck Hagel. They even stigmatized him an “anti-Semite”. Because of the following statement, the “Israel Lobby” and their right-wing cheerleaders will try to prevent Hagel’s confirmation as Secretary of Defense by the US Senate:

“The political reality is that (…) the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here (Hagel meant Capitol Hill L. W.) (…) I’ve always argued against some of the dumb things they do, because I don’t think it’s in the interest of Israel (…) I’m not an Israeli senator. I’m a United States senator. I support Israel, but my first interest is I take an oath of office to the Constitution of the United States, not to a president, not to a party, not to Israel.” Besides this truism, Hagel is not trigger-happy what Iran’s nuclear program and its peaceful use of nuclear energy is concerned.  He talked very realistically about the motives of the Iranian leadership and met with Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations.

The slandering of Chuck Hagel was formally not done by AIPAC, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, but by the Neocons and the pro-Zionist “infantry”. The investigative journalist Max Blumenthal gave three reasons why AIPAC kept “its fingerprints off the public campaign to demonize Hagel”: Firstly, they did not want to alienate the most reliable Democratic allies in Congress; secondly, AIPAC did not want to contribute further the bad feelings Obama has about Netanyahu because of his support for Mitt Romney and his public exposure of US-President.  Last but not least, AIPAC could lose its privileged lobby status. Foreign lobbies have to register with the US-Department of Justice. This registration of AIPAC could be overdue. The new Obama administration should tackle the issue.  J. M. Rosenberg in his article “AIPAC run the Anti-Hagel Campaign, And it lost” from January 16, 2013 gave a meaningful insight into AIPAC’s operations.

According to the author, on his first day with AIPAC, he received a memo from the then deputy director of AIPAC, Steve Rosen, (who was subsequently fired by AIPAC, after being indicted on an espionage charge) which read: “A lobby is like a night flower: It thrives in the dark and dies in the light.” Obama was right when he declared shortly before the Israeli elections that “Israel doesn’t know what its best interests are”. Hagel will go through an intensive questioning and must perhaps demonstrate his absolute loyalty to Israel, but ultimately he’ll get the confirmation by the Senate.

It seems as if Netanyahu is still obsessed with Iran’s non-existing nuclear weapons program that he even talked about it to his party faithful at the Likud headquarter last night. At least, the international community is fed up with the Israeli predictions that are more inexact than the weather forecasts. For the last 20 years, Israeli politicians have warned the world that Iran’s nuclear bomb is just around the corner. Netanyahu and his pro-Zionist supporters in the US should know that the new Obama administration can’t be manipulated into an attack on Iran. If Netanyahu can’t hold back, he should act unilaterally and should take the heat and the repercussions alone.  By a possible attack, Netanyahu will definitely drive Israel politically against the wall.

 

By Ludwig Watzal-MWCnews

 

B.N.

 

 

 

Syria’s Reconciliation Minister:Turkish Role in Syria 'Very Bad'

In an exclusive interview with Al-Monitor from his office in Damascus, Syria, Ali Haidar, Syria's minister of national reconciliation and leader of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, said that President Bashar Assad’s recent speech consisted of “preliminary ideas” about a transitional phase in Syria and should not be discounted.

 “We personally think that this is the first time that the president has put forward a set of ideas which constitute a step forward toward solving the crisis,” Haidar said, adding that “the relationship between Assad's proposal, the Geneva Initiative and Lakhdar Brahimi's statement was a set of principles to resolve the crisis."

Haidar explained that Assad’s proposals lay out a process leading to a referendum on a new constitution.

“This is when the role of this current government will come to an end,” Haidar said, “paving the way for a new government that will be the product of subsequent elections and the national dialogue."

Haidar described the Turkish role in Syria as “very bad,” adding that Ankara’s “role is based upon a sectarian position, and they are supporting some of the Syrian people at the expense of others."

In contrast, Haidar praised the roles of Iran and Russia in Syria.

"There has been full agreement between Assad's proposal and what Iran understands the transitional phase to mean,” said Haidar.

He added that “it is in Russia’s best interest to continue to protect the Syrian people against any decision by the Security Council, which could allow a military intervention in Syria. Russia continues to push all political forces towards the national dialogue."

