It's Palestinians who have the right to defend themselves




The way western politicians and media have pontificated about Israel's onslaught on Gaza, you'd think it was facing an unprovoked attack from a well-armed foreign power. Israel had every "right to defend itself", Barack Obama declared. "No country on earth would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders."

 He was echoed by Britain's foreign secretary, William Hague, who declared that the Palestinian Islamists of Hamas bore "principal responsibility" for Israel's bombardment of the open-air prison that is the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, most western media have echoed Israel's claim that its assault is in retaliation for Hamas rocket attacks; the BBC speaks wearisomely of a conflict of "ancient hatreds".

 In fact, an examination of the sequence of events over the last month shows that Israel played the decisive role in the military escalation: from its attack on a Khartoum arms factory reportedly supplying arms to Hamas and the killing of 15 Palestinian fighters in late October, to the shooting of a mentally disabled Palestinian in early November, the killing of a 13 year-old in an Israeli incursion and, crucially, the assassination of the Hamas commander Ahmed Jabari last Wednesday during negotiations over a temporary truce.

 Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, had plenty of motivation to unleash a new round of bloodletting. There was the imminence of Israeli elections (military attacks on the Palestinians are par for the course before Israeli polls); the need to test Egypt's new Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi, and pressure Hamas to bring other Palestinian guerrilla groups to heel; and the chance to destroy missile caches before any confrontation with Iran, and test Israel's new Iron Dome anti-missile system.

 So after six days of sustained assault by the world's fourth largest military power on one of its most wretched and overcrowded territories, at least 130 Palestinians had been killed, an estimated half of them civilians, along with five Israelis. The goal, Israel's interior minister, Eli Yeshai, insisted, had been to "send Gaza back to the middle ages".

 True, the bloodshed hasn't so far been on the scale of Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9, which left 1,400 Palestinians dead in three weeks. But the issue isn't just who started and escalated it, or even the grinding "disproportionality" of yet another Israeli military battering (even before last month's flareups, 314 Palestinians had been killed since 2009, as against 20 Israelis).

 It's that to portray Israel as some kind of victim with every right to "defend itself" from attack from "outside its borders" is a grotesque inversion of reality. Israel has after all been in illegal occupation of both the West Bank and Gaza, where most of the population are the families of refugees who were driven out of what is now Israel in 1948, for the past 45 years.

 Despite Israel's withdrawal of settlements and bases in 2005, the Gaza Strip remains occupied, both effectively and legally – and is recognised as such by the UN. Israel is in control of Gaza's land and sea borders, territorial waters and natural resources, airspace, power supply and telecommunications. It has blockaded the strip since Hamas took over in 2006-7, preventing the movement of people, materials, and food supplies in and out of the territory – even calculating the 2,279 calories per person that would keep Gazans on an exemplary "diet". And it continues to invade the strip at will.

 So Gazans are an occupied people and have the right to resist, including by armed force (though not to target civilians), while Israel is an occupying power that has an obligation to withdraw – not a right to defend territories it controls or is colonising by dint of military power.

 Even if Israel had genuinely ended its occupation in 2005, Gaza's people are Palestinians, and their territory part of the 22% of historic Palestine earmarked for a Palestinian state that depends on Israeli withdrawal from the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem. Across their land, Palestinians have the right to defend and arm themselves, whether they choose to exercise it or not.

 But instead the US, Britain and other European powers finance, arm and back to the hilt Israel's occupation, including the siege of Gaza – precisely to prevent Palestinians obtaining the arms that would allow them to protect themselves against Israeli military might.

 It's hardly surprising of course that powers which have themselves invaded, occupied and intervened across the Arab and Muslim world over the last decade should throw their weight behind Israel doing the same thing on its own doorstep. But it isn't Palestinian rockets that stop Israel lifting the blockade, dismantling its illegal settlements or withdrawing from the West Bank and Gaza – it's unconditional US and western support that gives Israel impunity.

 Whatever the Israeli government's mix of motivations for winding up the past week's conflict, it seems to have backfired. For the first time since the start of the Arab uprisings, the cause of Palestine is again centre stage.

 Emboldened by the wave of change and growing support across the region, Hamas has also regained credibility as a resistance force, which had faded since 2009, and strengthened its hand against an increasingly discredited Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah. The deployment of longer-range rockets that have now been shown to reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem is also beginning to shift what has been an overwhelmingly one-sided balance of deterrence.

 The truce being negotiated on Tuesday would reportedly enforce Hamas responsibility for policing the strip and crucially break the blockade, opening the Rafah crossing with Egypt for goods as well as people. It doesn't, however, look like the long-term security deal with Hamas Israel was looking for, which would risk deepening the disastrous Palestinian split between Gaza and the West Bank.

