No one has the last word on Syria

By  M K Bhadrakumar

Asia  Times

 

Is the crunch time coming?

What is apparently on the cards is a process of formation of a transitional government in Syria.

To my mind, The Syrian president will remain where he is through this year and into the early part of next year when his presidential term ends.

The next big question will be : Will the Syrian opposition countenance the president’s continuance? The odds, again, are that they will.

Such an impression becomes unavoidable from the joint press conference by the Egyptian and Saudi foreign ministers last week at Riyadh...What the Saudi FM Saud Al-Faisal didn’t say struck me as very meaningful : he didn’t repeat the Saudi demand that the president should forthwith step down.

On the other hand, what Faisal actually said was rather interesting; he said the way out of the crisis in Syria and “the conditions for a solution are the responsibility of the Syrian people.” 

Faisal’s remarks take added meaning when we factor in that in the ‘rare speech’ by the president later in the weekend in Damascus, he didn’t criticize Saudi Arabia for arming and funding the Syrian rebels although he said some very harsh things about the countries that are fueling the sectarianism in Syria.

(Interestingly, Faisal also hit out at the specter of the hydra-headed monster of sectarianism rearing its head in the region).

To be sure, the Saudis feel uneasy about the rise of Muslim Brotherhood....The UAE claims it just smashed up a clandestine MB cell.

On the contrary, Qatar has become the big-time patron of the MB...Qatar just announced that it is doubling the financial assistance to the MB-led government in Egypt to a princely sum of $5 billion.

Qatar is loosening the purse on the eve of the visit by the Iranian FM Ali Akbar Salehi to Cairo, the first ‘bilateral’ by an Iranian FM for decades...Syria is bound to figure at Salehi’s talks in Cairo.

Surely, from all accounts, Egypt’s MB has some big choices to make between Qatar, Iran and Saudi Arabia — and, vis-a-vis the situation in Syria or Jordan....Conceivably, Egypt’s MB leaders being master tacticians will make multiple choices.

Equally, the Saudi-Qatari divergence over Syria puts Turkey in some dilemma...This may partly explain why Turkish rhetoric against the president has lately diminished...Some rethinking on Syria is apparently going on...At any rate, Ankara is refocusing seriously on the Kurdish problem and may be approaching the threshold of a reopening of the peace track with the PKK...The developments in Syria would have a bearing on the peace track with PKK.

Thus, the short point becomes clear : Russian and American diplomats meeting in Geneva  cannot pretend that they own Syria....An Iranian expert recently noted, “It is true that Russia and the US are the two influential powers in Syria’s developments...But this does not mean that if they agree on an issue, it will be certainly implemented in Syria...Of course, both these powers play determining roles, but they do not control all developments in Syria....A general conclusion must be reached based on all the views within Syria and those of the countries which impact the trend of the crisis, including France, Iran, Turkey, Q

And I say Syrian people has the last word in Syria, we reject the foreign interference, and as our president said" that dialogue is the only solution", through dialogue we can achieve the supreme national interest.

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A new scenario for undermining the resistance front

Faresnews-Spokesman for the national security and foreign policy committee of Iran’s Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majlis) warned the Iraqi nation against the scenario to make the country insecure.

According to IRIB, commenting on the recent unrest in Iraq and the demonstration in Al-Anbar region, Seyyed Hussein Naqavi Husseini added that the west’s frustration of toppling Bashar Assad’s government has made enemies scheme a new scenario for undermining the resistance front.

Noting that the west and the reactionary regimes of the region try to put into action the Syrian model in Iraq, the Iranian legislator made it clear that creating sectarian war and putting different tribes against each other is an attempt started by the west after the stability has been set up in the country.

Stressing that the tensions in Iraq are indeed Western-Arab sedition, Naqavi Husseini went on to say, “The west and some of the reactionary Arab states of the region seek to pave the grounds of implementing their foiled scenario of Syria via creating crisis.”

The spokesman for the national security and foreign policy committee of the Iranian parliament elaborated that the western and Arab regimes are pursuing to put obstacles on the course of the Iraqi government adding that, through the movement of the Iraqi government and nation toward political, economic stability and finding a significant role in the regional and global developments, today Iraq has found a special status after Saddam’s ouster that is disliked by some countries.

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occupation orders Palestinians out of 'tent city'

The Israeli Civil Administration has given Palestinian activists an ultimatum to quit a protest camp in part of the occupied West Bank where Israel has vowed to build new settler homes.

As Palestinian politicians and others visited the site on Saturday in a show of support, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu issued a statement affirming his military's order and asking that the "High Court of Justice rescind the injunction that it had issued and which is delaying the evacuation".

The statement also declared the "closure of access roads to the area in order to prevent gatherings".