The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, according to Haidar, is complicit in the continued violence in Syria by advocating only a military solution to the conflict.

“I will say that merely through resorting to violent means, through excluding a segment of Syrians from the future dialogue table, from refusing to participate in dialogue, this makes [the coalition] responsible for a large part of the violence that is happening in Syria,” he said.

Haidar, who is one of only two opposition parliamentarians with a ministerial post, has been working with opposition figures inside Syria to achieve a wide ranging dialogue in support of a political solution.

“This conference will be held under the banner of 'Yes to Dialogue and No to Violence' or 'No to Violence and Yes to Democracy and Dialogue,'” he said.

The full text of the interview follows:

Al-Monitor:  On Jan. 6, President Bashar al-Assad gave a speech that was termed as both defiant and disappointing by many Western officials. How do you evaluate the president’s three-stage proposal? What did he say that you found helpful? Is it a step forward? And how does it correspond, in your view, with Special Representative Brahimi’s initiative and what is known as the Geneva Plan?

Haidar:  First of all, his speech was deemed as defiant and disappointing by just one party but not by all the international parties, as there were other parties who had a different opinion and who thought that the ideas proposed by President Assad were good and could be built upon. We personally think that this is the first time that the president has put forward a set of ideas which constitute a step forward toward solving the crisis, and of the government being in charge of establishing an integral initiative. As for the correspondence with Special Representative Brahimi’s initiative and what is known as the Geneva Plan, it should be noted that first, Lakhdar Brahimi has not yet come up with an integral plan. He is still at the stage of listening and talking about ideas. The Geneva Initiative is different from Lakhdar Brahimi's suggestion. The Geneva Initiative is an integral project that is based on the idea of a transitional period but that lacks in-depth detail on the meaning of the transitional phase. Thus, the transitional phase was the basis of what politicians have widely called constructive ambiguity because the international political conditions are still not ripe for the achievement of a final political solution. Thus, Assad’s proposal consists of preliminary ideas about the Syrian meaning of such a transitional phase. Likewise, the relationship between Assad's proposal, the Geneva Initiative and Lakhdar Brahimi's statement was a set of principles to resolve the crisis. These converge at times but diverge at others depending on the major countries' understanding of the meaning of the transitional phase. On the one hand, there has been full agreement between Assad's proposal and what Iran understands the transitional phase to mean. On the other, there is a set of ideas that can be built upon according to Russia and China. Meanwhile, other nations, such as the US and France believe that there is a huge difference between Assad's proposal and their understanding of the meaning of transitional phase.

Al-Monitor:  On Jan. 11, following his meeting with US Deputy Secretary of State Williams Burns and Russian Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said that they “underlined the necessity to achieve a political solution based on the Geneva Communiqué of June 30, 2012. As you know, a key element of the communiqué is the governing body, which should exercise full executive powers during its existence. And we agreed that full executive powers mean all the powers of state.” What is your view of the transitional governing body and what do you understand by “full executive powers?” How do you envision the process for a “political solution?"

Haidar:  The Burns-Bogdanov meeting did not bring anything new and what was announced by Lakhdar Brahimi was nothing new because everyone agrees on the need to reach a political solution, but each party has its own understanding of the meaning of what constitutes a political solution. However, it should be noted that the Geneva Initiative does not mention a governing body, but a transitional government with large or full executive powers. As opposed to what some understood, this does not mean that the full executive powers mean all of the powers of state, because the powers of state include legislation, implementation and the state’s higher policy. This policy is not part of the powers of the governing bodies or of the transitional government. This brings us back to the crux of the matter in understanding the meaning of the transitional period, which has been used as one of the main principles of the Geneva Communiqué. However, this does not mean that there is an international consensus on the meaning of the transitional phase. Therefore, the outcome of this meeting and Lakhdar Brahimi's press release do not mean that there is a consensus, that there is an agreement, that there is a governing body or a transitional government tasked with all of the state powers, but executive powers only. In fact, the executive power, not only in Syria but across the world, excludes foreign policy and the military. And the military is different from security. Therefore, even on this point there is a different understanding between Russia and America. Moreover, Lakhdar Brahimi's statement was a little ambiguous in this regard.