 Any relief from the bombardment, death and suffering of the past week has got to be welcome. But no ceasefire is going to prevent another eruption of violence. Whatever is finally agreed won't end Israel's occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land or halt its war of dispossession against the Palestinian people. That demands unrelenting pressure on the western powers that underwrite it to change course. But most of all, it needs a change in the balance of forces on the ground.

     Seumas Milne

             The Guardian, Tuesday 20 November 2012 22.32 GMT







Gaza: Still the Same Old Egypt?




The first Israeli strike was severe. Ahmed al-Jaabari was assassinated. He was Hamas’ Imad Mughniyeh. His loss may have been even greater to the movement, given its organizational constraints and exceptionally centralized decision-making processes, but it can be recovered nevertheless. Jaabari put plans in place to fill the vacuum.

On another level, around 20 storage sites housing Hamas’ strategic missile arsenal were targeted by 22 Israeli airstrikes. Israel sounded confident about the success of the operation, but the resistance forces have not issued statements detailing their losses or clarifying the facts. All evidence indicates that the raids caused major damage.

Every Fajr-5 missile firing is a qualitative escalation in its own right.

Another consequence of the strike relates to the resistance forces’ reaction to the opening salvos of Jaabari’s assassination and the bombing of the missile stores. This forced all leaders and members of the resistance, especially in Hamas and Islamic Jihad, to become much more cautious than usual. Their prime concern was to avoid taking steps that would subject them to further losses.

This led to some paralysis and loss of initiative. They were wary of risk after it became clear that the enemy had achieved serious breakthroughs on the intelligence front – whether human or technical – enabling it to assassinate Jaabari and then target the missiles. Israel also sought to target a number of other important military commanders at the same time. This compelled the resistance forces to resort to backup plans and employ different means for communicating with and deploying fighters. The result was considerable confusion during the first 20 hours of the assault.

It is not being denied that the resistance’s missile arsenals have been badly depleted, but it is clear that it retains a reasonable amount in reserve – as developments over the past 48 hours have demonstrated. For the resistance, the most important thing now is to choose the right moment to access that reserve and to use it in a manner that achieves the main current objective of retaliation: to cross red lines. Hence the targeting of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Every Fajr-5 missile firing is a qualitative escalation in its own right.

But how can the resistance continue the battle?

Here, the discussion inevitably goes back to the thinking of the leadership that controls decision making in Egypt and Gaza, a discussion that is fast becoming confined to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Palestine: What does the Egyptian government intend to do, and what can Hamas not ignore?

The other resistance groups are not expected to pursue separate agendas that challenge any decisive understanding reached with Hamas. Even when these groups were sounded out by European and some Arab countries about the possibility of reaching a quick truce, their reply was direct and clear: “Reach agreement with Hamas, and then come back to us. Our demands will not exceed Hamas’. But pending an initiative, the decision to retaliate on the ground is fully operative.”

Some points need to be made about the Egyptian government in this regard.

First, the decision to expel the Israeli ambassador and recall the Egyptian ambassador cannot be called a surprise. It was the very minimum expected of a government that came to power after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak who was fully enlisted in the campaign against the resistance.

Post-Mubarak Egypt is thus re-assuming the role of Mubarak’s Egypt: that of mediator between torturer and victim.

Second, as with recalling the ambassador, moves like sending the prime minister or other ministers to Gaza or opening the Rafah crossing do not answer the question about Egypt’s strategic decision. For the Palestinians, they do not mark a radical change in policy.

Third, the steps taken by Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi and his aides can be seen as attempts to appease the Egyptian revolutionary masses who overthrew Mubarak and brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power. These steps seek to contain any backlash from a public that will not tolerate a rerun of the last Israeli assault on Gaza. But is this enough for the Palestinians?

Since Wednesday evening, Egyptian intelligence has engaged leaders of the resistance groups in Palestine to form a cease-fire agreement. In other words, it’s repeating the same old moves. Similarly, the sole aim of the Egyptian leadership’s contacts with other Arab states and the Europeans and Americans has been to press Israel to re-commit to the truce.

Post-Mubarak Egypt is thus re-assuming the role of Mubarak’s Egypt: that of mediator between torturer and victim. However sympathetic the humanitarian stance may be, if it does not translate into politics, then Egypt has not changed.

The only step that could disprove this assessment would be the opening of the borders with Gaza – not just for humanitarian aid, but for all the forms of assistance that the resistance now needs in the Strip, including volunteers.

While power has shifted in Egypt, it does not look as though the former regime has fallen.