More than 200 activists erected the 20-tent "outpost" on Friday in the sensitive West Bank corridor east of Jerusalem where Palestinians say Israeli settlement construction would make the creation of a viable Palestinian state highly problematic.

The protesters modelled their action on the wildcat outposts set up by Israeli settler activists on Palestinian land in a bid to force the government's hand into authorising settlement activity.

"Members of the Israeli Civil Administration told us this morning that we have one hour to evacuate the site," one of the organisers, Abir Kopty, told the AFP news agency.

"We have no intention of leaving of our own accord," she said, adding that the Israeli authorities had declared the area a "closed military zone" and demanded that the activists leave, but had made no demand for the tents to be taken down.

'Highly creative' action

The Israeli military administration had issued previous expulsion orders against the activists but late on Friday they successfully petitioned the Israeli supreme court for the orders to be frozen.

Late on Saturday morning, Israeli security forces were deployed near the camp and a police helicopter hovered overhead.

More than 50 more activists managed to reach the camp from the West Bank city of Ramallah to join the activists and others were trying to do so from the city of Hebron, organisers said on Twitter.

Palestinian politicians, including member of parliament Mustafa Barghouti, also made solidarity visits to the protest camp, where activists were recovering from a freezing night under canvas amid the cold snap gripping the Middle East.

PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said soldiers prevented him from joining the protest on Saturday and told him to turn back to Ramallah, just down the hill from the camp.

The protest outpost, dubbed Bab al-Shams (Gate of the Sun in Arabic), was welcomed on Friday by a senior Palestinian official who described it as a "highly creative and legitimate non-violent" way of protecting Palestinian land from Israeli settlement activity.

The camp lies between annexed East Jerusalem and the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim.

The international community regards all Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land as illegal.

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A cry from a student at Damascus university

This observer has learned from time in this region that if one wants to learn what is happening on the ground politically and socially it is fine to speak with government officials, journalists, long tenured academicians, NGO's, and people on the street. But I have learned that one of the best sources of objective information comes from university students. As explained to one official the other day, if ones sit with half a dozen graduate students one is sure to witness and benefit from a spirited, challenging exchange with varying points of view and few expressed without having to justify to the others one's positions or interpretation of events.

It is for this reason that when this observer gets the chance he heads for a college in Damascus.

Today in Syria, from the streets and cafes to the Universities, a main subject of discussion and one that is nearly universally judged immoral and illegal are the US-led sanctions that in effect, are targeting the civilian population.

Partly as result of these brutal sanctions, today four million people in this country need of some type of humanitarian aid and as of today, there are 637,958 registered refugees inside Syria who are in need of emergency help, a 57,000 person increase from last year at this time.

The fighting here has obviously contributed to the continuing crisis faced by the civilian population. For example, the increasingly dangerous situation means that the World Food Program has evacuated its staff from Homs, Aleppo, Tartus, Qamisly and other areas. The reason is that the past three months saw a sharp rise in the number of attacks on WFP aid trucks, which have also been hit by fuel shortages. Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency has just reported that the number of refugees fleeing the violence in Syria has leapt by nearly 100,000 in the past month. Both the Syrian Arab Republic Red Crescent Society and other NGO's-foreign and domestic- are stretched beyond their limits and are struggling with approximately 10,000 more people in the areas they are able to assist every month being added to those in desperate need of help.

Virtually all the NGO's here attest to the fact that if the US-led sanctions are lifted or even suspended until the spring, it would be a humanitarian gesture consistent with American claimed values. To continue to allow the dying and suffering under the weight of these sanctions suggests that we in America have learned nothing from the results of similar sanctions imposed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The deeply inhumane US-led sanctions prevent businesses from re opening, investments from being made, financial transactions, re-supply, and other necessary economic activities which means the basic necessities such as mazot fuel to heat homes, is very hard to come by as well as bread in many areas. These shortages are the direct and foreseeable results of the sanctions and rebel sabotage, as to a lesser extent of Lebanese, Turkish and other smugglers buying up the supplies and spiriting them across the borders to cash in on black market price gauging.

As a result of the sanctions, food prices have soared beyond the means of much of the Syrian civilian population. Too many of the young, old, infirm, and impoverished are dying monthly, according to Nizar, an English literature major, as a direct and foreseeable consequence of these sanctions.

The single rational foreigners visiting Damascus hear from Washington, and what the Obama administration is telling EU countries that are becoming concerned, is that the sanctions are vital to achieve regime change in Syria and when the government falls--to be replaced but who knows what or who-- the US will then lift the sanctions and remove its boot from the throats of Syria's students and civilian population.

Nizar takes another view. "If terrorism is the killing of innocent civilians for political goals, then your government, the world's claimed expert on terrorism is very guilty of massive terrorism and doesn't need to lecture anyone on this subject because this is exactly what they are doing with their sanctions in my country."