Al-Monitor:  That same day Mr. Brahimi was asked about his comments to the BBC last week that implied there might be no role for President Assad in a transitional government. He clarified that he “said the Syrian people are saying that 40 years is enough. And I never said that there will be no place for members of the government, I never said that.” In your opinion, what would be the role of the present government be in the transition process? Do you believe Mr. Brahimi still has the trust and confidence of the Syrian government to perform his role as mediator?

Haidar:  First of all, there is an issue that has not yet been addressed, neither at the Geneva Conference, nor in the Burns-Bogdanov meeting, nor in the recent meeting held between the two a few days ago: It is the role of President Assad in the transitional phase and the next presidential election. This is one of the unresolved dilemmas. Once again, there is a mysterious understanding and explanation based on this unfathomable understanding of the transitional phase. Lakhdar Brahimi's statements to date make him embarrassed to stay an honest broker between all parties of the Syrian people. By the way, this does not mean that I support another explanation.

However, I believe that those who seek to play the role of mediator must stand the same distance from everyone. As a result, there has been disagreement among Syrians on this point. We wish to use constitutional and legal means to come up with a solution. We do not work on the whim of major countries. Who said that the Syrian people believe that 40 years are enough? Yes, there is a part of the Syrian people who believe that 40 years are enough. However, others say that this matter is not subject to the decision of others. They say that this issue will be decided through the ballot box in the coming days. Therefore, people are urged to cast their votes with full transparency and international support. This is how we find out whether people will vote for the regime or not. Yet, this issue has yet to be resolved and agreed upon among all forces.

Regarding the role of Lakhdar Brahimi, I believe that as a mediator, he is relying on two main points to make his mission a successful one. We talked about this issue when we last met with him. Again, we confirm that Brahimi must stand an equal distance from all parties. He ought not to rush in, making inflammatory statements that could provoke both sides. Brahimi ought to leave this matter to national dialogue and to the results of the ballot boxes, which will be our vote on the outcome of the national dialogue. Thus, his making of early judgments suggest that Mr. Brahimi is not an honest mediator. Should he continue with this approach, his mission will be disrupted inevitably.

As for the role of the current government, this matter depends entirely on the political process as a whole. If we accepted the proposals put forward by President Assad in his political project, then the current government ought to prepare for a national dialogue conference, and secure infrastructure logistics to launch the national project. Once a national charter is produced, we shall head to the polls. This is when the role of this current government will come to an end, paving the way for a new government that will be the product of subsequent elections and the national dialogue.

However, if we head to the political process from a different position, a government of national unity could be produced, but during the first stages of the political process. Therefore, the role of such a government would be subject to the political process that ought to be launched. Should we begin with the political initiative of President Assad, we believe that the product of this initiative would be a government that would have a major role in bringing the political forces together at the negotiating table. This could be done by defusing tension, or addressing pending issues that are likely to improve the people’s conditions and convince friendly nations of the feasibility of this project so it can be supported on an international level. The role of this government would end once the national dialogue had been implemented.

Al-Monitor:  We have seen the limits of Russian influence, and that Moscow does not have the capability to engineer the departure of President Assad, as some had speculated. What in your view is the most useful role Russia can play at this point? Are you engaged with Russian officials?

Haidar:  I shall begin from the end. The contact is continuous with our Russian friends, whether through the Russian embassy or the Russian ambassador, who is staying in Damascus. We have also met with Russian officers affiliated with Russia’s Foreign Ministry, during previous visits to the country. We have had three consecutive visits to Moscow, since the beginning of the crisis. We have met Mr. Lavrov twice and Mr. Bogdanov three times. Thus, we are in continuous contact with the Russians. It must be noted, however, that it is in Russia’s best interest to continue to protect the Syrian people against any decision by the Security Council, which could allow a military intervention in Syria. Russia continues to push all political forces towards the national dialogue.

Nevertheless, whether or not the Russians are able to sway the president’s decision to step down, it does not give any indication of their power and influence in Syria. In the first place, Russia does not believe that Assad’s departure will solve the Syrian crisis. Thus, their efforts have never been channeled in this direction.