By: Ibrahim al-Amin

Source: Al-Akhba






Long Live Gaza / Fighting The Battle of All People




The massacres in Gaza are still going on and the killers of children can no more remain hidden, they are those who kill everywhere , the ones who killed in Syria have shown their faces in Gaza. From their deeds you know them, they have left their signature on their bloody acts. These are the criminal Israelis and the no more less criminal Arab rulers and kings and gulf corrupt princes and their hired clientele among intellectuals and thugs. These are the criminal rulers of the criminal Arab league who rallied all countries to kill the Syrian children and would not rest one minute before it made sure that Syrians will be killed and Syrian children killed . Not one minute they could rest before the Israeli/NATO conspiracy be completed in Syria, and the country exposed to chaos and destruction. Not one minute they will rest before this is achieved, and the Arab League that is a dead corpse became as busy as a beehive concerning Syria: gathering and rallying and threatening and expulsing . And now they will continue their conspiracy by covering for Israel. May they be all damned and doomed .

They are the ones who are killing now .: the criminal Arab League and criminal gulf Countries and criminal Arab kings and the criminal Arab springs. They are all a bunch of Zionist criminals that’s what they are, have no doubt about it . One can no more keep up with the escalating number of victims : 73 martyrs among them more than 20 children , 660 wounded among them 250 children laying in hospitals, mutilated, suffering and crying, because the prince of Qatar wants Israel to spread from the Nile to the Euphrates and the Saudi king wants the same, and they want this more than the Israelis themselves. May they be damned and doomed and suffer all kinds of ailments here and in the hereafter.

Finally this war on Gaza has a goal and is not purposeless because Israelis never act purposelessly .It is the continuation of the war on Syria and is being cooked in Israeli/NATO kitchens and its goal is the liquidation of the Palestinian cause by targeting its armed Resistance the core of its strength and the essence of its continuity. This liquidation had started with the war on Syria which was the haven of the armed Resistance. Next comes – as we are witnessing right now -the attempt at liquidating the military faction of HAMAS that is not abiding by the normalizing steps taken-lately – by the political faction represented by Mash’al, Haniyya and company . The reason is that the military faction of HAMAS has kept acquiring weapons and accumulating military experience remaining thus on the line of armed Resistance, while others became immersed in the sectarian divisive conflict and war ,giving priority to the sectarian alignment over the Resistance..

The world order, Erdogan, Hamad ben Khalifa, the Saudi king and Mursi -along with the political faction of HAMAS-want to liquidate the military faction of the same HAMAS as a prelude to engage in talks and as a means to recognize and normalize with the usurping state. In order to achieve this it is necessary that the military capacity of al Qassam brigades and the military capacity of the other Palestinian military brigades be completely destroyed and this is what the Israelis – along with Arab and Palestinian rulers- have set their minds on. And to achieve this – and since they cannot invade and occupy Gaza –they have nothing left to do except to target the civilians population by their air fighters, tanks and battleships taking Gaza’s people as hostages and killing defenseless civilians in great numbers , covering their defeat with blood.

by Daniel Mabsout

Sunday, November 18th, 2012




China will force peaceful solution to Syrian crisis on West: German pundit




By Kourosh Ziabari – Tehran Times – A German political pundit says China will use its soft power to find a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis and force it on the U.S., the UK, France, and Germany. “I am also rather confident that China will give the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and other important European governments economic incentives to find a peaceful resolution to the (Syrian) crisis,” Christof Lehmann said in an interview with the Tehran Times on Tuesday. 

“One could compare it with a soft power carrot and stick strategy where the policy of Turkey ultimately is dependent on decisions which are made in Europe and the USA,” he added.

Lehmann went on to say that he is “very confident that a peaceful resolution to the crisis is possible as long as the root causes are being addressed and as long as Russia and China maintain a responsible role with regard to preventing further abuse of international law.”

Lehmann is a political author and consultant as well as a clinical psychologist and psycho-traumatologist.

He has been advisor to many high-ranking political leaders across the world, and writes for a number of political news and analysis websites, such as The 4th Media.

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: You have closely followed the political development in China and the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, and the recent political developments in Turkey. What political developments do you expect with regard to the situation in Syria?

A: The 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China has embraced a new, highly motivated generation of politicians on all levels of China’s central and regional governments. Political, social and economic reforms will continue but with more prudence and China will work toward a wealth distribution that will bring moderate prosperity also to the not so developed regions. This consolidation provides a strong basis for a more self-confident China which is likely to use the Chinese soft power strategy to assert its policy, also with respect to Syria.

I am confident that China will back Russia at playing a more confident, assertive and responsible role in the Middle East and Syria by supporting Russian initiatives for the deployment of Russian, Armenian and other UN peace keeping forces to Syria in the first or second quarter of 2013.

I am also rather confident that China will give the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and other important European governments economic incentives to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis. One could compare it with a soft power carrot and stick strategy where the policy of Turkey ultimately is dependent on decisions which are made in Europe and the USA.