The fervent wishes of the US-Israel and certain other governments to the contrary, regime change is not likely to happen anytime soon in Syria according to most of the students this observer meet with, and it's the next four months that are critical they insist-starting today.

Syrian students follow local and regional events closely and a common view is that from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Jordan and even some on capitol hill in Washington, are coming multiple signals that all are in consultation via their intelligence services with Syria's government in order to reach a solution because they finally concede that, despite funding and aiding the terrorists panoply with guns, money and training, these countries, including Egypt, that the regime will survive and that the al Nusra type salafists would not be satiated by the fall of Syria but would quickly turn on Doha, Riyad, Amman, the UAE and other countries in the region.

History instructs us those sanctions do not cause regime change and those affected are not the ones wielding power. It's the wretched, the poor, the huddled refuge seeking to survive, to paraphrase Lazarus' inscription on our Statute of Liberty who we are being ground into early graves by American government imposed sanctions. The political goals of the sanctions imposed on Syrian civilian are one thing. The reality, quite another. US sanctions, some still in place against Cuba, after more than 53 years were a failure, as were US sanctions in China, Vietnam Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Libya and now Syria, to name a few.

"They are all about unbridled vengeance, not rational consequences as offered in press releases from US government agencies" explained Samer, a business major from Aleppo.

feelings of shame, not just for the past 11 years of unnecessary, criminal wars of choice in this region but for the current and continuing sanctions crime against the Syrian people.

Sitting at our table in the student union refectory at Damascus University on 1/9/12, Rana, a passionate and, on that occasion indignant, history student majoring in American history and culture may have reflected accurately the views of many on Syrian campuses these days.

Rana wished out loud to us that she could tell Barack Obama face to face: "Mr. President, in 2013, we students and our families from Damascus, the city of Jasmine, which was inhabited as early as 8,000 BC, and whose livelihood, opportunities and hope you are destroying today for no sane reason, urge you to "tear down these sanctions', come to Syria, visit our campus, and engage in dialogue with us."

The Syrians are a great people. Rana, and her student colleagues, are a credit to Syria and to all humanity.

By: Franklin Lamb

 

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The Potency of US Propaganda

The most significant problem in political discourse is not that people embrace destructive beliefs after issues are rationally debated. It's that the potency of propaganda, by design, often precludes such debates from taking place. Consider how often one hears the claim that the US is committed to spreading democracy and opposing tyranny in the Middle East in light of this fact from a New York Review of Books article by Hugh Eakin reviewing three new books on Saudi Arabia (via As'ad AbuKhalil):

"The US does more trade -- overwhelmingly in oil and weapons -- with Saudi Arabia than any other country in the Middle East, including Israel, and depends on close Saudi cooperation in its counterterrorism efforts in Yemen."

Indeed, President Obama has repeatedly touted what he calls "the strong partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia" and "the importance of our bilateral relationship" and often vows "to continue cooperating closely on a range of issues."

In other words, the single most repressive regime in that region is also America's closest ally. Eakin also notes that while Saudi leaders have exploited the rhetoric of the Arab Spring to undermine leaders it dislikes (primarily in Syria and Iran), its only direct action was to send its troops into Bahrain "to stave off a popular revolt and prop up the Bahraini monarchy" and use "its influence in the Gulf Cooperation Council, the alliance of autocratic Persian Gulf states, to pull together support for the beleaguered royal houses of Morocco and Jordan." About all of this Saudi bolstering of tyranny, Eakin says: "The White House has remained silent."

Actually, that's not quite accurate. The US has been there every step of the way with its close Saudi allies in strengthening these same tyrannies. As the Bahraini regime has systematically killed, tortured, and imprisoned its own citizens for the crime of demanding democracy, the Obama administration has repeatedly armed it and trumpeted the regime as "a vital US partner in defense initiatives" and "a Major Non-NATO Ally." The US continues to be a close partner of the Yemeni dictator ("elected" as the only candidate allowed on the ballot). And it stands as steadfastly as ever behind the Gulf State monarchies of Jordan, Kuwait and Qatar as, to varying degrees, they repress democratic movements and imprison dissidents.

There is, of course, a long-standing debate about whether there's anything wrong with the US supporting and allying itself with repressive regimes. A popular strain of foreign policy thought has long held that the US should be guided primarily by self-interest rather than human rights concerns: hence, since the US wants its Fifth Fleet to remain in Bahrain and believes (with good reason) that these dictators will serve US interests far better than if popular will in these countries prevails, it is right to prop up these autocrats.