According to the reading of Russia and some other nations, Assad’s departure under these circumstances and under international pressure will only complicate matters. Indeed, should Assad step down now, the bloodshed will increase, spreading chaos across the existing or remaining state institutions. This is not to mention that the influence of foreign forces in Syria that are linked to terrorist organizations will grow rapidly. Thus, there is a certain consent that President Assad’s role is essential to reach a solution and therefore, efforts are being employed to let him embark on the path of a political process, instead of pushing him to step down.

Al-Monitor:  The leadership of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces are demanding regime change prior to negotiations. Are you in contact with the National Council? What is your message to them? How do you assess their influence within Syria, and their relationship to FSA forces?

Revolution in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia?

 

 

 

The overthrow of the Saudi royals is finally a possibility. In an excerpt from a new Brookings Institution briefing book for Obama’s second term, Bruce Riedel on what a catastrophe it would be for Obama.

Saudi Arabia is the world’s last absolute monarchy. Like Louis XIV, King Abdullah has complete authority to do as he likes. But while a revolution in Saudi Arabia is still not likely, the Arab Awakening has made one possible for the first time, and it could come in President Obama’s second term

Revolutionary change in the kingdom would be a disaster for American interests across the board. Saudi Arabia is America’s oldest ally in the Middle East, a partnership that dates to 1945.

The United States has no serious option for heading off a revolution if it is coming; we are already too deeply wedded to the kingdom. Obama should ensure the best possible intelligence is available to see a crisis coming and then try to ride the storm.

Still , the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a proven survivor. Two earlier Saudi kingdoms were defeated by the Ottoman Empire and eradicated. The Sauds came back. They survived a wave of revolutions against Arab monarchies in the 1950s and 1960s. A jihadist coup attempt in 1979 seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca but was crushed. Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda staged a four-year insurrection to topple the Sauds and failed less than a decade ago. Saudi al Qaeda cadres remain in the kingdom and next door in Yemen.

Today the Arab Awakening presents the kingdom with its most severe test to date. The same demographic challenges that prompted revolution in Egypt and Yemen, a very young population and very high underemployment, apply in Saudi Arabia. Extreme gender discrimination, long-standing regional differences, and a restive Shia minority add to the explosive potential. In recognition of their vulnerability, the Saudi royals have spent more than $130 billion since the Arab Awakening began to try to buy off dissent at home. They have made cosmetic reforms to let women sit in a powerless consulting council.

Abroad they have sent tanks and troops across the King Fahd Causeway to stifle revolution in Bahrain, brokered a political deal in Yemen to replace Ali Abdullah Salih with his deputy, and sought closer unity among the six Gulf Cooperation Council monarchies. They also have invited Jordan and Morocco to join the kings’ club. But they are pragmatists too and have backed revolutions in Libya and Syria that fight old enemies of the kingdom.

The Saudis fear, probably rightly, that real power sharing is impossible in an absolutist state. But we should plan very quietly for the worst.

If an awakening takes place in Saudi Arabia, it will probably look a lot like the revolutions in the other Arab states. Already demonstrations, peaceful and violent, have wracked the oil rich Eastern Province for more than a year. These are Shia protests and thus atypical of the rest of the kingdom. Shia dissidents in ARAMCO, the Saudi oil company, also have used cyberwarfare to attack its computer systems, crashing more than 30,000 work stations this August.

Much more disturbing to the royals would be protests in Sunni parts of the kingdom. These might start in the so-called Quran Belt north of the capital, where dissent is endemic, or in the poor Asir province on the Yemeni border. Once they begin, they could snowball and reach the major cities of the Hejaz, including Jeddah, Mecca, Taif, and Medina.

The Saudi opposition has a vibrant information technology component that could ensure rapid communication of dissent within the kingdom and to the outside world.

The critical defender of the regime would be the National Guard. Abdullah has spent his life building this Praetorian elite force. The United States has trained and equipped it with tens of billions in helicopters and armored vehicles. But the key unknown is whether the Guard will shoot on its brothers and sisters in the street. It may fragment or it may simply refuse to suppress dissent if it is largely peaceful, especially at the start.