Speaking in general terms I am very confident that a peaceful resolution to the crisis is possible as long as the root causes are being addressed and as long as Russia and China maintain a responsible role with regard to preventing further abuse of international law of the kind we have witnessed when NATO overstepped the provisions of UNSC Resolution 1973 (2011) on Libya.

The approach Russia and China have adopted is the approach of international law as a basis for preventing and resolving disputes and conflicts. According to the Charter of the United Nations, the adoption of a resolution of the Security Council requires the concurrent vote of all permanent members. However, since UNSC Resolution 4 (1946) on Spain it has become common practice that an abstention does not prevent the implementation of a resolution even though it has not been formally adopted by a concurrent vote of all permanent Security Council members. This practice was considered as a soft veto, that is, that the nations which did not adopt a resolution would not prevent the others from implementing it, provided that the authorizations granted by the text of the resolution were not significantly overstepped or violated.

When NATO abused UNSC Resolution 1973 (2011) on Libya to become a belligerent party and to bring about regime change in Libya both Russia and China became concerned that the same strategy would be attempted to bring about regime change in Syria. When the two highest ranking NATO commanders prior to NATO’s 25th Summit in Chicago in 2012 wrote that NATO’s intervention in Libya was “a teachable moment and model for future interventions” it became clear for Russia and China that they could not risk that NATO would also abuse a soft veto to initiate an aggression against Syria.

 Another important feature in the Russian and Chinese approach to the conflict is that they oppose NATO’s condescending and neo-colonialist approach to national sovereignty. According to the provisions of the Treaty of Westphalia and the Charter of the United Nations it is not allowed to interfere into the internal affairs of sovereign nations. However, constructs such as humanitarian intervention and a responsibility to protect violate both the provisions of the Treaty of Westphalia and the UN Charter. Their adoption was and remains highly controversial and both Russia and China are realizing that NATO will continue to abuse them unless they are opposed at the Security Council.

A very good example for Western neo-colonialist thought is Dr. Henry Kissinger who contemplates whether most Arab countries could at all be protected by the principles of Westphalia. Kissinger speculates that because their borders have been arbitrarily drawn by former colonial powers they are not real nation states and thus they may not fall under the Treaty of Westphalia. Dr. Kissinger however, fails to be consequent in his thinking. Was he consequent he should have said most Arab nations and Israel?

Q: Will the U.S., EU, Turkey and the Persian Gulf states of Qatar and Saudi Arabia accept that President Assad should remain in power and it’s an appropriate solution for ending the 19-month-long crisis in the Arab country?

A: Since the failure of the Free Syrian Army to secure Aleppo as seat for a transitional government in June and July 2012 both the political and the military foreign backed opposition have fallen literally apart. An attempt to compensate militarily by massively importing Wahabi and Salafi organizations and fighters, many of them with ties to Al-Qaeda, has even made it more difficult to unite a politically or militarily credible foreign backed opposition. The recent meeting in Doha and the establishment of a new political opposition is not much more than a recycling of a failed strategy.

Taking into account that the attempt to build a credible and presentable foreign backed opposition, combined with the fact that we will most likely see increased pressure from China and Russia to begin negotiating and cooperating with the genuine political parties and organizations inside Syria, including the Baath Party and President Assad, I am confident that both the USA, the UK, Germany and eventually also France will have to get involved in real politic and begin working at resolving the crisis rather than aggravating it.

If the USA and NATO accept a peaceful resolution the Persian Gulf states will have to go along. In the end it is mostly a question of a lack of convergence in energy and security needs of two cartels. A resolution to which Europe can agree will most likely also satisfy the needs of the Persian Gulf states.

Q: Why Turkey has been siding with the U.S., France and Britain in pressuring the government of President Assad and supporting the Free Syrian Army?

A: Turkey has been siding with the United States because it was pressured into it. That is, the AKP and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan were more than willing to cooperate, but their cooperation was not possible before they succeeded at arresting and imprisoning more than 29 high ranking military officers and countless members of the opposition. What we witness in Turkey is a de facto coup d’etat supported by the USA and NATO. The comparison with Ottoman ambitions may reflect the delusions of grandeur of Prime Minister Erdogan but not real politic. What we witness in Turkey is an attempt to implement the American Greater Middle East Project which was developed by the RAND Corporation in 1996. That is, the planned balkanization of Turkey into small states along ethnic and religious divisions. That is hardly a basis for a new Ottoman Empire.

Q: In one of your articles, you pointed out that the massive rallies in different cities of Turkey on October 29, the national day of independence in the country, angered the government of Erdogan since thousands of people protested at the government’s attempts to join the U.S.-NATO illegal war on Syria. Would you please explain more about that? Is the Turkish public against the government’s position on Syria?