That's all well and good, but then there should be nobody willing to believe US political leaders when they claim that they are engaging in military action or otherwise interfering in other parts of the world in order to subvert despotism and spread democracy. When President Obama stands up and says -- as he did when he addressed the nation in February 2011 about Libya -- that "the United States will continue to stand up for freedom, stand up for justice, and stand up for the dignity of all people," it should trigger nothing but a scornful fit of laughter, not credulous support (by the way, not that anyone much cares any more, but here's what is happening after the Grand Success of the Libya Intervention: "Tribal and historical loyalties still run deep in Libya, which is struggling to maintain central government control in a country where armed militia wield real power and meaningful systems of law and justice are lacking after the crumbling of Gaddafi's eccentric personal rule").

The US is not committed to spreading democracy and freedom in the world. "Freedom" and "democracy" are concepts it exploits to undermine regimes that refuse to serve its interests. Indeed, there is virtually an inverse relationship between how democratic a country is in the Muslim world and how closely allied the US is to it.

Yes, all of this is obvious and not novel to point out. Still, it needs to be pointed out because of how often the US government succeeds in leading people to believe that these are its goals. It's just extraordinary that so many people are willing to believe and advocate that the US ever acts in the world with the goal of undermining tyranny when "the US does more trade -- overwhelmingly in oil and weapons -- with Saudi Arabia than any other country in the Middle East." That this blatant sham is so widely accepted is a testament to the potency of propaganda, bolstered by the willingness of people to embrace self-flattering claims.

Source: By:Glenn Greenwald(The Guardian)

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Foreign Terrorists Wage War on Syria

Syria's conflict is Washington's war. There's nothing civil about it. Foreign terrorist proxies wage it.

by Stephen Lendman

Syria is Washington's war. It was planned years ago. America wants pro-Western puppet leadership replacing Assad.

All independent governments are targeted for regime change. Imperial rogue states operate that way.

Strategy used is longstanding. On January 4, Michel Chossudovsky discussed it. Current US proxy wars employ earlier tactics. Western-recruited death squads are used.

Using them "go(es) back to the Vietnam war."

"Terror brigades (commit) targeted assassinations (and) countless atrocities."

Since Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011, Washington, key NATO allies, Israel, and other regional allies recruited, armed, trained, and directed death squads.

They're still doing it. They're imported from abroad. More on that below.

Washington prioritizes the "Salvador Option." Rules of engagement proliferated massacres, torture, and gruesome atrocities in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

In Vietnam, Operation Phoenix (OP) did the same things earlier. It became a template for future counterterrorism operations.

From 1968 - 1973, CIA operatives, Special Forces, and Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Special Operations Group (MACV-SOG) conducted covert missions.

Their mandate was to crush National Liberation Front (Viet Cong) resistance. Strategy was to terrorize people into submission.

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Russian Naval Maneuvers off the Syrian Coast

MOSCOW,(ST)_ The  Russian Defense Ministry announced on Friday  that Russian warships will conduct naval exercises off the Syrian coast.

In  a statement quoted by  Moscow News agency, the Ministry explained that  Russian naval units of the Black Sea Fleet will carry out  the  maneuver  exercises near the Syrian coast, within the course of  arrangements to implement  a large training project in the Mediterranean Sea with the participation of units from other Russian fleets.

The Russian ministry added  that a tactical set of units of the Black Sea Fleet led by the cruiser "Moscow" will carry out maneuver exercises in the eastern Mediterranean.

The vessels participating in the training were fueled by tanker fuel Ivan Bobnov .


In the same context, a source at the Russian Army General Command announced that warships of several Russian fleets will carry joint exercises in the eastern Mediterranean.

"Landing a few units of marines and paratroopers, sailors from the warships of the Baltic and the Black Sea Fleets is considered one of the central tasks in these exercises." Interfax said.

Earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry revealed arrangements by the  Russian Navy to carry out  unprecedented  maneuvers in both the Mediterranean and Black sea at the end of January of 2013, according to a Russian armed forces  training plan , with the  participation  of units of four  Russian fleets in order to train on  forming  forces outside Russia's borders , to draw and carry out its work plan  and enhance  fighting skills of the Russian Naval forces.

Russia's Defense Ministry is being careful with its comments about sending the warships to the Mediterranean Sea. Thus, the press-service of the ministry announced that "the group of the ships of the Northern and Baltic fleets will conduct a training combat mission in the Mediterranean and in the Black Seas, in collaboration with a group of Black Sea Fleet - large landing warships "Nikolay Filchenkov, " "Caesar Kunikov "and escort ship "Smetliviy." The officials also explained that the group included Northern Fleet ships "Admiral Chabanenko", "Aleksandr Otrakovsky," "George the Victorious" and "Kondopoga", as well as support vessels "Nicholai Chiker" and "Sergey Osipov". Later, the Baltic Fleet patrol ship "Yaroslav Mudry" and "Lena" tanker joined them.


T. Fateh