The succession issue adds another layer of complication. Every succession in the kingdom since its founder, Abdel Aziz bin Saud, died in 1953 has been to his brothers. King Abdullah and Crown Prince Salman are the end of the brood; only a couple of possible remaining half brothers are suitable. Both the king and crown prince are ill, and both are often unfit for duty. If Abdullah and/or Salman die as unrest begins—a real possibility—and a succession crisis ensues, then the kingdom could be even more vulnerable to revolution.

As in other Arab revolutions, the opposition revolutionaries will not be united on anything except ousting the monarchy. There will be secular democrats but also al Qaeda elements in the opposition. Trying to pick and choose will be very difficult.

The unity of the kingdom could collapse as the Hejaz separates from the rest, the east falls to Shia, and the center becomes a jihadist stronghold.

For the United States, revolution in Saudi Arabia would be a game changer. While the U.S. can live without Saudi oil, China, India, Japan, and Europe cannot. Any disruption in Saudi oil exports—whether due to unrest, cyberattacks, or a new regime’s decision to reduce exports substantially—will have a major impact on the global economy.

In addition, the CIA war against al Qaeda is heavily dependent on the kingdom : Saudi intelligence operations foiled the last two attacks by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula on the American homeland. The U.S. military training mission in the kingdom, founded in 1953, is the largest of its kind in the world. The Saudis also have been a key player in containing Iran for decades.

 

The other monarchs of Arabia, meanwhile, would be in jeopardy if revolution comes to Saudi Arabia. The Sunni minority in Bahrain could not last without Saudi money and tanks.

Despite all their money, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates are city - states that would be unable to defend themselves against a revolutionary regime in what had been the kingdom.

The Hashemite dynasty in Jordan would be at risk as well without Saudi and Gulf money and oil.

Only Oman is probably isolated and strong enough to endure.

America has no serious options for effecting gradual reform in the kingdom. The Saudis fear, probably rightly, that real power sharing is impossible in an absolutist state. But we should plan very quietly for the worst.

The intelligence community should be directed to make internal developments, not just counterterrorism, its top priority in the kingdom now.

We cannot afford a surprise like Iran in 1978, and we need to know the players in the opposition, especially the Wahhabi clerics, in depth.

This will be a formidable challenge, but it is essential to preparing for a very dark swan.

Daily  Beast- Bruce Riedel

B.N.

 

 

 

Saudi, Turkish and Qatari Spies Operating in Syria

A large number of spying cells from Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar are operating in Syria to help the armed rebels topple the Damascus government, sources said on Sunday.

Informed sources told the Palestinian al-Manar weekly that Israeli, Saudi, Turkish and Qatari intelligence officers, backed by the US, have infiltrated into Syria via the Turkish borders, adding that each spying cell is comprised of 16 agents.

According to the sources, the main goal of the intelligence groups is gathering intelligence, specially in the form of footage and images, from Syria’s sensitive and important sites, the country’s military grid and power in particular.

The spying cells have also been provided with a list of Syria’s prominent scientists and experts in different fields to kidnap and assassinate them, the sources said, elaborating on the mission of the multinational espionage operations underway in Syria.

Al-Manar had also earlier reported that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been financing and supplying armed groups in Syria with more explosive materials they have recently purchased from the US, Israel and UK in a bid to help the terrorists carry out their anti-government operations in the Arab country.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have smuggled the explosives to Syria with the assistance of the intelligence services of the Arab country’s neighboring countries, including Turkey, the al-Manar quoted informed security sources as saying in December.

The sources also disclosed that there are special terrorist garrisons in Turkey which are administered by the security officers of Israel and western countries.

So far, several sources have disclosed that Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been financing and dispatching terrorists in Syria and smuggle weapons to the crisis-hit country for campaign against Assad’s government.

Reports coming from Syria in mid 2012 said that Saudi Arabia and Qatar in collaboration with the US and Britain have set up a secret command center in Turkey to supply the terrorists in Syria with military and communications aid to seize control of Aleppo city from the Syrian government.

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