A: On 29 October 1924, the Turkish Revolution won over imperialism and its proxies. Since then the day was the most important of all Turkish holidays with millions of people celebrating it in the streets every year. The AKP government of Erdogan outlawed the celebrations, erected police barricades and banned demonstrations. However, millions turned out and removed the police barricades. This year the 29th of October turned into a new revolution against the new imperialism and its proxy, Prime Minister Erdogan. I am confident that the AKP has made a historic mistake by attempting to rewrite Turkey’s history. After this massive humiliation I find it unlikely that the AKP will win another election any time soon.

Q: Would you please explain about the role of Salafists in the escalation of conflict in Syria? How have they entered Syria from Saudi Arabia in such great numbers?

A: Syria experienced a massive influx of Salafist militants after the Free Syrian Army was decisively defeated in its attempt to conquer Aleppo as seat for a transitional government in June and July 2012. The plan was to emulate the strategy that has been used successfully in Libya, where the seat of the transitional government was the Al-Qaeda or LIFG stronghold Benghazi.

The main sponsors of Salafists in terms of finances and weapons are Saudi Arabia and to a lesser degree Qatar. Militants are imported from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Libya, Indonesia and elsewhere. Especially Saudi Arabia is maintaining a world-wide network of Salafist organizations, many of them with ties to the Al-Qaeda network like the HuJI (Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami) in Bangladesh.

These organizations are often funded through charities and supervised through liaisons into the Saudi Ministry of the Interior. The Free Syrian Army never succeeded in establishing a general command and that was its weakness from day one. Since the influx of Salafits we witness calls for the establishment of a Syrian Caliphate while small factions are fighting each other. The common denominator is greed, extremism, money and weapons from abroad.

It is a self defeating strategy because it caused many Free Syrian Army commanders and troops as well as members of the non militant foreign backed opposition and the people of Syria to realign themselves with the Syrian military, the Syrian government and the genuine reform movements in Syria.

Q: Somewhere I read you saying that the war on Syria is a war for natural resources, especially the vast gas reserves of Persian Gulf and East Mediterranean. Would you please tell us more about that? Do you want to imply that Syria possesses gas reserves which the regional and foreign opponents of the government of President Assad want to take over on?

A: The principle cause of the Syrian crisis is a lack of convergence in the energy and security needs of two cartels. In 2007 major resources of natural gas were discovered in the Persian Gulf between Qatar and Iran and in the Eastern Mediterranean, in the so-called Levanthine Basin. These reserves can cover the consumption of natural gas in the EU and the Middle East for the next 100 – 120 years. There are two proposed pipeline projects or cartels, which are, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia, and to a lesser degree Lebanon and Palestine, and the other consists of Qatar, the EU, Israel, Turkey, Greece, and to a lesser degree the USA.

At the present time Russia provides approximately 22 % of the natural gas that is consumed by the EU. This percentage will increase when the North Sea pipeline from Russia to Germany will go online. Because of the USA’s push for dominance over Russia and China the prospect that Russia also will control the gas supplies from the Middle East and the Mediterranean raises grave security concerns in Europe. That is the main cause for the conflict. However, I believe that a solution can be brokered if Russia and the EU increase their interdependency in economic and political terms.

Q: How does Israel benefit from conflict and unrest in Syria? Is it that with the weakening of Syria and the overthrowing of the government of President Assad, it would be more comfortable for Israel to confront Iran and even launch a military strike against Iran?

A: Syria is the sole Arab nation which has consequently and consistently supported the Palestinian cause. To weaken Syria would be beneficial for Israel in terms of the Palestinian issue and in terms of weakening Syria militarily and politically. As far as I am informed Israel has plans to permanently annex the occupied Syrian Golan, parts of Southern Lebanon, East Jerusalem and the greater part of the West Bank. Syria is the main obstacle preventing this plan. Israel’s solution for the Palestinian problem would be the establishment of a Hamas controlled Palestinian micro state in the Gaza Strip in the recognition of that state. A weakened Syria and Hezbollah or Lebanon will also make it more feasible for Israel and the USA to attack Iran and thus gain dominance over the oil and gas resources of the entire region.


B. al-Nouno




Enemy inside the gates: Syria’s main foe is ‘foreign-sponsored terrorists’




Syrian President Bashar Assad is not caught in a traditional civil war, but is rather struggling against an extra-state-sponsored war of terrorism to bring down his government, according to Russian experts.

Today, Western countries are implementing the primitive tool of ‘state-sponsored terrorism’ to influence the internal situation in foreign countries, argues Pavel Zolotarev, deputy director of the Institute for US and Canada Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Citing the situation in Syria, which has been engaged in a protracted conflict between a rebel opposition and pro-government forces, Zolotarev said that President Assad is not involved in what could be considered a “normal” civil war. Rather, the Syrian president is primarily fighting against foreign terrorists using foreign weapons, he told RT in a telephone interview.

 “This is a very dangerous situation,” the analyst said, stressing that sovereign states have the right to change their leaders through “internal political movements and legitimate elections,” without fear of outside interference.

Zolotarev’s remarks closely mirror those of the Syrian president himself, who told RT in an interview in Damascus last week that the Syrian crisis “is about terrorism and the support coming from abroad to terrorists to destabilize Syria.

 “This is our war,” the Assad stressed.

Earlier, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Russia is holding firm to the position that the Syrian crisis must be resolved by the Syrian people and without the use of force.

"The main criterion is the participants' readiness to act by peaceful means without external interference, through dialogue and negotiations," the diplomat stressed. "In compliance with the agreements recorded in the Geneva communique by the Action Group we will continue contacts with the Syrian government and all opposition groups based on a constructive approach.”

Meanwhile, Victoria Panova, associate professor of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, told RT that the Syrian opposition movement could not be considered a grassroots movement because the Syrian opposition “would not be able to do anything without the support of the West and some Arab countries.”

Panova personally believes that President Assad “has been a weaker leader than his father,” Hafez Assad, who served as president of Syria from 1971 to 2000, and this allowed a rebel opposition to not only assert itself, but to garner foreign support.

Most disturbing for Panova, however, is not the question as to when or if the Syrian government under Assad falls, but what power structure will fill the void.


“In the event that even greater civil unrest unfolds if Assad is deposed, the West would not be able to take sides in the unrest because it would have been responsible for putting the new regime in power,” she noted.

All of these conditions make for a potentially “volatile situation” in the event that Assad is forcibly ousted from power, she concluded.

It must be mentioned that despite claims that the Syrian opposition is being funded by foreign powers, the opposition is downplaying the level of foreign support it receives.

Mahmud Hamsa, a representative of the Syrian National Council in Russia, says that the West has been under-financing the opposition.

"These statements [on the inefficiency of the Council's activities] are not justified,” Hamsa told reporters in Moscow on Monday. “They provided very little help and now they are blaming everything on the Syrian National Council.”

"A coalition has been formed. We will now see if they are really ready to help," he said.


RT TV/ Hanan Shamout




Middle Eastern snakes exceed ladders for the US

 Obama wasn't challenged over America's plans in Syria and Iran in the election. But conflicts in the region could proliferate in his second term

President Obama is lucky in his opponents, particularly when it comes to explaining why America's influence is waning in the Middle East. The issue was hardly mentioned in the election, aside from a botched attempt by Mitt Romney to blame the administration for the death of Chris Stevens, the US ambassador to Libya, and for the burning of the US consulate in Benghazi.

Romney soon steered away from his initial posture of attacking Obama for "apologising for America" and failing to assert US power. He recognised that the one thing the US electorate does not want is another war in the Middle East. By beating the patriotic drum too hard, Romney risked voters remembering that it was the Republicans who, not so long ago, led them into failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. On a more prosaic level, Romney may have sensed he would be vulnerable on topics he knew nothing about.

This near immunity from effective criticism during the campaign does not mean that Obama is not facing dangers across the region with which he has previously failed to grapple successfully.

Afghanistan is a good example. The "surge", which preoccupied the White House when Obama first took office in 2009, led to an extra 33,000 soldiers being sent to Afghanistan, where they wholly failed to eliminate the Taliban. The remaining 112,000 Nato troops will be withdrawn by the end of 2014, bringing to an end one of the more disastrously unproductive wars in American history. The US and its allies are supposedly training up Afghan security forces to take their place, but so many American and British soldiers have been killed by Afghan soldiers and police that the transition is turning into a debacle.

If the US was ever going to achieve anything like military success over the Taliban, it needed to shut the open border with Pakistan that enabled the insurgents to have a secure rear base. Washington recognised the problem, but failed to do anything effective about it. The regime of Hamid Karzai will have difficulty surviving past 2014, when the Taliban or other players move in to fill the void left behind as the Americans and British move out.

Given what has happened in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, it is strange that there are siren voices in the US suggesting it should increase its involvement in the Syrian civil war to tip the balance against Bashar al-Assad. Many critics have given reasons why this is a bad idea, but two important points are seldom made. One is about the nature of anti-government militias: militiamen, be they in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Libya or Chechnya, may start off as heroic fighters for freedom and democracy. But these unpaid irregulars, unless restrained by the tightest discipline, tend to become local warlords or criminal gangs and batten on the population. I remember how, in Chechnya in 1999-2001, local people came to hate the insurgent bands, whom they once would have died for, even more than the Russians. The same happened in Baghdad in 2006-07 and in Libya over the past year.

In Syria, people are beginning to say, echoing what was said in similar conflicts, that "the fighters say they are dying for the people, but it is the people who are dying for the fighters". Jihadi or Islamic fundamentalists make fanatical and effective soldiers, but their unrestrained violence alienates the people they claim to be protecting. This is what led to the Sunni tribal revolt in alliance with US troops against al-Qa'ida in Iraq.

These developments are bad news for greater US military support for the "moderate" Syrian militia that will supposedly be strengthened by an increased flow of US arms and equipment.

There is a second point that is seldom considered. Suppose the Assad government does fall, this is meant to be a damaging blow for Iran, deprived of its one Arab ally. It is meant also to weaken Hezbollah, the Shia guerrilla movement in Lebanon. Both these things might happen. But keep in mind that the Assad regime is most likely to be succeeded by general anarchy in Syria, or at best a weak government. Going by the experience of Iraq and Lebanon, the Iranians and Hezbollah are better than the US at fishing in troubled waters. Complicated situations are ideal for exploitation by the Iranians, with their taste for devious political games.

Could Israel bamboozle the US into joining it in an attack on Iran? I have always thought it likely that the Israelis are bluffing. Forever being on the verge of attacking Iran suits them nicely, giving them much leverage in a world that wants to prevent such a war. Israeli threats have provoked devastating economic sanctions against Iran and marginalised the Palestinians as an issue. But an actual military attack is unlikely to achieve much and would probably provoke Iran into building a nuclear device. Tales of how it was only the Israeli chief of staff and the head of Mossad who have prevented such a war being launched in the past serves Benjamin Netanyahu's purposes well, by making his threat of imminent Israeli air strikes more credible.

For the moment, the Middle East and west Asia is probably a good place for the US and other foreign powers to keep out of. Libya is a recent example of what can go wrong. Up to a few months ago, Washington thought its behind-the-scenes role in Gaddafi's overthrow was a model of foreign intervention. It forgot that the war effort by the rebel militia brigades was something of a propaganda sham, the real war being fought by Nato air power. But, come the assault on the US consulate in Benghazi on 11 September this year, the local CIA detachment was reportedly pleading in vain to local militiamen to come to their aid.

The new political map of the Middle East has more snakes than ladders for the US, but it is not that there are no ladders at all. Obama was swift to abandon Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia during the first days of the Arab Spring. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the ruling AKP in Turkey do not want a confrontation with the US while they seek to Islamise their societies. They need to deprive their domestic opponents of any prospect of US backing. With so many conflicts cross-infecting each other, we may be entering an era of conflicts in the region exceeding anything seen since the 1960s.

The Independent

Patrick Cockburn

Sunday 11 November 2012



Jordan Said to Help Arm Syria ''Rebels''




Shipments Are Routed Through Border as Kingdom Steps up Aid, Opposition Members Say; Amman Denies Connection


AMMAN, Jordan—Jordan has stepped up its support for neighboring Syria's political and military opposition, including allowing some light arms to flow across the border, according to Syrian ''rebels'' and an Arab official familiar with the operation.

Several shipments of arms—including assault rifles, Russian-designed antitank missiles and ammunition—have been delivered to the border in Jordanian military trucks and then taken into Syria by ''rebel'' brigades, according to Syrian ''rebel'' fighters. Dozens of other shipments have been smuggled to Syria with the covert support of Jordanian border officials, these people say. Saudi Arabia and Qatar pay for these arms and transport them to Jordan, say ''rebel'' fighters based along the Syria-Jordan border and a person involved in arms procurement for the ''rebels''.

Syrian refugees waiting for prayers late last month at a refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan. The kingdom is letting light arms flow across its borders to Syria's opposition, several ''rebels'' say.

Jordan, which has long sought to stay out of Syria's growing conflict, denies aiding Syrian ''rebels'' militarily, either by transporting weapons or allowing them to move across the border.

The emerging weapons pipeline, a previously unreported development, isn't large enough to shift the balance of power in favor of ''rebels'', say the ''rebel'' fighters and those who help them procure arms. The Syrian regime's air force and mechanized units continue to outgun lightly armed insurgents, they say.

Still, such an energized supply route through Jordan would show how even regional states with the risk of significant blowback are boosting support for the ''uprising'' against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, with the tacit backing of Western allies. It comes as these international partners have identified what they consider trustworthy elements of Syria's opposition, to address their increasing anxiety that a protracted civil war in Syria is drawing in Islamist fighters and threatens regional stability.

Jordan lies at the center of those fears. It shares a long border with Syria, on which it depends for its trade with Turkey and Europe. It also has a restive domestic population, led by a religious political opposition that constitutes a threat to the rule of King Abdullah II, one of the U.S.'s strongest allies in the region.


The kingdom's growing involvement with the activities of Syrian ''rebels'' was outlined by six ''rebel'' officers and opposition politicians, two of which are directly involved in the procurement or transfer of arms into Syria. Several say they have met with Jordanian officials. A non-Jordanian Arab official confirmed the characterization of the kingdom's role.

Jordan's King Abdullah has said he supports humanitarian assistance for Syrians fleeing the fighting. Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees are already scattered among Jordanian cities such as Ramtha, Irbid, Mafraq and the capital, Amman. Some 1,000 entered Jordan in the 24 hours ending Friday, the United Nations said, part of a spike in refugees that saw 9,000 Syrians flee to Turkey and 1,000 others to Lebanon.

The court of the king, who sets military and security policy, didn't respond to written questions about stepped-up political or military assistance, nor did Jordan's foreign ministry or prime minister's office.

Information minister Samih Maayteh denied that the government or military facilitates any activities for Syrian ''rebels'' or that the kingdom's relationship with Syrian opposition members it hosts had changed.

"This is a crisis that leaves its mark on every country in the region," Mr. Maayteh, an official government spokesman, said in an interview. "We have political and security concerns, and that is why we seek a political solution to protect Jordanian interests and to save [Syria from] the crisis."

For most of Syria's 20-month-old civil war, King Abdullah resisted pressure from patron Saudi Arabia to make his small nation into a front-line command center for the ''rebels'', similar to the one erected along the border in Turkey. Jordan feared that overt military support for the revolution could provoke Syrian retaliation and endanger the king's grip on an already fragile domestic political situation, regional officials say.

Since the spring, however, the kingdom has played an increasing role in opposition military and intelligence matters, several people familiar with the situation say. In June, Jordan's capital served as the initial debriefing location for Brig. General Manaf Tlass, a high-profile general and personal friend of President Assad who defected that month. In August, then-prime minister Riad Hijab defected to Jordan.

Jordan has also cultivated ties with more secular-minded ''rebel'' military leaders in Syria's southern cities near its border. That is part of an effort, broadly described by U.S. and Arab officials, to mitigate an increasingly Islamist undercurrent in the ''rebel'' movement. U.S. and Jordanian officials have extended their antiterrorism cooperation to try to identify al Qaeda-linked elements in the Syrian antigovernment insurgency, officials in the region say.

That, they say, has driven their effort to funnel funds and arms to Syrian military defectors sanctioned by Jordan and its Western allies.

"I wouldn't say there's a black list. But there is definitely a white list," said a senior member of the opposition Syrian National Council, describing ''rebel'' groups that Jordan and its Western allies are comfortable supporting.

Jordanian intelligence officials routinely host meetings with these Free Syrian Army leaders, helping facilitate their movement back and forth from Syria and discussing military strategy, people familiar with the meetings say. Jordan also allows American intelligence officials to question and cultivate contacts with defected Syrian military officials, these people add.

By late summer, Syria's conflict was exacerbating Jordan's own deepening economic crisis. Entrenched front lines around Aleppo in northern Syria had blocked Jordan's trade routes with major export partners in Syria and Europe, exacerbating a budget deficit and pushing up the cost of caring for the escalating number of Syrian refugees.

That was when the kingdom loosened restrictions on providing military aid to the Syrian ''rebels'', according to a person familiar with the policy decision.

"They [Jordanian officials] have received guarantees for economic aid and security aid—that there will be decisive Arab action to back Jordan up if Syria seriously threatens its security or retaliates in some way," said a person involved in negotiations with regional countries on the supply of arms to Syrian ''rebels''.

The Syrian groups receiving arms from the Jordanian border are now connected to the military councils that have been vetted by Washington and others, say people involved in the transaction.

Some of the light weapons said to be entering Syria through Jordan are destined for the southern Syrian border town of Dera'a, where the popular uprising kicked off last year. Most of the arms, though, were pushed north to the suburbs of Damascus, 60 miles north, in possible preparation for a push on the capital, according to ''rebel'' leaders.

Dera'a remains one of the last supply routes to ''rebels'' in the capital, with pathways from the Turkish border and around Homs too risky, ''rebel'' fighters say. They say regime forces have increased their presence in Dera'a in recent weeks, and many are hesitant to openly discuss the opening up of a new supply route they view as crucial.

"They know that the fall of Damascus goes through Dera'a," said one ''rebel'' fighter from the southern province, visiting with relatives in an Amman apartment.

—Suha Ma'ayeh in Amman, Sam Dagher in Beirut and Joe Parkinson in Istanbul contributed to this article.

The Wall Street Journal

compiled by M.A. Al-ibrahim